Friday, 4 January 2013

The Rape Double Standard

This post will contain spoilers about Far Cry 3

I've written about rape once before and weighed up the pros and cons of delving into the issue in video games but didn't really write about any double standards when it comes to the subject. There was one small one involving RapeLay but I didn't think enough games featured the rape of men, nor had there been enough articles written about them, to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Now, however, as hard as it is to believe, I've recently learned that there's a significant double standard against men when it comes to rape in video games.

Specifically, because of Far Cry 3:

For those of you who don't know the story of Far Cry, the short version is that a bunch of American tourists travel to an island to celebrate and are captured by pirates. The player character, Jason Brody, escapes and sets out to rescue his friends and take revenge on the people who captured him. It may sound clichéd but it tries to mix things up by making Jason unwilling to kill, having just been a normal kid before setting foot on the island.

One of Jason's friends, Keith, is held captive by an Australian criminal by the name of Buck. Rather than explain what happens when Jason comes to his rescue, it's better to just watch it. Basically, without outright saying it, Buck has been raping Keith while he's been held prisoner. It's very blatant, they just don't say the word "rape" for some reason. The rape content itself is only around four minutes long, so I recommend watching it to see what the problem is.

I'll give my thoughts on the rape itself later in the blog but it's worth stating how I came across this first. I don't own Far Cry 3. What I know about the story is cobbled together from lots of reading, the video above, the start of a Let's Play and a video of the two endings on Youtube. That's about it. I started looking into the male-on-male rape scene a few days ago, when a friend sent me a message about it. Almost immediately, I wondered why I hadn't heard about it sooner, thanks in no small part to the one game last year that did get a lot of attention for a (non-existent) rape scene: Tomb Raider. I'm sure I don't have to give a link to the original story after all this time but here it is anyway, for the people that missed it at the time. In the process of looking up articles to research this blog, I came across two more games that featured male victims of rape. F.E.A.R 2 featured it significantly at the end of the game and Mafia 2 had a man attempt to rape the male player character while in prison.

Since Tomb Raider received so much coverage for its "non-rape" scene last year, that's the game I found myself comparing Far Cry 3 to the most. They're both AAA titles, after all, but while one received a ton of press coverage, the other went ignored. I did some searching for any comparisons between the two games but outside of being mentioned in this forum post, I couldn't find anyone else who connected the dots between the two.

This is the basis for the rape double standard in games. The reactions of the gaming media. While Tomb Raider was faced with a very public backlash, Far Cry 3 wasn't. F.E.A.R 2 and Mafia 2 slipped under the radar too. Why? Why was Far Cry 3's rape not faced with the same backlash as Tomb Raider's non-rape? Is it because Keith isn't Lara Croft or simply because he's not female? WhatCulture comes up with a very good reason too; it was because the Tomb Raider developers actually singled out rape in their E3 preview, while other games featuring rape have kept quiet about it. That's a interesting possibility and I'm willing to give gaming journalists the benefit of the doubt by picking that one. Rape isn't exactly a topic that should be talked about when you want to promote your game.

When looking for articles about the supposed Tomb Raider rape scene, I didn't find as many as I thought I would. Even articles about rape in video games in general were hard to find. Maybe it was easier to find them closer to the time of the controversy. I also had to rule out using "Tomb Raider features rape" articles, since it obviously doesn't. They'd be arguing from outdated information and some of their objections would no longer apply. The WhatCulture article is one of the few that I found that didn't depend on knee-jerk reactions and pandering to a feminist viewpoint -- put it this way; I'm not going to humour the arguments of any article that mentioned "patriarchy" or that rape in video games "contributed to rape culture". Only sensible, legitimate reasons for including or not including rape will be taken under consideration -- but even the WC article seems to move the goalposts on why Tomb Raider is supposed to be controversial.

