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Hateful Male Entitlement
By Zack Budryk
On May 23, 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, a student at University of California Santa Barbara, stabbed three men to death in his apartment, drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house, and, when no one answered his knocks at the door, shot three nearby women, killing two and critically wounding a third.
After Rodger finished his spree and took his own life, the trail he’d left behind materialized, including a video in which he expressed his hatred of women and vowed to exact “retribution” on them for not having sex with him, and a rambling, self-aggrandizing manifesto (it literally begins with his birth) that culminates in a call for women to be put in concentration camps.
I was transfixed by this story as both a feminist and an autistic person; some shameful, selfish part of me, knowing the existing stigma, always silently repeats “please don’t be autistic” whenever such an incident occurs, having watched that kind of harmful speculation unfold in the wake of James Holmes’ and Adam Lanza’s killing sprees. I suspected it might be the case for Rodger even before his father’s lawyer announced it as though it explained everything. If you watch Rodger’s final video (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), he clearly thinks he’s in a movie.
Rodger’s writing was difficult to read, not least because, at the risk of focusing on the wrong thing, he is a terrible writer (awkward, non-conversational “big words” like “exquisite” are used over and over again, he makes multiple-page digressions on Pokemon and masturbation, and he switches tense completely at random several times).
Every time something like this happens, there will be people who chastise anyone who speaks the murderer’s name, prints his picture or reads his rationale for his crime. You’re doing what they want, these people will say. They wanted to be infamous and you’re giving them that. Well, no, that’s not actually what Rodger wanted. He wanted to get laid, quite simply, and was so deeply narcissistic he believed that was owed to him. And that is, quite frankly, not a school of thought that will go away if we give Rodger’s screed the silent treatment.
Indeed, Rodger’s massacre occurred barely a month after Connecticut high school student Christopher Plaskon stabbed Maren Sanchez to death for declining to go to prom with him. Plaskon, like Rodger, cannot be dismissed as an anomalous “psycho.” Like Rodger, he planned his crime. And the same weekend as Rodger’s massacre, a Stockton, California man shot at three women for declining to have sex with him. The Tumblr When Women Refuse collects stories of women assaulted, killed or threatened for declining men sex, even as talking heads attempt to depict this as something only a “crazy” person would do.
But ultimately, I read Rodger’s manifesto for one key reason: I was a sexually and romantically frustrated young man once, and yes, there were times when I resented both women and men more successful than I was. I felt obligated to read ugly, hateful male entitlement laid bare, because I felt obligated to see if I recognized any of it in myself, even in embryonic form.
It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that Rodger’s notion that he was entitled to sex for being “the supreme gentleman” is actively promoted in our society. Entertainment aimed at both men and women depicts “persistence” as key to “acquiring” (Rodger’s term for his father finding a girlfriend) a partner, even in the face of an unequivocal rejection (this essay on the idea as a comedy trope seems eerily prescient). The Internet rings with complaints from “nice guys” about being “friendzoned,” a term which, for the blissfully unaware, refers to the horror of a woman only wanting to be friends rather than sexual partners even after you’ve been decent to her. It is objectively true that both Rodger’s response to his frustration and the mindset behind it have a lengthy precedent in our society.
As the simultaneously hilarious and depressing “Not All Men” meme demonstrates, lots of men are offended by the notion that they have been socialized in the same general direction as a piece of shit like Elliot Rodger. But that’s why it’s so important to conduct that kind of self-examination, because you’re not going to recognize it any other way. As Junot Diaz once said, “The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not passed down in political practice, they’re passed down in mundane narratives.” The Elliot Rodger in many men is a part of themselves they are trained not to notice, but with the ever-growing body count that accompanies the mindset, I would venture to say all men owe women the time it takes to read it.
#Otherworldly #ElliotRodger #RodgerManifesto #KillingSpree #WhenWomenRefuse #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen