Thoughts on the RapeLay Video Game

by Cara on February 13, 2009

in feminism, media, misogyny, patriarchy, pop culture, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

rapelaySevere Trigger Warning

Amazon.com was recently caught by the Belfast Times selling a Japanese video game called RapeLay. The entire objective of the game is to rape women with varying levels of violence — sometimes stalking them first, sometimes using gang rape scenarios, and sometimes forcing them into abortions afterward.

One website review describes “tears glistening in the young girl’s eyes” as she is attacked in graphic detail.

Players begin the game by stalking a mother on a subway station before violently raping her. They then move on to attack her two daughters described as virgin schoolgirls.

Players are also allowed to enter ‘freeform mode’ where they can rape any woman and get other male game characters to join the attacks.

Pregnancy and abortion are listed as ‘key features’. One review said: “If she does become pregnant you’re supposed to force her to get an abortion, otherwise she gets more and more visibly pregnant each time you have sex.

The description that appeared on Amazon further said:

Rapelay is an offshoot of the Illusion series, Interact Play. You, like in previous installments, play as a public nuisance that gets away from captivity and starts scouting for new targets. This time around you find a family of a single mother and her two daughters. You quickly begin your hunt and capture each woman one by one. The gameplay involves an amusing training/disposition system with which to break each respective target to your liking….

Well, it’s good to know that learning to kidnap and repeatedly rape women is at least supposed to be amusing.

Though Amazon was not directly distributing the game themselves, they did have a page for the game and were allowing other sellers on the site to offer the game for purchase — purchases which Amazon would therefore receive kickback profits from.  The page has since been taken down, but you can view a screen shot here.

RapeLay is also far from being the only game which revolves entirely around rape. Sociological Images posted about another one called Battle Raper a few months back.

The objections to such a game, from my view, seem fairly obvious.  It’s justifying, minimizing and making a joke out of a horrible crime — in this case one that is, in real life predominantly and in the game entirely, aimed at women.  (Which is also why, in my opinion, it is indeed much worse than your standard violent video games.)  It’s hateful, it’s misogynistic, and it reinforces rape culture.

At the same time, I think that non-feminists are somewhat missing the point.  For example, the Belfast Times included this expert viewpoint in their article:

I don’t think that it would make someone not so inclined to commit an illegal act more inclined or likely to commit a specific act.

However if people are already inclined to view the world this way it may reinforce their views and make it more likely they would undertake an illegal act. I suspect the will to do this would need to be there in the first place.

As someone who doesn’t think that violent video games caused the Columbine shootings (or any other incredibly violent act) any more than Marilyn Manson’s music did, I’m entirely inclined to agree that playing this game would not cause someone to rape, and that if it did somehow give someone the push they need to commit the act, they would already have to be a misogynistic person with violent tendencies.

Which is why it’s not the point.  The point isn’t “oh my god, this game is going to create rapists.”  The point is “oh my god, this game is going to make rapists think that people are on their side.”  Which, of course, too many people actually are already, through their rape apologist jokes and excuses.  The premise of the game reinforces the idea of rape as okay and not a big deal.  It reinforces the idea that women exist for the sexual pleasure and abuse of men.  And the preview of the game Boing Boing, which does not include any actual rapes but only attempted rapes, also ends up reinforcing the dangerous and stereotypical idea of your “real” rape victim who always cries, calls out in distress and overall completely breaks down at actual violence or threats of it.

Genuine and logical criticism of the game, I think, isn’t about it causing an actual number of rapes, but about it supporting and expanding the conditions that already exist, virtually around the world, that allow rape to be committed.  The game might not create rapists, but it does make life more comfortable for the rapists who already exist, and life a lot more difficult for their victims.

And yes, I do worry about people missing those more nuanced points.  I worry about the motivations of the British Labour MP Keith Vaz, who plans to raise the issue in Parliament.  I worry about how exactly he plans to have it “raised,” and what he has done to stop actual rapes using real prevention programs, to educate the public about how rape is usually committed by someone the victim knows, and to increase levels of both rape reporting by victims and prosecutions of perpetrators.  I worry about this game, an ultimately tiny piece to a huge puzzle of our expansive rape culture, being used as a way to express outrage while skirting the real issue.

