|Man demonstrating "The Takeaway"|
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* 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.
*Except for that Iron & Wine dude.
Rudolf Koppitz - Sculptor and Nude, 1926