RapeLay – sexually explicit video gaming and youth culture


Recent press coverage has been focused on “hentai” video games being produced in Japan and distributed all across the world in an underground manner. Hentai generally refers to sexually explicit or pornographic comics and animation, and video games of this ilk have been available for years overseas. Recently, though, they have been “ripped” from DVD-ROMs and made available in digital format online – for anyone to download regardless of their location and their age.

The major problem with these games is that they seem to promote sexual violence against women, and present it in a way that makes the “player” believe it is a game, or part of a conquest, or a way to flirt, or that girls ask for it by how they dress and behave. In one scene depicted in the CNN story from a game entitled “RapeLay,” the player pursues a girl, her sister, and her mom in a subway scene and is able to stalk her, back her into corners, lift her dress, fondle her, and rape her. While genitalia are obscured in the depicted graphics, the scene and action leaves little to the imagination.

Some argue that players “kill” other players in so many video games (Call of Duty, Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, Halo 3), and that it is commonplace and even banal. Playing such games has not affected the national murder rate (in any country), and so it is illogical to believe that sexually assaulting a girl in a subway might induce someone to do the same in real life. As such, the argument goes, hentai games should be available as their main purpose and outcome is entertainment for the gamer.

I completely disagree. To be sure, Japan has very high availability rate of violent games/movies/manga/hentai but also has a very low incidence of real-world crime and violence. As a criminologist, this is intriguing and so one wonders if the video games allow for escapism to engage in deviant acts, thereby alleviating a felt need to act out in deviant ways in the real world. Research, though, has not proven a link here and I believe it is due to cultural constraints in Japan where shame and dishonor is used to keep youth and adults in line. The availability of these games to teenagers in America (regardless of whether they are available on store shelves or downloadable from BitTorrent or other P2P sites) is what is concerning to me. This is particularly because youth in our country already seem hypersexualized, and where the phenomenon of dating violence and domestic violence occurs with some regularity.

I was chatting with our colleague Amanda Burgess-Proctor, with whom we’ve published on the online victimization of adolescent girls.  She mentioned to me that this is what feminist and anti-violence activists mean when they talk about a “rape culture.” It doesn’t mean that someone playing RapeLay would automatically go out and rape someone, but games like that make light of rape, normalize, it, legitimize it, commodify it, etc., so that it is not seen as WRONG as it should be. “It’s just a joke, haha.” “It’s just a game, haha.” You get the picture.

Yes, we blast others to oblivion in first-person shooter games and have become desensitized to doing so in those environments. In fact, we’ve watched movies for decades which depict mass casualties and think nothing of it. However, games that encourage sexual aggression and violence against women crosses the line. I had friends in middle school who used to play “Leisure Suit Larry” on their Commodore 64 computers, and while Larry was all about sexual conquests, it was presented in a very cartoonish and far-fetched fashion – and nothing resembling “sexual intercourse” (consensual or otherwise) was ever depicted. Hentai games not only depict actual rape occurring, but do so in a way that celebrates it.

This cannot be tolerated. Women’s Rights Groups are requesting that the Japanese government intervene because the gaming industry does not seem to be policing themselves and considering how this is affecting today’s young males. If the current generation reluctantly accepts these games, the next generation will view them as normal – and will view the actions therein as endorsed and part of the current cultural milieu.


  1. If a person can make money and somewhat a living in Virtual Worlds (second life entertainers), when does the virtual world end and the real world begin. With this next generation growing up on virtual gaming (webkinz) what will the impact be on behavior in the real world? Article in CNN this morning about a couple in South Korea who played a virtual game where you raise a baby. Unfortunately they chose to take care of their virtual baby over their real baby, thus leading to the negligent death of their real baby. Judge found them to be addicted to online gaming. You Think!?!?!? Curious to know what research is out there on virtual worlds and the impact it is having on adolescent development?

    This leads me to my concern with RapeLay and other violent video games. If our kids are now growing up building relationships in virtual worlds, what will the impact of games like RapeLay, Super Columbine Massacre and Bully have on their behavior and relationships in schools and community? I am not talking about the violent video gaming there is plenty of research out there on that, the research would be on how virtual worlds impact youth development?

  2. i don't think i can disagree with both of you more. your lack of actual knowledge of gaming and how it influenced things is amazing, it has become readily apparent that people are becoming less violent and equal in all ways since your generation. also not like this is all towards women, and it isn't like men are the only ones who can commit rape. this is similar to violence in games in that, it is following a similar path. you don't think most violent games glorify violence and celebrate it? "She mentioned to me that this is what feminist and anti-violence activists mean when they talk about a “rape culture.” It doesn’t mean that someone playing RapeLay would automatically go out and rape someone, but games like that make light of rape, normalize, it, legitimize it, commodify it, etc., so that it is not seen as WRONG as it should be. “It’s just a joke, haha.” “It’s just a game, haha.” You get the picture." with this logic (flawed logic) i can say violent games make light of murder and its haha its just murder.

    In fact, we’ve watched movies for decades which rape and thought nothing of it.

  3. Anonymous, are you really missing connections, not even connecting computer games in any way to desensitzation of human life and problems of unsupervised children with massive access to nudity and violence, increasing screen time and other matters? My 14 year old high school students play some video games where they receive points if they rape some women during their online games "to win" and then use language when they talk about it. She was just a whore anyway as if some people count and some do not and the ones who do not get what they deserve. They have little empathy at times. I may not know as much as you about gaming culture but I do not want games where women or men are raped. Aliens then people are killed online or in games, then people are raped online, and where will this lead to next, and have you no concern about this? If we were less violent, I would not be awake at this hour working on cyber-policies and thinking about what I or we can do. Games are amazing and no one was putting down games in general. It is sometimes the culture in which I worry, and not everyone, but the few who cannot even take 5 before responding to a post, putting down the authors rather than arguments, to avoid thinking deeply for even a moment, or to avoid thinking about the big picture, even if you disagree with some assertions.

    I have lived and worked in Japan. The cultures are significantly different and so it is tough to compare the US and Japan in these ways, but Japan definitely has some cultural restraints as it was phrased. I am less concerned about virtual worlds and am thinking about who participates. When a few students fight over another looking at them funny, that he always borrows paper, or in other ways, we really see the lack of maturity that they may bring to much of their real or virtual worlds and with more downloadable games readily available, some with rape scenes, I am concerned and I think about what the next generation will think means nothing.

  4. Middle America always blows a gasket when they find out about hentai, the truth is this kind of pornography has been around forever (in terms of game content Rapelay isn't even the worst, by far). Japan itself is a very sexual country, the only reason the genital censorship law exists are because of the United States occupation. Japan was an extremely sexual country back in the Edo period, (they had hentai then too, a very famous painting on an octopus getting to know a Japanese woman) gay love, relationships with young children, multiple partners. The only reason it slowed down was because of the United States telling them it was wrong and that they should be ashamed. What appears bizarre and horrifying to western feminist doesn't even occur to the average Japanese woman. As stated in the article and the post above the culture is COMPLETELY different, politeness and shame are driving forces behind most peoples motivations. And even now, most of the women inside the country see THEMSELVES as submissive or even inferior. And they honestly don't have a problem with that, if you're just taken aback and surprised why Japanese women aren't outraged and demanding this game be removed from existence/the developers killed is the equivalent tearing off a muslims woman's ḥijāb and then being awe-struck as to why she isn't thankful. That IS their culture sorry to say, if anything your stance comes off as a typical victimized western woman who cannot see beyond her own front yard. This ISN'T your culture, Rapelay ISN'T distributed here; you have to actively seek it out and download it illegally (and know how to read Japanese) like you stated. No one is forced to play this game, the three things you require to play this game consist of: a rape fetish, an entanglement in the internet hentai culture to even know this game exist (or wait for CNN or bloggers to sensationalize it into the spotlight), the techno savvy to download this game and actually play it (it's not easy to play or even get a hold on). So already this game affects a very small group of perverts outside of Japan, these are the people playing this game. It's not advertised at gamestop or walmart or anyplace your child or neighbor could even purchase it (American game retails don't even carry Adult Only rated games like this). Being so worried about this game translates to being worried about the people that play it essentially which is stepping dangerously close to violating some first amendment rights. "What you enjoy sexually is disturbing to me, let me prosecute you for it because of what it might potentially make me do." Really, where do you draw the line? this isn't your country this game is made and distributed in, stop trying to police the world.

