Much of Human Bonding is Excluding Others
I was indulging in some confirmation bias by googling Jim and Pam from the office are the worst. For thems that haven’t watched it, Jim and Pam are this straight white couple that are sort of seen as like, “a super cute” couple or whatever on the show The Office (American version).
As sometimes happens, I found a surprisingly good Buzzfeed article on the them that was able to articulate some of my hatreds:
This couple thinks they are better than everyone else. They are the ones smirking at the camera, making fun of co-workers, winking at the audience, in on the joke. They are the “normal” ones in an office full of weirdos and idiots. They look like “regular” people in an office of people with more distinct physical attributes. You aren’t supposed to identify with Michael, or with Kevin, or Phyllis. You’re supposed to identify with Jim and Pam, and that sucks, because they are two boring, shitty, unremarkable people.
and had a highly elucidating conclusion:
[Y]ou can feel free to not put Jim and Pam’s relationship — or any relationship — on a pedestal. You can work for a relationship where you support each other equally and challenge each other to be better people, and work to not be in a partnership that’s insulated against others in a shield of meanness and self-importance.
When I read this line in particular — you can…work to not be in a partnership that’s insulated against others in a shield of meanness and self-importance — it was light a light bulb went off in my head. That’s what we’re doing! It’s what we’re all doing!
We’re insulating our “in-groups” (frequently, our romantic partnerships) in meanness and self importance. From where I sit (right now, in the middle of the woods) that basically sums up America.
I’m sensitive to this, because in middle school, I was very unpopular. Like, ate lunch by myself every day unpopular and was made fun of by everyone unpopular. Zero friends unpopular. By high school, I was still uh, pretty nerdy, but I did have some friends by then. Middle school, though — 6th grade specifically — middle school was the worst.
(I sort of dislike trigger warnings, but I’m going to have one now cuz where this goes is not apparent from title: discussions of sexual assault, rape, and misogynistic quotes follow.)
If I had to choose between getting sexually assaulted again, and living through 6th grade again, I’d pick getting sexually assaulted. When I am connected to friends and people who love me, I have the strength and support to handle even very difficult emotional things. When I have to endure repeated social rejection, when I can’t hide from, or avoid, or protect myself from the people rejecting me (a situation very common in school)… well, I don’t know. I mean, there’s a reason I don’t write about my social rejection much; I think of it as my my perennial trauma. After I wrote about being sexually assaulted, many of my friends and family asked “why didn’t you tell us?
And I suppose the simple answer is people are mean. It took me years to seek out help after the fact because I didn’t trust anyone. When something very bad happens to you, my personal philosophy used to be that the last thing you wanted to do was seek out other people. I thought that when people saw me in my weakest moments, they would use it as an opportunity to hurt me even more. It took a lot of years with good friends and my religious community (I especially credit the kindness of my Zen teacher in particular) before I was able to talk to people about what was going on for me.
One thing I learned about trauma, is that having access social support and community support is a major factor in if a painful life event becomes a traumatic one. The more support you have close to the painful event, the less likely it is to become a trauma. By not talking to anyone about my sexual assault for years, I made it influence over my life much more powerful.
People always joke about how “millennials” are soft and easily traumatized, and of course we are. Our communities are breaking down, and people report feeling lonelier than ever before. We are facing an epidemic of loneliness. Without strong social support, how are we going to have the strength to face the most emotionally painful parts of our lives?
And often, in our loneliness and our trauma, we perpetuate the larger conditions that caused it in the first place. I recently joined a facebook group that discusses incels. Incel is an internet term that means “involuntary celibate” (aka, someone not getting laid.) The word was coined by a young woman who was looking to get support as she tried to improve her dating life. However, soon her online community was taken over by men who started espousing a lot of misogyny and hatred toward women.
Joining the incel-discussion facebook group was interesting, because it helped me see a lot of the factors surrounding me with my sexual assault. For instance, when I was younger, I believed other nerdy people — including men — were my people. Since we shared the similar experience of being socially ostracized, I assumed we could meet each other with a type of acceptance. What I see now, though, is that many nerdy men view social rejection by women differently than I do. These men assumed my place in society was assured, because of my gender, and that they would have nothing in common with me.
