Safe spaces, or why dickwolves are only sometimes hilarious.

Okay folks. It’s time to recenter and refocus this discussion.

Let’s be blunt, my old article is long, rambling, and easy to misinterpret. I find that a lot of the comments focus not on my core point, but on some aside or small element that surrounds the main point of the article. So, let’s take a breather and recenter on the actual point that I’m trying to make:


Guys wearing “Team Dickwolves” shirts make women feel unwelcome at PAX. The fact that Gabe intends to wear a “Team Dickwolves” shirt to PAX shows that he doesn’t consider the feelings of women at PAX to be worth addressing.

  1. I don’t care whether or not you personally are offended. There’s a large community of women gamers who feel unwelcome because of this.
  2. I don’t care if you are a woman who isn’t offended, or if your wife/girlfriend/friend/daughter/coworker isn’t offended. There’s a large community of women gamers who feel unwelcome because of this.
  3. I don’t care about your interpretation of the original comic. We’ve already discussed that and the issue is well settled. There’s a large community of women gamers who feel unwelcome because of this.
  4. Look. Seriously. I don’t want to hear your thoughts about the “Sixth Slave” comic on We’re talking about a shirt. There’s a large community of women gamers who feel unwelcome because of the shirt.

So. One sentence long. Practically a tweet. There’s a large community of women gamers who feel unwelcome at PAX because of the dickwolves shirts. Gabe saying he intends to wear his shows that he doesn’t care.

Do you disagree? Awesome. No seriously. I want to hear your point and I look forward to debating you on it. No, I’m not kidding or being flippant. If you have a critique of the above listed core point, I’m genuinely interested in discussing that critique with you.

If you want to discuss any other point in the Dickwolves debate, then I welcome you to start a blog and discuss it there. If you try to comment, and your comment isn’t relevant or doesn’t add anything new, then it’s going in the trash bin. Sorry. Learn to debate better next time.


  • Sure, they’re not about to get physically attacked

    except when they are.

    I’ve been going to cons since I was thirteen. I’ve never been to a single con where I wasn’t sexually harassed or assaulted. Not one.

    So no, that shirt will not make you, the individual, a rapist. But it contributes to a culture that says that survivors should just shut the fuck up because they’re ruining everyone else’s fun. And that culture makes a victim out of one woman in every six.

  • You are absolutely correct that these incidents are ongoing. I apologize for playing that down.

    I glossed over continuing issues of sexual abuse at cons because I was angling for a specific argument I’ve heard about the Dickwolves shirt, namely that you can’t trace a streight line between wearing the shirt and sexual assult.

    I’m trying to appeal to reasonable male con-goers who might support materials such as this even though they themselves are not a physical threat. As such, I drew a distinction between obvious and egregious cases of abuse and more subtle (and in my opinion pervasive) harassment.

    A lot of people who haven’t thought about this issue consider “the little stuff” unimportant, and I’m trying to point that out as fallacy. However, in doing so, I didn’t give the very real hurt of very real incidents its due.

    I’ve edited the original post to reflect your point.

  • Very interesting thoughts on this topic. When I read the first comic that PA posted, the one with the slave being not-rescued, I didn’t find it offensive AT ALL because it was a comic about a fake slave in a fake video game being abandoned by a fake hero fulfilling a quota. The comic was about the silly quota, not the torture of the slave. I was so confused about the following outrage that I flipped back through all the comics from the prior month, trying to find the one that was supposedly offensive.

    I was, however, very offended by their response comic. This comic included them, images of 2 real people, outside of game, sitting on a couch, making flippant comments about rapists. That was very offensive to me. Making fun of things and turning addressing trauma through humor can be cathartic, so maybe if PA were written by 2 women and they had been saying those things I would have a different feeling, but 2 white males on a couch making fun of rape is about a million percent inappropriate.

    While your statistic about 1 in 6 women having been raped sounds accurate, sexual harassment overall is even more prevalent, more like 1 in 4 women have experienced some kind of physical attack, even if it didn’t progress all the way to actual rape.

    I feel a bit ambivalent about the shirt. I find it offensive, primarily because I think they are making it because of the outrage over the issue, not because their original comic with the slave was funny, but at least it hearkens back to the fake in-game actions – if I saw it on someone I would just be likely to assume they were an ass.

  • My lack of reaction to their response comic stems entirely from my bias and privilege. It took the shirt for me to see the response as flippant and dismissive. Now though, it’s like poison in the water. I can’t look at anything they say with the kind of trust and respect I used to have.

  • A very well thought out piece, well written, but you missed something. Team Dickwolves is not a reference to team sports, necessarily. The Team reference is mocking the polarizing act of taking sides as seen, for example, in the Twilight saga where fans wear “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” shirts.

    A Team Dickwolves shirt is a statement. A gamer wearing the shirt shows support for Penny Arcade and an understanding of the comic’s intention to make light of the flaws in the quest activities of the WoW game.

    What it does not represent is a team comprised of phallus-legged beasts on the prowl to commit rape, as you have suggested above.

    Thanks for this page. I’ve enjoyed reading it.

    • If this had been a “I saved the Sixth Slave” t-shirt, I wouldn’t have a complaint. As it stands though, we all know what a Dickwolf is. No matter how funny or over-the-top you make the gag, it still hinges on one fundamental question: Is rape hilarious?

      To you and me, rape is an abstract. Yes, it’s terrible, but it’s not especially likely that we’ll be victims of rape. For women, the odds aren’t the same, and mocking their very real fear isn’t helping to foster a welcoming environment at cons. The problem, as I mention above, is ambiguity. You and I are safe at cons. Women don’t have the same luxury. They’re harassed, and even attacked. They see a shirt like this, it makes them feel less safe.

      Telling them “You don’t get the meaning of this shirt” doesn’t make them feel better, it makes them feel like you’re not listening. Even if you don’t agree completely with their stance, ask yourself, what’s more important? Being right, or geek solidarity?

  • “Even if you don’t agree completely with their stance, ask yourself, what’s more important? Being right, or geek solidarity?”

    Neither. It’s not about being right or maintining geek solidarity. It’s a matter of passive versus active participation.

    By reading (or viewing) the comic, you have become an active participant in the gag, whether you intended to or not. At the point of no return you can choose to join the ranks of one of the opposed parties (for or against the gag, regardless of the rape aspect) or you can choose to focus on the rape aspect of the contained text and use it as a platform for your own agenda, thus highlighting the seriousness of a problem that is being mocked in a satirical cartoon.

    There will be no right or wrong in this discussion. It is merely a discussion. There will always be those who find humour in the darkest of places and those who rally against that dark humour.

    What are the options? It is unlikely that geek culture will change to reflect a sensitivity to vile, rape-based humour just as it is unlikely that a woman at a gaming convention will not be sexually harassed. It’s all about conscious choice and placing yourself in a dangerous situation.

    To what do you say of a female con participant wearing a Team Dickwolves shirt?

    • I may be misunderstanding you, but the core of your point appears to be that I’m taking the comic out of context, or focusing on something other than the punchline.

      Please, go back and read my post, specifically under the sub heading “I thought the first comic was funny”. As I said in my post, and in my reply to your post, this isn’t about the comic. The comic was funny. The comic really is just a satirical cartoon. I already said that myself. The comic isn’t the problem.

      “or you can choose to focus on the rape aspect” I didn’t make that choice. Penny arcade made that choice. As I just said, if the shirt had been about the punchline, I wouldn’t have a problem. If I’m focusing on the wrong thing, then what is PA doing? If the rape element isn’t the point of the comic, then why is the rape element on a shirt?

      The shirt is my complaint, not the comic. I hope we have that cleared up now.

      “There will be no right or wrong in this discussion. It is merely a discussion.” As I’ve already linked twice, sexual assaults at geek gatherings are a real and ongoing problem. That’s not an abstract point of interest, that’s a very real and deeply damaging wound in geek culture. It needs to stop.

      “it is unlikely that a woman at a gaming convention will not be sexually harassed” If no one is willing to step forward and say “This isn’t cool” then yes, nothing will happen.

