Sex, nerds, entitlement, rape and getting better

I thought about writing an “open letter” to mass shooter Elliot Rodger in response to his manifesto of suffering women’s rejection. Perhaps even borrowing the “It gets better” line that we saw in a gay advocacy series of videos, telling Rodger (far too late) and others who have felt his pain that better times often lie ahead.

But it’s difficult to write, to put it mildly. It deals with thorny issues of sexuality, and I’m not sure people close to me would want me to delve backwards into my years of feeling sorry for myself over unrequited crushes, multiple years between relationships, and bad decisions I made because I feared being lonely forever. Nor could I make the claim that “it gets better” for everyone just because it did for me.

Then I stumbled into a brilliant, provocative piece by Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu: Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds – The Daily Beast.

Chu takes down some sacred cows, particularly if you’re a fan of Ayn Rand or 80s movies. You may never look at Revenge of the Nerds the same way. If you don’t already look at Rand’s works as toilet paper, you may be convinced. I’ve never liked The Big Bang Theory, so I feel vindicated on that front.

And he gets into this:

How much longer are we going to be in denial that there’s a thing called “rape culture” and we ought to do something about it?

No, not the straw man that all men are constantly plotting rape, but that we live in an entitlement culture where guys think they need to be having sex with girls in order to be happy and fulfilled. That in a culture that constantly celebrates the narrative of guys trying hard, overcoming challenges, concocting clever ruses and automatically getting a woman thrown at them as a prize as a result, there will always be some guy who crosses the line into committing a violent crime to get what he “deserves,” or get vengeance for being denied it.

Some things about sexuality are just unfair. I remember sitting at lunch tables at Duke, listening to guys talk about their latest conquests and what a pain in the ass it was to get them out of bed in the morning. I never understood why women — smart women — would go to keg parties, drink and hook up, knowing all the while they were going to regret it.

And that hookup culture runs the risk of nasty rape arguments such as the one Duke is having now. (The lacrosse scandal, the PowerPoint rating athletes’ sexual prowess, the porn star freshman, and now this — what IS it about my alma mater? Why doesn’t this stuff happen at Ohio State?) The rules of drunk hookups made no sense to me at the time and still don’t, even as Duke and others attempt to define “drunk” as “unable to consent.”

But I’ve learned what Chu says here. Men, even and perhaps especially nerdy men, have to grow up. The world doesn’t owe you a girlfriend just because you think you’re a nice, smart guy. I may still question why my female friends were willing participants in a game that was rigged against them, but I can’t complain that they’ve opted for that instead of a relationship with the 20-year-old me. Hey, I had issues.

It got better for me. It might have gotten better for Elliot Rodger had he waited around long enough to take the chip off his shoulder.

And yet nothing’s guaranteed. Gay or straight, nerd or jock, you may have a long wait. All you can do is fill your life with anything else, especially kindness. And TV shows that aren’t The Big Bang Theory.

And as a society, we all need to stop thinking we’re owed something.