3 Pieces of Dating Advice That Keep Rape Culture Alive

August 2nd 2016

Jessica Wakeman

If we want a society where a woman's sexual agency is equal to that of a man, a good place to start would be changing the dating advice we give to men.

Television shows, movies and magazines aimed at men perpetuate dating clichés that influence courtship between heterosexual men and women and normalize rape culture.

Jackson Katz, PhD, a gender violence expert and author of Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity, told ATTN: that that's why “the typical perpetrator [of rape] is much more normal than people want to think.” It’s easier for some people to stomach that a rapist is “some kind of monster” because then we don’t have to admit rape culture is all around us.

In fact, Katz noted, some young men who have committed rape genuinely believe what they’re doing is just regular sexual behavior because it’s what's modeled by pop culture, pornography and their peers. “But if you really want to be honest and thoughtful about how our culture is producing abusive and sexually assaultive men, then it means [examining] what look like harmless practices that often contribute to rape,” Katz said.

Here are three pieces of dating advice that need to go away.

1. Women want to date jerks.

One of the most pervasive myths of rape culture is that a man who shows sensitivity and caring isn't masculine — even if that means checking if a woman is able to consent to sex. Viewers saw how uncool it is for a man to show concern for a woman’s well-being in the 2008 rom-com “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Lovelorn hotel guest Peter (Jason Segel) is making out with concierge Rachel (Mila Kunis) when he stops to ask, “Are you sure you’re not, like, too drunk?”

In response, Rachel pushes Peter backward onto a bed, saying derisively, “Jesus, would you stop being so sensitive?” as she mounts him. It would be hard for men watching to miss that message: being “sensitive” could really screw up your chances of getting laid.

2. Just be persistent!

The online men’s magazine MensFitness.com recently suffered an embarrassing public call-out for publishing an article titled “How to Turn a ‘No’ Into a ‘Yes,’” which promised to share “proprietary techniques” to use on women “at the bar, on a date, in bed and in a relationship.” The author, Nick Savoy, is a “pick-up artist” whose business, Love Systems, sells books and coaching sessions that claim to teach men how to get laid.

So what are these techniques? Before the article was pulled offline, it advised men pursuing a woman who isn’t interested to “plow ahead anyway” because women admire a man didn’t “give up too easily.” Savoy advised men to push their pursuit "to absurdity and make a joke of it,” and to tell the woman “Oh, I love this game. Um, um, OK. You’re a spoiled brat. Your turn.” Instead of showing respect for a woman’s boundaries, this rape culture myth teaches men not to take women at their word. In this scenario "no" doesn’t really mean "no," and women can be worn down through sheer force of will.

3. “Take charge”

There’s the good kind of “taking charge” in a relationship, like making dinner reservations at a restaurant. But some men get the message that they’re entitled to whatever they want from a woman —time, attention, sex—and the way to acquire it is by taking charge. Anyone who watched Disney movies as a kid saw this with Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast," who determinedly sang, “Just watch, I’m going to make Belle my wife!” despite Belle’s obvious disinterest, even repulsion, in him.

Grown-up moviegoers got the same message from the character Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in “500 Days of Summer.” Summer (Zooey Deschanel) repeatedly said that she wants to keep things casual with Tom, but his character still tried to force his fantasy into reality. His character is depicted as a sensitive hipster guy, but his sense of entitlement is just about as bad as Gaston's in "Beauty and the Beast."

In one pivotal scene, Tom arrives at Summer’s apartment, asserting “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.” Summer, who remains calm, replies that nothing is going on and starts to say that they’re just friends. Tom yells at her, pointing a finger, “NO! Don’t pull that with me! Don’t even try!” Summer tells him, “I like you, Tom, I just don’t want a relat—” before he interrupts her by shouting, “Well, you’re not the only one who gets a say in this. I do, too! And I say we’re a couple, goddamnit!” before he storms out and slams the door behind him.

Tom thinks he can force Summer into a relationship because he believes she’s led him on, even though she’s been clear that she doesn’t want to date him. And without spoiling the movie too much, Tom has to learn the hard way you can’t make someone want to be with you if they don’t really want it. Maybe Tom wouldn't have had to learn this lesson the hard way if someone had given him better relationship advice.