Why “Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon” is a rape joke, and extremely problematic

(Trigger warning: this article contains graphic language related to rape)

If you missed what happened at Microsoft’s E3 press event, you can read this great write-up we posted yesterday, but I want to talk about what I think is the most unsettling thing about this entire incident: the section of our population who keeps insisting “just let it happen, it’ll be over soon” is not a rape joke, or — and this is even worse — that it’s not a big deal because it’s just normal trash talk.

This debate was happening all over Twitter, various discussion boards, and even made its way to the comments of our Facebook post last night.

Let me help: “just let it happen, it’ll be over soon” absolutely is a rape joke, and it is normal trash talk, and that is the problem. Watch the video at Kotaku to get a better sense of the context for what I’m about to talk about if you haven’t already seen it.

It absolutely is a rape joke.

It’s a rape joke because it is a phrase rapists use during rape and is reported later by survivors; it’s used commonly enough that a huge number of people heard him say that and immediately went “WTF” on Twitter, in their minds, and in their stomachs; and it’s a joke because people laughed (is it worth noting it was the only thing people really laughed at in that demo?).

And it is normal trash talk.

It’s a rape joke that is a variation the many rape-related phrases and jokes that get used flippantly in games to describe a severe defeat. “You might as well try to enjoy it” or “don’t fight it” or “I wish you had at least used lube” or (the most common) “I/we just got raped.” Some of these are phrases perpetrators of rape use during the act and are later turned into jokes by us, while others are victim-centric and used as a self-deprecating joke to dismiss a bad loss — all of them condone and normalize rape, and they are all problematic.

And that is the problem.

Before you shout “They were playing Killer Instinct! It’s a fighting game where people kill each other! What’s it matter if there’s a rape joke?” read our public stance on rape references, which goes into great detail why rape jokes/references are far more harmful than the “I’m going to blow your head off” type language that gets tossed around. Rape-related threats and trash talk are completely different from general violent threats, but you know that, because you read the article (right?).

Casual rape jokes are normalized far beyond just games culture. Back in the 90s, we (Texans) had a gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams who was asked about rape and joked “if it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” Yes. That’s real life. Several years before that, Tex Antoine, a New York City weatherman (but originally from Texas… damnit) joked, while responding to a story about a 5-year old girl who was violently raped, “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.’” Also real life. And those are just two examples I knew off the top of my head.

“You’re just looking for something that isn’t there.”

A lot of people seem to think that this is an issue of rabble-rousers trying to find something in this language that isn’t there — that it wasn’t a rape reference, and we are creating something out of nothing. To quote someone from our Facebook page “I think things are getting to the point where people are looking for stuff like that, and Microsoft, et. al’s appearance as a yeah-brah male dominated culture lends itself easily to that, whether or not there is anything to it.”

Speaking for myself, I can’t tell you how frustrating this is. I am doing the exact opposite of looking for things that “aren’t there,” because there is so much that is there it gets overwhelming at times. The last thing I need is to create a new fight when there are a thousand other unsolved battles underway.

This wasn’t an intellectual thing where I was like, “Ooo! Someone at E3 said something that we can twist into a rape joke and it’ll be great!” I don’t want that. That’s not great. It’d be a huge win if an event went off without any sort of horribleness.

This was a gut, horrible reaction that hit my heart before it hit my head. To temper my reaction, I even asked one of my roommates (who’s not a gamer or social justice-y person), “Hey, no context, if a person said ‘just let it happen, it’ll be over soon,’ what do you think it’d mean?” The verdict: rape reference. He even got the stomach discmfort, and he heard it second-hand.

Let’s talk about the guy who said it!

Actually, let’s not. It doesn’t matter who said it, if he’s a “nice” guy, if he’s a “great team leader,” if he’s generally “supportive of women” in the industry, or (as the most common narrative goes) if he “didn’t mean anything by it.” Doesn’t matter. None of it. I personally don’t think he’s a bad person at all, nor do I think him saying this makes him a bad person, but it doesn’t matter what I think.

He made a rape joke that he’s been told over and over is an okay joke to make while playing games, because he hears those jokes all the time — in games, on television, around his friends, and hopefully-not-but-likely at his workplace.

He made a rape joke in an extremely public (the most public?) event because he’s been formally and informally told it’s totally cool to make rape jokes.

