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Miss Manners and playing the victim

By skepticlawyer

Since we no longer live in an age defined by Debrett’s, etiquette is turning into something of a minefield: it is difficult, even impossible, to work out exactly what one should do in many situations. This seems to apply particularly to matters of romance, which perhaps accounts for at least part of the boom in online dating. However, I did think that one immutable universal in all versions of the dating game was that the refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer marked a man out, for all time, as ‘not a gentleman’.

I am not, here, referring to criminal offences like rape or sexual assault. That point is very important. A refusal to take no for an answer in those circumstances marks a man out as a criminal, a very different proposition. Criminals, in so far as it is possible to do so, belong in gaol, not on online dating sites or in pubs offering to buy you a drink or [insert social activity here].

What I am referring to is social etiquette, courtesy, manners and the like. It is possible to be an ill-mannered oaf and spend one’s entire life out of gaol. It may not, however, be possible to be an ill-mannered oaf and maintain gainful employment for a lengthy period, a long-term relationship or even decent social ties over time. This appears, to me, to be fairly basic: manners cost nothing, as my father used to say, and may smooth one’s path through life considerably. It is worth investing in them. If you don’t understand what amounts to good manners, then buy the Debrett’s guide linked above. I’m sure there are American and Australian equivalents.

Why a ‘Miss Manners post’, I hear you ask, when this blog has been sticking to its legal knitting of late?

I have watched, over the last few months, various online communities explode over what amounts to bad manners. One of those communities is one in which I have had long-term involvement. The other is one where I have only ever had observer status. At first I put it down to the nature of the internet, where people feel they are free to write things they would never be able to say in person (at least not without serious social, and perhaps even physical, consequences). However, I am starting to think that I’m engaging in a little ‘excusitis’ of my own, and I’m reminded of another piece of advice from my father: only a bad tradesman blames his tools. The behaviour, too, is starting to bleed out beyond the internet, into regular social activities.

There are various manifestations of these atrocious manners, but they seem (to me, at least) to boil down to an inability, on the part of certain men, to take ‘no’ for an answer. I think this is tied to participation in various ‘geek’ subcultures (both on-line and off-line, so while it may be convenient to blame the internet, blaming the internet is unfair). Participation in these varied subcultures is seen to give people something of a pass for rudeness. The justification proffered is that participation in the subculture resulted in bullying when the man in question was young, conferring victim status on him as an adult. And, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere on this blog, wrapping oneself in victimhood is often a way to avoid having to take personal responsibility–for anything.

Of course, it remains true that the sine qua non of much dating and romance involves men making the first move. This is probably unfair, but as it has biological origins, I doubt it’s going to change very much anytime soon except at the margins. That means men are stuck with getting a lot of ‘noes’. Accepting a ‘no’ with courtesy has always been something I have admired in my male friends and colleagues, including men with whom I disagree on just about everything else. These men marked themselves out to me as gentlemen by accepting a rejection with good grace and moving on.

Until very, very recently, I had never met a man who handled a rejection–whether for cause or when no reason was offered–without courtesy. I have had my share of messy break-ups (haven’t we all?) but even the worst of them (it involved the male in question turning up to denounce me and all my works and all my ways on national television, as in, The 7.30 Report) never, ever presumed that he had a right to keep dating me after the relationship was over, as though my objections to him didn’t count. He moved on and found someone else.

However, of late I have started to encounter ‘geeky’ men (I’m sorry for this appallingly inexact term, but that’s all there is, alas) who demand–even when others find their geek-activity completely boredom-inducing or otherwise irritating–that women date them. This is like women who demand that their large dogs complete with muddy paws be allowed to take up residence on sundry boyfriends’ beds. It is rudeness, pure and simple. Just as the woman in question needs to find a dog-loving boyfriend who doesn’t mind muddy paw-prints, the geek needs to find a girlfriend who shares his interest in whatever geekiness happens to be his passion. And if he finds that men outnumber women in his particular geek environment, then I suggest he learn a little bit about the law of one price and modify his behaviour accordingly.

In an efficient market, all identical goods must have the same price; however, when there are fewer women than men in a given market (and assuming that most people in that market would like either sex or a relationship), then their relative scarcity presents women with an arbitrage opportunity. In financial markets, if the price of a security, commodity or asset is different in two different markets, then an arbitrageur will purchase the asset in the cheaper market and sell it where prices are higher. Women, when they have scarcity value in a given market, do not have to tolerate bad manners. Similarly, the male who shows that he is not ‘an identical good’ by exhibiting courtesy and charm will be able to make the most of the market in which he finds himself, always acknowledging however that arbitrage profits will persist until the price converges across markets (something that may never happen; it is often argued that perfect competition and efficient markets only exist in economics textbooks).

In other words, geek boys, smarten up your act. I mean, really smarten it up.

While doing the research for this post, I found that the largest gaming convention in North America has to remind attendees to wash daily and use deodorant in its program. I’ve seen a man who a woman rejected on the basis of his online gaming hobby tell her she ‘needed a good raping’. And there was worse than that in some places, which had to be closed down on the basis that they had reached the incitement stage. Incitement, in case you didn’t know, is a crime, and I’m afraid saying ‘it was only on the internet’ will not impress any judge of my acquaintance.

There’s another element to this ‘I’m-a-victim-so-y’all-hafta-feel-so-sorry-for-me’ dance, and that concerns an inability to draw meaningful distinctions. Lawyers have worked hard for many years to teach the general public how to draw a distinction between crimes and torts/delicts. As I’ve pointed out before, torts and delicts are civil wrongs, which means they are generally disputes between two private parties and are constructed in such a way as to permit the apportionment of liability (fault, or culpa). Both Roman law and common law have relatively few strict liability torts or delicts, and where they do, these tend to involve things that are ‘inherently dangerous’, like an explosives factory or water-filled mineshaft: Rylands v Fletcher [1868] UKHL 1. Scots law manages to do without strict liability entirely.

This means that while you have indeed been run down by a motorist, the fact that you were staggeringly drunk and weaving across the road at the same time may mean that you contributed to your own harm. Various factors come into play, of course: was the motorist speeding? Did the publican continue to serve you after you were visibly inebriated? How busy was the road? Was there a pedestrian crossing? And so on and so forth. The point is that a person may well be a victim, but it is sometimes entirely appropriate to ask whether that victim contributed to his or her own loss. This is known as contributory negligence, or (in attenuated form), comparative negligence.

