Masculinity, Violence, and Bandaid Solutions


[Content note: violence, guns, mass shootings, misogyny]

We’re all familiar with the pattern now: a solitary young white man goes on a shooting rampage. People die. The media describes him as “crazy,” “disturbed,” “troubled,” “insane.” Everyone collectively bemoans the failings of our mental healthcare system, presuming that its failure is relevant here. People with mental illnesses cringe at the reminder of what our society thinks of them. A few people advocate stricter restrictions on guns. The victims are buried and memorialized, the killer’s parents shunned or comforted, and the killer gradually forgotten.

And it happens over. And over. And over. Again.

Whatever depth there is in this analysis is limited to the parts of the internet where I live. You won’t see the anchors and talk show hosts on CNN or MSNBC or, obviously, Fox News, wondering what it is about white men that produces so relatively many mass shooters–relative to other gender/racial groups and relative to other countries. They will talk about one of two things, mostly depending on their party affiliation: gun control or mental healthcare.

And it’s so difficult to ask them to talk about something else because we should be talking about gun control and mental healthcare. More and better gun control and more and better mental healthcare would vastly improve quality of life in the United States, and maybe in the right combination, could even prevent many of these shootings.

But wouldn’t it be better to fight the ideas and beliefs that lead to violence?

There’s plenty of evidence that Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old white man who murdered six people and injured seven more in Santa Barbara yesterday, felt entitled to sex with women and hated them for denying it to him. In a YouTube video uploaded just a day before the mass shooting, Rodger said:

You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. I will punish all of you for it. [laughs]

On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house at UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there. All those girls I’ve desired so much. They have all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance toward them, while they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes.

I take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male. [laughs]

If this weren’t terrifying enough, OllieGarkey at Daily Kos points out that the YouTube channels to which Rodger has been subscribed included well-known men’s rights activists. According to David Futrelle, he was also a commenter at PUAHate, a misogynistic forum that has been down since the shooting. On one forum post, Rodger wrote:

Women have control over which men get sex and which men don’t, thus having control over which men breed and which men don’t. Feminism gave women the power over the future of the human species. Feminism is evil.

Rodger’s various online postings have all the language of sexual entitlement and misogyny: “get sex,” “breed,” “alpha male,” “slut,” “not fair.” I’ve heard this from many men who have assaulted or abused me or others. It is not uncommon.

I’m going to say something that should be obvious: a minority of men think about women in quite this violent and hateful a way. An even smaller minority act on that violence so brazenly. But many men violate women’s boundaries and autonomy constantly, and all men are socialized to think about themselves, about sex, and about women in similar ways.

In the coming days you will hear all about mental illness. (This is because most people only talk about mental illness when they get to blame an act of violence on it, and not when millions of people are merely suffering in silence.) You will hear about how the mental healthcare system failed Rodger, how mental healthcare is too expensive, how there aren’t enough mental healthcare professionals, how insurance coverage is fucked up, how medication doesn’t work or doesn’t work well enough or works too well, how irresponsible parents don’t get their children mental healthcare quickly enough.

You will not hear that, while 2 percent of violent acts can be attributed to people with mental illnesses, people with mental illnesses are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than people without mental illnesses. You will not hear about the ways in which people with mental illnesses are discriminated against for many reasons, one of which is that they’re believed to be inherently violent, partially because of how the media focuses on mental illness in the wake of every single mass shooting. You will not hear that Black people who commit violent acts are never presumed to be mentally ill; they’re just presumed to be Black. You will not hear about how it’s only “terrorism” if a brown person does it; the fact that it’s politically motivated and intended to terrorize a particular group of people is not, apparently, enough. You will hear a lot about “not all men,” but you will not hear that misandry irritates and misogyny kills.

You will not hear that boys and men are taught to believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies in uncountable ways, every day, in every setting, by their parents and by the media and by everyone else. You will not hear again about the boy who stabbed a girl to death for refusing to go to prom with him, or about this entire list of women being hurt or killed for ignoring or rebuffing men’s sexual interests, or the constant daily acts of violence to which women are subjected for exercising their right to autonomy.

And before you call Rodger “crazy”: it is not actually “crazy” to believe stuff that’s been shoved down your throat from birth.

I wish it were. It’d be nice if humans reasoned rationally by default, that if you grow up with people telling you things that don’t make sense, like religion or that sex is dirty or that women owe you anything at all, you’d just go, “Well, that makes no sense!” and refuse to ever believe it.

But we didn’t evolve that way, at least not yet. Unless we work very hard at it, we’ll inevitably believe what we’re taught so incessantly, as sexism is taught to all of us. Yet we are all capable of rational thought if we work at it, which is why I hold Rodger and all other men who believe in their conditioning and subject women to violence fully accountable for their actions.

A very good therapist could have helped Rodger with this process. Maybe. But when mass shootings happen and everyone bemoans the fact that the shooter didn’t go to (or wasn’t helped by) therapy, they never seem to ask themselves what this therapy would entail. You don’t go to therapy or go on medication and suddenly become happy. What you have to do is unlearn the maladaptive and harmful ways in which you’ve learned (or been taught to) think. For someone like me, this means learning not to be so afraid and not to treat every minor setback as the end of the world. In Rodger’s case, this might’ve meant learning how to be okay with not having sex with women for a while, learning the social skills to eventually find and keep a partner, and, most importantly, learning that women do not owe him a single damn thing. With that realization might’ve come freedom.

In other words, the way to help Rodger would have been to help him unlearn what he never should have learned in the first place. And there’s no guarantee that even the best of therapists could succeed at this; everyone in the field knows that sometimes clients are just beyond help (at least by a given therapist) and that it’s tragic and sad and don’t we wish we could’ve caught them earlier?

What if our culture had never taught Rodger these horrible beliefs?

What if our culture didn’t still treat women as possessions?

What if our culture didn’t emphasize hypermasculinity and getting laid at all costs?

What if, what if, what if.

So everyone’s going to blame our faulty mental healthcare system now. But let’s do a thought experiment.

A child is born in an area with terrible preventative healthcare. They don’t receive a single vaccine, and they are never taught about healthy eating, hygiene, and exercise. Nobody models good health for them, nobody teaches them in early childhood about the importance of washing your hands. Getting medical check-ups and physicals isn’t even an option. They have no idea what a healthy blood pressure or heart rate might look like. As far as this child knows, a doctor is where you go when you’re so sick you’re dying.

