That Is Not What 'Lovesick' Is
Sixteen-year-old Jaelyn Rose Willey was taken off life support last night after having been shot in the head by Austin Rollins, a boy described by police as a "lovesick teen."
Police described Austin Bomber Mark Anthony Conditt as a "very challenged young man" who was dealing with "challenges" in his personal life. "Challenges" that he was unable to find a way to deal with that did not involve killing two people and injuring five others. People he'd never met, who very likely did not have a thing to do with his "challenges."
Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was abusive to his girlfriend and was so obsessed with her that he threatened to kill her new boyfriend. He killed 17 people.
Guns are a problem. I'm not saying they're not. We need gun control. But what we also need is for men, as a people, TO STOP FUCKING MURDERING PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY CAN'T GET LAID.
Women are also rejected. Women also spend their teen years pining after dreamy boys who will never love them back. You don't see us going around murdering people over it. You don't see us setting up internet communities for the purpose of talking about how evil and shallow men are for not taking us to pound town.
Women don't go around killing men who don't like them, because if you're a woman in this society, a boy not liking you is the least of your problems. It is nowhere near the shittiest thing you're going to be expected to "just deal with" in your life -- one of those things being the fact that we are expected to "just deal with" how men are sometimes going to murder a bunch of people because they felt entitled to romantic attention from women. We are expected to "deal with" that, while never bringing up the terms "male privilege" or "male entitlement" or "toxic masculinity" and why those things so often lead to mass murder, on account of how that might really hurt the feelings of the men who have been gracious enough to not go on killing sprees.
Do all men go on murder sprees because they got rejected by women? No, of course not. I'm not saying they do. But, clearly, it's men who are doing this and we need to start talking about why that is.
Not too long ago, I came across a bunch of Trumpists complaining that "feminism" wanted to "force" them to date women they are not romantically interested in -- specifically trans women and women who are overweight. It got me thinking not just about how grotesque these men are but about the fact that men often absolutely do feel entitled to romantic attention from women who are not interested in them. About the fact that a man's consent is more respected than a woman's is. If a man isn't attracted to you, that's it, game over. If a woman isn't romantically interested in a man... they still see wiggle room. They can wear her down. If they put enough niceness coins into her, she should reward them with sex or else she is a shallow bitch who poses a threat to their image of themselves as men.
These killings are happening for the same reason there was such a negative reaction to women saying they didn't want to be cat-called, and why so many men get so furious and frustrated when we talk about things like "enthusiastic consent." Women are meant to be "pursued," and men have the right to pursue them, regardless of what those women actually want.
It's woven into the very fabric of our culture. A woman chasing after a man who isn't interested in her, who isn't taking his "no" as the final word, is Fatal Attraction -- it's aberrant, it's terrifying, it makes us uncomfortable. A man chasing after a woman who isn't interested in him is nearly every romantic comedy from Taming of the Shrew onwards. We have characterized accepting rejection as "unmanly" -- the hero doesn't take no for an answer! He finds the object of his affection and he wins her over, against all odds. Women are taught to understand "he's just not that into you," and men are taught that women can be pushed into being into them, because they are "just playing hard-to-get." That if they just do everything right, they will get their woman-prize. When this doesn't work out, some of them just snap.
This is not the way things play out in real life -- sometimes a woman is just not interested in you and there just is not a damn thing you can do about it, and we need to start doing more to raise boys who understand this. Boys who can handle it when there's nothing they can do to make a girl like them, who know how to appropriately respond to and process rejection.
It's not just an issue for mass murderers -- there are screenshots like this all over the damn internet:
That is a part of it, too. Hell, part of the reason that we have Trump as president is because a bunch of white men were angry about things they felt entitled to being taken away. They felt entitled to have people laugh at their rape jokes, to say rude things to people and not have those people get offended (or, more specifically, not like them because of it), to have video games be a boys only club, to spread their legs out on public transportation without consideration of the fact that they might be making the person next to them uncomfortable, to have to consider whether the woman fucking them actually wants to be fucking them. At the end of the day, that is what all of this has been over. Male entitlement, specifically white male entitlement, and fear of rejection is fucking us all.
It's not just conservative men either. There are lots and lots of liberal men out there who feel entitled to attention and praise from women just because they're not "as bad as" those other guys.
This is on men to fix. We can't do it. We, clearly, will not be listened to. Just as there are men gathering on the internet to commiserate over how evil we are for not fucking them, other men need get it together and start having conversations among themselves about how to deal with the loss of something they feel entitled to, how to deal with rejection. We need fathers to teach their sons that they are not entitled to romantic attention from women. We need male teachers to step up, round up all the boys in their classes and have discussions about healthier ways to view and process rejection. To start teaching them the lesson every other kind of person has to learn, which is that life is not fair and sometimes things suck and sometimes people are going to not like you for reasons you can do nothing about. To teach them to accept "no" for an answer without going off the deep end. It's not perfect, but it's a place to start. It's better than not having those conversations.
Austin Rollins was not just a "lovesick teen." He was an entitled asshole who believed that Jaelyn Rose Willey was obligated to love him back. Mark Anthony Conditt wasn't any more "challenged" than anyone else -- he just was never expected to have to deal with "challenges" in the way people who are not white men are prepared to do. It is not a coincidence that the people who face the least amount of injustice are the ones who can't handle it when things don't go their way.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse