Monday, August 25, 2014

What would your ideal sex life look life? If you could pick up a new lover every night, would you?

Man demonstrating "The Takeaway"
I just finished* The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artistsby Neil Strauss. Now my head is swimming with questions about what men and women want, male/female mating habits and what sexuality might look like if there were no societal constraints. I have a bunch of questions for you--maybe we can muddle through this together.

If you haven't read the book, it's about this nebbishy guy (shy, skinny, glasses, thin smattering of frizzy chunks of hair) who studies pick-up artists to learn their secrets. First, he shaves his head, gets Lasik, goes to a tanning salon, and starts going by the moniker of Style. Despite going by the name Style (and even worse, giving himself that name) soon he can pretty much pick up whoever he wants. Seriously.

Style gets deeply involved with the pick-up community, an online group of pick-up artists (PUAs) who--with the laser-focus characteristic of their geekdom--have broken down all aspects of social interaction into identifiable and repeatable chunks. PUAs work with manipulation, an understanding of natural human tendencies (seeking approval, wanting unique experiences, etc...) and sometimes a bit of waking hypnosis to work towards an "f-close," that is, a fuck close.

PUAs have developed their own jargon honed over years of "field reports," that is, sharing what worked or didn't work during nights of "sarging" (picking up chicks). Going over and talking to a group of three people is "opening a three-set." The girl you want is your "target." To get her, you must become the Alpha Male of the group by entertaining the group at large while--at first--pointedly ignoring your target. When you finally decide to gift her with some attention, you toss her a "neg" or sort of meanish comment-- "Do you always interrupt people like that?" or "You would look good if you wore your hair up." In other words, you start fucking with her mind, playing on her insecurities, making yourself the arbiter of what she's doing right or wrong, and soon she'll be pressing you for an f-close.

You might, for example, make use of the "push-pull," a technique identified and named by Style (though judging from my dating past, most assuredly not originated by him.)

Push-pull (noun): a technique used to create or increase attraction, in which a man gives a woman indications that he is not interested in her followed by indications that he is. This sequence can take place in a few seconds--such as taking a woman's hands and then dropping them as if you don't trust her yet--or over time, such as being very nice during one phone conversation but then very distant and abrupt during the next.

Oh, there's more.
---False time constraints: Creating a false time constraint ("I can only talk to you for five minutes") relieves a woman of wondering how she's going to get rid of a PUA, yet also gives her a sense that she must vie for the PUA's attention so that he won't leave.
--Demonstrating Value: A PUA will carry around a pre-selected group of photos designed to portray him in a flattering light. (Picture with beautiful woman = desirability, picture on a boat = sporty, etc...)
--The Takeaway: If a PUA is making out with a woman, but she changes her mind about progressing things further, a PUA hops out of bed, and ignores her by checking email or something. The woman, feeling she has screwed up and lost the PUA, will try to lure him back to bed.
--Chick crack:  Chicks love fortune telling, ESP games and other psychological tests.

I really can't believe that it actually works because a lot of it seems indistinguishable from...well, what jerky losers do. PUAs "peacock," that is, wear outrageous clothing to attract attention like "bright shiny shirts, light up jewelry, [or] colorful cowboy hats." PUAs say cheesy things. For example, if the target inadvertently brushes against them, they say, "Hey, hands off the merchandise." And part of "opening a set" might consist of doing magic, for god sake.

So how does it work?

Have PUAs really hit upon a particular sequence of moves that can work on anyone? Or are the women they pick up drunken bar chicks, the sort of easily impressionable types who are always whipping out their boobs for Howard Stern?

Or more frightening, are we women so precarious that, with a few "negs" tossed our way, we too would be begging for affirmation and angling for an f-close? I have totally fallen for such tomfoolery in the past and--who knows?--maybe that stuff would still work on me. Or anyone. In her maligned/beloved book, Vagina: A New Biography, Naomi Wolf  posits that women are more likely to become biochemically addicted to love and, thus, highly motivated to attain their goal. Get those chemicals activated, gentlemen, and you're golden.

Also on my mind: Style seems like a smart and thoughtful guy, but armed with his new pick-up powers, he's sarging all the time. Everything he says and does is part of the game and human interaction is reduced to a series of moves to be parried. The girls are a blur, known only as Jennifer 2 or the blonde with the pixie cut.  He and the other PUAs only go for "10s," which invariably means fake boobs, blonde hair, 19 years old and preferably a stripper or porn star. Which is sort of depressing for every woman who is not like that. That is, 99.999% of women. Even 19 year old strippers only get to be that for one year.

The supposed happy ending of the book is that Style "wins" the game by finding a girlfriend, a hot blonde rocker chick who played with Courtney Love's band The Chelsea. But I googled his girlfriend (indeed quite beautiful) and discovered that they broke up after two years. Style is back in the field, sarging and hawking pick-up lessons.

If a seemingly nice, smart guy like Neil Strauss so easily turn into a disconnected heartless asshole, would any other guy do the same if given the chance? If men were unfettered by societal norms, is this how male sexuality would look?

