From Nice Guy™ to Feminist – My Rather Unremarkable Journey


This is one of the hardest posts for me to put up. I’ve been waffling over it for months; came close to deleting it a couple of times, in fact. I did so because it includes some rather personal information I’m seriously not comfortable divulging. However, in order to give my short and unremarkable story, this is information I have to provide, in order to provide context. A couple of times in this post I make a couple of requests with regard to comments. Please follow those requests. Also, MRAs and such are not welcome to post here. As this is my blog and I do not have to follow the first amendment of the US Constitution on my blog, I will be deleting any comments from any misogynistic MRA assholes. That doesn’t means I won’t allow any kind of debate here… I’m just not going to allow needlessly offensive comments and strawman/mischaracterizing bullshit. So don’t bother.

I call it “unremarkable” because my moment of change didn’t actually happen to me. I was collateral damage. I never had a direct moment of “holy fuck you’re a misogynistic shithead”. I got it second-hand while it happened to someone else.

So in a way, I got off lucky.

My learning curve was then largely by myself.

But to understand why I ever would have been a Nice Guy and MRA, you have understand some things about me… things that are personal and sad and depressing. Things I’m not always very comfortable talking about.

To be honest, I don’t want to talk about them, but I need to, because it is important.

Some of this is already known.

If you know me at all, you know I’m not a social person. In point of fact, I’m terrified of social situations. If I can avoid them, I will. I’m not exactly an agoraphobe… I go to school, and I work as an assistant teacher, which means I basically put on a disguise and pretend to be someone I’m not on a daily basis… but when I do go outside, I walk on broken glass throughout the whole day. (As you know, I was at the second Women in Secularism conference, and you will not believe the kind of mental stress I was in leading up to it. Surprisingly, being social at the conference was not as hard as I expected to be, which is a really good sign, but I’m not out of this phobia at all… I have a long way to go.)

I’ve never known how to talk to people. I find it really hard. I ask people how they do it, and their answers always assume it’s really easy.

But honestly?

It isn’t.

I mean… if you want to talk about science, politics, religion, music, social issues, and such, then we could talk for hours. Days, even! But I don’t know what else to talk about. I’m not even sure I understand what people talk about. It seems to be about… other people? I don’t even know…

I’m also not attractive (and please… no reassurances to the contrary; I’m not fishing for that and don’t want it… so don’t). I know this because there was a time when nearly every girl I was attracted to made sure I knew that I wasn’t attractive.

And that’s why, for many years, I hated women.

I was bullied in grade school, to the point of being suicidal. Thing is, to this day, I feel like it was my fault. I think this because I know that who I am now would not be friends with who I was then. I wouldn’t bully myself, but I would not like myself. I was an idiot. I was extremely strange. The easiest way to say it is that I didn’t leave Kindergarten until I graduated high school.

That doesn’t mean I think other bully victims deserve it. In fact, I think I’m an anomaly… an outlier. Indeed, I could very well being the only bully victim in the world who did bring it on myself. And that’s also not to say I think I deserved it… no one deserves bullying. But I wasn’t helping myself when I, for example, walked through the halls vocalizing my thoughts to myself out loud, many times without realizing it (which, of course, to someone just observing me, it looks like  I’m talking to myself… not something you do in public).

And girls could be just as vicious to me as boys (sometimes moreso).

And it was that that made me a Nice Guy™.

Now, I never actually dug all that deep into this stuff about feminism, and Nice Guys, and the MRM, and PUAs, and all of that. My online life at that point was largely Led Zeppelin forums, the Bill Hicks forum, MySpace, Facebook, and Harry Potter forums (oh yeah). So if you had called me a Nice Guy™, I would have taken it as a compliment, and if you had sneered at me for being an MRA, it would have taken me a few moments to figure out what you meant. But I agreed with it.

And I can say that because I was a disciple of Bill Hicks.

