[LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn)

post by KenChen · 2011-04-07T18:34:08.805Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 115 comments

Clarisse Thorn recently posted a useful article about Ethical Pick-Up Artistry, bringing up a few basic critiques of traditional PUA and suggesting a few alternatives.

Here’s the thing: the current pickup artist subculture has a monopoly on effective advice for how to break down social interactions and talk to women. Not all of it works, but enough of it works that it draws guys in. As a pickup artist instructor once told me, “When I first found the community I was horrified by how sleazy and gross it is, but I had never had a girlfriend and I told myself: dude, if you don’t learn this stuff you’re gonna die alone.”

I’ve theorized that maybe feminists should provide good pickup advice, in an attempt to counterbalance some of the awfulness of the existing community. In the meantime, however, I figure the next best thing to do is to provide a list of less-misogynistic pickup artist instructors and sites, and a few very basic critiques.

A proposal to formalize this Not the same thing, but a discussion on forming a community to practice social artistry in general has been brought up on LW before, but I'm not personally aware of anything coming out of that.

115 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2011-04-08T01:52:10.158Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The counterpart question is, "Because men approach and women choose, women have a tremendous amount of power over how men act, and over what relationships can exist. How can women use this power ethically?"

Replies from: None, MBlume
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T04:38:47.928Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

comment by MBlume · 2011-04-11T23:10:52.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems to run into trouble with coordination failures...

comment by XFrequentist · 2011-04-07T21:42:43.726Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At the risk of becoming annoying, THAT IS NOT WHAT I PROPOSED:

This is a proposal for a LessWrong Pick Up Artist (PUA)-like sub-community; PUA without the PU (get it?). Members would focus on the deliberate practice of social artistry, but with non-mating goals.

Seriously, this is the first line of the article. The title includes "Without the PU". I don't see how I could have been clearer.

The difficulty I've had in getting this point across is a big (but not the only) reason why I've been hesitant to develop this idea further.

To reiterate:

  1. PUA's got really good at a specific type social interaction - picking up women.

  2. There are many types of social interaction that it would be beneficial to be really good at.

  3. Therefore, we ought to see if there are any aspects of how the PUA's went about getting good at achieving their specific goal that could be adopted to general social goals.

I think that Ethical Pick Up Artistry is a good idea (I've stated publicly that I'm a fan of PUA except for the misogyny, which is real and appalling), but is not at all the same as my idea.

Replies from: Douglas_Knight, wedrifid, KenChen
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2011-04-08T04:03:11.531Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seriously, this is the first line of the article. The title includes "Without the PU". I don't see how I could have been clearer.

That joke is exactly what destroyed the clarity. You set up an alternative reading and it stuck.

Replies from: XFrequentist
comment by XFrequentist · 2011-04-08T15:34:32.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ahh... that makes sense - It literally means "Without the Pick Up", but the joke implies removing the stinky elements. Both interpretations were intended, but the more important part (IMO) seems to have gotten lost.

Learns about memes

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T02:58:39.836Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Therefore, we ought to see if there are any aspects of how the PUA's went about getting good at achieving their specific goal that could be adopted to general social goals.

One source of these strategies for using PUA style understanding to achieve general social goals is in pickup itself. It is a popular subject and frequently one of the first things given in testimonies about how PUA practice improved their life.

Replies from: XFrequentist
comment by XFrequentist · 2011-04-10T20:18:44.911Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed, thanks!

I recall that you and I had an exchange on this at some point (although I may be mistaking you for someone else). I'm not very familiar with the PUA literature, but in what little I've read the description of these non-pickup side benefits were one of the things that stimulated my thinking on this topic.

Could you point me to some (good) sources, or give your own thoughts on what is worth copying? I take your word that this is a popular topic, but the good bits of any body of knowledge can be hard to identify when you're an outsider.

I'd also be happy to chat in another forum (Skype, IRC, etc), if you prefer.

comment by KenChen · 2011-04-08T13:44:50.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry. I was sure there was previous discussion on this, so I just linked to the first thing that I could find. I didn't really read what you wrote, to be honest.

Replies from: XFrequentist
comment by XFrequentist · 2011-04-08T17:56:49.007Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A note to that effect in the discussion post would seem appropriate.

Replies from: KenChen
comment by KenChen · 2011-04-08T22:02:07.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done.

comment by cousin_it · 2011-04-07T20:15:26.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How are feminists supposed to generate good pickup advice? If typical female advice to males actually worked, the PUA community wouldn't need to spend so much effort figuring out the right approaches. Any woman who wants to generate useful dating advice for men needs to first recognize that the default advice that comes to her mind has a counterintuitively poor track record, so her only chance of success is to try something weird.

Possibly relevant quote from Paul Graham's "Beating the Averages":

The average big company grows at about ten percent a year. So if you're running a big company and you do everything the way the average big company does it, you can expect to do as well as the average big company-- that is, to grow about ten percent a year.

The same thing will happen if you're running a startup, of course. If you do everything the way the average startup does it, you should expect average performance. The problem here is, average performance means that you'll go out of business. The survival rate for startups is way less than fifty percent. So if you're running a startup, you had better be doing something odd. If not, you're in trouble.

Replies from: KenChen
comment by KenChen · 2011-04-07T20:20:17.315Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hugh Ristik, who was linked in the article, addresses the question of how to generate good pickup advice:

Feminists tend to criticize male sexual behavior and only explain what not to do. PUAs are exploring what to do. If feminists want to guide the expression of male sexuality in ways other than shouting “don’ts” from the peanut gallery, then they would do well to study the teachings of the seduction community, take from it what they like, and throw away the rest.

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2011-04-07T20:24:08.706Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That doesn't seem to be about generating new advice. Basically he proposes to take someone else's hard-won research, throw away the parts you don't like (with no way of knowing if these parts were important to the function), and repackage it as your own. I'm not sure you can get a superior product that way.

Replies from: Raemon, HughRistik
comment by Raemon · 2011-04-08T01:32:13.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing says that PUA people HAVEN'T generated perfectly good advice. The point is not to independently generate advice that works, or to claim credit for advice someone else came up with. The point is to try to filter that advice into something we can point shy guys to and say "this will help you, without being unethical."

You're also missing that men can be feminists. Producing a quality system of PUA that is ethical and effective will require the efforts of both men and women.