From what I can recall of articles I saw earlier in the year, these were the reasons people raised to object to the "rape" in Tomb Raider:
  • Rape should not be in games, full-stop.
I can completely respect this attitude. If you think rape has no place in video games, that's a position I'm fine with and can accept.
  • Lara Croft is a character who should never be threatened with rape.
At a push, I can accept this too. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with the threat being used by villains in games; provided the act itself doesn't occur, what's the problem? Bad people do bad things and in games, practically all of them commit murder. The threat alone shouldn't be an issue. Having said that, since Lara has never had to deal with this in Tomb Raider before and I can certainly sympathise with those who object to a "gritty" reboot, it's fine if people don't want Lara to even be subjected to the threat.
  • Female characters are the only ones ever threatened with rape, not male ones.
This is one of the places where I find myself disagreeing with the objections. Not least because of the Mafia 2 example; the protagonist isn't raped but the threat of rape is the reason he fights back against his attackers. So even with that one example, the objection proves to be untrue.

One of the objections that ties into this point was something that Crystal Dynamics executive producer Ron Rosenberg said while speaking to Kotaku:
"They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her."
Apparently, people disliked the idea of protecting Lara Croft rather than being Lara Croft. This is something I don't understand; you have the desire to protect every character when you play a game because if you don't, you die. The point of most games is to protect your character, to keep them alive until the game is completed. Yet the WhatCulture article, not without its flaws, states, "The whole idea of wanting to protect Lara is absurd. She’s able to handle her self, or we wouldn’t have a very compelling action game." To Corey Milne, who wrote that article, I'd like to suggest he plays one of the previous Tomb Raider games, guides Lara to a dangerous area, then puts the controller down on the floor and sees just how well Lara handles herself without the player there to protect her.

The desire to protect characters in games is nothing new. Take a look at that Mafia 2 video linked to above. Can anyone say that they don't want to protect the main character from being raped? Perhaps a better question would be does your desire to beat up the people threatening you outweigh your desire to protect the main character from being raped? Hopefully, your answer to that is "no" and you want to protect the main character more than you want to beat up the bad guys. Given the choice between safely walking away from unharmed rapists or beating them to a pulp but being raped anyway, I know which one I'd pick. Rape doesn't even have to be involved; imagine if it was a shooting game where you could kill that last enemy but not without him killing you. Staying alive is the sensible, logical choice, isn't it? So it doesn't make sense for anyone to be upset about wanting to protect Lara.

In Far Cry 3's case, rape is the motivator for wanting to rescue Keith from Buck. The rape in F.E.A.R 2 is an odd one; it happens while the player character is unconscious and hallucinating, but we catch glimpses and flashes of what's happening while the player faces the final boss. So in a sense, it's the worst of the bunch because the rape actually takes place to the player character in a first-person shooter and we even see bits and pieces of it. In another sense, it's actually not so bad. The rape isn't graphic and without anyone using it as a threat, it doesn't come across as blatant in the same way that the rape scenes in Far Cry 3 and Mafia 2 do. It's used for narrative purposes more than in those games. That's not to say it's not disturbing -- the villainess, Alma, places the character's hand on her womb after he regains consciousness, suggesting she got pregnant by her rape of him -- but it's a horror game and you could say that's the intention.

One final thing to bear in mind is that not everyone objected to female characters being threatened with rape in games. Those of us who are interested in video games as a serious art form -- as well as those who just didn't mind the threat of rape in a game -- made sure to voice their support. Not necessarily for there to be rape in Tomb Raider but just an openness to the inclusion in games. In my first "real" post on this blog, I posted a link to an article on Destructoid by Holly Green. I looked over it again today and found a segment I really liked:
"Given the statistics on sexual assault, rape is a pretty common experience for women. We talk so much about wanting games to grow up and feature the female perspective, and yet we shy away from the one experience that nearly all of us share. And why? Because it's too real?"
Even if, as the critics believed, that men weren't threatened with rape in games, this sounds like a good jumping-on point to open up discussions about featuring rape in video games. I remember there being more supporters of a more mature attitude to the subject of rape in games, so Green certainly isn't alone, and I hope to see more debates on it in the future.
  • Female characters are the only ones who have to be broken down to be built back up, not male ones.
This is where I think the WhatCulture article falls flat, as well as other bloggers who decided to make this argument after it turned out the Tomb Raider reboot didn't have a rape scene. It moves the goalposts to focus on weakness instead of rape. To me, that comes across as an attempt to keep criticising the Tomb Raider reboot when you've lost the original reason. I know it sounds cynical but I feel like it's an attempt to gain hits for your articles while the game is still in the public consciousness.

Anyway, WhatCulture's article sums up the point above with this statement:
"There seems to be a different set of rules when taking about male and female leads. Men are naturally talented and efficient killers where as Lara apparently needs to be broken down before she can shine."
First of all, we should eliminate the idea that showing weakness is a bad thing. Back in September, I wrote this:
"Did Sarah Connor's weakness in Terminator stop her from being strong in Terminator 2? What about Ripley in Alien? It's not even specific to women; did Peter Parker have super-strength even while being beaten up by bullies? It sounds like certain audiences wouldn't be satisfied unless Lara was clutching a pair of handguns at birth."
I stick by what I said back then. Bearing that in mind, even assuming that it was only women who were broken down and built back up, the flipside of the argument is that men always being portrayed as automatically strong isn't a good thing. Interestingly, Rhianna Pratchett, of all people, makes a good point about this in an interview with Eurogamer from November last year:
"It can be a little jarring, seeing her crying and being vulnerable, because we haven't seen this Lara before. We're taking a risk, making her appear scared and doubt herself, but that's where bravery comes from. You can't have bravery without fear. And fear is a dangerous thing to show in games, because we're so used to capable characters who can do everything."

According to Pratchett, this is not a gender issue. "Male characters are often undercooked. We probably suffer from the fact we don't think about them as being human - they're heroic and there's not much else to them. That is a problem."
I've criticised Pratchett a few times on this blog but I have to give credit where credit's due; she hits the nail on the head with the statements above. Without delving into any specific games -- pick any modern shooter, I'm sure you'll get one -- I'm very tired of seeing the "heroic and not much else to them" characters. I enjoy characters with pronounced qualities other than just heroism, whether it's humour, quirkiness and, yes, weakness. If all else fails, mute characters are great too; it allows you to project a personality of your own onto the character.

The heart of the matter, however, is that women aren't the only ones to be broken down to be built back up. Jason Brody, the protagonist of Far Cry 3, has this in spades. Faced with hordes of pirates who kidnapped his friends and murdered his brother, he's a terrified twenty-five-year-old kid from Hollywood who suddenly has to learn to kill people. Although, knowing the writer of Far Cry 3 (more on him later), this was probably some weird attempt at "meta-commentary" on the status quo of gaming and how he wanted to subvert it.

Jason Brody isn't alone. Metal Gear Solid 3's Naked Snake -- the man who would become Big Boss -- had to have his limbs broken and get thrown off a bridge before he could come back and save the day. Plus, I'm sure none of us will forget the torture scene where he was beaten so badly that he wet himself and then had his eye shot out. Heavy Rain was a game featuring nothing but the breaking down of the main character. Fable 2, even though your character could be male or female, started with the main character being kicked out of a window as a child before beginning their journey to heroism. Outside of gaming, remember how I mentioned Sarah Connor above? Well couldn't the same thing be said about her son, John? Even though he's a character who grows up to be an inspirational military leader, he wasn't that way as a teenager. He tried to act tough but his crying made for a couple of rather poignant moments in Terminator 2. He was also rather helpless, never using a gun himself but always handing ammunition to either his mother or the T-800, Arnold Schwarzeneggar's Terminator.

