The Patterns In Mass Shootings and a Conversation About Men

shooting violence photo by joel Bombardier

A look at the patterns in the 70 mass shootings over the last 32 years and how they intersect with the social pressures of masculinity. 

Special thanks to Michael Kasdan and JJ Vincent for their help on this article.

The latest shooting tragedy has happened, as we knew it would—this time a 22 year old college student in Santa Barbara who continues the pattern of young, angry and isolated men committing devastating acts of premeditated violence. All the usual issues are brought forth and held up for discussion. Mental illness. Guns. Alienation. A culture of violence. Men. Women.

All of those are important discussions, of course. As the shootings increase in frequency and grow in devastation we are desperate to figure it out. Like everyone, I’m looking for insights. What I’d like to add to this conversation is to share with you what I saw when I looked back at ALL the mass shootings over the last 32 years to see how they relate to each other. And then added to those the insights we’ve gotten about men from the conversations here on The Good Men Project.

Mother Jones, back in 2012, created a timeline that compiled mass shootings in the US from 1982 to 2012. Since then, there have been at least 8 mass shootings in 2013 and 2014, bringing the total to at least 70. The criteria Mother Jones used to define “mass shootings” (at least four or more dead) can be found here.

Some similarities between the shootings are relatively common knowledge – men were all but one of the shooters. The majority were white. Average age, 35—the youngest was 11. The killers possessed a total of 143 guns between them, more than three quarters of which were obtained legally. A majority were mentally troubled and showed signs beforehand.

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But there is one more pattern I’d like us to look at together. And that is the pattern about the events in the shooters lives that preceded the rampage. I’m not looking at why any one individual did what he did, and for this exercise let’s not look at personality traits or demographics—but I’d like to explore what the cultural forces that were precursors to the violence.

What I see is this. In the majority of cases, the catalyst for the shooting was something that threatened the man’s identity as a man. The main statistic is inarguable—69 males to one lone female. Being a man is the single most common characteristic of every mass shooting in the last 32 years. I’d prefer to think that men are not inherently more violent—most men do not become violent in their lifetimes for any reason. And while biology, strength and testosterone can’t be completely discounted, I’d rather look at whether the pressures to conform to a certain type of masculinity are so strong that not being able to do so can cause a person to break under the pressure.

The idea of men going on shooting rampages because of threats to their identity as men makes sense to me. One way to think about that idea is to look at the cases where women DO kill multiple people. In the ones that make the news, most often the victims are the woman’s own children. They are not counted as mass killers because the body count isn’t high enough. But just like the breakdown in identity that I see happening with men, when the thing that defines a woman’s identity as a women breaks down (being a good mother), she—in those most extreme of cases—feels the need to kill the part of her that is causing the most pain.

And there is no doubt these killers, men and women both, are in pain. In fact, that’s why I believe the place where these shootings happen is worth looking at—they happen in schools, they happen in the workplace, in churches, at parties—the very places where the person doing killing has been in the most pain. Sometimes the killer sets out to kill specific people, but other times it is simply a desire to kill whoever is in that particular place. When you are socially isolated you go to kill in the places where people are most social.

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To get these insights I went over the list of all 70 mass killings and looked for the patterns in three areas: 1) the physical locations of the shootings, 2) what we learned about the reasons and motivations for the killings in confessions, notes, interviews or videos, and 3) whom the killer targeted. This is how the numbers play out:

Out of 70 mass shootings (69 men, 1 woman):

Workplace shootings 26
School shootings 12
Targeting women and/or rejection by women 6
Politics, racism, protecting oneself against “others” 6
Drug or alcohol fueled rage 3
Church and faith 3
Veteran’s issues 3
Homophobia 2
Child custody 1
Unknown or other 8

Let’s look at these patterns a little more closely and compare them to the conversations we have on The Good Men Project.

Workplace Shootings

In at least 26 cases, immediately before the shooting event, the shooter had been fired from his job, experienced severe financial distress, or got in an argument with his supervisor or co-worker. The shootings themselves took place at the workplace.

What we talk about on The Good Men Project often is how often men have their identity tied to financial success. Men are expected to be the breadwinner—often by society, sometimes by their spouse and most importantly, by a man himself. And a man who has set himself up as the sole source of financial security for his family—a man who defines himself in that way—breaks down when he loses his job or feels his financial security threatened.

Interestingly, the percentage of shootings that took place in the workplace was much higher before 2003—before the current recession. Before 2003, 68% of mass shootings were in the workplace, compared to only 20% after 2003. My personal belief is that the workplace shootings declined because when unemployment reached its current high, when layoffs and firings were more commonplace—it then became easier for a man to lose a job and not have it be seen as the end of the world. There was less shame, less pressure to be as financially successful as everyone else. When everyone is laid off, at least it’s no longer personal.

The trend in our society to not make financial success the paramount definition of being a man is a good thing. The trend to celebrate men who are present, engaged, joyous fathers instead of the automatic breadwinner is a good thing. Not having a job be the sole source of identity for a man is a way to start to think about how we can decrease the pressures of manhood and the use of violence to overcome those pressures.

School Shootings

School shootings often have the least clear catalyst. What they all do have in common is that the shooters are all “coming of age” – making the transition from a boy to a man. Unlike the workplace shootings which appeared to be a reaction to one defining event—a firing, an argument, a salary dispute— the shooters in schools often seemed to consider it some sort of a “game”. That is, it wasn’t as if there was a single event that caused them to shoot up the school. Instead, the shooters practiced in advance of the shooting, strategized, played it out in their minds over and over beforehand.

Also, when looking at students who don’t snap to this degree, we often find that the masculine codes of “don’t tattle”, “suck it up”, “don’t be a baby” keep a lot of boys from seeking help. Common themes are, “I didn’t have anyone I could talk to.” “I couldn’t tell anyone.” Exclusion by peers and bullying for not conforming to accepted codes of appearance and behavior are repeating threads in teens who feel alienated and unable to cope.

Encouraging boys to share their feelings, telling them it’s ok to have and talk about their problems, and encouraging non-conformity might be good places to start to create positive change. Another might be encouraging friendships of both genders. Also—getting young men to practice helping others. People who help others often have the highest self-esteem—because they go out and do things that are estimable.

Shootings over politics, racism, targeting of immigrants or those seen as “others”

A man’s identity is often seen as one of “protector”. In the case of the shootings in this bucket, the men felt like they were protecting themselves, their families, or America against “the bad guys”. People in this bucket kill the people they perceive as the enemy. Sometimes we see intersectionality at work — in a few of the shootings racism was combined with problems—a workplace rant about jobs being taken over by immigrants, for example. What I see is that men feel as if they have to stand up to perceived enemies as a man.

Here again, the conversation is important. Giving people permission to talk about these issues, giving people permission to care, will help open us up to change. At The Good Men Project, we share stories of all different backgrounds and cultures in the hope that information increases understanding. We talk about the effects of propaganda, racism, and how these affect the way people view “others”.

Women or rejection by women

Yes, sexism, misogyny, inability to deal with sexual rejection, and entitlement to women’s bodies still exists. Yes, we need to deal with it.

Best place to start? Talking with and treating women as equals. Encouraging men to see women as humans first, with sex taken completely off the table. Encouraging platonic friendships between the genders where each help each other succeed. Teaching consent and respect. It seems unimaginable we are still in need of progress in this area, but we know it to be true.

Other catalysts and precursors

Other precursors to the shootings were homophobia, veteran’s issues, drug or alcohol fueled rages, faith/church shootings and child support. All of which we talk about on The Good Men Project. All of which we are trying to solve through storytelling, empathy, and understanding. Recognizing, talking about and treating addiction, exploring new directions in faith, ridding the world of homophobia, and exploring men’s roles in marriage, divorce, child-rearing and custody are subjects we talk about on a daily basis.

