How emotional sleight-of-hand makes losers of us all

Op-eds Opinions

Imagine you’re a woman at a bar, just out on the town having a drink. In walks a guy who doesn’t look too bad, but you wouldn’t call him Brad Pitt or some other male celebrity of the day. He strikes up a conversation, asking how you’re feeling, and if you’re having a good time. It all seems innocuous, but then it gets weirder: he starts repeating words and phrases, like how fun it is here, what a great time you’re having, isn’t it all lovely — even though you just met five minutes ago. And then just as you’re edging away, things get even more uncomfortable: instead of casual conversation, things take a personal turn. Maybe he comments on how good you look, for a girl your size. Or maybe he starts listing all the guys in the club he could beat up at the drop of a hat. He asks where your boyfriend is, and then says, “If I were your boyfriend . . . ”

Why is this behaviour so prevalent in bar culture? Why the charade, instead of a straightforward chat-up that can receive a straightforward answer? A plethora of programs on YouTube and various other websites are teaching men that women are malleable, and that it’s OK to manipulate them. Such pick-up programs prey on the notion that being an “alpha male” is not only acceptable, but preferable. The alpha male is powerful, confident, and assured he should get what he wants. Men are taught that sex is proof of their status, and any means to obtain consent, including playing on emotions, false pretences of friendship, and “wowing” the woman with shows of affluence, potency, skill, or any other nonsense are acceptable. As long as they keep the appearance of obtaining consent, anything is fair game.

While sites like kezia-noble.com, pumaskills.com, or the YouTube channel Speed Seduction might be the surface source for overt strategy, the real problem goes deeper.  The real question is not the exact manner in which to “score a perfect ten” but why the concept of the manipulative alpha male exists at all, let alone is seen as a positive version of manhood. Why do men “play the game”? Largely, because we let them. At worst, we actively encourage them. It’s in our movies, our advertising, our literature (hello, Twilight).

But it’s not just men who are conditioned to behave in certain ways: women are taught to not only accept these overtures, but to determine their very self-worth by them. Male attention is validatory; the best kind of woman is one who is attractive to men. There is an entire genre of film, the “make-over movie” dedicated to this tripe. So when a guy walks up to you in a bar, society expects you to not only tolerate his attentions, but thank him for them.

So how do we stop this particular trend? First, we tell guys that this kind of crap isn’t appropriate, let alone admirable, and isn’t fooling anyone. Women aren’t objects to be moulded and manipulated. Doing so doesn’t make you more of a man; it just makes you less of a human being. Honesty seriously is the best policy.

Without putting the responsibility on the women in these situations, there needs to be a recognition that our society socializes women to be polite and accommodating. If a guy won’t take no for an answer the first time, be blunt with him. You are in the right to do so; whatever society suggests, you don’t owe anyone anything. Men need to know that women are their equals and they do not have the right to treat a woman like cattle. Words, when used wrongly, can hurt or manipulate; it’s time that something is done to render them powerless.