(Note: The RPG.net mods have locked the thread. DO NOT START ANOTHER THREAD ABOUT THIS, they have enough to deal with already.)
The Coles Notes version and context of the e-mails is below. In between e-mails I have included context as to what was happening.
June 14-17: Ettin posts this thread on the RPG.net Tangency boards. Discussion revolves around Desborough’s actions, his works, and how to handle rape in TTRPGS. It slowly comes out that Desborough has written for a number of indie game publishers and several works of his are still in print.
June 18: Mongoose contacts me requesting an information update for their Mongoose Infantry program, of which I used to be a member. I respond that I want nothing to do with a company that publishes a rape apologist and thinks it’s a good idea to name projects “Love You Long Time”. I create this petition and go to bed. The petition e-mails both Steve Jackson Games and Mongoose Publishing.
June 19 (Morning/Afternoon): Mongoose creates the poll “Is Mongoose a Bad, Bad Company – You Decide” (Google cache here) and asks people to vote via their Twitter feed. Approximately one hour after the post, I begin receiving rape threats. Several rape threats call me “an attention seeking slut” or refer to me as having “attention slut syndrome” and suggest that the only way to “cure” me is to violently rape me. Both phrases (but not rape threats) were used with impunity on the Mongoose boards, although Mongoose will delete your posts if you call another poster a “dick”. Several e-mails mentioned Mongoose by name, and one e-mailer said that he was going to “rape me like Matt should have.” The e-mails from Mongoose become increasingly abusive and pedantic.
Sometime after this a petition went up on change.org to stop me from making petitions.
Regarding the Counter-Petition: It does not spam rape threats at me. The people who sent me rape threats looked up my name, looked at my posting history, and inferred me e-mail address from that. Much more cyber-stalking, much more creepy, and much more in line with actual rapist behaviour. Threats have been forwarded to the relevant authorities.
June 19/20 (Night): After receiving mod permission to post the received threats without identifying information, I begin to do so. I edit out e-mail addresses, IPs, and avoid posting the ones that specifically reference game companies, trusting that the owners of said companies will want to handle that internally. The posters of RPG.net show that there is a pointed difference between making fun of rape and mocking rapist behaviour.
June 20: Mongoose_Matt, screen name of Matthew Sprange, begins posting in the RPG.net thread. One of the posters on the Mongoose boards identified herself as female, and Sprange assumes that person is me. Despite having access to my e-mail, IP, and login information, the fact that the poster and I share a gender was enough for Sprange feel confident that we were the same person without needing to check. The thread becomes a train wreck and is shut down. DO NOT GO TO RPG.NET AND START ANOTHER THREAD ABOUT THIS.
I e-mail some of the rape threats I have been getting to Mongoose and wait for a reply. I mention that the threats started after they posted their poll. The poll disappears, but I receive no further e-mail.
June 21: Sprange accuses me of threatening him with legal action because I pointed out the rape threats. Needless to say, I have not threatened any legal action, and have merely been forwarding the threatening e-mails to appropriate authorities. Sprange requests I never contact him again, and I am happy to comply.
The e-mails follow. I am blue and Matthew Sprange is green. They have been edited to redact personal information and to reduce quote recursion.
June 18 (Me)
After finding out that you continue to publish material by someone who explicitly promotes rape (Sex, Dice & Gamer Chicks by James Desborough), I have no interest in remaining in your program.
This is an absolute betrayal of all your female fans and I want no part of a company who promotes the work of violent misogynist or code names projects “Me Love You Long Time” (which is ALSO breathtakingly racist). I have never been more disappointed in a game company.
I am ashamed to ever have been associated with Mongoose.
June 18 (Mongoose)
Umm, I fear you have not read the book – it most certainly does not promote rape, nor would we ever publish a book that did so…
June 18 (Me)
Sex, Dice & Gamer Chicks includes the assertion that female gamers prostitute themselves for in-game benefits and that groping and ogling them is acceptable.
I have read the book, Mr. Sprange. It is nothing but hate speech under the guise of “humour”.
June 19 (Mongoose)
Given that it is humour, is it not possible that the guy who wrote it may be joking?
June 19 (Me)
Promoting hatred against another group of people is not funny. Considering he recently wrote a post in which he said “rape is fucking awesome,” there is no reason to believe he was joking.
If you find a book that promotes sexual assault funny, that speaks volumes about you and your company.
Note: I misread “Rape is a fucking awesome plot device” as “Rape is fucking awesome as a plot device”. Given Desborough’s responses and the fact he thinks the rape threats sent to me are intended as jokes, and that it is appropriate to write spells which specifically include rape (Nymphology), I stand by my original assessment.
