"Maybe I was wrong," he wrote. "It's certainly happened before.

"But I am who I am, in the end," he concluded. "The comics I make are the result of my damage. I can't put it any more succinctly than that."

I'm not sure why Holkins thought talking to Courtney Stanton was impossible; she is much more forgiving of Krahulik and Holkins's responses than I was, and I'm the one who's actually a Penny Arcade fan. Stanton, for her part, seemed unsurprised that Holkins did not issue an apology, and she seemed thankful that he had responded at all.

"I would like to publicly say that I'm really grateful that when [Holkins] was confronted with some shit he didn't understand, he did eventually decide to pick up some books and do a lot of reading and thinking about it," says Stanton. "I understand that takes time. Did I appreciate the death threats every day? No. But, you know, that has still continued, even after Krahulik and Holkins asked people to stop. So, to some extent, I understand his point of, 'Look, I do not actually control these fans.' "

Still, she says, "I think the delayed response, even if it was warranted in order for them to put forth a calm educated opinion on something, is unfortunately problematic because that's already given people a week of ire and feeling justified. And the more time people spend with an opinion, I think, the harder it is to let it go. And if you've secretly always thought women are awful for some reason, and then you feel like you have some sort of passive approval from people you respect to treat specific women terribly, it's going to be really hard to stop doing that. Because that's, I guess, really fun for some people."

In the fight that erupted in the aftermath of the Dickwolves, dialogue quickly broke down along predictable lines: rape is often treated, by feminists and non-feminists, as a feminist issue. But in a situation like this, gendering the issue confuses it, because much of this Dickwolves issue in particular stems from the kind of anxious, performance-based masculinity that pervades the gaming community as a whole. The rape victim in this comic was a man — which was not accidental. If anything, the fact that the character is male is part of what allows the comic to be seen as funny by anyone; if it were a female slave, would anyone be able to laugh? After all, a woman in distress is meant to be saved, as video games have been teaching us across decades of games like Mario, Legend of Zelda, Castle Crashers, and so on. But a man in distress, begging to be saved? Comedy gold!

The word "rape" has its own particular baggage in the gaming community. The term is frequently used to refer to beating another player at a game. A commenter named Sydera, writing on the Shakesville post, described players in a World of Warcraft guild who use the word "rape" in this fashion: "I explained to my guild at least ten times why rape jokes were disrespectful to rape survivors who were, beyond a doubt, included in that guild chat and vent. We had many women in our guild, at least two of whom were rape survivors. Now, not everyone would have known that, but no excuses. The players just wouldn't give up 'their' word, which they had changed the meaning of."

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Related: Responses to the Dickwolves Debacle, Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Continuing education August 2010, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Video Games, Comics, gaming,  More more >
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