A Letter to Blizzard Regarding Rape

Content warning: This letter is going to talk pretty openly and specifically about rape, sexual assault and coercive sexual acts. If this is triggering, please skip this post. 

The only thing I thought when people started “speculating” that Y’rel might be Garona’s mother somehow in Darkest Timeline Draenor was, “Jesus christ, not again.” Despite the fact that I don’t find that story plausible given what I saw in the Warlords demo (if anything, it’d be Y’rel’s sister), the content potentially provided would be all too familiar. It’s really been a huge bugbear of my Warcraft career that so much of the game and tie-in books have introduced a lot of dark, sexually violent content.  Given Warcraft’s announcements that AU!Draenor would be more dark and “savage”, I am terrified if that means we’re going to return to even more of the hints of grimdark, gritty “realism” we’ve seen pop up in WoW since around Wrath. Why do I believe that this is going to involve rape and sexual violence? Look at the setting and look at what things we’ve encountered before in the Warcraft universe. Most of it has never been explicitly shown or described (thank god) but it doesn’t take much thought to see what has been going on in-between the lines, or hidden behind the veil of euphemistic language.

So yes, if you’ve never thought about it at great length before, here is what I’m saying: Warcraft has a rape problem. It’s not immediate, it’s not usually happening to characters in the game but it’s there, implied, talked around and gestured at vaguely. Forced pregnancy or attempts at forced breeding happening to Alexstrasza and Kirygosa, other red dragons? That’s rape. Mind-controlled sex slaves in Black Temple? Rape. Keristrasza being forcefully taken as a consort for Malygos? That’s rape (And we kill her later too.) Half-orc and -draenei children being born out of prisoner camps? Probably rape (Inmate and guard relations are not consensual.)  Mogu quests where they tell their buddies to “have their way” with us as prisoners? It might not have been intended that way, but that is euphemistic language for rape as well.

I’m so mad about this, if you couldn’t tell.

It’s really hard as a rape and sexual assault survivor to look at a fantasy world I have spent almost 10 years inhabiting still have darkness like this lurking around the corners. More than anything else that’s problematic in the game (and there is quite a few things), I have a hard time dealing with yet another potential fantasy world that Blizzard has concocted where I might once again have to face a reality where Warcraft has rape victims in it. It’s a huge trope and motif in fantasy, particularly of the more “grimdark” or gritty variety. It is a conceit where authors say that it makes the world more “realistic” and therefore, by their logic, better. In a worse case scenario, some authors and writers (a lot of whom have never experienced this) even use it as a cheap “this is how we break a woman down before we build her back up to be strong” trope. Or they joke about it as a metaphor without concern that this is someone’s life they are talking about. Rape is not a fantasy concept. It is not some far-off happenstance because we live in a just world where it stopped existing. Rapists go free. Rapists do it without concern or even recognizing that they are responsible. Some of us have to live or see or be near people who have raped us. A lot of times, rapists are people who have a lot of power over others. The list goes on. It is very fully a reality that many, many people live with. As someone who lives in this reality perpetually, where I’m never ever going to be quite safe no matter where I go, I could do less of that and more with a fluffy, lighter fantasy world where maybe my character would be considered safe. Not even due to the fact that she has magic and anyone trying something like that would easily be burned alive, but just due to the fact that rape and coercion wouldn’t even exist.  (While we’re asking for impossible things, can I tack torture on there too?)

I get it, people are going to tell me that “This is a fantasy story about war! We murder people by the droves! Why aren’t you bothered by that?” As far as I know, I have not slaughtered people by the thousands. I am not cruel to wild animals. I have, with only one exception, never seen anyone being violently killed or die. But I have, on a regular basis, been fondled, flashed, groped, as well as lived through both rape and sexual assault. On top of that, I’ve been in many more situations where I just did things I didn’t want to just not deal with the person demanding them. This is a persistent thing for some people, in our world. A lot of us never feel safe, and coming to the gaming community, where “rape” is a term tossed around in PVP, to even our fantasy games dragging in sexual assault, violence and torture, you can’t even leave it behind for an hour or two in the evenings.

Granted, Warcraft has done a good job not having it immediately up in front of our face but as anyone who’s read my blog on a regular basis knows, it’s still there. I’m asking that maybe now, before we travel to a new Draenor, that maybe it’s an alternate universe where this kind of awful, emotionally destructive shit doesn’t happen. It’s tiring. It makes coming back to Warcraft unnerving and upsetting and feeling like my desires don’t matter. It perpetually taints a place that has been, over the years, fairly supportive of both my real life and my fantasy experiences. I’ve met great guildmates, had fun in raids and seen amazing places. But every time people start speculating or I read yet another tie-in novel that mentions forced pregnancy, I feel gross all over again.

