“We have so many mass shootings in the US, and so much gun violence in general, that those who come to a sweeping conclusion on the basis of any one massacre are playing a fool’s game.
“Yet the facts wrapped up with Tuesday’s rampage at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area nonetheless raise disturbing questions about relations between the sexes in the contemporary United States — and in particular about the complex and ominous interaction of loneliness and rage inside a certain subset of American men.
In focusing on the gendered dimension of the attacks, I’m presuming they weren’t racially motivated hate crimes so much as homicidal misogyny. It’s understandable why people leapt to the other conclusion, given that six of the victims were women of Asian descent and the country has seen a nearly 150 percent spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past year or so. Yet the confession of the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, seems to indicate he didn’t explicitly choose his targets out of racial animus. Rather, he targeted women who worked at the spas he frequented, and those women happened to be Asian. Moreover, if the statement by the Cherokee County Sheriff can be believed, the shooting was proximally provoked by an impulse to lash out at the objects of his lust.
“That would place Long in the vicinity of incels — the “involuntarily celibates” who turn their failures at attracting women into an ideology of virulent misogyny that can inspire real-world acts of violence. Long supposedly frequented these businesses, so he wasn’t celibate. But he apparently confessed to being a sex addict — and his actions on Tuesday demonstrate that he reacted to his own compulsion to seek sexual satisfaction in a form of prostitution (rather than in a stable relationship) by harboring and acting out in rage against the women who serviced him for money.
“Obviously this is the most extreme manifestation of pathological relations between men and women one can imagine. But it’s still worth reflecting on more broadly because its murderous toxicity is a function of a combustible mix of emotions (loneliness, frustration, anger) that are experienced in less sociopathic form by plenty of men who don’t become mass shooters — and because the distinctive way partisan polarization is interacting with sexual differences in our time is likely to produce quite a lot more of these unfulfilled men over the coming years.
“Marriage rates have been falling for years. Men and women are both unhappy with the dating scene. There are numerous reasons for both trends. But one of them is the country’s growing political divide. Joe Biden won women by 15 points in 2020 while Donald Trump won men by 8 points. When this gender gap is combined with increasing cultural and moral animosity between the parties, the possibility of a couple negotiating a cross-partisan relationship or marriage seems increasingly remote.
“A poll from the Pew Research Center found that 47 percent of single adults on the dating scene definitely or probably would not consider being in a committed relationship with someone who had voted for Trump. Twenty-six percent said the same about dating someone who had voted for Hillary Clinton.
That’s a snapshot of a country in which the pool of potential heterosexual partners is quite a bit more constricted than it might first appear. A significant chunk of men are averse to becoming involved with the sizable portion of women who vote for Democrats, and a larger percentage of women apparently want nothing to do with men who support a Trumpified Republican Party.
“There are, of course, plenty of women who vote for Republicans and men who vote for Democrats. But combining the partisan gender divide with the much higher number of people unwilling start a relationship with Trump voters yields a population with relatively fewer dating options for conservative men.
“This is something that the right is aware of and worried about — at least based on a pair of essays published recently in The American Mind, a website run by the Claremont Institute, the intellectual home base for Trumpian conservatives.
“An essay by Helen Roy begins with her noting that when she talks to conservative male friends about their love lives, “the conversation almost always begins and ends with the same sentiment: There are no like-minded women out there for me.” The problem arises from both sides of the partisan divide — “Modern women aren’t into conservatives, and conservatives aren’t into modern women” — but ultimately the women deserve the lion’s share of the blame, she says. That’s because “the kind of woman our society produces is generally quite unpleasant.”
“The political has become personal: relentless feminist indoctrination from an early age has convinced many millennial women that to be sexually and professionally dominant is ideal. Most women are living up to societal expectations, and destroying their own mental health, ability to pair-bond, and procreate in the process. In seeking their political mirror image in women, conservative men see no one. In calling themselves conservative, no one seeks them.” [The American Mind, Damon Linker, pub. in The Week 3/19/21
Tomorrow: What can be done about this dismal situation?