Pickup artists have been in the media spotlight this week following the story of Dayrush Valizadeh, a rape legalization advocate who’d planned a series of events in cities across the world this weekend, including one here in Vancouver.
Valizadeh – known simply as Roosh V online – runs the controversial Return of Kings website that promotes hatred against women and misogyny. Valizadeh has penned articles that discuss “female privilege,” legalizing rape on private property, and taking away voting rights for women, and has also published a book titled Bang: The Pickup Bible That Helps You Get More Lays.
Valizadeh isn’t alone, however. He’s part of a community of so-called pick-up artists, men who use formulaic attempts in order to seduce women. There are even local groups here in Vancouver that promise to “teach” this art of seducing women including the Vancouver Pickup Artist Seduction Lair and Jan Lifestyle. The former has over 170 members and a very active forum with more than 16,000 posts.
While teaching men to “pickup” women may seem harmless, they often rely on tactics to intimidate or scare their targets into saying yes, even after they’ve already said no.
“Pickup artistry teaches men that a woman’s ‘no’ means ‘change your tactic,'” Ariana Barer with Women Against Violence Against Women told Vancity Buzz. “We know from our work alongside women for 30 years that this actually gets used against women in the legal system and society in general.”
Barer said it’s a huge problem. She said WAVAW’s rape crisis line gets over 4,000 calls a year, and men who won’t take “no” for an answer often commit sexualized violence against women.
“That leaves women in a position where they are blamed for the sexualized violence that they experience and we know that men then are not finding authentic ways to connect with women.”
She says pick up artists set up what she calls “psychological terrorism” against women. Indeed, a local Vancouver pickup artist who holds workshops to teach his seduction techniques was accused last year of harassing women on Robson Street. He allegedly teaches his pupils not to take “no” for an answer. Jan Juang of Jan Lifestyle told Vancity Buzz in a 23-minute-long video that it wasn’t his intention and that his students can sometimes get overly forward because they’re “socially awkward.”
Barer said the psychological repercussions of street harassment and sexual violence can have a cumulative impact on women.
“We know that one in three women will be a survivor of sexual violence in their lifetime and when their ‘no’ is not being heard, that that’s a huge transgression of their boundaries.”
She said it’s important to remember that women aren’t responsible for acts of sexual violence committed against them.
During the whole Roosh V debacle, many Canadian mayors came out against Valizadeh’s planned meet-ups, saying they’re not welcome in their cities. Mayor Gregor Robertson, as well as Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi all tweeted to condemn Valizadeh’s message.
— Gregor Robertson (@MayorGregor) February 3, 2016
What he said. Goes double for Calgary. Thanks for your leadership on this, Jim. https://t.co/xyD7T1o1wA
— Naheed Nenshi (@nenshi) February 2, 2016
Barer said she wants city mayors to put new policies in place designed to protect women.
“Our leadership that has those roles within our systems and institutions that are responsible for public and private safety – we need to see them accountable to address the root causes of violence against women from within our cities.”
If you’ve experienced sexual violence, call WAVAW’s rape crisis line at 604-255-6344 or toll-free at 1-877-392-7583.