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Finally—I don’t want to minimize the impact of mental illness. But that, too, is an issue where real progress can be made if progress is what we want to see. Men need to be able to get help for their problems without fear or shame. Emotional pain is real and devastating. Men need to understand that and they need help seeking out solutions. We need to look for warning signs and follow up immediately when we see those signs. We need to let men know it is ok to ask for help. We need to encourage friendships, sharing, and a wider, more open definition of love. We need to teach actual coping skills and actual problem solving skills to be able to deal with the inevitable loneliness, pain, anger, or lack of success that are simply parts of life. How many times have you heard some version of “just man up” instead of teaching real coping skills? And we need to continue to expand our definition of masculinity so that a man’s identity isn’t wrapped up in any one thing, but there are always a wealth of options for a long, happy productive life.

Taking out the world in a blaze of glory should be seen as the least manly thing you can do.

Let’s continue to talk about all of these things.

With deepest respect and sympathy to the friends and families of the recent shooting in Santa Barbara, as well as all victims of violence.

Read also: What We Talk About When We Talk About Men

Photo: Joel Bombardier / flickr / creative commons

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I recall reading a study awhile back on violence in the black community. When controlled for fatherlessness, the violence rate plummeted.

    Another thing we need to realize is that demonizing boys from an early age is going to result in this happening more frequently. Those who are abused often become abusers later, after all. Looking back at some of the things I endured in my youth, and the culture of hatred and shame that surrounds young men, I’m amazed I didn’t turn out the same.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I think there is a definitely a correlation with race here that we can look at. Black men are seen as thugs and criminals for angry emotional outbursts, white men are seen as mentally ill. It’s possible that a black man might have been held and detained by police for some of the behaviors that were seen in a white man as “normal”.

      Abuse and sexual violence of boys is one thing we take very seriously here at Good Men Project — striving to give boys and men permission to talk about those events without shame, helping them process what happened, and having a place where they can see how others survived and thrived. I want to be clear that the majority of people abused *don’t* grow up to become abusers themselves, they are not irretrievably broken, but it does happen.

      • Kim Holleman says:

        HI!
        You had me until, “I’d prefer to think that men are not inherently more violent—most men do not become violent for any reason” .

        I’d also prefer for Santa to be real and bring me gifts every December. Just because you wish men were a certain way, doesn’t equate to the reality of what we know. Men are more violent. Just read any, literally ANY violent crime stats ever made (any of them, ever). And since most violent crime is caused by men, your fantasy of them not being more violent (“more violent than whom?…you never actually finish your thought there…) is just a fantasy. I really wish reporters/writers would not interject fantasy into what is otherwise worthwhile and reality-based writing.

        Thank you for listening.

        Kim Holleman

        • Anonymous says:

          Men are more aggressive which makes them violent, women are less in control of their emotions which also makes them violent. Perhaps, is the conditioning of gender. Men are tough and stronger and they grow up with these ideas which passively might contribute to why they are.more.likely to act out on violence.Men have less fear and almost second nature that men love to fight to release their tension or imply it is how they handle their their issues. Men now they are stronger than women, in most cases. So I do find it likely that men are more violent due to the conditioning and concepts they are raised with that has a substantial affect to their psychological and subconscious behavior…enhanced by senseless ego as well.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have three boys, one is now 18. I have nieces too. One thing I’ve noticed is boys are actually more tender than little girls. Girls react with children’s far more than boys. We teach boys to be violent by taking away their right to cry and show emotion.

          I don’t think boys are born more violent, they are raised to be more violent.

        • John Anderson says:

          @ Kim Holleman

          Depends on how you define violence. DV is committed in roughly equal proportions by men and women. Men are on average bigger and stronger so women are usually those severely injured. Is the punch of a woman less violent than the punch of a man just because it causes less damage. Mothers kill children more often than fathers and female correctional staff are about 4x more likely to rape than male correctional staff in adult prisons and it’s worse in juvie.

          Women’s violence is often ignored just look at what happened to Jay Z and Solange Knowles. How many people actually called out the violence?

        • Peter Milne says:

          Nothing like trying to achieve social progress with a closed, sexist mind. Pity.

      • mytejas says:

        You said: “I think there is a definitely a correlation” Is there or isn’t there…do you have data to support the conclusion, how strong is the correlation (what is the correlation coefficient). Real research ought to be done (yea, I know Congress defunded CDC research on gun violence) but crime stats can be had and there are plenty of knowledgable researchers to mine the knowledge from the stats. Please consider going beyond a ‘cultural discussion’ and search for valid and reliable knowledge.

    • I’m curious about this culture of hatred and shame that surrounds young men that you speak of. I’ve raised two young men, ages 29 and 22 and it wasn’t my experience that they were raised in such a culture. But, I’m only the mom and boys don’t share everything with mom. Are you saying that my sons were experiencing culturally based hatred and shame that I was not aware of as their mother?

  2. You make a lot of sensible points here, Lisa. I particularly appreciate that you didn’t take the easy, “Let’s blame ____!!!” route that I’ve seen elsewhere.

    Good post.

  3. John Anderson says:

    It was a very good post. I particularly liked that you made the distinction that it is societies perception of masculinity and the pressure to conform to that definition rather than masculinity itself, which is the problem. I would disagree slightly with one section. When it comes to sexual violence as it pertains to men victimizing women, I think we far to often overlook the virgin shaming of men. I think men (and women) need to feel that men can say no. I’m unsure if that was part of teaching consent and respect, but if it wasn’t (no worries I’m still learning stuff too), I don’t think that you can make significant headway in that area until society stops judging men for the number of women they’ve slept with.

    Thanks for a well written and thoughtful article.

    • That and there is also probably less rejection for women, and more outlets to find intimacy for women too. Generally Men rarely hug, whereas women quite often hug, or at least far more than men. My shrink once said many men were touch-starved and that women had a lot more ways to get touch, hugs, etc so this may make life even MORE lonely for single men whom aren’t getting any forms of intimacy.

      Another theory is that the Y chromosome gets more mutations so it could mean more males will not have the typical brain development. IQ charts show more male geniuses, and also more males who are very low on IQ whereas women tend to be more towards the middle of the bell curve, to me that shows more variety in males from birth and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a large part of why there are more male killers.

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        We have written about how men are touch-starved Archy, and I believe that to be true. Thank you for bringing that up. I believe there are two reasons for that. One is that touching is seen as emotional and therefore not masculine. Men don’t want to be seen as “needing” touch, it is a break in their armor. But also — touch is seen as sexual or pre-sexual. So touch between men is seen as a sign they might be gay and touch between women might be seen as a sexual advance. If a man believes that, then it leaves very few people he *can* actually touch without worrying about it. So part of the solution there might be to continue to work to combat homophobia as well as to develop more profound, non-sexual relationships with women.

        I also have seen the data of men being more outside the bell curve on intelligence. And yes, that could lead to wider disparities in mental illness and pathology as well.

    • kofybean says:

      “you made the distinction that it is societies perception of masculinity and the pressure to conform to that definition rather than masculinity itself”
      And that makes men mass murderers?

      “I think we far to often overlook the virgin shaming of men” True, but I doubt anything will come if it. Reminds me of that group of girls I sat by in Live Science in the 7th grade constantly teased me for being a virgin all year. They weren’t the only girls teasing me for being a virgin, they were just the only one’s I couldn’t walk away from. It bothers me now to think back that I was only 12.

      • John Anderson says:

        @ kofybean

        “And that makes men mass murderers?”

