Feminists in an Adventure with Pickup Artists

by Wardog

Wardog dons her humourless femi-nazi hat.
~
I should say - discussions of sex, and sexual abuse, so potential trigger warnings.

I just double-billed Clarisse Thorn’s newly released e-book Confessions of Pickup Artist Chaser with Neil Strauss’ 2005 bestselling PUA classic The Game and, let me tell you, it’s been quite a ride. Just to give a bit of background in case you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about: the pickup artist (PUA) or seduction community is basically a subculture of heterosexual men dedicated to manoeuvring women into bed, though you’d be forgiven for wondering at what point wanting to get laid began to constitute a subculture. From relatively low key beginnings, in newsgroups, forums and mailing lists, where men came together to complain about why those bitches only want to shag jerks discuss their experiences and refine upon the teachings of a handful of gurus, like Ross Jeffries and David DeAngelo, it’s now a massive industry (just try googling this shit) and, arguably, went pretty mainstream, if it wasn’t already, with the publication of Strauss’ writings on the subject.

PUA strategies have their origins in neuro-linguistic programming and other hypnosis bullshit, and are complicated, analytical and acronym-heavy. They run the gamut of basic common sense (for example, the notion that you might want to try and look vaguely attractive and have something interesting to say when you approach a member of the desired sex) to the morally dubious, like handy ways to lower a woman’s self-esteem so she’ll feel temporarily bad enough to bonk you, or techniques for overcoming Last Minute Resistance (LMR) so that if she has second thoughts you can manipulate her into having sex anyway. Yay! The PUA community itself, as Clarisse goes to some lengths to describe in her book, is equally diverse, encompassing socially awkward nerdboys who just want to learn how to talk to girls and misogynistic monsters, motivated largely by anger and frustration, who are far more interested in power and control than sex. She also reminds us explicitly in the text and implicitly through the PUAs she introduces over the course of the book that communities should not be judged by their outliers and treating groups of individuals as being homogeneous is deeply problematic.

Early on, she presents a personal taxonomy of PUAs, which she notes functions as a short-hand, differentiated by what particular ‘types’ of men want to get out of the community - for example power (Darth Vaders), money (Sharks) or plain ol’ better social skills with women (Freaks and Geeks). She situates rampant misogyny firmly in the Darth Vader camp, but although socially awkward nerdboys may not go around shrieking about how much they hate those bitches, I personally have always found the nice-guy misogyny of entitlement much more harmful than straightforward anti-feminism. And I think it’s genuinely problematic to isolate the more toxic elements of the community as being solely the province of demonic misogynists.

Just to establish where I’m coming from, here’s a sample of a lay report that Clarisse quotes in the book:
I suggest that she comes to my place and she refuses ... I suggest I drive her back to her place and she agrees. [He takes her to his place]. We get to my home and come up stairs to my room. She suddenly says “No!” I ask her why. She says she’s “worried that I’ll close the door.” I assure her I won’t; she comes in.

Now this chick did not verbally coalesce in the least. I tried to take her pants off, “Take me home.” I tried to kiss her, “Take me home.” I’m rubbing her tits, “Take me home.”


And, here’s the thing, I’m sure this was written by a perfectly ‘nice’ guy, not a woman-hating monster. But he still just raped a girl. Clarisse comments later:
And in terms of problems like aggressive LMR techniques or misogynist metaphors, it’s not clear that asshole PUAs are worse than misogynists in the mainstream...”


But I think what this lay report, and other reports like it, actually flag up is that the problem is not identified or self-identified misogynists, it’s people like this, the socially awkward nerdboys we’re supposed to feel sorry for because they were bullied at school and can’t get laid. To give the PUA community what little credit it deserves, one commenter does ask for more evidence that the girl isn’t being raped but the writer just interprets this as a problem with his write-up, not his raping.

I suppose you could argue (and Clarisse, in fact, does argue) that in teaching socially awkward nerdboys how not be creepy fucks around women, the PUA community is doing everybody a favour, but I think you also have to accept that what it might be doing is giving already resentful, entitled nerdboys useful techniques for raping women, and an entire vocabulary of self-justification for doing so. For example, PUAs call bad after-sex reactions, “buyer’s remorse.” I find the very fact they have a word for this problematic in itself, because if people are having bad reactions to sleeping with you then you’re doing it very wrong indeed. I’m absolutely 100% sure that I haven’t had sex with anyone who regretted it afterwards, nor have I had sex I have myself regretted, and I’ve plenty of casual sex.

Clarisse, I think, wants us to understand and sympathise with these socially awkward nerdboys struggling against the dismissive cruelty of attractive women:
I have stood in bars and watched beginner PUAs screw their courage to the sticking point, then try to start conversations with girls. I have watched the guys get ignored or shut down. It did not make me hate or fear them.


One would hope there’s a comfortable middle ground between hate and fear and “oh but think of the nerds” hand-wringing, one that doesn’t, for example lead to women either feeling obliged or being manipulated into sleeping with people they don’t want to sleep with. The thing is, although I do understand that it’s rubbish to be insecure and uncertain in social situations, you still have to face up to the fact that even if ignorance and awkwardness lie at the root of certain misogynistic behaviours, it still doesn’t excuse the behaviours themselves, nor should we be expected to forgive them. To put it another way: if you’ve had a really awful day and you hit me in the face, you still just hit me in the face. Your day is irrelevant.

Despite its profound problems, the truth is, I’ve been rather fascinated by pickup artistry since I learned about it from a friend a few years back. Part of the reason I was quite excited to download a copy of Confessions (other than the fact it was £1.99 when I bought it, it’s now a fiver though) is that I wanted to read a feminist perspective on the subject, because if you close your eyes and squint there are subsumed elements to pickup artistry that seem like they could be kind of almost positive, maybe. If you ignore the, ah, rape. Hum. Given that PUAs are interested in sleeping casually with women, and that women can also be interested in casual sex (not just marriage and babies), some PUA concerns seem to overlap interestingly with feminist ones.

For example, PUAs talk about the “anti-slut defence (ASD)” which is essentially PUA terminology for the constructed social pressure women are under not to sleep around, and the fear of being harshly labelled (by both men and women) for doing so. Similarly, a lot of taught PUA approach behaviours are focused on not making women feel threatened, creeped-out or otherwise uncomfortable - which is surely positive for everyone, since, as Clarisse herself points out in the book, a large part of the reason that many women don’t enjoy / don’t have casual sex is because, even putting aside the potential social stigma for being easy, it can be unpleasant and dangerous for women. The feminist-sympathetic aspects of pickup (though, it should be said that PUAs themselves are not in any way feminist friendly) are addressed effectively, and comprehensively, by Clarisse over the course of the book, and it’s fairly easy to get seduced (oh irony) by them.

However, the more I read of Confessions, the more uncomfortable I became with this search for sympathy. I mean, to look at it in the most positive possible light, there’s an extent to which all pickup artistry does is teach men techniques for initiating consensual, casual sex with women who want to sleep with pickup artists - and, thus, everybody wins. But unfortunately I don’t think the positive aspects of pickup artistry can co-exist with the negative ones, in the sense that learning how to make women feel sufficiently comfortable that they’ll go home with you at the end of the evening is kind of undermined (to put it mildly) if you then manipulate them into having sex they may not really want.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is value in Clarisse’s very moderate, very balanced, very sympathetic approach to what is surely a controversial subject, but by the end of Confessions I couldn’t help but feel it had drifted, probably unconsciously, into apologia, and I was left asking myself: who is this book for? I guess if you knew nothing about feminism or pickup artistry you’d wouldn’t be in any danger of being over-challenged (and that’s fair enough) but I felt, in general, that the tone was skewed towards pacifying pickup artists at the expense of feminism. And whatever superficial similarities it is possible to find between the agendas and preoccupations of the two groups, I don’t think we’re ever going to be friends. For example, Clarisse writes:
It’s all about the metaphors. PUAs tend to see feminists as uptight bitches who don’t want anyone to get laid while many feminists view PUAs as the foot soldiers of rape culture.


This, to me, epitomises the problems with Clarisse’s approach to the subject. It is not about the metaphors, and it’s seriously trivialising to make this issue about language when it’s about behaviour. Feminists have legitimate criticisms of pickup artistry, whereas pickup artists apparently just want to call feminists names. This is the equivalent of suggesting that, because Fred Phelps claims gay people are ‘soul-damning, nation-destroying moral filth’ while gay people say he is a bigot, the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. This is, of course, bollocks. Just because two groups, or individuals, have negative opinions of each other does not mean there is a space of compromise between the two; sometimes it is simply the case that one group is right and the other group is wrong. And moreover, even if there are (and I’m sure there are) uptight feminists out there who don’t want people to get laid, that’s not comparable to people thinking it’s okay to commit rape. Although I certainly don’t see every PUA as a rapist-in-training, and I understand that in any large community there’s bound to be some rapists in there because, hey, rape statistics are shockingly high, PUA techniques explicitly include rape, even if many/most/nearly all PUAs are not individually rapists. And that’s where the discussion has to end.

I should probably make clear at this juncture that Clarisse in no way condones rape at any point during the book (or, as far as I can tell, ever). Nor does she deliberately shy away from the more problematic elements of the seduction community, including its unpleasant objectification of women and the use of aggressive LMR techniques & etc. By the end of the book she has, in fact, concluded that her engagement with the PUA community is not good for her, and is in the process of distancing herself from it. However, despite her direct condemnation of the more hostile extremes of pickup artistry and the honesty with which she attempts to address her own agendas and ambivalences, I was still quite troubled by the book. And perhaps I’m just the world’s most paranoid reader but I felt as though there were times when her attempts to maintain a moderate position amounted to a subtle rhetoric of justification.

For example, she meets several PUAs over the course of her book, all of whom, even the sexist and challenging ones, ultimately come across pretty well. In fact, one of her most successful portraits, I would argue, is of the shark-ish Nathan, an aggressive and confident PUA coach she nicknames Mr Shady. I think there’s an extent to which Clarisse is just a nice human being, and therefore tends to present the people she encounters in as a generous a light as possible but it does lead to a rather distorted perspective of the community as a whole in that there are names and faces for its charming, balanced, socially acceptable side, whereas the darker underbelly is culled mainly from blog posts and fleeting encounters with nameless wankers, for example the PUA who snarls “What the fuck is personality?” when Clarisse puts forward the suggestion that two people might be dating because they like each other.

There’s a chapter in which Clarisse addresses the writings of a notorious PUA blogger known as Roissy but his perspective is so ludicrously, almost hilariously, sexist that there’s no space for meaningful engagement there at all, rendering him little more than an outrageous strawman against whom, in safe imaginary combat, Clarisse can ‘prove’ her feminist credentials. The overall effect of this is that it becomes increasingly easy to invest your understanding of pickup artistry in the nice people with names, rather than anonymous slew of voices, who are actually as much a part of the reality of the community as the friendly bits.

Similarly, she does an awful lot of work to situate PUA behaviour in familiar, non-threatening spaces. For example, she compares the PUA writing field (or lay) reports for the online community as being similar, or the same, as women discussing their relationships with close personal friends. Um no. She also opens the book by recounting stories about how she used to indulge in what could be interpreted as PUA behaviour, e.g. talking to random strangers (sarging) or thinking up things to say to people (preparing openers), and often references the overlap between her own interests and those of pickup artists, while simultaneously distancing herself, and her acquaintances, from the more toxic aspects of the community:
I especially loved talking to guys who – much like myself – saw pickup artistry as another tool for understanding gender and sexuality. Often, the most thoughtful guys, preferred not to label themselves pick up artists at all...


The thing is, although I do agree that aspects of pick up can be used as Clarisse suggests, emphasising the theoretical side is clearly disingenuous when the community itself is extremely derogatory about keyboard-jockeys (those who talk, but don’t practice). So what Clarisse is basically saying here is that the ‘most thoughtful guys’ she met weren’t actually PUAs, since community-identity is kind of a big part of the shtick.

As I mentioned earlier, Clarisse is at pains to present the community as a diverse group of individuals, even going so far as to highlight the ways in which her initial attitude towards PUAs was equally cynical and manipulative. However this is yet another false dichotomy. Early in the book, she recounts an evening spent with a PUA called David. He basically pulls out all the stops to sleep with her, up to and including offering to take her somewhere to get something to eat and driving her to his own apartment. His behaviour is pushy but Clarisse doesn’t feel threatened (which is entirely a personal call, and therefore I’m passing no judgements on it; however I would personally not feel safe with a man who lied to me about where he was taking me) and they have a conversation that lasts until the early hours of the morning (mainly because he changes the subject every time Clarisse asks him to take her home) interspersed with intervals of him jumping her and she rejecting his physical advances. If it was me, I would not be happy with that mismatch of expectations, since David clearly sees talking to Clarisse as a tedious premable to shagging her, but, as before, it’s a personal judgement, and that’s cool. Eventually she manages to force him to take her home, by threatening to walk instead, and she kisses him in the car, even though she doesn’t fancy him.