By contrast, when it comes to crime, then no matter how stupid the victim was, no matter how much he or she contributed to his or her own loss, the state must punish the offender without any discount based on the victim’s behaviour (there may be discounts for other reasons, but that is not relevant here). This was the common sense of the Roman jurists 2000 years ago when it came to rape, and is something that Anglophone sexual assault law has developed both on its own account and as a result of Roman influence, as I discussed in my post on the DSK case. That is why the Crown prosecutes crimes, not private individuals: we all have an interest in preventing crime, while only victims and insurance companies have an interest in preventing torts/delicts.

In other words, there are relatively confined circumstances when an inquiry into the victim’s behaviour must be ruled out of court ab initio, as it were. Most of the time, an exploration of why an individual is a victim (of a chronic inability to get a date, say) is an interesting and illuminating exercise.

Just on that last issue, before writing this post, I had a chat with my partner about some of the things I planned to discuss. He made the very good point that–when it comes to ‘geek’ cultures and the social ineptitude often on display therein–there is a problem of causation involved. Are many geeks socially inept and ill-mannered first, so they bury themselves deep in subcultures where obsessiveness and ineptitude are rewarded, or does the participation in obsessive subcultures facilitate the (later) development of social ineptitude?

My suspicion is that the social isolation antedates the subculture participation, and may indeed have a biological basis in some of the conditions on the autistic spectrum, but I’m a lawyer, not a neurologist, and I really don’t know. I wonder, too, at the extent to which some manifestations of ‘geekiness’ represent an inability to progress beyond emotional adolescence; one account of a man in his mid-twenties still obsessed with Pokémon along with ten-year-olds really disturbed me. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m quite happy to make criticisms of taste based on what I think are fairly objective standards of excellence. I do this not only because I have considerable expertise in cultural pursuits, but also because I think that a given individual’s cultural pursuits and political beliefs are separable, and that heeding the former at the expense of the latter is deeply patronising, as I argue here.

I’m curious to learn more,  because if nothing else, the recent exercises in geekish manners blindness–both online and off–show that at least some victims are contributing substantially to their own losses. And because we as a culture valorize victimhood, they are being allowed to argue that they don’t have to change their behaviour.

As someone else once remarked–in an entirely different context–’it’s a funny old world’.

[Note: This post was inspired by this lengthy thread on a blog that I don't typically read; it would not normally be the sort of commentary with which I have a great deal of sympathy. However, the quality of the discussion is both excellent and--particularly in the comments--psychologically very revealing.]

[UPDATE: I have discovered that the non-washing, non-deodorant problem is far more widespread than I feared, as PZ Myers points out in his commentary on this post. If what he says is true--and I don't doubt him for a moment--then prisoners are better turned out than some of the people he describes. I saw a goodly bunch of them on Monday, in point of fact, just for recent confirmation].

69 Comments

  1. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    You forgot to say “is also hysterically funny”.

    Yup, I’ve always been looking for a gentleman… yup, I’m STILL single. Go figure. Even though I am geek girl incarnate (ask me something obscure about Dr Who, I dare you).

    The lack of boundaries thing I really resent is the incrementalising. You’re clear, firm, let him know where he stands and that your answer is an unmistakable ‘no’ from the outset. So he just nudges you a bit in the direction he wants to go. Then a bit more. And that was all right so why not a bit more… until either you’re pressured into a compromising position or your sense of self-preservation kicks in along with your knee. It’s rude because it’s offensive, in that your personal preferences are waved away as an irrelevance (plus it doesn’t bode well for the bedroom).

    Whenever I read of another case where a man comes back to kill his ex and his kids (and there’s always another case), I wonder if that’s an extension of this ‘boundary’ problem. Likewise honour killings in Asian families.

    Frankly, I find it worrying that some man out there might genuinely think that I’m his property to dispose at will. And given the massive rates of domestic assault priors in those rioters now trooping through the courts, I’m frightened about how common the attitude might actually be.

  2. Moz
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    John Scalzi has an excellent couple of posts on the broader meme, most recently http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/09/06/shut-up-and-listen/ They’re much more polite but still have their commentators who just don’t get it. At length, and with vigor. So there’s a certain amusement in that. The problem (to me) is that while these discussions do somewhat increase the number of guys who get it, they also reinforce for the guys who don’t get it, that they don’t have to get it. Too many of them read these discussions and feel validated.

    Legal Eagle, apparently there are people will say those things to your face. Some of the disclosures in those comment threads are disturbing. And the recent “I raped a woman, it was funny” discussion is profoundly disturbing (http://www.theworldforgotten.com/showthread.php?t=2194&page=1 trigger warning for rape, rape culture. There are other discussions of the event in question – http://jezebel.com/5834712/is-this-comedy-monologue-a-rape-confession-%5Bupdated%5D)

  3. Patrick
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    My sister is a pretty hardcore geek but in a manner which I am sure SL would admire she avoids some of the issues you describe by being able to beat up most male geeks.

    Unfortunately, in her own words, her solution to coping with male-oriented and dominated IT culture (‘be me’) has proved inscalable. Here’s an article on women in tech which can be applied quite easily in the reverse case to men in tech:

    Before you retort with your personal vote of support for female education, I’d ask you to take a stroll around a toy store and imagine you can’t read. Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been taught a simple system of color-coding: Pink and purple is for girls, and blue, green and gray are for boys.

    You will immediately notice the drastic segregation — the gendered version of the Jim Crow-era South. There are entire aisles of pink, and other aisles devoted to dark blues and greens. Imagine that you are only “allowed” in the pink and purple areas of the store, and examine the toys you find there.

    So, to all the special interest groups and fine individuals with fine intentions, I ask you one favor: Please stop pushing for more women in tech, and find a young girl to mentor instead. When she is young, give her “boy toys” and video games. If she wants one, get her a laptop instead of jewelry for her birthday. Tell her not to worry about flirting or her hair. Send her to a computer science camp or space camp. Encourage her to take advanced maths and sciences in school and to enter a computer science degree program.

    The same applies to women as entrepreneurs, as VCs, as athletes, as part of any traditionally male-dominated profession: Drop the pop feminism and have the guts to get to the core of the problem. We must stop treating girls as gender-crippled, pink-collar versions of ourselves and start treating them like the facsinated young minds that they are, minds that will grip onto whatever we bring them in their most formative stages.