        I wouldn’t go that far, but I also wouldn’t wholly discount it. Each person has their own limits to how much pressure they can withstand before they break. Could you say for example that if those men hadn’t lost their jobs they still would have shot up their place of employment?

        “They weren’t the only girls teasing me for being a virgin”

        It isn’t just men who virgin shame. I’ve also been called gay for turning women down, which is another aspect of the if you’re a man you’re supposed to always want it.

  4. kofybean says:

    Lisa Hickey: Are you saying that mass shootings, and crimes committed by mentally disturbed men, are the fault of society’s pressure of masculinity, and NOT the problem of a mental psychosis or other psychological issues?

    And are you saying that mentally disturbed men would not kill if they weren’t pressured to be masculine?

    • Honestly, I think it plays a role to an extent. I think that if these killers didn’t feel as pressured to be masculine at the time, there would be less deaths (didn’t say 0). I can understand how one who is socially deprived can bring himself to do crazy things, though killing is one the craziest of those things.

      Feeling pressured to be masculine is obviously relative to how one feels about themselves. I think that coupled with a mental disorder and other factors (lack of support group, lack of self confidence or resilience) does lead to the mass shootings we see. I don’t have evidence but the killer from Friday in Isla Vista had aspergers and that is by no means a debilitating disorder (well it ranges but not debilitating enough to be barred from obtaining legal arms). Just my opinion, but I have dealt with many mentally “disturbed” people. The killings do seem more to do with a young, alienated boy in a privileged setting so to speak than the mentally ill. I don’t know though, I have yet to look at that Mother Jones timeline. Hopefully we can figure this all out….soon….

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      kfybean: I am not laying blame or fault. I am looking for patterns in the most extreme examples so we can see if there is a way to better help those who are not at those edges of the extremes. I’m not sure that any one single mass shooting could have been prevented, just that understanding them might help us figure out where to go next and how to help those who might be troubled but not at the extremes.

      A few questions to your point — and I am not saying I have all the answers. There are plenty of cultures where there are no mass shootings. Zero. Is it your belief that those cultures have zero mental illnesses? Why do you think that is?

      I think it’s worth the exercise of looking at the most extreme cases in our society to see if changing society itself would be helpful.

      • Jameseq says:

        There are plenty of cultures where there are no mass shootings. Zero. Is it your belief that those cultures have zero mental illnesses? Why do you think that is?

        very interesting question Lisa. led me to wonder how would an ‘elliot rodger’ have expressed his disorder and violence in gunowning switzerland?
        or where gun ownership is more restricted as here in the uk, or japan, south korea, canada, australia. what would he have done, as he did murder his three roommates with a knife?
        what is the rate of knife sprees in these countries by disordered people?

        also, how would the mental health services in those countries have responded to his parents showing them his videos. is it easier to have troubled people sent to mental evalution in those countries?
        as here in the uk, what would have happened is that the parents would go to their gp, and a visit by two mental health doctors and two social workers would have followed (im sure with police in support, given the material on the vids).
        and he would have been sectioned ie.committed to a government mental health clinic for 30days observation.
        i was very surprised to read reports that just policemen went to psych evaluate elliot. that seems a big flaw in the local system

        • jon vonn says:

          Jameseq You may not know but in the 30’s to 60′ s the way families dealt with members who would not conform was to have them put in mental hosp. In the US the person loses all of their civil rights. Now the authorities must tred carefully especially with a person with resources. Violation of rights is very expensive when dealing with those who can afford a good law firm. Plus unlike a street kid he knows the drill to deal with authority. Had the last video been available that would have been actionable.
          Guns actually are good to be used . The other alternatives are far far worse.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Andre … great point. We seem to be looking an “men” in general but ignoring the affects of some of these medication or the affects of not taking them.

      That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be looking at other issues as well.

  5. “Best place to start? Talking with and treating women as equals. Encouraging men to see women as humans first, with sex taken completely off the table.”

    Nope. 100% incorrect. The best place to start is, first, by creating a culture where virgin-shaming is always called out, and, second, teach boys that they don’t need female approval to determine their self-worth.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      I do think virgin shaming should always be called out and yes, not needing female approval to determine their self-worth. Similarly, there is enormous pressure for a boy / man to have a “hot” girl who is interested in him. That does become a part of a man’s self-identity “If I can’t get a hot girl then I must not be worth enough.” But what I said “encouraging men to see women as humans first, with sex taken completely off the table” is another way into those same problems. Men want women’s approval because they see them as sexual beings, and being sexually desired feeds into a man’s sense of self worth. Similarly, in many men’s minds, they fear “the worst that can happen”—that they will NEVER be seen as sexual beings and always be a virgin.

      Getting sex off the table allows men when it comes to relationships with women allow men to be desired in a multitude of other ways besides just sexually. But if you tell that to a man who has a narrow view of masculinity, who is pressured to be what he says believes is expected to him as a man, that man will say “but I don’t want to be desired in a way that is not sexual.” That is where we get into friend-zone arguments.

      • Thank you, Lisa, for your analysis!

        I think for a lot of young guys, not judging the value of relationships with women on the amount of sex they can get out of them, would have a very positive effect on their self-worth. Yet at the same time, there does seem to be an enormous amount of pressure for men to be successful with women. In Urban Dictionary, as one example, the most popular definition of friend zone is: ‘What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to.’

        What this notion of friend zone means is that (young) men’s relationships with women are seen as a question of success or failure, where sex (especially providing an orgasm for the archetypal hot girl) is seen as the sole criterion of success and settling with friendship is seen as failure. Basically, young men are bombarded with the message that a man is no man if he’s not the provider of orgasms. This is the reason why many men fear being seen as non-sexual beings and why there is a tendency to see women as sexual beings first.

        As a man, I do have to say that being sexually successful isn’t the only thing that feeds the sense of self-worth. For many men, the sense of self-worth is related to being an active provider in one way or another (work, for example, can be an alternative way of being a provider). It seems the ideal man portrayed in the media is one who has a successful career (whether wealthy or not), is a frequent provider of orgasms, is of good health and knows how to assert himself. I think that many young men feel pressure to be this kind of ‘ideal man’ and feel that not being up to par means not being a man at all.

        What I’m trying to say is that men should be encouraged to define their own positive versions of masculinity they feel comfortable with and to disregard the narrow views on masculinity portrayed in various forms of media. I’m still wondering, though, what these multitudes of other ways to being desired (besides sexually) you mentioned are, and I would certainly like to know more about them.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          I agree with you that society has a very narrow view of what the “ideal man” should be. That is one of the things we’re working hard to change with the very mission of The Good Men Project. And yes, we are giving men permission to define their own positive versions of masculinity.

          As for your last question — “I’m still wondering, though, what these multitudes of other ways to being desired (besides sexually) you mentioned are, and I would certainly like to know more about them.” — I can only speak from personal experience. But I have many men in my life that I love deeply (but not at all sexually). I desire their intelligence, their ability to have great conversations, their problem solving ability, the way they make me laugh. A lot of my friends are creative — artists — and I desire their ability to create, they inspire me. Mostly there are men that I simply hold a profound love for, nothing more, nothing else. I will help these men in a heartbeat, just like any close friend would. I value them as people, as humans, first. I don’t even think to myself “I have my male friends and my female friends.” I simply have friends. And if one of those were suffering from…depression, say, I would do everything I could to help them. To continue to connect with them. To desire them as life-giving forces as people of value. People I care about through thick and thin, the good times and bad. But sexual desire has nothing to do with any of that.

        • There’s an issue with the friendzone though that there really are limits to how many female friends you have. If a guy already has enough female friends, and still keeps hitting the friendzone, it will probably frustrate him a lot. Friendships are valuable but a relationship/dating/love is one of the MOST SIGNIFICANT instincts and powerful forces in human interaction possible. People usually don’t think of their friends most of the days, get butterflies, cry madly when they lose platonic friends but with romantic interests, lovers, etc those feelings have a huge power. The loneliness of seeing so many others dating whilst you’re single, even when you have a lot of female friends (which in some cases makes it worse since you’ve lucked out with them too vs guys who simply just don’t meet many women)….that is a quite painful for some.

          • Lisa Hickey says:

            Are there limits to how many guys friends you can have or just female friends? I get huge thrills from my platonic friends female or male — watch my face light up when we meet in person, or one of them calls me or even emails me. My friends are a connective force because I truly love them. YES it’s different from romantic love — I hear you Archy! I do understand the frustration. But real love is love. It’s hard to love someone if you are angry that they rejected you sexually however. I can see that being part of the problem.

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        Hello Lisa …. you said “Getting sex off the table allows men when it comes to relationships with women allow men to be desired in a multitude of other ways besides just sexually. But if you tell that to a man who has a narrow view of masculinity, who is pressured to be what he says believes is expected to him as a man, that man will say “but I don’t want to be desired in a way that is not sexual.” That is where we get into friend-zone arguments.”

        Sorry, but I have to call you out on this one. What percent of articles here on GMP relate to “sex?” Granted, some articles relate to a deeper relationship but nonetheless sex is most definitely on the table. From “open relationships” to dads hoping his daughters first experience be great, sex is front and center.

        In so far as “virgin shaming” this is a big one for me. Virgin shaming doesn’t have to be a person putting down the guy/gal for being a virgin but worse is where the many places like GMP that promote sex beyond married couples, as a norm. And to take it a step further, we don’t give men credit for taking an abstinence position, a choice many men take, but instead categorize them as being “forced” into these positions because of religious beliefs.

        In a recent conversation with my son, we discussed abstinence. He admitted that he struggles with it but not because he sees himself “not getting some” but instead the females who reject him because he won’t go to bed with them. He admits that he’s not looking for a “virgin” but instead someone he can connect with on a non-sexual intimate level. But what society is promoting is sexuality and as I said before, it may not be overt “shaming” but it is certainly shaming nonetheless.

        When I tell the guys on the unit that my wife and I were virgins when we got married, they look at me as though I grew an eye in the middle of my forehead. I could say that they see me as an old guy and things were different back then, but my son says he encounters the same, as did my daughter before she got married.

        Now we can take this “religious” shaming. I can’t count the articles which equate abstinence with religion, so now the guy who is looked at strangely because he’s abstinent, he’s also put down because of his religious beliefs? Their morals?

        The religious are fine as long as they conform to a liberal society. There is a big population of male youth that feel as though they’re outcasts.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          As I said in another thread — the percentage of sex and relationships articles that we run are quite small compared to the entire body of work we publish on Good Men Project every day. The fact that those posts take off and “go viral” means they appear way more important because they show up in popular lists and social media long after they have run on our site. But that may say more about our culture at large than it does about us. We are a community driven site, after all—it is true we suggest what the community can write about but not dictate it. That said, it is my belief we can and should talk about a range of sexual expression to open up the possibilities without shame.

          As for your virgin shaming going hand in hand with religious beliefs — I hadn’t thought of that connection, but I’ll see if I can get more articles on that. I agree that is something we should talk about more.

          • Tom Brechlin says:

            I understand that the readers take it in these directions but that should be an indicator of what’s happening.

            You said “But that may say more about our culture at large than it does about us.” But isn’t GMP all about culture and what’s happening in our culture? As you said, this is a community driven site but it tends to ignore some communities and caters to a culture at large which is precisely what put men in the positions they’re in. Tread lightly Lisa in that in the event you move away from a clearly liberal view, you will lose readership. Isn’t that what it’s all about? I’m not saying this to be mean because I know you and others have kind loving hearts.

            The site states clearly that these are discussions no one else is having. But as GMP caters to the “culture at large,” are they really discussions no one else is having?

        • PursuitAce says:

          Thanks Tom and Archy for taking this discussion in the direction it needs to go. You have a forum here where others who read TGMP don’t. Keep providing your insights so that people can continue to understand what’s really going on.

          • Tom Brechlin says:

            PursuitAce … thank you. I will admit that I have become very frustrated with GMP and actually tried to ween myself off but I keep coming back for the exact reason you mentioned. So I guess I’m here for a the long haul.

      • “Similarly, there is enormous pressure for a boy / man to have a “hot” girl who is interested in him. That does become a part of a man’s self-identity “If I can’t get a hot girl then I must not be worth enough.”

        There’s enormous pressure for men to score, period. Men who consistently have sex with women of similar attractiveness are in a completely different cosmos, in terms of public scorn, than men who are virgins or celibate.

        “Men want women’s approval because they see them as sexual beings, and being sexually desired feeds into a man’s sense of self worth.”

        I agree that being sexually desired feeds into a man’s sense of self-worth–being sexually desired is a big component of anyone’s self-worth. I think it’s entirely incorrect, however, to assume that men want women’s approval because they see them as sexual objects. That doesn’t make any sense. First of all, people don’t care about the opinions of objects; they care about the opinions of people. And, more importantly, men are vetted by society based on women’s approval of them. Being liked by women is seen as a litmus test for whether or not a man is worth associating with, otherwise he will be ostracized. Basically, female approval is required for a man to be treated as fully human.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          I agree with you avern, on all your points. I didn’t say “men want women’s approval because they see them as sexual objects” — I said sexual beings, as in human beings, which is different. You say “female approval is required for a man to be treated as fully human” — isn’t it exactly the same for women, that they need male approval to be treated as fully human? I don’t see that as different.

          • “You say “female approval is required for a man to be treated as fully human” — isn’t it exactly the same for women, that they need male approval to be treated as fully human?”

            No, women also need the approval of other women to be treated as fully human. The approval of men is important for women to feel attractive and, if they’re a member of a male-dominated career field, talented and productive, but to feel fully human seems is something deeper and more fundamental. Male disapproval will make a woman feel terrible about herself; female disapproval will make a man feel like a *monster*.

            • I have to disagree with you about women not needing man’s approval or attraction to be actually human. Society puts tremendous pressure even today on women to please men. I have yet to see a discussion about even moderately attractive lesbians where some guy doesn’t make a comment along the lines of “what a waste of a woman” as if her relationships or lack thereof with men are the most important thing about her. Or how any time female body image comes up, women who are less conventionally attractive are ridiculed as being “angry because no man wants them”.
              How is male disapproval making a woman feel terrible about her own identity and self worth *not* essential to being a full human?

  6. Fascinating analysis. Thanks for doing the math here.

  7. As I’m reading these comments, there is an ad for Premium Membership in the sidebar with a photo of a woman who appears to be in her underwear, with the title “How to Court a Hot Prospect.” Sort of seems at odds with this article. I like this article as a stand-alone piece but much of The Good Men Project does seem to be about ‘winning’ women.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      That is a fair point Janine. Although the writer meant it as a making funs of those kind of norms, I can see how it might not come across that way.

      “Much of the Good Men Project seems to be about winning women” seems a bit unfair. We post 27 posts a day. Of those, we try not to have more than one or two—if that many— be about male/female sexual relationships/dating/etc. The others posts cover topics such as being a dad, politics, sports, gender, discussions of masculinity, gay rights, racism, education, poetry, social justice, and the environment. And we’re one of the only publications dedicated to marriage/committed relationships from a male point of view. None of that has to do with “winning” women. If what we post *appears* to be about winning women, than that just shows how far we have to change the culture.

