The XX Factor

The Awl Tries (and Fails) to Defend Kickstarter-Famous Pick-Up Artist Ken Hoinsky

No, don’t try again later.

After last week’s fuss over Ken Hoinsky’s Kickstarter campaign for Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women—a seduction guide that, according to the author’s Reddit posts, would be full of standard pick-up artist (PUA) advice, like how to corner a woman and badger her until she lets you have sex with her—I knew that a defense of this form of “seduction” would pop up somewhere. Sadly, it was on the Awl, a site I like very much, written by Maria Bustillos, a woman whose work I’ve admired but who seems not to really understand the concept of mutual sexual attraction. “Somewhere between paralyzing shyness and selfish, naked hostility,” she writes, “there is the realm of passion.” In other words: Sex is about attacking or being too afraid to attack. That is the “realm of passion.”

Bustillos claims that Hoinsky, who has recommended that men ignore the myriad ways women say no and basically force them to fight you off if they want out (even though men in research studies claim to prefer polite refusal), is simply misunderstood and that his advice is not so bad in context. For instance, Hoinsky writes: 

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.

And Bustillos responds:

As it happens, the latter quote refers to events taking place once consensual sexual activity has already begun.

Context! Note: Hoinsky does not say she will gladly touch your dick because she likes you. Sex is, after all, the result of giving up your paralyzing shyness to embrace your selfish, naked hostility toward women. I did read the entirety of Hoinsky’s quite tedious Reddit posts, and in context, frankly, this stuff is even worse. In context, Hoinsky recommends the pushing-her-hand-onto-your-penis thing after you’ve spent hours constantly testing her boundaries and pretending that you don’t understand polite demurrals, so that by the time you’ve gotten to the penis-touching, she has gotten the message that you will not be taking no for an answer tonight. Yes, he does tell his readers not to force sex on someone who literally starts to panic and fight you off, but think about that: It’s basically an admission that he’s coaching his readers into taking it right up to the legally unambiguous rape line and learning how to toe it. And even then, he advises his readers not to take no for an answer:

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.

Emphasis mine. By the time a woman shoves or yells, she’s probably been trying politely for a long time to say no, and this is her last-ditch effort. And even then, he says that you should only take it as a signal to take a break and try again. Hoinksy claims that once women relent to these high-pressure tactics and just have sex with you, they’ll like it. This is, of course, fantasy.

Bustillos interviewed Hoinsky to give him (more of) his say. Unsurprisingly, a guy who wrote a book on how to bully women into sex without legally committing rape gets manipulative during the interview, even though he has the friendliest interviewer ever. 

Ken: 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.

Someone who openly admits he’s looking for “PC” euphemisms to make his ideas sound slightly less ugly doesn’t strike me as someone who can be trusted to be completely honest. Indeed, his self-serving BS throughout the entire interview is, if anything, more irritating than his “seduction” guide:

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.

Of course, if what she wants is to be able to say no politely instead of getting into a shoving match with someone much bigger than herself, then he won’t be graciously “giving her the power.” But hey, ladies who took self-defense classes, enjoy using that power that Hoinsky wants to give you. 

For what it’s worth, in addition to being potentially dangerous, Hoinsky’s attitude toward sex also strikes me as completely anti-passion. When I was single, nothing made me less into a guy, much less into getting laid, than the sense that he saw me as an obstacle to be defeated. Perhaps that’s why Hoinsky is so focused on getting it in on the first date: This kind of behavior likely precludes there being many second ones.