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Title: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 07, 2010, 10:00:00 AM
I guess this is a solicitation for similar AP; there's some analysis questions at the bottom.  But mostly I feel like venting a little.

The other day I played Champions, and my female martial artist super hero got mind-controlled by another player (a stranger to me) into exposing herself for the amusement of a third player (also a stranger).

That was pretty fucking lame.

Here's the social situation:
* The GM is a guy I've gamed with a couple of times.  He ran a Marvel Super Heroes session about six months ago.
* Two players are pretty decent gamer-friends of mine: though mainly we meet for gaming purposes, we socialize occasionally and respect each other.
* There were two players who were high school friends of the GM twenty years ago.  "My crowd" had never met them before.

One of my character proposals was sort of a Black Canary/Mockingbird rip-off, and so the GM statted that out and we ran with it.  One of the GM's high school buddies played a psychic whose backstory is that he was a D&D-obsessed teenage nerd who got mind-control/hallucination powers ("The Beholder").  The other high school buddy played a creepy/kooky bug-themed Iron Man guy ("The Earwig").

("The Earwig" was playing over webcam; the rest of us were all there in person.)

Over the course of the game, the Earwig kept making increasingly wack advances toward my character, presumably to be funny and awkward.  They weren't especially funny and I basically ignored it.  I think it was clear, even over webcam, that I wasn't thrilled at this development but maybe I didn't communicate how stupid and annoying it was (or, maybe I did, and that annoyance was his motivation to keep going with it). 

So - no, my character doesn't want to date your character.  No, my character doesn't appreciate your character ogling her.  No, my character isn't going to let your character shrink down to Earwig-size and hide in her cleavage--though I did counter-propose that he hide inside my boot as I kicked down doors and other people. 

In hindsight I should have stopped the game and said this was fucking stupid.  But part of my reason to play was that I'd disrupted this GM's prior Marvel Super Heroes session (for reasons that had nothing to do with anything here) and felt a little bad about it.  So I didn't want to be disruptive again unless it really became a problem.  And I figured, y'know, it's juvenile but whatever: ya gotta pick your battles.

Finally at the end of the scenario, as we were fleeing the underwater base, the psychic guy was dying.  The Earwig manages to barely save his life, on the condition that the psychic guy mind-controls my character into getting naked.  The psychic guy is like, "Sure, okay," and I am like, "No, fuck you."  I probably should have stated that this objection was OOC, but I doubt that would have mattered very much.  Dice are rolled; my character takes off her costume. 

It's pretty clear that me and my friends are uncomfortable with this whole thing.

Whereupon I state that my character will now kill the psychic guy, and does so ("I don't care, it was worth it").  Before I can kill the Earwig character, my friends end up engineering a TPK--which was probably the only way for everyone involved to save face.

Anyway.

So, overall a shitty and gratuitous experience.  FWIW I didn't mind 85% of the session, but the other 15% devoted to sexually objectifying my character was pretty irritating.  It's especially galling because I have a personal thing about sexism in super hero comics.

If I had known that the GM's friends were prone to juvenile dumb-assery, I (a) probably wouldn't have played at all, and (b) probably wouldn't have played a female character.  (On the other hand, presumably the GM knows his buddies, so I'm annoyed that he handed me a character who was vulnerable in this way.)

Granted, my character wasn't raped or physically abused.  I don't think the other players were trying to be especially domineering or exploitative; the attitude basically was, "Dude, ha ha, you're playing a chick!"  Which, like, okay... I guess that's funny to a certain type of person...

====
Some questions:

1.  This is the first time I've seen this happen in-game, in like 25 years of play.  Maybe I'm unusual?  How common is shit like this?  Is it facilitated by people being strangers?

2.  How does sex-based hijinks like this, correlate to racial or sexual orientation hijinks?  I think if my character had been a gay male, I would have had similar treatment.  But if my character were black, I don't think people would be putting on white hoods and burning crosses.  But that's just a guess.  Why's the one okay, but not the other?

3.  I'm smart enough to know this is a Personal level problem and not a Fictional level problem, but I didn't address it on the Personal level because I wanted to be a good sport and it just wasn't worth the hassle for a one-shot.  Is there a better way to handle this?  What other reasons might induce a person to stay quiet here?

4.  If you're the type of player who does stuff like this, what's the appeal of making other people unhappy over fictional tits?


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: CedricP on March 07, 2010, 11:32:06 AM
You dint bring up the webcam in your questions. Could it have made it more easy for the player at the other end to act like this? You know, how sometime internet facilitate immature behaviors...


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Noclue on March 07, 2010, 03:09:55 PM
Well, on the bright side you now know not to game with this GM and his friends.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 07, 2010, 03:46:52 PM
Greater internet fuckwad theory? (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/)

But here's a hard question or two - is it a valid move? Was it within the zone of what you can do? Was there some notion that 'in a roleplay game you can do anything!', because this fits within the notion of 'anything' and that makes it valid gameplay.

How were you playing/what was the social contract you were aware of? Was it don't make a move if it upsets someone, or retract it if it did? Or playing like chess, where if it's a valid move but the other person doesn't like it, tough titty for them?


Also I played a female magic user in a D&D game over a decade ago and some guy, not someone I'd played with before, jumped my character, or tried to (I can't remember) and he was physically present at the table.

It's kind of funny how they are probably doing it 'because it's just a game/pretend', but do they target an NPC? No, it has to be something to do with a real life player. Ie, something non game/not pretend.

I guess my point is, I've stopped games over shit like this - but if the 'move' is within the zone of valid game moves, then it was actually me being disruptive to the game. Which I'd do again - but I'd still be being disruptive.

It's just in roleplay I've noticed stuff like this - instead of changing the valid zone of actions via rules, people tend to start thinking that stopping the game is actually a propper and good thing and the other guy was being disruptive with the move he made. When it's entirely the other way around. Your being disruptive to stop a game because someone else made an entirely valid move. Hell, I would too because they are into fucked shit(even if it's valid fucked shit by their thinking), but I'd try to only play games in future where these actions aren't valid.

It's just best to only play in games that seal the range of actions to begin with, rather than the nebulous idea that you can 'do anything!'.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Jeff B on March 07, 2010, 04:52:37 PM


1.  No, you're not unusual at all.  But maybe you are lucky.  I have a hunch this sort of thing goes on a fair amount.  Various things could inspire the world's earwigs to behave that way.  One of them is simply the fact that for most gamers (my opinion), roleplaying is a guys-only experience.  I'm just saying statistically, most gaming groups are all-male.  I think there is a perceived threat where introducing a female element into the game makes them feel that they can't "be themselves".  One also speculates, of course, that Mr. Earwig has a bit of trouble interacting with women, period.

2.  The racial issue would be much more explosive.  It would be extremely difficult for a white player to play a black character without being perceived as stereotyping, even if he makes an extreme effort to avoid such stereotyping.  His motives alone would be extremely suspect.  I think race/orientation would have been just as problematic as gender.  There's a great sociology tool available here, because for some reason, roleplayers immediately express hidden values and stereotypes (either in real-world terms or through their characters) when a situation like this arises.  For example, you'll get showered with idiotic comments about wearing pink armor, if you played an openly gay character.  I would expect so, anyway.

3.  Good question, worthy of discussion.  In my opinion, the GM has *some* responsibility to exert control over the social contract.  They are the host of the game.  But that is merely my experience and my style.  By entering into the social contract, all players give up the notion of being first-among-equals:  the playing field is theoretically flat and even.  The only person who remotely resembles a leader or chief influence would be the GM.  Along with the GM would be the person at whose house the playing is happening.  As the real-world host, he has some responsibility to make the environment comfortable for all his guests.  Either of these people probably should have called out the behavior, as perhaps you should have also (I understand your reservations -- you were blindsided on a "bad night", so to speak).

4.  I believe there is an instant perception (in myself as well as Mr. Earwig) that a male player playing a female is trying to gain an advantage that cleverly sidesteps the 'system' rules and the restraints of the social contract.  How many of us GM's have ever pulled our punches for the sake of a new, novice, female player?  I would speculate anybody who has GM'd for more than a few women has done so.  Is the male player therefore seeking some special protection from the GM or from the NPC's in the game?  Real-world discomfort and gender issues work their way into the game.  Many of my characters would behave differently toward a female player than a male, because my experience is the social differences between men and women extend straight into the fantasy game world, with no effort.  It simply happens.  For example, a female character played by a woman is less likely to betray, challenge, or threaten my character than another male is.  I can say that very easily, because I've never had a female player turn on me in a game, whereas men do it all the time.  At the same time, the women I've played with are usually less experienced and aren't looking for lots of competitiveness, and this makes trusting their characters easier.  Were it not for real-world concerns about sexism, the quality of "being female" could easily be written as a disadvantage worth points in a game such as GURPS, or contrariwise as an advantage, because people are simply less likely to slash a woman in half with a scimitar than they are to slash a male.  Statistically, the appearance of a prominent female NPC in an RPG will more often lead to something other than direct violence, than the appearance of a prominent male NPC will.  I cannot prove that, but I believe it firmly.  I think it should be evident to anybody giving it sufficient consideration.

