So, Elliot Rodger shot a bunch of people because he thought he was entitled to have sex with women.
I’ve been watching the Internet talk about this, and everyone’s been quick to call him an “MRA” (men’s rights activist) and discuss how horribly toxic the MRA community is. That’s valid. That’s absolutely warranted. A hashtag has trended on Twitter called #YesAllWomen, and it mostly consists of women sharing stories about awful, violent misogyny. Again, valid and warranted. It’s very important that this discussion is happening. But I want to look at this from a slightly different angle.
PREFACE: It’s hard to follow up a conversation about women’s issues with commentary about men’s issues without coming off as a guy shouting, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?!” So let me reiterate that I’m not trying to derail the conversation here — all the feminist discussion that’s happening is great and important and I’m glad it’s there. I also want to clarify that I do not sympathize with Elliot Rodger or his actions. He demonstrably had some very fucked up views, and what he did was monstrous and far beyond forgiveness.
I watched Elliot Rodger’s “Retribution” video before it got removed. It was downright terrifying to listen to, but one line really stood out to me:
“I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl.”
And my initial response was, “Dude, I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin too. What’s the big deal?”
I mean, yeah, I do have a girlfriend. And while our relationship is strained by the fact that we live a thousand miles apart, it’s still done wonders for both of our lives. But if you’d talked to me a year ago, I was 21 and had never kissed a girl. And yet I wasn’t planning on killing anyone over it.
The fact that people bundle him with the “MRAs” bugs me, though they’re correct in making that association. I’m bugged by the fact that that’s what those proudly self-proclaimed Men’s Rights “activists” believe in. As I’ve said before, men do actually have cultural problems that are mostly specific to them. And I’m not talking about them being violent. I’m talking about the pressures of masculinity. I believe that there should be a movement devoted to overcoming the societal standards of masculinity — not necessarily a men’s “rights” movement, maybe a Men’s Mental and Emotional Well-Being Movement? I dunno. But the Men’s Rights Movement — at least that which we see from the likes of Reddit — goes about things in all the wrong ways.
Elliot Rodgers identified himself as a 22-year-old virgin. The Men’s Rights Movement should respond, “And there’s nothing wrong with that.” The response instead is, “So those bitches should pay.”
The problem is not that women should “put out” for men. The problem (or at least part of it) is that we as a global culture should put less pressure on men to be “manly.” Men shouldn’t have to have sex with lots of women, or be physically fit, or have high-paying jobs of authority, or any of the other bullshit we associate with “being a man” in order to feel a sense of personal accomplishment or success. I learned this a long time ago. Elliot Rodger apparently didn’t, and several innocent people paid an undeserved price for that.
Women deserve to feel safe, and it’s great that people are spreading talk of that around via Twitter and the like. But men also deserve to feel secure. We should remember that, but we don’t. Almost nobody talks about it. The Good Men Project is a great start, but there’s a reason its tagline is, “The conversation no one else is having.” We need more men telling other men that it’s okay to be a 22-year-old virgin, that you don’t need to have sex in order to be considered strong, and yes, that we’re not entitled to women’s bodies just because we’re men. I guess that’s why I wrote this.
To any other 22-year-old virgins out there: It’s cool, dude. Keep on truckin’. And don’t be a dick.