  8. Thank you, Lisa, for writing this thoughtful essay….and the questions you ask are crucial…we need to continue these difficult conversations….It is mind-boggling how someone gets from rejection, to anger, to violence, and then to murder….the UCSB shooter is someone’s kid and it is just scary to imagine what happened while he was growing up…

    I rejected someone long ago and he stalked me….to think that someone has some dastardly plan for revenge and violence for someone he claimed to have once loved is unbelievable…but I see there is so much hatred that hides behind a benign mask….

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thanks Leia. Difficult as these topics are, it’s exactly why we have to keep talking about them.

  9. Lisa,

    Thanks for raising these issues opening Good Men to a dialogue with our community. I’ve been working with men for more than 40 years and there clearly aren’t simple answers to the kind of violence we are seeing. I would suggest that looking at these kinds of “mass shootings” might take our attention away from the more common ways that violence occurs.

    For instance, the World Report on Violence and Health by The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/en/summary_en.pdf)
    describes three types of violence:

    Self-Directed violence including suicide
    Interpersonal violence including family and partner violence and community violence
    Collective violence, including wars, terrorism, genocide, and organized crime.

    They take a public health approach and allows us to see violence in a fuller context than it is often seen in.

    For instance, the work I’ve been doing over the years looking at the underlying causes of male suicide and how shame and depression play out are important.

    There is a strong relationship between violence turned inwards and violence expressed outwardly toward others.

    As you know many of the mass shootings end in suicide and many more men die from suicide than from the more highly publicized mass killings or murders.

    Let’s continue talking, listening, opening our hearts, minds and souls.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thanks Jed,

      I like your idea of looking at violence from an interconnected and holistic view. However, I still believe there is value to looking at just this subsection because it *is* so specific. The reasons leading up to the violence were the parts of life we talk about all the time — losing a job when you are a provider for the family, relationships and rejection, identity as a man. Just because so few people ever actually go out and do a mass shooting doesn’t mean the what leads up to it isn’t important.

      I do in fact believe there is a strong relationship between violence turned inwards and violence expressed outwardly towards others. I think understanding that dynamic is important.

      Thanks for your work on suicides. That is an important topic we will continue to cover.

      • Lisa, I agree. We need to look and discuss at all levels. I thought it was interesting that so many of the killings are in workplace settings, followed by school settings. We spend a lot of time there, and for many males these places are settings of disconnection and shame, surrounded by others who seem to be getting the “goodies.” Very useful exploration. Thanks for going deeper with these questions, right while they are on people’s minds.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          EXACTLY! “Places of disconnection and shame.” That’s a huge insight Jed. I’d love to see a post from you about some of the things we’ve been talking about here. Your posts do very very well when they run, you are developing a great following for your work.

  10. I am just wanting to ask readers, re: the importance of mental health treatment, what kind of care/treatment do they think might have prevented the young male perpetrators from acting on their premeditated hatred , and seeming belief that others have caused all of their pain. The Rodger’s family appears to have sought mental health intervention for their son from a young age, and was seen mental health professionals for many years? It seems that kids need to be checked out regularly for their coping skills, in the society they find themselves in. I feel disheartened that this young person had so much intervention, but in the tragic end, it all failed .

  11. courage he cowardly dog says:

    This site advocates for a lot of social liberal policies such as open relationships, sexual liberalism and behavior that borders on the irresponsible. You left out the role of divorce in these mass shootings. The shooter himself in his “manifesto” cited his parents’ divorce as a reason for his behavior. Adam Lanza the Newtown shooter, a child of divorce. I could go on, but one thing seems clear that the people who are responsible for these killings are more often than not the children of divorce. While many children of divorce turn out just fine, too many manifest destructive behaviors, though they may not rise to the level of killings to the extent the extent that their behaviors are destructive we should take heed and consider behaving more responsibly and adopting policies that are more responsible. If these things are to stop we have to make fundamental changes to society.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      “child of divorce” …. We already know the devastating affects fatherless homes have on kids but this brings all of this to another level. 1. Most child custody goes to the mom and 2,) most divorces are initiated by the women. Yet much of the focus is on the “male” perpetrator. Is part of the solution right in front of us? Are we ignoring the elephant on the room? and if we are, why?

      Who is gonna be the first to step up and say it? Yeah, women have had a tremendous affect on how men/boys are today. Perhaps it’s time to call out the problems and place some blame, a lot of blame on what women have done.

      I’m tired of pussyfooting around.

      We’ve gone long enough that we have a generation of men who were raised by women (primarily) when are women going to start to take responsibility for what’s happening?

  12. Eagle35 says:

    Lisa, I just want to say thank you for trying to be even-handed.

    This whole thing is…it just saddens me. Even when I express it, people call me the bad guy all of a sudden. Why am I the villain for wanting balanced coverage of this issue? That toxic masculinity alone isn’t solely to blame. That the motivations were not only based on hatred of women.

    I’m all too acquainted with the notion that both genders face issues, that it isn’t only men capable of killing and harming. To deny this means denying a part of me that was hurt in my youth. That’s my stake in this.

    Bless you.

  13. John Weeast says:

    Since a mass shooting is four or more dead (by shooting) and 3 were killed by knife, 3 by gun and 1 by car, isn’t this officially NOT a mass shooting? You cite the classification yet ignore that it doesn’t qualify under the same classification.

    His masculinity had nothing to do with his mental issues. Since the age of 8, he was seeing a therapist because he wanted revenge against the bus driver for yelling at him. His parents called the police on him because of his videos and the police never bothered to check the videos. This, like colorado, VT and countless others should have been stopped but weren’t because of negligence. If the doctors would have reported it like they’re supposed to, no guns could be bought legally. If the police did their jobs concerning the initial complaints, he wouldn’t have been free to do this.

    I understand that they have problems with their masculinity at the time of them taking action, but these problems start early and the lack of help they received only worsened how they felt about themselves. It doesn’t just trigger at the final action. It starts much earlier. Rejection is a part of life. Rejection isn’t the cause of them wanting to hurt someone. It’s the mental illness that prevents them from learning to accept rejection. They can’t ever feel secure in their masculinity if they can’t mentally process how to be secure in it.

  14. Terry Washington says:

    For all the “misogyny” -ie woman hatred expressed by Elliot Rodgers it is worth notng that two of his victims were women as opposed to four men- yet again the greatest sufferers/victims of male violence are NOT women or even children of either sex but other men!

    • True; he also killed his roommates. He ended up hating everyone, really.
      But his misogyny is really the main point. Have you read his manifesto?

    • Mike from Pioneer Valley, MA says:

      I think that was the result of poor planning, not equal-opportunity bloodlust.

  15. Per the common knowledge: Men make up the majority of the shooters. The majority also are white, average age 35.

    I think we need to really pay attention to this. If we are saying that the main root is men feeling pressured to conform to norms of masculinity, why is there not more racial diversity? Why are the majority white men? Don’t African American men, Asian men, men of many other nationalities feel the same pressures? Why do men of other nationalities not seem to fall into the same trap that white men are?

    I certainly do believe that feeling the pressure to be the epitome of masculinity is a problem. But there is something else within this story that we may be missing when a large pool of the perpetrators are white men. And that could possibly have something to do with the entitlement that maybe many white men believe should be theirs. Which has lead to an anger so great, it’s manifested in the mass shootings we are seeing.

    Also, I personally believe women feel just as pressured as men to be the epitome of femininity. And I know Lisa mentioned mothers who kill. But there are also fathers who kill their families too. They seem to usually end in murdering his family and then committing suicide. I think when we see women kill their families, they for some reason don’t commit suicide as much. But I’m not certain about that. We either include both of those statistics into the discussion, or we don’t include any of them. In terms of the kind of mass shootings we are talking about, why is it that women (with the exception of the 1) don’t go out shooting other women, or men, or cheerleaders, or models, or pornstars even due to the significantly high pressures of living up to a feminine ideal?

