Aaronson found information without context – in this case, the writings of Andrea Dworkin and other radical feminists – and took it as further confirmation that he was a horrible person.
The problem is that he – like many other nerds and Nice Guys – took all the wrong lessons from what he read.
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?
The long and short of Aaronson’s comment is fairly simple: Nerds are Nice Guys (as opposed to guys who are nice) they’re unfairly maligned by society because the world is cruel and mean and unfair.
Aaronson, for example, explains that 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.
The problem is that Aaronson made the same mistake that many other nerds and Nice Guys have made: he misunderstood the point of what he was reading.
Specifically: he wasn’t willing or able to step outside of himself and realize that You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault.
We dislike the sensation of being afraid and so we come to avoid the situations that might trigger them… Part of what makes it so stressful and torturous to Aaronson and the many others who suffer from this anxiety is that they live in a world of impossibilities.
As is the nature of the Internet, this immediately was an opportunity to comment on the topic. Flippancy aside, my purpose isn’t to add to the criticism per se; instead, I want to talk about some of the underlying attitudes at play here regarding nerds, entitlement and dating.
Many people had some interesting and thought-provoking comments to share; Laurie Penny focused on the tricky topics of intersectionality and privilege while Amanda Marcotte discussed the problematic subtext of his complaints. Both Aaronson’s complaints are excellent examples of what I hear from nerds and self-described Nice Guys .
Google will inevitably tell you that you have cancer.
By looking for information without context to you get results that are unhelpful at best and terrifying at worst.