Guest post: Rape is not entertainment

// 23 May 2009

Anber Raz, Asia Programme Officer for Equality Now, reports on the organisation’s new campaign against sexually violent computer games produced in Japan and their promotion of sexual violence against women.

When the computer game RapeLay first came to our attention at Equality Now we couldn’t quite believe such a game existed. Players get to live out rape fantasies not just as watchers but as virtual participants. Everything that happens in RapeLay – from the child Illusion Software claims is over 18 yet is shown physically under developed and clutching a cuddly toy, to her teenage sister and mother, all of whom must be raped until they begin to “enjoy” it- is done by the player. The player controls how and where to rape each of the girls and women by controlling the rapist’s hand and penis onscreen.

We discovered vast numbers of gamers discussing and reviewing the “game” online. One reviewer said “you have the illusion of total interaction with the girl. It’s the most realistic sex simulation ever seen”. Up until recently, Amazon Japan sold copies of RapeLay together with other extreme pornography in the form of cartoons, known as hentai.

Equality Now brought RapeLay to Amazon Japan’s attention and the company has removed the game from sale. However, it continues to sell similar titles based on stalking and sexually molesting women and girls. Since launching our campaign a few weeks ago, Equality Now has received an unprecedented amount of hate mail from supporters of these games, including death and bomb threats.

I’ve been working in the field of human rights and violence against women for some time now. As anyone else working within this field will know, you hear and see horrific stories about abuses every day but this rape simulator even gave me nightmares. I couldn’t switch off from it, couldn’t talk about it without getting choked up and feeling sick to my stomach. Our interpreter could not go through with her task of translating just the text in the game – she found it too distressing. I wonder what impact such a simulator has on someone who uses this game for sexual gratification and views what they do to the onscreen women and girls as a sexual act and not one of violence?

A number of computer games involving rape, sexual harassment and stalking of women and girls have been produced in Japan. Hentai are easily accessible and their use widely accepted. Common themes include rape, gang rape, incest and the sexual abuse of schoolgirls.

For a rape charge to be successful in Japan, it is up to the victim to prove she did not consent to sexual intercourse, which means that judges look for evidence of resistance put up by the victim. The myth that if a rape victim does not fight back she “wanted” to be raped is encouraged by RapeLay and its ilk.

In 2003, a number of male students at the Waseda University in Tokyo were found to be running a “rape club”. The group would hire out a club and invite female students to a big party. They would then pick out 100 girls who were invited to a special dinner where they would be plied with alcohol. Some of the women would then be taken individually and gang raped by club members. Rapes were also filmed and sold as a way to make money for the club.

When the Waseda University story broke, a weekly magazine said Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese government’s former Cabinet chief spokesman, who later became Prime Minister before resigning after one year, told reporters at an off-the-record briefing that women were partly to blame in the case of gang rape. “The problem is that there are lots of women dressed provocatively,” he was quoted as saying. Fukuda, who was at the time also the minister of gender equality, said his comment was taken out of context.

Equality Now is demanding that Illusion Software and Amazon Japan withdraw from sale all games which involve rape, stalking or other forms of violence against women. It is also calling on the Japanese government to ban the sale of games which normalise and promote sexual violence against women and girls and to take active steps to address sex discrimination and the objectification of women and girls. As members of society, corporations have a responsibility not to promote violence against women and girls. Let’s put an end to these games now!

Comments From You

Troika21 // Posted 23 May 2009 at 11:35 am

I don’t accept the idea that violence in video games causes people to behave that way in the real world, and nor do I accept that depicting rape has the same effect.

These lazy ‘monkey see, monkey do’ ideas are not how the world works.

Those who buy this software know that rape is wrong, that is why its in a computer game, where it should stay. No-one is hurt when making a game. In the same way we do not feel the compulsion to murder after watching CSI.

The idea that people go out and emulate what they see in movies or games is lazy thinking.