And I worry about the level of media coverage this has received thus far, and that it will largely cause one of two reactions: 1. the aforementioned “you idiots, stop whining, this is no big deal because it’s not going to make a person rape anyone, anymore than Grand Theft Auto makes players murder anyone” and 2. “God, those Japanese are fucked up. I’m so glad that us good Westerners aren’t this misogynistic!”  Because after all, I don’t remember this kind of media outrage, or any outrage at all from anyone other than feminists, at old American Lusty Linda.  I really do fail to see why one is so much worse than the other.  And I also really do see the majority of people using this as an opportunity to feel better about themselves and their own culture rather than taking a good look at their own assumptions and the conditions that exist closer to home.

So while this game does quite frankly make me feel rather physically ill, I also don’t want the table scraps of our society’s outrage on behalf of women.  And I don’t want anger over the treatment of fictional characters who live up to an idealized version of the good, noble, deserving rape victim while real-life, less perfect victims continue to be blamed, shamed and accused of lying.

What do you think?

Thanks to Bonnie for the link.

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{ 42 comments }

1 SunlessNick February 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm

First thought, off the top of my head, I think I want to vomit.

Second… I agree with you about the Sacred Victim meme and its potential to minimise the experiences and reactions of real victims.

Third… I do think there is a greater risk of this game creating rapes* than the likes of GTA creating murders (the reason why I said rapes and murders rather than rapists and murderers is that I agree that the game won’t turn someone who isn’t the kind of person to rape into someone who is). The reason I think so is that rape has real-life celebration and backup that robbery and murder do not.

Fourth… We could do without yet another line drawn between abortion and violence against women.

2 Breeze February 13, 2009 at 4:01 pm

What do I think? This game promotes our already existing rape culture. Games such as this one do not turn men into rapists but such games certainly enforce many rape myths and common justifications/excuses and of course that mandatory ‘she was to blame for causing a man to rape her.’ As for UK labour MP Keith Vaz well I have not heard Vaz utter a word about the rapidly declining Rape Crisis centres in the UK. Neither have I heard Vaz speak out about male sexual violence against women and children which is endemic but so common as to be non-news worthy.

I know claims are commonly made ‘we here in the west are far more civilised than non-western cultures. So why then did a Scottish temporary judge imprison a female rape survivor for one night because she dared to become distraught when subjected to a battery of questions from a defence barrister. The woman rape survivor was giving evidence in a rape case, but her distress was dismissed by the male judge because she supposedly acted in a disrespectful manner to the court and its male legal officials. Yet here in the UK we commonly hear claims from the government female rape survivors are being treated with more respect and dignity when they give evidence in court. Will Vaz raise this issue? I very much doubt it. So games such as this normalise rape because it becomes ‘non-rape’ because such actions are part of the widely promoted belief men have an inalienable sex right to any woman or girl.

3 Melissa February 13, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I know that Amazon.com will no longer be getting my business. It makes me sick.

4 Ryan February 13, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I’m not sure how this reflects poorly on Amazon. They do not have an approval process for third party vendors; they do however have the ability to pull the plug on a vendor’s product, which they did.

It is hard to see anybody without a serious propensity for sexual violence playing this game. However, a lot of people will hear about this game, and as you touched on, it could influence people to draw a distinction between “real rape” and “not really rape” that just should not exist. It reinforces the idea that parties, alcohol, and unrelenting requests that culminate in rapes are somehow, not that bad, or that common.

5 Cara February 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm

They do not have an approval process for third party vendors; they do however have the ability to pull the plug on a vendor’s product, which they did.

But do they not have an approval process for products which they themselves do not sell? Or can sellers just set up their own product pages for products that do not already appear on the site?

6 Katie in Berkeley February 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Thank you, Cara, for your thoughts on this topic. All day I have been trying to put my finger on what makes this different from GTA, and your post has helped.

