Archive for February, 2010

Sex, Pickup Artists, and Marriage

February 8, 2010

Pleased as I am to be The Weekly Standard’s designated foil for Roissy in DC, I can’t help but quibble with how the talented Charlotte Allen puts this in her enjoyable but flawed argument about modern dating, sex, and marriage:

Earlier that year Roissy got into an online contretemps with Conor Friedersdorf, a frequent guest-blogger for Andrew Sullivan, over the “neg,” a pickup artist tactic that involves teasing an especially attractive woman about her looks instead of complimenting them, on the theory that she probably gets so many compliments that she brushes them off. It’s an updated version of Lord Chesterfield’s dictum to his son that “a decided and conscious beauty looks upon every tribute paid to her beauty only as her due, but wants to shine and to be considered on the side of her understanding.” Friedersdorf, however, declared that the negger’s intention “is to reduce her self-esteem, or even worse to play on her insecurities with the knowledge that some women react to that technique by having sex or hooking up as a coping mechanism.” Roissy responded by making fun of Friedersdorf’s name.

In the Roissy approach, the neg isn’t reserved exclusively for “especially attractive” women. It is a standard ploy used during average pickup attempts. Furthermore, the neg isn’t an updated version of Lord Chesterfield’s dictum! The technique doesn’t consider a woman “on the side of her understanding.” It assumes that regardless of the woman’s intellect, she’ll react to a put down in a manner favorable to the pursuer. Insofar as she is given credit for possessing intelligence at all, it is deemed a non-factor. And I doubt Roissy himself would disagree with my observation that those who use the technique are deliberately trying to reduce the self-esteem of their targets — he talks of taking them off their pedestals — or that “pickup artists” are sometimes coached to target negs at what they perceive to be the particular insecurities of their targets.

My larger objection to Ms. Allen’s piece is how readily she accepts the pseudo-science of the pickup artist community. For example:

If it all sounds cheesy, tedious, manipulative, obvious, condescending to women, maybe kind of gay, it’s because it is. But here’s the rub: This stuff works. If you think men who peacock look ridiculous and unmanly, click onto the photo-website Hot Chicks With Douchebags, where spectacular-looking babes hang on the pecs of preening rednecks and “Jersey Shore”-style guidos sporting chest-baring shirts and product-stiffened fauxhawks. Watch the video “Learn Enough Guitar to Get Laid” on YouTube (three chords, max). In June 2005, Craig Malisow, a reporter for the Houston Press, trailed 24-year-old Bashev, a Bulgarian-born graduate student in engineering at Rice University and self-styled pickup expert, to a series of bars and clubs in Houston. Bashev had no intention of telling the 20-something HBs he met that his day job consisted of working with multivariable calculus. Instead he pointed to his shoes and informed them that he was a “foot model.” Then he launched into his canned opener: Did they think reality shows were “really real”? Sure, two groups of females on whom Bashev tried that line rolled their eyes and smirked, but three bars (and the same routine) later, he was relaxing in a lounge chair reading a shapely brunette’s palm (chick crack plus “kino,” a Mystery-ism that refers to getting a woman to crave your touch), and soon enough “her fingers were gently grasping the backs of his wrists,” Malisow observed. Within minutes, Bashev had not only number-closed but gotten a date for the following Wednesday.

That’s her proof that “this stuff works”: a guy approaches several groups of women at multiple bars, strikes out time after time, and eventually finds someone willing to give him a phone number and a first date. Is anyone else underwhelmed? Show me the control group where a man utterly unaware of the pickup artists spends a night doggedly approaching women at multiple bars. I’ll bet you he gets a phone number and a date by the end of the night too.

Elsewhere in the piece, Ms. Allen notes that some argue “it is actually beta men who are the greatest victims of the current mating chaos: the ones who work hard, act nice, and find themselves searching in vain for potential wives and girlfriends among the hordes of young women besotted by alphas.”

It is an argument she ultimately embraces:

The whole point of the sexual and feminist revolutions was to obliterate the sexual double standard that supposedly stood in the way of ultimate female freedom. The twin revolutions obliterated much more, but the double standard has reemerged in a harsher, crueler form: wreaking havoc on beta men and on beta women, too, who, as the declining marriage rate indicates, have trouble finding and securing long-term mates in a supply-saturated short-term sexual marketplace.

A declining marriage rate alone is partly evidence for the proposition that beta men and women in today’s sexual marketplace are having more trouble than before “finding and securing long-term mates.” Yet it is the only evidence on offer for a proposition central to the article’s thesis, and the worldviews of numerous men in the pickup artist community.