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Tycho / on Thu, Feb 3 2011 at 11:04 am

On The Matter of Dickwolves

One of the most important essays I’ve ever read is by Philip K Dick, entitled “How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.”  In it, he describes his idea that people can experience reality in such different ways that they lack a common language and therefore can’t relate to one another.  He’s talking about schizophrenia, but he’s really talking (as is his way) about all people, everywhere.

The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown of communication… and there is the real illness.

If I haven’t been seen to discuss The Matter Of Dickwolves, this is the reason why.  I’m not entirely certain that a conversation is possible.  This isn’t mere cynicism - this is a fully rational assessment of the situation.  The perspectives in play, the lenses, are too different: one side believes that not according the issue of rape the proper respect fuels a kind of perverse, perpetual engine called rape culture.  There is a vast, specific lexicon and hundreds of tacit assumptions that gird it.  The other side (that’s me, but not just me) believes that when it comes to expression nothing is off the table.  It is the creator’s prerogative to create something - even something grotesque - out of anything they can find.

The fact of the matter is that the strip that started all this is about how empty, amoral, and borderline vile electronic heroism actually is.  When I look at it now, it’s hard to imagine the chaos this comic stands at the center of.  To the extent that it discusses rape, it is in the context of men and an imaginary creature.  It’s certainly not the “joke.”  The depicted scenario seemed so ridiculous to us, so unmoored from reality, and its indictment of player “morality” so complete, we felt like it was worth doing.

I have to tell you that we could never have conceived that people would construe the comic as pro-rape; this unfortunate fact may help you to understand everything that followed.  I have a daughter who is not yet two years of age, and I am flooded with hormones every time I look at her which say “this, this is why you are here.”  I don’t have any intention of going into specifics, but speculating about my own sexual history or the sexual history of the people we know is profoundly unwise.  I will also tell you that people deal with horror of this kind in different ways, and one of them is with humor.  There’s no monolithic “woman” just as there is no monolithic “feminist” just as there is no “man,” no “true” way of dealing with tragedy.  We think of the strip as one of those glass tanks with the gloves that reach in, a safe place to experiment with dangerous ideas, which we’ve more or less been doing continually for twelve years.

We make disgusting, immoral comics on occasion to be sure; we’re used to correspondence in that vein. But when mail started to come in to the effect that we were perpetuating a fundamental social conspiracy to rape, we couldn’t believe what we were reading.  That is the entire point of the second strip, which some people took as a literal response or apology, neither of which was its intended purpose.  The only people who are pro-rape are rapists.  The idea that you would have to specifically enunciate an idea like that is almost overwhelming.  It’s self-evident.  Hence, the comic.

I’ve received an incredible education during the ordeal, and been exposed to an amazing range of thought, from so-called “radical feminism” to a wholly opposed, Lewis Carroll, through-the-looking-glass mode of thinking called Men’s Rights Activism.  It’s my default position to figure out what is wrong with me so that I can make peace, and the web has been very good to me in this regard.  I have learned many new words and been altered irrevocably by the months long process.  I’m not certain we’ll ever see eye to eye.  But they’re not evil, or mendacious; I understand their intent, why this happened.  I’m not interested in a repeat performance.

The other reason I didn’t speak about it is because I didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to the sources of complaint.  Apparently, there are people who imagine they’re doing us some kind of a favor being jackasses and saying terrible things to critics of the site.  Well, I’m a big boy, and I can handle my own shit.  If you’re a reader, and not somebody just out for a scrap, if you love me at all you’ll put an end to that kind of bullshit.  When someone believes something about you that isn’t true, the optimal strategy isn’t to prove to them time and time again that they were actually right all along - that you may be dismissed out of hand, that you have no merit.  I assume that’s the opposite of what you want.

Can we all agree that threatening to kill someone’s wife and children, as happened yesterday, has no place in any fucking society?  This is why I had to say something: because people who imagine themselves to be “agents” of each side have now graduated to threats of actual, physical violence.

I don’t expect to mollify anyone with this - I think we’re long past that.  When I look at the state of play now, dialectically, I don’t even recognize it: in the absence of my participation, in the abdication of my responsibility to communicate, the entire dialogue is based on a sequence of assumptions about each party so long that it’s impossible to untangle.  It’s entirely possible that we will have lost readership, or worse, we’ll acquire a unique new demographic hungry for rape material that will be profoundly disappointed by jokes about tabletop wargames or treatises on forks.  As I said, so much of this happened because I assumed that a genuine dialogue was impossible.  Maybe I was wrong.  It’s certainly happened before.

But I am who I am, in the end; the comics I make are the result of my damage.  I can’t put it any more succinctly than that.

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