At 22 years of age, this person is now so sick that they’re dying. They have had a horrible diet for their entire life, and they have never treated their body well. They have suffered from increasingly worsening symptoms for weeks, but didn’t realize that they needed to see a doctor. The disease they have is one that they never received the vaccine for. Finally, at 22 years of age, this person goes to the hospital, and the doctors do their best but are unable to save them. The person dies.

Do you blame the doctors who tried but failed to keep this person alive? Or do you blame the entire system, the fact that there was never any preventative healthcare, the fact that they were not given a vaccine and they were not taught the skills to make contracting diseases less likely?

The type of masculinity that young boys are taught is not compatible with mental health and with ethical behavior. Full stop. We’re fortunate that so relatively few will take it to the lengths that Rodger did, but I don’t know a single man who doesn’t suffer as a direct consequence of it. I know few who have never made others suffer as a direct consequence of it. We need to inoculate boys against this harmful and maladaptive thinking rather than teach it to them.

Improving and reforming and revolutionizing mental healthcare is important, but it’s too important to discuss only in the few days after a mass shooting has happened. If this is something you care about, join me in discussing it all the damn time.

Remember this: by the time someone is in their early twenties and spewing hatred and bitterness, it may very well be too late. It’s never too late, however, to work harder at unlearning the lies we are taught about gender.

Comments

  1. anteprepro says

    The type of masculinity that young boys are taught is not compatible with mental health and with ethical behavior. Full stop. We’re fortunate that so relatively few will take it to the lengths that Rodger did, but I don’t know a single man who doesn’t suffer as a direct consequence of it. I know few who have never made others suffer as a direct consequence of it. We need to inoculate boys against this harmful and maladaptive thinking rather than teach it to them.

    Fucking spot on. The whole article was great, but this is just the issue in a nutshell.

    • R Johnston says

      That paragraph jumped out to me too. It’s really scary how drearily ordinary Rodger’s beliefs about women are, and they’re ordinary because they are what’s taught. Even when not taught explicitly, they’re an inevitable outgrowth of a brand of masculinity that others women and teaches boys that women are lesser beings.

      • dickspringer says

        “The type of masculinity that young boys are taught is not compatible with mental health and with ethical behavior. Full stop. We’re fortunate that so relatively few will take it to the lengths that Rodger did, but I don’t know a single man who doesn’t suffer as a direct consequence of it. I know few who have never made others suffer as a direct consequence of it. We need to inoculate boys against this harmful and maladaptive thinking rather than teach it to them.”

        This paragraph jumped out at me too. For most boys in our society it simply is NOT true. I also was still a virgin at 22 (life got much better later.). The idea that most boys are taught or believe that they have a “right” to women’s bodies is held by almost no man in ordinary society. (I have not spent any of my time hanging out with football players or the criminal subculture, where these ideas may thrive.)

        Males frequently hold unfortunate beliefs about women and sex, the most dangerous of which is that there are two kinds of women, “good girls” and “sluts.” Those seen as sluts are too often seen as not worthy of bodily integrity and forcing sex on such a woman is no big deal. The term “slut shaming,” which actually is done by both men and women, is an expression of this attitude.

        Another relevant fact here (I don’t know whether it is applicable to Mr. Rodger.) is that a substantial fraction of both men and women are not not seen as desirable sex partners. Such people can suffer severely and we should feel empathy for them, Certainly a few of them are extremely dangerous.

        • says

          The idea that most boys are taught or believe that they have a “right” to women’s bodies is held by almost no man in ordinary society.

          Well, now, who should I believe? The blog poster who I know to have a degree in psychology and whose area of expertise this is?

          Or some rando from the internet who sees fit to call himself “Dickspringer”, and opines on the thoughts of all men using only himself as a cited source?

          I think I shall stick with the person who does not obviously have their Dunning shoved firmly up their Kruger.

          • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

            It seems like there’s always some idiot jumping into these conversations who insists that you can only say “[group] is taught [thing] by society” if at some point the typical member of [group] sat in a classroom where the reacher wrote [thing] on the chalkboard and lectured about it for half an hour.

  2. smrnda says

    “while 2 percent of violent acts can be attributed to people with mental illnesses, people with mental illnesses are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than people without mental illnesses.”

    Thanks for making this point. Too many discussions of the mentally ill treat us as if we’re some danger to others than need to be contained, not that maybe we’re actually *more at risk than most people* and maybe even less likely to be violent.

    On the idea that therapy can help, I think some of these misogynistic types just wouldn’t be helped since they’d have to be willing to admit their entire worldview might be to blame ; imagine a therapist saying ‘you seem to feel totally entitled to sex, to the point where you believe no woman should be allowed to say not to you, that consent is irrelevant. You have the attitude of a sexual predator.”

    What will the guy do? Quit going to therapy and hit up MRA sites. Probably will blame the mental health profession for being part of some conspiracy to keep him from getting laid.

    This reminds me of the Frederick Douglass “It is easier to build strong children than fix broken men.” Easier? Maybe the latter isn’t even possible.

  3. ssgranor says

    This. So much this.

    I just wish we could arrange to direct some of those cable news hosts in this direction. All of this badly needs broader airing.

  4. says

    Excellent post, Miri. I just read the headline story on CNN and they’re calling him a “mentally disturbed man”.

  5. JustAMan says

    I’ve been a white, heterosexual male in the USA for nearly 40 years (since birth). I’ve never been taught, nor have I ever believed, that I have a right to any woman’s body. I’ve had a couple of relationships with women that have spanned 3 or 4 years. Other than that and a FWB that I would sleep with maybe a couple times a year some of those years, I’ve been celibate. Women find me unattractive. I don’t blame them, I don’t hold a grudge against them, and I don’t seek to punish them for it. Basically, none of what you say in your article holds true for me. Which makes no sense if what you’re saying is accurate, as I watch more TV than anyone I know.

    I think you might want to think on your perspective and how it’s led you to the conclusions you’ve drawn. To give men the excuse not to behave because you believe it’s what they’ve been taught all their lives is part of the problem. “Oh, I couldn’t help it, it’s the environment I was raised in.” Bullshit. It’s weakness of mind and moral character. Weakness that is fostered by your willingness to excuse it as beyond their control. If it were, how could men like myself exist?

    • arienai 【あり得ない】 says

      JustAMan @ 7

      Why do you think your personal experience counts for more than anyone else’s? Also, congratulations on not being a murderer in spite of your scant sex life. I can do you one better: I’ve been celibate for my entire life, and I haven’t gone on a killing spree against women, either. Do you think I deserve a medal?

      As for the song and dance about personal responsibility, give it a rest. It’s the same bad argument we’ve all heard a million times for why poor people deserve to be poor, or why women deserve to be paid less than men, et cetera. Why don’t you stop focusing on proclaiming your own moral superiority, and start focusing on what it would take to make this world a better place for everyone.

      To look at a story about someone enacting a violent revenge fantasy against women, one fueled by misogynistic hatred that sure as hell did not develop in a vacuum, and to say that it boils down to nothing more than a personal failing is to be in complete denial about reality. If we want to stop this sort of thing from happening in the future, we need to make some serious changes to the things we tell boys and girls as they grow up and become members of society.

      And seriously, screw you for claiming that Miri is somehow the one responsible for enabling this kind of behavior, while you sit there with your hands over your ears shouting about how this has nothing to do with sexism.

    • says

      There are several options:

      (a) you got very lucky and somehow missed the messages that I (white heterosexual male) see on a daily basis about women, sex, and entitlement.

      (b) you had other, very good influences, which taught you to respect women as equals and ignore the misogynistic messages that society sends.

      (c) you have unchecked assumptions about women and entitlement that you don’t realize you’re making.

    • says

      Congratulations, sir. You have demonstrated yourself to be a better person than the guy who just shot and killed six people.

      Surely you can’t think that clearing a bar that low necessarily entitles you to hold yourself up as somehow disproving Miri’s thesis…can you?

      • JustAMan says

        Clearing a bar that low absolutely entitles me to disprove Miri’s thesis, part of her thesis being that “all men are socialized to think about themselves, about sex, and about women in similar ways”. I have not been socialized to think of myself or sex or women in those ways, so she’s wrong. Easiest way to disprove a theory is to find one contradiction to the theory.

        While she says I might not necessarily think or act violently toward women, I should at least detest them in my dark, twisted heart-of-hearts that’s been poisoned by growing up in this hate-infested world. Instead, I tend to think highly of women. I expect them to be better than men, because I am a man and I’ve been around men, and men are typically crappy. And it’s usually because when they do something crappy, everyone just tells them it’s to be expected of them, like when they’re told it’s not so bad they cheated on their wife/girlfriend because men aren’t biologically “wired” for monogamy.

        I won’t say I’m completely pro-woman, of course. I think they tend to have an inherent dislike for me because I am man. While I agree with that sentiment, I try to show them I’m not that bad, and that not everyone in a gender is the same, despite what is said about them on blog posts.

        Now, am I saying that I’m sort of paragon of virtue? Absolutely not, I’m probably closer to, if not below, average. But that’s the point. If I’m average, and I know not to do the things this guy did, wouldn’t that suggest that it’s not a matter of society teaching the boy to be this way that’s the problem?

        The truth is, pretty much every organism on the planet is programmed to be biased against anything different than itself. It’s a survival instinct. No one has to teach you that. But we’re human beings and our brains function at such a level as to make us self-aware, and therefore responsible for our actions.

        Say this were a more ideal world and there were no hints of any misogyny in media. Likely the only thing that would’ve changed would be that you’d have to find a different reason to explain why the boy did what he did.

        Get rid of misogyny in media, I’m all for it. But don’t think that’s the reason anyone thinks that way, it’s not. And don’t think it’s going to stop anyone from doing what this boy did in the future, because it won’t.

        • says

          If you’re going to argue against the thesis of the post, you must first understand the thesis of the post. Clearly you do not.

          Being socialized into a certain set of beliefs and assumptions does not mean that every person so socialized holds them true to the same extent, or reacts to them in the same way. It just means that they were exposed to the ideas as part of the cultural background they grew up in.

          Think of like a pathogen: not everyone gets exposed at the same time, or suffers the same symptoms when they do. Some develop immunity right away, some suffer a bit, some suffer a great deal…some die. There may or may not be reocurrences or side-effects from the infection later on. Every person so exposed reacts slightly differently, and yet, they were all exposed. And the differences in how they react fall into general, broad patterns which can still be talked about.

          So it is with cultural misogyny. We men, as boys, were all exposed to the messages of how women and girls existed for our benefit, messages both subtle and blatant, and we reacted differently depending on our mindset. That mindset came from how we were raised by our parents and our neighbors and our peers; in some cases, like mine, the parents early on “vaccinated” me with progressive, feminist ideals which allowed me to (largely) fight off the infection of misogyny (though I required “booster shots” in my teens and later in my 20s, which translate to further education about society and how it works). Perhaps that was the case for you as well; I will extend the benefit of the doubt and assume you object because you don’t experience the more virulent strains.

          But here’s the thing: even though I was “vaccinated” early on by my parents, my grandparents, and by good teachers, and even though I had “boosters” later, that did not provide perfect immunity; it only let my mental immune system recognize the misogyny infection and act to resist it. The problem with a memetic infection, as opposed to a biological one, is that memetic contagions are counteracted by knowledge; ergo, being infected almost requires not knowing that you are infected.

          Misogyny and other cultural bigotries are very persistent memetic contagions, and many, many people are carriers without knowing it. Knowing it would be the first step to fighting it, after all.

    • ceanothus says

      I’ve been sexually violated by a man who would have sworn up and down that he never felt that he had a right to a woman’s body, and who would have believed that every word he was saying was true. I read your response here and I wonder whether you’ve been extraordinarily lucky and actually never been taught that, even in its subtlest manifestations, or whether you’ve just never had occasion to notice it. For me, this didn’t happen until we’d been together for years.

      I don’t think that Miri’s giving excuses. Just because some of this stuff is culturally taught and reinforced doestaughtn’t mean it’s beyond our control. I’m white. I’m racist. I am disappointed that I am, I try not to be, and I try really hard not to act on my kneejerk responses when they show up. No one sat me down and told me that, say, black men were scary. No one had to, because of the environment I was raised in, but it’s still ended up in my brain and it’s still my responsibility to not make other people’s lives worse because of it.

  6. Cinzia La Strega says

    I’ve read a blizzard of posts in response to this tragedy in the past 24 hours, but this has been the best as far as getting to the heart of the matter, and the futility of letting the national conversation devolve into bashing the failure of mental health professionals or gun control.

  7. ekwhite says

    Thanks Miri. You are spot on, as usual. CNN is spinning this as “the man was crazy” without talking about the toxic ideals of masculinity he was exposed to.

    • Synthetic Phylum says

      Or worse, Faux News making their assumptions that he was in denial about being The Gay, and lashing out at women for TAKING AWAY ALL THE HOT MAN-FLESH!!!

  8. katy says

    So well and beautifully written as your posts (at least the ones I get to read) are to me. I won’t hold my breath waiting for analysis, questions such as you posed on any mainstream media, but I will try in my limited way amongst those I know to spread this important focus.

