Guy writes in defence of treating women as humans – against pick-up-artists

Guy writes in defence of treating women as humans – against pick-up-artists

What do you think of this guest post by Bryan Haut on Feministing?

And I guess this kind of discussion deserves two levels. The first around what he says, and the second around the fact that he is saying it and how he is saying it.

First. I am very glad he is saying this, and I back up his message. I am extremely happy to have other sane men speaking out to share that men who enjoy sex with women can do so without thinking of women as adversaries – without thinking of their right to consent as an obstacle between you and your objective.

And second. I personally take some encouragement from his writing this and sharing it. My question is how do women experience what he is sharing. Perhaps I’m just being too nervous, but could his comparison of pick-up-techniques to video games be seen as trivializing something that is super problematic? Namely the habit many men have of believing the only winning scenario is where their desire is fulfilled regardless of what women might desire or prefer. This habit is actually awful. It is dangerous and it is gross. Yet its totally normalized. Which might be why it doesn’t seem that strange to equate it with something else super common: video games. In fairness, I think the analogy will work well with male audiences, or gaming audiences in general (which are comprised of far more women than most people suspect), and probably helps him make his point. But should we be concerned with making something really gross (ignoring women’s choice) seem kind of relateable and cartoony?

I’m somewhat torn. I think in the end it’s ok because through the use of his analogy he nails home the important point. It’s stupid and awful to approach women as an objective to be acquired or an opponent to be outwitted. Instead let’s not settle for anything less than enthusiastic consent.

And hey, while we’re at it, maybe we could start thinking of women outside of their role as potential sexual partners! What? Too much for one day? Sigh.

Check back Monday for the continuation of my reading of Bell Hooks’ “Feminism is For Everybody.”

I’m sure he’s just wondering who cuts her hair. (Source: gguillaumee)



10 responses to “Guy writes in defence of treating women as humans – against pick-up-artists

  1. You know, Evan, I get what you mean about trivializing the process by likening it to a game. At the same time, I’m with you: making it relateable is pretty important, and if the best way to do that is to liken it to something fairly straightforward and familiar, then maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.

    You did ask what the process feels like for women, and I may be able to give some insight into that. For me, it feels like being trapped; there’s no way to win. If you’re polite to the guy, he sticks around longer and keeps making you uncomfortable, and if you’re rude to the guy, he usually turns aggressive (and, in some cases, you also feel uncomfortable that it’s come to you being untrue to yourself by having to put on this rude persona just to protect yourself–at least, sometimes that’s how I feel). The last guy that tried to pick me up, I was only moderately rude to him and my (male) roommate informed me that I should have just been more assertive. The thing is, if it’s a stranger, you have no idea what he’s capable of. Being super rude could put you in danger, and so (at least for me) it’s not a risk that’s worthwhile. So usually I just take it, and try to distance myself as soon as possible.

    You often have this understanding from the get-go that there are certain steps that he’s going to go through, and you won’t be done with the situation until he does. One “no” is almost never enough. Depending on the guy, you may or may not be able to easily extract yourself from the situation (I’ve had men follow me, for instance, because they weren’t done yet), but overall it’s just a feeling of, “Oh great. Here we go again. And if I don’t do what he wants, I’m going to be the bad guy again.” You either go along with it and give him what he wants, or you get the honour of first being harassed even longer, and then being verbally abused (when he finally gives up), either to your face or once he’s returned to talking to his guy friends. It’s this complete lack of understanding that they’re not entitled to me, just because they walked up, and so if it doesn’t go well, it couldn’t be that they had done something to make me uncomfortable or something. It must just be because I’m a bitch.

    Honestly? The only people I date are people I’m already at least semi-friends with, and I’m usually the one to make the move. Thankfully, I’ve been told that I’m so far from creepy that I don’t even know how to flirt properly. I’d much rather err on that side.

    • I’m not a fan of PUA, I’m extremely skeptic of it that it even works.

      But as far as I have read the material I haven’t come across any evidence that it encourages men to not take NO, to be persistent in pestering women even when there is no sign of interest.

      If anything, it encourages men to play the numbers game – approach a woman, if she doesn’t show sign of interest, quickly move on to another w/o wasting your time and effort.

