Nuclear Fallout

I only write on holidays now.

There’s a parade impeding traffic nearby in celebration of the millions of men (and, in recent years, a few really weird women) who — willingly or via conscription — traveled overseas on the orders of other violent, authoritarian men in order to kill (and rape and torture) people in one of the nearly countless wars the US has instigated or horned its way into. War always has been and always will be the province of men who demand obeisance, crave domination, and have no compunction about the physical and psychological damage their violent whims cause to other human beings. The war impulse doesn’t materialize out of thin air; authoritarian men learn authoritarianism from other authoritarian men, and nearly all men are authoritarians because they’re accustomed to a world ordered around their desires.

The fundamentals of children’s personalities and their understanding of how to relate to other people are formed by the time they enter school. Gendered behaviors become ingrained in early childhood; girls learn to suppress their personalities and opinions, to take up as little literal and metaphorical space as possible, and to consider everyone’s needs and comfort before their own, while boys learn to despise everything associated with femininity, to do everything they can to force their will onto the world around them, to push boundaries, to expect. The degree of male authoritarianism they’re exposed to — in the home, via popular media, by simply looking around — will determine in large part what degree of authoritarianism boys will exhibit toward anyone they perceive as falling below them in the social order. The degree of male authoritarianism girls are exposed to will determine to a similar degree how little they will value themselves and how cowed they will be by men and their whims.

In theory, authoritarian patriarchy — the absolute rule of the father — in the nuclear family is supposed to produce ideal male workers (dependent on the company for their continued household authority), patriotic soldiers, and compliant, agreeable wives (and/or cheap and docile labor). The institution is and has historically been protected by men’s self-serving division of social life into the realms of the public and the private, the latter being the sacrosanct purview of male heads of household, to be intruded upon only in the most egregious of circumstances (and rarely even then). This arrangement has been slowly breaking down over the course of the last few decades, but we ain’t there yet, and we certainly haven’t emerged from under the legacy of the era in which these institutions and the dividing line between public and private were considered inviolable.

Assuming father figures behaved like Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, this arrangement has historically only seemed noxious to feminists (and, in rare cases, anti-capitalist and anti-war activists, though few of them seem to understand or care how this functions). It works great for men, the managerial class, and the government. But when men all tacitly agree that a man’s home is his castle, there is no check on how despotic and deranged the king of the castle can become and almost no telling how far the effects of the “private” sphere can ripple outward into the “public” world.

My maternal grandmother Maria* died when my mom was seventeen, thirteen years before I was born, when she was crossing a street on New Year’s Eve and was hit by a car, after which my mom was taken in by the sympathetic mother of one of her friends. I only met my maternal grandfather Chuck* once for a few minutes, when I was eleven and he was enfeebled by old age and disease. He died about a year later and my mom seemed simultaneously relieved and nonchalant, which I found peculiar given my attachment to my own father.

I knew there was a reason I had never met my mom’s two older brothers, Dale* and Bob*, and had only met her two older sisters, Sarah* and Deborah*, and their adult children once when I was a toddler; details were slim, but she told me on the many occasions when I asked why we spent holidays with my dad’s family and not hers that I was lucky I didn’t know them, the PG version. Reaching adulthood — in addition to inaugurating the horror of hearing my parents tell dirty jokes without whispering the punchlines — brought with it top family secret clearance.

The king of the castle my mom grew up in — even when his wife and children were the only breadwinners within it — behaved like a whiskey-fueled Ivan the Terrible. He routinely brutally beat and sexually assaulted my grandmother in front of their children, abused my uncles so severely that Bob lost several of his toes, and almost definitely sexually abused my aunts and mother (I don’t push when my mom drops hints). Because my mom was fourteen years younger than her oldest sibling, she got to witness her oldest brother Dale unload that physical and sexual abuse onto his own children when he moved them into the house and allowed his mother to support him and them until her death; the apple moved in with the tree and helped suck the last of the nutrients out of the ground.

Both of my mom’s sisters, having had no contrary examples, married abusive monsters who beat them and their children, and Bob ended up dying a homeless, mentally disturbed alcoholic on the street in San Francisco. Lord knows how, but my mom was the only one who escaped the family curse, probably in part because she finally witnessed a functional family when her friend’s mother took her in and she subsequently made the decision to do whatever she had to to avoid what she had grown up immersed in.

I saw my aunt Sarah when I was in my twenties and she was nearing death, and she was the most pitiful being I’ve ever encountered in my life. Here was a woman in her late sixties who had survived unspeakable abuse at the hands of her own father, only to move on to a husband who was just as bad. Her own children physically abused her and had stripped her home of everything in it that was worth more than a nickel. She was completely alone, the paid “caregiver” who spent the entire day sitting on her ass and blowing smoke all over her notwithstanding. That she managed to smile at me nearly knocked me over.

By my count, my mom and her four siblings begat at least fifteen children. I’m the youngest by at least a decade, and I’m also the only one who isn’t either a chronic victim of domestic violence, a homeless drug addict, or a violent criminal of one sort or another. Two of Dale’s sons, Joseph* and Allen*, are serving triple life sentences for three counts each of first degree rape and kidnapping, crimes they committed together after they had been convicted of rape and other felonies in another state fourteen years prior. They’re also on a short list of suspects for over forty unsolved murders in the metropolitan area in which they were arrested. One of their sisters was a prostitute in the same neighborhood in which they stalked their victims. The oxy plugs and wife beaters who round out the clan pale by comparison, but I no longer imagine that I’m missing much by not attending family events.

One violent, authoritarian man with no self-control directly destroyed the lives of his wife and four of his children and severely damaged the psyche of the fifth, and indirectly destroyed the lives of all but one of his grandchildren (and, surely, of most of his great-grandchildren). One of his sons directly destroyed the lives of his wife and all nine of his children, two of whom directly destroyed the lives of at least four women they violently raped (and there is no fucking way there aren’t more). It is nearly impossible to quantify the exponential toll this piece of shit took on the world, all by himself, from a position of zero economic power, simply because his maleness conferred upon him the social prerogative to do it.

This is admittedly an extreme example, but it isn’t as if it’s rare. Domestic violence, misogyny, and general male authoritarianism are hereditary global pandemics that resist cures because they’re shielded by systemic male supremacy, the public/private dichotomy (which, by the way, also shields men’s porn use and prostitution from scrutiny), and the lionization of the nuclear family that stubbornly persist despite decades of effort. Male supremacist societies and authoritarian men produce insecure, angry boys who simultaneously kowtow to more powerful men and shit all over women, children, and men they feel hold less social power than they do. They produce fearful, self-loathing girls who acquiesce to and collaborate with societal and interpersonal misogyny. And they’re responsible for very nearly all violence, up to and including war.

There may be a silver lining here. It’s obvious to me, from personal experience, that nurture can dominate nature in some cases. If the culture of male authoritarianism and supremacy can be overthrown, it will be when it exerts itself in full, brazen public view, and we are there.

*Fake names, obviously.

The World of “Witchcraft”

It’s Halloween, and witchcraft is a hot topic (haha, get it?) these days, so let’s talk about it. I’ll leave the history of witch hunts in pre-modern Europe and the US aside for the moment — since those topics are being covered like whatever Kanye West is doing this week — and focus instead on something more immediate and hence — since it could theoretically be ameliorated — more important.

