social inequality breeds game
July 31, 2014 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark
Unlike in America, where bestsellers goad already overworked and underpaid women to Lean In even further, the assumption in Denmark is that feminism is a collective goal, not an individual pursuit. Danish women are less likely to be financially dependent on men and therefore feel less pressure to “settle” or change their behavior by, in Roosh’s words, “adopting a pleasing figure or style that’s more likely to attract men.” [...] Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question...

In her essay “A Marxist Theory of Women’s Nature,” philosopher Nancy Holmstrom argues that women’s lives are less free than men’s under capitalism “both because they are dependent on men and because they have children dependent on them.” Therefore, “traditional sexual values constrain women more than they do men,” and women “are less able to act to realize their own desires” and must be “more passive and oriented to other people’s wishes than men.”

But in societies with a less marked sexual division of labor, those sexualized generalizations dissipate. Marginalized women who need male spouses to flourish might, indeed, find pick-up artists alluring. But women in countries that have gender-equalizing policies supported by an anti-individualist culture may not.
American Prospect: How the Left Sees Liberty
The problem with libertarian and right-wing notions of liberty is not just that they implode; it’s that there is a more plausible notion of liberty offered up by progressives that is only achievable through leftist political economy. [...] When individuals have their economic well-being secured, they do not have to put up with mistreatment from those whose private economic support their life might otherwise depend on. Freed from the specter of want, women do not have to tolerate abusive would-be spouses, workers do not have to tolerate abusive bosses, and people of color do not have to tolerate racial subjugation. When protected against the possibility of economic retaliation, people can speak more freely, associate more freely, and practice their faith more freely. In short, having their livelihoods publicly secured gives people much more genuine liberty to do what they’d like. And that’s what really seems to matter when we talk about liberty, not some property rights formalism.
Washington Monthly: Social democracy offers many outstanding benefits. Shutting down sexist, predatory jerks is one of them
Deeply unequal societies like ours are also breeding grounds for a host of simmering resentments, petty tyrannies and everyday sadism. You see these in abundance with the PUAs. They are full of rage because they believe they have been denied the effortless access to the hot chicks to which they are inherently entitled. This rage is misogynist in nature, but it also contains more than a hint of a class element. The PUAs frequently express fury that the women they are attracted to are supposedly only interested in rich guys (see: their crackpot theories about hypergamy). But rather than doing something politically constructive with these resentments — like advocating for social democracy! — they end up taking out their rage on the women who are even more powerless than they are. That’s depressing, for sure. Even more disturbing is the larger media and internet culture of rancid misogyny in which these guys operate. But Baker’s intriguing article gives me hope that there is a way out of this mess.
Stephanie Coontz in the NYT: Why Gender Equality Stalled (previously)
When family and work obligations collide, mothers remain much more likely than fathers to cut back or drop out of work. But unlike the situation in the 1960s, this is not because most people believe this is the preferable order of things. Rather, it is often a reasonable response to the fact that our political and economic institutions lag way behind our personal ideals...

This is where the political gets really personal. When people are forced to behave in ways that contradict their ideals, they often undergo what sociologists call a “values stretch” — watering down their original expectations and goals to accommodate the things they have to do to get by. This behavior is especially likely if holding on to the original values would exacerbate tensions in the relationships they depend on. When you can’t change what’s bothering you, one typical response is to convince yourself that it doesn’t actually bother you. So couples often create a family myth about why they made these choices, why it has turned out for the best, and why they are still equal in their hearts even if they are not sharing the kind of life they first envisioned.

Under present conditions, the intense consciousness raising about the “rightness” of personal choices that worked so well in the early days of the women’s movement will end up escalating the divisive finger-pointing that stands in the way of political reform. Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice.
*Girls' Globe: Feminism and Motherhood in the Nordic Countries
*Think Progress: U.S. Ranks 23rd For Women’s Equality, Falling Behind Nicaragua, Cuba, and Burundi

New Statesman: The sexist pseudoscience of pick-up artists: the dangers of “alpha male” thinking
"At its root is the idea that the hunter-gatherer societies that existed before the Agricultural Revolution reflect our primitive, and undeniable, nature. That the mating rituals of 200,000 years ago are still there, in our bones... In contrast, we can be reasonably sure that prehistoric human societies were non-hierarchical, egalitarian and cooperative, as are the majority of today's hunter-gatherer societies that have survived, and that human nature still tends towards these instincts."