      I think men who pester women and spend a lot of time and energy on one woman despite no interest from her. like the ones you have experienced and observed, are clearly not taking their lessons from PUA

      • Thanks for your comment Tim. Ok, so let’s say they are not taking their lessons from PUA.

        But as Lia’s story points out – and thanks so much for sharing Lia – there are men who will not take the first no as an answer. Where might they be getting the message that this is something they can or should be doing?

  2. Instead let’s not settle for anything less than enthusiastic consent.

    If men make enthusiastic consent from a woman ‘requisite” then they fear there will be a lot less sex, hooking up, casual sex going on.

    I don’t think many men get to experience “genuine sexual enthusiasm” from women in their lifetimes. Most men do realize that the sex they have been having in life, in one way or the other, required them to persuade or ‘bribe’ the women; required them to bring “other qualities” and value to the table than their sexuality alone.

    I would define enthusiastic consent or ‘genuine sexual enthusiasm’ very narrowly.

    enthusiastic consent to me, would be when a woman gives clear signals of interest to a man and makes it easy for him to make the move. More ideally, it would be when a woman herself pursues a man for sex or a fling.

    Enthusiastic consent would be when a man doesn’t have to worry about following some PUA guidelines, or not saying the correct lines, because the woman already finds him desirable. He doesn’t need to prove anything to or persuade her. Because he also has something she wants (his sexuality, his body, his genitalia etc)

    To be frank, when I ‘see’ the sex that is happening around me, whether in relationships or casual / No-Strings; I find women’s sexual enthusiasm for men to be a rare thing.

    • “If men make enthusiastic consent from a woman ‘requisite” then they fear there will be a lot less sex, hooking up, casual sex going on.”

      FYI, as a woman who has experienced sexual acts WITHOUT giving enthusiastic consent, it feels like being raped. So when you wrote that, what I heard was, “If she doesn’t consent enthusiastically, it probably means she doesn’t want to do it, but just keep trying and she’ll give in. Who cares if she feels violated afterwards?”

      If she’s not enthusiastic, she’s being coerced. And that’s sexual assault. Period.

      Oh yeah, and by the way, it doesn’t mean less sex. You’ve no idea how much more likely a partner is to get an abundance of sex from me if I actually feel like he/she gives a shit whether I’m into it or not. You know who DOESN’T get a lot of sex from me? People who make me feel like saying “no” isn’t allowed.

  3. Thanks again Tim.

    Personally I think if there would be less sex, hooking up, or casual sex happening as result of making enthusiastic consent a requirement then I think that’s probably fine. Because in my mind, the sex being had where there was not enthusiastic consent from both (or more) parties is, at best, not worth having, and at worst, something that one of the parties didn’t actually want but was somehow compelled, forced, manipulated into.

    I’m going to venture into speculation here, and I would love for others to correct me if they disagree. But I’m not sure that needing enthusiastic consent means that the man cannot make the first move. In my mind enthusiastic consent applies to both (or more) parties. Both people need to really want to sleep together and to make that clear to the other before one of them starts making it physical.

    But in determining whether enthusiastic consent exists either party can initiate the conversation. And possibly (let me know if you disagree) they can “make their case” if you will. They can strike up conversation with the hope of piquing the other’s interests. But at a certain point I would expect that they make their intentions clear and allow the other to indicate their level of interest. It is at this point I believe, where a no needs to be taken as a no. A maybe needs to be taken as a definitely not right now or tonight (this is where I would love women’s perspectives – how have you used “maybes” in the past? I feel as though I’ve seen maybes that are clearly out of discomfort and need to be seen as no’s that are trying not to be rude, but I’ve also seen maybes that seem to be inviting further interaction). And yes’s need to be examined to separate between a reluctant or half-hearted yes and an enthusiastic yes.

    If someone says yes but has felt forced into it (and there are so many ways this can happen) than they are not going to enjoy themselves and will probably feel gross afterwards and their partner has just exerted their power over them to get the outcome they wanted. Like I said, at best, there is no way that sex will be nearly as good for either of them as sex where both parties were excited to be there, and at worst one of those people has been forced into something against their will.

    I would love to discuss whether enthusiastic consent is something that has to be in place right from the get go, or whether it can be something that grows through interaction. And if this is the case, what is acceptable in terms of efforts to find enthusiastic consent.

    I think we’ve established that the guy from Lia’s example was going about it the wrong way in his persistence. But in meeting a new person is any amount of persuasion acceptable? This is something I really don’t know, because I don’t know what the female experience is like here. From my perspective there is a very fine line. No amount of persuasion would make me want to sleep with a women that I had already decided not to sleep with. But I can picture scenarios where a women that I was unsure about might be able to persuade me, and I might have my mind changed and might consent enthusiastically. If for example I learned she had a great sense of humour, or similar interests or values. But these things would require some persistence from her given that I had originally assumed these things not to be the case. So my question is how would this be experienced from a women’s perspective? I would also love to hear about how this plays out in LGBTQ relations if anyone is interested in sharing.

    • Wow. Sorry, Evan, I didn’t even see this response, oddly.

      I think you bring up (at least) two really relevant points in this comment: 1) What does a “maybe” look like? and 2) How (if at all) does someone respectfully incorporate persuasion into interactions with strangers.

      As for what a “maybe” looks like, in my most negative experience, it meant me being so nervous I was physically tense and dead silent and didn’t know what I wanted, but didn’t really want to say anything. (In this interaction, my partner just assumed I was nervous and kept at it. I allowed it, because at the time, my own very limited understanding of sexuality was such that my confidence wasn’t strong enough to put a stop to it, even if I’d had the self-awareness to do so.) I’ve never had a “maybe” moment (from myself OR my partner) that didn’t actually mean “no.”

      In my most positive experience, “maybe” still meant “no” and took the form of my partner asking, “Is this OK?” and me responding, “Maybe, but I was wondering about trying _______. Is that something you’re into?” Really, it was pretty ideal, because we were both self-aware enough to not get defensive about anything or phrase things in ways that were disrespectful, while also respecting each other’s boundaries.

      As for persuasion, I’m in an interesting boat. I’d say my guy-to-girl preference is like 1:20, so I kind of write men off most of the time, especially if I don’t know them well enough for them to have already won me over a bit. So in my case, no active persuasion is OK, because I’m probably not interested if it’s a guy, and I’m so used to (kind of creepy) men trying so hard to persuade that I’m fed up with it. But for women? I don’t know. Women don’t hit on me nearly as often, and I find that I’m usually the one to say something first. Persuasion (at least intentional persuasion) isn’t something I go for. I try to build a real relationship with people, and then if I find I’ve developed feelings for them, then I’ll probably say something one day to the effect of, “You know, I really like you. Are you feeling anything beyond friendship?” and see what the answer is. If it’s no, then that’s the end of that.

      Have you guys seen this? I kind of feel like it should be mandatory reading for the entire world.

    • “I’m not sure that needing enthusiastic consent means that the man cannot make the first move. “

      I agree. Having a woman’s enthusiastic consent hasn’t got anything to do with who makes the first move. Let me illustrate this with an example..

      Consider a man who is interested in a woman he sees in a club. He looks at her expressing his interest from a distance. She maintains eye contact (instead of looking away quickly). When he smiles, she acknowledges it and maybe smiles back (instead of having an indifferent or blank expression on her face saying “yeah, what?”) Perhaps she leaves her friends and steps aside to make it easier for him to approach her. When he says ‘Hi’ she responds politely and enthusiastically (rather than in a manner showing she has been disturbed) Her body language says that she is comfortable with his presence. She make is easier for him to talk to her, making an effort to get the conversation going(instead of giving one word answers and going silent until he asks another question)

      So you see, who made the first move becomes irrelevant, when there is enthusiastic consent.

      But again, either way I don’t see this happening to men that often. Which is why I said enthusiastic consent is something most men rarely experience.

  4. “I usually know which women I want to have sex with”

    That goes for the vast majority of men as well, including myself. And it probably isn’t very different for women either.

    It makes perfect sense that you know which women you want to have sex with and they don’t need to bend backwards and ‘sell themselves’ to you or persuade you that they are good enough.

    But lets imagine you aren’t that physically attracted to a woman; not enthusiastic about and sexually indifferent to her.
    Lets say this woman is sexually interested in you and makes a lot of effort to pursue you for that purpose. She meets you in a club, offers you drinks, chats you up, shows interest in your life, interests, likes and dislikes (which flatters you, makes you feel important and good about yourself). She tries to impress you with her conversation, intellect, makes you laugh. You agree to meet up again, and she takes you out, shows you around, makes sure you are entertained and have a great time.

    At some point you probably ‘change your mind’ and agree to have sex with her.

    Would I be wrong to suggest that what has really happened in this hypothetical scenario is that she compensated for her lack of attractiveness with pursuit, effort, by bringing other qualities to the table, and being useful in ‘other’ ways?

    Do you notice that what this hypothetical woman did for you is actually what most men are supposed to do in order to obtain sex, in real world?
    But people don’t describe it as men compensating for their lack of attractiveness. They say this is just how men attract women.
    But when we reverse the sexes (as in the scenario above) it begins to appear for what it really is: compensation. Because it is such an anomaly for a woman to be going through great lengths just to get a man in bed.


    I had an interesting realization a while ago…that all the stuff that men are taught in the name of attracting women are in fact methods to compensate for their lack of attractiveness to women and only required when a man is not ‘attractive enough’ to begin with !

    They are just ways for men to supplement themselves when their natural physical / sexual appeal is not enough.

    What appears to be men trying to attract women is in fact men compensating for their lack of appeal

    But this is not the way society wants us to look at it. Men are never allowed to look at it as ‘compensation’. This view would be too uncomfortable and demoralizing to men. This compensation culture has to be justified and given a more honorable cover.


    Society perpetuates certain misconceptions regarding female sexuality.
    It It sells the wrong idea to men from a young age that women are very different, they are not visual, they are ‘complicated’ , and are attracted to ‘different things’ in men other than appearance.

    Perhaps women too ‘just know’ which men they are attracted to and want to have sex with. But our culture has ingrained men with the idea that they must somehow win a woman over with persistence, effort and acts of kindness; make her like him and somehow ‘create’ attraction. Men are encouraged to believe that there must be some way or another to win a woman over and if she is not showing enthusiasm or says ‘no’ ; he must be not trying hard enough and not doing enough to win her over. Worse, it is even made to reflect on his lack of character and not being a good enough human being (however vague that sounds)

    The result is that some men sell themselves, some sell too hard, some compensate, supplicate, cajole, manipulate, bribe, lie, and some coerce. Its all on the same scale. It works for some, not for others. For the most part this situation is frustrating for both the sexes for different reasons.

    We need to get rid of these myths regarding women’s sexuality.
    We need to teach young men that if you have to bend backwards to win a woman over for sex, then perhaps that sex is not worth having, even though you might be successful sometimes, because that sex doesn’t validate your sexual desirability.

    Perhaps sexual attraction is supposed to be natural and rather effortless. I believe it is so when women attract men

    • The main premise here doesn’t ring true for me. What one woman finds attractive is often very different from what another finds attractive, so to suggest that men who “aren’t attractive” have to make up for it seems like a totally foreign concept to me. What does that even mean? Who counts as “not attractive” in this scenario, when everyone will find at least some people who think they’re attractive?

      Also, the assumption that if someone (whether they identify as male, female or otherwise) isn’t interested in something romantic right away, it’s OK to keep trying just feels disrespectful to me. It’s like deciding for that person that you know better than they do what they need. So for instance, if you’re talking to a woman and you find out she’s in a relationship, you’re a lot less likely to keep trying, because the assumption is that she’s not available. But if she’s equally unavailable for personal reasons (i.e. not interested in a relationship because of where she is in her life at that time), it’s not as “valid” in the eyes of many men. They sort of just get to assume that if she’s single, she’s available. And the assumption is not fair, because she gets to choose whether she’s interested in a relationship or not. Or at least she should be able to. Otherwise, the assumption is that her natural state is “in a relationship” and it reinforces this idea that if she’s not, she’s somehow missing something or incomplete.

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