A couple of months ago, I sent you an e-mail thanking you for doing what you do. Today, the power of your voice hit home.
As you know, an angry, sexually frustrated gunman went on a killing spree at a fitness center in Pittsburgh. Reading the killer's blog, I was struck by the similarity of his situation to that of the lonely, sexually frustrated men you counseled in your column the week before the shooting. Of course the similarity between the shooter and your correspondents ends there: George Sodini did not reach out; the men who wrote you did.
The reason this strikes so close to home is that my situation for years was very similar to Sodini's and to the lonely men who you helped in that column.
Although I wasn't a virgin, I was "clogged up" and unable to get close to people physically and emotionally. I overcame my fears and hang-ups, and life is good now. But it wasn't easy. I was never as angry as the man who shot up the fitness center, but I was absolutely as lonely and isolated as he was and every bit as lonely as the men whose letters you answered.
Maybe if I'd been alone another 14 years — I found my life partner at 34 — I might have become that angry.
Middle-Aged Family Guy
Thank you for the note, MAFG, and thanks — I think — for pointing me to George Sodini's blog. The blog has been pulled down, but it is extensively quoted in news reports and it makes for depressing reading.
It's never pretty when chronic sexual deprivation and a lifetime of romantic rejection slam into a narcissistic personality with sociopathic tendencies who happens to live in a country awash in guns:
"I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me, over an 18- or 25-year period. That is how I see it. Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are."
So, hey, why not go shoot up an aerobics class full of women?
A woman I knew at college — an antiviolence activist, righteous and right-on — used to say, "Testosterone is gasoline, porn the match." I disagree. Testosterone is gasoline — which isn't necessarily a bad thing (gas makes things go) — but sexual frustration is the match.
I'm not suggesting that this tragedy could've been averted if only some selfless woman had "taken one for the team" and married Sodini, an asshole and a sociopath. The women who rejected him obviously saw him for what he was and were right to run in the other direction. But if someone had told Sodini, who hadn't had sex since 1990, to see sex workers — something I advised the guys in my column two weeks ago to consider (among other things) — it might have taken the edge off his anger and kept it from curdling into homicidal rage. Maybe if we, as a society, valued sex workers and sex work, if we legalized and regulated it, and if we viewed "paying for it" as a legitimate option for guys who would otherwise go without for decades, perhaps this tragedy could have been averted.
Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't wish a client as sick as Sodini on any of my sex-worker pals. But if Sodini had started seeing sex workers back in 1991 and not, say, two weeks ago last Monday, perhaps he wouldn't have snapped.
But Sodini wasn't taking advice from me. He was getting it from R. Don Steele, author of How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35. The book was sitting on Sodini's coffee table in a video he posted to the web. Steele apparently traffics in — and profits from — instilling false hopes in losers like Sodini. ("Immediately improve your success with women!" Steele says on his website, www.steelballs.com. "Everything is 100% guaranteed money back.")
Sodini felt that he was entitled not just to sex and a romantic relationship, but to sex and a romantic relationship with a much younger woman. And he was following the advice of a love-and-romance guru who encouraged him to cling to that belief. Not normally a problem, I suppose. But Sodini wasn't just another socially maladapted schlub furious with the world — and with women — for denying him the 20-something ass he felt he had coming. Sodini was a nut. And he couldn't understand why, if he was doing everything right, he wasn't finding the success that Steele guaranteed him.
Someone needed to sit Sodini down and explain that settling down requires settling for and that young women are usually interested in young men and that we can't always have what we want and that there might be women out there who would date him — perhaps women closer to his own age, women in his own league in the looks and social-skills departments (and Sodini wasn't bad-looking) — but no woman was going to date him until after he got his shit together. And someone needed to tell him that he wasn't going to impress the ladies by leaving How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35 on his coffee table.
And someone needed to tell him that some men — and some women — are alone all their lives and, yeah, that sucks and it's not fair and it hurts.
Instead, Sodini had R. Don "Steel Balls" Steele telling him that if he just bought a matching sofa set — really — and the right suit, that success was guaranteed.
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