If you haven’t been exposed to it already (lucky you!) The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists is a work of non-fiction by author Neil Strauss. This book highlights the authors navigation of the–apparently super secret–’seduction’ community. As Wikipedia explains, the seduction community is a “self help movement of men, primarily communicating on the Internet, who strive for better sexual success/access with women.” Individuals who identify with this community often refer to themselves as Pick-Up Artists and share various ‘tricks of the trade’ with one another in the hopes of successfully sleeping with women.
Recently, blogger Ken Hoinsky endeavoured to create a new book entitled Above The Game: The Guide to Getting Awesome With Women (a project that was, as of yesterday, successfully funded by Kickstarter). Hoinsky’s book has recently gotten a lot of attention because some of the advice he intends to include in the yet-to-be-published-work is, how do you say, questionable…If you want to read more about the debate around the book, I would suggest reading Alex Hern’s article for The NewStatesman entitled “The ‘Manual for Sexual Assault’ Author Defends His Book” (be aware that the article contains some inappropriate language!).
I recognize that some of you may be thinking: “what’s wrong with learning how to [insert modern date lingo] the opposite sex?” First of all, although I haven’t been there in years, I still distinctly remember High School and all of the accompanying pressure to date and have sex, not to mention all of the hormones that often silenced the more rational parts of the teenage brain. So I get it, being with someone can sometimes feel like the most important thing in the world and anything that claims to make that easier can’t be such a bad thing, right?
Ummmm, not so much.
Let me give you some words of wisdom: dating and relationships are hard. Anything that claims to make that ‘easier’ is full of [explicit] and is generally missing the entire point. Here’s an exercise I want you to try: take a moment and think about yourself. I know we’re taught not to do that, but give it a try. Think about aaaaaallll of the incredible complexities of your being; all of the competing values we have and actions we take. Think about how complicated (and wonderful!) you are. Now step out of that self-focused place and think about all of those amazing complexities in another person. Then just imagine putting those two people into an intimate scenario where they need to navigate not only their own complicated emotions and desires, but those of someone else as well. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like something that could ever be particularly ‘easy,’ especially considering I have a hard enough time figuring out what I want and need (e.g. I’ve been doing yoga every day for a month and then last night I devoured an entire pizza, some ice cream, and a bowl of popcorn for dinner…).
Now that we’ve addressed Problem #1 with the whole ‘seducer’ movement, let’s move on to something that is much more problematic: thoughts like those that fuel the seducer movement promote sexual violence and contribute to our rape-prone culture.
As I explained in a rather irate Facebook response to some troll after posting the article from The NewStatesman that I mention above, the issue with the sentiments put forth by people like Mr. Hoinsky do not lie with any specific excerpt from any specific text, it is with the entire train of thought behind the “seducer” movement. These are sentiments that not only make me sick, but also frighten me as a female-identified individual. The mere notion that someone has the right to disregard my body language and other modes of expression in favour of establishing their dominance over me (without me indicating that I would like them to do so) because their ultimate goal is to have ‘sex’ with me is literally the recipe for sexual assault (which is defined as any form of sexual contact that takes place without voluntary consent). Kicking into educator mode: the Criminal Code of Canada operates on the notion of “affirmative consent” which means the popular idea that only “no means no” is not valid–actually only yes means yes. And although it may appear to some people as though consent has been obtained when someone does not verbally say the words “no” that consent is not actually valid if an individual indicates no through their words or behaviours. The situation which Mr. Hoinsky describes in his proposed work in which the male should “back-off” if the female screams “OH MY GOD GET AWAY FROM ME” is, in fact, not in line with the legal definition of consent here in Canada (side note: illegal or not, I would hope that most people I know would aim higher than that in their intimate interactions with others anyways). And that is only one of the more obvious examples of how these sentiments work to normalize sexual violence in our society. In short, what myself and the other individuals (see comedian Casey Malone’s blog) are reacting to is the larger rape-prone culture in which we live. This is a culture that perpetually condones and excuses sexual violence and renders a group of people as “less than” because of some arbitrary physically identifiable attributes.
I’m sure some of you may now be thinking: “so…why does this matter to me?” Great question, my friend! It’s important because sexual violence impacts us all, regardless of gender or sexuality, and all of us have a role to play in putting an end to it. “Okay, so how do I do that?” Another GREAT QUESTION! As far as I know, there are only three sure-fire ways to work to end sexual violence:
1) Be critical of the media we consume and the messages it sends about men, women, and sex;
2) Think about how we react in relation to other people and the little things that we do everyday that reinforce rape-culture; and
3) Learn more about the issue! If you would like more information on sexual violence in our society, I would suggest checking out the fabulous, award-winning Consent Ed website or the information page on the University of Alberta’s page.
We all have the power to create change in this issue–all ya gotta do is refuse to play “the game.”