But one thing that is worth pointing out is this particular joke was far more troubling than the normal “we just got raped” usage of “rape” we hear in games. Why? Because the whole dialogue and situation happened to be playing into a situation where a man was exerting violent dominance over a woman (is it worth noting she was the first woman to speak at the event?), and using a rape perpetrator phrase against her. And the dialogue continued with him saying, ”Wow, you like this?” and her replying “No, I don’t like this.” What’s that sound like? Yes, it sounds like a problem.

Instead, let’s talk about what we can do about it.

We can ask for Microsoft or the Killer Instinct Team to issue an apology, beyond the statement (that I hope is true) from a Microsoft spokesperson to Kotaku of “The comments in question during the Killer Instinct demo were not scripted. The demo was meant to include friendly gameplay banter and there was there was no ill intent.” That might be helpful.

But I suggest we stop apologizing, scapegoating, rationalizing, dismissing, and benefit-of-doubt-giving and acknowledge the unfortunate fact that rape is not something that is viewed as a serious issue — not in society at large and particularly not in gaming culture. We can look inside, start to unpack and address why we don’t acknowledge it as a serious issue, have honest dialogues about it, listen to survivors and advocates, and take a firm stance that we will no longer put up with rape being viewed as acceptable in our culture.

That’s my vote, because I, for one, don’t think rape is acceptable in any culture.

  • Pingback: Communication: A reflection on the Microsoft press conference

  • Shawn Shelton-Zieger

    I, too, am tired of this type of flippancy regarding rape imagery. This article isn’t making a mountain out of a molehill it is an article that challenges a culture that is so blind to the sheer offensiveness of what they are saying that the only analog that comes to mind is trying to explain to a 70-year-old man why you can’t call black people ‘Coloreds’ anymore, much less other specific words that I won’t put in print. The hardest part is the ingrained nature of this type of trash talk. When you have people who are simply using imagery to convey the worst kind of humiliating defeat. Let’s find another type of imagery to replace it. Another type of humiliating defeat that doesn’t conjure up one of the worst kinds of violence against fellow human beings.

  • Nikki

    Thank you for caring and for trying to make a difference in a world that doesn’t seem to care about others (or about hurting others). People need to learn that it is NOT OK to say things like that and it is never funny or excusable. Very well written article!

  • Realkman666

    I sincerely don’t believe in apologies, but rather in making your own mind about whether to support a public figure or corporate entity treating rape as a casual source for cheekiness.

  • Lisa Pham (Calipip4)

    Rape jokes or cruel rape references of any kind is not acceptable. Not
    in gaming or anywhere else. Clearly these people have no idea what it’s
    like for people who are real victims of rape to hear them say such
    things so casually and / or in fun / jest.

  • Avenger

    While I agree it was bad taste, free speech tumps here…..I wont support the product they are selling. To me the only way to be punitive is with sales and support.

  • Shawn Vermette

    Totally agreed with everything here. I was sitting in the audience during that and when he said it I was jarred, looked around to see if anyone else thought it sounded bad and out of place, but it didn’t appear to me anyone else noticed.

    That said, I can corroborate that it was unscripted. I was sitting near the teleprompter screen, and all it said was ‘trash talk’ as a prompt when the fight began. Nothing else until after that first match was over.

    • eldl1989

      That’s because it’s ingrained in our culture, so of course no one is going to look around exchanging glances. Rape jokes are normalised because rape is normalised.

  • Kheapathic

    It was trash-talk, plain and simple. When you’re winning, you talk trash to demoralize and show superiority over your competition. Which sounds damn near identical to what a rapist would do to their victim. It doesn’t matter what gets said, because it can be interpreted however the listener wants. This is probably due to rape being a crime more about empowerment than it is about sex. So when two people are in direct competition, it becomes rape when the dominant contender talks trash their opponent? Or is it because the person losing at the time was a woman? Would this have happened if two men or two women were playing and the exact same thing was said? I highly doubt this would’ve become an issue if the two contenders were the same sex. So feel free to claim it as rape culture, when it’s nothing more trash-talk.

    • witchbyrd

      since rape overwhelmingly happens with a male perpetrator and a female victim, this drastically changes the context surrounding the comment- all genders can be rapists, and all genders can be victims, but rape in free society is about 4x more likely to involve a male perpetrator and female victim. now, in prison, rape is most commonly perpetrated by men with male victims- if the presentation was male vs. male and presented to a population of incarcerated men, the context would change and this would ‘become an issue’.

      relativism is lazy and just does not make sense, bud. everything is not the same with the same weight and same history, so you simply can’t say ‘if this was different, it wouldn’t be the same’.

