But I'll tell you a story. Growing up I was a sensitive guy with a lot of female friends—girls would call me up "just to talk." Literally: just to talk. By my early twenties I was desperate, sexually and emotionally. So I began reading the advice of these a-hole, sexist pickup artists, whose advice was essentially, "Treat women like shit." And for a little while, I did, I'm sad to say.
The response was almost immediate. I had women brazenly hit on me. The moment I started acting like an a-hole, I began to get the sexual attention I craved. And let me tell you: it fucked me up in the head for a while and distorted my view of women. But I couldn't keep doing that and be okay with myself, and ultimately liking people—men OR women—is a conscious choice we make. And I choose to like women.
You have zero experience dating straight women, so I wouldn't have expected you to encounter this phenomenon. But don't dismiss it. A large percentage of women are sexually attracted to dominant males; that doesn't have to equate to "asshole." But often, it does. I don't think women are shittier than men, but I don't think they're better, either, and this is a fact that 1) makes dating women sometimes unpleasant and 2) is not at all irrelevant to a conversation about gender relations.
Want some evidence of this phenomenon, Dan? It's all over your column.
Although your inbox is surely filled with straight males complaining about how women are attracted to assholes, it's also filled with evidence supporting the gist of some of their complaints. The fact that women are generally attracted to dominant (and often shitty, douche-y) males drips out of the edges of a lot of the correspondence that you publish. I immediately thought about the bi woman who wrote to you about her flawed but cute husband whom she loves but has also friend-zoned, in part because he doesn't order her around. There are other ways to read the letter. That's one of them.
But often evidence of this phenomenon creeps up in the letters you publish. I thought of a particularly illustrative letter, which you published several months ago. The woman was facing a health crisis and was writing to you for advice because she was madly in love with a man you characterized as "shitty, selfish, [and] sadistic." Okay, but she's just one woman, right? The real question is, how do other women respond to this psychopath? The letter-writer supplies an answer: Women throw themselves at him.
Look, you do a fantastic job, and I agree with you most of the time. But honestly, I think that because of the shit you've had to overcome as a member of a persecuted sexual minority, and because you are understandably sympathetic with the real issues confronting women, sometimes when you hear about the issues that face straight men, your gut reaction is simply to say, "Shut the fuck up, whiner!"—even when those frustrations are completely legitimate and rooted in fact.
It's not simply an issue of a man showing a kindness to a woman and expecting her to put out (though clearly this happens); it's that being kind and pro-social in a way that would be lauded in other situations can actively harm a man's chances of sleeping with a woman, whereas being callous, selfish, or cruel can improve those chances. It's the flip-side of the madonna/whore complex—"he's a sweetheart and I love him like my brother" vs. "He's edgy, mysterious, and 'charming in a way that objective people in other contexts would not find remotely charming, and I wanna have sex with him." Men often act shitty towards women, it's true, but women often actively reward shitty male behavior.
Let me ask you this: if a large number of your female readers complained about some aspect of dating men, would you treat them so dismissively? I think that you're really missing out on an opportunity—you could give these men advice on how to overcome their frustrations without turning to the dark side (being assholes), and open up a dialog about this in a way that would actually be constructive.
Necessary Introspection Completely Egalitarian
My response to Help Me Please, the woman facing a health crisis and pining for her shitty, selfish, sadistic boyfriend, included this paragraph...
Don't get me wrong: I sleep with men, I understand the sexual appeal of a man who treats you like shit, I'm a huge Peggy Lee fan. But you can't depend on a guy like that at a time like this. If it turns out you're seriously ill, HMP, you need to lean on family and friends, join a support group, buy one of those vaporizers, and concentrate on getting healthy. And take comfort: If/when your health is restored, there are plenty of shitty, selfish, sadistic guys on the planet who'll treat you badly, cheat on you flagrantly, and—not coincidentally—get you off spectacularly.
I'm not being defensive, NICE, just making it clear that I'm not completely blind to the emotional/sexual/gender dynamic you've unpacked at such great length. Thanks for sharing and I'll give your point some thought.