7 Bene February 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm

IAWTP. On the topic of MP Vaz–there’s been quite a bit lately on the UK F-Word blog regarding the lack of funding to rape crisis centres UK-wide. Not that this game shouldn’t be a concern, but the outrage in Parliament smells far more of ‘offending morality’ than actual concern about women’s lives.

8 Kristen February 13, 2009 at 10:56 pm

*sigh*

Actually, my first response is just fear. It’s scary to live in a world where this “game” is what some people consider entertainment. To some extent this game is terroristic, its a reminder of how women are valued.

I wonder what the response from Amazon would have been if this was a game where you could pretend to be a Klansman lynching African Americans or a Nazi gassing people who were Jewish (I know they’re probably out there…blarg).

9 Tokidoki February 14, 2009 at 1:49 am

Christ, I hate this game so much. I found out about it a few years back. I wish I never heard about it again, it brings up all sorts of nasty feelings. An ex-friend of mine loved these types of games and hentai-and yup, he molested me when we were in middle and high school. More than once.

There’s so much misogyny in the American anime fanbase, I can’t enjoy it anymore. I don’t want to be a fearmonger, but I’m really scared about my generation, because (as far as I’m aware) we’re the first to grow up with such easy access to porn. Adding that to the fact that all but one of my (liberal!) friends and my parents shunned/harassed me the moment I spoke up about being molested scares the crap outta me. Of course my experience is limited, I’m only 17-but has it always been this bad? Is it just crappy luck on my part?

10 O February 14, 2009 at 11:49 am

Genuine and logical criticism of the game, I think, isn’t about it causing an actual number of rapes, but about it supporting and expanding the conditions that already exist, virtually around the world, that allow rape to be committed.

Excellent point. I agree. Here is another way to see why this game is fundamentally different than GTA: GTA is more about a gleeful anarchic violence that takes place in a virtual world with consequences. there is an implicit understanding among the players that such acts are wrong.

That isn’t the case with this game. As you point out, it helps normalize rape and reinforces rape culture, as well as providing a means for rapists to feel that their actions aren’t really that abnormal. And finally it reinforces ideas about the mythology of victimhood–the warning about forced abortions and pregnancy points this up, as though rape is about the supposed attractiveness of the victim.

Would people defend this game if we took out women and made it only about the rape of children, male and female, say 8 years old and younger?

No, they would not–and the fact that they can’t explain why proves that the game treats women as a class as something less than fully human. That’s what makes it horrific, that’s why it enforces rape culture, and why it is wrong.

11 Jason February 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I’m thinking of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “defining deviancy down” thesis of 20+ years ago. How incredibly prescient Moynihan was. Deviancy? This is a joyous celebration of explicit criminal behavior and nihilism. Beyond disturbing.

You’ll undoubtedly find those who will defend the right of consenting adults to produce, market and purchase Rapelay.

Which brings to mind the great South Park episode where the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) member defends his organziation on constitutional and moral relevancy grounds:

Stan: Dude…you have sex…with children.
Kyle: We’re all for equality and tolerance and all that, but fuck you, dude.

Indeed.

12 Anna February 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm

That has got to be one of the best episodes ever.. “We have the right to love whoever we want, and express that love..”
“Dude. You have sex with children!”

Might be time to go look it up online again..

13 Ryan February 14, 2009 at 10:19 pm

But do they not have an approval process for products which they themselves do not sell? Or can sellers just set up their own product pages for products that do not already appear on the site?

I’m pretty sure sellers can just set up a product page on their own for products not listed on this site. This page appears to be providing assistance in doing just that. I guess we do not really know whether a person on the Amazon side is ever required to “approve” a page. My guess is probably not, due to the large volume of products sold through Amazon.

14 zooeyibz February 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm

this freaks me out:

you’re supposed to force her to get an abortion, otherwise she gets more and more visibly pregnant each time you have sex.

Because what, it’s only rape the first time? This construction makes me want to hurl; it’s the corollary of the ‘well, she consented once, so when I forced her the next time it can’t have been rape’. Ugh. Ick. Horror.

