This is an essay I crafted for my English II Honors class during sophomore year.
9 December 2016
In 2014, Elliot Rodger, a college student, posted a manifesto on YouTube describing how he felt women had rejected him throughout his life, how he believed women never gave him the chance at a romantic relationship. Following the creation of this video, Rodger proceeded to violently murder several women at a sorority house in Santa Barbara. Elliot Rodger perceived rejection from the women in his life; this rejection presented itself as a loss of masculinity to Rodger, leading him to attempt to make up for that masculinity through violently dehumanizing the women around him. The dehumanization of women based on the perception of rejection as detrimental to masculinity is present both in contemporary society as well as in literature. Winston Smith perceives women’s sexual rejection of him in 1984 as detrimental to his masculinity, leading him to act violently, dehumanizing women in an over-assertion of that lost masculinity; mirroring today’s world in that sexual rejection of men by women leads them to over-assert their masculinity by acting violently towards women.
Winston anticipates sexual rejection from a woman in his life, Julia, which he perceives as a loss of his sexual dominance, dehumanizing her to compensate for that loss; in our world, men sexually dehumanize women when women display rejection towards them because of a feeling of lost masculinity, of lost sexual dominance. Winston expresses emotions of extreme hatred towards Julia during Two Minutes Hate, “...hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax...He hated her...because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so…” (Orwell 15). It is because of the rejection Winston perceives from Julia that he dehumanizes her by having visions of raping her. Winston understands this rejection as damaging to his masculinity, particularly the element of sexual dominance within his masculinity. In order to rectify the act of his masculinity being lost, he overcompensates in the demonstration of his masculinity through violently dehumanizing Julia. In an article titled “Interpersonal Rejection as a Determinant of Anger and Aggression,” the authors note, “...sexual offenses may also be seen as aggression in response to feelings of rejection… Rapists commonly report having conflicts with women arising from perceived or actual rejection...” (Leary et al.). Individuals prone to the sexual assault of women perceive rejection as threatening to their own masculinity. The violence arising from sexual rejection is caused by men feeling that they need to assert their lost masculinity in another way, through sexual dominance. In the article, “How Rejection Turns Men Violent”, this is further elaborated on, "if men experience rejection as threatening to their social identity as men...they may try to over-demonstrate masculinity in some other way" (Tourjee). In terms of social status, masculinity plays a key role in the way men are accepted socially, and rejection is seen by them as a removal of an element of their masculinity, causing them to attempt to maintain their social status as men, as inherently masculine, by overcompensating through violence. If men feel rejection as threatening to the masculinity that defines them, they must somehow make up for that threat in a way that is seen as masculine, in this case, through dehumanizing women in enacting sexual violence against them. Just as Winston thought about violently raping the woman he perceived rejection from, men in our world who believe they are being sexually rejected exhibit sexual violence toward the women they feel rejection from, believing the sexual element of their masculinity has been stolen and that they need to assert their lost masculinity through sexual violence. This assertion of lost masculinity does not only take place through sexual violence, but also occurs in physical violence, particularly in the murdering of wives by their husbands.
Winston, after being rejected by his wife during sexual intimacy, feels he has lost the control required in being masculine, so compensates by dehumanizing Katherine through fantasizing about her murder, just as in our world, rejection of husbands by their wives leads the husbands to murder their counterparts because men feel an element of their masculinity, control, has been lost. Winston, after discussing his wife’s tendency to stiffen and pull away during intimate sexual moments, remarks he is sorry he did not push Katherine off a cliff (Orwell 132, 135). Katherine’s rejection of Winston is perceived to be inimical by Winston to the control he normally maintains over women; this causes Winston to feel the necessity of the establishment of masculinity through being violent towards Katherine. The rejection of Winston by his wife leads him to dehumanize her; Winston’s masculinity is being threatened, so he overcompensates with his masculinity in thinking about killing her. Winston regains the control he feels he has lost through dehumanizing Katherine; it gives him a sense of power over her that he believed to be removed by the rejection. In “Interpersonal Rejection as a Determinant of Anger and Aggression”, it is noted that rejection of husbands by their wives often begets violence towards the women, specifically, murder (Leary et al.). When faced with rejection in our world, men become violent, lashing out at women they were rejected by as a result of a threat to their masculinity. In this situation, that threat is control, specifically the lack of control that husbands should feel over their wives. In the article it says, “men...reported being unable to deal with the rejection or their lack of control over their wives” (Leary et al.). Women’s rejection of men is seen by the men as evidence of their control over women being threatened, control being a significant facet of masculinity. When men see this lack of control as a threat to their masculinity, they act violently to reassert themselves, to regain the sense of control they feel they have lost. Men dehumanize their wives through murder because they feel their grip on control over their wives is at risk; they require the assertion of their deprived masculinity through violence. Just as Winston fantasizes about killing his wife after she rejects him, after his control over her is threatened, this article indicates that in our world, when men are rejected by their wives and their control over them is slipping, men find rejection justification for murder. Both sexual violence towards women as well as the murder of women by men are results of rejection being viewed as harmful to masculinity.
Masculinity and rejection are closely associated and are codependent. Masculinity is seen as the key to authority for men, and rejection is viewed as detrimental to this. The perception of masculinity often forces men to live up to impossible expectations, of supreme authority and dominance. When their ability to live up to these expectations is threatened, men attempt to meet the standards of masculinity by exhibiting violence. In our world and in 1984, acts of violence towards women often occur due to the assertion of masculinity. Winston is a representation of the men in our world who act violently in reaction to perceived or real sexual rejection and in an effort to compensate for lacking masculinity.
Leary, Mark R., Jean M. Twenge, and Erin Quinlivan: “Interpersonal Rejection as a Determinant
of Anger and Aggression.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 10 (2006): 111.
Web. Dec. 2016.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1977. Print.
Tourjee, Diana. “How Rejection Turns Men Violent”. Broadly. Vice, n.d. Web.
26 Apr. 2016.
Here you will find specifically academic pieces, such as essays I have completed for school that are related to the pursuit of justice.