Tuesday 23 January 2018

Smash'n'grab? Oh please!

Angelina Jolie.
Angelina Jolie.

Helen Walker

We recently ran an article about a new breed of predatory women -- but it's all a dangerous myth, writes Helen Walker

How easy it is for one jokey text to slide into flirtatious banter and pickup lines

'Oh for goodness sake," I shouted to my husband as I read the feature on July 3, 'The Relentless rise of Smash 'n' Grab Woman'. Apparently I should be on the lookout for predatory women wanting to manoeuvre their way into my marriage -- "smash" it -- and "grab" my husband.

These women are purportedly on the rise: Katharine Lloyd, who wrote the piece, encountered one sharking after her husband at a drinks party. She backed up her claim by referring to a survey suggesting that single women are four times more likely to find a married man attractive than someone who is unattached. What baloney. Why is it that everyone blames the woman for an affair?

As a married mother of four, I know I'm the kind of woman Lloyd is trying to warn, having "survived" a 'Smash'n'Grab' herself. But I find her view to be blinkered and prejudiced.

Her article passes judgment on every single, married and divorced female who talks to a man. I fear it will have a long-lasting impact on how single women in particular are viewed by their friends. Every innocent gesture will be scrutinised, while married women will turn into single-woman-hating obsessives.

I've seen from experience that it doesn't take long for 'good' female friends to diagnose you as a predatory woman, no matter how hard you were pursued by the male in question. The truth is that the world is full of predatory men, single and married, all ready to leap in to adultery. How easy it is for one jokey text to slide into flirtatious banter and pickup lines. Yet why, when the blame is unleashed, does it fall at the bedroom door of the woman?

Like love and hate, the line between predatory and good fun in many a woman's eyes is hypercritically thin. How many women at a drinks party, married or single, would rather seek out a man who is fun, witty and mildly flirtatious than get stuck with the dull man who talks only of himself, work and his children? Is this predatory? No. The desire for any woman to enjoy herself should not be misconstrued as predatory.

My friend Emma, a mother of three in an unhappy marriage, had the unfortunate experience of encountering a man far more dangerous and cunning than any of Lloyd's predatory women.

This eloquent, fun, flirty, married man -- let's call him Mike -- had moved to Emma's area and started socialising with her friends. He employed the tactics not of a 'Smash'n'Grab' looter but of a stealth aircraft. Taking his time, he surreptitiously researched her; he befriended her husband and her friends; he found out how long she had been married and if she was happy. He did his homework.

And then he played her like an experienced fisherman with a salmon, reeling her in with friendship, letting her run with cruel unkind comments, and leaving her certain that she was of no interest to him. In fact it was the complete opposite. Once he had her mobile number, pushy texts flowed and as she was at a low ebb, he was able to strike, and the inevitable happened.

Mike's marriage was volatile, while Emma's relationship, at least from the outside, had seemed steady. When their affair exploded in to the public domain their friends were stunned.

Most of Emma's girlfriends put the blame at her door. Even when it transpired that Mike had indulged in numerous affairs before and his tactics were widely known, Emma was still classified as the villain and he was "jack the lad".

Upset and depressed, Emma could not understand how she'd come to be labelled as the predator in the affair. Even in the aftermath, Mike wanted to ditch his wife and move in with her, while she, with the support of her husband, opted to end the affair and rebuild her marriage.

It's obvious to me why her girlfriends were so quick to judge.

She was the one person they thought would never fall into this trap and her transgression forced them to examine their own relationships -- it could have been their spouse she'd leapt into bed with.

But didn't they see how they'd misunderstood the situation? By condemning Emma they were exposing themselves as feeling unable to trust their own husbands.

Katharine Lloyd, I'm convinced, is equally guilty of this. Her article served only to incite women's misguided obsession with the so-called predatory female. It prompted one reader to comment "Women beware. The sisterhood is a myth".

I urge you to stop and think. Most of the time the 'Smash'n'Grab' woman is a fragile character having some innocent fun, trying to be light-hearted and not to appear desperate or lonely.

It makes me livid that Lloyd can single-handedly brand a wide range of wonderful women as predatory.

How sad that she chooses to see any compliments towards her husband as a threat rather than to bask in his reflected glory.

Compliments can be laughed off with humour; a clinging, dependent nature cannot.

Irish Independent

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