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Book Reviews:
The Game - Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

Review by Susan Davis, columnist for Online Dating Magazine

 

Book: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
Author: Neil Strauss
Online Dating Magazine Rating: 8/10 (for being "entertaining")

The Game Review:
While there’s nothing new about one of the favorite male past-times of picking up women, there is a new book that, along with the Internet, has created the perfect breeding ground for guys to connect and compare notes on just how to go about that artful pursuit.

Part confession, part how-to manual for bad boy wannabes in training, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss is a sometimes tragically hilarious Swingers meets Revenge of the Nerds-like account. In more than gory detail, Strauss recounts his true-life experiences of the complicated and distinctive techniques used by an underground network of pick-up artists (“PUAs”) to meet, approach and manipulate women into sex. And what a game it is. This book and its confessed womanizers make legendary Don Juans from Rasputin and Valentino to Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson look like amateurs. Even the most promiscuous men may blush at the soul-less, technically planned pretense of some of the on-line posts as a result of this “training” that is deftly executed with drill-like precision at seminars and workshops. And men thought The Rules was bad? Perhaps the cautionary refrain “Don’t try this at home” or “This book could be damaging to your psyche” should be on the outside of The Game, rather than a woman’s silhouette.

An event at Book Soup in West Hollywood managed to gather mostly mid-twenties to mid-forties average-looking guys (no surprise). Still wondering exactly what kind of men actually espouses this sort of PUA mantra? Only a smattering of the mostly male audience raised their hands when called upon to identify themselves as part of the “community.” Perhaps most were there to just check it out, or many did not wish to be “outted,” but given the similar age and appearance of so many of the men, it would seem appropriate to go with the latter. Interesting sanitizing euphemism, “community,” given the sinister center of the PUA enterprise. Even more interesting is the demographic of this “community.” From the guy next door, the guy smiling next to you in the grocery store, and that innocent, nebbish-looking guy who easily befriends you, they could all just as easily be a part of this seduction brotherhood. While they do not advise or suggest using violence, like many forms of stalkers, sexual predators, pedophiles and rapists, they appear average, normal, and nice. Even so, it’s still easy to compare the control used by a PUA to a type of attempted spiritual rape, by manipulating women into actually thinking they care about what women have to say, that their encounter with them may lead to something more meaningful, when, in actuality, a woman is just another number and notch for the PUA’s collection of conquests.

“I thought only guys would show up to an event about how to pick up women,” I heard a few guys say as they perused the seven or so women present. “You’re taking notes?” I heard the cute 30-something guy behind me say (who, it was no surprise, turned out to be a disciple of The Game). “I’m covering it for a magazine,” I said, noticing slight surprise. “Oh, what magazine?” “A writer’s publication, actually.” “Oh, you’re a writer. . . “ I could see the wheels turning quickly in his head, as he searched for the next appropriate comment, no doubt part of the “technique.”

As we bantered back and forth, I could sense that he was more than a bit surprised at my candor. In less than five minutes, he learned that my biggest hobby in the 80s and 90s was dancing. “Wow. I would never have guessed that.” A “neg” (negative comment, meant to attack self-esteem – one of the techniques used to “woo”), no doubt. I also divulged that I was no stranger to the initiative side of predatory behavior. “Have you ever been picked up?” his voice was staccato-like. “Yes, many times,” I laughed. It wasn’t so much the question itself, but the assault-like way it was asked, that made me laugh, meant to catch me off-guard. A few more minutes of banter about writing, which seemed to fascinate him, and then: “So, am I trying to pick you up?” he abruptly asked. “I have no idea,” I immediately sparred back, fairly certain he really wasn’t interested in me per se, but just wanted to flex his muscle technique on one of the few “fresh meats” available at this female-deficient event. Because if he actually was trying to “pick me up,” unless it’s meant to be a way to capitalize on the general assumption of female low self-esteem, the dictum that specifies scanning every woman who walks by while talking to another one should be amended.

Despite the theory that what is unavailable becomes more appealing, and the fact that at times, it may seem true, there is absolutely nothing sexy, alluring or seductive about obviously looking at other females while talking to a woman. Women don’t need to be reminded that there are many other fish in the sea, nor do they find this type of behavior intriguing. It’s just rude. Period. And if a guy can’t maintain a two-minute conversation, what’s he going to be like on an actual date, let alone in a relationship? But, there again, that’s the point, isn’t it? It would seem that most of these guys aren’t looking for a relationship. And even if they aren’t, it STILL isn’t sexy to make it obvious that you’re looking at other women while talking to a woman. And no, sorry, it doesn’t make a guy more desirable. At least, not to any self-respecting woman. But, there again, that’s not the type of women these predators are looking for, is it?

Pressing on, I couldn’t believe it when the would-be suitor (if he can even be called that) asked, “So, what’s your type?” “I sooo don’t have a type,” I found myself admitting. If this kind of conversation is part of The Game, it’s apparent that the questions are so personal, quickly and matter-of-factly asked that it becomes more a sport of wits than anything else just to keep up with it. The goal seems to be to get and keep a woman off-guard. For a guy, what better situation in which to have a woman – with self-determinism out of the way, he’s almost guaranteed to get precisely what he wants. Under “normal” circumstances, the attention I received would have been flattering, but by the end of this event, I began to feel like a hunted animal, as I seemed to be the prize for a throw-toss barrage of ridiculous questions, such as “What’s your sign?” Asked by a not bad youngish looking guy. “See, it worked!” he said with aplomb, even before I threw my head back in laughter. If the goal was to get my attention, I guess he got it. But that was really all he was getting. I’m certain that the only reason I was approached at all was so that someone could practice classic PUA techniques and either prove or demonstrate that they actually work.

While Strauss maintains that some men are actually looking for love, it seems that most are actually looking for good “old fashioned” (pun intended) lust. Period. And maybe they can actually get it from women they’re already making it obvious they’re interested only in sex with.

Managed like a sports “pool,” The Game seems to be experienced like the ultimate sporting event spiced with a bit of frat boy humor among mostly young men from 20 to late thirties. Even though the men involved in The Game may be “single,” their dishonest activities could be considered just as unseemly as any other sexual or emotional infidelity, by virtue of its deceitful nature and the “promise” of a monogamous, or at least, respectful relationship that involves more than sex.

Worse than being compared to a piece of meat, women are chosen, scored, flayed and cross-cut, their attributes analyzed and detailed accounts of their sexual submissions posted on the Internet for all to see. It doesn’t matter that the names of the women (and the men) are not used; the debasing way that each sexual conquest is “won” oozes such a lack of humanity that women would be better off as mating partners for animals in the jungle. At least their sexual behavior is not reduced to being posted on a worldwide bulletin board.

To demonstrate the elaborateness of The Game, here is just a sampling from an extensive “seduction lair” blog on the Internet by PUA Hypnotica's “Challenge” for “contestants” to participate in

“To help defini[t]e how exactly each contestant will be judged, there should be a couple different categories by which the PUA is judged. I recommend the following categories:

- Number of Phone Numbers Collects
- Number of Make-Out Sessions
- Number of Lays
- Number of Second Dates

One night stands or really fast f___-closes can be hard to pull off. Most girls take a little bit of time to get into bed, so the PUA challenge shouldn't be judged simply on how many girls you can bang. You should also take into account the number of phone numbers he got, the number of kisses/make-out sessions, and the number of day 2's...

I think that guys in their own element will have an easier time picking up women than in a foreign environment, so the PUA challenge should have two stages. The first stage is the home field stage, where each participant has a certain amount of time (like say, a week, for example) in their home town to collect evidence of the various categories of pick-up. The second stage should be in neutral territory, such as Los Angeles or New York, for a shorter time period, like a weekend, where the two contestants go out and really compete head-to-head. This way, neither party has the advantage. Then, on the final day (or night), the two contestants can get together with a third party and review their results.”

Isn’t it generous that the contributor is willing to keep photo evidence from “public viewing,” restricting it to judging only! And, just to demonstrate the seriousness of The Game and its all-important beauty-contest hypocrisy, Hypnotica posts: “I think girls should be weighted in categories. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's easy to tell who's in the 7-8 category versus the 9-10 category. Maybe there should be a panel of 3 or 4 moderators/judges that rate the women and add up the scores. Also, I think each PUA should be given a disposable camera to use to take the pics of the women he PUs, so that we know they didn't just take an old pic and reuse it. Let's not half-ass this. Let's really make sure the details are being scrutinized so that we can have a clear winner when the smoke clears. Reduce ambiguity as much as possible.” (http://www.thundercatseductionlair.com/2005/04/pua_challenge_g.html). Women in general are much more forgiving than men when it comes to looks. The average, even unattractive male still dreams of, and often gets some of the most attractive women around. In contrast to men, many women are often willing to overlook appearance if they feel there is a chance at love. The danger, then, is that unassuming women can fall prey to the deceit of the average men involved in The Game. While they may think these guys want to get to know them and that they may actually have a chance at a decent relationship, more often than not, that is not going to be the case with these serial Game-players, since the very nature of The Game is to keep score. The Game would have to end in order for a woman involved to have a relationship. And most of these guys seem like they’re having way too good a time to even think about stopping. And, just in case anyone tries to tell you that any of these mongrels actually cares for women or may be looking for a girlfriend, check out this less than laughable post of “Giggles:” “The best competition is the number of girls f___ed in the least amount of time. At least Formhandle won’t complain about 'fools mate' I see that as the number one thing Mystery will use against Hypnotica in the challenge. As a wise man once said "One mans fools mate is another mans 7-hour lay." (http://www.thundercatseductionlair.com/2005/04/pua_challenge_g.html) Very “funny,” indeed. And the hits just keep on coming: “How about this. Game the SAME 20 girls and record who escalates the furthest and fastest. The girls would be selected by an independent referee. You alternate who gets first crack at the girl and set time limits for #close, k-close, venue change, tonguedown, grope, lay. If you fail to hit your next escalation point within the allotted time, your challenger gives it some time for her temperature to return to normal and goes in and sarges the same chick.”( http://www.thundercatseductionlair.com/2005/04/pua_challenge_g.html) And this guy just cuts right to the chase: “I think the competition's primary guideline should be either one of these: 1. A set number of DAYS. -Objective: F___ as many girls in those days. Ex: The most lays in 3 Days or a week WINS. 2. A set number of girls. -Objective: First to f___ a set amount of women. Ex: The first PUA to f___ 30 women WINS. Time limit not a factor. Either one is still dependent upon quantity of women and the speedy skills required to lay them.” (http://www.thundercatseductionlair.com/2005/04/pua_challenge_g.html). It’s beginning to sound more like Beat the Clock in the men’s locker room every minute. Just as a similar defender of the male libido, nationally syndicated talk radio host and misogynist extraordinaire Tom Leykis has female followers on his “Leykis 101” (an academic tutorial on "how to get more tail for less money"), apparently some women are “begging” for the same treatment from the “real men” of this most recently exposed predatory subculture of seduction. It was amusing, if somewhat alarming, to actually find a post on a popular nationally connected Website imploring: “Seduce ME PLEASE…” imploring someone from “the community” to answer her ad (or for someone unfamiliar to first read The Game, then reply). The men who utilize such PUA techniques and the women, who willingly involve themselves, seem somewhat similar to the dominant/submissive sex culture. Very basically, for them, it seems to be all about the age-old pastime (and often, obsession) of men conquering women and dominance in general. While you’re young and finding yourself, experimenting and figuring out who you are, it could be a healthy part of the process, but, is it really necessary to go to such great lengths to enhance one’s manhood by debasing, lying, manipulating and degrading female populace just to boost your ego from a collection of phone numbers and sexual conquests? It’s probably better than nothing, which is what a lot of these guys would probably get if it weren’t for books and seminars about how to hypnotize women into submission to their weapons of mass destruction. It would appear that these hypnotic techniques could be dangerously close to other control modes plaguing male-female relationships since the beginning of time. It begs to be asked: Isn’t this form of manipulation the very type of behavior that leads to stalking and forms of violence toward women? At the core of all this rhetoric, take the use of controlling techniques just one step further, and there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the males who use these controlling techniques and ones who use GHB (the “date-rape” drug), and liquid Ecstasy, to have their way with women (such as the now infamous Andrew Luster, heir to the Max Factor cosmetics empire finally captured for raping multiple women after drugging them). The fact that a whole international network exists for the very purpose of sharing information and to compare notes on the “art” of “bagging” and taking advantage of women speaks to a very troubling general disconnect and dehumanization of society. One can’t help being reminded of the other scandalous revelation of late: “The D-Low” or “Down-Low” clandestine society of predominantly African American men who engage in homosexual sex while appearing to everyone else and living as straight men, complete with girlfriends, wives and children (writer Terry McMillan is the latest well-known victim, her husband having “discovered” he was gay during their marriage). Just as women learn their partners are a part of the reckless and irresponsible D-Low culture, anyone dating someone from the PUA community better have the good sense to get an AIDS test. The presence of the D-Low and PUA communities, predicated upon lies and deceit demand, without question, the mandatory insistence of condoms in any new sexual liaison, whether it is believed the guy involved is “genuine” or not. Unless, of course, you’re a woman and aspire to be part of or are unafraid of the consequences of being part of a harem, or having bi-sexual partners. One of the distinct dangers, aside from the obvious inhumanity of the PUA activity, is the addictive nature of The Game. Strauss himself admits to having fallen prey, so much so that he now continues his dabblings, albeit as a “guru,” despite having a girlfriend. One of the few women who showed up at the event was actually there to ask Strauss for guidance on how to get her boyfriend to give up The Game, saying that although he doesn’t “close,” he still likes the chase. Stausses “advice” was basically, that, if you trust and respect one another, it’ll all be okay. While that’s all fine and good, what about those who become so entrenched in this lifestyle, that they are simply unable to break free of the spell? What if, even after meeting a wonderful person with whom they would like to have a life, they lose out because they are ultimately incapable of relating to a woman on a humane level? The psychology involved when a human being does injustice to another human being, is that eventually, the conscience can take over – which could be the reason why it is so easy to succumb to and break free of the pursuit of women as the great American Male past time. Just like other forms of addictive behavior such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, Internet and/or sex and pornography, for some, being involved in The Game of male predatory behavior may become an addiction just as hard to crack as, well, crack itself. Basically, these PUA techniques teach men to disassociate themselves on a spiritual level with the women they meet, all of whom simply become their sexual conquests, thus creating an unhealthy, ultimately lonely emotional bankruptcy. One of his early characters and Strauss himself were the lucky ones – they were able to develop emotionally to fill the voids in their lives. But what about the ones, who may remain forever tarnished – or, worse, could develop even more debasing blood-lust types of behavior toward women, finding that they will never fill the emptiness in their love lives? |Strauss himself admits that he’s no longer in The Game – but remains involved as a guru to help his fellow brethren attain and enjoy the “heights” of pick-up artistry that he has. But were there really any “heights” at all? Or is the whole game just another empty L.A. experience akin to the shallow pandering that involves models, rock stars, movie stars and other celebrities? In short, The Game, with all its revelry does not appear to have any substance at all. So it’s no surprise that playing The Game might leave anyone with a conscience and a heart cold and lonely. There is at least one early character in The Game who appears to have fallen victim to his own natural charms, later denouncing the PUA lifestyle. This was certainly true of Strauss, who ultimately “found love,” realizing that playing The Game was not the answer to fill the emotional hole in his life. Despite the fact that he says he had to go through the whole experience in order to find love, it appears that ultimately, in the process, The Game made the emotional void in his life bigger for a while. Perhaps the best experience that can be had out of this book is for men to learn from this account, rather than actually using it as an instruction manual. Women who still believe in love can only hope. But with the secret society of PUAs still at large and going strong, it appears that sadly, this book will be used as more of a “how-to” manual than the actual humorous (even if pathetically) read that it is. The other good that can come of it is that the behavior is exposed, so women can be forearmed against falling prey to the master manipulations it proposes. Given the low ratio of successful relationships in general, the number of partners who regularly engage in adultery and infidelity and the dating devices that enable those behaviors – the advent and existence of The Game certainly doesn’t help the situation any. In fact, its existence only serves to further undermine women’s belief in men as humane, and the investment of their time to develop a loving relationship. Lying, cheating and distrustfulness often starts out “harmless” and can easily become a routine. Infidelity always involves a shattering of trust, which often can never be restored. So is the risky lifestyle of The Game really worth it in the end? It may be, if the only goal is to bag as many women as possible. But if there is even an inkling of compassion or a romantic notion about love, it could actually be more damaging to the psyche in the end. The bottom line regarding The Game is this: while it might seem like a great way for a bunch of guys who can’t get any action to find it, it isn’t really going to satisfy any emotional human void. In fact, playing The Game just may exacerbate the void into an even more excruciatingly lonely unsatisfied desire. The inscription in Strauss’ book reads There are still nice men out there . . . and while I never doubted that there were, I know one thing for sure: they’re probably not disciples of The Game. For those who cannot bear to or have no interest in reading the book, have no fear. Strauss has confirmed that Columbia is set to take The Game to the big screen, though it probably won’t star Jack Black and Kate Hudson as the rumor mill suggests.



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