Rape culture in controversial game ‘Rapelay’

The portrayal of womens in videogames cannot be regarded as radical, when they adhere to out-dated notions of femininity and associated themes of sexual subordination and violence. The Japanese game Rapelay, despite being released in 2006 garnered immense controversy in 2009 when it was relisted online at Amazon (Martinez & Manolovitz 2009, 7). The game can easily be defined as a ‘rape simulator’ (Martinez & Manolovitz 2009, 7) as the plot revolves around the stalking and rape of a mother and her two daughters in various locations such as a train station, public bathroom and one of the daughter’s bedrooms. Horrific features include multiple player modes to facilitate gang rape, forced abortion if rape victims fall pregnant, and sex slavery of the three victims. In one sequence of the game, the player rapes the Yuuko, the mother of the family and then proceeds to take photographs of her semen-covered body. The above examples of gameplay modes illustrate the deviant and horrific themes present in Rapelay, but also the demarcated gendered roles of the male rapist and female victim within a rigid binary of sexual abuse. Through the act of rape, female characters are subjected to the ‘male gaze’ (Mulvey 1975, 62) and the hegemonic binaries between the ‘active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1975, 62) are reified. The game blatantly endorses out-dated  and limited definitions of gender constitution, reverting to the hegemonic notion that ‘to be masculine-is to be active, strong, independent, rational…and to excel at being a woman-to be feminine-is to be passive, weak, dependent and emotional’ (Kelland 2011, 173). Furthermore, there is an underlying justification of rape that is reminiscent of discourse concerning male corporeality and agency that is ‘inherently’ uncontrollable. The repeated rape of women and young girls within the game perpetuate a corporeal ‘imaginary’ of the hegemonic male body as an ’instrument to be used to achieve a particular end’ (Mills 1997, 11).  Within this limited and destructive sex/gender paradigm, ‘how is a woman, a trans person, or any rational individual expected to feel safe enough to participate in such a community?’ (Anthropy 2012, 16) in addition to the media form evolving into revolutionary text in which a range of human experiences is drawn upon and explored. The discourse within a game has the propensity to challenge and ‘subvert established norms’ (Dyer-Witherford & de Peuter 2009, 181), yet Rapelay perpetuates rape culture that is situated within an ideological frame of patriarchy, of which is heavily reliant on a limited binary of gender identification in which women are subordinated; ‘it is a system that both completely lacks and completely fears the feminine’ (Means 2011).



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