If you’re not the type to keep up with ugly, soul-killing political controversies, let me catch you up: A while back, hugely popular political commentator Rush Limbaugh lost a bunch of advertisers because he publicly called a college girl a slut and a prostitute after she suggested that health insurance plans should cover birth control. But he’s paid to say outrageous things. If you really want to feel all dead inside, you need to listen to what the regular folk were saying.
For instance, on crazy political message board FreeRepublic.com, posters referred to the girl in the above-referenced story (Sandra Fluke) as a “Nasty, disease-ridden plodding uterus, an utter skank crack-ho filthy whore, a prostitute slutbag juice-receptacle” and a “Sperm-burpin’ gutter slut,” and said she “… is so encrusted and used, that I had to throw out my flat-panel TV because her appearance on my TV infected it with AIDS, gonorrhea and syphilis.”
Now go to the front page of any mostly male discussion site like Reddit.com and see how many inches you can browse before finding several thousand men bemoaning how all women are gold-digging whores (7,500 upvotes) and how crazy and irrational women are (9,659 upvotes) and how horrible and gross and fat women are (4,000 upvotes). Or browse the “Men’s Rights” section and see weird fantasies about alpha males defeating all the hot women who try to control them with their vaginas.
This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think “sexism” is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries — we don’t think of it as frenzied “burn the witch!” hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it’s always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.
Why? Well, you see …
We Were Told That Society Owed Us a Hot Girl
Does it seem like men feel kind of entitled to sex? Does it seem like we react to rejection with the maturity of a child being denied a toy?
Well, you have to keep in mind that what we learn as kids is really hard to deprogram as an adult. And what we learned as kids is that we males are each owed, and will eventually be awarded, a beautiful woman.
We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu “Speed” Reeves gets Sandra Bullock, Shia LaBeouf gets Megan Fox in Transformers, Iron Man gets Pepper Potts, the hero in Avatar gets the hottest Na’vi, Shrek gets Fiona, Bill Murray gets Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, Frodo gets Sam, WALL-E gets EVE … and so on.
Hell, at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere walks into the lady’s workplace and just carries her out like he’s picking up a suit at the dry cleaner.
“I’ll take the one in brown flannel. I don’t need a bag.”
And then we have Star Wars, where Luke starts out getting Princess Leia (in The Empire Strikes Back), but then as Han Solo became a fan favorite, George Lucas realized he had to award her to him instead (forcing him to write the “She’s secretly Luke’s sister” thing into Return of the Jedi, even though it meant adding the weird incest vibe to Empire). With Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling played with the convention by having the beautiful girl get awarded to the sidekick character Ron, but she made it a central conflict in the story that Ron is constantly worried that, since Harry is the main character, Hermione will be awarded to him instead.
In each case, the woman has no say in this — compatibility doesn’t matter, prior relationships don’t matter, nothing else factors in. If the hero accomplishes his goals, he is awarded his favorite female. Yes, there will be dialogue that maybe makes it sound like the woman is having doubts, and she will make noises like she is making the decision on her own. But we, as the audience, know that in the end the hero will “get the girl,” just as we know that at the end of the month we’re going to “get our paycheck.” Failure to award either is breaking a societal contract. The girl can say what she wants, but we all know that at the end, she will wind up with the hero, whether she knows it or not.
“Wait right there. I need to go defeat my demons and realize the strength was in me all along.”
And now you see the problem. From birth we’re taught that we’re owed a beautiful girl. We all think of ourselves as the hero of our own story, and we all (whether we admit it or not) think we’re heroes for just getting through our day.
So it’s very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don’t get what we’re owed. A contract has been broken. These women, by exercising their own choices, are denying it to us. It’s why every Nice Guy is shocked to find that buying gifts for a girl and doing her favors won’t win him sex. It’s why we go to “slut” and “whore” as our default insults — we’re not mad that women enjoy sex. We’re mad that women are distributing to other people the sex that they owed us.
Yes, the women in these stories are being portrayed as wonderful and beautiful and perfect. But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.
Which brings us to the next problem …
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