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The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
By Neil Strauss
Regan Books
PB, 464 pgs. US$29.95
ISBN: 0-0605-5473-8

The metrosexual as lion

By Bernard Chapin
web posted January 9, 2006

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup ArtistsThere comes a sorry time in every man’s single life when he discovers that the guys he used to dismiss with the title of “cheeseball” happen to be very good at scoring with women. One’s reactions go through the usual phases: denial becomes irritation, irritation turns into acceptance, and acceptance begets forbidden thoughts like, “maybe, just maybe, wearing big Bono glasses, costume jewelry, and a magenta cowboy hat will give me an edge in picking up chicks.”

Once one counter-establishes that such attire, just like steroids, hard drugs, and listening to rap, is mutually exclusive with being a legitimate person, then it becomes fairly easy to return to an existence of production and authenticity. Yet, the pickup artist, or PUA as he is known in Neil Strauss’s book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, never casts aspersions on anything that works. Any negative impact on his identity can be written off as a cost of doing business. The PUA would regard strapping seven watches to his forearm and sliding into leather pants as “peacocking” which is as endemic to their practices as the paying off of lawyers is to Microsoft’s.

The pickup artist is an entrepreneur whose sole trade is the acquisition of polyamorous relationships which he then exchanges for increased self-esteem. That no justifiable feelings of self-worth can derive from accomplishments of which one is only vicariously a part –i.e. they like a you who does not exist—is not something which occurs to him. His horizon ends with what he can see before him, and, oftentimes, the only person seduced, in the long-term, is himself.

I approached The Game with more than an open mind; indeed, I had every intention of loving it. Unfortunately, I was disillusioned from the start. This is the memoir of a New York Times writer who enters the internet lounges of the seduction community, and soon becomes an advocate, devotee, and poster-child for the game. Previously, he was a nice guy or an Average Frustrated Chump (AFC). Strauss attends seminars and meets his heroes one to one. Within a short time, he is Lothario, and not long thereafter, the writer, known by the nickname of Style, is regarded by some as the greatest PUA alive. Certainly, this is not your average tale and its novelty makes it difficult to put down.

However, a funny thing happens on the way to the condom wholesale shop because relating to these men is a serious challenge. Even if one admires them for bedding silicone queens, actresses, spoiled rich girls, strippers, and sexpots of all persuasions their innate qualities make those of us who would otherwise be their natural constituency rather nauseous.

For one thing, these fellows are not manly in any way, shape or form. Strauss himself is admittedly a metrosexual, but that may be the most flattering way to describe him as the following observation makes clear: “It is taboo among men to picture their best friends naked or having sex, because then they might find themselves aroused–and we all know what that means.” He says this of men telling sex stories to their friends, which, for the great majority of us, never results in images of one’s buddy at all. Usually, we place ourselves into their role which arouses us for other reasons entirely. As for what Strauss’s imagination does when is told such stories…oh well.

Another problem with The Game is that the pervasive elitism long associated with the New York Times is thematically present in Strauss’s account. A long-time associate of his states, in regard to Style’s new player mentor, “I mean, he’s totally superficial. We went to the Latin School of Chicago. We went to Vassar College. This is not the kind of guy who can fit in at these places. He’s not one of us.” Strauss readily agrees with him, but most of us who did not attend private school and regard Vassar as being synonymous with castration, will be put-off by such commentary.

Furthermore, the peacocking of these PUAs is decidedly hen-like. They wear platform shoes, wigs, fake piercings, frilly shirts, purple furry vests, and even paint their nails. That the women they target are attracted to such trappings makes one wonder why they bother with men in the first place. It seems to me they could find more alluring specimens of femininity and fashion within their own bathroom stalls.

Strauss is guilty of what I term the “I know I’m bad so those unlike me are good” fallacy. This flawed outlook is the rationale behind political programs like affirmative action, Title IX mandated discrimination against men, the cult of anti-Americanism, and the queer habit of feminized males referring to their own kind as “pigs.” When Strauss includes super-sized font quotations from the likes of nefarious radical feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Carol Gilligan, and Catharine MacKinnon, he destroys the legitimacy of his work. His reason for citing these hate mongers is unfathomable. Perhaps Strauss believed that kissing up to knuckle-draggers like Steinem would somehow make his work more acceptable politically correct sensibilities, but such ministrations are pointless. For a man to write anything positive about sex without love makes one a pariah to the social engineers manning the heights of our cultural slagheap.

One comes away from The Game with the impression that Neil Strauss is a man who doesn’t believe in anything except for instant gratification. He wants to make his memoir more meaningful by pretending that all men are like him, yet his flaws are characterological and not a result of genitalia. As a means of repenting, he implies that women are superior to men. That he could make such a statement is astounding in light of his perpetual manipulation of the privileged sex via the use of magic tricks, fugazi personality tests, and insult as a road to establishing rapport. One must ask a rather obvious question here, if women are more deep and thoughtful than men then why do they fall in love with joyboy poseurs like Strauss and his gang? No explanation is offered by the narrator. It doesn’t take a psychologist, or even an insightful gerbil, to wonder how an individual titillated by the alleged effects of tooth shape upon personality could be superior to chimpanzees let alone a person who acknowledged that there was a world outside of their own daily activities. Men can easily be persuaded to spend a night in a roach infested room just to experience the pleasures of a woman’s body, but getting him to fall in love as a result of magic tricks…well, that’s about as likely as my Detroit Lions ever going to the Super Bowl.

In the final, and unavoidably depressing, analysis, one must admit that the parlor games and primal peacocking that these pickup artists engage in is very effective in the procurement of women. While I did not have any affinity for the narrator, I find his tale completely believable. The Game depicts much more about the nature of woman than most of the courses offered on sexuality in our universities and every single talking head who currently jams our airwaves. Woman, that great tributary whose presence and sublime angles spawned artistic masterpieces and achievements since the beginning of time, is a creature with a psyche forever incapacitated by its own transcendent status and power. Yet, despite the compelling victories of the PUA, most of us cannot engage in his behaviors because to do so would mean the termination of ourselves. By the end of The Game such an eventuality is even apparent to Neil Strauss who decides to retire his nickname, his snakeskins, and a library full of player manuals in hopes of rediscovering himself.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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