Kevin Bendesky

After a planned worldwide meetup of self-declared “men’s rights activists” garnered international attention late last week, organizer Daryush Valizadeh — also known as “Roosh V,” the owner of the controversial website “Return of Kings” — canceled the meetups out of concern for attendees’ safety.

Valizadeh, a writer, anti-feminist and self-described “pick-up artist,” had originally planned the worldwide meetups Saturday night for like-minded men to congregate and discuss current events and social issues. Events were planned in 165 cities around the world, including Stamford and New Haven, where men were told to meet near a flagpole at a World War I memorial. The meetups were canceled after protesters threatened to demonstrate at the locations.

Valizadeh achieved notoriety last year for a blog post arguing that rape should be legalized on private property. He wrote in the blog post that such a legalization would incentivize women to “protect [their bodies]” and make them less likely to be raped.

In a wide-ranging, rambling press conference to journalists in an undisclosed Washington, D.C. hotel Saturday, Valizadeh criticized the world’s media for focusing on his own organization despite the prevalence of other, more serious problems. He condemned the media for failing to report on the mass sexual attacks on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany but devoting considerable attention to the worldwide meetups.

“When a real rape happens that goes against the agenda of your boss, you actually hide it,” he said to journalists assembled in the hotel. “When no rapes happen, and I try to do a meetup, you lose your s—. Not only are you guys not honest in your reporting of me … but when real harm takes place, you don’t say anything.”

Valizadeh said his infamous blog posts arguing for “legal rape” have been misinterpreted, saying that he meant only to provoke the public into considering ways in which women could protect themselves from rape, and describing the blog posts as “satire.” In the press conference, Valizadeh compared rape to car theft: only he would be to blame for the theft of his own BMW if he left it parked in a high-crime area with the keys in the ignition, he said.

The planned meetups sparked a national backlash, and although Connecticut politicians did not make public statements, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement harshly criticizing Valizadeh and Return of Kings’ writings last Wednesday, as news of the meetups began to spread.

“This pathetic group and their disgusting viewpoints are not welcome in Texas,” he said. “I’ve spent much of my career protecting women from such vile and heinous acts, and it won’t be any different on my watch as governor.”

In light of his inflammatory remarks, many countries around the world have sought to ban Valizadeh from entering. The United Kingdom’s House of Commons debated a potential ban on Valizadeh’s entry into the country last week.

U.K. Minister for Security Karen Bradley condemned Valizadeh and his teachings on behalf of the British government.

“The government condemns in the strongest terms anyone who condones rape and sexual violence or suggests that responsibility for stopping these crimes rests with the victims,” she said. “Responsibility always, unequivocally, rests with the perpetrator.”

Faced with questions about banning Valizadeh from the country, Bradley declined to comment, stating that she could not elaborate publicly on individual cases. Bradley noted that Home Secretary Theresa May does, however, retain the power to ban noncitizens from the country if their presence is deemed “not conducive to the public good.”

Similar debates were held in Australia, where 50,000 people petitioned to block Valizadeh from entering the country after he announced plans to do so earlier this month.

Condemnation of the planned meetups also came from Yale.

Vicki Beizer ’18, the public relations coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, said the organization was pleased the meetups were canceled.

“Their meeting would have been a disrespect to everyone who calls Yale and New Haven home, especially those who have experienced gender-based or sexual violence,” she said in a statement to the News. “Although it is troubling that some members of the community are drawn to the inflammatory and misogynist rhetoric of these ‘activists,’ we are comforted by the fact that the group’s ideology is not tolerated by the general Yale/New Haven community.”

Valizadeh said he was the victim of scapegoating by the international media, which he described as searching for a “martyr.” He said he has received death threats in response to the planned meetups and his views on women and rape. He tweeted on Friday that he had been warned to leave the Washington, D.C. area, including his parents’ home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Only three in every 100 rapists serve prison time for the crime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network — the country’s largest anti-sexual assault organization.