Saying that all the objections raised in the bullet points above are reasons why examples of male rape aren't more widely condemned in video games, like the Tomb Raider "non-rape" was, is quite a big stretch. I admit that. I'm quite happy to go with WhatCulture's explanation that Tomb Raider was singled-out because Crystal Dynamics mentioned rape in their E3 presentation and featured it prominently. However, I think my responses are worth bearing in mind if you want to discuss the pros and cons of featuring rape in video games. Leaping to the idea that rape or even weakness in video games is only something that affects women just promotes the double standard.

For more information on the positives and negatives of including rape in video games, I highly recommend this article by GamingSymmetry: Rape in Video Games: Where is the Line? It's definitely supportive of the inclusion of rape in video games but it's a fantastic read, regardless of your stance.

I don't want to seem too negative on the reactions towards rape in the gaming industry because, in spite of the backlash against Tomb Raider, I haven't noticed any other games that feature rape receiving the same attention (other than RapeLay, of course, for obvious reasons). In fact, all the articles I've seen that write about the rape in Far Cry 3 have treated it with the seriousness that it deserves:

Kotaku - Here Are Three Possible Reasons For Including Rape In Far Cry 3
Kill Screen - Why is there a rape in Far Cry 3 and why is it different from the rape scene in Pulp Fiction?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - What I Loathe About Far Cry 3 

For Kotaku, I'd only read their third reason; "Rape as a thing that not even Ubisoft knows WTF is doing in the game". Like Patricia Hernandez, writer of that article, I think it's the most likely of the three reasons.

I was very critical of Rock, Paper, Shotgun back in my criticism #1ReasonWhy and, while I still dislike the blog post I linked to back then, I have a lot of praise for them this time around. Their opinions about the rape in Far Cry 3 gel with my own (which I'll write about towards the end of this blog post) and I think they hit the nail on the head:
"And then there’s the rapey bit. (Oddly, this paragraph is also a spoiler.) General rule: unless your game is about rape, or willing to truly deal with the subject, maybe steer clear of rape. It’s way too big of a subject to nonchalantly include, and it’s pretty abhorrent to use it as a mere plot beat. The rape in FC3 is threatened and implied, rather than witnessed, but it’s so thrown away, used to say, “This man who did it is terrible!” rather than to explore the true horror for the repeatedly abused victim. The perpetrator happens to be one of the best written and acted characters in game – especially acted. It’s a fantastic performance. And his being a monster makes that all the more affecting. But in the end, the reveal of Jason’s victimisation is flippant, and the ludicrous mystic-trippy scene in which you QTE kill Buck is just plain offensive in the context. I think it was intended to further the brutal horror faced by these rich suburban kids, but in the end it’s an awkward, potentially upsetting misfire."
This is a very welcome criticism of the rape in Far Cry 3, since I think it hits upon the important reasons why it offends and why it doesn't fit into a video game.

That'd be enough on its own but then we get to the interview that Rock, Paper, Shotgun did with the writer, Jeffrey Yohalem. Yohalem already gave an interview to Eurogamer before the one with RPS and already, his ideas seem incredibly "out-there". From what I understand, reading articles about Far Cry 3 that weren't about the rape, the story faced a lot of criticism because the plot surrounded a typical American white guy who helps save the natives of the island that he's on and becomes their chosen warrior. In popular culture, this trope is jokingly called "Mighty Whitey", in that a lone white man ends up saving the day for his black companions. You've probably already seen a bit of criticism on the three sites linked to above.

Anyway, this has to be explained because I'd like to write a little bit about one of the Far Cry 3 endings (NSFW). It doesn't have anything to do with rape but I don't want to write another blog post about Far Cry 3, so this seems like a good place to put it. According to Eurogamer:
In one ending, Jason chooses to live out his days with Citra, where he - being the ultimate badass that he is - will continue to protect the island. Only Citra has other plans and decides to murder the oblivious bloke instead.
As it turns out, Citra never really needed to be saved and the whole thing is a commentary on the princess rescuing complex that permeates the medium. "Jason conjures up this whole idea that Citra needs saving and he's gonna save her, when in reality it was all a ritual she created to find a sperm donor, and she kills him," Yohalem explained.
“Sex, violence, and the player is killed. Here are the things that satisfy our animal side as men, but they're subverted because it's a female doing it." Yohalem likened the ending to Princess Peach stabbing Mario. “Now that I'm thinking about it, that final scene should have been Citra castrating Jason. Seriously, that's the point! It is like, 'You win, motherf*****!' It's totally like, 'F*** you, you misogynist idiot!'”
I don't quite know where to begin with an argument so ... insane.

