[TW: This post discusses rape jokes, with an excerpt from a discussion in a video game. It is not explicit.]
Like many nerds who don’t have a lot to do (or just want to procrastinate), I play WoW. I stay out of Trade and General chat, and often deliberately ignore chat in battlegrounds or world PvP raids because of the amount of rape jokes that get told there. The way that people just casually refer to losing in a video game as “being raped” is completely abhorrent to me. It’s not comparable in the least, and not only is it trivializing, but it has the potential to seriously ruin someone’s day, if they are a survivor. Since you can’t know if anyone is a survivor or not, especially in a situation where you’re grouped with random players, it’s best to just avoid telling jokes like that.
Back when I ran my own guild (there were a couple of other officers who had stopped playing at that point, so it was pretty much just me), we had a zero-tolerance policy about it. There were several people who left after I explained that rule, one of whom I got along pretty well with. When I asked why, she explained that she firmly believed that “words can’t hurt you if you don’t let them,” which is pretty much bullshit. If that were true, bullying would be a non-issue, but it’s not. And most people don’t blame kids who commit suicide because of being bullied because they “let themselves” be hurt by the bullies. Words have real, measurable psychological impact. They have an especially heavy impact on survivors, because trauma re-wires the brain in such a way that it is primed to detect danger. Rape jokes don’t just bring back what’s probably the worst memory of your life; they can also trigger intense anxiety and depression, and there’s no way to turn this reaction off—that’s why it’s called “being triggered.” I tried to explain this, but this girl just wouldn’t hear it. Not feeling stifled in her choice of expression was more important to her than showing a little consideration for people who have gone through some truly awful experiences, sadly.
So when I saw the following conversation happen just a few hours ago in guild chat, I was awe-struck:
[13:00:29][G] [Warlock1]: im going to rape you
[13:00:32][G] [Warlock1]: irl
[13:00:36][G] [Paladin]: wow
[13:00:42][G] [Paladin]: not cool idc who you are
[13:00:48][G] [Warrior]: yeah that’s not a cool thing to be sayin
[13:00:50][G] [Warlock2]: agreed
[13:00:53][G] [Paladin]: not at all
[13:00:53][G] [Warrior]: and this is me talking
[13:00:58][G] [Warlock1]: as if i care
[13:01:13][G] [Warlock1]: goons are very sensitive
[13:01:23][G] [Paladin]: I could give 2 shits
[13:01:29][G] [Warlock2]: no rape is pretty fucking horrible
[13:01:39][G] [Paladin]: but its not something to be said jokingly
[13:01:59][G] [DK]: The fuck is wrong with you that you’re trying to defend using rape as a joke
[13:02:07][G] [Paladin]: Im not
[13:02:12][G] [DK]: not you
[13:02:31][G] [Paladin]: k either way, just saying, now its done
Last spring, this conversation would not have happened like this. There used to be long, drawn-out arguments about whether or not rape jokes are okay to make with several people vehemently defending them. But through those arguments, we’ve changed the discourse. It used to be that only a few people would call this behavior out, usually only my partner and maybe one or two other people, but this time neither one of us had to say a thing, because four other people had already dealt with it. The guild leader was online at the time and I’m unsure of whether or not he said anything—it’s possible that he whispered the offending player with a warning to cut it out—but he didn’t say a thing in guild chat.
So if ever it seems like speaking up won’t make a difference, like all it will do is cause a huge argument and alienate people, just remember this. It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t have the spoons to speak up every time, and you may not be able to change everyone’s mind, but it CAN make a difference. And the more people speak up, the faster rape culture will change.