Assault is not sexy, Zoo Today.

I haven’t heard much about Heavy Rain since its release. I wrote earlier about my distaste for Quantic Dream’s focus on a female character’s sexual assault in the game’s marketing, and hoped that the scene might be handled more sensitively in-game than promotional materials suggested.

Last night, I stumbled across this on the website of “lad’s mag” Zoo. If you don’t care to click through and give a pageview to rape-appreciating misogynists, I’ve got you covered. The piece in question is a slideshow preview of Heavy Rain titled “The List: PS3 Goes X-Rated!” It focuses entirely on Madison Paige’s storyline, and includes several nude screen captures of her. It also includes this quote, which realizes my worst speculations about players finding Paige’s sexual assault at gunpoint “sexy”:

“What you’re supposed to do next [to avoid being forced to strip and save the female character’s life] is obvious fairly early on (hit him with a lamp, so that you can tie him up and interrogate him), but clearly we wanted to play the scene out for as long as possible. You know, for research.
We’re pretty sure that you would do the same.”

This text appears under a screenshot of Madison Paige naked in a shower. Her head hangs dejectedly, and the water is running down her hair into her face.

I am utterly and thoroughly disgusted. I realize this vile attitude comes from Zoo, a publication that exists to objectify topless women. Unfortunately, Zoo has many real, live, human readers who presumably share and support the views expressed in its pages and on its website. I originally found the idea of a simulation of a woman’s sexual assault being used as some sort of proxy for male players to experience a shadow of the degradation inherent in such an experience distasteful, but I found it far preferable to the thought of players being titillated by a woman’s violation. The appearance of the latter point of view on a popular magazine’s website forces me to revise my notion that only a few sickos might take pleasure in the scene.

There isn’t an adjective powerful enough to express how much this horrifies me.


8 Responses to “Assault is not sexy, Zoo Today.”

  1. 1 cate3710
    March 4, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Well fuck, I give up. Sick bastards.

  2. 2 Joe_Lastname
    March 5, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Surely yaoi comics featuring older men violating boys, written by and read by women, has not escaped your notice… It *is* a sad situation that the cultures still extant have so fucked all our minds that for it to be violation a man has to be on top and women with predatory sexual fantasies apparently find themselves limited to fantasizing about proxy-pederasty. Not to mention how fucked up the situation is for people of other orientations than But it’s not like there aren’t women who have such fantasies. Assault *is* sexy, to some, and it’s not limited by gender. The unspoken assumption you make that rape fantasies are only had by men is actually kind of insulting to women. Like you can only ever be meek and need to be protected or something.

    I digress, the writers probably got a little hot writing that, but my guess is, like a certain scene in The Devil’s Rejects, the Heavy Rain rape scene was actually meant to offend (and feed into the noir aesthetics), not to titillate. We’ve stumbled into the morally simple but socially complicated realm of rape fantasy, though, so I felt the need to sound off on it.

    To my mind, the ugly here isn’t that a video game *has* a rape scene. The ugly is that (probably) to the writers minds and (certainly) to most of the audience, that scene that so freaks you out would not have the same impact if it was a svelte cleanshaven dude being forced to strip for a pudgy unwashed hairy woman.

    • March 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      David Cage said in interviews that he meant for the scene to make players uncomfortable. I don’t think Quantic Dream had any intention of trying to make rape sexy with this scene; that interpretation comes courtesy of Zoo Today. The initial ugly, to me, doesn’t lie with the fact that the scene is included in the game, but that the game’s marketing featured it so heavily. I haven’t played Heavy Rain, but I read lots and lots of promotional material on it, and learned very little about any of the other characters or plot points outside of Madison Paige’s sexual assault. I find that disturbing.

      I don’t think rape fantasies are limited to either sex, though rape fantasy and rape are very different things. I focused on men here because Zoo is a “lad’s mag” with a primarily male readership. The piece I quoted was presumably written by a male author, and presented the assault scene as a sexy striptease. I certainly don’t think women are meek or “need to be protected,” but our culture encourages men to objectify and dehumanize women. If the scene featured a Chippendale’s dancer being forced to strip by a woman, I would personally feel just as disturbed. You’re right, however, that it wouldn’t make the same impact on society at large because, though individual men can and have been victimized, our culture just doesn’t objectify men in the same way it does women. And that’s harmful to women (obviously) AND men. Melissa McEwan does a fabulous job of summarizing rape culture and how it affects us all here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

      I never knew yaoi comics existed until now. Yikes. I plan to continue avoiding them.

      • 4 Zer0s
        March 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

        Given what has been said by both, I think that the blame primarily should lie upon the marketing. I’ve only had sporadic contact with HR material, mostly in the form of gametrailers’ videos which do not (as far as I can recall) have this emphasis on the mentioned scene, so I wasn’t really aware of this.

        Hence I’d put, with what little I know, the tension on marketing vs the designer’s intention, though another very different thing is that what the game is and appears to people goes far beyond and far away from what the designer would want. Marketing, in this case, proved it.

        PS: why the hell is that magazine called “Zoo” ? One would think it’s about zoophilia…

  3. 5 Joe_Lastname
    March 5, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Cursed wandering mind…

    “Not to mention how fucked up the situation is for people of other orientations than straight/gendered-as-born.”

  4. March 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    @Zer0s: I plan to ask one of my female friends who’s playing Heavy Rain how it plays out in-game, and how she feels about it.

  5. 7 duckymitchel
    March 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Joe, I think you’re wandering mind has let you fall into some slippery misogynistic tropes of anti-feminism. I can’t help but read into how fed-up you sound that honestcake could possibly be taking a stance against yet another misogynist example. Get over yourself man! Zoo ate it up too…

    You wrote: “Assault *is* sexy, to some, and it’s not limited by gender. The unspoken assumption you make that rape fantasies are only had by men is actually kind of insulting to women. Like you can only ever be meek and need to be protected or something.”

    Assault is sexy?! Well… that’s just fucked, man. And like honestcake clarified, rape fantasy and rape are not the same thing. Any female who argues that she enjoys rape is talking about the consensual play or it’s the stuff of hentai, intended, but not limited, for males to masturbate to. But since the characters are fictitious, no one gets hurt in the latter beside your ever warping libido!

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