"All you girls who rejected me and looked down upon me, and, you know, treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men. And all you men, for living a better life than me. All of you sexually-active men. I hate you. I hate all of you and I can’t wait to give you exactly what you deserve. Utter annihilation."
In her book Between Men, Eve Sedgwick dissects this kind of thinking: Men typically route their feelings toward and competition with one another through women, she says. Women become tools through which men show their power and worth to other men. Success with women is also an important part of men’s self-image—that’s a big part of what it means to “be a man.” This seems to be the kind of thinking at work when Rodger says he feels like women are "treat[ing] me like scum" when they have boyfriends who aren't him. To him, women aren't people; they're markers of who is and who is not a man. If a woman chooses someone else, the thinking goes, that means Rodger and others like him are not men.
This equation of manhood with desirability and sexual prowess is just about everywhere in our society, from the priapic James Bond to the nebbishy, always rejected Clark Kent and his alter-ego, the ever-desired Superman. This rings true in my own experience, too. For me, being a virgin wasn't painful because of the lack of sex or the lack of companionship. It was frustrating because of the sense that I was doing it wrong; that if I didn't have a girlfriend, I was, like that old Marvel character, Man-Thing, a misshapen mockery of a man.
This kind of thinking creates a version of male identity that is bifurcated, or split in two. There is the man you should be, and then there is the failed, non-man thing you are. You can see this in ugly detail in Rodger's videos, where he veers back and forth between outlandish claims of his own magnificence and despairing statements of his own inconsequentiality. At one moment he's the "ultimate gentlemen," the next he's "so invisible as I walk through my college, because none of the girls pay attention to me." He is super human and then he's nothing; there's no space between the two. For Rodger, this could only be resolved with the ultimate expression of “manliness”: violence. "If I can't have you girls, I will destroy you," he says. And he destroyed himself, too: that pitiful failed thing who was not a man.
Misogyny shaped Rodger's view of women. But it also shaped his self-loathing view of himself and his masculinity, or lack thereof. The stigma against male virgins is something that men like Rodger—and men like me—internalize, and is, in itself, a form of misogyny. As Julia Serano writes in her book, Whipping Girl, that misogyny is directed not only against women, but against femininity—against anyone who fails to be that ideal, powerful, alpha superman. As long as masculinity is based in hatred of and fear of femininity, it will be expressed in violence—against men, against gay people, and against the marginalized. And most of all, it will continue to motivate violence against women.