Laura // Posted 23 May 2009 at 12:19 pm

Troika21 – the people who play this game may or may not believe that rape is wrong, but I think they’re pretty damn fucked up if they spend their leisure time playing a game whose sole purpose is to rape women and girls. Watching CSI is hardly a comparable passtime – it’s not like the viewer is controlling what the murderer does and taking pleasure in doing so.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 23 May 2009 at 1:00 pm

Obviously apologists will immediately claim such games as Rapelay are ‘fantasy entertainment’ which have no impact whatsoever on men’s beliefs in the real world. However, if advertising did not affect consumer purchases then advertising companies would not spend exorbitant amounts promoting their products.

The issue is not whether this blatant, women-hating game directly negatively impacts on men and boys, but why such violent and sadistic ‘games’ should be classified as ‘entertainment.’ Globally the issue of male sexual violence against women is hotly contested, because many men and a good few women too, believe women but not men must be held accountable if a male rapes, commits sexual violence or sexually tortures a woman/girl.

Rapelay is a violent misogynistic game which reinforces dominant myths concerning women’s and girls’ sexualities.

If experienced feminist researchers and activists are deeply negatively affected just by watching these images – what effect does this have on those male players who play this game. Remember desensitisation is the first step towards dehumanisation and various genocides were allowed to happen because the perpetrators viewed their victims as dehumanised objects.

However, given male sexual violence is endemic to all societies and countries globally, then challenging men’s perceived right and entitlement to use women and girls as ‘sexualised entertainment’ is something which goes right to the heart of belief in men’s innate right to treat and perceive women and girls as sexualised dehumanised beings. ‘Sexualised entertainment’ is the first step towards dehumanising women and girls and also desensitising men’s and boys’ empathy and understanding that women and girls are human too, with the same right to be treated with dignity and respect. This right is not one which has been allocated to males alone, despite claims to the contrary. Common myths exist in most cultures and countries that women and girls are ‘sex’ and they supposedly want, need and actively desire to have males serially rape, sexually torture and even murder them. This is a deliberate strategy designed to mitigate and excuse male accountability. Men do not need to actively commit rape and sexual violence against women because by not challenging myths blaming women and girls, this gives the male perpetrators justification for their violence against women and girls. Remember by taking a ‘bystander’ approach this allows those men and boys who commit violence against women and children, justification for their actions.

I will certainly be writing to Illusion Software, Amazon and the Japanese government and will also circulate details to my many contacts. Slavery was once considered a non-issue and abolitionlists experienced hatred and contempt but eventually such attitudes were changed. Are women and girls just men’s and boys’ dehumanised ‘sexualised entertainment’ or are they fully human? That is the question.

Joanna // Posted 23 May 2009 at 1:09 pm

Jesus. I canot believe I have just read this. It takes a lot to shock me these days but my God….I am absolutely appalled and the first poster comparing this game to CSI is clearly a prime tosser (literally) who gets his kicks from games like this. Dear God, what is this world coming to?

Emily // Posted 23 May 2009 at 1:24 pm

I think if nothing else, games like this normalise rape and contribute to the porny myth that women will start to enjoy rape and love the rapist. I wouldn’t have thought it was worth the risk, letting games like this being sold.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 May 2009 at 2:05 pm

I don’t accept the idea that violence in video games causes people to behave that way in the real world, and nor do I accept that depicting rape has the same effect.

Why do we believe this, though? Because most of the things we do in video games are either impossible (I can’t kill dragons in real life) or I would never get the chance to (become a commando/assassin/ninja/etc) or have consequences (I almost certainly can’t beat up or kill, say, my boss and get away with it). In short, we know that because these things have consequences, we shouldn’t do them. Hence the rates of these crimes are comparatively low.

Rape is different. The rates of rape are not low. Raping in real life has very few consequences for most rapists. It is much easier to rape and to get away with it, than it is to kill. It is also targeted against one subset of people specifically, but more on that later.

Violence in video games doesn’t force anybody to do anything, you’re right. However, this isn’t about this game single-handedly turning sweet choirboys into rabid rapists if they play the game once. It’s about the culture in which rape is seen as a joke. Something men can laugh about, something that isn’t that serious after all. This is very much tied to rape victims not being taken seriously, pitiful sentences, police not taking it seriously, juries thinking she deserved it, etc, because everything in society is connected.

