Last year, the exposé on the disgusting pastor culture prompted Senator Risa Hontiveros—the chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality—to investigate the misogynistic doings in online platforms. Pastor in this context follows the altered meaning of hokage and breezy, all of which are terminologies referring to men’s smooth way with women. These words have found their way to ingrain themselves into the language of misogyny for they are now used as names for Facebook pages and groups that feast on their members’ ambag. These contributions could be anything that satisfies their collective sexual cravings—from legally-obtained obscene materials such as risqué celebrity photos and pornography to immoral ones such as scandals, revenge pornography, and photographs of presumably minors in suggestive poses. The largest of these groups was the Bible Study ni Pastor Hokage with a disturbing 2.9 million members before it was put down. These members were particularly active as each post garnered thousands of Facebook reactions and comments, most of which were “Amen”, “Hymen” (used as a malicious mockery), and “#RapBeh” (Sarap, Beh). In addition, they had lapagan sessions done in group chats where their nasty shares of ambag were even more explicit.

The exposés on these misogynistic subcultures continue when the Youth Against Sexual Harassment (YASH) revealed the art of “picking up”, or meeting women for the purpose of getting them into bed, being institutionalized by Pick-up Artist Academy. Claimed to be “Asia’s leading dating company”, it had 27,547 Facebook page followers and 11,220 group members also before the Academy’s accounts were deleted. In Sein “Smooth” Meneses’s guesting on The Sweet Life, he introduced the Academy as a school that teaches men “on how to have a value”. The Academy transforms men from being “nerdy-type guys” who don’t know how to talk to women, to confident pick-up artists who have a hundred percent success rate of winning their “target”. Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists (2005) affirms the pick-up artistry’s philosophy of reverse psychology and of push and pull mind games to exude the air of mystery that traps the target into the “game”. Their seminars and workshops are eventually culminated in hands-on trainings in clubs and in malls. What Smooth did not disclose in the lifestyle television show was that they do observe the tradition of sharing their “field reports”, which include videos and photos of their dates and sexual intercourse with the target to the rest of the community. A thread is now circulating in Facebook and in Twitter that warns women that these pick-up artists are continuing their self-validation-seeking deeds through dating applications.

Not all misogynist men work with a group or identify themselves with a community, however. In the past years, the label “fuckboy” dominated, at least if not started, the hugot phenomenon. There is yet a concrete definition for it, but it plays along the line of someone who leads a woman on until he gets what he wants, of a playboy, or of a womanizer. A fuckboy makes a woman feel that he genuinely cares for her to hook her up in his game. He acts as if that “mutual feelings” they have for each other could lead to something when in reality it is a mere sweet nothing. Once he gets what he wants from her, which is mostly sex, he abandons her and acts as if it is ancient history.

“Man…”, equally to a woman and those in between the binary spectrum, “… is condemned to be free,” as darkly exclaimed by Jean-Paul Sartre in his Existentialism is a Humanism (1946). He does not have an essential purpose, but he is a self-conscious being. He has the freedom to make choices, which reflects his own notion of how or what a man should be. He is thrown into the pit of an existence filled with anguish, trying to fill in that inherent purposelessness through the choices made, believing that it would define him. What heightens his anguish is the fact that in every choice made, he is always under the look of the Other. Sometimes, he chooses to be authentic. But, in this case, he chooses to be otherwise.

In the excruciatingly and exhaustingly long history of patriarchy and misogyny, men have been identifying themselves with masculinity with no degree of suspicion nor doubt; conforming to the conventional and established notion of how a man should be—a masculine, a stud, a rake. In doing so, they earn an affirmation of who they are, or more appropriately, of who they are expected to be according to the Other’s look. It works pretty much the same way as how women were made to believe that their only function is to become mothers. Men were made to believe that their function is to embody strength in all forms and in all cases. That is who he should be. That role would fill the empty vessel of human essence. Somewhere along their history, strength has become analogous to competition and winning became their preoccupation.

Why do these men have to go through all these troubles just to have sex with a woman? He could decently and ethically have casual safe sane consensual sex without targeting women as if women are sexual objects. But that is exactly the point: they were made to look at women merely as sexual objects, the Other in reference to them as painstakingly explained in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949). A woman, for these misogynist men, is a sexual conquest that they need to conquer to validate their masculinity, to boost their ego, to affirm the saying that goes “When a man sleeps around, he is a stud.” As echoed by Robert Greene in his The Art of Seduction (2001), the more challenging the conquest is, the more fulfilling and valuable winning is.

This disgusting, regressive, and most of all, pathetic way of validating themselves do them more harm than good, as a matter of fact, for these men are existentially doomed who fell into the trap of what Sartre called in his Being and Nothingness (1943) a mauvaise foi. In this quest that is bound to fail at all cost, however, they receive a pat on the back from their brothers whom they formed a fraternal bond with through this form of toxic masculinity. Because of his innate aloneness and purposelessness, and refusal to confront his own existential angst, he becomes addicted to that destructive and deceptive gesture of affirmation. He disguises his innate nothingness with his fragile ego that longs for constant validation and power. ■

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