To get a complete picture of the Penny Arcade Dickwolf Debacle, take a trip over to the Debacle Timeline (which I heavily leaned on for the below timeline).
I’ve been following this debacle since the beginning, and I’ve read pretty much everything generally available on people’s thoughts from both sides. The general consensus seems to be that even if it was okay for Penny Arcade to post the original comic, their handling of the situation afterward was very poor. And, while I see a lot of people asking for everyone to consider this from the point of view of the rape survivors, no one has once asked people to consider this from the point of view of PA. I attempt to do that below.
Now, understand that most of what I’m going to say is conjecture on my part. I have not been in contact with PA, this is just the general impression that I’ve gotten while following this controversy.
First, I’m going to say right now, I’m assuming the PA guys (Mike/Gabe and Jerry/Tycho) are not assholes. Because they’re not. These are the people who created Child’s Play, a charity to get sick children video games. There are numerous stories floating around of touching moments of them at PAX, the video game convention they organize. They are often, to be clear, sarcastic, but that does not make them assholes; their sarcasm is used primarily for humor and defense, not attacking.
Also, since I’m not part of the rape survivors community, I do not feel comfortable making a similar timeline from their perspective. If a member of the rape survivor community would like to prepare such a timeline, I would gladly post it.
With that in mind, I’m going to give a timeline that I believe to represent Mike and Jerry’s perspective of this controversy.
August 11, 2010 - Penny Arcade posts a comic called “The Sixth Slave.” I’m certain they’ve posted comics where, beforehand, they thought, “We’re going to be getting a lot of angry emails about this one.” This was not one of those comics. This comic is not, by Penny Arcade standards, offensive, and is not, in the classical sense of the term, even a “rape joke,” but a joke that mentions rape.
August 12, 2010 - Shakesville responds. Shaker Milli A, a self-described “humorless feminist,” explains why she is a humorless feminist, using the PA comic to illustrate it. This results in a number of readers emailing PA to object, a process Shakesville calls teaspooning. Penny Arcade emails back, saying they make offensive comics all the time and, contrary to making light of rape, they’re illustrating that rape is terrible and people (specifically in MMOs) have a level of callousness that contrasts sharply with their “heroic” deeds.
Between the comments of the Shakesville post and the emails, the Penny Arcade guys are called rape apologists and contributors to rape culture. Not having encountered these terms before, they don’t know what it means, and take the words at face value.
August 13, 2010 - Penny Arcade responds with a comic and a blog post. Their comic is them being snarky and defensive. Their blog posts tell two very telling things: no one told them what rape culture actually was, and that they were genuinely confused as to why people were offended by this specific comic to the degree that they were.
Shakesville, predictably, objects. Melissa McEwan’s objection is snarky, dismissive, and defensive and makes no effort to extend outreach or understanding to Mike and Jerry (who clearly don’t understand where she’s coming from) which is exactly what she’s accusing them of doing.
At this point, Jerry drops off the radar. As he will explain later, he believes the Shakers’ world and his world are too different for an effective dialog to exist, so he drops the controversy and moves on with his life.
Mike, still genuinely confused why people are objecting to this specific comic, links to bestiality and pedophilia jokes in Penny Arcade comics in the Shakesville post comments. He’s not trolling, he’s genuinely confused and citing his references. He gets yelled at and responds sarcastically.
At this point, as far as Mike and Jerry are concerned, the controversy is over. They move on.
September 10, 2010 - At PAX Prime, Mike draws a dickwolf at the request of the audience. Prior to this point, the dickwolf existed only to further the original joke. Here, the dickwolf is removed from its rapist origins and becomes merely a wolf whose every limb is an erect penis, which many PA’ers find hilarious. Remember, this is the community that loves dick jokes so much they encourage the baking of “dickerdoodles,” cookies in the shape of dicks. And, if you think about it and remove the rapist origins, a wolf whose every limb is an erect penis is kind of funny.
October 6, 2010 - Penny Arcade starts selling dickwolf tshirts. Remember, at this point the dickwolf isn’t so much a rapist as a funny creature with dicks for limbs. With dickwolves on the mind, Mike thinks back to the original controversy, and shows that no one carefully and non-offensively explained to him triggers by mocking trigger warnings.
October 19, 2010 - Courtney Stanton objects and announces a Dickwolves Survivors Guild t-shirt, profits to be donated to a survivor charity.
December 1, 2010 - Penny Arcade starts selling dickwolf pennants and lady tshirts to support their new “mascot.”
January 24, 2011 - Courtney Stanton announces she was asked to, but will not be speaking at Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX East), citing Penny Arcade’s lack of apology/correction over the dickwolf controversy.
January 26, 2011 - Dickwolf merch disappears from PA store. Courtney Stanton thanks Penny Arcade for removing the merch.
January 29, 2011 - Mike explains the dickwolf merch was removed because he had been personally told that the sale of dickwolf merch at PAX would make some people uncomfortable. He is obviously very annoyed with this. Later on Twitter, Mike says he’ll be wearing his dickwolf shirt to PAX.
January 30, 2011 - Mike tells the DickWolvington twitter account to stop harassing rape survivors.
January 31, 2011 - When harassed on Twitter, Mike responds snarkily.
February 1, 2011 - When asked if PAX East is going to be awkward, Mike says he expects the controversy to blow over after a couple of days. The DickWolvington twitter account disappears.
February 2, 2011 - Twitter account @ghostpostin encourages people to murder Mike’s family.
February 3, 2011 - With the threat against Mike’s family, Mike and Jerry realize the controversy has spiraled too far out of control. They each respond. Both tell people that they are personally done with the controversy, to leave it alone, and everyone (on both sides) stop attacking people.