    Lastly, I’d agree there is pressure on men to “score”. But only if it’s with “hot women”. We aren’t just talking about any woman. She must be young and hot and sexy. Any woman that doesn’t fit what has become the standard of “hot” today often gets made fun of by other men. Like the old running joke that over-weight women give great head because their so desperate for any male affection. Or how many men talk down about women their own age or older women. Or how men will tell an older woman that the only reason a younger man is interested in them is because he just wants to use her for sex while younger women look at older men for their intellect and life experience.

    Personally, it’s kind of hard to have empathy for men on this one point about the pressures of scoring when the pressures of scoring is usually around a certain type of women men have deemed more worthwhile then other women anyway. I’m trying my hardest to find some empathy inside me for this but I am failing at it. I just can’t feel much sympathy fo this pressure on men because of in turn, the pressure men have forced on women to look how they want women to look to be considered “worthy” enough of their attention.

    Lastly, while I don’t think most men would ever get to the point of violence that the men who commited the acts of violence have, I do think there is a very real male anger among a good chunk of men in society (even men that are good dads, loving husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles) at women in general and the most obvious way we see this is through how angry and abusive porn has grown specifically toward women as well as the new issue of “revenge porn” where it’s well documented that more men, then women, are taking pictures of women or videos and posting them without their consent or knowledge.

    • Actually white men are under-represented when you look at things proportionally to population. Of course we could ‘splain that by saying they are less likely to snap because of privilege.

      We are bound, set and determined to blame this on progressive feminism’s favorite bugaboos regardless of the gender of people killed, history of mental illness, history of violent ideation, the fact that the killer was bi-racial… We all knew the plot that would play out the minute this happened.

  16. Thank you Lisa. Well done. I applaud GMP for having the conversation.

    And when you suggest a number of things we (as a society) can DO for men and boys to help shift the cultural paradigm, I see our resonance. The ManKind Project (http://mankindproject.org) is creating the spaces and teaching the skills you’re pointing to nearly every weekend of the year through our trainings, and every night of the week through over 1000 men’s groups across the USA and around the globe in 9 regions. Communication skills, personal responsibility, emotional intelligence, learning new coping mechanisms, breaking out of social isolation, processing the pain, fear, loss, anger, grief (and happiness, joy, pride, success!) of mature masculinity is what we’re about. Face to face in safe and confidential circles of men.

    I care deeply about the future of our society. I’m actively doing something to make it healthier. Thank you for providing a forum for so many other like-minded men and women.

  17. The idea of men going on shooting rampages because of threats to their identity as men makes sense to me.
    Yes it does. One thing that I think gets lost in these shootings is where the help should be pointed. As I have already seen in a few comments on my “Reaching out to the Eliiots” article (namely on Reddit) trying to reach out to guys in that situation is considered a bad thing in and of itself. Its seen as giving justification to what he did and feeding a sense of entitlement.

    So what’s happening is that even though the solution is to help change the world so that men are not held up to such unrealistic expectations actually doing that is deemed wrong (unless you do it in a certain way that involves making men out to be the enemy and the primary goal being to help women, then you’re okay oddly).

    One way to think about that idea is to look at the cases where women DO kill multiple people. In the ones that make the news, most often the victims are the woman’s own children. They are not counted as mass killers because the body count isn’t high enough. But just like the breakdown in identity that I see happening with men, when the thing that defines a woman’s identity as a women breaks down (being a good mother), she—in those most extreme of cases—feels the need to kill the part of her that is causing the most pain.
    Also notice the difference in how stories are covered depending on which parent kills their children. If a man kills his own children the story is spun into how its a sign that men think children are their property. If a woman kills her own children the story is spun into how she must have been ill and needed help.

    Oh and Lisa thanks a million for not using this horrible attack to play the blame game. That is happening way too much on this.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Danny, you’re absolutely right.

      • Now how about this Tom.

        Remember a few weeks ago in the posts about what Boko Haram has been doing, namely the klling of the 59 boys in Feb and the kidnapping of the 200+ girls in April?

        Remember how there was this reasoning that said the boys weren’t talked about that much because they were dead while the girls could still possibly be rescued right?

        Now have you noticed how people have been so quick to jump on WHY Rodger killed those people and what can be done to keep it from happening again haven’t you?

        • Tom Brechlin says:

          Danny, you’re connecting the dots ……. I find that the more I read, although there may be a disconnect between articles, that eventually things become clear.

          • We all knew how this would play out in the progressive media… No matter what the facts are they jump to their classic “go to” Traditional White Men are to blame!

            Of course this lunatic was biracial, came from a hyper progressive area, killed more men than women and didn’t fit any of the characteristics of a traditional man…

          • Yea its becoming clear.

            Real clear that there appears to be no reason to examine why those boys were targetted and killed but we absolutely must look into why Rodger killed those people.

            (I’m sure someone will say the difference is because those boys were killed in Nigeria which is almost half a world away from the killings that happened here in the US. But if that’s the case then so much focus on why those girls were kidnapped in Nigeria, half a world away?)

  18. This is incredibly sad. It pains me that men have internalised patriarchal thinking so badly that we hurt ourselves and others in order to prove we’re men, within the violent, hypersexual and domineering framework we have locked “manhood” into.

    To all men reading this, please help save a brother. if you see a man being misogynist, or violent, or talking about hurting others to prove his masculinity, tell him he doesn’t need to. Tell him he’s as much a man as the rest of us. It will take time, and it will take effort, but please, save a brother. We are the only voices some men will listen to. It’s up to us.

    http://robertbivouac.tumblr.com/post/86800670467/saveabrother-men-its-time-to-step-up

  19. What is the other all too common denominator that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in articles like this one?
    That many, perhaps a majority, of these men / boys were on, or have been on, some type of heavy duty psychotropic drug. Many may imply that to mean that they are “not right” or ___________ (insert your label of choice here). What is not right is the fact that 2 major pharmaceutical companies along with the AMA or APA (I do not remember which organization) were conspiring to “place EVERY eight year old in the U.S.” on medication(s) before a memo was leaked and they were found out in 2012. Good luck finding that information now – $$$ has a way of making things disappear. Unfortunately, the media, hollywood and our culture are doing more to sensationalize, demonize and segregate people (especially white males) than any of them are doing to find or create solutions.

  20. Mike from Pioneer Valley, MA says:

    Lisa’s post convinces me that we learned to be men in this country from B-movies.

  21. wendilou92 says:

    Is part of masculinity – particularly here in America – the ability to impact the world around you in some dynamic fashion? Whether by making lots of money, gaining power over others, inventing some novelty, wearing nice suits and attending important meetings, bearing weapons to protect others, or even having the perfect house, loving wife, and smart kids? It seems that “having an impact” is the crux around which TV shows, movies, and most entertainment media build their stories. I daresay, normally, young folks in extreme states of despair would turn towards suicide, but the grandiosity of “making a mark on the world” encountered regularly in entertainment media could certainly lead lonely young kids [and adults] struggling with their identity to craft homicidal longings as a way of impacting the world around them. Especially young boys who prefer the fictional reality of gaming over their real lives. They already live in an “altered reality” in a sense, so it’s not much of a stretch for them to eschew and discard the real world. I don’t know if “having an impact” is uniquely an American ideal, but there does seem to be immense pressure in the culture to be something bigger than yourself. And that’s a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t even know who they are – or is mentally unstable and incapable of knowing themselves fully. Better to die in a hellfire of bullets than live one more day as nothing.