Between Earwig's discomfort with women in the real-world and his sense that the game world is threatened by a cross-gender influence, he 'attacked' you, socially.  After all, he has no grounds to say, "Oh, you can't play a female."  It is his problem, but due to other constraints, he made it your problem.  On the other hand, consider this as a gain:  You have experienced in a socially real sense acts of bias that real-world women deal with constantly (at least, if you listen to them talk about it, they do).  Perhaps there is a real-world lesson to be gained from fictional events.



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 07, 2010, 07:35:49 PM
Quoting from Callan
Quote
How were you playing/what was the social contract you were aware of? Was it don't make a move if it upsets someone, or retract it if it did? Or playing like chess, where if it's a valid move but the other person doesn't like it, tough titty for them? . . . It's kind of funny how they are probably doing it 'because it's just a game/pretend', but do they target an NPC? No, it has to be something to do with a real life player. Ie, something non game/not pretend.  I guess my point is, I've stopped games over shit like this - but if the 'move' is within the zone of valid game moves, then it was actually me being disruptive to the game. Which I'd do again - but I'd still be being disruptive.
(emphasis added)

I dunno, Callan.  That makes zero sense to me.  "Hi, I know you're playing a chick character.  Therefore, although I wouldn't do this to a female NPC I'm going to try to sexually humiliate your character as a way of being a dick to you personally.  Oh, and if you object, it's you who's being disruptive."  Surely I'm misunderstanding something?

(I should explain that this wasn't some sort of cathartic Narrativist psycho-drama where pushing people's issues is expected and encouraged.  This was, "Hey, Teen Titans!")

Yes, in hindsight we should have explicitly discussed Lines before play.  Frankly, playing an early-80's super heroes game, I figured not denigrating another player's character sexually went with the genre, and that there are some things you don't do when gaming with someone for the first time.  In other words, I assumed this sort of asinine teenager shit was a default Line unless explicitly or implicitly waived.

But I can also see that a type of player prone to this behavior might have felt it was implicitly waived:

1.  In the very first scene, the GM offered us a choice between foiling a bank robbery (my vote) or stopping a super-villainous rampage (votes of the other players).  The psychic's player jokingly said, "I mind-control her into voting with us!" and I said, "Okay, let's roll for it!" (rubbing my hands a little bit of light blood opera, which is always part of the super hero team comic).  Naturally the psychic won, which at the time was acceptable.  But this set the precedent for mind-controlling my character.

2.  During combat, the GM offhandedly mentioned that one civilian accidentally killed another, in a way that we didn't expect and couldn't do anything about.  Accidental death occurs in Bronze Age supers comics, but it's rare and never something to shrug off.  Someone observed a little sadly, "I guess this game is going there [meaning Dark Age comics]."  And that's when the Earwig character really began to get annoying.

Taken in combination, I can understand why an asshole player would think, "Oh, okay, perhaps it's permissible to sexually humilate James's character now."

Except, y'know, fuck you for wanting to do that in the first place.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 12:31:45 AM
I dunno. I could describe alot of moral structures, structures which I think make sense and match up with human needs. But those structures would be made up. They wouldn't really be evidence of anything.

I just think alot of gamers have been burnt like this, and the way they react teaches them to think that it's alright and normal play to stomp on someone for making a valid game move. And also no one makes rules to fix this because people have learned the habit of always leaving it up to this social sanction level of handling.

It's just that guys like this seem to fuck up other people sticking to rules even if they get uncomfortable/leave their comfort zone a little, because of the time they stuck to the rules and just got burnt.

When play is only good when we leave our comfort zone a little. Would you say that as well?

Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together.

But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.

It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.

Anyway, my position rests on the ideas that being pushed out of our comfort zone a little bit is what makes gameplay fun and that we need a little bit of someone having the capacity to do slightly uncomfortable things, for that comfort zone shift to happen. I may be wrong in those two ideas. Certainly in gamist board games it's clear cut - no one like losing - it pushes you out of your comfort zone - yet that is exactly what gives gameplay it's zing (or a large part of it's zing, atleast). So I'll leave that as evidence, even if it is about gamism and boardgames :)


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2010, 05:44:33 AM
Quote
When play is only good when we leave our comfort zone a little. Would you say that as well?

Only good when leaving comfort zones?  No.  It can be good; it's often good.  But not only good.  We might be defining comfort zone differently. 

Quote
Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together. . . .But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.

Well, in this case, the rules patch would be a Line.  Lines are basically social sanctions.

Quote
It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.

Well, I guess what I saw in this game was a type of adolescent bullying - the equivalent of one player slapping or mocking another, or pouring beer on them during play, or grabbing and tearing up their character sheet in the midst of play.  Not the end of the world!  But qualitatively different than productively forcing the players to engage in a cathartic fictional process.

As a thought experiment: Paka told a story on Knife Fight one time when a fellow player punched him in the mouth over something that happened in-game.  It certainly took Paka out of his comfort zone!  But I would have a hard time saying that's remotely productive behavior, nor do I see how someone who can't help himself from punching a fellow player would be constrained by a rule. 

I think the better thing is that at most gaming tables, "Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.  I would posit that "Don't sexually denigrate another player's character without some degree of assent from that player" is probably another unspoken precondition, at least around most gaming tables.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: FetusCommander on March 08, 2010, 09:45:24 AM
Punching a player in the mouth is a little different from psychically manipulating someone's character in-game.

I can see it made you uncomfortable, but from a play perspective, I'd ask: was that something in the "realm" of that psychic guy's character?  From his background, it sounds not like he was being "juvenile," but that he was remaining well within character, even if the act he did was out of character offensive to you out of game (which you admitted may not have been communicated).

Were you more upset with The Beholder, who actually did the act, or The Earwig?  It sounds like Earwig was doing some obvious telegraphing of out of character intent, so I could see you being miffed at that, but the psychic seems like he was acting in a way his character would- his character being "a D&D-obsessed teenage nerd who got mind-control/hallucination powers" using the moniker of a popular monster known for psychic slavery.


I've seen this type of thing in my playgroup, but it's never gotten to the point with our group where people were really offended.  Usually, the things that really offend people are the type of metagaming you mentioned, where player intent and character intent are sorta blurred.  It's usually the fact that someone feels "boxed in" that leads to upset though, and to me, this situation seems similar.  Your character had little option but to lose, since Beholder's numerical scores made winning very difficult.  Would you have felt  as upset if you had the mechanical option to toggle out of it?  I ask that, even knowing that you've admitted this is a personal issue. 

The fact that he was egged on by another player "out of game," along with the fact that the system didn't provide much out (never played Champions, but from the way you described it, it sounds that way), would piss me off in that situation.  I wouldn't be bothered by the act of in-character sexual abuse myself.

I'm not the type of player who does things that overt, but I am the type of player, and GM, who likes to push comfort zones, even with random strangers.  The appeal for me is usually folding those people into the group (I have one of those "fucked shit" groups), but if they withdraw in an obviously out of character way, I'll back off.  If someone were to say, for example, "I don't really want to play around with stuff like that," then I won't.

The way I play is more about desensitizing, and less about violating personal authority with game mechanics, since I know that's a slippery slope.  I'd be more likely to play a villain who has rape as a central part of their backstory (I have a few characters who are rape victims, and that plays some role in how they operate), than I would be to force a pass/fail violation scenario on someone else.  The mechanics of most RPGs are such that doing that as a player, or especially facilitating that as a GM always seems like a personal attack.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2010, 10:22:10 AM
Punching a player in the mouth is a little different from psychically manipulating someone's character in-game.

In general, sure.  But I'm using the thought experiment to show that I think Callan left out an important ingredient: you have to get players' implied consent to make them uncomfortable.  Virtually nobody gives consent to being punched.  And I don't really see how choosing to play a female character [played in a manner identical to any generic male character] gave consent to fictional-level harassment.

I should stress that this wasn't a "generally fucked shit" type of game, where it turns out Player X is having sexual relations with Player Y's aborted twin, while Player Z engages in cannibalism as a reenactment of the Last Supper.  (I'm totally down with sexual harassment in that context.) 

