As a somewhat lonely, somewhat het (although not exclusively so), somewhat socially awkward, somewhat male (although again, not exclusively so) individual of (at least apparently) the species homo sapiens, I have naturally from time to time (despite my better judgement) searched the internet for information and solutions to the question of “How To Pull Women”. Which inevitably leads, after relatively few clicks, to encounters with the shady world of Pick-Up Artistry (PUA).
Most of them come across as fundamentally skeezy and horrible, not to mention highly implausible in their claims for the rates of success they achieve. A few are not so bad, but also tend to make quite implausible claims.
Fortunately, my interest in feminism and sex-positive political activism led me to the blog of Clarisse Thorn. She developed a fascination and curiosity about PUA that led eventually to the publication of her book, “Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser” (2012), and several long comments threads at her blog discussing the ethical value or otherwise of PUA advice and the “Seduction Community” (SC) – the groups of men who discuss the techniques and advice given and their practical application. The ideas and views discussed by a wide range of people of varying genders and associations with PUA/SC in that thread piqued my interest and I took a closer look at some of the sources cited. While all the caveats that Clarisse mentioned in the post linked above proved to be true, there was enough that seemed like it could be used ethically and with a good conscience that I was motivated to find out more and see if it could work for me, too.
That’s the background to why I have the stuff I’m about to discuss on my radar in the first place.
So, on a couple of sites I signed up for the freebie mailshot services that are basically used to trail the expensive training programmes that the professional PUAs market to the guys who match the description of myself at the top of the article. The latest series of emails I’ve got from one of these purports to have a new and revolutionary system focussing on “desire”. In the trailer videos and advice, so much of the language was the same as stuff analysed and reported by Clarisse Thorn a year ago (and discussed in those comment threads), that it just made me think, “there’s nothing new under the sun” and move on. The guy came up with a new explanation for “why it works”, but the basic idea seems pretty well covered!
One of the phrases that was spectacularly unoriginal was, “She won’t even know why she wants to have sex with you.” And THAT’S what all that preamble was leading up to.
Even the PUA advice programmes that have done least to upset my sense of ethics seem to come down to this kind of claim, and it’s the claim that ultimately makes them valueless to me. I don’t want to be with a woman who doesn’t know why she wants to be with me (“be with” used both as a euphemism for “fuck” and as a reference to having an ongoing romantic/sexual relationship). In the horror movie Wishcraft, the central character has three wishes. The first wish is simple: he wants the most beautiful girl at school to go out with him. At the end of the date, however, she expresses her confusion about why she asked him out, and he realises that the wish had done nothing to satisfy his craving for female companionship. (Yes, she uses the same language about herself that the PUA advice uses…) That’s how I feel about it, too. What satisfaction, what value, is there in being with (same usage) a woman who doesn’t know why? I haven’t really made a connection, I have pulled off an illusion. I might as well have used a love philtre or charm like those in the old fairy tales. You know: the ones where if some event happens (e.g. the charm is lost or broken) then the love that it induces is also broken, and replaced with animosity.
The logic behind this (and some of the PUAs, including the guy with his “desire” programme, acknowledge this explicitly) is that if you can get a woman to make physical contact – kiss, make out, fuck – then for each step where she “doesn’t know why”, then she will reverse rationalise and decide that the reason she did it was because you must have “something special” that she “intuited”. This, the theory goes, will make her more willing to go to the next step. Thus, by playing on cues that, according to the PUAs mean that she, “will want to have sex with you, and she won’t even know why,” the plan is to induce her reverse rationalisation to build an irresistible image of you in her mind. (Of course, no mention is made of the fact that men reverse rationalise just as much as women do.) According to this logic, the next morning when she wakes up after having sex with you the previous night, she will think to herself, “Wow, what a guy! I must see him again!”
I see a different possible outcome, and I have no idea what ratio these outcomes might be to each other, or how to tell which outcome is more likely in a given situation. My alternative outcome is precisely analogous to the “broken charm” outcome in the fairy tale. The less ethical PUAs even have a term for this: the rather callous, “Buyer’s Remorse”. In short, instead of thinking, “What a guy he must be”, she feels either shameful (“What a slut I must be”) or she feels used and manipulated – even if she doesn’t understand how it happened, she realises that she didn’t make a reasoned decision to bed him but somehow he overrode her normal caution. As expressed by the question, “Why did I have sex with him?”
Of course, “buyer’s remorse” as a term only makes sense when there is a clear choice made. When the stated aim (as made explicit in the expression “she won’t know why”) is to override the rational mind (again, our “desire” programme guy states this explicitly, that if you engage her rational mind you are “playing a losing game”, so you should avoid that), it makes no sense to call her a buyer. She’s not a buyer, she’s a mark. And you’re the conman. Like I said before, it isn’t making a connection, it’s performing an illusion. The difference between a conman and a magician, they say, is that the magician’s audience pay up knowing that they are going to be fooled, whereas a conman fools people into paying up. If I could believe that women were willing payees wanting to be fooled (and some PUAs do try to frame their advice in precisely those terms) then I could take the advice at face value. I don’t believe that. I believe most people in this world, evenly distributed among the range of gender identities available, are looking for an honest connection.
So, all-in-all, when I do sex with someone, I want to know that they know why they decided to do it with me. For one thing, that’s the biggest ego-boost! For another, that means it’s going to be a much more positive experience overall for the other person, and for me, concern and compassion for others’ wellbeing is very important.
Most of all, though, “sex” doesn’t mean the same to me. My sexuality is BDSM. It’s all very well having a technique that makes a woman want to have sex with me “without knowing why”, but will it also make her want me to tie her up and spank her “without knowing why”? Or want to tie me up and spank me? Sex for me is somewhat different from the norm so it requires negotiation of what might be expected (and what is unacceptable), and it requires knowing why you’re doing it (not in some deep, psychological, nature-or-nurture way, but at least in a, “this is something I value” kind of way). (Incidentally, I started a short story on roughly this theme and fear that it may have grown into the seed for an erotic novel instead – when I finish the first sex scene, I’ll post what I have so far).