Male entitlement as a cause of mass violence.

Yes, this was a real ad.

I’ve previously discussed the male sense of entitlement to sex. Because of the tireless work of anti-MRA advocates, we’re becoming more and more aware of the importance of entitlement to sex in male mass violence, and this deserves to be discussed widely.

Unfortunately, two facts are going against this urgent need: the mass media has muddled the discussion by refusing to discuss entitlement as a cause of male mass violence, and anti-feminists are confusing the issue by denying the very existence of male entitlement, even though it’s confirmed by their very arguments.

The most blatant example is that of Elliot Rodger. Rodger was a frustrated young man who made a video where he said he wanted to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut” because they wouldn’t have sex with him, and wrote a 140 page manifesto detailing how “women are like a plague” and should be put in concentration camps. Despite all this, the media has refused to utter the obvious statement that male entitlement to sex had something to do with Rodger’s mass shooting.

I think this tells us that male entitlement is so ignored that we think this sort of massive rage against women is abnormal and can’t possibly be a reflection of social misogyny. Instead, we fall back to the old ableist standby that they must be “crazy,” which is just a stigmatization of mental illness. Most serial killers are in possession of their mental faculties and are not “crazy” (one trait most serial killers share, however, is being men).

This seems to be not just a reflection of male entitlement, but of privilege in general, because a similar thing happens when race is concerned: white killers are treated with kids’ gloves, while black victims (let alone black killers) are treated like absolute scum, regardless of who they are. No matter what, the issue of the killers’ racism must never be examined.

But the fact is that socialization as a man does lead to rage against women. Men are raised to believe that sexual prowess is an essential part of masculinity, and that those who don’t have sex are defective. Men are raised to believe that you’re a loser if you don’t have a girlfriend. Men are raised to believe that women exist to receive men’s attention and fulfill men’s needs.

They learn it from their fathers. They learn it from a media that glorifies it, from sports heroes who commit felonies and get big contracts, from a culture saturated in images of heroic and redemptive violence. They learn it from each other.

In talking to more than 400 young men for my book, “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” I heard over and over again what they learn about violence. They learn that if they are crossed, they have the manly obligation to fight back. They learn that they are entitled to feel like a real man, and that they have the right to annihilate anyone who challenges that sense of entitlement.

This sense of entitlement is part of the package deal of American manhood — the culture that doesn’t start the fight, as Margaret Mead pointed out in her analysis of American military history, but retaliates far out of proportion to the initial grievance. They learn that “aggrieved entitlement” is a legitimate justification for violent explosion.

It is therefore not especially surprising that someone like Elliot Rodger, son of a successful movie director and part of a privileged entertainment family, who no doubt was sent to the best schools, felt frustrated by his inability to gain the favors of women. Like most MRAs, he was probably a mediocre man who had little to offer to women, and he knew it. So he lashed out against the women who refused to provide the attention he naturally believed they owed him.

Again, there is nothing “crazy” or bizarre about events of male mass violence in light of the male entitlement to sex in our societies.

Studies have found that men get anywhere from 10% to 25% of full erection (on average) from seeing non-sexual violence (Earls and Proulx 1987, Barbaree et al. 1979). While rapists show a higher level of arousal, any man can experience it. So men get some sexual charge from the idea of violence against women. This is not an issue of conscious decision (arousal rarely is), but rather an issue of indoctrination.

Entitlement is the belief that one is owed something simply by virtue of one’s social role. The typical example is that of bad customers who thinks they’re entitled to a refund or to tell employees what to do simply because they’re customers. Privilege magnifies that tendency many times over, and male privilege is no exception.

There is a toxic dynamic between male entitlement and masculinity: male entitlement is the carrot, the incentive for men to invest themselves more and more into the gender system, and masculinity is the stick, because it provides the threat of “not being a real man” (i.e. of being a woman, which of course is the worse thing a man can possibly be, because it represents the negation of one’s gender, which is seen as a primary part of our identity).

Two of the most conspicuous forms of male entitlement are PIV and pornography. They are conspicuous in that these two topics, when even lightly broached, attract the most attention from men who rally to defend them and attack anyone who dares to question the entitlement.

The defense of pornography by pornsick males reflects the entitlement mentality under which they operate. A man watching a pornographic video has no idea whether the video was made by a prostitute without their consent. He has no idea whether the video is a recording of a rape (whether of any woman or of a porn actress who doesn’t want to perform a sexual act). In many cases, he has no idea whether the video features a minor. Defending the use of anything under such conditions requires a very big sense of entitlement to that thing. It also requires a great deal of selfishness.

A pornsick dude is like a drug addict: he will try to justify his use at all costs because he’s stuck. In many cases, he can’t get an orgasm without it. In some cases, he can’t get an orgasm without escalating the violence of the pornography he’s watching. Not only does entitlement exist, but it may also, in some cases, be a cover for desperation (he “must” have pornography because he “can’t live” without it).

Male entitlement is a cause of mass violence, and pornography is no different. From studies, we now know that pornography use, no matter how light or severe, makes men more prone to rape, child rape, incest, and sexual harassment. It also makes men more likely to support rape and violence against women perpetrated by other men, and to accept a wide range of rape myths.

It’s a vicious circle. The more entitled a man is, the more likely he will be to support things like pornography, and the more pornsick he becomes, the more likely he is to double down on the entitlement. And the net losers are women.

TEDxJaffa — Daphna Joel — Are brains male or female?

Two quotes about how students deal with gender.

Forcing Kids To Stick To Gender Roles Can Actually Be Harmful To Their Health

Pereira observed both boys and girls regulating their behavior in potentially harmful ways in order to adhere to gender norms. For instance, even girls who enjoyed sports often avoided physical activity at school because they assumed it wouldn’t be a feminine thing to do, they worried they might look unattractive while running, or they were mocked by their male peers for not being good enough. The girls also put themselves on diets because they believed desirable women have to be skinny.

“All of the girls were within very healthy weights, but they were all restricting their intake of food in some way. So what we’re really talking about here is 14-year-old girls, whose bodies are changing and developing, depriving themselves at every meal,” Pereira said. “In the extreme, that can lead to things like eating disorders. But even for the women who don’t reach the extreme, it can be very unhealthy for them.”

Meanwhile, the male participants in the study all faced intense pressure to demonstrate the extent of their manliness, which led to what Pereira calls “everyday low-level violence”: slapping and hitting each other, as well as inflicting pain on other boys’ genitals. They were encouraged to physically fight each other if they were ever mocked or offended. They felt like they had to drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol because that’s what a man would do. And they were under certain mental health strains, too; struggling with anxiety about proving themselves and suppressing their feelings, all while lacking a strong emotional support system.

From The Myth of Mars and Venus, by Deborah Cameron:

What is happening to [boys and girls between the fifth and sixth grade] is that they are beginning to participate in an emerging ‘heterosexual market.’ Although they are still pre-adolescent, and in most cases not yet interested in sex as such, their interest in the trappings of adult heterosexuality is driven by what Eckert points out is an overriding social imperative among children: the need to demonstrate maturity by moving away from the ‘babyish’ behavior of the past…

Thought both sexes are engaged in this project, it changes the girls’ lives more profoundly. Boys cultivate a more adult masculinity through the same activities that were important to them before- for instance, sporting activities that show off their physical strength and athletic skill. For girls, on the other hand, cultivating a more adult femininity means replacing the activities and accomplishments of childhood with a different set of preoccupations. In particular, they abandon physical play: instead of using their bodies to do things, they start to focus on grooming and adorning them. They watch boys’ games from the sidelines, or as Tannen notes, ‘simply sit together and talk.’

Critical thinking about the media.

1. Remember that all media images and messages are constructions. Ads and other media messages have been carefully crafted with the intent to send a very specific message.

2. Question why certain messages are consistently present in mainstream media and why others are absent.

3. Look closely at the appearance of media images: the colors, the editing, the camera angles, the appearance of the people (are they young and happy?), the location, and the sound or type of text.

4. Compare media images and portrayals of your surrounding environment with your reality. Make a list of the differences so that you are more aware of them.

5. Investigate the source of the media images you encounter. Who owns the network that your favorite television show is on? What else does that corporation own? How does the ownership structure of media affect the news and
entertainment we receive? (Media Ownership Chart

6. What other stories about the world exist than those you see in the media? (About relationships, health, peace & war, materialism, gender, finances, violence, globalization, sex, love, etc.)

Media Education Foundation 2005

I would add that you need to inform yourself from real sources of information (books written by knowledgeable people, specialized web sites, real-life knowledge). Being able to understand facts in context (something you very rarely, if ever, get if you watch the news or “experts” discussing issues) is your best way of acquiring a capacity for critical thinking about the messages propagated by the mass media.

Finite and infinite games, and their relevance to radicalism…

This entry is about games. Not games in the sense of entertainment, but in the more general sense of any system that has participants, rules regulating their interactions, and an objective. Playing Monopoly is a game, and so is a job opening, a corporation, an election, a family, and so on. Most of our interactions with people exist within some game, even if we’re not conscious of it.