      “To what do you say of a female con participant wearing a Team Dickwolves shirt?” There aren’t hundreds of forum posts and dozens of blogs by women complaining that they feel uncomfortable because they can’t wear Dickwolves shirts. There are hundreds of forum posts and dozens of blogs by women talking about harassment. Real humans, not hypotheticals, say this kind of thing makes them feel unsafe and unwelcome. Which is more important? The hypothetical, or real people?

      “What are the options?” Stand up and say “This is a problem and it needs to stop.” Or ignore the issue because it doesn’t personally affect you. You can take the second option if you want, but I’ll stick with supporting my friends and fellow geeks. Again, I believe solidarity is a higher priority.

      • You missed “It’s all about conscious choice and placing yourself in a dangerous situation.”

        Poster seems to be saying that any woman who goes to a con is choosing to be sexually harassed. Because it’s not reasonable to expect that men should change their behavior and STOP FUCKING HARASSING.

        • I agree with your point. Focusing these issues on a woman’s behavior doesn’t make any sense. The problem isn’t the victim, the problem is the attacker.

          That said, I technically didn’t miss it, I just included it in a followup reply (just a bit below).

  • Incidentally. “It’s all about conscious choice and placing yourself in a dangerous situation.”

    Um, no. No it isn’t. You’re blaming the victims of sexual assault for being sexually assaulted. Yes, women have the choice to not show up to cons. Yes, they can exile themselves…

    but they’re exiling themselves BECAUSE we’re sheltering people who attack them. That’s not their problem. It’s ours.

  • At this point, I’ve lost interest in the discussion as you have clearly decided to go on the offensive and rather than critically think about the subject matter, you would rather attack my words out of context, assuming that I’m pro-rape and anti-women-at-cons.

    The original point of why I decided to post here has been lost. I merely wished to point out that your observation of the Team Dickwolves shirt as representation of a literal team of people out to rape other people was misguided and that it really stems into another joke that has a previously established role in pop culture.

    Thanks for allowing me to post here. It certainly has been interesting.

  • “In our constant quest to diversify our holdings, we have decided to invest in a sports team! Now, we just have to decide on a sport.”

    That’s the description of the shirt. On the store.

    Witty, ain’t it?

    As for your point? My point is that intended meaning is useless. What you intend has nothing to do with the result of an action. Let’s assume you’re 100% correct, and the shirt doesn’t intend to be sexist.

    It is sexist.

    So the intent doesn’t really factor in.

    But hey, you’ve lost interest in the physical safety of your fellow geeks. So whatever. Must not be important if you don’t care about it, right?

  • Since you appear to be intent on placing labels on everyone, I would like t point out that I am a jock, not a geek. I just found the discussion interesting, originally.

  • It’s my assumption that you’re a decent person, I’ve not once said that you’re pro-rape or anti-women. Please reread my replies. I’m not attempting to veil some kind of witty attack.

    I’ve said several times that we’re in this together. I’m not out to vilify you. However, I believe you’re not considering your position logically, and it is my responsibility to point out where your logic fails.

    As for a literal team of people out to rape other people? Here’s an “out of context” quote for you:

    Again, no, this shirt doesn’t make rapists, but it trivializes a very real fear. It doesn’t make cons dangerous for women, but it does make women feel unwelcome at cons.

    That was me. In the article. The one you’re replying to. I didn’t say it was a literal team of literal rapists. I specifically said the opposite of what you claim I said.

    Your point is that it’s not a literal team of literal rapists? Great! We agree! My whole point is this: The Dickwolves shirt makes women feel unwelcome at cons.

    Is my point wrong? If I’m wrong, attack me on the logic. Where does my logic fail?

  • The focus of my point is the following paragraph from the original post:

    The dickwolves shirt is designed like a team jersey. Now think about the context. What does that say in the language of clothing? Who wears jerseys? Sports fans supporting their teams in their favorite sport. The dickwolves shirt? Team Dickwolves. Do I really have to explain what sport that insinuates?

    Please elaborate on “what sport that insinuates?”.

  • And here we have the fundamental problem of perspective. From your perspective, it doesn’t insinuate a sport. Or perhaps, the sport of solidarity for Penny Arcade.

    For women? It insinuates the “sport” of treating them poorly at cons.

    In that paragraph, I’m asking you to see it from their perspective. Again, intent and result are different things. Whatever the intent, the result is an overwhelmingly sexist message.

  • Put simply, the sentence “Do I really have to explain what sport that insinuates? located where it was, immediately led me to read rape as the sport.

    Perhaps you should have answered that question to avoid any ambiguity.

    From my perspective, by leaving that question hanging and allowing the reader to fill in the blank and generate a “sport” for you, you have to take into consideration the context of the entire piece.

    I agree that from certain specific perspectives the shirt could be viewed as sexist. I agree that geek culture, as in sports culture, has demonstrated time and again to be an unsafe place for women.

    I also feel that sometimes a shirt is a shirt and funny is funny and that people, no matter gender, background, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., etc., etc., will never achieve an enlightened state where we will all agree to be civil towards one another. It would be a pretty boring world if we all behaved the same.

  • I’m glad that we’re in agreement about the two primary points, that the shirt is sexist, and that cons are dangerous because we allow this kind of thing to continue.

    As for leaving the question hanging? As I just said in the previous reply, it was my intent to put you in the shoes of those who’re affected by this issue. When you fill in the blank with “Rape”, you’re feeling what it’s like to be one of the people hurt by this. I’m glad you’re able to see things from their point of view.

    As for the boredom of a civil world? Yeah. Look, if you see a world without sexual harassment as dull… then I’m afraid we’ll just have to disagree on that one.

    Still, it’s good to know we can reach basic accord on the core of the discussion. Thank you for your posts, I feel they’ve been very informative in vetting out possible misunderstandings in my initial article.

  • Just to throw a curveball ’cause the conversation has been so lovely to this point…

    … is it just me, or is the slave in the original comic a guy? ’cause, you know, it’s not all about the hetero-norm. It isn’t all women raped by men. Men can be the victim too, along with the trans folks. My experiences within the trans community have certainly been… extremely not positive in that account.

    Personally, I think the only way I (as an artist, and an active supporter of the first amendment, along with being anti-rape) would personally feel comfortable printing a “Team Dickwolf” shirt (as a parody of both the comic strip and the Twitards) would be to do the opposing team as well “Team 6th Slave” or whatever. (I’m not a word guy, so sue me.)

    As much as controversy sells and gets more people to look at your art (yes, there is a thread of that here, where artists *want* to push the envelop to get people talking about it, to get more people into your stuff, either for or against), I would not be able to run that shirt.

  • I know this discussion is old at this point, but I would like to say that I respectfully disagree. I think the follow-up comic was very offensive. I was initially mildly put-off by the original comic, I was fine with their explanation in their news post, but as I went to open the comic, I thought to myself “Please don’t have turned into those web comics that immediately make fun of those who have complained about you.”

    And, of course, they did. The follow-up comic was a giant middle finger to those who were offended or upset by the first comic. This isn’t file sharing. This isn’t whether or not you liked Halo. The people who were upset by the comic most likely have very real, very chilling reasons for not thinking that that was funny. To flip them off for not thinking a comic about rape is appropriate is an amazingly tasteless move.

    It would be one thing to just say “This is kind of our comic’s sense of humor. Sorry if we offended, but it’s what we do.” It’s another thing entirely to say “You can only be offended by something if it actively makes other people into rapists.” Not only is that message unfairly directed against victims and friends/family of victims, it’s also a massive logical fallacy that excuses the normalization of things that should never be normalized.

  • JI, I can certainly understand that point of view, and my own opinion of the response has shifted during the ensuing discussion. As I mention in the comment thread here, my lack of reaction stems largely from my own limited perspective.

    It’s also a question of weather the response comic was meant as mockery or as a legitimate response. When I first saw it, I thought the real point of the comic was to say “The previous comic wasn’t about rape and doesn’t aggrandize rape, please stop trying to trace a line between rape encouragement and our humor”.

    Sadly, in light of their continuing behavior on the topic, it seems that the real meaning of the response comic was “Rape is goddamned hilarious and we won’t apologize for mocking the pain of rape victims.”

    If it hadn’t been for the shirt, or for their extremely offensive announcement of said shirt, I’d still be defending that second comic, but in light of the larger picture, the more positive benefit-of-the-doubt opinion I had of Penny Arcade was completely wiped out.

