The only web comic I read is XKCD. It's smart, funny, and often times educational. I'm a fan. The latest comic is a criticism of pickup. There ARE certainly valid criticisms of pickup, but Randall took a cheap and inaccurate shot at it. I've shrunken it below, but you can see the original here.
I'm one of the main characters of The Game, have been going out every night since February first (except the last week, where I got caught up on some work), and am friends with most of guys who contributed substantially to the pickup community. In other words, I know what I'm talking about.
All of those guys are either too busy to defend pickup, or just sick of having to do it yet again. But hey, it's Thursday night and I haven't written a blog post this week, so I'll take a crack at it.
In the first frame of the comic, the stick figure on the right says, "Pickup artists are dehumanizing creeps who see relationships as adverserial (sic) and women as sex toys."
Are there pickup artists out there with these attitudes? I'm sure there are. Are there non-pickup artists out there with these attitudes? Of course. Some men are assholes. Likewise there are girls out there who are dehumanizing creeps who see relationships as adversarial and men as piggy banks. Bad people exist.
I probably know as many pickup artists as just about anyone else. Back in the day I taught workshops around the US with Mystery, and met hundreds or thousands of students. A very very small minority were creepy. Most were genuinely nice guys who wanted to overcome shyness or learn some social skills.
In the next frame, Randall takes the obligatory shot at negging. The "neg" was invented by Mystery. He's a good friend of mine, and we lived together for about a year. We've talked about the neg. The point of a neg isn't to undermine a girl's confidence (do you REALLY think that's possible with an extremely hot girl in a club?). The point is to signal that you aren't intimidated by her and will treat her like a normal person. My friends and I make fun of each other in a joking way all the time-- the response is always laughter, or maybe a counter-retort. With girls the response is usually something along the lines of a joking, "You jerk!" and playfully pushing you on the shoulder. It's banter.
Last night I was sitting next to a girl at a cafe. I made fun of her for accidentally spilling water on herself. She made fun of me for wearing dumb looking flip-flops. We were both laughing. It's all in good fun-- call it negging, or teasing, or banter, either way it's playful and friendly.
Some people, like Randall, don't understand what a neg is. Unlike Randall, they actually go into the field and incorrectly try to neg a girl. A friend told me that he saw a guy go up to a girl and say, "Your haircut sucks. You're probably the ugliest girl in this club." I don't know if he was trying to neg, or if he was just an asshole, but this will never work. Insulting a girl is not effective. Playfully teasing her is. If a girl retorts with a neg, you won't be insulted-- you'll be engaged.
In the next frame of the comic, the "good guy" stick figure says to, "talk to them like a fucking human being." It's tough to know exactly what that means, so let me attack it from a different angle. A really effective opener, which I think was invented by Discovery at Venusian Arts, is to walk up to a girl and say something along the lines of, "I've noticed a lot of guys hitting on you. How are they doing on a scale from one to five?" After a response, you follow up with, "Let me guess... what's your name? Where do you live? What do you do for work?"
This opener gets huge reactions. Why? Because all of the guys talking like "fucking human being(s)" are boring and so obviously failing to attract the girls, that the girls think it's hilarious. Why not try to be better than normal?
But even if you disagree and think that normal is a good place to be, what about people who CAN'T talk like a normal human being? What happens to people who didn't happen to develop normal social skills? Why is it so evil and manipulative for them to try to learn them? Things like bantering (a.k.a. negging), good storytelling, good body language and eye contact, are things "normal" people do well. They're also, not coincidentally, what we teach students. You can't just tell them to talk like a "fucking human being", you have to show them what that means.
In the next two frames, a girl's date leaves and the wannabe pickup artist approaches. This, again, demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what pickup is about. Waiting for a girl to be isolated is predatory, weak, and strategically unsound. It's much better to approach when she's with the guy and make friends with both of them. Otherwise you make the girl feel really uncomfortable because you've waited until she's vulnerable to approach, and you'll be in a tricky spot when the date comes back.
In the rightmost frame in the middle, the pickup artist opens with what Randall thinks a neg is. No one I know who is halfway good at pickup would ever say anything close to this. First of all, you don't insult a girl's weight. Second, you don't ask a boring question like, "How's the fruit plate?"
The girl recognizes that it's a neg in the next frame. Really,it's more of an insult than a neg, but I can see a girl familiar with pickup calling it a neg and being pissed. Fair enough.
Next the girl tears apart the guy, basically saying that he'll be stuck in mediocrity forever because "IT'S WHO YOU ARE".
I've been "caught" doing pickup a few times. With most girls I talk to for any length of time, the topic comes up anyway because they ask about the books I've written. If I've done anything pickupy, like use a canned opener, I tell them that the opener was canned, and explain why and how we use them. I might be forgetting something, but I can't remember a single time any of this prompted a bad reaction.
Girls are fascinated with this stuff and tend to understand it. Just tonight, a girl we met a week ago (and opened using a canned opener) got us into a club and then hung out with us opening more groups of girls. It's fun. A few weeks ago a couple girls were so intrigued that they opened a group of guys using our openers.
But anyway, back to the comic. I think the girl's response is harsh, but reasonably appropriate given that she was just approached by a random stranger and tactlessly insulted. The interesting thing about her diatribe is that it reveals a hypocrisy in Randall's attitude towards pickup. He seems to want people to "just be themselves" but his character is, at the same time, telling the guy that he isn't good enough. "That cycle of mediocrity isn't due to some obstacle. It's who you are."
The irony is that his statement applies perfectly to guys who AREN'T pickup artists and have mediocre dating lives. It's not due to some obstacle, it's due to who they are. And when a guy is faced with the harsh truth he has to improve himself to have a better dating life, he can either ignore that and dismiss pickup wholesale, or he can begin down the difficult road of learning social skills, understanding women, and becoming the kind of guy that girls want to be with. That's what pickup is.
I absolutely understand where you are coming from with this, and why you are trying to defend the PUA community.
Here's the problem, though.
Now, granted, I'm an outsider. I am not a part of the PUA community. I have certainly read quite a few articles written by men in the PUA community. Leaders. Or if not leaders necessarily, certainly members with quite a large following. Those articles can range from reasonable and helpful (similar to your response here) to downright disgusting and unquestionably misogynistic. And certainly, the latter (being more inflammatory) gets more attention.
But it doesn't get more attention simply because it is inflammatory. If that were true, a large portion of the comments on those sites would be argumentative. In fact, what I have seen is a huge outpouring of concurring with said nastiness. Most often, these are men who, because they have been repeatedly rejected, have turned to bitterness and misogyny. Sometimes these are men who started out misogynistic and used the contents of those articles to justify their misogyny. And sometimes these are men who didn't start out misogynistic, but read the articles and realized that PUA is not only a way to change their lives, but also a way to put some of the blame on their past failures with women on the women themselves by mentally devaluing them as a whole. (Let me clarify this for a moment: There is value in "devaluing" individual women, in the sense that many of these men focused on only one woman and put her on a pedestal, so to speak, and by devaluing individual women they are able to reduce the pain of rejection. This is healthy to some extent. But it becomes not healthy when they instead - as they often seem to do - devalue women in general, across the board.)
The more virulent members of the PUA community encourage this kind of thing. That's why 'negging' isn't called 'teasing'... it's called 'negging' because you are pointing out something negative. The PUAs whom I have read have described negging in a VERY different way than you describe here... as quite literally a way to take women down a notch and make her desperate to earn the man's approval.
And these more virulent members also seem to be both the most public ones - or at least the ones shouting the loudest. So, as with any kind of group, this is what any non member (such as Randall) is going to picture when they think of PUAs.
You may think that what you are doing here is 'setting people straight' about the PUA. Unfortunately, that's not really what's happening. You outright dismiss that the misogynistic vein of the PUA is anything more than what is present outside the PUA, and that is simply not true. And here's why: in normal society, extremely misogynistic people, particularly those who are PUBLIC and LOUD about their misogyny get shouted down, because people find misogyny so repulsive. Within the PUA community, however, they are, if not celebrated, they are acknowledged as having something valuable to say, or at the VERY least are somewhat ignored. Not shouted down. Not condemned. The PUA community is not policing its own. If your views of the PUA are truly the mainstream and majority opinion, why are you not addressing the loud vein of misogynists using your name to spout ugly rhetoric?
THAT needs to be your priority. Not defending the community against attacks from the outside. But addressing the real poison on the inside that is spurring those attacks in the first place. Or, barring that, not calling yourselves by the same name as those who have hijacked it. Creating a place for men who genuinely want to learn social skills, who want to grow and learn as people, and be more socially successful without thinking of women as objects to be won or used and then discarded. Because there definitely IS use for that. But you can't expect society at large to view the community that way with it in the state it is in today.
Good post. There's no doubt in my mind that 'negging' is distinct from 'teasing' or 'banter'. And there's also no doubt that, within the PUA community, there is a high level of tolerance of extreme non-politically correct opinions ; even from those who do not hold such opinions themselves. The reasons for this are complex and I don't particularly want to a commit to a position on that - but I agree that it is unreasonable for the community to not expect to be criticised for this by society at large.
In the end though, it is probably also a misunderstanding of social dynamics to expect anything much other than general hostility to a way of thinking that seeks to radically undermine the social orthodoxy.
I think perhaps you need to learn to laugh at yourself a little Tynan...
I can't find anywhere to put up my own comment. Sorry, Douglas!
You've made a lot of good points here, and even though I'm not likely to use pickup lines anytime soon, I appreciated what you had to say. But I do think you crossed the line in a couple of places. Firstly, all fans of XKCD know that Randall stives for humor first, except in some rare cases. Secondly, there will always be someone who uses pickup lines the wrong way. These are the people you should be getting onto, because people tend to pay more attention to bad impressions more than good ones.
I went through a period of significant interest in the PUA community after I read The Game, which, as an avid reader, I thought was a phenomenally well-written book about a topic that most men are most interested in: sex with beautiful women.
That's about as far into the PUA community as I could get. Problem is that I realized I was doing a lot of this stuff naturally, because it's who I am. I felt it to be abhorrent somewhere deep down inside me that guys were faking these 'triggers' to manipulate women into having sex with them. As you say, this may not always be the case, but as a savvy commenter pointed out, it seems to be the case with many men in the community.
The problem, as I see it, is the 'fake it until you make it' mentality. These 'tricks' PUA's are 'discovering' that 'work' are because they are behaviors that men who are actually smart, interesting, confident, etc. actually portray. Men should be concentrating on becoming interesting, more cultured, well-read, well-traveled, etc. and THEN they will attract women.
It's the spiritual bankruptcy of our culture. We are entering a period of hedonism like before the fall of Rome where all we think about is immediate pleasure. Boys aren't trying to become men anymore, they are trying to pretend they are men so they can sleep with women, who, let's face it, are often easily manipulated emotionally, and then, being emotional creatures, sexually.
It's one thing if you are the rare man who is just genuinely learning to be more of a man in a culture that doesn't encourage or teach us in anyway, but from what I've seen and read, this isn't the case for most of these guys. At best it's a curiosity and a game, at worst it's making up for a deep lack of something better in their character.
The fact that women feel the need to get plastic surgery and wear push-up bras doesn't make it better. That's a symptom of the same problem. The sheep are being lead astray to the detriment of our culture.
damn, dude. You hit the nail squarely on the head! I was trying to come to grips with the fact that I cannot belittle men for trying to get what they want, but at the same time feeling a bit sick in my stomach that people view procreation/promiscuity/mating as a "game". You're 100% right - work on becoming an interesting, intelligent, witty, well-traveled person and the rest will just fall in place. I'm sure this "tactic" works in every aspect of life and not just on sexual ventures.
And that bit about hedonism and the fall of Rome: brilliant. I've often thought we are at the height of society technically, but that socially we are diseased. Spirituality is a personal thing, so I don't think it's a necessary part of society, but I often equate spirituality with "personal intelligence", if you will. Knowing who you are and what you're about and being "at peace with yourself" is perhaps the start of all personal spirituality.
Anyway, I just agree with your views and am excited to see what the future holds after the next "fall of Rome". I wonder if society will be clearly divided, similar to H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, or everyone will pay for the mistakes or the few.
And I have to say one more thing, I'm sure its on many peoples minds. What is actually wrong with treating women as sex toys? What is wrong with women treating men as sex toys? Are we supposed to only have 'meaningful relationships' with people we have sex with? Is this some christian/muslim universe?
There is a difference between respecting someone and not being in arelationship, and objectifying them.
"In a culture with widespread sexual objectification, women (especially) tend to view themselves as objects of desire for others. This internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (clinical depression, “habitual body monitoring”),eating disorders, body shame, self-worth and life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, sexual dysfunction [PDF], access to leadership [PDF] and political efficacy [PDF]. Women of all ethnicities internalize objectification, as do men to a far lesser extent."
Jonsa, would you like someone to treat you as a sex toy? The problem is that if you don't have meaningful relationships with those people now, it makes your future relationships a lot less meaningful. Big trouble if you get married, right?
And people, please keep in mind that the main point of this comic in particular is the humor of the neg-er becoming the neg-ee. I'm sure Randall realizes that few things about dating are in black-and-white.
Tynan, you're a very positive guy. You come across as liking people in general, and women too.
Not all PUAs are the same. I was stunned to recently read another PUA's blog applauding a 41-year-old high school teacher - who left his family to shack up with his 18-year-old student - as "Alpha Male of the month," and in another post slamming single moms and their "hellion spawn."
Among PUAs, I'm not sure his beliefs are such a minority.
Not only does society not teach social skills, but it often tries to dissuade you from wanting to have them. When I was a nerdy kid who couldn't make friends, adults kept telling me that it was okay, because being a nerd means I'll be the next Bill Gates and all the "cool" kids will work for me when I grow up. They feed you this kind of tripe instead of just encouraging you to put the fantasy books away and go play some baseball with the other kids.
When I had bad social skills, few people thought I could get better, and almost as few thought I should even want to. And as I've gotten better, just as few people can believe that I used to be terrible. So I've just come to accept that most people won't ever view social skills as learnable like other skills; they put up this false dichotomy between what you DO (which changes) and what you ARE (which somehow can't possibly change), and social skills get put into the what you are category. So forget them; haters gonna hate, and players gonna play.
Its all about attitude. If you go in there with good intent, fun-loving attitude and rile people up anamazing cycle of fun will start. This is why people who view life as an adventure, people who are always amused, excited, always taking on new challenges and all-around chill get along with women and people so well. They just have such a good attitude about things that its contagious
Really I think you're upset that your "trick dumb girls into talking to you" powers were called into question. PUA doesn't work on any girl with more than 3 braincells, and the smarter ones not only think its funny when guys try it, they also don't "fall" for it and recognize it for the scumbag get-your-dick-wet-as-quickly-as-possible technique it is. Grow up.
You have very poor reading comprehension. Any respectable (and successful) pickup artist understands that pickup isn't about "tricking" someone into bed, it's about conveying a sense of "this man is worth sleeping with" value that the PUA already has toward an end that both parties ultimately want. And why should he be faulted for this?
Tynan, I find your blog almost always interesting & engaging. Even posts on subjects I don't have any real interest in (e.g. tea, poker) are well-written, informative, and fun. I learn stuff & I like your approach & worldview.
BUT... I've got to say that I find these posts about 'pick-up' to be shallow, worthless bullsh!t.
This culminates today in your defensive hissy fit about a webcomic poking fun at the 'scene'. C'mon, it's satire, surely?
Your blog obviously, so you can do what you like with it. But the 'pick-up' stuff is the black fly in the Chardonnay, IMHO.
I am an adult and read your response to the cartoon (optimistically, I admit) as satire, but could not continue when I read "In the next frame of the comic, the good guy' stick figure says to, 'talk to them like a fucking human being.' It's tough to know exactly
what that means..." So, I wish you all well and encourage you to stay away from women entirely, and to fuck your hand until it falls off.
Mystery's show on VH1, The Pickup Artist, has gotten a lot of mainstream attention. As a result there are scores of people in that audience trying to wrap their minds around this whole "pick up thing".
I've read a few message boards where people are discussing the show, and almost universally trying to discredit the pick up. Why are people so against pickup? First instinct might be to assume that girls would be against it, but that guys would all be excited about it. Think about it - it promises to fulfill the #1 goal for nearly every man on the planet.
Here's what I think is happening.
In a relationship, am I wrong in thinking that its essentially a guy's job to chase the woman and the woman's to keep the man? Of course I only mean on the surface because relationship stuffs is normally just a mess.
Just to point out that I'm really just talking about 'on the surface' so no I'm not saying that that's how it really is, I'm saying that's pretty much how its viewed.
Ok lets get started! So the situations I've been, considering the small amount of life experience I have, are not enough to prove or support anything, so I'm going to focus on situations older people would be more likely to find themselves in. Oh, that and girls' school doesn't really give you that much experience with guys in a school environment (no shit XD)
It's expected of a guy to start conversation with a girl, chat them up or just talk, its expected of a guy to pick up a girl, not the other way round. It's even viewed that a girl who starts flirting with a guy is slutty or desperate, in contrast (most ._.) guys are viewed as confident when they approach a girl. In my opinion I feel like that view is only subjected by the respective genders towards themselves: girls feel that girls who flirt are slutty but guys feel they're confident and attractive, and girls find guys creepy almost full stop XD
And then when a couple gets together, although the man is expected to try keep their girl happy, make cute gestures and compliment her make her happy etc etc that's pretty much cliché since it's just guys trying to fulfil the Prince Charming role. Not saying they shouldn't cuz we girls like that XD But it's always been viewed that the woman is the home maker, its her job to take care of the emotional crap mostly and her job to keep herself in check to be the woman her man wants. Once again, not saying that's not how it should be.