  4. Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Though I’ve only read the edges of that particular internet fight, with a mixture of amusement and revulsion, I suspect you’re talking about two very different things, SL. On the one hand there’s the social isolation and self-segregation of subcultures, “geekish” and otherwise. On the other there’s the strong culture in our society of male entitlement to female sexual availability. Yes, they both depend on that reversed sense of victimhood, but that entitlement is just as strong or stronger in male social environments where everyone knows how to tie a tie and wears deodorant. Rugby league and AFL football clubs, for just one instance.

    It’s interesting you brought up the matter of manners and social norms. Generally they’re enforced by acknowledged sources of shame, right? One’s peers or elders asking you “aren’t you ashamed to behave like that”?, or letting you know that “you should be ashamed of yourself”, with appropriate social sanctions to go along with it. Reading relatively few of the contributions by participants in that demeaning internet shitfight, what jumps out at me is how unashamed everybody seems to be. I suppose it’s hard to shun people on the internet.

  5. Patrick
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Liam, I think that the article I linked to was all about that; it really is all about ‘manners and social norms‘.

  6. Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Are many geeks socially inept and ill-mannered first, so they bury themselves deep in subcultures where obsessiveness and ineptitude are rewarded, or does the participation in obsessive subcultures facilitate the (later) development of social ineptitude?

    I think it’s a feedback loop. There’s a geek stereotype of a male with a weak body and an interests in asocial fields like electronics or Norse mythology. They like music that’s not too girl friendly and they’re regularly emasculated in high school by the ‘jocks’.

    It’s a high school lore cliché but it applies.

    But they’re males like other males and must needs da respect. And until computers became big money they didn’t get much. Most of ‘em are maths brains with not much aptitude in English, not good talkers in a social sense. They play Dungeons and Dragons and take it seriously. So they gravitate to others who have common interests and dispositions; it’s a very male world.

    Add to that whatever cultural waves are expressed by two decades of gangsta rap and… it’s what you get.

  7. Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    There’s a graphic novel called Piled High and Deep. About Standford postgrads. There’s a girl in the engineering class and this guy’s talking to her about the female:male ratio.

    She says: the odds are good. But the goods are odd. :)

  8. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Good, clear commentry SL. As a result of which I laboured thru the linked post, and the over a hundred comments. That was patchy, except for the originator, and a couple of the commenters, but very interesting as well. One word which struck me was ‘monolithic’ – as in we aren’t all the same, so don’t stereotype us. That seemed like common sense to me. “Geek” seems now to cover a wider area of interests than it used to. I’ve always admired anyone who can master anything, however esoteric, non-mainstream it is. Commenting on someone’s geekiness is a put down; but in fact is a grudging recognition of their particular expertise, I think. At least, that’s what I’ll continue to think, and I’m too stubborn to consider a change of viewpoint in that.

    Also, it seems a constant theme of SL’s that manners (perhaps even old fashioned ‘social graces’) are important, and I agree completely with that thought. I was always struck by the extreme social ‘niceness’ of Japanese society, and I think it indicates what is necessary in any crowded society to just ‘get along’. The internet could do with a bit of ‘niceness’ I think. Just how one gets one’s jollies by the extreme abuse often making up some of the few blogs I follow is quite beyond me.

    Without mentioning the verboten subjects (on this blog anyways) I’d use them as good examples of bad behaviour. It is tiresome to read, teaches nothing, and sometimes leaves me feeling embarrassment that I share the same genome with such exponents.

  9. Mel
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully written and well argued post, SL. One aspect of etiquette I try to abide by at all times is never to bitch about and put down Ex’s or to make public those things that are private. I’m very disappointed when I hear people do that.

    I suppose I’m a bit of a socially dysfunctional geek myself and I can thank Gaia (pbuh) that my partner only laughs when I’m outside at 3am with my night vision goggles looking for phascogales and sugar gliders in gums and wattles on our block!

  10. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I shall now be really depressing and quote a recent post on this:

    Specifically, what happens in the mating market when women start earning money of their own? The obvious answer is just to flip the initial model around. If higher wages for men lead to higher quality of life for women, we’d expect higher wages for women to lead to higher quality of life for men. And what do most men see as a “higher quality of life”? Among other things: Less commitment, lower maturity, and lower expectations of financial support. In short, the chance to be a man-child.

    Funny thing: If Kay Hymowitz’s description of modern malehood in Manning Up is even vaguely accurate, this is exactly what we’re seeing. Women are more economically successful, but increasingly dissatisfied with male behavior. Men are less economically successful, but pay a surprisingly small price in the mating market. There’s no big puzzle here. A simple supply-and-demand story, with no mention of “feminism” or “family values,” fits the facts rather well.

    A sophisticated supply-and-demand story can do even better. When women have zero labor income, you’d expect them to care a lot about men’s income. They might even marry men they loathe to get a roof over their heads. As women’s income rises, however, women can afford to focus more on men’s non-pecuniary traits.

    The upshot: Women’s demand for men isn’t just higher than ever; the composition of their demand has changed. Income and income potential still matter. But women now focus more on looks, machismo, coolness, and other “alpha” traits. Holding charisma constant, working harder just doesn’t attract women the way it used to. The result: Less desirable men often give up on women altogether – further tilting the effective male/female ratio in favor of the remaining men. And both kinds of men act like boys: The less desirable men have little to lose, and the more desirable men can get away with it.

    Economics can be a very depressing discipline sometimes.

  11. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    How shall I put this Lorenzo? That is utter tosh. I have never met an ‘alpha’ ‘man child’ – and would never expect to. The alphas I know are all very attracted/attached to their female equivalents; and boy, are they equivalent. And now I’ll go read your link out of respect for you, but with not much hope, if that’s an indicative cut.. :)

  12. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    L@12 please upgrade my ‘tosh’ to ‘complete piffle’. In this new age of internet politeness I’ll say no more, say no more ;)

  13. su
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating post, this is something I am trying to teach my teenager who does have Asperger’s. He keeps coming up with different ways to approach girls that he likes and they are always rather indirect and yet invasive. It has been a very difficult sell for me to convince him that if you like someone you should talk to them first, in a friendly fashion and then see what happens, he insists this in not how he sees other boys approaching this, that there are all kinds of conniving ways of tricking girls into close physical proximity and then taking advantage of it and I fear he must be right. He also has a big problem separating his sense of anger at being bullied from others’ anger at him when he has been rude or abusive; and he does, as you say, try and justify it by reference to how poorly others have treated him.

