Ethical pick up artistry and the shit test.

Clarisse Thorn has a couple of interesting posts up this week about “Pick Up Artists.”  An important point she makes is that the pick up artist subculture has a monopoly on effective advice for shy men who want to meet women.  To this I would add:  And how!

I’m thinking especially of the psychotherapeutic professions, since the typical advice for the sexually isolated man is, “See a therapist.”  As a man who has seen more than a few, I think psychotherapy is usually a Hindenburg-grade failure in this department.

As for pick up artistry (“PUA”), it is something I imagine most  feminists view as a sad joke:  A world of immature, narcissistic young (and not so young) men unable to connect with women as fellow human beings.  As Clarisse mentioned, looking for wisdom within the “seduction community” can be like “panning for gold in a sewer.”  But since there isn’t much helpful advice from other quarters, feminists who care about men might take a few hours to grab the pie tin, slip on the galoshes, climb down the manhole, and pan for nuggets of wisdom in the cesspool of the “seduction community.”

Note that I don’t want to see young men with the attitude of women as alien creatures who can only be approached by “learning game” and “displaying high value.”  That’s an obvious risk of studying game – increasing rather than shortening the emotional distance between men and women.  But I think the social knowledge gleaned by some of the more ethical pick up artists out there (there are a few) may be worth a look.

I’d like to propose a conceptual framework that might be useful in discussing pick up artistry, which is “three categories of pick up artistry”:  (1) harmless social psychology, (2) harmful, disruptive behavior, and (3) “dealing with a shit test.”

First, (1) Harmless social psychology is – or should be – unobjectionable to most people. An example is the advice given by Neil Strauss (“Style”) to men who would like to start a conversation (“open”) with a group of women (a “set”) who are seated, and that advice is:  Talk to them over your shoulder – as though on your way out the door – and don’t hover over their table.  That advice makes sense; people won’t make efforts to get rid of you if they think you’ll be leaving soon.  Now, you could argue it’s duplicitous to pretend to be on your way out the door, when in fact you have every intention of staying.  But what this amounts to is a behavioral white lie, and white lies make life more pleasant than it would otherwise be.

What does not make life more pleasant is (2) the second category of pick up artistry: Harmful and disruptive behavior.  The most extreme example of this are the tactics promoted by self-proclaimed pickup guru “Gunwich,” summed up as (his words) “make the ho say no.”  For men who ascribe to this approach, I would recommend psychotherapy, and also staying away from social gatherings until they’ve reexamined their beliefs about how to treat other people.  Enough said.

The third category I can’t think of a good name for, so I’ll call it (3) “How to deal with a ‘shit test’.”  An example:  A young man begins talking with a woman at a party, and soon thereafter she mentions “my boyfriend” even though she is single.  Why would she do this?  Most feminists would say there are two reasons; I’d say three.  First, she may worry that the man won’t respect her boundaries unless she gives a “reason” she doesn’t want to be sexually involved.  Second, she may feel anxious about being single, and not want to appear unpopular.  Third – and some feminists will insist this never happens – she may be testing the man to see how he reacts.  An effective way to screen out tiresome nice guys in favor of the more ethically adventurous bad boy is to say you’re already attached.

This third category, I think, can blend with the first.  The difference is the third category involves dealing with some of the more gladiatorial aspects of the sexual realm – dealing with the world as it is, rather than as it should be.  The phantom boyfriend is only one example of what I would call the “shit test,” but you could argue – convincingly, in my opinion – that a young man is more socially competent if he understands that a woman’s “boyfriend” may or may not exist, and that such knowledge entails emotionally understanding a white lie.

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11 Responses to Ethical pick up artistry and the shit test.

  1. corn walker says:

    As for pick up artistry (“PUA”), it is something I imagine most feminists view as a sad joke: A world of immature, narcissistic young (and not so young) men unable to connect with women as fellow human beings.

    It’s not a sad joke; it’s more often than not populated with “experts” who are blatantly and unapologetically misogynistic and “students” who, lacking the social skills to navigate interpersonal relationships with women, don’t necessarily have the ability to tease apart the gems of wisdom from the steaming pile of shit in which they are often packaged. Rather than a joke it’s something of a tragedy

    I have made the same observation – if feminism is concerned with reaching potential allies and marginalizing the likes of Gunwich, we would do well break the monopolistic hold that the seduction community has over effective advice for marginalized men.

  2. La Lubu says:

    feminists who care about men might take a few hours to grab the pie tin, slip on the galoshes, climb down the manhole, and pan for nuggets of wisdom in the cesspool of the “seduction community.”

    I love this analogy. With that said:

    In your example in number one (faking like he’s on the way out the door), there’s another reason why this technique is successful: by giving room for either a quick few words or an extended conversation , he is indicating that he respects the woman’s time. That can’t be overstated. He might be performing a “behavioral white lie” (as you put it), but he isn’t doing so in order to misrepresent himself, but to put the choice in her court. I can’t speak for all women, but if a man respects my time, I always see that as a Good Sign—it indicates good character, manners, and a stronger likelihood of respectful behavior overall. What’s more—he risks nothing by employing this technique. Maybe he’ll get the brush off this time (if the woman he is interested in is say, seeing an old friend for the first time in years, and doesn’t really want to be bothered with meeting a stranger)…but he won’t leave a bad impression. Frankly, I can’t understand why more men don’t use it!

    But…the shit test. That’s probably number two with a bullet to “the neg” in being recognized as the most assholish presumption of PUA. The PUA scenario around supposed “shit tests” seems to me to be designed to weed out women with self-esteem. PUAs are looking for women with little to no self-esteem, as they are easier to manipulate.