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    This incident would totally be a good time to have a national conversation about MRA culture, but that’s not likely to happen. Some kind of toxic vision of masculinity seems to dominate political and media discourse these days. MRA’s are only slightly outside the norm, so when one of them does something like this it has to be explained away.

  10. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    The type of masculinity that young boys are taught is not compatible with mental health and with ethical behavior. Full stop. We’re fortunate that so relatively few will take it to the lengths that Rodger did, but I don’t know a single man who doesn’t suffer as a direct consequence of it. I know few who have never made others suffer as a direct consequence of it. We need to inoculate boys against this harmful and maladaptive thinking rather than teach it to them.

    And if you reject that masculinity implicitly or explicitly or accidentally due to difficulty reading social cues, god fucking help you. :(

    Can has fix society for plz?

  11. Marius says

    Absolutely fantastic post, I want to print it out and frame it.
    I’m arguing with people who are blaming this all on Asperger’s which as an aspie is enraging. I wish we could have a serious discussion about masculinity and entitlement without people getting defensive and derailing the conversation. This would be the perfect time to shine a light on the “manosphere” but most people just don’t want to know. Far easier just to blame us crazy folks.

  12. says

    Very well said. I wish there was someway to get your views wider notice.
    Also, I find it funny that the press/police state that this killing was ‘premeditated’ by someone who is ‘mentally disturbed’.
    I always the the insanity plea somehow meant it couldn’t be premeditated murder, due to illness. Doesn’t that make the press/police statement an oxymoron? Or am I being silly.

    Anyway, as always, great stuff.
    Thank you.

  13. says

    *Standing ovation*

    It seems that folks like “JustAMan” think that “being taught” literally means “people are sat down in school and told this. Later there’s a test”.
    As if that’s all ways we ever learn, as if all learning was conscious.
    As if it weren’t the bazillion films in which the hero gets the woman in the end. Just remember the Die Hard series: his marriage is in trouble, she kind of wants to split, he does some kick-ass things, suddenly all problems disappear and everybody is happy.
    Or even fucking Harry Potter: He goes out and kills Voldemort and now he can have Ginny. And Ron has a smart idea and therefore he gets Hermione. The women are the prizes the men get for doing great things. The women, who have been portrayed just as active and especially brilliant in Hermione’s case do not get the men as rewards for their actions.

  14. HappyNat says

    Great post. I’ll be passing this around to several folks I know who will blame mental health or the mental health system. Thanks!

  15. AMM says

    I’d like to highlight that it’s not just that men are entitled to trophies women. Independent of that, men are taught that violence is a conclusive way to prove one’s masculinity, that Real Men(tm) don’t go in for sissy stuff like compromise or understanding the other guy’s [yes guy] point of view. They solve problems with their fists. Or a machine gun. And if there’s no way they can beat up or shoot up or blow up their problems, they can still prove their manhood by going out in a blaze of glory. Just like Mr. Rodger did.

    FWIW, several, maybe even most of his victims were male. His roommates, for instance. For all of his hatred of women, he doesn’t seem to have restricted his killing to them. Not sure what to make of that.

    • Juliana Ewing says

      He would presumably have killed a lot more women if he’d been able to get into the sorority as he planned to do.

  16. Matt Howell says

    Good Post, but I wanted to ask for clarity on specific issues:

    1. What is the masculinity being taught that targets and is violent towards women? What is an alternative for of masculinity or should it be nullified? Don’t worry I don’t expect one individual to solve this issue as it’s pretty complex.

    2. While rejecting the misogynistic notions and corruptions in a white male’s upbringing may lead to less outliers (school-shooters) does it necessarily solve for it? I mean public shootings isn’t a normative behavior, it’s highly sensationalized and that’s why we hear about it more and truly they are terrific tragedies, but the are by no means the norm of a white male. I think rejecting misogyny and creating a better view of women for males will lead to less overall violence, but I am skeptical it addresses the issue of public shootings. Look at columbine, their intentions aren’t really clear. They weren’t bullied, they were socially popular. They didn’t target religions(despite what christians want to say about “the girl that said ‘yes'”, they didn’t target jocks, and they didn’t target women. They just fucking did it. How do we begin to account for that?

    Certainly though you brought up a new and enlightening view of how to view public shootings and one possible cause for these happenings. I look forward to further discussion and will be following your posts. Thank you!

  17. eagoodlife says

    Scanning the comments quickly I haven’t seem one reference to pornography and the increasingly early exposure of children to it. When children view the behaviour modelled as the norm we will find entitlement, lack of empathy, caring and respect increasingly common. It is not mental illness that is the problem but lack of effective, involved parenting.

      • says

        I think he has a point. I was recently informed that there were problems in my daughter’s primary school (that’s grade school for you) with kids showing other kids hardcore porn on their smartphones. We’re talking about an age when kids still have problems telling program from commercials and fiction from reality.
        We recognize that an adult making a child watch pornography is child abuse, I don’t see how exactly enabling them to watch it is much different (with all the lack of talking about the content, because of sex-negativity, which is a different problem)

  18. Pen says

    And before you call Rodger “crazy”: it is not actually “crazy” to believe stuff that’s been shoved down your throat from birth.

    I already mentioned on one thread a book called The Mind of a Madman by Richard Orange. It’s a short, rather journalistic account of the acts and trial of Anders Breivik, but specifically of everything that surrounded the decision on whether he was mentally ill or not.

    For those who don’t know, this had important legal consequences in Norway. Breivk himself was highly motivated to be considered sane, no doubt much of Norway agreed, because it would allow them to put him behind bars completely and indefinitely. But they also wanted to do the right thing and they (the specialists) didn’t find it easy.

    In the end, the decision rested on what Miri said: he isn’t crazy because he belongs to a sub-culture where what he thinks and wanting to do what he did is normalized. He seems ‘crazy’ at first glance to those who aren’t familiar with his sub-culture … which isn’t to say that Elliott Rodger didn’t have other issues, but WOW, the similarity to Breivik on a lot of details is striking!

    Anyway, it’s a short book, also relevant to this issue. I thought you might be interested Miri, and if you do read it, I’d be interested to know what you think.

  19. antiphola says

    Thank you Miri,

    for this thoughtful and very well expressed summary, especially on behalf of the severely mentally ill. Mr. Rodger according to his own texts obviously had developed deeply narcissistic and dissocial personality traits with disregard to the feelings and wishes of others, not only women. In its extremity, this is definitely not “normal” in comparison to the average young adult, but a destructive personality does not translate in not beeing fully responsible for one´s deeds. Personality disorders are listed in the DSM-V, the classification of psychiatric diseases, but are fundamentally different from mental illnesses as e.g. schizophrenic or affective psychosis.

