The Skeptic Lawyer has discovered the dirty little secret of nerd boys…only it’s not really a secret. This has been a problem for a long time.
While doing the research for this post, I found that the largest gaming convention in North America has to remind attendees to wash daily and use deodorant in its program. I’ve seen a man who a woman rejected on the basis of his online gaming hobby tell her she ‘needed a good raping’. And there was worse than that in some places, which had to be closed down on the basis that they had reached the incitement stage. Incitement, in case you didn’t know, is a crime, and I’m afraid saying ‘it was only on the internet’ will not impress any judge of my acquaintance.
I am amused that she’s just discovered this. Every SF convention I’ve attended posts hygiene warnings: it’s not just in the program, but they’ll mention it in the opening program and drop frequent hints during the day. It is a significant concern — try attending a panel or a screening, only to have some guy (it’s always a guy, sorry) sit down next to you who hasn’t bathed or brushed his teeth in a few days, hasn’t changed his clothes, and has been subsisting on a diet of cheetos, peanut butter sandwiches, and beer. And don’t you dare to point out that he’s not fit to be in human company — normal people would sheepishly admit that you’re right and go slink off to the showers, but these are self-righteous nerds who will shriek at you indignantly that they must not miss this essential discussion of the Thundercats or zombie survival or the Doc Savage canon.
It is not a purely male problem: I attend science conferences that are bigger, and unfortunately sometimes even more male-skewed in the attendees, and yes, professionals can manage to take a shower every single day. It is not a purely nerd problem: the majority of attendees at these events are perfectly capable of civil behavior and basic hygiene. This is a problem of a a small subset, the feral otaku or savage nerd, and it’s going to emerge in every subculture that attracts privileged and obsessive males and rises above a certain level of popularity: comic book and science fiction conventions have been there for a long time, and skeptic and atheist groups are just rising above that critical mass that brings in these people.
I don’t think atheism/skepticism has a special problem with nasty sexist nerds — but it’s a real problem that has just begun to rear its unkempt, unwashed head, and it’s good to see that major organizations are taking preemptive steps to deal with it. And then, of course, there are these deeper problems that need wider cultural responses to address. Yeah, we’ve got to occasionally talk back to those oblivious nerds who will reply with the indignant shrieks.
However, of late I have started to encounter ‘geeky’ men (I’m sorry for this appallingly inexact term, but that’s all there is, alas) who demand–even when others find their geek-activity completely boredom-inducing or otherwise irritating–that women date them. This is like women who demand that their large dogs complete with muddy paws be allowed to take up residence on sundry boyfriends’ beds. It is rudeness, pure and simple. Just as the woman in question needs to find a dog-loving boyfriend who doesn’t mind muddy paw-prints, the geek needs to find a girlfriend who shares his interest in whatever geekiness happens to be his passion. And if he finds that men outnumber women in his particular geek environment, then I suggest he learn a little bit about the law of one price and modify his behaviour accordingly.
In an efficient market, all identical goods must have the same price; however, when there are fewer women than men in a given market (and assuming that most people in that market would like either sex or a relationship), then their relative scarcity presents women with an arbitrage opportunity. In financial markets, if the price of a security, commodity or asset is different in two different markets, then an arbitrageur will purchase the asset in the cheaper market and sell it where prices are higher. Women, when they have scarcity value in a given market, do not have to tolerate bad manners. Similarly, the male who shows that he is not ‘an identical good’ by exhibiting courtesy and charm will be able to make the most of the market in which he finds himself, always acknowledging however that arbitrage profits will persist until the price converges across markets (something that may never happen; it is often argued that perfect competition and efficient markets only exist in economics textbooks).
In other words, geek boys, smarten up your act. I mean, really smarten it up.
In related news, John Scalzi is about to get widely reviled by the ferals: he’s written a post titled Shut Up and Listen. Sound familiar? I’ve still got angry people protesting my insensitivity to men’s needs.