Monday, June 24th, 2013

Ken Hoinsky On Seduction, Women And Mistakes

Ken Hoinsky moderates is an active participant in the /r/seduction Reddit under the name of TofuTofu. There, he has posted a "seduction guide" for lonely guys who want to learn how to "become awesome" with women. Hoinsky has a lot of fans. Though he set out to raise $2,000 to prepare his book, Above The Game: A Guide To Getting Awesome With Women, for publication, by the time it closed his Kickstarter had raised over $16,000.

Then the Internet vice squad went on Red Alert. The alarm was raised by one Casey Malone, a game developer and "comedian," who took to Tumblr to post two quotes from the forthcoming book—out-of-context and in the most disingenuous and outrageous manner imaginable. Then he whined and moaned about how rapey the author is and begged his readers to write to Kickstarter and get the project shut down.

The hysteria whipped up was such that Kickstarter issued a formal apology for having failed to stop the project from going through (though they declined to confiscate Hoinsky's money, and took their five percent, they donated $25,000 to RAINN, so at least something good came of it).

So here is where the real trouble starts.

"We are prohibiting 'seduction guides,' or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works," they wrote. "These things do not belong on Kickstarter."

Kickstarter is a private entity, and can police its use however it likes. No one has a "right" to Kickstarter. Out in the real world, however, we know that the rights to publish and speak are ten thousand times more important than the overheated rantings of some fool who can't read. As PUA guides go, Hoinsky's is very, very far from being the most aggressive or objectifying. It is an entirely harmless book—as all books are. In fact I found Hoinsky's Reddit guide to be full of interesting and valuable observations. There isn't a misogynist syllable in the whole thing. But even if it were as bad as the worst excesses of Frank T.J. Mackey, it is wrong and dangerous to suggest that shutting someone up is the best answer to any problem, ever. To that end, I picked up the phone and talked it through with Hoinsky.

There are many shy fellows around, and I talked to a number of them as well last week about the Hoinsky affair. Reddit, being the Internet home of computer geeks, is awash in guys complaining about how they can't get a girlfriend; a cliché, but true. The computer world, so short of women to practice on, is about the worst environment for shy young guys who want to learn about dating. One tech guy I know jokingly offered his own "seduction" strategy: "Stare at your shoes until you either cry or have a girlfriend."

At the other extreme, in P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, Tom Cruise plays infamous PUA Frank T.J. Mackey, author of Seduce and Destroy ("No Pussy Has Nine Lives"). It is infinitely his best performance. Strutting and thrusting in his samurai ponytail, wearing an outlandish outfit (black leather vest over a skintight three-quarter-sleeved pullover and tight black trousers) that looks as though it might have come from Ann Taylor, Cruise as Mackey demands that his cheering audience Respect the Cock and Tame the Cunt. It's a barely-exaggerated depiction of the outermost element of the PUA culture, as exemplified by lunatics like Ross Jeffries and R. Don Steele. The most extreme of these guys appear to consider all other human beings in an adversarial and almost sociopathic way: either as prey, or as rivals.

Somewhere between paralyzing shyness and selfish, naked hostility, there is the realm of passion. Something about passion is by definition a little wild, uncontrolled. Some people like sex to be aggressive and rough, and others do not. What should not be in question is that people are free to seek their own fulfillment within the confines of consent. There is great hypocrisy out there on this point. Witness for example this recent episode of "New Girl," wherein great mockery is made of "gender equality."

"Be a man and rip it off!" Really! Where was the outrage for this?

It seems relevant to establish: what did Hoinsky's guide actually say? Here are the salient parts of the two quotes snipped by Malone:

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.

Even without the context, which is beyond crucial, think about this for a moment. As it happens, the latter quote refers to events taking place once consensual sexual activity has already begun. Furthermore. "Grab her hand, and put it right on your dick." It should be clear to the meanest intelligence who the vulnerable party is in this transaction. Where, exactly, is the aggression here? I can think of a thousand ways whereby a woman could easily (easily) extricate herself from such a scenario if she were an unwilling participant.

But no! Such considerations did not occur to Malone and the rest of the virtual Mutaween, who marched right into the imaginary bedroom. "This isn’t harmless. People come to these boards because they are scared of being humiliated, and they are saying to the world, “Tell me what to do, because I don’t know what to do.” And this guy has chosen to tell them, 'You should be a rapist.'"

No, he has not. But he has chosen to tell them, just a few paragraphs away from what appears to me to be perfectly reasonable dick-touching advice:

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.

All that matters is that you continue to try to escalate physically until she makes it genuinely clear that it's not happening. She wants to be desired, but the circumstances need to be right. With some experience, you will learn to differentiate the "No, we can't… my parents are in the next room… OMG FUCK ME FUCK ME HARD" from the "SERIOUSLY GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME, YOU CREEP" variety of resistance.

Of course if you're really unclear, back off. Better safe than sorry.

And also:

Experiment with each other! Ask her what her favorite positions are. Touch her everywhere, including her arms, legs, throat, face, and breasts. Make her cum with the force of the hammer of Thor. Rock her fucking world.
There is no substitute for sexual experience. Anyone can become a sexual master with a little bit of research, applied effort, and healthy experimentation. Learn what YOU enjoy and seek it out in a partner. Genuinely love the act of giving sexual pleasure to another human being. It's a gift. Embrace it.

Thus it was that I found myself resolutely defending dick touching on Twitter at the end of an already ridiculous week.

Maria Bustillos: What do you think about Kickstarter's decision to issue this apology, and to stop posting what they call "seduction" projects?

Ken Hoinsky: I'm disappointed in their decision. Okay look, I'm not saying that my guide is the greatest guide that will ever be written or can be written. It had some flaws in it, and people have gone pretty crazy pointing them out. That being said, what Kickstarter said was: "no more seduction guides, ever again." That's not a solution to the problem. The idea is, okay, people have an issue with some of these things; let's have a public conversation around that, so that the next guy, the next book, the next person who comes along, whether or not it's me, will have an opportunity to [learn from it].

Kickstarter is a very influential site, and a lot of projects are being launched there. So to leave all these frustrated, unsatisfied men completely in the dark is very, very disappointing. They're a private company and they can do whatever they want, but it's a cop-out, and it's an overreaction on their part.

Maria: One thing I've seen a lot in the criticism of your work online is that it promotes violence against women. Please discuss your feelings about violence against women, and/or respect for women.

Ken: When someone accuses me of encouraging violence against women, or says something like, "somebody is going to use this guide to rape a woman," those are not allegations that I take lightly…. In the intention of anything that I've written, there is nothing that encourages violence against women, that's absurd; I would never ever do that, that goes against every value that I have. But I don't want to just completely write it off and say okay, that was just sensationalism and overreaction, and there might not be any point there. I want to figure out what the point is, and how do I correct that. I do want to understand why people might interpret me that way.

Maria: You're pitching your ideas to people who have problems with sexual assertiveness and don't understand that it's okay to make the first move. So what's the line between encouraging a healthy degree of sexual assertiveness, and harmful aggression? What defines that for you?

Ken: There's two parts to it. If we're talking about things that happen in the bedroom, it's basically the idea that consent needs to be established and in place. People use the term "enthusiastic consent." I look at it as, if you're two consenting adults and you understand that consent is in place, you don't need to ask permission to ask to do every single little thing in the bedroom, you know; if you want to pick a girl up and reposition her on the bed, you don't need to ask permission to do that. In fact, it's… from everything I've heard from women, it's a very big turn-off, for guys who do act in that way.

Now, outside of the bedroom, as far as being able to actually approach and talk to women and be direct with women: here is the way that I've resolved this, and that I'm going to be re-editing in the book. My message is about giving the power to the woman with respect to making a decision about your sexual candidacy….

In the real world we live in, you can't expect—for whatever reason, it's not the norm—for women to make the first move, for a woman to be sexual, you know, um, uh, the more assertive—

Maria: Initiator.

Ken: Initiator! Yeah. I'm trying to get away from words that are…

Maria: I know! Haha. Aggressor!

Ken: I'm practicing getting my PC words.

Maria: You know, you want to make it so polite, you can't say "aggressor," but the fact is… I hate to say it, but it should be a little aggressive. Because, passionate.

Ken: I agree 100 percent. The woman needs to be able to make a call as to whether or not she feels comfortable enough to be sexual with the man. And that way that that's done is not always through words and asking, because it's a turnoff. "Do you mind if I hold your hand?" you know, that's cute when you're in seventh grade, but like, for adults to be operating that way, that's not the real world….

I regret saying, "force her to rebuff your advances," I regret the wording that I used. But the spirit of it is all about giving her the power to decide. It's not forcing her to do something against her will; it's encouraging her to make the decision on whether or not she wants to continue things.

Maria:To confront the question, you could say.

Ken: Exactly.

Maria: Well the other problem is like… for a woman, if there's another guy out there who is calling you all the time, obviously indicating without shyness or hesitation that he wants to pursue something with you, that is an encouragement; more attractive, perhaps, than the guy who doesn't make it clear. Otherwise we don't think oh, he's shy! We think: oh, he doesn't really like me that much.

Ken: At least you know that he's being authentic, he's being direct with his intentions, and he's putting himself out there and saying: I desire you, I want you, and I'm giving you the opportunity to be with me: what do you say?

Maria: Those are the magic words! No seriously. [cf. Act Like A Gentleman, an early little self-publishing project of mine, a parody of Steve Harvey's book, is almost exactly on the same page with this guy.] I know this has not been pleasant for you, but I think you're broaching a conversation that is badly needed.

Ken: [Many of my ideas come] from cognitive behavioral therapy. The idea is that taking small steps to put yourself outside of your comfort zone, and building up an understanding of okay, rejection's going to happen, [and learning] to move forward until it is absolutely clear.

Maria: I'm going to part company with you here, because to me if it's someone for whom the door might be open later, then you might just say like oh god, and dither and be no no no, or like, whoa! But if it's really no, then you say it right away, forcefully. If it's really maybe, then no might sound more maybeish? Does that seem right to you?

Ken: It definitely seems right. And it definitely is pretty common. This is why I tell them, when that moment happens it is [a matter of] genuinely saying, okay, no problem let's cool down. Say it, mean it, like be genuine with that. Honestly, why would a man want to hook up with a girl if she's uncomfortable hooking up? Nothing about that is enjoyable, unless you're a sociopath or a rapist, you know what I mean? That's not how anyone should be operating.

Maria: It's not the goal.

Ken: No. It's not the goal…. A lot of feminists' arguments basically say that no is forever, permanent, and that's the way it is. But there have been thousands of love stories about a man who pursued a woman who initially rejected him. The idea that a man's not allowed to pursue a woman who at one point slightly rejected him is absurd.

Maria: The literary aspect of this thing, where the parameters are on the woman's side, say like in Pamela, or Pride and Prejudice, the woman's resistance is in part to do with her imperfect understanding of herself, as well as of the man. But she comes to understand herself, and she comes to understand this man, and that is the basis of her acceptance. Both the man and the woman learn, and change. Speaking just as a writer, though, I would advise you to approach the question this way. Rather than say, "try again later," which sounds way too much like "keep trying, and no will eventually turn into yes, no matter what"? Acknowledge, and say explicitly, I am not saying that no will eventually turn into yes: you need to understand when no is no. But. If you hear no first, and you really want to be closer with this woman, then come to understand why no was no to begin with, so that you can see if there is a basis for making adjustments. And LISTEN really carefully to her. Then, you'll be cool.

Ken: That's really, really good feedback. It's a very male-centric way of thinking about it, where you'll drive yourself nuts trying to figure out why she rejected you, because women are mysterious creatures.

Maria: Yeah that's lacking subtlety. "Try again later," it's almost the opposite of what you want, I think. A woman—or like, a sensitive, intelligent woman who says yes to you is almost 100 percent of the time, I suspect, saying yes because she believes you do understand her.

[a pause, here.]

