I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison.
And furthermore, that the people who did these things to me would somehow be morally right to do them—even if I couldn’t understand how.
Of course, this too becomes its own invitation to comment as Scott Alexander rode to Professor Aaronson’s defense ((And believe me, Alexander’s got enough bullshit for me to handle in a future column. Critically, they’re held forth as reasons why Nice Guys deserve a break instead of the opprobrium they receive and why it’s unfair for women to treat them with disdain, with a dash of nerd victim culture and privilege for flavor.
So let’s dive back into the Nice Guy debate, shall we?
My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual, so that I could simply devote my life to math, like my hero Paul Erdös did.
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.
After all, what better way could we ring in a new year than by looking at some old issues?
But first, some context: Over the last week or so, I had several people forward me links to this comment from MIT Professor Scott Aaronson’s blog about growing up as a nerd terrified of women and trying to be a Nice Guy and how this meant that nerds couldn’t be keeping women out of STEM fields.
The problem isn’t in the desire, it’s in the belief.
At their core, these imagined nightmares are about ego protection.
This is an incredibly common complaint that I hear from men, especially Nice Guys: they’re scared.
I’ve lost track of how many men have told me that they’re terrified of making a mistake, of being called a creeper or – as in Aaronson’s example, somehow ending up being thrown in jail because that’s how law works.
Scott Aaronson is quick to remind us: he’s a feminist.