June 19 (Mongoose)
Where exactly does the book promote hatred of any kind?
Where was this post made?
June 19 (Me)
The book relies on “humour” that treats women as mysterious creatures rather than human beings. It repeatedly implies that sexually assaulting female gamers is acceptable because we’re just in the hobby to find sex. This is explicitly stated in the “gamer girlfriend” portion, which is IIRC Chapter Two or Chapter Three.
Here is a link to his initial post, after he was removed from Kickstarter. He had created a game that revolved around tentacle monsters raping teenage girls. In a shining moment for the hobby, enough gamers protested Kickstarter that they finally removed it.
Here is a rebuttal, which points out why Desborough’s arguments are noxious. The takeaway? At best, James Desborough is a terrible writer who does not understand his audience. At worst? There’s a reason all of his works centre around rape and sexual assault as entertainment/humour and that reason is very, very scary.
Here’s a link to a blog that receives 100k+ hits daily. The main writer was an advisor on the Kerry campaign and the person who orchestrated the boycotts that eventually got Glen Beck taken off the air. Not only is James Desborough getting negative media attention from nerds, but negative media attention from mainstream news sources. (Shakesville has been cited in newpapers and academic papers and is well-regarded journalistically.)
Here’s a person I found through google, who is upset with the sexism in gaming. Near the middle, they mention researching what James Desborough has done so they can boycott those companies.
There are more links within the links. Now that I have provided you with information, would you care to explain why you thought the sexist and racist “Me Love You Long Time” was an acceptable code name?
Both links explain why it’s offensive.
June 19 (Mongoose)
First off, let me say that I am quite happy to discuss this and, if an actual offence has been made, we are quite happy to remove this book from our library. However, I have spent some time looking into this, and I have a few points to put across myself.
Well, first off, there is no Gamer Girlfriend section. If you would like to point out specific passages that have caused offence, I will happily review them.
However, I do have to say that the humour in this book is not aimed at women at all – it is aimed at male gamers and stereotypical attitudes that have been witnessed in them. I would not regard this book as anything other than pro-female and the female staff at Mongoose have agreed with this assessment.
Now this is what I started reading after you first contacted me. You quote him as saying;
“[r]ape is fucking awesome”
What he _actually_ said was;
“Rape or attempted rape is a fucking awesome plot element, one of many.”
Now, you can agree or disagree with that statement, but what he was actually saying was not what you were quoting. You purposefully mis-quoted to make your own point – and that is faintly distasteful. His point was completely different to the one you were making.
I can understand why you would disagree with him – but why not argue the point, rather than make up something worse?
As it happens, James offered us the same game some years ago. We turned it down.
This gentleman, at least, quotes James properly.
I would have said that this line has long since entered popular culture, though you make a reasonable point here.
June 19 (Mongoose)
Hang on a minute, where exactly are you getting this line from in the book? Before you answer, bear in mind I have a copy open on my computer right now and can do quick word searches.
This is when the pedantry starts. It is apparently acceptable to make rape jokes, as long as rape is only implied
. It is okay to suggest sexual assault is an acceptable as long as it is implied.
You know, it’s the implication
. Needless to say, I find this unacceptable and say so.
Also, if something sexist and racist has entered pop culture, it is still sexist and racist. The sexism and racism don’t magically go away because a lot of stupid people are sexist and racist!
June 19 (Me)
That wasn’t from the book, that was from your “…miniatures game that, for the moment, is being called Project Love You Long Time (yes, that _will_ change…)” that you mentioned in this post:
I also attached a screenshot. Saying you will change it doesn’t matter. The fact you thought it an acceptable code name at all let alone one worth using to look for talent, is shameful.
That would be an acceptable argument if the game didn’t support the horrible attitudes men have towards women in the hobby. It is not okay to joke that women are just looking for “alpha males”, or to imply that they are not in the hobby as serious gamers – those attitudes are what drive women out of the hobby. As to the female members of your staff agreeing with this notion, there are several women who have internalized this self-destructive attitude as a way of fitting in with the group, or, worse still, maintaining their employment. Perhaps asking women who are not pulling paycheques from your company might be prudent.
Please re-read your counter-argument. Done? Okay. Here’s the problem: the difference between the two concepts is so minuscule as to be completely irrelevant. That you felt that slight wording changes were enough to justify that viewpoint is more than faintly distasteful.