Replies from: Gray
comment by Gray · 2011-04-08T03:20:51.848Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're also missing that men can be feminists. Producing a quality system of PUA that is ethical and effective will require the efforts of both men and women.

Yes, yes, this is it. Some of us are looking for advice without the sleeze factor.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-08T05:05:55.033Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

PUAs have drawing selectively from pickup knowledge for years: using what they like, and throwing away what they don't. I see no reason why non-PUAs shouldn't do the same. Of course, they shouldn't just plagiarize pickup without citing their sources.

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2011-04-08T08:54:49.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

PUAs have drawing selectively from pickup knowledge for years: using what they like, and throwing away what they don't. I see no reason why non-PUAs shouldn't do the same.

Well, I see a reason. After you modify someone else's advice, you ought to test it to see if it still works. If you didn't test your modified version, you shouldn't publish it. What would you think about advice for entrepreneurs that was tweaked and republished by a salaried programmer?

Replies from: HughRistik
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-14T04:45:41.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Clarisse has been consulting with me and other people with pickup background. I don't completely agree with all her conclusions, but she isn't just cherry-picking pickup knowledge to keep and throw away completely haphazardly.

Replies from: clarissethorn
comment by clarissethorn · 2011-05-18T11:18:16.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha. That's some vote of confidence there.

Replies from: HughRistik
comment by HughRistik · 2011-05-19T09:22:30.951Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Believe it or not, it was ;)

comment by SilasBarta · 2011-04-07T19:00:21.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, this is definitely what feminists should work on. Rather than giving unsuccessful men a long extension to their current list of "don'ts", they could give effective advice so that the dating pool will contain a higher fraction of men who actually bother to think about feminist concerns in the first place.

Replies from: tabsa
comment by tabsa · 2011-04-08T12:09:37.814Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's quite obvious that PUA works in some ways because of trying the methods in the "field". My first gripe with the article that it's just the same generalized armchair advice.

But even worse is "let's give advice to other group" perspective. Shouldn't feminists be trying to change the women views and behaviour on dating? I don't quite understand why aren't they focusing on their own group in this problem. This seems to remind me of color politics.

comment by lsparrish · 2011-04-08T00:23:12.729Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I followed one of the links mentioned in the article, and it is pretty good stuff.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-07T19:20:26.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Athol Kay's blog MarriedManSexLife is along these lines. It applies PUA-like insights to long term relationships (this is not the only thing he talks about, but it is a major part). These are more likely to be ethical because in order to work they have to work repeatedly on the same person.

Replies from: XFrequentist, Skatche
comment by XFrequentist · 2011-04-07T23:36:41.161Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am very confused why the linked blog could inspire hostility. What little I've read seems correct, of mutual benefit to spouses, and ethically sound.

What am I missing?

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-07T22:36:00.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evidently you're not familiar with the dynamic of abusive relationships.

Replies from: jsalvatier, Costanza, Alicorn
comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-07T22:50:49.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did say 'more'.

comment by Costanza · 2011-04-07T22:50:10.834Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was going to say "Evidently you're not familiar with Athol Kay," but I don't know what you may or may not be familiar with, just as you probably don't know what jsalvatier is familiar with.

I think we would all agree that abusive behavior is bad, and can go on for a long time in a cursed, miserable relationship. Based on the information in his blog, Athol Kay (apparently his real name) is not in anything like an abusive relationship with his wife. To the contrary, it's all about mutual satisfaction and support in all the areas of a marriage or LTR.

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-07T23:27:39.780Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not previously familiar with him, no, but I did follow the link you posted to his site. The entire front page was about how women can doll themselves up to be more attractive to their hubbies. I was not impressed. Hoping to give him the benefit of the doubt, I followed the links to some of the "most important posts" on the site, and found more misogynistic bullshit: relationships boiled down, essentially, to how much she's putting out, whining about Nice Guy™ Syndrome, and perpetuation of pathological gender roles. So, zero points for ethics.

Replies from: jsalvatier, jsalvatier, Alicorn
comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-08T03:51:23.050Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

With regards to gender roles: is your criticism 1) desire to play that role (in women) is not as common as Athol claims 2) such gender roles are bad regardless of whether people want to play them 3) something else?

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T05:03:20.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gender roles of any sort are fine if consciously negotiated by consenting adults. When presented as the default, however, or as biological facts, with no chance for negotiation, they become oppressive. Kay's suggestions would be fine as suggestions for husband and wife to discuss and decide on together, but as presented they dangerously mislead their audience.

Replies from: jsalvatier, falenas108
comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-08T05:22:22.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is explicit negotiation, as opposed to say 'looking for what your partner seems to respond better to', important on this topic? Lots of people cannot or do not want to verbalize what they like when it comes to relationship behaviors.

I do agree that treating such roles as immutable facts with no chance for negotiation is bad. Is treating such gender roles as default bad because you don't think desire to play those roles is common enough to justify it or for some other reason?

Replies from: HughRistik, Skatche
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T04:26:50.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is explicit negotiation, as opposed to say 'looking for what your partner seems to respond better to', important on this topic? Lots of people cannot or do not want to verbalize what they like when it comes to relationship behaviors.

Exactly. Interacting with your partner, even implicitly, is a form of negotiation and communication.

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-09T16:07:12.502Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A century of feminism is enough to convince me that, at the very least, a large minority of women are seriously, deeply upset at the lot they're traditionally given. In more recent years, some men have started to come forward and say they're not too happy about their own default either. If it were only a tiny handful of people who felt this way - say one in a hundred million - then it wouldn't make sense to adopt the more progressive approach by default, although we would still have a responsibility, if we chanced to meet one of these people and if they expressed their views, to take them into consideration.

Explicit negotiation is important because of the immense variability of romantic and sexual drives in humans, and because of the dreadful ease of misunderstanding (and even if you really are a perfect mind reader, you probably don't need to visit PUA websites). In my experience, and that of other people in my community, "cannot or do not want to" is an ephemeral state arising from the awkwardness of a new form of dialogue. All it takes is a bit of practice and it becomes the easiest thing in the world to communicate your desires, plus it improves your romantic life tremendously.

comment by falenas108 · 2011-04-09T00:54:51.049Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He actually does that, but not in every post.

Almost every post he writes is mostly applicable to a stereotype, he just assumes readers know by now that he isn't saying it will work for everyone. Not very conducive for attracting newcomers, but that's his decision.

