For the past week, I have been putting my sociology degree to good use and conducting a little experiment. I’ve been asking people, “Who is the first person who popped into your mind when you heard Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’?'” The song has been everywhere, but in case you haven’t heard it, listen above. The chorus goes, “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags / Let’s have a toast for the a**holes / Let’s have a toast for the scumbags / Every one of them that I know / Let’s have a toast to the jerkoffs / That’ll never take work off / Baby, I got a plan / Run away fast as you can.”
Here is where things get interesting. Every single guy I have asked this question, with the exception of one male friend who said “Santa Claus,” has given the same answer: “myself.” Now, I know these guys. Most of them are friends. Have they done something douchey or jerky to someone on a rare occasion? Absolutely. I have, too, and really, who hasn’t? But none of them are actually a**holes.
Meanwhile, the women who’ve answered this question couldn’t have given more diverse answers. About a third named an ex-boyfriend or someone they dated who they didn’t feel treated them right. Another third named someone from pop culture— a few name-checked Kanye himself, while Spencer Pratt and Mel Gibson were also popular answers. And the final third named a wide array of genuinely bad dudes, from a soccer coach who sexually harassed them in high school to Saddam Hussein. Only one woman opted for the answer of herself.
So I gotta wonder—have I tapped into some kind of male self-loathing here? Is there something appealing about thinking of yourself as the dark, evil guy who is so bad they need to be run away from? Or has our culture set up a dichotomy in which men are jerks and women are the ones jerked around by them? Or maybe guys tend to hold onto the bad things they’ve done and generalize them to their personality? I mean, no wonder Don Draper—the most self-hating guy on television—is so freaking popular.
Will you do me a favor and continue this experiment? Ask your friends and random people you come across. I feel like I’m really onto something here.