I always wondered what was going through her head. Now I know:
I noticed an older man, late 40s and clearly marked with the curse of the herb, standing with his young daughter by his side. He was talking with a curvaceous, big bosomed woman in her early 20s who looked like pre-meltdown Britney Spears. She was quite stimulating to the eyes and crotch. The man and Britney were having an energetic and friendly conversation which, when my ears were tuned to the words coming out of her mouth, was about the man’s daughter’s soccer team. Britney’s wide, C-shaped smile indicated she was enjoying this harmless herb’s company, while the herb’s studiously affected flat facial expression and stiff nodding movements suggested a swell of discomfort with his arousal that was threatening to lumber awkwardly through the polite veneer of their phony interaction.
I observed them for a few minutes, until the train reached my stop. A wave of bilious disgust curled my lips. I thought to myself that I never want to be that man who is so inoffensive — that man who has relinquished the last faint hope of his masculinity — that hot co-eds feel perfectly at ease shoving their bountiful breasts and plump, juicy flesh in my face to prattle on about the daily trifles of their lives or to chatter cloyingly about my kid’s soccer practice, taunting by their estrogenic proximity the ape-shaped contours of my cockcentric desire as the beast rattles the bars of its ganglial imprisonment, begging for release.
I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, as I have written many times before, women have a moral and social baseline obligation of civility, even to bald middle-aged men; even, in fact, to young, skinny engineering geeks with ill-fitting pants. That some non-zero number of such people will clumsily attempt a pickup is part and parcel of a non-cloistered life. Thus, that the young woman in Roissy's story did not recoil at a man and his daughter was entirely appropriate; in return, the man behaved with the required restraint. I myself have been that man on plenty of occasions, and while Roissy isn't far off in his description of the discomfort these interactions can cause, I'll take them over hostility any day. Plus, they give me a chance to practice being interesting.
Yet Roissy's larger point has some merit. I remember, years ago, reading a biography of the black communist-leaning singer Paul Robeson. The review recounted an episode in which Robeson found himself in the back of a limousine with a wealthy white socialite. The socialite initiated amorous advances on Robeson in full view of the black chauffeur in the front seat. Robeson was acutely aware that this behavior posed a grave insult to the chauffeur's masculinity: it communicated that attitude that his sexuality was of no consequence.
For another example of this attitude, consider an episode from the HBO miniseries Rome. The series has been praised by critics for accurately and dispassionately depicting the culture of its time and place, so I assume this scene reflects the attitudes of the Roman upper classes toward their domestic slaves. The scene showed two characters, Marc Antony and Atia, having sex while a slave hovered nearby waving a fan to cool them. The slave was female, so it isn't quite the same thing, but it reflects the same attitude: Antony and Atia felt no more need for sexual privacy from this slave than they would from a household pet. As such, the attitude, even or even especially when affected without malice, is fundamentally dehumanizing.
I believe many women (and men too, for that matter) take this attitude toward betas. They feel free to display their sexuality before us in a way that shows indifference toward our own sexuality. We have assumed, in their mental universe, the status of slaves or household pets. And Roissy, I think, captures the essence of the insult.