First of all, it sums up male disposability and the disregard for fathers in one fell swoop. A sentence at the beginning of the Eurogamer interview says, "Far Cry 3's questionable writing has often been criticised after writer Jeffrey Yohalem stated the game would be about 'subverting video game clichés', when in fact the game seemed to be filled with regular old video game clichés". To me, that sentence describes Yohalem's skewed view on that ending. Video games are already a medium where violence by women against men is a lot more accepted than the reverse, so what cliché is being subverted by having Citra stab Jason at the end of the game?

Presumably, Yohalem is referring to his "Princess Peach stabbing Mario" line. We never see the damsel-in-distress stabbing the hero. However, we've seen plenty of games with "sexy, violent" women so, again, what's being subverted here? If I understand this correctly, Yohalem seems to be under the impression that the player allowing Jason to have sex with Citra acts as his reward; it "satisfies our animal side as men". Not only does that show a depressingly low opinion of men but I'd like to point out that for Jason to reach this point, he has to kill his friends in order to do it. To me, that sounds (A) like a typical video game binary choice of ending, like Star Wars games tend to have if you want to turn to the dark side or not and (B) not much of a reward at all. The bad ending. It appeals to men though, right? Sex with a hot girl!

No. Reverse the sexes. While a female FPS protagonist being stabbed in the middle of sex would be an incredible subversion, it'd also be seen as incredibly insulting. As in "misogynistic beyond belief". If some insulting stereotypes about women could be added into the mix, like having the female protagonist talk about shoe shopping, that'd be perfect. The fact is that I can't imagine that scenario being faced with anything other than a backlash. Yet this scenario, the one actually in Far Cry 3, is described by Yohalem as "f*** you, you misogynist idiot"? This ending is about as misandrist as it can get, without resorting to Yohalem's even-more-ridiculous castration ending, and he thinks that this is some great act of revenge against a misogynist?

Yohalem's arguments are incredibly offensive and downright bizarre. Thankfully, Rock, Paper, Shotgun's interview with Jeffrey Yohalem is a delight to read. They pull absolutely no punches and, to me, it reads like Yohalem struggles to justify his supposed "meta-commentary" on gaming. He seems to have an inflated opinion of his writing. However, I'm just here to write about the rape, and here's what RPS and Yohalem had to say about it:
Jeffrey Yohalem: I thought we went so extreme in such a huge number of ways, that we had been totally exaggerated. I’ve played all of these games, so the shocking thing for me is that people would think this is serious. At the same time, all of the articles coming out didn’t come out for other games. So there must be some form of exaggeration, I must have succeeded at exaggerating. For example, the rape by Buck being glossed over, where he rapes Keith, or implied rape, that’s so exaggerated because it’s taking the exploitation of female characters in videogames and saying, well what if it’s a man, how do you feel then?
In most games that exploitations is glossed over, so in this case it’s glossed over. So by swapping out the Keith character for a female character, and then not having this deep emotional scene acknowledging the sadness from how these guy feels from that, it makes you really uncomfortable.
I'm going to pause here for a moment because, while I normally refrain from insulting the people making the argument, I think this quote shows just how clueless Jeffrey Yohalem really is. This idea that Keith being raped was something exaggerated, for example. It stems from the idea that men haven't been exploited and couldn't be exploited. In Yohalem's view, with all his ideas about stabbing the white male hero who fantasises about sex with a hot girl, seems to think that exploitation is something to be used against male gamers. In this case, the rape of a male character isn't any serious commentary on men being raped in real life or an acknowledgement that "yes, men are raped too and yes, it's just as horrible". It's just something to make male gamers feel uncomfortable because it doesn't fit into the "male power fantasy" that Yohalem wants to subvert so desperately.

I can't express just how ignorant this is because, obviously, men are raped in real life. The game's content is one thing, and I'll come to my thoughts on that soon enough, but what Yohalem explains in the interview here is his desire to take a serious issue (that he doesn't seem to think is serious) and use it to make his gaming audience feel uncomfortable ... just because. Because women have been exploited in games too. As if Yohalem wants to say, "so there, Far Cry 3 player, how do you feel now!?" I can't explain just how much this cheapens an important and widespread real-life issue and how anyone could be so stupid as to want to put it in the game for that reason.

Anyway, Yohalem finishes answering that particular question -- he mentions his wish to castrate Jason Brody again -- and luckily, RPS share my feelings on the subject for the next question:
RPS: You say the rape scene is critiquing how mawkishly rape scenes can be shown, but I’m not sure I understand your point when you say you changed it to a man to say something. When I played it, I saw that it was a situation where a man had been repeatedly raped. I didn’t think, “Ah, but it’s a man rather than a woman.” I didn’t find anything to make me compare it to rape scenes featuring women. What I fear with that scene is that it ends up becoming a sarcastic remark, at the expense of a really traumatising subject.
Jeffrey Yohalem: Well, I don’t think it downplays a traumatising subject. Keith is not okay after that. He says very little for the rest of the game. You know, in Assassin’s Creed II your mother is raped, and she doesn’t talk for the rest of the game. So Keith is very similar. What he says after the rape is he tells you your brother is dead. Then he doesn’t talk. I don’t think that it downplays or is sarcastic. None of this is intended to be ironic – I don’t like games, or jokes, that hold people at arm’s length – that the only emotion that people can experience is the irony or the sarcasm of it, which is something I think was going on a lot in entertainment three or four years ago, maybe even two years ago, where it was all about, “Look how funny we are – we’re making fun of this.” That’s not the point at all.
It’s not intended to be glossed over in that sense. The intent was to not allow there to be some kind of cathartic sad scene where people get to deal with the fact that Keith’s been through this. I don’t give you the satisfaction, and it is a satisfaction, when you watch a character go through experiencing the torture of what they’ve just been through, it satisfies the player’s expectations of that thing being addressed. So that scene is taken away from the player. So you have this disturbing exchange of power, something Jason and Buck experience, where Buck forces Jason to call him sir, demeans Jason and his manhood, this diminishing of who Jason is – of who the player is, because the player is in Jason’s body.
And then the player experiences what Buck did to Keith. I really do think that it being a man matters. Throughout the game you have Daisy and Lisa, and Citra, and you expect certain things, the mistreatment of those characters, because of how past videogames have treated them. I don’t think you’re expected Keith to be treated as an object in that way. The fact that Buck did that is shocking, because it hasn’t really happened in videogames before. And at the same time, videogames have a primarily male audience, so it’s very easy to have this gratuitous portrayal of women in other games be glossed over and allowed by its audience, because it’s not them. To really hit someone where they live, I think destabilises the trope. I’m hoping in the future when you encounter the objectification of women in games, you go, “Maybe this is uncomfortable, the way I felt uncomfortable in Far Cry 3.”
The first thing I'd like to point out about Yohalem's answer to this question is that he seems to contradict himself. He begins by saying "none of [Keith's rape] is intended to be ironic" but finishes by saying that the fact that he's male is meant to be ironic. This is meant to make you feel bad for the female characters who've been exploited in video games, without much concern for Keith himself. He's just a device Yohalem is using to make you think about female exploitation. That's the biggest problem here; Yohalem has trivialised an incredibly serious issue here -- rape -- in order to raise awareness about a much less serious one -- female exploitation in popular culture. I'd also like to ask any of my readers this question; has any female character ever been exploited as horribly, offensively and pointlessly as Keith in Far Cry 3? Please let me know. It'll also be interesting to find out if they were knowingly exploited, as Yohalem did to Keith, or if they were exploited purely out of ignorance, such as bad writing or character design.