When I was 16 years old, a friend got me in to Bill Hicks. I immediately adopted his song Chicks Dig Jerks as my theme song. This song was one I listened to all the fucking time. Oh yes… this song informed my fucking life for many years. It explained why all those guys were getting laid while I persisted in a state of virginity for… well…

Now I’ve seen people suggest that Bill was actually lampooning the Nice Guy™ attitude. That, in fact, he’s making fun of those people who think that “chicks dig jerks”. But I certainly didn’t take the song that way, most of his fans don’t take the song that way, and being as familiar with Bill’s work as I am, I’d err more on the side of him meaning it in a straight-forward way… the way it was written.

My problem was that I had these rather high standards (standards that, yes, I do still have… because everyone has standards, and that really is totally okay), but I expected those women to not have standards. I wanted them to fuck me because I was nice enough to provide them with my attention… of course, whether or not they wanted my attention meant absolutely nothing to me…

Except in one sense. This was sort of a “fatal flaw” in my thinking at the time… this was really the flaw that destroyed my entire Nice Guy™ world, and upon which I built my current views as an ally of feminists.

I could not, and cannot, handle rape. In a movie? I will not watch that movie. In a book? I will not read that book. In a TV show? I will not watch that TV show.

I don’t actually know why. I don’t have any specific first-hand or even second-hand experiences with rape. Although I did know girls and women who were raped, and was even aware of it, they never affected me directly. And yet I have this very visceral reaction to rape to the point where I can’t handle it at all.

Some recent examples: I was all excited about the History Channel’s new show “Vikings” until that rape scene in the second show. I’ve watched bits and pieces of “Game of Thrones”, but that rape scene near the beginning is still largely keeping me away, and I’ve heard (though haven’t verified) that there’s more where it came from. I haven’t seen “The Book of Eli” past the “it’s not your problem” scene, and 5 minutes of “CSI: SVU” showed me it was a show I could never watch. I only needed to read a short description of “Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo” to know that these are books and films I need to stay far away from.

How did I define rape? The same way I do now: having sex with someone without their consent. Even then, I considered any sober or relatively sober person who had sex with a wasted person to be a rapist. And yes, I was quite sure that husbands could rape their wives (and vice versa, of course). And I didn’t give truck to victim-blaming of any kind. If I read a story of someone being raped, and I saw victim-blaming in relation to that story, I would jump down that person’s throat. I can only do so much online, but offline, if you engage in victim blaming in front of me, I won’t say anything to you; I’ll just break your jaw (or try… I’m kinda week, so it’s more likely that I’ll break my fist). That was as true then as it is now.

Of course, at the time, I never thought this contradicted my “Chicks Dig Jerks” worldview. I mean, it did… I was operating under some serious cognitive dissonance there… but it didn’t register. How did I manage it? I considered myself “protective”. I would never physically hurt a woman, either by accident or on purpose. I also had, back when I was 15, delusions of being a sort of hero, saving women from… in my defense, I was 15… not exactly mature. And I’ve been over that complex for a long time…

Then came the party.

So, the friend who introduced me to Bill Hicks joined me to go to this party when I was 21 (an age when there really is no excuse anymore). There was one girl we had both been crushing on for a long time. Both of us spent about half the party (the whole time we were there) obsessing over her and saying some rather nasty things about her boyfriend, whom we identified as a “jerk”. Superficially, we said he was a jerk because he acted like a typical high school jock. Just… imagine the stereotype, and you’ll know exactly what he was like… well… more like, that was exactly how we cast him in our heads. And we had to “save her” from him.

Well, at one point, my friend spoke a little too loud, and she heard him… and then she approached us, and yelled at him.

I feel like I remember this word-for-word. Of course, if the article “Science Proves You’re Stupid” is any indication, I’m probably misremembering this, but here’s what I remember her saying to him:

“He’s a jerk? Why? Because he’s fucking me and you aren’t?

Yes, he’s fucking me. I like it when he fucks me. He’s got a big dick and gives me the greatest orgasms.

And you know what? He’s not a jerk. He’s the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He’s sweet and kind and caring and protective and cool and intelligent. I’m happy to be with him.

I would never date you. You are disgusting. You spend all this time putting down my boyfriend because… what… jealousy? Are you that pathetic? You need to grow up and get over yourself.