Well big whoop.

She writes:
... I felt zero compunctions about messing with his head in a completely non-negotiated way. He was a PUA right? He’d spent the whole night pushing my boundaries, trying to manipulate me. I dreaded to think how well his tactics might have worked on a younger, more naive, more insecure version of myself.

This was war.

And, besides, it wasn’t like PUAs had feelings or anything.


I think this is an attempt to present us with an “aaaah d’ysee” moment, by revealing the ways in which we (women/Clarisse/whatever) are just as guilty of manipulative behaviour as PUAs, and just like they reduce women to sexual objects judged solely by conventional physical attractiveness, so we also reduce PUAs to feeling-devoid monsters who...oh come on! Seriously? First of all, I don’t think Clarisse did anything wrong here at all, so I have no idea what she mea-culpa-ing about. She is perfectly open and honest with David from the beginning, telling him repeatedly she is not going to sleep with him. That he convinces himself that no really means yes and ‘wastes’ a night talking to her is his problem, not hers. If you go home with someone, you are not obliged to fuck them. If you kiss someone, you are still not obliged to fuck them. Kissing someone you aren’t attracted to may set up false expectations and is, at worst, a bit mean. But Clarisse claims the power game was non-negotiated which is complete nonsense because David not only consented to the power game, he initiated it. He just happened to lose. It’s really telling that Clarisse comes away from the encounter thinking “oh bad me, oh poor guy” when she also acknowledges that if she’d have been younger and more insecure, he would have successfully raped her.

To put it another way, we have a situation in which two people have oppositional goals. David wants to have sex with Clarisse, Clarisse does not want to have sex with David. If David fails to have sex with Clarisse, the worst that happens to him is a minor case of blue balls. He’s not entitled to sex with Clarisse, even if she comes home with him, even if she kisses him. If Clarisse fails to stop David having sex with her, then … err … we’re back to rape again. Playing mind games with someone specifically to mess with their head because you know they’re a PUA is a bit dodgy. However playing mind games with someone who has been trying to mess with your head (and possibly trying to rape you) all evening is entirely different. It’s the established terms of the relationship. If he gets a pass on trying to manipulate her into having sex with him, then she gets a pass on using his desire to have sex with her to get one over on him. Yes, it’s about power, it’s always been about power. But it was, at no point, non-consensual.

Later in the book, Clarisse discusses the commodity model of sex, and argues that PUAs are, once again, unintentionally on-side with feminists in that they recognise the harmfulness of the model and therefore work to subvert it:
PUAs have their own problems with the commodity model because they don’t like the idea that a guy should have to offer something .... in exchange for sex.


Um. Yeah. Not the same thing. Feminists don’t like the commodity model for a whole variety of reasons, mostly a) that it implies sex is something men are entitled to if they behave in a certain way b) it implies that sex isn’t something that women can want for its own sake. Pickup artists do not think that they should literally spend money to get a woman to have sex with them but this does not reject the commodity model any more than The Apprentice buying task rejects capitalism. In fact, PUA techniques are very much grounded in the assumptions of the commodity model - it is all about selling your attention as high value, and the woman’s body as low value, so that she will trade her body for your attention. And this is demonstrated perfectly in Clarisse’s encounter with David, since he clearly spends the night talking to her as an investment that will pay off when she sleeps with him.

Throughout the book, Clarisse acts as though there is room for negotiation between feminists and pickup artists, and perhaps I’m just irredeemably cynical but all her arguments succeeded in doing was convince me there isn’t. And, to an extent, I even started to resent her behaviour which struck me largely as being calculated to win the sympathies of pickup artists by proving she wasn’t one of “those” feminists. For example, when she talks about her interview with Neil Strauss, she comments: “I didn’t have much time to talk to Neil and I was nervous about coming off as a so-called ‘humourless feminazi’ so I didn’t probe further...” Incidentally, this was after expressing her surprise that so many feminists are angry with Strauss, because “from a PUA perspective, [he’s] way on our side.”

Now I understand that Clarisse is there to engage with the community, and you don’t get anything ‘out’ of people if you antagonise them but, equally, I think the point at which you’re fearful of expressing your truly held beliefs for fear of negative judgement is also the point at which you have to accept that you’re not going to be listened to anyway. Clarisse writes:
More often I avoided speaking my mind or I phrased my critiques as questions. People – especially women – can go a long way when we phrase objections as questions. I’d rather live in a world where women can be assertive without being labelled bitches but sometimes it’s fun to see how many feminists concepts I can get into a conversation by stealth.


Well, I suppose we make our own fun. And I’d rather be a bitch than a panderer, but we all make our choices.

I suppose this is just the tone argument writ large but I genuinely don’t think it is the role of feminists to make themselves approachable to anti-feminist men so theycan be patted on the head for not being angry or unpleasant or challenging like those other bitches. Again, maybe I’m being unfair but I do not buy into the idea that there are feminist-men and misogynistic-men and a morass of undecideds in the middle who can be swayed to our cause if we’re nice enough to them. This is not really a morally subjective issue. It’s like - there are some people who believe black people are entitled to the same treatment as white people. If you’re not quite sure, then you’re a racist. You shouldn’t have to be wooed into being a decent human by the people you’re oppressing. It’s really not that complicated.

And Clarisse’s attempts to wring feminism out of Neil Strauss are particularly entertaining:
If you read The Game carefully you can spot Neil’s feminist sympathies from the start. For example on page 227 he talks about how getting obsessed with pickup artistry was leading him to ignore his career and non-PUA friends. He writes: “All the sarging was beginning to scramble my brain ... in the process of dehumanising the opposite sex, I had also been dehumanising myself.


Firstly, I wouldn’t consider page 227 to be “the start” exactly but this argument has precisely the same problems as Clarisse’s earlier effort to support the idea that PUA techniques challenge the commodity model of sex, in that although a superficially similar conclusion is reached, the underlying assumptions are irreconcilable. PUAs dehumanise women by reducing them to physical objects, and women, obviously, aren’t mad keen on this. Neil Strauss is mainly worried that dehumanising women is having a bad effect on him. This is not the same as recognising that dehumanising other people is, in itself, not okay.

Differing feminist agendas aside, however, my main problem with Confessions was actually the writing. The book is clearly a labour of love, which makes me feel slightly guilty for criticising it but, despite being quite interesting in some places, it’s simply too long and too unwieldy. Somehow it manages to be both incredibly laboured and structurally incoherent. Clarisse opens every chapter with a Henry Fielding-esque summary of what is to come and ends with - I shit you not - a tl;dr summary of what you’ve just damn well read, but still everything feels a little haphazard, as she careens from analysis to citation to personal musings and anecdotes to random pieces of advice, There tends to be a vague thematic connection but it’s disorganised, ill-disciplined, self-indulgent and, oh God, it needs an editor so badly.

I understand that Clarisse is a blogger and it does feel like a very new-media text, heavily hyperlinked and drawing its references largely from the internet, which is fine by the way, but I felt that some of the stylistic holdovers from blogging actually interfered with Confessions’ effectiveness as a book. The tl;dr summaries, for example, drove me nuts. I can absolutely see their value on webpages, which people tend to browse with limited time and attention, but when you’re sitting there, with a book in your hands, you’re kind of already committed and therefore telling me what I’ve just read isn’t helpful, it’s unnecessary (and borderline insulting).

Similarly, when you’re writing a long-running blog, readers dip in and out of it at random, they often forget what they’ve read, they might have missed certain posts, or they might be a new reader, so it’s important to repeat vital pieces of information regularly, and it serves you well to take a basically Dickensian approach to characterisation: Mr Flubberwit, my submissive feminist ex-lover with the tongue ring who once took me to a sex party in Paris … However, books tend to be read over a relatively short of period of time, and therefore the information contained within them is often retained, at least while you’re in the middle of reading, so Clarisse’s habit of constantly reminding me of everything she’s already told me rapidly became infuriating. By the end of the book, I was about ready to scream every time I read the words: “my goth-feminist polyamorous PUA friend, the S&M switch Brian...” Given how many times she’d already given us an S&M 101, I was starting to wonder what other kind of switch she imagined we might believe Brian to be. A light switch?

Although the writing style is inoffensive, lucid and occasionally witty, it’s not sparkling and, at times, it’s painfully over-explanatory. I cracked a little smile when I ran across a chapter called “Women in their sensitivities”, but then, of course, Clarisse had to take all the fun out of it by immediately telling me that this is a reference to Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Sweeney Todd. The thing about off-hand references is that if the reader needs to pick up on them to understand something about the text, they shouldn’t be there in the first place. In this case, if you didn’t get the chapter title, it honestly wouldn’t have mattered, so it was perfectly safe to remain unexplicated. Similarly, when Clarisse introduces us to the blogger Hugh Ristik, she kindly tells us: “his blogger name was a pun on the semi-obscure psychological term ‘heuristic’ which indicates an experience-based method of making quick decisions. Urrrgh. I understand that readers come to text with differing levels of knowledge and although I think it’s perfectly reasonable Clarisse would take the time to explain certain S&M, or feminist concepts in case they were unfamiliar, it seems to me as though she genuinely has no faith whatsoever in her readers to get a pun, recognise a reference or, even, remember something she said a paragraph ago, let alone a chapter. It’s just depressing.

I’d say that her strengths as a writer, such as they are, lie in analysis and exploration, which means that the various people she introduces to us over the course of the book don’t come across particularly successfully. Although one can superficially distinguish between Brian the (S&M) switch and David the one who didn’t manage to rape her and Adam the dude she has a totally abortive relationship with, it’s basically just one long bland-a-thon. I commented earlier that I think she’s just a genuinely nice person who doesn’t want to write anything bad about anyone, and that’s entirely reasonable, but it does mean that the people she encounters have very little depth or reality to them. Nathan, the sharkish one, comes across the best, and I suspect that’s largely because he’s such an invincibly arrogant tosser that she wasn’t worried about criticising him, or portraying him in a semi-negative light. Adam, who is surely supposed to be sort of important, since she spends half the book alternatively analysing and then agonising over how much she likes him, is an utter non-entity. I didn’t entirely understand why the relationship fell apart (a lack of honest communication, if you ask me, but I’m a simple creature) but then I didn’t really understand why they were into each other either.

Clarisse writes:
I liked Adam. He was smart and unassuming and nerdy, an excellent conversationalist, had an ironic sense of humour, had done some interesting activism, read lots of science fiction and his feminist politics were rock-solid. You know what’s even hotter than a man who intelligently uses ‘heteronormative’ in a sentence? A man who can use both ‘heteronormative and cisgendered.’


Well, yes, those are nice qualities, but they didn’t really give me any sense of him as a person. Also nearly everybody I know can use those words in a sentence - I consider it kind of the default. I couldn’t actually work out why the Adam Sequence was in the book at all. I think he was supposed to be her attempt to date a PUA, or her attempt to date while being saturated in PUA culture, but none of this really comes through successfully or illuminatingly. Mainly it ends up with Clarisse having interminable conversations with her vegan-psychologist-friend Sharon in which she says things like: “Thirdly he’s inexperienced with alternative sexualities like S&M and polyamory … he has really good S&M instincts and he’s a good communicator, and he’s familiar with the idea of polyamory but I don’t think he’s as committed to polyamory as I am. If we got serious that could end up being a major conflict because I’m not letting another guy talk me out of polyamory.” And I felt like stabbing myself in the eyes with a fork. Is this how other women really talk about their relationships? God help us all.

The main thing Confessions did for me was make me easy prey for The Game. I should hate The Game, I really should, but, honestly, I kind of feel there’s no point. It’s simply too reprehensible and too delicious. And, yes, I am well-aware of the irony that a PUA text basically PUA-ed me into delirious submission - but I am 100% consenting. Where Confessions is workmanlike at best, The Game is glittering and fabulous. It has a similar sense of unreality to it, but that’s because Strauss (unlike Clarisse) successfully weaves a satisfying fictionalised narrative from random events (that, in Strauss’ case may or may not be true), and whereas Clarisse clearly hesitates to portray people unsympathetically, Strauss has no compunction whatsoever in shredding his friends and acquaintances into little piles of humiliation. I mean, The Game opens with Mystery (PUA extraordinaire) crying hysterically in the middle of an epic nervous breakdown on the floor of Project Hollywood:
“I can’t tell you what this feels like,” he choked out between sobs. His whole body spasmed. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it will not be rational.” [...]

He wore a gold silk robe that was several sizes too small, exposing his scabbed knees. The ends of the sash just barely met to form a knot and the curtains of the robe hung half a foot apart, revealing a pale, hairless chest and below it, saggy gray Calvin Klein boxer shorts. [...]

“This living thing.” He was speaking again. “It’s so pointless.”


It’s a gorgeously unglamorous beginning, and basically sets the tone for what follows which is PUAs Behaving Badly. Strauss pulls of a masterful job of portraying nearly everyone involved in the community as a frail, fallible pathetically broken human being. Well, everyone but him. He’s seems fairly honest about his insecurities and inadequacies but since everyone he meets reacts as though he’s awesome, they evidently don’t really count. I guess that officially makes Neil Strauss the Mary Sue of his own life because even when he’s your everyday AFC (average frustrated chump) who can’t get laid the proclaimed gurus of the nascent PUA community, like Mystery and Ross Jeffries, nevertheless see something in him, fight over him and generally court his favour.

I personally read The Game which so much salt it’s a wonder I didn’t die of heart failure in the middle, while giggling with delight, but it reads like a cross between really trope-heavy genre fiction (the young Chosen One, considered lowly by the world at large, has his value recognised by a succession of wise mentors who nurture him on his destined journey to become the Lord of Pickup) and one of those delicious 18th century confessionals about how the author turned his back on righteousness, God and virtue and proceeded to have an awesome time, but now he’s sorry, really, sorry, and righteousness, God and virtue are totally the only way to live. As such, it’s a ridiculous, hypocritical and generally repulsive text but, oh my god, it’s so compulsively readable that I had a complete blast with it.

The plot, such as it is, basically revolves around Strauss’ gradual mastery of pickup and his ascendancy, alongside Mystery, over a community of desperate, needy men. There’s a lot of Strauss angsting about sex (it takes him a long time to close, even when he has overcome his approach anxiety), a succession of unerotic, uninteresting sexual encounters, some fame-wanking (Strauss meets Tom Cruise and Courteny Love OHMGEE) and eventually the establishment Project Hollywood, which is supposed to be this amazing epitome of, um, something, man bonding I think, but basically comes across as a frat house for PUAs. And, needless to say, falls apart disastrously. Our noble hero grows gradually more disillusioned with pickup (but only, of course, after he’s had all the hot chicks and threesomes he wants) eventually meets a girl who doesn’t tolerate any of his bullshit, falls in love with her and moves on with his life.

Although I wouldn’t go looking for feminism in The Game (despite the fact Strauss playfully-maliciously opens each chapter with the juxtaposition of a macho cartoon and a quote from a feminist writer) I very much enjoyed the spectacle of reading about a bunch of dudes behaving in a manner stereotypically ascribed to women. There’s so much bitching, politicking and infighting in Project Hollywood it’s nothing short of hilarious. And for presenting PUAs as a bunch of complete losers, you couldn’t do better than The Game. Despite the chapter in which Strauss tediously details some of his sexual triumphs, there seems to be remarkably little actual shagging on the part of most of the PUAs in the book. They seem to spend all their time bonding with each other and writing things on the internet. It left me wondering if PUA communities are just men pretending to have sex for each other and Project Hollywood rapidly devolves into two competing PUA businesses (Tyler Durden and Papa versus Mystery) so ultimately everyone seems to spend considerably less time chasing women than they do other men. None of this, of course, alters what pickup is about, and the techniques it teaches (quite a few of which were, of course, invented by Strauss and Mystery back in the day) but at least there’s no element of pretence here.

Also say what you like about Strauss but the man can write. Considering it’s his career, I’d kind of hope so. I was often just genuinely entertained by what I was reading. For example, there’s a bit near the beginning where Mystery essentially forces the balding Strauss to get his head shaved:
“Balding is not a choice, but bald is a choice,” he said. “If anyone asks why your head is shaved tell them, I used to have it down past my ass but then I realised I was covering up my best feature.” He laughed...

When the barber finished I looked in the mirror and saw a chemo patient staring back at me.

“It looks good,” Mystery said.


The truth is, I don’t really know what to do with The Game. I wouldn’t try to recommend it, but it is lots of fun if you’re comfortable reading about a community that is actively harmful to women (and occasionally men). I’m conscious, however, of the irony attendant on the fact that I am far less troubled by The Game, a product of the community whose behaviour I feel morally obliged to condemn (cf, rape, discussed earlier) than I am by Confessions of Pickup Artist Chaser, which was written by a woman whose sexual politics I ostensibly share.

I think it might ultimately come down to what you might call the problem of secondary criticism. The Game is a problematic text and there’s no denying it’s a problematic text but one can choose to find value in problematic texts, as entertainment or for historical interest or for personal reasons or whatever, and that’s perfectly acceptable. It’s the equivalent of liking Robert E Howard or Creepy Howie - yes they’re a pair of enthusiastic racists, but it doesn’t mean you can’t derive some pleasure from their texts, or that those texts are worthless and meaningless. What you can’t do, however, is argue that they’re not racist or that the racism is somehow okay. Confessions comes across, to me, as an inevitably unsuccessful attempt to mediate the problems of pickup artistry. It’s perfectly possible to be a feminist and sympathetic to PUAs just as you can like Robert E Howard without being racist. What doesn’t work, however, is trying to reconcile feminism with pickup artistry, or characterising the clash between the two as being about language and mutual misunderstanding rather than about the fact that the PUA community encourages its members to engage in abusive behaviour. I can handle Neil Strauss telling me he’s awesome; I can’t handle Clarisse Thorn telling me he’s a feminist.
~

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~
Comments (go to latest)
Sister Magpie at 04:15 on 2012-04-06
Wow, just from reading this I came to the same conclusion as your last sentence. The first book sounds completely chilling. Do I want to read about a woman feeling bad about not telling the guy she knew he was trying to rape her the whole time and let him waste his time? Especially since I know I'd be freaked out just reading about a woman with a man who changes the subject whenever she asks him to take her home--when he took her there against her will to start with.
PUA techniques are very much grounded in the assumptions of the commodity model - it is all about selling your attention as high value, and the woman’s body as low value, so that she will trade her body for your attention.

I couldn't actually do more than skim this review, because I can already feel the slime on my skin, but: wow, what a miserable, pathetic way to interact with people. PUAs sound like incredibly unfun, unhappy people, always measuring their actions against one arbitrary standard or another, never able to let go and have a good time or truly enjoy a woman's company.

Why anyone would want to spend any time with these men, much less try to find common ground with them regarding feminism, is beyond me. They're not feminists and they don't want to be. They simply don't share the basic assumption of feminism that women are people. Women are walking sources of sex to them, nothing more or less.
Melissa G. at 06:40 on 2012-04-06
I love you for writing this. I hate the PUA community with a fiery, fiery passion, and I love seeing intelligent critique of their fucking awful techniques. <3
valse de la lune at 12:36 on 2012-04-06
Jesus. I didn't realize how bad the PUA "subculture" was. That "lay report" made my skin crawl and made me want to spam twitter with the #killallmen hashtag forever.
Wardog at 13:24 on 2012-04-06
@Sister Magpie
To be fair to Confessions, I found it overall more sympathetic to PUAs than I was personally comfortable with but I think it was a good-faith attempt to present a balanced perspective. Unfortunately, as I tried to address in the review, I think the balance was slightly skewed. I found the whole section with David very very odd. Of course, it's just a second hand story so there's an extent to which trying to interpret it from the outside is futile , and Clarisse states that she felt comfortable and non-threatened by his behaviour, but ... yeah ... I would never judge someone else's sexual behaviour but I have no idea where the "oh poor David, I wouldn't have sex with him" conclusion came from. I suppose, perhaps, because it's more empowering to think to yourself "I totally headfucked that guy, poor thing" than "omg, that guy spent all night trying to rape me."
Wardog at 13:45 on 2012-04-06
@Fishinginthemud

Awww, I'm sorry, it can be a bit of a shock to the system. *offers hose*

I think it's, err, difficult. I mean, on its most harmless, most positive level pickup artistry teaches under-confident, insecure men how to approach women uncreepily for casual sex. Look as attractive as possible, don't lean over her and stare at her boobs, have something to say (even if it's something rehearsed) and don't take rejection personally is actually pretty decent advice. And since I've seen first-hand via friends the agonies some men go through at the prospect of talking to a strange woman, I'd pretty much be behind anything that helped them - even if they wanted to turn it into secret dude-club for dudes, even if it was anti-feminist. Unfortunately PUA stuff goes skeevy and rapetastic so there my sympathy ends, and I can't really balance the potential positives against the potential rape.

Most of the PUAs I've seen in action, either on the internet or *gasp* in person (yeah, I've met like one practising, self-defining PUA in my life) are incredibly charming and fun, in a shallow kind of way. If I didn't know he was Neil Strauss I would totally hypothetically sleep with Neil Strauss - he's intelligent, witty and interesting. But PUA behaviours are not designed for getting to know a woman on a personal level, or for forming friendships or relationships - and, again, I think that's kind of okay. When I'm in the mood for casual sex, I don't want to have a deep conversation about the meaning life, and I don't particularly care about being personally known, I just want to meet someone I'm shallowly attracted to, and feel safe with, and could comfortably leave behind the next morning. So there's an extent to which some, though not all, casual sex encounters are a mechanism by which two people consensually, err, treat each other as walking sources of sex. But the important thing is to establish that in a healthy, none-rapey, non-dehumanising way.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I can support something that is Good For Men TM (as long as it's not Bad For Women TM - which unfortunately pickup is) but I really can't get behind attempts to see feminism there.

Wardog at 13:48 on 2012-04-06
@Melissa
I am not completely unsympathetic to pickup (and I had a blast with The Game) - I think the world would be overall a better place if people were better at hooking up, and women weren't judged for it. Unfortunately the negatives of pickup are so vile that I can't really get behind the positives either.

@Valse
Well, I think that lay report is an extreme but, even so, yes, it's awful... I also find it really telling that he used the same techniques on his, um, victim (date?) that David uses on Clarisse and Clarisse *still* came away from her encounter thinking "oh poor PUA" rather than "wow, this could totally lead to some other person getting raped."
Arthur B at 14:38 on 2012-04-06
Waaaaaaaait a minute, mein femi-Fuhrer, I just noticed something:

- Thorn's name is "Clarisse".
- She enters a murky underworld of PUAs.
- She strongly feels that they are unwell at best and outright sick at worst.
- She finds herself targeted by the same mind games the PUAs use on their victims, and realises this is happening.
- Despite all this, she ends up realising she is beginning to sympathise with them despite herself.
- She eventually distances herself from them, but it's quite evident that there is still a sympathy there which is deeply troubling.

Conclusion: Hannibal Lecter is a PUA. Seriously, watch Silence of the Lambs some time and see all the PUA techniques he uses, he's practically constantly negging the protagonist.

Other thoughts: the depressing thing is I'm not sure David would regard the outcome of the power game as a loss for him. Sure, he didn't win the prize, but he got a kiss out of it; I would be willing to bet money he marked that down as getting to "first base" and regarded the evening as a qualified success building the groundwork for a home run next time.

I mean, if I spent an evening with a woman where we ended up sitting up talking all night and she kissed me at the end of it I'd be feeling pretty good about myself. Then again I wouldn't be constantly trying to control her mind with my "Scientology for Nice Guys" bullshit.
Look as attractive as possible, don't lean over her and stare at her boobs, have something to say (even if it's something rehearsed) and don't take rejection personally is actually pretty decent advice.

Sure, but it's also basic and obvious enough that the average Nice Guy probably wouldn't find it very impressive. You'd need to dress it up in a lot of bitch-hating rhetoric to appeal to them, and make sure it's coming from the dude club for dudes, not some lying whore who just wants to laugh at you and deny you sex.

I guess I just find it disturbing how unwilling these men are to simply treat women as people and see where things go from there. They don't trust women, they don't think women know their own interests, and they refuse to be honest and straightforward with women on principle. They're so absolutely committed to their own myths about sex and dating it's like talking to religious fundamentalists.

And since I've seen first-hand via friends the agonies some men go through at the prospect of talking to a strange woman, I'd pretty much be behind anything that helped them - even if they wanted to turn it into secret dude-club for dudes, even if it was anti-feminist.

I'm just not comfortable with the idea that because PUAs on a very superficial level offer advice that might be useful and non-harmful, they're maybe not all bad. They encourage and validate Nice Guys in their hatred of women, and make them continue to see sex in a deeply unhealthy way. You shouldn't get to decide women aren't human just because it might help you get laid, or more likely give you the opportunity to rape someone. Feminism isn't optional, just like not drugging people or beating them up to get them to do what you want isn't optional. That's not a door that should be opened.

So there's an extent to which some, though not all, casual sex encounters are a mechanism by which two people consensually, err, treat each other as walking sources of sex.

Absolutely. But there's a point where you actually start seeing women not just as sources of sex, but as *obstacles* to it. The woman's personality and humanity are things you have to *overcome* to get access to her body. This is the basic message of PUA dogma, and it's dressed up in varying degrees of "charm" and creepiness.
Sister Magpie at 17:02 on 2012-04-06
To be fair to Confessions, I found it overall more sympathetic to PUAs than I
was personally comfortable with but I think it was a good-faith attempt to
present a balanced perspective. Unfortunately, as I tried to address in the
review, I think the balance was slightly skewed.


Oh, I totally got that. That's what made it so scary to me. It sounds like she's going out of her way to treat these people with respect and that's working against her so that she's trying to find ways that she's got a lot in common with, and is maybe no better than, a guy who treated her like prey. Which in some ways just so fits into so many sexist stereotypes anyway, where the woman is supposed to be finding the man inside the beast while the guy, as someone else said, is treating the woman's humanity as just an obstacle keeping him from sex.

So you wind up with a total "What about the menz?" situation when to me this is obviously as situation where it's more important for the girl to be taught to think of herself and protect herself and not let her empathy (or the fact that she's been brought up to be nice to others) be used against her. No woman should ever be in situation where the guy changes the subject whenever she says "take me home" and thinking about how she can be more sensitive to his needs.
Melissa G. at 18:20 on 2012-04-06
@Kyra

Honestly, I think the reason I hate it so much is because I *could* like it. I like the self-confidence building aspects of it, but I hate how it views and talks about women. It's like they come to these great conclusions (Women like to have sex as much as men) but then use that knowledge in the worst way possible (Assume she wants to have sex with you and if she says no, try harder).
Honestly, I think the reason I hate it so much is because I *could* like it.

Exactly. It's the way it takes something legitimately good and helpful and poisons it with a heavy dose of resentment and hostility, and then tops it off with a layer of smarm to make it look pretty and shiny. It's like a beer commercial of dating advice.
Well I'm officially revolted. Shit like this makes me wonder if I'm not inherently despicable because I'm a man. It also makes me wonder why women fall for this shit and haven't subjugated malekind by now.
Wardog at 16:56 on 2012-04-08
Exactly. It's the way it takes something legitimately good and helpful and poisons it with a heavy dose of resentment and hostility, and then tops it off with a layer of smarm to make it look pretty and shiny. It's like a beer commercial of dating advice.

Yes, this is exactly what I was trying to communicate above and failing to express. :)

I'm just not comfortable with the idea that because PUAs on a very superficial level offer advice that might be useful and non-harmful, they're maybe not all bad.

It's really difficult - I mean, I know it's bad to, y'know, treat groups as homogeneous (like PUAs treat women, aaaaahhh d'you see) but even if there are meaningful, valid or useful elements to something that is overall harmful to other people then I suspect the only possible moral response is to write the whole thing off. Not to reach for extreme analogies or anything but ultimately I'm sure there are some members of the Klu Klux Klan who are lovely lovely people but ... err ... they're still associated with a hate-group.

Feminism isn't optional, just like not drugging people or beating them up to get them to do what you want isn't optional.

Well, it's not *optional* for me, and I have trouble maintaining deep friendships with people who do not identify as being in some way feminist aligned but I theoretically suppose it's possible to be not-misogynist and not-feminist, though this person probably wouldn't be a PUA, given that the underlying assumptions of pick up artistry are inherently misogynistic...

But there's a point where you actually start seeing women not just as sources of sex, but as *obstacles* to it.

Yes, you're so right.

It sounds like she's going out of her way to treat these people with respect and that's working against her so that she's trying to find ways that she's got a lot in common with, and is maybe no better than, a guy who treated her like prey.

Yes, and because of the way it's written, whether intended or not, it amounts to an attempt to convince the reader to engage in a similar process :/

No woman should ever be in situation where the guy changes the subject whenever she says "take me home" and thinking about how she can be more sensitive to his needs.

Word.

Well I'm officially revolted. Shit like this makes me wonder if I'm not inherently despicable because I'm a man. It also makes me wonder why women fall for this shit and haven't subjugated malekind by now.

Steady on with the self-flagellation there tiger, this wasn't meant to be a discussion of How Men Suck. Nobody is inherently despicable. Also women "fall for this shit" not because they're stupid but because it's effective, and that some do is not further evidence that the problem is women. Also it's perfectly conceivable that a woman would "fall for" i.e. consent to aggressive pick-up tactics because she wants casual sex and the person deploying the tactics is attractive and charming. The problem with PUA stuff is that they're not focused on getting women who already want to sleep with you to sleep with you - they're about getting women who *don't* want to sleep to sleep with you, or at the very least blurring the line.
Michal at 18:12 on 2012-04-08
Well I'm officially revolted. Shit like this makes me wonder if I'm not inherently despicable because I'm a man.

Man-pride levels at a critical low! Quick, deploy counter-measures!
Wardog at 21:16 on 2012-04-08
Oh no! Try this. I'm sure a PUA would totally approve :D

Frollo: If she's puts up any LMR, threaten to burn down the whole of Paris, and she'll come round.
Wardog at 21:23 on 2012-04-08
Actually I'm on a Disney PUA kick now.

Gaston: Lefrou, you'll be my wingman, provide social proof...
Lefrou: "Ev'ry guy here'd love to be you, Gaston / Even when taking your lumps
There's no man in town as admired as you / You're ev'ryone's favorite guy"
Man-pride levels at a critical low! Quick, deploy counter-measures!


Not working...

Oh no! Try this. I'm sure a PUA would totally approve :D


*drinks*

It's official. I'm a feminist. My kind are teh grossz.
Wardog at 21:42 on 2012-04-08
Oh stop with the boring trolling and leave us to our Disney... I didn't for a moment suggest there was anything wrong or disgusting with men.

Sonia Mitchell at 01:01 on 2012-04-09
Gaston was totally negging Belle when he made fun of her for reading.
Oh stop with the boring trolling and leave us to our Disney... I didn't for a moment suggest there was anything wrong or disgusting with men.


Trolololol. You're not helping me break troll with the two most despicable Darth Vaders in the Disney PUA community. Actually...this guy would probably be CEO.
Disney PUAs don't really measure up to their Nice Guys counterparts, though. Unlike a real Nice Guy, Beast had the decency to turn attractive after Belle did her womanly duty of loving him because he treated her with basic courtesy. And Aladdin actually was hot, and more fun to hang out with than Jafar.
Wardog at 03:11 on 2012-04-09
I always thought the Beast was slightly more attractive pre-transformation :/

If you like that kind of thing.
http://alula_auburn.livejournal.com/ at 05:06 on 2012-04-09
I first came across Clarisse Thorn through the long, painful HugoSchwyzer debacle (or at least, the most recent one). Links are long and complicated, but basically, a lot of it comes down to Clarisse defending and/or valorizing a VERY minority warrior feminist dude "professor" who has said any number of problematic things (particularly to WOC) and oh, yeah, attempted a murder-suicide of his girlfriend a dozen years ago, and writes about it in ways that are. . .oh, I can't even say "problematic" without starting to twitch. So it's very hard for me to not to think of her insistence on balance/compromise/aren't we all equally complicit kinds of thinking without it being colored by that. There's just an uncomfortable echo.
I thought Beast was more attractive pre-transformation, too, and I *don't* like that sort of thing XD
Michal at 07:03 on 2012-04-09
I always thought the Beast was slightly more attractive pre-transformation :/

I actually thought this was the majority position? At least in my fairy tale class, the professor said how disappointed she was after the beast's transformation and got enthusiastic agreement from the women there. Though if he looked more like his beast-form afterwards, you'd probably end up with a cartoon version of Brian Blessed.

Not that that would be a bad thing. Actually, the more I think about, the more it does seem like an improvement...
So is it that the Beast is actually hot in Beast-form, or unimpressive in human form?
Unimpressive in human form, I think.
Axiomatic at 08:04 on 2012-04-09
To recharge your manliness, you should totally listen to the Orgazmo Themesong.

Now you're a man, a man man man. Now you're a man, a manly manly man. Now you're a man, M-A-N man man man~...
Guy at 09:16 on 2012-04-09
Unimpressive in human form, I think


I'd have thought the opposite; the fact that beast is, like, a beast, is what makes him interesting. That's his whole shtick. Turn him back into a nice normal human and what's left of his character?

Doesn't Shrek 2 play with some of this stuff? The film wasn't super memorable because I've managed to forget most of it (or maybe it's just me) but isn't there some opportunity for the Ogre to become a human, and he turns it down?
Wardog at 13:17 on 2012-04-09
Oh dear God, what have I started? I'm not, err, sexually into animals (or furries) :/

I think it's partially all that romance rhetoric that tells us you should love someone as they are that makes it feel a bit incongruous for the ending to be "so, you're willing to love someone as they are, that's great, and as a reward, here, have a conventionally attractive person!"

Also, stylistically, we spent the whole movie with Beast-as-beast, so it feels as though that's the character, and the floppy haired white dude who rocks up at the end is just some random stranger - though I do seem to recall they give him the same eyes. Oh, and I guess if you really want to push the romance angle, and bear in mind I'm theorising here rather than expressing my personal preferences, but the Beast is very typically alpha - he's big, strong, wild, angry, fights off wolves and yet gentles himself for Beauty. As a human, he's just some guy.

Or perhaps I simply read too much Angela Carter at an impressionable age - I'm sure there are Beauty and the Beast riffs in The Bloody Chamber.

PS - I would be totally up for a cartoon version of Brian Blessed.

Oh, has anybody played Emily Short's Bronze? One of the things I really liked about that is that if/when you do rescue the Beast
he's just this disappointing middle aged guy
.
Wardog at 13:23 on 2012-04-09
@Alula_auburn

Hello there, thanks for the comment :) I'm not very familiar with Clarisse Thorn's work, to be honest, though I've read a couple of articles she's written here and there. Perhaps I'd have been more sympathetic if I was an established reader. I wasn't aware of the Hugo Schwyzer thing though my face is now like this :/

I am really coming to hate complicity arguments... I think there's an undertone of that running through Confessions. Though she doesn't say it explicitly the fact she keeps emphasising the diversity of community, intentionally or not, builds into a "aaaaahhh but if you judge these guys are not as bad as they are..." And it takes a lot to step back and say "actually, no, it's completely different."

And, don't get me wrong, I'm sure Clarisse's 'moderate' feminism has its place, but it's just not my kind of feminism. That's okay, it's not my place to tell other women how they ought to feel about things, but I dislike the fact a large part of her shtick seems to be telling us we'd get further if we were nicer and more conciliatory.
valse de la lune at 17:44 on 2012-04-09
Or perhaps I simply read too much Angela Carter at an impressionable age - I'm sure there are Beauty and the Beast riffs in The Bloody Chamber.

There are three!

I also thought Beast as a man was unbelievably bland.

I'm not a furry either, gosh.
Fair enough. I haven't seen Beauty and the Beast since I was about eight; it was never one of the Disney movies that resonated with me like 101 Dalmatians or Lady and the Tramp. (Maybe I'm the furry.)

I just think it's entirely predictable that "love people for who they are" means "women should love men even if they're ugly, even though men would never be asked to love a woman who isn't beautiful." Then the story seems to turn around and realize that's kind of shitty and unfair, and decide to "reward" Belle with a "hot" guy. I mean, at least they're making an effort to be consistent. I can appreciate that.
Wardog at 18:55 on 2012-04-09
There are three!


Three? The Tiger's Bride, The Courtship of Mr Lyon and...?

Then the story seems to turn around and realize that's kind of shitty and unfair, and decide to "reward" Belle with a "hot" guy. I mean, at least they're making an effort to be consistent. I can appreciate that.


Not remotely feminist but I've always loved Beauty and the Beast. It's one of my favourite fairy stories and therefore one of my favourite Disney films... it always has resonated with me, though because I want to meet a hirsute man with a short-temper to marry ;)

Also, singing cutlery. Win.
Sister Magpie at 20:21 on 2012-04-09
I just think it's entirely predictable that "love people for who they are" means
"women should love men even if they're ugly, even though men would never be
asked to love a woman who isn't beautiful." Then the story seems to turn around
and realize that's kind of shitty and unfair, and decide to "reward" Belle with
a "hot" guy. I mean, at least they're making an effort to be consistent. I can
appreciate that.


But the theme of "love people for who they are" isn't at all the theme of B&B. The Beast *isn't* loveable or worthy of love until he changes. At which point he's allowed to be human, which is his true form, again. There's no theme, for instance, about how Belle should love Gaston for who he is. The Beast/Human thing is all about punishing the prince for being a jerk and not letting him be unpunished until he's learned his lesson and stopped being a jerk. There was no lesson for Belle to learn. Her reward is in meeting a guy who loves *her* for herself by giving her a library instead of telling her she should be interested in other things.
Andy G at 21:04 on 2012-04-09
Not worthy of love ... but worthy of lust? That is the burning question.
The Beast/Human thing is all about punishing the prince for being a jerk and not letting him be unpunished until he's learned his lesson and stopped being a jerk.

Whereupon he's rewarded with the love of a Good Woman. And Belle does manage to love him in his Beast form, which was required for him to be redeemed. He may not be "worthy" of her love, but he needs it anyway, and she gives it to him because she's a Good Woman.

Belle shouldn't love Gaston because Gaston is not you, he's the guy who's trying to steal the girl you love with his good looks and charm. The Beast is you, the Nice Guy who is unworthy of the girl but in a just fairytale would would be gifted with her love and allowed to redeem yourself with it.
And I also think it's relevant that the Beast himself, in Beast form, has a number of attractive qualities. It's his own opinion of himself, which manifests as the curse placed on him, that supposedly makes him unlovable. As the self-esteem of a Nice Guy depends on how (hot) women feel about him, the salvation of everything in the Beast's life depends on his getting a woman to love him.
valse de la lune at 22:12 on 2012-04-09
@Kyra: sorry, I am stupid. It is indeed two. Ffffff.
Sister Magpie at 02:58 on 2012-04-10
Whereupon he's rewarded with the love of a Good Woman. And Belle does manage to love him in his Beast form, which was required for him to be redeemed. He may not be "worthy" of her love, but he needs it anyway, and she gives it to him because she's a Good Woman.

Belle shouldn't love Gaston because Gaston is not you, he's the guy who's trying to steal the girl you love with his good looks and charm. The Beast is you, the Nice Guy who is unworthy of the girl but in a just fairytale would would be gifted with her love and allowed to redeem yourself with it.


The Beast is cursed with having to love another person, and to earn their love in return. He earns the love by being loveable to Belle, which includes his caring about things that are important to her, and wanting her to be happy even if what she wants will make him unhappy. His becoming worthy of love is what he must do to be human.

Gaston continues to be selfish, to want Belle only for himself without caring about the things that matter to her, and to feel entitled to her love. So she doesn't love him.

If you're assigning the roles to people in real life you might imagine yourself as the good guy and the other guy as the bad guy, but the Beast lets Belle go thinking she won't come back. There's no helping guys from confusing their own Nice Guy behavior with the Beast, but the Beast's story in itself isn't troubling to me. He doesn't play out the nice guy narrative at all. He's just temporarily not handsome (allegedly).

It's his own opinion of himself, which manifests as the curse placed on him, that supposedly makes him unlovable. As the self-esteem of a Nice Guy depends on how (hot) women feel about him, the salvation of everything in the Beast's life depends on his getting a woman to love him.


That seems to imply the Beast is self-loathing and in need of self-esteem. He's turned into a beast because he's spoiled, selfish and unkind. His salvation depends on his not being those things anymore, so much so that he can love another person and they would love him in return.
He's turned into a beast because he's spoiled, selfish and unkind. His salvation depends on his not being those things anymore, so much so that he can love another person and they would love him in return.

True. And I'm probably hitting the Beast = Nice Guy angle too hard. I don't want to malign the guy unnecessarily. His relationship with Belle is relatively healthy and well-developed for a children's fairytale romance.

He doesn't play out the nice guy narrative at all.

As I see it, the Nice Guy narrative is:

Men earn women's love by being worthy of it. Individual men get to decide what constitutes worthiness on their part, whether it's slaying dragons or helping old ladies cross the street. Once a man has met his own standards for himself, the woman of his choice (or any woman of similar quality to her) is obligated to love him.

Women have no similar opportunity to earn a man's love. Women get love by being beautiful, period. Non-beautiful women don't get love because they don't exist/aren't really women/aren't interested in love or sex/don't matter. Incidentally, a beautiful woman can be either Good or Bad, and if she's Good, she'll give the Nice Guy the love he's earned. If she's Bad, she'll skip out on her obligation.

Belle's goodness is unquestioned, so that element doesn't come into play here. The story is also clear that the Beast is required to meet *Belle's* standards (and society's in general) to be worthy of her love, not his own initially selfish ones. Maybe that's the difference that makes a difference, but the underlying idea that the Beast has to earn Belle's love (and that she would be compelled to give it to him once he did) seems completely taken for granted. I might of course be wrong about this, because it's been a while since I've seen the movie.

I guess the solution would be for the Beast's redemption not to be conditioned on Belle's love for him. What if he had stopped being a jerk and Belle decided she liked another guy instead? Would he have turned human again? Or what if he remained a jerk and Belle loved him anyway because she was a masochist? Would that have broken the curse?

Of course dealing with those questions would completely undermine the story, and I'm not trying to fault a Disney romance for being a Disney romance. And I do remember that the Beast lets Belle go initially, doesn't force himself on her in any way, and generally does treat her like a person. For the most part, the Beast as a character is not a problem. He's certainly not *consciously* living out the Nice Guy narrative. He's just an unhappy guy who has to learn to stop being a jerk, and eventually does. Fair enough.
Wardog at 17:48 on 2012-04-10
The story is also clear that the Beast is required to meet *Belle's* standards (and society's in general) to be worthy of her love, not his own initially selfish ones. Maybe that's the difference that makes a difference, but the underlying idea that the Beast has to earn Belle's love (and that she would be compelled to give it to him once he did) seems completely taken for granted.


I think this is the difference that, err, makes the difference. Otherwise essentially any narrative that involves personal change and development (which may or may not be triggered by love for another) is by default a Nice Guy Narrative. I mean, I don't particularly buy Austen's novels as romances but I think it's pretty clear that Mr Darcy isn't a Nice Guy. The thing is, there's a massive difference between clinging to your standards of good behaviour and recognising the value of someone else's. In Nice Guy narratives, as far as I understand it, the Nice Guy doesn't need to change, because his behaviour is already "right" (he's the Nice Guy, remember). The problem is simply that the stupid woman isn't capable of recognising it because she's been conditioned by society (or whatever) to admire Jerks. Or, if it does need to change, it's purely a matter of self-confidence in one's own awesome. I guess the classic example is Scott Pilgrim. Urgh.

Although the Beast is trying to 'earn' Belle's love, by learning how to be nice to people instead of acting like the spoiled Princeling he is, I don't think it automatically follows that he is 'entitled' to her love, and I don't think the story suggests that he is - in fact, I think the very fact he lets her go only highlights this. Equally, although she *chooses* to come back to him, her right to leave in the first place in never questioned. Essentially she comes back on her term because she has decided she loves him, not because his sacrifice has entitled him to a sacrifice in return.

The other thing I'd say is that Nice Guy narratives tend to emphasise the stupidity of the woman (incapable as she is of seeing the Nice Guy right in front of her). Belle, by contrast, is pretty clear sighted. She doesn't for a moment think Gaston is anything other than a jerk. And she reacts badly to the Beast initially (regardless of his frightening appearance) because he's treating her badly, which is fair enough. It is bad to treat people badly is a pretty reasonable moral for any story, Disney or no, and it doesn't automatically overlap with Nice Guy narratives.

I guess the B&B Nice Guy narrative would go something like this: Belle is in love with this jerk called Gaston but one day her father gets lost in the forest and rescued by a Beast. Belle goes to see her father but because she's been conditioned by society to fancy guys like Gaston, she doesn't recognise how awesome and noble the Beast is, and therefore treats him badly. Belle continues to treat the Beast badly and he continues to be awesome, rescuing her from wolves, giving her a library, inviting to a dance with him etc. etc. Eventually she presses him to let her go, even though it will kill him, and because he's loves her and is so awesome he agrees. She returns to Gaston. But due to time spent with the Beast she realises what a jerk Gaston is and that she's in love with the Beast after all. The end.
Arthur B at 17:50 on 2012-04-10
He's turned into a beast because he's spoiled, selfish and unkind.

She's an inventor's daughter with an addiction to the printed word. They fight crime!

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Otherwise essentially any narrative that involves personal change and development (which may or may not be triggered by love for another) is by default a Nice Guy Narrative.

I actually think the Nice Guy narrative isn't that removed from the mainstream narrative of heterosexual romance. The more abject Nice Guys subscribe to variously toxic and self-serving versions of it, but they didn't come up with the basic plot structure.

This may be a result of my seeing straight romance as a gay person, i.e. entirely from the outside. When I like a woman, it's because I like her, not because she killed a dragon or thinks she's been sufficiently nice to me. She either does or doesn't feel likewise. Of course the average straight person would have similar personal experiences with relationships. It's just that the stories you tell each other don't always happen to line up with reality.
James D at 19:13 on 2012-04-10
Yeah, I think the whole 'Nice Guy Narrative' thing still stems from the conventional idea that men are the 'pursuers' in romance and women are the 'pursued', despite the fact that Nice Guys supposedly reject that idea. If a woman doesn't love a man, it's because he didn't do a good enough job of pursuing her through being Nice, or he did and she's just a bitch. The difference with Nice Guys of course tends to be that just talking to a woman at all is such a burdensome task for them that they feel entitled to some sort of proportional reward just for making the effort.

Regardless, according to this narrative, someone must be blamed for the failure to form a relationship. Rather than just chalking it up to, y'know, two people being mutually incompatible and that being OK because there are billions of others.
Regardless, according to this narrative, someone must be blamed for the failure to form a relationship.

Pretty much. And if a man and a woman spend significant time in each other's company and aren't sexually attracted to each other, there must be a good reason for it. Whereas if you're gay, your peer group and your dating pool are essentially one and the same.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 09:33 on 2012-04-12
While having a good confidence and casual sex in a safe, respectful environment are good things in priciple, it seems to be that the pick-up artists are merely using these justifications as a smoke screen to disguise their unfounded feelings of being entitled to something, their pitiful idea that self-worth correlates with the number of people you can trick into having sex and above all their disgusting difficulty in understanding women as autonomous and feeling persons who deserve respect and who are not there to give up anything. It's true that many men experience approaching the opposite sex as something daunting and no doubt it creates pressure in a culture which is obsessed with sex. It is just that the problem seems to be this whole macho understanding that real men are required to have sex with women and that women's function is mainly to administer sex to worthy applicants. Teaching men(or anyone) to circumvent this fundamental wrongness in the issue by dehumanizing women and manipulating or tricking them to give up this "commodity" does not respect freedom or accept women as people capable of enjoying sex for their own enjoyment or reasons.

Rather the whole thing resembles a confidence trick. The "techniques" are the same as it is with manipulation in general(as pointed out by Arthur by his comparison of these things to Dr. Lecter) or interestingly enough, wth performing magic tricks. If I remember correctly, wasn't this Mystery pal a magician of some sort before his career shift. Of course the difference is that Derren Brown probably does not despise his audience or dehumanize them, unlike these con men, who have to do so by default so they can get on with treating people so lousily. The whole existence of those techiniques to face the situation where the mark regrets being manipulated(or raped, as it were) seem to prove the dishonesty of the whole situation.

And do these people even enjoy sex? It seems their goal is to repair their shattered self-esteem by tricking women to having sex with them, while they themselves don't seem to think they are normally worth the attention of women. And the goal is to brag about it to their friends on the internet.

I don't know if I'm making any sense with any of this. It just feels that as long as it remains an ideal in our society that sex is somehow obligatory for some while it is at the same time regarded as dirty and immoral for others and somehow in general (the forbidden fruit is no doubt great material for advertisement gimmicks) these sorts of aberrations are capable of existing.

The Game seems interesting though, in the way that Mötley Crue bandbiograohy The Dirt was, to see how low it can go. But basically the plot of young man without confidence gets confidence and has lots of sex while it is found out all his friends are insecure assholes and then he meets a special girl and it all changes, seems kinda typical and rather banal.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 09:40 on 2012-04-12
I still have to add this list of animals expressing their feelings on this.
And do these people even enjoy sex?

