The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause (Part 2)

Last week, while I served as the designated driver for my mom and her two best friends, one of those two friends — a self-proclaimed football fanatic — apropos of zilch, brought up the statement Jamie Naughright made on Inside Edition back in October recounting a 1996 incident in which Peyton Manning sexually assaulted her. My mom’s friend was incredulous, wondering aloud, “Why would you bring up an incident from twenty years ago? Why didn’t she report it back then?” She was clearly under the impression that no such assault had ever occurred.

My initial mental response was, “Bruh, are you fucking serious right now?” But I played it cool and informed her that, not only had Naughtright reported the assault immediately after it occurred, but she was also awarded a settlement from the University of Tennessee over the incident because it actually happened. I also regaled her with eye-witness tales of Manning’s behavior during his stint as the King of UT; he made a habit of attending frat parties with a posse of members of the UT defensive line, where he would approach women who were with their boyfriends, grab them by the crotch, and then turn to those boyfriends (he apparently didn’t bother to address the female victims’ reactions) and say, “What are you gonna do about it, faggot?” and walk away laughing. (Sue me, bro.)

This is all a bit of a digression. I mean, it’s obvious that Peyton Manning is a psychopath — if for no other reason than the fact that he bros down with Papa John Schnatter, who is clearly a serial killer — but Shaun King has already addressed that fact and this case at length. What struck me was this woman’s baseline assumption that the victim was a liar, an assumption based on the incorrect and irrelevant belief that a significant chunk of time had elapsed between the “alleged” assault and Naughtright’s decision to report it, when in reality she had simply decided to revisit it in the context of the accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the nascent #metoo movement.

This lady ain’t no outlier. Though things have improved slightly with the emergence of the ubiquity of sexual harassment and assault as a topic in mainstream discourse, it remains the case that victims of assault can and should expect to be met with suspicion at a minimum — and more likely with overt hostility — even from other women who have almost certainly had similar experiences. The barriers to reporting are all still firmly in place, and they include far more subtle and disappointing discouragements than the cop who shames a victim for not wearing a burqa or having had the temerity to drink in public, or the attorney who defends his client by framing the victim for the crime of trollopdom.

I could make a bullet-point list of those forms of discouragement, but that would make for boring reading, so I’ll go with another bit of gruesome personal experience instead. In part 1 of what is apparently going to become a stream of trauma vomit, I described a series of incidents that were a “four on the ‘most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22’ scale.” The following is maybe an eight, so if you’re squeamish, stop reading now and go watch this instead.

In the late spring of my sophomore year, just as the flood of bullshit I recounted in the prior post had begun to recede, I went on a Memorial Day weekend camping trip with my best friend, Randy (his real name) and his older sister, Molly (not her real name), who was eighteen. It took some serious maneuvering to convince my parents to let me go, maneuvering that included Molly coming over to the house to assure my parents that she would watch over us fifteen-year-olds with the vigilance of a horse charged with the care of a dog. What she didn’t mention was that there would be three more campers in attendance — friends of hers who were all dudes aged eighteen to twenty — by the names of Danny (not his real name), Mike (not his real name), and Justin O’Brien (his full real name, which I’ll go ahead and use since he’s dead now — details to follow).

I didn’t mention these three either, naturally, as I knew it would be an instant deal-breaker and I had no plans to hang out with any of them anyway. My only plans included Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor and tubing in a river with my BFF, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Molly had recently been spending less of her time with the usual carousel of surf bros I encountered when I was at Randy’s house and had taken up with Justin, a wigger who dabbled in Chicano culture by means of calling other white guys “guetto.” She had a huge crush on him, which she had confided to me on multiple occasions and which I didn’t really get. He brought Mike, another guetto who fancied himself a cholo, which he at least had a slight claim to by dint of dating the only chola in town whose bangs were teased and lacquered so high that they had to back her up a foot for her yearbook photo. Let’s call her Daniela. The third member of their crew, Danny, was one of about five black guys in town and was the older brother of my best friend from junior high, so I knew and liked him, unlike these other two clownish strangers.

Justin, as wiggers/poser cholos are wont to do when in the presence of a black guy or a Chicano, spent about half of his time making racist jokes to prove to someone that he was so down that he could insult people to their faces without getting his ass kicked. It was real clever crossover shit, too, like calling Danny “La Beno,” which he repeatedly explained was Spanish for “Uncle Ben,” the rice brand with a photo of a black guy on the box. I doubt he realized he was tacitly calling Danny a faggot by using the feminine article, given that he didn’t even know the Spanish word for “uncle,” but I’m sure he would’ve been jubilant had he known that he was being permitted that offense as well.

So, one Saturday morning, we all set off in Molly’s car for an Indian reservation about an hour from home. We had to stop along the way to fill two coolers with various malt liquors, of course. Despite the fact that I was only fifteen, I was the only person in the car with a reliable liquor store hook-up, so they sent me into Sami’s Liquor with all their money and orders to spend every dime of it, and to make sure I bought a twelver of Coors Banquet and at least six 22s of Cool Colt, a short-lived menthol-flavored variation on Colt 45 released in the early 90s.

I’m dilly-dallying here, aren’t I? We got to the campsite, didn’t set up a fucking thing, and started drinking at around 1 PM. Being a teenage lightweight, I was absolutely wrecked by 3, my tubing plans scuttled by my inability to walk. All I could do was sit at the picnic table, smoke cigarettes, and slosh my head back and forth to convey my unwillingness to pull my shirt up each time the request was made by Justin or Mike. (Danny didn’t make any such requests, but I can’t say why definitively.) I’m not sure where Randy was, but I announced that I had to find a place to pee, and Mike offered to escort me to the bushes about a hundred yards away and act as a lookout. That ain’t what happened. The details are hazy, so that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

I stumbled back to the picnic table and told Randy I wanted to go somewhere else, so we went and sat on a rock and continued to drink. I didn’t say anything about what had just occurred, and he didn’t ask. (I wasn’t privy to the conversation that occurred ’round the picnic table until I heard tidbits later third-hand, but I’m sure I could recreate it with about 99% accuracy without having to ask anyone who was there.) When the sun went down, we wandered back to the area where we were ostensibly to sleep and attempted to figure out how to set up a tent while drunk in the dark. I gave up quickly and slumped at the picnic table, leaving everyone else around a fire someone had built about 75 feet away while Randy and I were gone.

A few minutes later, Justin wandered up to me at the picnic table, pulled his dick out, and stuck it in my face, making a verbal demand I don’t suppose I need to quote. I put my hand up to shield my face, started crying, and told him to get the fuck away from me. Instead, he pulled the side of his hoodie out so as to obscure the finer visual details of what was happening and began a pantomime designed to make it appear to everyone sitting around the campfire that I had acquiesced to his demand, while I continued to sit there, cry, and shield my face. I was too afraid to look, much less get up and walk away. He eventually went back to the campfire, and I went and hid in the car for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Randy told me Molly was incensed that I had “stolen” Justin. I had spent the prior day drinking, hadn’t slept for one second, and was in such shock that I couldn’t speak. I just went to the cooler, took out all of the remaining Mickey’s, and returned to the rock I had been sitting on with Randy the prior afternoon. He followed, we drank ourselves stupid, and we woke up the next morning to get back into the car with these four to go home. Once I got there, I was still completely befuddled and couldn’t handle being alone in my room, so I went over to Randy’s house to try to talk to him about what had happened.

Molly was home, but her three escorts had since departed. Molly and her friends, all girls 3-5 years older than I was, had — due to my red hair — called me Pippy since I was twelve. That’s not terribly clever, but it was better than what Molly came up with when she saw me that afternoon: Pimpy. This goddamned fool was under the impression that I — not the two dudes who were three and five years older than I was — had been the instigator of two incidents of sexual assault. She was sure my plan had been to blow her crush all along, and she was fucking furious and vicious about it. I stayed in Randy’s room.

Later that night, Justin came back over and joined her in calling me Pimpy. I nearly lost my fucking mind. Randy went into Molly’s room and asked them both politely to stop, to no avail. I continued to hear calls of “Pimpy” through the wall that separated Randy’s room from Molly’s until I got up, went into the room, and screamed at Justin that, if he didn’t tell Molly the truth about what had happened at the picnic table — that I had not, in fact, sucked his dick in front of five other people — that I would go into the kitchen and find an instrument with which to murder him. Miraculously, he did, but it didn’t matter. That was the least of my problems.

School resumed the next day, and I walked into a class I attended with Daniela, Mike’s girlfriend and younger sister to one of my best friends, who was also in the class. Before I saw her, that friend came over, sat down next to me, and quietly told me that Mike had told Daniela that he had “cheated on her” with me and that it was all my fault. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I mean, I guess Mike had to know that Justin and Molly weren’t going to keep their mouths shut, so he did what any rapist with a sense of self-preservation would do, but I was gobsmacked.

I didn’t get much time to process my confusion, however, because Daniela was already striding across the room toward me, her right arm raised in the air. I knew what was coming, so I got up and prepared to defend myself, though I sucked at fighting due to lack of experience. All I knew how to do was grab her by the hair and duck her blows. I have no idea how long it went on for, but by the time our illustrious teacher, Mr. Toma (his real name), bothered to stop laughing and get up to separate us, I had a lock of her hair in each of my hands and we were both bleeding from the face.

The principal asked us what had catalyzed the fight. I refused to speak, naturally, and, to my shock, so did Daniela. We both got suspended for the remaining week of school, the principal and our parents convinced this was just another fight between a chola and a guetta. (It was a common occurrence. My friends in the class told me that Mr. Toma hung Daniela’s hair that I had pulled out over a trophy in the classroom, which didn’t surprise me as he was known for using the word “beaner” in a class chiefly populated by Mexican-American students.)

Despite having been suspended, both Daniela and I were permitted to submit our yearbook quotes. That year’s prompt was “last will and testament.” Daniela’s quote: “I leave my leftovers to ______ _______.” I don’t remember mine, and I don’t have a copy, but her sentiment was preserved for posterity in any case. There are copies of it in the basements of lord knows how many of my friends and acquaintances.

The school year was over, so I assumed I would at least be spared the indignity of being called a whore in public for several months, but no dice. Daniela had my phone number and my parents’ phone number, and she made liberal use of both at all hours of the night. I told her brother what had happened, and he believed me and tried to intervene, but what teenage girl is willing to believe her boyfriend is a rapist? She came over to the house one night and destroyed about $5000-worth of headlights, tires, fenders, and windows on my mom’s car. The following morning, my parents came into my room to angrily ask me what the fuck I had done to bring all of this on myself.

I was so stuffed with shame and fear that I couldn’t speak. I wasn’t indignant. I had begun to think that, had I not gone, had I not gotten drunk, had I asked Molly to take me to pee, had I known the difference between chivalry and predation, had I resisted more, had I been a fucking taekwon-do master, none of this would have happened.

Mike wouldn’t have been bragging to Justin and Danny that he had ejaculated in me, putting me at risk of disease and pregnancy, Justin wouldn’t have been emboldened to approach me at a picnic table and stick his dick in my face in front of a crowd, Molly wouldn’t hate me, I wouldn’t have gotten into a fist fight and been suspended from school, my social life and reputation wouldn’t have been destroyed, my parents wouldn’t have received hundreds of phone calls’ worth of inchoate and profane screaming, my mom’s car would be intact, my parents wouldn’t suspect me of having done something so terrible that it warranted the kind of retaliation one usually only sees in response to a fucking murder, and everything would be as relatively cool as it had been once the furor over the last goddamn time this happened to me had died down.

