Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Who's Miss Choosy?

"Why aren't there more female pickup artists?," Jezebel wants to know. Why does no one ever identify the obvious? It's because we imagine that straight men, upon seeing a woman, have already made a yes-or-no decision based on appearance alone, and that nothing a woman does, however charming, can bring her from a 'no' to a 'yes.' Women, we moronically assume, don't do this, and are thus susceptible to silly hats, pseudo-insults. The pretext of "game" isn't just that confidence matters - which it does, to both sexes, and which is the kernel of reasonableness that tricks some into thinking "game" is sensible - but that women do not judge men using the initial-yes-or-no system. The idea that men care about looks while women don't is what's driving all this; the 'men are expected to be agressive, women passive' aspect is only the result of that initial assumption.


Paul Gowder said...

Clarification question if "that women do not judge men using the initial yes-or-no system" is a "pretext," that means it's true.

But if it's true, then doesn't that mean that confidence does not matter?

Phoebe said...

Pretext as in, if you believe in game, you believe this.

Confidence matters, for both sexes. But unless there are serious mitigating factors (the guy is a known billionaire and the woman's into that; the guy is Philip Roth; the recipient of the attention is particularly desperate/drunk), women, like men, make initial yes-or-no assessments. No amount of hat-waving or sly insulting turns a no into a yes. ('Yes', to be clear, is more accurately 'maybe' - as in, 'yes, but only if other factors are met.')

Phoebe said...

Or, to be more specific: I agree that behavior - confidence, techniques, whatever - can impact rejection or lack thereof, turning a maybe into a yes. Rarely is someone that stunning that looks make someone an immediate 'yes', and this goes, like the rest, for both sexes. What I object to is the idea that any man can get any woman, regardless of her initial impression. No one would dream of suggesting that men could be 'negged' or god knows what into lust for women they don't already find attractive.

Britta said...

My friend used to live in DC and ran into Mystery several times out on the town. He said Mystery was usually surrounded by several women who looked hot from a distance, but up close, something looked a little off, either just weirdness in facial features, or really bad acne, etc., which was covered up by pancake makeup and kind of slutty outfits. His point was that, while PUA may think they're getting "the most gorgeous women in the room," it sounds more like they attract insecure women who are probably seeking any male approval just as much as PUAs are "former" losers seeking any female attention. In other words, it sounds like PUAs are really only able to attract female versions of themselves, which makes sense.

PG said...

I don't think even the Game folks suggest that any man could get literally any woman; that is, they aren't claiming that if you want a specific named woman, you're definitely going to be able to get her with this method. Rather, you can get an anonymous, interchangeable "hottest woman in the room" with their method. Which, as Britta suggests, is probably true. And yes, Game works best on women with low self-esteem, but I caution people even about that group, because women like that are more likely to end up being stalkers when you drop them. My brother-in-law was a bit of a Game type (albeit before it was formalized and marketed -- he's astounded that someone has made money on this) in his younger days, and he had to take out two restraining orders. One woman broke into his apartment and called him from there.

Britta said...

Though, the women aren't actually "the hottest in the room," more like the "most made up and sluttily dressed in the room," which is different, though, judging from what I know of PUAs (which is actually quite a bit), they aren't able to tell the difference.

Phoebe said...


The like-goes-with-like idea does make sense. What I think both the pro-game and social conservatives have in common is an overestimation of the difference between what men and women want. Because most of the time, couples seem quite evenly matched in terms of confidence, looks, etc., suggesting that men and women are looking for overall quite similar characteristics.


The game types are promising, fine, not 100% success rates plus Gisele thrown in, but that men can radically switch 'league,' or more importantly as far as I'm concerned, that men can make women who don't find them attractive find them attractive. As in, it's not that PUAs might 'get' honest-to-goodness supermodels on occasion that I find disturbing - that's for the supermodels to worry about. It's that they're suggesting women should be tricked into dating men they don't get any pleasure from looking at. And romantic involvement with someone one finds attractive is, I think, important. Not a right, not something every last person cares about, but something most find important, or would if they had (yes, we're getting to this) higher self-esteem. Again, think about why no one would ever suggest that men could be tricked into romantic interest in women they don't find attractive. Sure, there's scheming, but it's always about extracting commitment from men already known to have checked 'yes' initially.

As for self-esteem, yes, this is key. It's not so much about men giving fake insults, I suppose, than about them finding the women who take these to heart. I'm surprised at the stalker situation though - I never thought of that as low-self-esteem-female activity, more as that of men who feel access to women they're attracted to is their right.

Phoebe said...


Or to put it another way, with women, it's about 'getting him to notice you,' whereas men seem to think 'get her to like you' is an option.

salacious said...

Well, I agree with you that there is less difference between men and woman than PUAs claim, but in the opposite direction. It's not that woman are actually like men in that they judge a potentialy partner instantly on the basis of looks. Rather, it's that men don't do this either--most men are just as susceptible to social flim-flammery as woman. Plenty of woman are much more or way less attractive than their exterior would suggest because of social and psychological factors.

The amusing thing is that PUAs, guided by bad evopsych and sexism and other baleful influences, manage to convince themselves that, as men, only looks should matter. To care about other things, to let yourself get twisted around by what a girl says or does, would be unmanly, or worse, un-"alpha." So, for them, it is true that men care about looks and woman care about silly hats and psuedo-insults. But that's just a matter of selection bias. That's why they end up with decently hot, but "off" chicks, which has the added bonus of reinforcing the sexism which drove it all in the first place.

Phoebe said...


I think it goes in both directions - women care more about looks than "game" pretends, and men less. But for reasons I can't articulate at the moment, I'm more bothered by the former than the latter.

PG said...

I'm surprised at the stalker situation though - I never thought of that as low-self-esteem-female activity, more as that of men who feel access to women they're attracted to is their right.

I was just thinking of this last night while I was cooking dinner: that we tend to assume men who are stalkers/harassers of their exes are overall misogynists, yet I don't think we assume a similar sexism about women who treat their exes that way. (Certainly I didn't think "What misandrists!" when I heard about my b-i-l's exes.)

It's logical that women with low self-esteem might act out when they lose a partner, because they've been told (including, if the ex has used Game, by that ex) that they are dumb, not really pretty, etc. If you don't believe you can get a good mate and that you were lucky to get the guy you just had, then of course you will panic at losing him. Here the behavior is less an attempt to terrorize the target into remaining with the ex, and more an effort to persist in pushing herself onto his notice until he retracts the breakup.

As for the importance of immediate physical attraction -- well, we differ on that and perhaps Game is promising only women whose "maybe" covers a much larger set of appearances than yours would. I'm pretty sure their materials say that you are not to get discouraged if you are turned down by any one particular woman, that this is to be expected and you should just laugh it off and turn to the next.

And I think Game method can go beyond getting women interested even if they wouldn't initially have had physical attraction. At least as I understood how my b-i-l played it (and he's a conventionally handsome guy if you like the high-testosterone look: over 6 feet tall, broad shouldered, works out a lot, dresses OK, strong nose and chin), the method also could be useful for getting past other impediments, such as women who were looking for a guy who was older, made more money, etc.

Phoebe said...

To follow up re: salacious's comment - I think the reason telling men only looks matter bothers me more than telling women looks don't matter at all comes down to self-esteem - it's about telling women not to go for what they want, and telling men they deserve what they want and then some. So sure, it does a disservice to men to tell them not to care about personality, behavior, etc. But it's not phrased as telling them to lower their expectations.


The reason I was surprised by the story you told is that the sort of women who have low self-esteem to begin with feel they don't deserve male attention, and are if anything particularly susceptible to the traditional gender roles of male pursuit and female passivity, even if it's female passivity dressed up in skank-attire at the local bar. I find it hard to picture women with low opinions of themselves actively pursuing men, particularly those who've rejected them. While I certainly accept that this happens on occasion, I'd imagine the more typical route would be for such a woman to react to a rejection with self-destruction of one kind or another.

As for why women think of male stalkers as sexist and not the other way around, I think it comes down to the overall balance of power in society and even more so the relative likelihood of being cornered in an alley by one's stalker leading to rape.

Finally, as for the grand truth about how much women care about men's looks, who knows which of our views falls closer to the norm, but I'm not sure how much it matters. Because I'm not saying, as Mr. Gowder often seems to imply, that Looks Are Everything. What I'm saying is that women, like men, rule out a certain number of potentials based on physical appearance alone, and define a few men here and there not as maybes but as yeses-if-not-serial-killers based purely on looks. What percentage makes it to 'maybe' or 'yes' varies from woman to woman, and I don't think some kind of award goes to the woman whose percentage is lowest. I just think, barring horrid self-esteem and the above-mentioned mitigating factors (billionaires, Philip Roth), we as a society need to be more accepting of the fact that women make these assessments.

Paul Gowder said...

Aren't low self esteem and misogyny closely related? We could probably give a male self-image story for stalking etc. too -- it's just one that would go through the defense mechanism of scorning that which one doesn't think one deserves. (Ressentiment, even.)

Phoebe said...


"Aren't low self esteem and misogyny closely related?"

Maybe? How does one distinguish between low self-esteem and a belief that one has a right to the women one finds desirable?

Paul Gowder said...

I doubt the distinction can be made, mainly because I think the standard talk about people believing they have a right to romantic partners is kind of hopeless. (Sorry, this is about to get kinda long...) Hopeless for three reasons:

- First, because it distorts the concept of "belief" beyond all recognition -- when we talk about "beliefs" we usually mean conscious propositions that people hold, and will ordinarily admit to, but I don't think I've ever met anyone who consciously thinks/says "I have a right to partner X."

- Second, because there's a sense in which people do have a "right" to love in general at least. I've made this argument before.

- Third, because I think people tend to experience romantic disappointment in basically the same way. Everyone feels pain and frustration and disappointment, sometimes extreme pain and frustration and disappointment, in the face of romantic rejection.

We don't read the "sense of entitlement" off the emotions people feel or the beliefs they have, we read it off their behavior. But I think that it's really as simple as sometimes, in certain kinds of people, that pain and frustration and disappointment comes out as anger and antisocial behavior, as well as antisocial beliefs like hating those who scorn you (hence misogyny as Nietzschean ressentiment).

Low self-esteem can probably exacerbate this tendency, because people tend to react more extremely when their basic self-image (as an attractive, worthwhile person) is threatened, and people with low self-esteem have a low threshold for that threat. It also probably comes out more in men than in women because men are socialized to be more aggressive in general and also that certain kinds of creepy behaviors are acceptable (romantic comedies etc.). (And also because guys just get rejected more, because in our society, the men are the pursuers.)

Phoebe said...


You need to think of this for a moment from the perspective of the woman who did the rejecting, and who subsequently has genuine fears for her safety and life. It's no joke. Whatever right to love you might think Mr. Stalker has in an ideal world, etc., etc., he does not have a right to this woman personally. That's where a sense of entitlement comes in.

And to say that men get rejected more than women makes sense except insofar as women experience preemptive rejection all the time - if the guy hasn't asked the girl out, it's obviously because he didn't want to in the first place; the same is said, once in relationships, of the guy not stepping up commitment level at whatever moment that's expected in their social circles. The guy hasn't suggested exclusivity/moved in/proposed? It's assumed the woman is waiting patiently for these announcements, whether or not that's the case. If low self-esteem is often associated with women rather than with men, it's partly because women live in a continual state of rejection-presumed-until-proven-otherwise.

Paul Gowder said...

True about preemptive rejection -- though I think there's nonetheless a sense in which men experience more rejection -- most people would probably agree that there are more men who just get no female attention at all than there are women who get no male attention at all -- more lifelong losers among men, etc. (I briefly tried to find some data on this, but can't dig anything up quickly.)

Anyway, I didn't say it was a joke -- of course being stalked is horrible and terrifying, and I'm not defending it in any way. I just don't think it's a manifestation of a sense of entitlement.

For another piece of evidence, who do we think of when we think of the male stalker? We usually think of complete fucking losers like this guy, who seems to me to be much more the sort of guy who has low self-esteem than the sort who has a sense of entitlement. We don't see the sort of guy who is actually likely to believe he's entitled to any woman he wants -- rock stars, etc. -- stalking.

A quick google suggests this is borne out by at least one study, which found that most stalkers had never had a long-term relationship, a large percentage were unemployed, etc. (Though that paper also trots out -- seemingly without evidence -- the "sense of entitlement" language.)

Phoebe said...

OK. If you don't see rock stars stalking (and for all I know they stalk like crazy), it's partly the logistics, but it's mostly because their impression of being able to get any woman they'd want matches up with reality. They have accurate self-esteem. Whereas when Mr. Nothing-Special begins stalking Ms. Nothing-Special, it could be low self-esteem, and/or it could be because of a disconnect - he thinks someone like him is entitled to someone like her.

Also, you seem to be confusing self-esteem people have with what they ought to have. A schlub who thinks he's owed Gisele - or the schlubette next door - maybe ought to have low self-esteem given facts-on-paper, but it's not clear to me how his demanding attention from a woman who's not interested demonstrates that he thinks he deserves less than he has.

Or, if we're going to find common ground here, think of it like this: Not all men who are unemployed/lacking-in-confidence turn to stalking. Of that set, which men have more of a sense of self-worth, the ones who go into an 'I'll never find love' depression, or those who demand attention from women who aren't interested in them? Because I'd say the latter. And women who are generally failing at love tend to go with the former. So the answer could just be that men with low self-esteem have higher self-esteem than their female equivalents. To say that male stalkers are simply engaging in the male equivalent of staying at home and pondering one's own failings, appearance-related or otherwise, that may have led to rejection, and that these two behaviors demonstrate equally low sense of self-worth... I just don't see it.

Paul Gowder said...

I guess I think I just see the "extreme response to threatened self-image" as a more significant factor in antisocial behavior than you do. When I imagine the cognitions that would lead one of these loser men to stalking, I imagine a desperate grab for validation and attention -- that being rejected is such a blow to his already fragile sense of self-worth that he goes over the edge.

Maybe part of the reason I think this is a story with more explanatory power than you do is because I think that individuals' self-images are for the most part biased downward or fairly accurate. There aren't too many people with a genuinely inflated sense of their own self worth (as opposed to those who pretend to have it, because they think [accurately or otherwise] that such bravado is an effective stand-in for this elusive quality of "confidence"). Believing you're worth more in any market -- dating, employment, friendship -- than you actually are results in swift and strong negative feedback... it's really hard to believe that some schluby guy with a long string of rejections behind him can sustain the thought "I'm hot shit and should be able to get with Gisele" for very long.

(Right. Now I'm dashing off to the gym to replace schlub points with stud points.)

William said...

My favorite line from the article, " He sometimes had a worse sense of social interaction than they did, and he had no idea what it was like to be a woman"....

It goes both ways...

Don't really see what a male PUA would have to offer to women though.

I liked this study....