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“Cancel Culture” and patriarchal entitlement


“Teenager is unpopular in high school, then leaves to go to college elsewhere” is pretty much the definition of “not-news.” And as is well known, ostracism from teenage social communities can happen for all kinds of silly and arbitrary reasons. All of which makes this NY Mag cover story and the latest entry in the “cancel culture” sweepstakes all the more baffling. Why was the primary subject of the story “cancelled”? Well:

Then, in the middle of last summer, Diego went to a party. He got drunk and — Diego really fucked up here: Everybody, including Diego, agrees on that, so please consider setting aside judgment for a moment — showed a nude of his beautiful girlfriend to a few kids there.

To paraphrase Paul, particularly in a context in which girls are implicitly and directly pressured to supply them, strong norms against nonconsensually sharing private nudes are a superb idea. One of the best reasons for someone to suffer a hit to their social status, in fact. And that’s all that happens here — Diego did not receive any sanction for nonconsensually sharing underage nude photos other than people thinking he was an asshole because he acted like an asshole.

Indeed, given the same set of facts my takeaway would be “it’s encouraging that the nonconsensual sharing of nudes led to the ostracism of the guy who shared them rather than the young woman whose privacy was violated” rather than the umpteenth CANCEL CULTURE thumb-sucker. But as cancel culture, again, I have no idea what the story is supposed to be here. Nobody has the right to be liked by their peers:

Then there’s this bit, where the author implies that “but he thought his girlfriend was REALLY HOT was a mitigating factor:

This is all pretty gross, but now I introduce the punchline:

Diego skipped his own graduation. He attended four proms, and after the last he found some drunk kids from his school waiting on his block, at 1 a.m., just to tell him to fuck off. Soon after, the school emptied for the summer, nothing fixed, the clock run out. In three months, Diego was leaving town to go to college hundreds of miles away. He didn’t know if he’d return.

Wait…this guy, who you’ve spent a blizzard of words telling me is some kind of victim for losing his popularity without due process of law or something after doing something legitimately bad, went to four fucking proms? He had, apparently, plenty of friends just not at the particular high school among whose students he committed sexual misconduct? This is a cover story?

At bottom, this very strange piece represents the acceptance of privilege that underlies so many anti-“cancel culture” arguments. Somebody who was never well-liked by their peers — even for silly or nonsensical reasons — would never have this kind of story written about them, but there’s a functional assumption here that once you’re obtained the status of a Cool Kid it becomes a vested entitlement that should give you a certain impunity, privilege that is of course not available to just anybody.

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