Right now, many of the citizens of Glasgow and other cities in the UK are incensed by the organisation of straight men-only seminars this weekend by the self-styled Pick-Up Artist and misogynist, Roosh V. This Saturday, the 6th February, in 43 cities across the globe, men will join up, beat their chests and do whatever else it is that men who hate women do when they are together.
Authorities, including the police, were alerted to the rendezvous in George Square, right in the heart of the city, on Monday. Since then, a number of demonstrations have been organised, most of which have peaceful intent, although the potential for confrontation seems high. Men and women are angered by his beliefs: that rape on private property should be legalised, his racist views on immigration (ironic given his own ethnic origins), his homophobia and his belief that all women who challenge his views (with feminists a particular target) should be outed and dispatched with extreme prejudice (my words). Hate speech by any other name.
Petitions are running, asking him to be banned from the UK, which is probably a good idea, even though it’s clear that he doesn’t intend to enter the UK on this occasion. The time and place is for the men to meet up and presumably repair to a function room in a pub, get a beamed-in speech from their idol, then practise their mating techniques on an unsuspecting public. Except that public is no longer so unsuspecting.
The phenomenon, if you can call it that, of the pick-up artist (or PUA as they call themselves) is not a new one, but it came to mainstream attention in 2005 with the publication of The Game by Neil Strauss, which became a New York Times bestseller. It tells his true story of how he went from being a shy music journalist, unable to flirt successfully with women, to the ultimate seducer, Style.
I read this book years ago and enjoyed it, even going as far as giving it to some of my male friends who could do with some help on how to chat up women. Because in the beginning, it’s as much about confidence building for men as anything. It shows how the wee skinny, ugly guys, or AFCs (average frustrated chumps) can attract the most beautiful women. It’s hilarious in parts, and an eye opener for all women who have ever been chatted up well, or badly, by any man, anywhere.
It all goes badly wrong in the end, some of the men in his community becoming solely motivated by racking up as many notches in the bed post as possible; borderline sex addicts unable to cope with a real relationship with a woman. Instead of using the seduction lesson to meet a nice lassie and settle down, they became addicted to the chase, some of them obsessed with outdoing each other, rather than focusing on the woman they are pursuing. The moral of the story is that the shallow pursuit of bedding women (or men), just for the sake of it, will not lead to happiness or self-fulfilment. And the lesson to be learned applies to almost everything pleasurable: it’s fine in moderation, but too much will screw you up.
While Strauss and his crew of seducers are mainly a bunch of decent guys (albeit deluded about women), temporarily high on the sudden revelation that they can pull supermodels, some of the men are not so pleasant. Ross Jefferies for example, rumoured to be the inspiration for the Franck Macky character played by Tom Cruise in the film Magnolia. Anyone who has seen that film will not forget his disturbing ‘Seduce and Destroy’ speech given to a hall full of cheering men, urged to ‘respect the cock and tame the cunt.’ Interestingly, Cruise talked about this film to Strauss in The Game, explaining that the extras who filmed the scene didn’t know what the scene was about and started cheering, mainly based on the words and alpha male persona of Cruise himself. In my head, that’s what the room at a Roosh V gathering will look like, although I also imagine it will be a lot smaller.
Like any community of people, especially online, there are moderates and extremists. The moderates will usually outnumber the extremists. Despite the prevalence of sexist abuse towards women online, this is not my experience of most of the men around me in daily life. Even when you look on Roosh V’s Return of Kings web forum page on Glasgow, it’s depressing and classist in its trip advisor-style review of the best places to find a one night stand, but there is no advocacy of rape. These are sad men, travelling to the city, looking for a shag. I was amused by the comment that you need to watch out for the Glasgow men, who are pretty good with the banter themselves, and won’t take kindly to outsiders trying to muscle in on their women. Of course they forget to mention that Glasgow women are pretty good at telling men they are not interested in to ‘get tae fuck’.
Rape and sexual assault exist in this city, as does sexually motivated murder. No doubt about that. But are the majority of men who commit these crimes the ones who join pick up communities? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. Any self-respecting woman can see a dubious chat up line coming from a man a mile away. It’s up to her whether she chooses to go down that road or not, and maybe sometimes she will, because she wants sex too. Sometimes, she might think that this is a decent guy and not realise she is being ‘gamed’. Unfortunately, this has been the case for a long time, and even if the internet banished all the seduction sites on the planet, this will always be the case.
I understand the rage against Roosh V because I feel it too. I feel it against the horrible men who judge a bar by the content of its fanny and the availability. But I also accept that women judge places in that way too, although in a much less sinister way. I know in the past, single friends and I have judged venues by their ratio, and by ratio, we meant number of attractive single men, possibly out on the pull. And anyone who has ever spent a night at a male strip show full of drunk women, will know that we too can be capable of shameless mob mentality. When it comes to sexual behaviour, there are a whole lot of grey areas going on.
But there is a line to be drawn. And it revolves around consent. Extremists like Roosh V, who advocate getting women drunk or drugged before they fuck them, cross it so far, they can’t even see it. Despite all the sexist attitudes online, this is a small minority of men who would behave this way. For the safety of women in our cities, I want to know who they are. It is they who should be named and shamed, not the feminists, both male and female who oppose him. And sadly, one of the repercussions of the social media campaigns to protest, means that they will be driven underground. I would be very surprised if more than a very small number of men, if any, turn up in George Square on Saturday night.
I actually don’t care if men need the support & advice of others to be bold enough to start a conversation with us. If I don’t want to have that conversation, I will be sure to let them know. What I do care about are those men who think they can drink or drug us, to fuck us without our consent. Or those who prey on vulnerable women, and share tips on how to chip away at our insecurities to make us want them. These men are vile and in some cases, criminals.
The men who support Roosh V and his ilk do live in the world around us. He has already noted on his Twitter feed that this city is particularly extreme in its reaction to his seminar. Good. Let it be known to him, by both men and women, that his hate is not welcome here. Police Scotland have made that clear too and George Square is full of CCTV that might have identified some of the men who disagree. I am only sorry that this time, we might not get the chance to do so.
Until next time,