  • Being tired and fuelled by little more than chewing gum and coffee at this point, I’d do well to keep this as short as possible! Just for some context, I’m a young, straight white male with a college education and a job. This may trivialize my point of view somewhat, but hey – I didn’t ask to be born in the majority.

    As a long-time fan of Penny Arcade, I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming. Every religious joke, every bestiality joke, every joke involving death, drugs and mayhem seems to bring some community fallout. As they’ve said, every joke spins a “wheel of misfortune” that will land on one demographic or another, upsetting one crowd or another, and generally entertaining the rest. Its barb has landed on me once or twice and, while it stung to be undercut by people I admire, I realize that I’m bound to end up on the odd end of a polarizing issue sometimes. It’s helped me develop a thicker skin and to take these things in stride.

    So anyway.

    I think the key here is that the Sixth Slave is male. Imagine, just for a moment, that there was a woman crawling desperately towards our hero. Imagine it’s a woman who spends every night being raped by Dickwolves. There, see? My blood just ran cold and my gut flipped over. Talk about raping a woman and red flags go up all over the brain: “This actually happens. This is sick. This is awful.” Talk about raping a man, and we’re firmly within the realm of humor. This has a lot to do with the fact, as the article mentioned, that men are substantially less likely to be raped.

    Anally raping a male is allowed to be hilarious because most people don’t think it’s real. Raping a woman in any capacity is horrific because, like you said, we all know someone who’s been sexually abused, and odds are good that this someone is a lady. To some extent, anything that’s sickening enough starts to edge into humor—I think it’s a natural defense mechanism for us to laugh at things so ridiculously horrible—but sexual abuse against women and children is simply not there yet. It’s not far enough away from the real world. I long to live in a society where it’s long gone and can be laughed about.

    But, ultimately, the sixth slave was a man. There are no women involved. Perhaps the Dickwolves are female; I guess I don’t know. All I’m saying, as a LGBTQ+ advocate whose best friend is a gay man, as a geek, a gamer, and a vehement opponent of rape in all varieties, is that the shirt is far from malevolent. Dickwolves sounds like a team name, the Twilight-style “team” joke got brought into it, and that’s that. I don’t think anyone at the PA offices thought for a moment that anyone was talking about sexual violence. I mean, didn’t Erica Greco (notorious for actually being a woman) design that logo in the first place?

    This whole thing would have never been an issue if there was a word besides “rape” that means to “forcibly anally penetrate a heterosexual man.”

    • For the record, I’m also a straight collage educated male, so we can both be trivial together. I’m also a longtime fan of their comic, and I’ve also felt the sting of their humor. However, I think we can both agree that certain topics are off-limits for mockery. We might debate which topics, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that rape victims count as one of them.

      As for the question of male vs. female victims, you’ve rather oddly used one of the traditional arguments of rape survivors for explaining why this stuff is dangerous. You put a woman in that situation and the comic becomes not funny? Why is it funny with a man? Does a man suffer less from being the victim of sexual assault?

      You and I have both mentioned that women are more likely to be raped. I think it’s important in the context of the shirt, as it points out why it’s a uniquely bad idea to have people wandering around conventions wearing it. It creates an unsafe space for women. However, I don’t want to detract from the real suffering of male rape victims while making my point. Please consider that “Less likely” isn’t the same thing as unreal. Men do get raped, and those victims deserve the same respect as women.

      Basically, the difference between a “Rape joke” and a joke that involves rape is a single question “Who’s the punchline?” In this case, it’s arguably the 6th slave. As I mention in my article, my initial interpretation puts the punchline on the player. However, in the context of the response from Gabe and Tycho (The release of the shirt, the use of fake “Trigger warnings” in their forum posts to mock real sufferers of PTSD) it’s clear that the punchline is the 6th slave “Haha he gets raped by dickwolves”. Hate to say it, but man or woman, it ain’t funny.

      For a good idea of why this stuff is damaging, even when it’s hyperbolic, I’d suggest reading this excellent article on rape culture and how it increases the odds of victimization:

    • He did, and I’m glad for his statements there. Unfortunately, it’s clearly not in line with how he personally feels. He’s tweeted that he intends to wear a Dickwolves shirt to PAX. From that single sentence, it’s obvious that he doesn’t consider it a legitimate complaint. If he really believed that it was important to foster a safe environment for women, he wouldn’t be wearing the shirt to PAX. It’s that simple.

  • Just felt the need to chime in, belated and all.

    Had the comic, response comic, and t-shirt design all been centered around an idea of the sixth slave being “raped to sleep by ‘X'”, where ‘X’ is anything or anyone that could potentially exist, IE: a human guard, that would be bad.

    But the subject is a Dickwolf. A creature who’s limbs are entirely dicks. It’s a made-up fantasy creature that cannot possibly exist. That’s the joke in the joke.

    I can absolutely guarantee that no victim of rape in the history of humanity as a species capable of conceiving of, and committing the act of rape has ever been raped by a wolf that has giant dicks for limbs.

    The way people have reacted to the entire thing seems ridiculous to me. The actual comic’s joke isn’t even about rape — it’s a throwaway line. So tell me, did people flip about over a joke about rape that didn’t exist, or the mere mention of it? It can’t possibly be the former, as that wasn’t the joke. If it’s the latter, each and every article talking about it should be subject to the same reactions, as they all mention rape.

    • You’re absolutely correct that no one has been raped by dickwolves. Again, I mention in my article that I thought the comic was funny. Comic strips aren’t reality. However, geek culture is very real, and it’s unequal treatment of women is very real. This shirt says to women at cons “We think something traumatic which happens to your gender a lot is hilarious”.

      I want to point out, it doesn’t matter if that’s what you mean. Shirts are language, like words. What you say isn’t the same as what other people hear. Groups of people wearing this shirt create a very uncomfortable environment for women. They also create a very comfortable environment for people who secretly wish they could treat women as things instead of people. You’re welcoming the wrong people with this message, while pushing the right ones away. Intent isn’t the same as result.

      Or, in short, Dickwolves aren’t real, but this shirt has a very real effect.

  • “Sadly, in light of their continuing behavior on the topic, it seems that the real meaning of the response comic was “Rape is goddamned hilarious and we won’t apologize for mocking the pain of rape victims.””

    That’s absolutely ridiculous.

    It’s not *rape* that’s funny in the context of the shirt, it’s the word *dickwolf*. Whatever conclusions you’re drawing from that are your own.

    Why is rape so much worse than extreme violence? If the 6th slave had been vivisected to sleep each night, would they be accused of glorifying torture and mutilation?

    The response comic was exactly a response to accusations of downplaying and glorifying rape with the 6th Slave comic. There are no ill effects from that comic, apart from people choosing to get offended, and those people shouldn’t read PA.

    Their response yesterday by pulling the shirt from their store was a reasonable response to the fact that it might make some PAX attendees uncomfortable. PAX is a convention for all gamers, not a Penny Arcade fan event. The point being that while you shouldn’t be offended if you’re a reasonable person, things that make us *uncomfortable* aren’t something we can control, and no one should feel uncomfortable at PAX.

    I’m male, I was sexually assaulted as a child, and I thought the Polish newspaper claiming Pedobear was an official mascot of the Vancouver Olympics was absolutely hilarious. I can separate humor from real world phenomena. It doesn’t trivialize the actual crimes to laugh about a creepy looking teddy bear.

    • I’m glad you overcame your childhood trauma. I am surprised however, most people who’ve suffered trauma understand that not everyone recovers equally from such a trauma. Some people come out okay, others come out damaged.

      As for my “Completely ridiculous” conclusion. I drew it from their own words, not my imagination. Please familiarize yourself with the entirety of an issue before drawing a conclusion.

      Finally. I am glad that they pulled the shirt. However, Gabe himself has said that he intends to wear his shirt to PAX. Whatever their reasons for removing the shirt, it’s clear that he doesn’t believe it’s a legitimate issue. If he did, he wouldn’t be deliberately going against his own statements.

      It’s good that you can laugh, but it doesn’t make mocking those who can’t into an acceptable act.

