|Pablo Picasso had a way with the ladies.|
“Well some people try to pick up girls, and get called assholes,” the song goes. “This never happened to Pablo Picasso. He could walk down your street, and girls could not resist his stare. … Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.” This is more or less true, even though, by almost every account, Picasso was pretty much a complete douchebag.
Life is unfair. Famous men can behave like utter boors and predators towards the opposite sex and get away with it, even win reputations as charming ladykillers. The rest of us, well, we make awkward passes and often get rejected; sometimes we even get called creeps. This makes some men bitter; a few even become Men’s Rights Activists.
In a recent article on AlterNet, feminist sex blogger Clarisse Thorn offers a defense, of sorts, of men unfairly labelled “creeps.” “Why Do We Demonize Men Who Are Honest About Their Sexual Needs?” the article’s title asks, and it’s not a bad question. Women are naturally, and quite justifiably, wary of the attention of strange men, who could easily turn out to be predators. “So it’s completely understandable that we’re all on high alert for predatory expressions of male sexuality,” she writes. What this means is that perfectly decent guys are sometimes seen as creeps until proven innocent.
The pressure put on men to be initiators, yet avoid seeming creepy or aggressive leads to an unpleasant double bind. After all, the same gross cultural pressures that make women into objects force men into instigators. … So how can a man express his sexual needs without being tarred as a creep?
Her solution? We need to “accept male desire” as natural and legitimate — not something “toxic,” or some kind of macho accomplishment:
Like everyone, men deserve to feel as though their sexuality is hot, awesome, delicious, valuable, and can be pleasurable for all parties in a consensual situation. Just as women shouldn’t have to feel exploited when they have consensual sex, men shouldn’t have to feel like they’re exploiting someone when they have consensual sex.
It’s hard to disagree with that. I worry, though, that many of the guys in Thorn’s intended audience will only notice the bit about male sexuality being “hot, awesome, delicious and valuable,” and miss her careful caveats about consent — which she repeats three times in two sentences in an attempt to drive home the point. Unfortunately, as Amanda Marcotte puts it in a response to Thorn’s piece:
[O]ne thing creepy dudes all have in common is they only hear what they want to hear. So even though Clarisse actually writes, “It’s also incumbent upon us to honor each others’ boundaries,” creepy dudes are going to hear, “See, this lady agrees with me that it’s perfectly fine for me to use ‘pick-up artist’ techniques to put women that are 15 years younger than me and who don’t want to talk to me in situations where they have trouble finding a polite way to escape conversation with me. And I’m entitled to be such a miserable fuckhead, because men are so oppressed because they don’t get to have sex with whoever they want whenever they want.”
Looking through the comments Thorn’s article got on AlterNet, Marcotte finds ample evidence of this kind of creepiness — men with both a sense of entitlement and a massive amount of self-pity. That toxic attitude shows up as well in a comment from the perhaps aptly named “jackwripper” in a discussion of Thorn’s piece in the Men’s Rights subreddit on Reddit:
[W]hen the vast majority of men have to ask hundreds or thousands of women on dates, for sex, for a dance, to talk, just to get one positive response, then, as a man, you either go through life alone, or you proposition thousands of women.
Women as a group could fix this with one of two behavior changes. Women could initiate these encounters when they see a man they are attracted to… not REALLY hot, but attractive enough. … The other behavior change women could adopt, would be to stop rejecting out of hand every man and every approach that is not an absolute perfect match. Men learn not to be very picky, maybe women need to learn not to be picky too. This statement also includes the women who men have to be less picky about. It is very strange how a female “3” can reject the advances of a male “7” because she is convinced she is a “9” and expects a male “10”.
It’s a bizarre and insidious sort of argument: Women need to start having sex with men they don’t want to have sex with, because otherwise some men will have to go through life alone — or, I guess, with “2s” who aren’t too stuck up to go out with them. Why exactly is it women’s job to “fix this?” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
Jackwripper’s argument eerily echoes the logic of George Sodini, the bitter, dateless antifeminist asshole who shot 12 women in a health club last year because he felt young women had unfairly rejected him. And so it’s perhaps not surprising that Sodini had his defenders in the MRA/pickup artist crowd. As one fan of Sodini put it in a comment at the time on a PUA blog popular with MRAs:
I think every man DOES deserve to get laid. … The problem is, our feminized society has given every woman the power to hold out for higher quality men than they deserve. This creates an imbalance that leads to tragedies like the one in PA. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Newton’s 3rd Law) If empowered women keep applying pressure, they will create an explosion.
So, women, the message is clear: Date some losers, or someone is going to get shot.
No one “deserves” to get laid. If you’re a creepy asshole who doesn’t understand that any woman is allowed to turn you down for sex, for whatever reason she wants, however stupid it might seem to you, then you don’t deserve shit.