Ken: True. I'll figure this out, how to say it. There's also the issue, though, of having guys learn not to fear rejection, because for too many guys it's the fear of rejection that causes them to be paralyzed as it is…. Indecision is really making a decision to not take action or do anything. A decision to maintain your status quo, which could be a guy who is sexually frustrated, wants to change but doesn't. So spending time trying to understand rejection is complicated by that stuff.

Maria: True.

Ken: But yes. If this is a woman that you're pursuing, it's worth the time to spend a moment to figure out what went wrong. Or more likely, what needs to be in place. The experience of doing that will get you closer to the woman, in the long run.

Maria: Yes! Yes. That's a huge distinction. It's not about what went wrong. It's about what could be right, in the future.

Ken: Exactly.

Ken will be doing an AMA on Reddit later today, and he has posted a new website explaining how he intends to alter the parts of the book that could be misconstrued.

He wrote to me this morning, after we spoke:

I'm still writing the book.

I admit wrongdoing and apologize for some of the language in the book.

I have been in touch with Do Something and some leading anti-rape and anti-abuse organizations to rewrite the problematic advice under their guidance and advice.

I am starting a public dialogue on the intersection of men's dating advice & feminist issues. With this I am attempting to kill the stigma against men's "seduction" advice once and for all.

Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles-based journalist and critic.

207 Comments / Post A Comment

NinetyNine (#98)

"They like to misconstrue what no means, generally."

deepomega (#1,720)

Mariaaaaaa I cannot believe how much I disagree with you right now! Picture my eyes slowly filling up with the color red! Steams leaks out of the gaps between my clenched teeth!

The idea that "free spread of ideas" is more important than "not suggesting rape-y things" is problematic (sorry, let me try again: fucked up and sexist and privileged as hell) and, also, seduction guides exist within a very specific context of white dudes who are mad that women don't want to fuck them. You write about context in his writing – well, the whole thing exists in a broader context where saying "keep pushing her till she tells you to stop" is, actually, pretty rapey!

@deepomega "seduction guides exist within a very specific context of white dudes who are mad that women don't want to fuck them"

yes. yes

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@deepomega You know that people take sexual assault seriously when they use "rapey"

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Maura Johnston Yes, but so what? And I mean that with genuine curiosity. For what it's worth, I'm a woman, and I don't like the techniques associated with PUA, but I think it's far more insulting to women (or, okay, just to me, that's fine) to act as though a man being sexually forward is tantamount to sexual assault and/or something that a woman needs protecting from.

deepomega (#1,720)

@IBentMyWookie I find I do this a lot – I soften language to make it more palateable when writing online. E.g. writing "problematic" instead of "racist." So let's try this on for size:

Recommending that men push women until they tell them to stop – and then continuing to try again after "a break" – is advice that will lead to sexual assault.

@IBentMyWookie There's "sexually forward" and there's "unwilling to take a hint." And given that you're a woman who is priding herself on having different opinions from The Feminist Horde, what do you think of the PUA-spread notion that women aren't individuals, but instead different issues of games with the same cheat code?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Maura Johnston I think it's gross, I think it's off-putting, I think it's inappropriate, I think it's wrong-headed. But I have a greater problem with a man telling me that such a book/guide/whatever shouldn't be published FOR MY OWN GOOD, and then telling me (in subsequent follow-up blog posts) that even if it takes place during consensual foreplay, a man placing your hand on his dick is the same as "acquaintance rape"

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@deepomega No, I get that, it's just that I fear terms like "rapey" will eventually lead us to minimize rape (cf, the use of "stalking" to refer to someone looking at a Facebook profile) AND ALSO IT IS 40C HERE TODAY AND I AM CRANKY

@IBentMyWookie What the Hell is 40C? Some sort of holiday? Are taxes due up there or something?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Clarence Rosario In case you're not kidding: 40 degrees celcius (or 100 Fahrenheit). You might say this weather isn't taking "no" for an answer!

@IBentMyWookie I'm deeply hurt that you thought I was serious. Where's my Kickstarter-funded guide for how to deal with it?

IBentMyWookie (#133)


evisruc (#242,295)

@IBentMyWookie It doesn't mean it's like that for all women, but it's not unimaginable that someone can find themselves in that situation (even if they're male.) So if we have a situation where someone is overwhelmed by the manipulation, intimidation and/or social pressure to have sex, what do we say to them? "It's your fault for being shy," right?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

Thank you for this, Maria. I found Casey Malone's blog posts on this subject intellectually dishonest and am glad to see that others were similarly put off by his insincere pearl-clutching.


robotosaur (#238,251)

@Maura Johnston Yuuuuup.

jolie (#16)

@Maura Johnston International Women's Day comes earlier and earlier each year!

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

"most disingenuous and outrageous manner imaginable"

"Then he whined and moaned about how rapey the author is"

*slowly backs away*

jolie (#16)

@Brad Nelson Yup! That was the part.

srs (#15,773)

@Brad Nelson yep, I am seriously disappointed that the Awl let that 2nd sentence through editorial review. I mean, I disagree with just about every part of this apologia/interview, but accept that not everyone holds the same opinion I do and want to read thoughtful examinations of differing opinions, especially on issues that are so fraught and subjective. This piece… was not that.

theharpoon (#10,705)

@Brad Nelson I actually thought that it was a parody at that point. I now look back longingly on those happier times.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"It Happened To Me: Some Guy on Tumblr Whined and Moaned About How Rapey I Am and Got My Starter Kicked in the Dick"

jolie (#16)

@srs the Awl let that 2nd sentence through editorial review

Thank you for the much needed laugh in the midst of this disgusting mess. (In seriousness, totally agreed that it's so disappointing when The Awl gives space — and a tacit endorsement — to this kind of anti-woman thought. Choire and I have talked about this before and I understand that their position is that they often publish things they find personally offensive. But I don't agree with that position.)

srs (#15,773)

@srs though it all makes sense if the Awl's primary purpose isn't an examination of gendered socialization and the ways it confines both men and women to uncomfortable stereotypes that we all want to transcend and instead is actually a ploy for clicks, comments, and links. If so, well done I guess?

srs (#15,773)

@jolie I am in no way a journalist/blogger/internet persona, so maybe I'm being naive, but I just assumed that anything published by this site is first read by an editor. And that if the editor saw something particularly problematic, they would let the author know. Does the Awl really just print whatever it's contributors send in, without review?

jolie (#16)

@srs Naw you're not being naive, it's a totally legit assumption. I was being snarky, but it wasn't directed at you — The Awl of course reviews what's submitted, but depending on the piece/author the level of editing and/or editorial review varies. I believe, though I'm somewhat speaking out of turn, that some authors are reviewed more than others. Abe, Maria … I think they're mostly just allowed to say what they want regardless of the editors' opinions on what they have to say.

I wish, though, in utter seriousness that Alex could have been bothered to work with Maria on this. He doesn't ever get enough credit for being as sensitive an editor as he is and this would have greatly benefited from his touch. Not the grabby kind of touch though.

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

@jolie Well, hell, Jolie. It's not like there aren't… … … a whole, whole, lot of places on the Web that will publish this sort of thing without thinking twice or anything. Gotta be cutting edge in our content!

Matt (#26)

Hey guys I haven't logged onto The Awl in a while but it's nice to see it's coming into its Reason moment with flair!

cherrispryte (#444)

@Matt I KNO RITE?!

NinetyNine (#98)

"I was ignoring when women said no back when only like ten people were ignoring when women said no."

laurel (#4,035)

From the above:

"In the intention of anything that I've written, there is nothing that encourages violence against women, that's absurd; I would never ever do that, that goes against every value that I have."

From a TofuTofu post on reddit (the guide is to be a publication of his reddit posts):

"I was field testing it as an OPENER in the club yesterday and my GOD did it work. I highly recommend some of you guys try this out, but it's not for the faint of heart.
[see girl on dancefloor or near bar]
[hook her in with your arm] "Aww you're so cute. Come here."
[shove her aside HARD, seemingly randomly]
[approach someone else and say hi]
[Turn around. About 75% of the time she'll be staring at you with a huge grin on her face.]
[Walk back over to her.] "You really are so cute, you know that?"

How is this shoving business not encouraging straight-up assault?

deepomega (#1,720)

@laurel Well, for one thing, he is shy. I believe it was Alito's majority opinion in Women vs. Fedoras that stated "shy dudes can commit a crime five times before we'll actually count it, honestly they have a hard enough time you know?"

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

finally someone gave a white male redditor the space online to tell his side of the story

Matt (#26)

Next up on The Hairpick, The Awl's People of Color vertical run by Ken Layne, Paula Deen explains how she really, really likes puppies.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

"so short of women to practice on"

And then I says, I says, "why can't we just go back to fighting vegans?"

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"Grab her hand, and put it right on your close-tab."

ericdeamer (#945)

Man these sponsored posts ARE getting more and more complicated.

@ericdeamer Told you.

melis (#1,854)

Part of what this doesn't take into account is how difficult it is to introduce a forceful, permanent NO into an evening where someone has been consistently and repeatedly and in a thousand tiny ways, encroaching on your boundaries and touching you and speaking to you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. It's the series of escalations from someone you thought of as a friend, or at least friendly, that push you and push you until all of a sudden you feel like you're in a situation you never wanted or invited but you're so confused as to how you got there that you don't know how to say no.

Obviously it is a good thing for women to feel strong and self-aware enough to be able to declare "no" in the middle of these situations anyway, but a lot of the time that is what these series of physical escalations are designed to take away from you. Wouldn't it be strange to just blurt out No, now, when he obviously thinks you're okay with all of this. Maybe he'll realize that since I'm not really enjoying myself or saying anything, he'll let it go. Maybe he'll stop. He hasn't listened to any of my earlier signals, and I don't know what to do.

Maria, this interview makes me so sad.

robotosaur (#238,251)

@melis Thanks for saying this–this is the part that bothers me most. All these seduction techniques seem designed to intimidate and erode.

bluebears (#5,902)

@melis Yeah. Which is kind of exactly why these PUA type dudes push this type of "strategy."

I don't know. I can see an argument where the initial "pearl clutching" (hated phrase) was a bit hyperbolic, but this article/interview seems like a severe over correction.

wallsdonotfall (#6,378)

@melis Exactly. "If at any point a girl wants you to stop, she will let you know." Well, hopefully, but will these readers hear her if she does? If she wants to stay friends (oh horrors!), will she still shout and shove them away? If she's drunk and just wants to go to sleep? If she's in a car with them after the trains have stopped running and she hopes it will be safer to get a ride with her supposed friend than to stand out waiting for a taxi?

melis (#1,854)

Yes, a big problem here is the assumption that most women will say no the way these men imagine that they themselves would say no in a similar situation. For a lot of women, a lot of the time, they will say no in a form they would recognize. If I am not responding verbally, if I am pushing your hand away, if I am twisting my body to avoid your touch, if I shut down when you kiss me, you should recognize that as a no. I would recognize that as a no, if you did that in response to my touch.

wallsdonotfall (#6,378)

@melis I'm still skeeved out by Hoinsky's manual in general, but if he (or anyone with a platform*) took exactly this and laid it out in crystal-clear detail? That is a message that needs to be read, especially by the awkward-but-basically-all right dudes who might turn to this book.

*never mind that this message is already all over the internet and literature because feminists, right?

theharpoon (#10,705)

@melis but melis the straight white male experience is the neutral experience!! everybody experiences the world exactly like they do!

ImThraxx (#6,661)

@melis "For a lot of women, a lot of the time, they will say no in a form they would recognize."

Rather than being a male-female thing, this strikes me as a human communication problem- we try to communicate our preferences to other human beings, and even though we recognize that there is potential for that communication to fail and our preferences to be misconstrued, we still are unable to tailor our communications to ensure that they'll be properly interpreted by the recipient.

Like I don't really understand why there is a need to gender this, this is essentially the human condition. Sure, it manifests itself in male-female contexts like hetero consent vs assault, but it also manifests itself in everything else, all the time.

Ironically my take on PUAs is that they have a similar misapprehension- they go on and on about how easy women are to manipulate, failing to see that all humans are pretty easy to manipulate.

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

@ImThraxx Because it is gendered communication. Women in the US are socialized to be non-confrontational and indirect. It is part of how the dominant culture expects girls and women to behave.

Sometimes it's so we don't look like bitches and appear nice. Sometimes it's so we don't "provoke" people we are afraid will be violent into escalating from handsy to back-handing. Sometimes it's so we seem "nice." Because lord knows, we are conditioned not to make a fuss.

This kind of "she'll say no if she means it" bullshit is successful because of this dynamic. When the whole interaction is based on Pick Up Artist fueled ideas about how women and men should interact, it's already gendered.

And anyway. I am not "just human." I am a woman, it's part of my identity and selfhood. This kind of shit is routine, it describes my reality, and no "I don't see gender" ladidah will make it go away.

I am not about to surrender the power of my gendered identity when someone else is already trying to use it against me.

cherrispryte (#444)

@PistolPackinMama I was just about to say all of this when the page refreshed and you'd done it already. So cosigned. Women are conditioned to react in a certain way, and advocating this stuff preys upon that.

skyslang (#11,283)

@melis Nobody, male or female, should have to declare "NO" in the middle of a social interaction. Body language and gentle rebuffing are not only acceptable forms of rejection, they are the mode of rejection most employed and understood by the majority of human beings. NO woman should have to apologize for not being forceful enough or explicit enough in her rejection. Guys who can't read social cues or refuse to accept them are the ones who need to fucking stop.
Pushing and pushing and pushing until someone shouts "NO!" at you is aggressive, annoying, mean, a total buzz kill, and social suicide.
Who would want to be friends with, hang out with or fuck someone who acts like this? Who would take this awful advice?
Instead of trying desperately to get laid, guys like this need to fucking relax and learn how to have a good time without any ulterior motives. Jesus christ.

peasofmind (#243,665)

YES. The whole thing relies on the fact that women are socialized to be nice and nonconfrontational. Putting the onus on the woman to be firm and explicit with her "NO" is an intentional tactic–women know what the social repurcussions are for refusing to be sweet and passive.

If firmly saying "no" and rebuffing someone's advances will get a woman labeled a killjoy, a bitch, a prude, an uptight snob, and worse (and potentially physically or sexually assaulted as a kind of punishment), of course women are going to be uncomfortable saying "no." That's part of how pickup tactics work–they rely on women's socially-ingrained reluctance to put up a fuss when they're made to feel uncomfortable. It's disgusting.

Bebinn (#245,083)

@melis Thank you. This part made me even sadder: I can think of a thousand ways whereby a woman could easily (easily) extricate herself from such a scenario if she were an unwilling participant.

Because EVERYONE thinks they would know exactly what to do in this situation. And every time you say this, you're telling victims that it's their fault for not making their no clearer, or for not extricating themselves (in a socially-appropriate manner, because heaven forbid we overreact).

Moon-bat (#8,662)

@melis Thank you so much for this. Yours were the words I couldn't reach. These books are teaching the aggressors to gradually insinuate themselves into situations where a firm "no" is more uncomfortable for the woman saying it, and therefore less likely to happen.

"I can think of a thousand ways whereby a woman could easily (easily) extricate herself from such a scenario if she were an unwilling participant."


@antarctica starts here Sorry everyone but I really cannot get over the victim-blaming in this sentence.

themnemosyne (#241,230)

@antarctica starts here Yeah, no, that sentence filled me with such inexpressible rage I had to walk away from my computer. "Gosh, if you don't want to be sexually assaulted, just walk away, bitch."

theharpoon (#10,705)

@antarctica starts here I mean, some girls just rape so easy though, right? dudes have to watch out goprapeadvisorychart

Bebinn (#245,083)

@antarctica starts here Whoops, should have scrolled down before replying to melis. Careful not to overreact though, ladies, or you'll be in for some real condescending tripe.

NinetyNine (#98)

Hi My name is solita Kenny just want to share my experience with the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage… I was married for 4 years with 3 kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had a fights and arguments almost every time… it got worse at a point that he filed for divorce… I tried my best to make him change his mind & stay with me cause i loved him with all my heart and didn't want to loose him but everything just didn't work out… he moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful, great spell caster DR Lawrence, who eventually helped me out… I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly cause I was desperate and left with no choice… He did special prayers and cast a love spell on him. Within 3 days he called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma he had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our fourth child… I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news… Just thought I should share my experience cause I strongly believe someone out there needs it… You can email him on or call +2348143988536

Art Yucko (#1,321)

414. That’s an error.

The requested URL /… is too large to process. That’s all we know.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

I mean, if you had a problem with Malone's blog post and its lack of context, fine, but you had to illustrate your disagreement by going to the other end of the spectrum and give this sleazebag a platform?

NinetyNine (#98)

Ken Hoinsky is Never Going To Move To New York City.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

The 24 Best Ken Hoinsky Grope Tips, In Order

NinetyNine (#98)

"Is this the best way to meet women? Sure, why the hell not?"

@NinetyNine : My Pick-Up Lines? My Pick-Up Lines Seem So Smart But I'm Also Scared About My Pick-Up Lines.

NinetyNine (#98)

"How to pick up a fucking woman"

NinetyNine (#98)

"The consent is not extraordinary"

Matt (#26)

"Keep going after she says no? Sure, why they hell not."

NinetyNine (#98)

"Don't Ask a Woman who Might Sleep With You"

Art Yucko (#1,321)


NinetyNine (#98)

"This PUA-book is just GREAT"

Matt (#26)

"My pick up is good."

Matt (#26)

"We have an open consent."

Sheila (#44)

They don't ask for consent in the bear kingdom.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Does this mean it's okay to make fun of Blakeley again?

Matt (#26)

There's a lot of great reasons no one would want to ask for your consent in a bathing suit.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

9, 10 reasons

NinetyNine (#98)

"It's not like I'm fucking her with your dick"

Sheila (#44)

Was positive I gave up consent after he got the check? Was I wrong?

Art Yucko (#1,321)


Matt (#26)

I AM A HOUND DOG (and I can't help myself it's just my nature as a man grow up and stop whining, ladies)

Roxane (#10,491)

It's one thing to want to bring attention to Malone's issues with context, fine, fight the good fight, but this interview is a hot mess for so many reasons. Why is it so hard to imagine that no truly means no? You can call that feminist if you want but it's just common sense. It's basic vocabulary and comprehension. And if one no is not enough to dissuade a guy, how many nos will it take? What's the appropriate number? Because I'll tell you–some guys never stop and it's really terrible to deal with. I have a hard time saying no as it is. When I say it, I truly mean it and have jumped through a number of my own psychological hurdles to say it. Don't cry for me Argentina or anything. There are bigger issues in the world but still. Just take the no and move on. The first no is not the gateway to an epic love story. This guy is trying to make it seem like shy men (who are probably never going to pick up a guide like this anyway), should be some kind of precious, endangered class? Really? I'm going to stop here.

Matt (#26)

The Awl really is a special place; never in my life would I ever have thought that I'd end up thinking the thought Man, I miss catbus.

KarlK (#245,048)

Maria. No. Seriously. This is from a nerdy neckbeardy atheist guy (I'm a linux admin, fer chrissakes) — so, basically, a cross section of Reddit — who, in his teens and early 20s, was a social outcast… because I took things too far. I had no limits set or established because my dating history in my teens was a disaster. Why was it a disaster? Because I did not know how to read social cues. Would a book like this have taught me to read social cues? No, I still would have missed the social cues, and I would have taken things too far.

If you as a woman told a guy "NO, GET AWAY FROM ME" — and I use all caps in the shouting context there — would you be OK with him coming back to you and trying again in a few minutes? There's all kinds of circumstances where a woman can find herself trapped with a guy who suddenly starts making creepy advances after reading this book.

Yes, I've read the parts of the book that I could find published online. Yes, I've read the entire interview above. That the author would even need to learn how to correct his speech — and that you would laugh with him over it — is just creepy.

Yes, guys who are socially awkward need a good example so that they can have fulfilling relationships with women who actually want to have sex with them. Picking up artist stuff is not a way to do that. It's like a diet fad that won't die.

As one of my friends put it so brilliantly, "nice guys think women are people, not a bag of confounding puzzles in front of a vagina." Thank the god I don't believe in that I finally figured out that women are awesome for themselves and not for their equipment. At 30.

You are wrong for giving this man a platform for and helping advocate for his incorrectly aimed message.

peasofmind (#243,665)


"nice guys think women are people, not a bag of confounding puzzles in front of a vagina"

That is perfect. Thank you. I will use that.

And I agree that the talk about correcting this guy's language with some kind of PC veneer–as if the language is the problem instead of the underlying misogyny–is disturbing.

shostakobitch (#1,692)

Justifying marginal shit with internet prose is always a lark but maybe instead of "seduction guides" you should have really embraced the nadir-of-male-loneliness genre and gone with forums about not having to put the toilet seat back down, increasing semen volume, or jelqing. I mean, it would be cool and ok because you're a modern lady with all that book learning so we'll know it isn't "rapey".

NinetyNine (#98)

"Can't we just all hold hands and pretend we don't have any direct responsibility for poor editorial oversight?"

Matt (#26)

"I want you to make this essay less about YOU and more about the women you don't listen to when they tell you no."

Now that the Kickstarter option is gone:

Text SHYNERD to 9O999 to give $10 to Shy Nerd Virginity Abatement Fund, which helps people affected by disasters such as shyness, virginity, white male-ness, and the propensity to view PUA as an acronym with positive associations.

Please consider making a donation today to help the thousands of people who have been disasters.

MikelS75 (#245,050)

Just so I understand: The point of the book is to give socially awkward men tips on being sexually assertive,in part because they have difficulty understanding social cues, but don't worry the advice might be misconstrued because there's a paragraph in the introduction saying "No Means No."

I don't see how anyone could think things might go poorly.

Craig Brownson (#4,257)

They didn't care for the article but appreciated the comments, generally.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

I am nearly speechless about this. I cannot understand how any person in 2013 could write such an article.

The parts Maria quotes are red flags. I wish she had called a victims-unit expert at a police or prosecutors department to compare notes.

'"Be a man and rip it off!" Really! Where was the outrage for this?': Because it is fiction and exaggerated and part of the mainstream culture and because the woman initiated the request. She gave explicit consent in the scene.

Hoinsky manual: "Force her to rebuff your advances": assault

Bustillos: "once consensual sexual activity has already begun": So once any consensual behavior has begun, consent is granted for all behavior?

Hoinsky: "Force her to rebuff your advances": assault

Hoinsky: "Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick." Without consent, which does not have to be verbal, this is assault. Bustillos makes it sound that once you are in private and underway, this cannot be a problem.

Bustillos on the dick grabbing: "who the vulnerable party is in this transaction": Yes, a man is vulnerable by being on average larger, more powerful, and more aggressive and more violent than the average woman. Because if the woman does something to his dick, he is permanently disabled and cannot respond in any fashion to her in private where they are at that moment.

Bustillos: "a woman could easily (easily) extricate herself from such a scenario if she were an unwilling participant.": Definition of assault

Hoinsky: "If she says "STOP," or "GET AWAY FROM ME," or shoves you away, you know she is not interested": assault

Hoinksy: "continue to try to escalate physically until she makes it genuinely clear that it's not happening": Predation

Hoinsky interview: "I regret saying, "force her to rebuff your advances," I regret the wording that I used. But the spirit of it is all about giving her the power to decide. It's not forcing her to do something against her will; it's encouraging her to make the decision on whether or not she wants to continue things."

Oh, really.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Glenn Fleishman Supercool of you to tell woman what we should and shouldn't accept!

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@IBentMyWookie It is a wonderful thing how you use a rhetorical device to reject the societal compact on what the definition of sexual assault is.

The definition is consent is choosing what one should and shouldn't accept.

The advice supported and amplified by Bustillos and quoted from Hoinsky are, without consent, definitionally sexual assault and/or predation.