I wonder about that myself. No doubt they enjoy the self-esteem boost of having someone find you sexually attractive, which may propel them through their daily lives, but I wonder what they get out of sex beyond that and the momentary relief of ejaculation. I think it must be really grim to go through life with no motivation but single-minded adherence to your goals, no matter how charmingly you manage to present yourself.

In fact, now that I think about it, I've encountered one blog troll in my life who I think actually admitted to being a PUA, and I believe he must have been at least somewhat honest in his boasts about how
"successful" he'd been. The way PUAs treat women when they're not trying to get laid is really enlightening. This one managed to get so far under my skin that I couldn't get rid of the itching for days, which I guess is the goal of a successful troll on a feminist blog. He was clearly revolted by "sluts," even though he obviously wouldn't have racked up his "number" without them, and described his grudging encounters in college with disgusting bitches who had the nerve to have condoms in their dorm rooms. Of course he had sex with them, because he was a man, but it just wasn't as special for him as it should have been, because the fucking sluts were apparently doing it for their own reasons, and not for the sole purpose of making the PUA feel good about himself.

The guy was genuinely offended at the thought that a woman might also feel good about herself for getting laid. After all, it's only men who have to make any effort to get sex, because women are "naturally" attractive and men aren't, so only men have the right to feel special for it. I realize now that a woman's high opinion of herself is the primary obstacle a PUA has to getting her in bed, so I can better understand why he was so opposed to female self-esteem in principle.
Arthur B at 12:51 on 2012-04-12
Of course he had sex with them, because he was a man, but it just wasn't as special for him as it should have been, because the fucking sluts were apparently doing it for their own reasons, and not for the sole purpose of making the PUA feel good about himself.

I think this is pretty much it, it's this insanely poisonous combination of self-centredness and insecurity. There's a lot of dudes out there who still haven't reconciled themselves to the fact that the world isn't all about them and what they want.

Every time I pay attention to the manosphere I am mildly appalled by the amount of single dude echo chambers out there which reinforce this stuff (PUAs, Nice Guy mythology, the whole Friend Zone thing, the Forever Alone subreddit...), partially because I actually listened to a lot of that sort of nonsense as a younger and stupider man and it ended up making me feel miserable and discouraged, but more because the tone of the single dude rhetoric seems to be getting more and more hateful these days. Or am I just getting more sensitive to how awful it is?
James D at 14:30 on 2012-04-12
I still have to add thislist of animals expressing their feelings on this.

Shit, I never did finish The Infinite Jest. Mostly because practically nothing had happened by page 100.
Axiomatic at 00:04 on 2012-04-13
Eh, I'm a single dude and will remain that way, because frankly the whole messy business of trying to attract someone and dating and everything just seems so tiresome. There are thousands of things that are way more fun and require far less effort.

And you know what? This ain't the fault of women. They have nothing to do with this.
the tone of the single dude rhetoric seems to be getting more and more hateful these days. Or am I just getting more sensitive to how awful it is?

I think the easier it is to find a social echo chamber that's tailored to your personal needs, and the more time you let yourself spend in that echo chamber without much meaningful interaction with anyone outside it, the more magnified and pronounced your personal batshit is likely to become. There's simply no opportunity or encouragement to pull your head out of your ass, because everyone around you just thinks that's where your head is supposed to be.
http://grendelkhan.livejournal.com/ at 01:41 on 2012-04-18
I’m absolutely 100% sure that I haven’t had sex with anyone who regretted it afterwards, nor have I had sex I have myself regretted, and I’ve plenty of casual sex.

Wait, really? Is this some kind of mega-regret that I'm unfamiliar with? I've had sex with people and thought "eh, we're not really compatible in the sack, too bad" or it's made things awkward, or I've been with someone who had different expectations for where things would go afterwards that we hadn't hashed out before, or any number of other reasons for regret.
Wardog at 09:09 on 2012-04-18
Wait, really? Is this some kind of mega-regret that I'm unfamiliar with?


I meant in the sense of not being entirely certain whether meaningful consent was given - I've had plenty of mediocre sex (alas). I mean I think there's a profound difference between "that sex wasn't as good as I hoped it would be" or "oh dear, that seems to have had an unfortunate impact on my relationship" compared to "I don't think that person really wanted to sleep with me but did anyway."
James D at 15:36 on 2012-04-18
"I don't think that person really wanted to sleep with me but did anyway."

Henceforth to be referred to as 'mega-regret'.
Arthur B at 15:55 on 2012-04-18
I thought we already had a word for it? (It rhymes with "grape".)
Wardog at 15:59 on 2012-04-18
Or buyer's remorse, as the PUAs say :)
And it's not that they blame you for wanting a refund, but it does hurt their feelings a bit.
James D at 17:18 on 2012-04-18
I thought we already had a word for it? (It rhymes with "grape".)

That's the act itself, not how you feel about it.

Or buyer's remorse, as the PUAs say :)

Also this never made too much sense to me...I always though that (according to the PUA narrative) sex was a commodity that men had to earn from women, or at least trick them out of. At what point do women become the 'buyers' in this situation? Shouldn't it be 'seller's remorse'? I mean, maybe looking for internal consistency in that particular brand of odious doctrine is a fool's game, but I wish they'd get their shit straight so I could hate it more effectively!
Wardog at 17:21 on 2012-04-18
That's the act itself, not how you feel about it

Well ... uh ... if you feel like you had non consensual sex then you had non consensual sex. It's not like The Act is an entirely separate and definable entity.
Wardog at 17:27 on 2012-04-18
Also this never made too much sense to me...I always though that (according to the PUA narrative) sex was a commodity that men had to earn from women, or at least trick them out of


I believe PUAs a very much against the idea that they have to 'earn' or 'pay for' sex from women. I think essentially it's called buyer's remorse because the woman 'bought' the PUA's game.
James D at 17:27 on 2012-04-18
I think I'm getting a little confused here. "Mega-regret" is how one might feel about having had non-consensual sex. In that case "The Act" and "mega-regret" would not be synonymous, which is what I thought Arthur was implying.

You know what, I probably better stop before I say something stupid(er).
At what point do women become the 'buyers' in this situation? Shouldn't it be 'seller's remorse'?

I thought about that too, but it seems like PUAs have updated that rusty old business model to a new one where men are selling themselves and sex is a commodity women want as much as men.

Because it's still hideously emasculating for a man to have to do anything to be attractive to women beyond winking at them and pulling out his wallet, PUAs have mixed reactions to this updated arrangement. The more successful ones seem to embrace it as an ugly reality they can use to manipulate women they imagine would not fuck them on their own merits, while the less successful ones simply resent it and sulk about it, Nice Guy-style.
In other words, sex is still an *exchange*, where one party or the other comes out ahead, rather than a potentially enjoyable experience that people share with each other.

In the best kind of economic exchange, both parties end up feeling like they came out ahead, but when that doesn't happen, you end up with a modified form of buyer's remorse. The PUA takes the business up a notch by considering himself not only a party in an economic transaction, but an actual snake-oil salesman, whose success is measured in how many transactions he manages to get the upper hand in.
Melissa G. at 19:10 on 2012-04-18
Also this never made too much sense to me...I always though that (according to the PUA narrative) sex was a commodity that men had to earn from women, or at least trick them out of. At what point do women become the 'buyers' in this situation?


I think, as Kyra said, it's buyer's remorse because they "bought" what the PUA is selling. His DHV, peacocking, whathaveyou.
Arthur B at 19:11 on 2012-04-18
I thought about that too, but it seems like PUAs have updated that rusty old business model to a new one where men are selling themselves and sex is a commodity women want as much as men.

Something I've noticed is that insecure guys who get into PUA nonsense (or Nice Guy dogma, or Forever Alone, or Men's Rights, or MGTOW, or Incel, or love-shy, or whatever the misogyny du jour is right now) often end up having trouble distinguishing between genuine self-confidence and being a smug arsehole.

I think part of it comes from the way Nice Guy and PUA and all the others feed into each other. The Nice Guy is convinced that women like "jerks", because he mistakes the self-confidence of the men his stalkee chooses to dates as being jerkish behaviour. The PUA technician dutifully calibrates his magic formulas to concentrate on jerkish, selfish behaviour. The person using these formulas is behaving like a hateful prick but is occasionally getting laid, because they're actually bothering to go talk to people and occasionally luck out whereas previously they sighed sadly in a corner and didn't talk to anyone. Consequently, they believe the formulas work and get deeper into the whole PUA thing, and Nice Guy theory is also neatly confirmed.

I do sometimes feel bad for them because when your self-confidence is lacking it feels really bad, but I don't think it's the sort of thing you can fake; if you roleplay as someone with self-confidence but don't have it yourself then either you just won't be very convincing (but hopefully people will be nice enough not to burst your bubble and you might earn some of the real thing) or you'll just act out your preconceptions of what self-confidence might look like. And PUA is 100% about covering for a lack of self-confidence because let's face it, if you really thought you were a good catch you wouldn't need expensive books and online courses to learn how to talk to people.
James D at 19:38 on 2012-04-18
I do sometimes feel bad for them because when your self-confidence is lacking it feels really bad, but I don't think it's the sort of thing you can fake

I think that's one of those catch-22 things, where if you're able to 'fake' self-confidence well enough to talk to women regularly, then you're demonstrating actual self-confidence. Everyone has some self-doubts, the key is just being able to act despite them when you want to. The key for me was just talking to women as if anything beyond a casual platonic friendship were utterly out of the question. It makes things a lot easier and there's a lot less pressure on everyone. Then if something more does come out of it, great, but there's no pressure on anyone for sex and there's no whining about the 'Friend Zone' because a friend is a good thing to have and it's the most you expected in the first place.
The person using these formulas is behaving like a hateful prick but is occasionally getting laid, because they're actually bothering to go talk to people and occasionally luck out whereas previously they sighed sadly in a corner and didn't talk to anyone. Consequently, they believe the formulas work and get deeper into the whole PUA thing, and Nice Guy theory is also neatly confirmed.

Exactly. The one useful service PUAs provide their clients is the exhortation to get off their asses and actually talk to women instead of sitting around hating the world and feeling sorry for themselves. After that, it's basically a numbers game, which I understand most PUA material must be fairly clear about.

This could of course be accomplished without the misogyny, creepy hostility, and vicious resentment that suffuses PUA and Nice Guy culture. But these men would be nothing without their misogyny, and they simply aren't going to give it up.
Arthur B at 20:19 on 2012-04-18
Everyone has some self-doubts

Speak for yourself. :P

But srsly, I think that mastering your self-doubt is something everyone has to come to terms with in their own way, it's just that the PUAs choose a way which is poisonous and harmful to others whilst the Nice Guy true believers seem to actively refuse to attempt to come to terms with it. And of course sometimes you'll have big setbacks and have to work it all out again and so on.
Arthur B at 14:58 on 2013-02-17
Necro'd because someone made a hilarious video where a robot takes you through a real PUA technique. Anyone who isn't sure whether NLP-style PUA crap is abusive should give it a watch because the thinking behind it is terrifying.
Wardog at 17:00 on 2013-02-17
D:
Cammalot at 19:20 on 2013-02-17
I can't decide if this is "How to sound like a serial killer 101" or "How to make your narcissism so blatant that it crosses into comedy."

There's also something wrong with the girl's scripted response. If someone starts obsessing about leaving forever and talks about his extremely recently dead friend, would not a more expected response be "oh my god, I'm sorry, were you close?" (and in this case, with this guy, while still maybe taking him seriously, "have you thought about seeing a counselor?" or I dunno "do you know Christ?" or similar) At which point the game would be up because the whole story would fall apart for the finely processed grade a bullshit it is, and anyone who'd ever actually lost someone would have my permission to sock him at full strength six times in the balls.

Okay not really. Sort of not really. I don't believe in violence. Much. (But I FEEL it.)




Axiomatic at 20:20 on 2013-02-17
Somehow I feel that the only realistic response to someone saying something like "What if I went through the door and it closed FOREVER AND YOU COULD NEVER TALK TO ME AGAIN?" would be oh no, I've slept with a crazy person.
Arthur B at 20:37 on 2013-02-17
Or, indeed, "Sounds like a good idea to me. Off you go."
Wardog at 20:56 on 2013-02-17
Also, who brings up their dead friend in the middle of nookie? Like, I know it's traumatic and stuff but still.
Arthur B at 21:14 on 2013-02-17
Also, who brings up their dead friend in the middle of nookie? Like, I know it's traumatic and stuff but still.