“‘We’re women and we’re the weaker people; that’s why we are here.”

Resident of a “witch camp” in Ghana

Witch camps — really, labor camps — only exist in northern Ghana and are populated chiefly by elderly widows who have been accused of witchcraft in their home villages, often by relatives using the accusation as a means to take over their deceased husbands’ property. Because, you know, why would an old woman who had served her husband like a slave for decades deserve to keep anything that her unpaid labor allowed him to accumulate?

Since an accusation of witchcraft comes with absolute ostracization and often brutal mistreatment including rape, torture, and murder, these women flee to witch camps where local chieftans offer them protection in exchange for labor and money. That’s right. Elderly widows, their lives endangered by the cupidity of their own relatives, get to pay for the privilege of performing backbreaking fieldwork, which often requires that they make and sell food items on the street once they finish their day in the fields so they can pay for their safety. And they’re not glamping. Many of them walk several miles a day to collect water since the huts they’re crammed into don’t have plumbing of any kind. I’ll give you one guess as to what kind of health care they’re offered.

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(Naturally, western tourists stop in by the busload to have a gawk at these “witches.”)

They’re the lucky ones. There are no witch camps outside of northern Ghana, which means even that dismal remedy is available only to a select few.

In sub-Saharan Africa, anthropologists have identified a “multi-crisis” that afflicts much of the subcontinent and has been growing over the course of the last three decades. The legacies of colonialism and the arrival of the culture of capitalism with all of the economic insecurity and jealousy that it foments have led to disruptions in traditional means of survival and in community and kinship structures. At the same time, the continent has been ravaged by warlordism, superlative poverty, public health crises including HIV/AIDS, and the strange constellations of political and economic corruption and abuse that attend the extraction of the region’s resources as repayment for exploitative development loans.

The admixture of indigenous beliefs in hidden spirit worlds and the virulent misogyny of the syncretized/”Africanized” proselytizing religions that have come to dominate the region — Islam to a lesser degree, and various stripes of regressive evangelical Christianity to a much greater degree — leave women and children open to accusations of witchcraft when their communities or families suffer misfortunes that appear to be inexplicable or to lack obvious or feasible remedies, misfortunes that vary from a bad dream to the wrong kind of weather to an unexpected illness to a sudden change in financial fortunes.

Some of them are simply exiled to face the dangers unaccompanied women and children endure, but they’re often beaten, whipped, gang raped, and tortured to death in their own communities. In just six months of 2017, for example, 479 elderly Tanzanian women were brutally murdered by hysterical mobs for the crime of being female and no longer of use to men or the market.

Children are, however, of use to men and the market, at least up to a point.

Over the course of the past twenty years, witchcraft accusations levied against children have exploded in urban areas in Africa and are increasing by the day. Pentecostal and revivalist ministers help to legitimize witchcraft accusations made against children in their communities and offer their parents expensive “exorcism” programs comprising repeated psychological and physical abuse including starvation, beatings, prolonged isolation, forced ingestion of poisons, and gasoline being poured into their eyes and ears. They often die during the course of their “treatment.”

These pastors have arrogated to themselves the authority to identify child witches, to oversee their “treatment,” and to collect hefty fees for their efforts. Christian ministers advertise their services via billboards, radio, and television commercials and spread the fear of child witchcraft among the pubic in an effort at self-enrichment so brazen it would make Joel Osteen wince. These pastors, with their wealth, connections to international networks, and semi-divine status as prophets, carry enormous power over the futures of the children they come into contact with; once they’ve “confirmed” a child as a witch, the stigma that follows leaves the child open to continued suspicion, repeated accusations, and a permanent state of vulnerability and exclusion. And, conveniently, repeat visits to the pastor for future exorcisms.

Again, we’re talking about lucky witches, though, whose parents can afford and are willing to pay for repeated “exorcisms.” Orphans, step-children, children born with developmental disabilities or deformities, and gifted or otherwise “troublesome” children are often labeled witches or sorcerers by their families or communities who can’t (or don’t want to) care for them. And, because sub-Saharan Africa is the world region most devastated by the legacies of imperialism and the contemporary realities of neoliberalism, there are a lot of reasons they can’t.

What do you think becomes of children who are shunned and abandoned by their families and communities in regions that suffer from extreme poverty? They’re still of some ephemeral use to men and the market — just different men and a different kind of market — and their exclusion from their communities leaves them with absolutely no protection from human traffickers, corrupt and exploitative authorities, and depraved men in general. The vast majority end up living on the streets of major African cities. The boys survive by begging, selling cheap goods on the street, petty theft, indentured mine work, and selling drugs. In Central Africa, they’re also vulnerable to impressment as child soldiers.

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The girls are — surprise — trafficked abroad or funneled directly into local sexual slavery, the average age at which this begins being six or seven years old. The police and other governmental authorities not only offer no help, but are often the chief agents of exploitation that these girls come into contact with. Their johns — despite the widespread awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa — routinely either pay slightly more than the average price of $1-3 per paid rape to eschew condom use or, being that they’re adults raping children, they often just refuse to use condoms and refuse to pay at all.

“Sometimes men come and force themselves on me, and after, they go without leaving any money. That often happens. I started doing this work when I was ten years old. It’s not a pretty life. I’d like to go somewhere else and study.”

— Lumbashi, age 18, in an interview with Human Rights Watch

Lumbashi, being 18 years old, can be considered one of the “lucky” few children accused of witchcraft to reach adulthood. According to UNICEF, the majority are either starved or murdered before they even reach the streets of urban capitals, or they succumb to starvation, die of AIDS and other preventable diseases, or are murdered with impunity within a few years of being accused and exiled to the streets.

Whether a crazed mob carries it out immediately or it’s effected by the conditions in which discarded human beings exist, an accusation of witchcraft is almost always a death sentence for a woman or child in sub-Saharan Africa.


Let’s hop to another region of the world no one seems to care about, Papua New Guinea. The country has been absolutely devastated by foreign exploitation and forced integration into the market system and suffers from extreme poverty and social chaos as a result. In the past several years, gruesome murders of women and girls over accusations of “sorcery” (sanguma) have spread from rural areas to larger towns, including the capital of Port Moresby. As usual, the violence is aimed at the most vulnerable members of the community:

“[A]ccusations of witchcraft were usually levelled at those on the bottom of the social hierarchy, most often women who lived on the margins of society — the elderly, disabled, or those who had married into the village.”

The killings usually begin with a woman or girl being accused of causing the death or illness of a member of their community. They are then tortured by being beaten, cut with knives, whipped, or burned into providing a “confession,” which then provides justification for even more brutal abuse and murder.

Two recent noteworthy cases highlight just how ghastly PNG witch hunts have become. A 20-year-old woman named Kepari Leniata was accused in 2013 of causing the death of a young boy by means of witchcraft, after which she was set upon by an angry mob and “stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in petrol, and burned on a pile of rubbish and car tyres.”

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Less than a year ago, Leniata’s six-year-old daughter was also accused of witchcraft — serving by dint of association with her mother as a scapegoat for the community’s unexplained misfortunes — after which she was “tortured with hot knives.” The girl survived and her story became a national and international sensation, which prompted PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, to acknowledge the reality of modern witch hunts in his country:

“In the modern day sanguma is not a real cultural practice, it is false belief and involves the violent abuse and torture of women and girls by pathetic and perverted individuals.”

The PNG government, however, lacks the resources or the will to do anything about the increase in violence against women and girls accused of witchcraft. Women and young girls are trafficked from all over PNG to Port Moresby and to logging and mining camps where they’re sold into sexual slavery in brothels frequented by migrant workers and the male employees of multinational corporations that have bought the rights to the nation’s natural resources. Women are considered commodities in this new economy, and accusations of witchcraft serve as an expedient means of disposing of them once their value has been extracted.

Their male family members sell them into sexual slavery, so it’s not exactly shocking to hear that these same men use accusations of sorcery to control women within the home:

“Sorcery accusations all too often become a form of family violence, with abusive husbands threatening or using sorcery accusations to silence and control women.”

If a woman’s husband finds himself a new and improved wife, what better way to rid himself of the troublesome old one than accusing her of witchcraft (or threatening her with an accusation if she refuses to accept being abandoned)? Once he has discarded her, she is rendered even more vulnerable to accusations of sorcery since she exists outside of the traditional social order.

As is the case in sub-Saharan Africa, men in PNG suffering new forms of economic and cultural insecurity and exploitation turn on the most vulnerable members of their communities and facilitate and profit from their sexual exploitation, and accuse them of using dark magic to create the misfortunes they either can’t understand or feel powerless to confront. Misogyny comes together with confused rage to exclude unprotected women and girls from the community, after which they are eligible for the most ghoulish forms of exploitation and violence.


Austerity, structural readjustment programs, and the resultant growing poverty in Asian countries have resulted in huge spikes in human trafficking from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and elsewhere (including Africa, of course) to the US, Europe, and the Middle East (especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE). If someone were to put a gun to my head and tell me to pick one of those regions to be accused of witchcraft in, I wouldn’t choose the Middle East.

Women who migrate or are trafficked to Saudi Arabia as domestic laborers find themselves at the complete mercy of their employers, mercy which is often lacking. They are routinely forced to work more than 18 hours a day, are rarely if ever afforded days off, are whipped and beaten for the flimsiest of perceived failures, and have no recourse to state aid when the abuse becomes unbearable. They’re often undocumented and do not speak Arabic, and even if they do approach authorities to allege abuse, they are open to counter-accusations of witchcraft that put their lives in danger.

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It’s noteworthy that the Saudi government inaugurated its “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” in 2009, since it coincides with the drastic rise in numbers of female foreign domestic workers entering the country.

By 2011, the unit had created a total of nine witchcraft-fighting bureaus in cities across the country, according to Arab News, and had “achieved remarkable success” in processing at least 586 cases of magical crime, the majority of which were foreign domestic workers from Africa and Indonesia…

In a country where public observance of any religion besides Islam is strictly forbidden, foreign domestic workers who bring unfamiliar traditional religious or folk customs from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Africa, or elsewhere can make especially vulnerable and easy targets. “If they see these [folk practices or items] they immediately assume they’re some kind of sorcery or witchcraft.”

Accusers are guaranteed anonymity by the Saudi government, leaving foreign domestic workers especially vulnerable to retaliatory accusations made by their employers when they flee or report abuse:

“Recently, all family members has started to suffer from fainting and epileptic fits. After the housemaid fled, we found magic items planted in various part of our house,” the unnamed man said, quoted by Sabq Arabic language daily.

“I swear that we do not want to hurt her but to stop her evil acts against us and others,” said the man, who published a picture of the 31-year-old maid in newspapers.

I’ll bet.

Make no mistake: the Saudi state actively pursues these women, and though some of them are merely lashed and imprisoned, the vast majority are convicted on the shadowy basis of a male judge’s whim and sentenced to death.

The most economically, politically, and socially vulnerable women in the world are trafficked to or migrate to one of the richest countries on Earth out of desperation, only to be treated like chattel. When they display the slightest resistance to being brutally dehumanized, the Saudi state comes to the rescue of their abusers under the guise of protecting the socio-religious order from the “danger” these powerless and completely isolated women purportedly pose via labeling them as witches. It’s a tidy system that allows for the demonization and disposal, yet again, of women who have lost what little value they had to men and their market.

Spooky, huh?

A Processing of What “Due Process” Means Is Due

It’s a bit difficult to discern what kind of argument Emily Yoffe is trying to make in her recent article in The Atlantic entitled “Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?” what with the haze of redundant and disingenuous proclamations of sympathy for sexual assault survivors and all. Her argument, which is further obfuscated by ill-considered appeals to the holy juridical tenet of “due process,” appears to be that sexual assault is now purely a partisan issue, which threatens to undermine justice itself. (Yoffe has been harping on this issue for years, straddling the thick line between “I empathize with survivors, I really do” and “this is a zero-sum game in which believing women makes men victims.”)

In reference to the Kavanaugh hearings, Yoffe argues, “Republicans — adopting the rhetorical style of the president — dismiss accusers. Democrats mock the idea that fairness and due process are necessary for the accused.” The tragic result: “Democrats’ disregard for unbiased and impartial fact-finding in their rush to embrace the slogan #BelieveSurvivors may actually have helped confirm Kavanaugh.”

Let’s start with the obvious.

I’m not sure which Ivy’s law school Yoffe attended, but she must have skipped the lecture on the difference between a criminal trial and a job interview. I know I’m not making a novel point here, but when was the last time you filed a Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment due process case against a potential employer who opted not to hire you? Let us review the concept of “due process” as enshrined in the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Unless one considers a Supreme Court seat “private property” that had been bestowed upon Kavanaugh extralegally prior to his confirmation hearings, I fail to see a violation here, even had he not been confirmed. (I’d put the odds of a case arguing that a sense of entitlement equates to “private property” coming before the current SCOTUS at 12%, but it has yet to occur and is hence not settled precedent.)

On to the Fourteenth Amendment, which I would like to remind everyone was adopted during Reconstruction in a (failed) attempt to prevent Southern states from de jure re-enslaving African Americans after the Civil War, and was not, indeed, intended to guarantee Yale Law grads their dream jobs:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Kavanaugh, even had his confirmation not been “plowed right through” (oh, the semiotics), would have escaped with his life, continued to rove about the land as his whims dictated, and retained his nearly $1 million in net worth.

Still, according to Yoffe, Democrats’ (admittedly politically-motivated) decision to take Dr. Blasey at her word somehow showed an utter disregard for “due process” rather than a simple (if in some cases feigned) recognition of her humanity while she relived a sexual assault in front of a panel of hysterically hostile men and their female ‘Zonie sicario. And that total contempt for justice on the part of Democratic senators — rather than the GOP smear campaign aimed at Blasey, the White House’s obstruction of the FBI investigation of her allegations, and Mitch McConnell’s sociopathic machinations — explains Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Lady, whose side are you on again?

Oh, right. Men’s. If we take a look back at Yoffe’s ouevre, she seems inordinately concerned with what she terms the “excesses” of the Obama administration’s 2011 expansion of Title IX protections for women on college campuses, enshrined in the famed “Dear Colleague” letter that instructed colleges and universities to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard (meaning, basically, that they were directed to side with the party who seemed more credible) to determine what course of action to take in the event of a sexual misconduct allegation.

Universities do not administer lethal injections, seize students’ assets (of their own accord), or deprive students of their freedom when adjudicating campus sexual assaults, they simply decide how to ensure that they don’t allow their campuses to turn into hostile environments for women. Universities are not “states,” nor do they wield the same forms of power over their students that governmental institutions do over citizens.

Yoffe seems to have failed to make that distinction throughout her tenure as a constitutional law expert for The Atlantic. She went out of her way to track down and interview young men whose lives had been “ruined” by Title IX cases, decrying the lack of “due process” in campus sexual assault proceedings and thus tacitly declaring her fandom of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases which actually do present the possibility of depriving someone of “life, liberty, or property.”

Here’s the thing: campus disciplinary proceedings in sexual misconduct cases are administrative procedures carried out by private or semi-private institutions (state- and federally-funded colleges and universities do not, by dint of that funding, morph into governmental agencies — this fact is settled law). Due process does not attach to administrative procedures, it applies to civil and criminal cases as outlined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that dictate the parameters of governmental action against citizens.

Obviously, Yoffe has no idea what she’s talking about (hey, Atlantic, I’ll take her job if you ever figure that out), so that’ll be enough about her.

(The argument I’m about to make isn’t a completely new one for me, so I apologize for the redundancy if you happen to be one of the zero people who has read everything I’ve ever written.)

What happens when we apply the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal sexual assault cases (never mind in college administrative hearings)? It results roughly in a net of 6% of rapists ever seeing a consequence, that’s what. The presumption of innocence is generally a laudable bit of legal philosophy, as is the guarantee of due process, but something funny happens in rape cases: because the burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” falls onto the prosecution (i.e. the victim), a rape victim is required to prove a negative, that she did not consent to sex. The presupposition, then, is that women wander the Earth in a constant state of consent and that they must prove that they temporarily revoked it for the period of time during which an assault occurred.

Sans a firsthand witness other than the defendant, this absurd requirement applies even when there is DNA evidence and verified injury. Seriously. “She likes it rough” has come to be one of the more common — and successful — defenses against rape charges in which the perpetrator’s DNA has been collected from the victim and she has documented injuries derived from the encounter (thank you, porn industry).

Does anyone believe men don’t know this and act with it in mind? The de facto result of this particular arrangement of legal reasoning and procedure is that rape is legal 94% of the time. Why would Yoffe (or anyone else other than a rapist) be alarmed at the prospect of a disruption of this situation? That was a rhetorical question.

The law works exactly as intended because the law was encoded and elaborated by men, for men. That women are demanding via #MeToo and #BelieveSurvivors that women’s humanity be taken into account in sexual assault proceedings — whether they occur in college administrative hearings, job interviews, civil cases, or even/especially criminal trials — does threaten to upend some of the foundational concepts of our legal system.

And? What’s the problem, again?

Let’s say we were to make one simple move and replace “beyond a reasonable doubt” with “clear and convincing evidence” as the evidentiary standard in criminal sexual assault trials:

According to the Supreme Court in Colorado v. New Mexico, 467 U.S. 310 (1984), “clear and convincing” means that the evidence is highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue; the fact finder must be convinced that the contention is highly probable.

You know, allow judges and juries to apply common sense when deciding whether an assault has taken place, rather than allowing defense attorneys to undermine victim testimony with irrelevant personal slander about the victim’s fashion sensibility, alcohol consumption, or sexual history, and then giving jurors to believe that that “evidence” holds as much weight as all of the other evidence presented at trial if it creates a “reasonable” doubt. Juries are not, as a rule, “reasonable” when it comes to sexual assault trials because we live — as even ol’ Yoffe will admit — in a misogynistic society in which women are assumed to be manipulative liars and men are assumed to be tellers-of-truth even when they’re obviously lying their fucking faces off (see the Kavanaugh hearing).

That sexual assault trial juries (and judges) cannot be relied on to apply reason can be easily illustrated by comparing rape trials to theft trials. Rarely does a defense attorney convince a judge or jury that the owner of a stolen car loaned it to the thief, because that’s fucking ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to believe that a woman who has reported a rape to the police, endured a gynecological exam and evidence collection that includes having her genitalia photographed, and withstood recounting the experience in a room full of hostile strangers is probably just a lying whore. But alas.

Perhaps instructing juries as to what “clear and convincing evidence” means might make them behave a little more reasonably (probably not, but it’s worth a shot). Who loses in this arrangement other than premeditated rapists? This is not exactly a radical proposition, nor would applying the “preponderance of evidence” standard be, and neither would necessarily violate the due process clauses of either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendments (these standards are already used in some criminal cases).

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not derive from the Constitution but from precedent, which renders it open to modification via much simpler means (kinda like Roe is about to be). I am, however, aware that modifying standard of proof precedent to make rape cases easier to prosecute would be well-nigh impossible with the radicalized MRA Supreme Court we’re now saddled with despite the “lack of due process” poor Brett endured.

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause

Roy Moore just lost by a mere four votes or so despite the fact that he’s a serial child molester who lives in his own private version of Gunsmoke. The president is a rapist. Every famous dude in America — of every political stripe — has been fired or has stepped down from his job for sexually assaulting someone. Still, while the #metoo movement is laying bare the ubiquity of the abuse that all women face, there is no real concomitant movement to recognize the ubiquity of abusive behavior among men and boys or to determine the source of that behavior.

I’ll tell you a little about the source of that behavior.

Southern California is an exceedingly harsh environment to grow up in. The emotional depravity that seems to emanate from the starkly bright, spiritually empty, inescapably dull, brown landscape isn’t unique in the world, but it stopped seeming natural or unavoidable once I finally left and life, thankfully, ceased to resemble a Bret Easton Ellis novel. After recently reading about the suicide of 13-year-old Rosalie Avila after she had endured years of torment from her peers in Yucaipa — a smallish town just outside of San Bernardino — memories of growing up female in suburban San Diego began to reemerge from whatever part of my mind they have been sequestered in.

Thankfully, for Rosalie’s sake, the content of the social media bullying she endured hasn’t been made public (though I’m sure I could find it were I to make the slightest prurient effort). Still, it wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch to guess that she was terrorized for being brown and female. Everyone knows what form bullying takes when directed at an adolescent girl. Double that for girls of color.

I often wonder how one could quantify the potential, kindness, and brilliance the world loses when it is routinely beaten out of children by their families and by popular culture, and when those children turn around and unleash their anguish on other young victims (and go on to do so as adults). What would Rosalie have become if she had survived the abuse heaped upon her? How many other girls are enduring the same abuse now, and how will it alter their futures? How many imaginations have been snuffed out by the hatred this culture has for young women and people of color? How many little boys who were on track to become decent men have succumbed to the pressure to suppress their decency in favor of the capricious cruelty that adolescent society, the cult of masculinity, and popular media culture promote and reward?

How can these young people be convinced that anything outside of the nightmare they live in exists? What is the mechanism by which some victims of childhood and adolescent abuse survive and come to use their experiences to better the world, and how can it be provided to those who need it the most?

That list of questions makes it sound as though I have no hope for addressing the behavior of the culprits. That’s because I don’t. It’s a rare childhood bully who will even recognize their youthful behavior as a problem when confronted with it in adulthood, probably because emotionally terrorizing others isn’t a behavior that people easily grow out of. That would require a level of self-awareness and empathy that is hard to amass out of thin air. Besides, where would the motivation even come from when the public is too recalcitrant to shift its focus away from victim-blaming and toward the behavior of perpetrators?

Adolescents are routinely exposed to and forced to reckon with behaviors and ideas that are far too harrowing and complex for their young minds to cope with. They all commit and endure cruelties and subjugations that they are completely incapable of comprehending. Some people have argued that this is a result of the lack of purpose and meaning assigned to the life stage of adolescence in Western society. Adolescents are no longer children and aren’t yet adults, existing in a liminal zone of frustration and confusion about why they even exist. There’s nothing to do but emulate and wait, enduring a keen feeling of powerlessness and depersonalization wrought by a materialistic and power-obsessed culture. Cruelty, then, becomes a form of power for people who feel like they’ve been excluded from control over their lives.

Nothing novel there. But there was something peculiar about the social and cultural tenor of Southern California in particular that exacerbated this already noxious reality, and it seems to have metastasized to the entirety of the culture in recent years. When I grew up in Southern California, it was palpably uncool to have feelings of any kind. You didn’t respond to cruelty with tears. You didn’t respond to a reciprocated crush with honest excitement. You maintained the empty, dead demeanor of a sociopath lest you be vulnerable to the terrifying emotional possibilities around every corner. It was also extremely uncool to be intelligent, emotionally or otherwise. You forgot highfalutin words on purpose to prevent the idiot arbiters of coolness from descending upon you with their brutishly stupid rebukes. Everyone was smoothly empty and dull on the surface, their interiority completely invisible if not totally excised.

I think it took me an entire decade to recover. It’s been long enough now that I can afford to reflect on some of it in public, if only for the sake of other women and girls who might need to relate. What I’m about to recount didn’t occur in a trailer park. It wasn’t aberrant. We weren’t “the bad kids.” (Harmony Korine — retch — and Larry Clark were onto something bigger than they realized). This is not an extreme example, but rather the everyday reality that adolescent girls endure in this society until they either die emotionally, actually kill themselves, or rediscover the last glimmer of humanity inside themselves in time to escape and resist.

Sometime near the middle of my sophomore year in high school, I lost the only form of protection teenage girls have from the predations of teenage boys: my boyfriend. Well, I didn’t “lose” him; he decided to sleep with one of my friends while he was watching my parents’ house while we were on vacation. Being only fifteen, I handled it poorly, which means I partied a lot and was susceptible to predatory male attention because having been cheated on had made me doubt my self-worth. Some guy I had had a mild crush on in junior high started paying attention to me. Let’s call him Jack Phillips. At one of many Mickey’s-soaked house parties I attended that winter, I had three too many Hornets and blacked out, only to learn later that Phillips had intercourse with me.

I only discovered this had occurred because it immediately became the talk of the town. Another piece of evidence that something untoward had happened: while hanging out at my best friend’s house playing Toejam and Earl, I discovered a photo of myself and that best friend in which I had been rendered invisible under the etched letters “fuken hor.” I asked him who had done it, and he told me Phillips had, then asked me why I hung out with him. I didn’t know. I was too young to understand the mechanisms at work in my poor decision-making, and I was certainly not emotionally sophisticated enough to shrug it off and recognize Phillips as a psychopath (and an idiot). I mean, I did shrug it off — because that was a social requirement — but I internalized the message in the etching and the idea that Phillips’s stupidity and warped psyche and sexuality were somehow something for me to be ashamed of.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself at yet another party with Phillips. He suggested we drive up to some remote area where teenagers went to party unmolested by parents or cops. I was drunk, I desperately needed to misunderstand the obvious meaning of his treatment of me, and my naivete/denial told me the invitation meant he actually did like me but didn’t know how to express it (dear god, everyone, STOP telling young girls that boys’ abuse is a sign of a crush). We went. He demanded I have sex with him, threatening to leave me at the top of the mountain we had driven up if I didn’t. It was 1993. There were no cell phones. I certainly wasn’t going to knock at the gate of one of the “estates” up there and ask to call my parents to come pick me up, so I started walking downhill. He pulled alongside me and apologized, and I got in the car and let him drunk-drive me home.

That would have been the end of our interactions were it not for the fact that he continued to call me constantly. One night, a friend I’ll call Sarah was spending the night at my house. She had just moved to the area from Utah, which rendered her woefully ill-prepared for the viciousness of a social environment informed more by Sublime lyrics than human decency. She was impressionable and eager to fit in, and for some reason found my interactions with Phillips fascinating. He called while we were sitting in my bedroom drinking yet more Mickey’s (I still can’t explain what I was doing drinking the official fine malt liquor of House of Pain so often; maybe we were white trash) and she told me to invite him over. I did so reluctantly, knowing no good would come of it, and none did.

They ended up having sex in front of me, these two inebriated children with no inkling of the social or emotional consequences of their actions beyond the immediate moment. I didn’t consider it socially acceptable to have obvious feelings about it, so I got up and wandered out into the house so as not to be forced to watch and listen, wandering back in to find Sarah crying after Phillips had climbed back out the window he had climbed in to drive drunk to his next destination. We went to sleep hugging each other, both engulfed in a confused fog of shame and fear.

The next day, she was an absolute mess. Shortly after she went home, she attempted to kill herself by taking upwards of 100 ibuprofen. Her mother called my parents to ask what had happened and they were astounded, having slept through the pointless drunken destruction that had occurred a mere 75 feet from their bedroom door. They naturally demanded that I tell them what went on, but I refused out of shame and some sense of obligation to protect Sarah from the intervention of adults I was sure could not possibly understand what she (or I) was going through. It netted me a month without a phone or a social life outside of school, which was probably for the best.

You know who wasn’t engulfed in shame, fear, parental punishment, and social opprobrium? Phillips. He was at a party the following weekend bragging that Sarah had tried to kill herself because she had had sex with him. In other words, this teenage kid was celebrating the fact that he had enough power to ruin someone’s life by having sex with them.

Men — adolescent ones especially — are so incapable of self-reflection that they can consider a woman defiled, ruined, permanently tainted by having come into contact with their dicks without thinking about what that says about them. He wasn’t ashamed of anything from what anyone could tell. He wasn’t shunned from any social circle, no one bothered to interrupt him to tell him there might be something wrong with what he was saying and doing, and he presumably continued to do it for all I know. He suffered zero social consequences for multiple instances of what today is considered sexual assault and for taking advantage of someone’s natural human need to be liked to the extent that she wanted to die.

Oddly enough (wink wink), people had plenty to say about me and about Sarah and our decisions. It disrupted our lives to the extent that we were prevented from thinking about literally anything else for months. I’m frankly shocked, given how poorly-developed our coping skills and emotional intelligence were at that age, and given the systemic psychological sickness of our social environment, that we didn’t both end up actually killing ourselves.

This incident was maybe a four on the “most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22” scale. It was part of what made me a mistrustful, angry jerk by the time I was 16, which didn’t help protect me as much as it led me further away from my true nature. And it was just one small speck of dust in a vast and dark universe of adolescent depravity.

Things are not better for young women today than they were in the 90s, they are exponentially worse. Internet porn, the vicious recent backlash against feminism, the death of the counterculture messages that used to compete with the materialistic and emotionally violent messages of popular media, and the rise of intrusive and inescapable social media have left young women in a much more emotionally precarious position than I ever found myself in, which beleaguers the imagination.