I'm asking in a serious way. These guys are going through the same routine--even down to using the same words--to pick up different women every night. According to Sex at Dawn (quite thought-provoking--read it at once!) men generally like to do the same thing sexually but with novel partners. Is this the epitome of that desire expressed? And--this is probably hopelessly naive--but would men, with the exception of that Iron & Wine dude, be perfectly happy with new-chick-every-night relationships? And do most men really want that 19 year old fake boobed stripper? And if so, is that a natural inclination or a societal construct of what is hot?

I'm not asking in a judgey way, I'm honestly curious. Are men and women really so fundamentally different?  Because I would be completely disinterested in the new-dude-every-night scenario. A guy who was the physical equivalent to the blonde stripper, say, some extremely buff dude, would not be an immediate turn-on for me. (Unless he was wearing a shiny shirt, light up jewelry and doing magic!) I would care about his sense of humor, his intelligence, how his voice sounded and how my body was responding to him. There would have to be some sort of backstory to create/fuel my desire. Women? Is this true of you as well, or not?

And if an ideal male sexuality would be new chicks all the time, what would an ideal female sexuality look like? (Obviously everyone's different, blah blah blah, but I'm talking in general terms.) What do women pick when they are allowed to design their sex lives?  Women with financial stability, desirability and the balls to do whatever they want--someone like Angelina Jolie--seem to opt for a version of serial monogamy. Is this what we'd opt for as well? Women, what would your ideal sex life look like?

And if men want a new girl every night and women prefer serial monogamy, why would nature fuck with us so much by giving us largely incompatible mating styles? Or maybe there isn't a gender divide and we do want the same thing?

So curious to hear what you think. Answer one question or all of them. And feel free to comment anonymously if you don't want everyone knowing your business.


*"Just finished," meaning "read two years ago" because you are performing the miracle of time travel via this rerun.  Enjoy! I'm putting you all on the honor system for this trip to 2012, so don't fuck with the space/time continuum or anything. Although if you come across the 2012 me, don't tell me how it all looks for me in 2014, because that will just bum my $%#$ out.

If you commented in 2012, see if you agree with your 2012 self....

 Rudolf Koppitz - Sculptor and Nude, 1926


Anonymous said...

To be honest, my perfect sex life would be to have a harem, like the Sheiks of Arabia. I'd have a wife, but also a few dozen dedicated mistresses to choose from for purely physical fun. This is awful and sexist in reality, of course, but still a very nice fantasy for a guy.

Lady J said...

It may, or may not, make you feel better to know that the "Captain" of this pick-up bullshit, Mystery, has had numerous nervous breakdowns and aside from the amazing sex he might be having is a freaking basket case.

I have read the book.Neil Strauss (sp?) is a ghost writer for lots of celebrity memoirs and I appreciate his writing style. Also, this book was fascinating to me, as a woman.

I like to believe these men realize new girls every night becomes too much of a good thing and they feel hollow after awhile. If you can't get someone to spend a month with you as a girlfriend, the problem is you, not your need for newness.

I do think the negs work... Not to sell out my fellow woman, but we like a challenge. I think it peaks interest. I WISH these pickup attacks didn't work, but there's a reason why guys pay money to take these classes. However, no amount of mindfucking can prepare you for a relationship--that's where the pickup artist either fails or sheds his mask. Great post :)

Anonymous said...

I'm married and female. I like sex with my husband. On occasion, it's freaking fantastic. But I miss the variety of my single years. So give me my husband on a regular basis, but every now and then, let me find an intelligent, charming man who smells good and has some mad skills he wants to show me. And it couldn't hurt for him to be tall and Brazilian. And to sometimes bring a friend. Who should also be tall and great smelling but doesn't have to be Brazilian as long as he isn't blond cuz I'm not so much into blonds.

Christopher Ryan said...

Hi. Interesting article. I'm one of the authors of Sex at Dawn, and by coincidence, I've spent some time with Neil Strauss recently. I had a chance to interview him for my new podcast (Tangentially Speaking, launching in early October). I think we'll be airing that as my first interview, in fact. I asked him, straight up, "What do you say to people who say you just teach losers how to manipulate women by leveraging their insecurities?" It was an interesting conversation...

Anonymous said...

i maintain that that kind of tactic works on girls who are open to it. if he's angling for 10s and to him that means girls who've gone the extra mile to be attractive, then he knows a little bit about their psychology. he's basically produced a hunting guide for a very particular sort of bird. the rest of us, the 99.999% of women don't really want to sleep with some strange guy so probably that's not going to be very effective on picking up say, a 7. a girl who with a bit of makeup and primping would be a 10 in his mind. a lot of 7s are 10s who aren't desperate for the attention. they're just not on his radar and he's not on theirs. no, not all guys want a different chick every night. i know plenty of guys who could do that if they felt like it. they call it the "game" for a reason, it's not real. most of us don't find lasting satisfaction in meaningless sex, otherwise there wouldn't be relationships. a relationship isn't just a situation where a man bends over backwards so he can get laid. it's a situation where two people enjoy fucking eachother repeatedly with a certain degree of trust and usually domesticity. even from an evolutionary perspective, we mammals want the warmth and comfort of something familiar, a nest. once guys have sown their wild oats they're usually happy to curl up with someone in particular. that's not saying guys don't want a bit of action on the side, but having affairs or mistresses isn't the same as never settling down and doing the PUA thing every night. what a lot of work.


