Posts Tagged ‘Rape’

2013 - 3Here’s my new kitten Nik (named for Nikola Tesla) telling me to shut up. That way, you don’t have to.

Please read – and parse – what I’m actually saying before posting a comment or linking on some outrage tumblr, thanks.

Recently there was a Kickstarter project for a ‘seduction manual‘ which turned out to contain some quite rapey and illegal advice on how to pick up women, involving being physically overbearing and invading personal space. For once the outrage levelled at something on the internet actually seemed to have a bit of substance and after some sniffing around and checking into it I joined the voices asking for it to be pulled. It crossed a certain line for me in advocating real, genuine, illegal and horrible behaviour in real life.

The project funded anyway, Kickstarter acted too slowly to withdraw it, but instead they apologised and gave a sizeable donation to a charity.

So far, so good. Until you read through the apology.

I’m a pretty staunch free expression advocate and getting more hard-line that way with almost every day and every twitterstorm over something or other that someone finds offensive. I made an exception in this case because the book was advocating a breach of personal autonomy, the chief reason I’m for free expression. Kickstarter’s apology is, however, worrying on several levels.

1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with seduction guides, per se.

That is, they’re distasteful and crappy but no more so than Cosmos’ ‘how to please your man’. Many of them – based on my limited experience – seem to be more like self-help guides to give guys the confidence they need to approach women and that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as it doesn’t advocate anything criminal. Sure there’s things like ‘negging’ and ‘peacocking’ but these aren’t the same as suggesting you shove someone around and, like the yellow and black stripes on a wasp, they act as a warning that the guy doing it is a douche.

2. Saying that content ‘glorifying or promoting violence against women’ is already barred.

It is all too common to conflate ‘depicting’ with ‘glorifying’ or even ‘promoting’. If you wanted to get backing for your 50-Shades-Alike via Kickstarter you probably couldn’t, because it would be adult and would depict fictional bondage. Tentacle Bento – a rather tame (but suggestive) card game was already knocked off Kickstarter well before its closing date unlike this one. Despite being coy and cartoony.

What about teh menz? Where’s the concern over glorifying or promoting violence against men?

This all seems very… reactive. Tightening an already rather strict and exclusionary funding opportunity from yet more people and skewing away from creators and towards vocal opposition.

3. Backing RAINN.

I’m sure RAINN does a lot of good work but they’re mostly known – to me – for their promotion of what appear to be vastly inflated rape statistics. I am deeply uncomfortable with my objection to the project having lead, indirectly, to funding an organisation that seems to use and abuse poor statistics. I don’t, personally, believe that you need to inflate the figures. Rape is a horrible crime and making people more afraid than they need to be doesn’t help. It just creates a climate of terror not unlike the irrational fear many old people have of crime based on watching the news.

In conclusion, Kickstarter is already one of the most restrictive crowdfunding sources out there. I tend to prefer IndieGoGo which seems to be more ethical overall when it comes to free expression issues and access to crowdfunding. There is no question, however, that Kickstarter is the big boy in crowdfunding and so any tightening of the rules becomes de facto censorship, no matter how justified in this instance.

Good: Kickstarter listened, apologised, made amends in a transparent way.
Bad: It’s going to make it even harder for risqué, grown-up or legal-but-difficult projects to get made.

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Well that’s all been a jolly bit of fun eh? Who would have suspected that defending the right of creative people to explore difficult topics would have been such a contentious issue. Foolishly, perhaps, I thought the creative community of writers, games designers, artists and so on would be all for free expression. It seems not.

You see, really, the whole point of the original article was that creative people should be free to examine, tackle and explore any topic however difficult or ‘offensive’ and that it should be judged on quality rather than content.

Ironically, people judged the post on its content. They saw the title and their lizard brain went into overdrive. If I had simply said:

Creative people should be free to write about any topic and judged on the quality of their work, rather than its content.

Would there have been this storm? Would even 1/10th of the number of people who have seen the post looked at it? It’s just a shame so few actually read it because the points made really aren’t contentious and one could go though the same process for any difficult or controversial topic, as I did for murder.

See… this is what so many of you do in all these instances. You don’t stop to think, or look, or confirm. You see that a game, book, TV show or whatever includes an element and that’s enough for you to pick up your pitchfork and join the mob.

Your reaction to my post only reinforces it’s point.

I really have a hard time believing that many people can’t read, or that my communication skill is that poor, considering the number of people who DID understand what I was saying, even if they disagreed.

There’s something else going on, some suspension of rational thought, some determination to present an ‘acceptable’ viewpoint rather than to actually think about the topic.

That’s a shame.

Anyway, this’ll – hopefully – be the final word on this here. The Outrage Posse will be on to the next thing in a day or two, probably a comic cover or a video game trailer. I have friends over the weekend for gaming and a podcast interview, so I may not be able to get back to Shanks this week but I’ll be back to it as soon as I can.

It has been suggested that I engaged in all this for self-publicity, rather than to broach a serious topic. Clearly being hated so much by so many people for no real reason is a great trade off for a couple of sales. If there’s one thing of mine I would want my detractors to look at after this, it would be the game The Little Grey Book, which is free. So don’t worry about giving ‘that rapist arsehole’ any money.



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Murder a dude, get made untouchable. God seems a little conflicted on this one.

Murder or attempted murder is a fucking awesome plot element.

Attempted murder can place a character in jeopardy where the readers’ care about what happens, without necessarily taking the character out of the story. It’s a threat with implications, but not as final as death itself. It forces the character into a life-or-death situation that tests their mettle.