I apologize for mis-quoting him, but your counter-argument in no way invalidates my initial point. This is especially true given the interactive nature of gaming, where this “fucking awesome plot element” is going to be applied to either one of the player-characters directly or to one of the NPCs with whom the player-characters will be interacting. At best, this is uncomfortable, and, at worst, may trigger flashbacks amongst players (1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men; since the average gaming group is 6 people, that means that at least one player is likely a survivor of sexual assault).
That Desborough goes to such lengths, and such inarticulate proclamations as that rape is a “fucking awesome plot element” is a warning sign in and of itself. Read the blog post for which I have already sent the link. You will notice that his focus is entirely female-victim based and that, in his example, he interpreted the scene between Daenerys and Khal Drogo as rape in George R.R. Martin’s book. It’s certainly portrayed that way in the TV show, but the book it is notable for the romantic portrayal of asking for consent. That Desborough so clearly misses the literary point in his eagerness to read rape scenes is deeply troubling and a sign of a disturbed individual.
All of James Desborough’s games involves rape, in one form or another. All of his writing explicitly involves rape and relies on the “humorous” notion that women are not people. By continuing to offer a platform for what can most kindly be termed Desborough’s deeply disturbing fetishes, Mongoose is implicitly endorsing them. If that is the official position of Mongoose, I will accept it. I will, however, be taking my money elsewhere, and will be encouraging my friends, relatives, and local game stores to do the same.
The Something Awful
thread contains quotations from pretty much all of his work, including ones where he claims that women may not be human, and several rape spells. The undercurrent of misandry is also troubling; Desborough assumes a female-victim/male-rapist model, which implies that rapists are always men (not the case) and that men are never raped. Fifteen percent of sexual assault survivors are men who were assaulted before they turned sixteen (Source
). One in six boys will be sexually abused (Source
). One in thirty-three men will survive an attempted or completed rape (Source
). This is a problem Desborough willfully ignores and in doing so erases the experiences of male survivors.
June 20 (Mongoose)
Right, now I understand what you are talking about.
The use of that title was, obviously I think, designed to invoke what is probably the most famous Vietnam film, and is one of many lines that get quoted from it.
It was used with the film in mind and no thought to what the line might actually mean to others. Upon reflection, and upon reading the sites you directed me to, I agree with you completely on this point, and have removed the reference from that forum page. It won’t be used again.
You have already said on the forum that, while you are no fan of the book and would not buy it, you do not actually have a problem with it – it does not offend you (those were your words).
So, let’s get beyond that. The book is a parody, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is essentially harmless.
_If_ you have a specific problem with a specific passage in the book, let me know. I’ll look into it and, if you make your point, I will change it.
Which leaves us with James.
Mis-quoting him on this was an incredibly stupid (not to say immoral) thing to do, and I am still mystified as to why you felt you needed to. It reminds me nothing so much as Michael Moore, who just cannot seem to say anything without lying and mis-representing, and it just gets people’s backs up – who then lose sight of the fact that the _points_ Moore raises may well be valid.
Where are you getting those figures from?
Other people have mentioned the Colour Purple, I could mention Cracker and Jimmy McGovern. Rape is clearly present in fiction and as a plot device – you can go right back to the Iliad and the Bible to find it abundant.
However, you haven’t chosen to go after any of those. Your target has been one man and a tiny games company. Why is that?
Are you sure? Because if just one doesn’t, you have run into the hyperbole trap again.
What he has _not_ explicitly done is advocate rape beyond fiction. If you can show me where he has explicitly condoned it in real life, I will be on your side on a flash.
I am very sorry to hear that. We are a small company in the middle of a recession, and this will hurt us. Maybe it will just mean we can’t bring a new book out on time. Maybe it will mean someone gets fired because we cannot meet the wage bill. Maybe, if you get enough people on side, we shut down altogether.
And if we do, what exactly would you have achieved?
I do have a counteroffer for you (beyond the one above where I will happily review any specific problems you have with the book). We have just 50-odd copies of this book left in our warehouse.
Buy them all. I’ll let you have them at distributor rates as they will be in bulk, and then you can do whatever you like with them. I promise it will not be reprinted. If you and the people you have gathered online feel strongly enough about this, make the effort. Buy up what remains so you can make your point, stop publication and the poor company caught in the middle of this crossfire is not hurt in the process.
Does that sound reasonable?
I’m just going to link to Derailing for Dummies
. This e-mail is bizarre and incoherent and manages to prove Sprange has never read the books he references, or if he has, he absolutely lacks the critical thinking skills required to understand them. Also, I am not calling for a ban. I am simply stating that as long as he continues to publish Desborough’s works, I will not be buying his product. He is free to publish them; I am free to tell potential customers not to buy Mongoose products. This is how a free market works, and he says as much in his closing paragraphs.
