Thursday 18 December 2014

The Dummies at Dalhousie

  Plato deeply regretting the stupidity of his adolescence
One of  the axioms I most often repeat to female readers is "You can ask men what they think, but you might not like the answer."

And so was definitely the case with a dozen or so male undergraduate dentistry students at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who had a "private" Facebook account called Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. On this Facebook account, the soi-disant "Gentlemen" posted crude sexual remarks  and a joke about chloroforming a bikini-wearing woman and asked which women students the other members would like to, er, bed--bed being the quite the euphemism.

Someone brought the "private" Facebook account to the attention of the female students, to Dalhousie University and to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is currently notorious for having harboured a star who beat the living daylights out of women unfortunate enough to have gone home with him.  Result: official hysteria and grown men weeping. In other news, Taliban.

A dear friend of mine brought my attention to the story by posting about it on Facebook, saying that such stories made her struggle not to fear or hate men as a group. And I feel awful for her, for I used to feel the exact same way and it made it very difficult for me to get along with men as a group. I also feel awful for the dental student dummies at Dalhousie who kept the Facebook page because their earthly punishment is likely to be disproportionate to their crime--if it was a crime, not just stupid, imprudent and uncharitable behaviour.* But to be honest, I feel worst for the victims and survivors of the latest Islamist massacre, the one in Pakistan.

 I do not know how old the dentistry students are--they were in fourth year, apparently--but presumably they are in their twenties. By their unpleasant remarks and imprudence, I assume that they are  (or were) in an extended adolescence, too. And because they are medical students, I assume they are unmarried, and because they are twenty-something unmarried males, I assume they think about sex 1140 time a day.

This is a conservative estimate, given that there are only 1140 minutes in the day.

"How did you cope?" I once asked B.A., who used to be a twenty-something unmarried male.

"You get used to it," said B.A,, and added that men can shove distracting sexual thoughts into the background of their minds to get on with other stuff.  Talking about such thoughts with other men, let alone publishing, he said just now, is a very bad idea.

From the wreckage of my Classical Civ degree, I recall Plato repeating something an old man (Cephalus?) had said to Socrates about old age having liberated him from the "mad master" of sexual desire. But it took me a long time to realize that what the old man was talking about was an almost universal male condition because men rarely talk to women about it. Nice guys do not want to frighten and disgust women, prudent guys do not want to get into trouble with women, and resentful guys do not want women to know they think we have that much power over them.

But we don't have that much power over them. We are even more helpless over their adolescent sex drives than they are. And therefore it is really unfair when young men rebel against the Mad Master by talking smack about women. If he hadn't gone to work, leaving me in my bathrobe to a day of ease, art and writing Christmas cards, I would ask B.A. if he used to talk smack about women. But to tell you the truth it is very hard for me to imagine B.A. and his college pals-- now scholars, professionals, family men--talking smack about women. Regarding the clever haikus he sends to and receives from certain pals I prefer not to speculate. (She shuts her eyes in holy horror.)

I remember my brother expressing his disgust with the way the boys at his high school talked about women, and I recall other men expressing their disgust with the way boys at their high schools talked about women, and imprudent uni men of Edinburgh have let slip to me how other uni men of Edinburgh talk about women, and I find it all interesting data. They are deeply uncomfortable with the power sexual attraction has in their life, but I am not deeply uncomfortable with the much weaker power sexual attraction has in my life. As long as it doesn't come to my ears that one or more has been sharing bizarre sexual fantasies about little me, it's no skin off my nose. Sucks to be them.

But it really sucks to a member of the Dalhouse Dental Studies Class of 2015 right now. Adolescent men have a tendency to tell crude jokes (aka Locker Room Talk) to deal with their discomfort with the Mad Master, but they don't have to PUBLISH them. How incredibly stupid and unkind to the women named. It's not that the women's marital prospects were destroyed--the old reason men weren't supposed to bandy  women's names about--;it's that the men's crude thoughts about them were forced upon their attention and their sunny, optimistic view of their colleagues as almost-women has been ruined.