    Judging by his own words, Mr. Rodgers seems to have known exactly what he did, that this was not ok to do, and then skipped taking responsibility for his actions by killing himself. The problem with this kind of personality is, that these people all too often don´t want/have not learned to introspect and change themselves, which would be really stressfull, but demand the world and people around them should change. Again, responsibility is shifted to the others. That is why psychotherapy in these cases is often not wanted, and if begun, eventually not very successfull.

    If Mr. Rodgers had been motivated and strong enough to look at himself, he might have discovered why some people tended to keep their distance. Perhaps he could have changed, just killed himself or become a more “normal and nice” instead of a fictional grandiose guy, with relationships to other, average and nice people, even women. But he quite clearly indicated in his rants, that he was not interested in knowing why.

  20. Jay says

    Can somebody PLEASE fucking explain why we’re all calling this guy white?

    HE WASN’T WHITE. He self identified as Eurasian, since he was born to a Chinese mother and a British father (and if anything, he looked more Asian).

    Also, it’s worth noting that white males are proportionally representing to their population in mass shootings. There is no racial component to crazy, so stop turning this into a “white men hate women” crusade.

    This guy was a bitter, jealous biracial man of color, who fixed on a particular type of woman and expressed a deep hatred for anyone who could develop a relationship with them (be they White, Black, Asian, or anything else). His hatred of both women AND MEN led him to kill six people – INCLUDING FOUR MEN. And yet he’s been turned, by feminists, into a white male MRA.

    To call him nothing more than a misogynist is to erase his male victims and ignore his hatred of men. On the MRA point, he was NOT an MRA or a PUA. He tried to reach out to both groups and was summarily and unequivocally rejected by both. Indeed, he hated any man that had a wife or girlfriend. Linking a tragedy like this with a political cause with which you disagree is shameful and pathetic.

    To summarize: We need to get our facts straight about who this guy was (note: a BIRACIAL man who self-identified as Asian), and what he believed (a hatred of ALL people, women AND men alike), and from there move the conversation to how we can stop something like this from ever happening again. Is there a horrible problem in our culture of men being taught they are entitled to sex from women? Of course. Did that cause this guy to go nuts and kill six people? Not without the deadly cocktail of mental health problems, far too easy access to guns, and a failure of the police system that went to check on him before the event.

    Do we need to have a conversation about how our culture tells men they are entitled to sex? Yes. But we also need to have a conversation about everything else on that list, and shaming people who are trying to have that conversation is counterproductive and morally wrong. Furthermore, using this tragedy to attack completely unrelated groups with which you disagree (MRAs and PUAs) is shameful.

    • says

      Methinks the obviously racist, misogynist MRA poster protests too much.

      Typical bigot logic for when one of their own does something indefensible: “It may look like a duck, walk like a duck, quack like a duck, fly like a duck, eat bugs like a duck, have a scary corkscrew penis like a duck, and spout misogyny like a…um…duck…BUT DON’T YOU DARE IMPLY IT’S A DUCK! That’s SHAMING and ATTACKING ducks like me!”

      • Jay says

        So the fact that this guy isn’t white – and the article claims he is – doesn’t bother you? The fact that every MRA group he associated with kicked him out – but the article still links him to those groups – doesn’t bother you? The fact that he killed twice as many men as women – but this article attributes his attack solely to a hatred of women -doesn’t bother you?

        Also, if there’s anyone who can’t complain about the “that’s not what we’re REALLY about” defense, it’s feminists.

        • says

          So the fact that this guy isn’t white – and the article claims he is – doesn’t bother you?

          You assert this without evidence. And therefor, it is dismissed without evidence.

          Also, violent actors who code as white, and who buy into white privilege, and who espouse white supremacist views, and who get treated as white by the media, are only called “not really white” by racists who want to disclaim their actions.

          • Jay says

            Are you being intentionally dense? From the article: “Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old white man…”

            A large portion of the article, including the following passage, are then based off of this assertion, including: “wondering what it is about white men that produces so relatively many mass shooters–relative to other gender/racial groups and relative to other countries.”

            So the article states that he is white. According to police reports and the news: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-frantic-parents-isla-vista-shootings-20140525-story.html

            “Chin Rodger got the call from her son Elliot Rodger’s therapist at 9:17 p.m. Friday – 13 minutes before authorities say he opened fire outside a sorority house.” Li Chin Rodger is of Asian descent, and according to both police reports and videos (linked in this article too, I believe…) he identified as such. His roommates, too, were of Asian descent: “Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, and Weihan Wang, 20.” So clearly labeling him without caveat as a “white man” is dishonest.

            You clearly have done little to no true reading about this case, and are reacting purely on gut instinct to what Miri wrote (which is an admirable article, though misguided). Anyone with even cursory knowledge of this crime know that Elliot Rodger is biracial – just look at the videos – and identified as such.

            You’re still doing a remarkable job of ignoring all of my points regarding the factual inaccuracies contained in Miri’s article, as well as the points about how proper gun control and mental health care would have prevented this tragedy. Since, as Miri so rightly states, our society inundates men with the message that they are entitled to women’s bodies, why isn’t every man going on a rampage? Because not all of them are mentally ill, and not all of them fall through the cracks (read: gaping chasms) in the system the way this young man did. Should we be fighting to change the culture about masculinity and sex? Of course. But to say that talking about mental health and gun control distract from the main issue is disingenuous at best, and, at worst, horribly politicizing a devastating tragedy for your own political ends.

      • Jay says

        It’s very telling you don’t choose to actually address anything I mentioned – choosing instead to attack me personally, label me something I’m not (I’m NOT an MRA – they have their own significant problems, I just care that we don’t mislabel the issue at hand), and dismiss me as a bigot.

        It’s very, very easy for facts to get left behind in the emotion of a tragedy like this. But if we’re going to be writing social justice articles, we need to focus all the more on making sure that our information is accurate. Our culture has a significant problem with telling men that they’re entitled to sex from women – but the obvious difference between everyone who is inundated in this culture who DOESN’T choose to kill people, and this nutjob, is that this guy was failed by our mental health resources, had WAY too easy access to firearms, and he wasn’t sufficiently investigated by police when they received information about the potential attack. Let’s start there first, and not go around throwing mud at anything we happen to dislike.

        • says

          There is no evidence that he was mentally ill. This is also asserted without evidence, and is therefor dismissed without evidence.

          Miri in the OP did a fantastic job of pointing out why mental illness is not a good explanation for what happened, and I see you ignored that.

          I also note that you are trying to claim you’re not an MRA, despite sounding just like them and going out of your way to defend them here. What I said about ducks applies.

          • Jay says

            There was no evidence that he was mentally ill? Are you serious? Besides the fact that he was receiving treatment for mental illness?

            The lengths that you will go to in order to ignore my points is astounding. He was receiving (inadequate) mental health care. That would imply he was mentally ill. Read a damn police report.

            And you’re still ignoring my points about the factual inconsistencies in Miri’s otherwise lovely article, as well as my points about how these sorts of tragedies DON’T happen if we have stricter gun control laws, or if the police had done their job when they initially investigated this young man before he went on the rampage. He wasn’t a white male. Even if he was, white men are represented in mass shootings proportional to their presence in the general population, so this isn’t a “white male” problem. He didn’t just hate women – he hated men who could get with women, too. That’s why he killed twice as many men as women during this tragedy. Are we just writing those victims off? Erasing them from the conversation?

            I agree with Miri’s fundamental point about not teaching men that they are entitled to sex from women – I just believe in having accurate facts, and sound logic, in how we go about arguing that point. Starting from the basic premise of the article – that white men feel entitled to sex – we have basic, factual errors being written as though they were fact, and it just goes downhill from there.

            Bottom line: This doesn’t happen if we have adequate mental health resources, or if we have proper gun control laws, or if we train our police to investigate mental health related concerns properly. Do you not think that those are worthwhile causes? Because what this article does is shame anyone trying looking for a solution to those problems, and that is NOT the right course.

    • carol mukhopadhyay says

      thank you for pointing this out……
      Especially in the light of another event this week, the stoning to death of a young Pakistani woman by her family.
      Misogyny…and gendered violence…occurs in every ethnic/racial group.
      And…it’s not biologically rooted!!

  21. Lothar Lammfromm says

    I am not sure if unlearning gender had been the ultimate solution for this hateful young man. I suppose (as an ex asperger man) that learning social behavior, learning to connect to people, even learning to feel and “manage” feelings would had helped him.

    Maybe this sounds a bit crazy in a blog that has a clear focus to feminism. I don’t want to discount your ideas and some of them are quite right, others are maybe a bit too “strong” if you ask me. This is not my theme and i am not an expert for these kind of arguments and thematics. But i do have some expertise for Asperger (and: how to get rid of it), on a very personal basis. I am not sure if it is possible how helpful it is to “treat” or cure Asperger, but i do know most of these people can be trained on social behavior. I dont’t have any infomation why Rodgers had Asperger and maybe there is an additional mental health issue.

    Given the information i have (about Rodgers) it is nearly impossible to make a clear decision what would had helped him best. I know a lot school shootings where the perpetrator is connected with the Asperger syndrome.

    Beside this i think: As men we owe woman respectful behavior.

    • says

      I know a lot school shootings where the perpetrator is connected with the Asperger syndrome.

      This is false, and DANGEROUSLY false.

      Most shootings, indeed, most violent crimes, are committed by entirely neurotypical people without mental illness.

      Violent behavior is normal for humans. It’s not a sign of mental illness or neurological difference.

  22. says

    There was no evidence that he was mentally ill? Are you serious? Besides the fact that he was receiving treatment for mental illness?

    He was in therapy, but apparently received no formal diagnosis of any sort. That means the therapist found no mental illness per se.

    Lots of people go to therapy who are not mentally ill, but just need counseling on something. Ask our fine hostess about the matter.

    As for his race…well, he was indeed mixed race, but he looked white, he embraced white supremacy, he espoused anti-Asian bigotry among other forms of racism, and he is benefitting from white privilege in the media coverage, so the emphasis you, Jay, are bringing on the “he wasn’t white!” angle is…unseemly, at best.

    I am not “ignoring” your points so much as dismissing them as ill-considered and without merit.

  23. thecowardinme says

    So… thank you for your very careful wording…

    This whole situation… and conversation is one i feel is so desperately needed… maybe not in the same way as all… but I am glad the MRA and the masculine misogynist society is being challenged in such a way…

    but… as a male… who to the outside world knows he looks like a strait man… (I identify as queer as far as gender, but my sex is male, and my preferences fall more inline with being straight, so even with the long hair and nails I just wind up looking like a metal head…)seeing “men” thrown around in such a way as it has been these last few days can hurt because of events of my past… as well… that is what most people call me… see me as, and treat me as… I can’t shake seeing that word and thinking of me… but you worded this so very beautifully.

    But I hope I can add something… without it being seen as a derailment…

    I kind of wish that there could be a #YesSomeMen… but I bet the MRA would steal it… but to do it for all the men who do not fit that idea of the masculine and are shamed for it… not saying ignored by women, but shamed by men. When perfectly fine if not proud of being a virgin for if for no other reason than it is fighting agains the idea of masculinity being shoved down ones throat… the men who are not an exact cis-man, who do not fit the definitions forced upon them… and all the men who are the victims of sexual assault, molestation, and violence from women who are left feeling there is no safe place to speak because of the effect the MRA, Rape Culture, Patriarchal society we are surrounded by.

    To have been molested by women saying “oh come on, your a guy, you always want this”, “what you like girls don’t you?”,”you say anything, I will tell them it was you, who are they going to believe? You the fat big strong guy, or me the cute little girl?”… to hear similar to that last one again when it elevated to full on rape… “a girl can’t rape a boy” “look your body is showing you obviously want this, stop saying no and enjoy it”… To look into the law and realize based on that, what happened to you is not the same… it is a lesser crime in those eyes… To then be molested time and time again… To look into support groups for victims, and only be able to find ones that are for women only… and then when one finally starts up that allows men, after listening to women and men for weeks while sitting there quietly listening… all victims of men… man or woman, all victimized by men… Is the law right, was I not actually a victim? Was she right when she did it, is it that I must have wanted it? Was it not what i feel it was? Those just some of the thoughts going through your head… To once you finally have the courage to speak… while telling your story have a woman, in tears stand up and yell “YOU DESERVED IT, YOU DESERVED EVERY SINGLE THING, JUST FOR BEING A MAN YOU DESERVED IT, GOOD FOR HER FINALLY MAKING THINGS FAIR”… to stand their shocked… others trying to calm the woman who yelled that down… then to have another woman come up behind you… and start hitting you “yelling get out, get out, this is for real victims! THIS IS NOT FOR GUYS WHO GOT LOCKY!” to then run out into the night… afraid to even go to your car incase someone sees which one it is… to hide… alone… in the dark… and cry…

    to truly feel you can’t turn to anyone, because they where right… you are the “man”, you are the monster in the dark… you are the reason they are afraid… you are large, and scary looking… they are right…

    In that moment… I looked at society… and that is what i saw… I was a freak… I was just another of the monsters known as men… and I tried to end it…

    I didn’t… obviously… and so I threw myself into learning… I went straight to feminism, that thing that my mother said hated men, and told women how they had to act and so was a bad thing… but if they hated men they couldn’t be all wrong (I not to far into realized how wrong the image that had been painted of feminism all those years was wrong)… that lead to gay reading (at times thinking i must be because i hadn’t wanted it), which then lead me to Queer Theory… the idea that gender is a byproduct of society and not actually a biological thing beyond a few very specific factors… That the male brain, and female brain are not different from birth but instead as a result of upbringing… and then… to this…

    The Patriarchy, misogyny, MRAers, Masculine police (my own term)… are all enemies of all decent people.