However, I think this argument is more complicated than ‘monkey see, monkey do’, which lumps any argument against any violent game for any reason into the same category. Is this really the same as a game in which the player blasts zombies to smithereens, for example?

I agree, we can’t simply get rid of all violence of any sort in all games. It would also be unnecessary. Years of playing Legend of Zelda are unlikely to make anyone go out and slay dragons. Quite simply many games ranging in violence are evidently fantasy. They place the player in a very clearly different ‘world’, as a very different character, to do outlandish things that they could not, and probably would not, do in real life.

The first argument about this game is that it is disturbingly set in real life much more so than many games. Women aren’t zombies or dragons or trolls. They are people that you meet every day. This game doesn’t target fantastical opponents, it targets the people around you.

Compare this game to even something as violent as Grand Theft Auto. Violence, drugs, prostitution, lots of things to complain about. You can kill people in the game to get money and possessions. Yet, the game itself is not specifically set up with the aim that you systematically oppress one minority of people, rather that you can go and kill whoever you want (in a not particularly explicit way, even). It’s certainly not a game without its faults! But even the GTA series are much, much less problematic than this game. Just to put this game in the context of other violent games, and point out that they are not all alike, and that the argument that one violent game, or those most commonly seen shouldn’t be banned doesn’t mean that nobody could ever produce a violent game so twisted, so oppressive that it should be denied platforms to sell and deserves to be heavily criticised for contributing heavily to the worst oppression. This is such a game. And it is perfectly possible to believe that the majority of violent games don’t do enough harm to be banned and believe that this game is different and goes beyond harmless fantasy to condoning targeted abuse.

The issue with this game therefore isn’t violence per se, but the idea of supporting the oppression of a group of people.

Having a game in which a characters representing a particular subset of people are systematically abused and degraded is problematic not because there is violence or ‘sex’ (rape =/= sex, just in case people think the issue here is to do with something being ‘explicit’) but because it centres around the oppression of a group of people using a crime that often goes unpunished. Any game involving any minority, where the aim is to dehumanise and degrade that minority would be equally wrong.

It wouldn’t be acceptable to have a homophobic, transphobic version where LGBTQI people are systematically beaten or raped for being queer. Nor would it be acceptable to have a KKK version with the same happening to POC, or a game revelling in the terrible things that happened in the holocaust, because the oppression of minorities a serious thing. it is NOT something we should be playing at.

Writing games that target specific groups that have historically been oppressed, and still are, goes far beyond writing games with an asshole main character who violently goes around doing random asshole things so that someone can harmlessly lose some stress. It reinforces the idea that these people are expendable, there to be used and abused by others. It is insulting and demeaning to them in a very real way, and they have every right to demand that their suffering is not used as entertainment, especially when this does more than simply show their suffering, but explicitly frames it so that this oppressed group deserve and want their suffering and oppression. And that this group’s oppression is entertainment.

This is not your average ‘harmless’ violent game. Blowing up trolls etc doesn’t target abuse against a particular oppressed minoirty you could easily get away with, in a real-life setting. It is not escapism any more than a game in which you skin animals live to watch their agonised reactions would be harmless escapism. It is not about the act, it’s about glamorising and fetishising the suffering of the character in question, something most violent games don’t actually do. This is what the backlash against this game is all about, and this is why it is not like other violent games.

It reinforces the reality that rapists can rape and get away with it, and that rape is no big deal because women and girls always deserve and enjoy it. It reinforces all of the opinions that actually cause real people to rape. Given the dreadfully low conviction rate for rape, it might as well have no legal consequence for the perpetrator. Given this context, can someone seriously argue that this game is something worth defending? On what grounds? That every violent fantasy, no matter who it targets should be turned into a game? That it is more important to cater to rapists than rape victims? That everyone who complains about anything are just being too PC and why can’t they let us carry on being bigoted and hurtful and oppressive when it feels fine to us?