  22. Per the common knowledge: Men make up the majority of the shooters. The majority also are white, average age 35.

    I think we need to really pay attention to this. If we are saying that the main root is men feeling pressured to conform to norms of masculinity, why is there not more racial diversity? Why are the majority white men? Don’t African American men, Asian men, men of many other nationalities feel the same pressures? Why do men of other nationalities not seem to fall into the same trap that this segment of white men are?

    I certainly do believe that feeling the pressure to be the epitome of masculinity is a problem. But there is something else within this story that we are missing. When a large pool of the perpetrators are white men, it is clearly something that is specifically going on with white men more times then not. Could it be the entitlement so many have mentioned? Is the anger a by-product of a world that is asking white men, once the most privilaged of anyone, to accept other people into the “club” so to speak? I’m not sure what the answer is but there is something to the fact that many of these men are white because if it was just about struggling with masculinity, there would be men of other ethnicities falling into the trap too.

    Also, I personally believe women feel just as pressured as men to be the epitome of femininity. And I know Lisa mentioned mothers who kill. But there are also fathers who kill their families too. They seem to usually end in murdering his family and then committing suicide. I think when we see women kill their families, they for some reason don’t commit suicide as much. But I’m not certain about that. We either include both of those statistics into the discussion, or we don’t include any of them. In terms of the kind of mass shootings we are talking about, why is it that women (with the exception of the 1) don’t go out shooting other women, or men, or cheerleaders, or models, or pornstars even due to the significantly high pressures of living up to a feminine ideal? Which is no less daunting then what men have to live up to.

    Lastly, I’d agree there is pressure on men to “score”. But only if it’s with “hot women”. We aren’t just talking about any woman. She must be young and hot and sexy. Any woman that doesn’t fit what has become the standard of “hot” today often gets made fun of. Like the old running joke that over-weight women give great head because their so desperate for any male affection. Or how many men talk down about women their own age or older women. Or how men will tell an older woman that the only reason a younger man is interested in them is because he just wants to use her for sex while younger women look at older men for their intellect and life experience.

    Personally, it’s kind of hard to have empathy for men on this one point about the pressures of scoring when the pressures of scoring is usually around a certain type of women men have deemed more worthwhile then other women anyway. I’m trying my hardest to find some empathy inside me for this but I am failing at it. I just can’t feel much sympathy for this pressure on men because of in turn, the pressure men have forced on women to look how they want women to look to be considered “worthy” enough of their attention.

    Lastly, while I don’t think most men would ever get to the point of violence that the men who committed the acts of violence here, I do think there is a very real male anger among a good chunk of men in society (even men that are good dads, loving husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles) at women in general and the most obvious way we see this is through how angry and abusive porn has grown specifically toward women as well as the new issue of “revenge porn” where it’s well documented that more men, then women, are taking pictures of women or videos and posting them without their consent or knowledge. I don’t think “bad” men are doing this. But I do think “angry” men are doing this and enjoying it.

    • Your first line is incorrect. They are not “white” if you take percentage composition of the population into account. If there are 100 green people and 20 blue people in a population – more green people than blue stealing horses does not mean there is a larger issue with green people.

    • Erin,

      “I think we need to really pay attention to this. If we are saying that the main root is men feeling pressured to conform to norms of masculinity, why is there not more racial diversity? Why are the majority white men?”

      I hope this point gets more attention.

      When John Mohammad was shooting up the DC area the conventional wisdom was that he was a white middle-aged male, because his crimes fit that profile – and so for a long time no one thought to look for a middle-aged black male and people kept dying. The point is that your point is valid enough that conventional wisdom reflects it, and while CW can be wrong, it usually has a basis.

      “Personally, it’s kind of hard to have empathy for men on this one point about the pressures of scoring when the pressures of scoring is usually around a certain type of women men have deemed more worthwhile then other women anyway. I’m trying my hardest to find some empathy inside me for this but I am failing at it. ”

      I can see how this would be a natural thing to say. Let’s turn it around so it may make more sense to you. Supposing someone said he understand all the body image stuff women and girls faced but in a word with so many starving people, it’s hard to work up any sympathy for anorexic girls or bulimic women.

      The social pressure on men to have girlfriends -“get the girl” has no real “get the man” counterpart as far as assessing a woman’s social prowess, she gets to wait for offers – seems as uncompelling to you as the social pressure to look like a runway model seems to a man. You are right about who these guys have to “get” and that has to make it all the more incomprehensible. (It’s dehumanizing on everybody.) That doesn’t make it less real, just harder to empathize with.

      • Wait. As a percentage of shooters vis-à-vis percentage of population, Asian men rank about the same as white. The Virginia Tech shooter was Korean-American.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Erin

      First, I think we need a better data source and a better description of ALL the criteria used. I googled mom kills 4 kids and got this in a few seconds.

      http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/05/15/11716702-florida-mother-kills-4-children-then-herself-deputies-say

      Seems to meet the criterion 4 people killed with a handgun, but wasn’t included. I’m also sire that there were other cases that met the criteria, but they were ignored because the murders were done in conjunction with another crime. We also have chosen to limit the discussion to gun crimes.

      I remember an interesting comment on another discussion. Why are almost all serial killers white men? The comment was because minorities are caught after the first one. The police tend to not focus their searches on white people so they remain free and have an opportunity to murder again. I’ve read articles on female serial killers. I’m not sure if these women were convicted or it was alleged. I don’t find that as relevant as the premise. The premise was that female serial killers used poison, which is harder to detect. It probably would also make it harder to tie some murders to the perpetrator if they were ultimately found out so a serial killer may not be recognized as serial.

      My point is that if something doesn’t make sense, maybe the subset is defined wrong or we’re not looking at things from the right angle.

  23. Sschill says:

    Thank you so much Lisa for your article. I really appreciate your article and the thoughts.

    By objectifying women as “targets” or “hits”, the PUA (Pick up artist) movement might be providing just the ideology Rodgers needed. It is possibly providing both the lingo of dehumanizing women as well as providing a victim identity for a whole segment of young disenfranchised (underf***ed) men.

    Providing a unique identity of us vs them combined with Dehumanizing is exactly what makes it possible to condition people to kill “Krauts”, “VietCong”, “Tommy’s”, “Infidels”. A movement such as the PUA movement which dehumanizes women and develops an us “incels” vs. “mind controlled”, gullible and with psychological tricks, catchable (as such unworthy) women thus might have provided just the sort of ideology that make these hate crimes against women possible!

    It is time we begin to address PUA’s, for what they are, a clear sign that lots of young men cannot cope with today’s dating culture in particular and their own identity as men in general, and thus revert to a medieval pre-feminism mindframe. It is time to provide them with role models, which do not resort to violence, and thus create a model for a new male identity.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sschill. I am going to write a post about the power of words and I may use some of your ideas. I agree the us vs. them mentality is incredibly damaging, and continuing to develop and talk about solutions is paramount.

  24. From written accounts, Elliot had been in “therapy” since the age of about nine.

    Clearly, those therapists should be under review for malpractice, for surely they would have corrected his sense of “entitlement” during the many years of therapy. He most likely had top notch therapists, with the latest methods and procedures for combating misogyny and hatred, probably schooled at Stanford, yet none made much of a dent in the reeducation of Elliot.

    What should we make of the failure of professional therapy to make an impact, yet then point to message boards for evidence of root cause? Something does not jive here.

    • Your assessment is good and real, BUT still missing from the conversation is the fact that in nearly all of these mass shooting done by young men, the perpetrator was on — or had been on — some kind of psychological med — SYNTHETIC DRUGS, which are knows to especially cause violence in young men. These patterns of shooters having taken synthetic psychotropic drugs are well documented, yet no one in mainstream talks about it. Please, lets talk about what is a major catalyst in these mass shootings.

    • Therapists prescribe meds — synthetic psychotropic drugs — known to trigger violent behavior in young men’s brains.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Logically, there are several possible conclusions. If there is a correlation, correlation does not imply causation.

      One possibility is that the therapy created a monster or made the situation worse.

      Another possibility is that without therapy he might have been even worse. Maybe without therapists he would have gone on a shooting spree at age 15 instead of 20.

      Another is that therapy had no effect one way or the other.

  25. Technically, the statistics of drug referenced in this article is grossly low. The actual number is in the highest percentile because of prescription meds — SYNTHETIC drugs unnatural and unpredictably affecting young men’s still-developing brains. Raging hormones and synthetic drugs mixed with social isolation is a deadly cocktail.

  26. wellokaythen says:

    Re: women or rejection by women

    This article only covers part of that issue. These cases are not only a case of some sort of toxic masculinity or not learning enough gender equality, and relationships with women are not only about peer-to-peer relationships with women.

    For example, what was their relationships with their mothers? I would be very surprised if there were no significant pattern to their childhood experiences with their parents. I’d guess a greater than average chance that they were from abusive homes, or a greater than average chance of dysfunctional relationships with their mothers. (Probably a greater than average chance of coming from single-parent households, and if so probably single mother households. Somehow if a woman raises a child by herself and he becomes a school shooter, that’s the fault of the parent who wasn’t around and not the one who raised him?)

    We cannot assume that whatever toxic mixture exploded in these cases is only created by men and that women are only victims of the situation, never contributors.

  27. The American people recognize that most of the violence in the United States is perpetrated by males. What can the average male do to prevent further violence? I was raised in a religious era in the United States. From the pulpit and in Sunday School, we boys were taught “Love Thy Neighbor” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” We learned that all forms of violence were sinful. The church has a moral obligation to make their communities safe. These institutions seem to be more involved with eulogies and funerals than with helping their communities in these troubling times. The people know the troubled people in their communities, yet they are unable to protect themselves from acts of violence that could be prevented by the whole community. The boys and men can become community case managers. Average males equipped with the necessary skills can be more than silent bystanders. They can make a huge contribution to preventing violence. If the church and other religious organizations choose to abdicate their responsibilities to minister to boys and men, then we must find another way. The government can’t do everything for us.

  28. Alastair says:

    A few points:

    1. I really don’t think that testosterone and biology should be so lightly dismissed. An all too common theme on this site is to present ‘masculinity’ as a sort of false entity, an arbitrarily defined blank slate upon which society writes, or some perfectly malleable piece of putty which it moulds. There is a failure to take seriously the fact that men are different from women in some very significant ways, ways for which much contemporary gender theory fails to account. These differences can obviously be refracted, amplified, caricatured, exaggerated, distorted, etc. by society but, beneath all of the social conditioning (and let’s not think that the practice, form, and content of social conditioning just materializes out of thin air, rather than being in part itself an expression of deeper natures), they are not about to go away.

    What I would like to see is more recognition that men have a considerably greater likelihood to possess certain instincts, urges, and tendencies and that these things aren’t going to disappear just because there are some supposed exceptions out there who make good poster boys for progressive gender theorists. Society’s ‘messages’ tend to appeal because they provide outlets and expression for desires, urges, and instincts that are within. If cultural messages about masculinity are so powerful, why do they fail so dramatically with many kids who turn out to be GBTQA? Also, why do so many cisgender males feel completely unattracted to certain models of masculinity, while really resonating with others?

    What I would like to see is more attention to why particular messages resonate and work with particular persons. Why is it that men in so many cultures feel attracted to certain models of masculinity? Why is it that almost every developed society is patriarchal to some degree or other? Why do models of masculinity across human cultures have so many common themes? If we paid more attention to this, I believe that we would be in a better position to channel expressions of masculinity in healthy ways, rather than futilely trying to wish it away and to get men to think, feel, and behave more like women.

    It isn’t as though men are uniquely exposed to gendered pressures that can bring them to breaking point. That men are much more likely to explode than women when this point is reached is important. While societal gender norms are a factor, I believe that we should take seriously the possibility that such norms are ways of reckoning with real differences between men and women’s general ways of thinking and operating, differences that go much deeper than culture.

    2. It would be interesting to hear more about the role played by Elliot Rodger’s parents’ divorce. The misogyny narrative surrounding this case has all too often tended to treat misogyny as if it were just something in the water that all of us imbibe. Less attention has been given to the question of the more particular sources of Elliot’s misogyny. The most significant relationship for modelling the relationship between the sexes is the relationship between our parents. The fact that Elliot’s father left his mum, got a younger girlfriend, and was known for his nude photography of nubile young women is probably an important part of the picture here. Not only does divorce rip apart the bond in which a child finds its origins, typically creating an existential scar, it can also leave the child with a distorted sense of how the other sex fits into one’s quest for gendered identity.

    3. Before the other precipitating factors mentioned, I think that it is also important to attend to the way that guns feature within understandings of masculinity, especially within America. That guns are the primary chosen weapon in many cases probably isn’t accidental.

    4. Returning to my first point, about recognizing that masculinity typically has certain needs and drives and that, while these can be channelled, they won’t go away. As a sex, men typically have a profound existential need for status and recognition of their agency, and the effects of this can be seen across many societies. The effects of this need can be revealed throughout a vast range of male behaviours and interactions. There are obviously exceptions, but I really don’t believe that this is going to go away any time soon. Too much gender theory dreams that we could create a society where this particularly masculine urge and its unwelcome effects could largely be extinguished. I believe that we would be much better off being realistic about the situation. Even were this urge in no sense inescapably part of male psychology, we aren’t going to get rid of it any time soon.

    Too many of the suggestions tend to depend upon the removal or general absence of this urge. I would suggest that far more important are the provision of healthy means of satisfying it and addressing of the dysfunctional ways in which our society frustrates or misdirects this urge. It is very easy for relatively economically and socially privileged men to speak about some sort of progressive masculinity, largely because society affirms their agency in many and various ways. However, when you are a male below the poverty line, there are no jobs, and you can’t hold down a relationship, masculinity becomes a much more complicated affair. Progressive masculinity is typically a masculinity of privilege, which is protected from the sorts of stresses that masculinity is exposed to at the margins. Real progress for masculinity will only be made when all men have means of making their agency recognized and valued in healthy ways. Issues such as social inequity are an important part of the picture here as societies that vastly overvalue some men’s agency over others will prove frustrating and degrading and will lead to anti-social forms of masculinity.

    Most of the suggestions in this piece address the lightning rods along which the rage of frustrated masculinity will pass. However, they largely fail to address the underlying needs of that masculinity, leaving it frustrated. It is like trying to plug all of the escape valves in a boiler that contains too much pressure, rather than recognizing and addressing the pressure itself.

  29. Thanks, Lisa. Highlighting the stress that threats to masculinity can cause a male is a welcome perspective that I feel that we in the west have lost. During my time in warrior based cultures in Africa where they have a strong tradition of male initiation by a community of elders, I learned that manhood is a much more delicate thing than womanhood. Mother Nature slammed females with the bodily transformations and procreation responsibilities of womanhood. For males, the transformation is not as dramatic. Thus manhood is more a state of self-perception than physical reality. Thus, it can easily be crushed. Initiation gives males a moment that forever demarcates them as a man and with that freedom, their manhood can not be threatened and they feel less stress. We have lost the cultural tradition of community-led initiation by elders who work as a team for the youth’s best developmental interests. The military and fraternities are a poor substitute.

    As we lose a healthy natural environment, we will see more natural disasters. As we further lose our sense of community, we will see more violence from males struggling to find meaning and their place as men.

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