  • Solidus

    Could be a reference to rape. Could be a reference to murder. Could have been a reference to all manner of things, “let it happen” is a phrase that can be applied to a very large amount of situations and meanings.

    Or it could just be a reference to the game that was going on. It wasn’t a “rape joke”, it was just some forced banter between the 2 people playing the game. Did you consider that before writing your blog post? Probably not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.harmon.940 John Harmon

      You clearly didn’t read past the first couple of sentences. Try again. “Let it happen” is a common phrase in regards to rape.

      • Brandon Cimino

        I’m gunna go out on a line here and say, “I love you” is a really common phrase in regards to stalkers. That doesn’t make it an offensive statement.

        Context matters. “Go suck a dick” mean something very different when two friends are playing a game than it does when two drivers have road rage, or when a male employer says it to a female employee.

        Now, that said, yeah, it was uncomfortable. Not because it WAS a rape joke, but because it SOUNDED like a rape joke. There’s actually a huge difference here.

        Unfortunately this is one of the worst-written articles I’ve seen about this event, mostly because of the extremely flawed logic it was founded on. I wish a sound discussion could be had without using blatant fallacies to incite sheep. You’re never going to sway anybody with an argument like that, and I’m sure you know that. What you’re doing, and I’m sure you don’t mind, is stoking the political fires of the people who already support you.

        Which is OK, I guess. Republicans have O’Reilly, so it’s only fair that feminists have their own politics-porn, right?

      • Droopy

        Common in rape and any other kind of confrontation, anyone remember saving private ryan and that horrible knife fight? The german is saying “just give in, it’ll be quicker for you” as he tries to stab him. It’s a domineering phrase and not classy behaviour in a sporting competition, but to think it’s exclusive to rape is actually a very narrow minded view.

  • Xiim

    Great article. You made some great notes on why what was said was wrong without resorting to vitriol. Bravo.

  • R.C.

    A+ article, Sam. Well-written and well-said.

  • Monkable P

    I find it ironic that this story is posted in ‘Opinion’, and there’s a comments section underneath the story for readers opinions, in which it seems no-one’s opinion has been deemed worthy of getting past moderation. Just sayin.

  • Unfunny Anyway

    I think you’ve overlooked that the “joke” derives its humor from irony: If it’s a “rape joke”, the entire joke is predicated on the common understanding that rape is horrible (which is what you want them to understand), while losing at Killer Instinct is not.

  • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

    Hands down my favorite comment of the week. Thanks, Getoverit (if that IS your real name, which I DOUBT).

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.harmon.940 John Harmon

    Yeah, you 100% missed the point of the article.

  • WeeItsNookies

    Congrats feminist movement, the fact that you are actually caring about
    this “issue” means equality has been achieved for women in the first?
    world. Now lets shift our focus to the REAL issues with female
    inequality, such as sex slaves and education for women in the rest of
    the world.

    “Just let it happen and it’ll be over soon” So people instantly think
    about rape? Maybe he meant just put the controller down because it was
    inevitable she was going to lose? This is why? no one likes feminists
    and it’s why feminism is not a serious movement. They waste time whining
    about silly shit like this, magazine covers,etc but think they are
    equipped to deal with ACTUAL, legitimate problems such as sex slavery in
    countries where they have no influence? LMFAO.

  • witchbyrd

    this is not ‘a choice’. this is what amounts to good luck on your part. not everyone has the mental wherewithal, the emotional support, the distance from the rape/rapist, the same life experiences, etc. and what was possible for you is not possible for everyone. the exact problem with triggers is that people do not have a choice about them- despite what gross MRAs and rape apologists would have you think, people do not choose to be raped, they do not choose to be traumatized by it, and they do not use trauma from their rape to get special favors or attention.

    • Brandon Cimino

      Some people are more affected by trauma than others. Trauma can vary.

      Some people find humor regarding their trauma to be offensive and it upsets them and it triggers them, and that’s legitimate. However, some people find humor to be cathartic.

      It isn’t fair to anybody to take away that catharsis from some in order to support the weaknesses of others. That sounds harsh, but think of it this way: we haven’t abolished stairs, even though they are a detriment to the physically disabled. What we do instead is continue to cater to the able, while providing what is necessary for the disabled after that. It sounds harsh, but it’s practical, and think of the alternative: treating everybody as if they were in wheel chairs. That’s ridiculous, not to mention: Ask anybody who’s been in a wheel chair for a reasonable amount of time, and I’m sure they’d prefer themselves walking again to the rest of the world becoming crippled.