If the object can’t see the subject, how the fuck can anyone else? The only common thread I saw in any of the misery of the preceding six months was myself, which is exactly what social conditioning had taught me to do. I wasn’t particularly easily cowed as a teenager, but I still started to think that — if people kept doing things like this to me — maybe I wasn’t worth better treatment, and maybe I couldn’t expect any better. Maybe this was just how shit was. From whence would I have gathered the fortitude and certainty to report any of this to my parents or the police?

I suppose I could saunter into a police department today and report Mike for rape, but I’m not going to because it would be 100% pointless. As a joke, let’s say I did. First of all, the statute of limitations on rape in California is ten years, and this happened in 1993, so they would tell me to piss up a rope. Even if that weren’t the case, can you imagine the questions I’d be asked?

Cop: Why are you reporting this now, as opposed to right after it happened?

Me: Well, when it happened, I was a teenager, and I was afraid and didn’t understand what had happened to me. I was also afraid my parents would find out I had lied about who was going camping and that I had been drinking.

Cop: Oh, so you were drunk. Are you sure you didn’t just have consensual sex you regretted later?

Me: I’m sure. He had a girlfriend and I was friends with her brother. I also didn’t like him.

Cop: Are you sure you aren’t just saying he raped you because you are ashamed that you slept with your friend’s boyfriend?

Me: She wasn’t my friend, her brother was. I didn’t sleep with him, he assaulted me. I was fifteen and wasted and he was twenty and close to sober. Isn’t there a law about intoxication and consent? Aren’t there statutory rape laws?

Cop: Was there a struggle? Do you have photos or evidence of bodily damage?

Me: There was, and there was damage, but I didn’t have the clarity of mind to document them because I was a scared child, not an SVU detective.

Cop: Well, this will be a hard one to prove. Also, this guy may have a career and family now. [Wrong. He’s still a fucking loser. But who cares?] Are you sure you want to disrupt all of that?

You get the point.

Twelve years later, at Randy’s wedding, I asked Molly what the fuck she had been thinking, and she apologized and responded that she had been in love with Justin and that she was angry that he “chose me” over her. I responded with a barrage of incredulous recriminations, aghast that she would be angry that he chose to assault me instead of her, that she continued to believe the story he propagated despite the fact that I had forced him to tell her the truth. It was easier for her to blame me than confront the idea that she was in love with a cretinous monster, and she probably continued to believe it until he did something similar to someone else and her boyfriend stabbed him to death nine years after he did it to me.

The demand that women — and teenage girls especially — report sexual assaults despite the socially-inculcated certainty that they are always somehow at fault and won’t be believed by anyone is a cruel and calculatedly dishonest trap set by men who benefit from under-reporting and by women for whom the recognition of what men think of us and the ubiquity of what they do to us is simply too much to bear. It’s such a juggernaut of psychological violence and intimidation that I’m flabbergasted when anyone actually does report an assault.

The task of raising girls with the self-esteem and self-assurance required to recognize mistreatment for what it is seems impossible given the systemic misogyny of a society that refuses to acknowledge or confront the depravity it foments in boys and men, but that’s not the whole of it. When women absorb the idea that other women are untrustworthy foes in the contest for male attention and approval, who are girls supposed to turn to for help when men hurt them? When the whole of a society operates under the assumption that all girls and women are manipulative and dishonest and that men are straightforward and reliable, there is no safe harbor.

“Believe women” is a cool slogan and all, but how the fuck are we supposed to make it happen?

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause (Part 1)

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.

An (((Asshole Feminist’s))) Guide to the Alt-Right: Part 1

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We were seeing the attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. Once we had seen these children, we could no longer overlook the vacuum, no longer pretend that the society’s atomization could be reversed. This was not a traditional generational rebellion. At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. Maybe we had stopped believing in the rules ourselves, maybe we were having a failure of nerve about the game. Maybe there were just too few people around to do the telling. These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbors who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society’s values. They are children who have moved around a lot, San Jose, Chula Vista, here. They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its most publicized self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb.

— Joan Didion “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” 1967

People are still flailing around trying to understand “how this happened.” How did the US elect a (rich) bowling league captain from Dayton into the most powerful political post on Earth? As usually occurs when they don’t get their way, liberals have decided that rural working class whites have been duped into voting against their own interests. The only problem with that explanation is that economically insecure rural white people only account for 17% of the electorate.

What actually occurred belies that explanation: every honky in the United States who wasn’t actively campaigning for Clinton and Tim Kaine voted for Trump, many Bernie Sanders supporters included. The DNC and the average urban leftist have done little to counter the image the right and the alt-right have created of the derisive Democratic elitist who spends half their time blaming rural whites for all of the country’s ills and the other half shopping for faux-folksy luxury goods while completely ignoring the realities of the people whose lives they’re romanticizing. That’s a level of full-of-shit that very few people can stomach, much less identify with.

But that isn’t enough to explain why so many white people of every social class and age decided to overlook or — in most cases — embrace the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia of the MAGA crowd. Bernie Bros and the actual left argue that this was a vote against neoliberalism; how many people you know know what the fuck neoliberalism is? How many people you know give a fuck about neoliberalism? (Say that like Steve Harvey.)

They also argue that this vote was a reaction to Obama’s failure to address the root causes of the economic crisis of 2008/9. Uh huh. I mean, he did fail to do so, but no one who voted for Trump could tell you what the root causes of that crash were or who Obama kept around despite their obvious complicity in the crash. Further, the idea that a billionaire would step in and break the bond between Wall Street and Washington, DC is too absurd even for a Trump supporter to take seriously.

Then there’s the theory that people were tired of the status quo and chose Trump because he was an outsider once Bernie Sanders lost the primary. That part may be true, but not in the way it’s usually presented. It isn’t as if Joe Six Pack is sitting in the Oval Office right now. A rich, old, white man is not capable of being an outsider in an old, rich, white man’s FUBU system. The only thing that makes Trump an outsider is his willingness to make brazenly racist and sexist comments in public. (Oh, that and the fact that he’s probably mentally disabled. But that criterion would make Ronald Reagan an outsider in US political culture, so nah.)

