[Trigger warnings: sexual harassment, misogyny]
I’m currently sat in a hotel in Raufarhöfn, on the North East coast of Iceland, which is pretty much the closest you can get to the Arctic Circle and still have a decent wifi connection. I’m partway through a long road trip through this wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful country. It’s my third trip here and it’s a land I’ve come to love.
A couple of days ago, I picked up a copy of the Reykjavik Grapevine, a local English-language circular, and promptly discovered that a spectacularly vile online movement have been making their way here. The Pick-Up Artists, or PUAs.
The PUAs are part of a loose conglomeration of unfettered misogynists that infest the seedier parts of the Internet. There’s the Men’s Rights Activists or MRAs, who invariably display every bit as much self-entitled, alpha-male victimhood as you’d imagine that title to suggest. I first came across the MRAs a few years ago, when a silly spat between various blogs (including mine) resulted in a long-running saga where an MRA tried to track down all the bloggers involved and take revenge on them in the real world. For a primer on their ilk, I recommend David Futrelle’s excellent We Hunted the Mammoth blog.
Then there’s the Men Going Their Own Way, who proudly assert their independence from womankind. Invariably, they’re the kind of guys who really won’t be leaving the women of the world heartbroken at their departure.
And then there’s the Pick-Up Artists. Their “art” is dedicated to having sex with as many women as possible, by fair means or foul. Usually foul.
The Reykjavik Grapevine has an interview with a PUA, Roosh Vorek, who has written a book charmingly entitled, ‘Bang Iceland.’ There seems to be a belief out there on the Internet that Icelandic women are supposedly promiscuous and Vorek has capitalised on this. He claims to know the secrets to getting an Icelandic woman into bed.
Since much of the content of this blog tends to be about how psychotherapy can turn abusive and manipulative, I suppose I should analyse this “art” of manipulation. To be honest though, most of the PUA advice doesn’t appear to be so much an art as spectacularly crude and unsubtle. PUA advice includes such insights as “Get. Them. Drunk.” Or, “If you hit on 46 women, one of them will definitely take off her pants for you.” And presumably a dozen angry boyfriends will be getting ready to kick your predatory backside back to Keflavik Airport. Vorek suggests that, “There is no point in trying to talk to an Icelandic girl early in the night before she has reached her maximum intoxication level.”
Suffice to say that Vorek’s book has not gone down well with the locals. He states that the citizens of one of the most peaceful, non-violent societies on Earth have informed him that, “if I were to return to Iceland, my skull would be smashed and my testicles ripped out from my body.” His interviewer at the Reykjavik Grapevine seems extremely unimpressed with him, calling his advice, “detestable and sad”.
The interview comes with a companion article by an Icelandic woman, detailing the effects this has had on Icelandic nightlife. Sadly, the result of this has been during the peak tourist period of June to August, the central Reykjavik club scene has become hellish for anyone female and Icelandic. The author provides a few anecdotes.
I have on two separate occasions been forced to ask flight attendants to find me a different seat on flights to Iceland, because the guy sitting next to me basically got going as soon the plane took off. The first one was an American gentleman on his way from New York. I had “known” him for all of four minutes when he insisted that I join him in the bathroom for some mile-high action. Not only was he inappropriate, he was also a sad cliché. The other guy was a bit more flexible, an Englishman travelling from London. When he realised I was not really keen on fucking him, he told me he was into “other Icelandic beauties like me.”…
“One American told me he had been here for three days without ‘getting his dick wet,’ and asked me what he was doing wrong. I told him that this was a gathering of people, not a puddle of genitalia, and that knowing this would probably aid him in his mission.”…
“Two men introduced themselves to me. After telling them my name they asked me if I was interested in joining them for a threesome. When I turned them down politely, they were insulted and said: ‘But wait—aren’t you supposed to be, like, a slut?’”
Nobody deserves having the PUAs turn up thinking their home turf is some sort of predating ground, least of all the Icelanders. In my various trips here I’ve come to genuinely like them as a people. They’re funny, down-to-earth and they’re incredibly sweet about the awful things we foreigners do to their language pronunciation. Also – while I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to find out about this – I really haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that Icelandic women are any more or less promiscuous than any other European country. Though I hope it goes without saying that the level of respect you show anyone – male or female – should not be predicated on the number of people they do or don’t sleep with.
If you choose to visit Iceland, do show some basic respect and social responsibility. Learn a few words of Icelandic. Explore its fascinating history and even more fascinating natural wonders. Go on a whale-watching tour instead of ordering a whale steak. And really, really don’t harass the local women.