If you want proof, click this and do a control f search for the word mileage.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-08T18:55:20.822Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I need more help seeing why I should think the links you provide are examples of Not Good Things.

  • Most of his blog is devoted to how husbands can be more attractive to their wives. Coming to the blog for the first time, its natural to miss his explanation that for April he is focusing on 'Girl Game' (link). Partially for a change of pace and partially because he's gotten requests for it from commenters. I can easily see how this would be off putting if this is the first thing you see. Given this context, do you still see this as problematic?
  • Boiling down to putting out: Yes, he mentions 'wife putting out more' as the consequence of raising the husband's relative mate value more than anything else, but the mechanism he describes is that the wife wants to have more sex, which doesn't seem terribly problematic to me. Elsewhere he talks about doing things to build comfort in a relationship. Do you find any of the behaviors suggested in that link problematic? Is your notion that too much focus on sex is problematic?
  • Whining: I am sympathetic to your link. I think a lot of this kind of discussion is really about word choice. If you reframe nice vs. jerk as passive vs. active or non-aggressive vs. aggressive, I think a lot of discussion would dissolve. If passive vs. active (or somesuch) was the framing used, do you think this would be less problematic? Perhaps such discussions need comments like "guys think they're being nice, but they're really just being passive, and that's often not attractive"?
comment by Alicorn · 2011-04-08T01:13:24.306Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think he can have, like, one point for ethics. He's a little sloppy about it in places and does sling generalizations, but there's nothing that egregious and he doesn't seem to hate women or consider us interchangeable.

Replies from: clarissethorn, Skatche
comment by clarissethorn · 2011-05-18T11:26:23.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He has this post about the "dark side of game": http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/2010/03/dark-side-of-game.html

This post from him really flipped me out: http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/2011/02/life-sucks-marriage-still-good.html

because of this quotation: "yes we still had sex on Friday night (she squirted), Saturday night (she cried), Sunday morning (she tolerated it) and Sunday night looks good too (she's gonna go for the handjob option when I offer it). "

which, uh, doesn't sound like his wife is all that into the sex. On the other hand, she later asserted that she has no problem with their current setup in this post: http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/2011/02/jennifer-answers-some-questions.html

so the problem I think is more with careless phrasing than careless treatment of her feelings. At least, I hope so. She sounds pretty ok to me.

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T01:50:32.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, fair enough. He also didn't shoot anyone in the face, so...

Replies from: Alicorn
comment by Alicorn · 2011-04-08T01:52:23.133Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do consider his competition. At some point, if you don't want to be accused of not reading them or being fair, you need to award the PUA Blogger of the Month award to someone, even if it's for not-deserving-an-award-the-least.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-04-07T23:06:02.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

jsvaltier said "more likely", not "guaranteed".

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-08T15:02:03.137Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’ve theorized that maybe feminists should provide good pickup advice

I'm trying to imagine such a guide:

  • Step one, stop using the approval of women as the core of your moral compass and chief determinant of your behavior.
  • ... Why are you still here?
Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-04-08T15:55:05.573Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, I've been staring at this comment for a while trying to make sense of it.

I'm admitting defeat.

I mean, I understand that you're suggesting that men who don't use the approval of women as the core of their moral compass and the chief determinant of their behavior don't have any need for good pickup advice, but I really don't understand why that should even be true, let alone obvious.

Can you unpack that a bit?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-08T16:23:13.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean, I understand that you're suggesting that men who don't use the approval of women as the core of their moral compass and the chief determinant of their behavior don't have any need for good pickup advice

Rather, the opening advice incidentally implies that they don't seek dating advice from a female authority figure that has selected and vetted subjected to her seal of approval.

"Mommy, how do I make girls like me?" just isn't a particularly good way to arrange the education of males and a feminist guide to dating for males is even more inappropriate. It makes so much more sense for 'feminism' to give advice for females. There isn't such an overwhelming conflict of interest with regards to agenda (which is not to say that the political agenda wouldn't interfere even with advice to females at times as well).

Replies from: HughRistik, TheOtherDave
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T01:02:29.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There isn't such an overwhelming conflict of interest with regards to agenda (which is not to say that the political agenda wouldn't interfere even with advice to females at times as well).

You would think that if feminism was about watching out for women's interests, it would also watch out for their heterosexual interests. Yet some feminists seem to view women's heterosexual interests as counter their political interests, when those women have preferences for traditional gender dynamics.

In some conversations with feminists about pickup techniques, I often get the sense that they look down on the women who respond to particular techniques. For example, in a thread at Feministe, "negs" are only granted effectiveness because of vulnerabilities in women. It couldn't possibly be because some types of women actually enjoy some types of negs, without being psychologically broken!

For example, this comment supposedly distinguishes a "neg" from light teasing:

(1) A week or so ago I was sitting in a bar with a few friends and a guy walked up to me and said “You have lovely eyes, they’d be remarkable if you wore makeup.” That’s a neg. That made me laugh at him and tell him to go away.

(3) In contrast many years ago I was sitting in a coffee shop, when a guy walked up to me and said “You’re reading Kant? You know that guy will rot your brain right?” That is light teasing. That made me laugh, and talk to him for 5 solid hours. Then marry him…granted there might have been a bit more involved there…but it started with a tease that was not about dominance, but rather about shared experience.

Yet Clarisse Thorn herself pointed out to me that these sorts of comments actually aren't so different in principle. The second one is an intellectual "neg." The poster might hear the first approach, and think "what a pretentious asshole." Yet if a woman was merely reading Kant as an assignment, and received the second approach, she might also think "what a pretentious asshole." Both approaches have the possibility of getting a positive and a negative response depending on how it is pulled off, and what sort of woman receives it.

There seems to be a bias in some feminist women to view their preferences as the default, while viewing the preferences of other women as unhealthy, such that PUAs are "preying" on those women. Although I would agree to a limited extent that some common mainstream female preferences are unhealthy, and perhaps should not be satisfied, I am highly skeptical of feminist women trashing other women's preferences and trashing PUAs for fulfilling them.

Replies from: clarissethorn, wedrifid
comment by clarissethorn · 2011-04-12T03:42:15.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am tickled to be referenced as "Clarisse Thorn herself". Since that conversation, though, I have to say that I've thought about Kristen's Feministe comment a lot, and I think I understand it better now (though I'm still not sure I agree).