Is it more or less weird if it's your dead imaginary friend who only exists for the purpose of your Scientology-for-Nice-Guys NLP scripts?
Axiomatic at 22:07 on 2013-02-17
To make it less weird, don't start talking about your dead friend, type the story up and have it read out loud to her by a Text-to-Speech program. Post-coital bliss combined with the dulcet tones of Microsoft Sam narrating a tale of death by truck is sure to make your beloved fall for you forever.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 22:10 on 2013-02-17
"This physical act of love reminds me of my friend who died horribly in an accident just last week,"
"..."
Wardog at 23:16 on 2013-02-17
"This physical act of love reminds me of my friend who died horribly in an accident just last week,"
"..."


I think that's a pretty hardcore neg ;)
Cammalot at 00:13 on 2013-02-18
Heh. It would either get dude kicked out of PUA academy or made valedictorian.

In seriousness, I do think there's a legit, or at least semi legit, mental place where people seek out sex to deal with trauma, especially death. It's just that the made up dialogue here sounds so completely unnatural to me, as if the speaker is projecting his own self centeredness onto his partner in a way that makes the whore thing sound like "how to fuck s Real Doll while making up stories in your head." Pity or sympathy at least initially wouldn't strike me so badly. "I'm uncomfortable, let's just end the evening now" or "I am not the person to help you with this, sorry buddy, bye" wouldn't strike me badly either (especially in an understood-to-be-casual situation). But here we're given something along the lines of "waah, your dead friend isn't amusing to me, why can't you just fuck me some more" which is infantilizing *in addition to* completely lacking in self-peservation.

Granted I shouldn't be surprised that the portrayal of female response here lacked respect. I'm responding to the skin-crawl with microanalysis and nitpickery. It makes me feel better.
Cammalot at 00:15 on 2013-02-18
The WHOLE thing! WHOLE THING not WHORE THING, oh my god, sorry, sorry. I'm typing with one thumb on a phone!
Janne Kirjasniemi at 00:36 on 2013-02-18
Well... If we're getting into the details there is some really weird stuff going on that's just passed by anyways. Like this entire thing is done after "you've already had intercourse," and"when you've already set up the fact that you're the man of her dreams and fulfill her emotional needs," to achieve control or whatever? That sort of rhymes and is really optimistic about the potential manipulation that can be achieved through this thing. Fulfilling dreams and needs and everything.

And after the first weird door exchange it goes "bring her to another orgasm or whatever," I mean what whatever? Would a really nice sandwich do the trick? Or do all POEs get like a PEZ dispenser that hands out orgasms, but can only be used on other people? For normal people, good sex and some chit-chat should suffice, what is exactly is the point of behaving like this assuming one is not a sociopath who finds fulfillment in this, very particular way?
Wardog at 10:20 on 2013-02-18
Freudian, Cammalot, Freudian!

No, I agree that sex can be very healing when dealing with grief etc. And I think, in the wake of that kind of trauma, it's not unreasonable to want to affirm life / togetherness / love or whatever.

But the context and the artificiality of the situation here renders the whole thing absurd. And since this is clearly a pick-up, not a long-standing relationship or anything like that, it makes no sense to go from sex to personal revelation without so much as a by-your-leave. I mean, I'm not saying you can't forge emotional connections through short-term physical affairs and some of my better one-night stands have had that strangely intense honesty you can sometimes only foster with strangers - but equally, if I'd picked up some one up with the explicit mutual understanding that this was a sex thing I'd be pretty damn pissed off if they suddenly started burbling about their dead mate. To me, that seems like breaking the implied social contract. I have no objection to providing emotional support but, again, it's a consent thing. Everyone has the right to know what they're getting into :)

And if they sounded like a robot and were making the whole thing up anyway ... well ... that's just the fail cherry on the cake wreck.

@Janne

That's hilarious. Cake or death. Orgasm or whatever. One of the things I find vaguely intriguing about pick-up artistry, actually, is the vacuum of sex. I mean, it's all about getting some, but nobody seems remotely interested in ... well ... sex.
Arthur B at 11:18 on 2013-02-18
That's hilarious. Cake or death. Orgasm or whatever. One of the things I find vaguely intriguing about pick-up artistry, actually, is the vacuum of sex. I mean, it's all about getting some, but nobody seems remotely interested in ... well ... sex.

I have a theory that this comes down to two factors. Firstly, you have the issue that to concentrate more on sex, the PUA world would have to spend more time talking about sex - not the acquisition of it, not the aftermath, but the act itself. The dudes who get into pickup artistry do not want to discuss sexytimes in detail with other dudes because, like, that'd be totes ghey.

The second factor is that PUA, despite being overtly about the pursuit of sex, is on some level also about the pursuit of validation. Guys who get into this, or into /r/Foreveralone, or into Love-Shy or Involuntary Celibacy or NiceGuyism or whatever, often tend to have one thing in common: they really, really don't like rejection. NiceGuyism and its related ideologies revolve around griping about women rejecting you and coming up with theories as to why that may be the case. PUA techniques boil down to adopting extroverted, confident behaviour (or a close simulacrum of such) and talking to a large number of women until eventually one of them doesn't reject you.

It doesn't matter if you suffer a million rejections in an evening; provided that you get one person to not reject you (or at least not do so obviously and overtly), then you've snagged your validation and you feel like a winner. At that point, it doesn't really matter whether the sex is any good at all; the important thing is that you actually got some and aren't an Average Frustrated Chump.

So really, it goes back in the end to a lack of self-confidence and the adoption of PUA techniques as a substitute for that, whereas if you genuinely like yourself you can just self-validate and get on with life.
Cammalot at 16:43 on 2013-02-18
Freudian, Cammalot, Freudian!

I was framed, framed I say! Betrayed by Autocorrect!

Honestly, I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a transient one-night sort of thing or (at least potentially) long-term, and, I think, neither can the person who scripted the goddamn dialogue in the first place.

On the one hand, this is Pickup “Artistry” and thus shallow and superficial and summed up in a bunch of bedpost notches, by definition and intent. Everything that you and Arthur just said about being not about relationships or interaction between people, even the truncated interaction of one-time sex, but about being cool and badass enough to circumvent rejection, attempting to make oneself superior to the would-be rejector.

On the other, there’s that whole effed up wanna-be Pavlovian segment in which your desired result is to have your girl is so keyed into the word “door” that you can send her into a needy, compliant panic just by calling her at her workplace and mentioning that she should look at one. Which is still about superiority — putting one’s potential rejector on a shelf so rejection can be circumvented at will? Whenever? As a hobby?

It’s doublespeak, doubletalk, doublethink.

It *is* absurd. Yes. That is a comfort. (It’s also becoming the go-to standard in certain areas of NYC that I have the misfortune to frequent, which is why I’m reacting too strongly to this. I went home for the holidays and on three separate occasions found myself in situations where people tried to get my phone number beginning with small veiled insults and culminating in outlining to me all the ways in which women are destroying the black community. But I, I guess, could redeem myself and womankind by handing over the digits an agreeing to be taught to be less horrible by this random stranger? The neg to end all negs? This has been on my mind.)

(I'm not talking bars or accepted social places, either, I'm talking bus stops.)

I’m also vaguely comforted by the fact that the poster of that vid ran totally agrees that this is abusive and effed up and ran it through the robot voice generator to mock it. Like the Xtranormal Goodkind parodies.
Cheriola at 18:16 on 2013-02-18
Honestly, I sometimes think that all the "men are from mars, women from venus" othering paired with the sexual entitlement supported by the media (see also the recent superbowl Audi advert ; the various women similarly sexually assaulting the Doctor on a kid's show) is creating a form of gender-specific sociopathy, where planned emotional manipulation of the opposite gender is okay and gratification comes from control-trips instead of agreeing to have fun together.

Granted, I see this all from a somewhat distant, outsider position. I don't get out much, I don't flirt, and I've only been sexually harrassed or badgered for my number twice in my life (I'm 30), both times by men not belonging to my country's dominant culture. So all this PUA talk sound seriously abnormal to me...

Hum... Audi is a German company. I wonder if this was sanctioned by the headquarter, or if it was the brainchild of the US branch. (Business practises can differ quite a lot in other countries with German-based multinationals.) I haven't watched German-produced TV in many years, aside from documentaries on advertisement-free channels. I wonder if that stuff is prevalent here as well, or if it makes a difference. Though, in the end there is so much fictional media imported from the anglophone world that we should be brainwashed just the same...

Uh... I don't know if I should even post this. Is it too tangential to the topic? Sorry, I'm sick in bed and bored...
Fishing in the Mud at 19:04 on 2013-02-18
planned emotional manipulation of the opposite gender is okay and gratification comes from control-trips instead of agreeing to have fun together.

I really think this is the way we're supposed to expect het relationships to work. When we find someone we love who loves us that we can have a genuinely fun relationship with, we're supposed to assume our partner and our relationship are exceptional, and that we could never expect such a relationship with the majority of potential partners, not because we're incompatible with them, but because they're bad, shallow people who deserve to be manipulated.
Wardog at 10:44 on 2013-02-19
(It’s also becoming the go-to standard in certain areas of NYC that I have the misfortune to frequent, which is why I’m reacting too strongly to this.

This is so horrific I can't even... :/

To be honest, like Cheriola my pulling and being pulled days are long over (thank fuck) so I'm not really well placed to be insightful on the state of the game ... but I don't know if pick-up artistry is generally more common in America. I think I know one person who once had somebody try to clumsy neg her into bed - but, being a clued in cookie, she was well-placed to recognise the techniques. (And sorted enough not to sleep with someone who was self-evidently a wanker). But it seems semi-common over the pond.

Uh... I don't know if I should even post this. Is it too tangential to the topic? Sorry, I'm sick in bed and bored...

Nothing is too tangential for Fb ;) Well, I'm sure something conceivably be too tangential but I can't think of it, off-hand. Since I rarely watch television, the only adverts I tend to see at the cinema and they're often just weird and abstract, and involve masses of CGI. I'd probably rejoice at some good old fashioned exploitative sex sells bullshit :)

I really think this is the way we're supposed to expect het relationships to work.

Most likely, or else we are still inculcated in the exchange model of heterosexual relationships: i.e. women want babies and washing machines and security, and men want sex and computer games, and by agreeing to date each other men and women are able to get what they want by compromising on what they want i.e. women have sex in exchange for security, men offer security in exchange for sex.

OMG IT'S SO MESSED UP.
Arthur B at 13:33 on 2013-02-19
Most likely, or else we are still inculcated in the exchange model of heterosexual relationships: i.e. women want babies and washing machines and security, and men want sex and computer games, and by agreeing to date each other men and women are able to get what they want by compromising on what they want i.e. women have sex in exchange for security, men offer security in exchange for sex.

I've definitely observed a dynamic in these subcultures where they constantly reinforce these two weird related bits of doublethink:

1: Women are the gatekeepers of sex, and are at the same time not all that interested in it and basically provide it as a favour to men (or as a means of controlling them because Earth is ruled by the Honored Matres or some shit like that).
2: Men are supposed to be the seekers of sex, but only jerks actually do this.

Point 1 seems to be a constant in whichever misogyny subculture you're looking at. Point 2 is effectively there too but the subcultures differ in their response to it. Nice Guys, obsessed as they usually are with BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP (any relationship will do!) often seem to believe that they are looking for something deep and romantic and pure and more than just sex (although sex would be real nice too), and then get upset when they get friendzoned by women who never saw them in a sexual way because they never actually presented as a sexual person. PUAs admit that they want sex and deliberately try to act more like "jerks" (read: confident men who are able to score casual sex).

Both cases seem to involve men trying to work out where the appropriate balance is between decorum and flirtation. Nice Guys don't want to look like horndogs who are only after casual sex; when they fail at this facade they look like hypocrites and creeps, when they succeed they wonder why everyone assumes they're only interested in platonic relationships. The more overt PUA techniques like peacocking are all about declaring that the practitioner likes sex and people might want to consider having sex with them, which I guess is fair enough but is rather obnoxious when people are blaringly obvious about it. The more manipulative PUA techniques often try to trick women into considering having sex with the practitioner without directly declaring it, so you get these wacky scripts where the PUA is encouraged to talk about chairs whilst occasionally pointing to their crotch and that's meant to make women crave anal.

Lots of dudes don't have a good sense of where the line is between harmless flirting which doesn't put undue pressure on people on the one hand and utter crassness/slimy emotional manipulation on the other, and so either conclude that all flirting is bad or that no strategies are off-limits.
Fishing in the Mud at 16:47 on 2013-02-19
Both cases seem to involve men trying to work out where the appropriate balance is between decorum and flirtation.