      …Although this is all tangential, because this wasn’t actually a rape joke. This isn’t exactly Dickwolves (the Penny Arcade debacle). Although, as another side note, at this past PAX East, someone came up to the microphone during the Penny Arcade Q & A to tell Mike and Jerry that he’d been sexually abused by a family friend, and that he found humor to be cathartic, and he thanked them and declared that he was a proud member of Team Dickwolves. It was the one of the most beautiful things I had personally ever seen. Humor isn’t for everybody, and it can hurt, but it can also heal. We should be shielding those in harm, not censoring the source.

      • witchbyrd

        never in my life have i ever, ever, ever met a survivor who didn’t understand that other people are at different places in their process and didn’t want to hear jokes about it. similarly, i have never heard of survivors ‘censoring’ (hyperbolic, inaccurate term, bud) other survivors who use humor to deal with their own experiences.

        the problem comes up, time and again, when people who are not survivors, are not part of any community where there is context, etc. make rape jokes, overwhelmingly where the joke is about how funny it is that a person got raped/will get raped (rather than anything introspective or satirical). daniel tosh is not a brave soul who is ‘reclaiming’ an experience and speaking for the voiceless. opie and anthony are not pioneers trying to protect rape victims and help them through their process.

        on another note: your comparison of rape to disability is both laughable and misguided- both that you think not making rape jokes is the equivalent of putting everyone in wheelchairs (?) and that you think the only path to accessibility for disabled people is to disable everyone else, rather than find modes of access that are usable by both people with disabilities and people without disabilities. i think this flaw in your logic skills is pretty telling.

        • Brandon Cimino

          So what you’re saying is, only rape survivors can make rape jokes? Which means only black people can make black jokes, and only rich people can joke about country clubs?

          Is this censorship only in regards to Comedy? Or can only veterans make movies about wars? I think this flaw in your logic skills is pretty telling. Also “you think the only path to accessibility for disabled people is disable everyone else” is simply wrong. I said, “What we do instead is continue to cater to the able, while providing what is necessary for the disabled after that.” This flaw in your reading skills is pretty telling.

          Wait, I shouldn’t joke about that, because I don’t understand what it’s like to be illiterate. No, that’s not right, I shouldn’t assume you can’t read; you probably can, you’re just choosing not to.

          Sorry, I got a little flared up there. I wouldn’t argue religion with a fanatical priest, so I probably shouldn’t debate with you, either.

  • hw2084

    “It’s a rape joke because it is a phrase rapists use during rape and is reported later by survivors”.

    Do you have a reference for this? I googled and really couldn’t find references to stories that it was a taunt used by rapists. I really think this is a case where rape activists see it as a problem because they are too close to it. I had never heard of this phrase as a rape joke. I’ve probably said something like it to my cats when I give them a bath or to my kid when I have to do something like clean a skinned knee or take medicine.

    I think the press is making too much of this since apparently it is not common enough knowledge that rape activists are making this phase off limits. Personally, I think they shouldn’t bother. Rape victims have enough to worry about without having to worry about getting offended at something that might not have been intended.

  • witchbyrd

    your lack of understanding about rape culture makes the ‘fact’ (which i’m positive you invented. haha) that you work at a crisis counseling service bone-chilling. counselors are given large amounts of sensitivity training simply because there are so many things that people who are not survivors of rape or violence would find innocuous that are extremely painful, triggering, anxiety-inducing, or trust-dissolving when heard by a survivor, especially when you’re in a position of relative power over the survivor.

    the sad product of rape culture is that we now live in a society where over 80% of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and are often committed by someone who doesn’t even meaningfully understand that what they’re doing is rape (since we are taught, in general, to seek the absence of a ‘no’ rather than the presence of a ‘yes’ in seeking consent). this drastically changes the playing field when considering who could be a rapist or who could have raped someone, and drastically changes the context of ‘just anyone’ saying something like this.

    p.s. i am both a survivor and have counseled and volunteered at numerous crisis centers and women’s shelters- i will happily provide my credentials to you if you provide me with yours. you know, if you have REALLY done that vs. just saying you have to bolster your BS rape apologia.

  • witchbyrd

    ‘reverse sexism’ is not real.

    • Luke

      Just because you say it is not real, dies not make it so. how about re word  it for you. it was sexist and inflamitory to turn this into a sexual thing.

