Dateless-Man versus Misogyny (GamerGate, MRA’s, and assorted wackos)

Three weeks is a long time between posts. I can only state that October is always a busy time of year for me in terms of work and hobbies. But it gave me time to think about a topic which has also haunted me for a very long time. It was something I never would have dreamed of when I was in high school and at the start of college, when the Internet was nowhere near the form it would be now. Back then, message boards and even MySpace were brand new things; now, in the age of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc., it is possible for far more people to connect to each other online like never before. And unfortunately, it has resulted in a lot of very hateful people being able to collectively gather and spread hatred in a manner usually reserved for secret basement meetings or hooded marches.

Even though I created this blog as an exercise in personal healing (to vent some of my life’s frustrations and secret memories and feelings regarding the dating world), I grappled with it for a long time due to many reasons. One of them was a fear that I (and it) would be misunderstood. The ugly secret of the Internet is that if you’re a dateless male virgin like me, there are actually legions of people who you can chat with; the problem is that a very vocal bunch of them have twisted their own frustrations and failings into outward hatred towards women (or any who dare defend them), and their tenacity is horrific. They are bunch I have avoided like the plague, have never sought out, and would never seek out. Yet their very existence not only spreads misery to no end of people (especially women) online, but it also serves as a “dark side” to what I could become if I don’t keep myself in check, and don’t allow bitterness or frustration to cross that line.

Earlier this year in California, there was a massacre at Isla Vista, where six innocents lost their lives and thirteen more were wounded when a pathetic maniac went on a rampage. Killing rampages are sadly common America, but this one seemed to strike different chords in the media because the killer was a staunch misogynist who hated women for failing to sleep with him, and who turned his screed into hatred vented online, and then to violent action. Not since the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in Canada was a maniac so blunt in his misogyny as a motive for his action. And all throughout this year, the “#GamerGate” scandal has rocked the Internet and the media as a dedicated band of trolls have devoted their lives to making women who dare speak about video games into nightmares. When even MSNBC and the New York Times have articles about this sort of spectacle, it’s a sign that message board hatred has hit the big time, and that’s not good. For as many wonderful things that the Internet can bring us, it also allows those who hate to connect to each other easier.

My first reaction is of course concern for the victims, of the countless women who have to live in fear of maniacs like this whether on the street or even checking their emails or Facebook pages, or who dare to date online. My second reaction is a chilling sensation that runs down my spine every time one of those maniacs seems to be exposed or take their screed to a new and dangerous level. Every time I am exposed to a report on one of these subhumans, and their motivations are of course broadcast, I shudder because I know I share more links to those sorts of “profiles” than I want to. There are times I feel myself on the edge of frustration and bitterness, where I have felt feelings of anger or resentment at life. I hate admitting it, but my lot in life gives me more understanding (but not sympathy) for those types of haters than I wish. I understand the pressures this society inflicts on men to “score”, on how those who don’t are belittled or made to feel weak or defective, where being a virgin past a certain age is a shame so awful that it can never be revealed, and how years, if not decades, of rejection and loneliness can become twisted into something much more monstrous. And the very link between myself and some of these monsters is a link I hate to acknowledge.

It makes me look into myself and wonder why and how I am different. Is it because I am a better person? Because I still try to respect women no matter what? That I believe in treating others as I’d like to be treated? That trashing women who dare to like “geeky things” like comics or video games only reinforces all sorts of ugly stereotypes about the guys who are into such things? Or is it because I am a coward, because I don’t want to admit things to myself, because I am hardwired for whatever reason to turn hatred inward instead of outward? If I am rejected by a woman, I don’t hate the woman; I hate myself for being a loser. Is the line between me and those monsters one of nobility, or just because I’m a crippled introvert? I strive to be the best person I can be, but I also know my own faults too well. I hate to think that there could ever be something inside of me that could snap. I hate there being any degrees of connection to myself and such maniacs.

Of course, I know all of this leads back to the misogyny of society, and how little it values women and how little men seem to be taught to value them compared to themselves or other men. I encounter such things all the time, to the point that it creates a wall of separation between myself and acquaintances (or even sometimes “friends”) because no matter how any trash talk or locker room chatter may go, there is a line I do not cross, there are beliefs which I feel to be important to me, where I seem alone.

