by Elizabeth Sampat
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Sep 3, 2013
In case you have been living under a rock, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears: Penny Arcade, the owners of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), have a problem. Or rather, they are a problem. I say they, despite the fact that most of the poison comes from Mike “Gabriel” Krahulik, because Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Robert Khoo support and enable Mike, which makes them part of the problem.
This shit has been going on (and worsening) for three years, so I will give you the high-level list of issues, with links.
Mike and Jerry posted a rape joke. They were respectfully called out on it. Mike lost his shit. People continued to try to reason with him. Rape survivors who called out the joke were harassed, threatened with rape and murder, and Penny Arcade responded by printing T-shirts for people who were in support of the rape joke and selling them as merch.
Due to public outcry, Penny Arcade took down the merch. (They continued to make rape jokes.)
Mike publicly supported a Kickstarter that was removed because it was a game about raping schoolgirls.
An Enforcer was accused of sexually assaulting a woman using the Enforcer network as a way to get closer to her, and Penny Arcade covered it up and did not address it publicly. When asked, Mike said he would not have done anything differently, and that not releasing the name of the assaulter or the fact that the assault took place was the right call. (The PA forum thread where the survivor brought the attack to light was quickly closed by a moderator who found it “irrelevant.”)
Sexual Harassment and Enforcers
by DragonKitty http://recoveringdk.tumblr.com/post/330 ... -enforcers
October 6, 2012
Let me tell you a personal story.
For anyone with experience with sexual assault, this story is going to be full of triggers. This is not going to be a nice story, and it’s going to be one involving a former Enforcer who went by the name of Tango, or Simon Edwards.
When I first became an Enforcer, I was welcomed into a very positive and warm community. People were kind and people were helpful and I felt very safe. I felt safe as a woman who has experienced sexual violence and has had negative experiences with men she was supposed to trust. I was spending time with men who felt protective of me and would rather have me as a friend and not pressure me into things than push themselves onto me. I value these friendships still, and I value them as human beings. Enforcers are a good brand of people generally and I have never felt so seriously safe until spending time with these people, male and female alike.
Until Tango entered the picture.
Initially, he came off as charming and welcoming. He was the head of security and vocal member of the community, making himself known. He seemed to be the ‘cool’ guy, and at my first PAX, he came over and put his arm around me and put on my whale hat, knowing exactly who I was without having me introduce myself. Looking back, that should have been my first hint, but I felt safe in the community, so why question it? I shouldn’t have to. No one should. No woman should have to question the reasons behind a man’s actions towards them to ensure their safety in the Enforcer community. No one should have to period, but especially here. And as a person who doesn’t like being touched, especially without permission, I blamed myself for feeling off about being touched. It was not my fault.
He spent a lot of time really trying to get to know me, messaging me about my likes and dislikes, talking about stuff, but always trying to make it sexual. He tried to flatter my intelligence and he tried to get into my head. During the summer, a while back, I told him he could visit because he wanted to go to Redstar and Daybreak’s going away party. I thought, “Cool, I’ll get to hang out with him. Neat.”
So he came over, at night, and came into my apartment. I immediately felt off and anxious, but I tried to attribute that to other problems going on. I tried to tell myself that this was in my head. But when he tried to get close and kiss me, unprompted and without warning or asking, I knew something was wrong. I picked up my cat and held her in front of me (God bless Grace), and he backed off. He said, “Alix, please don’t use the cat as a defense mechanism to avoid getting close.” He immediately blamed me, and made me feel badly for not wanting these advances.
He spent the rest of the evening trying to lay on my bed, place a hand on my thigh, asking to kiss me over and over despite my repeatedly telling him no. Then when it came to it, he noted he was spending the night (not really asking) and said he wanted to sleep in my bed naked. I put my foot down and told him that wasn’t happening (and while I should have asked him to leave, I wasn’t quite at the point where I felt comfortable doing that) and he finally agreed. He slept in my bed, which I felt awful about and still do, but he made it sound like I had agreed to all of it without coercion and without a problem. Tango lives on psychological warfare and mental manipulation and understands how to make women feel as though they’ve agreed to something they have not.
Moving forward, when Jace and I were dating, he came over at one point to spend a few days in Boston. The evening before he left, Tango had been messaging me asking to see myself and Jace. He noted that Jace had to leave the next day, and Tango was staying near the airport, so we might as well spend the night at his place. I noted that I wanted to spend my last night with just Jace, and he felt the same with me, so we declined. Tango noted that if Jace and I wanted to have sex, we totally could, in his hotel room while he stayed in the room, and he was OK with it.
I felt disgusting. Not only was he making these crude sexual remarks, but he was now involving my boyfriend. He was involving someone who had trusted him (Jace had looked up to Tango, both as an authority and as a good person) and he was manipulating Jace. To anyone who thinks only women can be harmed by these things, men are totally capable. I cannot speak for Jace, but my guess was that he felt wounded in some way by the situation.
Even going FURTHER, before PAX East, I remember discussing a dress I was going to wear for the after party in a G+ Hangout (everyone gets on their webcam, ten people can be in a conference and it was all Enforcers) and Tango was present. Jace had jokingly made a crude sexual comment about my dress, and he finally noted in room what he had said was that he wanted to ‘fuck me up against a wall’ in the dress. And he had said it matter-of-factly, made it amusing, and everyone laughed. Tango laughed. Tango heard that.
At the after party, where I was to feel safe, surrounded by Enforcers and surrounded by my friends, I drank. I drank because I felt safe with Jace, I felt safe with Enforcers, and I felt looked after. But before leaving, Tango pulled me aside, away from everyone, and noted how good I looked. Politely, I thanked him, and then he took it further, getting close and whispering, “I can see why Jace wanted to fuck you up against a wall now.” And he grinned at me. I felt so sick in that moment. I wanted to puke. I was alone with this man and he was making these comments, and after everything. And at an event meant for Enforcers and meant for us to feel safe, he violated that.
Tango has not just violated me. He has violated women I love and care about and at events where Enforcers specifically should feel safe. He has violated in IRC, at PAX, and at after parties and at individual dates and events. If this were a case where women were complaining about someone where not everyone was on the same page, or where it was alone and no documentation, I could possibly understand the length of time it took to deal with this. But the fact that women were violated, it was documented and it was understood, and that it happened in a place where I was TOLD I could feel safe, makes me more than angry. It makes me full of rage and disappointment. A community full of love has had that taken forcefully from a man who had no right to do that. No one has a right to do that.
To say that I feel violated is an understatement. When Tango appeared last night at an event meant to be positive and full of love and stole that by simply being there, I felt the violation all over again. I felt unsafe where I shouldn’t and I felt scared for the women he was preying on all over again, women in the PAX community who should feel safe and shouldn’t have to worry about what will happen.
So I want the world to know. Tango has sexually assaulted women in the Enforcer community. His role in Enforcers was revoked because of this, and it was not made public. I am making it public.
I am done with silence.
Mike publicly denies the gender identities of trans men and women, doubles down with bullying, and is eventually cowed into making a donation to a non-trans-specific, but otherwise worthwhile charity.
And today, on stage at PAX, Mike publicly stated the one fucking thing that PA ever did right— removing the Dickwolves merchandise— was a mistake. And the crowd went wild, and the men who own PA with him agreed soberly, and that is the convention that everyone says is best and most inclusive. A place where the owners can say “We should have continued to profit off of the suffering of others” in the biggest auditorium the convention offered and the crowd went wild.
Look. People are allowed to make their own choices, but part of making your own choices is that you’ve got to live with the choices you make and their consequences. And sometimes, the consequence of a choice you make is that people won’t want to give you time, money, or energy. (Looking at you, Penny Arcade.) But sometimes the consequence is that people will think less of you. People who would otherwise care about you and think that you’re an okay person will look at you in a different way because of the choices that you make in your life, and that’s okay. And if you choose to continue to go to PAX, that will happen. So here’s a quick FEB for you.
Frequently Exclaimed “But!”s
But it’s not like this Dickwolves stuff bothers ME!
Divide the number of women in your life that you care about by six. That’s probably about the number of sexual assault survivors you know: one in six women, and one in 33 men, are survivors. How do you think those people feel? If you don’t believe me, if none of the people in your life have told you that they are sexual assault survivors, it’s probably because they didn’t feel comfortable telling you. You may ALREADY be alienating the people close to you. Do you want to be the kind of person your loved ones can feel safe around, or open up to? Then maybe you should start being bothered by things that aren’t all about you.
But all my friends and I go to PAX and we just hang out in a bubble and it’s fun! It’s not even about PAX itself!
So why do you need to give American dollars to these men-children who refuse to learn a lesson? Why can’t you hang out in Seattle and go to the parties and NOT GIVE PAX YOUR MONEY?
But PAX is a totally different entity from Penny Arcade. I don’t read the comic, I just go to the convention.
Not consuming a free product, and continuing to shell out for a product that costs money, is maybe the shittiest most backward way to possibly try to boycott something. PAX is not a completely different entity. The money still puts food on the table of someone who apologized for voicing his opinion that trans women aren’t women without ever acknowledging their gender identities. The pass you purchased helps a rape apologist sleep a little better at night.
But it’s a really good convention. What happens in the comic has nothing to do with PAX!
Were you not paying attention before? Look, even if you divorce money from the whole thing, the most popular panels and activities at PAX are all about the Penny Arcade guys and how great their comic is. PAX is a convention that, at its heart, is about celebrating Penny Arcade. It’s the PENNY ARCADE EXPO. Please stop being willfully ignorant.
But I didn’t give them money! My company has a booth, or I’m just speaking on some panels.
THAT IS EVEN WORSE. You are giving them something more valuable than money: legitimacy. You are providing the content that people are giving Penny Arcade money for. QUIT DOING THAT.
But isn’t refusing to attend the coward’s way out? Can’t we reform PAX from within?
See also “But PAX and Penny Arcade are not the same thing!” They ARE the same thing. They’re hopelessly intertwined. There’s no “reforming” the parts of PAX that are bad, because the parts of PAX that are bad are the owners of PAX. And again— PAX is not some public-works project that will always exist. It’s a money-making commercial conference. If you want to do all of that work, why not do it at Geek Girl Con or GaymerX or make your own thing?
But I have to go for work! PAX is mandatory in the game industry or you fail!
That is total bullshit. If you are the person deciding to bring your game to PAX: the game industry existed long before Penny Arcade and it will exist for a long time after. You can be successful without PAX, just ask The Fullbright Company. And if you’re an employee being told to go to PAX: does your company know how shitty the Penny Arcade guys are? Maybe tell them. If you’re afraid it will sound too personal, you can just link them to this article where the Financial Post compares Mike to Chris Brown. That’ll sound plenty official.
But there are no other cool conventions to go to!
I already linked Geek Girl Con and GaymerX. There’s also GenCon, Dreamation, DexCon, DragonCon (who successfully ousted their gross owner!) and a million others. You can do this. I believe in you.
But I really think Mike learned his lesson this time.
It’s been three years, my friend. He is playing you like a fool. He’s not going to learn a lesson until someone makes him.