Anonymous said...

As a guy who is single and has had a couple of lucky streaks, I'm pretty sure the one thing men could take away from the PUA stuff is that it gets you to talk to a lot of women. I've never really had any game. But I've been willing to speak to a lot of women and that just increases your odds.
Here in NYC I think there are a lot of girls who just want to have fun and get laid just like boys. I think Boys and Girls want commitments too. I think the pheromone thing is real; once someone puts out for you other women want in.
I do think there are differences but I think people fixate on the divisions, which is folly from the standpoint of having a happier life. But it makes sense because there are so many divisions in life outside of sex for men and women.
I think most guys want to be loved and women are really horny... I guess not to belabor the point but we are all pretty similar. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

I think ideal sex life would be a steady man/partner and a steady woman/partner. And room for additional intimate connections if the moment was right. Lots of honesty and definetely knowing AND ACKNOWLEDGING your and your partner/s desires... Yes I'm female and love sex, but I do have to feel a connection... But hey if hes feeling a connection with someone, I can piggyback it with compersion. :-)

Anonymous said...

Such behavior is neurotic, it obviously isn't a satisfying sex life. Men do it because they are insecure and in need of sex and it becomes a drug. Pretty much the same reason that women fall for it.

Spiffy McBang said...

What would sexuality look like with no societal constraints... well, for one, it's unlikely we'd have pick up artists, at least in their current form. To use only one example, we have so many constraints and negative perceptions of women and female sexuality that if girls and women felt 100% free to chase what they want- or don't want- the "negging" that plays off that need for affirmation would usually fail. People who expect respect have a tendency to tell people who don't show that respect to fuck off.

Anonymous said...

I have my ideal sex life: a partner that rocks my world with the freedom to experience "different" when it works for all involved and express my occasional bi tendencies. Being a suburban Mom, I feel sadness for the women I know who are too afraid to chase the experiences they want, who suppress their desires/sexuality because of what society thinks. However, I understand it because I, too, once felt and succumbed to those same pressures.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I just finished reading Sex At Dawn and loved it, but was wondering some of the same things as you. (Very cool that Christopher Ryan commented above and I look forward to that podcast interview.)
I've never been much of a PUA nor does the lifestyle appeal. I do like the idea of being able to convert attraction into results any time I want, but just being able to do something doesn't mean I'd want to do it all the time.
Ultimately, however, there's no substitute for a long-term, committed, loving relationship, even if (maybe especially if) that relationship is open to loving others from time to time.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a sexless marriage and recently connected with a lady in a similar unsatisfying marriage. We have made love a couple of times. Each time I discovered something I did not know about her before. I usually find an erroneous zone, a certain touch or words whispered into her ear that she likes. Then, I take that new knowledge to our next session and explore her more deeply. She does the same to me.
I can tell my lover things about me that I cannot tell my wife. Married people need to know that their partner is emotional stable, fiscally responsible and a pillar of society. So, married people must filter what they do and say with each other. Lovers are loosely connected and can be much more open and honest. The loose connection is liberating and exhilarating.
I am enjoying the privilege of getting to know my lover at her emotional and spiritual core. And, opening myself to her without having to explain anything.
A "new girl every night" would miss the depth of exploring a lover's soul. This is what I think love and sex are all about.

Cagey-C said...

This is a fantastic post with a really good string of comments going. Also, the line about the Iron & Wine guy was perfect.

I'm a straight guy who's never really felt drawn to the pick-up artist act. (I'd ascribe it to a deep-seated sense that people's vulnerabilities shouldn't be exploited for a temporary ego boost, but perhaps that's too judgy. I'm okay with that.) I just celebrated my 15th year of being married, and find our sex life quite fulfilling. There's a lot to be said for the trust and communication that can come from a stable relationship (though obviously that is not the case for every relationship). My partner and I have the trust and confidence to do some exploration with each other, even to learn new things about ourselves and about each other. That's a reward in itself. And that stability lessens performance anxiety (which is, I think, more a guy thing) because we both know that, for every shitty sexual experience, there will be more that are good or really good, sometimes even amazing. Since sex is a skill that involving communication between bodies, and since bodies respond to different things and in different ways, I'm not sure that I could get the same level of satisfaction from a series of one-night stands. We've developed a rich vocabulary together; one night stands would seem, to me, more like trying to gibber out a basic conversation using simple words and funny hand gestures. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't actually care to find out.)

As to social constraints, I find it hard to talk about ideals without constraints, because humans *are* social. The constraints may differ, but that just means (as Spiffy McBang, I think, pointed out) that alternatives are always conceived in opposition to, and thus shaped by, a particular set of constraints. That's why I have a hard time with evolutionary psychology as an explanatory mechanism; the admittedly little that I've read seems to assume that psychological mechanisms somehow function independently from social realities, when the two are really more complexly intertwined. (But that's another conversation, I guess, and I'm undoubtedly overgeneralizing and overstepping my knowledge.)

Cagey-C said...

Oh, and this just seemed somehow appropriate:

Spiffy McBang said...

"I usually find an erroneous zone"

This is such a great typo I want to believe it wasn't a typo at all.

Not the Hero said...

As someone that experimented with the pick up artist community I may have decent understanding of this. For me it started with reading "the game" and progressed from there. I had a terrible understanding of how society worked and was looking for a leg up. Well to be honest the techniques worked. Not 100% of the time, but that is to be expected. I found that it worked but it was never lasting. You can only manipulate someone for so long. Understanding how to pick up a girl and acquire her interest is just the beginning of a healthy relationship. I had some of the worst sex of my life during those times. Sex gets better as you get to know your partner. Of course there is an advantage to experience but it still gets better over time.

So to answer your question as to what sex would look like if there wasn't any social constraints? There would be a lot of people having a lot of sex with multiple people, but I think it would evolve into long term sex with multiple partners that worked for each and every individual. Variety is nice, but so is familiarity.

Spiffy McBang said...

"I'm a straight guy who's never really felt drawn to the pick-up artist act. (I'd ascribe it to a deep-seated sense that people's vulnerabilities shouldn't be exploited for a temporary ego boost, but perhaps that's too judgy. I'm okay with that.)"

That's not too judgmental at all. Really, think about it- why should you feel weird about thinking it's bad to use the weaknesses in a person's emotional state in order to carve another notch in your bedpost? That's nigh-sociopathic behavior.

Not every guy who hits on lots of women and is (or attempts to be) thoroughly promiscuous is a douche. There are guys who simply love women and are always after them, the Don Juan types. But those guys don't really need PUA trickery because it's the sincerity of feeling that works for them; what they do may mimic some of the more positive parts of pick up artistry (and there are some, it's not completely about being a little shit), but it's not being done as part of a de facto strategy game. And there are guys who do use those more positive strategies in the name of simply getting better at interaction.

But the ones who go whole hog on this shit are generally worthy of little but the back of someone's hand. Those guys are the source of much of the world's date rapist supply, especially that subset who will do shit that anyone would call remarkably skeezy, but don't think they're rapists because they've never put their dicks in someone who was screaming. Don't ever feel bad about judging them poorly; it's the least that they deserve.

Cagey-C said...

Spiffy--well stated. I had a youth spent (wait--that sounds very wrong). I mean, I spent my youth being entirely too judgmental of other people, but in this case my "I'm okay with that" referred to being comfortable with my statement whether or not someone else found it too judgmental. But thanks for the validation, and good points.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so this stuff allegedly works on insecure people, who need male approval and have a feeble or unformed self-image so they are easily manipulated.

So, who would ever want to have sex with such a person?

Sure, I've had sex with such people, including some great-looking ladies. And y'know what? It really sucked. You get none of the back-and-forth, discovery, play, and contention that's part of an intimate relationship.

You're just fucking somebody's body. Basta. And if that's all you want, you can save time and money using common household vegetables.

For example, a weak-willed person will just sort of lie there and let you do sex to her until you're finished. But a strong one will insist that she gets what she wants too. She'll fight to get that. If you're a guy that makes you last longer, and for multiple sessions too. And when that happens the physical side of it can be awesome.

I'm sorry that dorks like these guys above will never know that.

Anonymous said...

I just showed this to Sweet Babou, and he stalked off white-liped and vowing that his girls would read these books so they could spot assholes when they met them. I think he has a valid point.

I'm not a ten, not even a seven, so I was safe from predation. Guys who wanted to sleep with me already liked me enough to date me. However, several of my friends were in the higher numbers and a couple were easily tens. They had to weed through quite a few douche-canoes until they found honestly good men.

Personally, I am naturally monogamous, so it's not novelty I crave. As a mom of small kids, what I crave is the time and privacy to get my freak on.

Anonymous said...

I think most of us fantasize about what we haven't got.

I'm a married man and have been companionably for over 30 years. My wife (8 yrs older) gradually became unable to have intercourse after menopause and I got used to that (sadly, but not the end of the world). Then I was thousands of miles away for MANY months at a time, repeatedly, for work reasons and after a couple of years I ended up spending some time with another woman, and I slept with her a few times.

After a drought of years it was sublime. Besides the physical delight, her forwardness and her candor about her past sex life was breathtaking--for me a fairly mind-blowing and new experience. However, I was in denial about having an affair and avoided getting more involved.

After I returned home and resumed my old life I felt a bit of my heart was missing, lost to someone I never promised it to. I think about her every day. She got under my skin. It wasn't just the sex. I had become more than attached emotionally, more than I knew.

I'd be very content to have two loves in my life... if only it were possible. Kids are gone and we live alone. We can all love two children so I don't really see why it should be so taboo to love two adults.

I like familiarity more than variety, intimacy more than novelty. I'm definitely not a guy who wants to bed a different woman every night. My wife and I have a shared history and much in common, but not everything. My former girlfriend might have been a complete disaster as a wife (she was pretty feckless), I'll never know, but she was FUN and funny and I was deeply content in her company in a way I never experienced before. She was my Sherazade.

Can't keep anything to myself said...

Hmm super interesting/sad/happy to think about.

One of my favorite quotes from Sex at Dawn: "Serial monogamy stretches before (and behind) many of us like an archipelago of failure: isolated islands of transitory happiness in a cold, dark sea of disappointment."

