Cards Against Humanity—which literally bills itself as being “for horrible people”—has always been a very complicated game for those who invested in social politics and feminism. Sure, making jokes about wanting to bang genetically engineered super soldiers is always a good time, but the game also has a history of cards with rape jokes and transphobic material on them, which is categorically not. Due to the actions of one of the game’s creators, defending it is about to get a lot more complicated.
On Friday, CAH creator Max Temkin wrote a long post on his Tumblr announcing that a fellow Goucher College alumnus with whom he’d “had a really brief relationship” publicly accused him of rape in a personal Facebook post. In his rebuttal, he calls these allegations “baseless gossip” (which, it should be pointed out, is a term with a very gender-biased history) and shifts the blames on rape culture at large rather than any actions he might have taken during the relationship:
Part of rape culture that hurts everyone is that it makes it difficult to talk about what is and is not consent, and makes it incredibly scary for people to speak up when their boundaries are crossed. It is entirely possible she read something completely different than I did into an awkward college hookup. If any part of that was traumatic for her, I am sincerely sorry, and I wish we would have had a chance to address it privately. I’ve sent her an email and a Facebook message and given her my contact information, but so far I haven’t heard back (but she did edit her post to remove my name).
He also makes it a point to remind readers of his efforts to remove those aforementioned rape jokes from future decks, to outline and then subsequently deny he will be using legal options (which many have taken to be an indirect threat against his accuser), and to maintain that he will “continue to be a feminist and an advocate for women’s rights.”
The blog post spread across the Internet and Temkin received both an outpouring of support, mostly from male gamers, as well as a large amount of criticism—most notably from Kelly Kend at Medium, romance novelist Lilith T. Bell, and “Liberate Zealot” of Feminist Armchair Regime, the latter of whom also attended Goucher and suggests that students on campus were aware of this story in 2006.
Magz, the woman behind the original Facebook post, has since created her own blog post (entitled “Humanity Against Sexual Assault”), which reiterates the initial allegation and describes her decision to come forward. She writes:
I am not interested in pressing charges. I don’t think my attacker is a serial predator. I see my assault as an almost textbook example of a “crime of opportunity.” I have no interest in personal compensation, monetary or otherwise. I have no interest in his company or in stifling his intellectual or personal life. If I did, I would use my full name. I frankly have an infinite number of better, more positive things on which to focus my life and attentions.
What I have learned from all of this is that, for all of my fears of rejection, dismissal, and ridicule I have only received expressions of love, respect, and support. All of this anger and energy would be better focused on ensuring that every survivor should be able to speak out about their experiences secure in the knowledge that they are not alone, that they too are entitled to their own voice and their own life.
She also adds at the end that the statement was sent to Temkin in response to the e-mail he mentioned in his own post, but that she received no reply.
Because none of us were in that dorm room eight years ago, we aren’t ever going to know without a shadow of a doubt what truly happened between Magz and Temkin. However, it’s very important both to note that Magz has little to gain from making a false allegation—in no small part because Temkin’s celebrity in the gaming world could and no doubt has inspired fans to automatically take his side against hers—and to note that speaking eloquently about the perils of rape culture does not under any circumstances absolve a person of being a rapist. As Lilith Bell notes in her dissection of Temkin’s story,
Max Temkin is very good at using social justice language. He’s very good at making himself seem sympathetic and reasonable. Rapists are perfectly capable of doing all of those things. They aren’t non-human monsters that leap out of closets, with no awareness of society or communication skills. They’re people, like any one of us. They can be intelligent. They can be involved in social justice. They can create awesome games. They can come across as reasonable, kind people. They can, in fact, be reasonable and kind people in every way except for that pesky raping thing.
Is Max Temkin a rapist? I don’t know. I do know that he’s written a manipulative post, though. I know that he’s spreading harmful rape culture myths under the cloak of being a “feminist and an advocate for women’s rights.” I know that he’s using intimidation tactics against someone who, because of his platform and wealth and gender, has far less power than he does.
At the very least, Temkin manages to be right about something: rape culture is a terrible blight that makes talking about sexual assault incredibly difficult. Magz came forward because she’d been inspired by women openly describing their own painful experiences during the #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign, and she now speaks out as a way to own her story and support others who’ve suffered similarly. Regardless of how much you might enjoy Cards Against Humanity, this growing refusal on the part of survivors of all genders to keep silent about their own rapes and assaults is necessary and important, and will hopefully pave the way for positive and lasting changes in the way our society views sex and consent.
(via Jezebel, image via Jill Pantozzi)