|The Strange World of Pick-Up
||[Oct. 19th, 2010|11:10 am]
Just wrote a big post re. PUA stuff which I thought I’d post here. I wrote it for a little mailing list thing I’ve got going with Seth.I READ IT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO.|
I’m quite into writing a post about The Game et al. because I’ve done a lot of reading on it other the last week or three and I need to turn this into a positive out somewhere (rather than on the dance floors of the UK’s discothèques. Three weeks might not seem a long time but the material is pretty shallow. Arguably, that’s 20 days too long.
Firstly, the book. I, too, couldn’t bring myself to buy it and it was found in a Church on Steve Grasso’s wedding day! Obviously, Steve didn’t need it anymore, after successfully employing the techniques on Allison. As one would expect, it’s a humorous memoir and is written for laughs, about Strauss discovery and entry into the pick-up artist subculture (PUAs). For anyone reading this who’s not heard of them, PUA is an internet fuelled “subculture” of men trading tips on how to pick up women.
Some of the techniques are approaching are very basic, some bizarre – it begins with improving your looks, wearing items of clothing that attract attention (“peacocking”), moves through approaching lots of women (there’s a three second rule, i.e. if you find someone attractive you have to go up to them straight away) and onto “negging” (playful insults to show you’re not intimidated by a women’s good looks), and the use of pre-rehearsed canned routines and “openers”, and status games – showing you are “worthy” of spending time around.
Here’s an interview with Strauss being very affable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0omMTu9Ax8
However, lest you should think this is anything normal I should point out it’s all done in a nerd jargon which I find absolutely hilarious. It’s this kind of weird language that only men talking with other men on the net could come up with, as they attempt to crack the mystery of Woman very much like a computer code.
Check out the 9 stages of the Mystery Method! (“Mystery” is Neil Strauss’s PUA guru in the book):
.Some of it is actually quite astute psychology, though it’s embedded in this freaky language, and has a particularly unpleasant set of aims – to bed as many HBs as possible (Hot Babes, who are normally given a numerical ranking). This basic sexism and objectification isn’t questioned. There’s also an argument about manipulation here – at what point does this work on one’s self-presentation slip into being unethical manipulation? I think it’s impossible to draw a hard and fast line here BUT techniques for “blasting last minute resistance (overcoming a woman’s last minute doubts about sleeping with you) and unannounced hypnosis are on the wrong side of that line wherever it is.
See here for pick up guru Ross Jefferies being an utterly unethical creepy predator, using hypnotic techniques on a young woman without her being aware of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn_oqEOtLYU&feature=related
Strauss struck me as an excellent reader of people and he has his cake and eats it by presenting himself at a distance from the PUA subculture. This doesn’t strike me as particularly true, but then again the whole book has the whiff of bullshit about it. Having read the works of various magicians and then spent time with them, I’m always conscious of how different people are from their written personas. I would expect the real people he is writing about to be much more damaged and crazy than the humorous caricatures presented. The techniques seem to work at least as he presents them.
As one would expect from a bestseller, at the books climax, he subscribes to mainstream ideology of “true love” and falls for a woman on whom none of the PUA techniques work. She is Lisa Leveridge, Courtney Love’s bassist. True love blooms, swelling music, exit stage right to wild applause and a lucrative sequel. Right? Well maybe not.
“The Game” was a huge success, and spawned a legion of people who wanted to “live the dream”. There are many online communities and message boards discussed this sort of advice as well as a bunch of “gurus” selling and marketing the same at frankly staggering rates. To continue the critique here, PUA stuff, in particular the marketing is the ultimate extension of male entitlement. It promises you can “get any girl you want”. This is a really dangerous and dubious line of thinking that ultimately ends up in rape. Thankfully, its promises are false.
I discovered an online community called PUAhate.com, which is dedicated to attacking pick-up artists and gurus. I discovered this board by googling “Neil Strauss liar”. The thread I uncovered suggest that not only was a lot of the book false, the relationship that forms the books dénouement was in fact just a publicity stunt to promote the book and both of their careers. Now, I knew it was bullshit, to a degree, but I didn’t realise “how far the rabbit hole goes” to misquote another piece of mendacious pop-culture psychology.
The thread is here: http://www.puahate.com/showthread.php?t=6075
(Contains a lot of anti-Semitism, sorry. I don’t recommend reading that site from work as it’s totally unmoderated, thus lots of porn and racism).
A reading of PUAhate.com throws up loads of interesting material on “pick up”. The posters on there are first and foremost a bunch of angry nerds cross about the degree to which they’ve been ripped off financially. I found a discussion of guys detailing how much they’ve spent, and they were averaging $2000 with some having spent 8K and upwards. There was even a mention of guy who’d allegedly spent 30K and was still a virgin! Truly, a sucker is born every minute. It amazes me that an industry can spring up like this, dispensing advice and charging skies-the-limit fees, totally unregulated and people still go for it. I guess it taps into a pretty deep-rooted male fantasy. It makes me think if only I was much more unethical – I could be a millionaire!
Secondly, they detail how much PUA has screwed them up in various ways i.e. overusing “negging” and ending up with women hating you or trying to become “AMOG”(alpha male of group) and your entire social circle thinking you’re an arsehole. Lots of behaviours totally misapplied. One thing I haven’t mentioned is how a lot of PUA stuff has it’s roots in a crappy (mis)understanding of pop evolutionary psychology, about which most of the “gurus” promoting it know less than I do (2 Richard Dawkins paperbacks and a Wikipedia entry). So lots of stuff about being a dominant male etc, and this “firing women’s hardwiring”. Total nonsense. The most fucked up thing I found on here was a mention of a guy practising PUA techniques on his sister (!) and getting her all horny and crazy.
Thirdly, there’s the allegation that basically NONE of it works, beyond the utter basics, of looking okay and approaching a lot of people. It’s basically a numbers game – if you go up to 30 girls, one of them might be interested, and the rest is bullshit, marketed to gullible virgins. There seems to be a lot of truth in this to me.
Take a look at this piece of crap for instance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztgNd0kYv3Y
As if that’s going to have any effect of consequence on a real person. I’ve seen a few of this guy’s adverts. There’s only one word for him and it rhymes with “punt”.
Interesting thread here where a guy sums up what’s wrong with it all (a few posts down):
The most basic criticisms seem to be that it turns you into an overanalytical, desperate social robot, buying into the idea that women can be unlocked like vending machines with the right technique or routine. One noticeable thing about the board though is that there’s no critique of the wider goals of PUA – to pick up Hot Babes. Really made me wonder if any of them had ever been in love. Having said that I’m sure some of it works – basic techniques for improving confidence, even having a few canned routines (just as we all have favoured jokes and anecdotes). I feel that a lot of it gives guys the license to approach woman and the rest is down to being a bit funny, charming, and not too needy.
Overall, I think it’s fascinating social phenomena, looked at in it’s entirety, the scamming as well as the fantasy. It could potentially teach people a lot. There are some interesting basic pointers social dynamics and attraction on one side, and on the other, it helps to develop massively cynical towards marketing and easy cures in the field of applied psychology. (I think one of the reasons puahate resonated with me was ‘cos it reminded my feelings about a lot of Chaos magick). There’s definitely a cult-like aspect in play (reminds me of Scientology as much as anything else), and also the way it’s reinforced through marketing, and driven through the internet – it’s a very modern phenomena in this way. And of course, it shows one the power of sexual desire and our emotional needs to drive, effect and distort our behaviour. Anyway, that’s the end of my whistle-stop tour.