Editor’s Disclaimer: The following piece is sure to raise some eyebrows, and for good reason. As violence in America is often cited to be the result of the influence of video games, one has to question if sexual assault is the result of “entertainment” as discussed by the author. There’s nothing explicit within, but it does focus on sensitive and adult subject matter.
Writer’s Disclaimer: This week I’m going to approach a topic that will at the least raise a few eyebrows, and more seriously be potentially both repugnant and offensive. I’d therefore like to preface this article by saying that my main goal here is not to present a sensationalist or “only in Japan” viewpoint (god knows there are enough articles elsewhere that do a fine job of that already), or to defend the contents of RapeLay. Rather, the aim is to provide the facts and then, hopefully, to encourage some intelligent debate. For this reason, I have avoided including any of the more graphic images from the game. There are plenty around as it is; do a quick Google search if you’re so inclined.
In 2006, a 3D anime-style Japanese video game called RapeLay was commercially released. The game’s main character (i.e. the player him/herself) is the son of an influential politician and a train-groper named Kimura, who stalks and subsequently rapes the Kiryuu family, consisting of a mother and her two daughters. Yuuko, the mother, has the largest breasts of the three female characters and can optionally wear glasses in order to make ‘virgin’ and ‘nerd’ sound effects. Aoi, the older sister, wears a sailor fuku and can either have her hair down or in a ponytail, while Manaka, the younger sister, can be equipped with cat ears which produce various cat noises.
An abbreviated synopsis of the storyline is as follows: Kimura is arrested for groping Aoi while on a subway train. However, due to his family connections he is quickly released from jail, and follows Manaka to the subway the next day. Kimura gropes Manaka on the train and then traps her in a public bathroom, where he handcuffs and rapes her before taking pictures of her with his cellphone. The next day he follows Yuuko to the train station and then to the park, where he ambushes and rapes her, again taking photos. On the third day, Kimura follows Aoi to the train station and shows her the photos of her mother. Shocked, Aoi follows his orders as he gropes her and then takes her to a hotel owned by his family, where he rapes her and takes more photos. Finally, each member of the family is taken to a room via a secret door, where Kimura reveals his plans to make them his personal sex slaves. Yuuko attempts to protect her daughters by covering for them but eventually breaks down, with Manaka and Aoi soon following suit. Despite being an open-ended game, there are two possible negative outcomes. In the ‘black ending’, Kimura impregnates one of the girls and decides to keep the child, resulting in himself being thrown onto the train tracks. In the ‘red ending’, Aoi obtains a knife and kills Kimura with it.
There are also several further modes of gameplay which can be explored upon successful completion of the storyline, each of which involves various options of fondling, bondage, vibrator insertion, sex positions, multiple partnering, and gang rape. RapeLay also has an internal ejaculation counter, which carries a danger of impregnating the female characters. As the rapes continue, the chances of the woman and girls becoming pregnant increases, and the player must force them to get abortions. Illusion Software also issued a free download which included the depiction of the three females being locked in a cell and subjected to torture, along with a scene of a particularly brutal rape of Aoi which her mother and younger daughter are forced to watch.
In 2009, RapeLay gained international attention and controversy after an Irish newspaper picked up on importers selling the game via the online Amazon site. The newspaper asserted that the game actively encouraged rape as well as child pornography, and Amazon quickly dropped the product. Soon after, a New York-based feminist group called Equality Now targeted the game and accused it of being a violation of human rights, beginning a campaign ‘against rape simulator games and the normalisation of sexual violence in Japan’, with the aim of getting RapeLay banned by the Japanese government.
The game developers originally paid little attention to the demands of Equality Now, stating that the campaign to have RapeLay banned in Japan was pointless since it was legal by Japanese standards. Illusion spokesman Nakaoka Makoto indicated his bewilderment at the move, given that the game was designed specifically for Japanese laws and tastes.
However, Equality Now’s Japanese lawyer attracted a large amount of negative media attention, not only against RapeLay itself but against all Japanese games involving graphic sexual assault. Activists penned protests to game designers and to then Prime Minister Aso Taro, arguing that the game breached Japan’s obligations under the 1985 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. A feminist member of the National Diet of Japan picked up on the scandal, calling for an outright ban on all such games, and the developers of RapeLay subsequently removed the game from distribution while the Japanese ruling party organised ‘study groups’ to discuss how best to ban the games. Finally, the Ethics Organization of Computer Software – a self-regulating association of adult game production in Japan – banned RapeLay completely, along with other titles such as Suck My Dick or Die! (a game involving military rape against foreign women guerrillas), and My Sex Slave is a Classmate.
The question I’d like to ask the readers of this article is, do you think this game should have been banned (in large part a result of international pressure), or do you believe that Japan has the right to create and distribute such games if it likes, provided that they are only sold nationally? And more importantly, since this appears to be the main reason behind it being banned: do games like RapeLay encourage rape and child pornography in real life?
It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide the evidence necessary that would conclusively either prove or disprove that last question. Since data regarding pornography is not accurately amassed either by the government or by any Japanese private agency, the specific amounts of pornography creation and circulation in Japan cannot be determined. However, according to one study published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry in 1999, statistics on sexually explicit items collected by local authorities, including those depicting rape and minors respectively, has seen consistent increases over recent decades: approximately 20,000 items in 1970, just above 37,000 in 1980, 41,000 in 1990, and 76,000 in 1996 (the last year in which such data is available).
In contrast, arrests and convictions for the distribution of obscene materials in Japan have sharply declined. According to the Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA), which has been maintaining crime statistics for Japan since 1948, these figures have gone from 3,298 in 1972, to just 702 in 1995. Gang rapes and rapes committed by juveniles likewise sharply declined over this period, while the percentage of reported rapes by a stranger increased (although the population of Japan must also be taken into account, since reports by the 1996 Statistics of Japan show that it increased from approximately 107 million to 125 million during this time). Moreover, JNPA records show that the rate of rape convictions underwent a significant increase, from 85% in the early 1970s, to over 90% in the 1980s, and to 95% in the 1990s. Today, Japan maintains the single lowest number of reported rape cases, as well as the single highest percentage of arrests and convictions in reported cases of rape of any developed nation in the world. Of course, it could be argued that rape in Japan is simply under-reported, and that the fear or shame felt by many victims prohibits them from speaking out.
There have been numerous studies carried out by psychologists regarding the use of sexually explicit materials by sex offenders, but it seems impossible to find a single clear response. Some, like a report carried out by W.L. Marshall, seem to indicate that pornography used by adult sex offenders was often viewed immediately prior to their offense. Other specialists such as Nicholas Groth have written that not only does pornography not lead to rape, but that many rapists are in fact exposed to less pornography than normal males.
That about covers all the facts I have at my disposal, so I’d now like to open up the floor. Peeps, what are your thoughts? Personally speaking, I tend to be against any form of cultural imperialism unless it’s focused on stamping out physically harmful or inhumane practices (e.g. infibulation, foot binding, etc.). Since there seems to be no evidence that RapeLay and other games like it are responsible for encouraging rape in real life, I find it distasteful in the extreme but otherwise don’t see the harm in adults playing it if they so choose. However, I’d love to hear other opinions on the matter by the readers.