And while you’re at it, go to hell.”

I got lucky, because she ignored me. In fact, I was easily able to sort of back away without anybody noticing (not even my friend). I looked like everyone else did; a bystander, just watching this unfold.

But I got the message as loud and clear as he did.

And that’s where it started.

See, as we were driving home, I realized that she was right. Her boyfriend had been a jerk because he was having sex with her and we weren’t. My friend and I? We were wrong. And I got that. I realized, on the way home, that we were just envious.

As it turns out, the guy really is awesome. I know this because he and I are now friends. He and that girl at the party? They’re now married with two kids. They live in California, they’re both getting PhDs, and they’re both very, very happy.

And that’s the point. That’s what took me all those years, and that outburst at my friend, to get.

So I started doing some research. This is when I started really learning about feminism. And that fatal flaw? My utter aversion to rape? That’s what got tugged to bring my whole Nice Guy façade crumbling down to dust. Well… that and realizing that feminists are the people actually doing the things and fighting for the changes that will, in fact, positively affect the issues I care about in relation to men (as opposed to MRAs who apparently are mainly interested in being misogynistic assholes).

I learned about Rape Culture, Patriarchy, and Kyriarchy, and yes, I accepted it all (just like I accepted evolution) because, honestly, the evidence is overwhelming. I also learned about privilege. At first, I wasn’t at all happy to hear about how I had all these privileges. These are some of the first thoughts I had: I’m a fucking virgin! I’m ugly! I’m a social pariah! I was born Jewish! I’m poor! I’m an atheist! How in the hell could I be privileged?

And yes, these are actually ways in which I’m not privileged. But I’m also white, and male, and straight, and cis-gendered, and able-bodied; It took another year to really figure it all out.

And I still make mistakes. I still have lapses.

A recent event shows that I still have a lot of work to do:

I’m still a virgin, you see. And, as it’s always been, it’s not exactly voluntary.

There’s this woman I find rather attractive at the college I currently attend. When she found out (I was kinda forced to tell her), she started going on about how she could not believe it. She said I was attractive, and couldn’t understand how I wasn’t a lady’s man. She told me that she loved how I played guitar, and how I could sing.

Of course, she also managed to throw in to her little speech that I’m not her type, right before asking me how I could still be a virgin.

And yes, for one brief moment, that Nice Guy came roaring to life. I was ready to cuss her out… hell, I would have been happy to simply say “that’s why”. Instead I bit my tongue, shrugged, smiled sadly, said “I don’t know”, and headed off to class. And that Nice Guy inside me fumed for a while. He got angry at me for not “giving that bitch a piece of my mind”. Before I realized it, I was mentally tearing her down with gendered slurs and cuss words and so on, deploring the fact that she had standards… and missing some vital information about my midterms in that particular class. It took me a good 15 minutes to stop myself and think um… dude… remember when agreed that women are allowed to have standards, too? Yes, she was a bit callous, and it was somewhat insulting, but the problem isn’t that she has standards. It’s totally okay that I’m not her type. She’s allowed to have a type.

I don’t normally divulge the fact that I’m a virgin because nowadays the expressions of surprise are actually insulting. They’re insulting because they feel fake. They feel fake because I know better than that. I’m a virgin for reasons… legit reasons. In fact, I’d much rather people just be honest and admit that this is exactly what they expected.

I don’t need people trying to reassure me or pretend as if it’s a big surprise… because it also suggests they think I’m broken. (So… please refrain from doing any of these things, too, thanks.)

And I’m not broken.

So yes, she was a bit callous and that enraged my feels. But I was insulted because she had standards. That’s not the right reason to be insulted. She’s allowed to have standards. She doesn’t owe me. But that’s why I got angry. I was actually getting hopeful until she threw in the part about how I’m not her type. Hopes were dashed.

It shows I still have work to do. I’ll probably be checking myself and my privilege for the rest of my life. That incident showed that the Nice Guy is still there. I thought he was gone, but he’s really not. And, to be honest, that kind of depresses me, because I want him to be gone, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s possible to get rid of him.

