Tumblr Post Reveals Sexist & Pseudo-Activist Meltdown Surrounding “DnD With Porn Stars”

Remember I Hit It With My Axe? That weekly webshow where a a group of pornstars and erotica models played D&D? It made quite the splash back in 2010 for obvious reasons, but less well-known is the mire of misogyny and elitism that the group (especially their outspoken DM Zak S) encountered before the show was ever even released, a story which one of the models involved, Mandy Morbid, took the time to explain in a Tumblr post that should be your #LongReads of the day. If you think ‘girl gamers’ are an explosive issue, it’s nothing compared to ‘porn gamers’.

Mandy’s post hit Tumblr on Saturday, and details not just the run-of-the-mill girl gamer-shaming, but also the libel campaign against their IHWMA’s Dungeon Master and fervent defender, Zak S. Basically, the IHWMA crew and Zak especially are something of a watershed moment, because of the series’ high visibility and Zak’s workings deep in the tabletop RPG industry (he was recently a consultant for D&D 5e and is an award-winning game designer). Zak’s professional and recreational preferences forcibly insert a whole wave of potentially polarizing discussions into the community–Mandy perhaps describes it best:

He has one of the most popular blogs in tabletop gaming but doesn’t make his money in the gaming industry—so he has the ability to reach people without the same fear of making waves that a full-time RPG designer would. He is in the rare position of being able to tell the truth and be listened to, so he feels an obligation to stick up for people.

This might seem like old news seeing as how IHWMA stopped airing about four years ago (although it does look like they’re editing new episodes as of July!) yet I’m seeing the aftermath continuing in forums well into July 2014, and aside from the ongoing controversies, it’s a fascinating intersection of a whole slew of issues, including pseudo-feminism, slutshaming, the dignity of the sex worker, gaming conservatism, and of course, that ugly wart on contemporary gaming that is the ‘girl gamer’.

If you’ve never heard of IHWMA, here’s a quick rundown:
Mandy Morbid is a model for Suicide Girls, an avid tabletop gamer and sci-fi fan, and was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, in which the body produces defective collagen–basically, the glue in your body turns into silly putty, a situation which left Mandy enfeebled and bed-ridden for years. In an effort to both entertain her and lift her spirits, her boyfriend, porn actor/artist/tabletop gaming blogger/RPG designer Zak S, introduced her first to Warhammer 40K, which led to Dungeons and Dragons sessions, which led to regular D&D sessions with their compatriots in the erotica industry. General gaming site The Escapist took note of Zak’s blog DnD with Pornstars and asked to film their sessions–hence, I Hit It With My Axe was born, amid as much eye-rolling and tut-tutting as there was fanfare and media interest.

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The predictable end of the story is the reaction of the conservative gaming community, which was quick to bash on the video-series for a number of completely inappropriate criteria: ‘pornstars in gaming? Isn’t that a bit, I don’t know, lowbrow?’ ‘Pornstar, whore, bottom-feeder, what’s the difference?’ ‘Aren’t pornstars sort of bad for women, and gaming pornstars bad for gaming?’ ‘Just a bunch of hookers making noise.’ If you want links, head over to the Tumblr post–there’s like, three per paragraph. The forum responses to the IHWMA episodes are particuarly telling. Disgusting, but it gets oddly worse:

So Zak seems to be a pretty outspoken guy to say the least, but last year he had the audacity to call out a group of pseudo-feminist activists slamming James Desborough (writer of “vaguely erotic” RPGs) for rape advocacy, and calling for his blacklisting and banning from the tabletop business. Consequently, Zak was labeled a “rape apologist”, despite the fact that there was no evidence whatsoever that Desborough had allegedly said he would “RAPE his critics.”

This month, Zak was hired as an outside consultant for the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the critics went blue with rage, saying that Wizards of the Coast was “legitimizing” one of the most “toxic” D&D fans on the internet. A campaign of groundless accusations similar to Desborough’s situation aimed at painting Zak as a sexist, transphobe, homophobe, ableist (discrimination of the disabled) and a slew of other baffling labels, considering his position and choice of company: the DnD With Pornstars gaming group includes individuals of all orientations, including 2 disabled members. And what’s most confusing–these pseudo-activists completely disregard the comments of Zak’s sexually and situationally diverse friends, thus contributing to a silencing of the LGBT community that they’re supposedly fighting against. Whether the ‘activism’ aspect is just a smokescreen or if they really are this misguided is hard to tell.

I strongly urge you to read the Tumblr post, as there’s so much more to discuss than what I’ve touched on, but here’s a few take-aways:
1) Calling an erotic actress a hooker is like calling a vagina a c**t–they mean the “same thing,” but also sure as hell don’t mean the same thing.
2) There are as many hypocrites in social activism as there are in any other endeavor.
3) Tabletop RPGing is undergoing social growing pains; it will not be a quiet ordeal.

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