The Gentleman’s Guide to Misogyny

by Rosie Redstockings

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I spend a lot of time reading things I really really hate. I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment. The hours that I’ve spent on The Advocate, or Jizzabel, or The Red Pill, will never be returned to me, and sometimes I think wistfully of all the novels I could have written if only I’d spent less time reading about friend-zoning and */* E.M.P.O.W.E.R.M.E.N.T. */*

But I read these things because I think it’s important to keep an eye on what’s being said about women, whether it’s downright misogyny from MRAs, or the more subtle forms of regressive politics we see from third wavers. I wish I could ignore them, but the sad fact is that a lot of people read these things, and I want to know what the enemy is thinking.

One of the publications I keep an eye on is GQ. Now it’s very important to remember here that GQ is a classy magazine, or at least bills itself as such. The GQ reader imagines himself as a sophisticated gentleman, with varied cultural tastes. So there are some (superficial, usually football-orientated) articles on politics, film and restaurant reviews, stuff about gadgets, mildly amusing advice on fashion. Sometimes they publish articles about manly-yet-sophisticated food and drink topics like BEST COFFEE IN LONDON, and even the occasional recipe. Their imagined reader seems to be a James Bond sort of figure: suave, stylish, drinks a lot of whisky, wears a lot of watches. In reality, their readers look more like this

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… youngish middle-class men in media jobs. The typical reader is a bit right-wing, shops at Waitrose, follows @JeremyClarkson, and is apparently likely to believe that…

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Basically the average GQ reader is kind of a douche, but hardly an unusual brand of douche. I have met many, many men like this, and, because of our shitty society, there are an awful lot of them running the country.

Which makes it all the more disturbing when we look into the dark heart of GQ, and discover what these men really think about women.

Because one of the cornerstones of the GQ experience is their “GIRLS” section. No one at GQ seems to think that naming the soft-core porn section of the magazine after pre-pubescent female humans is at all weird. I suppose they think “ladies” would be too old-fashioned, and the word “women” brings us uncomfortably close to recognising these sex objects as actual people.

GQ want us to believe that the pornified images they print are a world away from the common muck we see in the tabloids. So they print a lot of articles about burlesque, alongside classics like ‘A gentleman’s guide to threesomes’, and (my personal favourite) ‘You can be a lingerie model and a feminist’, illustrated by a picture of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s underboob. Mostly they just post endless pictures of pretty celebrities and Victoria’s Secret models. We’ve seen this a thousand times before.

The highlight of the “GIRLS” section is the sex advice column. If you want to know what our middle-class, youngish, media type men are wondering when it comes to sex, this is the place to come. A lot of the questions are predictable – how do I deal with performance anxiety? Which sex position will make me look the most tough, brave and manly? – as well as some hilarious ones like:

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Dude – NO ONE BELIEVES YOU. GO HOME.

The advice from sex shrink Rebecca Newman usually involves an expensive sex toy, or perhaps a new bra. It’s a fairly transparent advertising exercise, and I like to think that the writer isn’t really a pretty blonde, but just a fat, unshaven guy in front a computer screen, with a pile of unopened LoveHoney Climax Twist Vibrators stacked in the corner.

But there are also some darker questions, a lot of them featuring BDSM. The sex shrink never challenges the desires of the questioners, only gives lengthy, explicit, sometimes absurd explanations of what he should do to her.

An extraordinary number of sexual battle plans begin with restraining the “girl” in some way:

Otherwise the questioner is told to “have her do this” or “tell her to do that”. How can a man convince his “baby” to give him oral sex more often? “Bribery” – also known as expensive knickers – may encourage her to “worship” his penis.

“Girls”, we are told, love “bad boy behaviour” and “deceitful, exploitative Machiavellianism”. And in an article on ‘sugar daddies’, Newman delights in the fact that “group, oral, anal, bukkake etc are common or garden” on the “professional menu” (she’s talking about prostitution here). We’re reminded that “every relationship has some element of quid pro quo”. Why not make the commercial exchange explicit? After all, we’re already bribing “girls”, ordering them onto all fours, getting them to “worship” at the altar of the almighty penis.