It seems like for most people, one person isn't enough. Maybe too many people are settling when they could do better? I've been in happy relationships for long periods of time. The sex ranged from decent to pretty good, but sometimes it wasn't enough and I've found myself wishing I had someone on the side. Obviously sex has its emotional aspects, but I do think it's possible to have sex (and have fun) without any emotional attachments. I feel like a lot of people say men have no problems separating emotions and sex, but the fragile woman is not capable. I disagree. Maybe I'm just a man at heart?

I'd like to think that there is a guy out there for me who could fulfill me in every way and I hope I can find him before I give up and settle for less. But this is me being a romantic. I don't know if this person actually exists. And with anything less, it would be kind of be nice to be able to have the occasional, casual hookups on the side...

Mrs J said...

Well put Cagey C & Spiffy McBang.

My immediate visceral response is "those guys/guys who act like that are cunts". This kind of behaviour pretty much illustrates how sexuality looks completely constrained by society.

What I always want to say in response to behaviours like this is - just because you can,doesn't mean you should. Just because it works, doesn't make it (morally and/or ethically) right. For example you can obtain stuff (money/goods/"respect") by pointing a gun at a person and threatening to shoot them - this works, but it doesn't make it RIGHT/OKAY.

This way of manipulating people and their insecurities might work, but I think it would be really worthwhile taking a long hard look at how okay/right it is to do such (maqnipulative and disrespectful) things.

This sort of (quite frankly fucked-up) behaviour is the mainstay plot development of Romantic Comedies - which is why I LOATHE them. I always end up hurling abuse at the screen/book and shouting
"why can't you just HAVE A NORMAL HONEST CONVERSATION?!!!". (The answer is probably because the movie would be wrapped up in about 5 minutes, instead of 2 hours).
I firmly believe that as long as we focus on differences and exploiting them and playing games with each other (like these people are), the longer we'll be unhappy and conflicted in any form of interaction. We need to start to be genuine with each other, and treat each other, and ourselves, with respect.

(I'm also curious about how these guys would feel if they were "played" by a woman in the same manner - I bet they'd be livid to be treated in such a dishonest and shitty manner).

I'm not a fan of biological essentialism (which seems to me what Sex at Dawn draws on/from) and believe that there's a big chunk of social constructivism that needs to be considered, and which often isn't when people make biologically essentialist arguments. The biologically essentialist arguments are usually simpler and reduce behaviour down more neatly than it actually is in real life.

I think it's most helpful to see sexuality on a continuum (as with most human traits) - there are all sorts of different expressions of sexuality, and what gets you going will be different to me, will be different to someone else. The trick is to find someone/s to share yourself with who has/ve a compatible sexuality (notice I said compatible - not identical).

Mrs J said...

Ps: I also want to point out that in some ways there's no point in looking backwards and saying "oh wow, that's what our sexuality used to be like when we were primitive and un-socially-constrained" - for 2 reasons:
1 - as long as we've been living in groups we've been constrained by group norms, which means that there's no such thing as un-socially-constrained sexuality - it's a theoretical concept only
2 - we've EVOLVED since then. Maybe in a shitty direction (not much "maybe" in my opinion) but we've EVOLVED.

So we're NOT LIKE THAT ANY MORE. So instead of trying to figure out what we "should have" been like if we'd remained primitive and unevoloved, wouldn't it be more useful to figure out how to satisfy our needs at our current stage of evolution? Instead of harking back to some mythical simpler and more perfect tribal beginning.

Performing sexuality has most likely always been fraught and kind of shitty - wouldn't it be great to try to evolve towards a place where we were comfortable with the many forms it takes?

Anonymous said...

What a great discussion. I especially love Mrs J's last statement. ;-)

But to answer the question, I suspect the "ideal" sexuality is somewhere between the extremes of PUAs and monogamy. I haven't read Sex at Dawn, but if the biological impulse for sex has to do with offspring and leaving behind a genetic legacy, then sex with someone different every night wouldn't ensure that. Ahem - disease, anyone? Not to mention that you don't know if your one-night stand would be able to care or provide for your offspring (subconsciously, of course), so you're not really doing your genes any service.

Personally, after a long sexually-unsatisfying monogamous relationship, I sowed my oats with un-emotional but fun sex with various partners who lasted one night to one month. It was great. That was my ideal then. But then I met a man who wanted monogamy, and the sex is hot, intimate, emotionally and physically charged, explorative, and satisfying. And that's my ideal right now. People grow and change.

Dusky said...

Thanks for the post on this.

I read 'the game' out of curiosity and was pretty appalled at the time. I think some elements could work and I recognised some similarities to techniques that have worked on me which was pretty scary. But in general I agree with a few others here that really these techniques are for a certain type of woman in a certain situation.

The weird thing for me is that my sweet and very much non-douche-bag husband is the one who owned the book and had a much more positive reaction to it. For him it was at a time in his life that he was feeling he might never get laid again, and it gave him hope that actually just with a bit of confidence and a few tricks of the trade any guy could pick up.

I think husband suffers a bit of what the PUAs have - of feeling jealous of the dicks who pick up lots of women while the 'nice guys' get overlooked. The difference is characters like Neil Strauss decided to learn to be dicks, and my husband decided to remain a nice guy. And then he got to marry me, the lucky devil! :) Nice guys win in the end.

Dusky said...

Oh, and I must answer the question on an ideal sex-life! :)

I think that different people have different drives for variety and for monogamy and at different times in our lives... and I don't think gender makes much difference to where we sit on that scale.

As a youngen I had absolutely zero interest in monogamy. I enjoyed playing the field for the sheer fun of it, and I valued my freedom. I craved 'experiences' not contentment.

Then I fell in love and that changed things.

Now I have come to find contentment a mighty fine back-drop for a little bit of variety... which is sometimes even found with husband. :) I have found I'm much fussier now though and need a bit of connection to make anything worthwhile.

Um, so, yeah. An evolving idea of my ultimate sex-life.

SexyLittleIdeas said...

Although there is probably some kind of average, I think everyone's "ideal sex life" is probably slightly different. Not all or even most guys (or girls) want the same thing. Some are more inclined toward promiscuity and some lean far toward domestication.

My perfect sex life is having five or six friends who I can call up and hang out with/connect with on a number of deep/different levels. And I love all six of you!

BJ said...

Ideal sex life? Personally, I love the idea of an open relationship. I enjoy having the stability of a committed relationship to fall back on; knowing that someone is going to be there when things get rough. I love working together to build the relationship and getting to know one another. It's exciting.

However, I would say that I'm not particularly good at sexual monogamy. It's not that I can't do it and more that I don't really want to do it. That being said - I don't cheat. If I'm in a relationship where we haven't talked about opening it I don't fuck other people. If we have and he's ok with it, I do. If we have and he's not ok with it, I don't - however it usually means that I'm not going to be there much longer.

In a perfect world I'd have one emotionally committed relationship, one or two sexual relationships, and gods only knows how many one night stands or short flings. I'm hoping that one day I'll find a guy that will be as open to the idea but for now I'm very happy where I am. Even if it's not a perfect world.

Walther said...

I am not too fond of resurrecting old threads, but this was a fascinating read (specially because of the comments), but there is a single point which I feel was left not addressed.

People have stated that the reason PUA works is because they target a very specific type of female, thus their psychological make up is relatively similar enough that you can develop techniques that work on it.

One thing I've learned recently is that our society encourages the development of these psychological profiles which cause women to be vulnerable to such approaches.

I don't know how many people are aware of this other article, but Eroticized Dominance presents forth a very compelling argument on how our social norms are creating a culture in which women are expected to be dominated by men.

So saying that PUA only works on weak-willed, insecure women is only partly true. The sad truth (at least from my own perspective) is that PUA works because it is designed for the Standard Female Role that society expects females to follow.

Thus, to be resistant to the PUA techniques, women need to break free of the social norms imposed on them (which undeniably means having a strong will in order to endure the social backlash that is sure to ensue).

And that's my two cents (without overlapping too much on the content from all the other comments, I hope).

Bill said...

I was the first anonymous back in 2012! The one that wanted a harem. I still want a harem.

Silenus said...

The PUA thing reeks of fraud. There are ethical ways to have multiple sex partners. The oldest way is to pay for it, and to be ethical one should ascertain that the sex worker is independent, not coerced or trafficked. The modern ways include swinging and polyamory, where everyone knows what the others' intentions, limits, and desires are.

I can understand the desire of someone who feels they don't easily get sex to want to con others out of it. But the first thing they don't get is in the long run, sex is not an end in itself, but one of several means to a maintaining satisfying, multidimensional relationships. By multidimensional I mean relationships that include sharing some or all of friends, child rearing, finances, projects, and adventures.

Anonymous said...

I've come to believe that THE most important thing, the place where everyone needs to start, is whether or not they're monogamous. I am not; I've known that about myself since I was 16 (I'm female). Many people I know are emphatically monogamous. Some are monogamish, to quote Dan Savage. Probably some people change over time.

That said, even when I've been at my most active, I didn't want a new lover EVERY night. I definitely enjoyed one-night stands, and I got reasonably good at figuring out who would be fun, but I really didn't want or need to do it every single night. (For the record, I'm not all that attractive, and I don't wear heels or lots of makeup, I don't shave my body hair, etc., so the PUAs wouldn't be looking in my direction anyway--but plenty of fun people did.) Point being, the one-night stands were fun because the sex was fun, and the person was fun, not because I was notching a bedpost.

I've been in (and am in) longer-term relationships, too, and those have many things to recommend them. But I don't see relationships and one-night stands or even FWB as mutually exclusive propositions, so to speak. It's not a dichotomy, i.e., it's not the case that EITHER fucking everyone you can OR a long-term, intimate, committed relationship is the ideal, though of course some people do choose one or the other or some combo of those ideals. Okay, starting to ramble here; thanks for resurrecting this!

Anonymous said...

I want a relationship where i have someone to spend the rest of my life with. We'll laugh together, play together, etc.

But when a random person of curiosity shows up, i can pursue that. Should become longer term, i want to pursue it.

My wife and i are working towards that. I believe that 100% of her resistance is due to cultural indoctrination. She's poly, but has forced herself to think in narrow terms.

Its a struggle, but one i think will ultimately lead to a right conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jill,

I can't believe I am replying to a 2 yr old post, but nevertheless....