But this context was: plain vanilla super hero game + plain vanilla super hero scenario + "let's sexually harass James's character."  The only fucked-up shit was centered around my character's breasts.  Which gave everything a (faint) air of specific, interpersonal bullying.

Quote
Were you more upset with The Beholder, who actually did the act, or The Earwig?

The psychic guy didn't bother me that much.  I thought it was kinda dumb, but, hey--psychic guy.  He wouldn't have done anything without the other player egging him on.

Quote
Would you have felt  as upset if you had the mechanical option to toggle out of it?  I ask that, even knowing that you've admitted this is a personal issue.

Maybe?  I'm not sure what a "mechanical option to toggle out" means.  Like, I think this whole thing could have been avoided if I just said, explicitly and OOC, "Dude, WTF are you doing, and WTF does this have to do with 80's comics?  Knock it off."  If a rule could do that, great, problem solved.

I didn't feel annoyed that "by the rules" this character was permitted to do this, because there's no fiction other than what the real people create.  I felt annoyed that the act of making a largely arbitrary choice about character gender invited me specifically into this sort of nonsense.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: FetusCommander on March 08, 2010, 10:40:24 AM
What I mean is: what if the game provided some way you could have negated his attack?  Would you still have felt as bad about him/Earwig making the attempt, or is there some part of you that's upset about the arbitrariness of a dice role determining that your character's fiction was violated? 

People do to a certain extent make the fiction, but in some games, the dice can take it into different directions.  From what you posted though, that doesn't seem to be an issue.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: CedricP on March 08, 2010, 11:01:38 AM
Come on, striping down a female character is not about wanting to bring interesting by pushing someone else comfort zone.

The one time I have witnessed this kind of abuse was in a old AD&D game were a character played by a male raped a female character also played by a male.

What I remember:

The player playing the male character was a good friend of the GM.
He was not a regular player and the GM was often indulging him because he was "just his buddy who want some fun playing the game".
When this friend was not at the table the GM was more involved with our group and the game.
The player playing the female character was the cousin of the GM, who often the GM dint take seriously or was joking about him.
The GM buddy wanted to have "some fun" with his character while casually resolving the adventure.
The GM cousin was really involved in the adventure and wanted to enjoy some character immersion in the "story".
The GM buddy was playing a trouble maker character and the GM cousin was playing a good natured well intentioned female druid.
The two characters where often in conflict with each other because of this.
The GM buddy character raped the cousin character while she was under a enchanted sleep.
It was a "take this" moment for him. Like if he was scoring again the other player.
I think we forced ourself to play a scene or two after this and the game crashed. We dint play again together.

I think that the GM let it pass because of his attitude toward his buddy and because of his attitude toward his cousin.
I also think that the GM buddy felt free to do this because of his relation with the GM.
Note, in this game playing a female character dint bring any social advantage, the GM dint really acknowledge the character gender, and maybe he was also taking female character less seriously.

The only other case I remember, was also a old AD&D game where one player was talking about raping a elven maiden played by a male because the character was a virgin and had a unicorn companion. It was move aimed toward the other player to strip him of his unicorn companion. In this case, yeah the female character had a direct in-game advantage because she was a female (and a virgin). But I think that there was also some conflict between those two players. Again about difference in playing agenda.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: CedricP on March 08, 2010, 11:18:24 AM
(sorry I am still new to the "no edit" feature, some words are missing in my post)


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: CedricP on March 08, 2010, 11:32:52 AM
Quote
Come on, striping down a female character is not about wanting to bring interesting by pushing someone else comfort zone.
Should read: Come on, in this case, bullying by forcing a female character to strip down is not about wanting to be interesting by pushing someone else outside his comfort zone.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 08, 2010, 02:05:47 PM
Game rules can never, ever solve social problems. This is true even if the player who is the social problem will always follow the game rules. If they're just a dick, they're going to find loopholes to exploit. The game rules, in these cases, actually give their dickery a veneer of validity, because they can point to the rules that they have, in fact, followed and say "See! I'm not doing anything wrong!" If the problem player is unintentionally disruptive, game rules can help, but only with the social sanctions and reinforcement that follows from their improved behavior.

The real power to fix social problems lies in the people, not the text. If the GM, perceived as an authority figure were to say "uh, no," at the proposed action, then it probably would have never happened. If the other players were like "dude, seriously? That's dumb." or even "Superheroes working together wouldn't do that. It'd bust up the team!" it would have brought to bear the disapproval of the rest of the group on the action. At which point it either becomes openly an issue of dickery, or the dude would most likely back down, probably with a "I was just trying to be funny. Geez!" or some similar thing.

However, the situation here was difficult, because no one seemed to be certain of the rules, including the person assumed to have authority... Either that, or he was okay with it. Hence, no one felt comfortable even making a minor protest, including James, who was obviously bothered by it, or his other friends, who seemed to be as well.

It was an awkward situation. You had to choose between possibly ruining everyone's fun (including your own) or just sacrificing your own fun to avoid ruining everyone else's.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: JoyWriter on March 08, 2010, 02:31:15 PM
I have never encountered that, thank goodness! I've played very occasionally with players who will put their concept before other players feelings, but we've generally been able to pull them back beforehand (out of character "hang on, pull back a bit"). And with most of my friends, if we have issues, we generally engineer a bust up out in the open, and only sit down to play together when we've chilled a bit.

More broadly, our games relation to sexuality has been awesome, and I hope it continues.

If I did come across this, I would say "stop this game a sec", trying to clearly demarcate that this was out of character player talk, and say that that was too far and offensive to me etc. I might agree to the thing happening if we were going to spend some time cleaning it up and dealing with it properly as an abuse of power. But if it was a really serious problem to me, and the other players weren't going to get involved in some kind of thematic reparations, then I'd have to "take my ball and go home", apologising to the GM for it and making my objections as explicit as possible. In my experience the faster and more honestly you say it (providing you can articulate it of course) the less you need to put emotion in, and the less someone will feel like they're loosing face.

If you just go streight in with it, the worst that I've seen is total blankness that leads to awkwardness, as people simply don't process what you had a problem with (hasn't happened in an rpg, but has happened in random social situations with joking going too far, in fact I think I've been on the receiving end of an unexpected objection before now).

I'd also like to leave open the possibility of future games, because that guy might have been regressing a bit, (old school friends etc) and might be willing to play a different way, assuming he didn't feel like he lost face (or maybe just thought about it and decided to change regardless). It might even be that without him changing there are worthwhile games you can play with this guy, within certain constraints.

My suspicion is that this is more likely to happen playing with strangers, as people who know you will already be pretty tuned up to your principles and attitudes, and you to theirs, so the sort of calibration that stops this stuff is more likely to have happened.

But then I only have a few years experience, so I can't give you any statistical answers!


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: greyorm on March 08, 2010, 02:57:20 PM
James, honestly, you described the guy as playing a character who was "creepy" and apparently a little sexually obsessed with your character. I'm not seeing the problem, fictionally, with that character grabbing a chance to ogle some boobies. Your failure to say, "Whoa, guys, I'm very personally uncomfortable with this. Can we not do this?" is, for me, the big issue.

And the whole "Let's bash and armchair psychoanalyze some guy we don't know" nature of this thread so-far is just really wrong. Because in my group of male and female friends talk or behavior like this would be considered pretty fucking tame, inside or outside an RPG (or card game, or anything else). In social circles that are apparently not the social circles you guys hang out in, what Earwig did isn't necessarily "wrong" or "broken" behavior, and if you don't know that you're dealing with entirely different cultures of sexuality, then wires like this can get crossed.

So he and players not from your circle may not have considered this to be "nonsense" or "bullying" at all, and might not even have understood they were crossing one of your personal low-tolerance lines.

As an example, I play cards weekly with the same group and have been for a few years. "Your mom" jokes are regular and raunchy. So one day, I make a "your mom" crack towards another of the players, and he froze stock still and said, "Listen, I know all of you hate your mothers, but I love mine. Don't ever say anything about her again or I will hurt you."

There was this weird silence around the table, because what? And I pointed out, "Um, we don't all hate our moms. My mom is great (haha, don't say anything, guys) these are jokes." He responded, "I don't care. Don't ever say anything about my mom." So I shrugged it off and we know not to make those jokes towards him (even though I still personally consider his reaction fairly funny because it is completely bizarre from my perspective).