I’ll relate a very recent exchange to try to prove my point. At a cyber cafe that I frequent there is one obnoxious fellow who feels the need to chat with me now and again, despite the fact that I’ve made it plain that I don’t want to be friends with him. He doesn’t know how to take a hint; I’ll dub him “Cafe Dude”. Over the past year, I foolishly engaged in some rare conversation with him so he knows at the very least of my plight of being single. I always knew him to be a creep, but it was this past weekend where a conversation revealed how much of one he was. I will attempt to paraphrase it.

Cafe Dude (or CD): “Yo, have any plans for New Year’s Eve?”

Me: [after all efforts to ignore him fail] “No.”

CD: “Know where I’m going?”

Me. “No, and I don’t care.”

CD: “Budapest. Last week of December I’ll be headin’ out.”

Me: “Good. It’ll be a good week.”

CD: “You should come with me.”

Me: [growing angrier] “No. I haven’t even gone to Vegas with my actual friends.”

CD: “The two of us should go. It’s Budapest, bro. You’re guaranteed to get laid.”

Me: “What, you’re paying for it?”

CD: “No. These girls at these parties, they’re so wasted and they’re going to be all over you.”

Me: [sighing] “That’s not right. If they’re drunk, they can’t say yes or consent to anything.”

CD: [and I swear, this is an exact quote] “They can’t say no.”

Suffice it to say, I was horrified and whatever minor respect I ever would have had for this dude went out the window. His presence already repulsed me, and now it did more so.

Me: [disgusted] “That’s not the same. That’s not a yes.”

CD: [rolling his eyes] “C’mon, man. Let me tell you how it is in real life. These girls are going to be drunk and all over you. You’re going to ask permission when they’re kissing you? Humping you?”

Me. “That’s not the same, and you know it.”

At that point he went on trying to sell me on the price of the trip and whatnot. Then he started lashing into me, saying I was “happy being single” or whatnot because I didn’t want to troll drunk women for cheap lays in other countries. The next day, Cafe Dude was talking about going to cult meetings like Scientology for kicks, and joking about tricking women into such things and then taking pictures of them. I said, literally, “That’s horrible,” to him. All he did was laugh. I’ve since called him “a date rapist” to his face, and he doesn’t seem bothered by it.

And that’s part of why I feel so alone, even if in theory the Internet seems clogged with dateless, bitter male virgins. As much as I would like to have sex or make love, I don’t just see it as flesh to be conquered. I don’t see it as some zero sum game. I don’t hate women for not sleeping with me or see them as lessor beings. I don’t fit in with the men who are actually charming or suave, or can figure out how to interact with women, and at the same time I don’t fit in with the legion of angry internet woman-haters out there. In fact, some of the best friends I have ever had in life have been fully Platonic in nature with some women. I try my best to never give in to hate, to never become one of them. And yet, that only highlights how alone I feel, how much of an alien I feel in this world, and how little of a man I seem to be, if this is what men are supposed to strive to become.

I know those who are bullied often become bullies themselves, and I have striven to never become like that, to never spread misery to others. I just wish that I didn’t have to bottle so much within me, and that I didn’t feel like such a lonely freak.

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Millennium House Party – the High School Adventures, conclusion!

And so it is that we reach the final chapter in my high school recollections of the opposite sex and life in general. As high school itself lasts four years, it’s both a sign of either fate or my ability to plan a blog series that I’ve managed to sort all of my key recollections for this topic as four posts. For those who want a quick recap, you can read “Rolling as the Third Wheel”, “Double Jeopardy”, and “Yes, saying Hello was Harder” for the previous three installments. As I’ve hinted previously, this 4th and last high school adventure is probably the meatiest. I certainly didn’t plan for it that way at the time, but it at least gives this arc of the Dateless Man blog a sense of seasonal closure. For a bit of foreshadowing, it does contain one of the moments in my life that I’ve later always wanted to do over if given the chance.

Like the title said, I was invited to a house party for New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1999. It may not seem like a major deal to anyone who’s younger than, oh, about 17-18 now, but for those of us who grew up in the 1980’s – 1990’s, the “new millennium” was a big deal. Just think of how many movies, comic books, or cartoons treated just the year 2000 as something major, much less years beyond that. Some older pieces of science fiction thought we’d all have jet packs and be living on the moon or underwater by the year 2000 or not much later. Try watching “BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART 2” and forgetting that it was made in the 1980’s. The supposed threat of “Y2K”, when older machines would cease to work or go bugger due to some binary date code glitch, was real enough that many proper magazines devoted many an issue or article about it in some way. And if you were a teenager around to watch the big date turn into one with three zeroes attached, it only seemed like a bigger excuse to party and get wasted when it was finally time to watch it happen.