  3. Sarah says:

    OK, I sympathize with guys who have trouble picking up women and all, but honestly, who on earth makes up a “phantom boyfriend” to get rid of guy she’s not sure she wants to get rid of? I’ve never heard of that happening and don’t believe it. My guess is that if she mentions having a boyfriend and still sleeps with you, it’s because she has one and was looking to cheat.

  4. elementary_watson says:

    “students” who, lacking the social skills to navigate interpersonal relationships with women

    I think this is something of a red herring here. I, for example, have no problem navigating interpersonal *platonic* relationships with women; it’s when sexual attraction enters the game that I get self-conscious, tongue-tied, unable to confidently interpret other people’s signals and all around shy and insecure.

    The problem, I guess, is more navigating interpersonal relationships with women which have a sexual component to them.

  5. Sagredo says:

    PUAs are looking for women with little to no self-esteem, as they are easier to manipulate.

    I believe this is almost exactly incorrect. PUAs are looking for the most attractive women, and these women tend to have high self-esteem. They get as much attention as they want, and tend to be a bit bored with it. They know how attractive they are and really aren’t much interested in being perpetually told as much. I believe much of the misunderstanding about PUA techniques comes from failing to bear this in mind. The key here is “don’t supplicate”.

    Negging needs to be understood in this context. Negging, despite its scary name, is not insulting, because that doesn’t work. Think about the last time you felt insulted, or your self-esteem affronted. Did it make you feel sexy? Did it make you feel more open? Of course not. Why would it be any different for anyone else? On the other hand, people with high self-esteem absolutely love to be teased. It’s playful and displays intelligence and wit. It shows that one is not desperate to please.

    This is why negging is only recommended for, in PUA parlance, “nines” and “tens”. Of course this doesn’t stop too many would-be PUAs from failing at negging by insulting, and that certainly is unfortunate.

  6. Lynet says:

    I only have myself and a vague sense of others to go by, but I, too, find the idea of inventing a boyfriend to identify the ‘bad boys’ somewhat implausible in general. Certainly I’m sure more women invent boyfriends to get rid of a man than in the hope that he’ll stick around anyway.

    That said, there are ways in which I’ll gauge a guy. I’m always interested in whether he’ll respect boundaries, and although asking him to outright go away tends not to be the best way to figure that out (for obvious reasons), it’s true that when I was younger and had less finesse I’d find that a man who agreed to leave me alone was suddenly much more attractive, and sometimes I’d wish there was a way for him to stay.

    It’s always a bit cringe-worthy when some PUA starts taking examples of ways women ask men to go away and explaining why they’re really reasons you should stick around, though. You just know that the use of such a ‘technique’ is not going anywhere nice for anyone involved.

  7. John E. says:

    Dunno, but it seems to me that the reason for making up an imaginary boyfriend is much more likely to be that the woman really doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you straight out that she is not at all interested in you and so is using that as a social signal that you are wasting your time if you are trying to chat her up.

    Screening for bad boys seems pretty unlikely to me.

  8. Darque says:

    Re: The shit test.

    I don’t know. I can’t imagine women doing something so counter-intuitive but then again I find that both men and women engage in counter-intuitive and destructive behavior in the dating game on a daily basis.

    My willingness to accept that some women engage in that kind of behavior would depend on how misanthropic I’m feeling on a particular day.

  9. spitfiregrrrl says:

    I’m fascinated by this. I’m writing a book on Feminism and the Pick Up Artist Community that argues they are actually rather closely related. It’s long so I won’t post the whole blog I just wrote on the subject here, but I’d love feedback from y’all.

    http://spitfiregrrrl.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/why-feminists-and-puas-should-care-about-each-other/

  10. Lathe of Heaven says:

    Note that I don’t want to see young men with the attitude of women as alien creatures who can only be approached by “learning game” and “displaying high value.”

    Sadly, what you will see in the world is not up to you. The plain fact is that for a large swath of young men, experience shows that no approach other than learning Game and DHV’ing will let them find any success with women for even 30 seconds. In effect, women as a group have declared those men to already be aliens (eg. untouchable) before the fact, and the PUA tactics are rather their only route back to human experience.

    Coincidentally, the subject of “shit tests” was recently discussed in great and varied detail at Susan Walsh’s blog; any interested parties are well advised to check out these posts

    http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/03/21/relationshipstrategies/why-we-shit-test/

    http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/03/23/relationshipstrategies/mostly-male-writers-on-shit-testing/

    as well as the links therein. Enjoy!

  11. humbition says:

    You know, if you have a value system and hold to it, you might consider being the selective one yourself, strange as that idea might seem. If you think you ought to be able to express vulnerability or emotion, and if you don’t want to be partnered with someone who plays mind games, you just might make sure not to be involved with someone who fits the descriptions in that blog.

    If it is one out of ten, so be it. If it is one out of a hundred, so be it. I don’t have much to say for the value system of today’s world, which is destroying the planet. But the values I dislike are found among all sorts, women and men, “liberal” and conservative. Anti-compassion and anti-“weakness” values are part of the culture in general, which means you pay a price if you buck them, in order to allow yourself to be fully human.

    Sometimes solitude helps clarify and solidify your values. You don’t have to give solitude the values others give it. You don’t have to give the rest of your personality and your dreams the values others give them. You can really follow a different drummer.

    Ironically some of the people who use this pua vocabulary seem to be choosing their values in order to conform. They are becoming “alpha” in order to become what they imagine someone else wants them to be. This is a hall of mirrors, in the end. I am too stubborn for that.

    Sure, people give each other “shit tests” — and maybe I’ve given one or two as well, in spite of being a cis het male and all that. Part of being human. But to live one’s life thinking that one has to be a certain way because of them — at a certain point, if she doesn’t let me be human, shouldn’t I decide that she doesn’t pass my test?

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