15 Kay February 16, 2009 at 1:00 am

Excellent article, and thank you for posting this! I read about the game on N4G; it’s frightening that people are actually defending it.

16 Renee February 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

And people have the nerve to say that we don’t live in a rape culture. Video games like this simply reify the idea that women exist solely for the pleasure of men. It is absolutely inexcusable that something like this was even created much less marketed to the public.

17 sergio lepore February 17, 2009 at 3:40 am

When man discovered he can sculpt the figure, some idiots decide to sculpt people fornicating and make it part of their religion, with photography and, later, film some more idiots decide to capitalize on porn, now we have the internet with videos of people doing it along with child porn….so here we are today with a game like Rapelay.
Ok, are the magazines off the book rack? No. Are porn movies gone yet? No.
Porn sites? How about prostitution? I don’t mean only the call-girl stuff, I mean the real stuff involving smuggling adolescent girls to be purchased by wealthy freaks and…..You get the picture.
The real problem is when people oppose a thing, people with media recognition I mean, even more people find anything they can to muddy up the argument by exposing any faults of the opposing party. Preachers are a prime target.
You see, sure there will be laws against unpalatable behavior, but unless peoples’ hearts are changed the problem still is with all of us, and this includes our children, and our children’s children.

18 Lisa February 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

There are some posts that leave me speechless, like I have never been a writer and cannot form words to express what I am feeling.

This is one of those posts.

Thanks for writing this, as full of darkness as it is.

19 Darius February 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm

.
I’ve been in another game kinda-forum debating about this game. What interest me the most, and I’m in no way defending the game with this, is that ppl don’t think the same about other brutal games. The countless times named GTA, or even old ones like Carmageddon, or lots more. But with this game is different. Why? The same arguments can be used for the other games. GTA can make mafia feels they are supported, Carmageddon would make racers more rabid… Next to that is the platform. I can’t stop thinking about the movie Hannibal. In it guy just get away with his vice. Does that mean the movie supports cannibalism? Are the writers and director scum?
Is interesting how this game touch the woman’s right fibre, but the millions others brutal games don’t touch the ‘human’s right fibre.

20 Anna February 18, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Darius, I find you vastly depressing. I started out typing a response, but I don’t actually think you’re worth the time.

21 SunlessNick February 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Darius, the difference is that this the other crimes are not also backed up by a widespread pattern of denial, apologism, justification, acceptance, and outright celebration.

22 brenna ryan February 20, 2009 at 10:12 pm

The whole idea for this game is horrifying and horrible and disgusting. i can believe someone would make something like this but it is just the most horrible thing ive ever heard of in all my years of video game playing. whoever made this smut you sir should be banished off the face of the earth. i hope u NEVER have children and if you do i weep for them

23 Darius February 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

.
You got me wrong. I’m not saying this game ain’t disgusting on its core, and unimaginative on its making. I’m intrigued in how the other games don’t trigger the same response. I mean, the same arguments fits just fine for so many other games, yet no one says a word. Where lies the difference?

24 Cara February 23, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I made my argument in the post, Darius. If you want to counter the argument, fine. But I’m not going to remake the argument just because you show little evidence of having read what I’ve already said.

25 PaintedIce February 24, 2009 at 7:26 am

Im glad someone has stopped and looked at the real issues of the culture this game promotes. Thank you for writing a well rounded argument for this debate.

26 Bogdan February 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I’m from Romania ( a Christian Orthodox country ) and i can say that i feel sick after reading about this game. We have to face the fact that in noawdays a lot of people ( mainly teenagers and kids ) run away from reality by playing video games. These games influence their education and points of view more than any teacher, parent, priest, politicia … This is truly sad, but when video game deisgners create games that simulate rapes, it’s not sad anymore. It’s sick and they should be at least tortured. Imagine that these people ( the producers / designer ) actually wanted the game to sell and make money. They didn’t think about the consequences. This is what the western society has brought to the world: greed for money and lack of morality. I am sorry to say this, but this is what the world deserves. It is simply destroying itself. A society without God or absolute moral values is not a society, but a disaster waiting to happen. Nowadays everything is relative, everything is possible and desirable. May God help us all.

