Virginity, Violence and Male Entitlement

31 May

I’ve seen a number of articles written this week by men – nice, well-intentioned, feminist men, I’m sure – about how they empathize with Elliot Rodgers.

Oh, of course they’re disgusted by his actions and of course they think he was a terrible excuse for a human being, but, well, on some level they get it. Because they know what it’s like to be a lonely dude who feels isolated and unloved. They know what it’s like to want female attention but not know how to get it. They know what it’s like to be embarrassed and ashamed at finding yourself still a virgin at the age of twenty two. So while they condemn his actions, they can’t help but somehow feel a little bit sorry for him.

I can find it in my heart to feel many things, but being sorry for Elliot Rodgers will never be one of them.

I feel sorry for his victims, whose lives ended because of a misogynistic asshole’s wet dream of “retribution.”

I feel sorry for the victims’ friends and families, who have to live with their loss every day.

I feel sorry for Elliot’s family, because of the guilt and shame and sorrow I’m sure they’re experiencing.

I feel sorry for the staff and students at UCSB, who will no doubt struggle to feel safe on their campus after this horrible event.

I feel sorry for all the women everywhere who are reminded on a daily basis how little value their lives have in the eyes of so many men.

I can even manage to feel sorry for the men who empathize with Elliot, because I’m sure that recognizing that part of yourself is difficult and frightening.

I cannot, however, feel sorry for Elliot himself. I don’t especially care how sad and lonely he was. I can’t find it in me to feel badly that women rejected him over and over. I definitely don’t have time for people who seem to think that all of this could have been prevented if only Elliot had gotten laid.

I was a virgin when I was twenty two, by which I mean I’d never had penetrative sex with a man (or any kind of sex with anyone, to be honest). And yes, I believe that virginity is a social construct and not an actual thing, but at the time it was very real to me. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my virginity, and I definitely felt unwanted, undesirable and unattractive. To make things even worse, there was (and continues to be) this persisten myth that any woman can have sex whenever she wants, because all men are animals and will fuck anything they can. But they didn’t want to fuck me.

And you know what? Literally at no time ever did I think, gee, I should go on a killing spree.

I never felt entitled to men’s bodies just because I wanted them.

I never blamed all men everywhere for my inability to get it on.

Never. Not once.

And while I understand that there is more social pressure for boys to be sexually active than there is for girls, that doesn’t mean that girls experience any kind of expectations surrounding their sexual initiation. To be honest, being a twenty two year old virgin made me feel like a freak – no one else I knew was as inexperienced as I was, and the older I got, the harder it became to admit to my peers that I’d never even seen a guy’s junk, much less done anything with it. By the time I got to university, whenever I told people that I’d never had sex, they gave me the once-over, like, what is wrong with you.  I worried that I had some kind of sell-by date, like there was an age that I would hit when no one would want to touch my virginal self with a ten foot pole. I just wanted to get the damn thing over with already so that I could get on with the rest of my life.

But I never considered blaming all men everywhere for my problems.

See, the difference is that I didn’t feel like sex was something that men owed me. I didn’t believe that other women, the women who dated the people with whom I was madly, hopelessly in love, were unfairly co-opting something that was rightfully mine. I didn’t think that being nice to men meant that I was entitled to date them. I was miserable and lonely, but I didn’t try to pin the blame for that loneliness on anyone else, let alone an entire gender.

The problem with all of the talk surrounding how nerdy and awkward Elliot was as a teenager and how he just didn’t have anyone to tell him that sex isn’t all that important or that things would get better is that these discussions minimize the role misogyny and male entitlement played in this tragedy. Elliot didn’t murder six people because he was too shy to strike up a conversation with a woman; he murdered them because he felt that he deserved unlimited access to women’s bodies and if he couldn’t have that then by god he was going to kill those women and the men who dated them. This is a man who had fantasies about putting all women in concentration camps and slowly starving them to death. This wasn’t about his virginity – although I’m sure that played a part in what happened – it was about his belief that women owed him sex just because he was a man.

