A provocative American pickup artist-turned-international “neo-masculinist” leader announced Wednesday that he was canceling gatherings of his male followers because of a massive global backlash.
Daryush Valizadeh, who goes by the name Roosh V, said he was scrapping “tribal meetings” of men who share his belief in “traditional sex roles,” because he could “no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend.”
The announcement came after outraged activists around the world planned to protest the event, which Valizadeh claimed included 165 meetings in 43 countries. Politicians on at least three continents said the meetings were unwelcome. The mayor of Melbourne, Australia, even said anyone attending one of Valizadeh’s “Return of Kings” meetups could be charged with trespassing on city property.
Spurred on by Valizadeh’s past argument that rape should be legalized — a statement he now insists was satire — some protesters threatened to repel the neo-masculinists by force, if needed.
“A few groups of guys that I know will be showing up to those [meeting] places with baseball bats,” a California woman opposed to the neo-masculinists wrote on Facebook, a post that Valizadeh then shared with his nearly 20,000 Twitter followers.
And in Toronto, an all-girls boxing club said it would crash a local neo-masculinist meeting — gloves on and ready to rumble.
“Let’s go,” club owner Savoy Howe challenged Valizadeh, according to the Huffington Post. “Get in the ring with me.”
The announcement to cancel the meetings was met with a mixture of relief and mockery online.
“Little boy got scared because he knows anywhere in the world he goes he will be given a well-deserved ‘welcome,'” one woman commented. It “is so easy to hide behind a computer screen.”
But Valizadeh’s own previous postings on his blog and social media suggest that many of the meetings had not actually been canceled but rather merely had moved to secret locations.
“The world is moving against us,” Valizadeh wrote Wednesday. “I’ve gotten reports of over a dozen organized protests at our meeting points. Dozens more are being organized privately. Since this meetup was never intended as a confrontation with unattractive women and their enablers, I’m moving to save as many of these meetups as I can before Saturday so that men can still meet in private away from a loud, obnoxious, dishonest, and potentially violent mob.”
In the blog post, titled “PRIVATE MEETUPS: Protocol To Attend Meetups That Now Have Hidden Meeting Locations,” Valizadeh told his followers that they can learn the location of the meeting nearest them by emailing proof that “you’re one of us” such as screenshots of receipts for his many self-published books, such as “Bang,” “Day Bang,” or “Bang Iceland.”
Followers can find one another by using code words, he said.
“To identify your fellow tribesmen, ask the following question to a man you suspect is there for the meetup: ‘Do you know where I can find a pet shop?'” he wrote when first organizing the meetups last month. “If you are asked this question, answer in the affirmative: ‘Yes, it’s right here.’ You can then introduce yourself and get details about where to proceed.”
And before his announcement Wednesday evening, Valizadeh insisted he would not bow to public pressure.
“Meetup day will not be cancelled,” Valizadeh tweeted Wednesday. “We’re on Columbus’ ship and there’s no turning back at this point. We must make landfall.”
How, exactly, a microbiologist from Maryland ended up causing global outrage — “I’m currently more popular than Jeb Bush… lol,” Valizadeh tweeted with a link to Google trends — is a strange story that begins in the District, winds through South America and ends up in the same place as everything else: on the Internet.
According to his website, Valizadeh grew up in Maryland and attended the state’s flagship university, where he struggled with women. “I was completely incapable of talking to women and creating a sexual vibe that made them want to sleep with me,” he wrote.
After graduation, he took a job as an “industrial microbiologist” in the District, where he “stumbled on an underground ‘game’ community” that taught him to approach women like a math problem, trying out pickup lines and strategies like formulas until one worked.
“Like a kid in a candy store I read everything I could get my hands on and started communicating with guys who had problems with women like I did,” he wrote. “The first thing I read was that skill with women can be learned, a concept that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time. I thought you were either born with the ability to sleep with beautiful women or doomed to having an unhappy sex life until your last days.”
Valizadeh eventually quit his job to write a book called “Bang,” an aptly titled “textbook for picking up girls and getting laid.” He then spent six months traveling South America and trying out his theories, memorialized in another book. Since then, he has written more than a dozen books, often about how to have sex with women in various countries.
Many of Valizadeh’s tips to readers, however, strike his critics as sexist, offensive, outdated and homophobic.
“A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty,” he lists as a tenet of neo-masculinism. “A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.”
The name of one of his websites, “Return of Kings,” sums up much of the neo-masculinist philosophy.
“Men will opt out of monogamy and reproduction if there are no incentives to engage in them,” he argues. “Past traditions and rituals that evolved alongside humanity served a net benefit to the family unit.”
Valizadeh is simultaneously arch-conservative (“Socialism, feminism, cultural Marxism, and social justice warriorism aim to destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and impoverish the state through large welfare entitlements”) and aggressively promiscuous, bragging about being in the “top one percent” of men in terms of the number of women he has bedded.