27 Cara February 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Bodan, I don’t even know what to say to your comment other than I wrote this post, and I’m an atheist. A god or lack thereof has nothing to do with this game.

28 Cara February 25, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Note: I understand and respect that people are upset about the existence of this video game. However, I will not be publishing any comments which promote or show support for retaliatory violence. Even if it’s a “joke.” Period.

29 Zerachiel February 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm

as a rape victim myself my first thought when i heard to this game was just.. i wanted to be sick. a game that focuses soully on the rape and violent attack on women. that’s all we need to promote the act of rape.

kids think (and this coming from experience as i used to think this when i was young) that if it was in a video game it was alright. blasting zombies and bad guys… but what message is this sending out that it is alright for men to run around and grope and rape women? it’s just sickening and if the Japanese want to sell that type of sick shit.. they should leave it there.

30 Victoria Placeo February 26, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Wrong , disgusting, contributes to problem………etc etc

Victoria Placeo

31 HSstudent February 26, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I personally see nothing wrong with playing the game, I (and others) am not hurting anyone except possibly “desensitizing” ourselves (which I do not believe has happened to me) . No matter how disgusting and repulsive the content of the game is. I admit when I heard about it, I did want to play and eventually did. Now before you say I’m a sick perverted bastard, I would like to say that I admit, my mental state could be argued as indifferent and twisted. Many people would argue that it could have stemmed from the fact I was exposed to Rape Porn in 5th grade and continued watching it. In addition, there are other factors that would make a seemingly normal teenager to have such twisted fantasies (such as sense of powerlessness, social ineptitude, mental immaturity) which I admit have as this time at the age of 16. I reiterate that I do not believe this game has affect my view on real rape victims. I feel extremely sad for them its just that it is my belief that this game just fulfils a niche fetish which for some reason I have. I am also not sure what has caused be to confess something like this in public except to maybe garner some opinions on whether or not if this is normal for me or should I seek psychiatric help. I apologize if I make any of you sick.

32 Michael March 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I think a great point was missed by the author – this game will likely result in more rapes because it encourages and endorses rape ideation; that is, the continual fantasizing about rape, how it can be done, and what is more it gives it a glorified appearance and celebration.

If a person has an outlet such as this game to practice rape, it will make them crave it more and more in real life and more likely to commit the crime.

Isn’t that how most crimes begin, anyways – by fantasy?

33 Tim March 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

I have known a person who I will keep quiet but she became a victim of rape. I am against the production of such video stuff but I also know a indivual who reviewed the software for a respectable site so I asked what the verdict was on it i got the answer

” It’s wrong completely wrong , and sick however there is people who would use it but not carry any offence out as a result of using it.

It angers me to think of anyone who decided to carry out an offence after its use I will say to those rot in hell”

my personal oppion is it’s simply wrong , bad news is now it can be easily found on the internet in other methods than amazon and ebay.

to Finish this comment I will do all I can do to keep my partner safe and make sure she does not become another victim that’s my goal.

34 HyoRyuNoYuki March 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

is was a very good article, nice job.
anywho when i first heard about this game at my job (long story involving the butterfly effect) i had to be sure i was hearing him correctly.

i will say that im a fan of hentai, yuri, and other japanese style porn along with a support of sex but somethings can be taken to far

It is to much to think patrioticly all the time. We can’t say our culture is the best just because the idea of a rape game being produced in america is wrong, or that because its depicting women as the victims.

