The Personalist Project

The murder-by-vehicle of eight women and two men in Toronto last week has been connected to an internet subculture of "incels"--men who consider themselves victimized by their "involuntary celibacy" and gather in online communities to commiserate and vent their frustrations, even to the point of advocating violence against women. 

As one writer who tracks internet subcultures describes it:

Instead of encouraging them to move on from their disappointments, the incel subculture encourages young men to stew in their own bitterness. Instead of encouraging them to learn from their mistakes, the incel subculture encourages young men to blame “Chad and Stacy”— but especially Stacy — for their lack of love and sex. Instead of encouraging those who need professional help to get it, incel culture tells young men that their problems are unfixable — that they are simply too ugly for anyone to ever love.

It may take an extreme combination of factors to drive a man to the point of mass murder, but what struck me most, reading about this ideology, is how self-victimizing and destructive it is in even its mildest forms. 

Incels complain that women are dishonest when they claim to want "nice guys." They obsess over "alpha" and "beta" status and resent women for ending up with "alphas" or "Chads" while they are consigned to beta status forever.  

It's been pithily observed before that if you're being a "nice guy" because you want women to sleep with you, it might be true that you're not really all that "nice." A friend observed to me that he winces whenever he sees someone comment that men who treat women as equals get more sex, because "that shouldn't be the point."

And he's right. It's shouldn't be about whether or not women want "nice guys."

First of all, individual women want all kinds of things, some healthy and some unhealthy, and there's no one single formula to describe what all women will find attractive in a man.

What can be said is this: men and women who are authentic, who seek genuine connection, who are comfortable with themselves and genuinely interested in other people----those "whole-hearted" men and women who are able to bear the risk of vulnerability for the reward of authenticity and honesty----these people have a better chance of finding fulfillment and meaning in the relationships they do have, romantic or not. 

Yes, it sucks to feel rejected, to have your heart broken. Opening your heart comes with risks, and there are no guarantees. You can do everything right, with the best intentions, and be hurt by someone else's choices.

But being hurt isn't the worst fate. It sucks worse to become so stuck within your own bitterness that you can't even see the people around you except through the distorted lens of your own despair and anger. Heartbreak is lonely, but it is far lonelier to build your heart up into a self-protective fortress with walls built of bitterness and fear. 

Hiding behind our walls, we can lose sight of the wonder of the landscape around us. We are surrounded by marvels. Each man, woman, and child is an entire universe of wonders and potential, of unique experience and unrepeatable perspective. Each person is a new world that can never be plundered to barrenness, a horizon that reveals new vistas even as it retreats towards new skylines of subjectivity.

If you can see that, if you can truly *see* the people you encounter every day, the idea of measuring status or worth by sex or money or accomplishments becomes ridiculous. Whether or not expressing interest in a person ends in a romantic or sexual attachment is beside the point.

The person is the point.

It's not about what being a nice guy gets you. It's about who you become when you stop worrying about what you can get out of every interaction. It's about treating people as persons, and persons as infinitely precious and worthy of wonder....yourself included.

Don't settle for being "nice."

Be whole-hearted. Be open. Be true. Be fearless.

BE, without fear.

Comments (1)

Rhett Segall

#1, May 4, 2018 12:09pm


Eros's power and enchantment is the reason certain cultures and contexts insisted on chaperons and arranged marriages. A great deal of maturity is needed for eros to be integrated into philos and agape. One of the reasons men use sexually derogatory terms towards women is that it gives men a sense of superiority towards women who are reduced to anatomical parts and whose rejection of a man can be laughed at with the right put down.

The way towards integration is the tried and true ways of friendship, sacraments, prayer and self-knowledge.

A word about self-knowledge. In the film "Tootsie"  Julie(Jessica Lange) tells her friend  Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman) that she wishes guys would just be up front and say "I want to sleep with you" rather than playing games. Michael (aka Tootsie/Hoffman) at a party says to Julie "I want to sleep with you."Julie summarily throws a drink in Michael's face. I don't think Julie was being twofaced. Rather I think she really hadn't learned how towork with eros and philos.

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