Also, why are the feelings of women and rape victims secondary here to the desire of some twisted wannabe rapists to enjoy some virtual rape whilst they are not out raping in real life? Why does it not matter if the most oppressed people are hurt by the existence of this game? That people are playing at their degradation for laughs. That these people can then go out and do it for real without repercussion. And that society doesn’t give a shit when they do.

There is no reason that a company can’t choose NOT to promote or sell this product. It cannot be destroyed, but it need not be tolerated. Nobody is owed freedom of expression without taking responsibility for what they do.

Nobody is owed a game where they can live out their most sickening fantasies against a real existing group of people. Society doesn’t owe each and every sick fantasy complete freedom of expression, it can choose if it publicises it, how it frames it, and whether to condone it or point it out for the harmful crap it is. Society owes its most oppressed members protection from threat of violence, and from violence against them being celebrated.

And you know what? I bet most of the people playing the game are rapists themselves. Is this really a target market we should be catering for? If someone seriously enjoys this game, and doesn’t think it’s deeply screwed up, and that rape is entertainment, why would they not rape in real life, given that it has almost NO consequence!

rutiger // Posted 23 May 2009 at 2:36 pm

i couldn’t believe my eyes when i read this article.i don’t normally agree with banning games because i think that most of the time watching a film,or listening to music or playing a game has no effect on people because they know it’s fantasy and aren’t going to commit crimes on members of the public.BUT this rapelay game is an exception.it is horriffic and should be banned and i can’t imagine why anyone would be sick enough to play it.as the sole purpose iof the game is to rape women.i totally agree with mrs Onne’s post.

Sam Rico // Posted 23 May 2009 at 5:59 pm

Anne Onne, i totally agree with you. the wierdest thing is, the most stigmatized thing about hentai porn in everyday life is not that it is more often than not violent, involving torture and characters which appear to be too underdeveloped to be adults- no, the insults which people recieve for using such things for pleasure are usually along the lines of ‘wierdo, you wank off to cartoons’. presumably, it would be even more acceptable in wider society, then, if the game somehow utilized real porn ‘actresses’. this is pretty much reflected in all of the violent and degrading porn which exists in the industry right now, and is more accepted simply because it is real, in some sort of backward logic. sickening.

A Different Helen // Posted 23 May 2009 at 6:18 pm

People who dont think that violence in video games has any effect might like to read the following articles that appeared in the New Scientist:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426001.900-mindaltering-media.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426003.600-editorial-in-denial-about-onscreen-violence.html

rita // Posted 23 May 2009 at 8:19 pm

Oh dear God, i really have no words. Just shocked. A rape game? That is sick, sick, sick. Do people actually sit down and play this game? Silly question i guess. But then again, i guess they would argue that why is a killing game acceptable?

I just felt as though this is a very calculating and teaching technique game. Oh God, what am i even talking about? The thought is really freightening.

Who comes up with all these sick games for heaven’s sakes?

Daniel // Posted 23 May 2009 at 9:13 pm

Not entirely sure how I managed to read about this game without chucking up, but I’m also very worried that one of the reviewers described it as ‘sex simulation’ rather than ‘rape simulation’. Forcing myself into a woman while she screams and fights to get away is like no sex I’ve ever experienced. Maybe I’m just a prude, huh?

Zing // Posted 24 May 2009 at 1:29 am

Anne Onne – Great points. The comparison with Grand Theft Auto works very well. The aim of GTA is (from my limited gameplay) to work your way up the gang hierarchy. It doesn’t necessarily entail killing everyone in your path to achieve the aim, because the aim isn’t actually to kill, shoot and rape. A lot of GTA critics paint it as this free-for-all game of ultraviolence, where the aim is to kill as many people as you can. The entire point of Rapelay IS to rape women, and that should never be an acceptable aim for a video game.

KJB // Posted 24 May 2009 at 3:04 am

Anne Onne as usual makes a brilliant and perfectly-put point. I heart your comments, they are always so excellent! :-D

It’s a bit hard to claim that ‘no-one is hurt’ by this game, when obviously they are. ALL WOMEN ARE, because it encourages the sorts of attitudes that say rape is OK – GOOD, even.

This isn’t simply ‘depicting rape,’ either. It’s encouraging people to imagine that they are committing rape. Because naturally, people with such tendencies should feel like they have a RIGHT to ‘have their needs met,’ rather than being stigmatised and forced to seek help, as they more rightly deserve.

If I were a total knob, I would here use the expression beloved of idiots: ‘PC-gone-mad.’ It ought to be ‘PC-gone-mad’ that a game in which rape is the sole objective is worth defending.

Let me rephrase that so that it catches the eye of hypocrite moralists more strikingly. It is ‘PC-gone-mad’ that a game which effectively depicts PAEDOPHILIA is seen as worth defending.

Bounce // Posted 24 May 2009 at 5:28 pm

The first comment on this page is fundamentally flawed in that;

If CSI were interactive, and designed (as RapeLay is) to be controlled with one hand so the user can masturbate, then would you really claim that this “CSI” were ok?

No, it’s not okay. It is just so morally obvious that it is NOT ok.

End of.

rutiger // Posted 24 May 2009 at 8:35 pm

i agree.there right sick fucks who made that game GTA on the other hand is a good game.i like it and think its harmless fun

Anna // Posted 24 May 2009 at 10:08 pm

I found it very curious that when talking to people about this game quite a few defended it. When I asked if a game that concentrated on raping children would in that case be okay, all but one (out of about ten-fifteen people) said no.

What I’m wondering is why raping children is (rightly) recognised as depraved, but raping women is seen as fodder for a video game? I think it feeds into the ‘rape is simply sex’ apologism (because it’s well recognised children can’t consent to sex). I don’t know, it depresses me. Not even so much the content of the game, just the whole hypocrisy of it.

Sam Rico // Posted 24 May 2009 at 10:48 pm

in respone to Zing, the point you made is very true. also, i would like to bring to people’s attention that while GTA quite rightly hasnt faced ban because the objectives of the game are not comparable to those of this game, the game Manhunt 2 was banned by the BBFC because its sole purpose was extreme, gratituous violence for entertainment. it only had the ban lifted once significant cuts were made to it. and Manhunt 2 didnt encourage people to carry out violence against specific groups (imagine, for example, if it had encuraged only violence against a racial group, or a religious one), nor did it encourage people to get off sexually, and therefore use the dangerous mix of sex, violence and power which causes rape, as its sole selling point.

The Hanged Man // Posted 24 May 2009 at 11:36 pm

This game is an abomination.

I didn’t always know this. Or, I didn’t always choose to accept this.

Previous to and after my experience of this game, I downloaded and played games like this and others linked to on forums etc. around the web, in the pursuit of a sexual thrill. My primary concern was with finding an interactive and semi-realistic depiction of sex, although my dominance/submission kink was a factor. So, I chose to ignore the mind-warpingly horryifying nature of the game to gratify myself.

Looking back, I cannot understand how I managed to wall myself off from what the game was really depicting and what it really meant. But I did, and thousands of other men have done. I don’t know what would be more horrifying – if all of them were rapists, or most of them were average white males who considered themselves to be fairly normal.

It would be unneccessary to list all the ways this game is monstrous. The premise is enough: you are a man rightly accused of molesting a woman on a train who is arrested and imprisoned. You then decide to take revenge by raping not only this girl, but her mother and her little sister. Repeatedly, until they become so broken that they no longer care.

Troika. You need to realise that this is a product of a culture which says: the rape, abuse, assault and degredation of women is a trivial matter.

We perpetuate the misery and the oppression of all women when we keep believing the lie that because it’s entertainment, that because it’s a game, because it’s “Rape Play” that somehow – that somehow makes it OK.

“No, it’s not okay. It is just so morally obvious that it is NOT ok.

End of.”