Buzzfeed: Study: Pickup Artist Training Works, But Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself
"As their dating skills improved, Baranowski’s participants apparently felt a certain amount of guilt — they perceived themselves as less moral, in some ways, than they had when they started. This guilt appears common in pickup artist circles, so much so that various bloggers have posted strategies for combating it."

Religion Dispatches: Conservative Christianity’s “Come to Jesus” Moment in Wake of Elliot Rodger Shootings
"Many commentators have discussed the “pick up artist” (PUA) culture in which Rodger’s ideology is based, but broader cultural forces shape the exaggerated ideas of gender roles that are the foundation of Rodger’s misguided notions of masculinity and entitlement—including most conservative Christian constructions of strict gender roles. Though they approach beliefs about masculinity from different perspectives, both PUA and contemporary portrayals of conservative Christian masculinity share some similar points. Rodger himself was not directly influenced by conservative Christianity, and I do not mean to imply he was. Rather, what I want to suggest through these comparisons is a larger cultural framework that shapes American notions of masculinity and sexuality."

Katie Baker, again in Dissent Magazine - Risk, Rated X: Geopolitics and the Pickup Game
"Sexism affects the perception and practice of geopolitics beyond rants on a pathetic sub-forum. While Roosh and his minions may take a more radical (and ridiculous) stance, their comments are parroted by some of the most powerful politicians and commentators in the country. Media Matters recently compiled a stunning array of quotes from U.S. conservatives who feel Obama can’t measure up to Putin in terms of virility. After all, what’s manlier than unilateralism—along with domestic policies that stifle gays, women, and dissenters?"

*front-page link previously in MeFi comments: Rosie M. Banks & RogerB
posted by flex (30 comments total) 151 users marked this as a favorite
Say what you will about Denmark; any country that can piss off a tool like this is doing something right.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:56 PM on July 31, 2014 [54 favorites]

flex-- this is such a great FPP.
posted by xarnop at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2014 [14 favorites]

Dr. Lindsey Doe has a good sexplanation of how flirting can work. (in a non horrible way)
posted by poe at 4:24 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Holy moly, flex. This is great! Just read the first article, on to the next -- and I wholeheartedly support GenjiandProust's first comment!
posted by Sophie1 at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, amazing FPP. Thanks so much!
posted by Sangermaine at 4:48 PM on July 31, 2014

Fuck yeah, Denmark!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:16 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

"According to his Twitter bio, Roosh is currently attempting to bang Eastern Europe."
posted by mr_roboto at 5:26 PM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

These links look great. Any argument against inequality is good in my book, but this particular one makes me smile.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pickup Artist Training Works, But Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself

Hmph. Many years ago I was crushingly lonely in what seemed like a sea of happy couples. A friend signed me up for a PUA newsletter. I read the first missive and decided not to read further. I spent many years alone.

I don't regret my decision to ignore the PUA advice.
posted by Monochrome at 5:55 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think I threw up in my mouth a little just from reading that rusty toolshed's quotes in the first article...
posted by CKmtl at 5:55 PM on July 31, 2014

Denmark is only slightly behind the US in number of partners, so somebody's getting laid there. If the guy would have been able to step out of his PUA horror mask for a second and act like a human being, he would have had no problem.
posted by benzenedream at 6:15 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

"According to his Twitter bio, Roosh is currently attempting to bang Eastern Europe."

Please let this be viral advertising for Hostel 4.
posted by Balna Watya at 6:16 PM on July 31, 2014 [12 favorites]

It's unfortunate that difficulty in bedding locals isn't the only barrier to bourgeois infiltration of well-administered, progressive communist states.

On the other hand it's AWESOME that flaunting capital and its signifiers fails to yield easy sex in these progressive locales, and that this antithesis cuts capitalism through to the quick.
posted by kickback at 6:53 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yet another set of reasons I'm grateful to be queer. Reading about it is disgusting enough, I'd rather avoid imagining dating where some of the available partner pool thinks this crap is true.
Go Socialism!
posted by Dreidl at 6:59 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's funny/sad/infuriating/unsurprising that this Roosh character says "Denmark sucks balls for women" as if women were a resource to be harvested rather than a demographic who can experience and judge national suckitude for themselves, thank you very much. He really means "Denmark sucks balls for men attempting to pick up women using sleazy PUA techniques." Denmark sounds like it's quite wonderful for women.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:21 PM on July 31, 2014 [24 favorites]

I would like to live in Denmark, pls.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you want to go all the way down the sleaze hole, you can find a blog post that Mr. Roosh (or is it Mr. V?) wrote about his experience in Denmark in which he said,
For you, the most pleasant interactions will come from the youngest Danish girls you can find. Troll the high school if you have to.
posted by clawsoon at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2014

For some reason, I just noticed that Roosh rhymes with douche.
posted by ILuvMath at 9:01 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember reading this first link when it was originally published. Great FPP.
posted by nath at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2014

A friend signed me up for a PUA newsletter. I read the first missive and decided not to read further. I spent many years alone.

Don't worry, PUAs also spend many years alone, just a different type of alone.
posted by roquetuen at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

On second thought, I'm being hypocritical when I talk derisively about Mr. Roosh, because at the turn of the century I would've been reading his material myself. Unlike Monochrome, I did read the second newsletter, and the one after that. I was absorbing the dubious wisdom of "Style" - Neil Strauss, to become famous a few years later as the author of "The Game" - along with "Tyler Durden", "The Juggler", "Mystery", and many others, on the "" newsgroup.

What they offered was a way out of paralysis. I had been raised in a subculture - Western Canadian Evangelical Christianity - in which expressing interest in a woman could have only one proper outcome, and that was holy matrimony until death do you part. I learned extreme circumspection as a result. Even polite, proper, awkward conversation might be seen as outrageous flirtation.

As you can imagine, my move to the big heathen city provided a bit of a culture shock. I did occasionally engage in outrageous flirtation (i.e. polite, proper, awkward conversation) with women, but it somehow never led anywhere. I had no models to go on, and no idea where to start, and I was very lonely. Everything I had learned and seen growing up was useless in this new environment.

And then I found

Many of them were engineering types, like me, IT nerds, INTPs, systematic thinkers and experimental problem solvers. They tried things in social interactions, they observed what happened, and they reported the results. They built theories about why things happened the way that they did. Only a few of them had the guts (or the psychopathy) to actually interact with the hundreds of women required to create a statistically valid model that would replicate the success of a charming frat boy, but the rest of us lapped up the knowledge like an American doctor after the war searching for medical insight through a half-guilty reading of Dr. Mengele's work.

Even then, though, it was obvious that happiness was an unlikely result. The women they attracted were often as emotionally unhealthy as they were, and they had to put exhausting effort into maintaining their "alpha" pose with women whose anxiety they had purposefully manipulated to heightened levels, women who mistook anxiety and confusion for love.

I did learn one positive thing from it all, though: I could ditch the polite, proper, awkward conversation, because no-one in this big city was trying to trap me in holy matrimony. I never did manage to internalize the five steps to a successful seduction (or was it six? and how many sub-steps?), or master the art of "negging", or memorize an "opening routine". I did learn to be relaxed and crack a joke every now and then, and that's probably as much as I could hope for as a result.
posted by clawsoon at 10:24 PM on July 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

Here is "Tyler Durden" now. It's strange to see him talk so many years later, after reading his posts way back when on He was the most clinical, the most mechanical, the most detached, the most efficient, the most Dr. Mengele of them all.

In the video, he recommends reading Eckhart Tolle, staying in the moment, and being a "master of self-generating positive emotions". Don't depend on others to feel good about yourself, he says; build your own "ecosystem of positive emotions" with hobbies, friends, passions, healthy eating and exercise.

Such positive advice, all for the purpose of manipulating as many women as possible.
posted by clawsoon at 11:02 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Based on the blurb above, it's almost as if they're recreating positive values associated with traditional masculinity- which aren't even specific to masculinity or any gender, really!- but instead of some sort of goal of cultivation and self-improvement for its own sake, they've latched on to a pursuit that's dependent upon external signifiers, and is misogynist to boot. So what's the root cause here? The atomization of society because of mindless consumerism instead of loftier ideals? Self-actualization being replaced by hedonism that seeks to dehumanize half of the population?
posted by Apocryphon at 1:05 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experiences of Nordic countries, and women, as a straight single man in the 80's, could not have been more utterly different from his. They were far more uninhibited, more unabashedly open and sexual, and less encumbered by gender politics and societal expectations, than most American women of that era. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the very things I most enjoyed and valued about the culture, the things that made it less of a trap for women than ours, are the ones he most despises.

