[TRIGGER WARNING for sexual assault]
By now, many of you have probably heard about the controversial Kickstarter campaign that was set up to fund a “seduction guide” that basically encouraged sexual assault and promoted rape culture. The project, which was fully funded, is a book that is apparently now going to be published with the title “Above the Game” in reference to another book that was all about how so-called “pick-up artists” (PUAs) operate. I’m guessing that PUAs draw the line at raping women, hence the title “Above the Game.” (Comedian and blogger Casey Malone was, as far as I know, the one who initially started spreading the word, so here’s a serious hat tip to Mr. Malone. I was one of many people, particularly women, who contacted Casey to thank him for speaking up.)
In case you hadn’t heard about this project, here are some details. It was started by a Redditor named Ken Hoinsky who apparently fancies himself as some sort of dating guru based on some interactions on Reddit where he gave other guys some advice on how to attract and pursue women. Here are just a few gems from this self-proclaimed Casanova (emphasis mine):
Get CLOSE to her, damn it!
To quote Rob Judge, “Personal space is for pussies.” I already told you that the most successful seducers are those who can’t keep their hands off of women. Well you’re not gonna be able to do that if you aren’t in close!
All the greatest seducers in history could not keep their hands off of women. They aggressively escalated physically with every woman they were flirting with. They began touching them immediately, kept great body language and eye contact, and were shameless in their physicality. Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically.
Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.
Ken claims on this Facebook post that he is available to respond to questions and that his quotes were taken out of context but he never came back to answer questions or explain this so-called context. Interpret that however you want. He did, however, issue a statement in which he again says that the quotes were taken out of context and he points out thar there is a section about what to do when you run into resistance. He says:
If at any point a girl wants you to stop, she will let you know. If she says “STOP,” or “GET AWAY FROM ME,” or shoves you away, you know she is not interested. It happens. Stop escalating immediately and say this line:
“No problem. I don’t want you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.”
Memorize that line. It is your go-to when faced with resistance. Say it genuinely, without presumption. All master seducers are also masters at making women feel comfortable. You’ll be no different. If a woman isn’t comfortable, take a break and try again later.
“Try again later.” After she has told you that she IS uncomfortable, try again later. After all, you weren’t serious when you said you didn’t want her to do anything she isn’t comfortable with. *sigh* Still not getting it, Ken.
Okay, now that the scene is set, I’m going to tell you a little story. Back in September of 2010, I was on my way out of what turned out to be a pretty toxic relationship. During one argument, the then-boyfriend decided to punish me for walking away by changing the locks on the door. By pure coincidence, an acquaintance that I knew through a mutual friend had messaged me on Facebook. During our conversation, I told him what was going on and he offered to let me come crash on his couch if the boyfriend didn’t grow up in the next few hours. He didn’t so I took the guy up on his offer. This acquaintance was someone I thought I could trust because of our mutual friend. I found out later that night that I was wrong.
Believing that gallantry was his only motive for offering to let me sleep in the bedroom while he slept on the couch, I went to bed. Just as I had started to doze off, he climbed in the bed with me. I resisted and said I had no problem sleeping on the couch. After a lot of back and forth and assurances from him that I would be safe and more comfortable if I stayed in the bed, I did.
Fast forwarding through all of the details, I will sum it up with this. I spent FOUR HOURS verbally and physically resisting this person. I told him “no” several times. I told him I was not interested in having sex with him or even making out and that it had nothing to do with whether or not I still had a boyfriend. I’m very comfortable with my sexuality (or at least I was up until this happened) and if I wanted to fuck someone, I had no problem with letting them know. I was just not interested in him, period. I even accidentally knocked my own head against the wall during one of my attempts to get away from him. Every single message and signal I gave him had NO written all over it.
And yet he persisted. I always thought that, being a former state champ in boxing and a roller girl, I’d be able to physically fight someone off in an attack. I found out I was wrong. I was afraid of what he would’ve done if I’d hit or kicked him. I did try to leave but couldn’t. After four hours, physically and emotionally exhausted, I relented. Relenting is not the same as consenting. I did not say yes; I said get it over with. I simply couldn’t fight him off any longer.
The next day, he texted me. In his mind, his four hours of efforts were rewarded with a consensual sexual encounter. I informed him that this was not sex, this was rape. He was shocked at this revelation. He honestly thought that when I said no, what I meant was that I want to but I don’t want you to think I’m a slut if I say yes, so just try harder. He believed this because that’s how it was with the other women. That’s how it was with the other women. They didn’t want it at first but he convinced them to let loose. He believed that he liberated them from their self-imposed sexual repression, like he was a male version of Betty Friedan. This wasn’t the first time he’d used this “seduction technique” and no one had ever told him that forcing yourself on a woman until she gives in is sexual assault.
It’s as if he’d been taking advice from this Ken Hoinsky jerk. “She wants you, she just doesn’t know it yet so just keep pushing until she figures it out. And if she doesn’t, just shove your dick in her hand anyway.” Ken Hoinsky, I have two words for you. One starts with “F,” the other starts with “O.” Wanna guess what they might be?
Ken, you may not want to accept it, but you are encouraging rape. If you’ve used these techniques yourself, you may very well be a rapist. You are contributing to rape culture. You obviously did not get the “No means no” memo or you chose to ignore it. And now you’ve managed to raise over $16,000 to write a book teaching other men how to use sexual assault as a “seduction” method. Far too many women can tell you that this sexual entitlement attitude is thriving much better than it should and doesn’t need “men” like you fanning its proverbial flames. Just stop it. Give the money back, don’t write your stupid book, and seek professional help.
So why did Kickstarter allow such a project to be funded? Well, part of the reason is that they just didn’t know about it. And once it was pointed out to them, it was too late. The project’s fundraising period had ended. They did reach out to Casey Malone and explained why they could not pull the project. Kickstarter then followed up with a genuine apology – not one of those, “We’re sorry people were offended,” fake apologies – and a $25,000 donation to RAINN. They have also vowed to implement some new procedures, namely banning any sort of “seduction guide” projects that encourage misogynistic behavior. Good for you, Kickstarter. I know a lot of people, myself included, were worried about how other projects would be affected if people started boycotting Kickstarter so hopefully your handling of this will get you off of a whole lot of shit-lists. Be aware, though, that not many people are convinced. They think this could have been stopped, that the funding could have been intercepted. I’m actually sort of hoping for some clarification on that myself.
Hopefully we can find some sort of silver lining in this. At least it resulted in some changes at Kickstarter and a large donation to RAINN. And it resulted in a whole lot of discussion. I’d like to believe that some of the guys who were taking Ken’s advice are now aware that it’s probably not a good idea. But the realist in me knows that this isn’t really how the Internet works. So where do we go from here? We keep talking. We keep spreading the word. We keep calling people like Ken Hoinsky out on their misogynistic behavior. We keep shining the spotlight on rape culture and showing people what it looks like. We keep explaining to people that there are no gray areas when it comes to consent.