The point is, this is a guy our group has been playing cards with for two years, and somehow he went that whole time without being nailed by "your mom" until just that moment. No one else had any clue, and wouldn't and shouldn't have had any clue, that he thought that way, even though we weren't a bunch of new players sitting down together. Now, if he runs off to his friends elsewhere and they all badmouth us and psychoanalyze us as being sexist, nerdy anti-social mother-haters, bullies, or some nonsense or similar along the lines I'm seeing in this thread, it would be ridiculous.

There is an assumption that James' expectations and boundaries are the default and should have been clearly understood by everyone because they're just so OBVIOUS. And I'm saying "Not necessarily at all" and that it is disingenuous to think so, especially in a group where the members don't know each other well at all and so don't know what social or cultural climate one another are coming from and thus what each other's social boundaries and tolerances are.

And it isn't as though you can guess. You can't just say, "Oh, well, clearly HE should have JUST KNOWN that was RUDE!" Because maybe it is to you and your group, but maybe not to him and his. It may be that he would view your reaction as completely bizarre, thus it may not even have been considered.

Like going to a foreign country and being shut-out of the local social group for breaking some social taboo you didn't even know was a social taboo, and being told you should have JUST KNOWN not to say "thank you" to your mother-in-law because how rude and dismissive and hateful was that?

James has a thing about sexism in comics, and that got thrown in his face during play and pissed him off (because he viewed it as exploitation and harassment), but he didn't say anything about it. We can work on that, we can't go "Oh, that other guy not involved here whom we don't know what he was thinking, that guy was totally a wrong-thinking sexist dick, and how dare he, any right-thinking individual..."


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 03:03:58 PM
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Only good when leaving comfort zones?  No.  It can be good; it's often good.  But not only good.  We might be defining comfort zone differently.
Or defining good differently. Things might be mildly nice or amusing without leaving that zone...but that's like alot of feel good movies, ya know? But on the other hand maybe I stress leaving the CZ too much and should myself think about how staying inside it can be enjoyed.

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Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together. . . .But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.
Well, in this case, the rules patch would be a Line.  Lines are basically social sanctions.

Yes, but the symantics of it are very important - the wording may be broad, which leads to a walking on eggshells/am I breaking a rule now non confident play. Also that comes with 'who judges the meaning of the words in the line we drew? And what not all members agree? What's our default? (good thread on that here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29429.45))

Or if you tighten up the meaning of the words in the line, well then it becomes more specific and what about other instances that you want covered? And indeed what about stuff you don't realise you want covered, until it happens? That's a particularly interesting rules design challenge!

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It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.
Well, I guess what I saw in this game was a type of adolescent bullying - the equivalent of one player slapping or mocking another, or pouring beer on them during play, or grabbing and tearing up their character sheet in the midst of play.  Not the end of the world!  But qualitatively different than productively forcing the players to engage in a cathartic fictional process.

As a thought experiment: Paka told a story on Knife Fight one time when a fellow player punched him in the mouth over something that happened in-game.  It certainly took Paka out of his comfort zone!  But I would have a hard time saying that's remotely productive behavior, nor do I see how someone who can't help himself from punching a fellow player would be constrained by a rule. 

I think the better thing is that at most gaming tables, "Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.  I would posit that "Don't sexually denigrate another player's character without some degree of assent from that player" is probably another unspoken precondition, at least around most gaming tables.
Gah, I didn't cover this properly, sorry to give the wrong impression. I'm not advocating playing with that guy but with new rules. I'm just advocating for people being able to push a little bit, within the limits of rules, or as you say, lines.

I think people can push a little bit, with a mutually constructive intent in mind. Those two things at the same time - your guy was only doing one of them, the pushing, and alot of it. I'm not trying to preserve what your guy in the account did, since he was only doing one.

I'm kind of in a tricky spot where in trying to preserve only part of what he did, I might sound like I'm advocating for him. I'm not, of course.

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"Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.
Well, this is another design issue because trying to add conditions like this can go on forever AFAICT.

Personally I'd try and look at creating an arena or bubble, everything inside of which is a valid game move (and conversely, everything outside - which would include the punch to the face, is not a game move at all).

To me, having a 'don't punch' rule is more like making a picket fence or comb rather than arena or bubble - and while some stuff stops at the fence/comb, some stuff will get through the posts in the fence/teeth of the comb. It's not effective, to my mind. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm describing the understanding I'm working from.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 03:27:08 PM
James, honestly, you described the guy as playing a character who was "creepy" and apparently a little sexually obsessed with your character. I'm not seeing the problem, fictionally, with that character grabbing a chance to ogle some boobies. Your failure to say, "Whoa, guys, I'm very personally uncomfortable with this. Can we not do this?" is, for me, the big issue.
I'll pitch a dissenting view to think on that, no, it isn't his 'failure'. Such an idea suggests there was a structure in place that he'd agreed to that he should say he's uncomfortable but failed to. And you don't want to say he should just know this structure.

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And the whole "Let's bash and armchair psychoanalyze some guy we don't know" nature of this thread so-far is just really wrong. Because in my group of male and female friends talk or behavior like this would be considered pretty fucking tame, inside or outside an RPG (or card game, or anything else). In social circles that are apparently not the social circles you guys hang out in, what Earwig did isn't necessarily "wrong" or "broken" behavior, and if you don't know that you're dealing with entirely different cultures of sexuality, then wires like this can get crossed.
Some people roleplay rape - they get quite physical, perhaps even leave bruises, but at its core it's actually very consensual. And some people might touch their coworkers breasts at a drunken office party - does the tameness of that breast touch relative to the activities of a roleplayed rape make it tame and okay? (I'm assuming here your group is actually at it's heard, consensual about all your 'wild' stuff). The relative tameness of the physical actions is irrelevant.

In some chess accounts I've heard the other guy would say quite unpleasant things and make annoying noises, but make valid game moves.

And I've heard of 'street chess' where your supposed to say unpleasant things to the other guy to put him off his game.

In the latter, it's consensual - well, assuming the other guy knew in advance it was like that and went 'Hey, I'm up for that!'. It might seem the same and thus validate the first case - that it seems the same is a mistaken perception.

Something for other readers to consider as well.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: contracycle on March 08, 2010, 04:07:34 PM
Seems really simple to me.  You just bumped into a little pockert of mutually reinforcing misogyny.  Nothing really special there, happens all the time, this years Superbowl commercials demonstrate that it's still cool and fashionbable to treat women as second class citizens.  They didn't think you'd be "offended", probably because their own social circle reinforced their views, and if they acknowledged any objection at all it would be as "political correctness".  In fact, if they did think you would be offended, they would probably have done it anyway, out of spite.

In this Raven is both right and wrong.  Right inasmuch, it is a local culture, and expectations are not universal, and wrong because this behaviour is quite correctly sexist bullying and "local culture" doesn't excuse that, any more than it excuses any bigotry.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2010, 04:09:10 PM
So there's a certain degree of "James, your point is wrong because you are thin-skinned" going on in this thread.

Whether my skin is too thin isn't the issue.  The (lack of) severity of exploitation in this specific case isn't the issue.  They were the baseline facts of this Actual Play report.  I'm happy to discuss other people's Actual Play in this thread, but mine is mine.  We don't have to game together.

What's at issue, from my perspective, is whether the following logical inference is, or is not, valid, starting from given axioms:

The Axioms
A.  Let's assume that there exists some condition of play which you find objectionable.
B.  Prior to play you assumed (possibly with justification, possibly without) that these conditions would not obtain.
C.  The condition obtains due to the actions of another player
D.  You communicate your desire to avoid these conditions--maybe not strongly enough, but so a reasonable person would understand
E.  The other player persists in enforcing those conditions, directed specifically toward you.

I'm not going to discuss whether these axioms were valid, fair, or whatever.  

The Logical Inferences
1.  If the other player knew this behavior was unwelcome (and there's indications he did but it's arguable, so if), then he's a dick
2.  People don't like playing with dicks (or may feel bad about acting like dicks), so it's important to handle consent issues prior to play
3.  If you don't explicitly/implicitly discuss consent ahead of time, don't be 100% surprised if someone does something objectionable
4.  If you decide to press ahead without knowing if you have consent, don't be surprised if someone objects
5.  If you're genuinely unsure whether someone's given consent, it's probably safest to assume it wasn't given.

Does anyone dispute those inferences?  If so, which ones?  

Apparently #5 is controversial, but it seems to be how most non-gamers live their lives most of the time with respect to sensitive issues, recognizing that it's always possible to make mistakes in good faith about when consent was or wasn't given.  E.g., in Greyorm's example, you'd figure that after two years of hanging around "yo mama" jokes the guy's given consent, so Greyorm wasn't in the wrong, he just make an understandable mistake.  And I'll grant that maybe the Earwig player genuinely didn't know I was withholding consent--I find it hard to believe, but maybe that's possible, and if so it's just a "hey, my bad, man" situation on both our parts.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2010, 04:10:58 PM
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I'm not going to discuss whether these axioms were valid, fair, or whatever.

