Last Wednesday, following Australia’s lead, the Home Office denied pick-up artist Julian Blanc a UK visa after an online petition gained over 120,000 signatures. Apologizing on CNN, Julian said, ‘I feel horrible, I’m not going to be happy if I feel like I’m the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding.’ This, from a man who proudly shared pictures of himself with his hands around women’s throats on Twitter under the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld and later defended it as ‘humour’.
While I don’t doubt that his regret –though completely self-serving- is genuine, the whole sorry shitshow begs the question: how could Julian have been so tone-deaf in the first place? A man who has based his career on ‘calibrating’ social nuance and controlling it to his advantage, has been felled by the court of public opinion. If he were successful enough to have reached this point, a hell of a lot of people must have been voicing their support along the way.
Julian’s £1,250 boot-camp PIMP packages promise to ‘Make Girls BEG To Sleep With You After SHORT-CIRCUITING Their Emotional And Logical Mind’. Reading through PimpingMyGame.com is a sad insight into a misogynistic mentality where woman are malfunctioning sexbots who can be reprogrammed with the right ‘Hyper-Masculine’ ‘Toolbox Set’ of ‘Social Wizardry For All Situations’. Positioning yourself as the R2-D2/BobTheBuilder/Gandalf of sex pests is no easy feat and apparently one that requires a lot of unnecessary capitalization.
This dehumanizing mentality of ignoring women’s voices, choices, social, physical and verbal cues in order to emotionally manipulate them into sex is the basis of pick-up artistry. The emphasis within the Men’s Rights Activist and PUA subcultures on giving her ‘No Alternative But To End Up With You’ is a disturbing display of a very common emotion: sexual entitlement. Julian gives this a quasi-Buddhist spin with his ‘Four Pillars’ of ‘Sex Worthy Guys’: ‘Purposeful, Controlled, Flowing and Self-Amused’. Conjuring the image of a horny Voldemort on laughing gas, this self-regarding ludicrousness is almost funny- until one reads further.
With ‘Step By Step Techniques To Get Her Eyes Brighter For You Than A Little Dog’s’, the implication that women are animals to be trained into a owner-pet power imbalance is clear. ‘Last Minute Resistance’ gets it’s own rape-ily euphemistic abbreviation of ‘LMR’; Julian insists that ‘You’ve Probably Lost A TON Of Pulls Because You’re NOT PERSISTENT ENOUGH’. There is no way that Julian can position himself as a man taken out of context.
Though I am glad he has been denied a visa, the civil libertarian in me does wonder whether banning him solves anything. After all, imbeciles need their heroes, too, and they are sure to find them somewhere. Guardian columnist Marina Hyde even postulated that ‘He’ll be a pick-up martyr’ and the comments sections of related articles reflect a depressing degree of support for him. There is a large percentage of the male population that feels disenfranchised, powerless, unheard and angry. Like women, one might say. Except that the stated goals are not equal pay, physical safety, affordable childcare and respect but the ‘boom fuck’. A noble cause, to be sure.
The sad fact is- there is some logic to it. We do live in a culture that promotes ignoring women’s clearly expressed desires, from basic social cues to outright denials, in the name of romance, chivalry and the good old-fashioned Hollywood ending. But just because overcoming obstacles, challenges and obstructions are key elements to storytelling does not mean that when a woman says ‘No’, she means ‘Try Harder!’, ‘Once More!’ and ‘Triple Check!’ What she most likely means, is ‘Fuck Off’, but is too polite or intimidated to say it, for a completely rational fear of bitter reprisals.
In the stirring opus ‘Street Harassment Is A Myth Invented By Socially Retarded White Women’, the Hollaback! Movement is slated as a racist and classist attempt to criminalize introductory social interaction and men’s sexuality. This should not be surprising, coming from a website as hilariously named as ReturnOfKings.com. But as MRAs are fond of stating, it isn’t harassment if it is Harrison Ford (I presume they are referring to when he was in his 1970s heyday). That is true- because Harrison Ford was a handsome, charming, international superstar and excellent deliverer of one-liners. (‘I know.’) But it is completely erroneous to state that because one man’s chat up might be flattering, every man has an unassailable right to proposition you.
There are a million signals that show if someone is unreceptive to a conversation and they are often ignored. In my novel Low Expectations there is a passage in which the main character describes being chased down an alleyway by a strange man. As she stops, cornered, tears in her eyes, he tells her, ‘Ah, you’re scared! It’s cute that you’re scared.’
This happened to me. The man probably wasn’t a rapist, though who can say? He probably chased me because he knew I nothing to fear from him and thus felt perfectly comfortable inflicting that fear – until he could overcome it with his ‘smooth moves’. (Coincidentally, the name of an American laxative tea). As far as ‘No’ signals go, I’m not sure how much clearer legging it down the road can be. He was utterly surprised when I yelled at him and explained why I was upset. ‘You don’t need to worry- I’m in the military,’ he said, by way of explanation. It only troubled me further.
The presumption that a man’s desire to ‘socially engage’ should trump a woman’s sense of safety is dangerous. However, if we are to move forward as a society we must also make an effort to understand how and why these attitudes persist. Despite films giving women romantic agency and central storylines, such alternative rom-coms In A World… and Obvious Child, the central tenants of Hollywood romance are clearly established. Love is a game, men are the challengers and women are prizes to be won.
Persistence in the face of clear denials is not romantic, or a grand gesture, or sweeping her off her feet. Equally, the coquettish trope of ‘playing hard to get’ feeds into this dynamic to damaging effect. We need to emancipate ourselves from bullshit retro game playing and raise sons and daughters who have the social skills to interact with each other person to person. With the basic human empathy to recognise when advances are welcome- and the respect to back down when those boundaries are being overstepped.
- Elizabeth Aaron