Bizarrely, he blames this behavior on women and women’s liberation.
“Elimination of traditional sex roles and the promotion of unlimited mating choice in women unleashes their promiscuity and other negative behaviors that block family formation,” he wrote.
Many of these arguments make Valizadeh unpopular, but it is a specific piece of his that has spurred several countries to try to consider banning him altogether.
That piece, an article titled “How To Stop Rape,” was published online a year ago. It begins by suggesting that the cause of most rapes is not men — “I don’t know of a single man entering adulthood who thought that rape was good and had to be manually taught it was bad” — but rather women.
“I saw women wholly unconcerned with their own safety and the character of men they developed intimate relationships with,” Valizadeh wrote. “I saw women who voluntarily numbed themselves with alcohol and other drugs in social settings before letting the direction of the night’s wind determine who they would follow into a private room. I saw women who, once feeling awkward, sad, or guilty for a sexual encounter they didn’t fully remember, call upon an authority figure to resolve the problem by locking up her previous night’s lover in prison or ejecting him from school.
“By attempting to teach men not to rape, what we have actually done is teach women not to care about being raped, not to protect themselves from easily preventable acts, and not to take responsibility for their actions,” he continued. “It was obvious to me that the advice of our esteemed establishment writers and critics wasn’t stopping the problem, and since rape was already on the law books with severe penalties, additional laws or flyers posted on dormitory doors won’t stop this rape culture either.
“I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property,” Valizadeh wrote. “I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.
“… If rape becomes legal under my proposal, a girl will protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone,” he continued. “If rape becomes legal, a girl will not enter an impaired state of mind where she can’t resist being dragged off to a bedroom with a man who she is unsure of — she’ll scream, yell, or kick at his attempt while bystanders are still around. If rape becomes legal, she will never be unchaperoned with a man she doesn’t want to sleep with. After several months of advertising this law throughout the land, rape would be virtually eliminated on the first day it is applied.”
Over the past year, Valizadeh has said several times that his make-rape-legal argument was “satire.” And he has accused media organizations that quote the blog of lying.
Whatever his intention, the blog post has proved bitterly divisive.
“Funny how hate speech becomes satire once you are called out on it,” tweeted an account claiming to be linked to the hacker group Anonymous.
When Valizadeh announced last month that he was organizing a series of “tribal meetings” for his followers in 165 cities around the globe, his critics immediately began mobilizing opposition to the idea. As word spread of the controversial “heterosexual men only” gatherings, petitions popped up in several countries calling for the pickup artist to be banned. So far, a petition in Scotland has gathered more than 57,000 signatures. A similar petition for the United States and Canada has been signed by more than 8,000 people.
As with his most controversial blog post, it is often hard to tell when Valizadeh is being sincere in his radical views and when he is simply trolling those who disagree with him.
He originally said he would attend the meetup in the District, for instance. But when Australians began planning protests against him, he tweeted a photo of a flight itinerary with stops in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. “I just booked a flight to Australia,” he wrote. “See you somewhere there on 2/6. I’ll stay a while, see some sights.”
And when Australian officials announced they were considering banning Valizadeh, he tweeted a map of the island country with red arrows pointing to its “multiple vulnerabilities” and “weak border” and claimed he was “coming in by boat.”
Melbourne’s mayor, Robert Doyle, told local radio Wednesday that the city would charge anyone planning to attend one of Valizadeh’s meetups on city property with trespassing.
The strongest reaction, however, came from police in Des Moines, who wrote on Facebook that the meetup “may be a ruse to commit rape.”
Valizadeh also has an antagonistic relationship with the news media. He is fond of publicity, incessantly sharing even negative statements about him on social media, but he blames the media for much of his bad image.
On Wednesday, he even instructed his followers to publish the personal information of “lying reporters,” according to Newsweek.
“Where did this worldwide mob get the idea that we are meeting to discuss rape tactics? Through the media,” he wrote to his followers. “Dozens of reporters have now blatantly lied about all of us being ‘pro rape’ and having a ‘rape advocacy platform.’ They have frothed up a crazy mob that is ready to dox and assault. We must hold journalists fully accountable for their incitement.”
He is particularly disdainful of female reporters. When one journalist recently asked to interview Valizadeh, he said he would speak to her only if she gave him sexual favors. On another occasion, he refused an interview with the Guardian because he “would not bang” the reporter, the newspaper reported.
He did not respond to a request for an interview with The Washington Post.
On Wednesday, as outrage peaked over the planned meetups, Valizadeh released an announcement online claiming that the meetups were canceled.
“I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time,” he wrote. “While I can’t stop men who want to continue meeting in private groups, there will be no official Return Of Kings meetups. The listing page has been scrubbed of all locations. I apologize to all the supporters who are let down by my decision.”
One of his supporters simply responded with a winking smiley face.
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