Today, friends, I’d like to address my words to the men in the audience, specifically the young men.
See, some among you have developed some strange ideas about the way things are and how they ought to be — particularly as those things pertain to the female gender.
What drew my attention to this subject was the brutal rampage of young Elliot Rodger, who, fueled by rage and a sense of thwarted privilege, stabbed three people to death in his Southern California apartment before taking to the streets, shooting two young women outside a sorority house, then killing another young man in a deli before turning the gun on himself.
Often, when this sort of thing happens, people are left wondering, “What would cause someone to do a terrible thing like this?” In Rodger’s case, however, he left plenty of explanation, including a 140-page written screed and a video recorded from inside his BMW. In both, Rodger chillingly describes the upcoming “Day of Retribution.”
His grievance? Women didn’t want to have sex with him.
His was the cry we’ve heard for years from unfulfilled nerds and other guys whose interaction with the females in their lives exist in that tortured limbo known as the “Friend Zone.”
“I’m the perfect guy,” Rodger says, “and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.” But most don’t go as far into the darkness as young Elliot when he concludes with, “I can’t wait to give you exactly what you deserve. Utter annihilation.”
This horrifying manifesto apparently struck a chord with some males. Some even put up fan pages for Rodger on Facebook. Some, inevitably, tried to put the blame on women.
“More people will die unless you give men sexual options,” claimed the website ReturnofKings.com, a mainstay of what’s known as, God help us, the Pick-Up Artist community (PUA for short). The subscribers to the PUA philosophy claim to use the psychological principles of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to manipulate unsuspecting women (called “targets”) into sex. The techniques are collectively known as “game,” and they’ll teach them to you for the price of an instructional DVD (or several).
If Elliot Rodger had only had better “game,” some PUA websites insist, none of this would have happened, and did we mention we have a DVD to sell?
PUA claims to be the answer for every guy who’s ever wailed, “I’m a nice guy. I’m a gentleman. Why do all the hot women I know just want to be friends?” I suppose the PUA solution of becoming a manipulative, scheming sociopath is better than Elliot Rodger’s answer of killing people, but that’s not saying much.
Perhaps I can offer an alternative. Understand, I’m not holding myself out as some kind of Love Guru, but my time on this Earth has taught me a few things about life that I’ll just lay on you right now:
First, being a “nice guy” and a “gentleman” is the least that’s expected of you by the world in general. It’s the baseline. It doesn’t entitle you to anything other than the knowledge that you’re not a jackass. It certainly doesn’t entitle you to a woman. You need to bring something else to the conversation other than that bare minimum and your raw need.
If you want people (and hey, guess what, women are people) to be interested in you, then you need to be interesting. Do something. Be something. And by “be something,” I mean something more than a desperate horn-dog who sees every aspect of his life through the lens of “will this get me into bed with a woman?”
Oh, and if you’re being a “nice guy” and a “perfect gentleman” for no other reason than because you think it’s going to get women in bed with you, then I have a bit of sad news: You’re not really a nice guy or a gentleman. You’re just acting like one for advantage. Like the PUA’s “game,” this is the sort of thing sociopaths do.
Years of movies, TV, even video games have taught us the wrong lesson: that if we’re just good enough, nice enough, or persistent enough, every guy can get the hot babe of his dreams. When it doesn’t work out that way (see “not really a nice guy,” above), some get bitter and fill a thousand Internet message boards with misogynistic bile. Some turn to the codified sociopathy peddled to them by the PUA snake-oil salesmen.
Tragically, some, like Elliot Rodger, become violent. That’s not going to change until our attitudes do and we start thinking of women as people, not “targets” or rewards.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.