Every day, there’s some new story out there about two different cultures clashing. Often times, the setting is our education system – tragic narratives of radical progressives advocating for the university to ban free speech or prevent Veterans from enrolling in classes, cataclysmic tales of conservative opinions labeled as racist/sexist/bigoted/transphobic with passionate pleas and calls to violence from more accepting, open-minded students. Other times, these clashes are played out as epic sagas within a subculture of a subculture.
As I am in one such specific sub-sub-culture, I have watched a little piece of this ever-growing clash of cultures play out – with some unexpected results.
Let me set the scene for you. There is a sub-sub-culture which involves people running around a field, swinging swords and throwing fireballs at each other – like … Lord of the Rings, but with a significantly lower special effects budget. There are fighters, nobles, monks, assassins, thieves, spell-casters, and even a bard singing songs with guitar in hand. There are guilds, where individuals playing each of these characters get together to do the things that their classes specialize in. Of course, there are rules as to what each can do – a fighter cannot cast spells and monk cannot use a shield.
To separate the game from the real world, we use the terms “in character” or IC and “out of character” or OOC. This creates a separation between the opinions and actions of your character in the game and those embodied by you as an individual in your everyday life. Obviously, there is no such thing as a wizard and assassins are a rarity, in the real world. This allows participants to enjoy their IC roleplaying and OOC sitting by a fire sipping an old fashioned while eating steak. This entire dynamic is no different than playing a video game at home and then going to your day job filling out TPS reports.
It’s an escape. It’s a hobby. It’s entertainment. It’s whatever you want the game to be. It’s whatever you need the game to be.
In this particular game, someone formed what they describe as a “harem”. Essentially, a group of players decided that their game’s characters were going to be “ladies, gentlemen and mysteries of the night”. Sounds bad, right? Not so much. In actuality, this took the form of hair braiding and back massages. Let me tell you, a long day of walking around in armor and swinging medieval melee weapons wreaks havoc on your back and the exchange of a few plastic coins for a decent massage is a deal many people were eager to take advantage of. Never was there a monetary exchange of sexual gratification, nor any activity which could even remotely be considered illegal or immoral.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention my overall impression of the political leanings of this sub-sub-culture. Overwhelmingly, this group consists of people left of center, from traditional Democrats to Progressive Socialists. There’re a few outliers like me, and maybe a closet Republican or two thrown into the mix.
Let’s also mention what the organization of this entity looks like. It is a corporate entity (501c Something) with an OOC Board of Directors. They have a bank account, legal incorporation documents, and bylaws pertaining to the organization. There are also IC entities within, but none of those have any bearing on the day-to-day OOC operations of the group.
A few months back, an individual within the game started a personal crusade to end this “harem” at the Board of Director level. They pled the case that having an IC organization called a “harem” portrayed the organization in a negative light. Of course, there was no mention of the Thieves Guild, Assassins Guild, Necromancy, perpetual war within the game, or the very nature of the game as being one of fictional violence and conflict. The Board of Directors denied the request to utilize their authority as the OOC corporate entity to end the harem.
Fast forward a few months; this same individual resorted to IC mechanisms to remove the “harem” from the game. Which brings me to my point of the article.
I was expecting the overall reaction of the game – mind you, mostly under 40 left-of-center folks – to be in support of these actions. I was expecting a bunch of lectures about how this sort of roleplaying was degrading to women or promoted rape culture or whatever other SJW nonsense was posted on Tumblr last week.
Instead, I was treated to a feast for the eyes and a treat for the soul. Differing opinions. Let me break them down for you; they aren’t elected to retain anonymity:
In support: Mostly revolved around never-happened-but-might scenarios in which a woman is sexually assaulted. All women should be compelled to fight instead of undertake non-combat roleplaying out of homage to the heroines who martyred themselves to earn women respect as fighters in this game. We need to consider how our roleplaying looks in 2017: stuff like black-face (I’ll get to that later; it’s not what it sounds like) and torture. Claims of being uncomfortable when asked to join the “harem”, even though the individuals in question were never actually asked. Insert random Tumblr Meme.
