We arrived at the Angelika Theater with hope that the $40 we each shelled out to attend the Great Love Debate would pay off in some helpful dating advice—or at least funny commiseration with other singles. Instead, we received a heaping dose of homophobia and misogyny.
It was the third time that the “unique, interactive Town Hall-style event where leading experts dish, discuss, dissect, and debate the current state of the date” was coming to New York City. The Great Love Debate has—and continues—to tour across the country, from Charlotte to Chicago, St. Louis to San Jose to try and figure out: Why is everyone still single?
But, as the night progressed and the advice became so utterly ridiculous, we could only wonder what more than spewing antiquated, sexist bile with a straight face made the panel of speakers “experts.”
Emily: Well, Justin, I think we should have pre-gamed this event more, though I am not sure there was enough Maker’s Mark in Manhattan to prepare me for this night.
Of the many egregious remarks we were unfortunately party to last night, the most offensive was directed specifically at you. Care to share?
Justin: Yeah, we should probably talk about Dr. D Ivan Young first. He is, according to his website, a “professional motivational speaker and master certified relationship coach.” He is also a homophobic douchebag, serving up uniformly appalling advice.
He hands down made the craziest remark of the night. After polling the 15 males in the audience on who would or would not pursue a second date with a woman they were not immediately sexually attracted to, I was the first to get called out to say why I would. Just my luck.
It was pretty obvious that I was the only gay guy there, so I immediately clarified that I was coming at this from a totally different perspective on the topics that were strictly being discussed through a straight lens. Fine.
But as soon as I said I was gay, Young stopped me and said, “Well, that explains it. You’re gay. You’re not going to have sex with a woman.” (I guess he only knows gold star gays.)
I told Young that my sexuality was irrelevant because I’m still speaking in the general sense of being a male, which was his logic in the first place.
“A gay man would identify more with the thought process of a woman because he is more prone to think in the same way,” Young responded. This he said after congratulating me for coming out, while quickly clarifying that he himself was “a heterosexual man before any of you get confused.”
He’s actually from Houston, Texas, and as a relationship coach claims to specialize in LGBT issues, among others. Gays of Houston, be warned.
Brian Howie, another panelist and author of How To Find LOVE in 60 Seconds, luckily asked what was immediately on everyone’s mind as they groaned and gasped: “Where did you fly in from, 1930?”
Emily: The way Young spoke suggests his only true specialty is in the art of bullshitting. At the start of the Great Love Debate, moderator (and professional matchmaker) Paul Carrick Brunson’s called out the elephant in the room: the audience was overwhelmingly female. He asked the question we were all wondering, “Where are all the men?”
Young’s response was the complete dodge-and-weave nonsense one expects in presidential primary debates. “How can you love a woman when you haven’t been taught to love yourself?” he asked. He went into a dripping, sob story about how men have been taught to work and make money but not how to love themselves. It’s the “reason we’re absent,” he said. “Even within the room, we can be present but still be absent.”
Cue the world’s tiniest violin and gag me with a spoon.
Justin: I have to admit: I was actually ready to listen to him after he said that. I thought he was going to try to get men to bust the “Macho Man” stereotype and be more open.
Clearly, Young needs to listen to his own advice. The reason we got entangled into the whole looks versus personality in sexual attraction dilemma was because he said he would never go on a second date with a woman he didn’t want to sleep with.
“Men are visual people,” he said. “I’m a shallow Hal and I’m a single guy. I want to see what you’re working with.” When Brunson asked the panelist if they would attempt a second date, he said, “HELL. NO.” That might explain why he’s still single?
Emily: Yes, though he is single and sexually active as he very much wanted the audience to know. Another lovely moment with Young was when he called out a man in the audience for being a virgin. To be fair, that man in the audience did not seem uncomfortable identifying as a virgin. He identified as a regular Mass-goer and said a “woman who craved sexual intercourse lacked maturity” and went on to explain she wasn’t fit for raising a family.
Still, in the same oh-so-charming way that Young commended you for coming out and then made it clear he certainly wasn’t a homosexual, he praised the man for abstaining from sex while adding that he “tries” to abstain but (*cough• humblebrags *cough*) “fails.”
Justin: I just want to know where they found these guys. Remember when Howie steamrolled that woman for asking why not many guys showed up to the event?
Emily: Her name was Gerri. That woman is my new bestie. Gerri asked pointblank what I had wanted to shout as the audience was told over and over again in various ways to stoke men’s ego and not intimidate them while still making them feel sufficiently wanted: “Why do women have to do all the work?”
Howie’s response didn’t actually answer her question. “Women do not have to do all the work. Women don’t have to even do that. Women look for red flags. Men look for green lights. Men show up on first dates fundamentally more optimistic.” In not so many words, it was “I’m Right. You’re wrong. Because.”
Meanwhile, Gerri tried to respond, but he just smiled and talked over her at length. He was either too oblivious to notice or too arrogant to care that she had something thoughtful to say. Way to not seem like stereotypical heterosexual white guy, Howie!
Justin: That seemed to be the main topic of the night—women need to do everything they can to get a guy’s attention without taking control of the situation and approaching him and starting the conversation.
One of the female panelists, matchmaker Jennifer Miotke, also seemed to believe in the same terms as Young and Howie.
She said that women need to “tell them [men] what they need to make you happy.” She used setting up a date as an example: tell the guy that you “love Thai and that these are some of my favorite restaurants,” but then allow him to pick.
I admit, I’ve used this method, but I’m also very indecisive when it comes to picking restaurants. Plus, it can also be a marker of their own taste and interests while giving you common ground and a comfortable atmosphere.
But then she took a sharp turn. “That’s giving him the lead to be masculine enough to pick it himself,” she added. “After he does it, you can congratulate him. ‘This is awesome.’ ‘You are so smart.’ You reward them—I’m sorry if this offends some men—like a dog.”
Emily: I agree that there is nothing wrong with flirty hints about what you like, but this seemed extremely offensive to both sexes. There’s a massive double standard. If someone suggested you do anything to train a woman “like a dog,” the audience (I hope) would have been up in arms. Men are not that dumb, folks. Treating them like they need to be coaxed and taught like adorable Golden Retrievers is demeaning.
It also played to the larger undercurrent of the evening’s advice: women shouldn’t express their thoughts, feelings, and intentions outright. It reminded me of an adage I’ve heard in various forms: A smart woman never let’s a man know how smart she is. As you can probably imagine, I think this is bullshit. Even more importantly for dating, I think it is totally disingenuous and sets the courtship on a false foundation.
I would say the female panelists offered advice that was just as misogynistic as men.
I was pretty bothered when one panelist, life coach Heidi Krantz, described how a woman should behave when she sees a man she likes. “She needs to be creative. She needs to get herself into proximity,” Krantz said and suggested a woman physically move closer to a man before she dares speak to him.
If that alone doesn’t work, she “needs to use her eye contact and her smile, her two most powerful tools.” That is critical, according to Krantz, because that “let’s him know she is interested in more interaction. Without ever having said a word!”
Apparently, all sentiments should be conveyed via Kabuki theatrics because women should be seen and not heard.
But, enough trash-talking. We should give snaps to the one panelist we loved: matchmaker and dating coach Peggy Wolman.
Justin: I loved her. She had the most sound and sage advice of them all.
At the start, she addressed Howie’s complaints about women not building men’s confidence with tremendous nuance. “Confidence is overrated. In the area of looking for love, I think [in] putting on the costume of confidence, we become much less authentic,” she said. “[With] the vulnerable side of you, which I believe is the much more lovable side for both men and women, you can step into a situation and not feel the need to take over but to say something forthcoming about yourself.”
Then, she closed out the event with the only useful and positive takeaway: “You are looking for someone wonderful and who makes you happy. If you carry that with you and share that with someone every day, you will be the most wonderful matchmaker for yourselves and I think you will find love.”
Emily: Wolman was a saving grace with nuanced, modern wisdom. Overall, more than merely offensive, I found the discussions generally outdated.
I was taken aback when, barely ten minutes in, the moderator asked the panel: “Is it ever acceptable for a woman to approach a man?”
It seemed so antiquated. It was the equivalent of the Newlyweds Game host asking “What’s the craziest place you’ve ever made whoopie?”
It was quite impressive how tone-deaf they were. Howie explicitly told women to “get rid of your resting bitch face.” He even called out a woman as having “resting bitch face” and when she smiled, he said “See, how pretty you are now!”
Maybe I am a young and overly sensitive feminist, but I was the only one in the Angelika wearing a “resting bitch face” after Howie said that.
Justin: In a general sense, yes, all of the advice was super dated—not to mention something you could get from Seventeen Magazine. It was absurdly anti-woman, let alone anti-feminist.
To be fair, it did seem like the audience consisted mainly of women over 40 and—I hope I’m not putting my foot in my mouth here—I can only assume that some of their methods and ideas of dating are still somewhat rooted in the past.
However, that’s why they seriously needed a panel of both men and women who are living with the times. They should have been empowering women to not be afraid to take control and letting the men know that its okay when they do; it doesn’t detract from you masculinity and shouldn’t effect your ego.
Emily: I am glad I had a man there to validate my impression of the panel.
Justin: Remember, though. I’m gay so it doesn’t count.