The Vagenda

The ‘Persistent Male’ Fantasy: When ‘No!’ means ‘Try Harder!’, ‘Once More!’ and ‘Triple Check!’

seriouslystop

“Seriously. Stop.”

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

9 thoughts on “The ‘Persistent Male’ Fantasy: When ‘No!’ means ‘Try Harder!’, ‘Once More!’ and ‘Triple Check!’

  1. I really liked your contribution to the debate Elizabeth. :-)

    Only a few points:
    “Reading through PimpingMyGame.com is a sad insight into a misogynistic mentality where woman are malfunctioning sexbots who can be reprogrammed …”

    Do not mistake marketing material with the actual content of the teachings (PimpingMyGame is a video course, I think). In all self-help exaggerating and appealing to low motives is part of marketing. See “4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris or “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. Mister Sethi talks extensivly about this. Marketing is does not represent the content! The marketing is to get attention.

    A better way would be to look a the teachings of Blanc in video lectures. And there make a distinction between the actual teachings and retelling of stories just for entertainment purposes. I’ll post no links hereBut they are easy to find.

    There you will most likely see that he teaches to be self-amused and bringing good emotions to a woman you meet or basically every person you meet.
    I just don’t think people who are socially awkward should be made ashamed of themselves when trying to improve.

  2. Great article, thank you.

    Your paragraph starting “The sad fact is…” really struck a chord with me. It’s quite possible I’m overthinking this, but here goes…

    ‘Feminism is good for both men and women’ (or similar variants of the phrase) is often brought up – and I think this paragraph of yours really highlights why those statements are true.

    I have seen, and personally experienced, both sides of the persistence coin. I’ve been out with friends and seen, so many times, the persistent douchebag end up going home with girl – much to the bafflement of others. Twice, I’ve actually seen it happen the other way around and the persistent douchebag girl has gone home with the guy.

    I blame the Hollywood romance!

    A strong statement, I know, but bear with me.

    Every time that we see the male hero overcome the female (usually unpleasantly physically) resulting in her inevitable melting into his embrace; or the nerdy male hero ‘winning over’ the ‘Hollywood strong’ (read: aggressively self-isolated) female, by being generally normal and as a result getting jumped by her (but only at first, because he’ll take full control of the situation after she kisses him), young-adults and adults alike are having this trope of ‘no means try harder’ reinforced.

    It’s pervasive and it will get lodged in your brain, to varying degrees. It happens in my relationship with a strong and self aware, feminist woman – after 8 years, we still find ourselves in situations where she wants me to push but I read her initial reticence as ‘no’ instead of ‘try harder’ or, vice versa, she’ll read my reticence the opposite way. Of course, being partners for so long let’s us get straightened out through communication without anyone getting butthurt.

    This leads me back to your article – the sad fact about persistence is that it often works because both parties typically expect it to work. As you put it, Hollywood romance teaches us that “Love is a game, men are the challengers and women are prizes to be won.” and most of us see more examples of Hollywood romance than we do of real romance. Until we see films, theater and media populated on a roughly equal basis by men and women, we’ll not see a decline in this kind of material – that still lodges in our brains, no matter how aware of its skew we are.

    For me, you have nailed the overarching concept of feminism as I understand it – empathy.

    “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.”

    Thanks again,
    Alex

  3. “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.” TRU DAT

    Love the article, I do think that many men truly believe that a compliment from a stranger in the street is something that women should and do appreciate even if they don’t show it. Don’t be fooled by the woman trying to avoid eye contact and the quickening of her step, that just mean she likes it!

  4. One of the best articles on here in recent moths in my opinion. So many amazing breakdowns of the situation. Like these:

    ‘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’

    ‘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’

    ‘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.’

    All of this can be explained by a simple quote from Margaret Atwood. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” This always needs to be explained in detail to people as far as I can see and this article does just that

  5. Hi Alex,

    Elizabeth here…Quite a late response to this, just saw the comments! Very pleased you enjoyed the article. Yes, unfortunately, it is true that the persistent power play can work! And rewarded behaviour will continue. I definitely don’t come at this from a position of moral superiority- I have basically lived my life by the motto, ‘Fuck it, why not,’ and have dated my fair share of douchebags.

    And as frustrating/potentially endangering as it is to have everything you’ve said ignored, I agree with you that we are somewhat programmed by these stories. It is very hard to break out of conditioned roles and there is a deterministic, animal edge to these sorts of power/submission games, whatever our intellectual ideals for behaviour may be. Which is where empathy comes in- our best hope is that people are willing to see things from another perspective and evolve emotionally, not that everyone behaves perfectly from the word go.

    I think the onus should be on more dialogue and education on these topics from childhood, throughout adolescence. We are taught to read, but it is assumed we learn how to read people naturally, which is just not always the case. That sort of shift in sensitivity is nothing that will happen overnight, but is something I really wish was a part of sexual health education!

    Thanks for commenting! Elizabeth

  6. Hi Pail Joga,

    Thanks for reading. I’d have to disagree with your assessment of his word choice- yes, it is hyperbolic, but ‘marketing material’ is extremely influential. In this case, if men are relating and responding positively to it, that is an extremely worrying sign.

    The reason so much money goes into marketing and advertising is that propaganda is effective! We are all much more susceptible to brainwashing than we would like to think. And it cuts both ways- I also hate phrases like, ‘All men are dogs’, etc. Humans are mimics and the more that behaviour/manner of speaking is reinforced as acceptable, the more the situation will devolve.

    I agree that socially awkward people shouldn’t be ashamed by self-improvement, but it is reflective of a much wider societal problem when that new confidence arises from taking women by the throat. And, I would argue, the identification of self-worth with a very specific kind of masculine virility, is one of the many ways that patriarchy hurts men.

    Thanks for commenting, I appreciate the debate! Elizabeth

  7. Thanks Selina, so pleased you enjoyed it! That’s a great quote and would have been a succinct way to sum up. Debate and honest dialogue is the only way to change things, I think. Thanks for commenting! Elizabeth

  8. I love this article, it gives me life! Recently, on a night out with friends (both male and female) I was subjected to the (unfortunately) usual grilling as to why ‘I’m such a psycho’ because I confront men who won’t leave me alone, or feel as if it is their right to touch me inappropriately without consent under the guise of being ‘cheeky.’ Quite apart from the horrifying implication by one of my male friends that I should just let it go if when I turn around the perpetrator has a ‘mischievous’ look on their face, I was asked for about the millionth time ‘ok well, who’s someone you find attractive?’ I knew where it was leading but I answered honestly anyway in the hopes that maybe this conversation was going somewhere that wasn’t detrimental. Alas, I got the usual ‘so if Donald Glover grabbed your ass would you still be annoyed?’ The answer being YES I WOULD BE FUCKING ANNOYED, A PERSON’S PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS DOES NOT DEFINE WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE CULPABLE FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT. And, as usual, my friends exchanged knowing looks of ‘there goes the crazy feminist again, god bless her’ and the conversation ended when one of my girlfriends said she would let Zac Efron ‘get away with anything’ and I excused myself to go and kick a toilet cistern in frustration. The worst part about this persistent culture isn’t the cuss-filled tantrums that men throw when you reject them its that women who say no are cast as insane, over-sensitive and essentially, a joke.