There are two types of pervert. The sex pest, who at his most extreme turns Dimitrios Pagourtzis and shoots the girl he stalked and everyone along the way down. And the randy bugger, the cad your old man’s generation romanticised as a rakish young playboy with an eye for the ladies.
The second kind covers most men I know, oh, definitely me included. The ones that do perfectly well with women so have never stooped to doing anything rapey, but who on far too many an occasion, after a few beers and a cheeky line, got leery as fuck. My 14-year-son is making his first foray into the dating arena. Before I teach my boy anything, I need to check myself.
We don’t talk about the Loveable Perv. The Traditional Pervert – hiding behind bushes in his raincoat, or cry-wanking onto his keyboard on an incel forum – gets all the press, and rightfully so. God knows there are enough date rapists, sexual harassers, and outright women haters out there to deal with before we get to the Cheeky Chappies, only ’avin a laugh, a slap and a tickle, wink, wink, phwooar.
Context: I’m a lad from the nineties, the Loaded generation, if you will, markedly different from men from the previous decade by virtue of being free of mullet, moustache and outright misogyny, raised on that Athena poster idea of the New Age Man – a man who had girls as best friends, went raving with them, went down on the ones he loved.
We were, in a word, “lewd”. Dig out your old copies of FHM, and consider why Chris Evans is a millionaire, and you’re up to speed. The humour was pitched at suggestive, provocative, and, that guaranteed old skool chat-up ice-breaker, “outrageous”. And for what it’s worth, “ladettes” – basically women happy to have it large it without men getting preachy – genuinely liked having our kind around.
Update: this was twenty odd years ago. It might seem ludicrous to anyone reading this in their twenties, but back then, “feminism” was a topic you only really heard discussed at parties where no one was taking the fun drugs but there was plenty of Joni Mitchell and lentil stew to go around, where men were divided into two distinct types: Bastards and Alright. As long as we didn’t act like bastards, we were all alright. Other than to the militant, hashtags like Everyday Sexism and Yes All Women would’ve gone way over the heads of everyone.
A relic of a man I am surely, but I somehow doubt the men in today’s dating arena are in any way more evolved. Rose-tinted spectacles come as prescription at my age, but I’m fairly confident no one in my day would try to woo a girl by sending her a dick pic. In fact, my single female friends lead me to believe Tinder and Bumble exist solely because women have accepted the modern man sucks at courtship but is good for a bang on a Saturday night when the Eva is low on charge.
Does this mean that women are now, to use another archaic term from my day, more “slutty”? Definitely less secretively so. Does that also mean they’ll shag anyone? No. I feel like I can comment on this because I regularly discuss such matters on a Facebook group where women share their dating stories and ask old codgers like me for advice (what? It’s not pervy when you set yourself up as an unthreatening Born Again Feminist as I have, because, you know, “I’m the father of two daughters and now have the feels”).
Which is why I feel enlightened (or is it entitled?) enough to mansplain a truism. Women only go for men they find attractive. The whole incel bollocks about womankind denying dweebs their rightful sex is redundant because it’s always been about one individual having the hots for another, simple as. And when it comes to the connection metre, no one reads it better than a woman. Charged means Electric Ladyland, flat means Friend Zoned, and if the red flag lights up, Disconnected.
I used to look forward to my son reaching this age so I could teach him a thing or two about “pulling” (there’s another term to make you cringe). But in the same week that he turned to his old man for advice on how to get the girl, I read this tweet – the gist of it being: “No, don’t keep trying to woo her, son. She said no. Back off”. He’s a good looking lad, my boy. He’s funny, charming and with a bit of his dad’s cockiness, he won’t dine alone when he’s older. But I’m not going to teach him how to pester a girl, something we glamourised by calling it “the thrill of the chase”. Because it’s not creepy at all to get excited by the idea of pursuing someone literally running away...
A woman doesn’t have to vocalise the fact that she isn’t into a guy. My son can’t read body language yet, but he will. I’ll wait till he’s older before I share this pervy little nugget, but here’s a test if you’re a guy. Pick a sunny day, when girls are less prone to be covered up, hone in one who clearly isn’t interested in you, and shoot a gaze – no more than a nano-second – at her. She will instinctively draw her cardigan across her chest. Without even looking at you.
The women I spoke to put it down to a feeling. The phrases “weirded out” or “he made my skin crawl” come from the intuition that tells a woman she’s being sniffed out by the wrong man. Curiously, an unfair proportion of them admit they can’t be certain whether a bloke really did shoot her a sleazy look or whether they imagined it, the result of prolonged gaslighting, perhaps.
I don’t know. And I can appreciate how everything I’ve said so far can seem patronising to women, in much the same way an article written by a white guy explaining the brown man’s plight might be received by me with an eye roll, but the reasons I tread these murky waters are: yes, I actually do have two daughters. And a teenage son having girl troubles. I’m genuinely appalled that I objectified women in my heady days, and am now taking the Teach Your Boys hashtag absolutely seriously.
I hail from a generation where hot women on the cover of a magazine was a mark of cool, operating under the preposterous notion that this made us somehow more progressive than those Neanderthals who liked their titties on page three. More worryingly, my son is from a generation where weird little losers not only feel entitled over a woman’s body, but seemingly believe that if she spurns him, they’re entitled to her life.
Not on my watch, kid.