By David Futrelle
I think a lot about this Tweet from Zoe Quinn:
It just dawned on me that I had a breakup go so badly he got mad and helped usher in a new era of American fascism over it
— zoë “yennifer of vengaboys” quinn (@UnburntWitch) January 31, 2017
Obviously, Quinn exaggerated a little for comedic effect. But not by much. The reactionary “populist” movement known as Gamergate began as a harassment campaign against Quinn kickstarted by her angry ex; Gamergate, in turn, helped to kickstart the broader alt-right movement that took off in earnest in the runup to the 2016 election. Virtually everything that is desperately wrong with American politics today can be connected back to Gamergate.
And that includes the Brett Kavanaugh debacle.
A couple of days ago, a Twitterer called @LasagnaGarden noticed that back in July 2015 Kavanaugh’s pal (and alleged attempted-rape assistant) Mark Judge had written an article for a little-known, now-defunct culture blog called Acculturated attacking Anita Sarkeesian and praising her Gamergate critics.
Attacking Sarkeesian as a “bully” bent on shutting down critics by “express[ing] a lot of rage and personal hurt” — a slightly ironic critique in the wake of his buddy Kavanaugh’s tantrum on the stand last week — Judge declared that
gamers’ cogent counterarguments have made Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency irrelevant. Gamers keep gaming, and game makers keep making games. The controversy is ebbing, and soon the name Anita Sarkeesian will be a footnote in pop culture history.
If Judge’s first Gamergate post was a bog-standard Gamergatey “rebuttal” to a drastically and misleadingly simplified caricature of Sarkeesian’s arguments — pretty much the dictionary definition of a straw man — his second post on Sarkeesian was far worse, a creepy defense of male gamers’ sexual fetishization of pixelated hotties that looks even creepier in the wake of the Kavanaugh revelations.
As you no doubt recall, Christine Blasey Ford says that Mark Judge was not only in the room when the then-17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh allegedly tried to rape her; he also helped to hustle her into the room in the first place and stood there laughing at her distress as Kavanaugh held her down and tried to rip off her clothes. (For the sake of journalistic integrity, I will add an “allegedly” to all that, though I have no doubt whatsoever that Ford is telling the truth.)
If Ford’s story is true, Judge’s November 2015 post “Why Do Feminist Video Game Critics Want to Ban Male Fantasies?” isn’t just a cringey bit of male oversharing; it reads like a man with a guilty conscience trying to justify his complicity in a near-rape some three decades earlier.
Judge begins his post by falsely accusing Sarkeesian — “the feminist critic of alleged sexism in video games” — of “want[ing] to ban men from having sexual fantasies.”
He bases this exaggerated accusation on one of Sarkeesian’s videos examining the trope of “woman as reward” in video games, a trope that, in Sarkeesian’s words,
frames female bodies as collectible, as tractable, or as consumable, and positions women as status symbols designed to validate the masculinity of presumed straight male players.
That this trope is a real thing in video games is utterly undeniable, as Sarkeesian’s numerous examples in her more than half-hour video make clear.
Judge’s response? A big “so what!” Literally.
So, when guys play video games, they like to fantasize about enduring hardship and making it through difficult obstacles to be rewarded at the end (or sooner) with the attentions of a gorgeous, sexy woman? And this is a problem?
Well, it’s a huge problem if these guys have trouble seeing women as anything more than their bodies, and if they see these bodies as little more than prizes to be won. Or simply to be taken, as Brett Kavanaugh seemingly did on that July night in 1982.
Judge goes on to protest (too much) the notion that men fantasize about controlling and using female bodies for their own selfish pleasures.
Sarkeesian assumes that video games portray women’s bodies as collectable, tractable (easy to control), and consumable. In reality, the male fantasy can be an expression of the exact opposite. Rather than representing women as a reward that a man can control, a woman, and particularly a woman’s body, can represent his greatest challenge and most intoxicating opportunity for genuine freedom.
Yes, I suppose a woman’s body presents a “challenge” to a man if she’s literally trying not to be raped. I’m not sure how “genuine freedom” comes into it unless that’s some sort of grotesque code for a man’s “freedom” to do to women what he wants, their desires and rights be damned.
Sarkeesian is absolutely right on one count: men do fantasize about consuming women. We dream about consuming their beauty, their tenderness, their spirit, and their goodness in the hope that it will make us better human beings, not to mention good fathers and best friends.
Female beauty, tenderness, goodness? Is that what Brett Kavanaugh was (allegedly) trying to “consume” that summer night?
I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
It’s telling that Judge — who in his teen years was even more of a hearty partier than even Brett “I LOVE BEER” Kavanaugh — uses the word “intoxicating” to refer to women’s bodies.
Because if something is “intoxicating,” can one really help but be intoxicated by it? When men speak of women’s bodies and/or “beauty” in this way — and this is something that Warren Farrell, intellectual granddaddy of the Men’s Rights movement, has been doing for decades — it makes it all the easier to justify male sexual violence. There’s very little difference between using “he was drunk” as an excuse and using “he was intoxicated by her beauty” as an excuse.
If Ford’s account of the night she was (allegedly) almost raped by Brett Kavanaugh with Judge in the room is true, it’s hard not so see this post by Judge as something close to a Freudian confession of the crime.
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