Monday, 26 May 2014

Isla Vista and the Worrying Reality of Sexual Entitlement

            When I heard about the drive-by shooting in Isla Vista the other day which left six dead and many others wounded, I thought, "Great, another horrible campus shooting. Exactly what America needs." But then I saw a link to this video, made by the shooter, Eliot Rodger, only hours prior (warning, video may be disturbing to some viewers). It sent chills up my spine. This was not an ordinary shooting that leads liberal Americans to call for gun and mental health reform. Upon further investigation, a manifesto by Rodger entitled "My Twisted World" has been unveiled. Here's a snippet:

And then this black boy named Chance said that he lost his virginity when he was only thirteen [to a blonde white girl]!
How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself, descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more... If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I've had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is. They would give themselves to this filthy scum, but they reject ME? The injustice!

Besides an extreme case of narcissism, racism, misogyny, and an apparent mental disorder, Rodger fell victim to sexual entitlement. The thought process goes: If I treat a woman with respect, she owes me sex. Hence this "supreme gentleman" felt that he was being cheated.

            There are many things I can say about Eliot Rodger, but really that's not what I want to accomplish. Instead, I want to address the harsh reality that is sexual entitlement and why it perpetuates.

            The mantra, "If I treat a woman with respect, she owes me sex," has been repeated in so many ways: "nice guys finish last," and "did you see what she was wearing?" However with a newfound wave of male empowerment, this is heard most commonly as "the Friend Zone."

            The Friend Zone offers a sense of entitlement not unlike something we've all most likely experienced: when one participant of a platonic relationship wants to enter into a romantic relationship, while the other participant is just not interested. They put their lack of sexual experience down to the fact that they just too dang kind (shucks!). It places an emphasis on usually self-proclaimed "nice guys," such as Rodger, and demonizes the other party, usually a woman, for always choosing men that hurt her. If only she had just listened. What selfish masochists we are.

            The propagation of the Friend Zone concept is due to the fact that it is so relatable. We've all been there. We like someone who just doesn't like us back. We want to be accepted by the person we have feelings for, if they only knew how much you cared for them. But then you pack up and move on. There have been studies conducted on the "nice guy" phenomenon, but results, predictably, are varied and all-around inconclusive.

            On the flip side of the coin, it probably doesn't help that go-to recipes for sex success exist, most notably in publications such as The Game, which became an international bestseller because of its author's reputation in "pick up artistry." In fact, the seduction community eats up these moneymakers every chance they get. The theory is to know the cues to make a girl impress you, and therefore making them do all the work and feel important by talking about themselves. Think Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

            In both cases of the Friend Zone and Pickup Artistry, there seems to be the same underlying idea. The fact of the matter is that women, as a gender, aren't a vending machine where you can push the right buttons and sex comes out. We don't owe you anything. This is Consent 101, people.

            However, as Laurie Penny points out in this New Statesman article (highly recommended reading, by the way), women are taught to ignore this kind of behavior from men, especially over the Internet where threats have no face. There are so many instances of online chat rooms, dating sites, and message boards where men feel that it is okay to present themselves as a "nice guy" and dehumanize the women that rejected them.

            And many times, we do live with it. It's harmless enough, we suppose. Of course we're not going to have sex with you because you said our photo looked good, call us cunts all you want. Though often this innate entitlement becomes extreme rage, and now in our digital world, rape and death threats are more common than ever before, which I'm planning to address in another blog post entirely. But let me just say this: when women must fear for their lives and take breaks from their careers because they have been harassed by Internet trolls one too many times, we've gone way beyond the breaking point.

            My point is that this pent up rage at the female sex can lead to this kind of violent extremism. My point is that this can't go on any longer. Not Rodger, not Lépine, not Lanza, not Sodini, and not any other faceless tormentor on the Internet or otherwise.

Further reading: Another Angry Woman | Daily Kos | Salon | Vox

1 comment:

  1. For any who are interested, after an extended discussion with Kelsey, here are my thoughts. Not perfect. But an honest assessment of where I am and the differnece I may (or may not) be able to make: