Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sex and the Single Geek

This particular link come to me courtesy of Blag Hag; she posted this link on her blog (admittedly, it's an older post; what can I say? I 'm behind the times. We establish this every time I post something about space), a piece about the nature of sexism in "geek culture" - which is a fancy way to same gaming, of the card, video, and table-top varieties.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a part of that culture. I'm practically neck deep in it; I'm an ardent RPer who enjoys his table time. I don't get a lot of time to socialize with other people (my job not withstanding), so my games are a good opportunity for me to get with friends and have some fun. At the same time, I do sports. I played football in high school, and I run every day I get the chance too (regardless of weather) and if my knee is acting up, I'll walk three miles or more instead. I don't like Mountain Dew (diet Mountain Dew tastes nasty and the regular stuff is way to sweet; I'll take Coke Zero), and I don't like Cheetos, either. So I'm not really the individual to go to if you're looking for a stereotype, but even if I don't fit that stereotype, I do fall into the group by virtue of my hobbies. I'm not a hardcore gamer (okay, so that's a lie. I know several systems inside and out and I'm familiar with all major elements of game design, to the point of being able to design my own game), but that doesn't matter. All that matters is that, at the end of the day, my hobbies place me squarely in this group: it doesn't matter whether I walk three feet or three miles, or whether or not I played football on a field or on the PS3. All that matters is that here I am, a member of this culture. A culture in serious need of being smacked.

And this is one such article talking about sexism and misogyny, a major problem within the geek culture. This is a problem in society as a whole, but because I'm focusing on geek culture, I'm only going to be looking at how it relates to geek culture.

First, to placate all you menz out there: Yes, the article is poorly written. Yes, it is buried under a mountain of gaming terminology and such. Yes, the Alyssa woman was needlessly cruel to do what she did (for those who don't know what the article refers too or don't want to slog through that article, I'll explain in a minute). No, none of that takes away form any points made in the article. Now stop your whining, sit your ass down, and shut the fuck up and let someone other than you talk for a change. Put your all-important epeen down, stop waving it (I'm not impressed anyway).

The article begins by talking about a woman named Alyssa Berenzak. She went out on a date with a fellow named Jon Finkle, one of the designers of Magic: the Gathering card-games. If there's one aspect of geek culture that's totally alien to me, it's the card games. but that's beside the point. Well, when Berenzak found out that Finkle was a gamer, she dumped him on the spot, went home, and posted an article on Gizmodo (a tech page) dissing geeks a collective group. What followed was swift, terrifying, and well, well beyond any deserved criticism that she did deserve for basically slamming an entire subculture that, for the most part, is largely dumped on by society. I'm not saying anymore about her. She isn't relevant. It's how she was treated, and how women in general are treated by gamers, that I want to focus on.

So leave all that behind. I just wanted that as a lead in. Hear that? Leave it. It's done. It's over.

Misogyny in the gaming and geek community is an ugly, raw beast. I would be inclined to suggest it has something to do with the fact that most of the consumers are horny fourteen and fifteen-year-olds who take advantage of anonymity to act like they want to in Real Life but lack the courage to do so. That's not the case, though. I've seen studies suggesting that the majority of the gaming community is men in their 20s and 30s, in which case, what might be explainable with teenage boys totally lacking common sense and civility, in dire need of discipline, becomes utterly unforgivable.

A large part of the problem is the lack of girls in the culture. But then, when you look at how these nosy, rude, and vulgar people act, is it any wonder? For some of these people, everything boils down to sex. This lack of getting laid can engender a sense of frustration that can manifest as nasty misogyny. I can sort of empathize; I avoid sex simply because I'm still confused about which way I lean (or if I lean at all; you'd think it would be easy to tell if you were asexual, but it's no), and I'd like to know what I am before I go out into the big bad world (alternatively, I'd like a world where it didn't matter; that's ideal stuff right there). The fact that I can identify as either gender probably doesn't help, but the point here is I can sorta understand. There is a sense of frustration there. There's different ways to deal with negative emotions like frustration; they chose one of the worst ways possible to deal with it. I wonder if the same psychology at work here is also at work in the Patriarchs of the Religious Right; it wouldn't surprise me.

See, everything becomes based on sex. You end up with a disturbing psychological sewer that are arguably worse than anything the anti-choice movement could turn out. At least anti-choice goons pretend to care about women (usually), and don't couch their terms in outright misogynistic language (as of late, though...). The menz involved here are totally different. That frustration manifests as lashing out against any girl who doesn't give you the attention that you feel you need. If you do something nice, she should automatically drop on her knees and give you head. If you bring flowers, you should get sex. If you're like me, you notice a huge logical disconnect in those last two sentences. The frothy misogynists, however, do not.

There's a term for this: he's called Mr. Nice Guy.

He's called this because he's always claiming "why are those women always going out with jerks (read: anyone other than me)? They should be going out with me, because I'm such a Nice Guy." Mr. Nice Guy is like Mr. Hyde in make-up. He claims to be nice, but he's anything but. In fact, Mr. Nice Guy is actually one of the biggest jackasses on the web; you're talking all that sexual repression (because sex becomes the focus for everything) and turning that into angry that you're lashing out against the women who decided that, no, helping her carry her bag should not entail her automatically going out with you.

Why are you a jerk? First off, you're calling her a bitch because she's going out with someone other than you, despite you doing everything nice for her. Let me spell this out: She has a right to choose who she goes out with. You being nice may or may not have a bearing on that, but it does not automatically force her to date you. End of argument. You may not like it, but you know what, ask yourself: if a girl were like that to you that you didn't particularly care for, what would you do? Would you go out with her? The answer is probably no. Which, in the end, makes you a fucking hypocrite, too.

I read a very interesting quote that I think is worth focusing at. It can be boiled down to this: The worst fear of men when they go on the dating scene is to get laughed at by the opposite sex. The worst fear of women is that they'll be raped and murdered. Do you notice just a little bit of disparity there? Just a touch, right? Of course.

Really, what that does more than anything else is lay out the privilege ladder. This is a sledgehammer of a quote that knocks any illusions aside and lays bear a deep rooted evil in society in general. Note that you can invert this; for gay and bi men, hitting on the wrong guy can be a death sentence. I'm not sure where they fit into this equation here (this is the problem with binaries), but I'm pretty sure that even if the fear of death isn't prominent, it's there unless you're cruising known gay bars.

One of the features of cringe comedy is a gay guy hitting on a straight one, and watching the straight guy's reaction. He's obviously uncomfortable, wants to get away, and isn't enjoying a single moment of it. No guy likes to be chased, right? Right?

Why the hell do you think women like to be chased, too? I'm really surprised nobody's stopped for just a second and reviewed that scene, and put a straight guy in the position of the gay guy and a woman in the place of the straight man. I'm sure it works almost the same. Geeks, take note. This is what you're doing. Next time you're relentlessly dogging that women long after she said "no," think about how you would feel if it were a gay man coming on to you: "Oh no. I'd cave his face in." But when she gets violent with you, she's a bitch.

I honestly hate that example, but it's the closest that I can think of to drive the point home. It turns the traditional gender roles inside out, and it shows just how uncomfortable these people are with their own masculinity. It also shows how amazingly self-centered and conceited they really are; this attitude is okay when expressed on a girl, but when you as a guy on the receiving end, you threaten violence.


Mr. Nice Guy, and the more vocal geeks (but not all geeks), are insecure in their masculinity. Now, I view masculinity as a laughably obscure, obscene, archaic, and unneeded social construct that would probably be better off if it were pitched into the round file, but it's not going anywhere for the moment. Sex is this big thing for most guys; all guys want sex, and you're not a "real" guy unless you have sex (which itself is a horrific double standard; she's a slut, but you're a real man. Hmm... someone has a Madonna/Whore complex). Because there isn't any sex around to get, they don't feel like "real men." When you mix this in with the fact that they've been picked on for not being "real men," you get an ugly, ugly disposition that really would benefit from a hammer to the side of the head.

Why isn't there any sex around to get? There's girl geeks, right?

Oh, of course. But see, they're more than just sex organs with legs. And in your eternal quest to get laid (because that's all you want), that's what you continually reduce them too. No shred of dignity is so invaluable that you won't sell it in that regard, to achieve that holy grail of nookie. But no, they want this thing called "respect" (and sometimes, even that's not enough; they just don't "like" you. Imagine that, someone choosing not to like you) and they won't drop down and supply what you're demanding at a moment's notice. Even though you're a Nice Guy. Which you're really not.

Is it any wonder that no girls want to go anywhere near you? It's a shock that any person wants to be around you.

Have I spelled this out enough for you, Mr. Nice Geek? Geeks have a reputation for being pretty intelligent; there's an old saying that the geek you pick on today might be the one you work for tomorrow. Somehow, though, it's remarkably difficult to get this to sink in. If it's not dismissed as "ugly feminist talk," it'll be dismissed out of hand because "I know 'x' girl (read: one I made up, but I know there's one out there that agrees with me because my opinion is just so awesome), and she said that you were wrong." A lot of it has to do with privilege. The rest of it is this sexual frustration and fratboi entitlement mentality that if it has boobs and a vagina, it should be fucking you because you're just that awesome, smart, and nice.

If it seems like I know a lot about the psychology at play here, it's because I share some empathy with it. I haven't really lived it myself; I was never Mr. Nice Guy because sex didn't even really start mattering to me until I was out of high school and in college, and even then, it never has played a huge role in my life. It's only been this year, now that I've gotten my depression and ADHD straightened up, that I'm beginning to realize that there's a good likelihood I'm bigendered/gender fluid and possibly pansexual/asexual (if you can make sense out of that, get back with me, because I haven't been able to). I'm not ashamed to admit I might be bigendered or gender fluid; it just makes me more excited for the day when I might be able to express that in a transhumanist fashion. I just wish I could be sure whether I was pan/a/bisexual; that's the irritating part. There were times when that sexual frustration surfaced that I'm detailing above, but I never let it define my attitude towards anyone, much less an entire group of people.

I'm pretty sure that I'm right, though. It seems to make sense to me; even in the cases where the said geek does have sex on a semi-regular basis, the attitude can still persist driven purely out of that sense of entitlement. And it's wrong. You're not entitled to nothing. This big bad world, and all the girls and women in it, don't owe you a damn thing. So stop thinking they do. You treat them nicely, get them flowers, act kindly. Awesome. They still don't owe you anything. No more than you owe that girl you don't like who does the same exact things.

One of the deepest ironies here is that geeks, by in large, tend to be socially liberal, or at least libertarian in nature. Being socially liberal means that they'll support liberal causes - but take staunching social conservative stances towards women and women's rights; after all, I'm almost 99% sure that this psychology I've detailed here is also the same psychology at work in the fucked up heads of the conservative patriarchs.

Oh, and this shit about calling everyone "fags" has to stop. That's not cool at all. I don't care if it's internet tradition or not. See, there's this thing about misogyny - it goes hand-in-hand with homophobia. And yes, homophobia is the right word, so don't pull that shit on me. You're terrified of them because they damage your concept of masculinity. And hey, guess what else tends to be a problem in the gaming community?

If you said "homophobia", you win a cookie.

I remember how the gaming community was up in arms when (I believe) it was Mass Effect 2 or 3 that finally presented a gay option. Sure, the gay option is cool for women - everyone knows lesbians are hot - but for guys... *crickets*. Geeks all over were "Uh, no. They make these games for me. I don't want this in my game (there's that sense of entitlement again)." Bioware basically came back and slapped them down in a most epic way, saying they make their games for everyone. Which, if I didn't get motion sick so damn easily, I'd rush out to buy the games and play them just for that purpose alone.

Ah, yes. I'm *so* condescending and I've taken such a negative attitude with you. Poor you; you feel so picked on because I'm heaping all this (well deserved) scorn on you.

Please. Stuff it. I've heard that attitude before - do you care to guess where?

Christian Conservatives. I hear that persecution, martyr complex from them all the damn time. Coming from you, Mr. Menz, it doesn't phase me. If you're trying to make a claim that you're a victim because I'm pointing out that you're an asshole, you become no different from the very say groups who claim D&D is the work of the Devil and that violent video games should be banned. Come off that damn cross.

The geek community has a nasty problem with this admixture of homophobia and sexism. I didn't dwell that long on homophobia if only because understanding misogyny helps one understand homophobia better; if I did, I'd be repeating myself for the most part.

Now that I've criticized it, how do we fix it?

That's not hard at all. See, to make homophobia go away, we need more people to speak up and marginalize those who make homophobic remarks. We need more openly gay gamers, because openly gay and bi gamers will dilute some of the raw misogyny and homophobia present in the community (of course, this isn't to say gay men can't be raw in their misogyny; that's possible. But in my experience, it's remarkably rare). And lastly, we need people to speak up. It's going to be hard to break that oroborous of misogynistic and homophobic filth that the gaming community has currently isolated itself into. But it's not impossible.

Amazingly enough, I get the feeling that this would work in the larger society as well. Diversity and mutual respect, fixing a problem. Who would've thought.

So, having said all this, I end with a how-to guide, for Mr. Nice Guy out there, to better help him relate to women.

1. They're people. Like you. Not sex organs with feet.
2. They're entitled to their own lives. Like you. Even if that life doesn't include you. Especially if that life doesn't include you.
3. Being people, like you, they deserve respect. Respect means accepting she doesn't want to have anything to do with you graciously.
4. If she wants to go out with someone other than you, it's not her fault for being a "bitch", it's your fault for being so damn entitled.
5. It's not about you. It's not about your feelings. It's not about your desires. It's not about any of that. So get your head out of your ass and stop pretending it is. It's about respect. It's about understanding. It's about empathy. There is no 'u' in empathy, son.
7. No, all girls don't want 'bad boys.' If they did, they'd be crawling all over you. Yes, girls and women will sometimes end up in destructive relationships. Abuse is complicated. But it's not because they want it, you entitled asshat. And no, their life wouldn't be any better with a fratboi like you, no matter how hard you fantasize otherwise.
6. Yes, I am being condescending. I am making it sting. You deserve it. Maybe it'll wake you up.

Maybe if more guys (or guys on the surface) stand up and start speaking out against it, and condemning it and marginalizing it, we'll see a change. I'm pretty sure we can; we've just got to stand up and demand one from these entitled asshats.

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