Does crowdfunded book condone rape?

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  • HLN talks to author of Kickstarter project that went viral
  • Critics say his advice on getting women crosses the line
Does crowdfunded book condone rape?
Where's the line between a man's passionate pursuit of a woman and date rape? 
 
According to Ken Hoinsky's new book, shoving, aggressive hair pulling and making women push him away are all fair game. 
 
"You realize that all women desire passion, good sex and adventure. It is your mission on this planet to bring that to them," Hoinsky writes. "Women want a man to dominate them in the bedroom." 
 
Critics online, however, are saying that behavior sounds more like sexual assault. 
 
This isn't the first time Hoinsky has made his approach to courtship public. "Field reports" from his nights out were originally filed on the social news site Reddit. The book, which features excerpts from those field reports, takes readers on a guided journey to become "an alpha male." 
 
To fund the book, "Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women," Hoinsky launched a campaign on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, with a target of raising $2,000.      
 
The controversy started boiling over when people made the connection between his Kickstarter campaign and the Reddit posts. 
 
"The target audience for the book is not women. It's men who are way too timid with women. It's men who are terrified of doing anything aggressive," Hoinsky says. "They would never imagine pulling a girl's hair. They are barely comfortable putting their arm around a girl. It's hyperbole to inspire someone to take more action than they normally would." 
 
The book begins with Hoinsky's sad love life. "Because I was the stereotypical nice guy, she ended up cheating on me," he writes about one of the women he dated. The pattern would repeat itself three times. He then details ways men can build their confidence to get more women. Additional chapters explicitly lay out his recommendations for the best moves in the bedroom. 
 
Sex therapist Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry took issue with some of Hoinsky's advice. 
 
"The problem is that this book is written for men, period," she says. "The author, while assuming that he's well meaning, is encouraging guys with a poor track record of 'getting the girl' to resort to grade school tactics to express interest, and is setting them up for relationship failure rather than success."
 
Some excerpts on flirting and having sex from Hoinsky's book were posted on comedian Casey Malone's Tumblr blog with a call for Hoinsky's Kickstarter page to be taken down. 
 
One of the less explicit excerpts Malone posted reads: "Decide that you're going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don't ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances."
 
Malone felt the post promoted rape culture. 
 
"I promise you -- someone who reads this book will rape someone. And they might not even know they did it, because you told them the woman wanted it that way, you human nightmare," he wrote on his blog
 
When confronted with these words, Hoinsky insisted his book makes a point of helping men understand what actions are appropriate and when. That particular section, he says, was offering advice for the moments after a man and a woman had already entered into the bedroom for consensual sex. 
 
"If they somehow read the entire book and ignored every single part on calibration and consent and understanding 'no means no,' if they manage to completely gloss over all those parts, then yes, I guess that could happen," he said. 
 
Immediately after the Tumblr post -- which has received more than 6,000 interactions as of Friday morning -- went viral, an online petition to stop the Kickstarter funding went up on dosomething.org. More than 50,000 electronic signatures were collected in just one day. Hoinsky started receiving death threats, but he also started getting more funding.  
 
"The last day of the campaign was the second-best day, which was almost as big as the first day, which was $3,000," he said. "I dedicated a lot of time to organizing the Kickstarter. I didn't want it to die at the last second."
 
Hoinsky insists the excerpts were taken out of context. A man should always evaluate how the woman is responding and make sure she feels comfortable, he says.  
 
However controversial, Dr. Henry agrees with some of Hoinsky's advice. 
 
"Most of us do want a partner who is sexually confident and isn't afraid to take the lead, but there is a line between being in-control and being controlling. If we had a guy who didn't take control, we'd complain or we dump them or cheat on them. There is truth to that," she said. "But I can't imagine that all women would find the author's suggestions welcoming and arousing. A great deal of them would be offended. There's no cookie cutter approach to coming on to women." 
 
"The line is when she says no. You have to stop immediately," she said. "If it doesn't feel good to her, you've missed the point about being aggressive. If it's turning her off, you just crossed the line."
 
By the time the Kickstarter funding window closed, Hoinsky had raised $16,369, easily exceeding his original $2,000 target. According to his Kickstarter page, that means he'll be adding bonus chapters, holding free seminars, and uploading a "video dramatic reading of my WWF/Sailor Moon fanfic (fictional essay)." Hoinsky also spoke with the online petition writer to ensure the book is free of any "content that is misogynistic, offensive, or tolerant of sexual assault," a spokesperson for dosomething.org said.  
 
Kickstarter initially said that while the “material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization,” they were not going to take down the campaign “based on their current guidelines.”
 
However, Friday morning they issued a statement saying, “We were wrong.” The statement explained that they could not stop funding of the project, but they can remove the page from their site.
 
“Perception is reality,” Hoinsky told HLN after finding out about Kickstarter’s decision. “And thanks to a handful of influential sites sensationalizing a story by using quotes out of context, the perception is that they supported a rape guide. Those who take the time to understand my message know that's not the case. But that doesn't matter, the damage is done.”
 
Kickstarter also said they will also prohibit any future seduction guides from being funded through their site. “This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter,” the statement read in part. They will also donate $25,000 to the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.

“I think it was a wise PR move on their behalf, but a blanket ban on all men's dating advice is going too far. We need public dialogue, not censorship, if we're going to solve this problem,” Hoinsky said.

What do you think? Do women really want men to be more aggressive than they care to admit? Or does Hoinsky's advice take things too far?
 

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