It seems there's some interest in PUA and attraction at Less Wrong. Would that subject be appropriate for a front-page post? I've drafted the opening of what I had in mind, below. Let me know what you think, and whether I should write the full post.

Also, I've done lots of collaborative writing before, with much success (two examples). I would welcome input from or collaboration with others who have some experience and skill in the attraction arts. If you're one of those people, send me a message! Even if you just want to comment on early drafts or contribute a few thoughts.

I should probably clarify my concept of attraction and seduction. The founders of "pickup" basically saw it as advice on "how to trick women into bed", but I see it as a series of methods for "How to become the best man you can be, which will help you succeed in all areas of life, and also make you attractive to women." Ross Jeffries used neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis, and Mystery literally used magic tricks to get women to sleep with him. My own sympathies lie with methods advocated by groups like Art of Charm, who focus less on tricks and routines and more on holistic self-improvement.



EDIT: That didn't take long. Though I share much of PhilGoetz's attitude, I've decided I will not write this post, for the reasons articulated here, here, here and here


Here was the proposed post...


When I interviewed to be a contestant on VH1's The Pick-Up Artist, they asked me to list my skills. Among them, I listed "rational thinking."

"How do you think rational thinking will help you with the skills of attraction?" they asked.

I paused, then answered: "Rational thinking tells me that attraction is a thoroughly non-rational process."

A major theme at Less Wrong is "How to win at life with rationality." Today, I want to talk about how to win in your sex life with rationality.a

I didn't get the part on the VH1 show, but no matter: studying and practicing pick-up has transformed my life more than almost anything else, even though getting excellent and frequent sex is, oddly enough, not one of my life's priorities. Nor is finding a soulmate.

If you want lots of sex, or a soulmate, or you want to improve your current relationship, then attraction skills will help with that. Loneliness need not be one of the costs of rationality. But even if you don't want any of those things, studying attraction methods can (1) clear up confusion and frustration about the opposite sex,b (2) improve your social relations in general, (3) boost your confidence, and thus (4) help you succeed in almost every part of your life. 

This is a post about what men can do to build attraction in women.c I will not discuss whether these methods are moral. I will not discuss whether these methods are more or less "manipulative" than the standard female methods for attracting men. Instead, I will focus on factual claims about what tends to create sexual attraction in women.

This is also a post for rationalists. More specifically, it is aimed at the average Less Wrong reader: a 20-34 year old, high-IQ, single male atheist.

I will also be assuming the stereotype that many passionate rationalists of our type could benefit from advice on body language, voice tone, social skills, and attire - a stereotype that has some merit. Even if you don't need such advice, many others will benefit from it. I did.

As is my style, I'll begin with a survey of the scientific data on the subject.

Self-help methods in general have not received enough attention from experimental researchers, and attraction methods have fared even worse. That may be what drove the leaders of the pickup community to run thousands of real-life experiments, systematically varying their attire, body language, and speech to measure what worked and what didn't. The dearth of research on the subject turned ordinary men into amateur seduction scientists, albeit without much training. 

Still, we can learn some things about sexual attraction from established science.

[full post to be continued here]


a I've also given two humorous speeches on this subject: How to Seduce Women with Body Language and How to Seduce Women with Vocal Tonality.

b I used to be one of those poor guys who complained that "Girls say they want nice guys, but they only go out with jerks!" Merely reading enough evolutionary psychology to understand why women often date "jerks" was enough, in my case, to relieve a lot of confusion and frustration. Even without developing attraction skills, mere understanding can, I think, relieve serious stress and worries about one's manly (fragile) ego.

c Sorry, I don't know much about homosexual attraction, and I'll leave the subject of how women can attract better men to other authors.

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I've actually been discussing pickup on LessWrong for a while. I've been attempting to de-jargonize it, and translate the language into terms that are less likely to offend people. The result is a lot of dry and verbose comments in dark corners of other threads. Here is a haphazardly-organized index of my comments that either discuss pickup, or discuss related issues about ethics or personal development:

... (read more)
Thanks so much for this. I've been following your comments on PUA since first stumbling upon one of them buried deep on an obscure thread of this forum a few months ago, and it's extremely useful to have them all listed and organized in one place. EDIT: Also, it would be great if you could keep this comment updated.
Thanks... glad to know that someone is getting something out of those walls of text.
Here's someone else who's getting value out of it. You're also my go to example of an ethical PUA although I'm sure there are professionals who deliberately fill that market niche.
Most excellent.
Thanks for this post, bookmarked.
This collection of links not just merits but definitely needs to be a Discussion post at least! Just copy it as a standalone post, your work is excellent and deserves to be in the spotlight.

Do Not Want.

Everything you say in the proposed post may be factually true to within individual variance. AND YET: just posting on and discussing this topic on LW communicates a certain message -- whether you like it or not and no matter how vigorously you disclaim it. That message is that the typical reader of LW is 20-34 and heterosexual and single and male and we prefer it that way, and if you do not fit that demographic then you may very well find that conversations here may well revolve around strategizing for how to manipulate you into doing things that, in a more reflective state, you would much prefer not to do.

Nobody is going to write the gay male or lesbian or women-seducing-men version of this post, because of the skewed demographics of this website. There's little point in pretending that LW would be an equally welcoming forum for those hypothetical posts.

I hate to see probably my single favorite current contributor to LW take such an (I believe unintentionally) offensive step. Furthermore, does it become a person who by his own admission is extremely interested in ethics (granted, metaethics, but still) to post a topic whose ethical status is very dubious and simply... (read more)

That message is that the typical reader of LW is 20-34 and heterosexual and single and male and we prefer it that way

Why does a self-improvement article aimed at 20-34 heterosexual single males communicate that we prefer such a membership at LessWrong? Is it because of the particular subject of pickup?

I think it's a good thing that lukeprog has the humility to avoid overgeneralizing his advice to other populations.

if you do not fit that demographic then you may very well find that conversations here may well revolve around strategizing for how to manipulate you into doing things that, in a more reflective state, you would much prefer not to do

Your reaction presupposes a certain view of sexual and social ethics. Your characterization of pickup as "manipulating women into doing things that in a more reflective state, they would much prefer not to do" is loaded:

"Manipulation" is thrown around a lot, yet in a recent discussion I noted that nobody had given any concrete examples of "manipulation," or made attempts to demarcate it from ethical behavior (though at least the difficulty of doing so was acknowledged). As I remarked in that post, "ma... (read more)

That got a laugh out of me.
Meanwhile I've gone back over it a couple of times working out the optimal tone and cadence to use in order to say that without breaking the flow of attraction. It'd be a lot of fun to make it work so it's tempting to try!
I disagree. I don't think people would mind or downvote them, perhaps they might even get more traffic than one aimed at straight males. However it is true that the articles in question are much less likley to be made. And this would indeed send some unfortunate signals about who is welcomed.
It is indeed interesting that no similar fields have sprung up for other sex combinations. PUA is not dedicated exclusively to bedding lots of women; it is also often applied to maintaining relationships. Particularly given how much more interested (or at least vocal) women tend to be regarding marriage, it is fascinating that no rational, experimental, or ev-psych approach for women has surfaced visibly.
Gay men already have pickup and cruising cultures. Women already have tons of cultural support for increasing their attractiveness to men (though it varies in quality). There is some interest from multiple gender combinations in pickup, though some area still nascent or marginalized.
Yes, I think this is correct, and is closer to what I should have said.
Thanks. Your comment is more useful than a downvote, anyway, as I can't see how many up-votes and down-votes this post gets - only their sum.

I am a straight female. I would like to see this subject discussed, for various reasons:

  • It doesn't strike me as unethical in and of itself, as long as people don't misuse it. I doubt it would be extensively misused.