No one is confused about why old white men voted for Trump. The world is changing, their position at the zenith of the social hierarchy seems imperiled, women and people of color are getting WAY too uppity, and they weren’t about to see a woman take the place of a black guy in the White House. (If you’d like to learn which variant of Stockholm Syndrome drove old white women to vote for someone who openly admitted to sexual harassment and assault, read Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin; I don’t have time to get into that here.)

But, again, old white people couldn’t have done this by themselves. The DNC was so sure it had a lock on the youth vote that no one bothered to pay attention to what young people are even up to these days. And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

I’ll begin with a few caveats. First, I’m not a beta cuck, so I don’t spend 27 hours a day consuming media. That means that I’m not familiar with every layer of the inside jokes on 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit, so please forgive any minor gaffes I may make by dint of not being a complete dork.

Second, I’m not a millennial. I was born at the tail end of Generation X (thank Christ), which means the Internet and POV video games have only existed for half of my life. I had complex thoughts and experiences before the rise of interactive, neurologically manipulative media platforms, unlike people born, say, ten years after me. Who cares, right? Well, the world mistakenly believes millennials hold a patent on “irony” in the sense that the term is currently used, which is incorrect. Gen X counterculture in the early 90s created that phenomenon. Irony, as it developed in the 90s, consisted of making an ass of oneself on purpose in order to take away the power of materialistic, authoritarian bullies. It worked. That being said, it has gotten away from us and has morphed into the opposite of itself; rather than poking holes in conformity and undermining philosophically empty modes of living, it has been taken up by people who are missing the fundamental understanding of its usefulness. In other words, one of our most effective weapons against political and cultural authoritarianism now serves to further them both, whether on purpose or as a result of the clueless nihilism of those who deploy it (more on that later).

Third, I’m not a liberal. What used to be the party of Mr. Rogers types has become a competitive credulity and self-effacement league that is so repellent to anyone with any common sense or self-respect that I’m surprised there are any members left. Remember, shortly after the election, when Colin Jost joked on Saturday Night Live that Tinder now offered users 37 gender options and that the program was called “Why Democrats lost the election”? Well, that was fucking funny because it’s true. At some point, Democrats are going to have to confront the reality that ideologically and legally dicey propositions such as subjective self-reporting on gender identity are going to drive even diehard liberals out of the tent. I mean, really, who can tolerate listening to some North Face prick make hackneyed, obvious jokes about the stupidity of American Christians he’s completely unfamiliar with and then — in the next breath — demand that everyone show respect to Islam? The Democrats are literally playing themselves and feeding ammo to the alt-right like it’s their raison d’être. Any party that operates on game theory without any cognizance of the aims of the players is bound to lose.

With that shit out of the way, let’s get to lumping people into broad and blunt categories. Everyone’s favorite gay, half-Jewish, Supreme-sponsored misogynist, Milo Yiannopoulos (who would be a misceginator if he weren’t gay), in his “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” divided the alt-right into “Intellectuals,” “Natural Conservatives,” “The Meme Team,” and “1488ers.” I’m going to largely ignore most of these people for a few reasons.

“Natural Conservatives” and “1488ers” are nothing new. Radical-right white separatists have been around for decades, as have the wide array of non-ironic neo-Nazi organizations everyone is pretending just emerged onto the political scene. No one in, say, North Idaho is surprised at the disillusionment of white separatists with the pro-immigration stance of a Republican party that exists to serve the interests of corporations who need immigrants to suppress wages. The only new development in the world of earnest far-right white separatists/supremacists is that they’ve been given the signal that it’s OK to make a scene of themselves in public again for the first time since the 80s.

Milo’s “Intellectuals” don’t really merit the label, either. Steve Bannon may be a wet-brain alcoholic, but he isn’t stupid. Nor was Andrew Breitbart. But their attempt to coat extremely stupid far-right ideas with a veneer of intellectualism wasn’t working when I wrote about it a few years ago:

I wouldn’t know who Breitbart was had I not seen Dylan Ratigan interview him — and even then I could scarcely pay attention because I lost the ability to be amused by conservative commentators years ago — but apparently he makes the claim that objectivity is a falsehood propagated by the “liberal media” in order to cloak its agenda in an air of factual empiricism, when in reality they approach current events with just as much bias as Rush Limbaugh or any other right-wing demagogue. The debate over whether there is such a thing as a “liberal media” is beyond hackneyed and boring at this point, but it is rather amusing to hear a conservative public “intellectual” question the existence of true objectivity. It sounds oddly reminiscent of, oh, I don’t know, let’s say post-modern liberal academics. That isn’t an accident…[It’s] a new trend among conservative commentators, which is to jettison the Glenn Beck-esque hysteria that has characterized conservative media since Obama’s election and replace it with a faux-intellectualism that will allow even the borderline-illiterate to feel like top shelf political analysts.

And it isn’t working now, either. No actual intellectual is buying into the biological essentialism of the Bell Curve crowd or the theories of female inferiority that emerge from the “manosphere.” These arguments may be compelling to those who have never read anything longer than a Tumblr post, but there really isn’t an intellectual arm of the alt-right that has been anointed as such by anyone but themselves.

That leaves “The Meme Team.” If you ask me, they’re the only sub-group in Milo’s taxonomy that warrant examination, since they’re the ones the DNC are so thirsty for (never mind the GOP, who rightfully fear the alt-right that appears dangerously nihilistic and incomprehensible to them).

Millennial Men in Contemporary Political Culture

Neither political party has the ability to connect with millennials of any stripe because they’re both run by Baby Boomers and a few sellout Gen Xers who have no idea what life is like for a huge generation emerging into adulthood in a world that offers almost zero hope. Given that millennials are the most babied demographic in US history, it’s no surprise that they’re disillusioned with the reality of their lives when compared to what they had come to expect from the worlds their parents curated for them.

The economy has yet to recover from the 2008/9 financial crisis, and the “job growth” since the crisis consists of part-time positions for little (or no) pay and no benefits or security. Even the privileged millennials who manage to finish college are faced with the choice of defaulting on their student loans and borrowing money from their parents so they can intern for no pay or taking a service-sector job that will prevent them from ever pursuing a career position. Why bother? The ones without rich parents might as well throw in the towel now and start popping oxys.

Male millennials have a unique set of problems. They grew up on violent internet porn, music that celebrates money and fucking, movies and television shows that assured them that they needn’t do anything but sit and wait for a girlfriend to materialize and fulfill all of their bizarre fantasies, and violent video games that taught them to take anything they wanted by any means necessary (and to worship the military, if only for their masculine prowess as portrayed in these fantasy-lands). The world taught them to be lazy and incompetent, then didn’t deliver on the promise that being lazy and incompetent is no barrier to achievement. They also have no idea what’s going on, having fallen victim to the decades-long Republican offensive against public education, and have no social skills because they’ve lived their entire lives being coddled by their parents and interactive media designed to flatter their unwarranted arrogance. Given the growing gender achievement gap, it’s not surprising that young women are choosing to stay single rather than hitch their wagon to some entitled loser.

That leaves young men with two options: become a manipulative, faux-feminist, hipster fuckboy in order to use and abuse women, or — if they’re not handsome or “cool” enough to do that — retreat further from the hopelessness of reality and into the weird, stupid, dark circles of internet culture. It’s no surprise, then, that the “Meme Team” turns to “irony” and anonymous bullying to soothe their bruised egos. Young men have nothing to lose, nothing to hope for, and no ethical reference points. That’s a recipe for pointless chaos.

No one knows for sure what percentage of dudes in their 20s sincerely believe in the alt-right platform of white male supremacy, Libertarianism, and isolationism. No one knows what percentage of them promoted and voted for Trump and his looney message for the lulz. No one knows what percentage of them supported Bernie Sanders and then gave up and became nihilists when he didn’t magically turn the US into Denmark. No one knows what percentage of them place the entirety of the blame for the sorry state of their lives on women and/or feminism (though that’s likely upwards of 80%).

Millennial alt-right internet culture is amorphous and atomized, but the thread that seems to tie everything together is anti-feminism, mistaken self-perceived intellectual superiority, and trolling both for its own sake and as a protective measure for the ego. Oh, and the fact that every single one of these guys is a complete fucking dork. Let’s break it down a little, but keep in mind that there is massive overlap between all of the categories below.

Asshole Atheists

Dear lord, fucking atheists. Is there anything more irritating than a newly-minted atheist basking in the glow of self-satisfaction of having arrived at a conclusion most of us reached before junior high? Self-proclaimed inheritors of the virtues of logic, facts, and objectivity who display none of the above in their arguments, online atheists overlap so hard with incels and internet racists that I doubt there’s one dude out there who is one and not all three.

As Alex Nichols points out, atheism was annoying enough when deployed in response to the evangelical turn during the Bush years, but once intelligent design faded from the political scene, the genius brigade turned their jaundiced eyes on women and feminism:

New Atheism and the Gamergate movement of 2014—which sicced vicious online mobs on female journalists and game designers based on spurious allegations of media corruption—overlapped in several ways. They were both male-dominated, the latter almost exclusively so, and they both festered on nerd-oriented internet forums. Both movements resented women and minorities who asserted themselves within those spaces, ostensibly because it provided an unimportant distraction from their respective goals of destroying religion and uncritically consuming entertainment products. The difference, though, was that Gamergate had no basis in reality. The central allegation of that controversy, that a developer slept with a Kotaku writer in order to secure a positive review of her game, was blatantly untrue. No such review existed, which posed a problem for anyone who viewed himself as the protagonist in a battle “vs. FEMINISM.” In order to continue this all-out war on feminists—the curious replacement creationists for a new decade that lacked for them—these New-New Atheists had to break with reality altogether…

The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents. They were after the burst of dopamine that comes from feeling smarter than other people, from exercising some pathetic simulacrum of masculine power, from seeing someone else feel bad and knowing they were responsible. Strangely enough, this is also the goal of modern right-wing politics. Just as conservatives discovered they could skip straight to the “angry liberal” portion of the argument by electing Donald Trump, the worst New Atheists discovered they didn’t need atheism at all. They could be just as insufferable alone, on Youtube, spitting nonsense into the vacuum.

There’s no telling whether these fools believe their arguments hold water, but at least some of them have to. Otherwise, I’d be forced to believe they’ve all got unlimited time on their hands and don’t mind wasting it on making YouTube videos from their filthy bedrooms affecting aggressive sincerity just to see how much of other people’s time they can waste.

Ironic” Racists, Anti-semites, Misogynists, and Homophobes

Milo, though he’s disingenuously sanguine about the real motives of the “Meme Team,” makes a point:

Millennials aren’t old enough to remember the Second World War or the horrors of the Holocaust. They are barely old enough to remember Rwanda or 9/11. Racism, for them, is a monster under the bed, a story told by their parents to frighten them into being good little children.

As with Father Christmas, Millennials have trouble believing it’s actually real. They’ve never actually seen it for themselves — and they don’t believe that the memes they post on /pol/ are actually racist. In fact, they know they’re not — they do it because it gets a reaction. Barely a month passes without a long feature in a new media outlet about the rampant sexism, racism or homophobia of online image boards. For regular posters at these boards, that’s mission accomplished.

Another, more palatable, interpretation of these memes is that they are clearly racist, but that there is very little sincerity behind them.

