The Goldshire Inn on the Moonguard server -- at its most tame
The Goldshire Inn on the Moonguard server — at its most tame
Image: blizzard, captured by redditor Ordinator

Unbeknownst to most, the popular online multiplayer game World of Warcraft isn’t just a role-playing game in the traditional sense. There’s also a subculture using it for “erotic role-playing” (or ERP) to fulfill kinky fantasies played out through fantastical avatars.

But a recent motherboard artigo dives into the dark underbelly of the game’s most infamous sex dungeon. Reporter Dominik Schott spent ample time at the Goldshire Inn on the Moonguard server, interviewing over 40 players about its typical happenings.

The activities that take place there have earned it the nickname of “Rape Tavern.” And, let me tell you, it doesn’t get any less disconcerting from there.

Also known as the Pr0nshire, this “unofficial swinger capital” (link is NSFW, btw) of World of Warcraft has been around since before anyone can remember. But over the years, it appears to have taken a turn from the merely kinky to the, uh, unsettlingly nonconsensual throughout the years.

From Motherboard, here’s a description from a longtime player who watched the shift take place:

“Back then it still used to be important to choose your words carefully and respect each other, to maintain a certain level of decorum. There used to be a real erotic culture here. But now most people don’t really care about that.”

The tone and the players’ general behavior is exceptionally aggressive in the bar. While talking to motherboard, regulars simply referred to Goldshire Inn as the “Rape Tavern,” while tossing around the occasional and telling winky face.

The article states that a common occurrence at the tavern, for example, is for throngs of naked players to gang up on other players (or even wait outside for them) who are attempting to run away, calling after them saying things like “I’m going to fuck you unconscious!” via chat.

As these frightened players quickly attempt to quit in order to escape, their characters enter the usual kneeling position for 20 seconds, giving the attackers free reign to “simulate ejaculation through spells that emit white light” along with suggestive dance animations, sometimes while even typing out racist and sexist slurs.

Now, it’s important to note the difference between players who quer to participate in a BDSM rape fantasy in a designated erotic role-playing WoW server, and those who find themselves in the crosshairs, express their discomfort, and do not have their boundaries respected or even understood.

The kneel down position necessary for quitting often attracts the patrons of the Rape Tavern

The kneel down position necessary for quitting often attracts the patrons of the Rape Tavern

Image: Blizzard, captured by motherboard

The assaulted players that motherboard interviewed reported feeling deeply disturbed and violated by their experiences. Some even got to the point of needing to delete the characters they’d developed such an attachment to, just to try and shake off the memory.

It’s easy to disregard these digital assaults. The common argument is that any who go to the Goldshire Inn on the Moonguard server should know what they’re getting themselves into, either because of its reputation or its location in a designated role-playing server.

Regardless of its reputation, this isn’t a sound line of reasoning. Saying that players should “know better” is essentially the digital equivalent of the “what was she wearing” or “why were you at that party in the first place” mentality. Players interested in other forms of role-playing are not all signing up for the erotic variety — and certainly not the rape fantasies simulated at Goldshire.

Finally, labeling these virtual assaults as rape fantasies part of a kinky online BDSM subculture is a fundamental, insulting misunderstanding of the principles behind healthy engagement in BDSM.

Como one Psychology Today article states, healthy BDSM role-play is not only “all about trust” between partners, but also a requires a clear communication of rules and boundaries so that every party can provide consent each step of the way — as well as a “safe word” to allow them to back out if they get uncomfortable at any time.

None of that is evidenced in Motherboard’s investigation into the assaults happening in the “Rape Tavern,” which a plethora of Blizzard forums also confirm as regular occurrences.

In fact, reporter Dominik Schott continues that:

Later I learned in a discussion with some of the perpetrators that it’s “really hot” when victims flee because it’s like real rape. Hunting down their victims becomes part of the rape role-playing. It spurred them on to catch our character after we left the tavern.

So, according to these specific players, the fear and lack of consent from the assaulted players is actually parte of what makes it “hot.”

That breaks every single rule of participating in safe BDSM. In the article, players who very clearly refuse with an adamant “no” to these advances only become bigger targets. Attempting to ask about acceptable chat and behavior at the Goldshire Inn — a question which other online erotic role-playing spaces, from Uau para Second Life, are very explicit about — are often met with aggressive come-ons at the Goldshire Inn.

Most horrifyingly, players are often asked to send real-life contact information and pictures, and are asked about whether they’ll “fuck for money” or how much “a session costs.” As the article concludes, this raises troubling implications for underage players who can very well accidentally find themselves at the Rape Tavern — as was the case for one minor a few years back.

A more explicit scene typically on display at the Goldshire Inn

A more explicit scene typically on display at the Goldshire Inn

Image: BLIZZARD, CAPTURED BY REDDITOR ORDINATOR

This might all sound negligible, considering the endemic of sexual violence that still pervades our real world. But that response will prove increasingly flawed as the years go on, particularly now that virtual reality is raising serious questions about harassment in digital spaces designed to make you feel embodied in them.

Like those who disregard the threats and psychological scars left behind by online trolling campaigns (usually by people who’ve never been on the receiving end of one), the lines between virtual and real-world assault is much blurrier than we’d hope.

It’s important to note that the Rape Tavern is absolutely não a reflection of most EPR Uau players. In fact, the overall erotic role-playing communities who populated the server “quickly felt itself harassed” at the Inn too, conceding it to the harassers and abusers.

There are healthy ways of engaging in cybersex BDSM. But in order to ensure that this takes place, people will have to start taking consent in digital spaces just as seriously as they should take it in the real world.

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