I think Style is all style and no content. For me, sex is one of the most enjoyable things in life. But there are many other enjoyable things. I could never devote the time Style does to sex. Sounds like an empty life. But there are men who devote their lives to medicine, body building, old cars, stamp collecting, essentially to the absence of all other interests., why not?

But there is a factor here other than time. I've had one night stands, but never with a woman I didn't find attractive in other ways. I have to like them, be interested in their thoughts, captured by their sense of humor, charmed by their attitude to life and by their particular beauty. That makes them sexy and desirable. If I don't want to spend time with them just talking then I don't want to spend time with them in bed. Empty fucking does not enhance my life. And I can't imagine investing that much of myself in another person and dropping them the next day. I've wanted to stay friends with every woman I've had sex with. I don't really remember much of the sex but I remember the person, their passions, their problems.

Finally, I like women with self confidence, whose self approval means they don't grasp for approval from others. I suspect the women who fall for Style wouldn't attract me or be attracted to me.

Unknown said...

To me, PUAs are exactly what Sex at Dawn is arguing against: men viewing women as ownable commodities. PUAs, bless their little pea-pickin' hearts, take our screwy contemporary sexual mores to their obvious endpoint: they treat sex like Goldman Sachs treats the stock market. It's basic to the PUA mindset to think of women only as something to possess to gratify your ego; being seen with a "10" (ick) is no different than being seen with a Ferrari, or a Rolex.

My take-away from Sex at Dawn was that prior to agriculture sex was used for tribal bonding, not dynasty building, male control of female sexuality, and ownership. PUAs clearly don't want to bond with the people they have sex with, because "negging" and "push-pull" strategies would inevitably curdle honesty/intimacy, or stop it before it starts.

An ideal sex life? Add me to the chorus of people wanting that ideal mix of intimacy/stability AND occasional variety. The former's much more valuable to me than the latter, but biology is biology. I don't think it's all that different than other appetites -- food, or where you live, or whatever; everybody likes being home, and taking vacations, too. In my experience, the sexes are pretty similarly wired, once one scrapes away all the societal conditioning. The opposition of genders hasn't rung true very often in my life.

Thanks for a great blog!

Anonymous said...

As a person who prefers volunteers to victims, my sex life would make a PUA guffaw. However, I don't end up with stalkers and paternity suits.

ValdVin said...

"I can get laid."

That's the flip side of a PUA, as played by Sarah Baker in that episode of "Louie".

If one is desperate enough, one can get laid, whether a PUA, or a (self-described) fat girl in NYC.

The question is, how desparate are you? How old are you, what experiences have you had, what do you see in the mirror the morning after?

I think every life fully lived should have some "Wow, I can't believe I did that" dates / flings / encounters in it. You may wish to find out what's too crazy, too much, to find out what your limits are.

And if you're the partnering type, you might wanna find out all that before you partner for the long run. It's helped me to have defined my comfort zone, established one with a partner, and then stretched that zone.

ValdVin said...

Ugh. Muffed the copyedit in previous post.

"I can get laid" applies to both the would-be pickup artist and the woman. The character in "Louie" seems to have a handle on what that provides her and what that costs her. The PUA culture, not so much.

Can't Keep Anything to Myself said...

Wow two years ago me was so insightful! I still agree with most of what I said, which I find interesting because I'd like to think I've done a lot of growing and changing in the last two years...
I'm also in the middle of reading "What do Women Want?" I think you've had a post about it? So I'll have to go find that and read it once I'm done.
The ideas in the book though are just adding even more onto what I've amassed in my mind about human sexuality from books like "The Game" and "Sex at Dawn." It's a lot to process. Still a lot of what seem to be unanswerable questions. It makes my head hurt. Luckily these thoughts aren't running through my head when I'm having sex...

It's That Guy... Not THAT One, The Other One said...

I spent a few months researching the PUA world and some groups of women with shared discourses (pre-prod for a romance novel).

I was supposed to spend a week on it but the pick-up world turns out to be as fascinating as it is jarring and bizarre--I do love a train wreck, especially the kind where the survivors try to wreck other trains again and again because it was so much fun the first time. Oh, BTW Neil Strauss never returned my emails or calls so... f*ck'im, I had a book to write.

One thing in particular from my research was shared in common between PUAs and women in virtually every group. In my notes I marked it, "The Eligibility Rule":
If a guy is:
(a) not rich (def. "not rich": little to no financial net worth),
(b) over 40,
(c) under 6ft in height,
Then he's not eligible for any sex-positive female person's interest.

Part (c) of the Eligibility Rule comes up more than once right here in the comments.

In romance novels (esp. erotic romance--Jill, you wrote something about that genre, didn't you?); the Eligibility Rule is actually a codified character rubric for the genre and in romance publishers' submission guidelines:
Every male main character must be 6ft.+, not over 40 (unless he's a billionaire), and rich. There's a laundry list of other traits too--hey, it's genre writing; mass market, whatever sells a shit-ton and is repeatable--other than from irrepressible compulsion, most of us write because, ya know, bills and stuff.

The Eligibility Rule isn't just fantasy, it shows up on dating sites and in "real live" women's requirements/preferences.

I can understand the Rule in writing mass market fantasy but real life? Maybe I just don't get it because I'm a guy... and not 6ft tall, not rich and not under 40. But it still freaks me out!

