Humourless feminists and PUAs

This one’s been hanging around in the drafts folder since August, so I thought I’d finally publish it. The original post and discussion are long over, but it’s still an interesting topic.
Every now and then various feminist blogs take on the PUA (Pick Up Artist) culture, objecting to it mostly on the grounds that it explicitly regards women as objects of manipulation who are interchangeable targets for the man wanting to get laid (one says no? just move on!) rather than people with desires of their own. It seems silly to waste time on artificial techniques to trick a woman into having sex when she quite possibly wanted to have sex anyway as long as the man seems likeable. Amanda at Pandagon expressed great skepticism over some of the PUA culture’s basic claims, and especially one of the most visible faces in the “seduction community”, a bloke who calls himself “Mystery”:

The interview with Mystery confirms that he’s not too bright and a sexist pig who thinks very little of women to boot.

A man’s circuits are calibrated primarily to respond to a woman’s replication value'” to her hip to waist ratio, facial symmetry, breast shape and size, health characteristics, and all that, right? And a woman, her attraction mechanism is evolutionarily calibrated to respond to more of a man’s social value. In other words, when I hang out with a woman, I don’t hang out with her because I need to be protected. Men, we respond to her replication value. Women, they respond primarily to a man’s survival value or social value. The purpose of life is to survive and replicate and we’ve got 28,000 days, all of us, approximately, give or take, to make that happen.

Using big words to sell bullshit is probably another pick-up artist technique. But I do find it fascinating that a man who’s supposedly slept with possibly thousands of women still believes the tired canard that only men really want sex in the biological sense and that women trade sex for something else. Possessing that attitude probably does require one to sleep around, since the likelihood of women coming back for seconds from a man who fails to grasp that you fuck because you’re horny is low indeed.

Amanda also points out the major skeptical argument, as distinct from feminist arguments, against the alleged success of PUA seduction techniques –

We’re not talking brainwashing techniques, though they are sold this way. But I do think that men who use them probably get laid more, but it’s not due to the techniques.

I think that men who read these books create a misogynist excuse to do what they otherwise have trouble doing, which is to approach women at all. If you despise women and view them as inferior creatures who are out of line deciding for themselves who they sleep with, and subsequently get angry when you’re forced to be nice to them to get sex, you’re probably going to give up even trying. If you don’t try, you can’t win. These books just encourage men to get out there and start hitting on lots of women, at which point it becomes a numbers game.[…] Skeptics in the audience can fill in the rest for me. Call it confirmation bias or false positives, but it’s human nature to remember our successes and ignore our failures. It’s why people believe in ESP or other psychic abilities. They always remember that one time that their guess about what someone else was thinking was dead-on and ignore the 8 million times that you couldn’t figure out what someone was thinking. Confirmation bias would kick in hard-core in a situation using pick-up artistry. The first 19 women you hit on by saying, ‘Where’d you buy those shoes, Payless?’ will run away so fast that you won’t remember their faces. The 20st woman who pays attention to you and maybe even sleeps with you because she’s bored or horny or lonely or trained to be a good girl and not rude, well she’s presumably a lot more memorable. And so the night gets registered as a success, even though the hit rate is only 5%.

There’s a lot of fleshing out of the feminist arguments against the seduction community in the comments thread (already 200ish comments), from which I’ll quote a few highlights:

ekf, August 6, 2007 at 12:45 pm

Men, we respond to her replication value.

I love how this meme gets thrown around as if it’s gospel truth, while at the same time the “bitchez trap the menz with broken condoms all the time, man!” meme is also acceptes as gospel truth. If men are (secretly? subconsciously?) trying to reproduce, then how can they be trapped into getting a woman pregnant? Men are all, always trying to trap women into being pregnant and carrying their seed, that’s how men choose a woman to fuck, right?!?

I think both memes are bullshit, BTW, I just think the juxtaposition is funny and betrays both types of stupidity.

