Book Review: The Game, and Dating Advice for Men

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The Rules of the Game

Before I get into why I think it is unfair to criticize, I want to explain a little bit about pickup, at least what I could understand from reading the book. The most important point is that the 'rules of The Game' are set by women. Strauss was not the first to refer to dating as The Game, and considering the hoops women make men jump through (often without our knowledge) I feel it is an apt descriptor. Generally, the men who get into pickup are considerate but bumbling nerds, socially awkward but romantic college students, and older men who have given their wives all of their attention only to be divorced for some jerk. In short, all those adorable nice guys women say they want all the time but are never actually attracted to (to paraphrase Strauss). Yes, some of them are bitter, but the characters in the book are more often simply at the end of the their rope. They have tried doing what women say they want and found nothing but rejection. Then they hear of some guy saying he can teach them how to be successful with women, whether that means sleeping around, finding the girl of their dreams and marrying her, or simply being able to talk to women without freezing up. It is difficult to convey to a woman just how redemptive that promise is to a guy who would break into cold sweats at the sight of any female.

Pickup is based on teaching men how to be attractive to women. As women are attracted to self-assured, confident, put-together men, pickup is largely about cultivating an attitude of self-confidence and positivity. Pickup has gotten a lot of criticism for its use of routines, which are seen as fake and therefore manipulative. Strauss spends a lot of time describing the transition from awkward, mechanical routines that all beginners in any endeavor must learn, to intuitive social calibration that enables master pickup artists to be comfortable on the spot. According to the book, successful pickup artists are simply able to let their true personalities come out in situations that normally stifle them. They are able to be playful, interesting to women, good conversationalists, confident leaders of men, and internally consistent with their own values. These are the things that women like, which makes sense because these are also the things that indicate success in life generally.

What Do You Really Want?

Criticism comes from all over it seems. A recent episode of Dr. Phil featured some pickup artists sent into a bar to demonstrate their craft. They were not told, however, that that another PUA was also sent in, instructed to be antagonistic, and was filmed by women with secret cameras confronting the first two. These two were then attacked by a women brought on to the show who had been hurt by some guy who wasn't a pickup artist (probably what Strauss refers to as a natural who just takes advantage of women because they are inexplicably attracted to his jerkiness). The show was titled "Women Beware," as if there was this group of men out there preying on unsuspecting young ladies, hypnotizing them without their consent. There have been a lot of other criticisms (just Google pickup or The Game. I found that most articles out there are criticisms).

Whether or not this characterization of pickup artists is true, it neglects to acknowledge the vast literature out there teaching women how to attract men. In truth, the only difference between the two is that men usually (by women's own preference) have to seek out the women. Go to any self-help: relationship section in any major bookstore. You will see five or six books on dating for men, a few of them on pickup, and hundreds on dating for women. Many of them are about finding and keeping the 'man of your dreams' but a huge proportion are about enjoying one-night stands, picking up men in bars and clubs, ways to act other than you would in the company of friends to interest and seduce men, etc. Basically, all the things that critics cite as depraved in the pickup community. The TV series Sex and the City was basically the female version of pickup, and while it certainly got a huge amount of criticism for its depiction of promiscuity in women, it was inspiring and empowering to a lot of women for the same reason The Game was inspiring to a lot of men. The difference is, the secret arts of attracting men are an acknowledged and accepted part of the rite of passage for women. When it comes to learning how to attract women, men are told you either have it or you don't, and if you don't, you're stuck because trying to learn it makes you worse than the jerk frat boys who have it naturally but abuse it. (When I say attract women, I mean really attract women, not just buying her flowers and dinner and hoping she 'picks' you. The bulk of traditional dating advice for men is mostly about how to not not attract women).

Women Are Not Stupid

To be fair, there were characters in The Game who were only in it for personal gain, and were desperate perverts just looking to get women into bed with no interest or concern in their personalities. These men tended to be highly unsuccessful with women because, who knew, women aren't stupid! They can see through the insincerity. Strauss pointed out that, even with all the routines and canned conversation starters beginning pickup artists use to help them navigate social situations that have left them paralyzed their whole lives, there must be at least a hint of sincere interest in a woman. Usually, it must be artfully disguised to avoid pushing the woman away, but it has to be there. Men who treat women like objects tend not to do well (unless they are natural jerks, like Tucker Max).

So my question to women is this: If you don't want to end up with the frat boys and boorish cads that us Nice Guys hated so much in college, why did you always go for them when we were right there carrying your books to class? Wouldn't you prefer if that awesome, sensitive guy-friend of yours could actually be someone you were also attracted to, if he'd just get out of his own way and let himself be interesting to you? It doesn't make sense why people are so critical of a community that purports to teach decent guys, who already care about women on a deeply emotional level, have respect for and admiration for them beyond the sexual, how to actually attract them. Isn't that exactly what women want? To be attracted to considerate, decent guys?

The last point I want to make is that this sort of thing used to be taught to all young men, as it was and is still taught to young women. Medieval nobility were taught the fine arts of courtship including such niceties as poetry, dance, and seduction. It wasn't seedy or manipulative. In fact, a women who was approached by a man without Game was justifiably insulted. It was a matter of respect to understand how the other sex thought. Now, to be so concerned is to be creepy...why is that? As Strauss points out in his book, even with all the Game in the world, ultimately even a master pickup artist never chooses the girl. She chooses him.

So get off your high horse and let us learn how to sweep you off your feet.

Obviously, this book resonated with me. I was quite the...uh, socially inept dude (to put it delicately) in college and high school, so I can appreciate the struggles of the men depicted. I'm open to dissenting opinions, or more info on pickup artists, the community, or The Game, since my research is limited. Post to the comments.