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Chatted up on the street? You might have encountered daygaming

In an age of heightened awareness around street harassment and women’s safety, and in the light of upcoming legislation changes, what place does chat-up artistry have – and what exactly is it anyway?

“Excuse me, I think you’re just beautiful.” It’s a familiar situation for a lot of women: being chatted up in the street by a man out of the blue.

Daygaming sees men stop women they find attractive in the street – or in other places that aren’t bars and nightclubs – with the aim to get their phone number. If, like me, you have been approached in this way you have probably been daygamed – a dating technique that is rapidly increasing in popularity.

The practice has dedicated coaches. Men learn tailored techniques through one-to-one coaching, bootcamps and even six-week transformation courses. They may pay anywhere from £300 to upwards of £5,000 in order to learn how to approach women with confidence.

One of our Big Issue vendors in London’s West End witnessed the technique being put into practice while out selling magazines and grew concerned. He got in touch to share what he’d seen.

“There’s a series of short but superfluous compliments, followed immediately by a barrage of questions,” he explained. “It’s almost like an interrogation technique, it doesn’t give you time to think and leaves you flustered. Eventually they get the number of a young woman.”

He also describes seeing a young man run up to a woman from behind, then stand in front of her and shower her with compliments while another man, arms folded, observed from a distance. When the woman had walked off, the two men discussed how they could have stopped her differently. The men may wear microphones so they can analyse the conversation later. Sometimes, the practice is filmed.

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The vendor said: “On the face of it, it sounds innocuous, but it’s not, it’s sinister. It’s continually harassing women, and one imagines they are not looking for Miss Right.”

Despite upcoming changes to public sexual harassment legislation, daygaming is legal.

“What level of privilege is going on? What level of chauvinism is this?” the vendor asked. He says he has raised concerns with the police multiple times but has received no response.

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What does it feel like to be daygamed?

One South Londoner is anxious every time she leaves her home. “It’s so constant, I’m so exasperated that I find it really hard to say ‘No thanks’ and shut it down. Recently, I was approached in Piccadilly Circus. He started chatting about how he needed to get his phone fixed. I should just say ‘OK, great, bye.’ But I can’t, so he keeps going. And then in the end, he’s like ‘Oh, give me your number.’

“I should just say no or make up a fake number but if I do that, they will try and call then and there, which they often do, and then I feel there’s no way out.”

She no longer leaves her flat without her boyfriend. “Since I’ve moved to London, there have been occasions where I have felt threatened or scared by specific events like that. I’m immediately anxious, immediately looking for what my way out might be. How long is this going on for? Is there anyone nearby?”

Boys should be taught that women are not a game, not a sport, and not animals to be trained and conquered

Last year, she was followed from outside her flat through the local shopping centre for 10 minutes. She went inside a shop to deter the man, but instead he followed her into the shop, stopped in front of her and demanded her number. She refused, saying she was in a relationship.

“It’s not an assault but the fact he followed me the whole way there really shocked me. It shouldn’t take another man to deter it,” she stressed.

It’s not just London that has seen a rise in daygaming. Millicent Machell, 22, has been approached “countless times” in rural Kent. “I have been asked for my number by someone who stood in front of me as I was walking so I had to pay attention,” she said. She has been touched on her waist, back and shoulder to get her attention too. She says it’s uncomfortable and persistent.  

“In the moment I am eager to pacify them as I don’t know what they will do next, but afterwards I’ll wish I had given them a piece of my mind. It’s hard to do that when they could physically overpower you,” she explained. “In my experience, they’ve mainly left after I’ve said I had a boyfriend – ‘not interested’ doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s almost like I have to be someone else’s ‘property’ for it to be valid.”

She added: “Boys should be taught that women are not a game, not a sport, and not animals to be trained and conquered but whole and complex human beings who deserve space and respect.”

What do the coaches say?

Ed Game coaches clients suffering from mild to severe social anxiety to “improve their dating life, social skills and confidence.” His most popular YouTube upload, ‘Picking Up a Mexican Girl In Spanish,’ has amassed over 133,000 views.

He explained to The Big Issue: “While there is no denying that what happened [to Sarah Everard and other recent high-profile murder cases] was truly tragic, the majority of men who approach women in public, and certainly the guys who work with me, come with good intentions – they simply want to get a girlfriend and/or improve their confidence [and] social skills.

“Some women may find being approached in public uncomfortable. This is absolutely true and needs to be taken into account. A degree of empathy should be shown in these situations and if a woman is consistently showing signals of disinterest, it is best to leave the conversation. This is something that I tell guys who work with me.”

Ed argued that a vast majority of women have enjoyed being approached. “The amount of disrespect, sleaziness and rudeness portrayed in dating apps is far greater, but no one is advocating for banning them are they? It’s more about the manner in which it is done rather than the medium itself.

“Inevitably, there may be guys with bad intentions or who are approaching in a disrespectful manner. Certainly, I don’t advocate this but what exactly can be done about it? Ban strangers from speaking to each other in public?”

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James Tusk is another coach who founded his platform to teach “guys to go after what they want.”

He told The Big Issue: “What they are learning is social freedom – the ability to see a girl and actually start a conversation with her. [It’s about] building that social freedom then combining it with social and emotional intelligence. Understanding how to have fun, playful conversations but also to be able to read signals.”

Tusk, who has 32,500 YouTube subscribers and coaches globally, explained that the online and in-person dating market is the most competitive and confusing it has ever been.

“[Daygaming] is a more genuine way of doing things. When you see someone you like, you can actually start a conversation in a calibrated way, calibrated being the key word, because if someone doesn’t want you to be there, you leave. It’s far more genuine, in my opinion, than swiping through fake dating profiles. The point of being direct with someone is there’s no mixed messages. If a woman says she’s uninterested, I advise clients to walk away,” Tusk added. He explained problems occur when men try to replicate YouTube videos but their social skills and social intelligence levels aren’t “on point”.

“For a lot of men, the intent is not necessarily dark, it’s just a lack of understanding.”

What’s clear is that this practice is a double-edged sword. Both coaches stress an emphasis on genuine, authentic interaction. Yet, a quick search on Reddit reveals men detailing sexual interactions after daygaming, sometimes framed in misogynistic language. There are even YouTube comments advising men be more of a “sexual threat” in their technique.

Framed as a game with women – or their phone numbers – prizes to be won, can daygaming ever evoke genuine interaction?

Emma Blackmore is a freelance journalist

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