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Jul 01 2013

Is All Pickup Advice Sexist?

I was reading an article that started out with the question, “Is all pickup advice sexist?” So of course I immediately started thinking about that. (I proceeded to write the following without having read the rest of the article, and when I did go back and read it, I realized that I and its author basically agree on everything. I love it when that happens.)

If you’re unfamiliar with pickup advice/pickup artists/the seduction community, it generally refers to advice targeted at straight men who would like to meet and “pick up” women for casual sex. For a less charitable explanation, see this Twitter account that collects actual quotes from pickup forums.

I don’t know if all pickup advice is sexist because I am a skeptic and I would need to either review all pickup advice or see a large representative sample of it to come to a conclusion, and that’s impossible. However, I think I can offer three reasons for why pickup advice so often tends toward sexism.

First, pickup advice is meant to be generic; i.e. “here’s how to pick up chicks” or at least “here’s how to pick up this subtype of chicks.” There’s no way to give advice on how to “pick up” an individual person because, well, people are extremely different. So pickup advice must by necessity use stereotypes and generalizations as its basis, and because all you know about your “target” is that she is a woman, the advice uses stereotypes and generalizations about women and what women like and how women’s sexuality works.

But there is no such thing as What Women Like or How Women’s Sexuality Works. Assuming that there is is sexist. And while pickup artists may still pay lip service to the fact that there are some minute differences among women, the entire thing is predicated on the notion that there are “tricks” and “techniques” you can use to “get” women.

(And that’s not even getting into the coercive and rapey elements of pickup advice.)

Second, pickup advice is, for the most part, not focused on establishing a relationship or a one-night stand or anything else that takes the needs and desires of both partners into account. Pickup advice may grant that you shouldn’t do things women explicitly say they don’t want (sometimes), but the emphasis is still on the man getting what he wants from the woman, not on having a sexual experience in which both partners have equal agency. The age-old notion of men dictating the terms and boundaries of a sexual encounter is, needless to say, also sexist.

Even when these types of advice suggest ways to please women, the emphasis tends to be on establishing yourself as Everything She Needs and a Manly Man, not on helping someone with sexual desires of her own fulfill them and feel good.

Finally, when pickup advice does center on things the guy can do to improve himself and how he comes across to others, the advice tends to center on “faking” things, exaggerating stories, and performing a certain stereotypical version of masculinity. It does not focus on genuine self-improvement, on the things that most people will tell you help make you more appealing as a partner: having real interests, being curious about the people you meet, working on developing your confidence in yourself (yes, it’s a process!), having good hygiene (guys, you wouldn’t believe how much more this matters than being “attractive”), and so on.

In this way, pickup advice is sexist because it presumes that women can be tricked into sex with cheap ruses, and because it presumes that the only way for a man to be attractive is to perform stereotypical masculinity.

Many people defend pickup advice as occasionally legitimate “self-help” for men looking to make themselves more attractive to women. I do think there are decent men in the community, and decent bits of advice. However, my take on this view is that genuine “self-help” when it comes to dating should not focus on “picking up” women; it should focus on becoming the sort of person who is ready to be a respectful, attentive, and consent-conscious partner, whether it’s just for a random one-night stand or for a serious relationship.

A big part of this that I would like to stress to any man considering pickup advice is that if everything about you screams “WAHHH CHICKS NEVER WANNA FUCK ME I HATE ALL THESE FUCKING BITCHES,” I promise you that women will stay far away. Being lonely and sexually frustrated is extremely difficult, yes. It’s even more difficult to maintain a positive, open attitude both about yourself and about your potential partners when you feel this way. But it’s important to work on developing this sort of attitude before you try to find partners*.

If you become this sort of person and you put yourself in situations where you are likely to meet people who are similar enough to you to be interested in you, you will be infinitely more successful than someone who reads every single pickup guide in the galaxy and then heads out to bars and plies women with alcohol.

~~~

*That’s not to say that people with insecurities can never get laid or get into relationships, of course. But there’s a fine line between insecurity and WAHHH CHICKS NEVER WANNA FUCK ME I HATE ALL THESE FUCKING BITCHES.

*Edit* OOPS I FORGOT A REALLY IMPORTANT FOURTH REASON. Here we go.

Pickup advice is predicated on traditional gender roles; namely, that 1) that men are the pursuers and women the pursued and 2) that men want sex more than women, who must be “persuaded” into “giving it up.”

In this way, actually, pickup artists and feminists agree on one thing: many women are unwilling to have casual sex. But they take this premise in two very different directions. Feminists argue that the problem is culture and socialization: women are taught that casual sex makes them bad and dirty, but even women who escape this sort of upbringing must deal with the social consequences of having casual sex, which leads many of them to avoid it even if they do really want it.

Pickup artists, on the other hand, often couch their observations of human behavior in evolutionary-psychological terms and view their techniques as ways to circumvent the ways in which women are “wired.” Or they claim that women who say they don’t want casual sex aren’t “being honest with themselves” and that sort of B.S.. (I’m now reminding myself once again to write an article about how creepy it is when people say things like that.)

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  1. 1
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Re: hygiene. I told my son exactly one thing when he asked me (whom he knew and knows to be a bi dyke, like his bio-mom) “how to pick up girls” when he was 12 or 13.

    “Showers, my son,” I said. “Girls and women like people who are clean. Well, not every single one of us, but by far enough of a majority that your chances will be greatly improved by simply showering when you are not-clean.”

    He did, and they did, and all was happy.

    I only wish I could have also gotten him the message about Axe, and how vile it is. Still, every parent has their regrets. :)

    Great post, Miri.

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Man, I can’t count how many great people I’ve rejected solely for the reason that I physically couldn’t bear to be around them. I’m highly sensitive to smells, so what would’ve been annoying enough for an ordinary person was absolutely unbearable for me.

      I am an unusual woman who loves Axe, so clearly there is someone out there for everyone. :P

      1. 1.1.1
        CaitieCat, getaway driver

        Really? Wow. I have honestly not encountered another woman who thought so. Confirmation bias? Dunno. But it’s the first time i’ve heard a woman saying it.

        Good for you, then! It’s all about having the choices. :)

        1. 1.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          The other half of the sensory-sensitivity thing is that if someone smells good to me, that plays a HUGE role in my attraction to them. It can dramatically magnify a minor attraction or introduce an entirely new one. :)

          1. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            One more similarity. Smelling good is central, for me, in the physical being. Not smelling of soap, necessarily, but smelling good. With a nose the size of mine, it’d be hard not to have it be important. :D

        2. 1.1.1.2
          leftwingfox

          My ex. “I’m not fond of your choice of deodorant”

          Me: “Oh? Well, it’s largely for your benefit, so I see no reason not to let you choose.”

          My Ex. “I love Axe!”

          Me: “You go to hell.”

          (exaggerated for comic effect. We compromised on something she liked and I didn’t hate. :) )

          1. Jacob Schmidt

            “You go to hell.”

            I read that in Mr. Garrisons voice: “You go to hell! You go to hell and you die!”

      2. 1.1.2
        WithinThisMind

        Bah.

        I got told I was a horrible person because I said I had no interest in talking to someone who lacked personal hygiene, thus if someone who hadn’t taken a shower sat down next to me and started flirting I’d probably get up and walk away.

        Apparently, that makes me un-nice and discriminatory and a total female dog because OMG what if I missed out on the greatest most heartwarming-ish relationship evah because I didn’t feel like sitting there dealing with someone who made my eyes water.

        I used to regularly give a couple guys a ride home from work. One guy showered both before and after work and thus while he was on the stinky side after work (construction) he had a ‘sweat and dirt’ smell. The other guy showered on weekends and tended to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row, so in addition to the ‘sweat and dirt’ smell, he also had a ‘rot’ sort of smell. The first guy smelled bad, but he didn’t smell gross, if that makes sense. So the first guy got to ride in the cab of my truck, while the other guy had to ride in the back (yes, he had a seatbelt). Apparently, I was the worst person ever for not letting them ‘take turns’ and valuing my vehicle’s interior more than the second guy’s comfort.

        They were roommates, it’s not like the ‘taking a shower’ and ‘doing laundry’ options wasn’t equally available to both guys. But no, the problem was totally me and my discriminatory judgmental ways.

        Bleh, I’m gagging a little now just remembering the second guy.

        1. 1.1.2.1
          NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

          Is scentism a thing?

          Because if it is, I’m totally a scentist.

