Take ‘no’ for an answer

I reread this post by Skeptic Lawyer from two years ago, Miss Manners and playing the victim, and I feel like giving some elegant extracts.

There are various manifestations of these atrocious manners, but they seem (to me, at least) to boil down to an inability, on the part of certain men, to take ‘no’ for an answer. I think this is tied to participation in various ‘geek’ subcultures (both on-line and off-line, so while it may be convenient to blame the internet, blaming the internet is unfair). Participation in these varied subcultures is seen to give people something of a pass for rudeness. The justification proffered is that participation in the subculture resulted in bullying when the man in question was young, conferring victim status on him as an adult. And, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere on this blog, wrapping oneself in victimhood is often a way to avoid having to take personal responsibility–for anything.

That can happen. It’s certainly a much-rehearsed claim about feminism, as we all know – Paula Kirby’s “Sisterhood of the Oppressed” appeared several months after SL’s piece (and is orders of magnitude less good). There is also a hell of a lot of claiming to be victimized by feminism and feminists.

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.

Incitement is at the heart of the problem, as far as I’m concerned, and it gets ignored far too often and too easily.

Then an interesting note in a comment (also by SL):

There’s probably a fair bit of cross over between the two classifications, however I think the undesirable trends will manifest differently between the two. The former would be more likely to be the ‘respectful but awkward’ type, and the later would be more likely to be the ‘entitled/arrogant’ type as they would see the awkwardness as a cultural element they are entitled to rather than an unfortunate side effect of not being neurotypical or lacking experience (as per Adrien’s feedback loop @7).

This strikes me as quite an insight, and ties into the point a few people have been making upthread about the boundaries of ‘geekiness’ shifting of late, such that rudeness can be worn as a badge of honour, rather than worked through and around (which is what people would have done in the past).

There is also a larger problem of relativising when it comes to knowledge or achievement. Traditional geeky pursuits (like being good at maths) often enjoyed a significant occupational payoff — such as an opportunity for work in the City as a quant, and in banking generally. Other, more modern examples of ‘geekiness’ enjoy no such cachet (memorizing every episode of Buffy in order, etc). We are not good, these days, at suggesting that knowing maths is better than knowing popular culture.

Then again, knowing popular culture can also enjoy a significant occupational payoff, because somebody has to create the popular culture, and who better to do that than people saturated in it?


  1. rnilsson says

    Then again, knowing popular culture can also enjoy a significant occupational payoff, because somebody has to create the popular culture, and who better to do that than people saturated in it?

    Ah, NOW I see why popular “culture” is so much less fun than some decades ago, say in the era of Monty Python.

    Thanks a lot, Emolationists.

  2. says

    I’ll be going to NY Comic Con this year, and while it’s become more “mainstream” as the years have gone by, I imagine I’ll be a bit more aware of these behaviors when I come across them this year.

  3. Claire Ramsey says

    This is real thought provoking so now I’m going to sit and chew on the thoughts that got provoked. That entitled/arrogant “entitled to be rude as shit” is sure a good description. Also, incitement. . . you’re right Ophelia, not much attention to that end of things. Thanks for this post.

  4. James Howde says

    I’m not. of course, a geek myself – Go! Fierce-animal related sporting franchise – but I think shoveling all the blame onto geek culture here is wrong.

    I’m willing to bet that with little effort you can come up with a (non geek) example where the heroine at first dislikes our handsome hero but is eventually won around and they live happily ever after. “Faint heart never won fair lady” as the saying goes.

    So, while geekdom might well distill out the socially inadequate (not I must stress again that this in any way resembles me at all) the idea of not taking no for an answer predates it in its modern form.

    James (did I mention that I’m not a socially inadequate geek myself – although my friend thinks he might be)

  5. ceesays says

    I think we’re focusing on geek culture because it’s got a bit of a twist that other, non-geeky subcultures don’t: that it’s hard to find a geek who doesn’t have the experience of bullying and social exclusion growing up, often very severe bullying and social exclusion. And while that means that part of joining geek culture is about leaving your isolation and exclusion to be with people who are A Lot Like You, and the sometimes cathartic relief one might feel at finally finding acceptance and welcome.

    Unfortunately, this has a rather significant downside, and a big piece of it is illustrated in the original post.

    Also here’s a link, and maybe you’ve read it before since the article itself is ten years old, but I find it to be important to remember when sailing the seas of geekdom: Five Geek Social Fallacies.

    1. Ostracizers Are Evil

    2. Friends Accept Me As I Am

    3. Friendship Before All

    4. Friendship Is Transitive

    5. Friends Do Everything Together

    I can see all of these social fallacies in geekdom, and they boil down to that shared history of bullying and social exclusion, but the first two are played over and over again in geekdom and they uphold some seriously shitty behavior when it comes to sexual harassment in the geek world. A creep can get a lot of mileage out of the idea that ostracizing people is evil, because so many geeks have been ostracized before, and many of those still feel keenly about it, and also about acceptance, because of that shared experience of not being accepted. Add in the strongly controlling latter three and you may stop wondering why geek spaces have such a bountiful supply of interpersonal conflict that yanks everyone into imbroglios that last for months, sometimes years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *