The Myths Encompassed by The Rapeman

Trigger Warning

Via Feministing comes this video about The Rapeman, a comic that ran throughout the 80s and 90s.

I don’t know what program the obviously Australian voice over is from, but the existence of Rapeman has been corroborated. According to the video, Rapeman is a schoolteacher by day, raping superhero by night. He rapes women who have “wronged” men or broken up with boyfriends (same thing, right?). The comic allegedly remains popular today, and the clip is from one of the movies made about the “hero.” The icing on the cake is that the women in the comic are apparently ‘not portrayed as victims,” and tend to fall in love with Rapeman.

I’m aware that this is likely to be considered old news, and the comic is now apparently defunct, but I think it’s still highly worth examining.  There’s a lot to unpack here, and this really is rape culture at it’s most overt. Of course, many will claim that it’s supposed to be a “joke” (the person who posted the video filed it under “comedy”) or all in good fun. I don’t know what kind of good fun rape could be, even a fictional rape, for anyone but the rapist and those who condone rape.

And for something that’s not supposed to reflect a reality of people openly condoning rape, it contains a lot of truth about how rape is justified in real life every day. Some may say that no one actually thinks that women deserve to be raped as a form of punishment — except that people actually do think that and act on it, either in very literal ways, or in the sense of showing “slutty” and overly-confident women their place in society. (In fact, according to the Wikipedia page, some of Rapeman’s missions include raping women who are not behaving in a docile enough manner in the workplace.)  Rape is regularly brushed off as being deserved based on what a woman was wearing, how she was acting, who she was with, or where she was. So what else is the rape construed as in those circumstances but a punishment for a woman doing things which the observer clearly feels she has to right to do?

Further, it’s extremely common for men who feel they have been “wronged” to rape their girlfriends or wives as a form of revenge, especially for breaking up with them.  As the apparent premise of the comic/movies, there is no joke here.

The concept also clearly attempts to further the notion that women enjoy rape.  This is one of the oldest and most dangerous rape myths around, from claiming that a woman “really wanted it,” to saying that a rape is “just sex,” so what’s the big deal?  And of course, in the same way that many see a woman as unable to be raped by someone with whom she has previously had consensual sex, many think that if a woman were to fall in love with her rapist, it would erase the wrongness of the original rape.

People dismiss rape victims based on their choosing to stay with a rapist, even if it is out of fear, confusion, an attempt to forget, or Stockholm Syndrome.  In this view, if a woman doesn’t behave properly, the rape doesn’t count — as the voice over either notes or corroborates in its assertion that the Rapeman comic doesn’t portray the actual victims as “victims.”  The concept of Rapeman’s victims enjoying the violence not only promotes the myths that rape isn’t so bad, and all women need is a good deep-dicking to straighten out and start being submissive, but also reinforces the falsehood that if a woman felt physical pleasure during a rape, she wasn’t actually raped.

No, I don’t care that the original comic was written by a woman.  Women can be misogynists, too, and the target audience was supposed to be men who might like to jerk off to and have a giggle at this material.  Rape culture is rape culture, no matter who’s perpetuating it.  And this is rape culture.

With the modern existence of games like Battle Raper (major trigger warning), the idea of rape as entertainment certainly didn’t go out of style in the 90s.  Disturbing though it may be, it’s still with us today, and likely is not leaving us any time soon.

0 thoughts on “The Myths Encompassed by The Rapeman

  1. Christopher Trottier

    A few days ago, I wrote about Rapeman and it seems as though the blogosphere has really taken off on him.

    http://www.staretube.com/2008/12/rapeman-japanese-superhero.html

    It’s one thing to fantasize about rape, it’s another thing to use rape as a tool for “great justice”. Here rape is used to “fix” women, to make them into better people.

    Did you know that Rapeman was created and written by a woman? Wrap your head around that one. Japan is a strange place.

    Reply
  2. anon

    If you want some equal-opportunity raping, try the PC games Enzai and Absolute Obedience.

    Enzai features a fifteen year old boy named Guys, who had been wrongfully imprisoned. The object of the game is not to get raped to death. You cannot avoid being raped.

    Absolute Obedience is a game about rapists-for-hire. You hire these two men to rape or seduce a male victim.