It's also worth mentioning that I'm confident female gamers would feel just as uncomfortable as male gamers about Keith's rape and I'm sure there are plenty of male gamers who've felt uncomfortable about female exploitation in games before. So has Yohalem pointlessly trivialised rape for an issue that didn't really exist?

I have so much respect for Rock, Paper, Shotgun for echoing the sentiments of the gaming community in their question; seeing Keith's rape not as "rape, with a woman switched out for a man" but as "a man being raped". To me, that emphasises just how out-of-touch Yohalem is and I hope this interview comes back to bite him.

I've written all about the reactions (or lack of reactions) to rape in video games in this post but I haven't given my opinion on the rape in Far Cry 3 itself. It's worth mentioning that I wrote all of this before reading Jeffrey Yohalem's twisted interview. Well, I'm in two minds about it; on the one hand, I feel like Keith's reaction to it was reasonably well-done. It isn't played for laughs and there's one moment, just before Keith reunites with his friends, when he turns to Jason and says, "don't tell them about this". That actually made me feel uncomfortable, which I think was the intended effect; it's worth bearing in mind that Far Cry is a very mature game. It's often meant to shock and disturb. So I feel like Keith's desire to keep his rape a secret, even in the middle of a situation where he and his friends had all had to suffer the ordeal of captivity, brutal treatment and their friends and family members being killed, to be a depressingly realistic portrayal. Even in that horrible scenario, he still felt too ashamed to speak up.

On the other hand, Far Cry 3 also does a great job of showing exactly why rape shouldn't be featured in a video game. Very shortly after reuniting with Keith, the player is put back in control of Jason so he can have a knife fight with Buck. To me, this is where the whole issue falls apart. In spite of the fact that I wrote a moment ago that Far Cry is often meant to shock and disturb, there are times when it just plumbs the depths of bad taste and offensiveness. I would probably object to this happening later in the game anyway but the player is still reeling from discovering how traumatised Keith is when they're put back in control of Jason and told to have a knife fight with the bad guy.

Not only does it happen too soon but remember when there were concerns that Lara's run-in with her assailant would be a quick-time event? As in "press X to avoid rape"? Technically, that's exactly what happens in Far Cry 3. Without saying it, it's implied that failing the knife fight quick-time event would kill Jason and leave Buck to rape Keith as much as he liked. This is exactly what people were worried about with the Tomb Raider example, so where's the outcry for Far Cry 3? Also, if there's a sequence in a game that trivialises rape more than the knife fight itself, I'd be interested in seeing it; it's as if the game is saying to the player, "play this fun quick-time knife fight! Earn an achievement by killing the rapist!" And yes, you really do earn an achievement. The fact that you had to do a typical video game fetch quest in order to save a rape victim also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, as mentioned above, Keith's rape serves as our introduction to the character, is glossed over ridiculously quickly and isn't delved into for the rest of the game.

What confuses me about this whole situation is that Far Cry 3 is a prime example of all the good and bad that can come with featuring rape in a video game. It treats it seriously in some places but trivialises it in others. If the gaming community actually wants to debate the benefits vs. the downsides of portraying rape in video games, you won't find a better case for both than Far Cry 3. So we spent most of June and July debating the pros and cons of rape in a game that doesn't have any while we've completely ignored one of the ones that does. For now, let's give video game journalists and bloggers the benefit of the doubt and say that they would've reacted just as strongly if the rape scenes in Far Cry 3, F.E.A.R 2 and Mafia 2 had been known about before they were released. It's a lot to ask -- Jeffrey Yohalem has practically outright said his writing was intended to be misandric and there hasn't been an outcry yet (please, gaming journalists, can you make a bigger example of him?) -- but all the sites I've seen about Far Cry 3 have treated the male-on-male rape with the seriousness it deserves. To that end, you could even say that there isn't a double standard ... but annoyingly, Yohalem's offensive answers keep me from writing that.