          Or maybe smellism/smellist… or something…

    2. 1.2
      Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu

      I love some Axe. I think several kinds smell better than a lot of the women’s stuff out there. However, I am probably biased in that I’m allergic to a lot of florals.

  2. 2
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Being lonely and sexually frustrated is extremely difficult, yes. It’s even more difficult to maintain a positive, open attitude both about yourself and about your potential partners when you feel this way.

    Yes.

    Someone I this position could also work on self-improvement. Self-respect and self-love are rather important.

    1. 2.1
      CaitieCat, getaway driver

      That’s a really good point, Nate. Not only that, but it’s hard for someone else to love you, if you can’t even recognize what in yourself is lovable enough for you to manage it.

      1. 2.1.1
  3. 3
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Someone I this position

    That is a weird mistake…

    the “I” should be “in”…

    1. 3.1
      CaitieCat, getaway driver

      Curse you, AUTOCORRECT!

      I hate those features. I miss whacking the “n” hard enough, or the “s” or “t” or “f”, and suddenly I’ve got an annoying capitalized personal pronoun where I wanted a perfectly-good and functional word.

      Also, please evacuate my grassy space, you young Twittersnappers.

  4. 4
    Praedico

    As a guy with some rather major insecurities, I just wanted to voice my emphatic agreement with the closing paragraphs. I’m still not exactly fighting women off with a stick – and remain convinced I’m a generally repellant person – but since I dropped the attitude and started being happy to hang out with women as friends rather than potential sex partners, the number of my female friends that have begun flirting with me (or even outright approaching me for sex) has been pleasantly surprising. Oddly, the majority of my friends are now women, which makes me worry a little about my own subconscious motives, but I think/hope that it’s mainly because I feel more comfortable around women than I do around most men, as I don’t feel compelled to maintain a pretense of masculinity to fit in.

    1. 4.1
      Onamission5

      This is something that all the wannabe pick uppers could bear to remember– when women feel comfortable and relaxed, when we trust someone, when we are treated like, you know, actual human being people rather than sex dispensing vending machines, we are significantly more likely to feel like engaging in the sexytimes with another person* because of that whole might take their needs into consideration, too, thing.

      (adjusting for the fact that women are not a monolith, of course)

      *And for any potential lurkers I do not mean this in a PUA, pretend you’re interested in what she thinks end goal oriented sort of way. Nope. I mean that I find people who find *me the person* interesting, interesting as people, and may (before I was monogamously partnered, at least) want to get to “know” them better. Funny how that works!

    2. 4.2
      Lindsay

      Good for you!

      [T]he number of my female friends that have begun flirting with me (or even outright approaching me for sex) has been pleasantly surprising.

      Everyone I’ve ever approached for a romantic relationship has been my friend first, so I’m not the least bit surprised by this.

      1. 4.2.1
        Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

        Everyone I’ve ever approached for a romantic relationship has been my friend first, so I’m not the least bit surprised by this.

        Same. And that’s how I like it.

  5. 5
    smrnda

    I think you gave the most honest, charitable read of this stuff out there. I actually feel that the whole pick up scene does a disservice to men as well, since I have a hard time believing that it works very often, which just leaves the frustrated, insecure and (possibly entitled) man feeling more of the same, with an additional layer of bitterness.

    Something that doesn’t make sense to me is why a man who is having trouble relating to women would go to another man for advice. It seems more sensible to ask a woman, but I’m probably assuming 1. that these men actually interact with women for reasons other than trying to get sex and 2. if the whole goal is ‘how do I get chicks to have sex with me?’ a lot of women aren’t interested in providing advice for that.

    On casual sex preferences. I don’t think its possible to separate preferences for casual sex from social messages that say it’s bad, but I’ve actually met a lot of men who didn’t seem to want it, which makes me think that it’s possible that it’s just a personal preference. The other thing is that most ‘pick up’ advice centers on getting casual sex by pretending to have an interest in something else. From what I’ve seen, if you’re honest about wanting casual sex, you can often get it, so I think the deception is entirely unnecessary. Of course, I may be assuming a level of openness about sexuality that isn’t actually very common.

    Speaking of smells, I find that I’m very receptive to smells, but the profile of smells that I want on myself is highly limited to just powder and lavender, but I find these scents do nothing for me if someone else has got them.

    1. 5.1
      CaitieCat, getaway driver

      It’s really cool how that works. One of my partners is a BPAL junkie, so I have a really nice little tin of wonderful perfumes. When she brings new ones, we both test them at the same time, and it’s amazing how frequently it is that something that smells nice to both of us on me, smells awful to both of us on her, and vice versa. Even more so because I’m a supertaster, and she’s in the small number of people who are…what do they call it, undertasters? So while she adores the smell of coffee, it makes me nauseous because it’s SO OVERPOWERING. Something in the smell of coffee, I have a lot more, or more sensitive, receptors for than she does.

      The good news is, that’s why there’re so many people in the world. So we can all like different stuff, and still end up happy eventually. Well, okay, for some value of “all”. Some folk are unfortunately poisoned by their enculturation they receive, and can only imagine themselves happy within the narrowly-defined parameters society lays down as “desirable”. The awful irony is that these people are frequently themselves well outside those narrowly-defined parameters, and yet expect their potential partners to overlook this in their case.

      1. 5.1.1
        smrnda

        Speaking of taste and smell, I just realized that a requirement I have for a partner is an affinity for the taste of vinegar. I just *LOVE* vinegar of all kinds, and that’s kind of a deal-breaker. (Fortunately my current S.O. loves it as well.) It is really weird and interesting how this works out. :-)

        1. 5.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          YUCK. Sorry, smrnda, you and I are not destined to be. :P

          1. smrnda

            I will have to be content with *distant admiration* for the author of such an interesting blog ^^

    2. 5.2
      otranreg

      Something that doesn’t make sense to me is why a man who is having trouble relating to women would go to another man for advice. It seems more sensible to ask a woman

      It makes perfect sense, because:

      1) If you have trouble dealing with women, talking with men about these issues is often way more comfortable. Even if you’re usually trying to maintain a macho front with the chaps, or not really talking about these things. And especially if you belong to a group of people who are frustrated like you.

      2) You are more likely to ask advice from people whom you’d expect to have experiences like yours and who might have succeeded (or not).

      3) In my experience, women rarely provide coherent, practical and really useful advice on these matters. I may have been unlucky, but it seems to me like asking someone, who always plays as a Fighter, how to play as a Mage.

      1. 5.2.1
        Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

        but it seems to me like asking someone, who always plays as a Fighter, how to play as a Mage.

        Explain the analogy, please?

        It sounds like you’re saying that men and women are fundamentally different “types” with different “roles.” I hope you’d admit that that’s a bit silly.

        1. 5.2.1.1
          otranreg

          What I am saying that, while not fundamental or biological or whatever, differences do exist. Intentions and expectations differ: they probably deeply overlap, but I don’t think that saying that they are exactly the same is correct.

          Anyhow, as I noted in point 3, my impressions are based on limited personal experience. All advice I’ve got from women on these matters has been on what they would expect, not on how to specifically meet these expectations (or not).

          1. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Check out Captain Awkward and Dr. Nerdlove, two great advice blogs. They might make up for the lack of good advice you’ve gotten from women you know. :)

            And yeah, I think it takes a certain type of person to give good advice, because you have to be able to see things from someone else’s point of view (the person who’s asking you for advice). It’s no good to just be like “well what I want in a guy is [blank].”

          2. otranreg

            Okay, thanks, I’ll check them out.

      2. 5.2.2
        Onamission5

        “3) In my experience, women rarely provide coherent, practical and really useful advice on these matters”

        Is this because they don’t like your questions, you don’t like the answers, or because you don’t understand what is being said to you?

        Have to massively eyeroll at the implication that women are not the best persons to go to for advice about women. Yes you must get advice about us from the people who are not us because we’re totally incoherent and impractical and useless when it comes to giving advice about ourselves.

        FFS.

        1. 5.2.2.1
          otranreg

          Actually, the question is not about ‘advice on women’, it’s about ‘what a man should do’. If you are not a man, you can’t have done exactly ‘what a man should do’, so any advice you give on ‘what a man should do’ can’t be experience-based, and — in one way or the other — limited.

          1. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            Oh. So in an interaction between a man and a woman, woman isn’t experiencing that interaction and can’t offer useful perspective on it?
            Wtf?

          2. otranreg

            The woman isn’t experiencing the man’s side of that interaction. So, while she may have perceptive and useful observations on the man’s side of the interaction, she can’t have had first-hand experience of it, so the observations must be limited.