    I suspect there are a lot of people on the spectrum amongst these online communities but even someone with frank Autism, let alone the far higher functioning geek has the ability to learn the social rules, the problem may well be that nobody is taking the time to teach and then insist on enforcing those rules, as Liam suggested.

  14. Posted September 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Su, I have a 14yr old boy with exactly the same issues. A while back he asked me how he could get a girl to like him. Couldn’t answer it. Told him that I’d have to think about it. I was then asked “How did you get mum to like you?”. No idea. Couldn’t answer it. Told him he should ask his mum.

    He is currently doing some pretty stupid things to attract girls’ attention. On the other hand, there’s a group of girls he talks to at the train station each morning and that relationship works pretty well.

    My take on these things (and I’m having to work through a lot of this with him at the moment) is that a lot of the bad behaviour is an incapacity properly to deal with the anxiety which dealing with the opposite gender brings for most if not all of us (particularly during adolescence).

    The anxiety is likely only to increase as the rejections accumulate and the lack of a proper coping mechanism makes it harder and harder for them to surmount the big hurdle of that first relationship with a girl.

    I know SL’s the libertarian’s libertarian and is unlikely to put much store in the proposition that some understanding needs to be afforded to such people, but the only way I can ever deal properly with my son is to find some way first to make sure that his anxiety level is dropped. If he is to get by, he will always need people around him who are prepared to give him some leeway.

  15. Patrick
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    My kids are littler, thank God.

    Su, maybe try getting him to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and talk it through with you (if he is a bit into reading, otherwise perhaps not). Seriously!

  16. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I know SL’s the libertarian’s libertarian and is unlikely to put much store in the proposition that some understanding needs to be afforded to such people

    Nick, I dunno that that is a quite fair comment/conclusion. The essence of any and all understanding or advance is the ability to stand back, view objectively, admit what one doesn’t know, seek answers.

    Which doesn’t assist one iota with what you and/or su maybe face each and every day, I accept. And I won’t put too much emphasis on 14 year olds, but confusion as to how to proceed with relationships is pretty normal at that age.

    I know; yadda yadda, etc. But meant with goodwill and best wishes.

  17. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    kvd@12,13 The ‘alpha’ traits language can be dumped and the point holds. It strikes me as explaining a lot of the problems my unattached female friends have been having with men. Said female friends are smart, successful, etc and seem to get men who are either so not up to scratch as to even leave the starting blocks or, when they do, turn out to not perform to acceptable levels.

  18. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Further to the unattached female friends, I guess I am not helpful in that I like women but don’t fancy them much: so I am affectionate and sympathetic while so not invasive or threatening.

  19. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    From the linked post:

    What you CANNOT do, however, is participate in a subculture, build a lifestyle around the subculture, become WORLD CHAMPION of the subculture, and then scream bloody murder because someone finds your participation in the subculture unattractive. That’s not you being “bullied;” that’s just you exercising a massive and unrealistic sense of entitlement. And when you shriek that some woman is a “bitch” and a “cunt” and a “narcissist” and a “predator” and whatever else

    Jon Finkel, the bloke in question, did none of these things. He’s actually said almost nothing about it. He just moved on.

    I think it was rude of Alyssa Bereznak to laugh in the guy’s face and then to write about it in such a public way. It’s her right to say “no thanks” to the guy, but that’s not what she did. She said “no thanks and by the way I’m going to mock you personally and what you love on an extremely widely read website”.

    So there’s really three parties here. Ms Bereznak, Mr Finkel and Messrs Intertrollz. The reaction from the latter has been hysterical (how’s that for sexist word choice). Ms Bereznak deserves some opprobrium for being a meanie; but Mr Finkel has acted politely.

    I think this is going to be one of those internet arguments where everyone is right, and everyone is wrong, at the top of their lungs, until we get distracted by the next battlefront of the war twixt the sexes.

  20. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Anecdotal, Lorenzo – as is my own comment. ‘Alpha’ was a term introduced within your quoted text, not by me.

    It’s interesting though, to think about what that term means: in any herd I’d apply it to maybe 1%, so you are moving in select company, if you’re truly dancing with alphas. Me, I’d say I know maybe four or five, and their partners are equally impressive. Or maybe it’s just an age thing; after the young alphas sort themselves out?

  21. Nick Ferrett
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Kvd, fair point. Love SL and wouldnt want to be unfair to her. And you’re absolutely right about that sort of confusion being generic to that age group. It’s the coping mechanisms which differ most starkly.

  22. kvd
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Jacques@21 that bit you highlighted was a weak point in a pretty interesting post. (Let that be a lesson to me: never use CAPS) I read all the responses, and it seemed, as usual, that people took the post and went of in a few different directions. No surprise, I suppose; “guilty yer ‘onor”.

    But the one commenter who really struck me was the woman who was being triggered about her past real experience. Her comments were not even acknowledged, although it seemed to me she was the one most in need of, in fact crying out for, some sort of HELP.

  23. Posted September 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating comments, everyone, although perhaps I should have revealed that the other online ‘blow-up’ involved the skeptic and atheist community (both online and off) in an incident now known as ‘elevatorgate’. I’m hoping the (yet again) use of ‘gate’ as a suffix de scandale is ironic, but remain unconvinced ;)

    Because I didn’t want the thread to get bogged down in endless debate about the specificities in both situations (entire skeptics chapters and atheist/humanist clubs have come to grief over ‘elevatorgate’), I made a decision to use information derived from both incidents and draw out elements they have in common.

    And yes, I’m not sympathetic to the use of victim status to get ‘a free pass’ or what Americans call ‘cookies’. I am, however, very sympathetic to letting parents, ahem, engage in parenting their children: which is what Nick, Su and Patrick are grappling with right now. I heartily endorse Patrick’s recommendation of a quality self-help book @17; in my case, How to Win Friends and Influence People helped me a great deal at the beginning of my legal career. There is also a link to the Debrett’s Guide for Gentlemen in the main post.

    Recommending books may seem silly or naff; I get that it can seem strange to be buying etiquette guides, but when it comes to successful parenting, I think parents can and should call on any resources available to them… and people do learn from books (example, all the people who comment on this blog!).

    Think of a beginning chef, who likes good food and has a few cookbooks. He or she starts with detailed and quite prescriptive recipes. Only with training and effort does he or she turn into Nigella, or [insert well known chef here]. But I have no doubt that Nigella started with a book, and copying family members… which is what parents hope their children will do.