While assuming that "flirtation" is some kind of subtle high-pressure sales technique rather than conversation between people who are attracted to each other. Nice Guys and PUAs aren't themselves any less repelled by snake-oil salesmen than anyone else, but since it arouses them to believe women are weak-minded and manipulable, they insist it has to work with women.
Axiomatic at 16:49 on 2013-02-19
>you get these wacky scripts where the PUA is encouraged to talk about chairs whilst occasionally pointing to their crotch and that's meant to make women crave anal.

They say "scripts" but that sounds more like a spell to me. I mean, that's what this all boils down to, isn't it? You chant the right words and make the right crotch-pointing gestures, and in a burst of mystical light, sex happens.
Arthur B at 17:13 on 2013-02-19
While assuming that "flirtation" is some kind of subtle high-pressure sales technique rather than conversation between people who are attracted to each other.

As evidenced by the fact that PUA scripts aren't a conversation, they're a one-way monologue from a man to a woman with spaces in which the woman can make wordlike noises with her mouth if she feels so inclined to but in which what she says isn't really important.

You chant the right words and make the right crotch-pointing gestures, and in a burst of mystical light, sex happens.

Well, if you're already at the stage where you're saying to yourself "it'll take a miracle for me to get laid", invoking magical crotch powers might start to make sense.
Cammalot at 17:41 on 2013-02-19
To be honest, like Cheriola my pulling and being pulled days are long over (thank fuck) so I'm not really well placed to be insightful on the state of the game ... but I don't know if pick-up artistry is generally more common in America.

Kyra, Cheriola, I’m significantly older than the pair of you (though not anywhere near enough to, say, be your mom or anything), (!!!!!), and at this point in my life I’m not really doing, or attempting to do, or interested in doing, any socializing at all (certainly none of the sort that should result in me bonding with strangers), so what I wanna know is, why aren’t mine over? :-) I really would like them to be over, I have had quite enough of them — “quite” in the American sense of the word. (Keep in mind, as I mentioned above, I’m not talking about properly “social” arenas. I’m talking about public transport, or attempting to buy gum in bodega.)

No, actually, I do have a fairly good idea. In the States, I live in an intersection of two arenas where women significantly outnumber men — the African descent community and New York City in general. In NYC it contributes to a kind of extended… not adolescence, but a delaying of the “ultimate” maturity of settling down. The fact that people go there to pursue high-powered careers and are also spoiled with an abundance of choice encourages people to put off settling into long-term life situations, playing the field until their mid-forties. And in the U.S. Community of African Descent Via Various Pathways, things like racial profiling, “stand your ground laws,” and the prison-as-business model has rendered the male to female ratio ludicrous, while current thought, at the same time, is hell-bent on pathologizing (the resultant) single motherhood. And plain old single womanhood, actually (e.g., the New York Times’ sudden ridiculous focus on the unmarriageability of black women over 30, as if there were nobody else in New York City delaying marriage for career and this must be some indication of the innate undesirability of black women, and so they must be lectured on what they are doing wrong, how they are failing to hold on to their men properly, how they are intimidating men by having graduate degrees, and also how not to be overweight and slutty).

And yes, one line used on me — as a pick up! — was that 1. We are destroying the black community by keeping men away from the children (note: I do not have children) 2. and not accepting that the Bible says that women were made for men to look at and women feeling attraction doesn’t actually exist in the same way, so women should totally not mind one guy sleeping with several of them (what the I don’t even) but 3. I was slightly better (on that particular day anyway) because my hair was not straightened, and therefore I should back in the warmth of approval and put out. Approval lost (and accusations of innappropriate extraracial dating made) when I pointed out that I own a flatiron.

(There was also “tall girls are conceited” but that’s not race-based. Really, this past December was far too over-exciting.)

(By the way, read this: http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/mississippi-school-system-slammed-by-doj-report/ This is only the most recent fucked-up example I’ve heard of.) There’s so much more about what this does to the psyche, regardless of sex/gender, that I could and probably ought to theorize on, but I’m not quite comfortable doing so here and now, and I’m not sure why. Maybe later?

Add to this Hollywood constantly pumping out romcom after romcom and sitcom after sitcom intent on underscoring not only the transaction theory of sexual relationships, but dedicated to the proposition that the inherent state of het men and women is that of warring states, mutually unintelligible species occasionally holding our noses and coming together, possibly in the throes of sniffles and held-back tears, to maybe procreate, reluctantly. The generalization I’m about to make in this sentence is problematic, oversimplified, and comes with its own set of problems for the affected parties, but you do not see, say, Korean and Japanese pop entertainment treating marriage as the death of men’s dreams and freedom and this “ball and chain” business that they are forced into by needy women. The downside of this being, in certain communities (by no means limited to Korean and Japanese, or to nonwestern, ones), not being considered a “full grown up” to be taken seriously, if unmarried, male or female.

I believe in the U.S. it’s a semi-purposefully media-engineered (and cynically capitalist in the case of corporate prisons) pseudo “war between the sexes.” Probably all just to make us buy more books and cosmetics and crap to improve our concocted so-called deficiencies.

And it is bleeding over into the U.K. and Europe, although yes, you’re right, I have seen far more of it in the U.S. In my experience, the first time I lived here long-term (late ’90s) there was a very marked difference in approach, and in levels of calmness in approach, between the U.S. and U.K., and now the lines are blurring, though the difference is still there. There’s still less outright anger in the U.K. (no: “You wonder why they call you a bitch” and “Oh, I bet you think you’re somebody and you only date white guys” — or in the case of my white compatriots, “Oh, you must be a dyke” or “Jewish American Princess.”)

I see certain things that I consider contributing factors reflected in the U.K. media — equal coverage given to missing children of color, equal sorrow expressed over the gang-violence death of black kids, colorblind casting on the BBC, and similar. (I can’t tell you how shocked I was the first time I read — in the TELEGRAPH even — an article on the death of a black boy that actually included quotes about how nice he was, and how his teachers said he never caused trouble and got good grades. As opposed to digging up any and every minor infraction or school suspension, calling him a “youth” instead of a boy, and finding the most intimidating or pseudo intimidating photographs of him hamming it up with friends to appear “tough” and hip-hop-y, in order to paint him as someone who deserved it.) I’m including the previous because while I have not dug up statistics, I think it must contribute to there being less of a male-female ratio deficit.

I see it creeping, though — coinciding with more “men have no rights because women get child custody more” and “women control everything and men are really oppressed because [pretty] women influence men too much (with the corollary that “unpretty” women aren’t really women properly), so men hollering at women in the street is really a scenario in which women have all the power” sneaking into the Evening Standard.

I might very well be conflating related but not identical phenomena here, but I see a pattern.
Arthur B at 18:03 on 2013-02-19
In NYC it contributes to a kind of extended… not adolescence, but a delaying of the “ultimate” maturity of settling down. The fact that people go there to pursue high-powered careers and are also spoiled with an abundance of choice encourages people to put off settling into long-term life situations, playing the field until their mid-forties.

Interesting how different cities develop different dating cultures like that; I get the impression that a lot of people in high-powered jobs in London don't have the time or energy to go partner-hunting but actually quite badly want to settle down, because there's a ridiculous abundance of adverts on the Tube for online dating sites aimed at people in their 20s and 30s, a substantial proportion of which are London-specific sites targeting professionals.

Sorry, this is a huge tangent but I don't have much to say about the rest of the post beyond "wow".
Cammalot at 18:56 on 2013-02-19
Arthur B: I have to look into that. Going back and forth as much as I have done this year (and granted, I haven't been looking), I haven't really noticed a lot more dating ads on the London Tube than on the New York subway. Now, in NYC I have access to late-night television, so I don't know if there are an equal amount of "Hot legal girls want to speak with you breathily on this outrageously expensive chat line" on UK TV. (I'm being good and doing my homework, and also not having a TV or a TV license at the moment...)

I think there is a bit of spoiled for choiceness amongst certain Wall Street types that comes across in how I've seen my (white) friends get treated: One such friend, fairly high-powered herself, got taken to a posh golf club, asked for a blow job on the green, told "I'll still buy you dinner after," and left there on the golf course after refusing -- which sort of thing I'd honestly thought people in their thirties stopped doing because Jesus Christ. (I think I've mentioned before on FerretBrain -- I grew up a little sheltered and holy. ;-))

I think the women, who are not so spoiled for choice, tend to be tired, or genuinely focused on their jobs. NYC is geographically set up in such a way that "town center" is actualy off to the west, so it's easy and unremarkable to spend an hour (or two) communiting, get to work early, work late if you're high-powered enough, commute back home, and not spend a heck of a lot of time meeting non-work people. Get caught up in that grind and it can be really easy to think of datin as a sideline and just wind up procrastinating without really thinking about it. (Or one will meet guys who respond to "Oh, I have to work late" with "So you're playing hard to get, eh?" which does not motivate one.) So that, where I hear women from other cities panicking at age 30, I hear NYC women panicking at age 37. (Good insurance will fund your IVF.) And I've heard from male friends who feel pressured by that.

Keeping in mind with all my posts here that I am the opposite of an expert on this.
Cammalot at 19:00 on 2013-02-19
Oh, the "Jesus Christ" up there was an expletive, not a reference to piety. (And I think I said "back in the warmth" somewhere where I meant to say "bask.") {/edits}
Arthur B at 20:16 on 2013-02-19
Now, in NYC I have access to late-night television, so I don't know if there are an equal amount of "Hot legal girls want to speak with you breathily on this outrageously expensive chat line" on UK TV. (I'm being good and doing my homework, and also not having a TV or a TV license at the moment...)

There's entire channels devoted to the stuff, which I can only assume cater to people who don't realise you can get better free porn by turning off SafeSearch on Google.
http://architeuthis.dreamwidth.org/ at 15:03 on 2013-02-22
Cammalot, I would have large extracts from your comments in this thread on a cross-stitch sampler if I could.
Cammalot at 04:05 on 2013-02-23
Thank you!
Arthur B at 19:57 on 2013-02-26
PUA.txt snags a real gem. (In particular, number 2 boils down to "Why do women get all upset when I give every impression of planning to rape them?")
Neal Yanje at 23:12 on 2013-02-26
It's not "raping an inebriated woman", it's sarging an HB who "shows very visible signs of aggression and confusion".

PUA Lingo: Protecting you from being a decent person since 2005.

Every time I read one of these scripts or "field reports" as they like to call them, I can't help but wonder: Who is this stuff for? Even if PUA worked, it seems like the sorts of people who could do it well are exactly the sort that don't need magic cheat codes to get women to have sex with them, while your standard AFC is going to come off about as robotic as Microsoft Sam up there in that video.
Arthur B at 12:53 on 2014-03-29
Posting this here so people who don't want their day polluted by PUA nonsense don't have this cluttering up the playpen: this is what happens when PUAs talk geopolitics. Roosh V is very much entangled with the Men's Rights Activism thing and all sorts of other toxicity, which makes him and his online buds more extreme than average, but even so.
http://ronanwills.wordpress.com/ at 15:23 on 2014-03-30
PUA nonsense and the very worst foaming at the mouth MRA hatred are so closely meshed it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

I'm honestly not sure which is worse, since the PUA guys are actively encouraging other men to emulate them whereas the MRAs seem to mostly sit around on forums and stew in their own rage.

Arthur B at 17:17 on 2014-03-30
Then you have the Red Pill nonsense, which combines PUA, MRA, the weird confluence of super-reactionary weirdness that calls itself the Dark Enlightenment and a Matrix analogy into one huge cyclone of rebranded fascism evangelising misogyny.
James D at 23:27 on 2014-03-30
Also, Ukraine’s women might be traumatized from months of conflict: score! “The hotties won’t be venturing outdoors for a while, but the fear these women are experiencing could make pickings VERY strong for the future,” one noted. “Especially for a Westerner coming from a relatively ‘safe’ haven like the UK or US.”

OK this is by far the most fucked-up, soulless thing I've ever read from PUAs. That psychologically crippling, war-related PTSD Ukrainian women might suffer from for the rest of their lives? Total panty-dropper, bro!! *dap*

It's so absurdly, ridiculously lacking in empathy that Philip K Dick could write a whole novel about PUAs secretly being robots.
Michal at 18:38 on 2014-03-31
The article does a good job showcasing how insecure, petty and cowardly self-described "alpha males" tend to be. It would be easy to just discount these folks/feel pity for them, only Roosh and his flock's "seduction" methods include getting women drunk to the point of passing out and then raping them.
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