There’s no real way to determine how many of the dipshits who spout racist nonsense online and at poorly-attended rallies are sincere believers in the “ideas” they spread, which is part of the reason most of them choose the forums they do. Maybe they’re just excited at the prospect of saying “nigger” and “faggot” in their little safe spaces under the cover of a handle. Some of them have consoled themselves with the ludicrous idea that their incel-dom can be blamed on the fact that women are out misceginating with black guys instead of staying true to their race. Some of them may even be stupid enough to have been convinced of their genetic superiority by the likes of ol’ Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys, who hold that straight white men created everything of value in the world (though that could just be McInnes duping them into helping him salvage his career by trolling the public on a hot-button topic).

Oh, where would we be without the Mountain Dew-swilling creators of all that is civilized and worthy! Sorry, not Mountain Dew, milk. That’s right. White men are meeting up in New York City of all places to chug milk together in some kind of fucking dairy-based Fight Club to demonstrate their ability to tolerate lactose. Which, of course, proves that white people are the best people. Or that they’re just bad comedians.

I’ve seen my share of racist, sexist, and homophobic memes, believe you me. Most of the content has to be a joke, however poorly-conceived. How can anti-semitism explode in a time and place when no one can name a Jew other than Jon Stewart? Still, what the fuck is to be gained from pretending to be a racist, homophobe, anti-semite, or misogynist other than the opportunity to flex one’s waning white male privilege in a forum in which no one is around to kick your ass?

Incels and Their Svengalis

In case you’re unaware, “incel” is a portmanteau of “involuntarily celibate.” These guys are NOT kidding. One really wants to feel sorry for incels, but they’re so repugnant that it just isn’t possible. Elliot Rodger was the quintessential incel, and I hate rewriting something I’ve already written, so here’s what I have to say about that:

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.

They’re pathetically off-track and have no chance of solving what they perceive to be the biggest problem in their lives: lack of sex. They spend their days jacking off to internet porn, cultivating anime philias, pining for the day they’ll be able to afford their very own robotic sex doll, and spewing misogyny all over the internet. They’ve become a target market for pick-up artist charlatans like Roosh V who purport to teach men the secrets to transforming themselves from beta cucks into alpha pussy magnets by neg-ing and otherwise manipulating women into getting naked. Once that inevitably fails, they swarm to 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit to air their rape, murder, and necrophilia fantasies.

freemarket

Kekistani Kaos

Old white people don’t know what to make of this goofy cartoon frog in a MAGA hat, even though he helped elect their boy president. Pepe, described here by Dale Beran (who is way too diplomatic in his description), stands in for the cesspool of losers who made him famous:

Viewed through the lens of the people first posting him, Pepe makes nothing but sense. The original comic panels from which Pepe is excerpted feature him getting caught peeing with his pants pulled all the way down, his ass hanging out. Surprisingly, he is unashamed of this, “feels good man” he tells his roommate.

The grotesque, frowning, sleepy eyed, out of shape, swamp dweller, peeing with his pants pulled down because-it-feels-good-man frog is an ideology, one which steers into the skid of its own patheticness. Pepe symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.

This would be sort of funny if it weren’t for the utterly aimless and stupid chaos it has wrought:

At some point, someone at 4chan happened to seize on a coincidence: There was, in fact, an Egyptian god named Kek. An androgynous god who could take either male or female form, Kek originally was depicted in female form as possessing the head of a frog or a cat and a serpent when male; but during the Greco-Roman period, the male form was depicted as a frog-headed man.

More importantly, Kek was portrayed as a bringer of chaos and darkness, which happened to fit perfectly with the alt-right’s self-image as being primarily devoted to destroying the existing world order.

In the fertile imaginations at play on 4chan’s image boards and other alt-right gathering spaces, this coincidence took on a life of its own, leading to wide-ranging speculation that Pepe – who, by then, had not only become closely associated with the alt-right, but also with the candidacy of Donald Trump – was actually the living embodiment of Kek. And so the Cult of Kek was born.

Millennial male nihilism and dishonest, self-serving “irony” have managed to cohere into an Egyptian frog cult with origins in an arcane joke from a video game, the invention of a fake ancient civilization (Kekistan), and a goddamned FLAG based on the Nazi banner that these idiots wear in public as a cape. These people actually think this is funny, that this demonstrates their superior intellect, that trolling the world by inventing a cult and playing dress-up will result in anything other than further isolating them from everyone but other edgelords/shitlords. Or maybe they don’t. Who knows?

Remember when we were all making fun of LARPers? They control the political culture for the foreseeable future and have no discernible goals other than punishing women for not putting out and fomenting further dorkery and chaos, no matter what the cost. We got caught slippin’ big time.

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.

Bratty, stupid male children are going to kill us all.

“Your all pusseys i have the right to protect my family. Ypu can keep being faggots and ill keep my guns.”

— Some guy I hung out with in high school in a Facebook comment thread about gun control (quoted without permission)

Yet another angry white man has made his frustrated sense of entitlement the public’s problem. Whatever “motive” the police ultimately release to the media to explain Stephen Paddock’s decision to shoot over 500 people at a music festival in Las Vegas last week won’t touch upon the actual reason he or any of the other violent men that hold the world hostage behave the way they do.

Before I get into what that actual reason is, let’s have a look around. Who is in charge of the world and its governing institutions? Outside of Rwanda and Bolivia, no nation on Earth is governed by a legislative majority of women, and even in those two countries, a man holds the presidency. Globally, in nations with parliamentary systems, women hold an average of twenty percent of those seats. In the US, women hold 19.4 percent of congressional seats and 21 percent of senate seats. We’ve yet to see a female president, despite the fact that several nations most Americans would consider “backward” when it comes to women’s rights (India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Ecuador, the Philippines, Mozambique, Liberia, Jamaica, and — again — Rwanda) have had female heads of state (though even they were stymied by male legislatures in all but one case).

Note that nowhere in this world aside from the Rwandan or Bolivian parliaments do women hold enough seats to get in the way of a male majority. In fact, men hold a supermajority of 60% or more of the parliamentary posts in every nation in the world but twelve out of 195 (Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, Iceland, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Senegal, South Africa, and Sweden). I don’t suppose I need to inform anyone of what role women play in non-parliamentary/autocratic governments.