To get an idea of what I’m taking about, I included a quote by an incel on hypergamy. Note, in this context, hypergamy is “the perceived tendency of females to date, have sex with, and/or marry males of a higher socioeconomic status than them” according to the manosphere glossary.
hypergamy is a thing because of the following reasons:
the human female has not developed her personality passed the age she reached puberty. The second she became sexually desirable the onus of being interesting fell on the shoulders of everyone else (male) around her. Because of this she cannot make complex decisions and thinks with a very primative primary reward/risk factor.
Secondly it’s because men are always showering her in attention so she can have her pick of any of them to have sex with at any given time. She has very shallow connections with people to begin with, so meaningless sex is right on par with what she is used to.
Lastly because the woman is an object as she lacks any dimension, which is why all girls say netflix and starbucks are their hobbies, she derives her worth from sexuality as her holes are the only thing of worth. She may also take on traditional male hobbies (but only on a surface level) in order to further increase the value of their holes. Women will take multiple dicks or cheat because it makes them feel wanted and sexy which is something they are used to their whole lives, and when without it they feel they are nothing.
Reasoning like this explain how someone like me, someone who had very similar painful feelings of social ostracization that many of these incels have had, can be seen as “having it easy,” by many of them.
If I had to describe the tragedy of my life, it’s that after experiencing the pain of social rejection, I was emotionally open to connecting with other socially rejected people. And when it came to connecting with men, instead of connecting back, they raped me.
I was reading an article about experts who studied people who raped, and they described a mind set that was very familiar to me:
Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.”
As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”
Even though not all the men I dated were rapists (though, some I think were) many (most?) bought into a similar mindset to varying degrees. (To try to be clear about my past, I often refer to a sexual assault that was done to me by a person I considered a friend but not boyfriend. It’s easy to write about that, because that person and I am not in touch. However, I have also have also been subject to many highly coercive sex acts, a few of which may have crossed the line into actual rape, by intimate partners. However, I can’t write about them because I am being actively stalked by one of the perpetrators who reads my blog, and openness on this topic has triggered stalking episodes in the past.)
One of the things that is so painful to me, is I understand the deep feelings of pain that are at the heart of this rot. I know what it’s like to be so lonely you’d do anything, maybe even rape, to not have to fee so alone. But trust me, you’re better off being a virgin than a rapist. I believe the man who is stalking me, is doing it because he never forgave himself for raping me. It took me years to recover from is the visceral experience of someone using my body for their pleasure without caring about the pain I was in.
But now I see the mirror side of that experience. My boyfriend/rapist was reaching out, in deep loneliness and isolation, and as he was seeking connection what was returned to him was hatred. When you force yourself on someone, you may think you’re protecting yourself from vulnerability, but you’re not. Social isolation is what drives most serial rapists, and you are never as socially isolated as when you are having sex with someone who despises you. Being hated by someone as profoundly as a rape victim hates her rapist is a deeply destructive experience. And, I think it drove this guy mad.
If you have raped someone, go get some therapy, or possibly find religion. Get some help of some kind from anyone willing to help you, because the fate that awaits you is far worse than the fate of your victim; you end up trapped in a prison of your own loneliness.
Back to incels though: what really struck me about then is how deeply lonely they were. I was reading through a ton of posts making fun of incels, about how pathetic they were, etc. etc. and somehow, I ended up on their new forum and read this:
I don’t tell any other adults that I have never had sex, the responses range from them being creeped out to outright mockery, the attitude on reddit mirrors that.
When incels got banned I saw a comment mocking people who “can’t get laid and are angry about it” with thousands of upvotes.
There isn’t a lower form of scum than someone who mocks people who haven’t had sex and puts themselves up on a pedestal for having it, and there’s a lot of scum about.