I actually attended a few house parties during my high school years and into my college years. It helped that many of the friends I made in high school wanted to drink, and as I mentioned before, one had former “flower children” parents who didn’t mind their home hosting a dozen or two teenagers so long as things didn’t reach “ANIMAL HOUSE” levels of crazy. It’s illegal to drink alcohol in New York if you’re under 21, but virtually every person I know at least tried alcohol before that age, and many were already on their way to becoming social alcoholics as teenagers. Although I wasn’t big on alcohol or getting drunk, I was no exception. I forget what time the party started, but some of us were showing up during daylight hours to hang out before more people got there as the New Year’s Eve wore on. My pal’s parents whose house this was were busy with another celebration, so we had the place mostly to ourselves until the earlier a.m. hours. Nowadays this would be considered risky or dangerous for parents to do, but it seemed more common in the late 90’s and like I said, we didn’t get TOO crazy. Or at least not when I was around.

The guest list was rather large; to date the largest house party we had until my friend grew up and moved into his own place. Me, my troupe of friends, their current girlfriends (if applicable), two kids who were neighbors, and at least a dozen assorted associates from school or elsewhere. At full occupancy, we’re talking about two dozen people 18 or under. There was quite a lot of alcohol; in addition to quite a few 6 and 12 packs of various beers, there were bottles of harder stuff such as vodka or rum brought over. I recall one of our associates was infamous for making screwdrivers which had at least two to three times the amount of vodka one’s supposed to have. As the only one in the group who didn’t like drinking or getting drunk, that meant I was always under peer pressure to do so; I occasionally only had one or two drinks to appease them. I always envisioned myself as the stoic, experienced,  and wise one one of the group. This was due in part to being the eldest, even if only by a few months in some cases. I also usually tried to maintain order as best I could, while also trying to fit in as best I could. It was a delicate balance which rarely worked and usually resulted in me seeming to be the wet blanket of the group – a role that even as adults I seem to fill in our gatherings. If life were WRESTLAMANIA, I’d be the referee. Nobody ever remembers the referee.

Long before midnight, virtually everyone within the house party was either drunk, way drunk, or at least buzzed except for me. This included almost all of the girls present – due to their lower than average weight compared to the guys, they tended to be effected by alcohol quicker. One of them was a girl who was part of our clique at school and was the sister of one of my friend’s friends. Yes, it’s alias time – I’ll dub her Marsha because that’s the only “M” name I can think of right now. By this point in the night she’d had a bit to drink (which wasn’t uncommon for her) and was some form of drunk (as was everyone else but me). As had been for much of the night, music was playing from the living room computer, airing whatever random list of rock or metal songs had been downloaded or burned from CD’s on the hard drive. At one point Marsha was embracing some of my friends and trying to dance with them. Despite being a teenager myself and this being the end of the late 90’s, I was well aware of the concept of “date rape” and that it wasn’t always committed by people in alleys or men met online; but that copious amounts of alcohol in party settings could lead to evenings people regretted for more than one reason. Among my roles as unofficial referee and designated walker (since I didn’t drive) was making sure nobody was taking advantage of anybody else. In today’s online circles I might be accused of being a “white knight”. We’ll come back to that in a moment as at one point, Marsha began to embrace me and seemed to want to dance.

As I’ve stated in some previous installments, I usually wound up having a crush on almost every girlfriend my friends had, even as I sometimes mocked the age gaps between them. I never deliberately made a move towards any of them because I have always believed (and still do) that it isn’t right to hit on someone if you know they’re in a relationship – especially with a friend. I say “deliberately” as I am sure I did some less-than-deliberate moves on my own – such as listening to them about their problem (especially if they’d had a fight with one of my friends or felt mistreated by them that day), or walking some of them home at night. Marsha wasn’t dating any of my friends at the time, but I also had a crush on her. She had dark hair, tan skin, a short pointed nose, brown eyes and glasses, and a nice smile. Because this is me and I lived the life I had, naturally that meant I’d never revealed my crush to her or anyone else. Part of it was hypocrisy as I feared the sort of mocking that I sometimes dished out to others over their crushes (which wasn’t malicious; teenage boys do that sort of thing). The other parts were just fear and shyness – same as it is now.