    No female, male, woman, man, gay, straight, queer, trans, etc person should never have to experience any of this… ANY OF IT!

    Women should be angry, and they should be angry at the idea of the “man” the society we are living in creates.

    And well… I think you did a very very very good job of stating that.

    Thank you for this article.

    (and none of that even hits on any of the mental health issues I deal with, well… some would say my not identifying as a full on “man” might)

    I hope this doesn’t feel like a “not all men” it really is not meant to… it is only meant to be another view… another story…

    I am truly truly sorry if this offends anyone…

  24. Clueless Bob says

    Thanks for this post Miri its probably my favorite of all the pieces I’ve seen written on the Santa Barbara killings.

    This Elliot Rodger episode has stirred up a lot of feelings and even some anxiety in me so I feel compelled to write something on the subject. I relate mostly because I’ve been there, when i was 22 I was probably similar to him in a few respects: white (I take him for white because he thought his white “half” made him better), male, lonely, jealous, virginal (whatever this actually means) and rationalized and blamed it all on anything but myself. Hell, I still am most of these things save for the blaming others bit. Back then, I frequented 4chan and other sites where posters talked about women like objects and separated men into alphas and betas. This ideology hurt me, it caused a nasty depression in which I considered ending my own life. Fortunately over time I became disillusioned with it and started looking for a group that didn’t think virginity made me subhuman or less than a full adult and what I found was feminism. (hurray!)

    My first point on this subject is something that has already been said: The cause for Rodger’s killing spree are multifaceted, no one single thing caused this guy to turn to murder, Not mental illness or guns or racism or even misogyny was the sole cause. That said there is no reason we shouldn’t take this apparently perfectly lucid man at his word. He said he hated women and he said he hated non-white men (one wonders if he even noticed the non-white women). He said these were his reason for wanting to take his “revenge” so we can probably safely assume misogyny and racism played central parts in why he did this.

    My second point is that Rodger was more of an exception than the rule in how misogyny affects men. We should try to understand that this is NOT what a typical murder by a man so influenced by misogyny looks like. If it were, they would be rather uncommon….they are not. Usually how misogyny affects a murder is more subtle and in a more domestic setting, acting as tinder for a sudden spark of anger and then boom the knife is in the mans hand or hes switching the safety off the gun. Misogyny make the man think that the woman’s life is expendable but its the rage that helps him pull the trigger. Rodger’s plan was premeditated so probably an outlier.

    My third point is kinda rough because I don’t want to ask people to try to have sympathy for the devil. Elliot Rodger was a disgustingly twisted, awful person and I would not ask anyone sympathize with a cold blooded murderer. What i would like for forks to consider the likely-hood that the majority of men who in his shoes who ingest the kind of culture he did and who do kill someone, only take one victim : themselves. The thing that stuck out to me after all of this were the people saying “Misogyny Kills”. …Misogyny Kills? You bet your ass it does. That it kills women is obvious to me and most if not all feminists. But think about it, when a woman is an object to be obtained and sex to be achieved for status as a manly-man then all of us “late-bloomers” (and fuck-you-very much Brittney Cooper of Salon for presuming to know when or how I should “bloom”) are something less than that ….”a mere boy? at 22? But women want a man. Maybe I’ll always be just a boy? maybe i should just die”…. and then some poor mother gets a note saying “Sorry mom I tried but i couldn’t be man enough.”

    One of the mistakes I sometimes see from feminists is to not address how misogyny hurts men, but misogyny has its insidious fingers everywhere and is plenty capable making victims of men as well as women. If feminism did more to address the ways it hurts men i think there would be more male feminists in the movement.

    Anyway that turned into a bit of a wall-o-text but I wont edit it down because I feel better for having it all out there even if nobody ever reads it.Also I know I made some unsubstantiated claims in this rant but I don’t think they’re too far from the truth so I’m keepin’ em.

    • says

      Interesting points, except your assertion that feminists are making a mistake when they don’t address the way’s in which misogyny hurts men. That is up to men. Women are having a hard enough time as I see it, addressing their own hurts, without also having the responsibility of ‘saving’ men. Whilst it is clear that the modern ‘real man’ culture is hurting men, most men cannot even see that. I think one of the causes of ‘late bloomers’ is the lack of strong, well round father figures. Men who are whole, balanced and mature, able to lead young boys (and girls) through the perils of maturation, to maturity, teaching them how to respect others, and how to take responsibility for themselves.

  25. winters says

    Thank you so much for this.

    I think what I want to say was already said hundreds of times, but not here (I guess) and I think it’s important, so.

    People tend to mistake correlation for causation. Yes, mental illness was obviously a factor in this tragic event. We aspies have problems with understanding social patterns more deeply, or rather, we learn and repeat them with immense precision. Being critical towards them, un-learning them and finding their sources might be slightly more difficult or even extremely hard, but it is possible. We can learn. We do have empathy, it might be impaired by default, but we are able to develop it through intense, understanding and constant presence of friendly, kind, wise people. The person everybody thinks about right now obviously lacked that.

    He learned patterns, he certainly did and it caught perfectly. It was obviously malicious, twisted and basically wrong, but for him, it made sense, because why not? Everybody (around him) did those things and it ended with both expected and desired outcome, right? Aspies aren’t emotionless, cold and devoid of basic needs, those things vary, obviously, but they are present. The problem starts with need of naming and recognizing them. Majority of teenagers feels like this at some point, let alone people in a way disconnected with their emotionality and it’s terrifyingly confusing. Because of this, patterns. Patterns are safe.