Even the UN, which is ostensibly focused on the inclusion of women in world governance, can only muster about a third of General Assembly seats with women in them. Among the major corporations based in G7 nations (the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy), 39% operate without a single woman in upper management, while women make up only 22% of upper management among the firms in those nations in which they are represented. And that’s after decades of campaigning that shamed them into allowing a few women upstairs.

Tokens aside, this is a man’s world, which is painfully obvious to every woman in it.

So, who are these “men” who run the world as they see fit? Are they gun-licking conservative Christians who believe women ought to be jailed for aborting fetuses? Yes. Are they gun-licking Islamic fundamentalists who hope to destroy as many people as possible before ascending to a heaven in which the population is made up of a miraculous 72 (suddenly willing) virgin females per male? Yes. Are they gun-licking vodka-swillers who believe domestic violence ought to be legal and long for the days when they mattered in the geopolitical order? Yes. Are they gun-licking rocket enthusiasts who do whatever the fuck North Koreans do with their days? Yes. Are they gun-licking, pillow-fucking, fedora-wearing nascent school shooters who spend their days issuing death threats online because women aren’t DTF on demand? Yes. (Even these cretins have somehow emerged as a political force that can’t be ignored anymore.)

But they’re also your dad, husband, brother, cousin, friend, neighbor, and cat trainer. The problem is, even most of the men who aren’t completely insane and reside closer to Tom Brady than Peyton Manning on the asshole scale (hey, it’s NFL season) end up throwing their lot in with other men when pressed, because men trust other men to represent their interests more than they trust women to. That’s because very few men can imagine a world in which women — given the reigns of power — wouldn’t seek vicious revenge on men for what they do to women. That says more about their behavior than ours, but it’s their reality, whether subconscious or not.

How did men get this way? Let’s leave biology aside and assume this is a nurture rather than a nature-derived problem (if only for the purposes of avoiding openly pushing for a mass culling). The cult of masculinity spans cultures and geographical boundaries. The specifics may be culturally situated, but in most cultures in the world, that cult urges boys to voice their opinions, to take up space, to impose themselves on the world, and to refuse to take no for an answer, even if it requires violence. Popular media teaches boys that assuming such a role will result in an embarrassment of material wealth and the poontang that flocks thereto. Men’s emotional development ends when they fail to move beyond the cult’s confines, which means we’re all surrounded by entitled children who are angry and have access to weapons.

This isn’t a problem that’s limited to the US. Our culture industries have coated the globe in media (action movies, video games, porn) that — while the shitty jokes may not compute — manage to teach the message that one becomes a man by fucking and either shooting a bunch of people or convincing everyone that you might. The pockets of the globe in which this violent cult of masculinity does not hold sway are infinitesimal and shrinking.

Here in the US, where we hold the patent on this globalized vision of masculinity, we’re seeing it play itself out to its bloody, gruesome conclusion. A huge generation of boys raised on violent porn, SSRIs, and first-person shooters is coming of age and realizing that a resume comprised of Call of Duty stats and a sick collection of unopened, limited edition energy drinks doesn’t bring in the babes. And they’re fucking PISSED.

Not all men are this guy:

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But not all of them aren’t. In fact, I’d surmise that thoughts like these lurk beneath the beards of most male feminists and more than 95 percent of the general male population worldwide.

It isn’t as if I haven’t written before about an adult brat killing a bunch of people because he didn’t get his way, but it’s only gotten worse and looks like it’s leading the species off a cliff. People like ol’ “nasolabial folds” (who I’m sure would bro down with Elliot Rodger were he still with us) above have elected Donald Trump to usher us through one of the tensest periods in modern history, and the result is as terrifying as everyone predicted.

While earnest dorks stop elderly men in Army Veteran hats to pat them on the dick for their “service,” then bop over to the gun shop to pick up a bump stock for their AR-15 before heading home to jack off to a swastika and anime “tiddies,” their God Emperor is leading the world toward a nuclear war and the next Stephen Paddock is planning how to exercise his Second Amendment “rights” on Jason Aldean fans (contrary to what most people think I believe, bad taste in music shouldn’t be punishable by death).

Several optimistic journalists have argued that Trump’s presidency and the epidemic of mass violence are the “death rattle” of white male supremacy. I’d be jazzed if they’re right, but I doubt that white men will go down (i.e., accept anything other than a position at the top of a hierarchy ordered by their whims) without taking the rest of us with them, which is what I’d bet all of Dennis Rodman’s Potcoin will turn out to have been Paddock’s* motive. This right here is what the cult of masculinity and the worship of male violence leads to: the end of the fucking world.

I suppose we could all move to Rwanda or Bolivia, but that seems logistically problematic.

 *Even if you believe any of the many conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas shooting, my argument still holds. (Unless you’re treading into new territory in which feminists are carrying out mass shootings to make men look bad.)

 

 

The Shape of Stuff to Come 

I’ve been absent for, like, years. I apologize to anyone who cares. I promise, I wasn’t just sitting around smoking DMT and listening to Power Station (at least not the whole time).

What actually happened is that we moved overseas to open a business and ended up embroiled in a legal lutte à mort with some fucking Trent Reznor idolator who was willing to ruin his entire life in a failed attempt to ruin ours. Since that Single White Female-esque situation is ongoing, I won’t say anything else other than this: beware the pointlessly destructive spite of the delusionally arrogant.

Just when that literal travesty began to turn around, I found out my dad (a life hero of mine despite the fact that he’s male) has stage-four lung cancer. In sum, life of late has really — as the Chinese say — knocked my dick in the dirt. It didn’t leave much time for blogging unless I wanted to turn this site into a whiny public diary or a long-form version of one of those Facebook posts that are broadcast to 1057 people but designed to be read by only one of them.