  • wwwarea

    This website is pretty much bigoted it’s self. Like some say, if this had to be very taken as a real offense (Since this is just “trash talk”) then I guess we should also take EVERY single fighting joke too, we should also take every violence game as a threat too. I really hope this crap doesn’t spread, because if the entire society takes this harmless speech (Not the real thing) as an offense, then I can’t wait to see more censorship and monopoly! Seriously, WTF happened? Not only we lie and no longer focus on the real things, but we even bigotry lie about bigotry.

    I just can’t believe how a simple comment turned out to this. No wonder society continues to fall.

    • eldl1989

      I see where you’re coming from from a semantic perspective, but the difference is that killing is not normalised. When something isn’t normalised, we can joke about it. Rape is normalised. It’s an acceptable part of everyday life, because while conviction rates for killing are pretty much 100%, for rape, they’re shockingly low; 3% of rapists serve time. It shouldn’t be like that. If you read survivor accounts, rape is HORRIFIC. Akin to if not worse than being murdered, because at least you’re not mentally tortured for the rest of your life with the violation. Right now, in our society, the psychological effects of *anything* are generally not considered as much as they should be. I think this is changing, slowly. But it’s definitely still an issue. Part of confronting that issue is by addressing something which is still seen as off-the-cuff. When rape gets the status and attention of killing that it deserves, then we can make rape jokes. Because it won’t happen as much. Until then, the least people can do is sacrifice a bit of their political incorrectness for the sake of millions of victims.

      • wwwarea

        I think I understand but “rape” isn’t exactly normalized nor would it connect to why there are backlashes on here I think. (Though in case it is, that’s awful to me) For example: Fighting for the good guys is normalized and people don’t have any problem with talking about it either. I think it’s that people can be way too sensitive over sexuality these days, like any small talk about it gets a backlash these days which I find ridiculous. I might agree that there are a lot of people who got away but even if so, many more was found, that over sense reaction may still not go away.
        Either way if I’m wrong, it’s possible people can handle it and be less sensitive; I just don’t think it’s fair at all to force memories on others and censor them by signs of small jokes. I’m good however for asking people to not make a joke around people who are victims. If someone asked me, when I’m around to not mention it personality, I probably may agree. Still for “trash talk”, I don’t suggest to waste energy focusing on this, unless there is some sort of effect happening around it.

        Though, if your right with what will happen, I guess let’s just see what happens too then if it happens.

        And yeah, I have read a page where one person was raped, and I thought it was awful.

  • just me

    I couldn’t even finish reading this article after reading the comment by the A hole about the five year old being raped. Something in my gut just stopped my brain from working. These two rapes are two different kinds of disgusting acts by cowardly mentally ill men. The pedophile should be drawn and quartered, the other “man” thrown in the slammer for life. Rapists are given too light sentences, as in “well, it’s not like he actually KILLED her or something”. What we need is legislation for minimum sentences for ANY rape, and maybe we could deter others from committing this heinous crime. And would you have been as outraged if Jerry Sandusky had raped teen aged girls as you were when he raped teen aged boys? I mean, that IS what a vag is for, right?

  • just me

    sounds like a slavery joke to me, too. That’s probably why he resorted to a RAPE joke. Or were you just trying to be funny?

  • just me

    if the woman were winning and she had said that, I’d be willing to bet she was being sarcastically insensitive to the man losing, and trying (but chances are great he wouldn’t a clue as to what she was doing) to show how BAD a comment like that can make a woman feel. I think women should just stop beating around the bush about these kind of “jokes” and just make up their own. How about “Now I’m gonna stick the dildoe up yer ass! Just relax, it’ll be over soooooon”.

  • hw2084

    I’m not trying to discredit anyone. I’m just saying that if that guy who made that joke is anything like me and many other people, they probably didn’t know it was a rape joke. If it hasn’t trickled down to the masses, how are people supposed to know they shouldn’t say it?

  • eldl1989

    That’s a very fair point.

    The problem is, while they might not think rape is acceptable, there are some people out there, on the internet especially, who think it’s acceptable to make death and rape threats to advocates against rape, for voicing their fair opinions. It’s particularly prevalent in gamer culture.

    For example, if I responded to you, if you were a girl “shut the f*** up, I will skullf*** you you piece of meat” what would be your response? That I was just joking and that I know rape isn’t acceptable? These people are normalised by the ‘rape jokes are fine, chill out!’ attitude. They’re clearly off lesser mental capacity, and they think it’s okay because they see other people making a “light-hearted” joke out of something serious. It’s like going into prison as an upstanding member of society, pretending to punch a weaker prisoner in front of a group of violent criminals, then having a laugh and saying ‘just kidding!’

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