          3. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            …because trans people don’t exist.

            Sure about the absoluteness of that last statement, are you?

          4. Onamission5

            Advice on what a man should do *to/for/with/about women* which leaves the opinions, perspectives, feelings and needs of women out of the equation is not going to be very well rounded advice, and could, in fact, be harmful. Or is it more that you think treating women the way they want to be treated is secondary to the goal of a man getting his dick wet?

            Women are not passive vessels for acts of teh man-sex. We are, in fact, agents of our own, with ideas and needs and feelings and stuff. That you find our perspective on such things as *how to maybe have sex with us* useless and impractical says a lot more about you than it does about women.

          5. Onamission5

            And also what CaitieCat said.

          6. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Yeah, I’m just not sure why one needs to be a man to give men helpful advice about finding female partners. If I wanted advice on how to be more supportive and inclusive to, say, trans* people, I would ask a trans* person, not a cis person who has trans* friends. If I wanted to know how to do well in an interview, I would ask people whose job it is to interview prospective employees for their company, not people who’ve done a bunch of interviews and not necessarily landed any good jobs (or, perhaps, landed them for reasons OTHER THAN a good interview, which is the crucial part).

          7. otranreg

            CaitieCat: …because trans people don’t exist.
            Sure about the absoluteness of that last statement, are you?

            Oh, my mistake, I forgot to include this particular caveat (I expect too much). Although I wonder, how the fact that they do exist disproves or even has anything to do with what I am saying.

            Onamission5: Advice on what a man should do *to/for/with/about women* which leaves the opinions, perspectives, feelings and needs of women out of the equation is not going to be very well rounded advice

            I never said anything about not taking women’s opinions or advice into account. I actually asserted the opposite.

            Miri: Yeah, I’m just not sure why one needs to be a man to give men helpful advice about finding female partners.

            All I said was that women appear not to tend to give useful advice to men on this, probably because they don’t experience it in the same way as men. One does not have to be a man to give such advice, but his being a man means that he is more likely to have experienced what you experience and have better perspective on it.

            Both analogies are irrelevant here, since neither demonstrates that asking advice from a party that is not on the ‘receiving’ (for the lack of a better word) side of an interaction does not make sense or is useless. Only that asking the ‘receiving’ party may make sense and be useful, which is not the premise.

          8. otranreg

            Example of a better analogy: Whom would you ask to give you tips on how to play billiards: someone who plays it all the time or someone who watches it all the time on telly? Sure, the latter can know a lot and say useful stuff, and the former can suck at explaining things. Still, the player has the advantage of first-hand experience playing the game; therefore, the player is more likely to be able to provide more immediate and practical advice.

          9. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Whom would you ask to give you tips on how to play billiards: someone who plays it all the time or someone who watches it all the time on telly?

            Do you think women are just passive participants in flirting and sex, like someone watching a game on television? They don’t just sit there and watch it happen. They are just as involved as their partners are.

          10. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Do you think women are just passive participants in flirting and sex, like someone watching a game on television? They don’t just sit there and watch it happen. They are just as involved as their partners are.

            Oh, Miri, you kidder. Next you’ll be implying there are women who like having sex!

            +Obligatory Poe Warning

          11. otranreg

            Miri: Do you think women are just passive participants in flirting and sex, like someone watching a game on television? They don’t just sit there and watch it happen. They are just as involved as their partners are.

            I never said that it was a perfect analogy (‘perfect analogy’ is an oxymoron anyway). The idea is that the watcher can’t know first-hand what it is like to be a player. The fact that watching games on TV is a more passive sort of entertainment is irrelevant here, this is why it’s an analogy.

          12. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            The idea is that the watcher can’t know first-hand what it is like to be a player.

            Yes, but being a woman looking for sex/love is very, very similar to being a man looking for sex/love. Much more similar than watching a game is to playing it. That’s why your analogy fails, not because it’s imperfect (as all analogies are).

            Furthermore, as I already mentioned, if you want to know how to appeal to someone or make them like you, they are the best source of that information, not someone who’s in the same boat as you. The fact that the women in your life haven’t been helpful does not mean that Women Can’t Give Good Advice On Attracting Women; it means that the particular women you have asked were not very helpful to your particular needs. Skepticism is warranted here.

          13. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            *headdesk*

            I’m going to just rephrase Miri’s comment in case reading the same thing twice manages to get through:

            If you consider a woman an active participant in flirting, then making her a person watching games on TV instead of playing in your analogy is wrong. Your analogy doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should at least reflect whatever you are trying to describe somewhat accurately. You are not succeeding.

            More hints:
            Flirting – game of snooker
            Male participant in flirting – snooker player
            Female participant in flirting – avid fan of watching snooker on TV ….wait what?!

          14. otranreg

            Miri: Yes, but being a woman looking for sex/love is very, very similar to being a man looking for sex/love.

            Evidence?

            Beatrice: read my comment again, watcher’s passivity is irrelevant here.

          15. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            No, the burden of proof is on you to show that two groups of the same species are actually Really Different, not on me to show that they are not Really Different.

            There are, of course, social differences between men and women (this is a feminist blog; you can read about plenty of those here). But men and women generally want the same things out of their partners: respect, good sex, loving relationships (if they’re looking for that at the moment), emotional support (again, if they’re looking for that at the moment), and so on. They are not different species. The advice I gave in the OP to men considering pickup art is actually the same advice I would give to women hoping to meet men.

          16. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            I think you’re confused. You’re the one asserting that the null hypothesis (that humans are the same in general) is to be rejected; that’s the claim that needs proof, not the one that says that the null should be accepted. That’s basic reasoning, come on. You want to make a case that a particular set of humans have different behaviours, then show your work. It’s not on Miri to prove the negative.

          17. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            JINX!

            You owe me a Coke. :)

          18. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            JINX! You owe me a Coke. :)

            Visit NYC and collect!

          19. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Well, I know my one partner is almost as much of a NYC fan as you are, so I reckon I could convince her to do another run at it sometime. :)

            I keep saying I’m going to not go into the US until it stops getting more fascist, but I keep ending up with reasons to convince myself to put it aside for a bit. But your country frightens me, honestly. I’m a happy subversvie, and that’s not necessarily a good quality when interacting with authoritarians….

            Equally, you ever decide to visit Toronto, you let me know, y’hear? I don’t live in it, but near it, and grew up there, and really, no one visits my town except for Oktoberfest, and none of those visitors can ever remember being here (we have the largest Oktoberfest outside Germany, in this town which was once called Berlin, near to New Hamburg and Breslau). We could have some sort of heated beverage and conversation. :)

          20. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            Beatrice: read my comment again, watcher’s passivity is irrelevant here.

            Huh?

            I’m absolutely confuzzled.

          21. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Beatrice, I don’t think the confusion’s on your end. I suspect it’s a case of PEBKAC in action.

          22. otranreg

            Miri: There are, of course, social differences between men and women (this is a feminist blog; you can read about plenty of those here). But men and women generally want the same things out of their partners: [this and that]

            So, we’ve come a full circle. It’s not about what people want (which usually is not that hard to figure out), it’s about how other people should act on it (which is really the problem).

            Anyhow, this thread has gone way beyond my league and my original intention (5.2). Which was to say that yes, it does make sense for men to ask other men about the matters in the OP. And one of the arguments (explicitly said to have been based on anecdotal evidence) was that women tend to give bad advice about it. It might have been refuted (I haven’t checked your blog suggestions yet), but the initial premise still stands. I don’t think there’s any reason to continue derailing this thread any further.

            CaitieCat: Do you know what obscene part of the universe to go to, or would you like me to lay out a personal itinerary for you? Your sniggering is neither helpful nor entertaining.

          23. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            So, we’ve come a full circle. It’s not about what people want (which usually is not that hard to figure out), it’s about how other people should act on it (which is really the problem).

            So, once again, who do you think has more information on how women like to be approached by men?

            Refer to my interview analogy. Although people who interview for jobs may have some tips, those who conduct interviews are in a much better position to tell you what they’re looking for, which approaches work best, what the red flags are, etc. Sure, a given guy may be successful with women, but you don’t always know that when you ask him for advice. And perhaps he’s successful more out of luck than out of knowing what to do, just like a random person who’s interviewing for a job.

            Will a given interviewer be able to speak for all interviewers? No, of course not, and a given woman cannot speak for all women. But ask enough of them and you’ll start to notice common threads.