  • It could help other people, and I wish them well.

  • I am curious about the subject matter.

  • I could use some help with my general social skills; this could be useful.

  • I'd like to see a similar article for women.

  • I dislike censorship, including self-censorship, and think all nearly all topics should be freely discussed.

In sum, I wouldn't be driven away by PUA discussion, and I'd like to see it on here, aimed at both genders (unfortunately, I'm a major nerd who can't write the women-attracting-men post).

That's just my two cents, and I'm fine with it if the majority would rather not.

HughRistik linked to a very helpful FAQ on women attracting men.
I'm in agreement on all points. We've had several PUA discussions, it's a popular topic, the discussions seem to be evolving from yay/boo debates to pragmatic analysis, and lukeprog can distill colossal amounts of information, which would help here. Advice for women would be good, I agree. But I don't feel qualified to write one either.

I notice that I'm confused.

If (as is being claimed) the principles underlying PUA are useful for becoming the best man you can be and succeeding in all areas of life, and discussing those principles is beneficial for those reasons, and (as is also being claimed) signaling alliance with PUA alienates women and nonheterosexual men and is bad for the community for those reasons, it seems to follow that it's a good idea to do the former without doing the latter: for example, to talk about the underlying principles as they apply to "holistic self-improvement" and "improv[ing] social relations in general" rather than as they apply to sexual attraction.

But instead I'm seeing people who endorse the first claim respond to the second claim by dropping the subject altogether.

That would make sense if it turns out that there isn't a post's worth of stuff that comes out of PUA research that isn't about sexual attraction. But that would be evidence against the claim that PUA research is useful outside of that area, and I'm not seeing people updating on that either.

I tentatively conclude that the discussion has been more of a set piece than an actual exchange of positions. Which is sort of a pity, if true, though understandable.

Mating is perceived (and mostly is) a zero sum game on the level of every individual human. There is a constant evolutionary arms race between everyone and especially among the sexes in this regard. I hope this clears up some of the psychology around this, especially why it seems so tribal or dare I say mind killing in nature.

I would like to address the perception that pickup excludes people other than single heterosexual males. Although single heterosexual males dominate the seduction community in its current form, certain ideas and ways of thinking are catching on for other gender combinations, even though they aren't yet very well developed.

There are female PUAs. Here is an excellent FAQ from the Playettes forum of mASF. It's way better than anything in The Rules or Cosmo.

There are also numerous blogs written by women who have been influenced by pickup, such as Dolly, the NY sex blogger who ended up meeting PUAs and eventually speaking at a pickup convention:

Male-male seduction? Some quick Google searching found gay forums using seduction community terms. And of course, gay male culture has pickup and cruising scenes that predate the modern seduction community.

As for female-female pickup, I don't know much, but we recently had... (read more)

I wonder if part of the reason we see so few queer or trans people into the seduction community (in addition to their lower population) is that such folks will get hated on by practically everyone. Not only do they get marginalization by the mainstream culture, while encountering homophobia in the seduction community, but they may get marginalized within progressive/feminist circles for studying pickup. Notice how the lesbian woman with pickup background I quote got negative reactions when trying to discuss the pragmatics of dating with her queer or feminist female friends.

If you are a lesbian female or bisexual male PUA... who is gonna be your friend?

I liked the Q & A for straight women. Fits my intuition and what has worked/is working for me.
My heterosexual male intuition also suggests that it's good advice. (I'm neutral on the "let him initiate the first hookup" part, but everything else seems solid.)
Allow me to emphasise that the skills are not only useful for single people either. And I don't just mean in case you want someone on the side. Attraction and the social side of communication remain important within a relationship.
The "excellent FAQ" link doesn't work.

It is a controversial topic, already considered taboo here by many people, and would offend a lot of people.

But I would like very much to read it. And I am offended by people who try to prevent people from saying things that offend them. So you have to offend somebody!

I don't care if people are turned away by it. We've gotta have one place that is pure, where people can speak truth and be as politically incorrect and offensive as they dare, and not make reason bend over backwards in the name of popularity. And this is that place.

I will say, though, that I've read/heard/watched/tried a lot of material over the past 4 years by DeAngelo, Style, Mystery, Lance Mason, etc.; and none of it has ever helped me one bit. I think that most of it works for a certain personality-type of guy, which I am not, on a certain personality-type of woman, who don't like guys like me. The branches of the PUA industry descended from Copeland, DeAngelo, and Mystery (we need a phylogenetic tree here) are focused on picking up the type of shallow, party-girl, bitchy woman that is not interested in intellectuals. I bore them, and they bore me. IMHO "cocky comedy" backfires on a large percent... (read more)

none of it has ever helped me one bit

I should be more specific:

  • It would have helped me a great deal to have read this material when I was in college. It would have destroyed the dysfunctional things I had been taught (e.g., "Dating leads to sin; banter is rude; sex is dirty; women don't want sex; love is spiritual, not physical; just be yourself; just wait, and the right woman for you will be attracted to you"), and I probably would have been able to connect with at least some of the women who threw themselves at me when I was in college.

  • It has helped me get a lot of phone numbers and emails from women - not using specific techniques, which I'm lousy at, but just knowing that nothing awful will happen if I walk up to a strange woman and talk to her and ask for her number. But those phone #s and emails that I got using PUA techniques, don't usually convert! And I've lost at least one woman by using those techniques, so I'm maybe breaking even.

  • Bodybuilding was a more effective way of pickup up women. For me, spending an hour a day in the gym, and fifteen minutes talking to women, is more effective than spending an hour and fifteen minutes in a bar. For many gu

... (read more)

Bodybuilding was a more effective way of pickup up women. For me, spending an hour a day in the gym, and fifteen minutes talking to women, is more effective than spending an hour and fifteen minutes in a bar. For many guys that is probably not the case. I am a bar-environment-defective personality. Being the quiet type is appealing if you are muscular, possibly because women know it's by choice and not out of fear, and definitely because some women are intrigued by the contrast. Women like the strong and silent type, not the silent type.

My experience exactly. The gym makes an enormous difference to attractiveness. The trifecta of physical appeal, self confidence and hormone adjustment.

No, it isn't. There's already a pretty strong taboo against discussing politics, even though there's a lot of important ways politics interacts with rationality. And that's because even though it is theoretically possible to talk about politics safely, rationally, in practice it simply doesn't last, and has an overall negative effect on the community as people descend into tribalism. I think there is plenty of good stuff to talk about regarding PUA. But it is going to have consequences. Women will be turned off unless it is discussed extremely carefully. Sooner or later someone will slip up and say something NOT careful, which comes across as sexist. The first few slip ups will be accidental and forgiveable, but unless there is a constant pushback from women and female-advocates, it's going to gradually get worse, and most of the males won't even notice. If there IS constant pushback and reminders whenever people inadvertently point out sexist thinking, many people will not say "oh, my bad," they will say "come on stop overreacting" which a) often ends up being sexist all by itself and b) creates a dichotomy which leads to tribalism. So for most intents and purposes, PUA counts as politics. In this case, the slip up was in the very first line of the post: Lukeprog started with the words "Attraction and Seduction for Heterosexual Male Rationalists." This already suggests to women perusing the site that this is a site for heterosexual males, and the word "seduction" already is implicitly objectifying women. It's possible for someone to have done it tastefully and carefully, but this post wasn't it and the people reacting negatively to it are perfectly justified.
I would agree with your call for rationalist debate on the matter and agree that branding such debate "wrong" is well wrong. But I must disagree with the venue, because of signalling reasons. I would also to a limited extent endorse your criticism of the effectiveness of PUA for some (our?) kinds of people. The main value I got out of PUA is its excellent predictive value, not any particular benefit via applying said knowledge. The main tangible practical benefit I got from PUA can be summed up in the following four points: 1. Preform many many light-hearted social experiments, you need data. 2. Most of everyday casual communication is status signalling 3. The meaning of a communication is the response it elicits. 4. "Natural game" is practised by millions who don't think about what they are doing at all. They are not punished, resented or reviled for it at all in fact they are admired and appreciated. What you are doing is developing a substitute for the black box in their brain that you seem to be missing. The behaviour itself is attractive, its not used as a shorthand for some other qualities (which is not to say that some other qualities can't be attractive in their own right). The behaviour itself is all that is attractive, the machinery that is behind it doesn't matter one bit unless it fails to emulate the output or if it demonstrates other undesirable traits. But the set of appropriate behavioured in themselves are still attractive. If undesirables traits overcome the positive effect upon objective analysis this is not a call against reverse engineering, it is a call to use a different design for emulation.
I know what you mean! In the case of DeAngelo I have to disagree. He is basically just a 'intellectual' himself and his best work is targeted to similar audience as himself. It is well suited to non-bitch-party-girl girls and for most part is just stuff that is overwhelmingly obvious if you have lived in the world for a while or have read psychology books. Especially the parts where he literally just stands there and reads said psychology books. As for Mystery and co, however, you have the caricature down pat. He even says pretty much the same thing himself. His method is aimed at 'particularly beautiful women', where his appreciation of beauty explicitly includes being 'dolled up' in such a way that most women of the class that you mention would be excluded.
Perhaps I'm not familiar with the aspects of his teaching that you, but typical David DeAngelo Cocky&Funny is optimized for party girls. But it's not too difficult to adapt it to intelligent/intellectual women once you understand the principles. Think Oscar Wilde, for instance. I do see a bunch of overlap between the target audience of Mystery, and David DeAngelo. Pickup 101 has some overlap with both, but its direct daygame has significant differences. Juggler Method is quite different from any of these methods, and I consider it the premiere method for seduction between intelligent people. Also, Mystery Method is optimized for night game, while Juggler method is optimized for the day.
And likewise I may well be less familiar with the aspects which you consider typical. His earliest work, the ebook and the first audio program I have barely looked at for example and I believe he has matured an awful lot since then. The products of his that I have recommended people look at for personal development purposes include: * On Being A Man (That Naturally Attracts Women) * Mastery With Women and Dating * Deep Inner Game * Body Language Most of David DeAngelo's work doesn't even fit the label PUA particularly well. We just don't have a suitable label for "life skills training for men with an emphasis on social skills and dating". Mind you "Meeting Women In Bars" probably fits that label rather a lot better than, say "Meeting Women Online". Surprisingly enough I have never bothered reading the former. There is an entirely natural selection effect in place. :) To be honest I have yet to meet a girl I was interested in with whom Cocky & Funny didn't work. Largely because it is the state I naturally enter when I am feeling confident, relaxed and social. I personally find people who do not appreciate cocky humour extremely grating and unpleasant to be around for long periods. The personality traits involved also carry over into other areas of personal relations so in this case the effect is also screening. My dating habits (if not flirting habits)definitely don't include an audience of party girls but here your next point becomes relevant: I have only glanced at Juggler's stuff. On your recommendation I'll take another look. Your past recommendations have been good. I'm not particularly working to optimise the dating part of my life right now but I am always curious to learn. :) Not to mention optimised for being a stage performer by training. :)
Signals associated with the dark triade don't seem to be hard to replicate.
But what about those who are turned away by the post? Don't they need such a place too? Do they not count in "we", or do we need more than one place?
No, by definition, since they are those who turn away on encountering such a place.
But they also don't have a place that has most of the positive features of LW + politeness/welcoming (to the degree they are compatible). LW could either become the sort of place they want, the sort of place you want or some sort of compromise. How did you determine that LW becoming your sort of place is best? EDIT: I am not advocating banning PUA as a topic. Personally I don't even completely understand why it's offensive to anyone in the first place. But since I don't understand I also suspend judgement on whether it should offend anyone.
Well, LW is already non-welcoming to a lot of groups people are supposedly trying to reach, e.g., religious people, to take an obvious example.
Yes, but we are considerably less openly hostile to religion than e. g. Pharyngula and comments that are exclusively hostile to religion without otherwise being productive/rational get heavily downvoted. So it's not the case that we are completely ignoring offensiveness to religious people. I'd be open to arguments how weighting it more would be more beneficial overall. Additionally religion is a matter of choice and at least somewhat indicative of current rationality while sex/sexual attraction is neither, and there are currently some norms against content that would be offensive to people of certain gender/sexual orientation so changing that would be a change from status quo.
Being offended by discussions of PUA and/or other politically incorrect topics, is also a matter of choice that is at least somewhat indicative of current rationality. Aside from status quo bias I fail to see how that's relevant.
If you separate gender and being offended by things likely to offend a particular gender you should also separate religion and being offended by by things likely to offend people of a particular religiosity status. Either way one more level of choice and rationality correlation applies to the latter.
It's a counter-argument against the applicability of analogy to offending religious people defined as acceptable due to being current status quo. If status quo is irrelevant it is irrelevant both ways, if status quo applies it also applies both ways.
I never said status quo applied in either case.
What was the point of writing this then?
My point is that being overly concerned about offending people is not good for rationality in either case. I don't see how status quo is relevant.
You mentioned the status quo. If you had just asked whether that (the best place for LW to be being in need of determination rather than clear a priori) should equally apply to offending religious people (while taking all relevant differences into account during the analysis) I would have answered: "Yes, of course."
I don't know why this is down voted, LW really has gotten much more welcoming to religious people than other Atheist sites. And empty religion bashing with no rationalist content is heavily down voted. Do most people disagree with this assessment? I think its because people realized over time they didn't have to signal via religion bashing since there was a consensus. We've actually had interesting metacontrarians (ala Theists are wrong, but is theism?)