This advice is (apparently) written by a woman, and yet not only does she legitimise her readers’ desires to dominate women, she writes them a how-to guide. Women in GQ are as horny as porn stars, and as impressionable as children – easily seduced by wealth, spanking, and the firm mastery of an expert male hand. These women never speak. They are always waiting to be “surprised”. They never refuse the £300 crotchless knickers they’re offered as a “bribe”. And they are eminently disposable. After all, we’ll soon have a new ‘Hottest Woman of the Week’, and all hot women are much the same.

They may sell themselves as intelligent and sophisticated, and they may occasionally throw around that favourite buzzword feminism, but the woman hating is only just below the surface. On top of this, GQ adds a fresh layer of misogyny to that found in lads’ mags and tabloids. Not only are women gagging for a dominating man to show them what’s what, that dominating man is rich. Nowhere is the fetishisation of wealth more obvious than in this article from 2011. I remember reading this aged 19, after someone (presumably a man) left a copy next to my train seat. The female writer begins…

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… and goes on to give a lengthy, excruciatingly detailed description of exactly how that blow job was performed. She wins her prize, and concludes “I’ve decided these deals are perfectly acceptable and a sign of a good relationship – it’s called compromise.” One of the comments underneath the article reads “Fantastic! Great column – I must get my wife to read this, haha.”

I hadn’t yet discovered radical feminism in 2011, but I was still angered and nauseated by this. My first thought was “how could a woman write this?” – how could a woman encourage men in the belief that sexual favours are commodities to be bought? That love and mutuality should be abandoned, to be replaced by cold, hard economic exchange? I didn’t realise yet that this article, and the GQ attitude towards “girls” more generally, was entirely consistent with the worldview of their target demographic.

For in GQ, everything is purchasable – the booze, the suits, the watches, the restaurants, and, yes, the women. Every woman has a price. He may not leave the cash on the nightstand, or pay her through direct debit, but the economic transaction is nevertheless blatant. And he not only buys sexual access to her body, he buys the right to dominate and dehumanise her.

Chris Hedges begins this interview with Gail Dines with a damning analysis of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ franchise:

“[it] is a celebration of the sadism that dominates nearly every aspect of American culture and lies at the core of pornography and global capitalism. It glorifies our dehumanization of women. It champions a world devoid of compassion, empathy and love. It eroticizes hypermasculine power that carries out the abuse, degradation, humiliation and torture of women whose personalities have been removed, whose only desire is to debase themselves in the service of male lust.”

For all the carefully constructed glamour of the GQ brand, the desire to dominate others is the core of the franchise, and only thinly veiled. Wealth and status are positional advantages, and so depend on the relative poverty and low-status of others. The GQ brand cannot exist without this inequality. In the mind of the ideal reader, all that matters is material success, and female bodies are little more than material possessions. All those lefty men who rail against consumerism and big capitalism, but then excuse the objectification of women, have failed to join the dots. The GQ attitude towards money is tightly bound to their attitude towards women, and the ideological product is highly lucrative.

And our middle-class media man buys into this ideology. He may not be a sugar daddy, or exchange handbags for blow jobs, but he nevertheless chooses the buy a magazine that encourages this fantasy. His view of women as purchasable commodities is reproduced and reinforced by the female journalists who soothe his ego, and the GQ shareholders who profit from it.

Men of this demographic then go on to work in government, edit newspapers, commission books, and run businesses. Many of these men are immensely powerful and influential. And on the train, or in the office, or in their bachelor pads, they read media like GQ and their fantasy of supremacy is reinforced. These are political texts, with political consequences.

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13 thoughts on “The Gentleman’s Guide to Misogyny

  1. I hate the word compromise. According to men raised on the ideology of dominance, it’s another word for sexual coercion. By the logic of “compromise”, a housewife has no choice but to fulfill the pornographic sex fantasies of a man no matter how much it hurts and no matter how much she doesn’t want to or she is a bad wife. Also, housewives don’t just sit around all day eating bonbons on the couch (which believe it or not is a common misconception). They actually contribute to the household. It’s just that their work is undervalued by this society. Also, someone being nice and buying you a gift does not make it so that you have to service them sexually. In fact, they should just buy the gift for you because they love you and not because they want a sexual favor from you. I buy my friends gifts all the time and I don’t expect anything in return. Relationships are not a negotiation. Love can’t be reduced to a piece of contract.

