May 11, 2017

Meetup just Shut Down my Group & the Reason why Scares Me.

Sometimes, working in the field of sexuality sucks.

I’m a coach who helps men understand women better. I help them get comfortable with their own sexuality and support women’s sexuality in a way that feels safe and inviting. I teach them how to approach women respectfully and directly, without being creepy. Ultimately, I help both men and women have successful, nourishing, fulfilling dating lives and stronger, happier relationships.

I’ve worked with men in their late 20s who were still virgins and felt ashamed about that. I told them there was nothing the least bit wrong with that, and helped them figure out women such that they were able to have sex for the first time (hurray!).

I’ve worked with divorced men getting back into the dating game. I’ve helped them understand their value as men, and feel solid and secure in approaching women again. I’ve helped them parse out what happened in their marriage and learn things they’d never before known about women—even after decades, in some cases.

I’ve worked with widowers, men who’ve suffered one of the most painful losses a human can endure: the death of a spouse. I’ve supported them in coming back into their own, sometimes even exploring parts of them that weren’t fully expressed in that relationship (a fact often surrounded by guilt that needs to be processed).

Yes: I talk about sex. I am straightforward about that. I help men embrace their sexuality, and I’m proud of that. I also talk about connection and humanity. My work advances more safety and grace in the world, not less.

I used to have a Meetup group on all these topics, called “Please Her In Bed: A Group for Men, Created by Women.” This week, Meetup shut it down. In their words:

“We understand that your intentions may be good, but your group does not align with our current policies and how our platform is intended to be used. We do sincerely hope that you will find another platform that is better suited to support your specific intentions.

Meetup is not positioned to support groups that educate about, or encourage, pick-up activities—including pick-up artist, wingman, or seduction guide groups. Even if you consider your group to be a support group, engaging in or promoting these principles is not allowed on our platform.”

There are several things that suck about this. I’ll just name a few:

1. It’s limiting.

Meetup has a review system. Members can review Meetups, giving them a 1- to 5-star rating. My Meetup had 4.5 stars. Clearly, the members themselves found it valuable. Yet Meetup as an organization decided it wasn’t “appropriate.”

This makes no sense to me. Do they not trust their members? Don’t shut down a group that’s meeting the needs of your people, all of whom are grown-ups. You aren’t a group for kids. These are all adults who can make their own choices.

I’d completely understand if the group had a 1-star rating and members were reaching out to Meetup to say the content was offensive or abusive. But my members were saying exactly the opposite.

If you have a rating system, use it. Don’t limit the options of the adults on your site; that’s patronizing.

2. It blocks people who could really use this.

Meetup is known to be a place where a lot of people new to a city or looking to meet more people go. In other words, it often attracts lonely people who are actively looking to connect.

This makes it the perfect platform for events like mine, which help men meet and succeed with women. This kind of event is useful to men looking to meet more people, and possibly get into a relationship that would be fulfilling for both parties—exactly the type of thing a Meetup member is even more likely to want than a non-Meetup member.

In other words, it’s just the kind of thing members should be able to choose to access, yet Meetup is taking that choice away from them.

3. It perpetuates a culture of repressed sexuality.

This is the most insidious and alarming reason of all.

At its core, shutting down this group is a puritanical decision based on shame and fear of sexuality. Look, even if there are some shady pick-up groups on Meetup, you’ve got a rating system where members can call it out. And I’d rather see an open environment where there are some shysters, than a closed environment that blocks anyone even attempting to shed light on issues surrounding sex and dating.

In other words, it scares me precisely because while Meetup’s intention is “good,” the result perpetuates a culture of repression. Closing any group that touches these topics precludes even the possibility of talk about sex, for fear that it will be the “wrong” kind of talk.

Look: we as a culture need more discussions and openness around sexuality, not fewer. So you, as an organization, should exercise discernment, not exclusion. Deciding an entire category of things—those based on dating or sexuality—is unacceptable is both shortsighted and unfair. I understand wanting to have high-quality offers. But if my group was about knitting, you never would have shut it down.

Meetup: What I do is valuable and helps make the world safer and more fulfilling for both women and men. Recognize that. Take the time to figure it out. Be a force of openness and good in the world; don’t maintain a culture of shame and repression around sexuality. Please don’t shut me down.

I’ve asked to at least be able to email my former members about the group ending. While they generally allow the leaders of the groups they’re closing seven days to inform members that the group will be shut down, I didn’t get that chance (I don’t know why). I couldn’t even tell the men in my group that the show will go on outside of the confines of the Meetup service.

But the show will go on. If you were one of my original Meetup members (or you’re just interested), my upcoming event is most definitely still happening: How to Successfully Approach Women. I’m not going to let anyone stop me—not Meetup, not our weird, repressed culture, and certainly not my own inner demons and fears. (FYI: I’m also recording the workshop, so if you’re not in L.A., get on my list because I’ll be sending it out).

Sometimes, working in the field of sexuality rocks.



Author: Melanie Curtin
Image: Shruti Thakur/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton

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