Ooops!  Editing error - please read that to include,

"Because those were the facts here.  Maybe there are situations with different facts, but if so they yield a different set of inferences."


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 04:47:52 PM
If your saying their logical inferences as in all other people would also come to the same conclusions - well, do most people logically infer the same things as yourself, without prompting?

My own experience is that the vast bulk don't. Nor with each other (whether they would admit it or not). From my experiences, you can't rely on anyone coming to the same logical conclusion, ever.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Jeff B on March 08, 2010, 05:03:56 PM
James,

I disagree with #2 of your inferences:  "It is important to obtain consent before play."  No, it is not important because the type of consent you are talking about is implicit in any social interaction.  What you experienced was an out-of-game issue with harassment.  It is pointless to try and capture such situations within the game mechanics.  The only thing you can do is avoid socializing (including gaming) with people who have no social skills or boundaries.

There is no need to defend your reaction of being offended and uncomfortable.  Your experience could have happened during any activity, anywhere with that group.  The only solution is to find socially functional people to play the game with and avoid the others.  The viewpoint that "anything is fair unless expectations are expressly set" are clinging to a socially pathetic position, equivalent to a small child screaming that nobody told him he *couldn't* snip off the cat's tail.  It is like a 12-year-old saying that spraypainting the school is his interpretation of art, or of play, and therefore he shouldn't be suspended.  Such arguments are thoroughly without merit.

Socialized people are socialized people.  Mr. Earwig and his friend simply are not.  Furthermore, all the rest of the players were unprepared for this, as apparently nobody else at the table objected.

The situation and the actions taken by earwig, et. al. were clearly wrong.  The possible lesson is how to apply that experience to the future, to avoid being left feeling bad about what happened.  As to whether this sort of thing should be addressed by rules, that's ludicrous.  That's like saying Monopoly rules should tell people not to swallow the dice or start a bonfire with the paper money.

Jeff



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2010, 06:06:23 PM
Jeff, obviously I'm inclined to agree, but I would add the following caveats:

(1) I don't think anybody here is arguing in bad faith (and I'm not sure you're implying they were)

(2) It's entirely possible that the Earwig player is a decent dude and, for whatever reason, didn't realize that his behavior was annoying me.  And even if he's a jackass, well, all he did was make my Saturday a little less pleasant for no good reason.  Other people in the world have far bigger problems.

(3) I'm totally fine with a no-Lines, no-Veils style of play, when there's some notice given.  I don't think this kind of behavior is necessarily abusive so long as there's (often implicit) consent - I just don't think that a stranger's consent should be automatically assumed in gaming, any more than it should be automatically assumed elsewhere in one's life.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: greyorm on March 08, 2010, 06:10:12 PM
Callan, that isn't a dissenting view at all. It plays well with my statements about different cultures. Where it dissents is whether or not someone should or shouldn't say something.

I'll say when you are playing with new people: yeah, it really IS up to you to speak up when your boundaries are violated. Because each new group is a new social culture. You can't expect to not have to suss that out by mutually communicating one another's boundaries. And I think assuming you don't/shouldn't have to say anything is just an excuse for cultural entitlement (at least of the culture of you).

Basically, it looks to me like you're advocating "non-communication...because who would know they have to communicate discomfort"? That doesn't make sense. And it simply doesn't work. Because there's no framework involved with that, just plain old basic social interaction stuff that even apes and monkeys do.

On the other hand, if we take your statement as true and that he shouldn't have known he should speak up when uncomfortable, then it is also true that James would have no right to complain about the situation, because how would anyone know he was uncomfortable and therefore be responsible for "doing something wrong" or "failing to accommodate James"? They wouldn't.

Gareth, I do not know how to say any of this without potentially seeming rude to you, so I'm just going to say it and you can take it however you take it: I do not accept your moral absolutism. You want to see it as misogyny and demeaning and etc, that's fine. You can rally against porn because it supposedly exploits women, call the admiration or open interest in female sexuality "objectification", and so on and so forth. I'm sure not stopping you or anyone else from doing so; but just because the post-modernist culture of current academia believes their subjective views of behavior are truth, doesn't make them so.

I'll stop there for fear of dragging this thread wholly off-topic into the political arena, but I think the above does segue into the discussion, or least in terms of culture-clash and assumption.

Regardless, to topic: James, I didn't get the sense from your original post that you were that clear about it towards the other person. I got the sense you didn't say anything, but I'm assuming that didn't come across for me in your post given your later statements here. So are you certain he was reading your "stop this, now" cues, and wasn't confused by them (and hence ignoring them), or taking the wrong signals from them?

Because there are a lot of people who keep insisting this person was a horrid person and should have known better and so forth, and knowing how non-monolithic culture actually is, I just don't buy that "well, ANYONE would have known that was WRONG" argument, especially in something as potentially . Seriously: a bunch of guys playing a game of pretend and one of the female characters is tricked/magicked/whatever into getting naked? That doesn't exactly scream "WRONG WRONG WRONG failure of socially acceptable behavior" to me, more like "par for the course".

Which is why even though looking at your #5, I don't really see that as contentious, given the other statements and situation. I still think #5 is contentious insofar as it is difficult to do, because you can't run about assuming everyone hasn't given consent, because you would literally end up not doing anything for fear of someone having not given consent. If only because you can't know what someone else considers objectionable, especially if you don't know them. It may well be that -- as in the case of saying "thank you" to your foreign mother-in-law -- you just assume it is fine to do. That is, you can't assume they haven't given consent, because you're not even thinking of it as an objectionable situation.

As such, I think #2 needs to include both "before play" and "during play, if issues arise". As per my situation with the guy in the card group, because stuff like that is going to happen. It just will. And it will happen with even less obviously touchy stuff (Years and years ago I knew a girl who freaked out after meeting me, and I had no clue why. I learned later it was because I used a word starting with the letter "v", and she had a thing about words that started with "v". Seriously).

Which is part of my response to Callan, above: yeah, you NEED to tell people when your lines have been crossed; it's an expectation. Period. It's part of how social species work on a basic level. Not doing so is really and truly a failure on their part.

Though, if as you say, you communicated clearly enough to him to stop the behaviors, then there was definite dickery happening and he was trying to harass you specifically for whatever reason. I don't know that it was even sexual -- it could just have been, "This guy is reacting when I do this, so I'm going to keep doing this to watch him react."

I just had that situation arise in my group, between myself and another player, who decided the "fun" part for him was doing everything he could do to stymie and frustrate me even if there was no point to it, because he liked watching me "freak". The player had to be taken aside by another player and told, "This is not cool. I don't care that you're getting a kick out of messing with him. Play the game or don't come." Which seemed to help.

Some people just get on a social-dominance kick, using it to establish group "identity" and hierarchy, and use whatever weapon is at their disposal: your frustration with your character being sexualized might have been that sort of hook if Earwig was that sort of player, or got into that sort of mode/mindset. He might have been trying to harass you, or he might have genuinely expected and believed everyone was in on the joke.

There's really nothing in the report so far that indicates either is incredibly more likely than the other. I think the important bit, though, is "How am I going to deal with this in the future?"


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 08, 2010, 06:28:08 PM
I suppose most of you have seen this post coming.

Everyone who's posted so far has aired a viewpoint. That's fine. I'm moderating here to remind everyone that we are not here to lock horns. If someone says something you disagree with, log your disagreement and don't stay there fighting to defend yourself, even if, or especially if someone logs their disagreement with you. Such a disagreement is not an attack and doesn't diminish you or make you look stupid. Once the views are out in the open, then remember, it's James' thread, and it's up to him to work with the information and ideas as he sees fit.

(There are limits to "let live" - discourtesy and intellectual dishonesty, for instance. But those are dangerous waters to enter, in terms of challenging the posts, and I suggest you consult with me, or if the offense is grievous/obvious, tag the post for my review and don't give it the respect of your time.)

This has been a friendly reminder from me as moderator.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Judd on March 08, 2010, 06:42:17 PM
For the record, I wasn't punched in the mouth and the physical contact that did occur happened because of a thousand things that were occurring AWAY from the table and the table's events and frustrations were the straw that broke the back of the game.

That said, back to the thread.

Having played over skype (but not with a webcam) I have to wonder if the webcam player was also having trouble picking up on other's discomfort and your own discomfort due to non-verbal cues.

There is a real point where the game has to stop, the brakes have to be slammed on and if you are feeling shitty, you just have to express that and either get the game back on track or stop for the evening.  It is difficult  but it really needs to be a part of the culture.

That said, I have seen play like this without a webcam, at a con game with a stranger who had given me a thousand and one heeby jeebies before play, and I'd imagine it is more common than we think.

I am thinking of that one youtube vid with the DM talking about the female player's character going to hell and getting gang-raped and him recounting the story with pride.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 08:37:00 PM
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Which is part of my response to Callan, above: yeah, you NEED to tell people when your lines have been crossed; it's an expectation. Period. It's part of how social species work on a basic level. Not doing so is really and truly a failure on their part.
To me James is saying something like "This guy NEEDs to consider other people might be offended" then ironically your telling him that's not how it is, he NEEDs to tell other people...etc etc.

If your need was true just as much Jame's need could be true. I think, maybe wrong, you dislike how people will develop their own dislike into what they see as a truth and then apply that to others as if they have absolute right to. Which is why I can only end this particular post on a wimpy, undramatic note that: What I just wrote is some physical evidence to consider that I think is important (as a personal endorsement, as far as that might go).


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 08, 2010, 08:50:42 PM
Hello,

Callan and Raven, give the rest of us a break for a while, please. You guys are getting abstruse beyond my grade and maturity levels. I'd like James to bring the thread to its specific purpose as he sees it now, and if that purpose includes the need of truth and the truth of needs, or whatever, then you're free to resume.

Also, here's the post I was working on.

As an example for contrast, here's a situation from a game I played in, let's see, this would have been in 1988 or early 1989. It was Champions! (And I'm super pissed-off that James played Champions and this show-the-boobies stuff steamrolled what might have been an excellent discussion about one of RPG history's most important games.) I was playing a character named Nocturne and Ran (Randy) was GM.

The insider/outsider context for the subject of my post is a little different from yours, James, but similar enough to be useful. All the other people in the group had known each other forever, and most of them had played in Ran's previous long-lived college game, a few years before. Ran had just moved to the city (this was in Chicago) and they decided to play a kind of "years later, the sequel" with the events of the previous game as history for this one. I had been invited in via one player's wife, a co-worker of mine.

However, by the time of these events, I'd been playing with the group for a year or more and we were a very tight bunch by that point; Ran and I were now buddies outside the game as well. I'm trying to avoid flashbacks and just riffing about the game in the post; the point is that although I wince at a lot of my self-reflections from that time, the game was quite socially solid and fun. I took the text in the Strike Force supplement very seriously and considered the experience point and Disadvantages rules to be the real meat of the game for thematic character development, what we call "arcs" now. The other players found this attractive and although they hadn't thought in those terms in their previous game, by now our characters were all pretty psychologically and mechanically interesting - and more importantly, very invested in their individual issues about different aspects of the problems we faced.

So, as a visitor and guest, a former player in the old group arrives and plays a character he makes up more-or-less on the spot as a kind of guest star character in the story. If I remember correctly, the (real) guy's name was John, and he was a very good artist; I still treasure the picture of Nocturne he drew. My impression of him right away was that he was funny and cool. My personal alarm bells went off only because his character was a classic Armored Guy, which, although some Champs veterans may disagree with me, usually entailed the most boring-ever same-old material possible. So that's different too - there was no creepy vibe.

Anyway, on to the subject of the post: John played his armored-type hero pretty aggressively and without much regard for an individual or personal take on the situation we faced in that session. As it happened, the events weren't much to do with Nocturne's interests, and I now realize that our group had an unwritten Screen Presence rule in effect. We "just knew" that if your character wasn't directly tweaked through relevant events, and if you didn't feel like the character would jump into action for his teammates' sake alone, then it was OK to be Color Man for that session and enjoy the break. We had absolutely no sense of everyone in the party pulling his weight at maximum tactical drive for every fight scene.

I want to be fair - clearly, Ran's Game Mark II had become a different creative beast than what John had played in previously, and different in genre too, a lot more like the loose and often rambunctiously individually-tracked Avengers of the 1970s than the crack paramilitary team ideal of the 1980s X-Men. So John was walking into something he didn't know about (and we probably couldn't have articulated it anyway).

What was the deal? Well, in some kind of fight with some kind of off-kilter foe or foes in some icy cave in the wilderness somewhere ... which is to say, not tied into the characters' back-stories or the current mess of entangled mysteries and sexy evil-occult stuff we were generally caught in ... I basically opted out of fighting at all. Not only were Nocturne's basically mental/Presence abilities not very effective against these things (I really can't remember what they were), but it worked for me to have him fade back and enjoy not helping. Nocturne could be a self-involved bit of a bastard although his heart was in the right place most of the time.

This pissed John off. When the fight was over, he had his character haul off and smack Nocturne, doing some damage, saying, "And that's for not helping." From that point on, we didn't speak much and I emotionally tuned out of the session in general - that's probably why I don't remember any of the details, although regarding most of our several years of play, I could cite you chapter, verse, and villain almost by session. Looking back, I think this event was one of those things groups choose not to remember, never comment upon or reflect upon, and essentially move on from without incorporating it into the institutional record of the game.

So James - no sex, no female characters, no exposed body ... but to us, a clear breach of what characters do with one another. Nocturne had a friendly rival with the mechanically-inclined regular character named Cyclone, for instance, but the idea of the two of them, or anyone else in the group, making an attack roll against one another was flat out of the question, for any of us. Given the social circumstances - was John or I the "outsider?" - I think we had absolutely no language at all to deal with the actions and emotions.

I bring this up because I think that to a large extent, we're looking at two variables in your account. One of them is the female character in an all-male group thing, compounded by rules which include mind control. James, as a long-time participant in the Adept forum and its mind control discussions, and also as having recently re-read Sex & Sorcery, I'm sure you can see there's a lot to talk about for that one. The other variable is the outsider-insider breach of local contract thing, and I think that you guys also had a similar curious situation in which you were in your way the outsider or new guy, and he was in his way the outsider, technologically as well as otherwise. So there's a disjunct about who's who at a very basical social level, and I think that in itself is like a kind of unstable chemical solution regardless of what in-fiction content gets co-opted into the resulting reaction. But whatever in-fiction content it grabs, the reaction itself is some kind of deal-breaker for someone, no matter what.

Best, Ron



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: mark2v on March 09, 2010, 09:12:06 AM
2 quick observations:
First, I doubt this would have happened if there were an actual female player at the table.
I have been lucky to Gm several female players over the years, and I find the behavior at the table is socially much different then when they are not there.
I remember an old ADND game where a player playing a male warrior, was going to kill an NPC that had taken an interest in a female played by a female Priestess in our group. The female player turned to the other player and in character said (paraphrasing now it has been years.) “If I were going to chose you to share my time with you would already have been told. You have no reason to threaten this man beyond your own ego, be gone.”
It was classic, and no one ever stepped into that narrative territory at the table again.

Second, if I play with a new group I am on my best behavior, but some people don’t have that in them.
Some people are immature and have a hard time grasping social situations, and RPG’s in general.
 I’m not sure if at any point you said, “I am not cool with this so knock it off.”  In my opinion you should not have to.
I am also of the feeling the gm should not have to say, “Ok guys, play nice and don’t humiliate other people’s characters.” Under the circumstances the GM should have told him to stop the mind control on other players right from the start.
 There are players who play just to goof off like that, and it is their social expectation that doing goofy immature crap is how the games are played. People who like their RPG’s more mature should avoid that other clique of players as much as possible. No rule or explicit social contract is going to change some one else’s view of what an RPG is.

 Finally, some people are just turds who saddly think that sort of thing is funny.



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ar Kayon on March 09, 2010, 10:00:56 AM
To the OP,

Dude, if you play RPGs at all, you're a nerd.  Plain and simple.  And we, as nerds, love to fantasize about ass we (well, maybe everyone else but me) can't get.  It's especially lulzy if we mess with you because you chose to play a female character.

If it's too juvenile, you're too old.  Start practicing checkers.

On a more fundamental level, it seems you have hangups with male group behavior. 

Also, don't be so quick to disregard a woman's propensity for vulgarity.  For example, I went to brunch two days ago with 4 women.  We drank like sailors for 7 hours, talked about fisting, strap-ons and anal sex, and made fun of people at other tables.  And then one of the girls broke her leg and cleverly used that as a way to lay on me during the car ride home and feel me up.  Honestly, I'm surprised we didn't pull out battle axes and swords and slay ogres afterwards.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that drinking is really fun.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 09, 2010, 11:47:12 AM
This is a moderator post.