    Reply
  3. Isabel

    In my (admittedly limited) exposure to Japanese comics/cartoons (some of which I actually quite like), sexual harassment/assault is much more of a source of humor than I’ve seen in America media; for example a common archetypical character is the “dirty old man” who will spy on teenage girls when they are bathing or look under their skirts all the time. This isn’t to say that Japanese media is more misogynist than American media necessarily, just to comment on differing manifestations of misogyny (is this really that substantively different than those horror films where pretty young things get tortured for two hours, for example).

    Which is a pretty useless thing to commentate on but I felt a) obligated to comment and b) stupid just leaving a comment saying HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE, especially since that reaction would be a little canned since I already used it when my friend told me about this upon returning from their visit to Japan. It’s nice sometimes to retain the illusion that there is something to add besides THAT IS SO WRONG, GOD, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

    Reply
  4. Cultural Iconography

    I must have led a sheltered life, because I think this is one of the sickest pieces of shit I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of misogynistic b.s. in US media, too, so maybe I’m just not paying attention. When I saw this, I bounced between being angry and being sad. Anger seems to be winning…

    Reply
  5. Thealogian

    I saw this on Feministing like five minutes ago. Jeebus, seriously?

    I mean, how does this shit not sock even the most ardent misogynist in the gut and get him/her to realize that “oh, rape as social control,now I get it.” Although, maybe this shit does exactly that and helps him/her learn how to perfect their purient desires to control the bodies and behaviors of women.

    I bet Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin would totally find this shit funny. Or pretend to on Fox News. All kinds of women, everyday prostitute themselves to reinforce the patriachy in order to survive or to cash in. There’s no reason to think that the woman who wrote this Rapeman cartoon isn’t just Coulter’s doupleganger in Japan.

    peace

    Reply
  6. depresso

    I take issue with the first commenter saying “it’s one thing to fantasize about rape”. Can’t he see that there’s a shitload of problems with that alone? And why is it such a thing that this comic was written by a woman? As you say; women can be misogynistic too.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      I take issue with the first commenter saying “it’s one thing to fantasize about rape”. Can’t he see that there’s a shitload of problems with that alone?

      Well . . . I can’t say that I’m down with policing other people’s sexual fantasies, including those about rape, especially when it comes to women. And I think we also need to recognize that we can not only pretend to automatically understand the motivations behind those fantasies, but also that when people say “rape fantasy,” they mean a lot of different things, including consensual BDSM acts that contain play regarding nonconsent.

      Reply
  7. Ashley

    Did you know that Rapeman was created and written by a woman? Wrap your head around that one.

    Did you read Cara’s blog? I mean, I know it’s really hard to pay attention to what a woman has to say for a whole eight paragraphs, but she addresses this.

    Sorry to get snarky on you, but it gets pretty irritating to have dudes consistently not pay attention to what women are saying, even if those women happen to be incredibly brilliant and put a lot of thought into their statements.

    Japan is a strange place.

    This isn’t about Japan. This isn’t about Japanese culture being different from American culture. If Americans are consuming the media, guess what? It’s American culture!

    I’m noticing a theme of people dismissing this as unimportant or somehow not indicative of any larger issues in our culture because it’s Japanese. Not only is that a convenient way to avoid critically looking at our own shit, it’s a bunch of racist essentialist garbage.

    Reply
  8. Genevieve

    I think what disturbs me the most about this is that there are going to be dudes out there who see this, find it to be funny/”edgy,” and eat it up. And then dismiss everyone who doesn’t like it as “not having a sense of humor” or “needing to learn to take a joke.”

    And that I almost certainly have had classes with some of these dudes.

    This whole culture of, “your feelings matter less than my ability to offend” is so annoying. As is the whole, “to be funny, it must be offensive”–no, it doesn’t need to be. Not if you’re like me and you crack up the easiest at absurd, bizarre, random, inoffensive things…there’s my sense of humor, look, it’s not hurting anyone.

    Reply
  9. AshKW

    When I first saw this on Feministing, I was convinced it had to be a hoax. I guess that puts me with Cultural I. in the sheltered box.

    I take issue with Christopher T’s “wrap your head around that one.” Thanks very much for the step-by-step directions as to how we wittle girls are supposed to react, you jerk. And gasp! shock! yes it’s true, misogyny is not only the purview of men; women can be awful towards other women too!

    I agree, Genevieve. To make it worse, it’s not only going to be the most obviously demented males who find this fascinating, it’s going to be middle-of-the-road types who only occasionally dabble in woman-hating.

