I recently linked to a blog I discovered which distressed me because the author seemed to start with self-improvement and end up with the claim that part of bettering oneself is learning how to persuade drunken women to sleep with you. Last week I spent some time pursuing the things this blog linked to, uncovering an online community with something like these beliefs. Here is a stringing together of some information about said community, some thoughts of mine, and a sort-of application. It is even less polished than usual, for I do not intend to refer to any of these sites or my notes when writing, because I really need to stop blogging and go to bed. I should say that I think I’ve come across this stuff before. But this is the first time I have tried to understand the people involved and assess some aspects of it.

There exists a market for books and other materials teaching heterosexual men how to seduce heterosexual women into one night stands and friends-with-benefits relationships and the like, and the existence of such a market is not all that surprising: in our sex-obsessed society, the suggestion that “I can teach you how to get sex out there” is bound to be tempting; many men are going to want to buy these books. Whether or not such teaching actually works is another question—having not read any such books, I have no idea—but chances are there is a spectrum between useless material and something that might have truth in it. Towards this end of the spectrum you get the “PUA Community”, where PUA stands for Pick-Up Artist and the use of the word Community comes from an enforced sense of brotherhood which seems to exist online between such individuals (that is, they like to talk about “the Community” of the initiated). My reading for this last week concentrated around their subreddit (affectionately known as seddit); I imagine there is more beyond this, and perhaps I will be biased for only reading that.

In terms of getting women in bars and clubs to go home with you, the impression I get from the number of people involved who say that it has been successful for them is that the advice of seddit works if you are willing to put the effort in and learn the techniques. They have turned this into a technical skill or science, mostly eliminating the human relationships involved. First part of my assessment: I am not sure if this is ethically sound or not. I think it depends on what the woman thinks of the situation. If she knows exactly what’s going on, fine; this game is not one that interests me, but each to his own. But I wonder how often this is the case.

Now to the stuff about self-improvement. In justifying their schemes, seddit likes to say that they are providing useful dating advice in a world in which no such advice really exists. They say that society has a complex system of rules that govern the romantic and sexual relationships of most of its members, called “The Game”, and while women have glossy magazines telling them about it, men don’t have an equivalent. But they go further and talk about themselves in the way that people who want to motivate you to get fit or study harder like to talk. Self-improvement. How can learning how to manipulate social situations into getting into bed with people be anything like getting fitter or better read? Such a limited, narrow skill as this, that runs the risk of damaging your ability to have actual relationships, is surely nothing compared to the usual things we try to get better at.

The best defence I can come up with from my reading is their talk of “Inner Game”. This is one’s attitude towards oneself and the kind of self-talk one has, the kind of thoughts that habitually run through one’s head and which thoughts one pays attention to. This is something I have an interest in, in the context of living better, and so this might be a way to defend seddit’s claim to be about self-improvement. Their point, put crudely, is that a better attitude to oneself means you’ll be more confident and as the saying goes, confidence is the most attractive thing people can ever have. Perhaps in this small area—small compared to rest of seddit, large in terms of its importance in life—the PUA Community might have something of value to say.

An aspect of this ‘inner game’ is the attitude of ‘not giving a fuck’ (I quote). Taken to its extreme, this is extreme indifference to the reactions of others to oneself. More reasonably, it is the thought that you shouldn’t worry about what others think of you, this is of course very common. I was thinking about this just now in relation to friends from home and friends from Oxford. Take two friends of mine from each who are friends with each other, and suppose that it’s ambiguous how close they are to me compared to how close they are to each other. The two friends share an in-joke and say to me, “oh sorry, that’s an in-joke, it won’t be funny to you”. Fine, this is common enough. But I know that there are certain pairs of friends like this, mainly at home, and certain others pairs, mainly in Oxford, to whom I would react differently. To the first pairs I wouldn’t care, or, “give a fuck”, whereas to the latter I might start worrying about being liked and wanted as a friend or not. Am I right in either situation? Are my friendships in one or the other devalued? Not sure, it just occurred to me that this is an example where we might want to discuss this principle of seddit and elsewhere.