            Frankly, I think it’s a sexist assumption that women aren’t a good resource on what women want. Asking men to speak for women is, well, quite patronizing.

          24. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            women tend to give bad advice about it

            To be noted: No evidence of this has been offered.

          25. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Go fuck yourself, bum-rag. You don’t get to tell me what to post; Miri can, cause it’s her blog. and as long as she doesn’t have a problem, you can like it or lump it, I don’t much give a rat’s arse.

            Also, citation needed. I think I’m plenty entertaining, and mocking someone who wants to make special pleading into a new category of totally logical stuff is a quite helpful skill. That makes one opinion on each side, and I’m not pulling mine out the same dark hole you’re pulling your arguments. You don’t like that you are expected to actually back up your assertions with evidence, that’s not a good reason for me to stop mocking them as the bullshit they are.

            So, cordially, fuck off. Prove your case, or get the fuck back to your favourite PUA site to complain about the uppity bitches who wouldn’t overlook your constant use of formal fallacies. Show your work, or show you’ve got nothing. Yer choice. Your chances to induce me to do what i don’t feel like? Slim and none.

          26. otranreg

            Beatrice: little to none has been offered to the contrary either.

            CaitieCat: I’ve never told you what to post. Feel free to scribble your tripe and to piss yourself with glee as you fight off imaginary boogeymen with pathetic witticisms. Also, thank you for proving my point: you’re an useless parasite, don’t let PUAs (je-e-ebus crust, now I have to mention them) under your bed give you nightmares.

          27. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            otranreg, CaitieCat correctly pointed out that you have asked us to prove a null hypothesis even though the burden is on the person rejecting the null hypothesis to provide the proof. You have not addressed her argument. Whether or not she happens to be laughing at you behind her computer screen is absolutely irrelevant to the strength of her argument.

          28. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            I’ll also add that there are certain things it might be useful to ask of other men: how to get over anxiety about approaching women, how to deal with rejection, etc. But first of all, you still should not consult PUAs about any of this. Second, these aren’t really issues of “attracting women” or “appealing to women” or “persuading women to have sex with you”; these are personal issues that you need to work out. And even then, women might still be helpful because, shockingly, we have to deal with anxiety and rejection too! We’re the same species as you.

          29. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            I don’t think there’s any reason to continue derailing this thread any further.

            You’re going to lose points for not sticking the landing on the flounce, I’m afraid.

            Yes, even the Roumanian judge has now got the marks in, and it’s bad news.

            If I had proved anything you’d said true, it would have been the first time you’ve shown that such a thing can happen, as you’ve offered no evidence to back up your extraordinary claims, not in a dozen posts. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think you’ve got nothing. Just more smelly brown proof of your serious case of confirmation bias. If you did, you’d be offering it.

            All you have is the usual “My tiny sample of anecdata, where I talked to a few women, they had nothing I could use, just terrible adivce about how I should be nice to women and listen to them and be interested in who they are and interesting to know, but what I want is the key to the Puzzle Box? Why can’t anyone see how totally nonsexist I am and how simple this is?”

            It’s a load of crap, and not even a new one. You think you’re the special snowflake who’s bringing us an idea we’ve never considered. Newsflash: you’re not the first pathetic apologist to come along and say how awesome PUA is for guys who are socially awkward. And when lovely optimistic Miri offers you a list of places you can find useful advice about such things, you casually handwave that you haven’t bothered to read them.

            So, when you do get advice from women, you ignore it as not validating your preconceptions, and then come along to make your extraordinary claim that women can’t know anything about this, dropped in some handy trans-erasing language, refused to notice or apologize for it, and then whine about how awful we are for not seeing your special snowflake Awesome Logic Stat (I’m guessing Charisma was your dump stat, yes?).

            Sad, really. You can’t even get decent trolls anymore.

          30. otranreg

            Miri: otranreg, CaitieCat correctly pointed out that you have asked us to prove a null hypothesis even though the burden is on the person rejecting the null hypothesis to provide the proof.

            I asked for information, actually. I presented the basis for my hypothesis, and I’ve never denied its limitations.

            I’ll also add that there are certain things it might be useful to ask of other men: how to get over anxiety about approaching women, how to deal with rejection, etc.

            Done. This was my point in the first place.

            CaitieCat: what, more proof for your (single your) being a fetid scab? I’m sorry, if it’s about making points for yourself, and not letting others get them. Feel free to stab the images your delusions provide you with and make sure you keep a high score. Keep me out of it. Scum.

      3. 5.2.3
        Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

        I get 1 and 2, but 3 leaves me puzzled.
        Besides implying some fundamental difference in roles of men and women (as Miri already noted), it also has some nasty implications about women not being able to speak their mind about their own desires.

        Unless you’ve been expecting women to gave you the secret code to getting all the women, and you were disappointed when all you got was some useless advice such as “treat women as equals” and “don’t get pushy if she isn’t interested”.

        1. 5.2.3.1
          otranreg

          As I said above, I’m not implying any fundamental differences, although I do believe that differences exist: you can’t expect a woman to know exactly what a man experiences, or vice versa.

          ‘Knowing someone’s wishes’ and ‘knowing how to act on someone’s wishes’ are two completely different things.

          (Also, ‘“treat women as equals” and “don’t get pushy if she isn’t interested”’ is the kind of advice that I’m talking about. These things are self-evident, and aren’t particularly helpful.)

          1. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Actually, as a woman who dates men, I can tell you that those things are not whatsoever self-evident for the majority of men.

            But even if they are, I mentioned some advice in this post that is perhaps less self-evident, such as cultivating interests besides “getting chicks” and being enthusiastic about those interests. Everyone likes people who are interested in things.

          2. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            It is helpful in contradicting a lot of harmful advice given by PUA manuals. It’s great that it’s self-evident to you, but it is not to a lot of people (namely people who write advice about picking up women) – just look at advice consisting of basically harassing a woman until she relents or treating her like a dumb piece of furniture.

            Given the different socialization of men and women, of course that a woman can’t know exactly what a man is experiencing. But you are giving a bit too much stock to the differences, especially while ignoring that information about how a straight woman is experiencing interaction with straight men would be immensely helpful in figuring out how you (general you) should behave in these interactions.

            It’s weird. You rely so much on the differences (because a woman can’t know exactly how a man feels, her advice is useless), but at the same time you are not taking into account that because of the differences in how men and women interact you should learn a bit of something about how a woman sees these interactions too.

          3. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            After reading up a bit the comments in other subthreads, I apologize to CaitieCat for joining in the trans erasure. Will try to do better.

          4. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Thank you, gracious of you to do so. :)

          5. otranreg

            Beatrice: It’s weird. You rely so much on the differences (because a woman can’t know exactly how a man feels, her advice is useless)

            No, this is not what I said. I said that in my experience women do not give useful advice to men in these matters, and then suggested that this might be because they don’t share the same experiences as men.

        2. 5.2.3.2
          Judy

          Most people are missing the objective, here, and assuming the only point of view ‘has to be” the man’s. Miri makes the point, go to the source. If you want to know how a woman feels about something, you don’t call up her sister or talk to her old highschool PE teacher, you ask HER. Maybe women don’t respond (except with thse “crappy answers” because they are getting crappy questions. all women, like all men, are differernt. A woman can answer for herself but probably is uncomfortable answering for All Women, in a universal mode. What works for one might not work for all.

          If you’re trying to pick up a woman, make it personal. Make it about her. Take your time, don’t act as if the taxi is waiting outside with the meter running. =)

      4. 5.2.4
        John Horstman

        In my experience, women rarely provide coherent, practical and really useful advice on these matters. I may have been unlucky, but it seems to me like asking someone, who always plays as a Fighter, how to play as a Mage.

        You know, there’s another factor – not just the gender of the person you’re asking – common to all instances here: you’re the one doing the asking. Perhaps it’s more like someone who really just wants to play a fighter asking someone who both plays a mage and wrote some of the game code/rules how to play a mage. The asked person can give the best advice in the world, but it won’t matter if you can’t put it into practice because you just go charging in like a fighter no matter what…

        1. 5.2.4.1
          NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

          You are missing the point spectacularly.

          The point is that women are not a collective. The tactics you used to “pick up” one woman are very likely not going to work on another woman. If you want to know the absolute best way to “pick up” a woman, you have to actually get to know her a bit first. We men simply don’t have the experience of being women, so if you want to know about a woman, you ask her.

          Here’s the only analogy I can think of: if you want to know about me, why the hell would you ask people who know me instead of me?

          Only individuals can tell you how to deal with themselves, because no group of people is a monolith.

  6. 6
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I’ve never been comfortable with the whole “pickup” thing because it starts with one person deciding the sole positive outcome of the an encounter without any input from the other person first. It would be almost the equivalent of walking into a hardware store for nails and the salesperson insisting that you buy a lawnmower or GTFO.

    I’m naturally wired to be shy and insecure and all those things, and what really helped me was giving up on finding stuff with other people, and worrying about making myself happy and healthy and whole on my own instead. As a side effect, being the sort of person I’d want to be around meant I was also the sort of people other people wanted to be around. Because I wasn’t so goal-oriented, I just sort of let things happen as they played out rather than letting preconceived notions get in the way. I was suddenly casually dating A LOT, and got mixed up in all sorts of different “alternative lifestyles” just because I was seeing so many different people from different backgrounds.

    And now I’ve been married for 8 years. Not too shabby!

  7. 7
    sugarloaf

    On casual sex, there’s another reason that women might be (seen to be) less into it. From my own experience- it’s something that at various points in my life would have filled a gap I needed to fill (high libido, no time/ opportunity for a relationship, etc). But there’s the constant fear of predators (not to mention potential transmission of STIs)- if I’m alone and vulnerable with someone, I’m unlikely to be able to fight them off if things take a turn for the worse. Keeping sex in relationships means you have much more time to vet someone (never a failsafe, but enough). (There is of course the possibility of friends with benefits type arrangements, but that assumes you move in circles where you’re confident such things can be raised without your reputation being permanently tarred. I’m not in that position- and as a woman I imagine the odds of me being in such a position are less, due to socialisation/ gendered expectations)

    1. 7.1
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      I’m too lazy to look up the citation ATM, but I recall seeing a study which appeared to indicate that two reasons that women are less likely to seek casual sex (with men) are the one you mentioned about potential violence and also the perceived (low) likelihood that the sex will be satisfying.

      1. 7.1.1
        Ysanne

        I read that too, and it makes a lot of sense.

        This is the key point IMHO:

        A big part of this that I would like to stress to any man considering pickup advice is that if everything about you screams “WAHHH CHICKS NEVER WANNA FUCK ME I HATE ALL THESE FUCKING BITCHES,” I promise you that women will stay far away.

        So for the obvious conclusion:
        If a guys want to score voluntary casual sex with a woman, a good tactic would to show her that he’s a nice non-axe-murderer who is going to be a great fuck.
        Which could be done by treating her respectfully as an actual person (as opposed to a somewhat complex fleshlight), by showing that he recognises what she likes and cares about her having fun too (eg. through actually listening and not just pressing on regardless of her reactions), and by not coming across as a self-absorbed, entitled whiny idiot who can’t take no for an answer.
        Whereas it is a bad tactic to try and trick someone probably unwilling into having sex they won’t enjoy by employing sleazy and obvious deception.
        How stupid do PUAs have to be to not get that?

        1. 7.1.1.1
          CaitieCat, getaway driver

          I think that in many cases it’s because they subscribe to the women are puzzle boxes theory: that it’s just a matter of knowing which bit to push on that unlocks the secret prize: sexual favours for the opener; the puzzle box’s concerns are none of the opener’s.

          And all the PUA advice is just “a lot of puzzle boxes open with this sort of movement”-type advice.

          Which is why I believe that yes, PUA advice is pretty much all sexist, because of its semi-tacit endorsement of the women-are-puzzle-boxes approach.

          1. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            I think a lot of advice also relies on simple probability : if a man bothers enough women on a night out, he’ll find one that will be amenable to his advances. Which is sexist, again, since it disregards the feelings of all the harassed women in order for the dude to get gratification.

      2. 7.1.2
        SallyStrange

        Indeed. I had a phase where I was very promiscuous and enjoying many one-night stands or brief flings. As time goes on, however, my standards for a satisfying sexual encounter have risen, and so I’m far less likely to bed down with a guy I just met. If it weren’t so hit-and-miss with guys’ ability to actually get me off, I’d probably still be receptive to the occasional first date fuck or whatever.

  8. 8
    MJ

    Casual sex was something I really wanted to get more in to before I got together with my other half (I’m only 25 so I guess if we ever break up I still could) but never did because of the looks the guys I tried to approach would give me; like they were going to pounce on me or something. I stopped trying after I asked a female friend for advice (naturally I assumed my timid attitude was the whole problem) and she told me to “just act ditzy and stupid”. I felt sick to my stomach once she said it. The very idea that guys would respond to me better if I ‘just’ hide my intelligence for them put me off the whole thing altogether. The saddest part is this was the same advice my sister gave me when I was 13 and asked how to flirt with boys, I rejected it then too.

    There’s a lot of really backwards oppressive crap still influencing hook up culture. I hear people talk about casual hook ups as if they’ve done something dirty and wrong, it’s just acceptable to be ‘unashamed’ about it now. Unless you’re a woman, then regardless of how much you like casual sex for the fun of it you are still a ‘filthy whore’ and deserve to be judged harshly, even by the men who slept with you. The whole scene just reeks of ‘treat people like shit all you want if it gets you laid, you’re already doing something wrong by wanting casual sex in the first place’

  9. 9
    kacyray

    PUA “game theory” is a subset of a larger informal science of social dynamics, and like any science, it can be used for good or for bad. I wouldn’t say the theory is inherently sexist, assuming you use the word “sexist” in the purest sense of a *value inequity* between the sexes.

    Game theory is based almost singularly around the principle that – in general – the degree to which a woman is attracted to a man is proportionate to the amount of social value she perceives him to possess.

    (Yes, they know there are exceptions to every rule. Game theory [and social dynamics in general] examines the rule while acknowledging the exceptions.)

    Further, it bases the general measure of a man’s social value on a specific set of observable, time-tested attributes – mostly revolving around survivability (wealth, toughness, fitness, loyalty to family, confidence, etc). If you doubt that any of these factors are an effective means to measure social value, you need look no farther than the men who possess these attributes in the extreme and then look at the women they are paired with. (Hint, you’re not going to see a UFC fighter, an NFL quarterback, a wealthy young socialite, or a popular rap star with overweight women by their sides. This isn’t exactly a secret, but it might be an uncomfortable truth for some.)

    The idea is that if you can teach a man to increase his social value, you will be giving him de facto lessons in how to attract women with higher social value.

    And the reality is that it works. The facts are out there. Not everyone will like them, but they are out there.

    I’m no PUA, by the way – I’m a married guy in the middle of an 8 month pleasure cruise on a Naval warship, so please don’t think I’m here trying to sell you on the noble pursuit of game theory – I’m not. Do I like the fact a women will flock to some cocky egomaniac before they’ll pay attention to me? No, not really… but it is what it is.

    Experience begets competence. Competence begets confidence. Therefore confidence communicates experience. Experience has survival value, therefore confidence is an indicator of survival value. These sorts of nuanced data points are useful to men who can’t understand why the cocky egomaniac gets all the attention while they are left by the wayside.

    There’s a reason Ted Bundy was getting marriage proposals while on trial for murdering women. There’s a reason women flocked to a man like David Koresh. There are reasons that women like Rhiannon go back to violent, abusive men. It isn’t because violence is appealing, and it isn’t because women are stupid. There are dynamics at play, and we are much better off examining those dynamics and understanding them than writing them off as sexist.

    As soon as I read “The Game” by Neil Strauss, the first thing i did was give it to my teenaged daughter to read (this was a few years ago). I wanted her to understand, to hear it straight from the horses mouth, how our own internalized programming can be manipulated by unscrupulous people. I wanted her to be able to recognize when the bulls-eye was on her back.

    But at the same time, I recognized the value in the larger science of social dynamics, and I applied the lessons to my own life. Now I have a wife who literally worships the ground I walk on, and I do not consider that some god-given right, I consider it a hard-earned reward and a tremendous responsibility. I work every day to make sure I merit the feelings she has for me. She does the same, by the way.

    My advice is this – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, many PUA’s are slimy sexists whose needs and values are base and puerile. Yes, there is no shortage of women who serve as nothing more than a supply to the demands of those types of men. But the science of social dynamics, and even game theory, does have value where understanding the various needs of men and women are concerned, and how we all act to have those needs met.

    Believe me, it took a long time for a couple friends of mine to convince me of what I just said to you, so I do NOT expect change your opinion in the course of a single comment thread. My knee-jerk reaction to all things PUA was contempt, and it remained that way until I started actually doing some homework. I expect that it will be that way for you… unless you write it off completely and never bother digging in. If that’s what you choose to do, you’ll be short-changing yourself out of some pretty useful (and thought provoking) information.

