Saturday, May 24, 2014

Elliot's Entitlement

In case you missed the news this morning/afternoon there's been ANOTHER mass shooting in the United Stated. As an aside, I find it astonishing that this KEEPS HAPPENING and yet there's apparently still no moves for tighter gun control, but that's a whole other subject, and a whole other post.

While no-one can say for sure why the shooter did what he did, and armchair psychology is a fuzzy practice at best, he did leave a rather hefty chunk of evidence behind to give people an idea of his interests, if not his exact motivations. A six minute video the (alleged) shooter made is currently circulating YouTube, and features a number of misogynistic, narcissistic sentiments I find alarmingly familiar. All the stuff about the "day of retribution" is, to be fair, pretty extreme, but I've heard a lot of other things he said from so, SO many other people.

For example, after insisting that being a virgin when he was 22 was "unfair", he goes on to say, "You girls aren't attracted to me. I don't know why you're not attracted to me, but I will punish you for it." In his manifesto he asks, "Why do things have to be this way? I ask all of you. All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behaviour towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy."

The (alleged) shooter is obviously absolutely alone in terms of responsibility for his horrific actions - but he is far from alone in his philosophy of entitlement to women's bodies. It's easy to dismiss this as a "fringe" opinion, but a very quick Google search of "Why don't women like me" brought up this absolute gem of a comment on a Huffintgon Post article about being dateless - "I'm about ready to resort to verbal and physical abuse towards women as that it seems is what they like. The women I know always go after the same type of guy and expect different results." Charming. A Facebook page has even been set up (ALREADY) claiming the (alleged) shooter is an American Hero.

There are certain corners of the internet where you're more likely to see it though.  If you're lucky enough to have never heard similar sentiments expressed in person, feel free to swing past The Spearhead, Return of Kings, Heartiste, or any of a million other blogs devoted to the "saving" masculinity from the evils of feminism. I've done a fair bit of reading of all these sites and more, mostly out of an attempt to understand a viewpoint so completely removed from my own. To be honest though, I can usually only tolerate it for an hour or so at a time before I just want to burn everything, so unless you're particularly good at sociological detachment, it's not a practice I would recommend.

To summarise for those of you not interested in reading up on it, Pick Up Artists believe there is a tried and true method/s, or "game" that will get any man laid, and that women are easily be manipulated if you know how. Men's Rights Activists are...well, the title is pretty self explanatory really. They operate from the basic assumption that feminism and the modern world in general is oppressing men, and they need to stand up for their rights. While these two groups have slightly different cultures, they intersect quite a lot, and the subject of women turning down men and how horrifically unfair this is comes up time and time again across forums related to both topics. Discussions of how to deal with the apparently dire consequences of not getting laid, or getting dumped for "no reason at all" comprises about 80 per cent of the discussion in these corners of the internet.

Some media outlets have already pointed the finger of blame for this shooting squarely at Pick Up Artists, their highly objectifying methods to get laid, and the generally sexist culture they perpetuate. In response to allegations, there has understandably been a rush of discussion on related boards and sites today, with Pick Up Artists and Men's Rights Activists attempting to defend themselves. Because my curiosity is often stronger than my interest in keeping my blood pressure low, I went off and did some reading to see what these groups were saying to distance themselves from an incident that seems, on first glance, to be pretty squarely centred in their culture. The (alleged) shooter was a member of several forums associated with the Pick Up Artist movement, and the sentiments he expressed in his video and manifesto seem to be pretty consistent with the Pick Up Artist sentiment.

In an attempt to defend themselves, and distance themselves from the (alleged) shooter, users at the RooshV Forums are currently full of people pointing out how extreme, how entitled, and how downright awful the (alleged) shooter and his close cohorts were. There are some pretty distressing screencaps being put up from other forums that are currently on lockdown, calling the (alleged) shooter a hero, among other stomach turning comments. Other users point out that one of the basic tenets of being a Pick Up Artist is that you aren't entitled to anything you didn't earn - being a "whiny bitch who complains about what he hasn't got" is one of the cardinal sins of Pick Up Artistry, and from evidence left behind it's clear the (alleged) shooter did a great deal of complaining. Therefore the (alleged) shooter's claims that hot women should have just fallen into this lap because he deserved it is actually the antithesis of Pick Up Artist philosophy. The users on this forum claim that his actions don't reflect their philosophy, that he doesn't represent them because he was operating off an entirely different basic assumption.