Some people, men and women alike, but majority will be men for obvious reasons, have low confidence and generally don’t attract women, and they get mocked for it relentlessly, the hate and mockery is what caused something like incels to form, i’m not sure how many subscribers it had but it must have been big for reddit to make a stink about it.
I was mocked while I were younger for not having a girlfriend, my reaction was to just avoid interacting with people because of the mockery, I have met a few people who haven’t mocked me in my life, but majority of the people I have met do the usual dance when they find out I have not been in a relationship or had much physical intimacy.
I’ve spent too much time being mocked by the “normies” — the Jim and Pams of the world — to not know exactly how this kid feels. And you know, I think maybe we all do.
What’s really terrifying out incels, isn’t how “different” they are, but how much like us they are. That’s why we keep making fun of them; to keep reassuring ourselves that we’re not like them. We are not these despicable sub-humans, we tell ourselves, we’re better.
But are we?
I’ve already explained that when I was assaulted, the assault wasn’t nearly as damaging as the social isolation that accompanied it. Trying to fix rape culture though isolation culture is not going to work; socially isolated men will take their pain out on socially isolated women, and the further to the margins you push them, the more extreme and vile their acts will be.
What we’re not doing, is giving these people another path. What’s a lonely virgin to do? Where should they go, what advice do we have for them?
And, this is basically just a synecdoche for larger society. We’re creating factions of social rejection, where we deem people rapists, or racists, or whatever and render them completely un-redeemable. And yet, as we do this, we make the very situation we’re trying to fix worse and, at the end, isn’t that part of the point?
If conservative power structures operate through direct force — the military, financial oppression, etc. — liberal power structures tend to operate though social force. They do this by attempting to get you to ally with strangers against people in your community, and they do this by labelling some people in your community irredeemable. And, there is an implicit threat that, if you support these irredeemables, you will also be labelled as irredeemable.
If you don’t take a stand against rapists, if you don’t condemn people you know who have committed socially unacceptable behaviors, then YOU are a rape apologist. YOU are a rape supporter, and deserve to be just as ostracized as them. Even if you say something like “I condemn what they did, but I will support my friend on their journey to healing so this doesn’t happen again” you will still get slammed. And, the only reason I can even risk writing a blog post like this, is that I have experienced substantial sexual victimization, and even so I think I’ll still be called a rape apologist.
Liberal power structures, effectively, leverage community decimation and they always have since the founding of the USA starting with the Native Americans. By destroying local communities, individuals end up more dependent on larger social and state structures, which centralized power into the hands of oligarchs. There are several mechanisms for this, which I should really write about in another blog post, but a few off the top of my head are: forcing people to hyper compete in the workforce so they don’t form social bonds, gentrification and replacing interconnected communities with wealthier but more isolated ones, and creating larger social taboos that can cause even your closest friends to you to turn against you.
We socially ostracize as a form of protecting our own social power, or as a way of trying to increase it, and it doesn’t actually fix the social ills we are professing to fix. But, in many cases, we don’t actually want to fix those ills. In fact, for people attempting to gain power, fake solutions that actually make the problem worse are ideal, because keeping the problem around keeps their power around. For many people making fun of rapists, especially men who haven’t been raped, the existence of a “rapist” class of men who they can differentiate themselves from for social status is actually ideal. If there were no more rapists, the social status these men get for being one of the “good guys” would go away. (For victims of rape, mocking rapists can be a form of healing through distancing, which is a different process than what I’m talking about here.) Especially for people who are unlikely to be raped, having a “solution” to rape which involves the ability to publicly appear anti rape while actually perpetuating the conditions that cause rape is the cake place.
But, with the introduction of the internet, this process can happen with an inescapable ubiquity on unprecedented scale. What might have gotten you expelled from high school can now follow you forever and keep you permanently un-hirable. The ability to exile people is stronger than it has ever been, so this little facade is becoming more and more toxic, because what we risk through disobeying the social order becomes larger and larger. But, who gets to pick what crimes we care about? Who gets to pick the winners and the losers?
With the internet, we are creating a social-media thought police over mind, and despite whatever it professes, rest assured it does not have your best interests at heart.