L // Posted 26 May 2009 at 6:05 pm

I think it”s really important to combat our rape culture, as exemplified in this game. I was raped by my boyfriend when I was 18 and unfortunately I didn’t even realise it was rape at the time – the fact that I was trying to get away, and crying, didn’t seem to register with either of us. I sort of blacked it out for years before I saw it for what it was. I have avoided him for years, and I’m sure that to this day he has happy memories of what was our first time together, because he didn’t even realise it was wrong. He thought he loved me. Afterwards, when I said that it had really hurt, he said ‘It had to happen some time’. This is what he really thought.

He was not an evil person. We had not been drinking. He just hadn’t taken in the idea that just because someone is your girlfriend and consents to one kind of sexual activity, they are not consenting to everything, and you can’t just go ahead and do whatever you want, you have to wait and see what they want to do. If I hadn’t been so entirely shocked and silent, if I’d said ‘Argh, you’re raping me’ I think he would have been astonished. After all, he was having a great time.

This is why anything and everything that supports our rape culture should be abolished. The rape didn’t just hurt me, it hurt him in the end because I dumped him. Men also suffer from the patriarchy!

Kati // Posted 5 June 2009 at 9:59 pm

I know this post’s quite old, but I thought I ought to share this. Apparently Japan has now banned rape simulations: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/05/2590975.htm

I don’t know how much of a change this is going to make in the long run (especially since possessing the games is still legal), but at least it’s a start…

Sam Rico // Posted 7 June 2009 at 1:42 am

in response to Kati:

the article explicitly states that it hasnt been made illegal, so it is not still just legal to own, but also to produce. the difference is that it wont be approved by that ratings body, but the material can still be made outside of it, and much of this stuff is made by private ‘artists’.

plus, i dont trust industry ‘self-regulation’ in general, much less in this industry, known for how adept it is at getting around laws, let alone non-legal rules, self-imposed rules (or more like ‘guidelines’).

yeah, in my opinion this is likely to make little difference. it probably just means that more of the stuff will, like i said, be produced outside of that ratings body.

Ishtari // Posted 15 August 2010 at 11:51 pm

I just found out about this game today through Wikipedia. Five hours later I still feel nauseous — especially after doing a little Google research and noting the replies to articles and blog posts about RapeLay. These ranged from angry scoffs and cries of “hypocrisy” at the sane people who expressed horror at this “game”, to claims about gamers’ rights, and complaints against excessive political correctness and confining morality. I am sure most of these were from male commenters, just as many of the horrified comments were from women. The gamers didn’t seem to notice this, or treat the opinions of the – clearly – oppressed group with anything resembling respect.

I’m a Gender Studies student. What’s really bothering me is that I found out about this game through Wikipedia. The article describing RapeLay contains a detailed exposition of the game’s storyline, and in a supposedly “objective” or neutral encylopedia I’m wondering if this is really a case where the presentation of information or knowledge is incapable of being in any way a-political or neutral. On the ‘Discussion’ page I note the warning that “Wikipedia is not censored” and may contain “objectionable” content. But surely Wikipedia has a responsibility to deal with such a subject matter sensitively, and in a way that is not harmful? Of course, anyone can edit. Something about the tone of the article, and the suspicion that those who have written it are male and have an interest in and detailed knowledge of the game makes my stomach churn. On the Discussion page, a user points out that Wikipedia does not censor other entries about sex or sexually explicity material. The unforgivable assumption is that this game is just about sex. And as many responses to articles and blog posts point out, the game isn’t harming anyone…right? I somehow doubt that if I or any other user tried to change the article, a discussion “in good faith” would ensue and this viewpoint would be understood. Right now I don’t have the heart to try.

I can honestly say I feel I’ve been harmed by learning about the existence of this game, by reading the detailed storyline and gamer interaction of RapeLay on Wikipedia and by reading the horrifying, abusive defenses of this “harmless” piece of entertainment all over the internet. All women, everywhere, are harmed by the mere existence of this game. It is a violation of women’s human rights and dignity, and it is harmful to human sexuality. While I find taking a feminist position, and associating with those of like mind, empowering in an otherwise disempowering society, a growing awareness of how deep gender oppression goes can sometimes feel like a catalogue of horrors. I think my world got a little darker today, and I don’t know how to shake the sense of sickness.

Also, I agree with everything Anne Onne said.

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