It's very hard for women to believe that men think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. But actually men do think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. Unless, of course, they put the garbage on Facebook for the CBC to find and publish. They still don't believe it, probably, but now they won't forget it.

If women could see what random men are something thinking when they look at us, we (and they)  would probably all die from horror--trains and buses full of corpses--so it's a good thing we can't. It used to annoy me to think that ex-boyfriends et alia were probably inventing horrible sex fantasies about me, but I swiftly realized that there was nothing I could do about it if they were, and now the idea makes me laugh. Okay, I'm sorry they committed  (or commit) sin with my image attached, but that's between them and God. I'm just laughing because it's good to be free from a sexual Master that Mad.

But I am sad for my friend who is sad and tempted to hate and fear men as a group because a dozen of them are crude-joke sharing idiots. That is giving their idiocy way more power than it deserves. And even if all men between 17 and 25 talked smack about women, the answer would be simple: don't take seriously anything men between the ages of 17 and 25 say about or to women and pity them for their mental sexual slavery--at a distance, if need be.

In place of fear and hatred for All Men, I suggest compassion combined with a firm assertion that, as uncomfortable as adolescent male sexuality can be for men, they must not blame it on women or punish women for it. And why? Because fear and hatred for All Men is itself another Mad Master and it can seriously blight a woman's life.

Update: Canada's (heck, Nova Scotia's) Frank magazine weighs in using (ALERT!) bad language. But still no clue as to how old these guys were.

*Update 2:  I read a suggestion that these men were older than 25. My compassion for them is in inverse proportion to their actual age. The "should have known better" factor for locker room garbage  really kicks in after age 25.


  1. "A dear friend of mine brought my attention to the story by posting about it on Facebook, saying that such stories made her struggle not to fear or hate men as a group."

    I'm similar, except I don't fear or hate men for this. I'm just not inclined to trust them, and I'm inclined to feel contempt for them.

    "But it really sucks to a member of the Dalhouse Dental Studies Class of 2015 right now."

    Especially if you're one of the women (who are probably also young and unmarried.)
    If I were one of the women who rated a mention on that Facebook page, I would be furious, sad and embarrassed. My reactions would probably go like this:

    1. Cry in bed for a week
    2. Smash a few plates in my flat
    3. Never speak to any of those male students again

    Wow, I really, REALLY hate remembering that men are constantly judging my appearance and sizing me up for 'bedability'. I just prefer to think that the whole issue doesn't exist and la-la-la-I'm-not-listening. It's just soooo depressing to think about.

  2. "...their sunny, optimistic view of their colleagues as almost-women has been ruined."

    I would have said: "...their sunny, optimistic view of their colleagues as non-jerks has been ruined."

    But anyway, yes. And these women will probably never recover their optimistic attitudes about these men. You know that thing about women having the memories of elephants? Yeah, that's pretty much true. And we can't help really help it, for better or worse. Perhaps that's one of women's Mad Masters.

  3. Yes, I realize I am in a position of privilege here, being middle-aged and married. I have a man, he's a good man, and it doesn't matter a flying fig to me if the under 25 set think I might be pretty beddable for an old hag, etc. Once again, I wouldn't want to hear about it, but I just do not take men between the ages of 17 and 25 that seriously.

    My advice is that YOU not take men between the ages of 17 and 25 that seriously either. Incidentally, I judge men's appearance ALL THE TIME: old, scary, unemployed, cute, safe, dangerous-looking, refugee, suit, gay, chav, chav, chav, poor, rich, potential rapist. I hope you do too. Nature programs women to protect ourselves through observation and men to propagate the species through observation (e.g. young and healthy, not old and sick). There are worse things than a man's hormones stuffing weird images of him with the young woman across from him on the bus in his brain. Our faith tells him not to dwell on them, and if he does, they slowly start to drive him crazy, so more full him.

