[Content Note: Misogyny; objectification; rape culture.]
In the past few days, I've read a bunch of pieces by self-described nerdy or geeky guys, who identify with aspects of Elliot Rodger's resentful, entitled misogyny and/or identify with his expressed frustration at not being able to "get laid." None of the pieces I've read have justified Rodger's violent rage; all of them have, in fact, explicitly condemned it.
(That is not to suggest there are not plenty of pieces that do justify or even laud Rodger's violent rage. I just don't read them.)
And one of the things I'm seeing over and over in these pieces, despite their ostensibly being about how acknowledging women's humanity and agency is important, is a distinct failure to acknowledge women as anything but the sex class. That is, there is very little discussion about how straight men should and do have other reasons for interacting with women than trying to have sex with them.
I'm sure many of the men writing these pieces would argue that should be taken as read: Of course I believe that. As though it's self-evident. But it is not self-evident to the many men who treat women precisely like this every day, and to the many women who are treated every day like we have no value beyond our willingness to fuck men. Or their desire to fuck us.
To truly and meaningfully challenge the dynamic of entitled misogyny, the men who write these pieces need to make explicit that women do not exist to be sex toys for men.
In all of these pieces, where men talk about their days longing after women from afar, they are talking about objectifying women. And then they come to the denouement, where they finally figure out how to talk to women, huzzah, but individual men figuring out how to talk to women is not a solution to the systemic oppression and attendant objectification which produces men like Elliot Rodger.
They never get to the part where the cultural solution, beyond their individual success, is humanizing and visibilizing women in a nonsexual context. They never get to the part where the opportunity and obligation to interact with women in a way that isn't sexual is something that every man needs in order to undermine the narrative of women as a sex class.
They never address that that is both an opportunity and obligation that many men do not have, because our entire culture is set up so that most men don't have to interact in spaces that center female humanity if they don't want to.
Many of the men writing these pieces speak of being "lucky" that they didn't take a similar path to Elliot Rodger, or imagine some sliding-doors alternate reality in which maybe they could have gone down a similar road.
But it isn't luck, and it often isn't personal fortitude, that stops people primed with resentful, entitled privilege from enacting violence against the marginalized people they scapegoat for their frustrations.
It is usually the opportunity and obligation to interact with those people in a way that makes it impossible to maintain the illusion those people are responsible for your unhappiness.
Meaningful, humanizing interaction.
Passages in many of these pieces that essentially boil down to "once I realized I wasn't entitled to women, I got one, and that saved me" merely entrench the notion that women are prizes for straight men to be won, if only they figure out the magic combination to get in a lady's pants.
That's not a message which in any way supports women's humanity and agency. It still treats us like a sex class. Like prizes. Like property.
If you want to help bust the fuck out of the toxic culture that produces men like Elliot Rodger, you have to stop writing pieces that effectively explain how there's a "nice way" to be like Elliot Rodger.
Don't write a piece about how you learned how to get laid. Write a piece about how you learned that women are human beings.
If you have.
[My thanks to Shakesville Contributors Aphra_Behn, SKM, and Hallelujah_Hippo for the conversation we had which led to this piece.]