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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.
They’ve bought into the dating binary: you’re either good with women or you’re not and Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things.
So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment. Google effect – if you’re sick and enter your symptoms online, Dr.
After all, what better way could we ring in a new year than by looking at some old issues?
But first, some context: Over the last week or so, I had several people forward me links to this comment from MIT Professor Scott Aaronson’s blog about growing up as a nerd terrified of women and trying to be a Nice Guy and how this meant that nerds couldn’t be keeping women out of STEM fields.
[…] At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.
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.
The problem isn’t in the desire, it’s in the belief.
At their core, these imagined nightmares are about ego protection.
These unpleasant fantasies provide convenient and plausible excuses for why the person suffering from them can’t and and shouldn’t approach someone.
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.