(1) shows a guy who is trying to exert dominance by telling her what to do. "You have lovely eyes, they'd be remarkable if you wore makeup" includes a proposed "solution" to the "problem" he's outlining. (3), on the other hand, is just mockery. "That guy will rot your brain" doesn't tell her what to do.

I see the distinction now, but I'm not convinced that the speakers did, nor am I convinced that most hearers would.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T02:18:16.635Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You would think that if feminism was about watching out for women's interests, it would also watch out for their heterosexual interests. Yet some feminists seem to view women's heterosexual interests as counter their political interests, when those women have preferences for traditional gender dynamics.

No disagreement here.

In some conversations with feminists about pickup techniques, I often get the sense that they look down on the women who respond to particular techniques. For example, in a thread at Feministe, "negs" are only granted effectiveness because of vulnerabilities in women. It couldn't possibly be because some types of women actually enjoy some types of negs, without being psychologically broken!

I would go as far as to say that it is the least vulnerable women for whom negs are the most enjoyable and effective. Guys that lack the confidence , social savvy and resistance to moralizing pressure to display strong dominance in their approach are beneath them - and having a vulnerability for weaker approaches would lower their reproductive success and in general be far less powerful.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-04-08T16:51:40.604Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, I can kind of get this to make sense if I assume that good pick-up advice acts against the best interests of women... which, now that I think about it, is consistent with your other comments on the subject.

Sure, if that's true, and if feminists are interested in advancing the interests of women (which seems likely), then it follows that feminists giving pick-up advice is a conflict of interest, as you say.

Of course, men who consider themselves pick-up artists giving pick-up advice is also a conflict of interest, in that they presumably consider themselves in competition with their advisees for resources.

But perhaps, as you suggest, the conflict of interest in the second case is less overwhelming.

And your equation of feminists with female authority figures suggests that you consider those sets entirely disjoint... that is, that there are no feminist men, at least not in this context.

And if I additionally assume, as you seem to here, that I have to choose -- that is, that I can either learn from feminists, or learn from soi-disant PUAs, but I can't do both -- then it follows from all that that I should not seek out pick-up advice from feminists.

OK, I think I understand. Thanks for the clarification.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-08T18:18:47.053Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't accept any of that as especially representative of any position I put forward and do not wish to engage in discourse of the style you are using.

There may be those here who appreciate my comment - I will leave them to do so or not based on their own perspectives.

Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-04-09T03:24:09.734Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All right.

If at some later time you choose to clarify what I got wrong there, I'll be interested.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-04-08T07:34:03.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am impressed at the quality of the comments in that thread.

Replies from: clarissethorn
comment by clarissethorn · 2011-04-18T05:07:26.689Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know! I heart my commenters! Many of them are sooo amazing.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-04-07T19:14:12.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I were a mean person, I'd downvote this for linking to a long, probably interesting discussion when there are things I need to get done.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-07T19:43:28.917Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replies from: Vladimir_M, HughRistik
comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-04-07T22:31:55.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see this list is getting upvoted, even though it could serve as an exhibit for the classic "Applause Lights" article. As far as I see, each point sounds like deeply wise and useful advice, but on closer examination turns out to be trivial, absurd, or outright meaningless (or some mix of these).

If anyone thinks otherwise, I challenge them to translate any of these guidelines into some specific instructions for action in a concrete situation that are both non-trivial and useful.

Replies from: wedrifid, Skatche, Skatche, Skatche, None
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T03:07:41.425Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If anyone thinks otherwise, I challenge them to translate any of these guidelines into some specific instructions for action in a concrete situation that are both non-trivial and useful.

I agree with what you said about the advice being mostly 'deeply wise' and utterly useless or worse. But then you went and made a challenge. I was confident that I could take at least one of the guidelines and find it useful and potentially concrete purely by chance. 2 seemed to be the only candidate (and Skatche has already given a concrete translation.

Mind you Skatche's "MOST IMPORTANT POINT" about 1 is totally wrong. 1 is the worst of the guidelines given. The one that will directly damage the success and enjoyment of life of those that follow it.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T04:50:12.042Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: HughRistik
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T05:08:25.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm glad you found something that worked for you. What worked for me was a bit different. By learning to hide insecurity and anxiety, rather than display it "honestly," I actually felt those feelings less and less.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T05:25:00.184Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: HughRistik
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T06:42:48.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would agree, once you actually get into the context of a friendship or relationship. I thinking of the earlier stages of interaction, where people who are socially struggling often hit a wall.

Replies from: None, None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-12T04:50:44.108Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T07:09:57.380Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T07:15:13.782Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems to me that the entire PUA community has quietly decided that equal footing in courtship is not only hopelessly naive, but dangerously delusional.

Many would say that equal footing in courtship is not the default and that disadvantage is not something they need to settle for.

Maybe it's, just, well... hard. A lot of worthwhile things are.

That they are willing to spend long hours of practice at creating their social skills suggests that they both acknowledge the difficulty and expect the experience to be worthwhile.

Replies from: None, None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T07:28:29.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just want to point out that, in this discussion with you, I'm simultaneously motivated by a desire to win and a desire to have the most accurate understanding of the world. But, I bet you know which one I'm more motivated by. And more importantly, why.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T07:17:39.266Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T01:33:43.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

4 - A lot of pick-up artistry seems to be focused on the bar/club scene. This might be a reasonable place to find a one-night stand, if you know the unspoken etiquette (I don't, so I can't comment); if this is what you're after, then best of luck to you. But clubs and bars are really terrible places to find anything longer-term: they're loud, they're crowded, everyone's drunk, and women in particular tend to have their guard up, as they're used to incessant unwanted advances. Also, under the assumption that most of the people here will want to find interesting, intelligent partners, just ask yourself what percentage of the general population actually fits this description, and with a bit of calculation I think you'll find the odds are against you.

How you find a more suitable environment depends a great deal on what your interests are and what kinds of people you relate to best, but basically you want to find a community of some sort. I DO NOT recommend joining a community just to pick people up (unless it's the swinger community or something like that) - see #6. However, if your social skills are especially poor, you might want to aim for a community that is especially accepting of social rejects. Geek communities and some hippie and anarchist communities are a reasonable bet; I'm sure there are others as well. Use this as a springboard; ideally you want to be a part of, or at least linked to, many communities. Attend interesting events and chat with people, and if you don't find any common ground for a conversation, then no loss; just move on.

