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Is This Really a ‘Dangerous Time’ for Men? A Historical Investigation

In the four months since accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein led women to denounce the predators in their midst en masse — giving rise to the #MeToo movement — we’ve seen wave after wave of concern-trolling backlash. Most recently, 100 French women artists, including actress Catherine Deneuve, signed a letter describing these efforts as a “witch hunt” aimed at destroying men whose offenses fall short of rape. This week, word got out that Harper’s planned to run a cover story about the so-called “Shitty Media Men” list — an open-sourced spreadsheet in which women could warn each other about the industry’s abusers — and out the anonymous creator. That woman, Moira Donegan, instead came forward herself to eloquently address those who had criticized the list as an irresponsible, malicious attack on men (or who soon would).

It is this sort of reactionary pose — concerned more with protecting male reputations than female safety or well-being — that curdles into a pathetic canard: Suddenly, men “can’t flirt anymore” and have to “be more careful,” as though a single ill-timed smile might land them in an HR office or worse. They complain that it is a “scary” or “dangerous” time to be a man—as though that were the real concern here. But rather than dismiss this fear outright, let’s put it to the test: Is 2018 really more dangerous for men than other eras of history?

Prehistoric Times (3 million B.C. to 3,300 B.C.)

I sometimes wonder who faced more peril in day-to-day life: a guy who eats lunch at Chipotle five times a week, or the one who lived alongside woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, typically helping to drive these megafauna to extinction with nothing more than a shitty spear. Granted, the 2018 man could be lightly reprimanded by his boss for making an inappropriate comment to a female colleague at a corporate retreat — and does run the risk of contracting E. coli from all those burrito bowls — but his prehistoric ancestors died of everything from wild animal attacks to tooth infections. Meanwhile, the only way to figure out if a mushroom was poisonous was to eat it. I think we have to give this matchup to the Paleolithic dudes, bless their poor broken fossils.

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Ancient Civilization (3,300 B.C. to 500 A.D.)

As the Torah tells us, an Egyptian pharaoh once got scared of Jewish babies with dicks and commanded his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” Later on, in an epic clapback, God killed all the Egyptian firstborn sons. Sounds like a bad time to be a man, imho! But sure, things are tougher for you, bro of 2018, because the cute barista at Peet’s turned you down for a date and now it’s too awkward to ever go back. Also, try fighting a suicidal battle against invading Roman legions with no clothes on and you may see your bad Tinder convos in a different light. Or maybe you’d prefer getting fucked by some old Athenian pedophile.

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Middle Ages (500 A.D. to 1500 A.D.)

Show of hands, which of you fellows have been exposed to bubonic plague? Tortured in the Spanish Inquisition? Forced to walk across a continent to wage a holy war? “Dragged to death by a horse which had been startled by a bird”? As throughout the entire course of human civilization, women were worse off in the medieval scene, yet we can probably admit that the masculine role of spending a lifetime caked in shit while farming oats for your inbred feudal lord sucked ass — especially when he had you hanged for catching a rabbit in his forest to feed your starving, shit-caked family. After that, you went straight to hell, since you couldn’t afford a papal indulgence. Not exactly “girlfriend opened my laptop and saw how many bondage porn tabs I had open”-level problems.

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Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution (1500 A.D. to 1900 A.D.)

Men of these centuries got to do sick paintings, jerk themselves off with “philosophy,” and invent manufacturing equipment for a labor force of orphaned children, rarely if ever having their authority or sexual predation challenged. So fair enough, 2018 creeps — it perhaps was less dangerous to be a sleazy dude back then. Still didn’t smell great, however. Oh, and a lot of men were enslaved and treated as beasts of burden, assuming they weren’t wiped out in deliberate colonial genocide. So there is that.

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Modern Day (1900 A.D. to 2017 A.D.)

Here’s how horrifying it was to be a 20th-century man: if a corrupt government didn’t send you halfway around the globe to be massacred along with thousands of your mates as part of some geopolitical dick-measuring contest, you either committed suicide after losing everything in a financial crash or became a twisted, lonely millionaire crippled by germophobia. You crashed cars before there were seatbelts, blew up in experimental rockets, ratted each other out as communists, and got hooked on biker meth. Even the goddamn president was shot in the head. Did I mention that most institutions barely acknowledged the humanity of non-Caucasian men, brutalizing and imprisoning them at astronomical rates? In sum, no, I will not agree that your sexist tweet getting ratioed is proof that white guys working at Silicon Valley startups are experiencing a victimhood unprecedented for the gender. You can be quiet now.