Open post

Seduction or self-help? An ethnographic study of a men’s pick-up artist community.

Lecture by Dr Rob Whitley, McGill University, Canada.


Male ‘pick-up artists’ have been maligned by the mainstream media as creeps, perverts and misogynists. But is this myth or reality?

In this presentation, Dr Whitley will report the results from a one-year ethnography of a pick-up artist community that aimed to understand why young men join this community, as well as the impact that it has on them. Results are surprising and poignant in equal measure, raising questions about official service provision for young men.


About the speaker

Dr. Rob Whitley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. His three main interests are recovery, stigma and men’s mental health. He has published over 100 scientific papers in social psychiatry, and writes a monthly blog on men’s mental health for Psychology Today. He is currently principal investigator of numerous mental health research projects funded by the Government of Canada.



Tickets are required and can be accessed here

Open post

The yin of being looked at and the yang of looking

The “#MeToo” campaign, which was very prominent in 2018 and became a platform for women to complain about male behaviour, also reflects the tendency of society to polarise opposites and set them up in “boxing” mode against each other.  It also chooses to ignore the fact that women can also be abusive of men.  When I lived in Doncaster, South Yorkshire for example, I used to witness the effect of unwanted sexual advances on male friends of mine who were approached by female prostitutes who got into their cars at traffic lights. This kind of casual reverse sexist discrimination is what has inspired me to write a chapter for the new Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology (2019).

I think we should be celebrating male and female difference rather than setting up men and women in competition against one another. My belief is that the male and female are designed very differently because, as we have developed as humans, we have needed to take on different tasks to survive.  The male has been designed to “look”, not only at the female, but to “look out” for prey, for danger, and for ways to protect his family unit.  The woman, much to the surprise of some, still likes being “looked at” by the male, and will in fact go out of her way to make sure she is seen, unless of course, she dislikes the particular male who is “doing the looking”.

The unprecedented rise in the use of cosmetics and surgical enhancements proves that women feel the need to look good for as long as possible.  The use of botox is no longer confined to the ageing female – it is now used by young women in their 20s, and the number of women between 19 and 34 using botox has risen by 41% since 2011.  This is because the need to look good is “hard wired” into female genes.  It is rooted in mating behaviours which we see also in the animal kingdom.  In the avian kingdom, it is usually the males that display for the females, but for mammals, it is always the other way around.

The eastern concept of Yin and Yang is, I believe, a sensible way to view male and female complementarity.  The ancient Chinese world believed that the interlocking building blocks of the universe were Yin (the feminine) and Yang (masculine). “Yin” is negative, dark and feminine, and “yang” is positive, bright and masculine. Yin needs Yang and vice versa, and the two need to be in perfect balance for health and harmony in the body.

Because the male is “hard wired” to respond initially to what he can see visually, this is not something that he can “turn off” to avoid offending the modern female.  The female on the other hand, in a biological sense is designed to be especially attuned to touch because of regular reproductive cycles and physically nurturing the young from conception.  She therefore has tended, in an evolutionary sense to have a more internal frame of reference, but also needs to “be noticed” so that her primeval instincts can be satisfied.

The male will always need “to look” at the female and the female will always need “to be seen” by the male – even if she continues to re-define exactly how she is looked at and what she wants the male to see.

Looking and being looked at can be thought of as opposite forces interacting to form a dynamic system, in which the whole is greater than the parts.


About the author

Jennie Cummings-Knight, MA, MBACP, PGCE, FHEA

Jennie is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor of individuals and couples. She works privately near Cromer, Norfolk, as well as lecturing in London and online as a part time Associate of the Existential Academy.  She also runs regular workshops for counsellors in Norwich.  She has a particular interest in Male Psychology.

Jennie explores the topic of ‘the gaze’ in her chapter ‘The Gaze: The Male Need to Look vs the Female Need to Be Seen—An Evolutionary Perspective’, in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (2019)  available for purchase here  DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1





Open post

Internet dating: rated #1 for men, but for women… meh. Why the difference?

by Hasna Haidar


Many of the things we enjoy in life we enjoy online. Playing, laughing, learning new things, connecting with friends and building new relationships.

It’s the same for both the sexes; we seek a combination of simple and complex pleasures: the hedonic, instant highs of consumerism through online shopping, the mood boosting properties of listening to music and watching funny YouTube videos, and the longer-term pleasures of interaction and relationship building over social media.

As for what yields the most “happiness”, however, it can be highly subjective. Exploring the nature of internet happiness, Carphone Warehouse carried out a survey of 2,002 UK adults (mean + SD age 47 + 17 years old) in November 2017, asking them to rank the online activities that make them most happy.

Overall, activities associated with entertainment and shopping (which offer more hedonic pleasures, gratifying the basic urges of the primal brain) had the biggest impact on our happiness across the sexes. However, when male and female results were separated, there were stark differences.