Yes, the idea that being sexually active is directly tied to a man’s masculinity is toxic. Yes, this is a hard thing for men to live with. Yes, being a twenty two year old virgin (unless you’re doing so by choice) will impact your self-esteem. But Elliot Rodger didn’t go on a killing spree because he couldn’t get laid – he did so because he was infuriated that he wasn’t being given the attention and respect that he felt he deserved.

I know that we need to talk about toxic masculinity and the ways that it hurts men. That is something that I feel incredibly passionate about. But right now I’m not ready to have that discussion, or at least not framed around some kind of empathy with how desperate and lonely and confused Elliot Rodger was. Right now my priority is talking about all of the ways that women are dehumanized in our culture, and the ways that dehumanization affects us every day. I want to talk about how our culture teaches men to dominate women, and tells them that violence is the way to do this. I want to talk about the dangerous consequences that women are painfully aware of every time they tell a man no. And maybe this is all part of the same discussion, but right now I just don’t have room to consider how Elliot Rodger might have felt. Because, as weird as this might sound, this isn’t really about him or his story. This isn’t about rationalizing or empathizing or sympathizing with a man who believed that he needed to punish women for not wanting to sleep with him.

This is about how society views women, and how unbelievably frightening it is to live under that lens.

My virginal self at age 20, not thinking even a little about murdering all men

My virginal self at age 20, not thinking even a little about murdering all men

 

 

Advertisements

86 Responses to “Virginity, Violence and Male Entitlement”

  1. Randa A. June 4, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Nomad.

  2. andyglasser June 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    As a guy, it surprises me how much I relate to your experiences. At 20 I was so embarrassed (especially to have gotten out of my teens without having sex) that I tried during my first experience to pretend it wasn’t. That’s very hard to do (especially with no internet for research), and I failed miserably. Of course neither did I ever think any one owed me anything. It was all me. The idea that after a shooting spree like that any girl should reconsider her decision to not date this guy, is ludicrous. That said, there was more wrong with him than merely that he felt entitled to women. Plenty of men feel like that, and we can and should set them straight, but a normal, healthy person would not lash out like that. The guy was sick, and yes, we need better mental health care in this country, but that’s not the cure either. We need to keep guns out of the hands of just anybody.

  3. anon June 9, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    Love this post. As another woman who was a late bloomer (really really late!) I used to get so depressed and even suicidal every time another birthday came around and I was still lonely and untouched. I never once thought about harming other people because of it, though.

  4. Aj July 4, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    I don’t know if you read his manifesto or watched his videos before making this, but he was obviously delusional and mentally ill. Not that in sympathizing with what he did but also you have to remind yourself that it wasn’t only women he dehumanized but the men also. They were incomparable to him. He hated player boy douche bags ad he put it. He was also racist towards ethnic men and in the end ended up killing more men than women.
    Nobody is victimising you or anyone. Everybody has the freedom and law to do what they want based on equality amongst gender roles. Women have it easier realistically nowadays.

    • Mashmish December 2, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

      “I don’t know if you read his manifesto or watched his videos before making this, but he was obviously delusional and mentally ill. Not that in sympathizing with what he did but also you have to remind yourself that it wasn’t only women he dehumanized but the men also. They were incomparable to him. He hated player boy douche bags ad he put it. He was also racist towards ethnic men and in the end ended up killing more men than women.”

      He was a turd with a delusional self esteem. Grandiose really. As a turd he complained about anyone that thought he smelled ass but really? What sense does that make?

      Entitled people (be they men or women) are the worse and shitty people.

  5. sellmaeth November 23, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    In fact, I have always believed that women can have sex whenever they want. A 28-year-old virgin, I was always sure that I could have shitty sex with some unattractive man, if only I lowered my standards. However, I didn’t want to lower my standards, so I never found out the truth.
    The problem with men like that misogynist (I refuse to type his name, he does not deserve to be famous) is that they never think of lowering their standards.I’m not saying they could get laid if they did … but they don’t even think of it.

