Was Marysville school shooter Jaylen Fryberg trying to exact revenge on a girl who had rejected him? Various news accounts suggest that Fryberg was reeling from a recent breakup; a number of angry, anguished, and frustratingly enigmatic recent comments on Fryberg’s Twitter account seem to back this up.
So it may be that the shootings on Friday were yet another reworking of an old story.
It’s no secret that many men, for an assortment of reasons, react badly and often violently to romantic and sexual rejection. This can range from self-described “nice guys” of OkCupid sending vicious messages to women who say no all the way to angry men who stalk and harass and sometimes kill ex-wives and girlfriends. Women who leave abusive relationships often suffer greater violence at the hands of exes unwilling to let them go.
I’ve written before of the striking ways that Men’s Rights Activism recapitulates the logic of domestic abuse; it’s no coincidence that so much MRA “activism” consists of harassment of individual women. So the question naturally follows: does the rage that drives so many MRAs come from the same dark place in the psyche as the rage that so many romantically and sexually rejected feel towards their exes?
Think of the fury many divorced MRAs feel towards their exes and women at large. Think of the self-pitying rage of “nice guys” MRAs in their teens and twenties who feel they’ve been unfairly “friendzoned” by stuck-up women.
As I pondered the tragedy in Marysville, I found myself thinking again about a disturbing short story written by A Voice for Men’s Paul Elam several years ago (and which I posted about recently).
In the story, you may recall, a jilted husband tells the other men in an anger management group session just what had landed him there. His story, as rendered by Elam, is a melodramatic and often mawkish tale of a man betrayed by a narcissistic “hypergamous” wife who left him for his business partner while he had been out of town at the funeral for his father. Oh, and she stole all his money, to boot. (Elam is not what you’d call a subtle writer.)
When the story’s hero finally confronts his ex, whom he finds ad his business partner’s house, she comes to the door in a nightie and tells him she left him because he just wasn’t cutting it in the sack. Then she makes a point of refusing to kiss him goodnight (and goodbye) because, she tells him sadistically, he probably wouldn’t like “the taste of another man’s cock on her lips.”
And so, the hero tells the other angry men in his group, he punched her in the nose so hard he broke it.
It’s clear Elam identifies wholly and completely with the hero, and we are supposed to see his punch as a form of righteous justice administered to his sadistic, emasculating ex.
There are a lot of angry divorced men in the MRM – including some with several divorces in their past. The standard MRA explanation is that these men come to the Men’s Rights movement after being “raped” — their word, not mine – in divorce court, or kept apart from their children by angry exes.
But I don’t think that’s it. Many of the angriest don’t even have any children. I suspect that the rage they feel is more like the rage of Elam’s hero – a rage borne out of a deep sense of sexual humiliation and the loss of control over the women who have rejected and abandoned them.
The anger of many younger MRAs seems to have a similar psychosexual source. These are the young men who rage against “friendzoning” and wax indignant about “false rape accusations” and “yes means yes.” In their mind, women are the “gatekeepers” of sex, and this frustrates and sometimes enrages them.
On some level they feel that women are collectively depriving them of the sex that they deserve, and they feel resentful they have to, in their mind at least, jump through so many hoops to get it. Some, I suspect, think that there’s no way they can actually “get” sex without cutting a few corners, consent-wise, and resent feminists for making this harder for them.
The self-righteous rage of the rejected is a dangerous thing. It’s dangerous when it’s directed at individual women. And it’s dangerous when it’s directed at women at large.