I'm torn between feeling terribly sorry for these emotionally stunted, miserable, broken boys, and wanting to punch them right in their stupid faces for all the pain they inflict, and the wreckage they leave in their wake.
posted by panglos at 4:20 AM on August 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

Apocryphon: So what's the root cause here? The atomization of society because of mindless consumerism instead of loftier ideals? Self-actualization being replaced by hedonism that seeks to dehumanize half of the population?

You make interesting points, but I might take the analysis in a different direction.

First, I suspect that feelings of miserable inadequacy around sex and relationships have been around for a long time. Not talked about much, though, especially among men, so there've probably been a couple of billion men who thought it was "just me" who felt so inadequate and alone as a result of being rejected by women they couldn't attain or despised by women they could, clueless as to how to spark a woman's interest. "Socially defenceless... in my clanking suit of borrowed armour," as one woman who tried out being a man put it.

(Objectification of women is probably pretty old as well, if the Iliad and the Bible are anything to go on. And I've no doubt that many women feel frightened and miserable and inadequate when it comes to sex and relationships, too, and desperate for a gender-role-sanctioned means of making those awful feelings go away, no matter the man they find for the job.)

Second, I suspect that pockets of young men have been furtively and boastfully trading tips on "how to get laid" for a long time. Here's a pitch that sounds suspiciously like the teaser for the newsletter of a modern pick-up artist: "A man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and acquainted with the arts of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a short time." And here's a frat boy from 1857, as previously featured on Metafilter, who presumably learned a thing or two from his academic brothers about the "arts of gallantry": "I did get one of the nicest pieces of ass some day or two ago."

A couple of final factors brought those things together: First, as you say, atomization, though I wouldn't blame it on mindless consumerism so much as the simpler fact of high mobility in large urban centers. This provided the opportunity for a huge number of brand-new interactions, which allowed the few who could overcome their fear of rejection to experiment on hundreds of women without having to face the social consequences of rejection. That's a consistent message among pick-up artists: "Your fear of rejection is overwhelming because, throughout 99% of human history and prehistory, social failure meant you were dead. That condition is gone, so that fear can be forgotten. You can be rejected by as many women as you approach, and there are no consequences outside your own feelings." An atomized world means a world open to this sort of psychopathic experimentation.

The second factor was the coming of the perfect medium for the anonymous sharing of boastful tips and crippling inadequacies: The Internet. (Or would that be Ask Mefi? :-)

There's probably much more to it than that, and many more interesting things about the phenomenon could be said than that. I should probably get to work, though.

panglos: I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the very things I most enjoyed and valued about the culture, the things that made it less of a trap for women than ours, are the ones he most despises.

Roosh seems like a particularly angry, immature leader in the community, someone who focuses on vulnerability and domination and the rush of "conquering" new women. Those who focus on the more difficult path of trying to learn to become someone more like you, more positive and uninhibited and a bringer and sharer of joy, a "Tyler Durden" or a "Juggler", might have a much more enjoyable time in Denmark than Roosh did.

Not to defend what any of them are doing, mind you; "Tyler Durden" speaks effusively about loving his "process" and living in the moment with it, but I remember the year or two he spent developing it, and I know that it consists of numbered lists worked out by methodical, calculating experimentation on women.

Now I'm really late for work...
posted by clawsoon at 7:23 AM on August 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Many of them were engineering types, like me, IT nerds, INTPs, systematic thinkers and experimental problem solvers

I really hope people don't generally associate introverted nerds with PUA douchebags.

The one person I've ever met who thought PUA was a good thing was already an extroverted, egotistical sleazeface, who never had trouble picking up women but frequently had trouble with actual relationships.
posted by Foosnark at 7:51 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Foosnark: I really hope people don't generally associate introverted nerds with PUA douchebags.

Unfortunately, as the New Statesman link puts it, "Not for nothing has Neil Strauss, author of The Game, called it 'the revenge of the nerds'."
posted by clawsoon at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2014

There are extroverted assholes willing to manipulate others for their own gain, and there are introverted assholes willing to manipulate others for their own gain. The only difference is that the extroverts are less likely to need a written guide.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

The sexplanations clips are filmed in a room in which the books on the bookshelf behind Lindsey are filed according to spine colour.
posted by asok at 11:44 AM on August 1, 2014

The quotes at the end of the first article are almost heart-breaking. You can see him get so close to connecting the idea that his behaviors make life worse for women. He's right at the precipice of not being so horrible.

Then he steps back.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2014

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