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Why picking up women is not an art

“Men are trash” we often hear women saying. Of course, as men the natural reaction would be to take offense to it. “That’s not true” or “Not all men” would be the usual comeback, but are we really? In a country where women are being disrespected left and right, and the biggest perpetuator of misogyny just so happens to be the head of state, it might be a bitter pill to swallow that us toxic masculinity is the result of a failed system—the system of patriarchy.

In light of the PUA (pick up artist) Academy fiasco earlier this year when a group of men were exposed to be practicing creepy, manipulative tactics to woo women, the redeeming side of the Philippine cyberspace is once again bringing the hammer down on sexual offenders masquerading as your typical modern man. Especially with the recent issue of leaked “lay reports” wherein PUA members share their “methods” in getting to know—and ultimately having intercourse—with women. In the thick of cross-examining the criminal and downright revolting actions of a selected few, a question poses: is such blatant act of harassment privy only to a number of exceptional assholes, or is the matter in its entirety pervasive enough to be recognized as a culture?


The cream of the crap

Before we get to the heart of the matter, let’s do a recap on the issue of PUA Academy—Exhibit X among who knows how many extremely alarming occurrences of sexual harassment filed under ‘worst case scenario’. Of course, there are worse things that can actually happen, but this one involves 11,220 (as per their private Facebook group) willing participants, which makes it really threatening.

Calling it an “art”, PUA Academy made an organized and systematic training ground for men where they smoke a pot of manipulative sexual harassment tactics disguised as confidence-boosting, helpful dating techniques. They have also developed their very own jargon, like “sets”, “game”, and “lay”, which makes this whole thing way past your typical man-to-man advice (which is bad enough) and into a realm of professional douchebaggery.

Led by the Youth Against Sexual Harassment (YASH) group, along with countless Filipino women who are fed up of being targets of objectification, the men of PUA Academy and their atrocities were immediately brought under public scrutiny. A remarkable win for any human being with common decency, but unfortunately only a small one compared to the bigger problem—one deeply embedded into our society.

The CEO of PUA Academy, Sein Meneses tried to defend their “art”. “Most of our clients are socially awkward guys who are just too scared to talk or come near women. And we’re here to help and assist them. What we teach here is what you call Practical psychology test on how to approach women, what sort of conversation to make, how to project your alpha male and sense of self-confidence,” as released in his online statement. Take note that this was also the guy who was videotaped saying “gusto nila ‘yung nagpapa-force,” referring to women. In case anyone missed the memo, “sense of self-confidence” falsely presented using manipulative coercion tactics and unwarranted sexual advances is not, and will never be, a valid form of “art”.

Sexual assault is inexcusable

Grave misconducts such as PUA Academy’s aren’t exactly rare occurrences in the modern Philippines. Just last year, there was the scandal about a good number of indie bands exploiting their fans. And if we’re talking about top-notch offenders, we don’t even have to look hard for it, since we’re constantly being fed sexually offensive content straight out of the president’s mouth—in more ways than one. The head of the state kissing a married woman during live broadcast in a foreign country just reeks of misogyny. Let’s also not forget to mention a certain senate president requesting a publication to delete an article that dug out an old rape case he tried so hard to cover up. From the previous generations to today’s, the level of jackassery is more or less the same. Given that, it’s not exactly a far reach to assume that things like this happen because fundamentally, our culture of raising our men is severely lacking.

According to the journal Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination in the Philippines by Luz Lopez Rodriguez, patriarchy in contemporary society is defined as “a deeply entrenched and integrated system of male dominance. It has built itself into the structures of society and the consciousness of men and women.” In layman’s terms, patriarchy is the dismissal of any inappropriate sexual behavior as “boys will be boys”. The worst kind of privilege—one that is inexcusable in any shape or form.

And it’s not just the men. Our women have also been raised to embody the stereotypical “ideal” Filipino woman—one that is demure and submissive. For reasons beyond comprehension, any woman that fails to meet these requirements, and decides to do as she pleases, are no longer given the respect they deserve from your average, hypermasculine Joe.

Obviously, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be, but it still is. Now, as men, what are we going to do about it?

Take it upon yourselves as men to keep other men in check

Fixing our own mess

This doesn’t act as a valid excuse for vile men having done what they have done, but the sad truth is that all of us (women included) are both victims and products of a toxic mentality ingrained in our history. But just because this kind of thing has been going on for decades—centuries, even—doesn’t mean we can’t end it.

The women are already doing more than enough. Feminism is on the rise, and social movements like #MeToo are being used as a platform for sharing their traumatic experiences to light the fire in all women—the fire that shouts ‘this has to stop’.

Now it’s time for men to step up. In one of his talks, Tony Porter, an activist for preventing violence against women, was asked by a woman if there was any way to address men better to get through them. Porter said, “I’m sorry, but no. That’s why I’m up here, and not the tons of smarter, more informed women who have been talking about this stuff for years. You can’t do anything, because a misogynist man will never listen to you. Your male friends need to step up and do their part in this, because getting people to behave in decent, healthy ways should not only be [the] women’s job.”

As the ones who benefit from this type of social construct, it should be our moral obligation to carry out social justice. Due to the lack of effective legal action towards sexual harassment in the Philippines, the call-out culture is arguably a good alternative. Don’t shy away from it. Rather, empower those who took the courage to make their trauma known to the public. Silence favors only the oppressor, and never the oppressed. Take it upon yourselves as men to keep other men in check.

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As the issue of PUA “lay reports” are once again making rounds on social media, men are being reduced to degenerates. The reign of patriarchy has to come to an end someday, and every effort we exert fighting against it brings that end closer within reach. It’s time for “boys will be boys” to grow up, shed the misogynistic tendencies and become real, respectable men. The system may have failed to educate us, but we are not a lost cause. We can be better than this.

The starting point is fighting misogyny, the finish line is ending patriarchy—it’s the only way to make it up to the women who are victimized by our indiscretion, and ultimately, to ourselves.