Besides, who knows? Maybe a game featuring a male rape victim being taken seriously will make gamers consider the issue a little more themselves. Maybe Yohalem's incredibly offensive intentions will have the opposite reaction. I can only hope.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at themalesofgames@gmail.com.

6 comments:

  1. You missed a rape scene; when Jason awakes to Citra mounted on him after the hallucinatory fight with the massive demon. That was also rape; he wasn't conscious enough to be aware of it until it basically over, much less consent. And it went completely unremarked upon within the game.

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    1. Ah, thank you. I try to be as comprehensive as I can when writing about games but, as is the case here, some stuff slips through the net. Thanks for pointing it out. :)

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  2. Well there are two different issues here, female on male rape and male on male rape.
    With female on male this comes down to different attitudes towards sex. You ask a load of men how they would feel about a woman raping them and I'd wager that most of them would joke about it saying something like "depends on how attractive she was" or "as long as the wife didn't find out". A woman wouldn't make those kind of jokes as rape of a woman is far more emotionally destructive in most cases due to these different attitudes. Hence the different sensitivities towards a man being raped by a woman.
    In the case of a man being raped by a man the lack of sensitivity is due to not enough men speaking out about it who have been raped. I think in part due to the fact that happens a lot less often and to the alpha-male syndrome where a lot of men think it damages their sense of machoism. One of the main reasons why people are so sensitive to women being raped is that women have spoken out about it, such as pursuing charges to the full extent, forming rape victim groups who speak out about it and campaign for more media attention and tougher sentences etc. With men I think a lot of the shame they feel when they are raped is more due to worrying about what other men will think about the fact they've been involved in a homosexual act, rather than the act of rape itself so I would imagine a lot more of them suffer in silence rather than speaking out, hence the slight lack of sensitivity compared to women being raped.

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    1. I think it's rather naïve to suggest that women would never joke about rape. There is shaming on both sides, as well as a lot of widespread "men can't be raped" attitudes from both sexes. To talk about the lack of awareness and speaking out and blaming it entirely on machismo is a damaging oversimplification.

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    2. I guarantee you that if you ask a bunch of women "how would you feel about being raped" 9 out of 10 of them wouldn't make a joke about it. In fact to ask the question alone would provoke anxiety and discomfort in them. In fact most men would probably feel uncomfortable about asking the question due the abhorrence associated with the image.

      You know sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one. It's not always so complicated and I think this is one of those times. I didn't say that machismo was entirely to blame but it is a significant part. Why else would men consider being raped by a woman trivial compared to being raped by a man? They are both rape but one is a homosexual act and whether most people would admit it or not being involved in a homosexual act is taboo whether it is forced or not. There is also the fact that the victim has been overpowered and violated in an extreme way which conflicts with the general feeling of being strong and a man. And that to be a victim is to be less than a man. These things would weigh heavy on a victim in terms of what other men (or women for that matter) would say. There is obviously the repeated claim when a woman is raped that she was dressed inappropriately so was asking for it, or that she was acting like a slut. But women have repeatedly spoken out against such claims to the point where you hear it less often that you used to. Men would feel fearful of such claims against them if they were victims of rape and the there isn't the same kind of vocal outspoken support from other men so are more likely to remain silent. To talk about such things is not damaging, it's more damaging for men to deny such things or blame feminists as people are fond of doing these days.

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  3. Rape scene is something found in many games, for example, in Mafia III - it's controversial and in my idea, this shouldn't be found in games. Especially because they are played by many teenagers. I don't support any type of a rape and I don't think that it can be 'not that bad' in any case.

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