    1. 9.1
      Ysanne

      Do you recognise the difference between actually increasing “social value” and pretending to have higher social value?
      The first is called self-improvement and is work that helps one become an interesting person that others like to spend time with for a variety of activities including sex. The other is a cheap ruse designed to manipulate people who easily fall for superficial attributes.
      Now guess which of these two activities PUAs typically engage in.

      Oh and please just let me point out that Game Theory is a legitimate field of applied mathematics/operations research, and not the theory of manipulating people.

    2. 9.2
      Nepenthe

      The idea is that if you can teach a man to increase his social value, you will be giving him de facto lessons in how to attract women with higher social value.

      And obviously the only thing that matters for women in terms of social value is their appearance, specifically their weight. And that’s real.

    3. 9.3
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Even if everything you said here was accurate (which I don’t believe it is, based on my own research), that’s absolutely beside the point.

      I treat social manipulation like I treat cheating. The reason I don’t cheat on exams or plagiarize my papers isn’t because it doesn’t work; it sure as hell does. It’s because it’s wrong.

      Social manipulation, which includes the well-known techniques that salespeople use, is like a quick-and-easy shortcut to getting what you want from people (when it works, that is). But I don’t want a shortcut. I want my partners to be interested in me because they are, not because I tricked them into it. Furthermore, I want partners who share my values, one of which is to not play games with people. Playing games with people is a great way to attract the sort of people who are willing to play games.

      Manipulation is to relationships what cheating is to academics, and I don’t want anything to do with either.

      There is a difference, by the way, between manipulating people with PUA tactics and making yourself attractive as a partner. When I do the things that I know appeal to the sort of people I want to date–be friendly, share my political beliefs, be a good listener, show interest in their lives–I’m not doing that to “get” people; I’m doing that because that’s who I am, and these parts of who I am are appealing and I want to show them off when I’m meeting people. There are also aspects of me that aren’t as appealing, and I choose not to flaunt those when I’m first meeting someone. For instance, I don’t open with the fact that I spent hours the other day sobbing because life transitions are difficult for me. That’s something I would tell someone who already cares about me.

      Anyway, maybe the people who gravitate to manipulative tricks to “get” partners are people who really don’t have much going for them personality-wise and aren’t willing to work on that. Instead they cheat. I’m not interested in cheating.

      Also, your bit about overweight women is gross and wrong and I don’t even have a response to it, although my other commenters clearly do. It’s unfortunate that you don’t want to engage with them.

      1. 9.3.1
        kacyray

        Manipulation is to relationships what cheating is to academics, and I don’t want anything to do with either.

        I understand (and share) the apprehension to consider anything that smells like manipulation, and I think that term is key to this issue.

        I think the turning point in this issue for me was when I began to reconsider what did and what did not constitute manipulation. I can’t honestly say that I’ve come to a full cognitive stop on it yet. Consider the following scenarios:

        I am a guitar player. Although I enjoy playing guitar for its own sake, I want people to enjoy listening to me play – that’s pretty important to me. If I were to go to another guitar player and get lessons from him – in essence taking a shortcut to learning this instrument – in order to play better and sound better… and I begin to experience success… have I manipulated my audience into liking my music better? (This is a real question – I am not seeking any particular answer).

        If so… is that a bad thing? If not, how would this be distinguished from manipulation?

        I am pulled over by a cop. He caught me speeding. I go out of my way to be polite and respectful to the officer. I own up to my infraction and I promise not to do it again. After a day filled with belligerant motorists and a cranky police chief, the officer finds my demeanor refreshing, and lets me off with a warning. Assuming my promise is genuine, have I manipulated him?

        If so… is that a bad thing? If not, how would this be distinguished from actual manipulation?

        Is a woman who puts on makeup manipulating others into fining her more attractive? Is a bodybuilder manipulating others into finding him/her intimidating? The answer to both of these questions could be yes, but it would be tough to reconcile the answer with the classic negative connotation associated with that word.

        The PUA literature I’ve read is pretty clear on teaching men to demonstrate value – not to pretend or to fake it. In other words, don’t *act* more social and confident – BE more social and confident. Don’t *act* like you’re interested in what she is saying – BE interested in what she is saying.

        When I was talking about the science of social dynamics being useful – I can give you an example from my own personal life. One of the gaping social weaknesses that I had for many years (and I was blissfully unaware of this weakness) was that my ability to interpret non-verbal communication (NVC) was basically non-existent. I all but refused to even acknowledge that such a thing existed. I realize (now) that for most folks, NVC is second nature – but I’m telling you that until it was explained to me in painstaking detail, I was lost.

        I don’t claim to be a master at interpreting NVC now, but boy, have my eyes been opened. It’s almost like having a decoder ring on. No longer are people’s responses to the things I say mysterious, no longer do I find myself wondering “WTF just happened” when I observe a social situation. No longer do I have to wonder whether the person I’m talking to has a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of me.

        Do you realize how valuable that sort of information is to guys like me who had no clue? It was almost like a set of lifelong blinders had been removed from my eyes. And that is just *one* example.

        Now… would you call a lesson in understanding NVC a “PUA tactic”? Probably not. In fact, it’s pretty damn important for anyone to know, whether in a social or even in a professional situation. That’s why I say that, while PUA’s might use this information to their advantage, that doesn’t mean the information (or the science used to gain it) itself is inherently sexist.

        Anyway, maybe the people who gravitate to manipulative tricks to “get” partners are people who really don’t have much going for them personality-wise and aren’t willing to work on that. Instead they cheat. I’m not interested in cheating.

        See, this is demoralizing to hear you say, and it is exactly the reason that game theory can help hapless individuals navigate the social jungle they often find themselves in. To have a weakness, and to seek help to learn to overcome that weakness, is not an exercise in manipulation. Nor is it a trick.

        And what many people mistake for a “bad personality” is often times nothing more than complete social ineptitude. But does that mean the person has nothing to offer? What if he (or she) could learn to become socially calibrated?

        Is it “cheating” to go to a guitar teacher rather than figure it all out myself? Is it “cheating” to take a course in grammar in order to be able to have more success in writing? You have to realize that a lot of these guys DO have a lot to offer and they ARE willing to work on it, they just have no earthly idea how to relate to the folks to whom they want to offer it. They are socially mis-calibrated.

        If you think it sucks to be on the receiving end of this ineptitude, imagine for a moment how the inept person feels! And how demoralizing it is for them when, time after time, they put themselves out there in a vulnerable situation and give it their best, only to be rejected. Sometimes politely. Sometimes not so politely. Responses from women can be an absolute mystery to many men (believe me, I know this), and sometimes all it takes is for someone to explain it to you for you to “get it”.

        Social dynamics are no different than any other knowledge pursuit. For many people, they come naturally, but for some, they do not. Why is it bad or wrong or manipulative for someone to want to understand them?

        When I look back today at some of the things I’ve said to people, some of the social decisions I’ve made, and some of the opportunities I’ve missed simply because I had no idea what I was saying or doing, I cringe. I physically cringe. I knew that I had a lot to offer, and I wanted so badly to share it with someone who would appreciate it. Now I have that. And it wasn’t because I became a PUA – it was because I set aside my apprehension of their ways and methods long enough to be able to extract the larger lessons which enabled me to see how lost I really was… and to eventually find my way.

        I will re-emphasize – I think that many PUA’s get into the game for all the wrong reasons. yes, many of them are sexist and I’d probably find most of them contemptable for a number of reasons. Honestly, I don’t know any, so I’m guessing at that.

        I just recommend that you keep in mind that game theory is nothing more than a subset of social dynamic theory, which I think has tremendous value. The title of your OP was “Is all PUA advice sexist”… I think just the example of learning NVC alone should suffice to answer that question in the negative. How can it possibly be sexist to teach someone to pick up on non-verbal cues?

        I just don’t think that writing it all off in blanket “sexist” terms is going to serve you in the way you think.

        Also, I should be clear… it’s not that I don’t want to engage your commenters. I just wanted to share some of my own ideas and experiences when I saw your post about PUA theory being sexist. I’ve found that bloggers tend maintain a considerably higher level of decorum with their commenters than other commenters do. It’s nothing against your specific commenting community. I get enough stress at work… don’t really need any with the folks I chat with online.

        I hope you take this long comment in the spirit in which it was intended – simple conversation. Take it for what it’s worth – dispense with it if you choose. I realize I’ve written a book here, so I’ll leave you alone now. See you around.

