On May 23rd, a young college dropout named Elliot Rodger approached a USCB sorority house in southern California. He was bent on achieving one goal: slaughtering everyone inside. Unfortunately, three sorority members approached the house at the wrong time: two were killed and one was injured from gunfire. His rampage continued with another fatality, in addition to numerous injuries, before he pulled the trigger on himself.
Ever since his heinous killing spree ended, the nation has been clambering to find its scapegoat. The most immediate reaction to the violence, as the father of one of the slain victims has openly said, is that guns and politicians are to blame. This is an obvious and understandable indictment, given the emotions and tensions at the time. But looking back on the Isla Vista killings, it’s easy to see that gun control shouldn’t be the topic of discussion regarding preventing these types of tragedies. Elliot Rodger stabbed three of his victims to death with a knife, and used a semi-automatic pistol to slay the rest. He did not use assault rifles or automatic weapon magazines.
Other commentators have cited misogyny as the culprit for such behavior. As seen in his video diaries, Rodger seemed to have had a warped view of the opposite sex. His sexual frustrations and downright misanthropic view of women and the world seem to have been what led him down his path of self-destruction. As he repeatedly stated in his YouTube vlogs, he saw himself as a victim of life’s cruelty and unfairness. He didn’t understand why he had never had sex, held a girlfriend, or even kissed a girl. He felt like he had been robbed of these things, and that it was the fault of women at large for denying them to him.
These problems ring uncomfortably true for a lot of young men his age in this country. Men are culturally and socially pressured to look at and act toward women in a certain way. Promiscuity is downright encouraged. Porn use and addiction are extremely common, yet no one ever discusses them up because they aren’t viewed as that big of a deal. Men feel a sense of empowerment and superiority by having an avid sex life because that is considered “normal.” According to the American Psychological Association, we currently live in a “sexual hook-up culture” where the age of puberty has dropped but the time of getting married and settling down has been pushed back dramatically. Most recent data suggests that between 60 percent and 80 percent of American college students have had some sort of hook-up experience.
The problem that fed into Elliot Rodger’s madness isn’t a race, gun, or socio-economic problem. It is a culture problem: our culture drips with sex, and it puddles in everything from billboard ads to TV spots. It’s almost impossible to get away from sex because it has infiltrated almost every medium of entertainment.
It is important here not to merely dismiss the nature of Rodger’s crimes on account of his mental instability. This is something that has been increasingly done in the mainstream media whenever events of this nature occur. Elliot Rodger was exposed to society’s deceptions about sex for so long, without any personal success, that he became increasingly mentally unstable. I say increasingly because Rodger had been seeing therapists since the age of eight, and these visits apparently were not enough to help him work through his issues.
Critics and commentators enjoy pointing out a killer’s race, ideology, or political preferences. However, these things have far less to do with motive than the fact that almost all serial killers are just plain insane. There’s not always a rhyme or reason to the factors that drove them to kill, but that doesn’t stop others from trying to use these tragedies to further their own agenda.
What Elliot Rodger did is sickening, and my prayers go out to all the families and friends of his victims. The Isla Vista murders were the result of a perfect storm of factors: Elliot Rodger’s decaying mental state became intertwined with a sex-laced culture that makes men constantly question their self-worth and masculinity. If we want tragedies like this to be prevented in the future, our culture as a whole needs to change.