I have a policy of not paying much attention to what people say while they are raving.

After a mass killing it doesn’t really matter to me whether the killer is motivated by politics, religion or the voices in his head. No one gets to the point of random murder without having so much wrong inside that what he was thinking at the time he was killing strangers is more or less irrelevant.

But Elliot Rodger, this week’s mass murderer, may be an exception. Because if you can stomach his videos and 137-page manifesto, you will encounter ideas about the competition among men for the domination of women that will be very familiar to most men who have grown up in this culture. It’s a message we teach to each other and one with horrible implications.

Rodger killed six people, wounded 13 others and took his own life Friday, earning himself the lead position in the national news, but perhaps the scariest thing about him is that right up until the point that he started killing, this frustrated 22-year-old was not that different from many others.

Mass murder is uncommon, but violence against women is not. One in five women say they have been a victim of a rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator was someone she knew. Women are five times more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner, they are usually the victim in domestic violence and stalking incidents and in almost all of these cases, the perpetrator is a man.

The words that have been piling up on social media since the Isla Vista killings tell the same story. In 140 characters or less, women are providing testimony on Twitter with the hashtag #YesAllWomen about the kind of violence that is collectively as terrifying as what Roger did last week.

“… a man fears his blind date will be ugly and a woman fears hers will never let her make it home alive,” read one tweet.

“I am a rape and sexual assault survivor and my experience is not particularly unusual or rare,” read another.

“Doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen it. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never done that. It happens,” read a third.

The stories are hard to avoid. The Department of Defense estimates that there are 19,000 sexual assaults per year on military personnel, but only 1,000 get reported and half of those are prosecuted. Now we are hearing about college campuses, where rampant sexual assault is leading to federal investigations at some of the nation’s best known institutions.

In one of his videos, Rodger said that his inability to take part in on campus sexual activity drove him to seek retribution.

“I’ve been through college for 2½ years — more than that actually — and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous,” he said. “College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness.”

Who told him that college was supposed to be about pleasure and not about getting an education? A better question is, who didn’t?

The best in life goes to sexually aggressive males, who know how to take what they want. That’s the message that Colby College senior Jonathan Kalin said he learned growing up.

“In high school those killer instincts were sort of preached,” said Kalin, who leads the anti-campus sexual violence campaign called Party with Consent.

“When we think about masculinity, we think about strength, and that means being in control,” Kalin told the Morning Sentinel. “And if being in control means being violent, then that’s the way you do it.”

In a powerful essay on the Atlantic Magazine website, blogger Noah Berlatsky points out that Rodger was also a victim of his own prejudice. Rodger’s lack of sexual experience made him less than a “real man” by the definition he’d been taught. He wasn’t looking for love from women, Berlatsky said, but for status.

“Misogyny shaped Rodger’s view of women. But it also shaped his self-loathing view of himself and his masculinity, or lack thereof,” he wrote. “The stigma against male virgins is something that men like Rodger … internalize and is, in itself, a form of misogyny.” It should be no surprise that Rodger’s killing spree ended in suicide.

Most of us would never do what Eliot Rodger did last week, but every man who has grown up in this culture has heard the same messages.

We have a choice. We can act like that’s normal, or we can do something about it.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: [email protected]