But even in the middle of a thread discussing how the (alleged) shooter should have just gotten over the fact he wasn't getting laid, there are little gems of entitlement to be found - one user writes "I think sometimes with game, or anything with life, is that we forget that not everybody will be able to get their just due....if you are one of the unlucky just have to roll with the punches". At the same time as he's advising that men who don't get what they want chill out and not hold grudges, he is still operating from the basic idea that everyone has their "just due." That all men, everywhere, DESERVE, are entitled to, SHOULD have all the sex they want, with the women they want. This idea leads to so much violence, so much coercion, so much straight up rape that it makes my skin crawl, even when they try and put it in such a "nice" way. In the middle of trying to defend themselves, these men are still expressing the exact same basic idea that the (alleged) shooter expressed in his video and manifesto.

To be fair, this forum is far from the worst of this type of thing out there. As much as their habit of calling women "targets" (among other things) makes my skin crawl, I could easily point to more examples of horrifying extremists in this corner, like one blogger who says his mother deserves to die for refusing to have sex with him, and many people in the Pick Up Artist and Men's Rights community are doing just that right now. By pointing to the extremes, the outlying anomalies, they can convince themselves that they're not THAT bad. Sure, they still operate from the basic idea that all men have a "just due", and that being denied sex is the one of the worst things that could ever happen to a man. But they're not THAT guy, so it's okay.

To be really honest though, the extreme outliers aren't the guys that really scare me, deep down. It's the rest of them - the quiet ones who think of themselves as "normal", who think they're "nice" because they're not like THAT guy, but who still think they are owed everything they desire from women. Who think, quietly, but with certainty, that it's not fair when a woman turns them down, that women who aren't attracted to them are bitches, that they have the right to do whatever it takes to get what they want.The ones who are sitting in these threads today tut-tutting about how this one guy took it too far, and is making them all look bad now. I hate to tell you guys, but I've read through your postings, and you're not helping yourselves nearly as much as you think you are.

I'm not going to try and draw a straight line from this idea of a man's "just due" and the horrific killings that happened today. But it can't be entirely disentangled from it either. In my experience, straight men and women are generally socialised to react to lack of a partner, or lack of sex, in completely different ways. I'd be interested to hear if other people have had different experiences, but in my experience, straight men are socialised to blame women for their disappointment, and straight women are socialised to blame themselves.

When women get dumped, or are single for a long time, there will almost certainly be a bit of "boys suck, throw rocks at them" muttering. But it's hardly ever as loud, as unashamedly public, and as vehemently sincere as when certain types of men find themselves in the same situation. They throw the entire blame for their lack of satisfaction at the feet of the women who rejected them, and often at the feet of all women everywhere. The women I've been around always seem to feel a little silly about sweeping "men suck" generalisations, and are much more sincere when blaming themselves. They're not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough. They're too crazy, or emotional, or they did something wrong. Women are socialised to feel that if they're not with the partner of their choice, it's their own fault. But I've seen so many men insist with a perfectly straight face that they did nothing wrong, that there's no rational reason that women shouldn't be all over them - that it's all women's fault for denying them their "just due." A lot of people have tried to argue that "rape culture", the idea that men are entitled to women's bodies is an overhyped myth created by feminism - but I can't help but conclude that a viewpoint so prevalent must come from somewhere.

The fact is, no-one owes you sex, or love, or companionship. Most people WANT it - some much more desperately than others. But wanting something, and having a right to it are two different things. Despite what some posters in the MRA forums would like to tell you, you won't actually die if you don't get off. It's not a requirement for life - for some people it's a requirement for happiness, and we all WANT happiness, but that doesn't mean a partner/s of your choice is your "just due". There are lots of things I want - to be perfectly frank, I really want to have an MFM threesome some day. But to lay the blame for me being 33 years old and still not having been in a bed with two men at once at the feet of all men would be completely ludicrous. I want it, I desire it, but I'm not entitled to it. I'm baffled as to why some men can't understand that this works the other way around as well. You might want women, or a particular woman. You might desire them - but you're not, and you are NEVER entitled to it.


  1. So, re: how men are socialised to deal with rejection and being single. For context, I went to an all-boys private school, basically the breeding ground for the proud upholders of the patriarchy

    One of the most important aspects of traditional masculinity is competition, and sex and dating are quite possibly the most central forms of competition. The way it goes is, if you're single/a virgin, that's your fault because you're not good enough, you're a loser. It is absolutely socially acceptable to taunt, judge and generally disrespect a man who is not dating or has never had sex. They're treated as failing at having been men. The traditional positioning of men as the ones who are required to pursue relations with the opposite sex with women deciding whether to acquiesce only reinforces this.

    In this traditional model, all agency is removed from women. Winning a woman's affections is treated no differently than completing a tricky video game. A woman's feelings or desires are completely unimportant.

    In this worldview, the PUA culture makes total sense. Their techniques are just like mastering a tricky cheat code (in fact, PUAs will often describe their techniques with exactly that terminology). Objective ratings for attractiveness are like difficulty ratings. Women aren't subjective entities, they're objects and obstacles to be overcome to gain the prize and respect of your peers.

    Of course, the other side of the coin here is the "nice guy" meme, which didn't just pop out of thin air. I can't tell you where it started but once it gained traction men who had faced a rejection or were virgins looked between the choices of blaming themselves or blaming women for their "failures" and eagerly pounced on the latter. That they could pick a third option and drop both toxic memes entirely often doesn't occur to them, and the more isolated they are from social contact with women (and thus the chance to realise that, hey, they're human beings), the more vulnerable they are. So while men are generally socialised to blame themselves, it's considered an acceptable outlet in certain circumstances to blame women and there are communities that will encourage you to do so.

    The obvious solution to this is teaching young men about enthusiastic consent, that tying your self worth to your sex life is a mug's game and that a relationship is the result of multiple entities whose feelings are important, not just a box that needs to be ticked for your achievement showcase. But sadly there are lots of people who don't realise this.

  2. I don't understand one part of your logic in this piece. You point out that most of the people involved in these communities are distancing themselves from the actions of that nutbar - particularly how they express that one should not feel entitled to sex from women. But then you point to ONE example of one poster that expressed sympathy for the idea that men deserve their due and then use this to conclude:

    "these men are still expressing the exact same basic idea that the (alleged) shooter expressed in his video and manifesto."

    And so feeling justified to see the taint of this attitude existing in the community as a whole.

    But then you go even further. You start worrying about all the 'quiet' men out there who secretly think this. And imply that in general that's what men are like generally because, to quote you: "straight men are socialised to blame women for their disappointment" - leading us to the conclusion that men in general think they are entitled to sex from women.

    Do you really feel your presentation of the evidence justifies these generalisations? If so, can you say a bit more about why you think so?

    One of the worst things about these communities is their tendency to make unjustified assumptions about the psychology and behaviour of women in general - by saying things like they love to be dominated and ruled by their man - and stuff like that. And they do so without a lot of evidence.

    My question to you is - how are you any better by offering these sorts of generalisations about men without providing much evidence for the claim?

    1. 279 words of 'not all men' - a new record! Now sit down and be quiet, you just might learn something,

    2. Oh and by the way, the fact that you've replied to an article on entitlement demanding that the author provide further proof of male entitlement... yeah.

    3. In short, yes, I do feel I have supported the generalised statements I've made in their piece, thoroughly. While I only directly quoted a few people, if you'd care to read through any of the linked articles or related sites that I took the time to read before posting, I think you'll find ample evidence of everything I've said here.

  3. I have occasionally worked for an attraction coaching website and am quite concerned at the general demonization of our industry. The majority are nothing like the men's rights groups you are equating us with. Hate-filled forum posters who blame women come to seek help from those who know better, not those who will reinforce their grievances.
    So long as women remain generally passive in initiating dating, they need men to think highly of themselves, know how to approach confidently and hold interesting conversation. So our work is for everyone's benefit.

    1. I don't have any issue with men being taught to approach confidently, and people trying to improve their self esteem. That's all great stuff - my concern is how easily teaching men to be confident seems to slide into teaching men to never take no for an answer. I don't know anything about your particular classes, obviously. But I've seen a lot of attraction coaches offer advice that boils down to more or less harassing women until they give in.

    2. Take this little "guide" for instance -

      A lot of the earlier advice is great - be confident, make the first move, be interesting, give the woman a reason to want to keep talking to you, etc. But then it delves into how you should always be trying to get in her personal space, even if she rejects your advances. THAT's where it loses me, and it goes downhill from there.

    3. The point being made is that you should gradually break down physical barriers rather than suddenly going for the first kiss. E.g. put your arm on her back first, then maybe touch her hand, then eventually go for a kiss. But yeah, if she rejects it you should stop, but that's not a reason be scared or trying.
      As for the sexual stuff, that's just a whole different area, not a part of pickup or dating advice.

  4. LOVE this post. It needs to be talked about SO SO bad. This is just an absolute tragedy all around. And I also love that you're queer (bi? pan? it seems) like me. :-)

    1. Hi Billie! Glad you enjoyed this post - as you say, it contains a lot I feel really need to be said. And yes, for the record I am indeed queer :)