A few days ago, a woman in Bel Air posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a "feminism tutor" for her 22-year-old son. The ad since been removed, but here's what it said:
"My son, Nate, is 22 and a student at UCLA. He has been struggling the whole quarter with his gender studies class that focuses on feminism and feminist theories, and he has a big paper that will be due in a few weeks, and he has not even started. He's a very typical young man his age — finds the whole idea of feminism and gender studies boring and uninteresting. However his graduation is dependent on successfully finishing this class. I'm looking for someone who is knowledgeable in this subject and can meet with him 2-3 times a week and help him develop and bring this paper to fruition. We live in Bel-Air near UCLA and you can either meet him here, at any campus library or over lunch (he's quite the sophisticated young man who enjoys elegant restaurants!) I anticipate he will not need more than 1-2 weeks worth of time to prepare this."
The ad was funny! It got picked up by Jezebel and mocked on Twitter and Facebook. In two succinct paragraphs, it seemed to sum up what's wrong with parents, millennials, men, higher education, rich people, capitalism and Southern California. It was a gift from the Internet gods.
On Tuesday, I emailed the woman who placed the ad. She was out of town, she wrote, and sent me her son's email address and cell number. She signed the email, "Dr. Alexandra Rose, Phd."
I chatted with Nate for about a half-hour. He told me he was a senior majoring in business economics but had a minor in gender studies. He needed help with Gender Studies 10, in which he said he was one of two men and felt his opinions weren't respected. His professor was named Elizabeth Marchant.
Nate bragged about his mother, a psychoanalyst, and his father, a lawyer. He said he assumed his mother would pay his tutor about $100 an hour. They had already received lots of responses.
When we got off the phone, I googled Nate's father, but I couldn't find any lawyers in California with his name. There didn't seem to be a psychoanalyst named Alexandra Rose. "Nate Schermer" was basically a cipher. So, I emailed Marchant to find out if he was in her class: "I'm not teaching this quarter."
I called "Nate" back after seeing his email address connects to a guy named Nader Kashani online and Nate Kashani on Facebook. He texted me a link to his Facebook and quickly offered some more details on his parents. The Facebook profile photo was new, and it was the same one used by Nader/Nate Kashani — and a Nader Modgeddi.
Here, the online trail gets uglier. "Nader Modgeddi is a student at Penn State University who harasses Women on social media," the anti-harassment site Male Violence reported. That site has saved files of almost 40 pages of vile tweets Modgeddi directed at various women in 2014. Twitter is littered with complaints about his behavior.
I told "Nate" I'd be happy to speak again if he wanted to be honest. He said he's 27, not 22, and he's not enrolled at UCLA. He made up the ad "to see what kind of responses it would get." The whole thing was "sort of like a joke."
This casts the ad in a scarier light: A guy accused of serial harassment places an ad to meet with an expert in feminism. Before he confessed, "Nate" said one of the topics frequently discussed in class was campus sexual assault:
"Life is about mitigating risk. ... People don't say, 'Don't blame that person; she left her diamond ring in the car and unlocked.' ... But when it comes to the crime of rape, people say it was fine that you blacked out on a densely populated campus at 3 a.m."
When we first spoke, I asked him if he was surprised by how much attention his mom's ad has received thus far. "I understand the culture of the Internet and how people are," he said. "There's always a handful of people looking to cause controversy."