Thanks for pointing out the elephant in the living room (and the subway, and the classroom, and the office…)

I have worked out a way of describing this problem to others (an educational approach?) that sometimes helps to clarify matters, and puts this kind of behaviour in a different perspective. I call it the Candybar Problem — and if you search for that phrase on Medium you’ll probably find the whole essay.

The gist is that men who react like this are, if we step back and take a wider view, behaving a lot like 2-year-olds in the grocery store. They want something (in my thought experiment it’s a candy bar) and if they hear No, they react just like two-year-olds:

  1. ask again, louder
  2. demand to know why they can’t have it
  3. get angry with the person who said No
  4. shout and sulk and generally act out in the hope of being given the candy bar to calm them down
  5. have a full-on tantrum and make a wild grab for the candy bar. If this succeeds they may then (a) gobble it up in desperate greed, or (b) crush or hurl it in a fit of rage.

I call this the Candybar Script and it’s an uncomfortably close fit to some (not all, thank goodness) men’s approach to women they find attractive. First comes a demand for attention or a date or sex or whatever; then if that is not complied with, the demand is repeated more loudly, often including an interrogation as to the reasons for not being given a date or sex or whatever; then comes anger at the woman who said No to him, expressed by vocal tone, gesture, explicit insults etc; if that fails, there may be punitive sulking, slamming doors, minor vandalism etc, in the hope that she will give in to placate him and restore peace; if that fails, he may go to the final stage and have a full-on tantrum, committing violence against the woman who is, in one package, both the denied treat and the person doing the denying.

Everyone knows that women have behaviour patterns for wheedling or nagging concessions out of men, too. The difference is that theirs are usually not life-threatening. Women can certainly nag, yell, sulk, etc., but statistically speaking they don’t drag men into cars and rape them, or shoot men for not wanting a date with them. The predictably escalating quality of the Candybar Script is, in my experience, strongly gendered.

Anyway, the Candybar Problem is common knowledge among women and the reason I wrote about it was to explain to the underclued male spectator why women “get so upset” about sexual harassment even when it’s “mild.” It’s because we can never know for sure where the Candybar Script is going to stop. Will saying No to a harasser result in minor awkwardness… or job discrimination… or death threats… or actual death? Statistically, actual death would be thankfully rare; but risk is calculated as the product of severity of outcome and probability of outcome. So even a slight-to-moderate chance of stalking, beating, rape, or murder is worth worrying about. And women do. Hence, all the ingenious excuses, lies, evasions, extra-super-duper tactfulness and other ways women find to soften “No,” to make it warm and fuzzy enough for oversized, possibly armed 2-year-olds.

Yes to other commenters, men who behave like this are “crazy” in the sense of socially dysfunctional and developmentally incomplete. But in a patriarchal culture, a statistically significant minority of men are both of these things. To a greater or lesser extent we still worship an ideal of warrior masculinity that is antiquated and maladaptive in a civilised society — an ideal that is, at heart, sociopathic.

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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