What is negging? Negging is when a man erodes your self-confidence by insulting you with a smile, so that you aren't really sure if he is insulting you or not. And it is the most famous technique of the Pick-Up Artist movement, a movement born of the Sexual Revolution and men's competitiveness with other men. If you think the PUA movement hates women, and it does, it also hates men, dividing them into "alpha males" and "betas." It is a sort of false religion with a banal central myth. Here's the central myth:
Women long to be dominated by men who provide excitement and sexual thrills, pleasant or unpleasant. Such men are called alphas, and because they are smart they have sex with as many women as possible until they feel like marrying someone young, beautiful and relatively untouched, if they want to risk marriage at all. Marriage is more the business of betas, nice guys that women marry after they have been dumped by alphas, and the betas are suckers because the odds are that their wives will get bored, have extramarital affairs with alphas, divorce the betas and take them to the cleaners. So don't be a beta.
This religion was founded in the 1990s, and its adherents keep a low profile, except online, so female you will rarely know you have met one, unless the words "alpha" and "beta" escape his lips or you are in a bar, picking at a plate of chips while waiting for a pal, and a stranger comes smiling up to you and says, "Ah! A woman who clearly isn't afraid to eat what she likes!"
Women debate whether or not negging actually "works", i.e. gets a woman's attention and makes her try to make the man like her. Some point out that these days women are impressed if a stranger has the courage to speak to us at all. Others observe that when a woman is feeling battered by life, she'll respond positively to almost any non-violent one-on-one male attention. But still others ruefully admit that negging seems to work on them. And I believe them.
I also believe there is a direct connection between insults, lowered self-confidence and being stuck to a guy like glue. I think it may have something to do with parents. We usually spend the first 20 years of our lives with our parents, and our parents sometimes build us up, and sometimes tear us down, and as kids we put up with it because what else are we going to do? So we desperately try to please our parents and feel a thrill of pleasure when they are happy and praise us. Meanwhile, our parents are not perfect so we are often surprised and hurt when they yell at us, not because we have done something wrong, but because they are in a bad mood. And being kids we might not know that and just get confused and blame ourselves anyway to take a weird comfort in believing ourselves to have any control of our lives. Blaming ourselves for the irrationality of people we find attractive (perhaps because they remind us of our parents) can continue into adulthood--one reason why parents should apologize to their confused and hurting children for their own stupid mistakes or bad temper.
(I took an oath as a child not to forget as an adult what it is like to be a child. To be a child is to be often bored, to do stuff you do not want to do very often, and to feel completely powerless. The last part is the worst.)
Women with truly abusive parents often end up with abusive men because they think abuse is normal and how people you love are supposed to behave. It's very warped, but there it is. If you spent 20 years with your mother telling you that you'll never amount to much, there's a good chance you'll end up with a man who will tell you you're nothing. You've been programmed, as if by a cult, and the best thing you can do, if you had a not-good-enough mother or father or both, is to go into therapy as soon as you can, to be re-programmed. You need the voice in your head to stop telling you you're crap and to start telling you the truth.
Meanwhile, there are other voices around us. These are the voices of those family members who really do love us in constructive ways and our friends. These are the people we need around us when we meet a guy to whom we feel attracted, especially if he seems to be at least somewhat attracted to us. All kinds of emotions cloud our reason, and so we depend on the clear-sightedness of family and friends. Family and friends can say "Handsome is as handsome does" more easily that you can because to you the entire world has shrunk to one magnetic presence.
Of course, there is only so much a friend can do and say. If you are going out with a guy who belittles you and makes you feel less confident and that you are lucky that a guy-as-great-as-him cares about you at all, since no other guy would, your family and friends are eventually going to get mad at you. If they don't like him, and they can't see you unless you're with him, they might stop seeing you at all. This is the worst thing that can happen to your sense of autonomy because you will lose the voices that say "You don't deserve to be treated the way he treats you."
Ultimately, the responsibility for getting out of a bad relationship rests with you, and that can be very difficult. Very difficult. After a few attempts, the only way I escaped a very bad relationship was to tell my spiritual director all about it and to seize onto his words "You never have to see him again."
This was a complete revelation, but it was absolutely true. If I wanted to, I could have sat there in that office until I was carried out, clutching the chair. And as I was traumatized, that actually was a possibility. At some point I called out for sandwiches. I don't think my poor spiritual director was expecting that, poor man. But as a matter of fact, I never did see that man again. Never spoke to him. Never called him. Never emailed him, except to say I never wanted to see him again and he could pick up various items at the campus police station.
Now that is a rather extreme way to end a relationship, and I really think the best thing to do is to promise oneself not to get attached to any otherwise attractive man who insults you, and to report any insults to your best friends at once, so they can tell your addling brain what a jerk he is. Because although many women are turned off at once by men who insult them, I fear that other women gravitate towards them in an attempt to prove they are wrong. It's awful, and it's sad, but it's true and one of my readers was raped by a man like that. He said something like, "You look like the kind of girl who would be afraid to be alone in a room with a guy like me." And I don't think I will forget her email until the day I die.
Update: I live in Scotland, so I should say something about banter. I am at a critical distance from banter at the moment, as I have been in Toronto, where people are rather more gentle and polite than they are in Edinburgh. (B.A. was taken aback by the humour on Canadian television, which he thought overly anodyne and not particularly funny, and he was surprised that his in-laws were so entertained by it.)
Banter is good-hearted ribbing, and Scotsmen usually love it. Non-Scots, however, don't necessarily love it, particularly when it takes the form of men ganging up on women to tease them about relationship or sexual stuff. I have a friend who suffered very much at work from men teasing her all day long, under cover of "banter," about sexual stuff. And I know a woman who finally told her partner to stop using "banter" to belittle her to their friends at dinner parties. It was driving her crazy.
Scottish banter begins at the gates of whichever Canadian flight is leaving for Scotland, and I was greatly amused last year when a group of Scottish strangers gave a man they'd been friendly with hell for flying "Club class." This year, however, I was not so amused when the people in "Club class" were invited to board, and a Scotswoman behind me snarled, "If ye're no' Club class, ye're the scum o' the airth." To which I thought, Oh, get over it. They chose to pay the extra money. You have nothing to complain about.