  5. I am responding generally. Many children have access to the internet. Not that software blocking programs are all that effective, but these programs generally do not block many computer games and programs especially from countries beyond the US which are generally not even labeled for adults with adult content. Children simply walk to the bathroom with cell phones while at school, for example, and during school hours, cell phones that they are legally entitled to have in our state while on campus through interpretations of case law on statutes. Some children will look at and play what they can, and while the "games" may stem from beyond the US, the behaviors of the children happen in our communities, and parents trust us as teachers to help to protect their children when in school. These games in general are easier to purchase for many young people than those at local stores mentioned in one reply because children would frequently require transportation. Students give money to a clerk who gives them a Visa gift card once, and they are off. Or, locally, they purchase games such as these as swap meets, or so my students tell me. That we might know about this as adults in ways legitimizes the situation.

    It is not a first amendment rights violation, nor policing of the world, nor a mini-comparison of sexuality in countries, to be concerned, to bring awareness to this or any other online game, and to consider what we might do to raise healthy children in our own communities. It makes sense especially as education budgets are slashed and summer school is almost non-existent, leaving many children plenty of time to potentially get into all kinds of trouble, especially online and almost anywhere, which has implications in their real worlds as well, and ours.

  6. Apparently no one told you the game was never released in the USA and has already been withdrawn from sale most copies now circulating are themselves already illegal by way of piracy.

  7. What presence or absence of the sexualization of girls and women in all media especially in movies, music videos, music lyrics, video games, books, blogs and Internet sites?
    I did research on this and came up with a lot of information from the following site: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx
    This report examines and summarizes psychological theory, research and clinical experience addressing the sexualization of girls. The report (a) defines sexualization; (b) examines the prevalence and provides examples of sexualization in society and in cultural institutions, as well as interpersonally and intrapsychically; (c) evaluates the evidence suggesting that sexualization has negative consequences for girls and for the rest of society; and (d) describes positive alternatives that may help counteract the influence of sexualization.
    Here are some components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when
    • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
    • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
    • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
    • Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
    All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, and women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.
    Every media form studied provide evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet and advertising. Some studies have examined forms of media that are especially popular with children and adolescents, such as video games and teen-focused magazines. Positive alternatives and consequences of the sexualization of girls are also included on the site. A lot of information is provided on this site, so by viewing it will become

  8. I think the American media outlets and their followers should go climb a tree. Rapelay is NOT real-life. Take it easy, people! (However, I would not recommend this sort of a game to those who needs to learn how to draw a line between what goes on behind the screen and in real-life.)

    The amount of time it takes to complete a groping or a rape session in that game would be more than enough to hose down over a dozen cannon-fodders in first-person shootout games. That amount of time would be more than enough to nuke one or more cities in games like Civilization. By this double-standard, people seem to have an easier time getting over killing sprees and weapons of mass destruction than sexual violence.

    Insofar as sexual violence is concerned, Rapelay does not even come close to some of the stuffs found in alt.sex.stories. Also, if Rapelay were to be a ‘rape simulator’, then it would have to include things like having user interface that allows the player to physically overpower the victims in not-so-pretty manner. Sorry, but Rapelay does not get the gold medal.

    If someone still insists on cracking down on games like Rapelay, then why not pressure elected officials to introduce thought police? However, break out a calculator and see how much tax needs to be collected to police cyberworld.

    I think this is CNN’s attempt to generate easy money by rehashing old news into a media spin. Constipation News Network.

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