liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
[personal profile] liv
This is liable to be controversial, and I should emphasise that I'm trying to work out what to think here, not proclaiming the right answers.

So it happens that the latest Captain Awkward discussion is about loneliness and how it can be a vicious cycle, if you don't have enough fulfilling social contact you can become miserable and self-hating and push people away or think everyone's out to get you.

The Awkward Army are being very good at firmly squashing the idea that all problems are just caused by bad attitudes, and pointing out that plenty of people have disabilities or external circumstances meaning they can't "just" make more friends. But still, loneliness is one of those types of suffering that people seem to treat as mostly the sufferer's own fault; the most comparable example I can think of is physical fitness. Like somehow, if you're likeable enough, whatever likeable means, in a fallaciously just world you should have as many friends and lovers as you wish. But that means it's very common to assume that anyone who complains about being lonely must in fact be an obnoxious person. And problems which are stigmatized like that are particularly hard to tackle!

The other thing is that "lonely" means two related, but to my mind different, things. Sometimes it means not having enough social contact, but sometimes it means not having a romantic partner. Or perhaps more precisely, the feelings of sadness and inadequacy that come from not having those connections. A really striking example is the guy in the Captain Awkward comments who says
The article is bull. I am horribly lonely. I shoot pool with friends once a week. I go to church every week. I go out to a party every month. I am active in two local communities. I have hundreds of friends [...]
I mean, sure, it's possible to be lonely in a crowd, but it's clear from the rest of the comment and subsequent thread that what's eating this guy is that he's middle-aged and doesn't have and never has had a romantic partner. And being stuck without a partner but wanting one means being perceived as a failure, to an extent that really worries me.

I think loneliness is a very serious problem, and from what I can understand a pretty widespread one. Some people are lonely because they're obnoxious, yes, but it's still a problem; you have to be a lot worse than just obnoxious to deserve how miserable it can be to be deprived of meaningful contact and emotional support. Anyway, lots of entirely lovely people are lonely because they have other stuff going on making it hard to make friends, or because they're just plain unlucky. That includes the not having a spouse-type partner side of being lonely. It's easy enough to say that marriage isn't everything, that people should be able to manage without that specific type of relationship set-up, but the fact is that lots of parts of society are set up so that it's really hard to function at all if you're not in a romantic dyad. Also, it's perfectly reasonable for an individual to want that in their life, even if it's not necessarily the only road to happiness for everybody.

This issue also intersects with gender stuff; people of all genders can be lonely, and people of all genders can be excluded because they don't have a spouse or aren't romantically "successful" as society measures it. But I'm getting the strong impression that there are aspects of this problem that affect men specifically, and that there are very few sensible conversations covering male experiences of loneliness. I doubt we can magically fix this, but I'd most certainly like to start some discussion if I can.

One thing that prompted me to think about related issues is Lis Coburn's essay Anatomy of a scar, which has an original and really insightful take on what's sometimes called the Nice Guy™ phenomenon. In some ways Coburn is much more sympathetic than a lot of the folk on the internet who use the term Nice Guy™, while she also buys into the idea that Nice Guys, men who are upset because they don't have a girlfriend even though they do their best to behave decently and treat women well, are potentially dangerous misogynists.

The thing is, I don't doubt that there are some misogynists who think that attractive women "owe" them sex in exchange for basic human decency. I've seen them around on the internet, there are plenty of people who will take over any comments section of any vaguely feminist discussion and post angry screeds to dating sites and so on to complain how it's not fair that they're not getting laid. I also understand the need for spaces where women can vent and share stories about awful sexist men. But I'm really uncomfortable with some of the name-calling that goes on in overtly feminist spaces, Nice Guy™, neckbeard, dudebro, teh menz etc. Partly because I am generally a fluffy sort of person and I don't like calling my political opponents names, but mainly because I am worried about conflating all lonely single men with opponents of feminism.

I strongly suspect that groups like pick-up artists and so-called men's rights activists are in fact preying on such lonely, vulnerable men. Yes, those groups are more of a problem for women because they (more or less tacitly) promote sexual assault, but if Coburn's piece is right, men who did the only thing they know to make themselves worthy of love, and it failed, and now they’re afraid that no one will ever love them are being exploited by these manipulators. Clearly, it's a myth and a damaging myth that men who meet the minimum requirements for manhood will eventually meet a woman who will do [their emotional] work for them. She’ll comfort them when they’re sad, soothe them when they’re angry, and take away their loneliness and pain. But if you can tell yourself that this scenario used to be true in some romanticized time in The Past, and now it isn't any more because feminism, that's a lot less scary than thinking that you're simply not worthy of love.

In theory, feminism ought to be good for this problem. It ought to be helpful to break down gender roles such that men don't have to constantly live up to this impossible standard of manliness, where success is measured by whether you can "get" a woman. The more feminist a society is the smaller the problem where men have to do all the initiating and approaching in all kinds of romantic and sexual interactions, leaving them vulnerable to being rejected, which is perceived as being found wanting, not living up to this imaginary standard. Feminism means that women can choose partners for themselves, not superficial qualities like wealth or status. Now obviously helping lonely men to find partners isn't going to be the main priority of a feminist movement, but I don't think the problem of men being lonely is antithetical to feminist goals.

I agree with Coburn's proposed solution that:
Instead of waiting for a single relationship to fix everything, the way to take the edge off that desperation for a significant other is to build and enrich ones in other roles. Someone may not be the person who will love you forever, but with them you can still work on the process of letting someone care about you and learning to believe that you have value.
I am absolutely one hundred percent in favour of taking some of the weight away from monogamous, romantic, heteronormative, marriage-like relationships. I'm a great fan of Meg Barker who's doing some really good work trying to figure out a better model for relationships. I want to see a lot more regard for non-romantic friendships, for non-dyadic romances, and for communities. (This is almost certainly a different post, but a lot of the reason why I'm involved in religious communities is because I don't see a lot of other places where people who are not particularly charismatic or outgoing can find a group of people they can rely on for emotional and practical support.)

However, identifying something as a social problem more than an individual failing doesn't mean that the answer is simply "fix society"; people have to live in the society that currently exists while that fixing is still going on. While marriage does carry such a disproportionate burden of meeting people's needs, it is genuinely hard to go through life unpartnered, and people who are upset about this are not wrong to be upset. Yes, you can have friends and chosen family as well as a partner who's supposed to provide all your social support. But you're still missing something if you don't have someone to come home to, someone to be part of your life even when you're not being specifically "social". Yes, you can have sex with people you're not in an ongoing official relationship with, but lots of people don't find that emotionally appealing even if it were more socially acceptable. Yes, you can be emotionally open to people other than romantic partners, but it really goes against social expectations, especially for men. Yes, you can raise children as a single parent, but parenting really is much better as a multi-adult job, and besides most men don't have the option to get pregnant and I imagine it's a major uphill struggle for a single man to convince the powers that be that he's the right person to adopt a kid. The idea that you can take on all domestic and personal tasks unaided relies on a lot of unexamined assumptions; unless you're either richer or a lot more functional than many people, preferably both, it may in fact be impossible to be what's called "independent", to be your own household without ongoing practical support.

So I think a lot of people who worry about being rejected a lot, or who struggle with approaching potential partners, are much more genuinely scared than they are entitled. Absolutely, one hundred percent, no specific individual owes you a relationship or a date or sex or emotional support. But it totally is terrifying to be afraid you're not good enough at what is after all a mostly arbitrary game to have a chance of finding someone. And it doesn't do to be glib, there's no point saying there's someone out there for everyone, cos there really isn't, some people in fact never find a life partner or never have any satisfying romantic relationship at all. It's quite often not random bad luck that leads to this outcome, it's people who are disadvantaged more generally who are also disadvantaged in the marriage market (and boy is "market" a terrible model for partner-finding!)

It's perhaps a more minor problem, but it is something of a problem, that the fact of strongly wanting sex or intimacy or a relationship is itself devaluing. I really wish "needy" weren't an insult, it's completely normal and human to need others! Of course it's not pleasant for a potential partner to feel like somebody's entire happiness and self-worth rests on their acceptance, and it's absolutely not acceptable to get angry with a particular person, or with women in general, for not choosing the kind of emotional connection one wants. Also, confusing "sex" with "intimacy" or, to quote Coburn again, magical ability I believe to women have to fix me and make me feel loveable is a really really bad idea for all concerned. It's still kind of a horrible double bind, though, that the more you want a relationship which if not absolutely essential to happiness and wellbeing is pretty important, the more you're likely to be rejected.

