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4 Myths About Sex and Women That Prop Up the New Misogyny

The Isla Vista mass murder has shone a spotlight on a weird but influential world where ugly myths flourish.

Trading in myths and misinformation is the bread and butter of any reactionary movement, as is amply demonstrated by the various myths that prop up everything from gun nuttery to the anti-choice movement. Unsurprisingly, then, there’s a great deal of misinformation upholding the troubling trend of new misogyny that festers in everything from “men’s rights” forums to “pick-up artist” communities to the various rape apologists and two-bit woman haters that litter the right wing media landscape. The tragic shooting in Isla Vista, which was committed by a young but hardened misogynist named Elliot Rodger, has shown a spotlight on this weird but influential world where ugly myths about gender and sexuality flourish. Here are some of those myths, some of which influenced Rodger, and why they are so very, very wrong.

1. Evoutionary psychology nonsense. While the more mainstream conservative movement embraces a religious form of misogyny, the new misogyny often prefers to pretend to have a “scientific” rationale for its negative attitudes towards women. Anti-feminist writer James Taranto, who is not a scientist, distilled this theory in the Wall Street Journal, positing that evolution made men and women’s sexual desires complete opposites, with men trying to get away with sex with as many women as possible and women being “hypergamous,” which is the new pseudo-scientific word for “gold digger.” His sole evidence for this theory was a long-discredited 1989 study that showed that men were more quick to say yes to sex with a stranger. 

None of them have stopped pushing the belief that women are disinterested in sex itself, but only use it as a commodity to trade with “high status” men, since pushing this belief allows self-appointed “pick-up artists” to sell dating books and classes to men who want to learn to fake being “high status” to get more sex. Nor do they stop pushing the idea that men are more promiscuous than women, a self-serving myth that allows them to demand chastity in female partners while excusing their own sexual dalliance.

In reality, men and women have roughly the same number of sexual partners over a lifetime. Both sexes are interested in casual sex, but men more readily agree because they both feel less likely to be violently assaulted by a stranger and are more likely to expect the encounter to end in orgasm. Nor are women programmed to be gold diggers. As women’s ability to make their own money has increased, there has been a decline in women seeking richer husbands. Women aren’t preprogrammed to be gold diggers, because the second they’re freed from having to chase rich men, most are happy to date men more like themselves.

2. The “friend zone” nonsense. One of the most pernicious myths of the new misogynists---one that has spread out from misogynist circles into the culture at large in a big way---is that when a woman realizes a man likes her, she deliberately puts him in the “ friend zone,” supposedly exploiting him for love and attention without giving him the sex he believes he has earned. The underlying assumption here is that women don’t want to have sex, and so if she can get attention from men without having sex, she’ll do that, and men are hapless victims of this terrible scheme. Often the man who believe he’s in the “friend zone” also believes the female object of his attention is having sex with other men, who are smart and cruel enough to extract sex by ignoring women and getting those women to try to attract attention by offering sex to get it.  

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