According to new research that confirms that many men are actually less well-muscled versions of Disney's Gaston, men find women most sexually attractive when we're listening to them talk. Coincidentally, those findings were released during the same week that one prominent female blogger publicly urged people to stop listening to men, unleashing a tide of hurt feelings and backlash. Give a man a conversational hand job, or risk getting accused of misandry. Just another day for a lady on the ol' internet.
According to Time, a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that male participants find women most sexually attractive when they were receiving their blessed opinions. While it's natural that a human being would be attracted to someone who was demonstrating an interest in them and not acting like a rude asshole, women didn't feel the same way as universally as the male participants did. Rather, women sometimes interpreted male interest in their words as a disingenuous ploy to obtain sexual access to them, a fair if not paranoid assessment. What woman hasn't had what she felt was a nice, pleasant conversation with a seemingly attentive man, only to be girlfriendzoned and guilt tripped about not rewarding his endurance of Lady Opinions with a cookie in the form of a blow job?
By itself, the attraction study is interesting; it indulges the sort of cynical conformation bias that caused a piece on The Toast called "Women Listening to Men in Art History" to be one of the funniest fucking things on the whole goddamn internet. But it doesn't paint a complete picture of just how strongly some men believe they are entitled to women's attention.
On Sunday, Buzzfeed's Katie Notopoulos urged her 18K+ Twitter followers to unfollow men, because ridding her Twitter feed of "male opinions" had improved her social media experience and she thought it would do others good, too. Unsurprisingly, reaction to #UnfollowAMan was swift and predictable and ranged from this is a joke, right? to MISANDRYYYYYY!!! to whoa guys feminism has gone too far.
Folks hungry to paint feminism as a cabal of man-hating harpies intent on penile annihilation seized on Notopoulos's proclamation and her follow up tweets explaining that women are "superior to men in all respects." Several Reddit threads are devoted to tongue clicking Notopoulos for her man-hating, one featuring an obviously farcical acceptance of a cage match against a random guy who couldn't believe that a woman with sub-male upper body strength could claim any form of superiority over men, shouldery men. They called for her to be fired. They encouraged reciprocal woman-unfollowings. They could not believe that feminists (because a thing one woman does regarding men is indicative of what all feminists believe about men, but only if that thing done by a woman fits their narrative of the "crazy man hating feminist") would do this. This reddit user even went to far as to say that being unfollowed by women could trigger suicidal thoughts in men who already feel worthless.
Some men don't have anyonethey can count on, not even in their own family. Now imagine how the hashtag makesthem feel. Imagine getting laughed at by anyone you try to reach out to. Imagine being told that your feelings aren't valid, your pain isn't legitimate and that you're just a baby who's afraid of losing his privilege.
But the Twitter feminists don't care. It's all 'man pain' and 'male tears' to them, even as guys are dropping out of school and killing themselves at alarmingly high rates. At no point do they consider that all this 'men are worthless, they should all just die' talk could be triggering (ACTUALLY triggering) to men who have struggled with self esteem issues and/or suicidal thoughts.
Reminder: this is a hashtag encouraging women to unfollow a single man. Even if you think it's a misguided and/or silly idea or some kind of trolly long con by Notopoulos, a woman who has occasionally Tweeted deadpan requests for dick pics and threatened to send pictures of her own dick to others, it's even sillier to accuse the woman behind it of being a cause of suicide. Get ahold of your emotions, dude.
When Notopoulos posted a piece on Buzzfeed about why she started #UnfollowAMan (basically, it started as a month-long experiment and kept going, and she was so pleased with unfollowing all men and what she saw as obnoxious male Twitter habits that she just kept her following list man-free and decided to urge others to do the same), the comments fit an almost comical pattern. There were, of course, men who were upset that women were being encouraged to stop reading their Tweets:
And then there were folks who suggested some comically false equivalencies as fair payback.
Not the same thing at all, but okay.
Then there were women who rushed to declare themselves not those women. They are the cool ones.
"Women Start More Shit Than Men" would be a great title for a history textbook.
Some users on Reddit, Buzzfeed, Twitter, and elsewhere tried to stem the hyperbolic hand wringing from all sides by pointing out that it was probably a joke, or satire. When I contacted Notopoulos, she told me that it was "100% serious and not a joke." Which I'm inclined to believe also might be a joke. But who knows what's real anymore?
Regardless of Notopoulos's intentions or sincerity, what ended up happening in the aftermath of #UnfollowAMan provides an unscientific but fascinating look into how men (and women) react when a woman announces that she will no longer be paying attention to men on social media. Not only is it unsexy, it's downright offensive.
In retrospect, though, #MuteAMan would have been a funnier mindfuck.