I should also mention at this point how rare it was to be hugged by any woman who wasn’t, well, a relative of mine. It was just something which was rarely done, even as a greeting. Young ladies used to hug some of my guy friends all the time as a greeting or partying gesture, whether each end was single or not. A peck on the cheek was also common for greetings or departures. Except for me. For me, for some reason I gave off an aura not to get anywhere near; the most I got was a nod and a wave. This has actually mostly continued as I have grown up, which only bemuses me now. So as much as I would like to do these things, I still feel a bit uncomfortable when it happens. And trust me, it doesn’t happen much.

Anyway, here was Marsha hugging me at a party on New Year’s Eve, 1999. I objected, which irritated her enough into asking why. I said bluntly, “You’re drunk, it isn’t right.” She didn’t deny being drunk but was irritated that I didn’t want to hug or get closer. “For once can’t I just give you a hug?” I recall her replying. It wasn’t long before she began to hug, and then make out, with one of my other friends. I hung around to make sure nothing beyond “first base” happened and none of it did. I was very conflicted. I didn’t want anything to happen to Marsha, yet at the same time I also felt pangs of jealousy. Was I a “white knight”? I don’t know. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, a few of my friends had gathered around two other girls who were either bi or bi-curious who had begun to make out with their whoops and hollers as cheers. One of them was one of my friend’s lovers, but he didn’t mind either. Everyone was drunk and I kept asking if everyone was alright and quickly becoming either a hindrance to my friends or just feeling like I didn’t fit in. Things were spiraling out of control, so I left the party for about an hour or so to think in my usual neighborhood thinking spot – my old elementary schoolyard. Yes, the one from “Puppy Love”. That period of my life was always my happiest and whenever I felt sad, or lonely, or vexed and didn’t want it to show as a teenager, I’d hang out there to be alone with thoughts. I guess it does seem pathological now.

So, was that the moment I wanted to take back? Not just going along with whatever Marsha wanted when she was drunk in a hallway? No. That isn’t it. That moment came a couple of weeks later. Towards the end of the party, Marsha kept asking me why I hung around and wanted to make sure she was alright. The pal who was the host of the party insisted, “Because he’s a good guy”. At one point Marsha kissed the back of my hand. But a week or two later into the new year (which was safe from Y2K, no falling planes or exploding ATM’s), I was hanging out at the house after school or on a weekend and Marsha came to visit. I was playing “The Bouncer” on my friend’s PS2 and she wanted to talk about the previous party. She kept asking why I cared so much about making sure nothing happened at the party. Now, I am not one who easily understands body language or social ques and when I try I usually am dead wrong. But I kept feeling that the answer she wanted was, “Because I like you”. Which was true, but it also complicated the idea of doing the right thing by her. Is it wrong to protect someone from being taken advantage of (in your eyes) if you yourself like them romantically? Or does that make it hypocrisy? I don’t know but what I did so was refuse to give her that answer. She never asked for it in those terms but I insisted it was because it was the right thing to do, and that’s what I am about. Admittedly, another part of it was the fear and shyness I mentioned earlier; I feared it “getting out” that I liked her and how my friends would have reacted. I also feared how she would have reacted, as I doubted the feeling was mutual. I always do; in my life, it never is.

Had I the chance to do it over again, I would have admitted it and taken the shot. I likely was wrong and it wouldn’t have ended well, but at least then I’d have no regrets about it.  I feel it was my one and only chance in high school, even if it was towards the end. Marsha would later go on to briefly date the pal that she’d made out with at that party, for about 1-3 months if memory serves. Even years later, as she’s married (and rumored to have cheated on her husband, or tried to, at least once, but I don’t believe everything I hear) with a kid, every time we meet at a friendly gathering there always seems to be this awkwardness there. She’s once asked about it and I gave no answer. I’ll never know if she liked me back in any way, and now it’s far too late to ever know. It was probably as close as I got in high school, and one of the closest times in my entire life. And I didn’t even swing at the ball.

Well, that’s the end of the high school adventures, finally. Keep an eye out for more rants and the start of the college years. Damn, do I sound like a pitch man for the various “SAVED BY THE BELL” shows now.