Everyone, there will be no more posts here to explain to James how he's supposed to be looking at this situation. He knows how he looks at it. This isn't an opinion-poll about how you view women, sex, tits, or actions toward female characters. What it is, and again, this is from the content moderator, is about how mismatched expectations about how to treat one another's characters arise. The sexual content is a red herring and the posts need to stop getting distracted by it; I include James in that as well as everyone else.

Ar Kayon, your post is flatly unacceptable here. Not only are you posturing about your guy-ness rather than engage with the topic, but you directly insult James as a person, twice. Posts here can be quite sexually and socially explicit because I'm a vulgar person, but posturing and insults are flat out. Do not post to reply to me.

James, let me know whether you think this thread has any reason to continue. I think there have been some (few) interesting points to follow up on, but the call is yours.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 09, 2010, 07:18:55 PM
Ron, your account of the in-character violence way-back-when sounds pretty similar, structurally.

We had a moment of potentially scandalous inter-character violence like that maybe a year ago in an early-edition D&D game, where one member of the party punched another one, basically for disagreeing in-character.  It was an eye-opening moment!  We knew the player pretty well and knew he didn't mean anything serious by it, but it sure sent a message (especially to my character, who was a spectator but only had 1 hit point) - "Do not fuck with the dwarf, he'll mess you up!"  So that actually became kind of a nice bit of tension in the group because we trusted each other to handle it appropriately.  (Though, come to think of it, the victim's player was relatively new to the group and I can't remember if he stopped coming after that... Hmm!)

I think this thread served its purpose (more or less), but I am genuinely curious about one thing:

There were a few people posting here who were saying (I'm paraphrasing!) "Hey, if strangers sit down at my table, I am perfectly willing to their shit up, with or without their consent, with or without prior notice.  It's on them to object."  And I guess my question is, "Really?  Are you that way in other parts of your life too?  If not, why's gaming unique in this regard?" 

I say this because - as my explanation and Ron's anecdote make plain, there are all kinds of reasons that someone might not object.  For example: if I speak up, will any of the other players back me up?  If I speak up, what if it only makes things worse?  Etc etc.  If this behavior correlates with a social power gradient, placing the entirety of the burden on the aggrieved party pretty much means that you're going to get under-reporting, because the very people likely to be victims (not saying I was a victim of much, just frustrated) are the people who will be least effective at getting redress.



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ar Kayon on March 09, 2010, 08:02:37 PM
Ok, this is something I can respond to objectively.

Normal people will respond positively to an appropriate level of objection.  It's still good to be judicious with your tone so things don't get awkward, but they'll generally realize their social faux pas and adjust accordingly.

If you object to a spectacular asshole, however, things will quickly go downhill.  They will almost certainly be goaded into harassing you further.  From my experiences, there are two effective ways to deal with this type:
1.  Since you can't completely ignore him in a gaming session without giving yourself away, give him as little feedback/reaction as you possibly can.  Fires need oxygen to burn, and he'll fuck off if you don't throw ammo at him. 
2.  Throw it back at him.  Try to outwit him, and your social experience will both be competitive and enjoyable and he'll be disinclined to antagonize you.  This is the best way to establish an invisible line of respect, and then later on, he may be more receptive and you'll have safe passage to make your objections.

In my opinion, you handled the session very well up until after you made the suggestion for him to reside in your boot (throwing it back at him; well done).  But then you exposed your emotions, changing the tone of everything (it seems like you objected much louder with your actions than you could have by just saying it), and it could have negatively affected your integrity with all of your gaming buddies.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: mark2v on March 10, 2010, 11:01:36 AM
From a GM perspective, I feel that when new players sit down or you merge a group there are a few things that must be done.
A. make them feel welcome
B. Make sure the residing groups Social contract and limitations are explicit.
Ie "no messing with the other players, No Sexism, only Golden age comics levels of violence.

With a merged group these things must be Said or else the group is opened up to an experience where the new player might have an agenda that rubs against the groups.
I think you experiaced this effect in your last group.

That is what I was trying to say in my last post but I think I totaly dropped the ball.



Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Larry L. on March 10, 2010, 11:31:56 AM
The teleconferencing part actually strikes me as the key factor here. There's a ton of non-explicit social cues built into ordinary human social interaction which are undoubtedly not being transmitted via the technology. Any of which might have ordinarily mitigated the situation into something less uncool. A funny "Oh really?" raise of the eyebrows, a tensing of body posture.

Is this non-obvious? I'm finding myself working up a rant about this, and I'm not really sure why.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 10, 2010, 02:08:56 PM
Larry, as I gave an account myself, I've had something like this happen with a player who was present at the table. It could be as you say, missed cues, or it could be a dark part of the person (and omg, and none of have dark parts, of course) bubbling up to the surface because it seemed acceptable (or heck, maybe it bubbled up because it was close to what he thought was acceptable and he lost the reigns of it and it controlled him). From what I see and how I see it it is, it's non obvious. It's instead like a branching flowchart of possibles and everyone individually attaches their own weights how how possible each is and how possible it needs to be before they act as if it is the actual case.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: greyorm on March 10, 2010, 08:07:37 PM
There were a few people posting here who were saying (I'm paraphrasing!) "Hey, if strangers sit down at my table, I am perfectly willing to their shit up, with or without their consent, with or without prior notice.  It's on them to object."  And I guess my question is, "Really?  Are you that way in other parts of your life too?  If not, why's gaming unique in this regard?"

James, I don't think the question is a fair one because I read it as assuming the individual messing up someone's shit is doing so willfully and with foreknowledge. So I can't really answer it, because I don't think it would be fair to characterize what I am talking about, at least, as being perfectly willing to mess up someone's shit as though it is a conscious choice and conscious dismissal of their boundaries, rather than as a clash of expectations.

We all know there are certain things that one generally avoids doing in social situations, that we all know as a cultural thing not to do around/with/to other people. Right? But I also think that's not really as obvious as it might seem (that is: what each person should do and not do -- what the "right/mature/good/fun" thing is, and what the "wrong/immature/bad/unfun" thing is -- when individuals with different social expectations interact). Which I think Ron's example, and mine in my thread, both testify to.

You are correct that there are all sorts of good and valid reasons someone might not voice an objection when their boundaries are violated, and that speaking up can be problematic...but if I don't know, and they don't say...then, yeah, really, it is up to them to object, isn't it? And if not, then...what?


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: mark2v on March 11, 2010, 08:00:33 AM
The teleconferencing part actually strikes me as the key factor here. There's a ton of non-explicit social cues built into ordinary human social interaction which are undoubtedly not being transmitted via the technology. Any of which might have ordinarily mitigated the situation into something less uncool. A funny "Oh really?" raise of the eyebrows, a tensing of body posture.

Is this non-obvious? I'm finding myself working up a rant about this, and I'm not really sure why.

I agree completely though I did not think of it myself..


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 11, 2010, 08:55:32 AM
Quote
I say this because - as my explanation and Ron's anecdote make plain, there are all kinds of reasons that someone might not object.  For example: if I speak up, will any of the other players back me up?  If I speak up, what if it only makes things worse?  Etc etc.  If this behavior correlates with a social power gradient, placing the entirety of the burden on the aggrieved party pretty much means that you're going to get under-reporting, because the very people likely to be victims (not saying I was a victim of much, just frustrated) are the people who will be least effective at getting redress.

This hit me. We're talking about a game, and fictional harassment. When underreporting is so rampant with real-world harassment and even literal assault, why does it seem at all surprising that someone might feel uncomfortable voicing an objection to harassment in a game? I mean, it's just a game, right? More, it's just a temporary situation, and if you ignore it, in many cases, it will go away. I'm not saying this is the right answer. But it's easy to understand why it'd be awkward to be the one rocking the boat.

Comparing this to a similar situation involving real people and "real" harassment makes this seem trivial, both on the side of the harassed and the harasser.

Harasser: "I'm exploring the darker, nastier side of things, things I wouldn't do in real life. We're all dudes here."

Harassed: "My discomfort isn't more important than everyone else's fun, is it? Once this is over, I can just walk away. He wouldn't do this in real life."

Both: "It's just a game. It's not me, it's my character."


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 11, 2010, 07:28:09 PM
Quoting from Larry L
Quote
The teleconferencing part actually strikes me as the key factor here. There's a ton of non-explicit social cues built into ordinary human social interaction which are undoubtedly not being transmitted via the technology. Any of which might have ordinarily mitigated the situation into something less uncool.