    Liam’s point about shaming is also a good one, and is something I think we could learn from the Japanese (Deepak Lal argues that ‘pure’ shame cultures like Japan are much better at moral management than guilt cultures; the trade-off–there is always at least one–is the high suicide rates). I also like Mel’s point that ‘geekiness’ or ‘obsession’ can come in various forms; his is an ‘outdoorsy’ one (I’m assuming that your various critters don’t come inside, Mel), but it’s still rather specialist.

    kvd: there is some empirical backing for Lorenzo’s economics link in Tim Harford’s The Logic of Life, but it is heavily dependent (for it to occur) on women outnumbering men, thereby tipping the arbitrage opportunities in favour of men, rather than women. If the numbers are equal, or men outnumber women, the problem largely vanishes. In fact, Harford’s entire chapter on the law of one price in that book (as applied to the status of women and male behaviour) makes fascinating reading.

  24. su
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I will follow up the book suggestions. We have some specifically aimed at teenagers with Asperger’s but he is now rejecting the diagnosis, which was expected and understandable, he just wants to be himself and so do I, and I think that rejection has extended to any advice obviously tailored to people on the spectrum.

    Nick, I’m sure you are right about the different means of dealing with the anxiety, my son has also had some very helpful friendships with girls, but he becomes so overwhelmed by anxiety with girls that he “like likes”, that I think he is literally incapable of following my helpful suggestion that he should begin by just saying hello. “I could Never do that”, he says, and I believe him, he goes pale and sweaty just thinking about the prospect. Instead he comes up with these elaborate ploys to trick the object of his affection into noticing and then talking to him.

    If anyone wants to do a bit of field research, there is a town nearby where women greatly outnumber the men, a couple of female friends have cited this as a contributing factor in their marital woes. The opposite must be the case in my wee village, judging by the number of tradies offering me extra special after-sales service of late : )

  25. Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Su, you lucky girl. :-) (Although, thinking of all the Scottish tradies that have been through my house recently, I take that back). I heartily endorse SL’s recommendation of Dale Carnegie and suggest that if you get it as one of the twin volumes with his How to Stop Worrying and Start Living it might suggest ways your son could manage his anxiety too.

    SL mocks my self-improvement reading habits (regularly) but when circumstances get really confusing it restores the vital sense of control in your life to just have a clear set of rules to follow. Obviously they’re only 60-80% useful depending on the author, but a sense of control is a good in itself (and has health benefits).

    You can’t go too far the other way and then expect perfection from people because they react badly. There was a documentary I saw years ago about American ‘missiliers’, basically the guys in the US military who were supposed to send up the ICBMs during the cold war. Their task lists were written down and they had to execute them perfectly every time and were constantly drilling which created immense performance pressure that did psychologically odd things to the men.

    kvd: I think economics writers need to reinstate their qualifiers. I know it makes for a messier read, but it at least it then wouldn’t sound as if they were dictating high-handed generalities as gospel and giving us civilians the irrits (which was also my reaction to the piece Lorenzo quoted.) Theories about human behaviour can ONLY be used for useful analysis because the outliers are deliberately excluded. That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, or that their presence is ‘insignificant’ in anything but frequency.

  26. Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    It was surprisingly hard to find out what in blazes ‘elevatorgate’ was.

  27. Patrick
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    JC, your curiosity is astonishing. SL’s description convinced me, even on a cursory reading, that I did not give a rat’s.

    DEM, SL, you would love to know that the first three chapters to 7 habits are basically trashing Dale Carnegie along the lines that you can’t fake it, you have to really be it.

    7 Habits is a far more challenging book than How to Win Friends and Influence People, since it literally asks you to change how you approach your interactions with the world in order to actually become a more effective person, rather than just be more of a suck. Hence my strong recommendation that a parent who does want their kids to read it should accompany them and discuss it – this applies to adults as well!

  28. Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I have read that one Patrick, but it simply didn’t ‘grab’ me the same way a lot of the stuff (like Dale Carnegie/Napoleon Hill) from a more innocent age does. Covey lacks enthusiasm, although enthusiasm alone isn’t sufficient either because I couldn’t get into The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, who is one of Hill’s contemporaries.

    The older stuff has more hope, I think. The downside of ALL of them of course is the proposition that all you need to do to succeed is to try harder. Unfortunately trying harder ran into permanent neurological damage with something of a crunch a few years back.

  29. Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Debrett’s is more ‘rule’ based: in situation x, do y, which I think is helpful for young men on the autism spectrum. It doesn’t pretend to be 100% ‘proof’, but it does help to have some points to which one can anchor oneself.

    Also, the advice on grooming, tailoring and general deportment is very, very good — with excellent diagrams and illustrations.

  30. Chris Bond
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Just a quick addition to the evidence that good manners are sadly becoming rarer:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14816077
    “I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s chairman of the board,” Ms Bartz said in the email to staff.

    So it’s now ok to sack a chief executive (or anyone) over the phone, not face to face…? Methinks Yahoo’s chairman of the board lacks b**ls as well as manners.

  31. Posted September 9, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Gutless wonder. I was once sacked as an office manager with five minutes notice – the partner walked in and asked for my keys one Friday. Turns out the girl I’d helped select was coming to replace me on Monday rather than assist me as I had been told. When confronted my actual boss said I “should have guessed”. He then ran away from me (as in right out of the building fleeing for his personal safety) which was probably wise. You’ve never seen an engineer move so fast…

  32. Patrick
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Fair enough DEM but maybe re-read those first few chapters again ;)

  33. kvd
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Went to bed early last night because I ran out of matchsticks for my eyelids, so missed some very interesting comments till now. Patrick’s “you can’t fake it, you have to really be it” is very accurate in the way I choose to take his comment.

    What I mean is, book-learning of the rules for social behaviour, interaction, is a very good place to start and should be encouraged, but when it comes to ‘style’ and the ‘alpha’ of the group, I think those are innate qualities, not learnt. Either you is got it, or you don’ts.

  34. Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Adrien@7: On geeks – maybe the new lot of the IT crowd are maths and no arts – but olde hackers in my experience may have been awkward rather than rude, had a reasonably broad knowledge, and a higher-than-average number of musos good enough for occasional public performances for dollars, and rudeness confined to holy wars (opinions of editors and operating systems created by lesser gods and used by lesser beings).