Being overseas also left me feeling out of touch with the American political landscape and enmeshed in the petty local corruption and wide array of societal dysfunctions in my new home country, which would probably be of little interest to the average reader (at least of this site). But now that I’ve been here in Don’t Tread on Me, Oregon for six months helping my family, I’ve found myself with the spare time and observational attention span to re-engage with something or other. Still, I didn’t write anything until I dashed off that blurb about Hugh Hefner the other day because I’m paralyzed by what feels like an insurmountable political/philosophical conflict. (I’m not deluded enough to think it’s anything novel, though.)

In sum, we’re fucked. People are too stupid and mean to survive as a species. There’s no escaping the reality that is unfurling before our eyes. There may at one point have been a moment at which that fate had yet to be sealed, but the ol’ Rubicon has been crossed and the plane has crashed into the mountain and the shit has hit the fan and the ship has sailed. I am convinced — even if Vandana Shiva were made dictator of the Earth tonight — that we couldn’t turn this project around.

Political culture in the US is so fucking ludicrous now that I almost can’t believe it’s real. The coming Civil War (I mean, there’s obviously going to be one) is going to feature Pantera roadies and MRA pillow-fuckers shooting AR-15s at Against Me! fanbois and crying furries wielding nothing but Judith Butler essays.

If there was a plot, it’s been lost. I wandered away in 2014 and came back in early 2017 to find that Jay and Silent Bob have taken over every position on the political spectrum and that the culture makes as much sense as a sentence written by William S. Burroughs read backwards. Literally everyone is on drugs, be it amphetamines, opiates, benzos, or some combination thereof with fashionable hallucinogens, and it’s showing like a dick on a forehead.

Contemporary reality has stripped me of any hope that global capitalism or patriarchy can be stopped. You know what’s required for someone to get a grip on a system as vast and insidious as global capitalism or patriarchy? A healthy mind that has been taught to think broadly, critically, three-dimensionally, and empathetically. That’s a rare confluence anywhere on Earth. It’s a goddamned miracle in the US.

Still, I’m not one of those expats who will tell you that people who live in developing countries could teach Americans a thing or two about living simply and in harmony with nature. They could, but that isn’t the point. Lose the NFL, level-nine consumerism (Japan is on level ten), political clownery, wanton environmental destruction, and jingoism, and the US doesn’t compare that badly with most other places. It’s kind of illegal to rape or beat women and children here, at least.

The idea that we can approach a global critical mass of critical thought requires more optimism than I can muster anymore. So, how does one reconcile emotional political idealism with empirical political realism? I’ve come close to accepting the idea that human consciousness has been irretrievably corrupted and that I ought to assume the worst of everyone around me for my own safety. I’ve tried retreating from blathering on the Internet to focus on being kind to people who need and deserve it in the course of my daily life, but that doesn’t feel like enough. I have zero hope that the world won’t implode in short order, but I also feel immoral and irresponsible for having retreated from it. Re-entering the fray seems simultaneously necessary and pointless.

I’m sure it’s just a phase.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: The Baby Oil King is Dead

Like you didn’t know I’d have something to say about the death of the velvet-clad, baby-oil-coated colostomy bag otherwise known as Hugh Hefner.

I’ve seen posts all over social media in the past twelve hours crediting Hefner with everything from women’s sexual freedom to Roe v. Wade to the protection of all Amercians’ right to free speech. I expect there will be much more of the same and probably some additional horseshit over the coming days.

First off, let’s get a few things straight. Women’s sexual liberation has yet to be achieved. The feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s were headed in that direction, but Hefner and his ilk HIJACKED that process and perverted it into an ideology in which women’s “sexual freedom” ended up looking a lot like men’s fantasies of female sexual submissiveness and objecthood.

Radical women fought for a positive change in women’s lives, then a capitalist dude showed up to rip off their ideas, adulterate and water them down, then sell them back to men — and the women who weren’t conscious enough of their own oppression yet to recognize the difference — as part of a packaged “lifestyle” one could buy. Hugh Hefner and Playboy weren’t catalysts to women’s liberation; they were a backlash to it. Nothing new to see here.

To give Hefner credit for Roe v. Wade (or birth control access) is so ludicrous an insult to the thousands of women who spent their lives fighting for women’s right to bodily sovereignty that I won’t even dignify it with anything other than the obvious: the founder of Playboy only supported abortion and birth control access because it freed MEN from the consequences of sex. (It’s kind of hard to be a playboy when some broad expects you to take care of the child you impregnated her with, nuhmean?)

Finally, what kind of “free speech” was Hefner such an exemplary champion of? The right to publish cartoons celebrating rape and child molestation? The right to publish pictures of naked women in absurd poses that signal complete submission to the male gaze — and hence communicate the message that women are vacant, silly creatures who enjoy being consumed as products? Playboy opened the floodgates that have drowned society in anti-woman propaganda (i.e. contemporary mainstream pornography), which I don’t consider to have been much of a boon to my life or the lives of any of the women I know.

When men like Hefner, Larry Flynt, and that most eminent of turds Bob Guccione fought for their right to “free speech,” they effectively eliminated women’s freedom of speech by delegitimizing their voices in the public sphere. Hefner paved the way for those two and for the oozing horde of latter-day pornographers whose “free speech” enriches all of our lives to this day with the ever-so-revolutionary idea that women enjoy and deserve sexual abuse and violence.

Mainstream (and let’s not pretend porn isn’t mainstream) media that presents women as mindless, childlike, or servile pulls the foundation of personhood out from under all women’s public political speech. Free-speech jihadist memers aside, no one in their right mind believes there should be zero limitations on or consequences for public speech that harms other people. If you’re anywhere on the left end of the political continuum, you don’t get to argue that the right’s public racism is hate speech and is thus not protected under the First Amendment and then turn around and say Hefner was a champion of free speech. Pornography is anti-woman hate speech. Period.

Intellectual consistency isn’t always fun or popular.