Undoubtedly - but, of all the people in the group (including the GM), I was by far the most attentive player in making sure the offensive web-cam player could see, understand, and be understood among the group - often asking the "present" players to hold it down for a second because the web-cam guy was trying to say something. 

Yes, playing with strangers via web-cam is hard, but not impossible, especially if you know that something is "lost in translation" and are consciously trying to make sure the signal is rich enough that it won't matter.  I think that's a responsibility for both sides of the camera.

Quoting Greyorm
Quote
You are correct that there are all sorts of good and valid reasons someone might not voice an objection when their boundaries are violated, and that speaking up can be problematic...but if I don't know, and they don't say...then, yeah, really, it is up to them to object, isn't it? And if not, then...what?

Well - everywhere else in life, if you're doing something which you can reasonably expect a stranger might object to, it's almost universal to check first.  Like, "Wow, that last piece of pizza is calling out to me.  Unless you want it, I'm going for it."  Or, "Mind if I smoke?"  Or, "Is this too loud?"  This is, presumably, part of your repertoire of behavior and has been since childhood, and even if we don't adhere to that standard all the time, we know it's there. 

Right?  The question is whether you might reasonably expect someone to object to it.  Where it hasn't been previously discussed, I don't think that's a crazy-high standard of courtesy.  And I'd argue that where there wasn't prior implicit consent, the principle extends to, "Hey, my character's kind of a dickhole, so maybe we could do  thing where my guy bribes this other guy to force your chick to strip for us.  Ha ha, funny right?"

FWIW, I didn't say the aggrieved party has zero obligation to object--just that they shouldn't bear the entirety of that burden.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Callan S. on March 11, 2010, 08:35:56 PM
Ugh! In chess, you don't go 'Wow, your knight is really calling out for me to take it...mind if I do?'. You just take it. You just play. Not playing...I'll just say it...'mother may I' style, in order to actually do something. Just play. And so on with what I said before about setting up arenas of valid moves.

Now if you've considered that direction of handling and decided against it James, cool. But it seems like it's gone back to 'what are the moral obligations here, who has to ask whom what?' as if that is the only way to handle it, probably because it's such a hot button direction it tends to make it look like the only direction. It is not the only way - but if you've decided to choose it, cool, just leaving a quick note in case the option had been forgotten.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: greyorm on March 12, 2010, 02:21:11 AM
James, I think we're both saying the same thing, just having come at it from opposite angles. I think the only real difference we have on this is personal opinion on whether or not "something", whatever that might be, really is reasonably clear to those involved.

At the risk of being more wordy than necessary, I'm actually reminded of this situation from the Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture thread on Metafilter (http://ask.metafilter.com/55153/Whats-the-middle-ground-between-FU-and-Welcome), which isn't an exact parallel, but certainly has elements in common with the situations we're discussing:
Quote
At Thanksgiving, my family and I learned that our friend who was due to pick us up at the airport could not do it, and we were suddenly without a ride home. Our plane landed at around 9 o'clock. Desperate, we compiled a list of friends who lived near the airport and us, and began calling. The first person on a list of about 10 said she could pick us up.
When we arrived, her kids were in the car, struggling to stay awake, and it was raining. She was in a pissy mood all the way home, and then the next day at work, lambasted my wife for asking her to do such a thing. My wife responded that her friend wasn't the only person on the list, and that she could have said 'no'. Friend replied that my wife should have never even asked.
This ended up causing a problem betwen my wife and her friend - my wife is a giving person and would do anything to help a friend in need, and so was deeply hurt to learn that her friend did not reciprocate, but importantly, it created a trust issue -- now my wife can't be sure when friend means what she says, because friend said "yes" when she meant "no".

Pretty clearly, the wife's friend considered her to have deliberately and willfully broken what the friend saw as an entirely obvious unspoken social agreement, and so she shouldn't have HAD to say "No" because her friend should have KNOWN not to even ask. That putting her in that situation was unreasonable of her.

I mean, we always think our own expectations are absolutely reasonable and obvious, even if they aren't and we can't see that. I think that assumption of obviousness -- that "my expectations are reasonable" -- is a regular problem in human communication, and as much of a problem as the assumption of norms -- that "my behaviors are reasonable". And the conflict between them is where I believe (and find) most of these clashes occur, both inside and outside gaming.

Nor are you wrong at all in saying there are basic social boundaries programmed into us from birth that often make clear what is expected and what isn't. Though I can certainly see situational cases where those are over-ridden: such as someone who plays in groups where intra-party dickery is well-established and expected would assume their actions to be baseline, non-objectionable behavior. Or where "everyone helps out, period" and thus someone not doing so is betraying the party and deserves a punch, or whatever, was really seen as a completely reasonable thing to do. I think certain traditional but often dysfunctional attitudes in gaming bear this idea out.

What I don't know is whether or not habitual-assumptive behavior is the case in any of the situations we've discussed here. That, IMO, is the difficult part.

I do agree with you that the aggrieved party shouldn't shoulder the entirety of the burden, and I apologize if I came across as saying so. It certainly is a two-way street.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: JoyWriter on March 12, 2010, 05:23:50 AM
Raven that is a brilliant thread, shows up some differences really nicely! I wonder whether "ask people" could learn by playing Mist Robed Gate? I've come across the "guess culture" attitude in some very extreme cases, where a friend actually feels attacked when people "put her on the spot" about having to face up to a conflict between trying to be nice and showing her actual opinion. Ironically this makes her react angrily! (I've just about got the hang of handling it, it's sort of like playing minesweeper!)

Personally I think it's something you can practice getting right, sort of like balancing the forces within you and your relationships with others so that there's nothing unresolved that could get in your way about being honest. (Sounds a bit daft really, but it's sort of about setting priorities in advance so you can just act)

But if you do this, and nicely resolve the situation, taking any kicks that come from being in a group like ArKayon's, then you are being awesome! Standing up for your principles in a productive way without offending anyone is a serious trick, and I think something to aspire to. It's pretty heroic.

But with all that aside, I agree it's better to have expectations all aligned at the start, if you can do that cleanly. I only know how to do that with friends, not when meeting a random group, so I use an impoverished version of the above strategy. Anyone got any knowledge (or old links) about how you might actually go about calibrating a new group?


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Daniel B on March 14, 2010, 11:21:13 PM
I'm not convinced. Maybe this has been brought to light already but I don't think so. Yes, we all have unspoken boundaries, and yes, it's important to recognize we can't necessarily predict those boundaries in other people or even ourselves. Conversely, does that imply someone cannot choose to be a dick, no matter what?? Of course not!!

Some people do it because they enjoy it. Maybe James could have handled the situation better by clearly stating his objections instead of trying to just put up with it, but then again, none of us were there. It's just as plausible that the Earwig guy was .. being a dick! In this hypothetical case, objection-raising is really beside the point, isn't it? It might have stopped him from being a dick outwardly, but it wouldn't have cleared up miscommunications because there wouldn't have been any.

Dicks. Face it; they're out there.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: David Berg on March 17, 2010, 10:08:57 PM
Whoa.  James, that blows.  Pardon me coming way late to the party, and not having read every single post; I just wanted to say how I've handled dickish behavior through the fiction:

Webcam Player: Earwig will save Psychic's life, but only if Psychic makes Girl get naked!

Me: Oh!  So Earwig's not just a mischievous boor?  He's actually a sex-fiend sociopath?  Coercing a dying guy to humiliate his female coworker?  Wow.

Webcam Player: Huh huh huh.  I just want to see her tits.

Me: You realize this makes you a way more hate-able villain than anyone we've fought, right?  Like, Earwig must die.

Webcam Player: Ha ha, kill me if you can!

So that's the version where the group acknowledges the scumbag character, and the consequences thereof, without going so far as to call the player a scumbag.  It's not ideal, but it's socially convenient, and there's always the hope that it goes like this instead:

Webcam Player: Earwig will save Psychic's life, but only if Psychic makes Girl get naked!

Me: Oh!  So Earwig's not just a mischevious boor?  He's actually a sex-fiend sociopath?  Coercing a dying guy to humiliate his female coworker?  Wow.

Webcam Player: Okay, okay, Earwig doesn't demand it.  He just says, "If you're looking for a way to thank me..."  But, y'know, he's just joking.


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 18, 2010, 05:05:52 AM
I'm thinking this thread has been there and done what it can, and now it's time to spawn daughter threads if anyone wants to contribute further. James, let me know if you would like this one to continue (and about what). Everyone else, it's closed unless James says otherwise.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh
Post by: James_Nostack on March 18, 2010, 06:07:19 AM
No, I'm okay with letting this one die.  I feel like we're retreading the same ground.