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.