Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nerd Culture is Rape Culture: Elliot Rodger and the misogynistic world of the geek

16-bit brutes

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 4:05 PM

I'm a life-long Star Wars fan and a pop-culture lover, but it took me years to realize the subtext of the opening segment in Return of the Jedi, the one where Princess Leia wears her much-celebrated slave girl costume. But once I did, the truth was undeniable.

Princess Leia was raped by Jabba the Hutt.

How many times, I don't know, nor do I care to know the specifics. But these were the most brutal gangsters in all of the galaxy, the worst of the worst, and so she was. And it was soul-crushing and brutal and something that Leia never spoke of — not to her brother Luke Skywalker and not to her lover Han Solo. When it was all said and done, she was a shadow of her former self.

Although Leia's rape may have happened off-screen, make no mistake, it happened. And after it was done, Leia was dressed in rags and chained to her rapist. She was nothing more than an object, a toy, for any and all to see. 

And for many, if not most geeks today, this particular image of Leia is the quintessential image of geek sexiness and yet at heart it is the image of a rape fantasy.

In light of the Santa Barbara shootings, much has been made about misogyny in American culture, in particular how the men's rights movement fueled Elliot Rodger's desire to punish — nay, destroy — all womenkind. While I won't deny that American culture is at heart sexist — I'll be the first to admit that I too am often guilty — I think that amongst all of this uproar and #YesAllWomen hash-bashing we're missing a key point: Nerd Culture is Rape Culture. 

First of all, there is no argument that Elliot Rodgers was the very definition of a geek. He was a lonely, bright-ish virgin who retreated into the world of video games time and time again to escape the uncomfortable realities of life. In fact, his autobiography, My Twisted World, is less a modern-day Mein Kampf than it is a Proustian recounting of every video game system and video game he ever bought. In fact, one of his earliest grievances was when his mother forced him to share his Nintendo 64 with his sister — and apparently, it was one grievance he could never let go. 

Now, this isn't to paint all gamers as psychopaths or nerds for that matter. But over the course of my years, I've known more than my fair share of Elliot Rodgers — the detached, lonely 20- or 30-something virgin whose life revolves around whatever pop culture indulgence most captivates him.

For some, it's Star Wars. For others, it's X-Men or World of Warcraft or Dr. Who or D&D or Robotech or the Lord of the Fucking Rings. They are collectors and consumers and junk-sick fiends whose fixes are never fixed. Often times, they are dismissive of anyone who doesn't share their degree of passion, and so even attempting to indulge their obsession in any shape or form only leads to further disappointment. After all, you may know that Ricardo Montalbán played Khan in 1982's Star Trek II, but you don't give a flip that he was first introduced in the "Space Seed" episode of Star Trek: TOS and where that episode ranks among the top episodes of the classic television series and/or how it compares to the 2013 Khan reboot Star Trek Into Darkness starring Benedict Cumberbatch — which, truth be told, is fucking horrible. And like that, another attempt to connect has failed. A geek's world is an insular one that is as impenetrable as Emma Frost's diamond hard skin.  

In some ways, all of that is neither here nor there, at least when it comes to the issue at hand, namely that the geek world is thick with slobbering, sticky-hand sexists whose ill-opinions about the opposite sex are trumped only by their loneliness. They live in a world of perpetually scantily clad superwomen who fight crime in ninja lingerie and kevlar camisoles. They live in a world where super-soldier women strike anatomically impossible fighting stances that show off not only their ample asses but their massive breasts. They live in a world where happiness is a harajuku schoolgirl getting the tentacle rape she so desperately deserves. They live in a world where the once feisty and feminist-era proud Princess Leia is nothing more than a cosplay centerfold.

Stranger still, these geeks, almost to a man, have incredibly high expectations of what beauty is. The girl next door — she's no good. Hell, Mila Kunis is only, well, a seven — and that's when she's at her award-show best. For these 16-bit brutes, the only girl that is worth their time is a solid 10, and sadly, they haven't found her yet — or at least not since the last one they thought was a 10 turned them down after an uninvited barroom back rub. 

Sadly, some of these sad sacks have been my friends, but I will tell you flat out, I would never let them around my daughters. There's just something there that feels off, icky. To them, women aren't just sex objects, they're fucking action figures that they collect, box, display, and fetishize.

Make no mistake, the world that the geek inhabits is different than the world of the ex-jocks, the student body presidents, the average fucking joes. If they're heterosexually inclined, they've all ogled Victoria Secret catalogs and they all get a funny feeling whenever they spy a particularly pleasant gal in yoga pants, but unlike the rest, the geek doesn't regularly interact with women — at least in any meaningful, interpersonal way. In fact, I've met few basement-level geeks who aren't patently dismissive of anything that any woman says at anytime. The geek will roll his eyes. He will talk over a woman anytime she speaks. He will act like she isn't even there — at least until he decides that she — yes, this one — just might be the one for him. 

Now, I know I'm painting in broad strokes here, but if there's one thing these sorts of controversies have taught us, it's that we only talk in broad strokes when some entitled, lonely, disenfranchised white geek opens fire on a crowd of innocent victims. Yes, the average straight man is a sexist pig, but at least he doesn't pen 100-page manifestos about his life-long relationship with his Nintendo 64. Only a true psycho does that.


This article was inspired by and written in response to Arthur Chu's excellent article, "Your Princess is in Another Castle." While I agree with many of his points, and applaud his effort, I felt that he was too kind to nerd culture.

Chris Haire is the author of the comic novel, The Many Crimes of Wyatt Duvall, Archmotherfucker, a despicable tale about a dastardly man committing dastardly deeds. Oh, and dryer lint smoking. He's has also written The 12 Days of the Marquis de Santa and Great Assholes in South Carolina Politics: The racist, homophobic, Bible-beating bastards that call the Palmetto State home. All are currently available at Amazon.com.

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