Tag Archives: gender

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.

Ghostbusters and rape

I had never actually seen Ghostbusters, so last night when the baby was sleeping(!) for six hours(!) Jeff and I decided to remedy the situation.

Jeff warned me beforehand, “You’re not going to like the gender stuff.” And he was right.

Billy Murray’s doofy character tries to impress a cool cellist played by Sigourney Weaver. Early on, there’s a scene where he comes to her apartment and declares that he’s madly in love with her. She rolls her eyes and tells him to leave. He resists, and she shoves him out of the apartment while he jams his foot in the door and pesters her for a kiss. “She thought I was a creep. She thought I was a geek,” he complains.

The scene isn’t supposed to be scary. Obviously Murray’s character is not going to sexually assault Weaver’s character. It’s a silly comedy, so the audience knows this.

And Murray’s character knows this. But the weird thing is, Weaver’s character also acts like she knows this. She doesn’t seem afraid that a man who came there ostensibly to rid the apartment of ghosts is now coming on to her. She just seems annoyed. It’s all a setup for him to rescue her at the end of the movie so she will finally come around and kiss him.

In real life, a person can play the equivalent of Bill Murray’s role. He knows how far he’s going to go, so he doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything scary or dangerous. But the aggressee doesn’t know whether it’s serious. And that’s what makes it frightening for her (or him, or whoever). That’s why she has to be more cautious than the situation probably warrants, and comes off as cold or humorless or overly defensive.  Because she doesn’t know whether the script they’re playing is a comedy or not.

(This isn’t just a problem with the 1980s. For all Joss Whedon’s feminist cred, note the number of times Inara tells Mal to get out of her shuttle and he doesn’t.)

Bad pronoun jokes

Edit: I’ve since been persuaded that being able to play around with pronouns is actually really valuable to trans people, particularly those who aren’t out. I retract this post.

Sometimes I’m at a gathering of people where, during introductions, someone suggests that we introduce ourselves with our names and our preferred pronouns. Most people introduce themselves with what you would expect (“I’m Julia and I prefer she/her”), and one person, usually the person who asked for the exercise to be added, has something more novel (“I’m Alex and I go by the gender-neutral pronouns ze/zim.”)

I’m still not sure how I feel about this protocol. The idea is that it places equal emphasis on everyone’s pronoun choice rather than one person having to introduce themselves with something special, but I think the effect is that everybody spends the exercise thinking, “Okay, who’s the outlier?” In theory transgender allies could suggest that every introduction everywhere include preferred pronouns, but I’ve never had the guts to do it. There are so many other pieces of data one might want to share during an introduction (“I’m Andrew and I have a cold, so I won’t be sitting too close to anyone”) that I don’t think it makes sense to make everyone repeat them all.

At such introduction sessions, there are always a few people who say, “I’m Rachel and I don’t care what pronouns you use with me – anything’s fine” Which is fine if he really has no preference about what pronouns other people call zer. Likewise the person who suggests “My preferred pronoun is zippy!” I doubt that this is what zippy actually prefers people use with zippy in daily life.

I’m sure there are people who genuinely don’t care. But my sense is that most of us have never experienced being consistently called by a non-preferred pronoun, and we would find it deeply weird if this started happening. It’s easy for me to not think about what it would be like if everyone started calling me “he” or “ze” or “zippy”, because it’s never happened to me. But my guess is that it would bother me. This is one of those cases where the joke is novel to the maker but not to the listener.

So answering with “I don’t care what pronouns you call me” or suggesting a joke pronoun is okay if you have really considered this and genuinely would be prefer it. But to me, it comes off as making light of how yucky it is for people to be called by pronouns they hate. Which is easier to do if you’ve never been in their shoes.