If you haven't heard already, there's been a lot of controversy surrounding Amazon.com's decision to ban the Japanese hentai-game Rapelay from their site.
My initial gut reaction? Good for them. I've been dreading the day that Japan's gruesomely sexist porn games* find a market over here, and the farther away that day seems to be, the better.
I ran across a thread about it on 1Up and opinions were pretty divided. Most people who supported the existence of games like this are in the slippery-slope camp whose slogan is, "If we start banning child-rape, what's next?! They'll be taking our GTA!" I think these people are as ridiculous as conservatives who believe that legalizing gay marriage will lead to people marrying farm animals. I don't believe it has to be so black and white– that you either ban all illegal activities in any game, or you ban none. I don't think it's wrong to draw the line somewhere.
Of course, that gets you into the debate of "Which is worse? Rape or murder?"
When people say "rape," they often get accused of being an uptight American with prudish attitudes toward sex. I really wanted to respond to that with a bold, all-caps post saying RAPE =/= SEX.
And then there is the argument that, since Japan has low rape statistics (lower than American's, anyway), the saturation of their porn market with non-consensual scenarios must be a good thing. I'm, of course, more than willing to acknowledge that watching rehearsed or animated rape scenes is better than actually raping someone. I'm less willing to agree that throwing rape porn at latent rapists is the secret answer to the problem, especially if the implication is that Western porn should be more depraved and sexist, when it's already so hard to find porn in which women play a positive role.
From what I've seen, there are a lot of misogynistic elements to Japanese culture and Japanese porn. A lot of people brush this off as a cultural difference that we must ignore and tolerate. The fact that the less willing the female is, the "sexier" she is; the expectation of a meekly beseeching "No" from a woman even if she really wants to have sex with you; all of this is cultural and therefore above criticism.
Do you expect, in a culture where modesty and chastity is considered sexually attractive (as opposed to Western culture where a virginal woman is "marryable" but not sexy), that women will report rape and sexual assault as often as they do in a country where women actually organized a movement to empower one another?
Japan is a country that had to segregate women from men on subways because sexual assault had become such a big problem. Somehow I'm not convinced that the more bizarrely sexist the porn is, the lower the rape count.
I wanted to articulate my arguments about this, but I knew I couldn't do it on 1Up forums (or perhaps any other gaming forum). I'm still trying to work out my feelings about game censorship and hentai games. I don't support censorship in general, but I know that I do not look forward to the day when Japan's more depraved porn products start crawling into our markets. Perhaps I'm an alarmist. Perhaps it has to do with being a woman and being afraid so often of sex crimes just because of my gender.
Either way, the arguments I've seen for Rapelay remain unconvincing and often sexist at heart. One guy on 1Up even said that we view Rapelay as worse than Call of Duty because of sexism against men– something about how women are less expendable because they can give birth. Give me a break. If that's the case, how come most sex crimes are committed by men against women?
* Note that the porn aspect of these games is not what I have a problem with. If we lived in a culture in which a Porn genre of games could exist without becoming a bunch of misogynistic bullshit, I'd be more happy than is probably "proper."