    Stuff manners, it’s just consideration for others that matters. One may be socially inept not knowing what to say in particular situations, not know how neurotypicals work, but one knows (if one notices, not off with the pixies) that you give little old ladies your seat in the tram.

    But consider the way greasy-pole-climbing in the office has become a bloodsport, the number of people who measure their worth by what they have their neighbors don’t or vice versa, …

    Can we really expect observation of the social niceties of trying not to fart in confined spaces when so much of “success” in the world inolves shitting on everybody else?

  35. kvd
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    That’s funny Dave – and so true. Even now I still get the odd “I’ll be there late because I’ve got an important meeting” instruction. I happily reply “Fine, but the lights will be off and the far gate will be shut; so maybe next time”.

  36. Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Dave,

    maybe the new lot of the IT crowd are maths and no arts

    I don’t think that’s the distinction. I’ve always considered myself something of a ‘geek’, both in terms of what interested me and where I tend to find myself socially. For the most part I fit the ‘all maths, no arts’ pattern but find myself increasingly isolated from modern geek culture. I think the rise in popularity of geekish culture has changed what is perceived as a geek. I’d make the divide such that there are two classifications:

    “traditional geeks” – those who simply have a passion for understanding certain things or have certain skills.
    “pop geeks” – those who pursue geek culture because they perceive it as popular or seek to gain popularity by being more knowledgeable in a particular area.

    There’s probably a fair bit of cross over between the two classifications, however I think the undesirable trends will manifest differently between the two. The former would be more likely to be the ‘respectful but awkward’ type, and the later would be more likely to be the ‘entitled/arrogant’ type as they would see the awkwardness as a cultural element they are entitled to rather than an unfortunate side effect of not being neurotypical or lacking experience (as per Adrien’s feedback loop @7).

  37. Daniel Schealler
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Didn’t see this mentioned anywhere – might not be relevant.

    But all I could think of througout reading the original post was this:

    To my mind, the label ‘geek’ is associated with an odd mix of high-status and low-status attributes: cleverness regarind the math-y/logic-y end of the spectrum along with general technological savvy, combined with general social reclusive-ness, emotional ineptitude, and poor physical appearance.

    Note that I don’t think that any of the above associations are necessarily valid… But that’s what the stereotype summons up in my mind when I hear it or use it.

    And I use it in reference to myself – draw conclusions about my self-image as you will. ^_^

    I think that this association of high and low status perceptions combine together. Social inability gets treated as a proxy for cleverness, and cleverness gets treated as the only attribute worth having.

    So it becomes a race to the social gutter in order to establish one’s intellectual credentials.

    Kind of like the (not imaginary) artist who races to prove how emotionally tortured they are under the (false) belief that this is indicative of greater artistic talent.

  38. Posted September 9, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Moz@3, it’s a pity that post is so focused on “White Males”. The ability to “shut up and listen” is something that I find is lacking in all kinds of people. Although, I would probably phrase it as “listen, think and be open minded” instead.

    Some of the behaviours I think cause disagreements to spiral out of control, are the results of the assumption that one’s own arguments are flawless. If one’s own arguments are flawless then the argument of someone who disagrees with you must be either:
    a) rationally flawed;
    b) based on ignorance; or
    c) built from an unethical/immoral basis.
    Jumping to the third option seems to be quite common and it drives a spiralling increase in ill mannered responses.

  39. RipleyP
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I must be truly simplistic in my outlook on these subjects. I have met many people who I did not find interesting or inspiring in any way. I went on dates with these people and this was the time to discover if they were people I wanted to spend more time with.

    How much of the “everything now” culture has influenced this area? It seems we have to fill out a questionnaire and disclose things before the first date. For me that was the discovery time.

    Yet thinking about it, that’s how it should have worked. I don’t think I have been on a date with someone I didn’t know at least a little before a date. I much preferred to meet people and talk. Have a chat and get to know them. The date was usually after I had found something I liked about the person and we wanted to explore that.

    So my take is we want things to happen right now and be convenient to our lives.

    The thing I found with dating was I never went looking for love. I went to make new friends as I have never had an issue with friends of all genders and interpretations of. How the friendship developed determined if there was romance along the way.

  40. kvd
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Geez it’s depressing some days. In the past 24 hours scientists describe a human ancestor from some 2 million years ago, yet we’re still dissecting “boy meets girl, politely” – as very neatly rounded up by Don Arthur at CT. It must be Friday.

  41. Posted September 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    RipleyP: Good comment.

  42. Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    desipis @39

    There’s probably a fair bit of cross over between the two classifications, however I think the undesirable trends will manifest differently between the two. The former would be more likely to be the ‘respectful but awkward’ type, and the later would be more likely to be the ‘entitled/arrogant’ type as they would see the awkwardness as a cultural element they are entitled to rather than an unfortunate side effect of not being neurotypical or lacking experience (as per Adrien’s feedback loop @7).

    This strikes me as quite an insight, and ties into the point a few people have been making upthread about the boundaries of ‘geekiness’ shifting of late, such that rudeness can be worn as a badge of honour, rather than worked through and around (which is what people would have done in the past).

    There is also a larger problem of relativising when it comes to knowledge or achievement. Traditional geeky pursuits (like being good at maths) often enjoyed a significant occupational payoff — such as an opportunity for work in the City as a quant, and in banking generally. Other, more modern examples of ‘geekiness’ enjoy no such cachet (memorizing every episode of Buffy in order, etc). We are not good, these days, at suggesting that knowing maths is better than knowing popular culture.

    Another thing came to me this morning while I was drinking my morning heartstarter: I think there is a link between the awful opprobrium currently being visited on banks and bankers and some of the geek rage getting around. Banking provided an outlet for a certain sort of geek to earn money and respect, and yet I can remember many of my friends (and these people are lawyers, so if anything, even more socially fortunate) cheering when they watched footage of all the Lehman Brothers brokers and quants clearing out their desks. It was as though people who had no right to success were finally being pulled down to their ‘true’ level.

    [Lawyers, of course, being the socially skilled sort who speak well and finish up prefects at high school].

    Also, I’d like to second SATP on RipleyP @43. Great comment.

