While Penny Arcade could never be called politically correct, a strip that ran last week in the online comic has offended some feminists and rape survivors.
The strip in question, entitled The Sixth Slave, took a jab at quests in massively multiplayer games and featured an extra slave who was not saved because the hero in question had already achieved his quota needed for a quest completion. This extra slave, in an attempt to sway the hero, utters the line “Every night, we are raped to sleep by the dickwolves.”
The use of this term caused a Shakesville columnist (and self-described feminist) to pen a story in which she argued that rape isn’t funny, writing:
Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.
Penny Arcade’s Gabe (Mike Krahulik) and Tycho (Jerry Holkins) since published a cartoon that had the pair, in their cartoon form, talking to the audience and stating that they hate rapists and adding, tongue firmly in cheek, “It’s possible you read our cartoon and became a rapist as a direct result. If you’re raping someone now, stop. Apologize and leave.”
In another post Gabe noted that one recurring character in the comic is a literal rapist (the fruit fucker), adding:
For the most part I think that people are perfectly happy to laugh at offensive jokes until the joke offends them. Then it’s not funny anymore. There is no way we can know what each and every person who reads the comic has decided to find offensive.
In the end I just disagree with these people about what’s funny and that’s perfectly okay.
The artist’s responses didn’t do much to temper their critics as a second Shakesville column was authored by a different columnist who wrote:
No, one rape joke does not "cause" someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times.
It exists in a culture in which rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors.
The author added:
If Tycho and Gabe want to make rape jokes, that’s their prerogative. I’m not calling for a repeal of the First Amendment or asking their strip to be censored; to be perfectly frank, I would love nothing more than for them to continue their comic with a newfound appreciation for why rape jokes fucking suck, and thus not use (or defend) them anymore by their own choice.