I wrote a week ago about conversations within gaming, fandom, and nerd culture over dating and social reclusiveness. Specifically, I looked at a post by a self-described “nerdy guy” about his adolescent and young adult anger toward women for not dating him and a response post by a self-described “nerdy girl” pointing out that guys aren’t the only ones to be shy, socially awkward, and thwarted in love. Today I want to build on that conversation with another point.
I’ve seen men online (and, sadly, in real life) talk as if women had it easy in romance, and could get a guy by snapping their fingers. They talk about being mocked or made fun of by teenage girls, as though that sort of mocking goes one way only—and as if the girls hold all the cards. For too many of these nerdy adolescent and young adult men, I see an unwillingness to consider the suffering of anyone but themselves.
(I should note that there are plenty of nerdy guys who do treat women with respect, including my own husband, Sean. I should have Sean tell his story here sometime. I was talking to him about this recently and he told me that when he left high school, he made the decision to clean up his act and change how he came across—to master the social skills he felt he lacked. Importantly, his failure to get a date in high school never translated into any sort of resentment or entitlement toward women.)
I noticed something interesting in the comments on my post last week. While I was homeschooled and didn’t have much contact with teenage guys my own age, some of the commenters wrote of their experiences being harassed and heckled by the teenage guys they grew up around. Here’s a comment from reader Nea (here):
A common insult when I was an early teen was for a boy to yell “Hey, Dreamboat!” near you, and if you looked over, laugh nastily and say “Not YOU, Shipwreck!” Even (especially) if you were the only female around.
And then this from onamission5 (here):
Some nerdy guys seem to think being a woman means getting dates and sex whenever we want. First of all, this is not true (seriously, how many women spent years pining over a guy who never gives them a second look?). But second, this completely ignores the mocking and bulling women face for their gender. onamission5 added this (here):
I got, “wanna dance?” or “wanna date?” and if I answered in the affirmative, it was, “well maybe someone will ask you.” Cue them walking off to their friend group laughing.
I honestly don’t know how to choose between boys barking, mooing, (and if I didn’t respond, escalating to pawing) at me in the halls, then laughing when I got upset, or guys behaving aggressively if I didn’t respond to their unwanted advances in the way they predetermined I ought. Either way I get my boundaries violated, either way I get to be disrespected as a person due to someone else’s perceptions of my gender, either way the world is not a safe place. It’s just unsafe for different reasons. And then guys wonder why we don’t always want to talk to them. It’s because someone who seems nice at first can become decidedly Not Nice in a flash, and it’s impossible to always tell who is capable of what.
To a nerdy guy, finding romance (or sex) may look labyrinthian or even impossible, but to a nerdy girl (and often to any girl at all), existing while female can be like navigating through a mine field.
One last thing I want to add. There was a new commenter on my post of a week ago asking for advice on getting dates and so forth, but it quickly became apparent that his approach was part of his problem. He kept talking about what “women” want and what “women” are looking for, and treating romance as some sort of code he needed to crack and solve. As a woman, I find this incredibly off-putting. I don’t want to be approached as a puzzle to solve, I want to be approached as a person. We women are not a foreign species, and I for one would rather not be treated as one.
I suppose my main message here is that nerdy guys who feel thwarted in love and romance (and sex) need to stop for a moment and reconsider what it is like to go through life as a woman—and as a teenage girl. We don’t hold all of the cards any more than they do, and all too often we hold fewer. We shouldn’t have to deal with entitlement and resentment on top of everything else.