Which brings me back to my main point: I’m not surprised that suicide is on the rise among an ever-younger demographic. Just days before Rosalie Avila did so, a ten-year-old girl hanged herself after being bullied. Months before, an eight-year-old boy did the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about an adolescent girl committing suicide after being coerced into sending revealing photographs to some porn-conditioned teenage boy (or some adult predator) who immediately turns around and shares them with all his friends at a minimum, and often with the whole world via social media and revenge porn sites. It’s downright pedestrian these days to read about a teenage girl being gang raped at some party, only to find out later that her assailants have recorded and shared images of her humiliation with everyone they know. The social consequences then fall squarely on her while the rapists get high-fived by their boys.

Teenage society, the law, and even the media have a never-ending supply of opprobrium for these girls, but there is somehow never enough left over for the boys and men who take advantage of them.

Anti-bullying campaigns are not an indication that things are getting better; they’re a begrudging recognition of the enormity of the problem of psychological and physical abuse against and among children and adolescents. The search for the root cause of this epidemic bears no fruit because those doing the searching don’t want to find the answer. Each “investigation” of adolescent suicide comes to the same conclusion: social media is beyond adult control and makes it easier for bullies to target victims.

It’s a facile explanation that allows everyone to shrug and move on without asking why the culture is becoming crueler, meaner, more atomized (and what role social media is playing in that process). It allows the parents of shitty little people to evade the examination of their own behavior and parenting practices. It offers nothing in the way of a solution for the millions of girls (and boys) in America who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the way they’re treated by a growing number of underage sociopaths. And it completely elides the role of the perpetrators and a culture that foments and rewards cruelty, and then conveniently overlooks or excuses the behavioral excesses it inculcates.

It isn’t like we don’t know how these kids will turn out. It isn’t like we don’t know how the cycle of abuse works. I wonder how much more filthy laundry will have to be aired before the focus ends up where it belongs: on the perpetrators and the sociopolitical/economic systems that create them.

Me too, son.

The mainstream media has collectively lost its mind in the past week over the “shocking” revelation that a movie producer would abuse his power over the careers of aspiring actors in order to sexually harass and assault them, then scare them into silence with the exact same set of implied threats that allowed him to commit the crimes in the first place. Since the vast majority of my readership is female, I’m sure none of you were floored by the revelation, given that this kind of shit goes on literally everywhere all the time and has since the dawn of the age of homo sapiens (and, of course, earlier). While it’s heartening to see the dark and dirty truth blip into the public consciousness, it’s likely that the furor will die down in short order and that everyone will resume the charade. Everything is cool, ladies. We caught the bad guy.

I moved to Hollywood in 1999, just after I turned 21. I had zero interest in being an actor (or having anything to do with the film and television industry); I just moved there because it was an affordable neighborhood (this was 1999) in the closest big city to San Diego, where the people I was hanging out with were such degenerates that I decided I had to jet in order to avoid jail or an overdose. I’d like to say that situation improved after the move, but I just traded in a crew of reprobate upper-middle-class bros for a city full of predatory gutterballs with more money.

One needn’t seek employment in the entertainment industry to attract the attention of unctuous perverts in LA. One of my first jobs on arrival was as a waitress at the semi-infamous Mel’s Drive-In, where James Woods propositioned Amber Tamblyn, 16 at the time, with an impromptu jaunt to Vegas with him and some other senior citizen. He must have made a serious habit of propositioning women a third of his age at Mel’s, because he did the same thing to me (though I had at least reached the age of majority; he was 52 at the time). The remainder of the transaction was as awkward as you would imagine. James Woods was — in my mind — only marginally famous, yet he felt like he was a big enough deal that teenagers ought to jump at the chance to be molested by him. Andrew Dice Clay, the epitome of a has-been at the time, had been 86ed from the establishment for groping waitresses just months earlier.

But it wasn’t just the town’s well-known actors, producers, and talent agents who considered the city of Los Angeles a smorgasbord of potential victims. At that same restaurant, I had two male coworkers who had moved to the city to become famous and were just waiting tables until the entertainment elite recognized their mediocre looks and revolting personalities as star material (the cliché is real, y’all). One was a dude from somewhere in the Northeast named Anthony who insisted on being called “London.” Most interactions I had with him consisted of him pointing at bananas and then at his own dick. (You can find this specimen in the archives of the dating show Fifth Wheel if you’re interested.) The other one, Reagan, managed to behave like a reasonable (though dorky) person at work most of the time, but once put on a Frank Sinatra song and tried to make out with me, despite my obvious lack of interest (that quickly morphed into mortified laughter once he tried to Swingers me).

Then there were the mystery men who sat in my section and, shortly before paying their bill (and just before they decided what kind of tip to leave), would ask me if I was an actress. When I replied that, no, unlike every other young woman in town waiting tables, I had no interest in acting, they would say something like, “Well, you’re gorgeous and you should be. Why don’t you give me your number and I can introduce you to some people.” The conditions attached were unspoken, but were louder than a Miami bass war.

I had to “grow up” sometime, so I left Mel’s and got a job at the corporate office of a national chain of lingerie stores headquartered in Hollywood. The office was mercifully free of men, despite the fact that the company produced clownish lingerie ostensibly designed for men’s entertainment and titillation.  (I mean, I couldn’t see the draw of a red bra with underwires but no cups, so men must have been the target market.) Still, I spent at least 2% of my time at work fielding obscene phone calls.

It got so old that, while perusing online job ads at work one day, I decided to apply for a job as a receptionist at Creative Artists Agency, a fairly influential organization in the entertainment world. The interviewer was about 60 and I was still 21. He spent the entirety of the thirty years or so that I was in his office alternating between licking his lips and telling me I would look good up front and lowballing me on the job’s pay. He kept dangling the promise of becoming an assistant to one of their agents, assuring me that one day I would be a big deal Hollywood agent provided that I was up to the task of working there (and would accept poverty wages). The task was in his shorts. I still don’t know what this asshole’s job title was, or why he was selected to interview me, but I have to assume the intent was to weed out the kind of spoilsports who couldn’t handle a little sexual harassment.

All work and no play makes for a boring account of the wide world of Hollywood sexual misconduct. Through some very odd circumstances, I ended up spending a lot of time with a couple of *dudes who had been famous as teen heartthrobs in the early 90s. They were decent people (they had probably endured some sexual abuse themselves, having been child actors) despite the fact that one was a Scientologist (wasn’t everyone in LA in 1999). But their friends were unbelievable. A crew of trust-fund twentysomethings whose only connection to the entertainment industry was their parents, they were brazen and merciless in their tactics of manipulating hopeful young women into having sex with them by pretending to have connections they didn’t have and promising opportunities they had no access to (and no intention of following through on if they did).

They once took me to a club that was nigh impossible to get into at the time, Barfly, where I stood around picking at my clothing while Corey Feldman (he wasn’t there with us) made an ass of himself on the dance floor and an old fat man chased attractive young women around the room with handfuls of hundred dollar bills. Though it was an odd sight, the only reason anyone made sport of his behavior was that he made plain the (usually) unspoken but pervasive assumption that all young women in Los Angeles are for sale. (Hey, loser, get some game and quit being so extra.)

Then there’s the kid we all used to refer to affectionately as “little Will.” We found it amusing to see a 13-year-old trying to breakdance while in a K-hole. You might know him as The Gaslamp Killer, who has raped who knows how many women now that he’s all grown up and famous and has access to roofies and female fans.

Then there was ol’ “shocked and apalled” Ben Affleck, who regularly staggered his way around my neighborhood breakfast cafe, drunkenly sexually harassing the female staff at 7 AM because he could.

Then there was the *globular millionaire son of a director who had no friends whatsoever and would invite young people (male and female) to his house when the bars closed, shove piles of “free” cocaine at them, and then demand that they perform sexual entertainment as payment at the end of the night, later sending them big-screen televisions in the hopes of a repeat engagement. And the *”photographer” who actually made his living selling ecstasy at Garden of Eden and used the proceeds to lure women half his age to his apartment down the street, where he fed them drugs and bullshit until they acquiesced to his sexual demands (free headshots, anyone?).

These vignettes all derive from the outskirts — if not from outside of — the entertainment industry. You can imagine — and have learned in the past few weeks the specifics of — the heights of sexual menace inside the offices of people with actual power in Hollywood. A city brimming with young women (and men) intent on becoming famous makes a great hunting ground for manipulative sexual predators up and down the payscale.

And let me tell you, I’ve got a lot more where this comes from involving men who are about as closely connected to the entertainment industry as I am to Richard Spencer.

Harvey Weinstein isn’t an outlier. He’s an example of the entitlement of nearly all men in positions of power over women’s careers, and all men who know the threat of violence, rape, and public humiliation keep women polite in the face of harassment and quiet about what happens to us after the fact. Men like Weinstein are a dime a dozen. Every woman I know has a list as long as The Brothers Karamazov of stories of sexual harassment and assault at work, on the street, at school, at parties, at the liquor store, on the subway, at Jimmy John’s, at Home Depot, in court, at a funeral, at a wedding, in line for tickets to see Cats, while shopping for diarrhea medication, and so on ad infinitum.

I’ll dip out with a plea to everyone who can safely do so to come out with their lists in every public forum available to them. I may even recount my workplace sexual harassment stories from my teenage years in a sequel-as-prequel to this post.

*I’d include these people’s names, but I’m sure they Google themselves constantly and would instantly guess who wrote this.

Elliot Rodger and the Pandemic of Masculinity

I read Elliot Rodger’s manifesto yesterday. It was, without a doubt, the least surprising document I’ve ever read. It wasn’t hard to follow; it wasn’t bizarre; it wasn’t a collection of the meanderings of a mind that had lost touch with reality. Instead, it was boring, trite, obvious, and exactly what I expected it to be: a rant by a spoiled brat with an overweening sense of entitlement. To women, to sex, to wealth, to attention and adoration. Frankly, I suspected at times that it was written by a Marxist feminist satirizing privileged male entitlement in general and MRAs in particular.

Elliot Rodger wasn’t Holden Caulfield, he was a bratty little asshole who assumed he was somehow superior to everyone else and thus deserved rewards simply for existing. The rage that he felt wasn’t caused by the cruelty of others, but by his own unreasonable expectations, expectations shared by the majority of men. He may have been less equipped to deal with frustration than the average person, but his reaction to that frustration shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the directions the culture has been taking over the course of the last decade or so.

About that manifesto. I’d call it a memoir of a cult member rather than a manifesto, since it doesn’t contain an idea of any kind. Rodger spends 141 pages narcissistically recounting every detail of his privileged childhood, describing in excruciatingly boring detail each family trip to some “exotic” locale or other, each luxurious Japanese dinner, each wasteful birthday celebration, each time he and his family attended a media industry event as someone else’s plus-one. Save a few bits of ham-fisted foreshadowing, the story up until Rodger hits puberty reads like the autobiography of every kid I went to elementary school with in Southern California: upper middle class parents who have no interest in raising a child but plenty of money and help doing so raise a kid with a profound sense of both entitlement and abandonment. His family clearly had just enough money and social status to gain entry to the outer circles of extreme privilege, and to afford Rodger a glimpse of what could be his if only he were fabulously, disgustingly wealthy instead of just comfortable in the extreme.

In fact, the story Rodger tells of his life after puberty reads like a tale of the rude awakening to the fact that his parents were not that rich after all. He makes repeated reference to puberty as the mainspring of his disillusionment with life and humanity, as the catalyst to his confrontation with the cruel realities of the world, but he is clearly projecting a concept he has adopted from the Men’s Rights Movement and from the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene onto his own adolescent understanding of the world, while his recounting of his own memories illustrates a gradual realization that he was not, after all, a member of the Hollywood gentry.

Is it just me, or are there more cult-ish movements around these days than there were a few years ago? Rodger makes mention of his attempt to follow the advice contained in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book that encourages readers to think they are multi-millionaires to whom life’s rewards flow unremittingly and without effort, which will result in them actually becoming one-per-centers. Though Rodger ultimately dismisses The Secret when putting its methods into practice doesn’t result in his winning the lottery and thus becoming a pussy magnet, the fact that he tried it in the first place, coupled with his wholesale adoption of MRA and PUA theories of how the world works, indicates that he shared something in common with tens of millions of people: the willingness to believe that disappointments and frustrations can be explained by nebulous, ill-fitting, simplistic principles propounded by self-help mountebanks in the pursuit of book and seminar ticket sales.

The culture told Rodger that sex, money, and attention were his birthright. When the system failed to deliver, Rodger flailed around, seeking an explanation. At first, it seemed that he turned his frustration inward and assumed that he was lonely because he was somehow defective. At that point in the narrative, I almost felt sorry for him. We’ve all been bullied, we’ve all questioned our worth as human beings based on the way that others treat us, and we’ve all wondered if life would be better for us if we were somehow constitutionally different than we are. It’s gross. Some of us respond to that kind of fundamental uncertainty about our value by entering into a pattern of self-abuse, some of us begin to question the system of social values that leads to such misery, and some of us fall prey to explanations that place the blame for our unhappiness on the people who reject us. Some of us do all three. But disorder arises when someone like Rodger fails to differentiate between fantasy and reality and never grows out of the expectation that life will turn out like a Bud Light commercial. Or a porn video.

So, what did the culture tell Rodger he could expect from the world? As a privileged child, he was given everything he expressed a desire for, it would appear. Rodger, cared for by a series of nannies, also grew accustomed to being doted on by young women in his childhood years. He grew up on the edges of Hollywood’s elite, a world in which power and wealth command attention and favors from what must look to a child to be an unending parade of young, beautiful women. Once Rodger learned about sex (from porn, naturally), he reached the seemingly obvious conclusion that he was owed sex due to his superior social position.

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

Several feminist bloggers have made the argument that writing Rodger off as mentally ill takes the focus off of systemic misogyny and allows a worldwide epidemic of woman-hating and gynophobic violence to go unexamined. They aren’t wrong. But Rodger was mentally ill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.

By that definition, Rodger was certainly mentally ill, and so are most men. What set Rodger apart was his willingness to participate directly in violence against women as women in order to punish them for refusing to provide him with the sex he felt entitled to, rather than simply doing so by proxy via the consumption of violent and degrading porn and other products of a capitalo-misogynistic society. The existence of masculinity requires that men be unable to relate to women, as masculinity and femininity are the institutions upon which male supremacy rests. A man who is capable of relating to women — who does not suffer from the mental illness known as masculinity — is incapable of abusing them, either in person or by proxy.