If consent exists, then it is accepted.

What you're attempting to do is blur the line between non-consensual, unwilling, unwanted physical behavior, and the societal responsibility for providing a way for those subject to it to have redress.

As a society in America, we now typically agree what sexual assault is. It's codified in the law. Consensual activity isn't sexual assault.

Women and men and all of the spectrum of cis, trans, and orientation may decided for themselves what they should and shouldn't accept. That is consent.

What you are arguing with your little sound bite is that when consent isn't granted, it's also ok.

Talk to some people who are the victim of date rape and sexual assault about consent.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@IBentMyWookie Wait, are you saying women should be able to choose for themselves whether or not they are assaulted?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Glenn Fleishman Just give me your cell number so I can text you in any given situation to get your read on whether or not I'm being taken advantage of. I feel like your perspective is so much more valuable than mine, what with your use of "codified" and "cis" etc. I have a good texting plan, it won't cost you anything.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@IBentMyWookie You continue to shift the discussion to me removing your agency. You (and all adults) should own their agency and grant consent.

You are asserting a privileged position as a woman (if you are; this is the Internet, after all) with a specific viewpoint, clearly not widely shared even in this commenting area, that trumps any discussion about whether the removal of agency by assailants is a societal wrong.

In no way does a single thing I wrote here (or at BoingBoing) advocate a change in the ability of any individual to exercise agency for consent.

In all ways, do I assert that this is about the PUAs (and this book's advice in particular) attempt to remove the agency of a victim by asserting that assault is acceptable unless continuously rebuffed, verbally or physically.

We are not saying different things. You are saying, "Don't take away my agency, asshole! I decide what I accept!"

And I am saying, "All people deserve agency in their physical integrity, and the law protects that agency when people step over the lines that society draws." These are completely consistent.

You seem to think that I am trying to define your actions. Such as, don't allow a man to do the things Hoinsky suggests. I am not. If you consent to those actions, then you are exercising your agency.

Rather, I'm saying that the exercise of his advice (at least in his first draft) constitute a legally clear definition of what sexual assault is if carried out in the way he suggests.

This doesn't abrogate anyone's ability to choose how they respond to any physical behavior. But it condemns advice that suggests behavior that meets the definition of sexual assault.

Why are you taking away my ability to comment on a matter that applies to everyone? By defining it narrowly as "I am a woman, and you are taking away my rights," you're excluding huge categories of people who find themselves the victims of assault.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@IBentMyWookie Lt. Gen. Susan Helms on line 2 for you.

EM (#244,697)

@IBentMyWookie It's hard to understand why you are so hostile to this person who is just reiterating the legal definition of assault.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@EM I know the legal definition of assault. If I am being hostile it is because (a) he is yet another person who is reading into this piece what he wants to, rather than what is there. That is, he's reading it as a treatise on how to rape, because that will allow him to express his thoughts on that topic. He, and many others, are arguing against something that isn't there, and in turn, telling me that I don't understand concepts like consent and assault. It's terrifically frustrating. And (B) the aforementioned heat.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

The Jeff Barea Backlash is for Closers.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

I second what everyone else has been saying about why giving this person a sympathetic platform is completely the wrong approach and how the "free speech is more important than not perpetuating rape culture" argument is dangerous and misinformed (at best). Not to mention Maria's dismissive comment about whining and moaning about how rapey Mr. Hoinsky's guide is was pretty damn disrespectful towards the many people making legitimate, thoughtful criticisms of his work and the many, many women who have been made to feel uncomfortable, threatened or worse by the kinds of tactics he advocates.

So, I could spend hours writing a line by line critique of this interview, but I did want to point this out: "you'll drive yourself nuts trying to figure out why she rejected you, because women are mysterious creatures."

This kind of thinking is a huge fucking part of the problem, and among the many things wrong with the way this interview was conducted was the fact that you let this go without comment. Women are not mysterious creatures, some kind of exotic enigma you have to solve like a puzzle. This is a fundamentally dehumanizing, othering attitude that ends up treating women like a game to be played where the prize at the end is sex. Nope! We're human beings who want to be treated like we're individuals with our own lives, thoughts, emotions, preferences, personalities, etc. Figuring out why any one of us rejected you isn't going to give you greater insights into how all women think or what all women want, because there is no single way we all think or thing we all want in a guy. Think about it from the perspective of how another individual HUMAN BEING would want to be treated – with fucking respect. If you approach someone WITH RESPECT for them as an individual and for their boundaries, then the reason they reject you will likely have more to do with a lack of attraction or your personalities, interests, etc. simply not being compatible. Which you can't do anything about, so move on to the next person until you find someone who is compatible with you. Again, women =/ aliens, k? The more you actually talk to them, in a way where you're trying to find out more about them as people instead of seeking the magic key to sexytimes, the more you'll understand this. Congratulations, Ken Hoinsky, I just wrote your guide for you. You can contact me directly for details on forwarding me your kickstarter funds.

LokoOno (#240,586)

So glad this was published. Don't get me wrong: Pick-up artists are total cornballs…my ex-girlfriend skimmed that Neil Strauss book just so she could know when some guy was using a canned line. That being said, the vast majority of them are not rapists or rapists-in-training, and most of the pick-up advice out there (as corny as it might be) does not come close to advocating sexual assault. I think women would be wise to look out for fratboys, bankers, and other people not used to taking "no" for an answer instead of vilifying a bunch of desperate nerds who can barely work up the courage to start a conversation. YES, they need to be more assertive. NO, that does not mean they should assault anyone.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@LokoOno But the book specifically describes techniques and behaviors that are, by definition, sexual assault unless consent has been given (through whatever means). The book advises after a woman has said no to try again and again and escalate.

Actual PUAs may be ridiculous, but condoning the advice in the book as it was originally written as posts (now that Hoinsky seems to get it, the final book will be different) is what's up fro debate.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

And not ONE PERSON who is shitting all over this guy (who may or many not be a dick, BUT THE BOOK HASN'T BEEN PUBLISHED YET) has linked to a quantitative study or the such that would support the assertion that the use of such techniques and/or the publication of same has led to an increase in sexual assaults. Instead, people are using this thread to come out against rape, as though those of us who are suggesting that maybe this guy isn't an advocate of sexual assault, are somehow super into rape?

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@IBentMyWookie He published the entire book on Reddit and his Kickstarter campaign said, I am taking these Reddit posts and turning it into a book. Then he quoted (as above) large sections of his Reddit posts and said this is the advice he gives.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

@LokoOno I don't want to put words into anyone else's mouth but I think what people are objecting to here isn't that PUAs like this guy are directly and overtly advocating sexual assault. It's that the kinds of behaviors and techniques being pushed as successful seduction techniques are designed to manipulate women and gradually erode their boundaries. Assertive does not mean touching me without my consent and continuing to touch me after I've expressed discomfort. "Seduction" does not mean forcing me to say no to you repeatedly. Consent is about a freely-given yes, not the absence of a no. If she really wants to be seduced by you, then escalating of the type that he describes shouldn't be necessary. The assumption behind this kind of advice is that women are out there saying no when they're really just undecided or secretly want to say yes. This assumption is the opposite of respecting women's free will or right to consent; it's assuming that they don't mean what they say or do, and that therefore what they say and do can be disregarded. And shy nerdy guys are equally as capable of this behavior as fratboys and bankers.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Glenn Fleishman I suppose I'm using the old, traditional model of publishing, then; moreover, I feel more than confident in saying that maybe 1% of the people commenting on this thread (certainly myself included) have read the Reddit-published portions. Rather, everyone seems to be reacting to grossly context-free excerpts that have been reblogged the past week or so, and I take great issue with that, not as a woman, but as a fucking thinking person who gets mad when people manufacture something over which to be angry or when they willfully misconstrue something so that they can use it as a means of addressing what they really want to talk about (in this case, sexual assault et al.)

LokoOno (#240,586)

@IBentMyWookie These sort of debates are always tricky, because people are so afraid of being the "rape defender" that they start attacking straw men. This guy makes it very clear that if a woman wants to you stop, you should. Saying a guy should keep going UNTIL she rebuffs him is very different than saying he should keep going AFTER she rebuffs him, but people on this thread talk like the two are interchangeable. It's nice to hear a woman's perspective like yours, informed more by logic and common sense than outraged self-righteousness.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@IBentMyWookie I'm using the crazy method of listening what a person said he was planning to publish.

"grossly context-free excerpts": I read his Reddit items, which he says he now will rewrite before they go into the book. In this very Awl item he talks about that.

Hoinsky said and says he was taking his Reddit posts and turning them into a book, and will now write the book somewhat differently.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Glenn Fleishman Great. Terrific. Happy for you.

anon. (#245,053)

I am a very shy and quiet girl. I was raped by a boyfriend who, in retrospect, acted a lot like these PUAs. Who am I kidding: he's a computer nerd and a science nerd and he'd seize onto every possible opportunity to call a girl a bitch; he must have been reading this shit. It had been a couple of years since my last boyfriend and I thought this guy only seemed awkward because he was smart and socially ill-equipped, so I gave him a chance. He was so friendly to me. I eventually agreed to sleep with him. He somehow managed to take his condom off when I wasn't looking, but I didn't realize this until he came on my stomach. I freaked out; he laughed, told me to buy Plan B if I was so worried, and refused to get an STD test when I begged and groveled and implored him to (I didn't have insurance at the time and he did). I was so eager to be liked and appreciated again and everything would have been perfect, if only he had respected my boundaries.

He graduated and moved. He had to return to wrap up some experiments at our university, but no longer living in the city, he asked to stay with me to finish his research and I let him. I lived with my parents at the time. On the day he arrived, I begged him not to fuck me. He insisted. I told him to stop, I explained that my parents were home, I begged him to wait just a couple of hours. He pushed onward. I'm a quiet and meek person, so I gave in. I told him to be absolutely, 100% quiet so my parents couldn't hear. I was on the verge of tears the entire time, mentally willing him to finish as soon as possible, faking moans to hurry it up. When I finally stepped outside my locked bedroom, I found spare bedding left at my door for him; my mom must have heard. I was mortified. I let myself be fucked against my will specifically to avoid this particular shame, and I didn't even succeed at that.

The strategy was to ask and ask and ask again, and it almost always worked because I am shy and meek and horrible. He asked me to fuck without a condom, time and again. I told him no, no, no, no, no, no, and then: fine. He asked me to strip on webcam. I told him no, no, no, no, no, no, and then: fine. When I caught BV, he asked me for sex every day: same story. I tried to take it like a trooper but the pain was so immense that I had to beg him to stop in the middle of sex. He didn't. He asked for anal. I told him that if it was important to him, he can leave my house, because I'm never going to say yes (even shy, stupid, meek little me was not really willing to risk anal cancer for someone who violates me regularly). Even that wasn't enough to get him to stop asking, and he'd ask until I broke down crying. He promised he wouldn't ask again, but even after that, he kept asking. The thing is: no didn't even stop him all of the time. Sometimes it made him ask again, and sometimes he just quietly continued onward toward his goal. I was never anally raped with his dick (only digitally), so I do count my blessings.

It's not like I just shut him down like a negative nancy no-funster, I explained my concerns about privacy and pregnancy and disease every SINGLE time I had to say no. I hated to feel like a sex-negative prude even though there was zero reciprocity and he quite frankly would avoid every single thing that turned me on (I would beg for him for foreplay or oral or clit stuff and if the answer was yes, it meant all of ~15 seconds of something I enjoy, never, even once, to orgasm). He just asked again and whined harder, always refusing to take the STD tests when asking for things that put me at risk.

I don't like sex or men anymore. No, wait, I love them and want them very much, but I'm scared to death of them and can't even masturbate without crying. I'm in the best shape of my life physically and financially and I wish I were dead. It's been years and I lose sleep crying on the regular. I know "the guy I totally wanted to fuck with a condom fucked me… without a condom!!!" isn't horrible or brutal and I'm sure I'm a weak, stupid pussy for letting it affect me, but I pray to a god I don't believe in every fucking day and ask to wake up dead. I would never, ever kill myself because I have a family that is both tightly knit and very isolated and I could never hurt them. I would do it if only my family members had more close friends.

I've always thought your writing was really good and insightful, Maria, so it's a little crushing to see you agree that "take a break and try again later" is fine. Whatever, though, I know that nobody on the fucking planet (aside from extremists even I don't agree with) thinks that "the guy I wanted to fuck with a condom fucked me… without a condom!" is a valid complaint.

I don't really have a point here. I mean, I guess if you needed proof that "take a break and try again later" hurts people, I'm right here. I could say that's why I wrote it but it's mostly because I'll never tell anybody about this ever and it felt good to vent anonymously, if I'm being honest. Don't bother to reply to a throwaway account linked to throwaway email; I'll probably avoid this comment thread in the future too.


On the other hand, I do agree that being physical is a great way to flirt, and it does turn me on to be desired. PUA stuff likes to frame physical contact as a secret way to hack the brains of bitches and subconsciously get them to like you against their own will, but being friendly and touching (not sexually, but backs and arms, etc) is very obviously telegraphing interest in an, IMO, appropriate and fun way. Before I gave up on sex and men, I would flirt by touching and nudging, and I always loved it when they did as well. Aggressively? Shamelessly? I don't know. Maybe not the best choice of words. I wish tips on how to flirt for men would frame touching as mutually enjoyable without framing it as NLP mind control tactics.

anon. (#245,053)

@anon. Oh, I guess I should have thought this comment through a little better, because if Ken Hoinsky & fans are reading these comments, they'll just take it as proof that his seduction tips really will get you laid. Whoops. 5 minute limits on edits are the worst.

laurel (#4,035)

@anon. Even if you never see this, I still want to say I think that "the guy I wanted to fuck with a condom fucked me… without a condom!" is a valid complaint.

RK Fire (#10,307)

1. re. Ken & fans: I hope not, if anything I hope they see this as "how not to be an asshole."
2. I'd like to turn to the Hairpin's stock response of "I hope your asshole ex-boyfriend dies in a fire" but part of me thinks that might be too good for him. "I hope he one day fully understands the pain he's caused to you and it breaks his mind" doesn't sound strong enough though.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

@anon: I had an ex who would do these things- push push push until my no no no became "fine."

It took him attempting to strangle me in a drunken fit (oddly, chillingly, lacking in rage- it was like he just decided that the best way to shut me up was attempted murder) for me to leave his ass.

It took 3000 miles and several years before I realized how much of our relationship preceding that moment was nonconsensual. Including, nonconsensual anal sex, which I think is particularly cruel because of how terribly painful it is.

Like you, I faked it and/or cried to get it over with. Like you, I doubted that it was rape.

It was rape.
What happened to you was rape.

And I think it's important to be clear on these things, and on what consent means (really, it's not that complicated. Does your partner want to do it or did you "talk them into it"? If you had to wheedle them into it, it's not consensual). And really, looking back on my most abusive relationships, this kind of behavior was the first indication that something was wrong in this relationship. It was never isolated, and it always got worse.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@anon. thank you very much indeed for this comment (Maria here.) I am very sorry to hear about what happened with your ex, so sorry you were hurt, and very glad you are able to talk about it.

My own wish is that there should be a lot of consensual and happy relationships for men and women. Let me be clear: much PUA discourse is very ugly, as I said, sometimes near-sociopathic. And I think that Ken made a mistake in the way he framed the "try again" remarks he made in his original guide. But after reading the whole guide, and talking to him, I believe he means to help people to create and enjoy consensual relationships, however awkwardly he may have gone about it at first. As he says, he will try to do better now; I believe him, and am glad to have opened a frank discussion about it in the difficult context of "seduction" literature.

Whatever may or may not be said in books, people in the real world have to learn how to navigate these private matters on their own. I get that the permanent "no" is difficult for some women to articulate for any number of reasons. I believe and hope that a careful review of writing like Ken's may help them understand just how very firm that "no" needs to be. I believe men like Ken want to understand it, too. That's why I wanted to talk with him.

Julia duMais (#237,428)

@barnhouse I feel like a good way to show sensitivity to the concerns of people like anon (and, for whatever it's worth, I'm also a rape survivor who had to unfollow people on Twitter because this discussion was proving so triggery for me) would be to not characterize our concerns as "whining and moaning" and "hysteria".

juksie (#245,055)

@anon. I hope you read this and know: never, ever be unsure of the validity of your complaints- they are valid, and you were in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I hope that you are able to find a therapist who can help you and a survivor support group that can carry you through the difficult process of recovering from that time in your life.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

@Julia duMais Seconded. I'm sorry but that was way out of line. For someone who says she wants everyone to get along and understand each other, you sure shut down a lot of thoughtful criticisms right there.

Glenn Fleishman (#245,051)

@barnhouse So reasonable and diametrically opposed to the tone of your article, that I have trouble believing this isn't a reverse sock puppet.

"Ken made a mistake in the way he framed the "try again" remarks he made in his original guide. But after reading the whole guide, and talking to him, I believe he means to help people to create and enjoy consensual relationships"

Yes. I read the guide, too, and both here and in my essay at BoingBoing, I made clear that it's very clear Ken didn't mean to provide advice that suggests what is sexual assault by its definition. The fact that he didn't understand that, and then defended it, and now, in your interview, says he is getting it and will change the language essentially proves the case: both that he didn't intend it and that the language is the wrong language.

"I get that the permanent "no" is difficult for some women to articulate for any number of reasons. I believe and hope that a careful review of writing like Ken's may help them understand just how very firm that "no" needs to be."

Classic victim blaming. A woman's failure to say "no" is the issue, not a man's failure to hear "yes."

LokoOno (#240,586)

@Julia duMais Another good thing to do would be to not attach the term "rape culture" to any situation that makes a woman uncomfortable.

anon. (#245,053)

Thanks laurel, RK, and Xenu. Xenu, I am so, so, so sorry. Julia and Jocasta, your empathy means a lot and I wish you the best. Thanks, juksie, I've considered it but I can't even get the first sentence out loud without crying (I've practiced) and I would be much too embarrassed to cry in front of strangers (and honestly, I don't know if I could emotionally handle listening to other people talk about these things).

Maria, re: "the permanent no." I said "no, I will never do this." "No, I will NEVER let you do that unless you get tested." "No, we can break up if you need sex like this, no hard feelings whatsoever, we are just sexually incompatible." I think my situation is very relevant to this book because of the "back off and try again later" advice for this reason. I made my nos as permanent as I possibly could. Sometimes it meant he just shoved it in and sometimes it meant he'd wait and ask again later, just like Ken Hoinsky recommends.

K. Mae (#240,479)

@barnhouse Yeah, because the onus needs to be on women to say no louder and more often. The nerdy guys get so confused, poor dears! Jesus fucking Christ.

LokoOno (#240,586)

@IBentMyWookie These sort of debates are always tricky, because people are so afraid of being the "rape defender" that they start attacking straw men. This guy makes it very clear that if a woman wants to you stop, you should. Saying a guy should keep going UNTIL she rebuffs him is very different than saying he should keep going AFTER she rebuffs him, but people on this thread talk like the two are interchangeable. It's nice to hear a woman's perspective like yours, informed more by logic and common sense than outraged self-righteousness.

bluebears (#5,902)

@LokoOno Thank god some women can employ LOGIC, amirite LADIES?

You seem cool.

IBentMyWookie (#133)


bluebears (#5,902)

@IBentMyWookie You really get me.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@bluebears You're just terrific. Bringing a lot to the table. Implying sexism when someone disagrees with you? I mean, that's just A+ behaviour. Keep on keepin' on. You'll always be my hero.

LokoOno (#240,586)

@bluebears "It's nice to hear a logical argument made by a woman." "WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY SAY WOMAN AREN'T LOGICAL OR SOMETHING??!!"
You seem dumb.

@IBentMyWookie I hope you get a lot of male attention. You really seem to work for it.

LokoOno (#240,586)

@Hiroine Protagonist She's one of the only people making sense on this thread. The guy barely said more than "be persistent" (not always the best advice, but whatever) and people are acting like he's promoting rape. Accusing a slightly sleazy guy of encouraging rape is incredibly serious and has the potential to ruin that person's life but I guess self-satisfied moralizing and half-assed insults are a lot more fun than ACTUALLY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE PERSON WAS SAYING.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Hiroine Protagonist On the one hand, I want to tell you to go fuck yourself to the nth degree for saying something that fucking gross and offensive, while simultaneously congratulating you for being so clueless to the irony of making a comment that is so sexist that the very Redditors so (rightly) maligned in this thread would high-five you, but on the other hand, I'm like LULZ at anyone who thinks that this site is where a woman would go for attention from straight dudes.

@IBentMyWookie Since I don't think your life begins and ends on this site, not talking about the site. Pretty sure your life is the one selling women out behind their backs while you pretend to be a dude. To get laid. If that wasn't clear. AKA sell out

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Hiroine Protagonist Oh my god, do more! I could read this all night. But definitely, definitely promise me that you'll get your prescription filled in the morning, okay? Because when that crash comes, it won't be pretty, and if you don't have at least a few milligrams of the lithium, things can go real dark real fast.

@IBentMyWookie Ableism is cool!

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Hiroine Protagonist ABLEISM! Oh my god. You're a parody of a parody. Please never stop.

Poubelle (#214,283)

@IBentMyWookie At least she doesn't sound like a sad, insecure troll. The more I read over this thread, the more I hope you're just a really sheltered, inexperienced teenager.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@anon thank you very much indeed for this comment. I am very, very sorry to hear about what happened with your ex, so sorry you were hurt, and very glad you are able to talk about it.

My own wish is that there should be a lot of consensual and happy relationships for men and women. Let me be clear: much PUA discourse is very ugly, as I said, sometimes near-sociopathic. And I think that Ken made a mistake in the way he framed the "try again" remarks he made in his original guide. But after reading the whole guide, and talking to him, I believe he means to help people to create and enjoy consensual relationships, however awkwardly he may have gone about it at first. As he says, he will try to do better now; I believe him, and am glad to have opened a frank discussion about it in the difficult context of "seduction" literature.

Whatever may or may not be said in books, people in the real world have to learn how to navigate these private matters on their own. I get that the permanent "no" is difficult for some women to articulate for any number of reasons. I believe and hope that a careful review of writing like Ken's may help them understand just how very firm that "no" needs to be. I believe men like Ken want to understand it, too. That's why I wanted to talk with him.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

@barnhouse No. Absolutely not.

The onus of "saying no firmly/clearly" is not on the man or woman who is being pursued. The onus of realizing when someone is or is not consenting is on the person who is in pursuit (although wouldn't it be nice if we could get out of this pursuer/pursued dynamic altogether, really, it's kind of ridiculous already).

Also, I am trying to remember but can't- maybe someone else can?- a study that came out recently which showed that, far from being oblivious, men are actually fully aware of nonverbal body language and signals- it's just that PUAs like this choose to ignore such social cues. Except from other men.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

@barnhouse I hope he does get it better now and that he does better in the future. But frankly I find the idea that women don't understand how firm a "no" needs to be rather insulting. The reasons why many women find it difficult to articulate that "no" have nothing to do with us not understanding that it needs to be firm. Trust me, when I'm faced with a pushy guy who keeps saying, "Aw, c'mon," even after I've tried to politely turn him away, I recognize that, regardless of whether he truly doesn't understand or is choosing to ignore my attempt at a rebuff, I'm going to have to be more explicit. I don't think any woman in that situation is thinking, "golly gee, maybe if I just keep giving him that tight-lipped smile and averting my eyes, he'll suddenly magically get it!" The problem is that as a guy gets pushier, it seems more and more likely that if you push back (by saying no firmly), his reaction is going to be calling you a bitch (at best) or getting violent (at worst). Whether or not he means to be, a guy who keeps pushing is intimidating to any woman. So a woman in that situation has to make a calculation – do I just keep trying to signal I'm not interested and hope he gives up or someone else comes to my rescue, or do I risk verbal and possibly physical abuse (depending on the situation) by standing up and saying no? Ultimately it doesn't matter whether or not the pushiness is coming from a place of true cluelessness – intent isn't magic. No one needs to understand the need for a firm no – we need to get to a place where men aren't pushing women to have to give them a firm no, and women can feel safe delivering that firm no in any circumstances. We are most definitely not there yet.

CaptBackslap (#10,313)

@Xenu01 I'd be interested to see that study. The one I remember, where researchers had dudes observe male/female interactions in bars and decide whether the woman was interested, indicated that the dudes might as well have been trying to use ESP. The hit rate was barely above chance, and there was no type I/II bias; the subjects were just plain clueless.

Julia duMais (#237,428)

@Jocasta Carr "The problem is that as a guy gets pushier, it seems more and more likely that if you push back (by saying no firmly), his reaction is going to be calling you a bitch (at best) or getting violent (at worst). Whether or not he means to be, a guy who keeps pushing is intimidating to any woman."


Xenu01 (#244,135)

@Jocasta Carr Seconding the thank you for this comment.

It is exhausting to even think sometimes about how many complex calculations women have to make on a regular basis just to live and interact socially in the world.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

@Julia duMais You're welcome! I just get so annoyed by this idea that we owe it to shy, "clueless" guys to explain things more clearly, whether by defining what consent means over and over and over again in every single possible situation, or saying no "firmly" enough, whatever that means. How firm does a no have to be by whatever arbitrary "objective" standard before we can all agree that the "clueless" guy should have picked up on it and it's not the woman's fault for not saying no firmly enough? I honestly don't give a shit if the pushiness comes from a lack of understanding or a lack of respect for a woman's wishes. It's not on us to say no more firmly or explain it all more clearly, it's on you to do the work it takes to gain the understanding and pick up on the non-verbal cues. It's on you to make it clear to the object of your "seduction" that she can feel safe firmly saying no to you if she's not interested. And being pushy, touching her repeatedly, doing the "Aw, c'mon baby" thing, does that opposite of that.

KimO (#10,765)

@barnhouse RE: "I get that the permanent "no" is difficult for some women to articulate for any number of reasons. I believe and hope that a careful review of writing like Ken's may help them understand just how very firm that "no" needs to be. I believe men like Ken want to understand it, too. That's why I wanted to talk with him."

You have got to be kidding me with this. Good old Ken Hoinsky, helping confused women everywhere find a thousand different ways to say no.

Jocasta Carr (#245,052)

@KimO Right? God bless him for helping us UNDERSTAND why we need to say "no" more firmly. Us poor ladies would never have gotten it otherwise. Doing the good work, he is.

srs (#15,773)

@barnhouse "I believe and hope that a careful review of writing like Ken's may help them understand just how very firm that "no" needs to be. I believe men like Ken want to understand it, too. That's why I wanted to talk with him."

I'm going to take you at your word that you wanted to convey something helpful and positive with this article/interview. It's unfortunate then that what you actually conveyed was more of the common victim blame-y bs that there's a right and a wrong way to say no. Experiences like anon's are exactly why the kind of boundary pushing promoted by PUA is, as you yourself say, ugly and near-sociopathic.

One reason why I think the PUA stuff, even Ken's supposedly warm and fuzzy version, is so very toxic is that fundamentally they are focusing on the wrong thing. The problem isn't that a shy, insecure and lonely dude doesn't know how to talk to WOMEN, it's that he doesn't know how to talk to PEOPLE, period. There is no magic way to get a woman to want to fuck you. There is no cheat code. There are, however, a bunch of things you can do, regardless of your gender, to help you feel more comfortable in social situations, to get over social anxiety, that will help you present yourself as an interesting person who is worth talking to and maybe even fucking. I want to fuck my boyfriend because I think he's interesting and awesome in too many ways for me to list here. And he wants to fuck me because he genuinely likes me, the whole and complete me, not simply my tits, ass and vagina.

Look, I am a chick who's a deep introvert and can be very awkward. I like nerdy stuff that isn't in the mainstream. When I was younger I would NEVER start a conversation with someone I didn't know, male or female, because why would they want to talk to me? And it bothered me. I felt very alone and isolated. So I taught myself how to talk to people. It was hard and occasionally scary and confusing and sometimes I looked like an ass, but it was so worth it. Because now, a good decade later, the way I see myself and the way I present myself are much better aligned.

If Ken really wants to help men be "able to actually approach and talk to women and be direct with women" then he is going about the wrong way. Because women are not "mysterious creatures" any more than men are. Women, like men, are people. Complex, interesting, frustrating, contradictory people. We are vast. We contain multitudes. We are NOT a mystery to be solved or decoded. And until Ken and the other PUA really understand that, they will never be able to "kill the stigma against men's "seduction" advice once and for all."

barnhouse (#1,326)

@srs thank you for this. You are very right that some insecure and lonely men don't know how to have a conversation with *anyone*. Your account of teaching yourself how to talk to people is very valuable.

A subsequent remark you made clarifies the biggest impasse in the discussion, I think: "Because women are not 'mysterious creatures' any more than men are." That's the crux of it, isn't it? While you are entirely right there isn't a fixed way to "decode" one another, men (or cis men, at any rate) very often have to learn that the sexuality of women is fundamentally different from their own. This is something apart from basic social awkwardness. Women are indeed "mysterious" to them until they learn how to communicate, to understand boundaries, signals that aren't instinctive to them. Until those signals can be understood, such men will never be able to see women as real peers. We are absolutely in agreement there. This is exactly what I hoped to communicate to Ken at the end of our interview (with respect to "try again.")

srs (#15,773)

@barnhouse But again, understanding boundaries and signals that aren't instinctive isn't something that's exclusive to men. That's part of social interaction. In this context it may be a particularly gendered part of social interaction, but it isn't unique. I behave differently at work than I do at home or with friends. I moved to the other side of the country and had to learn slightly different social mores than the ones I was taught growing up. If the goal is to demystify women and our sexuality to men who are inexperienced or have not had much interaction with women, either sexual or otherwise, than are "seduction guides" really the best way to do it? Because Ken can change the language he uses in the final version of his book, but he's still not writing a dating guide or a male version of the (also horribly sexist and damaging) how-to-get-married books marketed to women. He's not writing a book on relationship advice. He's writing a seduction guide. A guide to getting laid.

And its not like any of this stuff is new. Dr. Nerdlove has been writing his blog for a few years now. Captain Awkward has responded to a number of letters from men and women asking for advice, both general and specific, on approaching someone they want to bone.

I am perfectly willing to believe that 90% of the info and advice in the book is useful, pro-women and even pro feminist. But some quotes I've read, even "in context" with huge excerpts from the reddit thread, are deeply problematic. And those problematic parts, like the "try again" stuff that you yourself pushed back on, are not cancelled out by the stuff that's positive. It just doesn't work like that.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@srs Much of what the author says is problematic. Unquestionably. So, what are you going to do with this person. Vilify and reject him? Or engage and confront? I don't see this as a question of keeping score and then thumbs down, somehow bleeping this person out of society. This is a human being, he has a definite intellectual position and a strong following; he's available for a dialogue: I think it's worth making use of that opportunity.

I agree with you very, very deeply about not "cancelling out." Here is someone who writes in this difficult, distressing, unpleasant area that is so fraught for so many people, and he is outright asking for assistance in making himself understood. What now?

@barnhouse I think interviewing him was a good idea. You mentioned on Twitter that this is primarily a speech rights issue to you, and I agree that it is very much worth discussing that and the manipulation of context in the discussion over the guide. But I think you undermined your point by focusing so much on how the guide "isn't as bad as other PUA guides." If it's truly a speech rights issue, it doesn't really matter how bad the guide is. You also don't "confront" him as much as provide a platform for him to apologize, justify himself, and get some advice on using better language from you. And in terms of giving him an opportunity to explain himself, I think most commenters here would say they already know why this happened and blame rape culture far more than him as an individual (although maybe I'm optimistic).

The fact that the comments are basically an argument over rape culture and victim blaming and how "bad" this guide is serves as pretty compelling evidence that your main point (if it is indeed that censorship–particularly online–is wrong regardless of the material being censored) was missed by most readers.

srs (#15,773)

@barnhouse I’m glad that you agree that much of what the author says is problematic. That wasn’t at all clear from your article. You start the piece by calling the initial critique of the project disingenuous, outrageous, and whiney. You don’t engage with any of the numerous and thoughtful articles and blog posts that explain why people think the quotes, even the excerpts that you cite as exonerating ‘context’, are so disturbing. You just asked for engagement, but in the article you seem to dismiss the massive internet engagement and discussion so far as “hysteria”.

It is totally possible to engage and confront someone respectfully, in a way that helps both parties challenge their initial assumptions and beliefs. You didn’t do that. At all. Yes, in the actual interview you push back a bit against the ‘try again later’ advice and give some context to why you think it’s perceived as offensive, but in the 1300+ word intro to the interview, you give no indication that you think ANY of the criticisms are valid in ANY way. In fact, it reads like you are insultingly dismissive of them. So fine, you say that you wanted to engage. I still think you failed. What you ended up doing, at least from the perspective of myself and many of the other commenters here, was support and promote the author and his message, including the parts you say are problematic, while dismissing and belittling his critics.

I don’t think that most people advocate shunning or “bleeping this person out of society”. Kickstarter is a growing business and they have every right to drop ‘seduction guides’ from their offerings if they think it will hurt their brand. Free speech means that Ken gets to write and publish his seduction guide, but it also means that people get to criticize it and that Kickstarter gets to decide that it doesn’t want to support future projects like it.

You ask “What now?”. You call for engagement. Well, this is what engagement looks like. Ken is now going to re-examine his book and edit it to reflect some of the criticisms. Do you really think he would have done so if the original blogger had emailed him privately with his critique? Or even if several people did? He posted this stuff publicly and people engaged with it, also publicly. I’m sure that he is a nice person, with good intentions, who hasn’t thought about the wider context of his words and actions and who, until now, hasn’t had to confront that what he says and does may be perceived differently, by different people, with different histories. He doesn’t mean to threaten, so is perplexed as to why anyone sees him as threatening. But unless he’s willing to do the work, to engage with his ideas AND those of his critics, to not simply defend his position, but actually interrogate it, his book is not going to be different in any substantial way from the countless other PUA guides already on the market.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@antarctica starts here thanks for this. I made your point explicitly: even if KH were as objectifying and outright offensive as R. Don Steele is, his right to publish his views is sacrosanct.

The comments here took on a life of their own; I think that's healthy too. I am all for a robust debate, however far from the original point it may stray. Each has something to contribute.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@srs Thank you for this thoughtful response. I failed to make myself clear in my comment. What's "problematic" about KH's Reddit guide is not problematic to me personally; that is clear in the piece, I think. I read his work and understood his intentions effortlessly (they are non-threatening, as you point out.) Others will not. Phrases like "cheat codes"–a joke aimed at a certain audience–are bound to create trouble *unless* you take the author at his word about things like "backing off", giving pleasure, about wanting to encourage healthy, consensual relationships in a free and sex-positive way.

I quite agree: this is what engagement looks like, and I think it is has been great. I neither defended nor attacked Ken in the interview; that wasn't my purpose. There's more than one way to advance the discussion.

Julia duMais (#237,428)

@barnhouse "Phrases like "cheat codes"–a joke aimed at a certain audience–are bound to create trouble *unless* you take the author at his word…"

Here, I think, is one of the places where I am getting stuck. Why, exactly, am I obligated to give him the benefit of the doubt? As @srs has said, I don't see much in the reaction to Hoinsky that constitutes censorship, and I certainly don't think my not being willing to give him the benefit of the doubt does. Kickstarter are well within their rights to place whatever restrictions on projects they want; even if they had shut the project down, there are plenty of other avenues out there for self-publication, and plenty of other ways to get your fans to send you the money to make use of them. My not reading everything Hoinsky has ever written because what I have heard was so friggin' triggery that I had to unfollow friends who would. not. stop. quoting it on Twitter — friends who agreed with me, mind you! — is not censorship. If censorship includes making a snap judgment based on what I have heard from a group in the past and deciding that something one of its members is saying is not only something I'm not interested in but actively bad and perhaps toxic, then I am censoring every single Fox News host right this very minute.

Perhaps you are, indeed, a fundamentally better person than I am because you have given this man the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I am just a big ol' meanie, with, to paraphrase one of your Tweets yesterday, less faith in humanity than you. But just as you are an adult with experience backing up your instinct to give him the benefit of the doubt, a lot of us who don't see any reason to give this man the benefit of the doubt also have a great deal of experience backing us up, too. For instance, for me, there's not only the caregiver who abused me, multiple times, as a child, but the person who, in seriousness, told me that every single incident after the first was my own fault because I was too frightened and confused, being a goddamn child, to say anything. There is the guy who harassed me at a club using textbook PUA techniques and was making me so uncomfortable and so frightened that I was relieved when the security guard came over and chewed me out for my indecent display, because at least this guy would stop touching me even if I was horrified and ashamed and frightened, and so PTSD'd out that I could barely speak.

Part of why this interview was such a disappointment was not just that I had enjoyed and agreed with a lot of your writing in the past, but that, buried underneath an introduction that, if it was written in good faith (which I would like to assume) was then irresponsibly sloppy, I think I do see the kernel of a meaningful, useful contribution to the discussion. But, you know, speaking of disingenuous, maybe characterizing those of us who see no reason to give Hoinsky the benefit of the doubt as "hysterical" is not the best way to begin a meaningful, useful contribution to a discussion.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Julia duMais (Thanks for this. I am very grateful to you for taking the time.) And I am very sorry indeed to hear that you were abused. You are in no way obligated to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. When I say, "take the author at his word" I merely mean, I did and you did not. Neither one of us can be "right" about that; I read it one way, and you another, each for her own reasons.

Censorship, I agree, is something else: the idea that a person's views *should be* erased from society altogether.

I take the point that my flippancy toward Casey Malone is inflammatory; some entirely misread this as flippancy toward sexual aggressiveness and violence, though that reading is not fairly available in what I wrote. Malone deliberately misrepresented KH in an attempt to stoke outrage, the falseness of which I don't even know terms strong enough to sufficiently condemn. So there is a disconnect here: I characterized the reaction to Malone as "hysteria" because he confected it, deliberately distorted the message so as to produce a distorted, overheated response. In no way was this word meant as a slur against anyone who wants to criticize Hoinsky fairly. In fact I think it would be a very good idea to continue to criticize him fairly. (This is kind of an aside but I have two daughters, and I think they ought to know as much as possible about the Hoinskys, and the PUAs, and the Malones of the world.)

scrooge (#2,697)

"most disingenuous and outrageous manner imaginable"

"Then he whined and moaned about how rapey the author is"

Everybody seems to object to this language, but nobody has managed to say what's wrong with it. Clearly, this Casey Malone took the remarks he quoted totally out of context, as the quotes which follow it indubitably demonstrate. So the quotes were disingenuous. And, given that the original writer clearly is not in favor of rape, isolating those quotes was an outrageous misrepresentation. Obviously, given this, the man is not rapey.

So why don't you guys back up your comments with a rebuttal that actually uses logic and rational argument? I'm disappointed with the low quality of these commenters. I thought the awl could do better than that. Maybe I should complain to Choire.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

Since there seems to some confusion about this whole consent issue, I figured I'd lay it out.

Scene 1:
Guy approaches girl at bar.
Guy: Hey there, gorgeous! Can I buy you a drink?
Girl ignores him.
Guy leaves.

This is what the stellar golden non-PUA consent model SHOULD look like.

Here is how it actually plays out. The following scene actually happened to me. Sometimes at gay clubs.

Girl is at a club dancing with friends to some loud dance music.
Rando straight guy grabs girl from behind, sticks his hands in her pockets and starts grinding up against her.
Girl moves hands from pockets, pulls away as much as possible on crowded dance floor.
Guy moves closer, hands on her hips.
Girl leaves dance floor to escape creepy guy and heads to bar.
Guy follows girl to bar.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

and if you're curious about what happens next, let me assure there is more pursuit and more rejection that any human being who cared about other humans would take heed of. At the end I believe Girl gets called a fat bitch or ridiculed for thinking Guy was interested in her and maybe SHE is stalking HIM and geez I'm so tired.

@Xenu01 Yeah, number 2 has been my experience in bars more often than not, sadly, complete with aggression, name-calling, and occasional minor violence (slapping, throwing drinks, etc.). This is what happens when you repeatedly and firmly say no to a man who believes in the kind of approach Hoinsky advocates.

LooseBaggyMonster (#234,747)

"Pamela" is about a woman's imperfect understanding of herself as well as the man? Funny, I thought it was about a man continually attempting to rape his servant and eventually deciding to marry her to get her to give it up "willingly." A charming literary model, to be sure.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

@LooseBaggyMonster <3

robotosaur (#238,251)

@LooseBaggyMonster Yeah, gonna plop in this Wikipedia'd plot summary, because WHAT THE HELL:

"Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, first published in 1740. It tells the story of a beautiful 15-year old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose nobleman master, Mr. B, makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of his mother, whose maid she was since age 12. Mr. B is infatuated with her, first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence, but his high rank hinders him from proposing marriage. He abducts her, locks her up in one of his estates, and attempts to seduce and rape her. She rejects him continually, but starts to realize that she is falling in love with him. He intercepts her letters to her parents; reading them, he becomes even more enamored by her innocence, intelligence, and continuous escape attempts. Her virtue is eventually rewarded when he sincerely proposes an equitable marriage to her. In the novel's second part, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimate to upperclass society."

Mr. B (#10,093)

@robotosaur (For the record, my screen name is a reference to Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, which Emily did such a successful job of promoting back in the innocent spring of '07.)

ericdeamer (#945)

You guys the Oatmeal dude has now endorsed this piece and the fake Will McAvoy dude retweeted him approvingly so I think we can now say scientifically that the people defending this piece are wrong.

KarenUhOh (#19)

That a (presumably) bunch of (presumably) lonely (presumably) men raised the princely sum of 16 grand to absorb this Wisdom about how to connect tells you all you need to know about modern romance.

IBentMyWookie (#133)


jolie (#16)

@KarenUhOh Oh thank God you're here! Can I hide under your skirts please?

Smartfox (#245,057)

Maria: you are an Uncle Tom. If you think siding with the boys who love to rape will keep you safe from them, you're sadly mistaken. Maybe someday you'll understand that a man grabbing a woman's hand and forcing it onto his genitals is wrong.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Haha.. so let me get this straight: this thing was written for guys who actually NEED TO BE TOLD that when a woman says "GET AWAY FROM ME", they should get away?

It's like extracting a person from one of those untouched tribes on Amazon and based on the assumption that they should be able to say, drive to the store just like everyone else, giving them instructions that basically say: "step on the gas, and when you see a red light just hit the break". The problem is not just that it's "wrong", it's simply hilariously stupid and dangerous.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

TofuTofu is probably my favorite Bela Fleck album.

CaptBackslap (#10,313)

This interview did not really assuage my concerns about how much the author bumps up against the line of consent. Still seems hell of creepy to me.

That said, I have to disagree with the comments implying/stating that ANY sort of advice on picking up women is dehumanizing, since the argument proves far too much. It would imply the same about Dale Carnegie, sales seminars, or any other general advice on improving social skills instrumentally. There's an -ism that might line up with that, but it ain't feminism, if ya dig my meaning.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

@CaptBackslap Except that advice on picking up women makes straight guys the consumers and women the product. Well, sex is the product, really. And it's all about how to trick her into giving it to you rather than about how to be a more dateable human being.

This is different from dating advice, guys. I'm really worried that some people can't seem to tell the difference.

CaptBackslap (#10,313)

@Xenu01 It's clearly not (mostly) dating advice, but that's not an inherently bad thing, as long as dudes* are upfront about just wanting to score. And yeah, just from what I've read about it online, there are a lot of unacceptable things in the PUA toolbox besides consent issues (negging and plain ol' lying are the two that leap to mind). But it doesn't necessarily follow that getting better at the interactions leading to hooking up involves anything unethical.

*there is no equivalent manual for women to pick up dudes because no one would pay for a leaflet, but The Rules and many books like it exist

This is an unbelievably disgusting article. Fuck you for using the terms hysteria and fuck you for selling women out and encouraging these rationalizations for sexual assault. The Awl….what the fuck are you morons thinking? Did somebody drink decaf this morning? jesus christ.

cherrispryte (#444)

While I'm used to disagreeing with Maria's articles by now, I'm seriously disappointed in Choire and Balk for giving Hoinsky this platform.

nadie (#807)

NOT GREAT, BOB. This is when I click close tab.

IBentMyWookie (#133)


Mr. B (#10,093)

I've read all 154 comments and I'm still not sure what the argument is about.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Mr. B How much you should tip vegans, I think?

Mr. B (#10,093)

@IBentMyWookie Or whether writers on the internet should be paid?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Mr. B It has something to do with the moon, that part I'm sure about.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

Asking is sexy.

KimO (#10,765)

I saw Maria mention "free speech" on Twitter and a few people here in the comments mention censorship. I don't see how those issues are even remotely relevant. Am I missing something? Kickstarter–which Hoinsky himself points out is a private company–has forbidden seduction guide projects. It is not as though the government has threatened him with jail for writing this terrible book.

@KimO Well I think it comes into the discussion because Malone led an effort to ask Kickstarter to remove the fundraising page. And I think it's an angle that's worth discussing. However, I disagree with Maria that it's the MAIN issue and, as I mentioned above, I think she goes to such lengths to dismiss the criticism of the guide/argue that it "wasn't that bad" that she undermines her point that just calling for it to be banned/censored was not as productive as promoting a discussion about why it exists.

Ironically(?), her over-defensiveness of the guide and its author has brought the conversation around to what really IS the most important thing–the rape culture that creates the problematic attitudes exemplified by the guide.

libmas (#231)

Prospective Awl Editor-in-Chief: the Kobiyashi Maru is submitting an article.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

I take one day off The Internet and I have to learn about this through fucking Slate? For shame.

saythatscool (#101)

I'm just shocked that some of the commenters here recently made bail. WELL DONE MY CHILDREN.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@saythatscool Thanks again for contributing to the Kickstarter.

peasofmind (#243,665)

Is this a fucking joke? Encouraging people to view women's bodies as objects there to be enjoyed by others is not a game. That's dangerous, that's rape culture, that's horrible and twisted.

Encouraging people who lack social confidence and helping them to connect with other people can be done without condoning coercion and misogyny.

I am totally appalled.

statistics_lie (#14,052)

Since no one has mentioned it yet…"the virtual Mutaween"? Are you. Fucking. Serious. Yeah, so, when you're trying to do the whole "I'm the good kind of feminist, you know, the LOGICAL kind who doesn't get HYSTERICAL and OVERDRAMATIC" maybe don't draw equivalence between online critics and the people who (may have) prevented Saudi Arabian girls from leaving a burning building because they weren't properly dressed. Maybe don't do that at all.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@statistics_lie I just assumed that was a Star Wars reference that I didn't get.

Craig Brownson (#4,257)

Did you guys read the AMA he did today? It's just so awesome that The Awl would give this amazing guy a platform!

LHOOQ (#18,226)

Well, that was disappointing. There probably is a nuanced, thoughtful essay to be had about the issues that this incident raises — feminism, rape culture, "outrage culture," free speech — but this sure wasn't it. How about an interview with Asma Assad next, I feel like the one in Vogue was just too critical and didn't really get her side of the story.

FFS (#245,136)

Ladies you may not even have to deal with this particular strain of pathetic asshole. You may get the friend who you have sex with and he starts strangling you out of nowhere. You may have the casual make-out session that turns into being forcibly held down and hurt just to scare you and make you understand you COULD be raped, just before they finally let you squirm away running in fear of your life bruised and without half your clothes. You may get the perfect husband your family loves who never takes no for an answer. The possibilities are endless.

Just don't think you can trust anyone or deserve any human consideration, because in that case you're better off at home jerking off to your Johnny Mathis records.

livex (#206,268)

"It is an entirely harmless book — as all books are."
Hey, you're an idiot!

MountainDo (#245,192)

This was pretty interesting. I very much appreciate that it was NOT along the lines of say, VICE– though they do some stuff really well – their video series has been really relevant, but the tone they often take of anti-PC hooligany cheekiness is not "subversively cool" it's retrograde and makes them less cool.

This was a thoughtful blog posting, and with the comments, it's guranteed to be. The Awl, you can't help but be awesome.


WHERE does that line live, between PC and Cruelty? When is a joke just a joke, or not fucking funny. Where does integrity cede to reactionary-ism? We know that context and framework is important… the semiotics. What is this meaning, what is this saying? Is this strengthening my brand, or weakening it? Who culturally prevails, and what are the implications of that win? In a cultural struggle between opposing ideas how is dominance asserted? Is it thru assimilation? Force? Wit? Seduction…even?

The author asserts that she is opening a channel thru which to make inroads in order to infiltrate and change for the better thru contact and engagement. That seems legitimate.

So, does she make them more like her/us, or make us more like them? Or is it net-net? Is the best approach just to loudly proclaim, fuck that noise! And host a better party with much awesomer music and djs? That also seems like a legitimate strategy. Perhaps one that creates and protects a stronger brand (let's call it humanism, cause that's not like, lofty or anything!)

People can always buy shoddy products. If it's more commonly available on the market. Or if there's a sucker. (which, honestly, there usually is). Best you can do is give people information and choices.

And it might not be inaccurate to argue that you're weakening the message by listening to people who are talking a lot of bs, even if they do use pretty, pc-language.

The AWL isn't Vice, it's hipper than Vice (though they are doing some very interesting things with where they are now). The AWL is what Vice would be if it were born in THIS day and age. The Awl's a little younger, a little cooler and smarter and next-gen.

In defense of the (lonely boy) pick up artist. LOL. You got infiltrated, you didn't infiltrate. Free speach? Nope. It's community standards, and we DO set them, and we DO examine them, and we DO decide when to it's appropriate to break them or adjust them.

Advancing the agenda of getting dudes laid by treating women as objects of sexual gratification? Yep. Nope. Healthy sexual social engagement and PUA are in fact mutually exclusive. Commodifying women based on their sexuality and attractiveness is never going to be "next level" or socially-forward. That's not who you are, Awl. Selling, or living, the dream of Sarge and In Charge is lamesville and insane/inane. If you're sexually magnetic and you got it like that, that's one thing. If you're running game then the game that you are playing is a stupid one and you should stop. You'll like yourself more. You'll like OTHERS more.

Awl, and Maria, you got infiltrated, you didn't infiltrate. You legitimized an odious position, just a little, you didn't succeed in making it, just a little, less odious. And you didn't open up a (larger) legitimate question of why can't we have free speech, and careful there I support your rights to white-power it out, for the greater goods.

Yo, holmes, domestic violence and female disempowerment are LEGITIMATE and for serious issues that affect us as a society in very and vastly negative ways. For kickstarted to say… y'know what we're not going to get on board with this PUA stuff (couched as "seduction manuals") because, real talk, this is an underbelly population that victimizes others. I'd like to say it's "maybe not in the mainstream" of PUA's culture, but that's not even true. The main fucking vein of it is based around the idea of manipulation and domination. It's like sleazy telemarketer tactics in order to 1. Dupe the majority of the males who buy into it, and 2. unleash at best someone who is objectifying you, at worst someone who is harassing or even assaulting you, and deeply resenting you for your non-compliance. These are not the kind of sexual politics that we want to have and to foster. Unless we are bat fricken crazypants.

I mostly bury my head in the sand about how bad it is out there – especially for the young ones in the hinterlands, but truly young girls who aren't fortunate enough to be exposed to highly progressive environments are often exposed to truly heiniously toxic messages (just as toxic as the majority of PUA messaging is for men – whether it's successful or tragically unsuccessful it reinforces of negative messaging, leaving it's participants with a greater negative than when they started, turning so-called "losers" into loser assholes, which is a big leap, AND a big net loss, however illusorily empowering it may feel to join company with so many others — because the underlying messaging is toxic, it permeates and makes all involved at least marginally, at worst very very icky and rotten).

For reals, what girls and younger women will do to be perceived as "attractive" is even sadder than what adult men will do to try to be perceived as attractive. But bottom line, everyone gets alienated from themselves and others which is lamesville.

I appreciate the attempt to reach out and engage… you've got a stronger stomach and less of an inappropriate laugh reflex than I do, cause I would laugh that shit out of town, while vomiting. If you are going to do that, do that shit over there, and don't even try it with me, oh hells no, honey that shit is not going to fly. But whenever you are ready to act like a civilized human being you are welcome back over here with the civilized people who are not cannibals. Your choice. If that's what you choose, enjoy, I guess? And god help any women you come into contact with, I hope we don't have to hear more stores like the one we heard about above (hey anon lady… Your rights and grievances are TOTALLY VALIDATED, and while you def need to look at how and why you allowed yourself to be victimized by a POS, because you obviously have some work you need to do on A. trusting people again, but B. MOST IMPORTANTLY trusting yourself that you would never ever ever allow somebody to get away with that kind of behavior towards yourself. You played a role, and that doesn't mean you deserved it, it means you need to figure out why you didn't VERY EARLY on recognize – hey! I DON'T deserve this (no one does!) and kick that mofo to the curb. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and not allow people to mistreat you! Don't take that responsibility lightly.)

PUA isn't about wanting human connection, it's about wanting to fuck the pretty girl, and wanting the social status and validatin that conveys. WOMEN ARE NOT A CONVEYANCE for your social status, unless you are deeply fucked in the head. And just because that may include a large number of people does not mean that you want to be included in those numbers. No, just no. No means no. GTFO w/that crap cause it's just plain gross. If you are truly socially inept and need tips on learning how to connect with women… go to a therapists, for gods sake, not a PUA site where you will learn all the wrong things and even if you "win" you lose.

MountainDo (#245,192)

Thanks for playing it though! Even if your game was really stupid and you were (hopefully only temporarily) stupid for playing it. Hopefully you can choose a more fun game to play! Where people are actually human beings, and not alien beings to be manipulated.

And, Heads Up, New Girl, being respectful isn't the same as being repressed, and I know it's a lot of trouble to write funny, insightful comedy every week, and I guess we really shouldn't be looking to a tv show on mainstream networks for bastions of cultural enlightenment. Because, Bachelor/Bachelorette. Tons of regular tv is crap and only moderately entertaining, at best (not that I can't totally consume the crappiest of crappy tv, sometimes the crappier the better, to be honest, but I still welcome the world of awesome webisodes and the like, that are more original and nuanced, and often, funny).

Just because there's no outrage for something doesn't mean it isn't outrageous or very negative. Things we take for granted don't make them better, and can very often even be worse than the things that don't slip by us.

Haha, you're not a man! Haha. I'm not down with that. Some people, men and women, are more timid. Some people, men and women, are more obnoxious. And a ton of other variations under the sun. I think dudes who are at the helm of gender parity are FUCKIN heros, and I don't take for granted how HARD that shit was back in the 60's when all the hipster bros were like, honey let's us take care of the social revolution, you just make sure my coffee stays warmed up. It was NOT Pretty back then, and it is NOT LIKE THAT anymore and anyone who tries to say that men who care about the autonomy of women are Lesser Men are crayzie.

And maybe, too, that's a lesson on how WE all can be the GUARDS in the stanford prison experiment, and what the implications of that are… the randomness of it being just what group we happen to be divided up into, not some innate sense of moral character.

glasstwizzlestix (#242,762)


Field testing strategies of gradual boundary-erosion as a means to seduction, is indeed one way to research a guide on seducing women— though it’s likely to result in as many “false positives" as genuine “successes" given the sheer number of women whose feelings of disinterest end up at odds with the immense pressure they feel to ‘respond politely’ once they’ve been emotionally rattled past a certain threshold (even when the rattling has been subtle and externally invisible). Cheers, though (and this is sincere), if your attempts eventually arrive at an authentic seduction, where the woman is genuinely turned on by your displays of dominance, because, naturally, dominance can be sexy under some circumstances. Just realize that en route to that success, this particular strategy is likely to involve a number of casualties as well—those “casualties” being the feelings, sense of safety, and self-esteem of those women who registered as ‘false positives’ (perhaps even unbeknownst to you) as well as of those who registered as outright negatives—and make sure you’re okay with that risk before undertaking this strategy.

You know another research method for writing a guide on seducing women? Ask women how they like to be seduced.

Here’s an abstract of the guide I’d write. (And, again, I am but *one* beautiful and awesome woman, and since there are many different *kinds* of beautiful and awesome women, it would be silly to suggest I speak for *all* beautiful and awesome women. But I can fairly suggest I do speak for some types of beautiful and awesome women of which you’d probably delight in seducing, so it might be equally worth your time to consider the synopsis of *my* guide as it is to consider Mr. Hoinsky’s.):

A Beautiful And Awesome Woman's Guide To Seduction Of Some But Not All* Types of Beautiful and Awesome Women

*(since writing a guide that covers seducing “women in general” is clearly an impossible undertaking, given there are just as many different ‘types’ of women in any given social mix as there are ‘types’ of men, and you should probably just distrust any guide that makes claims that fail to consider this)

1. Understand, recognize, and acknowledge that I am a unique, complex, and interesting personality before I am an attractive body to fuck.

Thats… That’s pretty much it.

See, for some smokin’, desirable women: initially, your obvious and genuine desire to know them is more seductively sexy than your obvious and genuine desire to fuck them. Dominance can be hot; a man who displays dominance can be attractive to both women who are specifically and steadfastly looking to be seduced on any given evening, as well as to those who are not; and playing around with dynamics of dominance (and submission) in the bedroom can result in satisfying sex for both participants and/or a fulfilling sense of intimacy, depending on the context… but it is very easy to conflate these truths with the false sense that dominant or aggressive sexual behavior, when employed in—yes!— seemingly appropriate contexts, is *actually* appropriate. When it comes to displaying this kind of sexual behavior (or any calculated aggressive behavior) with women you’ve recently met, sometimes your seduction techniques will feel appropriate, and they will be. Sometimes your sexual techniques will feel appropriate, and they will register as EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE to the woman with whom you’re involved, in ways that are more damaging to her in both that current moment AND in future moments, in ways you are unable to foresee or possibly even comprehend. And the problem is that even reportedly well-intentioned guides like this one, cannot account for the entire diverse spectrum of women on which its techniques will be employed. Therein lies the rub. The reality is that seduction techniques in general, are so easy to employ more indiscriminately than intended—which is especially true for the types of people who need extra help from written guides in order to better navigate complex social interactions—, and it is difficult to develop proper regard to nuance and subtlety with any individual woman, in determining where her boundaries actually lie (as opposed to where they appear to lie) over the course of just one (or even a few) nights. In other words: if you’re out for random, meaningless sex (which is a fine goal for some—no judgments here!), guides for seduction might successfully get you there with no harm, but there’s no way around it: It *always* comes at the risk of—albeit unintended— unknowingly “falsely seducing” a woman and causing an unexpectedly high extent of pain and emotional damage to another person, and that will always be a gamble you must ask yourself if you are willing to take, before you conscientiously follow a protocol of techniques designed to seduce someone.

P.S. Again, I am but one type of beautiful, awesome woman speaking for but some other beautiful, awesome women, but: You know what guide I *wish* was being written for adorably geeky computer/technology/gamer/Reddit-reader nerds who have been historically terrible at connecting with awesome, desirable women?

How To GET TO KNOW Interesting Women.

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