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The Sad Culture Of Sexual Entitlement

On Friday night, a young man drove around an Isla Vista campus of the University of California and began shooting every woman he could find. His reasons? According to a series of chilling YouTube videos, he was upset because no girl would sleep with him, and his response was to murder every woman in revenge.

There have been the typical reasons suggested for all of this, from America needing greater gun control to needing better access to mental health. The Daily Mail, in their typical nuanced way, decided that blaming The Hunger Games was acceptable because the guy’s father is an assistant director on the film series, but that’s The Daily Mail. But a new reason has emerged, that this is a cultural thing, that it’s a symptom of gender politics.

It’s hard to argue with this latter reason, especially when you see what the guy (I’m not naming him, let’s not give him more celebrity status) wrote and said about women, and the fact he targeted women for the childish reason that they he didn’t get to have sex with any of them. It also comes right on the heels of an incident where a high school student was stabbed by a boy who she rejected going to prom with.

There’s been a lot of talk that this is a direct result of the kinds of messages boys are given about women, and I agree completely. While what this guy did was reprehensible and should be looked upon with scorn, I also understand his mindset. I understand the messages he’s been fed and what drove him to think in the way he did. I admit with shame that I’ve been in that dark mindset where I’ve felt that a rejection from a girl is some conspiracy against me. The difference is, I learnt better and bettered myself as a person, this guy never did.

The killer had a serious problem with women, believing himself to be entitled to have sex with any of them any time he wants. He believed that women rejecting his advances were acting on some kind of conspiracy against him, that women collectively sought out arseholes and actively shot down “nice guys”. Of course, it’s hard to see why someone who deems murder as an acceptable response to rejection could be a “nice guy”, but that’s how he saw himself.

It’s not hard to see why he thought this way. Society places an awful lot of importance on a man getting laid and never really places much importance on what the women think about this. I remember being a teenager and getting the message that being in puberty meant I needed to immediately sleep with every girl possible, and it caused me great sadness when I realised I had no idea how to go about that, and definitely got sad when I wasn’t having sex with every girl in the vicinity. The counter-message given to girls, that having sex makes you impure and a “slut” results in quite the disconnect when boys are consistently rejected by the girls they’re told are all sexually available to them. None of this is good.

But here’s where it gets worse. As a man, you are not allowed to complain about this situation either. You are never allowed to show any weakness or openly admit that you feel unnecessarily pressured. You’re not allowed to ask for help. You’re not allowed to say that you think there’s something wrong with you, even if it is only a feeling brought on by societal pressure rather than something more serious. Boys are taught that the best way to solve problems, whether real or perceived, is to prove your strength, start fights, get angry, get revenge.

And if you’re not perfect and getting all the girls? Well then, you’re a loser and you’ll never achieve anything in life. Never mind if you excel in many other ways and have plenty of great qualities that could eventually lead to you being in a happy relationship. If you aren’t getting all the ladies, you are a terrible person. And probably gay (and let’s not get into the homophobia surrounding that!).

So what happens when a boy is pressured into sleeping with girls or else he’s deemed worthless, but isn’t allowed to openly admit that he feels uncomfortable and is being told to actively suppress any feelings of weakness he may have because he’s a man and men are supposed to be stoic and strong? He bottles up those feelings of weakness, doesn’t make them known to the kinds of people who can help him become a better person, eventually ends up believing the lies that men aren’t allowed to have weaknesses, believes himself to be superior and deems any rejection aimed at him to be “an injustice”. This is what leads to incidents like this, or the many incidents of individual abuse that don’t make global news on this scale.

I’ve experienced the kinds of messages that lead to this behaviour, and it’s only through learning to examine those messages and break them down that I’ve avoided being a Men’s Rights Activist and instead become a decent human being. Over the years I learned that it doesn’t matter how much sex I am or am not having, what matters is how I act in polite company, how well I treat others and how confident I am in following a path that matters to me in whatever area I choose. I’ve become rather savvy to negative media messages and have gained a good sense of when to say “yeah, sure, whatever.”

But even with this revelation, even intelligent men with a strong grasp of reality (which I like to think I am) find it hard not to listen to those messages. It’s a phenomenon discussed in this Vagenda article from a female perspective, and this is me saying it from a male perspective – as a man who tries to show everybody respect as a human being and not treat women as sex objects, sometimes it’s hard not to subconsciously view women as sex objects, simply because society is constantly saying that I should. I don’t feel proud saying that’s the case, but at least I do my best to consciously counter that way of thinking at every turn, and recognise great women for what’s going on in their heads.

Now imagine what it’s like for those who are less savvy to these things. People like our killer. That’s when this becomes an even bigger problem.

These attitudes hurt everyone. They hurt men because it causes many boys to overemphasise how much they need sex and close off from the world and become unhinged, and it hurts women because of the disproportionate aggression aimed in their direction for merely saying things men disagree with or because they simply weren’t attracted to a man who was attracted to them. No one comes out well in all of this.

There are certainly a number of factors in what led to this incident (The Hunger Games is not one of them!), but these messages are definitely a particularly toxic part in it all. This is why I stand by every woman who is trying to change the message, trying to alter the messages we send to boys about how they treat girls. Let’s start breaking these gendered messages about how men and women should behave and start sending healthier messages about sex and relationships.

And let’s not forget the lives lost in all of this. Don’t forget that the victims were the dead and the wounded, young women and the odd bystander man, gunned down and stabbed merely because of one man’s horrible, selfish, childish ideology. Thoughts go out to the families and I wish them the best in overcoming this tragedy.

And while I can certainly understand the killer’s mindset, I certainly do not have any sympathy for his horrific actions.

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