    I hate this culture so much. I’m only sixteen and I already notice the effects of porn on my generation. I read your article in response to Owen Jones and I agree with every word of it. I can assure you that most of my female friends and I have similar experiences. I remember in seventh grade boys were already talking about pornography. I was in an English Honors class and there were these two dudes harassing this girl and asking her “do you swallow”. Where else have they learned this behavior but from porn?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. i’m so, so glad you’re so young and radical. when i was your age i was involved with stupid liberal politics and that’s time you definitely don’t get back.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m about 10 years older than you, and based on what you said it’s way worse than when I was 16. Many people my age did not have internet at home and if they did it was usually dial-up. No way they were they able to stream HD porn. In the 1970s, if a woman called herself a feminist, it meant she was anti-porn. Now that porn has gotten way, way worse it is considered “empowering”. The backlash against feminism has been strong indeed.

      I think the prevalence of porn among millennials, particularly the younger members of the generation is going to lead to a huge increase in the number of STDs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janelle – thanks for reading!

      Yeah I used to feel the same, but actually this (very funny) article makes a good point – http://gawker.com/douchebag-the-white-racial-slur-we-ve-all-been-waiti-1647954231

      Since douches are/were used:

      1) as an ineffective means of birth control, in the age before contraception was widely available in the West

      2) as a harmful and pointless means of ‘cleaning’ female genitals, since women have been led to believe that their genitals are smelly and disgusting

      … I’ve actually come to think that ‘douche’ is the perfect feminist insult. The actual douche is a shitty, anti-feminist tool. Our GQ reader (above) is also a shitty, anti-feminist tool.

      I also just quite like the sound of the word. It’s so evocative. Apologies if you find it offensive, though. Thanks again for your support.

      Rosie x

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It does not surprise me that the “gentleman’s” magazine has a bunch of thinly veiled misogyny. And of course the more male-identified women betray women for the sake of men. Thank of all the mainstream feminist who turn on other women for being interested in radical feminism. (I support lesbian separatism and don’t care what they think.)

    Or, another example is women who get married to an incarcerated serial killed who is in there for killing women. Several years ago, there was a big news story about a missing pregnant woman. Her husband was under investigation for it, and even after it turned out yeah, he killed her, he still got a bunch of women writing to him and visiting him in jail. Many of these women were complete strangers who heard the story on the news and for reasons I cannot understand decided, “wow, he killed his pregnant wife; I want a piece of that.”

    My point is, some women do betray other women for the sake of men, like that sex advice shrink who advises men how to coerce women in BDSM.

    It is common for lefty men to pay half-assed lipservice to feminism to get out of being called out on misogyny. Actually a lot of women do that too. Not that I’m saying conservative men aren’t misogynistic because they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All men know they can buy women, and it starts with the dating standard that requires men pay. Men don’t actually give something for nothing. Women have to pretend that the meal, the wine, the movie was given for free, and that they are totally free to offer nothing in return. That pretense is a major contributor to the problem and I haven’t seen anybody yet lobbying for young women to stop participating and pay their own way.

    Like

    1. Very late reply to your post, but I’ve only found this site recently.

      Back when I dated, last century, I would regularly try to pay my own way on dates with men. They usually acted affronted, and I rarely got a second date unless I let them buy, whether I slept with them or not. I realised pretty quickly that most men do not actually want an equitable relationship with a woman.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I have always preferred to pay my own way and I think now its more common. I would though accept a drink. I agree women should be encouraged to pay to avoid the expectation of something in return. I actually got annoyed when I had a guy insist on paying as it was so old fashioned.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My male date was on 110,000 pounds per year at the BBC (I know because he told me). I was a student working as a postwoman to fund myself. He took me on a date – to a burger bar in my local street, and offered to buy me a fish burger. I bought it myself.
    I formed an opinion of him.

    Like

    1. Reminds me nothing more than the Winston Churchill quote…

      Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
      Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
      Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
      Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
      Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”

      Liked by 1 person

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