  43. Posted September 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    kvd@44: Ah, but without that vital “boy meets girl, politely” we wouldn’t have an ancestor going so far back. ;-)

  44. Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    If I could add something to the interesting points made by RipleyP, it would be about the impact of political correctness. The attention that sexual harassment has gotten has made any sort of romantic or sexual advance towards anyone within the workplace (or really any social situation not related to such activities) seem totally out of the question, particularly to those who already find such advances daunting. Even among many of those I know who are in relationships with people they met at work, there’s often an acknowledgement they were doing something wrong (or at least unwise). This attitude has blocked off a significant portion of the people we do get to meet in day to day life, meaning we have to resort to rather artificial means of meeting romantic prospects such as going out to clubs or on-line dating sites.

    I think it also plays into some of the frustration that produces the conflicts referred to in the original post, and is something I’ve seen discussed quite a bit in certain forums. Even those who do attempt to read and follow lots of advice, end up encountering that much contradictory and judgemental content that the end impression is there’s actually an awful lot of truth behind this. If politeness is going to be perceived, interpreted or responded to as if it were impoliteness, then it does raise the question of “Why bother?”.

    SL,

    There is also a larger problem of relativising when it comes to knowledge or achievement.

    It’s interesting that you use the word ‘achievement’ there. One of the elements that has become almost standard in modern computer games is a large set of ‘achievements’ the player can gain through playing the game in certain ways (many of which are only achievable through sheer obsession). I think a lot of modern geek culture (computer games, card games, etc) actively seeks out to exploit a certain psychology in its target audience, by providing positive feedback and social status to players who become more and more involved in the game. I imagine the merchandising and marketing of other forms of media attempts to do something similar. I wonder how much this is replacing the usual sources (social interaction, having useful skills, etc) of positive feedback and social status, resulting in a perception that such things are no longer important.

  45. Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    LE,

    Someone once tried to teach me to flirt. It apparently involved agreeing with what the guy said regardless of how stupid it was, and pandering to his ego. Naturally I decided that flirting was not for me after about five milliseconds.

    I find this amusing as one of the key pieces of flirting advice I received as a guy was to just talk to the girl and spin whatever crazy bullshit I could come up with. It certainly didn’t take long to figure out such methods weren’t for me either.

  46. Kirth Gersen
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Some of the issue may be one of perception, rather than actuality. Research shows that a taller, more attractive man can say or do things — and be perceived as “just kidding” or being “witty” — that would instantly brand a shorter, less attractive man as a “social basket case.” Case in point: when a tall, good-looking guy plays video games all day, it’s because he’s “easy-going” and “likes to take some time for himself to de-stress.” When an ugly guy does it, it’s because he “has no friends, and is into all kinds of geeky activities.” Same activity, same length of time, totally different perception.

  47. Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I actually know Jon Finkel personally, he’s a good friend of mine. Apart from being the ex-world champion of Magic: The Gathering, he also made millions as a member of the MIT blackjack team and from playing professional poker.

    He also has a lot more class than the woman who wrote the blog post smashing him for nothing except being a geek.

  48. Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    As an ex-MTG pro tour player, there aren’t that many girls who find Magic: The Gathering attractive.

    However there are a lot of girls who find multi-millionaire hedge fund managers attractive, so Jon will be fine.

    He actually doesn’t look very geeky at all when he shaves the beard. It would be a betrayal of trust to share facebook photos, but as a world famous MTG and Poker Player, there are plenty of pictures of Jon available on google image search to satisfy your curiosity.

  49. Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    PS on a related note, the picture of me in my gravatar was taken by a professional photographer as part of a promo shoot for a professional Magic: The Gathering tournament in Hong Kong, Circa 2000. I should probably update it since I’m 10 years older now, but I don’t know how.

  50. Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    There was also a book written about Jon a few years ago.

    http://www.amazon.com/Jonny-Magic-Card-Shark-Kids/dp/1400064074

  51. CJ
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I primiarily came to respond to the quote that PZ posted. If I’m right in thinking that the gaming convention you are referring to is PAX, I have some input.

    I am female. I attended PAX.

    I encountered a few odd people here and there who obviously had not showered, changed clothes, etc. But the overwhelming majority of my fellow attendees were reasonably well-kept, odor-free, and not swarming with disease or committing gross social contract violations. The “reminder” in the program was meant to be taken sardonically: we all acknowledge that some convention-goers do not seem to be well advised in the hygiene department; the rest of us will tend to get a bit sweaty over the course of the day, and it can’t be helped. But really it’s more joke than literal advice.

    Are some gamers sexist? Absolutely, and I’ve encountered my fair share. But for the most part (I even overheard a security guard at the convention center remark about it) they are polite and respectful not only to women, but to everyone. PAX has made a lot of effort to keep the convention female-friendly despite the demographic it mostly caters to. Most notably they have a policy against “booth babes,” attractive women in skimpy costumes kept near or at the booth to draw more customers. If the booth hosts are good-looking, they must also be knowledgeable about the product they are advertising, and there is a skimpiness limit to the costumes. I even witnessed enforcement when booths violated this policy, and saw a public apology from PAX about it. Overall, I’d say the policy has been very successful in making the environment seem safe and friendly for women…at least the women who like video games.

    Civility: it exists. Even among nerds.

  52. Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    They both attract the same kind of people (i.e. nerds) because they are both games that are based around maths. There’s also the fact that when you’ve become used to playing cards for money as we did with Magic, making the leap to playing poker for money isn’t that big.

    A huge amount of professional poker players got their start from playing Magic: The Gathering. One of them, David Williams, finished 2nd in 2004 the World Series of Poker, winning $3.5 million.

    Poker was a popular pastime at professional magic tournaments. Even before internet poker. In fact, that’s where I learned to play Texas Holdem around 1998-2001. Previously I had only played 5-card draw with my parents.

    When the first online poker site launched in 1998, Magic players were lining up to deposit while everyone else sat around to see what happened.

  53. Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Makes sense, Yobbo. If you can figure out all those probabilities so fast, you’re home and hosed with poker. I rather enjoy watching those televised poker championships because of the psychology of it – trying to see if people have bluffed successfully.

  54. Movius
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “The problem with men is that they all…”, “If only women would …”, “Players of Enchanted hog wanderer VII are all…”

    It’s like nobody ever socialises with individuals outside of their demographic of choice anymore

  55. Posted September 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating details, Yobbo — and please don’t change your pic! I use a picture of a dog I not only no longer own but that has in all probability gone to the big dog kennel in the sky…

    But he was a cool dog, whose name, incidentally, was ‘Texas’, on the grounds that he was a long, long way from home.

