A friend of mine was recently regaling me with his theory of America’s patho-adolescent culture. Basically the assertion is that Americans persist in a teenage mindset centered around the experience of the self (all attention for ME!!!) with an emphasis on uniqueness at any cost. The best examples of this include America’s fetishization of petty victimhood. I say petty because victimhood has its range, and in the case of many Americans, spilling one’s coffee is as good as being sold into slavery. No words capture just how small and pathetic the culture of ‘me-me-me’ has become.
It’s not terribly surprising, however, that in a country where stories of ‘almost raped’ are equated with real rape, that we end up with identities forged around absolutely imaginary and hyperbolic conditions. These imaginary conditions are buttressed by the culture of PC where we can challenge nothing that might hurt someone’s feelings or question whether their very self-centered vantage point corresponds to reality. Feminists and social justice warriors are particularly vulnerable as they are constantly seeking ways to avoid appearing privileged, making exaggeration and invention key to their identity formation.
The social factors that have fostered this obsession with besiegement are numerous. I will detail what I think is causing it but keep in mind this is essentially all conjecture and based off of nothing more than my observations and my wonderings in the wonderland infinity of the internet.
Have you ever been at a party when someone you’ve never spoken to before joins your group and immediately engages the newly found audience in a tale of their sexual exploitation? I have, and many times. I’m not sure what it is about me or the parties I go to but there always seems to be that girl there, inevitably white, and painstakingly desperate to appear as meta and dogged as possible.
I’ve has this happen three times, and this doesn’t include the dozens of times other friends have mentioned having the same experience, and they all involve a self-proclaimed milquetoast randomly confessing to virtual strangers that they’ve been sexually preyed upon in some way. One was raped by her grandfather, the other was kidnapped and gang-raped, and the third was fondled by a babysitter.
All of these people did the same routine, it was as though they had all been to the same workshop and were taught how to approach randos at a party to discuss their ‘authentic’ experiences with sexual predation. It seems almost a truism to say that anyone who had endured what these girls claimed would not have so blithely and liberally thrown themselves at the mercy of utter nobodies.
How do I know this? You would certainly do well to ask me that question. I know because I’ve spoken to people who have actually been sexually preyed upon and when I asked them what this was about, all five of them flatly replied that these girls were either deluded or just lying for attention. According to these individuals, nobody enjoys discussing these traumatic events and they certainly don’t find it cathartic to do so in the presence of people who mean nothing to them. Isn’t that why underreporting of sexual assaults occurs?
But then again, maybe attention is the point. The western world is addicted to second by second entertainment and in our obsession with exciting Hollywood narratives some of us notice that our own lives are severely lacking any semblance to the intrepid ones we see on TV and film – so what do we do? In order to develop an equally fulfilling character arc in a life devoid of one, we invent stories that will make us appear exciting and interesting. And stories of victimhood are the best if your goal is to appear dark, interesting, and strong. Why should someone wish to portray themselves as such? Because it wins you the unquestioning support and admiration of complete strangers, and fast. Who, amidst the situation described above, is actually going to say, Really?
The aforementioned scenario is generally the purview of women, but men are just as quick to beguile strangers with tales of confected valor and glory. Instances of ‘stolen valor’ are a good example of this nonsense, when young men impersonate officers and claim to have engaged in glorious combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
However, both men and women enjoy making up illnesses – another pastime of the boring and attention seeking. Generally there is a modicum of truth in the claim the person is making – the disease may exist but they don’t actually have it or they exaggerate the symptoms and condition to an impossible degree; often using words and phrases like ‘torture’ and ‘dying inside’ to describe their day-to-day experience. Despite this, however, these people have often gone to college, graduated, and seem to be managing just fine. Aside from their story there doesn’t ever really seem to be any evidence that this ‘condition’ is truly debilitating and thus hindering them.
More offensive are the cases when people use difficult to diagnose conditions or conditions everyday folk know very little about and claim to suffer from them. ADHD, Asperger’s, Dissociative Disorder (more commonly known as multiple personality disorder), glandular issues, fugue states, and phobias are some of the common ones. All this…so they can feel put upon.
It is so in vogue right now to suffer I sometimes wonder if any American really knows what that is. It seems like completely usual levels of stress and discomfort in the US have been elevated to the heights of trial and tribulation. I used to wonder why this was until I realized, in the context of attention seeking and novelizing one’s life, it makes complete sense. Boring, weak, lazy people who lack the will to create a real narrative in their lives have to lie about one instead. And in the absence of a well cultivated, interesting personage, they just invent a story about themselves that will win admiration outright. In the short-term it is certainly easier than investing the time and work into the experiences/knowledge that will actually make them interesting people.
Lying about your experiences, however, isn’t half as bad as lying about one’s suffering. People that ritualize the story-telling of ‘almost raped’, for example, and institutionalize it in the form of support groups are not helping but hurting. By equating almost with actually, you marginalize the actual event and cheapen the trauma of those who have really experienced it. There are of course thousands of people that are assaulted daily, for many reasons, and are lucky enough to escape. I’m not talking about true survivors, I’m talking about people that describe a highly nebulous situation which, in their desperation to appear troubled and struggling and therefore interesting, turn a completely normal and safe situation into a pernicious and life-threatening one.
In college a vagrant came to my door and attempted to persuade me to let him sleep in my dorm room for the night. I politely refused. He kept asking and then finally attempted to push his way in and even made several threats, some of which were sexual. He said if I didn’t let him in the room he would climb in through the window and rape me – I then told him that if he didn’t leave now I would beat him to death with one of my potted plants. He obliged and I actually felt really good about myself afterward. I didn’t need therapy. I didn’t need to join a support group. And this is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anybody because I just didn’t consider it a thing.
Imagine comparing being tear-gassed to surviving Auschwitz’s gas chambers? Or ‘almost’ dying to actually dying. Maybe governments should be able to prosecute someone for almost committing a crime – since almost is but a mere step away from actual, why not? And what constitutes ‘almost’? What exactly does one receive, emotionally, by anonymously posting about an ‘almost’ situation? It seems to me that our time and resources should go to those people who have actually suffered at the hands of sexual predators and not those who ‘almost’ did. If you ‘almost’ experienced something then that means you didn’t experience it at all.
People need to stop lying about and exaggerating their life experiences simply for the sake of turning heads at a party or gaining blog followers.