Men enjoy online dating above all

While the most gratifying online activity among women was “winning an eBay bid”, men stated that “online dating” gave them the most pleasure. Interestingly, among women, meeting a potential partner online didn’t even make the top ten. For women, online dating came in twentieth place, behind ordering a takeaway and managing money online[i].


Top 10 activities that make men happiest online Top 10 activities that make women happiest online
1. Online dating sites (79%) 1. Achieving the winning bid on eBay (80%)
2. Obsessing over a new music video on YouTube and replaying it 100 times over (79%) 2. Instant messaging with friends and family (80%)
3. Achieving the winning bid on eBay (76%) 3. Discovering online discount codes for your favourite retailers and saving lots of money (79%)
4. Finding the perfect meme/gif and sharing it with everyone (74%) 4. Looking things up that interest you (78%)
5. Looking things up that interest you (73%) 5. Discovering the best deal through price comparison sites: from booking hotels to finding a great insurance deal (77%)
6. Getting a message from an old school friend on Facebook who you haven’t heard from in years (73%) 6. Discovering cheap fun days out from websites like Groupon (74%)
7. Discovering online discount codes for your favourite retailers and saving lots of money (73%) 7. Finding the perfect meme/gif and sharing it with everyone (71%)
8. Browsing new bands/tracks through Spotify (71%) 8. Browsing new bands/tracks through Spotify (71%)
9. Discovering the best deal through price comparisons: from booking hotels to finding a great insurance deal (70%) 9. Obsessing over a new music video on YouTube and replaying it 100 times over (70%)
10. Reading funny tweets about a TV program you’re watching (70%) 10. Getting your comment retweeted or liked by someone you love or admire (69%)


Why do men enjoy online dating more than women?

While the study didn’t delve into the thinking behind the respondents’ choices, one reason men might enjoy online dating significantly more than women could be down to the way the different sexes approach dating.

For example, men and women don’t use Tinder in the same manner. A 2016 study into user activity on Tinder showed that men tend to cast their net a little wider, in the beginning at least. They’re more likely to ‘swipe right’ than women and tend to filter their preferences after establishing a match rather than before.

Why do men take this blanket approach? A January 2016 literature review might have uncovered the answers. The review looked at the gender differences in online dating[ii] and found that men “exhibit a positive attitude” towards it, seeing it as an efficient way to meet people. Their interest is in being as productive as possible, even when it comes to something as personal as dating, which could explain their catch-all behaviour.


Short-term goals

The researchers also found that men preferred “short-term romantic relationships with a low level of commitment” within the environment of online dating, while women used the sites to find friends or a potential marriage partner. They also found that men are more active users of online dating sites than women – although it should be noted that the researchers attributed this gender imbalance to the fact that men outnumber women in most IT contexts anyway.

While men are prolific users of online dating sites, and prefer to pursue short-term opportunities within them, The Harry’s Masculinity Report[iii] found that men felt mentally more positive if they were in a steady, long-term relationship, concluding that “relationship stability is an important anchor for many men”. It would seem that while men do value enduring relationships, online dating is not where they ultimately go to find them.


Old-school beliefs

Even in modern-day dating, old-school stereotypes [Editor: or perhaps ‘archetypes’] prevail. When it comes to the ideal type of person they’d like to commence a relationship with, both sexes look for one that can provide the biggest chance of success and fulfilment. For men, this means prioritising physical attractiveness and, specifically, a youthful look (with the logic that female fertility is affected by age, and therefore older women reduce the chance of children). For women, this means prioritising socio-economic status and older men (with the logic that older men are more financially stable and therefore more able to provide for a family).

In their quest to secure a partner – whether in the short-term or in the long-term – both sexes are known to adjust their profiles (even to the point of fabrication) to cater for what the opposite sex might be looking for. Men emphasise their personal interests and assets, overstate their height and misrepresent their online dating goal (aligning their short-term goal closer towards women’s longer-term goal), while women enhance their photos and underreport their weight and age.


Winning online dating

Interestingly, while the sheer number of men on the sites might suggest men gain more romantic success compared to women, the review was inconclusive. Some studies suggested women fared better; others said men were better off; and some felt both sexes were equally successful. In the world of online dating, it turns out the chips are stacked in no particular way at all.


So why do men rate online dating far higher than women do?

When you consider the short-term, commitment-free approach men take to using online dating sites, it’s clear they’re giving themselves a deliberately pressure-free experience. In comparison, the quest for finding a viable long-term partner means women have more at stake.

It would seem that, when it comes to online happiness, everything hinges on mindset.


About the author

Hasna Haidar is a digital researcher and writer, exploring the impact of online activity on happiness and wellbeing.



[i] Managing money online rather than in person or over the phone







Scroll to top