It’s not fun, it’s not fair to a lot of us, and it shouldn’t be some injected part of a fantasy story, point blank. There’s ways and means of putting it into a story that don’t make it cheap or only for spice, that don’t add it to a list of a character’s attributes like you would with “enjoys long walks” or “fought in the Third War.” But most of all, if you can’t do it right, maybe not do it at all? So many other places have enough of it that Warcraft skipping it from now on would not bother me a single solitary bit.

 

 

 

 

 

Headcanon: Two L’s

Life will always blossom from the darkest soil. – Alexstrasza

Blog Azeroth had a really amazing shared Blog Topic last week that I really, really wanted to talk about but I got caught up in other stuff. Akabeko from Red Cow Rise suggested it:

Canon refers to the actual events and characters that exist in a fictional world. Headcanon refers to any situations or characters that are imagined by fans of said fictional world. Sometimes they are silly, like the fact that Garrosh’s favorite treat is lemon squares. Sometimes they are serious, like positing that tauren store grief in the lungs. For my writing, I’ve come up with a lot of headcanon. Got a theory about a torrid romance between your favorite auctioneer and the patrolling guard? Given any thought to where mounts and pets go when they aren’t summoned? Do you know how your characters do their laundry, or what Baine Bloodhoof does in his free time? What are your headcanons, and where did you get the idea?

As I’ve explained before, I practically live in a world of my creation when it comes to World of Warcraft. My grasp on lore is shaky at best and I have some very strong opinions that Azeroth could be better if I was one of the Titans. As someone who frequently isn’t represented in games because I’m queer woman, a lot of what I have to do is fill in the gaps when it comes to representation, amongst other things. So it should be no surprise that a lot of my headcanon satisfies that need to see “myself” reflected in the world I spend so much time playing in.

It all started with a rare out in Tyr’s Hand and Rades. If anyone ever listened to the best episode of Bifactional that we ever did (about rares), one can remember the discussion that was had about the mysterious Lynnia Abbendis. Why is she there? Who is she? What kind of life did she have? It was joked that Lynnia must have known Lilian Voss and the two could fight crime together. I dreamily imagined the idea of two undead women careening around Eastern Kingdoms righting wrongs; so many things right about that scenario and yet I felt it was missing something.

Love.

I really don’t consider myself some sort of “shipper” because I tend to adhere to an author’s wishes in romantic choices and I don’t like to pare away stories to just flat and rigid relationships. However, the idea of two young Scarlet Crusade women finding solace, friendship and dare I say it, some sort of complex companionship over the tenure of their brief lives before meeting tragic ends is right up my alley. Since that seed of a thought got planted, it’s only grown stronger and thicker until now when it has managed to strangle a lot of my other ideas about Azeroth. It is a story that deserves to be told and expressed. There’s no way, in my mind, that this couldn’t be the truth. There really could have been a Scarlet Crusade academy, and all of the young Crusade children could have been friends with eachother (it’s canon that Voss and Gebler were). Considering that Lynnia is an Abbendis, it’d be assumed she’d also be there. Lynnia and Lilian strike me as having some sort of age differential but nonetheless could have been friends or close to eachother.

You can see what kind of castles I’ve constructed out of the air from the tiniest motes of dust.

I’ve spent at least 2 IM conversations with Rades discussing the plotline and arc of these two women’s lives when they still had a pulse and what might be in store for them now. What would have lead the two of them to have such different places in the game? The obvious answer is because I am the only person that considers them linked in some way but as far as a story concept, it does bend what ifs in a particular direction.

Loss.

The story of Lynnia and Lilian is a sad one, even if I truly believe there could be a bittersweet ending for both of them. Lilian’s childhood was controlled by her father and Lynnia is called the Fallen Hope. They are in wildly different locations and doing very different things when we find them in the world. There’s not a lot of sunshine and kittens to be had here. And now that the two of them aren’t even “alive,” it seems to me that joy is in short supply. Maybe that’s why the idea of their feelings for eachother surviving is so persistent in my brain; to give them an ending that Blizzard never intended and never wanted for the tragedy that was the Scarlet Crusade. What would the two of them meeting now be like? Have they not seen eachother since they died? I get a little choked up thinking about it. It spurs me to put words on the page and draw lots of art.

I have hope though, even if the story will never be told by Warcraft. It is something that can live on in my imagination for now. Considering that Voss plays a very large role in the new heroic dungeons in Mists of Pandaria, I will not let this story fade to black just yet.