On Friday night, May 23rd, a young man named Elliot Rodger decided that he’d had enough. He was 22 years old, still a virgin, and had “never even kissed a girl.” It seems as though girls had “never been attracted” to Rodger, a “supreme gentleman” in his own mind, and instead threw themselves at “obnoxious brutes”. He was frustrated and lonely, and he blamed women for denying him the “sex, fun, and pleasure” that he believed rightfully his. None of it seemed fair. He wanted to punish them for making him suffer this way. Before the night was over, Rodger had killed 7 people, including himself, and injured 13 more.
Much and more has been said about these horrific events, and perhaps I can do little more than simply direct you some of the very smart people writing about the incident. But I’m going to try to do more, not because I feel like I have to or that I’ll get more web traffic. Because I want to. Because I can’t help myself.
Because it’s important.
I was lucky growing up. I had a single mother who loved me and supported me all throughout my childhood. Of course, she continues to love and support me in all my endeavors, even if she doesn’t always understand them. I grew up not knowing my father, nor did my mom ever date after I was born, and although I wasn’t always happy about that, looking back I think I was lucky in that respect too. I don’t recall ever seeing a man treat my mother with anything less than respect, and I never – not once in my life – saw a man be violent towards my mother. Or my sisters, for that matter, who were both essentially adults by the time I came around. In this way, I didn’t learn that anything less than love and respect was even an option when it came to women.
Not all men are so lucky.
I was also lucky when it came to my friends. Being raised around women, I naturally gravitated towards female friends all throughout my school years and even in the present day. These platonic relationships were equally formative when it came to my behavior around the opposite gender. Despite our complimentary genitalia, the idea of a romantic or even sexual relationship with these girls and women almost never entered into the equation. They were my friends: people whose company I enjoyed despite their gender, and in many case, people whose opinions I valued higher than those of my own gender. I won’t say that I was never attracted to some of them, but I valued more what was between their ears than between their legs.
There was another benefit of being this close with so many women: insight. Especially in college, I learned many things about the world women live in (which is very different from my own) and the abuse they face on a regular basis. Cat calls. Leering. Slut-shaming. Discrimination. Body Dysmorphia. Fear. Some of these women called themselves feminists, though most did not: these were simply women living in a world often felt dangerous in ways that were difficult to articulate. And the few that did identify as feminists were hardly the “man-hating fascists” the media had taught me to believe; these women loved men – especially their boyfriends and spouses – but that love was also tempered with fear or anxiety. Until my twenties, I was blind to almost all of these things, but fortunately I knew women – including a few feminists – who could show me what I couldn’t see on my own.
Not all men are so lucky.
The world we live in can appear very different depending on your gender, a fact not all men seem to realize. As a man, I’ve never had to be concerned about someone staring at me on the bus, or worry about walking down a dark street by myself at night. I can get drunk and even black-out at a party without fear of what might happen to me while I’m unconscious. The idea that a stranger – or worse, a “friend” – might rape me given the right circumstances has never once crossed my mind. I’m not a strong or physically-imposing man by any means, but I can put myself in certain situations and feel reasonably assured that nothing bad will happen. The same cannot be said of my friends or any woman for that matter. These are the kinds of situations that weigh on their minds while the other half of the species stumble through life mostly oblivious. When I was a younger man, I simply couldn’t relate to the stories I’d hear from my female friends. They were just too different from the world I myself inhabited.
What concerned me about recent events is how much I could relate with some of the frustrations that unfortunately led Elliot Rodger to murder. I was 20 years old before I lost my virginity, and although I had girlfriends in high school and college, there were frequently long stretches between each relationship. Feelings of unattractiveness, inferiority, and loneliness were no stranger to me in my youth. There were no easy answers to my “problem” either; I was simply a late bloomer. More concerning, however, is how often I’ve heard these sentiments echoed by other guys in my life.
This is why I felt the need to add my voice to the legion of others writing about Elliot Rodger. For as much as some people would like to shift the blame onto the need for better mental health services or stricter gun control, the real issue is some men don’t like women. Not all men, but men like Elliot Rodger. For as much as he desired women, it’s very clear that he didn’t particularly like them. He hated that for years women and shunned and rejected him, and it was this hatred that led him to murder. He believed that he deserved to have a girlfriend – with all the “sex, fun, and pleasure” that came with it – and he was angry that it had been denied to him for so long. These feelings aren’t unique to Elliot Rodger. I’d heard them expressed long before Friday night and I’m sure I’ll hear them for many years to come. This is the toxic world-view of many sexually-frustrated young men, including – in my experience – a lot of geeks and nerds like myself.
Women deserve much better than this. Yes, all women, especially the ones that reject us (remember, no one is ever obligated to be attracted to you). And as someone who has grown up and recognizes the errors of my youth, I want to be an agent of positive change in this world. If I only change one person’s mind with my words and my actions, that will be enough, although I hope I can do even more.
This blog is a start, but it’s hardly the end.