  • So a comic using rape as a synonym for *hell* is saying that rape is hilarious? It’s mocking the pain of rape victims?

    The power of human rationalization never ceases to amaze me (and I spent a lot of time talking to Christian apologists), but this takes the cake. Those of you accusing the Penny Arcade guys — really nice guys with wives and children — of being pro rape are simply fucking *wrong*. Embarrassingly so. Shamefully so.

    The Team Dickwolves shirt is funny not because rape is funny, but because the idea of a DICK WOLF is funny, kinda like the idea of a FRUIT FUCKER 2000, or any number of hilariously bizarre and obscene characters Penny Arcade has cooked up over the years.

    • Before responding to a post, it is considered polite to actually read what I’ve written. My entire point was that the shirt pulls the joke off the internet and translates it into a very uncomfortable real-world message. It makes women uncomfortable at conventions. Nice people, people with wives and children, founders of charities and tireless advocates for gamers…. can still make mistakes. They can still, intentionally or otherwise, pour salt on very real wounds.

      As I’ve mentioned several times in the post and the comment thread, I thought the comic was funny. If the shirt had been about something else, or even slightly different, I wouldn’t have a problem. Some examples:

      “I saved the sixth slave” – Hilarious. It focuses the joke on the decision of the player
      “Dickwolf slayer” – That could’ve worked. Killing fictional rape monsters? A bit offensive, but in line with their other stuff, and still treating rape as bad.

      I know it doesn’t seem like much, and I’m sure plenty of people would still be offended, but the devil is in the details.

  • I very much enjoyed your analysis and interpretation of the events. I find myself in agreement with you for the most part, and I enjoyed your breakdown far more than the other musings I have read on the issue; however, I am incapable of seeing the response comic strip and the subsequent T-Shirt as anything other than a direct critique, even a mockery, aimed at the critics of a rape element used as inconsequential character background for a joke about RPG game design.

    To give credit to the critique against the comic strip supports the misconstrued notion that the comic is about rape and rape humor. It’s not. We know it isn’t … or, at least, some of us do. It is easy to see how one could be confused, but the rape and beating of the slave is used to engender sympathy from the hero. Creating sympathy for the character is the primary function of those lines, and how that sympathy is attained is inconsequential: whether it is through a giant robot stomping on the character’s house, or the character’s ice cream falling off his cone after he just bought it, or if he is being tortured and raped in an unending hell. To this misplaced critique, the authors retort with a wordy non-apology apology that could be summed up in a familiar abbreviation: STFU.

    This is most certainly not sensitive. But, the authors are under no obligation to be sensitive or charitable to people who find offense with their work and then reprimand them—let alone when they misinterpret their work. I would agree that it is better to be sensitive and responsive to your audience to facilitate a meaningful mutual relationship (which is precisely what Gabe and Tycho do in the end), but this spurious attack on the comic strip doesn’t merit genuine response. That is my reaction to the events, and it must be similar to the authors given the response comic and the T-Shirt, both of which serve to mock the people who focused on Dickwolves rather than the ignored slave.

    At no time do the authors legitimize the validity of the attack; in fact, their mockery is a refutation of that very idea. Their record for sensitivity to the issues of their audience as it pertains to PAX and their forums are well-established—well, they’re not saints, by any means, but they appear genuinely interested in maintaining a positive atmosphere for all their fans and take steps to insure that result. The most relevant question on the matter is how best to respond to unsound arguments. The authors mocked their critics; they are cartoonists, after all.

    It should be said, that one can understand the emotions involved and respect the legitimacy of these feelings without accepting the validity of the argument against the comic strip in question. To tie these two issues together does a disservice to fully comprehending such a difficult circumstance. It is most difficult, if not impossible, to mock your opponent without it appearing like you are denying the legitimacy of their emotions. The fallout here is predictable; however, if you look at the arguments, who was right? Who has the facts on their side?

    Most certainly, one can critique the authors for not initially responding sincerely, but is their insensitive response more disdainful than the original misinterpretation and over-reaction? I can forgive both parties, but I am more readily forgiving of Gabe and Tycho because I know I got the joke.

    And knowing is … nevermind.

    • “but is their insensitive response more disdainful than the original misinterpretation and over-reaction?”

      A rape victim, being hurt by someone using rape in humor isn’t being “Insensitive”. So to answer your question: Umm, yes. Yes it is.

      I understand the core of your argument, however, falling back on “We always act like this towards our critics” doesn’t really excuse the fact that mockery isn’t an appropriate reaction to a rape victim saying “Dude, that really hurt.”

      As I previously mentioned, I thought the initial comic was funny. Insensitive, sure, but funny. My complaint was, and remains, about the shirt and the cavalier attitude they’ve taken towards the plight of women at gaming conventions. Taking down the shirt was a step in the right direction, but Gabe himself has repeatedly stated that he’s not legitimately sorry, nor that he considers the complaints made about his comments to be legitimate complaints.

      In short, mockery is by definition a statement that you don’t consider someone’s complaint legitimate. By making fun of someone, you’re saying they’re not worth taking seriously. Can you honestly say you’ve never been on the receiving end of such an attack? Did you feel the person mocking you considered your issue serious?

  • @Mancer

    Hi! I thought I’d just put this out there for context… A line of yours stood out to me, you said:

    “I’m bound to end up on the odd end of a polarizing issue sometimes. It’s helped me develop a thicker skin and to take these things in stride.”

    For you (generally), when something offends you, when someone says something cruel to you, or you are upset when everyone else is laughing, that’s an occasional thing.

    When you’re a woman, or a gay person, or a racial minority, or disabled, or whatever other way you might be a target – you hear it all the time. Not because you’re looking to be offended, but because that’s YOU they’re joking about, and being confronted with it constantly and unable to ignore it gives you a better idea of its impact.

    I think that’s why the “little issues”, and empathizing with why the little issues are hurtful and important. (because they pile up, and support the big/real issues)

    I’m not calling you out – I’m empathizing cos I’ve had to do this mental reset a few times myself – that generally a “target”-group person can’t just harden their skin or let it roll off because the magnitude of little attacks they suffer is so much greater and more constant. Their skin is already pretty hard.

    On the other point, I want to mention the “sexual assault is HILARIOUS/AWESOME when it happens to a man” is a problematic thing too – that not only does a male rape victim have to deal with the questions that any rape victim gets asked (did they fight the attack HARD ENOUGH? didn’t they really want it to happen?) but they are almost invisible in any discussion about rape (and statistics say 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted.) and they have the “don’t men want sex all the time?!” stereotype to contend with.

    The kerfuffle was fairly loud, loud enough for there to be a response comic – the issue is still coming up on Twitter, etc. Anyone enough of a fan of PA to buy merch certainly KNOWS there was opposition, and I think it all gives that shirt context. A Dickwolves-shirt-wearer doesn’t necessarily say “I support sexual violence” but they do say “my lolz are more important than your discomfort,” and that’s just shitty.

    Erica Greco doesn’t hold the Woman Stamp of Approval, against which no woman can disagree. Just cos she found it funny doesn’t mean other people can’t be offended – and treating offense as a reasonable response to jerk behavior is at the root of this argument.

  • I guess the whole debate boils down to something like this:

    1) Inappropriate humor may have its place.

    2) That place is not on public display in front of a large crowd of people, some of whom may have painful personal reasons to be very offended.

    3) Therefore, keep the offensive T-shirt slogans at home.

    By the way, it’s been an articulate and interesting discussion so far.

  • If the shirt makes 1 person uncomfortable, then they need to get over it. If it makes a group uncomfortable, then rethink. If it makes a large group of another sex/race/etc uncomfortable, don’t even print them.

    And at PAX? On the internets, it doesn’t matter how they represent themselves. At their conference, they should be professional. If PAX has anything to do with Child’s Play, the shirts shouldn’t leave the dresser at home.

    Are they role models? Yes, but they didn’t choose to be. But if it’s at PAX, they are representing far more than their joke, and their joke (albeit funny to me) has been blown waaaaay out of proportion, and will only make them come across like dipshits. It doesn’t matter if they lose viewers to the webcomic. But if it starts screwing with PAX or Child’s Play, Gabe and Tycho need to realize what they represent. Whether they like it or not.


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