In his seminal book on the subject, James Carse states that we can differentiate between two general kinds of games: finite and infinite (hence the title of his book, Finite and Infinite Games). They are so named because they have different kinds of objectives. Finite games must end in the victory of one of the participants or groups of participants, and the participants generally seek to win. Participants in infinite games, on the other hand, have as their objective to continue the game for as long as they can.

Hierarchical societies drive such a wedge between the personal and the political, between work and play, between “idealistic values” and “realistic pragmatism,” that it seems strange to use the term “game” to describe parts of social institutions. To us, a “game” is something individual, personal, trivial, that can have no connection to “real life.” This prevents us from understanding the similarities between games of the same kind simply because one is “personal” and the other is “serious.”

Finite and infinite games have a number of important differences:

* The ultimate objective of the participants in a finite game is to win (and earn a reward, whatever that may be), that is to say, to end the game. The ultimate objective of the participants in an infinite game is the perpetuation and expansion of the game (not of their interests, or of their team, but of the game as a whole).

* In a finite game, the rules, which rarely change, are determined by an authority set apart from the participants. In an infinite games, the rules are agreed upon by the participants and change when adaptation is required (such as when new people enter the game, when external conditions become more hostile to the game, and so on).

* Because participants to a finite game must overcome others, their usual orientation is competitive. Because participants to an infinite game must support each other’s work in order to keep the game flourishing, their usual orientation is cooperative.

This means that finite games have all the attributes of competitive systems (such as a strong tendency towards conformity, greater hostility towards others, low motivation, low efficiency) and infinite games have all the attributes of cooperative systems.

Furthermore, it also means that new people entering a finite game generally make it harder for others, while new people entering an infinite game generally make it better for others.

* Participants in a finite game must take their assigned roles seriously in order to be good competitors. Participants in an infinite game cannot take their roles too seriously if they want to be good cooperators. As Carse states, “seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility.”

* Being rewarded with power is the ultimate goal of finite play. For participants in finite games, power is what sets the rules and one’s reward for winning. For participants in infinite games, power (applied by the outside world) is usually an obstacle, a source of hardship, and something they must adapt to in order to keep going.

To this list I would add the perspective of conceptual metaphors. The primary conceptual metaphor we use to discuss finite games is war (attack/defense/destruction). I don’t think there’s one primary metaphor for infinite games, but sometimes we use biological life (growth/flourishing/death) and journey (progress, regress, leaps and bounds).

A game is not either completely finite or completely infinite: most games are some admixture of the two. For example, most artistic endeavors in a capitalist society are both infinite games (in that the participants combine their creativity and talents in order to keep producing art) and a finite game (in that they must compete for popularity and money within a capitalist society), so it will have elements from both sides to varying degrees.

What made me connect this concept of finite and infinite games to radicalism was the realization that hierarchies are more likely to produce finite games, while egalitarian structures are more likely to produce infinite games (if they are successful). Hierarchies produce finite games because the elite in a hierarchy generally sets the rules for everyone else. They also generally have rigid roles depending on one’s place in the hierarchy, and those roles must be taken seriously. Competitive systems (which are usually hierarchies) provide incentive by giving rewards.

Equally importantly, if you think about it, every radical anti-capitalist game that we know is much closer to infinite games than finite games. And on the flip side, all social constructs are the subject of finite games.

The latter point is easier to explain. The nature of our social constructs determines which attributes are signs of superiority and which are not. People strive to be the most masculine or the most feminine (and to be attractive within those limitations), to possess the best mate and best children, to have the best proofs of intelligence, to have the most money, to be in the “right” religion and political ideology, to have the highest social status, to root for the winning team or play for the winning team. There lies the bulk of our finite games. And they are all pro-status quo and profoundly alienating.

Infinite games are the kind of games that give people Slack (to use a Subgenius term). Every property of infinite games indicates that they can make people freer, happier and less stressed, while finite games, as we know, usually do the opposite.

The family, not in the sense of a breeding unit but in the sense of people coming together in intimate relationships, is the simplest and purest example of an infinite game. Everything about finite games (authoritarianism, competition, power, seriousness) is the enemy of love.

Systems like open source programs and Wikipedia are examples of infinite games which are well known to people. They are by and large cooperative, seek to remain as democratic and egalitarian as possible, and their objective is the flourishing of the system itself (generating as many useful open source programs and data as possible).

In general, self-government systems fulfill all the main criteria for infinite games. By definition their rules are set by the participants, not by an authority. They are set up to be egalitarian and cooperative. And power, either within the system or outside of it, is an obstacle to the continued existence of the system. It seems to be a fair generalization that the more radical a system is, the closer it is to the ideal of an infinite game.