I've read somewhere, I can't remember if it was a respectable source or not, that in situations where women have relative equality, men are much more keen on marriage and have much more to gain from it, than in sexist situations where women really need to marry as the only source of economic security and social respectability. A sociologist colleague at work has mentioned current research showing that, in properly anonymous interviews and surveys, men are about equally likely as women to be broody, desperate to have a child, or deeply sad about never becoming parents. But there's really not much acceptable social structure for men to express those kinds of things, we have a stereotype of women having a "biological clock" and women over 30 being marriage-fixated, while men sort of only reluctantly agree to marriage and parenting because it's the only way to get access to women. My anecdotal experience supports this view; I know plenty of men for whom marriage and parenthood are really, really important, and it's not because they feel "entitled" to someone who will wait on them and do all their emotional work. Many people, regardless of gender, really want the kind of life partner relationship that really doesn't have all that many good alternatives in our society, and many struggle to find someone willing to commit to that.

I'm in a somewhat weird position, because although I do have the wherewithal to cope just fine without a romantic relationship, I have in fact been single for less than a fifth of my adult life. So I'm absolutely and completely the wrong person to assert that people who are sad because they don't have a partner should just learn to be satisfied with other sources of happiness and connection. I also feel like I have some experience of being attracted to women who not only don't reciprocate my feelings, but find the whole idea of my having a sexuality disgusting. And believe me, plenty of straight women have experience with being rejected or friendzoned or mocked for wanting a partner. So I sometimes roll my eyes at men who declare that women can't possibly understand how hard it is to be unsuccessful at dating. Equally, I strongly suspect there are aspects of that experience that are simply invisible to me, and I would very much like to hear more about them. Anon comments, as ever, welcome, and I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts, whether it's first hand experience of being male or not.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-30 07:09 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth
Lots to think about. Will need to go away and process.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-30 09:51 pm (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (normal)
From: [personal profile] damerell
I completely agree that PUAs etc exploit lonely men.

(That's not to say the process doesn't turn said lonely men into lonely misogynists, or that the results of that process are no less dangerous or responsible for their own actions than men who started as misogynists, etc, etc.)

One doesn't have to read much PUA stuff to realise there's an awful lot of money in it. Books, courses, "relationship coaches"... if nothing else, eyes on the advertising on one's repugnablog (or, indeed, just the satisfaction of eyes on one's repugnablog). It's no different to the irresistible pheremone perfumes in the 80s; it's snake oil, and like most snake oil it's got a fat price tag.

I think the point was driven home to me when reading one of the occasional newspaper articles where the reporter is clandestinely on a PUA course which inevitably end with the sad conclusion that, by golly, this stuff works, we went to a nightclub and such-and-such a proportion of us got kisses, numbers, sex, or conversation with an actual woman who is not desperately trying to get away. Being a cynic, my immediate suspicion on reading that is that at a couple of thousand pounds a head and doubtless reliant of word of mouth for marketing, hiring a dozen sex workers as shills (most of whom won't even have to have sex with the marks) for one night is going to be routine procedure. You might even keep a few shills on retainer who might recognise marks returning to the nightclub; it's good for the nightclub as well because these marks (who we already know have more money than sense) turn up and buy their overpriced drinks.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-06 11:33 am (UTC)
damerell: (dating)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Or, indeed, suppose I am an independent lass, not a shill, who's skint enough not to mind being bought drinks by lonely men in return for conversation and finds it useful to go to a nightclub where regular supplies of same turn up. Assuming PUAs are allowed to buy drinks.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-30 09:55 pm (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
But it's true that you can't date that guy. That guy would be incredibly awful to date. So probably no one's going to date him until he changes something. Maybe it's not his fault, but...no one else can change it for him!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 04:50 pm (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
Thing is, every solution that boils down to "women should be nicer to men and think more about how they must feel!" has already been tried TO EXHAUSTION. I mean. It Has Been Done. Giving him a chance has been done. Assuming that he's just socially awkward has been done. It continues to be done. Every day. If it was going to work, it would have worked by now. I think perhaps it is time for men to be nicer to women and think more about how we must feel. I'm not even joking. You can look up a lot of sources about how practicing empathy for others is a path to feeling better in yourself as well.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 09:45 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
*headtilt*

You're brilliant at being nice & considerate to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 09:45 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Oh wow, I'd never thought to frame it like that, but good call!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-30 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] khronos_keeper
Okay, and here I don't mean to be missing the point entirely or diverting discussion away from your main points, but I'd also like to offer a companion theme to this: alternate romantic and/or sexual preferences.