    Honestly, the vast majority of men between the ages of 17 and 25 are not marriage material and many of them are still WAY more interested in creating homo-social ties with other men than growing up and settling down with a woman, if they are actually heterosexual. (Some misogynist bullies are homosexuals, open and closeted.) This doesn't have to be depressing although, yes, I can see why it would put you in a state of critical distance.

    Naivety: "Men are just like women and all the ones my age are totally enlightened gentlemen whose thoughts could be an open book of cool thoughts flattering to all womankind!"

    Critical Distance: "Far from being like Gilbert Blythe in "Anne of Green Gables" and Laurie Lawrence in "Little Women", men turn out to be sex-crazed perverts!"

    Realism: Men are who they are, and the majority of the ones in my community are pretty decent. The minority who aren't decent are beneath my notice, unless they force themselves on my notice, in which case I shall let slip the hounds of hell upon them.

    When I heard an administrator of my theology school describe the women students of my school as the "bottom of the pyramid" supporting the male-religious "at the top", I cried all afternoon, so I do get what you're saying. I will never, ever, forget that he said that, or lose the suspicion that some male religious (in particular THAT male religious) see women as an end to keeping their institutions open and able to train their fellow male religious, who will of course be given the teaching and administrative jobs in the fullness of time. Although less personal, I think that was worse than the dummies and their published locker room talk, for the man was in his fifties and in a position of power and privilege.

  4. *More fool him, I meant to say there.

  5. Actually, I lie about not caring what the under-25 set thinks. I am inordinately pleased when anyone in the under-25 set thinks I am at all attractive. And then I laugh a lot and remember it later and laugh some more. I think such incidents will become rarer, though, as I shrivel like a prune. Of course, I might become a sexy prune like Marlene Dietrich.

  6. I hope they don't let one tinchy group of men influence how they feel forever about other men. That would be so sad for her and not based in reality at all. They are young and stupid with raging hormones who egged one another on in Locker Talk. I sincerely doubt they really want to sedate those women and rape them. They would have liked to bed them clearly, the woman delightfully willing of course. There's the difference that ought to be underlined when they are questioned. They forgot that the interent is never private and always caches your material somewhere. It's not the end of the world, I hope it won't be lifechanging for them or those girls they discussed. Keep it in proportion Dalhousie.


  7. Meanwhile, yes, I can see why the women identified are furious with their classmates (I don't know how many), but what I can't see is why anyone's faith in men-in-general would be destroyed by the episode

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  9. Chavs!!! Hahahaha!!!

    Yes, I do notice the chavs. In Australia (and NZ) the term is "bogan".

    "I sincerely doubt they really want to sedate those women and rape them."

    I know, but...these guys published a survey asking the page's members which out of two female colleagues they'd like to "hate-f***". If I'd been one of the women named, well, I would actually be afraid of being raped by them. After all, they said they wanted to do it. Should I trust that they won't? Maybe I wouldn't be too worried if I were, say, a politician who's annoyed some bogans and has generated some hate-mail of that nature -- chances are that the men would actually never have the opportunity to try to rape me. But my classmates? As in, men I'm around a lot? Yes, I'd fear that they might do it. They'd have the chance, and I'd be outnumbererd.

  10. Apparently that word is not synonymous with rape. If the "Frank" magazine article is to be trusted, I think it means to go to bed with a rival or someone else you clash with on a regular basis. Of course, it's such a horrible word, only tone-deaf people could think it sounds at all sexy or attractive or desirable.

    That said, I would have been furious if I had been named, and I would want whoever posted that name (the one man who thought up the game and posted it, not the dummies who went along and voted) suspended or expelled.

    My major concern is that women not hate men-in-general because they sudden discover that some men--especially young men--talk like this to each other. It would be great if all teenagers--male and female--suddenly turned into versions of St. Dominic Savio and kept purity of speech and thought ever after, but in these sex-saturated societies, that's not going to happen..


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