Now, you don't want to go out looking for Bayesian statisticians and walk away from people who can't recite the Sequences. If you really want to understand what makes people tick, you should also make an effort to be interested in what they're interested in. This will promote cognitive flexibility and expand your conversational repertoire in addition to exposing you to broader walks of life. You might even discover opportunities to genuinely and concretely make the world a better place (big turn on!).

3 - Your goal, now, is to make friends and contacts, not lovers. If you're still keeping up that flirtation, sex will happen anyway, once in awhile, as if by accident. Unless you're insatiable, this should be enough to keep your sex drive satisfied. Some of it will be good, some of it won't be so good, and often it won't continue past the first few times. There's nothing wrong with this; you're learning in the process, both about what you like and don't like, and also about how to be a better lover (more on this later, see #1).

Here's where you want to start to be careful. It is an all-too-common mistake to commit to a relationship (monogamous or otherwise), or - far worse! - to assume you're in a relationship, after the first sexual encounter. You'll want to remain aware and responsive to your own feelings and to the signals you're getting from your partner; don't define things too soon, give it at least a month or two to see what it becomes. If you find you sleep with the same person several times and you start spending more time together, you'll probably want to have a discussion about your respective desires (more about this later). Proceed gently.

Part 3 incoming...

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T00:22:21.447Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay. Challenge accepted.

6 - If you're hitting up PUA sites, it's probably because you've gone a long time without romantic involvement, and you're getting desperate. This is perfectly understandable: sex drive is deeply seated and can become overwhelming if it's not fulfilled. Unfortunately, at a certain point, people start to reify sex: it ceases to be about attraction to any one individual, but simply about "getting" sex from anyone who's just appealing enough.

Unfortunately, people are very perceptive, and if you're desperate, they'll notice. You might be able to pick up other desperate people this way, but unless you're exceptionally lucky, your relationship will be brief and unsatisfying. The truth is, good relationships are somewhat hard to come by, and we're assuming that what you want is a good relationship.

Just for added concreteness, let's explore some of the ways in which desperation for sex will screw you (pun intended). You'll appear overly eager; you'll be visibly nervous; you'll hit on everyone, including people who, if you weren't so desperate, you would realize are not appropriate for you and your circumstances (i.e. they're not your type, you're not their type, you have nothing in common, etc.). When they reject you, you'll feel even worse and more desperate, perpetuating the cycle.

So, your first task is to forget about getting sex. This is difficult, but doable. Use all that tension to fuel your pet projects, to go out and meet new people (men and women alike), just generally distract yourself. Hire an escort if necessary (just remember to treat them with basic respect and decency!). Meditate. Do primal scream therapy. Go on a crazy adventure. Whatever - just find something that takes your mind off sex and go for it. You'll find you're a lot happier for it.

5 - Still with me? Good. Now that you've got your sex drive under control, it's time to start flirting. Note: flirting, not seducing. Flirting is playful and casual and is never overtly (and sometimes not even remotely) sexual. As a rubric, you should be just as comfortable flirting with the gender you're not attracted to as with the one you are (if you're bi, then you should be comfortable flirting with your grandmother). Indeed, you should flirt with everyone - male, female, or otherwise. It helps you build important social skills, makes people want to be around you more, and helps you clue in to signs of attraction in others (trust me, you'll notice 'em eventually if you pay attention (and if you're neurotypical - I don't know enough about people on the autistic spectrum to comment, sorry)).

To give some idea of how flirtation works, the most common form of flirtation is humour: making ironic observations about current circumstances, obvious shit-talking, telling jokes (if you can pull them off well), etc. Stay positive; avoid really bitter humour, or follow up nastier observations with positive comments. Physical contact is another common one, but this is for skilled practitioners only - the slightest miscalculation can turn your friendly hand on their shoulder into creepy, unwanted touching. Third, you can ask people friendly questions about how they're doing, then either share their good mood or commiserate with their frustrations as appropriate.

Occasionally, flirtation does turn into making a date or even having sex. This is a delicate practice, involving a gradual escalation while maintaining plausible deniability. I don't suggest trying to initiate this at first; just learn to notice when it happens, and see if you can keep up the game. Again, this takes some practice, but if they're already hitting on you you're likely to get the benefit of the doubt for smaller mistakes. This is where the water metaphor becomes most crucial: the game works not by pushing, but by opening up and revealing interest in subtle ways: through body language, tone of voice, slightly sexual but still playful comments. With practice, you'll learn to recognize and accept these openings, as well as to offer your own in return.

To be continued in a bit...

Replies from: Sniffnoy
comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-04-08T00:35:37.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't seem to have distinguished flirting from ordinary social interaction. Are you certain you're using the term in the standard way?

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T00:58:57.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Ordinary" social interaction encompasses a wide range of different kinds of exchanges, most of which are not flirting (although some especially outgoing people appear to flirt all the time). Think of how many people you interact with on a daily basis in a perfunctory, business-as-usual fashion, putting out just the bare minimum of communication necessary to buy coffee, ask for directions, etc. Also think of situations in which flirtation would probably be quite inappropriate: in deep, intellectual conversations, when requesting a loan, during a job interview, and so on.

Also think of conversations that happen on this site. Pretty dour, a lot of them. About as flirtatious as margarine on Melba toast.

Replies from: khafra, Sniffnoy
comment by khafra · 2011-04-08T13:23:50.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had a lot of really flirtatious deep, intellectual conversations. Fewer flirtatious loan applications and job interviews, but that seems to leave "purely functional communication" as the sole alternative.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-04-08T01:24:12.442Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hm, I guess I was insufficiently specific. I mean, uh, ordinary talking with friends? What would you call it... well, do you see what I'm intending to refer to? :P

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T02:03:50.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I see what you mean, and you may be right (depending how you relate to your friends). Even then, though, there are aspects of friendly interactions that don't carry over to more general flirtation. I'm talking about a mode of conversation you can use with friends and acquaintances and even total strangers. That requires that it stays light and friendly and brief.

Replies from: Sniffnoy
comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-04-08T05:06:34.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have little idea what concrete distinction you might be getting at. Meanwhile the fact that you characterize it as "more general" suggests you are using the word in a way more general sense than is helpful.

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-08T02:35:49.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

2 - By now, if you've done as instructed, you should have a pretty interesting life. Nonetheless, I think it's worth exploring this in more detail. If there's one thing pick-up artists get right, it's the value of confidence; but it's important to remember that this doesn't mean dominance, aggressiveness, or surliness. Confidence means being comfortable in your own skin, remaining centred in a conversation, listening with calm interest but also having something interesting to say about yourself and about your projects, your passions, the adventures you've had. It means having a life of your own beyond the object of your affections, and being friendly and courteous but not too eager to please. And yeah, a bit of a teasing or arrogant streak doesn't hurt. Above all, though, you want to be self-reliant: keep your own shit together and you'll be more attractive.

1 - THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT, not only for getting laid but also as a general principle: you must learn to communicate. Healthy communication is a very complex skill, and there's no simple formula; I may yet get around to writing a full post or two on the topic. Nevertheless, one way or another, you need to learn to be honest while still showing respect and courtesy, and you need to learn to inspire honesty in others. Try to foster this attitude in your broader community and everyone will benefit (this is how the communal house I live in still functions as well as it does, despite a number of difficult circumstances we've faced over time).

I do want to say a word about communication in the bedroom. Sex is an attempt to create a mutually enjoyable and fulfilling interaction of an intimate sort, and you simply can't do that without indicating, in some fashion, what you want and how you want it. A lot of this communication ends up being nonverbal, but you should learn to be comfortable voicing your desires. You'll also want to pay attention to what your partner wants, whether based on their vocalizations and body language or sometimes by asking questions: "Is that good?" rolls off the tongue nicely.

I should also say a word about consent. Body language and other implicit cues can only take you so far; before you hit the bedroom, you'd better make sure your partner is enthusiastic about the prospect, and that requires verbal communication. This can be a little awkward, but it becomes significantly less so with practice. Remember: this is YOUR responsibility. "I thought s/he seemed into it" or "They seemed to go along with it" is no excuse.

So there you have it: how to have a satisfying sex life - by extension of an otherwise satisfying life - in six monumental steps.

Replies from: Vladimir_M, HughRistik
comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-04-08T07:59:45.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Trouble is, most of what you write is extended far beyond what's written in the original list, or it's equally vague and thus of no practical use.

Take for example your advice to "start flirting." (Which, by the way, it would be quite a stretch to see as an interpretation of the original point five, except insofar as it's vague and allegoric enough to mean anything you want to see in it.) For a man who is socially inept, or even just clueless about women, flirting is like differential equations for someone who is stumped by basic algebra -- and useful and systematic learning materials to remedy this situation can be found only you-know-where.

On all other points, you similarly extend and reinterpret the original statements creatively and liberally, but even so, the advice you give falls far short of practical usefulness. Insofar as your advice makes sense, the only men who are able to imagine some concrete and workable ideas for action based on it are those who already understand these issues well enough that they don't even need it. For those who actually have such problems, much more concrete, detailed, and practical guidance is needed, and again, I know of only one sort of venues that offer it. (And in fact, at a few places where your advice approaches something resembling useful guidelines, it says basically the same things you'll read there.)

comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T01:32:01.648Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I should also say a word about consent. Body language and other implicit cues can only take you so far; before you hit the bedroom, you'd better make sure your partner is enthusiastic about the prospect, and that requires verbal communication.

If you said that verbal communication was one of the most effective ways to communicate enthusiastic consent, I would agree. But is it really required? That notion seems to counter-intuitive to me, because I can think up some ways to nonverbally communicate enthusiastic consent that don't seem ambiguous (to me). What if your partner tries something like the following:

  • Waves a condom at you while pointing at their crotch.
  • Slowly physically guides you with their hands into initiating sex.

I can understand the reluctance to admit nonverbal ways of communicating, since so many of those methods are indeed ambiguous. But saying that verbal communication is required seems to either miss out on the possibility of non-ambiguous nonverbal communication like the above, or be some sort of noble lie.

Replies from: wedrifid, Skatche
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T02:46:43.613Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Waves a condom at you while pointing at their crotch.

That one made me laugh. Reading the quote you provided prompted me to think of all sorts of body language and non-verbal cues that are more than sufficient in communicating physical consent. Such as him to the bedroom herself, tearing off his clothes or touching him on the penis. But waving a condom at you while pointing at her crotch takes the prize.

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-09T15:35:23.231Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everything I said about consent applies just as much to women as to men. If he's actually uninterested, tearing his clothes off or grabbing his crotch isn't a signal, it's sexual assault.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T15:56:39.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For the record, everything I said about consent applies just as much to women as to men. If he's actually uninterested, tearing his clothes off isn't a signal, it's sexual assault.

Everything I say about consent applies to men as much as women. A guy does not have to verbally express a wish to have his clothes torn off for it to be ok. He too can use more natural means of communicating.

Furthermore judging either of these two as engaging in sexual assault is not a neutral or innocent act. It is invasive and damaging to your victims. As well as slandering their reputation the act of giving that label implies the need for and potentially causes a direct punishment and restriction of freedom. That is something I consider unacceptable (when done so aggressively and obviously dependent on degree of credible social threat.)

Replies from: Skatche
comment by Skatche · 2011-04-09T16:19:22.158Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Furthermore judging either of these two as engaging in sexual assault is not a neutral or innocent act. It is invasive and damaging to your victims. As well as slandering their reputation the act of giving that label implies the need for and potentially causes a direct punishment and restriction of freedom.

Well I'm no fan of the criminal justice system either, but I'm trying to keep this on the topic of sexuality; if my anarchist leanings come into the conversation we'll be here all week. :p

But anyway, please see my comment here. A person can nonverbally express their desires, and a person can correctly pick up on that expression and act upon it, but they can also incorrectly interpret the signals they're getting. I'm saying that mistakes, although still rare, happen a lot more often than you'd think, and the consequences are serious enough that this is not an ethically acceptable position to take with a new partner. You need to ask.

Replies from: TheOtherDave, wedrifid
comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-04-09T18:52:11.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A person can nonverbally express their desires, and a person can correctly pick up on that expression and act upon it, but they can also incorrectly interpret the signals they're getting. [..] You need to ask.

Am I correctly inferring here that you believe, by contrast, that desires expressed in language, in response to a question asked in language, cannot be incorrectly interpreted? Or at least that such mistakes don't happen "a lot more often than you'd think"?

If so, I'd say this is simply false.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T16:29:49.935Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You need to ask.

I have never done so in the past and do not intend to start. I believe my behavior is appropriate and a desirable norm.

comment by Skatche · 2011-04-09T15:31:08.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, so it's not a fundamental necessity, but it's not a noble lie either; it's a matter of ethics. The consequences of misunderstanding, probabilistically weighted, are still serious enough that it's ethically better to maintain a habit of making a bit of sexy talk before hopping in bed with any new partner.

For the record, I have indeed misinterpreted what I thought were totally unambiguous "go" signals. Fortunately things did not progress far, but it was a big wake-up call for me.

Replies from: HughRistik
comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-10T01:14:08.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, so it's not a fundamental necessity, but it's not a noble lie either; it's a matter of ethics.

So it's an ethical necessity? Or something that's just a good thing to do but not ethically required?

The consequences of misunderstanding, probabilistically weighted, are still serious enough that it's ethically better to maintain a habit of making a bit of sexy talk before hopping in bed with any new partner.

I lean in the same direction, but there are some things that make me uncomfortable about this argument.

The practice you advocate is only one point along a continuum of certainty over consent. Why does a "bit" of sexy talk put you other the ethical cutoff, but those body language cues aren't good enough? Why not draw the cutoff line somewhere less restrictive, or somewhere even more restrictive?

If the costs of misunderstanding are so high, then why only make a "bit" of sexy talk? If you should ask once, why shouldn't you ask twice? If you should ask twice, why not ask three times? If you should ask three times, why not give a week-long cool-off period and see if you two still want to have sex? Why not have consent forms? Actually, to completely avoid any probabilistic costs, why not stay home?

To make up some numbers, let's say that the body language cues I mentioned give a conditional probability of 95% person that someone is communicating consent to sex, and verbal communication gives 96%. Meanwhile, even more extensive communication could get you up to 99%. Lawyers could get you up to 99.9%.

Until we identify the moral principle behind picking a point on this continuum, there is no way to avoid a reductio ad absurdum.

The other factor not present in your comment is the benefits of sex, and the costs of attempting communication. Your comment only recognizes the probabilistic cost of abstaining from verbal communication. Recognizing the costs of various forms of verbal communication could explain why we aren't bringing in consent forms and lawyers. But if you say that those extra measures aren't necessary, or that they are costly, then why is explicit verbal communication necessary over the forms of nonverbal communication I suggested? Why does just a bit of sexy talk just happen to hit the sweet spot of costs vs. benefits of communication?

Some people find communication over consent to be costly: not just to themselves, but to the other partner. If a sufficient fraction of the class of people you date find it undesirable when you attempt to communicate verbally about consent, then you must consider that possibility in your moral calculation about how to initiate sex with them. You must not only consider the cost of failing to communicate verbally when the other person wants you to; you must also consider the cost of communicating verbally when the other person expects you to initiate purely based on a nonverbal signal. Those costs are not symmetrical, but both most get some kind of weight.

You might hold that even if communicating about consent verbally is probabilistically costly, the expected value (to the other person) of communicating is still positive. I would agree, for the class of people that I generally date, and my skills and level of attractiveness. With pickup skills, I can take the potential attractiveness loss of sexual communication, or avoid that loss altogether by knowing how to frame my communication in an attractive way.

I don't find basic communication over consent around sex to be too costly, but I do find other sorts of sexual communication to be costly. For example, asking someone what they want to do sexually, or how I can please them, usually results in women looking at me like I'm an alien (they prefer that I just initiate something, or that they do so, "spontaneously"). So I've stopped asking that question unless I am sure that the other person would enjoy that sort of communication.

However, I am uncomfortable taking what works for you and me, and ethically requiring it of other people. If you are trying to date a population of people who absolutely hate verbal communication over sex, then resorting to strong nonverbal signals might actually be way to initiate with the highest expected value. If you did attempt communication, you might simply be discarded as a mate in favor of people who are even less scrupulous than you, and who are more likely to harm others. In such a (sub)culture, the ethical strategy (at least, from a consequentialist standpoint) might be to do everything in your power short of verbal communication to confirm consent.

I'm uncomfortable with people like you and me (who are probably psychometric outliers) taking our preferences and defining them as the "right" way to do things, while the preferences of others are defined as "wrong," without them getting any say. And then we go and demand that everyone initiate in the way that we say, or they are being "unethical." If we are going to make a demand like that, we better be damn sure that we are right.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-08T02:11:42.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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Replies from: Vladimir_M, None
comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-04-08T16:37:42.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, for example, take the point (1). Taken as literal and universal advice, "[s]how what you're feeling; say what you're thinking" is insane -- obviously, if you really blurt out your honest feelings and opinions to everyone at all times, you will destroy your whole life rapidly. Ah, but of course, it's not meant to be taken literally, but with subtlety and finesse. However, for those who are capable of grasping this subtlety and finesse, the advice is completely trite, and for those who aren't, it merely says "[s]how what you're feeling; say what you're thinking -- except when you shouldn't." That's not at all helpful to someone who is clueless about when he shouldn't do it, and what he should do instead in each such situation. The rest of the list is no better.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-08T17:39:15.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-08T02:13:15.086Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Surely you meant to ask a more specific question.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-08T02:18:15.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-08T02:20:06.348Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm teasing!

comment by HughRistik · 2011-04-09T01:23:00.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find this advice has a couple good points, but is mostly pretty bad.

Be Transparent. Show what you're feeling; say what you're thinking. Offer and accept communications at face value. Do this from the beginning, and the bad relationships will run from you like shadows from the light. Now, this doesn't mean you can't use non-verbal techniques to make people feel better -- but here is the test: If you were to explain everything you are doing and why, would the other person feel exploited, or honored?

This advice can be helpful if you have a relationship with strong gender roles, but it's not so useful for (a) people with substantial social difficulties, or (b) men in gender traditional relationships.

(a) If you have substantial insecurity or social anxiety, then if you "Show what you're feeling; say what you're thinking," you will just end up voicing your insecurity and anxiety. That's usually a bad idea in most dating situations.

(b) If you are a man dating a woman with gender traditional preferences, you must be careful about displaying vulnerability, because some women with those preferences find it unattractive.

Become Skilled at Being Single. Learn to make good food, pay your bills, motivate yourself, stay sane, and get sexual release, by yourself and with help from friends. Then why do you even need a partner? Exactly. But you might still appreciate a partner, which is a stronger position.

Not bad advice (though good luck getting your friends to help you get sexual release). The main problem this advice is that it fails to recognize how badly people's mental health gets trashed by lack of wanted relationships and intimacy.

Embrace the Friend Zone. Having friends is a good thing. The suffering of the "friend zone" is an illusion created by desire. Let go of desire and the prison becomes paradise -- or the false friendship is exposed. Of course, you might still fantasize about another kind of relationship. The key is that you are not holding tension between where you are and where you are not.

This is decent advice.

Broaden Your Standards. Typically, guys who complain that women are attracted to assholes, are themselves attracted to asshole women. (Actually, this explains a lot about pickup artist culture.) Remember that nice person who you rejected for not being sexy enough? That's karma: you must follow the rules you make. At the same time, nobody wants to be settled for. Practice valuing qualities that are valuable.

This could be good advice to someone who generally has narrow standards, but to assume that guys who complain that women are attracted to assholes have narrow standards (or go for asshole women) is baseless prejudice.

Be Like Water. Do not push anything, but move instantly to fill any opening. This will not generate nearly as much sex as aggressive seduction, but it will make it better, by filtering out sex for the sake of proving something, and leaving only sex based on strong mutual attraction.

Good advice.

Sex Is Not the Goal. There is no goal. There is only the process: be who you are, and engage with what you encounter on that road.

This advice is horrible for anyone who is expected to initiate sex. Good luck doing that without any sort of goal-directness.

Replies from: None, lsparrish
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T05:51:57.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: wedrifid, wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T07:08:51.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unlike a martial arts expert who, instead of resolving a conflict peacefully whenever possible, just wants to kick somebody's ass.

A martial artist who is violating the spirit (and pragmatics) that form the core philosophy of most martial arts communities. There is much that can be taken from this analogy.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T07:15:25.040Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T07:18:37.811Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure how formalism relates to the context.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T07:22:39.665Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T08:29:44.686Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I understand what you mean by formal now. (Without necessarily agreeing with your prediction of how best to facilitate awareness.)

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T08:34:42.149Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T08:43:25.635Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let's say you'd never heard of PUArtistry. You're in a bar (or venue of your choice). What are your objectives

Right now I don't have any such objectives (and so haven't gone to any bars in a while). You would have to specify what objectives prompted me to go there as part of your counterfactual.

and how do you meet them?

This depends on the aforementioned objectives. For most likely objectives a plan would most likely involve approaching many women, flirting and conversing.

I don't have the faintest idea about how I would do that assuming I had no exposure to bodies of knowledge about how such things work. I suspect very badly. Reinventing the wheel would take huge amounts of effort and be a massive waste of my time.

Replies from: None, None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T08:51:36.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also,

I don't have the faintest idea about how I would do that assuming I had no exposure to bodies of knowledge about how such things work. I suspect very badly. Reinventing the wheel would take huge amounts of effort and be a massive waste of my time.

This feels like a gigantic assumption to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T08:48:06.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: wedrifid, wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T08:55:35.823Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm trying to establish the best way to stay aware of one's authentic needs re: companionship, love, and sex. And how to meet those needs.

For me it isn't so much staying aware as it is becoming aware. The journey to self awareness is one of the most important steps to actually getting what you want.

Again for me personally learning about human psychology in general, including human sexual dynamics, was one of the most effective ways of reaching that level of personal and interpersonal awareness. As I learned the theory all the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. The body of experiences that I had collected from social interactions and observations started fit together and make sense. Like waking up from a dream.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T09:01:43.169Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This feels like a gigantic assumption to me.

You asked for a prediction about a counterfactual scenario and call my best guess, which was mostly an expression of doubt, a gigantic assumption? That is rather rude.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T09:05:53.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T07:03:51.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was going to ask "why not apply the same energy you put toward PUA techniques to enhancing your awareness of easy, real connection?" but then I realized:

Because there isn't a dichotomy here. PUA understanding is one of the most effective ways of improving your capability for and awareness of easy, real connection. 'Easy' things are usually easy because you have extensive practice at doing them - either deliberately or through incidental exposure over time. Spending time developing the skills for making a human connection does not make them any less 'real'.

comment by lsparrish · 2011-04-09T01:34:54.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This advice is horrible for anyone who is expected to initiate sex. Good luck doing that without any sort of goal-directness.

My impression is that two people who spend enough time together and are physically attracted to one another will tend to eventually have sex. It usually takes a lot of willpower for this not to be the case.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2011-04-09T02:24:16.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not if you're the sort of person who doesn't know how ordinary people go about signaling they're amenable to having sex.

It was only in retrospect after a lot of social learning that I became aware of all the times in my past that I easily could have been having sex, but wasn't because I didn't recognize the cues I was supposed to be picking up.

Replies from: lsparrish
comment by lsparrish · 2011-04-09T13:47:24.943Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was only in retrospect after a lot of social learning that I became aware of all the times in my past that I easily could have been having sex, but wasn't because I didn't recognize the cues I was supposed to be picking up.

Was sex your goal at the time? How much time did you spend with the person(s) in question? Enough for it to be considered a long-term romantic relationship?

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2011-04-09T14:51:36.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No. This

Sex Is Not the Goal. There is no goal. There is only the process: be who you are, and engage with what you encounter on that road.

described my outlook, and still does. I would have been happy to be having sex though.

And it varied; there are simply a number of people, who I spent differing amounts, some quite a lot, of time with, who in retrospect were willing to have sex with me.

Having been in the position of needing good advice, I agree with HughRistik that the advice above is mostly pretty bad unless you're the sort of person who doesn't already need the advice.

Replies from: wedrifid, None
comment by wedrifid · 2011-04-09T15:03:40.204Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Where 'already' probably fits better a few words earlier.)

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2011-04-09T15:17:24.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not for nothing that my post history is full of comments with edit marks next to them. But now if I correct this one, it'll have a pointless comment box hanging off of it. See what you did?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-04-09T19:28:31.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2011-04-09T19:33:59.594Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It might have been clearer if I'd distinguished between advice that is bad because it suggests unwise courses of action, and advice that is bad because attempting to follow it is not a feasible way to modify your actions for the better. I think it's bad advice of the sort that doesn't provide enough information to be positive or negative.

comment by Furcas · 2011-04-08T03:44:45.281Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’ve theorized that maybe feminists should provide good pickup advice,

LOL, good one.