In the aftermath of the Santa Barbara shootings, the topic of misogyny came back into the media with a backlash, a counter-punch, and a lot of arguments.
The reason everyone is arguing so much is that humans like to have clean answers:
Are men walking around with anger towards women or aren’t they?
But there are no clean answers here. The truth of human nature is that it’s messy, inconsistent, and almost always full of contradictions.
If you don’t like people that are messy, inconsistent, and full of contradictions, not only do you not like other humans, you don’t like your self either.
While Elliot Rodgers was a disturbed and psychopathic murderer, his rage towards women was extremely common, and maybe even “normal”.
Yes, I am saying that virtually all men (certainly straight men), feel some degree of rage towards women because of sexual rejection, feelings of powerlessness, and sexual frustration.
Of course we know that the vast majority of men don’t go around shooting people over it, and I’ll say that for MOST men, their level of anger towards women is buried enough that it does not even come up in their daily thoughts.
Because, importantly, most men also LOVE women.
We love the way you laugh, the way you make us feel inside when you touch our arm, play with your hair, smile at us, and, of course, we can’t get enough of it when you surrender to us sexually.
Is this a contradiction? Yes, but contradictions are a normal part of life.
We are huge compared to atoms and molecules and tiny compared to the stars and galaxies… and normal men feel both anger and boundless love for women.
(It’s worth a quick note to say that women also love and hate men, and I’ll explore that more deeply next time).
So against a sea of men who are saying, “not me! I’m not like those immature and angry men who don’t like women,” I’m going to stand by my assertion and say that if you dig deeply enough into the primordial emotions of every man from “the player” to the “socially inept virgin” to “the loving husband,” you will find that latent anger that still smolders from early rejections, break ups, and feelings of inadequacy that women trigger in us that we don’t even understand.
And I think it’s worth dragging them out from beneath all of our noble and loving thoughts towards women, and looking at them in the full light of day for 3 reasons:
1) It helps us have more compassion for women, who will forever have to deal with that part of us. No matter how hard we suppress it in relationship, it may yet lash out in angry words when we are triggered and feeling insecure.
Understanding it and knowing what it looks like, gives us the perspective to tame it and to forgive ourselves for being human when we don’t.
2) It helps us have more compassion for ourselves and understand how it is to be a human.
THE DEEPEST SOURCE OF AUTHENTIC CONFIDENCE that I am aware of begins with coming to relaxed and positive terms with being a human, and all of the messiness and flaws and contradictions that this condition entails.
3) It helps us understand other men who are still wallowing in disappointment, shame, impotent anger, and loss at their inability to find ease in their relationship with the opposite sex, and for whom the rage of Elliot Rodgers is well understood and felt (though, obviously without the psychopathic component).
And while many men will continue to deny that they have these feelings buried inside of them, smart marketers are well aware of human nature and capitalize on male rage towards women every day in advertisements.
The worst of these are the advertisements for companies that teach men how to attract women. Whether we call them PUA’s or dating advice sites or dating coaches, nearly all of them have jumped on the band wagon of featuring sales copy that says:
“Women are outraged that I’m sharing these secrets, they don’t want you to know this because they don’t want you to have power over them, and they are trying to shut this site down so you can’t learn these secret and powerful ways of seducing them into having sex with you!”
(As if! In reality women are over-joyed if a man learns how to get past his fear and shame and becomes good at flirting and seduction).
Now the reason that every single one of these sites has adopted this message is simple:
It speaks to the adolescent boy in every man who, early in puberty, discovered that he really, really wanted free access to vaginas everywhere, and that he was not allowed, because girls had the right to say, “no.”
All little boys feel this frustration as they first discover their sexuality, and we all go through the phase of thinking of women as the obstacle to getting that secret treasure between their legs.
And, ideally, all little boys eventually grow out of that phase and begin to understand that the woman and the vagina are not separate, but rather one delicious and wondrous package of divine perfection.
In other words, we grow up and learn to love the woman, not just the sex.
Of course in every generation, even among long-married men in their 70s who went through a very different world growing up, there are men who simply never mature out of that adolescent view that women are the obstacle to the vagina, and remain sexually like little boys.
It’s my observation that the number of those men as a percentage of a generation has grown rapidly in the last 10 years, and I believe that it is a direct result of the proliferation of these “dating coaches” and “PUA culture.”
I am certainly not accusing anyone of maliciously worsening the relationships between men and women, and certainly no PUA idea is responsible for the killings in Santa Barbara, nor did they invent male anger towards women.
However, it’s my perspective that teaching men “simple ideas that work” to gain short term attraction from women can prevent them from ever learning how to grow out of that phase.
Because so much of what these folks teach DOES work in the short term, it can prevent a man from ever reaching the point of self esteem and self trust to move beyond these “tactics” that perpetuate and endorse the idea that women are obstacles and enemies that must be tricked or pacified in order to gain access to the vaginas.