As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: “I was put off from suicide only by the desire to learn more mathematics.” At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him.Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism. In my heart, there is a little counter that reads “XXX days without a ten-thousand word rant about feministm.” And I had just broken three digits when they had to go after Scott Aaronson.For those of you who don’t know, Scott Aaronson is one of the nicest, smartest, and most decent people there are.
[Aaronson’s post] is the whole “how can men be oppressed when I don’t get to have sex with all the hot women that I want without having to work for it?Anything, really, other than the curse of having been born a heterosexual male, which for me, meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things.Eventually he got over it and is now 97% on board with feminism, but wants people to understand that when done wrong it can be really scary.The feminist blogosphere, as always, responded completely proportionally.There are only individual women and men trying to play the cards they’re dealt, and the confluence of their interests sometimes leads to crappy outcomes.No woman “owes” male nerds anything; no woman deserves blame if she prefers the Neanderthals; everyone’s free choice demands respect.As well it might—for in some sense, there was nothing “wrong” with me.In a different social context—for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine.So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts.To have any hope of bridging the gargantuan chasm between us, I’m going to have to reveal something about my life, and it’s going to be embarrassing.(sigh) Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified.A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man: I check Feministing, and even radfem blogs like “I Blame the Patriarchy.” And yes, I’ve read many studies and task force reports about gender bias, and about the “privilege” and “entitlement” of the nerdy males that’s keeping women away from science.