Up until I wrote that book, I had been thinking I actually could start over/start again this late in life but I sure as hell don't meet the Eligibility Rule's dicta... crapballz, I'm totally gonna die alone?!

*exhale* Jill had to go ask a question (good bloggers do that-- my OCD hates them for it) so that means I MUST answer it (OCD, remember? Did I say that already? Maybe one more time...)

What does [my] ideal sex life look like?

Dunno--I just make that stuff up and people buy it. No, seriously. Okay, really seriously:

Mostly IRL I'd just to like to friggin' have sex, mostly...

Anonymous said...

Did you also by any chance read Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, by Clarisse Thorn? It describes PUA culture from a feminist woman's perspective. Excellent reading.

Anonymous said...

I'm long past being young, single, and interesting to women. I found through a lot of trial and error that it's a waste of my time to pick a target, who will instantly reject me the moment I express interest. Her friends always found that amusing.

I thus come down on the side of the relationship, where while I have been marginally more successful long enough to not be deprived. I just wish that it was possible to maintain options even then, for as we all know, there are times when the relationship doesn't or can't satisfy and needs go unmet.

Hosea Tanatu said...

I'm a guy. Probably not typical. And there is no fucking way that I would ever want the kind of sex life you say the PUAs write about.

Someone new every night? Maybe it's because I'm over fifty or maybe it's because I'm incredibly shy, but I ... ummm (how do I say this tactfully?) ... don't do so well with somebody new. Not the first night. I have to get to know her, get to trust her.

As for "fake boobs, blonde hair, 19 years old" .... Well, fake anything drops her off my list. It bugged me when my ex-wife used to color her hair. ("But it's mouse-brown!" she'd insist. "You can't possibly find that attractive." I'd tell her for the hundredth time that I found reality more attractive than any color coming out of a bottle, and she wouldn't hear me.)

Blonde hair? Mneh ... it's my least favorite color, but whatever. I'm not too worried about hair color.

19 years old? Hell no! You remember I said I'm over 50? Also that I'm really shy? I'd rather the lady already know what she's doing in bed, so I don't have to teach her; also it would be nice to have something in common to talk about afterwards.

Maybe this is the ideal for other guys. But not me.

Hosea Tanatu said...

A second comment: The way I read Sex at Dawn (which I agree is a fascinating book!) I would guess that the ideal for female sexuality would not be serial monogamy. I think that's just the closest that powerful, independent women can get in our society. I suspect, rather, that the perfect, ideal form of female sexuality would be ... let's call it "promiscuous but choosy."

Both parts are important. On the one hand, I assume that without the huge societal pressure telling them it is bad, wicked, horrible, and just flat-out unavailable, probably a lot of women would enjoy the model of having several different concurrent relationships ... the kind of thing that is done today only by people flying the flag of polyamory. Admittedly that's a very small niche market these days, but I think that's largely because there is so much social disapproval. By the same token, if it didn't require making a g-dd-mned statement -- if it were just available as one among several normal options for how to connect with people -- I think it would be a lot more common. I know plenty of women who will admit that they are attracted by more than one guy ... why leave it just at fantasizing?

On the other hand, the second part -- "choosy" -- is equally important. In our society, the word "promiscuous" carries the unavoidable connotation of being "indiscriminate" ... of being willing to fall into bed with Just Anybody. But ... yuck. I assume that most women are unlikely to want that.

So what this leaves us with is a mode of sexual living that doesn't really have a name in English. It should.

Of course, I'm not a woman so maybe I'm talking through my hat. But FWIW.

Hosea Tanatu said...

A third comment and then I'll stop. Three posts from somebody else's blog that directly address the PUA culture. The blogger is a woman, but what she writes is eccentric enough that I'm reluctant to suggest she represents any kind of archetypal "woman's point of view". But here are the links:
And my favorite ...

OK, I'll stop now.

in bed with married women said...

hosea--so well said/thought out! and "promiscuous but choosy" (!) hmmm

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman, and I reckon we just do serial monogamy because that's the only real option our society allows/sees as normal. Women who are non-monogamous are seen as sluts/whores/aberrant. That said, I'm polyamorous, and my ideal sex life is lots of partners. I have 2 currently, both male, one is poly the other conceptualises himself as mono. The thought of a succession of new lovers every night would fill him with horror. For me, I think sex gets better with practise (getting to know a different person's body etc) so one nighters have never been my thing, but I'd happily have several proper romantic relationships and additional fuckbuddies if life allowed it (right now it doesn't, because I'm time poor). To pull a number out of the air, I think 5 long-term lovers would be fabulous. (3 relationships, 2 fuckbuddies).

I don't think all men are into novel partners, and I don't think all women are into monogamy. Sexuality is so not a one-size-fits-all (which is why society really needs to get over itself and normalise different kinds of sexuality, including ethical non-monogamy).

Anonymous said...

I don't have the spousal consent for outside sex but do have it to have good female friends who join me in music, outdoors and volunteer activities. Currently trying to figure out the name of the relationship where you are so attracted to the other person that you would move across the country to court her except that you are in a committed monogamous relationship. What do you call this wonderful person you most likely will never do anything more than share a wonderful hello and goodbye hug with? Good Friend Without Benefits?