    To the commenters: No, he was not “mentally ill”, or if he was, that was not the reason why he did what he did. His attitude, which was what caused him to murder women, is widespread in society, and causes men to be violent against women – while depression or Asperger’s or whatever he is rumoured to have had, is something millions of people suffer from without ever doing something violent.

    • Mashmish December 2, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      “In fact, I have always believed that women can have sex whenever they want. A 28-year-old virgin, I was always sure that I could have shitty sex with some unattractive man, if only I lowered my standards. However, I didn’t want to lower my standards, so I never found out the truth.”

      And for everyone like you there’s a man out there that don’t want to have shitty sex with some unattractive woman like you. Because they feel entitled to the hot girls. and that’s the thing with the Rogers (really, it’s ok, he won’t come out of his grave if you say his name) out there. They’re entitled turds.

  6. sellmaeth November 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    “To make things even worse, there was (and continues to be) this persisten myth that any woman can have sex whenever she wants, because all men are animals and will fuck anything they can. But they didn’t want to fuck me.”

    I actually believed that myth. As I was not willing to lower my standards and just have shitty sex with some random dude in order to get it over with (because, what is the point? Sex is supposed to be fun), I never found out whether or not I could get a random dude to have sex with me by just asking.

    Interestingly, I don’t believe the above-mentioned misogynist ever considered the possibility of lowering his standards to get rid of his virginity. I mean, I can’t guarantee he could have gotten laid with some 50-something lady whose husband neglects her, or whatever kind of person he would have found on those matchmaking internet pages, but the thing is: He didn’t even try.

    And he is not the only man with an inflated sense of self-worth. And I am not sure whether an inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement should be classified as mental illness. It is, sadly, too common to be really considered abnormal.

  7. Bixby December 17, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    You entirely missed the point. The boy had a severe mental problems stemming from Aspergers left untreated. . Aspergers kids cannot connect with others on any sort of typical level. The parents didn’t even know how to deal with it. I do blame the parents for not pulling him out of school. Aspergers are highly functioning.. so can “fool” law enforcement as he did when questioned. No one wants to say ” you have a very severe form of Autism. You will never live a “typical” life. You can learn to cope, and mimic acceptable behavior and try to follow “non-optional social convention” . they will never have empathy, or go beyond linear thinking. (think Big Bang.. Sheldon – total Aspergers .while it is funny on TV.. it is usually not funny in real life. )
    Apergers is not mental illness but it goes hand in hand with something that’s very challenging to discuss. When does society intervene when someone is “not right” ?
    This had NOTHING to do with Sex. He was not misogynistic .he was on the Autistic spectrum.

  8. aqilaqamar June 13, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete.

  9. Twin Ruler July 19, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    The whole benighted purpose of the Pick Up Artist gurus is to entrap young men into doing things that will be construed as stalking and/or sexual harassment. It is all part of a larger plot to poison relations between the sexes, and to fill up the Prisons. Notice, they never go after the gurus, only those insecure and socially awkward types who fall for their tripe.

    Down with the Pick Up Artist Community! It is always better to be introduced.

  10. momsis January 10, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    You look like a happy, caring self-confident young woman in your picture. Also just lovely. I found your blog from a post about feelings from a loved one who shares some of these concerns. You do a good job of helping others understand. It is a shame that current society makes it seem to young people that virginity is some kind of problem, when it is really a virtue. The truth is that it is perfectly acceptable to discover something this wonderful and bonding for the first time together, especially when there are many years ahead in a committed relationship to perfect the art, so to speak. Why ruin it by adding baggage and broken hearts to something that is meant to last a lifetime? If you waited, you did yourself a favor. It is perfectly natural, especially for women, to seek commitment and security before being intimate. The media make it out to be strange, but if you have the good sense to know better, you will benefit in the long run. No one needs to be desirable to everybody…just the right person. And that person will love you for who you are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: