If you’re not the type to keep up with ugly, soul-killing political controversies, let me catch you up: A while back, hugely popular political commentator Rush Limbaugh lost a bunch of advertisers because he publicly called a college girl a slut and a prostitute after she suggested that health insurance plans should cover birth control. But he’s paid to say outrageous things. If you really want to feel all dead inside, you need to listen to what the regular folk were saying.
For instance, on crazy political message board FreeRepublic.com, posters referred to the girl in the above-referenced story (Sandra Fluke) as a “Nasty, disease-ridden plodding uterus, an utter skank crack-ho filthy whore, a prostitute slutbag juice-receptacle” and a “Sperm-burpin’ gutter slut,” and said she “… is so encrusted and used, that I had to throw out my flat-panel TV because her appearance on my TV infected it with AIDS, gonorrhea and syphilis.” There are many, many more worse comments collected here and here and here.
Now go to the front page of any mostly male discussion site like Reddit.com and see how many inches you can browse before finding several thousand men bemoaning how all women are gold-digging whores (7,500 upvotes) and how crazy and irrational women are (9,659 upvotes) and how horrible and gross and fat women are (4,000 upvotes). Or browse the “Men’s Rights” section and see weird fantasies about alpha males defeating all the hot women who try to control them with their vaginas.
This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think “sexism” is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries — we don’t think of it as frenzied “burn the witch!” hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it’s always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.
Why? Well, you see …
#5. We Were Told That Society Owed Us a Hot Girl
Does it seem like men feel kind of entitled to sex? Does it seem like we react to rejection with the maturity of a child being denied a toy?
Well, you have to keep in mind that what we learn as kids is really hard to deprogram as an adult. And what we learned as kids is that we males are each owed, and will eventually be awarded, a beautiful woman.
“Surprise! Just a little something for graduation.”
We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu “Speed” Reeves gets Sandra Bullock, Shia LaBeouf gets Megan Fox in Transformers, Iron Man gets Pepper Potts, the hero in Avatar gets the hottest Na’vi, Shrek gets Fiona, Bill Murray gets Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, Frodo gets Sam, WALL-E gets EVE … and so on.
Hell, at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere walks into the lady’s workplace and just carries her out like he’s picking up a suit at the dry cleaner.
“I’ll take the one in brown flannel. I don’t need a bag.”
And then we have Star Wars, where Luke starts out getting Princess Leia (in The Empire Strikes Back), but then as Han Solo became a fan favorite, George Lucas realized he had to award her to him instead (forcing him to write the “She’s secretly Luke’s sister” thing into Return of the Jedi, even though it meant adding the weird incest vibe to Empire). With Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling played with the convention by having the beautiful girl get awarded to the sidekick character Ron, but she made it a central conflict in the story that Ron is constantly worried that, since Harry is the main character, Hermione will be awarded to him instead.
In each case, the woman has no say in this — compatibility doesn’t matter, prior relationships don’t matter, nothing else factors in. If the hero accomplishes his goals, he is awarded his favorite female. Yes, there will be dialogue that maybe makes it sound like the woman is having doubts, and she will make noises like she is making the decision on her own. But we, as the audience, know that in the end the hero will “get the girl,” just as we know that at the end of the month we’re going to “get our paycheck.” Failure to award either is breaking a societal contract. The girl can say what she wants, but we all know that at the end, she will wind up with the hero, whether she knows it or not.
“Wait right there. I need to go defeat my demons and realize the strength was in me all along.”
And now you see the problem. From birth we’re taught that we’re owed a beautiful girl. We all think of ourselves as the hero of our own story, and we all (whether we admit it or not) think we’re heroes for just getting through our day.
So it’s very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don’t get what we’re owed. A contract has been broken. These women, by exercising their own choices, are denying it to us. It’s why every Nice Guy is shocked to find that buying gifts for a girl and doing her favors won’t win him sex. It’s why we go to “slut” and “whore” as our default insults — we’re not mad that women enjoy sex. We’re mad that women are distributing to other people the sex that they owed us.
Yes, the women in these stories are being portrayed as wonderful and beautiful and perfect. But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.
“Careful, you’ll make my tie smell like whore, ‘friend.’”
Which brings us to the next problem …
#4. We’re Trained from Birth to See You as Decoration
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with putting a pretty girl on the cover of a magazine or posing her next to a shiny new car. The pretty girl gets a good job, men want her, women want to be her, everybody is happy. Right?
The problem is that it goes way deeper than that.
“Brought to you by the American Corn Farmers Association.”
From my experience, if there is a fundamental difference between male and female sexuality, it’s this: There are actual occasions where women aren’t thinking about sex. Here, let me show you an extreme example. I’m going to quote a Free Republic thread again, because I quite frankly can’t stop reading them. These are some comments they made about a female public figure, and I want you to guess who it is:
“Her face is so ugly you can smash it into some dough and make gorilla cookies.”
“So fugly, I’d say ‘don’t even look’!!!”
“At least Medusa was modestly attractive by comparison.”
“This person is disgusting and I would never trust ‘it’s’ opinion on ANYTHING!”
Have you guessed? They’re talking about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
A woman who didn’t just graduate from Harvard Law — she became the fucking dean.
Yes, even in that setting, when judging a female for a position on the highest court in the land, our instinct is still to judge her suitability as a sex partner. It’s the first thing we notice. And you could just write that off as a bunch of douches being shallow, but then you have to realize how all of society has conformed to this. Forget about objectification in the media or fashion industry — go to a diner, they’ve got the pretty girl waiting tables. Go to a department store, they’ll have a pretty girl selling you pants.
See, that’s the difference. With men, there are some scenarios where it stops mattering how he looks. With women, it always matters. In a comedy movie, the male wacky sidekick can be the chubby Zach Galifianakis or the nearly deformed Steve Buscemi. But if the female wacky sidekick isn’t attractive, like the overweight Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, then every scene needs to be about how ugly and fat and mannish she is. That has to be the core of her character.
“You mean there’s other things in the world besides food? Surely you jest.”
Her role in society or level of accomplishment doesn’t matter. Even if she’s a damned candidate for the Supreme Court, the female always has a dual role: to function as a person, and to act as decor.
And we get pissed if she doesn’t do her job. Check out any article about a female celebrity who has gained weight. Here’s literally the first one I found on Google, a blog post about how fat Christina Aguilera has gotten. Check the comments:
“fuck her! I have a full-time job, go to grad school full-time, cook at home every night and still find time to get my ass to the gym. lazy ass fat bitch …”
Don’t get me wrong — if it’s a male celebrity in the article, you’ll get lots of people making fun of his fatness. If it’s a female, you get anger.
That’s her, two months ago, by the way. How dare that fucking bitch?
She owes it to us to be pretty. That’s the social contract as we’ve understood it from the time we were toddlers.
And it’s a no-win situation. We hate you if you’re ugly; if you’re pretty, then …
#3. We Think You’re Conspiring With Our Boners to Ruin Us
… aka, Why Do You Think the Garden of Eden Story Has a Snake?
First, you need to understand something about the unique love/hate relationship men have with their penises.
Do you remember that story about police having to free a guy who got his dick stuck while humping a pool filter? Or that other guy who got stuck humping a park bench, or the other guy who got stuck humping a picnic table? Or that judge who got caught jerking off while on the bench listening to testimony?
“Do me a solid and bring that one chick with the huge boobs back up to testify.”
You see this type of story come up a lot — check your local police blotter. And they all have something in common: They’re all guys.
Seriously, do a Google search for “masturbating in public library.” Notice something in common with all of those stories? They’re all dudes. Obviously I’m not saying women don’t pleasure themselves (every single study would prove me a liar); I’m saying that men are far, far more likely to engage in extremely high-risk masturbation in public. They’re more likely to do it at work, and they’re more likely to do it in situations where they could go to jail.
No, it’s not some rare, weird exhibitionist fetish, either. It’s that they can’t even wait the couple of hours it’d take to do it safely at home.
It’s why we refer to the IT guy as “cockblocker.”
It makes absolutely no sense. All calculation of risk goes out the window. Why?
It’s because, in males more so than females, the sex drive is completely detached from the rest of the personality. The part of the male brain that worries about job security or money or social reputation or legal consequences has almost no veto power over the sex drive. You’ve heard guys say they were “thinking with their dick” or “I was thinking with the little brain” or “I took an order from Captain Bonerhelmet.” That’s what they’re referring to.
Science doesn’t seem to totally understand why the “base urges” part of the brain reacts differently in men. Maybe it’s just a matter of having 10 times as much testosterone in their system, or maybe society has trained us to be like this, or maybe we’re all spoiled children. My theory is that evolution needs males who will stay horny even in times of crisis or distress, and thus cuts off the brain’s ability to tamp down those urges. Whatever — nailing down the cause isn’t the point. The point is that a man can be giving the eulogy at his own grandmother’s funeral, and if there is a girl in the front row showing cleavage, he will be imagining himself pressing those boobs in his face, with his own dead grandmother not five feet away.
“And that’s why I know that grandma is boobing down on our cleavage today in this titties time.”
When that happens, when we get that boner at the funeral, we get mad at the girl showing the cleavage. Because we, ourselves, our own rational personality that knows right from wrong and appropriate from inappropriate, knows this is a bad place to get a boner. So it comes off like cleavage girl is conspiring with our penis to screw us over.
Is that a crazy thing to think? Yep! That’s why it’s so frustrating, especially if you don’t have a whole lot of emotional maturity, and grew up with male role models who had even less.
No, this doesn’t excuse anything. Obviously, “She was asking for it!” is still a bullshit rape defense. All I’m saying is when you see guys actually get annoyed or angry at the sight of a girl showing too much skin, or if you see them eager to degrade or humiliate the girls at the strip club, this is why. It’s probably why some Muslims make their women cover themselves head to toe.
“Where’s your eye drape? You trying to get us arrested?”
And in the Bible, it’s Eve who tempts Adam to sin … by conspiring with a snake.
Every male reading this is going to think I’m belaboring the obvious (after all, the world is full of comedy bits like this one about how hot girls are almost demonic in their ability to control males against their will). But I have never explained this to a woman who didn’t look at me like I was insisting that all men are secretly werewolves.
But even this isn’t the thing that makes us angriest …
#2. We Feel Like Manhood Was Stolen from Us at Some Point
You know how every comedy has that stock character of the womanizing, amoral guy who just says what he thinks all the time, and cares only about himself? Joey in Friends, Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, Sterling Archer in Archer, Gob in Arrested Development, Ashton Kutcher’s character in That ’70s Show, Michael in our Web series, the title character in my books?
Guys love that character because he’s doing what, on some level, we all wish we could do. It’s also why you have all of these ad campaigns desperately appealing to males who fear that they’ve lost their masculinity (“If you use a competitor’s product, we’re going to have to take away your Man Card!“)
See, every single male can remember the first time, when he was 5 or 6 years old, he showed his penis to a stranger and everybody started freaking the hell out. He can remember the first time he got in trouble for hitting somebody, for peeing in public, for trying to jump off some high object or set something on fire. All of the core male urges, all the suggestions whispered to us by Darth Penis, all of it gets us in trouble.
And, when we get nostalgic for the past, we always dress it up in some ridiculous fantasy like 300, where everybody is shirtless and screaming and hacking things with swords. We are fed this idea that at one time, this is how the world was — all of these impulses that have been getting us grounded and sent to detention from kindergarten on used to be not only allowed, but celebrated.
“No, just hold on. I’m gonna ramp you over that car.”
And then at some point, women took it all away.
A once-great world of heroes and strength and warriors and cigars and crude jokes has been replaced by this world of grumpy female supervisors looming over our cubicle to hand us a memo about sending off-color jokes via email. Yes, that entire narrative is a grossly skewed and self-serving version of how society actually evolved. It doesn’t matter.
The result is a combination of frustration and humiliation and powerlessness that makes us want to get it back in the only way we know how: with petty, immature acts of meanness.
“Now, maybe next time you’ll remember who has the dick in this business.”
#1. We Feel Powerless
I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. I haven’t been one in a long time. So as a result, it’s not easy for me to describe what it’s like to be a man, because I don’t know what you’re using for context. I’m going to do my best:
Did you ever watch old cartoons where a character is starving on a desert island, and when another character approaches, he’s so hungry that he imagines the other character as a talking piece of food?
Via TV Tropes
Third panel omitted due to graphic content.
It’s like that for most men, most of the time. We’re starving, and all women are various types of food. Only instead of food, it’s sex. And we’re trying to conduct our everyday business around the fact that we’re trying to renew our driver’s license with a talking pair of boobs. So, from about age 13 on, around 90 percent of our energy and discipline is devoted to overcoming this, to behave like civilized human beings and not like stray dogs in a meat market. One where instead of eating the meat, they want to hump it.
Right now I’m reading a book from mega-selling fantasy author George R. R. Martin. The following is a passage where he is writing from the point of view of a woman — always a tough thing for men to do. The girl is on her way to a key confrontation, and the narrator describes it thusly:
“When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest …”
That’s written from the woman’s point of view. Yes, when a male writes a female, he assumes that she spends every moment thinking about the size of her breasts and what they are doing. “Janet walked her boobs across the city square. ‘I can see them staring at my boobs,’ she thought, boobily.” He assumes that women are thinking of themselves the same way we think of them.
Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.
We also assume you have the taste of a pimp.
Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.
All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?
It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.
Nope. Can’t see a single symbolic thing about this illustration.
So where you see a world in which males dominate the boards of the Fortune 500, and own Congress, and sit at the head of all but a handful of the world’s nations, men see themselves as utterly helpless. Because all of those powerful people only became powerful because they heard that women like power.
This is really the heart of it, right here. This is why no amount of male domination will ever be enough, why no level of control or privilege or female submission will ever satisfy us. We can put you under a burqa, we can force you out of the workplace — it won’t matter. You’re still all we think about, and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.
“Now you squat down and crap your pants, or you never touch these boobs again.”
All of the most bitter disputes work like this, by the way: Both sides think they’re the powerless party. It’s why tipping servers is such a bitter topic among some people — the server feels like the customer has all of the power (because their entire income comes from tips), and the customer feels like the server has all the power (because they can deny them food and drink and ruin their one night out). It’s why the richest people in the world can talk like they’re besieged victims, and mean it. It’s why the male leaders of the most powerful and richest church in the world can talk like they’re being made martyrs due to women asking for birth control. And mean it.
Which brings us back to where we started. If you add all of this together, you get a world where this woman can testify before Congress about her friend suffering from ovarian cysts …
… and a male political cartoonist will draw her like this: