I typically don’t follow or really care for mainstream interviews of big PUA figures or dating coaches. Most of them are some combination of hype, babble and sales pitches. But this one is actually quite good. Neil Strauss was recently interviewed by a feminist blogger and dating advice columnist with a self-described “pick up artist fetish.” Regular readers will know that I’m not exactly Neil’s biggest fan. I think his advice is shitty and his books are mediocre. But I have to say his answers in this interview were both insightful and interesting. In fact, I agree with just about everything he says here and was even impressed with a few of his points. You can read the whole thing here. Highlights with my comments are below.

“I think one of the many misconceptions about The Game is somehow that guys are being taught to be fake—I know I’m more real and more honest than I ever was before The Game, when I was too shy to really express myself. People go through a process of not being themselves. It’s part of the journey. Through anything you have to struggle and get dirty in the mud and get to the other side and become yourself, and that’s part of the process.”

This is probably the most reasonable defense I’ve ever heard for the PUA nonsense of wearing fuzzy hats, shiny pants, claiming to believe in spells, lying about your stripper ex-girlfriend, using fake names, making up stupid games, etc. — all of which are espoused in The Game. I agree with his overarching point: that often to free up one’s personality and ability to express himself, a guy must sometimes pretend to be something he’s not. I would just argue that there are far healthier and more socially acceptable ways of doing this — ways that don’t involve misleading people, dressing like an idiot, reciting rehearsed lines, or alienating most of your friends.

“On some levels male sexuality is everywhere in society, but on the other hand it’s completely repressed: Men are afraid to show it because it will make them socially unacceptable as well as less sexually desirable. I wanted to write something that was honest about male sexuality, not like Maxim magazine or the billboards.”

Socially unacceptable? Often, yes. Less sexually desirable? Absolutely not. I think Neil’s continuing to make the error in his thinking that lead to all of the routine-gimmicky nonsense of his book: that a man can’t be sexually assertive and attractive at the same time. If the whole “natural game” and “direct approach” movements have shown anything in the last five years, it’s that being sexually assertive makes a man MORE attractive to women. He just has to do it in a respectful and confident manner.

What I find more interesting is his intention for The Game to be an honest depiction of male sexuality. I think in many ways, it accomplished that well. To my knowledge, there has never really been a mainstream work that captures the conundrum of modern male sexuality: that he must be the initiator, but that initiating is seen as socially shameful.

CT: A lot of pickup artists talk about how much they hate feminism.
NS: Here’s the deal. Anyone who hates something feels threatened by it. A guy who says he hates feminism (a) doesn’t understand or know feminism, and (b) is scared of powerful women. Most attacks come from fear.

I like this and agree with it, and I also think it goes both ways. I understand why PUA’s attack feminism — they’ve felt sexually marginalized for most of their lives and so the prospect of feminine gaining power elicits a violent reaction from them. Feminists knee-jerk attack PUA’s for the exact same reason. But when you violently react to an idea, you’re giving it power by doing so. Feminism as an idea and philosophy doesn’t bother me so much because I don’t see gender power as a zero-sum game. Empowering women around me does not lower my power for myself and vice-versa. I think that’s where a lot of the feminist haters go wrong: they intuitively assume that by empowering the women around them, they will once again be subverted and lose the standing they’ve worked so hard to acquire.

Guys like that also end up dating only really weak and pathetic women… No thanks. There are more posts in the pipeline on this subject.

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19 Responses to The Pick Up Artist and the Feminist

  1. ^Chris* says:

    I think it’s interesting how congruent feminism and “PUA” are.

    Both trying to understand & boost qualities/abilities which have been culturally weakened or ignored.

    • Mark says:

      I agree… I’m no expert on feminism, but it seems that its premises and the PUA community’s premises have a lot in common:

      – Sexual empowerment and freedom of sexual expression
      – Open and honest dialogue about gender relations
      – A focus on personal development
      – Pockets of misogyny and misandry within each movement

  2. Frozen Flame says:

    Sinn has just started a “war” on Neil: http://sinnsofattraction.blogspot.com/2011/04/war-on-game.html

  3. Nicholas says:

    I like Mystery, Neil Strauss et al. At least I like them as historical characters, whose reported antics catalyzed me into changing for the better. If it weren’t for Neil Strauss’ book, I probably never would have heard of Mark or bought Conversation Demolition (and am about to buy a Pickuptube premium thing, but forgot my password so had to have it e-mailed..)

    It’s easy to criticize those guys – they got pretty far out there. It was early and they were experimenting. But, as entertainment, they, and The Game are good value. As advice and counsel, not so much. But even if I never got anything but The Game, it would have gotten me out of a rut and looking at the world of women in a new way.

    A lot, maybe most dating coaches working today owe a debt to those guys for making the biz big and prominent enough to monetize it. I suspect Neil Strauss is a super smart and talented guy. Writing for Rolling Stone, The New York Times, etc is a tough gig to come by. Hanging out with rock stars is probably great traiing for how to behave around (certain) women. Still, I suspect I would not like the guy in person.

    • Mark says:

      I agree. I absolutely would not be here if it weren’t for Neil, so for that, I owe him something. As far as him as a person… honestly, I don’t really care. I do my thing, he can do his.

  4. Ethan says:

    Sinn is butt-hurt, so what? Why take any “pua guru’s” word as sanctimonious? Because Sinn spews hate against a number of people, does that mean his cult following should take heed?

    Step out of the shadows, and be your own.

    P.S. Any person that brutally attacks their competition like this shows how insecure they are in their biz.

  5. Jon says:

    Hey Mark, great post. I think, though, that you might have miscontrued Neil’s quote here: “On some levels male sexuality is everywhere in society, but on the other hand it’s completely repressed: Men are afraid to show it because it will make them socially unacceptable as well as less sexually desirable.”

    I think Neil’s saying that that’s how men feel, not that that’s an accurate reflection of reality. Otherwise, great stuff.

  6. jeff says:

    “Feminism as an idea and philosophy doesn’t bother me so much because I don’t see gender power as a zero-sum game. Empowering women around me does not lower my power for myself and vice-versa”
    I really love this quote. I feel that there is often a ton of PUA hate over feminism for reasons that don’t reflect what it means(though even that has a spectrum) I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard feminism and weak men strung together as if its the only possible combination that feminism allows.

  7. Pontius says:

    Recently had a quite interesting discussion with one of my female friends on that.
    As for me, I really like strong women and always tend to date this type of women. Nonetheless I am not much of a fan of feminism (as I experience it in Germany).
    Mainpoint: Equal rights for shure, but that does not equal equality. I am (and I think we all are) deeply convinced, that there are some big innate differences, which are in parts still poorly understood. From mpov we are to accept and integrate these differences into a mature gender-relationship at eye-level and not (as our local feminist representatives do) fight them, pretend them to be forced by society, or just repress them. As a psychologist I can tell that repression is almost never a good way to cope with problems…

    • Mark says:

      This is actually a big problem with this subject. I was initially turned off by feminism for the exact same reasons (I believe there are innate differences and in some scenarios the genders SHOULD be treated differently).

      But apparently there are branches of feminism that agree with this. There are also branches of feminism that believe in a rigorous “everything’s equal” philosophy. The whole movement is kind of a mess and there’s no monolithic point of view anymore it seems.

      What I’ve discovered after reading about it a little more is that the general philosophy (empowerment and equality of women and their sexuality) of feminism I’m fine with. But there are many feminists specifically who are obnoxious or repulsive. As with any movement, the adherents range pretty widely.

      • Nicholas says:

        From my reading there are deep divides inside the “feminist” camp, often along age lines. The “2nd wave” feminists of the 70’s contorted their positions for political reasons. By the mid 90’s even susan faludi and naomi wolf were dressing “sexy.”

        http://harpers.org/archive/2010/10/0083140

      • Nusz says:

        “As with any movement, the adherents range pretty widely.”

        now there’s a newsflash that the planet needed a few thousand years ago.

    • Nicholas says:

      Keine Zweifel – Feminismus in Deutschland ist anders als Amerika. Die “Emma” Typen zB

  8. Dr. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for putting this up and having such a refreshing perspective. As you say, “gender power” doesn’t have to be “a zero-sum game”. But, sometimes that perspective is hard to reach for Men (and Women) who may have had difficulty with the opposite sex in the past. Do you think it takes a certain amount of dating/relationship success (and people getting their own needs met) before they can truly see the win-win?

    • Mark says:

      You know… honestly I don’t know what kind of effect relationship success plays, and what you would define as “success” in this instance.

      What I mean is, a lot of guys who are very success players are incredibly misogynistic. The PUA industry is prime example. I’ve come across a few man-hating feminists in my day who also had more than their share of suitors at any given time.

      What I think it has more to do with is psychology. I have a post coming up on this, but I think misogynistic guys have some ugly history with women hurting them… whether it was their mother, family members or early girlfriends (or all of the above). I imagine femi-nazis have a similar profile with men in their past. I imagine the best way to attack this stuff would be through therapy and introspection, rather than outward sexual or romantic success.

      • Dr. Jeremy says:

        Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle?

        Coming from a “therapy” type background, I certainly see where that is a piece of the equation. Especially when there is deep hurt, trauma, family issues, etc. For some people, introspection and counseling are truly necessary before they can have the right outlook…even though they may already have hundreds of notches on their bedpost. It isn’t a bad idea for anyone looking to improve and understand their self anyway.

        For others though, I think that the “practical” help of a dating coach might also be a great benefit towards getting that outlook. Especially for the Men who are “stuck”, or “having a hard time” with Women…but have not yet slipped into misogyny. Like me, I’m sure you’ve seen a frustrated guy’s whole outlook turn around for the better when he has enough skill to get that first kiss, number, or girlfriend. Sure, some PUAs take that to a place of “conquest”, but it can also be about finally relating and connecting in a positive way. About getting needs met without a power struggle.

        I’m glad you’re out here doing what you’re doing. It is a benefit to Men. It’s good talking with you too.

        • Mark says:

          “Like me, I’m sure you’ve seen a frustrated guy’s whole outlook turn around for the better when he has enough skill to get that first kiss, number, or girlfriend.”

          Absolutely… I have. And you’re right, it’s somewhere in the middle, depending on the guy. A lot of these guys just have pent up frustration. Others have deep-seated issues and trauma. A few have both. But I suppose a combination of counseling/introspection ALONG with the outer successes, affection and validation would be best. Of course, this is assuming it’s all interpreted in a healthy manner.

          As usual, this shit gets really complicated. lol.

  9. Nicholas says:

    Mark wrote:
    “I think misogynistic guys have some ugly history with women hurting them… whether it was their mother, family members or early girlfriends (or all of the above). I imagine femi-nazis have a similar profile with men in their past.”

    There is a ton of reality in there, based on my experience. I would add that male-parental modeling plays a role as well. In the movie, “Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer,” the (eventual) serial killer does not himself suffer direct abuse but witnesses his invalid father’s anguish as his wife, drunk, brings home men to fuck while the father sees.

    Another data point exeplefying the disconnect with older feminists would be the dating habits of powerful feminists of the time. Gloria Steinem (she of the ‘women need a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ comment)dated only powerful “alpha” men. “Feminist” Jane Fonda did the same (Ted Turner).

    Given where the dating “industry” (formerly PUA community) is headed, an aware feminist should not, IMO, be exercised.

  10. I just found your blog, and I’m flattered that you already seem to have found and written about my interview. I agree that some feminists and some PUAs have a lot in common and could create some really interesting music together.

    I was linked to your blog from the comments on this post:
    http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2011/04/18/guest-post-detrimental-attitudes-of-the-pickup-artist-community/

    You might also be interested in this other post I wrote, and the comments:
    http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2011/03/23/ethical-pick-up-artistry/

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