        1. 9.3.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          The title of your OP was “Is all PUA advice sexist”… I think just the example of learning NVC alone should suffice to answer that question in the negative. How can it possibly be sexist to teach someone to pick up on non-verbal cues?

          I’m sorry, but did you actually read this post, or just the title? I wrote:

          I don’t know if all pickup advice is sexist because I am a skeptic and I would need to either review all pickup advice or see a large representative sample of it to come to a conclusion, and that’s impossible. However, I think I can offer three reasons for why pickup advice so often tends toward sexism.

          Simply asking a yes-or-no question in a blog post title does not imply that the answer is “yes.”

        2. 9.3.1.2
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          In any case, the question of whether or not manipulation works is completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not many PUA techniques are sexist. The point of this post was, as I said, to provide a few reasons why so many of the PUA techniques we see are sexist. I’m not interested in what I can learn from pickup artists and I’m not interested in whether or not their techniques work, since I’ve had a absolutely no trouble finding partners without those techniques.

          And while the line between manipulation and not-manipulation can sometimes be difficult to spot, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. To compare guitar-playing to putting women down and emotionally abusing them to get them to sleep with you seems rather glib to me.

          1. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

            Besides, if PUA techniques accidentally incorporate a bit of proper advice as part of their manipulation techniques, it hardly makes much of a case for anything except that it is possible that, technically, not every single piece of advice is sexist. Woohoo.

            While you are wearing down that girl who told you to fuck off, make sure to search for non-verbal cues that you touched on the right set on insecurities and she is starting to feel bad about herself and more open to advances.

            Yeah, really something to appreciate.

          2. kacyray

            Putting women down and emotionally abusing them to get them to sleep with you is like playing guitar? This is how my comment translated to you?

            heh… okay Miri. Be well.

          3. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            No, you’re the one who made that comparison, by comparing pickup art to improving one’s guitar skills.

            And there’s no need to be condescending, so cut that out.

        3. 9.3.1.3
          Dan L.

          Taking guitar lessons isn’t “cheating”. People learn to do things from other people.

          Getting better at a performance art isn’t “manipulation,” it’s getting better at performance art.

          Game theory is a branch of mathematics. When you call what you’re talking about “game theory” it just makes me think of a bunch of goofy, clueless guys swapping exaggerated stories about their sex lives.

          1. Dan L.

            To better get at the difference between getting legitimately better at something vs. manipulation, try this:

            Instead of taking lessons and learning a set of songs you just learn one songs that sounds complicated but isn’t really like “Blackbird” or “Over the Hills and Far Away”. You practice the heck out of that one song and get good at playing that one song. And then you tell everyone what a great guitar player you are. If someone expresses skepticism you play that one song.

            Would that qualify as manipulating your audience?

    4. 9.4
      smrnda

      I look at the women attached to famous, high status men all the time. I really don’t think they’re really that much more attractive than many women that I see every day. I think that there exists this myth that celebrities are actually that much more attractive than mundane, ordinary people. There’s also a problem in believing that high status men actually have value *to specific women* or to women universally. This falls into more of the problem with PUA ‘theory’ – it’s based on making sweeping assumptions about women.

      One problem with approaching relationships via any ‘game theory’ route (I’m an artificial intelligence researcher, so I know quite a bit about game theory) is that it basically involved putting on an act. The characters in Jane Austen novels apply game theory to relationships since they’re living in a society where authenticity to one’s self is not permitted, and it’s the best you can do. If you want a relationship to work, it has to be based on you being as much yourself as possible, since nobody can live a lie for long.

      PUA manuals are written at about the level of ‘d00d i can get u to be a hit with chix and get u LAID!’ There do exist real books (and therapy) mean to assist people who are socially inept. Telling a socially inept man to look into PUA manuals for the tiny speck of legitimate advice there is as irresponsible as telling someone with a chronic medical condition to see some holistic quack on the grounds that it *might* make them feel a bit better.

      There are men who are socially inept, and who are frustrated at their inability for form relationships with women. I think these men deserve real advice from people with something useful to say, not the PUA community.

  10. 10
    Snoof

    But the science of social dynamics … does have value where understanding the various needs of men and women are concerned, and how we all act to have those needs met.

    This is a reasonable statement by itself. It’s not, however, a defense of the PUA manuals out there, since there’s no science in them beyond flimsy appeals to pop psychology (usually evo psych) and ‘everyone knows’ statements.

  11. 11
    kacyray

    Do you recognise the difference between actually increasing “social value” and pretending to have higher social value?

    Did I come across as a person who would fail to make such a distinction? Not sure what would provoke this question… nowhere in my comment or in the OP was anything about pretending mentioned. I can only imagine that this was some sort of attempt to … I don’t even know what.

    My comment was intended for the blogger. Sorry… won’t be trading comments with anyone else.

    1. 11.1
      SallyStrange

      Snob.

  12. 12
    Kevin

    1. A lot of men are attracted to overweight women. The “BBW” category is — I believe — the third-most viewed category of porn. So, comments about attractiveness-to-weight are demonstrating one’s own individual preferences or cultural biases. My brother, for example, prefers very large women and is in a loving, committed relationship with a wonderful person who just happens to weigh about 300 pounds. So, YKINMK.

    2. I do think that the “pick-up artist” meme is heavily weighted towards “casual, meaningless sexual encounters with women who can be manipulated in that way”. Then the issue is, are women really being manipulated, or is there a set of women who enjoy casual sex (sure, why not?) who see through the PUAs ruses but use them for their own purposes? I think a little of both, maybe.

    3. I think casual sex is highly overrated. Personally, I prefer sharing that kind of intimacy with someone I know very, very well. But I’m an old fart and that’s probably my generation’s upbringing.

    4. That being said, I do think there are a lot of guys who do need advice on how to meet women — because most “brave heros” are, in fact, “clueless tools”.

    And I agree with CaitieCat — showers. (FWIW: I am highly allergic to many scents and don’t wear them because of that, and avoid heavily perfumed women as a result. However, I once had a woman compliment me on my “cologne” which was in fact my deodorant — Old Spice Swagger, on special at Sam’s Club, so don’t judge me).

    That and just trying not to be a jerk. Nobody likes a jerk. They may tolerate jerks…heck, they may even sleep with jerks. But they don’t like them.

    1. 12.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Then the issue is, are women really being manipulated, or is there a set of women who enjoy casual sex (sure, why not?) who see through the PUAs ruses but use them for their own purposes? I think a little of both, maybe.

      Although I rarely have casual sex myself, I know many women who do. They stay away from PUA types because they want to feel comfortable, safe, and respected even in a totally casual encounter. They dislike the silly game-playing and the presumption that women need to be “tricked” into casual sex because they already know they want it. They also understand the importance of picking a partner who’s going to take their boundaries seriously, which PUAs are specifically trained not to do.

      1. 12.1.1
        Kevin

        Yeah, I would suspect that a woman who was savvy enough to see through the PUA lines would feel that way.

        Which, of course, then limits the PUA successful targeting to an even smaller group of women, and excludes some who would sleep them them if they weren’t using PUA lines.

        Isn’t that ironic?

        1. 12.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Exactly!!! That is exactly it! By idiotically presuming that no woman could possibly want a one-night stand and treating women like they need to be coaxed into it, they’re cutting off the possibility of actually having, like, good sex with a partner who actually wants it.

          1. SallyStrange

            So true! And, not only that, but by creating an atmosphere where women can pretty much count on encountering a plethora of non-boundary-respecting guys, the PUAs are dissuading women who might otherwise be into casual sex more from engaging in it at all.

      2. 12.1.2
        Onamission5

        Thisthisthis.

        Before I was monogamously enamored with my Spouse, I was quite a fan of the casual encounter as well as FWB arrangements. PUA’s got a wiiiiide berth. I might have engaged someone in a friendly competition over a game of pool to see how they handled losing (or winning if they were better than me, not likely, lol) or some mutual flirty and innuendo laden banter, but no one who used PU lines or tactics made their way through. I have actually done the “Oh, so we’re negging, are we? Let me try” thing.

    2. 12.2
      SallyStrange

      There are few things that take the pleasure out of casual sex as quickly as the realization that the guy you’re about to fuck, or, worse, just fucked, thinks he “got one over” on you by getting to the point where sex is a possibility. When I was doing casual sex, I was doing so because I liked it. I did encounter guys who assumed that I only fucked them because they basically tricked me into it. It’s gross.

      A few guys from those promiscuous days, I am still friends with. Those men, the ones who thought they had to trick me into fucking, are not among them.