Murder can have interesting knock-on effects on a character’s relationships and their relationships with each other. If a character murders how do the character’s friends and family react? Who do they confide in – if anyone? Can you use this as a springboard to explore legal procedure and policing in your setting? What if nobody cared about who was murdered? What if it’s a frame up?

If you lose someone close to you how hard is it for the character to endure that? What’s the effect of the act on the murderer, the relatives of the victim, the witnesses? Why did the murder happen? Can murder ever be legitimate? Can someone ever deserve it? Who decides that? Do the forces of law and order turn a blind eye?

How does the event change the people involved? Is the murderer remorseful? Does the victim become transformed by their death into a secular saint despite their character flaws? Is there an afterlife in the world of your book? Is the ghost vengeful? Can it do anything more than simply observe?

There’s not a great deal of media in which death doesn’t occur. A body presents an intriguing puzzle for a detective. A hero in an action franchise litters the ground behind him with corpses. Science Fiction and Fantasy often include wars, battles, fights because they’re exciting and get the blood pumping. Who hasn’t imagined having gun triggers on the steering wheel of their car?

There’s more, but I think that amply shows that it needn’t be lazy writing and as story material it goes right the way back to the oldest human myths. It’s a story-making tool that should be available to you as a storyteller, great or small. Whole genres of popular TV show and book hang upon murder. What about Cluedo as a game as well? What about Risk?

So, part two.

Does the existence of murder stories, even as a cheap jab to get someone’s emotions involved, somehow trivialise or normalise killing?

Hopefully by this point most of you are nodding along and going ‘I see what you did there…’ and let’s hope to fuck you actually do. If you reacted that badly to the previous article without thinking, just because it had a hot-button word for you then you’re really no different to someone who calls GTA a ”Murder simulator’.

Grow up.

This is a follow up article to THIS.

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leda and the swanTired of people linking to this article (or more specifically this article’s title) without paying attention to the content. IDoR a link to the original. To remove any ambiguity whatsoever, the point of the article was simply this: No topic should be off limits. Nothing should be exempt from being story fodder. Whether rape, murder, torture, mutilation, cannibalism, racism or any other nasty thing anyone can think of. Artists must be free to explore without being censored, controlled or limited. The mere existence of something nasty in a story, game or piece of art is not sufficient reason for the art – or the artist – to be pilloried. Nor should we only allow people we consider (subjectively) skilled or politically acceptable to tackle difficult subjects. TL;DR – Censorship is bad, offence, upset or discomfort isn’t a good enough reason to prevent something being made. If you still object to that, stated as plainly and simply as that, we’re going to have a problem.

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Laurie Penny recently wrote an article about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot of stuff in the article that I could comment on – and I will very briefly, but I want to concentrate on one particular bit later in the article, aside from the political and social commentary which I broadly agree with.

Briefly I’ll just reassert my belief that a fictive content that involves issues of racism, sexism etc need not, itself, be racist or considered ‘problematic’. We admit that these things happen, have happened etc and to talk about them or include them in fiction does not entail approval or endorsement. Good stories often come from conflict and from difficult situations or concepts. Entertainment should cover these things and should not pull back from examining or portraying them.

The main thing I want to talk about is encapsulated in this part:

“Game of Thrones is based on the Medieval World, and the Medieval World Was Sexist and Racist.” Well, yes, 14th century Europe wasn’t a lot of fun if you were a woman, but nor did it have, for example, dragons, or magical shape-changing witchy-woo assassins. Westeros does, because Westeros is a fantasy world. If the creator of a fantasy series can dream up an army of self-resurrecting zombie immortals he can damn well dream up equal marriage rights, and if he chooses not to do so then that choice is meaningful, as is our assumption that the default setting for any generically legendary epic must involve really rather a lot of rape.

There’s a couple of things to address here but the main one for me is that someone the existence of magic, dragons etc means that you can – or indeed should – let anything and everything go or change the world around these elements in order to appease modern sensibilities.

To my mind the more fantastical elements you bring in the more you desperately need something to ground the story. You need to contrast and contextualise he fantastical within a graspable, understandable, relatable arena. Just because there’s a dragon in your story doesn’t mean you should ignore the social structures and mores of medieval society if that’s the basis for your change. Shifting those becomes another fantastical element and too many of those and you can lose your readers.

Mieville’s New Crobuzon stories are overflowing with fantastical and surreal elements but they’re grounded in societal struggles, class war and interpersonal relationships that are much more conventional an understandable archetypes.

Lewis’ Narnia books take place entirely within a fantastical world but are grounded by the origin, mores and familiarity of the wartime Pevensie children and how they relate to it.

Tolkien’s Middle Earth commences its adventures from within the Shire, a comfortable little piece of Southern England that just happens to be peopled by Hobbits who, compared even to the humans within his stories, are much more understandable to the modern audience.

It seems paradoxical but the stranger and more fantastic the world the more important the hooks that people find intelligible.

When it comes to rape and murder and the arrogance of ‘divinely’ appointed kings we don’t have to look any further back into history than yesterday to see how violence, gender roles, mass rape etc have been used and continue to be used in war, civil war and other struggles. These nasty aspects of life would be implausible to ignore in these settings and form a part of this very grounding as well as being interesting and useful story elements in their own right.

I don’t think we have to say these things are problematic to enjoy them. They’re not really problematic. Better for us all to remind ourselves that fiction isn’t reality, even though it can be useful for looking at reality.

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