Dating used to be an embarrassing and painful ritual. Shyness and some modesty was definitely part of it, or so I remember. Women would get together and swop stories about it, but otherwise it was all pretty private stuff. When Perfect Match came along in Australia in the 1980s and contestants competed to win a date with a stranger I remember thinking, ‘Who would put themselves forward for a show like that?’ Then it was Blind Date in the UK, spiced up for the ratings with the distasteful audience participation segment ‘Ditch or Date?’ There have followed a plethora of similar reality formats, First Dates, Love Machine and Take Me Out. Good light entertainment but a crass message which reduced the subtle complexities of love and romance to a primal meat market.
But somehow we have a sense of when things have started to go too far on the dating scene, like the recent rise of the Pick-Up Artists.
These PUAs belong to something called a seduction community, which, according to their entry on Wikipedia, is a movement of men whose goal is seduction and sexual success with/access to women. The community exists through Internet newsletters and weblogs, marketing (e.g. banner ads, seminars, one-on-one coaching), forums and groups, as well as over a hundred local clubs, known as lairs, giving out advice such as “stop asking for permission”. With rape of women having increased by 41 per cent in the past year, their message is quite rightly considered toxic.
In November 2014 Julien Blanc a US based dating coach became the subject of multiple social media campaigns alleging his advice encouraged sexual violence and abuse. As a result he was banned from Australia, the UK and Singapore. This year it is the turn of Daryush Valizadeh, known as ‘Roosh V’ who had planned meet-ups for followers in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Newcastle tomorrow. They have now been cancelled.
These men call themselves neomasculines. They claim to be responding to the emasculating effects of ultra-feminism. If they had their way, women would not work and would have their behaviour and decisions controlled entirely by men. Their answer to false rape claims is to film every sexual encounter. Or to suggest to their like-minded activists that a woman consenting to go into a man’s house is also agreeing to consensual sex. Coming hot on the heels of the news of women being harassed by migrants in Cologne and a rising climate of sexual abuse claims coming out of Scandinavia, it is a worrying trend.
However, this development in society should also be the dawning of an acceptance that modern women are not totally blame free. Radical feminists crying wolf over trivialities like compliments on LinkedIn or jokes about women crying in science labs (as in the case of Tim Hunt) doesn’t help. A pro-rape message is sexist and misogynistic. Decent men offering up a seat or opening a door for a woman is not. It’s time we relearnt the difference.