To all the feminist out there reading this article and this comment let me ask you this:

when men forcible have sex with women against their will its called “rape”, and ofcourse (im not disagreeing with this idea) we consider it to be wrong/unlawful/indecent. But what do we call it when men are victims to women of this same event…suduction?….temptation? mind you if a women did this you have to be a pretty dumb guy to complain but is it still not wrong? is it still not rape? the feminists depict men as always the “prep”/”the cause” but do not say that men can not be the victims either.

getting back on to the subject at hand. this game, in my opinion, couldn’t have been made at a better time. It has brought light to the subject rape/abortion/feminist/misogynistic/right/wrong.
these topics need to be further brought to the light and come to terms that if we just break the problem down to its core (remove the religious view points/ the feminist view point/ the misogynistic view points and so on we can realize the true problem at hand.

this game has no reason not to be made, thus, it was made. ofcourse if it was made then there will be people…sry but this is att the time i had to write this i feel lame for finishing here

35 Cara March 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

when men forcible have sex with women against their will its called “rape”, and ofcourse (im not disagreeing with this idea) we consider it to be wrong/unlawful/indecent. But what do we call it when men are victims to women of this same event…suduction?….temptation?

It’s called rape. Stop perpetuating the myth that just because rape committed against women by men is extraordinarily more common, that feminists do not care about rape committed against men by women, or that we do not think it’s rape. “Sex” without consent is rape. Period. Genders are irrelevant to the definition.

mind you if a women did this you have to be a pretty dumb guy to complain but is it still not wrong?

No, a man would not “have to be pretty dumb” to “complain” about being raped. He’d be a victim expressing the trauma from what he was subjected to. So, also stop perpetuating the idea that only women can be victims and that men cannot. And lastly, if you leave one more rape apologist comment like the one above, that makes any excuse for rape whatsoever, no matter who is committed against, you are banned. The end. I am no more tolerant of apologies for rape committed against men than I am for rape committed against women.

36 Cara March 12, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Dear everyone responding to this post:

This is a feminist blog. Read the comment policy. Comments regarding sexual violence are strictly moderated, and comments will only be open to those who display some kind of grasp of anti-rape/feminist thought. Nothing about how we should castrate rapists like that would solve the problem, or about how determined you are to “protect” your daughters from rape — even with more violence — as if that’s possible and really not just damaging paternalism, and especially no comments which go on about how rape culture doesn’t exist, or how talking about rape culture really only plants the idea in people’s heads that rape is okay even though they totally didn’t have the idea before. Those comments will be deleted. Even if they come from a woman! So you’re best served not leaving them.

37 Keppers March 12, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Its amazing how you choose to silence a female voice because she does not share exactly the same viewpoint as you. It seems to me that you, if you every truly wish feminism to become mainsteam, you should embrace and contest arguments, rather than silence them without addressing them. Yes mods, this is aimed at you.

Personally, I am appalled by this game. I find it offensive to the senses and morally objectionable. That said, lets take a look at how many people have ordered this (hint: Not many) and while even one may be too much, think about the other objectionable material which exists in this world which panders to minorities. There are other things in this world much more dangerous to women in the world than this.

38 Cara March 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm

There are other things in this world much more dangerous to women in the world than this.

And no one said that there wasn’t.

Oh, and refusing to publish certain comments on my personal blog in order to create a safe space? Not “silencing.”

39 Mayra March 17, 2009 at 7:52 am

Also there are forums for the game asking about wanted changes for a part 2 and people are requesting that there be a way to customize the victims. So you can rape the person you want to basically. I’m not saying the game will create rapists but customizing your victims is a lil extreme. And the players defend the game saying it’s a way to get out their urges/inner violence etc….Also the daughters room is all pink with teddy bears etc. Clearly a lil girl and when you rape her she bleeds. Disgusting!

40 SunlessNick March 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Well, it’s good to know that learning to kidnap and repeatedly rape women is at least supposed to be amusing.

So much so they decided to give a pun for a title.

41 stat June 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Rapes per Capita (1000 people)

Japan: 0.017737
Germany: 0.0909731 5x
United Kingdom: 0.142172 8x
United States: 0.301318 17x

Where would you raise your child?

42 Cara June 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Wow Stat, all of that would be hugely relevant and would totally tear down my entire blog post if I had actually gone on a tirade about Japanese society and how this video game is causing huge rates of rape in Japan, and built up Western culture as some kind of bastion of gender equality and enthusiastic consent models.

Seeing as how that’s pretty much the opposite of what I argued, though, you just look really pointless and stupid. Oops.

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