It is also worth noting that Sprange is so invested in arguing with me that he refuses to believe the widely-known and easily-googled statistics regarding sexual assault rates. This, to me, is the clearest proof that he is arguing in bad faith and is more interested in badgering me than resolving this issue.
This is also where Sprange assumes that the self-identified female poster on the Mongoose boards is myself. Apparently sharing the same gender is all that is required to confirm “my” identity. This speaks volumes about the gender divide in Mongoose products and their ability to appeal to a diverse audience.
June 20 (Me)
Thank you for removing “Project Love You Long Time”. I trust you are planning on issuing a public apology.
I have not posted on the forums, and I don’t know where you got that impression. My screen name is [Redacted]; you can check IP logs and user information.
At this point, I will have helped to shut down a company who responds to criticism by directing verbal abuse and rape threats against their critics. You have not done a good job of showing why anyone should support your company.
Intriguing proposal. Do you mind if I post it online?
June 20 (Mongoose)
I see no reason not to do so. [Re: Apologizing for “Project Love You Long Time”]
If that is not the case, I apologize. [Re: Mistaken identity]
No supporter of mine (you seen to be putting me in the same category as James now – do you consider WotC and SJG in the same vein?) has emailed you at all. I would reject the opinion of anyone who did something like this.
Thank you, I will have a careful read through those links later today. [Re: Information on rape and sexual assault rates]
Whoa, hang on – what verbal abuse and rape threats have I directed against you? I would like you to provide solid evidence that this has come from myself or this company.
Well, you didn’t wait for my response.
What I _was_ going to suggest was that I would pay half. Out of my own pocket, not the company’s, I would pay half towards this. As I keep trying to point out, I am not unsympathetic, and I have been trying to find a qway to work with you.
Your recent posts to RPG.net seem to indicate you have no wish to come to a resolution with us. If that is the case, please let me know and I will bother you no longer.
I find it interesting that Sprange has no problem believing that Desborough’s supporters are the type to send rape threats, yet vocally denies that any of them are Mongoose customers. He also outright says I’m lying about receiving harassment. Gee, where have I heard that before
I also love how the “solution” is for me to buy all the books. This is not how you deal with disgruntled customers, Mongoose!
June 20 (Me)
The rape threats started approximately one hour after your “Is Mongoose a Bad, Bad Company?” post. Several have mentioned you by name. I fail to see how that isn’t a connection.
June 20 (Me)
I have received another one calling me “an attention seeking slut” and suggesting the only way to change that is to anally rape me.
I believe “attention seeking slut” is what your first poster on the poll called me.
Note: I am not accusing Mongoose of harassing me directly. However, their actions led to a swift and aggressive by their fans, which included rape threats mentioning the company by name. As the proof that Sprange requested, I sent him copies of some of the e-mails I received. Shortly after I sent this e-mail (1-3 hours) the “Is Mongoose a Bad, Bad Company” thread disappeared. I received no response from Mongoose for approximately 24 hours.
June 21 (Mongoose)
You really are barking up th wrong tree, and if you are going to throw accusations around that I am deliberately getting people to target you, I want nothing more to do with you. I have tried to engage with you on a reasonable and rational level, and it seems you just want to escalate things.
I am afraid that is something I do not want to get involved in.
I wish you the very best for the future.
And that concludes that. I was not
expecting this response from Mongoose. When they removed the thread, I assumed it was because they were going to post a new one telling their fans not to send rape threats; even Desborough did that. Instead, they have chosen to ignore that there is any problem and that their actions caused any harm. I did not accuse Mongoose of intentionally targeting me, rather I attempted to point out that the way they handed the situation led to harassment. Moreover, on the @MongoosePub
Twitter feed Sprange posted “For the first time in eleven years, I have regretted coming into work…” a clear reference to the protest e-mails he has received. It is incredibly telling that he regards a protest against his products as a source of emotional strain, yet refuses to acknowledge the psychological damage done by receiving repeated rape threats.
As to the petition, it targets Mongoose and Steve Jackson Games equally; the address changes depending on the e-mail address. I have received no word from Steve Jackson Games, and I trust they are handling this matter with the gravity it deserves.
If you want to do something, you can donate to RAINN
, Little Warriors
, or your local sexual assault counselling centre.
Comments are being left open. I have learned from Anita Sarkeesian
that the best way to prove misogyny is a problem is to let misogynists speak. However, I will be locking comments after an arbitrary amount of time.
Any further rape threats will be forwarded to the relevant authorities. If you are also receiving threats, I recommend IC3