    When did rape become funny? When did it become a joke, or a weapon for justice? Sorry, but rape is worse than murder in many regards; at least murderers don’t leave their victims alive to suffer through the memories or to be told by society they “had it coming.” Nope, murder victims don’t know a darn thing. Lucky them. Their suffering is over.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Woman Gang Raped in Homophobic Hate Crime : The Curvature

  11. Genevieve

    And gasp! shock! yes it’s true, misogyny is not only the purview of men; women can be awful towards other women too!

    Agreed. I hate the whole, “well, woman X agrees with me” argument–yes, dude, we get it, there are plenty of women who are just ready and raring to work against the women’s rights to please men–guess what, when we’re taught that pleasing men should be our life’s goal, that’s what some women will want to do! It doesn’t mean the crap in question is any less offensive or misogynistic.

    Reply
  12. Thealogian

    AshKW
    “Sorry, but rape is worse than murder in many regards; at least murderers don’t leave their victims alive to suffer through the memories or to be told by society they “had it coming.” Nope, murder victims don’t know a darn thing. Lucky them. Their suffering is over.”

    Woo, woo, woo–hold on there. Rape is a horrible thing and I’m not into the oppression Olympics by comparing heinous acts and giving them some kind of hierarchy, but every rape victim I’ve known–even those who have been put through the ringer in the justice system–are for the most part glad that they are alive and are survivors. As a woman, if I faced rape or murder, I’d take the rape and get on with life.

    I think that saying stuff like murder victims are better off than rape victims merely plays into the patriarchal meme that once “violated” women are “lessened” or “defiled”–like we are broken vessels, objects no other owner wants. We are women and men who live on and though patriarchy and victim blaming abound we can heal, we can be more than just a victim, we can be survivors and fighters. And even if we can’t be fighters, if we can’t deal with the system, we can still strive to heal and to take back positive sexuality for ourselves. We can smell basil in the kitchen window, listen to an aria and be moved, feel grass under our feet and satin on our bodies–life is valuable. I don’t know how or if a rape victim every completely heals, but even in parts, in moments made precious, we live. Peace to those who are departed, but I’m not going to concede death as a better alternative to survival.

    Peace

    Reply
  13. Ashley

    Thealogian,

    I really think whether rape or murder would be worse for an individual is something you can’t make generalizations about, and shouldn’t. For some women, rape is worse. For others, death would be worse. For some, they are glad to be alive but do feel like some aspects of rape are worse than some aspects of murder. We aren’t really in a position to judge other people’s trauma or tell them how to feel about it.

    I used to have discussions on this question with large groups of college students, and there was a 50/50 split in the answers. I don’t think there’s a correct answer. It really depends on how hard trauma hits you as an individual, how you relate to your body, and what your views are on the meaning and purpose of life and whatever happens after.

    It’s a bit like asking whether it would be “better” to have a loved one die, or to die yourself. Anyone who has lost someone knows that life is still worth living afterwards, but people would give different answers as to which they’d prefer.

    Reply
  14. AshKW

    Theologian,

    I wasn’t trying to play a “which is worse?” game, for the reasons Ashley pointed out. And I never said I’d rather be dead than raped. But I get so incredibly frustrated with people like those who will get a kick out of Rapeman, who think rape is funny. It’s NOT funny, never was and never will be.

    My sarcasm got a wee bit overloaded towards the end of my post, and I apologize if I came off too strong. Will try to control my temper tantrums in the future. 😉

    Reply
  15. meh

    many of you may be surprised to learn that the author of this series is actually a woman. and before you start screaming “that doesn’t change anything!!” “and it’s still inexcusable!!” I am just sharing information.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Yes, Meh, they would be shocked — SHOCKED, I say — if like you they hadn’t bothered to read the post. Or comments prior to your own. In that event, why, they would be floored.

      Reply
  16. Betty Boondoggle

    “I can’t say that I’m down with policing other people’s sexual fantasies, including those about rape, especially when it comes to women.”

    Except, there’s no such thing as a “rape fantasy”. It’s an oxymoron. it is impossible to have a fantasy that isn’t entirely under your control.

    One can fantasize about a situation like rape – using the same scenarios – but the fantasy is entirely under that person’s control. Nothing happens that they don’t want to happen.

    Obviously, this is not so with actual rape.

    Ergo, there’s no such thing as a rape fantasy.

    The assertion that women do have rape fantasizes comes directly from denialists and appologists. It’s another way of saying “she wanted it”.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Agreed, Betty! I normally put “rape fantasies” in quotes for precisely that reason and was neglectful in that comment. Thanks for making the point! 🙂

      Reply

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