So as I said… my journey’s unremarkable. And it’s on-going. And I still make amazingly ignorant mistakes, as the readers of Manboobz (an absolutely brilliant blog, BTW; and the commenters there are amazing people and were absolutely right to get angry at me) can tell you (for the record, if you read Manboobz but don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m the cynicism troll who tried to talk about the [idiotic] possibility that misanthropy was behind the “how to not get raped” shit and got pissed when they “misconstrued me”… which they didn’t do; I was just being an ignorant boob). But I keep on, because I know it’s the right path. Feminism is where true equality for all will come from. I really do believe that. We men need to learn who we are, and how we think of the world, and how we think of women. We need to stop teaching boys about this “real man” bullshit. We need to provide comprehensive and accurate safe sex education for students of all ages, including the FACT that consent is sexy and only yes means yes (as opposed to “no means no”, which I actually think is too narrow). We need to get over our Victorian prudery when it comes to sex and nudity. And it’s feminism that will do that.

So…

Um…

I’ve no idea how to end this, so…

This is the end of this…

😀

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About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men. I also play guitar and sing, and I'm an atheist and anti-theist. What now?
This entry was posted in Activism, Atheism, Bullying, Feminism, Misanthropy, Misogyny, Protection, Secularism, Sexism, Skepticism, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to From Nice Guy™ to Feminist – My Rather Unremarkable Journey

  1. Chris Smith says:

    I don’t think you were a Nice Guy (TM), but correct me if you were wrong. I didn’t see that you manipulated any woman into having sex with you. And what were you saying about that girl’s boyfriend that made her so angry? “Go to hell” is kind of an extreme response IMO.

    • Chris Smith says:

      Oops, I meant to say “correct me if I am wrong”

    • The only thing that kept me from the manipulation aspect was social anxiety and a self-loathing I hadn’t quite realized I had at the time (I’m largely over the self-loathing now, as I’m much happier with myself… the anxiety is strong with me, though). But I did have the “why don’t girls ever take a nice guy like me? I won’t treat them like shit! They’re such bitches!” thing down pat.

      In terms of the girl who got angry at (really my friend, but technically both of) us, I also though it was extreme at the time, but I don’t think so anymore. I think we both needed that slap over the head. It spoke to my friend, too, and although he avoids political and social debates like the plague, if he did participate in these online debates, he’d also get pegged as a Social Justice Warrior, like me. So it worked on him in much the same way it worked on me. I’m just vocal about it, and he prefers to show his side in just action, as opposed to both (although he’s much braver than I am in calling out bigotry when he sees it).

      • Chris Smith says:

        I meant if you remember what your friend specifically said. Because if I was that girl and I heard two random guys saying that about my boyfriend, I probably would have just laughed, unless it was really mean.

      • I wish I could remember what he said, but I don’t. I do remember that we were both being extremely rude and offensive, but our exact words are lost to me.

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  4. MaudeLL says:

    That was interesting.
    I’m a woman in my late 20s, and I must admit I didn’t know that the “You’re such a great guy, I can’t believe you don’t have tons of girls wanting you! (but you’re not my type)” answer was hurtful until I reached 25 (now I get it). I wonder if it’s a problem with how we are socialized into our gender role. I don’t like telling a guy off, but it’s a lot easier if he’s being an asshole. Whenever I genuinely like a guy as a human being, but not sexually, I feel like I’m supposed to maintain a certain decorum. I understand why it is horrible on the receiving end, but I think women are stuck with a bit of a ‘damn if you do, damn if you don’t’ problem (not excusing them being insensitive, I think there’s so serious lack of communication though).
    Anyway, I’m rambling, but I enjoyed your post (first time reader, found you out through the skepchick comments).

    • You may be right about that…

      Why it insulted me is two-fold:
      a) I slipped back into that Nice Guy(TM). She was getting my hopes up and then dashed them pretty hard. I got angry that while she felt that I was attractive, she was not attracted to me. That’s the completely-not-legitimate reason to be offended.
      b) Under the heading of “Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too”, men who are virgins over the age of 18 are thought of as broken. I’m sure she didn’t at all mean it, but her words included that implication. It doesn’t help that, as I said, I’m not a virgin by choice. So it’s not actually her I should’ve been mad at, but the patriarchal society that breeds such ideas.