Why I Hate Men Part 3: There Seems to Be A Pattern Here

I’ve been away for awhile, and I’m a little surprised at what has been going on in my absence. People are still using porn? Seriously? Get with the program, dorks. And what’s up with all this pro-rape nonsense? Men are reacting to the proliferation of feminist discourse in popular culture by proving feminists right? Good job, idiots. Am I to understand that men’s failure to come to grips with reality and their verbally and physically violent reactions to women’s assertions of their own humanity mean that men are unfit for membership in civilized society? Surely we don’t want to go there.

As valuable as I find the recent spate of female-supremacist tracts making their way around my circle of political acquaintances (an example can be found here) in shifting the discursive framework away from the baseline assumption of male superiority, I’m not ready to release my grip on the hope that my dearly-held theory is correct: gender isn’t real, there’s no such thing as “female” or “male” behavior, social conditioning rather than biology dictates the structure of social hierarchies and ensures the perpetuation of male supremacy. But lately it’s REAL hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that there is just something wrong  with men.

You see, though I’ve been absent from the ol’ blogosphere, I haven’t managed to avoid learning of the more egregious instances of recent local and international male behavior.

In the space of the past week or so, a 40-year-old man in Yemen married an eight-year-old child against her will and then raped her to death on their “wedding night;” a man in India raped a four-year-old on a bus; as many as FIFTY men in Lahore, Pakistan raped a five-year-old girl and left her in the hospital for going on six days now; and a UN study emerged that claims that one in four men in the Asia-Pacific region admits to having raped a woman or child (and lord knows how many of them have done so but would not admit to it). Forty percent of those who admit having raped claim to have done so because they “wanted to punish the victim.” Half expressed no remorse. I could go on.

But lest we fall into the trap of exoticizing sexual abuse — i.e. allowing the men in our midst to deflect attention from their own behavior by invoking the caricatured image of the depraved “Oriental” savage who sexually enslaves his women as a foil to the purported relatively gentlemanly deportment of the Western male* — let us have a look at what men have been up to closer to home. A man in Raleigh, North Carolina raped a twelve-year-old girl the other day. A New Jersey man raped a ten-year-old girl several times over the course of the last few months, threatening to murder her family if she told anyone what he had done to her. A new report indicates that the number of women in the US Navy who have been raped by men in the US Navy has increased by 50 percent in the past year. At least ten boys cheered as one of their friends recently raped a woman in Wilmington, Delaware and injured another woman with a knife. I could go on.

In recent weeks, a teacher in Laredo was busted for spreading child pornography, an Air Force master sergeant in Maryland was arrested for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl and a six-month-old BABY in the making of child porn, a school photographer in Florida (Florida — of course) was charged with raping a fifteen-year-old “escort” and distributing child pornography, a Virginia elementary school art teacher was arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography. I could go on.

George Zimmerman, high on impunity (which he apparently still enjoys), recently threatened his wife and her father, claiming to have a weapon. Shellie Zimmerman, after the incident, stated through her lawyer that she would like to “end her marriage with a whimper and not a bang,” likely a reference to the fact that domestic homicide (read: the murder of women by men in their own homes) can be predicted based on the kinds of behavior Zimmerman has habitually exhibited. In Connecticut alone, at least six men have killed their wives or girlfriends since the beginning of this year, the most recent being Gregory Pawloski, a man who had spent ten years terrorizing his wife before he eventually shot her. A man in San Jose, California stabbed his female partner to death last weekend. A man in Granite Hills, Minnesota shot his girlfriend to death a few days before that. I could go on.

Speaking of guns, has anyone other than me nearly lost count of the mass murders that men have committed in recent memory? In case you were wondering, the average in the US has been one mass murder for every two weeks since 2006, and men have committed mass murders claiming the lives of four or more victims TWENTY TIMES since the beginning of this year. A man shot and killed at least thirteen people just yesterday morning, for fuck’s sake. I could go on.

I’m not digging very deep here. These are cases that made the news within the last few weeks. A few other things made the news recently. “Bestiality brothels” are all the rage these days in Germany (Germany — of course), where raping animals is now being described as a “lifestyle choice” by the men who frequent them. There is — I swear to god — an organization in Germany called ZETA that plans to protect men’s “right” to rape animals should the Bundesrepublik choose to outlaw doing so.  In related news, a man in Shropshire, Great Britain made a video of himself having sex with a horse and two dogs. The night before his court hearing on bestiality charges, he was looking for work online as a stablehand. An elderly man in Australia recently shoved a fork handle four inches into his urethra for “autoerotic” purposes. I could go on.

What in the hell is the matter with these people? I mean, really.

Clearly, we have a problem. MRAs and male supremacy apologists seem fond of the pseudo-sciences of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology as explanations for sociopathic male behavior. I’ll admit that it’s tempting to simply acquiesce and grant that they’re correct: men are simply constitutionally unsuited to civilized society.  Few men are prepared to eschew aggression in the face of challenges to their sense of entitlement. Few are capable of allowing anything to stand in the way of their sexual urges, no matter what the consequences (usually to others, naturally). Few seem willing to take anyone’s humanity other than their own into account. The number who are capable of recognizing — let alone remedying — the existence of male privilege and its daily social manifestations is downright infinitesimal. Could it be possible that men are just fucked?

Maybe I’m less of a misandrist than the average MRA, because I’m still not ready to give up on the possibility that men can behave like decent human beings. Men aren’t biologically destined to become rapists, they’re not hardwired to be destructive perverts, they don’t have to derive their lifeforce from the suffering of women, children, and other men. Men aren’t all ineluctably doomed to witlessly wander the Earth, oblivious to the effects of their behavior on others’ lives and on the planet. When they do so, it’s a choice. It’s a choice that appears predetermined, but it’s a choice.

The choice men face in their everyday lives is whether to participate in the cult of masculinity in the face of evidence that to do so is destructive. Each of the examples above of sociopathic male behavior began in a moment in which a man had to choose between sating his own (however warped) desires and behaving like a civilized member of society. In all but one case (ol’ fork-dick), the key personality trait these men seem to be missing is empathy. It’s quite likely that empathy inheres in all human beings and is beaten out of little boys (while society encourages women to exercise empathy to the ouster of consideration of their own needs). These men were probably all aware that to fulfill their own desires would cause negative consequences for the people they used, damaged, or killed in the process, but that awareness was not enough to limit their behavior because it was purely abstract, unattached to a feeling that could approach the intensity of the emotions or desires that catalyzed their actions. In other words, they lack a well-developed sense of empathy.

Abandoning ingrained behaviors and the social benefits that derive from them makes life difficult for men in the current milieu, but it’s probably a lot easier than confronting the fallout of the continued effects of masculinity on the world will be. The question remains, however, whether it will be possible — before it’s simply too late — to force men to not only realize that aggressive masculinity is the root of war, environmental degradation, and the destruction of women’s and children’s lives and bodies the world over, but to also take on the task of reclaiming a sense of empathy and exercising it.

(I should really change the name of the series to “Why I Hate Masculinity,” but MRAs really seem to like the current title.)

* See Philippa Levine, Gender and Empire.