    Did you know that whole spectrum of autism is considered rare amongst girls? It is. I’m no professional, but sometimes I wonder why. Severe cases are another matter completely, but mild ones? There’s whole separate category of “aspie girl” and it’s considered “atypical”. Female brain differs just slightly from male, differences between sexes are far, far smaller than between particular individuals, the whole idea of “female brain” is in most parts pure sexist bullsh*t, but there’s one universal, even if slight difference – to put it simple, women connect dots easier, are better at multitasking, at combining many different things into one, in general – at subtleties. Someone might call it “intuition”, or prerequisite for developing better intuition and empathy, but.

    But maybe this “atypical” or, what’s worse, undiagnosed aspie girl is as much a matter of nature as nurture? Girls are creatures existing in groups even if it’s not their preference. They’re taught to observe and listen (and maybe even talk) rather than act. They are allowed to experiment with their emotionality and express it verbally. They are allowed to express affection between one another physically. They’re generally not expected to compete (up to some point). Many more examples here. It’s all considered proper and not a waste of time and obviously it doesn’t cancel out possible disconnection completely, not in all cases, but that’s exactly what one has to do to fill all those terrible gaps with understanding and empathy.

    I don’t want to generalize, but I think most boys lack that. My perspective is rather wide, both European and American and it’s not that different. Of course emotionality is not excluded completely, but the general idea is that male is everything that female isn’t. Child’s identity isn’t based on likes, dislikes or personal traits, but on (expected) gender.

    Let’s add this emotional disconnection factor to such a way of raising children. Therapist won’t fix instantly what the environment was devoid of for so many years. Maybe, eventually, but empathy (and that’s what so many men are lacking) isn’t something one can learn from a book or a lecture or a shrink. It’s something that needs to be experienced, even more so when it’s innately impaired.

    As it was mentioned, people with mental conditions are way more often victims of violence than its cause. There are some illnesses which factor more (but it’s still a minority) and Asperger’s syndrome is not one of them. Small autistic children tend to react with violence to things they don’t understand, things that are simply overwhelming – but that’s an automatic response, fight, when flight is impossible, and not planned, thought-through acts of brutal destruction. No, just no. Blaming this horrible thing on mental disorder is simply cruel towards people suffering from it. The man who’s responsible for what happened wasn’t an overwhelmed five years old, he was a grown man who managed to graduate from high school, a man with a family, more than enough money and access to psychological help. His impaired empathy was obviously connected with his condition, but if he was able to overcome so many other obstacles people with Aspergers face, he might as well overcome social awkwardness, if anyone close to him, him included, paid any attention to this. It’s show and don’t tell, as simple as this.

    We won’t ever know what might have happened if this frustrated man was technically “healthy”. It’s not about blaming his environment too. No matter how awful it was, this twenty-two years old man had full intellectual capacity of noticing that something’s wrong, that his own chosen brand of “happiness” doesn’t work. He didn’t.

    Yes, I do blame his closest family, partially. But we’re more than just this and for some reason it didn’t work. There are many ways to learn how to tell right from wrong, nobody’s perfect, but it rarely reaches such enormously terrible scale. In this case it did and I blame it on common, quiet acceptance of hatred towards women, not one’s brain chemistry.

  26. Aracna says

    ”[…]misandry irritates and misogyny kills[…]”

    That’s the one part of your text that replayed in my mind over the past few days (I work as a cleaner, so I’ve got plenty of time to think). I will not argue that misogyny doesn’t kill, you did a flawless job at explaining how and why it does. I will rather argue that the problem with that phrasing is not that misandry does more than upset, or less than upset. Rather, it’s that we KNOW that misogyny kills but we don’t KNOW that misandry does. We ASSUME it doesn’t. Ironically, we assume it doesn’t because lack of evidence that it does, said lack of evidence coming from people not feeling compelled to make any research on how sexism against men works, and said lack of compelling comes from people’s tendency to assume it exists as this weird vague thing that exists and kinda sucks but isn’t that big a deal, said assumption comes from a patriarchal reflex to downplay whatever happens to men, and that downplaying is fed by lack of research while it feeds the lack of research. We’re in a loop, here.

    But yeap. The point remains, if the only disagreement I have with you comes from a four words long extract from a whole article, then you really did a good job.

  27. BrainyOne says

    But wouldn’t it be better to fight the ideas and beliefs that lead to violence?

    Absolutely, it would. But fighting the real ideas which lead to violence, not the sanitized versions which make us feel good, makes most everyone uncomfortable, which is why it doesn’t happen. Or at least, no one seems to want to logically follow the ideas back to the source. It’s so simplistic and so easy to blame the problem on “entitlement” without analyzing any further.

    There’s plenty of evidence that Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old white man who murdered six people and injured seven more in Santa Barbara yesterday, felt entitled to sex with women and hated them for denying it to him….

    What you have to do is unlearn the maladaptive and harmful ways in which you’ve learned (or been taught to) think…. In Rodger’s case, this might’ve meant learning how to be okay with not having sex with women for a while, learning the social skills to eventually find and keep a partner, and, most importantly, learning that women do not owe him a single damn thing. With that realization might’ve come freedom…

    What if our culture had never taught Rodger these horrible beliefs?

    That would be wonderful. However hostility arises when we consider what society actually needs to do in order to accomplish all that, since it tears at some widely cherished beliefs not typically thought of as harmful. Let’s break it down step by step.

    Sex is not a reward for good behavior; the corollary that its absence is neither a punishment nor a sign of some severe defect. If we want Rodger or anyone else to okay with not having sex with women for a while, then society needs to be okay with him, or any other man, not having sex or relationships with women for a time. But it isn’t. The constant message is that a man who “can’t get laid” is a “loser”. Many people, both men and women, and both liberals and conservatives, are highly, highly invested in this message; namely, that this is part of a man’s intrinsic worth. I see it said a lot even on this website: if a man’s (involuntarily) not having sex there must be something really, really wrong with him. You yourself partially believe in this when you suggest Rogers would certainly have found a partner had he but learned better social skills (I’m not denying that probably would have helped). Of course another corollary of the “loser” trope is that a “winner” ought to be having sex, so one who fancies himself a “winner” in some fashion (e.g. driving a BMW) will therefore feel “entitled”. Conservatives (mostly) are also highly invested in the idea that on a societal level sex should be a reward for good behavior; we continually see them decrying the sexual revolution because OMG men won’t be productive now that they can “get the milk without buying the cow”. But once you posit sex as a “reward”, you will have “entitled” people thinking they did what they needed to do to get it.

    However, denying all this (the “loser” trope) tears at the idea that a man’s self worth should be decided by women, or by society, or by anyone other than himself. Many are highly invested in this idea so this gets met with extreme hostility.

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