So, this weekend, Iain and I were watching a series on the "Top 100 Video Games of All Time," which was airing on G4. G4 is generally pretty hostile toward the idea of meaningful inclusion of women, to put it politely, so I was prepared for the usual tokenism, dick jokes, and discussions of "nerd culture" that were implicitly boys-only.
And even those rock-bottom expectations were not low enough.
The show was one of those formats where a bunch of celebrities comment on their favorites as lists of whatever are counted down. Among the celebrity commentators was comedian Brian Posehn, who is no stranger to rape jokes. During the discussion of Unreal Tournament, a first-person shooter, the show cuts to Posehn, who says:
"One of the most, like, man moments of my life was playing Unreal Tournament while Oz was on on the other TV. So we're watching prison [bleep] and then playing Unreal Tournament at the same time, and it was, like, it doesn't get (laughing) any nerdier or more manly that that."Oz was an HBO series set in a men's prison. The word that was bleeped out was "rape."
Iain and I just looked at each other, like WTF did we just see?
First of all, I love (ahem) that G4 felt obliged to bleep out the word rape, but broadcasting the idea of watching prison rape for entertainment and manly empowerment is totes cool. Just as long as you don't actually hear the word. Because it's the the word that's the problem here.
Iain—who is about the last person on earth you'll ever witness wringing his hands and wondering "What about the children?!"—also noted that this is a show about video games being broadcast on a Saturday afternoon. One doesn't generally expect jokes about prison rape in shows that seem to be courting young viewers.
That the content was included, no less with its absurd bleep, is only one issue. Another is the conflation of "nerdy" with "manly"—and, notably, with a "manly" affinity for sexual violence. Feminist/anti-rape gamers who take issue with the various manifestations of rape culture within the gaming/nerd community because we want better from the community are routinely accused of hyberbole, oversensitivity, and demonizing male gamers. But here is a male gamer shamelessly associating male nerd culture with an affinity for sexual violence, and he will no doubt be roundly defended by the same people who scream at feminist/anti-rape gamers for being trouble-making hysterics who "look for things to get mad about."
Which is technically true, if "looking" constitutes engaging at all with the gaming community.
Posehn's assertion that there's something intrinsically "manly" about watching men raping each other (or anyone) is profoundly disturbing. Again I find myself compelled to observe that it's feminists who have the reputation as man-haters, but few things are more man-hating than the suggestion that masculinity is inherently violent and pro-rape.
Naturally, I will be called the Most Humorless Feminist in all of Nofunnington, accused of overreacting, and admonished that IT'S IRONIC and I just don't get the sophisticated humor of comedy geniuses like Brian Posehn.
Setting aside the fact that there is no discernible humor in that "joke" either straightforwardly or ironically—as the tiresome trope about nerdy dudes accessing patriarchally-defined masculinity via violent video games and sexually violent entertainment isn't actually amusing—here's the thing: There is no neutral in the rape culture, and I stand resolutely on the side of anti-rape advocacy. If that gets me branded as a humorless feminist, then I'll wear the badge proudly.
The truth is, I have a fine sense of humor. I just don't find jokes that empower rapists funny.
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