Prisoners – OF SEX

Ross Douthat — this man has ideas. Fine and good thoughts they are — but I may not agree with them. Take this Santa Barbara spree killer for instance — no I don’t mean literally. You don’t wanna put this guy in your pocket — he could stab your balls.

Twitter movements have been created, think pieces written, and all kinds of cultural phenomena — from Judd Apatow movies to “pickup artists” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” — have been invoked, analyzed and blamed.

And in fairness to the think pieces — I have to be fair, because I’m writing one — in this particular tragedy, the killer’s motives really do seem to have a larger cultural significance.

I’d normally say this poor guy is nuts — but he’s not.

The Santa Barbara killer’s pulsing antipathy toward women, his shame and fury over sexual inexperience — these were amplified horribly by mental illness, yes, but visit the angrier corners of the Internet, wander in comment threads and chat rooms, and you’ll recognize them as extreme versions of an all-too-commonplace misogyny.

You could say he’s a lunatic — but you would be missing the point.

I’ve written before, in the context of the abuse that female writers take online, about this poisoned stream’s potential origins. The Santa Barbara case hints at one such source — the tension between our culture’s official attitude toward sex on the one hand and our actual patterns of sexual and romantic life on the other.

He’s a product of cultural tension — between what Charlize Theron wants and the way Ross Douthat behaves.

The culture’s attitude is Hefnerism, basically, if less baldly chauvinistic than the original Playboy philosophy. Sexual fulfillment is treated as the source and summit of a life well lived, the thing without which nobody (from a carefree college student to a Cialis-taking senior) can be truly happy, enviable or free.

And holy cow we land here, of course. I don’t in the least believe that dorky Hugh Hefner got rich by leading America astray. Middle class America wanted to fuck, really bad, Hugh told them to do it. And they did — surprise. But ever since that day, for dear Ross, the country has been playing a game of blind man’s bluff. As it is dogma with most conservatives, no one can have any sex and remain sane. There’s a legal asylum for such mental illness — it’s known as ‘Marriage.’ And how stoked are you about that?

Meanwhile, social alternatives to sexual partnerships are disfavored or in decline: Virginity is for weirdos and losers, celibate life is either a form of unhealthy repression or a smoke screen for deviancy…

This essay began: where? There was a young man: he had a problem?

…the kind of intense friendships celebrated by past civilizations are associated with closeted homosexuality, and the steady shrinking of extended families has reduced many people’s access to the familial forms of platonic intimacy.

Now we see the root cause of it all — teens horny for platonic intimacy. And it cost the New York Times a week’s salary for Ross to present this pornography of oatmeal.