Also, a very good point about what genetic adaptation is really all about, and what many evo-psych arguments extolling selfish sexual behaviours as adaptations are missing:

Resolver, August 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm

I’m not an evolutionary biologist but I’ve always thought this bunk about “men just want to implant their seeds in as many women as possible” is just a cad’s rationalization (as well as bad science). After all, from an evolutionary standpoint, the goal is not how many children one leaves behind, but how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-great-etc.-grandchildren remain in the long run. It did a prehistoric man no good to scatter dozens of bastards about, if he’d concurrently sown betrayal and suspicion and disorder so that his tribe or village eventually dissolved, and no one survived. But if he could foster cooperation, imagination, and a stable community, then his DNA, even if only carried by a few children, had a better chance of lasting thru the eons. So it’s actually civilization that is man’s adaptive trait, not individual men’s scheming to con as many women as possible into having sex.

Right on.

Now, often what happens when feminists criticise the PUA movement is that some PUA gets all aggressive about how women don’t make their fair share of the moves in bars etc, and that’s why men get sick of getting knocked back and need these techniques to improve their success rate, and why aren’t feminists teaching women that they need to approach men so that men don’t have to do all the work?

    This feminist’s answer is that

  • (a) lots and lots of women in bars might not identify as feminists, and therefore they’re not going to listen to what feminists advise about egalitarian dating practises;
  • (b) not every woman in a bar or club is actually looking to hook up, they could well be there just to have fun with their friends who they already know, which is why they’re not chatting up men they don’t know;
  • (c) what do women get called who chat up men and then don’t sleep with them (because they find, perhaps, that further conversation is a turn-off rather than a turn-on)? If dudes stop badmouthing women who don’t sleep with them as “cockteasers” all around the bar, as if women who talk to a man for 10 minutes owe them a fuck for taking up their precious time (or worse, use a woman’s flirtatiousness as a “she was asking for it” justification for sexual assault), then those dudes might be amazed how many more women might take the risk of chatting-up
  • (d) aren’t most of you PUAs all free-market preaching libertarians? If a woman is simply horny and goes off to a singles bar/club looking to hook up, then she knows that she’s the one with the scarce resource (as many of the other women there mightn’t actually be looking to have sex that actual night) so she can afford to conserve her energy and pick and choose from the guys who approach her rather than do the approaching herself what’s wrong with that?
  • (e) most feminists think the singles “scene” inherently sucks unless one is actively horny and currently lacks a “friend with benefits”, and wouldn’t advise feminist women to hang around bars/clubs looking to find compatible and likeable men anyway – it’s more likely to find someone interested in the sort of things you’re interested in if you actually just do the sort of things you’re interested in e.g. tennis, museums, bushwalking, book clubs, jogging, sailing, gaming, photography etc.

And look! There are men who figured out the sane approach to meeting attractive and compatible women, whose company they can genuinely enjoy, many many years ago:

Hawker Hurricane, August 6, 2007 at 2:27 pm


I mean that sincerely.
25 or so years ago, I was a potential (male) victim of this sort of book. Always a heavy reader, I’d look for a book that would help me “meet and attract women”, shelling out the money to learn “secret techniques”. Lucky for me (and the poor women I would have tried this on), my father caught me reading one of these tomes, and taught me a sure fire method of meeting women who would be interested in me:

1. Bathe regularly. Deodorant. Brush teeth. Mouthwash. Clean clothing. Etc.

2. Go where you want to go. You like museums? Go to the museum. Like the amusement park? Go there.

3. When you get to the location, there will be women there. Talk to them. Look for the not so subtle signs you aren’t welcome, if you aren’t, move on quickly and politely. Eventually, one of the women will give you a phone number or accept an offer of lunch/dinner/coffee/movie. Congratulations, you’ve got a date!

Yes, this seems obvious. But it wasn’t to the 17 year old I was.

After I joined the Navy, I learned another technique:
When you pull into port, there are 10,000 sailors who just pulled in with you. There are two ways to stand out.

1. Don’t go to the bars, that’s where every other sailor is. Go to the museums/sites. Go in uniform if possible. If not, wear the ship’s shirt/ballcap. Don’t hide you’re a sailor, they’ll know that you’re hiding something. Advertise it, someone will be interested.

