Poison in the Well
June 1, 2012
Hey there fellas (Hey!), I want to sit down and have a chat with you. I want to talk to you about us getting laid.
See, I’ve got the sex drive that jokes about guys alludes to. I’m always interested in fin, and ding a partner for some intimate time, and I’m pansexual so I’m not as picky as a lot of people when it comes to finding partners. However, I’ve only had a handful of partners, and all but one of them have been in long term relationships. Everyone of those relationships have been built on top of awkward communication and a lot of me staying at arm’s length until I was clearly allowed to get closer. Even if I wanted, and they wanted, us to be closer I had to be absolutely sure.
Because if I wasn’t, I’d be an asshole. Even if I’m not an asshole, a lot of assholes are ruining it for the rest of us.
So today I want to talk about what poisoning the well means.
I’m going to assume that, if you’re single, you don’t want to be. If you’re a geek or an atheist, you’d love to go to a geek or atheist convention with a whole bunch of people that you’re attracted to, who might be attracted to you, and who might be interested in seeing how far that attraction goes. If you are single, and a geek and/or atheist, I’m sure you’ve been to a con or several and noticed a few things – there aren’t a lot of women, and it seems like fewer women are going. I’m sure you’ve also noticed that the women who do go assume that you’re creepy, disgusting, and whenever you talk to them they act like you might rape them.
There’s a reason for this, and it has to do with The Well.
Let’s pretend that everyone at a convention has to drink from the same well of water. This well represents social goodwill and trust, it represents how much we can assume everyone around us isn’t going to act like a total asshole. It represents how much we can assume we will be respected by the people around us.
When The Well is fine and full of pure, sweet water we treat each other well and a whole lot more interaction goes on. Single people mingle, a lot of them get together, those that don’t have a good time hanging out with the other people who don’t hook up. Non-single people make new friends. Some of them hook up too. Everyone concentrates on having fun and enjoying their fandom. Everyone’s respected. Everyone’s awesome. There are no assholes.
This is not the real world. Here in the real world, we have assholes. And those assholes are poisoning The Well. Some of them may not even realize they’re doing it, they may not realize they’re assholes, and one of those assholes might be you.
The base currency of The Well is respect. You don’t reach out for people without their permission, you don’t demand things of people, you acknowledge their ideas, their strengths, their limitations (not weaknesses), and you treat them like people. Most guys do this with other guys instinctively. They respect other men, even if they don’t like them. Without this respect, no convention could happen. No fandom could happen. Without respect, there is no community.
Which is why it’s a problem that women frequently don’t get that kind of respect. When they get to The Well and they drink the water, a lot of them find that it’s full of pessimism, rape, assault, verbal and emotional abuse, and social ostracism. They have to work twice as hard for half as much recognition. They will always be considered second-class to ‘real’ men in the fandom. If they do succeed, it’s assumed they did so using their bodies as currency. They’re criticized for how they look even if it doesn’t matter. If they’re ugly, their ideas have no merits. If they’re pretty, they’re stupid and didn’t earn anything. If they avoid rape, they’re being unnecessarily paranoid and if they do get raped, well, they deserved it. By reducing every woman to a sex object, The Well tastes poisonous to them and they back away. They don’t want to be at that convention, in that social group, in that community.
The worst part is that it only takes one person to poison The Well. If the poison gets in, too, unless the community cleans up the water, the poison spreads. Right now, in many geek and atheist communities (as well as many other male-dominated fields), the poison is ignored and it’s allowed to spread. No one vocally fights the harassment women suffer, no one vocally fights for the women who have been raped (or almost raped) and no one demands that the rapist(s) be barred from future participation in the community. No one pushes back against the people who say that women only get as far as they do by working on their backs. No one fights for women to be respected, and every woman is potentially a sex object. Every woman in these communities, on some level, knows that the men around her look at her like a predator looks at prey. No one tries to correct these problems so the poison spreads. It becomes part of the community to look at beautiful women, to leer, to flirt with everything vaguely feminine. This poisons The Well and the women who drink from it tell others not to, to avoid it.
It didn’t take everyone being an asshole to poison the well, just a few people doing it and no one saying anything about it. When women say The Well’s poisoned and the community doesn’t listen, the women leave. When guys who are honestly nice, respectful, and caring listen to what’s going on, we hear that these actions are bad, dangerous, and upset the women around us. So instead of flirting, being playful, or being a little forward when it is warranted, we wait and we’re polite to the point of failure. Because we don’t want to be That Asshole. And now there’s a horrible wave of the formally nice, respectful guys turning into Nice Guys which is really just That Asshole with a veneer of politeness but they still think that they are ‘owed’ sex and treat women like some kind of investment – if I am nice enough to you for long enough, sex comes out. Doesn’t work that way.
So, you want to get laid more and hang out with more hot geeky and/or atheist women? You want to be able to flirt with people without worrying? Listen to the women. Respect the women. Don’t be That Asshole. Stop poisoning The Well. When you don’t respect women, women think that we’re all rapists. They have to, and if they don’t treat us all like that then they get raped. And no one ever deserves to be raped.