To me, as a single 27 yr old female who has never had a romantic or sexual partner, and so far has never wanted one or felt the need for one, I am a bit... perplexed? By some of this? It's not that I'm defective in any way, it just that now being a single woman is a viable life path for me, one that society acknowledges and permits.

Namelessness and loneliness in modern society has been a pervasive problem since we've started transitioning from agricultural to industrial to technological societies. I suppose something to anchor to in a spouse or partner is part of this, but I feel that distilling it down into sexual or romantic loneliness is a bit glib.

I think feelings of inadequacy are a different bag from loneliness, though they can co-exist. They aren't part and parcel, though, and I think it might be a shady road to go down to conflate the two.

Human beings are social creatures. Modern Western society is, however, more and more fragmented and segmented, and the result is that people feel unconnected with their lives, and with themselves. Our traditional expectations of gender and marriage are rooted in agricultural societies' teachings, while we ourselves live in an information society-- and the realities of those societies are completely different.

Loneliness is practically a condition of modern society. But there's more to it than just romance and sex, it's an entire cultural disconnect. I think people without the adequate tools can only see parts of the picture, but being fragmented from the larger picture is part of the problem anyway.

Erm. Yeah this was all over the place. D: But I feel there are two different arguments with similar underpinnings in your post, so I'm not sure how to succinctly address them in one response.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 04:54 pm (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
I need to jump in with a bit of cheerleading for modern Western society, and everything post-hunter-gatherer in general! I was reading an article (I can't find it right now, sorry) written by an anthropologist who was staying with some modern-day hunter-gatherers, and he met this one guy who didn't quite click with his family group. And it was terrible for him, because he wasn't just lonely. In a group that relies on that kind of close cohesion to eat, he was starving to death, because people wouldn't share with him. It turns out really close societies don't mean there are no lonely people. It means the lonely people die.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 08:11 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] khronos_keeper
Oh yeah, I totally agree that being outside the social norm in agricultural and pre-ag societies has much more drastic consequences than it does for modern/post modern society. When social norms are constructed around a reality so damn close to the bone for survival, when your social group is so close, then you really don't have a choice than to just give in and conform.

So yeah, a lot of what I meant by post modern society being segmented and fragmented isn't necessarily a bad thing! It mean everyone has all of these incredible possibilities that didn't exist before (for example, I'm a single 27 yr old woman pursuing a PhD; in my genetive agricultural society, this is very very atypical), and they can find a reality that fits closer to something that they identify for themselves.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-30 10:35 pm (UTC)
ghoti: fish jumping out of bowl (Default)
From: [personal profile] ghoti
My issues regarding lack-of-partner may be a little more practical. Maybe that's not the right word.

There is the loneliness factor, sure. There is also the lack of human contact factor. *shrug* I've gone out on enough dates to know that I'm overly picky when it comes to potential partners, and I'm more or less at the point that I've stopped actively looking for one.

But as a single person, I struggle with the fact that much of the world is designed for pairs (or other even numbers of people), and I am regularly left out of that.

(There is also a small voice in the back of my head that regularly asks "What if g-d forbid I fall down the stairs and break my neck on a Friday afternoon? It will be Monday mid-day before someone even thinks to look for me.")

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 01:31 am (UTC)
lilysea: Serious (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilysea
Another type of loneliness: when you see a lot of acquaintances/superficial friends, but they're not people you feel safe being open and honest with eg they're judgemental, their values don't mesh with yours.

I don't have this now, but I remember years ago, after moving to a new city... I was seeing people face to face a LOT, but I was still so bitterly lonely, because the people I was seeing face to face didn't feel safe to be myself around.
recessional: a young woman with short hair, tattoos and hoop earrings in a tank-top with a bottle of alcohol (personal; aren't hard to find)
From: [personal profile] recessional
but mainly because I am worried about conflating all lonely single men with opponents of feminism.

The thing is, you don't actually have to be a raging doucheball grouching and spewing sexist bullshit all over the place to quite effectively be a major problem to women in a way that is steeped in cultural misogyny and harmful in a specifically sexist way, especially since in wider culture, that model is by no means as yet held in disapproval, nor is even the milder reaction of denigrating women's choices in a sad tone of voice rather than a vitriolic one uncommon.

So I absolutely don't disagree with you that the assholes are preying on men who are lonely and legitimately miserable. It doesn't change the fact that they think the right response to it is to start learning techniques that are literally about (among other things) actively attacking women's self-esteem in order to manipulate them into bed, or the fact that even stopping to think for a second about women as actual human beings (rather than an alien species with the key to your emotional well-being between their legs) would tell you that's uncool (and misogynistic).

And I end up worrying about the cost of explaining that gap and once again fixing men's emotions . . . falling on women. I have a lot of sympathy for loneliness, isolation and self-hatred, gods know! But unhappiness on their part does not an obligation on my part make - especially if they're not meeting halfway by, you know, not treating me like a prize for them to be rewarded with. Which they still are, even if their reasons for doing so are super understandable, and it's still not okay.

(Pragmatically, I'd actually be fine with being the gods own explainer . . . if I didn't know I was significantly likely to basically get called a humourless feminazi even by men who are perfectly nice anyway, or "too touchy" or "sensitive" or "mean" or whatever. Which I have got from a fucklot of places. So.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 03:34 pm (UTC)
recessional: a young brunette leaning back and smoking (personal; it's death or victory)
From: [personal profile] recessional
Heee! And here I am not talking about those bits - mostly because there's nothing there I disagree with. ;) Up to and including I think it's totally valid to experience the specific loneliness that comes from not having a life-partner.

I think the big thing is for me that the men who react that way to me aren't the loud-aggressive-MRA types: they're normal guys I otherwise quite like who nonetheless hit that state and move into those responses when told these things - up to and including "it'd be nice if you were careful when approaching women you don't know, because of these factors that make unknown men a risk" or "women often feel unable to say flat 'no's because of the negative and aggressive reactions they get when they do" ending up in a fifteen minute discussion of how women are awful and judgemental - because of the attitudes they're entrenched with.

Is it true that men who blame women for their loneliness with a sad affect rather than an angry one receive social approval?

Outside feminist spaces on the internet? Fuck yes. Actually outside feminist spaces on the internet, the angry ones get social approval, very, very often, and even more often they get "well I mean sure he's being a dick about it, but he's got a point, I mean, what is it with women?"

I'm also a little more jaundiced than you, I think - "sad affect", as far as I'm concerned, can absolutely be a manipulative weapon designed to trap people into doing what you want even when they really don't want to do it. Ironically this is a twitch I have more because of women than of men, but it still holds: "woe is me I am so miserable and sad because girls won't sleep with me and I'm so lonely and it's so hard, women make things so hard" may not be as bad as the ones who threaten to kill us, but the reality remains that the intent is to make women feel bad for something that isn't even remotely their responsibility, let alone their moral fault.

All of which makes me sound more hardcore about this in practice than I really am: I have a lot of time and patience for the ways in which we fuck ourselves up with false intentions, and a lot of concern for how patriarchy damages men as well as women - I have a father, I have cousins, I could one day have a son, if only for those reasons that matters to me a lot*. But much like I have a lot of sympathy for the fact that a lot of the bad behaviour of the four year old I look after is rooted in being four and having poor emotional regulation and so on, that doesn't change the fact that a) it's bad behaviour, b) it's going to have consequences, c) it's unacceptable and d) sometimes those consequences are going to make her very, very upset.

So it's complex; I'm just concerned that it's very easy given the climate of these things outside specific, rather rarified atmospheres (aka the corner of the internet I so happily inhabit) for things to end up very much on the "and now women will be emotionally responsible for easing lonely men out of their misapprehensions that cause them to be awful to women", because we're so used to women being (as Coburn notes) responsible for male emotions.

So it's fraught and it's not simple, just like most of these things aren't. And as my footnote suggests I think there are absolutely times when feminist spaces stray into uncool behaviours. I just think it's also important to note how the social-approval deck is stacked out there in most of the world, and what that means, and who's actually responsible for what.

I have deep sympathy for the way the patriarchy fucks men up. I have absolutely no sympathy for frustration due to the belief that if I would only fuck them, they'd get better. Where there's a chance to have a useful discussion about how working to ditch the latter belief would help both genders and how there needs to be some way to address that sense of self-worth etc, I'm there; where it's another round of "but really it's very hard to be male and so women should be nicer", I so am not.

*it also ties in really seriously with mental health stuff in that suicide is one of the top causes of death for men. And I have a lot of feelings and opinions about that and about how feminism is often seriously shit at dealing with the intersection of mental health period, let alone dealing with the mental health axis when it comes to men. Cf: Captain Awkward's rather horrifying "let's be absolutely vicious to a male anxiety sufferer trying to figure shit out" moment

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 06:57 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
I think there's an important distinction here between being asked to actively do something to fix something, and being asked to refrain from actively making things worse. Or asking people, when they're actively making things worse, to be mindful of what they're doing.

In a sense, everyone does have some small responsibility to help fix things, in that people have a duty to financially support the healthcare system, and fixing men's emotions re ... is totally a valid use of NHS counsellors' time.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 09:07 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
It's perhaps a more minor problem, but it is something of a problem, that the fact of strongly wanting sex or intimacy or a relationship is itself devaluing. I really wish "needy" weren't an insult

I guess the issue is that I really don't want to be involved (on any level) with someone who is more interested in "being involved with someone" than they are in *me*...

Of course it's hard to get out of the lonely-trap once you're in it if you can't do it by going up to people and directly asking them to be part of your life because that's like... totally weird. But a big way that people meet new people is via the people they already know, especially once they are older (as a student I think I had a lot more opportunities to meet new people just by showing up to stuff that looked interesting). Maybe what society needs is more social things that it's totally acceptable to show up to when you don't know anyone there already, I guess religious settings are pretty good for that but you could have groups based around anything really.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 11:23 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Sometimes it means not having enough social contact, but sometimes it means not having a romantic partner.

Yeah. Although I would go broader, and say that there are multiple aspects of social contact of which romantic partner is a major one, but "lonely" could apply to any.

What I'm getting from your post is, the articles linked suggest loneliness is often a destructive spiral: if you want to meet friends but have some internal or external obstacle, you're likely to be more focused on it, which can put people off, and eventually become bitter, which makes it increasingly hard to do so. So wherever it starts, you can sometimes genuinely want to be a social person, but get stuck in a rut of ruining it until they're able to dig out.

And the same can apply to someone who wants a romantic relationship -- either a sexual relationship, or a long-term emotional relationship, or someone to have children with, or some combination. And some people figure it out, and some people are naturally ok without or manage to cope, but some people get more and more bitter which just makes the problem worse -- and some (but not all) of those people start to act out and some become dangerous.

Is that a fair summary? Because it sounds like an accurate description to me.

Part II

Come to think of it, a feminist way of putting it might be, "people are equally likely to be frustrated with life, but patriarchal attitudes most people share mean that frustrated men are more likely to cause a lot of harm"?

ETA: Like, there's a spectrum from "people who are frustrated that they don't have any romantic success, but don't let it overtake their life" to "people who are frustrated that they don't have any romantic success, and start to take advantage of people" to "people who are frustrated that they don't have any romantic success, and eventually it becomes an excuse to be seriously violent". And it's maybe ambiguous whether "Nice Guy" means anyone who's frustrated, or people who start acting like horrible jerks because of it, or both...?

Part III

Come to think of it, would Miles Vorkosigan be a good example of a nice Nice Guy? He's constantly frustrated by his handicaps in society meaning he doesn't expect romantic success, even though he's set an exceptionally high bar for himself. And he goes on being like that, even when he's had a typically-successful romantic life. And when he sees an opportunity for it, he tends to blind himself and act recklessly, with bad consequences for those around him (both with Eli and Ekaterine and very nearly earlier with Elena). But he gets lucky and those relationships mostly turn out well anyway, partly because of luck, and partly because he accepts consequences of his actions, and is an overall an honorable, ethical person, and if you weren't reading inside his head, you might not notice how on-edge he can be.
Edited Date: 2014-07-31 11:26 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 03:06 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I'd add Taura to your list of people who have bad consequences from being the subject of Miles' obsessions

Did that turn out badly? I'd assumed that despite the rather cringeworthy way they first got together, it turned out well for both of them.

I also think he's mostly quite good at respecting women as people, not just potential providers of the thing he terribly lacks in his life, and he very very much doesn't pursue people who are not attracted to him

This is true all the way through. Although, while (once he gets past teenage years), he's not someone consumed with sex, he does get obsessed about marriage: he proposes to Elli and Ekaterine very forcefully, when they're not that interested...

That's a bit of a different problem from only bothering to be nice to people if you hope they'll reward you with sex, I think.

I think I'm tripped up again by the breadth of meaning in "nice guy". I thought of the archetypal nice guy as someone who was scared to express romantic attraction, so hung around being friendly and resenting nothing coming of it -- whether or not he was misanthropic to everyone else, or actually a pleasant friend to everyone else, but is stuck in the habit of going into "nice" mode when he's with someone he's attracted to. So that particular niceness is fake, but he's not necessarily not-nice as a whole. But maybe the opposite is more what people usually mean.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 03:39 pm (UTC)
recessional: a photo image of feet in sparkly red shoes (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I think the crux of the Nice Guy is: who is he blaming for his lack of romantic success, and does he feel he is owed romantic (and specifically sexual) success due to his Wonderful Personality?

The Nice Guy is the one going "why do women only ever fall for JERKS, when I'm SO NICE ANDKIND - they're SO SHALLOW, I thought YOU might be DIFFERENT but you're JUST LIKE THEM"; he's the one buying gifts or spending time not even with the aim of making the other person happy, but because those things will literally buy him the right to their love and sexual attention, and then actively resents and is angry when this does not happen.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 04:26 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
I think this is good and useful, worth pursuing further; I'm glad that someone has the courage to do this.




(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 10:52 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
assumed to have nasty motives - this is a complicated issue. People aren't perfect, anger and frustration often end up aimed at the wrong targets. One very hard thing to do is to cop to a smaller thing while defending yourself against accusations of a larger thing. Or times when you think, "I've got some legitimate frustrations here, but possibly I'm being a bit of a jerk too".

Some things can only really be said in the privacy of a therapist's office, and even then only haltingly and with a string of disclaimers beforehand...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 09:53 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Hah, I read this and instantly went "this is why I need to live with someone", so I was entertained to see that my thing about functionality/self-sufficiency helped spark it!

But - I absolutely do need to live with someone. It doesn't by a very long shot have to be romantic, but if I'm living alone my sleep and meal schedules get much worse, as does everything else. I just - the quiet moments in the corners, where you laugh at something on the internet and can call through to the other room; casual affectionate contact during the washing-up; and so on.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 11:06 am (UTC)
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Yep. That One Gent is currently having a work crisis, and this means that he's dropped off on prompting me to eat while he focusses on getting himself through that in one piece - but that's okay because he's not the only person doing that job.

And then Flippa is making a point of explicitly checking in with how I'm doing at least once a day, which (1) provides structure for me to build around - this is some of why weekly counselling, in that I'm much better at self-care if I'm having to report on it to someone, and (2) is a useful indication for how critical my situation looks to the external observer, which in turn lets me recalibrate my attitudes to how much I should be "just pushing through". And just... the range of forms it can take, and that someone several hundred miles away asking how my day is going can be the most important aspect of my care at the moment... yeah, the idea that sex fixes everything is just completely alien to me, and not just because of the citalopram side-effects!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 11:08 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(& it would be okay anyway because Not His Job - it's definitely alright for him to not the things - but it is also, crucially, the case that my set-up is such that having a romantic partner not up to handling my care needs solo isn't a crisis for me, because it isn't solely on them, and that's what I mean by "it's okay", or some of it at any rate.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] swaldman
Lots of ideas there, and I'm in a rush so I'll just respond to what I have a straightforward response to:

Yes, "loneliness" absolutely encompasses a number of different feelings. As a bit of personal anecdata, I frequently feel lonley - though I don't ascribe this to unfair-universe so much as I do to geography - but there are distinct, different, feelings for (a) Too long without good friends who I can be myself with; (b) Single too long; (c) Celibate too long
(I don't really count the last as loneliness at all, but it does sort of complete the set)

I think there are lots of things that I could say that are relevant to other bits of your post, about cultural issues around Western courtship behaviour, which I think is a fucked-up mess, and which may be harder on men than women in some contexts but is mostly probably just Bad For Everybody, and especially bad for anybody who isn't good at reading body language & subtext. But all of this would require careful nuanced thought and expression to avoid coming across very badly, so I'm not actually going to try here.
Edited Date: 2014-08-01 05:11 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 07:16 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Picking up on one tiny part of this...

But I'm really uncomfortable with some of the name-calling that goes on in overtly feminist spaces, Nice Guy™, neckbeard, dudebro, teh menz etc.

I am deeply uncomfortable with this too. The root of so many of the problems that women (and people of different ethnic backgrounds, and different sexualities, and different religions, and and and) face comes from people trying to divide the world into "us" and "them". Nothing is fixed at all by reinforcing that artificial divide even if you think you're doing it for enlightened feminist reasons. It makes me want to scream! We're all just people, please stop acting like there are two distinct sides that will never get on with an uncrossable gulf between them.

(You can't say this in internet feminism discussions though, it puts you "on the other side". Nnng.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 07:40 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Er, that's a rant aimed at a hypothetical person on the internet, not at you, in case that wasn't obvious :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-04 10:20 pm (UTC)
nameandnature: Giles from Buffy (Default)
From: [personal profile] nameandnature
pw201 here, I've made this account so that DW doesn't do that annoying thing with links that it does for OpenID commenters.

PUA: Metafilter recently told us that inequality breeds game, where the main link is to a PUA guru complaining that the social equality in Denmark meant that women don't respond to his chat up routine which worked in America (there are a bunch of other interesting links off that post). They don't quite seem to have noticed the bind they've put themselves in, though: if all that stuff about hypergamy is always nonsense and PUA is all a big con, why does it apparently work better in more unequal societies? (Which isn't to say that the PUAs have it all their own way: if it does work better, it gives the lie to the sort of just-so evo-psych stuff that says that hypergamy is some kind of unavoidable instinct).

I've never tried it (I only really read about it on Less Wrong before Eliezer stepped in), but I suspect there's a mixture of good advice (in the sense of efficacious and ethical), advice which crosses an ethical line even if it works, and pure bollocks of the pheromone spray/"How To Pick Up Girls By Hypnosis"/NLP variety. I'd expect the stuff you pay lots of money for to shade more to the latter end of the spectrum.

Feminism means a variety of different things: the lonely geeks would benefit from the equality, not the "check your privilege you mansplaining creepy Nice Guy neckbeard dudebro, you just Don't Get It" part. Unfortunately, the lonely geeks probably spend a lot of time on the Internet and think that the latter is feminism.
Edited (Fix second link) Date: 2014-08-04 10:21 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-05 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
When I was younger I was very much one of those who despaired of ever finding someone to share my life with and so seeing these kind of people on the internet sometimes evokes a feeling that "there but for the grace of God went I". I was lucky enough that the way that I was brought up and the circumstances that I found myself in meant that when I asked myself the question "what's wrong with me" I didn't jump to "they are being unfair" so much as "life is unfair, and I have to deal with that".

I do think it's a problem that there seems to be an assumption that people will couple up, but I really don't know how to go about changing that while actually being in a couple. We are both our own people with our own hobbies and spending time with different sets of friends, but having been on the other side of the divide I know that even that can look not just like a goal but some sort of unattainable state of being to dream about. I try to point out people's assumptions when I notice them but being a fallible human being with assumptions of my own I often fail to spot them. I suppose the best that I can do is just keep going, possibly with trying a bit more to call out bad behaviour when I see it but still supporting those friends of mine who are not where they'd like to be, whether that's in a stereotypical two-person relationship or something else.

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