The Rules vs. PUA

(Content note: I’ve gone through stages where I found all PUA literature completely maddening. It wasn’t good for me to read it. I’m now in a stage where I find it interesting in an anthropological sense, but if you’re not there, this post might just give you high blood pressure. Possibly there are people who react similarly to The Rules.)

During my first year in college, I read The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. RightIt seemed pretty silly.

Recently, reading a critique of the pickup artistry writer Heartiste, I was thinking about the similarities between The Rules and pickup artist methods.

Selected Rules:

  • Be a “Creature Unlike Any Other” (and by “unlike any other,” they mean “like we say”: this chapter is advice on how to dress, walk, talk, and breathe in a feminine way. I am not kidding about the breathing.)
  • Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance)
  • Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much
  • Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date
  • Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls
  • Don’t Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday (but you’re not allowed to tell him that this is a rule, so he has to somehow figure out that if he asks you on Thursday you are always “busy”)
  • Always End the Date First
  • Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day
  • Don’t See Him More than Once or Twice a Week
  • No More than Casual Kissing on the First Date
  • Don’t Tell Him What to Do
  • Let Him Take the Lead (don’t be the first to say “I love you”)
  • Don’t Expect a Man to Change or Try to Change Him
  • Don’t Open Up Too Fast
  • Be Honest but Mysterious (this chapter included advice on how to vaguely mention your drinking problem)
  • Don’t Live with a Man (or Leave Your Things in His Apartment)
  • Love Only Those Who Love You

Here is Heartiste’s version, which he actually calls The Sixteen Commandments Of Poon:

  • Never say ‘I Love You’ first
  • Make her jealous
  • You shall make your mission, not your woman, your priority
    (“Women . ..  in fact want to subordinate themselves to a worthy man’s life purpose, to help him achieve that purpose with their feminine support, and to follow the path he lays out.”)
  • Don’t play by her rules
  • Adhere to the golden ratio
    (“Give your woman 2/3 of everything she gives you.” Apparently he’s unaware that the golden ratio is not 2/3.)
  • Keep her guessing
  • Always keep two in the kitty
    (Keep “another woman, a safety net, to catch you in case you slip and risk a breakup”)
  • Say you’re sorry only when absolutely necessary
    (“You are granted two freebie “I’m sorry”s for the life of your relationship; use them wisely.”)
  • Connect with her emotions
  • Ignore her beauty
  • Be irrationally self-confident
  •  Maximize your strengths, minimize your weaknesses
  • Err on the side of too much boldness, rather than too little
  • Fuck her good
  • Maintain your state control
    (Presumably he meant to put an “of” in here, unless this is advice for dictators)
  • Never be afraid to lose her

The Rules are less offensively horrible than the 16 commandments, but both basically operate on playing hard to get – they increase demand by decreasing supply.

Both agree that men should make the sexual advances, though they disagree on which gender should be bending over backward to accommodate the other. The basic premise of The Rules is that women should screen men by being difficult to date, so that only men who really want you will pass your tests and you will weed out those who don’t really value you. I think the PUA take on this is that women want to marry beta males who will pay for everything, then they have affairs with exciting, dominant alpha males. That doesn’t match my perception of reality, but I don’t know how much data anyone really has about this.

The main thing the authors seem to have in common is that they seem to be writing advice that will sell rather than anything particularly true or useful. The authors don’t seem especially well qualified. Of the series’ two authors, one has never married and the other is divorced and remarried. Heartiste also gives advice about what kind of woman it’s acceptable to marry, but I’ll just point out that he has 92 posts tagged “Marriage is for Chumps.”

I suspect that either of these strategies works fairly well at getting you partners. But I think they’re pretty terrible if you aren’t into strict gender roles, if you like people who won’t keep pursuing you after you feign disinterest, or if you don’t like playing manipulative mind games. Jeff and I would have missed out on a great marriage if we had tried to follow either strategy. I’m certainly glad we didn’t each wait around for the other to jump through a bunch of hoops.

Assorted other thoughts:

  • Jeff’s take on all this is that lots of people want a partner who will be in charge/sweep them off their feet, and there just aren’t enough such people of any gender to go around, so we all have to be willing to pitch in.
  • I’m amused by imagining a date between a “Rules girl” and a PUA. Neither would pay for anything, and neither would be allowed to call each other afterwards. If they did love each other, neither would be allowed to say so.
  • The whole PUA movement made more sense to me after reading about how disagreeable people have more sex partners. One reason for all those rants about women they meet in bars are mean is that unpleasant people are more likely to hang around in bars looking for sex.
  • My favorite reading about the PUA/seduction scene is this thesis by a woman whose brother became involved with the scene.
  • Edit: Jenny points out that Randall Munroe, as usual, is ahead of me.


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