  56. Posted September 11, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I was never a role-player/gamer, but I was role-player compatible, because a long-term housemate was seriously into it and I was cool with my house being gamer central.

    He hated “Magic: the Gathering”. He had jokes such as:
    “Magic: the Gathering, crack for role-players”

    Q: why is crack better than Magic: the Gathering?
    A: because crack will eventually kill you.

    (And I am not disclosing how out of date my gravatar pic is ;) )

  57. KLar
    Posted September 11, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Pro-tip:

    When dismantling the privilege and entitled, self-congratulatory mentality of others, avoid statements like:

    I’m quite happy to make criticisms of taste based on what I think are fairly objective standards of excellence. I do this not only because I have considerable expertise in cultural pursuits…

    Unless that expertise transcends a blue ribbon for “year’s best paen to Australian folk-ways.”

  58. Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo, interesting to see the addiction image coming to the fore again. I know both LE and Yobbo have had a meaningful encounter with the WoW time-sink (and have written about it here and elsewhere), while I struggle to exhibit any long-term loyalty to things like tv series or even books by the same author (this after I’ve read one that I think is good, which means I should read another; most other people do).

  59. Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Gaming can be an addiction indeed: friends have suffered the WoW time-sink. (My experience of WoW is mainly limited to WoW porn–remembering that the internet is for porn.) A friend of a friend basically reduced his life to WoW. There are many positive reinforcements involved, after all.

  60. Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    For those interested, my main source of WoW porn is here (not worksafe).

  61. Dude
    Posted September 12, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve never been here before and I’m also not sober (though I shan’t say what on), but I staggered over here from Pharyngula.

    All of these things bother me for various reasons, notably that I’m in somewhat of an existential crisis regardless… and then these posts pop out at me from the blog I go to in order to get some semblance of peace and/or amusement from watching my religious counterparts flail terribly at all possible opportunities.

    For a profound lack of ways to describe how I feel at the moment… see also: confused.

    Last night, I had a ‘threesome’ with two older women. I’m 21 and they’re 27 and 29, respectively. It was a thrilling time, for certain, but I never really progressed towards overtly sexual things. It was more about … kink … than sex-related things. Prior to this, I’d had sex four times between two different girls, one which traveled 800 miles to stay with me for an off-week.

    This morning, I was asked if I had sexual intimacy issues. Of course I had been considering that all night anyways – from the moment I started lightly theorizing on the nature of religious repression of sexual/free thought.

    The bizarre part isn’t merely my apathy during the whole thing, but the apathy thereafter. Tonight, I could have been in the same place, doing the same thing. I should have several opportunities during the coming weeks. Yet… I’m uninterested.

    To be sure, I spent a long time as the fabled ‘nice guy’, that one who’s too nice trying to ‘get pussy’ or what have you and failing miserably, growing in bitterness the whole time… actually, ‘emotional pussy’, we’ll say, as I was never really too interested in just casual sex. So… rejections built up, and I’m still bitter, and still lonely…

    …but I obviously do have the capacity to get people interested (in various ways).

    I was one of the referenced ‘geeks’, at one point. Anime, action figures, trading cards, videogames, countless amounts of money spent on shit that was absolutely worthless and useless (I have nothing to show for buying Dragonball GT on VHS – that series sucked and who the hell uses a VHS now, only eight years on?) during my teenage years. I caught the metal disease and turned into a metalhead (which I still am, by the way) but could never have been suspected for the part (I don’t dress very ‘metal’), and ended up detesting anime by the time I made it to college in fall ’09.

    The first two semesters I spent at college were made of both isolation based behaviorisms, and an ever increasing thought that I could very well be a ghost who didn’t really exist to anyone anymore.

    That summer, antidepressants saved me from myself, sort of. I’ll just throw it out there that I was still learning during fall ’10, and I’ve learned pretty well. Not so many videogames anymore, now I do a lot of intoxicating substances (or a couple, anyways), play a lot of guitar, talk a lot, play comedian frequently, daydream continually, and just try to be myself.

    There are conflicts and I do lapse into social ineptitude, but it’s always when I literally have nothing to lose from situations. I mean that in the best way possible. I wouldn’t have been invited for a second round with two women that are known for being ‘difficult’ if I were as socially inept as the ‘gamers’ they consider their (permanently virginal) friends.

    If it weren’t for my profound lack of self-anything, I would probably be successful with relationships (I’ve never been in anything but an internet relationship, sexcapades aside)… I have opportunities now. I know there are people who want me. I can count at least three for sure – two of them being what I consider ‘good’ options – and there’s at least one who could be interested.

    Women think I’m funny, attractive, charming, witty, knowledgable, interesting, chill, and whatever else. I’m lonely. I hate being alone. Why am I not moving in? I’m not afraid to. I’m finally wanted because I’ve long been on a path of self-improvement, but now I’m totally apathetic to everyone. I do still desire a relationship, but I’m apathetic about actually acting on it.

    I don’t get it. I shouldn’t be like this.

    Don’t forget about people like me. Those of us who have finally gotten over social ineptitude in the public (real life) sphere, those of us who are new people but don’t feel like it. I know I’m different, but the bitterness and apathy I developed over the long period of time are just… eating at me tonight.

    [EDIT BY ADMIN: we wouldn't normally let this through, on the grounds that it's unfair to expose vulnerability in quite this way, however this comment seems genuine; so if you choose to response to 'Dude', please be gentle--SL].

  62. RipleyP
    Posted September 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    @Kirth post 50, I do like your observation on perception rather than reality.

    I am not overly well positioned in the market re looks so have had to rely on wit and carefully chosen words. I was always jealous of those more socially positioned than I for the perceived ease they experienced.

    I have to wonder if maybe my shade of green may influence this perception. Something for me to think about though and that is always a happy thing, thank you.

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  1. [...] has a great post with great comments on manners and geekdom and victim status as all-purpose excuse for …. There are various manifestations of these atrocious manners, but they seem (to me, at least) to [...]

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  3. By Prodding the feral otaku | Pharyngula on September 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    [...] Skeptic Lawyer has discovered the dirty little secret of nerd boys…only it’s not really a secret. [...]

  4. By Sharing the love « The Lady Garden on September 10, 2011 at 4:07 am

    [...] Skeptic Lawyer on dating geeks In an efficient market, all identical goods must have the same price; however, when there are fewer women than men in a given market (and assuming that most people in that market would like either sex or a relationship), then their relative scarcity presents women with an arbitrage opportunity. [...]

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