I think the two main elements that a game analysis brings to our concept of hierarchy and radicalism are, first, in connecting the personal with the political and, second, the importance of seriousness in maintaining finite games in existence.

Unfortunately I think people can misuse this concept of playfulness. What we’re talking about here is the realization that the roles we play in finite games have no bearing on who we are, and that they are just masks we wear because they are imposed on us by society, that they are not as important as infinite games, which are the real substance of our lives because they are the only places where we’re really free.

Take the issue of gender. Queer theory states that by “playing with gender” (which they call “genderfucking”), meaning positioning oneself at any point between the two genders (as described by Western culture at any point in time) or beyond, we can deconstruct it and thereby oppose it.

But this process does not actually “play with gender” because gender is a social hierarchy, not just two roles disconnected from any greater social context. All it does is reinforce the importance of gender by building a myth that changing our position relative to those two roles, which themselves remain unquestioned, is somehow a rebellious activity. It does nothing to put into question the hierarchy itself.

The main problem with finite games is not their existence, but that we take them (and the roles we play in them) seriously, and force other people to take them seriously. The game of gender consists of people taking gender roles, with one (man) established as superior to the other (woman), where the objective is to attain the highest status within those roles (i.e. for women to identify with the male establishment, and for men to exploit women).

Despite their pretenses, queer and transgender theorists still take that game very seriously indeed. In fact, they sometimes brag about how good they are at it. An infinite player (one who finds infinite games more important than finite games) would not give such reverence to gender roles as they do. And that’s what makes queer and transgender theorists dangerous to themselves and society.

Religion is another good example, because Carse has opined that religion is an infinite game because it’s lasted for so long. I certainly disagree on that account: while I would say some religions are closer to that ideal (the most modern religions, like paganism and Subgenius), most religions are very much finite.

There’s two aspects to that. One is that every sect of a religion wants to become the most recognized, representative sect (as we see with Protestants vs Catholics and Sunnis vs Shiites, that usually involves anything up to outright genocide), and another is that many religions seek to marginalize, demonize (often literally) and overthrow all other religions.

From what I’ve seen, Carse tries to get around this by claiming there’s a fundamental difference between “religion” (which is infinite) and “belief” (which is finite). I have not read his book “The Religious Case Against Belief,” so I don’t know what his argument is, but I find the concept dubious to say the least. I think religious thinkers tend to idealize religion into a kind of abstract, transcendent mush.

The Christian religion without any of its beliefs is only empty buildings and a bit of poetry. A religion like Buddhism, on the other hand, does quite a lot better without beliefs, even though, again, it’s questionable whether many people would be Buddhists if it had no beliefs. Beliefs are what connects the abstract, transcendent mush to a culture of believers. “Religion” as defined by Carse may be a beautiful, fulfilling thing, but there’s little reason for anyone to care about it.

The status quo is good for finite games because the power and permanence of their rewards depends on the power and permanence of the society that acknowledges the validity of those rewards. The status quo is bad for infinite games because the power structures of society are a constant obstacle against the perpetuation and flourishing of these games. You can probably have an idea of where a game (or a system that is also a game) lies on the scale of finite to infinite by how much the power structures in society are for or against it.

The Price of Pleasure – Noam Chomsky on Pornography (Extra Feature) – Available on DVD

Dinosaur Comics on: sexism, adulthood, having children.

From Dinosaur Comics (1,2,3).

The disgusting popularity of “American Sniper.”

The always excellent Arthur Silber says what most people couldn’t even understand: that American Sniper is a story of unforgiveable evil.

Americans’ comfort with extreme cruelty and violence, and their unquestioning acceptance of the necessity of obedience to authority (Kyle repeatedly stresses that he was “simply” doing “his duty,” but any questions as to why he chose this duty are ignored entirely), are offered to audiences as a version of themselves they view with great favor. Indeed, they revel in it.

The great success of American Sniper immediately follows the latest exercise in the ongoing demonization of Islam and Muslims. Americans’ penchant for violence and unending aggression requires the existence of targets who “deserve” whatever they get, even and often especially when what they get is brutality, torture and murder. Empire is greatly skilled and inventive at feeding the appetites of this ravenous monster. Given recent developments, the horrors will not be ending anytime soon. It is more likely that the pressure grows for new explosions of these hatreds. The dedication to violence demands an outlet. Tell many Americans that their hatred and their desire to wreak vengeance are “justified,” and they will love you for it.

At this point, it doesn’t appear that most Americans can even imagine a profoundly different way of living, let alone begin to make it real. The deadly disease that consumes America can be described in many ways — but, at least for me, “living” isn’t one of them.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 386 other followers