Against: This is a strictly IC group and there is no illegal activity happening, period. If you can choose to roleplay a thief, genocidal religious maniac, or assassin, why can’t you also roleplay a harem member? Game members tout themselves as open-minded, sexually liberal individuals, yet their aversion to “sex-work” as real work compared to those of any other services provided IC should raise question as to why exactly they have a problem with the “sex” component. This entire concept is nothing more than Macktivism (that’s when a man pretends to be a feminist in order to have coitus with women). The organization has turned into a bunch of whiny safe-space “female dogs”. Trying to ban the “harem” IC after failing to do so OOC is harassment. Why is my friend being crucified as the reason for the entire creep-factor of this game when the creep-factor existed well before the idea for a harem came along?
I briefly mentioned black-face. Chill out, it’s not actually black-face. This is a fantasy game; some people choose to play characters that are different fantasy races. One of these races is Drow – think of them like evil Elves that live underground. They have dark skin and light hair, essentially the inverse look of every emo kid from the 1990s. Some people go all-out in their roleplaying experience and wear prosthetic noses, ears, face masks, and even paint their bodies. It’s no different than the actors in Lord of the Rings that played orcs and were dressed up to have darker skin color or Mystique from X-Men who sports a combination of blue bodysuit/body paint. Black-face would be pretending to be a black person, not a mythical creature.
You’re wondering what the point of this post is. Here we have a group of under 40 left-of-center, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, that have watched the slippery slope of social justice. Overwhelmingly, the organization is already supportive and welcoming to all demographics and people, whatever their personal identities or belief systems (they’ve let me hang around for 8 years now). But diversity and acceptance was not enough, so the culture warriors kept going. They implemented an OOC harassment policy that mirrors the Title IX policies implemented at colleges around the country. STILL not enough. Anti-sex feminists pushed to have a fake harem excluded from the game. Finally it’s enough? For now.
Of course, in 6 months there will be some new, pressing, and important issue which must be resolved immediately, pushed through under the guise of player safety or social justice. Never will they stop and realize that the greatest danger to the participants are the Social Justice Warriors, themselves, who claim to support women’s rights and affirmative consent, yet eliminate the opportunity for WOMEN to CHOOSE their character’s occupation; unless, of course, it meets SJW approval. In this culture, at least, an overwhelming majority of people are Social Justice Warriors. Therefore, the offenders, the people creating this “unsafe” environment, are themselves enlightened urbanite warriors for Social Justice. See the problem here?
The fallout has been unexpected. Many of these left-of-center folks are just throwing in the towel, deciding that the organization has gone too extremist. Some have decided to wrap up their current commitments to the game, then leave, if this attitude continues. Others have decided to respond with IC tirades using Mises, Locke, and Rothbard.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: self-defeating, continuous overreach into what should be private or contrived issues will be the slow, agonizing death of the Social Justice movement. Sadly, it will leave countless victims in its wake. But when even vociferous, adamant Bernie Sanders voters/supporters are stating this has gone too far, that’s the best litmus for how absurd the culture war has become. I’ve had many conversations with these folks, and they truly believe that this Democratic-Socialist agenda has merit. There’s nothing wrong with having a sincere and honest belief about what policies our State and National leaders should implement. We can have rational discussions about single payer healthcare, free college, increasing the welfare state, or even cap and trade. That doesn’t mean I believe you are right, it just means that I believe you are a rational human being that can hopefully make some good points to support your arguments. Social Justice, on the other hand, is not a sane and rational belief. It revolves around qualitative concepts and imaginary ideas which drive public policy.
What can we learn from this little isolated episode in a sub-sub-culture as it applies to politics in Frederick County? Let the Social Justice Warriors push their agenda. Let their rhetorical overtures and desired policies be implemented, especially in areas (Board of Education) that we cannot stop. Should you speak out? Absolutely! Get it on the record. Offer public comment, warn the elected body about the dangers of their policies. But don’t stress out over it, let the average resident of the County feel the pain of their agenda. When that pain comes to their checkbook or their kids, make sure to remind them “I told you so”. Eventually, it will hurt enough that they reject the very concept and vote differently.
Also, do not write off every single Democrat as a Social Justice Warrior. Sane, rational, and reasonable Democrats do exist. Give them the opportunity to make their policy case and have that conversation. If you don’t like what they have to say, don’t vote for them. But I would rather a sane Democrat in office than a Maximum Over-Triggered SJW crazy.
At their current pace, this voter rejection of the Social Justice agenda will come faster than you think. We already saw it at the national level in the 2016 Presidential election, it is only a matter of time before that rejection comes to our State, County, and Education System.
The views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WTHU, it's staff, or management. The principles of free speech are meant to encourage discussion, not silence speech we do not like.