    3. 12.3
      Nepenthe

      Kevin, I know you probably didn’t mean it that way, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only fat woman who finds referring to desiring women like me as kink insulting.

  13. 13
    Kevin

    Oh yeah…cut your fingernails, don’t chew them or let them grow too long. I once met a woman who was very clear on that issue.

    But mainly, don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes jerks.

  14. 14
    Judy

    One thing many men do not “get” and is not addressed in the Advice to the Pernanently Horny section–almost every pickup line out there has been used, even the ones you think are adorably clever. Even if you dont see them do it, women tend to roll their eyes and think, oh, lord, here comes another one.

    So, yeah, the user often becomes the used,

    Humor, intelligence, and the way he smells (aftershave is NOT the way his skin smells, and forget cologne), and I am lost, lost. Make me laugh, make me think, and i’m half way there.

  15. 15
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Hey Miri… maybe you should write a pick-up guide?

    I’m dead serious. I think it’d be awesome and likely better than every PUA guide out there. And the best part is, it could be a blog post because you really don’t need a whole book to explain how women are active participants in flirting and each woman (like each man), is different and responds to different things differently, and it’s perfectly normal for women to initiate flirting if they want to, you could make it a simple (and potentially short) blog post.

    1. 15.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      HUH WELL NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT

      Here’s the funny thing. I’m pretty good at flirting/attracting people, but I almost never ask anyone out or proposition anyone. However, I do know what works on me and other like-minded folks.

      For instance!! The fact that you want casual sex does not mean you need to start complimenting random body parts of mine. You can let me know that some other way, such as, “Hey, you’re really cool and also super attractive. Wanna hook up?”

      See, no objectification required.

    2. 15.2
      queequack

      I think it’d be awesome and likely better than every PUA guide out there.

      No, it wouldn’t be. I mean, it would probably fit in more with your Politics, but in terms of effectiveness, remember, you’re getting flirty advice from the blogger who calls herself a Professional Fun-Ruiner.

      I mean, I’m no fan of Roosh or anything like that. I’m actually of the opinion that “movement” PUA is mostly horseshit, with the internet people bragging about getting laid five times a week and the gurus talking about getting the “key to any pussy” and all that glop. That’s all crap. Of course PUA techniques rarely work, because all it offers is a stilted, cheesy script, and only a fairly narrow subset of women are going to find that kind of approach charming.

      At the same time, I do get the essential appeal of PUA, even if the community sucks. A guy who is terrible with women for having the temerity to be unattractive and awkward (due to low self-esteem, due to being shit on by women, due to being unattractive), can probably increase his odds by following the PUA “script” instead of being his own shitty self. Said odds will still be low, but higher than zero.

      So that’s really what PUA is. Far from a tool of the alpha male, it actually offers nothing more than a glimmer of hope for the most unimpressive and unfortunate of mandom.

      1. 15.2.1
        Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

        remember, you’re getting flirty advice from the blogger who calls herself a Professional Fun-Ruiner.

        Do you understand sarcasm?

        1. 15.2.1.1
          CaitieCat, getaway driver

          Talk about not sticking the landing, huh? I thought our little self-admitted troll was done with us? But no, here he is back again, with his conspiracy narrative about how women secretly control everything. How fortunate we are.

          1. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Oh, yeah! I forgot that you admitted to trolling. Just a friendly reminder that that’s against my comment policy, which you can find here. Now apologize for your pointless dig on me just now, or leave.

          2. queequack

            It’s hard to convey tone on the internet. I’m sorry for not making it clear, I was joking.

            As for PUAs, that’s honestly how I think of them. Of course, there are some men who are successful while appearing to follow PUA “techniques”, but that’s generally because that’s just who they are. It’s actually their personality, it comes naturally, and it works for them. Much as you may hate him (honestly, so do I), Tucker Max is a good example of this type of guy. The issue arises when people see that success and want to then be Tucker Max. Well, no. There’s only one. What PUA “gurus” do is teach their acolytes to be pale shadows of themselves.

  16. 16
    John Horstman

    However, my take on this view is that genuine “self-help” when it comes to dating should not focus on “picking up” women; it should focus on becoming the sort of person who is ready to be a respectful, attentive, and consent-conscious partner, whether it’s just for a random one-night stand or for a serious relationship.

    This. Advice premised on “picking up” women is intrinsically and necessarily sexist because it denies female agency. It is not about making oneself the kind of person more women (or more of a given sub-set of women) will find attractive*, it is about ‘tricking’ or ‘convincing’ women to have sex with the guy – something that’s only necessary if the woman in question doesn’t want to have sex with the guy (or doesn’t want to do so more than she wants to not do so – people of all genders can be, though aren’t necessarily, extremely ambivalent about sex or anything). Trying to get people who don’t want to have sex with you to do so is not okay. While it doesn’t necessarily escalate to the level of assault, there’s something intrinsically coercive about the total lack of consideration of the agency/desires of the ‘target’.

    *If it was, it wouldn’t be about how to pick up women, but how to get oneself picked up by or make oneself attractive to women more often – note the shift in ascribed agency in the different formulations.

  17. 17
    thecalmone

    I really enjoyed this article and the comments. But… Good God, there are “pickup forums”? I had a look at one:

    http://www.pick-up-artist-forum.com/

    Bloody hell. All of that talk using “game” jargon – “openers”, “time constraints”, “disqualification” and so on. It’s as though men are incapable of viewing the world if not through the lens of sports. There are even “field reports”. The insecurities on display on that site!

    1. 17.1
      Judy

      frightening, isn’t it? It turns women into football strategies and chess moves. Let’s objectify us a bit more, and refer to us as goalposts (and oh isnt football laden with sexual analogies and metaphors anyway), or touchdowns or ‘after the first toss of the coin…”

  18. 18
    Kushi

    I’m not defending PUA ethics, but I do want to defend the science behind their claims since there have been some slight pokes at it. I was surprised to find out that “many of these claims are in fact grounded in solid empirical findings from social, physiological and evolutionary psychology” (Oesch). Evidence does support men and women being predisposed to learn behaviors talked about in PUA manuals. Evidence also supports that “informed male behaviors [such as those in PUA manuals] are not so unlike women attempting to manipulate perceived attractiveness through the use of perfume, cosmetics, clothing, liposuction and cosmetic surgery, and thus disrupt normal mate choice by men (Roberts, et al.). That being said, there is no doubt that some of their “scientific” claim tend to extrapolate and overreach.

    I’m providing two references as evidence but several more can be provided upon request.

    http://academia.edu/2314848/The_dating_mind_Evolutionary_psychology_and_the_emerging_science_of_human_courtship
    Oesch, N. & Miklousic, I. (2012). The dating mind: Evolutionary psychology and the emerging science of human courtship. Evolutionary Psychology, 10(5), 899-909.

    http://www.toddkshackelford.com/downloads/Roberts-Miner-Shackelford-RGP-2010.pdf
    Roberts, S. C., Miner, E. J., and Shackelford, T. K. (2010). The future of an appliedevolutionary psychology for human partnerships. Review of General Psychology,14, 318-329.

  19. 19
    rilian

    If you wanted to know how to beat someone in a game, the one who would know best is the one you’re trying to beat. But, since they want to win, they would not be motivated to tell you the truth. So you actually need to ask other people who’ve competed against them, preferably people who’ve beat them.

    I think that’s why men ask other men for advice on how to “get” women.

    1. 19.1
      sugarloaf

      I can’t speak for anyone else (I’m a cis woman), but if picking up/ flirting is designed to “beat” me, then I don’t want to participate. I’m looking to collaborate for the good of all parties, not dominate, and I’ll exclude all those who think otherwise from my potential pool.

      1. 19.1.1
        rilian

        Me too.
        There was this episode of friends where phoebe wanted to have sex with a guy, and the guy said he didn’t want to because he didn’t want her to get hurt by it, but then she said, it doesn’t have to be like that, I just want to have sex with you. So they did, and then she told joey about it, and then joey rephrased it as, the guy “got” her to agree to casual sex with no strings attached and “got” her to think it was a good idea, and then phoebe felt bad about it.

        There’s some important point in that, I think.

  20. 20
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Is all advice on picking up women sexist? Well, “keep your back straight and lift with your legs” is pretty neutral. :)

  1. 21
    Some Links Of Note | Eponymous Fliponymous

    [...] And no list of worthy links, in my mind, is complete without a little Brute Reason to top it off: Miri tells it like it is. [...]

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