Double-Facepalm (Jim’s Talking About Rape Again)

While at Penguicon, whenever I used my phone in the lobby, it would try to connect to the local wireless networks, which means I was routinely greeted with this screen:

I don’t know the story behind the network names. I overheard one rumor that “rape rape rape rape rape” was an official Penguicon network. When I e-mailed someone on Penguicon staff, I was told it probably wasn’t, but they weren’t 100% certain. I haven’t yet gotten confirmation one way or another.

My guess is that someone was trying to be edgy and provocative. As sometimes happens, they overshot “edgy” and landed squarely in the “asshole” category.

There will always be people who try to be shocking and fail. I suspect this wasn’t an official Penguicon network, and was instead just a random cry for attention. (Though if it turns out that it was an official Penguicon network, I think that may be the last time I attend this con.)

ETA: Randy Bradakis, who is on the Penguicon ConCom and Board left the following comment (with the disclaimer that he’s not speaking for Penguicon as a whole here):

I can state firmly that this was not created at the request of the Penguicon ConCom, and that there will be discussions about both the reasons that this is unacceptable and how we can be certain that it is not repeated. While it might, in some specific in-joke sort of way, have been amusing to the creators at whatever other location it was created for, it is not the sort of “joke” that should be part of the Penguicon environment.

There are plans for more specific network requests for next year, and I will make it my recommendation that we at least have someone at the ConCom level give specific instructions to the networking staff about the image we wish to present.

I want you to know that I am deeply sorry for any offense that this caused. At any and all levels of future convention running that I am involved, I will strive to keep the idea of a safe and comfortable environment foremost in everyone’s mind, and encourage this behavior in my fellow Con-runners as well.


On a similarly annoying note, I’ve been reading The Becoming by Jeanne Stein. Within the first chapter, our heroine Anna Strong is attacked and raped by the bad guy, who turns out to be a vampire. I almost stopped reading right there, due to the “Let’s use rape to get this story started!” approach, but I’m trying to read more urban fantasy as context for my own work-in-progress.

I’m now more than halfway through the book. The word rape has vanished, and Strong’s character has now begun to refer to the incident as when a vampire had sex with her. (In addition, while our heroine is female, so far every other significant character has been male … but that’s a different rant.)

Writing about rape is difficult, in no small part because everyone’s reaction is different. But when an author uses rape as a plot device to get the story moving, pulls out the “rape = sex” fallacy, and doesn’t seem to indicate any physical or emotional effects on the character (save becoming a vampire, naturally) … well, for me it puts the book squarely into the “Doing it Wrong” category.


Comments and discussion welcome, as always.