Artistic depiction of Youtube commentator Kurtis Conner
Using humor and his unique perspective, Kurtis Conner creates commentary YouTube videos, often with sharp social critique. (Illustration by Baz Pugmire, Michigan State University)

TikTok Pickup Artist Russell Hartley Claims Bullying Over Kurtis Conner Vlog

‘TikTok’s worst dating coach’ offers a weak rebuttal to valid criticism of his misogynist views, demonstrating YouTube’s misunderstanding of what actually constitutes bullying.

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Artistic depiction of Youtube commentator Kurtis Conner

‘TikTok’s worst dating coach’ offers a weak rebuttal to valid criticism of his misogynist views, demonstrating YouTube’s misunderstanding of what actually constitutes bullying.

On July 24, YouTuber Kurtis Conner released a video titled “TikTok’s Worst Dating Coach.” In this commentary video, Conner analyzes Russell Hartley’s TikToks about dating advice for men. Conner says he chose Hartley for the video because many of his fans tagged him in the comments of Hartley’s TikToks, but when he went to look, Hartley had blocked him, likely out of fear of Conner making a video about him. Too late Russell!

Hartley has made numerous misogynistic claims and analogies about women in his TikToks. He argued that men should keep a “stable” of women, which means keeping a number of women on the hook emotionally, romantically and sexually, but never actually exclusively dating any of them. “Every time you have sex with a new woman, it’s a new mare in your stable,” Hartley said in one of his TikToks. He also states that when the “mare” (woman) asks where their relationship is headed, the man should let them go “to greener pastures” and “exit the stable.” 

What? The comparison of women to horses is ludicrous and demeaning; it’s immensely unfair to the women. Hartley, in this analogy, tells men they should use women and then leave them in the dust if they want a real relationship and connection. In his commentary, Conner directly says in relation to the “stable” idea, “That’s psycho s— bro. You’re unstable.” He continues to make jokes about Hartley’s comparison, wondering if “this Russell guy has a thing for horses.” It’s either that or he’s a raging misogynist. Or a horse misogynist? 

Hartley also claimed that women live their lives set on “easy mode,” since they easily obtain dates by posing sexually on social media. Conner refutes this point, illustrating examples of how women experience oppression in the United States, from lack of access to abortion and birth control, the wage gap and sexual harassment. Women do not have life set on “easy mode” because dating might be easier for them. This completely disregards the experiences of women in America and further demonstrates Hartley’s misogyny and ignorance about women, which is deeply ironic for a self-proclaimed dating coach. 

In another video, Hartley described what it was like having two girlfriends. Apparently, one girl was bisexual, but the other was straight and had never tried polyamory before. Hartley said, “But you’ll be absolutely surprised what you can get away with as a man if you just have the balls to say what you want.” Yikes — that’s a troubling sentence. In this relationship, Hartley was happy because the two girls could hang out with each other when he felt too lazy to put effort into their relationship. Eventually, he even forced the girls to only communicate with him via a group chat that they were all in. This behavior is controlling and disturbing, which Conner calls “super crazy and manipulative.” 

Hartley also said he used to avoid fights by having sex with his girlfriends during arguments instead of talking it through. Conner argues that is “terrible advice” that no one should listen to. Conner is right. Having sex is not a remedy for problems in a relationship and it’s unhealthy to tell men that they should have sex with their partners when their partners are upset. It delegitimizes and trivializes their partners’ emotions. 

Hartley claims on TikTok that he has led numerous dating seminars and motivational speeches while also running a website to help men become more confident in themselves and improve their dating lives. Conner debunks these claims, demonstrating that the “seminars” were sparsely attended and held in hotel rooms. His website, similarly, is over-simplistic and appears to be a rip-off of SkillShare. 

Hartley clapped back to Conner’s commentary, releasing a reaction video titled “TikTok’s Most Wanted Man” — a very ironic title. It implies either that Hartley is some sort of outlaw or a man desired by many. Who would want Hartley, a man who compares women to horses and has proclaimed that he does whatever he wants in relationships because he has “balls”? 

Hartley begins his response by calling Conner’s video an “exposé” or “attack.” He also claims to not know Conner, despite having blocked him before Conner even made the first video. Hartley’s favorite defense is that his words are “out of context.” However, Conner played the TikToks in their entirety, giving the viewer all necessary context. Oddly, Hartley shows no clips from Conner’s video, instead paraphrasing and only addressing the points he wanted to show.

For example, when defending his “easy mode” argument, Hartley says that Conner took issue with the point because women get periods and so their lives are hard. However, Conner did not say that; instead, he pointed out the structural inequality that exists in society and oppresses women. Rather than showing the clip, Hartley makes a false claim and refutes it to make himself look better. Hartley acts condescendingly toward Conner, saying, “Some people need it spelled out for them.” 

Hartley continues to talk down to Conner, explaining the definition of metaphor in a rude tone, claiming that the “mares in a stable” TikTok was just an expression. Hartley also defends his “polyamorous” relationship in which he forced his girlfriends to only talk to him in a group chat. Conner jokingly rebutts this defense in an episode of his podcast, “Very Really Good,” giving an example: What if one girlfriend had an intimate rash and only wanted to tell one person about it? While Conner admits he has never been in a polyamorous relationship, the controlling nature of this limitation on communication still disturbs him. 

Hartley also argues that Conner made “grand conjectures” about him, but that it is “beneath” him to “bash” Conner’s character. Conner took issue with this, responding, “Objectifying women and comparing them to horses, and fetishizing an entire sexuality, that’s fine. That’s fine with him. If he’s making women feel like s—, that’s cool. But it’s beneath him to make claims about another guy? Misogynist confirmed.” This point certainly stands. Why is it beneath Hartley to attack Conner, but not beneath him to bash the entire female gender?

At one point, Hartley says, “That’s what half-baked journalism gets you, Kurtis Conners.” Firstly, he says Conner’s name incorrectly. Also, Conner has never described himself as a journalist. This video is a commentary, not an “attack.” Hartley also changed his website and then accuses Conner of having poor reading comprehension, which is ableist and mocks those with learning differences. He then defends his website, listing things his website can do — which Conner explained most basic websites can do. In response, Conner doubles down and calls the site “SkillShare for douchebags.” 

Hilariously, Hartley says near the end of this rebuttal, “Content is content, it doesn’t matter who you bully as long you bully somebody.” Conner’s video is not bullying. He doesn’t attack Hartley for who he is, but rather the content he creates. Conner refutes this in his podcast, saying, “You’re making weird, predatory, sh—y content, and I’m saying why it’s bad.” The reality is that his video argues against what Hartley says about dating and women, which isn’t bullying. Disagreement isn’t bullying, and claiming that is a feeble attempt at saving face.

Currently, Hartley has eight videos up on his TikTok titled “To Clarify” on different topics, such as misogyny, the horse “metaphor,” homosexuality, etc. To me, this seems like backpedaling in response to Conner’s valid criticism. Hartley’s too proud to admit he is wrong and that his views do toe the line of misogyny, if not cross it entirely. Metaphor or not, women aren’t horses, and you shouldn’t keep a stable. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting a relationship, but it’s manipulative and unfair to keep people on the line thinking you will eventually date them. Also, just generally, don’t compare women to animals. It’s dehumanizing. 

To Russell: You weren’t bullied, you weren’t attacked, you weren’t unfairly persecuted. It’s okay to make mistakes, but when others call you out on it, maybe take that time to learn, reflect, and grow instead of making a condescending video full of untruths that only makes you look worse.

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