2. If you must go to a bar, be the sober one. Drunken sailors don’t meet women.

Of course, as a married man and retired navy, I don’t pick up women any more. But it amazes me how many women I meet working in a library. Luckily, I have a wedding band and a pot belly to drive them off with.

August 6, 2007 at 3:18 pm

I’m sure other people have said this in other forms but, yes, I’m sure that this method will get you laid some percentage of the time, whether that percentage is 10% or 5% or 1%.

What I seriously doubt is that this method will get you into a relationship, or at least get you into a relationship with someone you’d want to be in a relationship with.

I’m really tired of guys who keep telling other guys that men have no emotional needs. It fucks the poor guys up in major ways to be forced to pretend that they don’t have any emotional attachments so their buddies won’t mock them. You know, the whole, “If you stay home with your girlfriend and have sex instead of coming out drinking with us, that means you’re gay, man!”

Yep, in order to get approval from other men, “masculine” men are actually expected to forgo sex if it’s attached to emotion, in favour of hanging around with the guys. Why on earth should feminists respect that twisted sort of logic?

Neil the Ethical Werewolf
August 6, 2007 at 3:27 pm

It’s looking to me like the most successful neg thrown by the PUAs was the one they threw at other guys. When you call a lonely dude an “Average Frustrated Chump”, you play on his lack of self-esteem and suggest that you’re a lot better at picking up girls than he is. In reality, as Amanda describes, the PUA isn’t that much more skilled at picking up any particular girl, he’s just willing to take a large number of low-percentage shots.

Yep, it’s all about the approval of other men. Nothing to do with liking or respecting women in any way.

Amanda Marcotte
August 6, 2007 at 3:39 pm

There seems to be some disagreement regarding what counts as â”tricking” someone.

These guys seem openly hostile to the idea of getting sex with someone whoâ’s into it. I think it’s the denial that women might be just fucking them out of boredom or horniness, no, women need a line of bullshit to get them into bed, have you pretend to care about them, because women don’t fuck you because they want to. The fundamental belief that women need to be manipulated into sex because we don’t want to have it for our own reasons is degrading.

Yes! Why bother to manipulate a woman looking for a hot night in the sack with stuff she’d probably rather not hear about the possibility of an ongoing relationship? Just be honest about wanting casual sex and you might get a very pleasant surprise about whether the woman is just as much “on the pull” for recreation in the same way, and appreciates not being fed bullshit. If the woman is looking for something more than just a casual hook-up, then she says so and you move on and no-one gets frustrated or resentful.

And finally:

August 6, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Just to hop in with the “man responds to looks, women respond to social value.”Men respond to social value, too. It’s just that often a woman’s social value *is* her looks. For a man to show up in public with a gorgeous girl increases *his* social value more than showing up with the CEO of a company as his date. Notice how a bunch of male fantasies have women who are considered unattainable because of their beauty. Cheerleaders, Playboy Bunnys, Victoria’s Secret Models. It’s not a beautiful girl, it’s a girl who is acknowledged by his peers as unattainable that he wants.

There’s also a disturbing element of that traditional fall-back of exclusionary male bonding behaviour – build bonds between men by encouraging them to manipulate and degrade others and brag about it to each other. That’s exactly the sort of bullshit that builds hostility between the genders. Feminism thinks men are better than that, or can be. PUAs think that men naturally need to manipulate and degrade women. Who’s meant to be the manhaters again?

Categories: gender & feminism, relationships

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4 replies

  1. I read The Game and found it fascinating, but creepy. For the most part, I kind of pity them a bit, for a variety of reasons (including quite a bit of the later part of the book being about their own susceptability to their style of manipulative deception applied to them).
    For the most part, the core of their techniques comes down to faking being confident and interesting (on the confidence part, in the hopes that ‘fake it till you make it’ will eventually lead to real confidence), through pre-prepared routines.
    Of course, faking being confident and interesting doesn’t work for relationships, or even casual friendships — if that is why they are attracted to you, they’ll pretty quickly work out what is faked. So of course its all focussed on the one night stand.
    And when it comes to the few genuinely clever social manipulation tricks in their arsenal, sadly, for all their ev-psych bullshit about gender differences, its quite apparent from the book that they are just as susceptible when they are turned on them. Being sneaky and manipulative does, in the sort term, work. And is a poor long term strategy for all the reasons shown in the book — it works for a while, and then people catch on, and then they don’t like it, or you.
    Which is why they focus on the pick up scene and bars etc. Its all stuff that works in the short term, and in the long term (usually pretty quickly) fails once you catch on — which is why most of us don’t bother with it.
    I do have a little sympathy with a few of their ideas – for someone who really has crippling self-confidence issues, maybe planning routines on how to talk people, and then actually practicing approaching people, will help get you some actual confidence. But you can do that without the focus on pickups, without treating women as points in a competitive game, without all the self-justifying evpsych crap, etc – in short, without being an arsehole.
    And I thoroughly agree on how to really meet women. Apart from the obvious hygiene and dress sense, its much easier to appear confident and interesting when you are in an environment you find comfortable and doing something you are interested in and care about and where you don’t have to fake it. If its casual sex you are after, be open to that and don’t hide it, and you’ll probably find that some women are looking too — but meeting people you find genuinely interesting, and who might find you genuinely interesting, is the real payoff.

  2. My daughter’s partner L (another woman) is a huge Red Sox fan. They don’t have a TV, so she watched the World Series at a bar near their apartment. My daughter works most nights, so L was usually there alone. They live near a large and prestigious technical university, the student body of which is most male. She’s 23, petite, pretty, and got SO tired of being hit on. Apparently being truthful and saying that you’re a lesbian in a relationship either isn’t taken seriously (“Yeah, every woman in here is a lesbian!” Maybe they’re trying to tell you something, Jacko), or is taken as a challenge.
    I am grateful that none of them followed her home after the game to teach her the error of her ways.
    Apparently, from what L tells me, my daughter is remarkably effective in deflecting unwanted male attention. Probably because she has no compunction about kissing L in public.

  3. I doubt this will be posted. But im writing it more for myself than for any readers.
    Im a “PUA” (though i dont like the term) and i have been for over 2 years. I’m also a 2nd year Psychology student. My first thought is that these kinds of books have been around for many, many years. One only has to look back at the origins of social psychology in the 60’s to realise how far back many of the so- called ‘PUA techniques’ go. The much disliked “neg” technique – the deliberate discounting of yourself through an attack on a girls ego – has been studied many times by social psychologists and supported as an effective (if quite distasteful) attraction technique. I dont use it.
    My second thought is that – if smiling at a girl and winking at her, asking her open ended questions about herself and her feelings, being genuinely interested in what she has to say about herself, making her laugh, giving her true empathy and honesty, touching her in a non threatening manner to ensure she knows that im interested – if this makes me one of your hated PUA’s – then so be it. These are some of the things that ive learnt from PUA literature and they have brought joy to the lives of BOTH myself and the women ive met.
    My third thought is that your anger at the PUA’s for encouraging guys to slightly insult the beautiful women (that get told NON-STOP how beautiful they are), blinds you to the good that the PUA’s are doing.
    That is, they are succeeding in creating confident, fear-embracing men who are trying to LEARN to be more social, loving and(dare i say it) masculine. Is this such a bad thing?
    I wish you peace and happiness. F.

  4. Hi Frank,
    for a more thorough, up-to-date look at my opinions regarding the PUA movement, have a look at my latest post on the subject, Cognitive Dissonance in the Seduction Community.
    The second half is all about one particular jackass, but the first half describes some general aspects of PUA culture and where I believe the disconnect lies between what many men think they want when they first look into the seduction community and what they end up getting sucked into through some of the weirder guru aspects of PUA culture.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with the idea of men learning how to be more confident when they approach women – sex makes people happy (including women) and if people are having happy, honest sexual hookups that’s absolutely great. I do think there’s a lot of problems with a community that makes a fetish out of keeping count of the notches on bedposts though.

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