      Also… skepchick comments?

      Uh oh… I definitely need to improve the quality of my postings, now… 😀

  5. Found you via Camels with Hammers 🙂 And thank you for being so brave as to seriously examine your attitudes. Thank you. All I ever wanted, as a woman, is for a man to recognize that I am not here to reward him with sex for being “nice” to me– that I get to have my own standards, and moreover that it’s totally okay that my safety, pleasure, and preferences are more valuable to me than his gratification or happiness will ever be. When I read MRAs’ rantings, I start to feel like a brightly-wrapped box of prizes, and it makes me really wonder how to reach these people and bring them out of their dehumanizing and objectifying mindset. So I thank you for writing this unflinchingly honest account.

  6. oolon says:

    Great post, well written and very interesting. Some parallels to my childhood. I was the outcast and weirdo in primary school as well and used to wander about talking to myself, read all the books in the library and used to bring some in from home to read etc 🙂

    Cue rant that is vaguely relevant, been on my mind recently… One thing I really don’t like about the way some people dismiss MRAs and the anti-feminists is the “angry virgin in their basement” meme. Its part of the toxic gender stereotypes and ideas about sex that feminism is supposed to be breaking down that put pressure on men to not be virgins. Shaming through sex or lack of sexual experience is ridiculous and not something anyone should engage in. The act of sex for men is put on such a pedestal as a validation as a man that its hardly surprising you and your friend were envious of someone who’d made it. What is in the way of this goal? Women and their damn standards! If only they’d do what they are supposed to do when you are nice to them, like in the movies and on TV. Opposite of this are all the women who are pressured into having sex they don’t want, because they are “supposed” to put out or they are damaging their mans sense of masculinity. Its a horrible anti-sex positive view and while rare I’ve seen a couple of people in our community and elsewhere in feminism use this tactic for shaming MRAs. Although its clearly tempting with all their PUA alpha/beta male crap personally I think their irrational positions on pretty much everything are more than enough ammo!

    People without sexual experience are not any less people than childless people or others who don’t or haven’t yet experienced some aspect of so called “normal” human experience. So anyway long rant but thanks for being open about your virginity, very admirable given the societal pressures on, and views of, male virginity. Onwards to the day anyone on the gender spectrum can admit to being an X year old virgin and no one raise an eyebrow.

    • Yeah… I can understand why so many male virgins are so angry. I just wish they’d wake up and recognize the true source of their problems, though. Honestly, when I look at it from a feminist perspective, it becomes patently obvious that what feminists are trying to destroy is the source of men’s misery, too… virgins especially. Virginity in general (regardless of what gender it’s attached too) shouldn’t be such a big fucking deal, and it wouldn’t be if not for patriarchy and gender roles.

      And if you’re a virgin by “mistake” as opposed to choice… well… yeah, that can induce levels of rage because you internalize that general thought that you’re a failure because you couldn’t lose your virginity when you were supposed to (whenever that was supposed to be). So you think of yourself as a failure and people around you (admittedly often unintentionally) reinforce that.

      So I get it, but I also think that by the time you leave high school at the latest, you should be mature enough to look in the mirror and recognize the common denominator in every rejection. I’m angry at myself for it taking me as long as it did, but then, as I said, it took me years to leave Kindergarten (not literally, of course… just in terms of temperament and personality and such), although that’s not actually an excuse.

  7. Ginny says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. A lot of guys I’m close to have a similar history… probably because I tend to connect with cerebral, socially awkward people. I think it’s important for people on both sides to see that people can and do renounce the misogynistic views they’ve held in the past.

    I’ve gotten the “Oh, of course you’re attractive! …I mean, not to ME, but to someone…” thing a lot through my life and I agree, it’s worse than hearing nothing at all. (Especially when the person saying it is someone you’re attracted to, which often seems to be the case.) I was also a virgin through most of my 20s, and the social responses to that are not fun. I’m working on a few articles of advice and support for later-life virgins (later-life being relative to cultural norms, of course) for the website I’m building… when I have them up, I’d love to get feedback from you if you have the time. I know my personal perspective is very incomplete. (Also, I hate the word “virgin” and rarely use it.)

  8. Seconding Miri. It’s a mark of your character and courage that you can make honest assessments about yourself, realize you come up short in some way, and then move forward by trying to be a better human being. In my view your journey is hardly unremarkable, it’s extraordinary. Many, many people never get as far as step one in that process.

    I very much enjoyed meeting you and [*struggles hard not to say nice things about you per your requests*]. I have never had the kind of social anxiety you describe, and I just want to say I’m glad you found your way to DC this weekend. I hope our paths cross again.

  9. Cornelioid says:

    This sure sounds familiar. Thanks for putting it out. Hit me up if you ever start a club for folks with this kind of background (including bringing on the bullying, which i (provisionally) doubt is so extremely rare a thing).

    • Bullying itself, of course, isn’t rare at all. But the victim bringing it on themselves? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this was unique to me. Though I have often wondered if there was/is something actually wrong with me (from ADHD to Autism… I’ve researched it all quite heavily) to explain why it took me so may years to leave Kindergarten, but I’ve been unable to afford seeing someone, sadly.

      I’ve thought about it: “Recovering MRAs” on Facebook… would be both hilarious and kind of cool.

      • Cornelioid says:

        Without trying to appropriate your own experience, at least your description the way you engaged in bully-bringing mirrors my own. Though our experiences might well be only superficially similar.

        I’m sure there exist such groups! I happened across SRSRecovery, for example, which actually takes itself pretty seriously.

      • Without trying to appropriate your own experience, at least your description the way you engaged in bully-bringing mirrors my own.

        Huh…

        I’m very loathe to talk about it in general because I’m very much an anti-bully advocate and am against victim-blaming. I don’t believe that anyone actually deserves to be bullied and I think the current ways children are told to fight it (“ignore it” and such) are evil. Hence why I stress that my situation is one I believe to be rare… I don’t want anyone to think I’m blaming the victims of bullying in general.

        But maybe my experience isn’t so unique. That is possible. Doesn’t change the fact that bullying is wrong and “ignore it” is a complete and total lie. But maybe I’m not the only one in that sense…

        I’ve not seen SRSRecovery before. That’s actually kind of cool. I’m going through it, now.

  10. xenologer says:

    I’ve known multiple really really amazing guys who used to be such entitled manipulative Nice Guy douchecanoes that it’s hard for me to even imagine them being the person they’ve told me they were.

    This entry is full of a lot of stuff that is… yeah. You’re right not to be proud of it. It seems worth saying, though, that I actually trust you a lot more because of this entry, because I don’t have to wonder or worry they’ll come up, you know? Because I don’t know you then; I know you now and I am quite glad that I do. :3

    • Definitely not proud of it. I’ve known people who love to ask “what would you do if you had a time machine?” Publically my answers range from “seeing Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Doors, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Nirvana live” to “seeing the moon landings first hand” to “going into the future to see when we finally visit Mars, then learn how to break the light-speed barrier”. But privately, my answer is “go back to when I was in Kindergarten and change my life”. I have yet to plan out just how I’d do that, but still…

      And thank you. I really do appreciate that.

  11. Miri says:

    Wow. Thank you for your honesty and bravery. I’ve been intrigued by “MRA/Nice Guy >> feminist” narratives for a while, so I’m glad I found this when I did. I want to know what feminists can do to help people who buy into these myths make it over to our side and this has given me a lot to think about.

    I also think your story kind of proves the point many of us make about how coddling people who believe reprehensible things isn’t always or necessarily the way to show them they’re wrong. Clearly you can handle being called out on your shit when you say and do shit that needs calling out, and I think it’s actually pretty demeaning to men to claim that they need us to be all soft and gentle with them when they screw up.

    Anyway, I’m really glad I got to meet you this weekend. I have a lot of respect for people who can be this open about stuff they’re not proud of.

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