It’s been an interesting few days here at NerdLove Industries. In an odd confluence of events, some friends of mine sent me links to various Men’s Rights blogs and Anti-Game groups about topics like “creep-shaming” and the idea of “female privilege”. At the same time, Paging Dr. NerdLove apparently found itself in the crosshairs of a couple of the anti-PUA crusaders and became the topic of conversation for a few days, especially over Don’t Be a Creeper.
There are groups like PUAHate which purports to be fighting back against the Pick-Up Community for all of it’s purported scams and rip-off artists. There have been attempts to flood the comments section with complaints about how society is biased against men, how women hold all the aces, how women are lazy because they demand that men approach them and I personally was contributing to the bias against the socially awkward.
Then there were were the fringes – virgin theory and paleo-diet conspiracies, peans to the plight of the white male…
It’s been an interesting rabbit hole to fall down, let me tell you.
Now, the reason I’m bringing this up isn’t to make fun or shine a light on them and say “Hey, look at all the weirdos out there!”
Quite the opposite in fact. Y’see, I have a lot of sympathy for these guys.
Now, before you all start wondering if I’m about to join the Male-o-sphere and ranting about misandry about how feminism is actually everything that’s wrong with the world, let me explain.
Females, Frustration and Fear
As much as it’s tempting to brush all of these people as wackadoos and write them off, I found that I felt sorry for them. Y’see, at the core, all of these issues seem to grow out of the same base: a deep dissatisfaction with their lives, a frustration born out of a sense of unmet entitlement and – ultimately – fear.
Fear of being rejected.
Fear that they don’t measure up.
Fear of being alone.
Fear of not achieving their dreams.
And a fear of women.
They’re afraid of the very things they want most in this world: a beautiful woman.
Arousal and fear often go hand in hand; in many cases, the physiological effects are the same. Our hearts race. Our pupils constrict. Our mouths go dry. Our palms grow clammy. Our adrenal glands start dumping adrenaline into our system, causing us to shake. We may grow faint or feel like we need to run away. One of the quirks of human physiology is that our brains are slaves to our bodies; we feel the physical effects and our brains backfill the reason in later on.
That sudden rise in your heart rate: is it because the woman of your dreams is smiling at you, or is it because you think you saw a tiger in the grass? The person talking to you held your gaze for a fraction longer than you’re used to: are you worried that he’s about to hurt you or are you turned on by the intensity of his gaze?
It can be a confusing, debilitating mess at times.
Think about approach anxiety: you know, intellectually, that going up to a beautiful woman and trying to convince her to start a relationship with you isn’t actually dangerous. And yet, many of us – myself included – will find that we’re having a full on fear-response… to the simple act of talking to someone. Why?
Well… because of power.
To be attracted to someone is to give them a certain measure of power over you. When you’re approaching a person you find attractive, you are deliberately making yourself vulnerable. You are asking them to pass judgement on you on what feels like a deep and extremely personal level. You are putting yourself in a position to be hurt. And that can be fucking frightning. This is part of the reason for a number of PUA tactics such as negging; controlling the frame of who is higher status and who is lower status – thereby determining who has the power in the situation – is a way of guarding oneself against this vulnerability.
Now, imagine if you’re someone who isn’t as socially experienced as his peers. You know that you want an attractive woman but for whatever reason, you just aren’t as skilled or comfortable with them. You may look to movies for role models or try to follow older modes of behavior instead. You put yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable… only to be rejected. Rejection hurts us, emotionally and physically, and we instinctively shy away from pain. Get rejected enough times and you start to fear the pain. Eventually you find that you’re avoiding the physical response to fear by avoiding the situations that prompt it… a case where literally what you fear is fear itself.
And how do we react to fear? Well, one of the most common ways is that we lash out at it. Fear makes us angry and we turn that anger on what we perceive as the cause of our fear. We try to take fear’s power away by reducing the cause to something less, something other. Reducing a woman to, say, a number based solely on her perceived attractiveness (the “HB” or Hot Body rating system, for example – saying that a woman is an HB 7 out of 10) helps make her less – she’s not a person who might cause you pain, she’s just a point value; the higher the number the more difficult, sure… but you don’t get your feelings hurt because you couldn’t rack up the maximum score in Galaga’s bonus stages.
“You Owe Me”
One thread that I saw over and over again while working my way through these various groups is the profound sense of entitlement. A great deal of the anger and resentment directed at women springs from the idea that one is owed sex and that by refusing him – or worse, favoring others over him – is somehow a violation of the social contract. Many men feel cheated when they don’t get the girl they seem to feel is their reward.
It’s not terribly surprising; in a lot of ways, we’re taught by pop-culture that success inevitably means being rewarded with sex. Look at the number of stories, books and video games whose plots can be boiled down to “Boy goes on quest, wins princess”.
Woman-as-prize is so burned into our subconscious that when we’re faced with reality -women are actually individuals with their own agency rather than a prize to be awarded – that it can feel as though we’ve been robbed of what we’re rightly due.
This is part of why the socially inexperienced fall for the myth of the Nice Guy: it reduces relationships to an if-then statement. It’s relationships as grinding; spend enough time building up your stats to the requisite level and you reach the goal of “Got A Girlfriend”. Spend enough time and effort being Nice and women reward you with entrance into the Sacred Grounds1.
The frustration is understandable, if misdirected; they genuinely feel as though they’re being wronged. They’re just directing their frustration in the wrong direction.
The Sacred Victim
The other issue I saw was the idea of Man As Victim. Their lack of achievement isn’t their fault – it’s because of some external cause. Keep getting rejected? Well clearly it’s because a society that only values looks over personality or achievement. Women call you creepy? It’s because society is biased against the shy and socially awkward. Can’t convince a woman to sleep with you? Well it’s clearly because feminism has ruined traditional gender roles and made it so men have to run a gauntlet in order to get laid.
The idea of Male Victimhood is appealing because it absolves you of all personal responsibility and insight. You aren’t failing because you’re doing something wrong or because you have an attitude that you should be granted sex just because you bothered to show up; you’re being wronged by someone. Somebody else is at fault for all your failures.
More than that though: being a victim gives you meaning. Having an external opponent, whether it’s an actual person, a scam, a philosophical principle such as feminism or even some nebulous conspiracy means someone is targeting you specifically – therefore you must have something special about you. You’re no longer a guy who doesn’t understand fashion or who could stand to grab a shower and mix in a salad or two, you’re the hero, the underdog struggling against forces arrayed against you specifically to drag you down.
Small wonder that so many of these forae and blogs have an “us vs. the world” mentality; it’s much better to be the hero wrestling against dark forces than to face up to the fact that maybe you’re doing something wrong.
Some Motherfuckers are Always Trying To Ice Skate Up Hill (Or: Looking For The Silver Bullet)
One other source of frustration I’ve seen has been the quest for the Sex Cheat Codes.
I realize that saying “dating is complicated, strange and difficult” is right up there with “water is wet” and “The Prequels suck” in terms of self-evidence, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t always people looking for short-cuts.
This is part of what fuels large portions the PUA community: the idea that there is some way to circumvent aeons of evolutionary psychology and hundreds of years of social mores and jump to the sexin’… without putting in a lot of effort. Men are always looking for the booty equivalent of the Warp Whistle in the hopes of skipping straight to dropping Mario into the Pipe of Love ifyouknowwhatimean2.
The idea that there is some way of skipping past learning how to flirt, how to dress appealingly, how to present yourself in an attractive manner and how to build attraction is an appealing one. After all, why bother spending time going on dates if you can just drop some embedded commands and convince a woman to go down on you by trying to make “…you realize that these thoughts come from BeLOW me” sound like something other than a really bad joke.
Guys like this are always looking for the silver bullet – the quasi-magical one-size-fits-all solution that will let them skip years of practice and self-examination and solve all of their problems instantly, turning them from dud to stud in the same length of time as a Hollywood montage scene.
The self-help market thrives on people like this and promises any number of snake-oil cures for what ails them. Send out enough positive energy and the universe will respond! Say this special prayer and God will be your personal genie! Follow this formula and you’ll be a master of dating.
It’s the formulaic aspects of the PUA scene that appeal to many folks. For a lot of guys, the social aspects of dating may as well be stereo instructions. Written backwards. In Esperanto. With pages missing. All they know is that other people are having all the sex while they’re missing out.
Reducing social interactions to a flow-chart – start with opener, transition to a demonstration of value, ping for location in the emotional model, run a comfort routine, advance kino escalation, move to seduction location – turns a potentially intimidating encounter with women into something logical and predictable.
Of course, even the shiniest of silver bullets gain a bit of tarnish when they don’t work instantly. Most gurus in the PUA community will tell you that you don’t automatically transform into a player overnight; it takes time and practice – and that’s assuming that your guru knows what he’s talking about in the first place.
When you’ve spent hundreds – sometimes even thousands – of dollars on trying to solve your issues with dating only to find yourself exactly where you started, just a little poorer, it’s not difficult to see why guys will become embittered.
So… Now What Do We Do?
Look, I know how a lot of these guys feel. They’re intimidated. They’re frustrated. They know that they’re missing out and they’ve been casting about trying to find answers.
Hey, I’ve been there. I’ve gone through all of it. And if circumstances had been even slightly different (which is to say, the Internet as it currently exists had been around in the 90s) I could very well have been one of these guys.
The problem is that you need a certain level of willingness to look inward and cultivate some self-awareness. It’s easy to give in to your anger and put the blame somewhere else.
The problem, at its core, is that sometimes you need to admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re the one who’s doing it wrong.
Part of getting better with women means that you need to man the fuck up. You need to accept that you and you alone are responsible for your life. And that’s hard to hear, especially when it seems like other people have it easier than you. And there will always be people who have it better than you. There will be people who are better looking than you, more charming, richer, or just plain luckier. You may have to struggle where other people have it easier than you.
And I’m not going to lie to you: you may have to accept that your ambitions exceed your grasp and you have to quit torturing yourself by expecting the unreasonable. If you’re a guy living in a squalid basement apartment with a low-paying job and poor hygiene, then landing a Scarlett Johansson look-alike may well never happen.
But when you’re focusing on what you can’t have, you’re missing out on all the possibilities that you could have. You’re passing up happiness for a dream.
No, we’re not all going to be movie stars and rock gods. That’s just life and life isn’t fair. But all the time spent complaining about fairness is time not spent making things better.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.