So I’m not sure how far this has spread, but apparently yesterday this little gem of a book got funded on Kickstarter. It’s called Above The Game: A Guide To Getting Awesome With Women. (You can find it on Seddit, the Seduction section of Reddit. Or with the simplest of Googlefu. The thought of linking to it here makes me feel icky.)
It’s exactly as problematic as it sounds. There’s already been several voices raised around the blogosphere, pointing out that the chapter “Physical Escalation & Sex” endorses assault and rape. So much so, in fact, that the author has already posted a response, which I feel a little better about linking to.
People took advice from a section on “Physical Escalation & Sex” and posted them online. Devoid of context, they appeared to be promoting sexually assaulting women when that wasn’t the case at all.
The gist of the controversial advice is “Don’t wait for signs before you make your move. Let her be the one who rejects your advances. If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don’t want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. Try again at a later time if appropriate or cease entirely if she is absolutely not interested.”
The thing that the commenters on social media are leaving out is that the advice was taken from a section in the guide offering advice on what to do AFTER a man has met a cute girl, gotten her phone number, gone on dates, spent time getting to know her, and now are alone behind closed doors fooling around. If “Don’t wait for signs, make the first move” promotes sexual assault, then “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid was a song about rape.
Um, well. I guess I never liked Prince Eric anyway. (Wait – was Ariel really not giving him any indication that she wanted to be kissed? Oh jeez, is kissing sex, you guys? I’m going to have to re-watch me some Disney movies.)
Look, here’s the thing: there’s one glaringly obvious piece of advice missing from this chapter that would, honestly, make the rest of this advice tolerable….
ASK HER WHAT SHE WANTS. WITH WORDS. OR MAYBE PICTURES IF YOU’RE MUTE.
Holy shit, you guys, I should write a book and shill it on Kickstarter. Problem is, it’d be really fucking short. You just read the whole thing.
It’s not rocket surgery, is it? But this guy – and the 732 people who were willing to pay him for his advice – seem to forget that women are individual people, with individual likes and dislikes, who can and will tell you what those likes and dislikes are if they’re given the opportunity. I’m not sure what mysterious signals these folks have been waiting on – like, are you waiting for the Bat signal, only with a vagina or something instead? – but in my experience, it’s not super hard to tell if a person wants to do things with you. There’s no need for forcefully coming on strong until she has to stop you. You’ve spent time getting to know her, right? So spend some time getting to know what she likes and dislikes in the bedroom. Spend some time getting to know what turns her on. Spend some time getting to know whether or not she’d like to jump your bones. My turn-ons include talking about what my turn-ons are.
This whole argument also neatly and completely erases the possibility of rape, abuse, and assault within a relationship. It assumes that once a woman is in a relationship with a man, she will of course submit to his every sexual desire, every time. So really what Mr. Hoisky is saying here is that once you’re dating a girl, it’s totally okay to be physically aggressive with her until she either gives in or is forced to say no. (Note: That’s exactly what the two worst boyfriends I ever had did. Both of them sexually assaulted me.) There’s absolutely no mention of communication or negotiation. There’s no mention at all of giving the woman in this relationship agency and a voice. In fact, it specifically instructs men not to:
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.
Right. Ick. This isn’t a matter of taking things out of context; even in the context of an established relationship, this shit is Officially Not Okay unless you’ve already confirmed with the particular girl whose hand you’re placing on your dick has TOLD YOU it’s ok. Within the context of a pre-negotiated scene, sure, this would be perfectly okay. Probably pretty hot for everyone involved. If she’s already told you that she likes it when guys do that, then game on. Get freaky. If she thinks this is just a make-out session and suddenly you force her to touch your junk, you’ve officially just become a creep. Communication makes all the difference.
Oh, shit, I apologize. He does actually advocate communication. Here it is:
Ask her what her favorite positions are.
That’s, uh, that’s it. That’s all of it. That’s in the second-to-last paragraph of the second-to-last section of the chapter on sex… which is chapter 7.
Your problem, Mr. Hoisky, is not that you’re being taken out of context. Your problem is that you’re giving advice on how to manipulate and assault women. And we are calling you on your bullshit.
Quick update: As of this morning, Kickstarter has issued an apology and updated their guidelines to prevent seduction guides like this from being funded on their site. They will also be donating $25,000 to RAINN, a non-profit dedicated to preventing rape and abuse.
So, turns out Facebook lets you download old Honesty Box conversations. This is the actual Honesty Box conversation I mentioned in my last post, in its entirety. The only changes I have made are editing out names and other identifying details – those edits are identified by brackets, [like this].
Trigger warning for descriptions of rape and some pretty serious victim-blaming from the abuser himself.
On 2008-07-15 they said,
I think you’re a bit lost and always have been. You burned a lot of bridges with people who truly cared about you. There were times you cared and showed it, but something inside you must be too cold to ever really reciprocate any sense of true compassion. When you see these people over the course of your years, be nice, even if it is you just acting.
On 2008-07-16 you said,
Maybe that’s so. To be honest, I’m hurt to hear you say I’m cold inside — has it occurred to you that I’ve been hurt by people, too, and that maybe I’m trying to protect myself from being hurt again?
If I was cold to you, I am honestly sorry. I try my hardest to be kind to those I meet — and meet again — but I’m human and sometimes I fail.
I don’t mean to burn bridges, but I do lose touch easily. It’s easy for me to believe that if someone’s not keeping in touch, it’s because they’re not interested in me or because they don’t care. So, instead of trying to resurrect a dying relationship, I let it go.
Please accept my sincerest apology for whatever it was I did to you. I hope I can make it right.
On 2008-07-18 they said,
Everyone’s been hurt. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you hurt others too? I feel that nobody can say they’re the victim at all times. Maybe you didn’t realize that every time I’ve seen you over the years you’ve consistantly been not nice to me, when I’ve smiled and tried to ask you how you are most times.
I know I am not exempt from being someone who has hurt others, so I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you I’m sorry – for everything I said/did to ever hurt you. It was not meant as such, but nobody can ever know the outcome of their words and actions until they’re older. Especially when you’re young.
The last time I saw you I had one hell of a day. It was one of those days where you’re thinking about how bad your day was and you think, how can this day get any worse? But, then I saw you, and your attitude wasn’t inviting.
I thought to myself… I’ve been screwed over many times over the years, and most of those people I’ve made some sense of social ‘goodness’ with. I really would’ve hoped seeing you over the years would be totally different.
On 2008-07-18 you said,
I honestly don’t know what to say. I am so, so sorry that I was rude to you. I know I hurt others sometimes, and it mortifies me, because I try to do my best to be a good person and make a positive impact on those around me.
I have to admit I’m baffled. Call me clueless, but I can’t think of any interactions I’ve had –with any guy in my life — that would cause this kind of reaction.
I know this defeats the purpose of an anonymous post, but please — who are you? And what can I do to make it better? I don’t want to leave you with this kind of hurt.
On 2008-07-19 they said,
I’m actually pretty shocked you don’t know who I am. I’ll go over the last time I saw you and I’m sure you can figure it out.
I was walking by you after just slicing my hand doing something I love. You were with your friends when I saw you and I had no other route but to walk by you. I had just that morning found out that the girl I had dated for the last 3 years was cheating on me. I was worried about the living situation of what to do because I had also lived with her for over a year. Maybe it’s perception, but when I walked by you you said hi… it was very very standoffish. Maybe it was me feeling like my world was about to end, but it definitely was my topper on the day. I don’t think I’d ever wished that I could disappear more than that moment. I thought about leaving this that week when that happened, but I wanted to make sure I still felt like you were being standoffish and it wasn’t just me being emotional. Still to this day I feel like you hate me.
On 2008-07-19 you said,
It’s difficult for me to recall a specific situation based on the details you’ve given me. I’m sorry, I still have no clue. All I know is that someone passed me somewhere while I was standing with my friends, and the way I said hi made this person feel bad.
I have a guess, but I don’t want to respond based on a guess — if I’m wrong, it would be completely unfair to you. If I’m right…. then we have a lot to talk about.
Did we last see each other at [the student center at a local college]? If not, then I apologize for assuming and please tell me your name so we can resolve this. I don’t like the idea that I may have alienated one of my friends without even knowing it.
On 2008-07-20 they said,
I don’t think you could exactly call us friends, but for good reason. I know things ended badly between us, but I always pictured us being civil towards eachother over the years.
Yes, that was me. I also remember seeing you at walmart years ago, and it felt good knowing I could catch up with you and have a decent conversation. I had no intention of ‘making’ you talk to me, or push too fast like you said when you pushed me away. I feel you took me being excited about finally having things on a good note as pressuring you to hang out or even talk for that matter. I in no way meant that, and it crushed me when you told me you didn’t want to talk anymore. It reopened wounds that should’ve been long since healed.
Telling you this was not to hurt you [Penny]. I told you this because I hope that if I see you again that I won’t feel this overwhelming dissonance. I don’t want to feel as though your eyes throw daggers and your words, even as a ‘hi [his name],’ are out of malice. I really, truly, don’t mean that first message as it came across. I know me sending that and attacking you wasn’t right, but I do have some bitterness due to seeing you at walmart that day with our short time of talking afterward, and then when I saw you recently it was hurtful too. Please accept my apology for that much. I’m big on keeping tabs on my acctions and acounting for them these days. I never meant to hurt you by telling you what hurt me.
On 2008-07-22 you said,
Okay, good. I wanted to make sure it was you before I said what I need to say.
While I still am sorry that I hurt you, I feel I need to explain why I reacted to you the way I did.
I know our relationship ended badly for you. For me, it ended far too late. I want to explain to you what effect our relationship had on me. I’m not trying to attack you, but I need you to hear this. I need you, if you can, to understand what I went through.
It’s taken me five years to even face the damage our relationship caused. From what you’ve written, it’s clear you haven’t realized how far-reaching your actions are.
[Ex-Boyfriend], you coerced me into having sex with you. You pushed and pushed, and I didn’t know how to tell you no. I went along with it because I thought I was supposed to. I was young and naive, and you took full advantage of that. I remember finally coming to you and telling you I wasn’t comfortable having sex anymore… and your response was to get angry, cry, threaten suicide, drive off and crash your truck. You gave me the biggest guilt trip of my life. How could I possibly say no to you after that?
All the memories I have of us are bad ones. The time you pushed me over so you could fuck me from behind in my parents’ darkroom… the time you screwed me out behind the movie theater in broad daylight… the time you clamped your hand over my mouth so your roommates wouldn’t hear us, in the house on M[……] street… and how, each time, I was too guilty and afraid to tell you no, or make you stop. Do you realize that after we started, the only reason we spent time together was to have sex? For a full year, I was little better than a blow-up doll to you.
That’s why I broke up with you. I couldn’t stand to let you abuse me anymore. And then, when we did break up — you called me a bitch, and a slut. You said I was only breaking up with you so I could “sleep around.” You were my first, [Ex-Boyfriend]. And you made sex so bad for me that there are times I want to give it up completely. It’s not worth the heartache.
You want to know why I’m cold to you? Ask my fiancee, who has to hold me after sex as I cringe away from him, crying, barely able to breathe, because after two years together I still don’t trust him not to abuse me the way you did. Ask him why I wake up screaming at night. Ask my ex about how my incredibly low sex drive drove him to cheat on me three times — and how my incredibly low self-esteem kept me with him after every one. Ask my parents, who took me to three different therapists, trying to find out why I was cutting myself. Ask my friends, who are encouraging me to get therapy now.
I am trying my hardest not to make this an angry letter. But the naked truth is, you traumatized me. Since you I’ve been through a string of relationships where I let myself be abused, where I let myself be a toy, because you taught me that saying no is wrong.
You want to be accountable for your actions? Apologize for raping me. Thank me for not sending you to jail for sexual assault. Beg me not to reconsider.
But don’t you dare tell me how I hurt you. Don’t tell me about the bitterness you have, or the old wounds I’ve re-opened. Everything I’ve ever done to you was a direct reaction to what you did to me.
If, as you say, you “truly care” about me….. apologize for what you did, and leave me alone.
On 2008-07-22 they said,
Wow, you are distorted.
A – I never ever ever ever ever had sex with you when you told me you didn’t want to.
B – I tried to get you help for cutting, and because you were ‘so upset about the religious’ persecution from you not wanting to go to church and believe in something you didn’t believe in.
C – Someone in a relationship of a committed relationship usually has sex. People from 16-old do it. I never ever held your mouth EVER or even knew that you were even wanting to break up with me because of me wanting to have sex with a girl I loved??
If you had felt that way you should have said it. You never ever told me that you didn’t want to have sex with me. The night I crashed into the fence you told me that you loved [mutual friend] still and didn’t want anything to do to me. Remember? You’ve distorted what really happened and I don’t even know how someone could do that. You’ve made some of these details up. I NEVER raped you. If you had told me you didn’t want to have sex, I would’ve felt bad because I had been picked up and put down by you so many times, but I would’ve respected it. Do you not remember the nights in the hot tub at your parents where you’d tell me about how you wanted to be alone with me?
I mean seriously [Penny], have you really turned out to be someone who would make up stuff about someone else???
And no, I never did anything with you in your parents dark room.
Obviously, with me sending you messages and telling you how hurt I was/am, I never viewed you as a blow up doll.
Yes, I was very insecure when I was younger, and it hurt me when you’d tell me you wanted [mutual friend] more, or I’d hear about you hanging out with other guys and liking them, but I NEVER EVER crossed the line with you and have never with any girl I’ve dated after.
Ask them if you don’t believe me, I urge you. Each one would stare you bold in the face and tell you that I’ve never ever done anything of the sorts with them. Whatever you’re going through psychologically, please remember the facts, and make sure you remember the truth and not made up lies.
On 2008-07-22 you said,
Well, thanks for letting me vent, anyway. This is a letter I’ve needed to write for the past five years. It doesn’t matter if you think I made it up or not, because I know what happened. The people close to me believe me, and those who knew both of us at the time believe me. Either I’m a very convincing liar, or there’s something there that you’re not comfortable taking responsibility for.
I’m not sure why, after five years, you think this is a friendship worth salvaging. I’ve left you alone because you’re a chapter in my life I want to forget.
Let me make this perfectly clear to you: This conversation is over. I don’t want to hear from you again. I don’t want to see you again. If we run into each other, I will do you the courtesy of pretending I don’t know you. That’s as far as this goes.
I’m not willing to let you back into my life, [Ex-Boyfriend]. Please leave it at that. I’ve been willing to keep it out of the courts, because I don’t think it will solve anything, but at the same time I need to protect myself. Please consider this a warning. If you contact me again, I will consider it harassment.
I’m sorry it had to come to this. When I found out it was you that sent that message, it gave me hope that you’d changed.
At its heart, I believe feminism is – or, at least, should be – about convincing women they’re good enough. Isn’t it? It’s the affirmation that a woman’s thoughts are good enough to be heard; that a woman’s work is good enough to be compensated; that a woman’s sexuality is good enough to be respected; that a woman’s body is good enough to be beautiful; that a woman is good enough to be a person. Many of the most terrible injustices of the world spring from that place of not-good-enough: if your thoughts are not good enough to be heard, you are silenced. If your work is not good enough to be compensated, you go hungry and homeless. If your sexuality is not good enough to be respected, you become an object for others’ pleasure and not your own. If your body is not good enough to be beautiful, you are scorned and denied legitimacy and opportunity. If you are not good enough to be a person, you become a piece of property, an object, something to be used or abused by those considered good enough to be human.
The insidious thing is, this message of not-good-enough is all around us. It’s in the ads that sell us things, the movies we watch, the magazines we read. It’s reflected in the eyes and attitudes of our family, and our friends, and our lovers. It seeps into the soul of who we are, until we accept the message and begin to oppress ourselves. Society doesn’t need to beat the average woman over the head to get her to accept that she’s not good enough; she’s already come to terms with it. She already believes it. Not-good-enough convinces you to become your own jailor.
In high school, I wanted to be an actress. Truthfully, I have craved being onstage since I can remember; whenever there was a school or church play, I always envied the kids who got picked (seemingly at random) to dress up in costume and read their lines before the crowd. I always wanted that. Does it matter why I wanted it? Nope. I’ve just always wanted it. And I was good at it. And I enjoyed it. (Isn’t that what they tell you to look for when choosing a career?)
Somewhere in my high school years, though, an absurd and horrible thing began to happen. Somewhere, the doubt crept in. I wasn’t pretty enough, not like the actresses in Hollywood. I wasn’t talented enough to make it into the main parts in many of the shows I auditioned for. I didn’t have the right body type. I didn’t have the right face. Maybe what I thought was a good performance was overacted. Maybe I was too subtle. And goodness knows I couldn’t sing well enough.
Late in my junior year or early in my senior one, a friend invited me to star in a movie he had written and was filming. The script was about a depressed and suicidal young woman who finds love in an alternate dream world. It becomes more and more difficult for her to distinguish reality from fiction, and eventually she is committed to a mental hospital. As she sinks deeper into despair in her real life, she turns more and more to the love she experienced in her fantasy life. Eventually the worlds blend indistinguishably, and the viewer is left questioning which version was reality, and which was the dream. Even by eighteen-year-old standards, the concept and scripting were quite good.
My boyfriend at the time was less than thrilled about my position as the main character – especially because the script called for a kissing scene. He was jealous, manipulative, and controlling… and so it was that the only way I was “allowed” to take the role was if he played the romantic interest.
He was also, as it turns out, a terrible actor. The film made it halfway through production before it all fell apart – mainly due to the fact that he could never remember his lines, constantly criticized the other production members, and never managed to show up on time to anything. He also hated letting me spend time with the friend directing the movie – since this friend and I had dated in the past.
That was more than ten years ago. It is only now, as I sit here writing it out again, that I realize what a ridiculous position he put me in. It was never up to him to decide who I could kiss, or why. It was never up to him to decide who I could or could not spend time with, nor how I spent that time. I was good enough to make those decisions on my own. I was good enough to choose my friends, and I was good enough to not allow some childish jerk to derail a project I found meaningful and important. I just didn’t know I was good enough at the time.
So this is me, taking that step out into the world. This is me believing that what I have to say is good enough; that there will be people to listen and read, people who agree and think I have something worthwhile to say, people who are interested.
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and darnit, people are gonna like me.