I don't think your approach is good. From what I see, you would like to discuss this topic from a practical self-improvement perspective. But there are already lots of places on the web that offer much better opportunities for such discussions than LW ever could, so I see no point at all in seeking them here.

What is, in my view, really interesting in this topic from the perspective of the LW mission statement is the possibility of distilling more general insight about human thought and behavior. As I wrote in a recent comment, this topic is unique in that it provides a no-nonsense dissection of a large and important area of human social interaction with a level of detail, accuracy, and depth that no other approach has managed to reach. This is a true intellectual breakthrough in an area that has otherwise been hopelessly fruitless, confused, and overburdened with nonsense and bullshit. For people who are able and wiling to discuss it in an unbiased and intelligent way, this should open a floodgate of first-rate insight, much of it directly relevant for the essential questions about the ways human minds function realistically.

So, if you'd like to open discussions of this topic on LW, I'd suggest this latter angle: what can we learn about human minds and human behavior in general by applying insights gathered from it? That is where the real challenge and the real potential for insight is.


A front page post on PUA would not jibe well with the previously-articulated goal of attracting more women to this community, and might drive some of the existing ones away.

I used to be one of those poor guys who complained that "Girls say they want nice guys, but they only go out with jerks!"

In women-dominated communities, it is a truism that this sort of statement is generally uttered by guys who are jerks but don't realize it. These men are referred to as Nice Guys(TM), a mocking designation that distinguishes them from actual nice guys, who we like. Here are a few blog posts breaking down the definition. See also for a summary of views on this phenomenon from female perspectives.

A post that claims to explain why women only go out with jerks is therefore very liable to be extremely alienating to most female readers, especially when the answer turns out to be "because evolution."

I'm aware of this discourse, if by "women-dominated" communities, you mean "feminist-women-dominated" communities. Do you think this truism is actually true? It seems awfully convenient that once a guy starts complaining about lack of success with women on the grounds of "niceness," he can be categorized as a jerk who isn't really "nice," and who is different from the non-complaining good type of "nice guy." What do you think is a realistic breakdown of self-identified "nice guys" who report lack of success with women?
If it is then it'd have to be the first case of a truism being true that I've ever seen. I hate truisms. Come to think of it I should have mentioned 'overuse of truisms without satire or irony' as a 'dealbreaker' in the dating preferences thread.
I think it accurately identifies a phenomenon that occurs with some frequency. Not that it is true in every case. I think it's more that guys who are actually nice don't tend to identify their basic human decency as the source of their trouble. The "Girls only go out with jerks!" cry is often infused with a generalized hostility towards women, which isn't very nice at all.

I think it accurately identifies a phenomenon that occurs with some frequency. Not that it is true in every case.

Right, I didn't think you thought it was true in every case. I was asking what you think the breakdown of "not-nice nice guys" vs. "genuine nice guys" might be among self-identified "nice guys" who report lack of success with women.

I think it's more that guys who are actually nice

"Actually nice" presupposes a particular definition of "nice." If a guy who is normally high in agreeableness and empathy gets rejected and feels bitter, is he not actually "nice?" If the guy believes that he has a right to sexual contact from women due to positive treatment of her, then yes, that's getting into jerk territory. If he actually faked being friends with her, then yes, that's also departing from conventional notions of "niceness" (though being unable to maintain the friendship after being rejected is not sufficient evidence that the friendship was fake).

However, outside such behaviors, calling a guy "not nice" merely for being resentful and bitter about rejection seems like an example of the funda... (read more)

You're pointing at a generalized hard problem-- how can you tell who's trustworthy enough? I'm inclined to think that anyone who habitually vents about the awfulness of a group you're part of is riskier for you than someone who doesn't. It may be excessive paranoia on my part that such venting even once is a sign of trouble. Certainly, that level of sensitivity has been encouraged lately, and I've been trying to figure out what's a good level for my quality of life. There's also the question of people who aren't venting about various groups-- they have settled opinions of the groups, with theories backing the opinions. Danger sign if they're overgeneralizing about a group you can about? As for the "women only want jerks" thing, I do wonder how anyone can believe that. Don't they look at a range of couples? My tentative theory is that the people who put the most into heterosexual gender display are easiest to notice, and maybe they're (especially when youngish) apt to make beautiful woman/dominant jerk pairings. Maybe the "women only want jerks" guy is only seeing the supernormal stimuli. Even if a guy starts out nice, if he's becoming resentful of women in general, he may become a much less good person for his next partner.
I'm willing to cede this, but because the former is true it does put me (and many other women) on my guard when I hear it. I like your hypothesis about women preferring men who are in the 60-80th percentile of Agreeableness, but punishing those who are higher -- it sounds at least plausible to me -- but I'd want to see some surveys before I started actually believing it. Look, you seem completely reasonable so I'm sure you can understand this -- it's just irritating to hear, over and over, these sweeping assertions about what women "are like" or what we "really want," which are then confidently backed by appeals to evopsych (but never any real data beyond the anecdotal), especially when I disagree with the characterization and every woman I know disagrees with the characterization. Conveniently, though, our objections are dismissed on the grounds that we don't understand "how evolution has programmed our brains," or that we are not brave enough to confront the truth. You get why that's obnoxious, right? The "women only date jerks!" line is just one aspect of this recurring syndrome.
In this case, you have my sympathies when your perspective is dismissed on the grounds of evolutionary theory. While I am a big fan of evolutionary theories, I see it as a tool for generating hypotheses, and I think it only provides weak evidence for any beliefs on its own. In the case of "programming," I don't really agree with your objections to the term. The metaphor of "programming" for biology has holes (e.g. lack of a programming agent), but it's useful enough in other ways to be employing by scientists. Take, for instance, the terms genetic code and developmental program. My guess is that you would be bothered by the following passage: Who wrote this passage? The pickup artist Mystery, perhaps? Actually, it was researchers in a book chapter on evolutionary social psychology: Graziano, W.G., Jensen-Campbell, L.A., Todd, M. & Finch, J. (1997). Interpersonal attraction from an evolutionary psychology perspective: Women’s reactions to dominant and prosocial men. In J.A. Simpson & D. Kenrick (Eds.), Evolutionary Social psychology. (pp. 141-167). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. As for the notion that women being "programmed" being offensive, I can't completely relate to that, because ever since puberty, I've taught that men are visually programmed to respond to women's bodies. Given that we are all used to the notion that men have automatic and mechanistic sexual responses to women, the notion that women have automatic and mechanistic sexual responses to men hardly seems groundbreaking. Of course, you might well reject such metaphors towards either gender. As far as I can tell, the problem is that some men have anecdotal observations of women's preferences that differ from your understanding of your own preferences, and of other women's. I understand your frustration with overbroad generalizations about women's preferences, and the use of evolutionary theories in the absence of empirical studies. That being said, I do hope that weaker versions of those claims won't b
Actually, no, since the language isn't gender-specific. I'm still not convinced by the theory, but I don't find the terminology nearly as objectionable when it's applied to people in general rather than women in particular. Awesome. I agree with your point about not generalizing overmuch from my own experiences, either. And I don't hold a strong position against all evopsych. So as far as the basic groundwork here goes, we are in agreement.
It's going to take me a couple posts to respond properly to your comment, since I'll be bringing in a couple citations. That's understandable, but I'll still maintain that the base rate of belief in the nice guy stereotype is very high, and probably only a minority of people with such beliefs are hostile towards women. You know why I say that? Because many women share those beliefs: Herold & Milhausen asked a sample of women the following questions: * Do you know of women who have had the choice of dating nice but sexually inexperienced men but chose to date men who are very sexually experienced but not as nice? * You may have heard the expression, ‘Nice guys finish last.’ In terms of dating, and sex, do you think women are less likely to have sex with men who are ‘nice’ than men who are ‘not nice’ ? 56% percent of the sample answered "yes" to both questions. Since most women in this sample agreed with certain components of the "nice guy" stereotype, and presumably most women aren't hostile towards women, then clearly it's extremely easy for someone in our culture to attain that perception without being hostile towards women. It's ironic that most women may hold beliefs about other women's preferences that would get a man tarred and feathered as a "Nice Guy(TM)" if he mentioned them in some places on the internet. I think we should wait for evidence for actually believing that it is true, but we should also wait for evidence for believing that it is false. It seems to me that certain attitudes towards self-identified "nice guys" already assume that this hypothesis is false (and other hypothesis that might make the complaints of these guys sound more reasonable). This helps me understand your stance on the complaints of self-identified "nice guys," but it doesn't really help me agree with it. How representative do you think that you and your friends are of the general female population? Women who post on LessWrong, and who are bisexual (which I believe you m
Can we do a bit more groundwork-laying before we dig into this? When you read this letter from a self-described "nice guy," does he sound to you like a reasonable person with a justified gripe? Or does he sound to you like an asshole who's looking to blame women in general for the trouble he's had getting laid, probably because he's an asshole? Because I think it possible that we are talking crosswise: you are saying "I know for a fact that there exist truly nice guys who have trouble with the ladies," and I am saying "I know for a fact that the 'women won't date nice guys' complaint is often heard issuing from the mouth of guys who actually aren't nice at all" -- and it is entirely possible that both of these statements are true at the same time. Well, this is a bit No True Scotsman, isn't it? I don't doubt that there exist women who are only attracted to jerks, the same way I don't doubt that there exist men who will only date bitchy ladies. Tastes vary widely in matters of romance. Where I start to object is when I hear people making categorical assertions about What Women Want, when such assertions contradict my own experience and observations. The Herold & Milhausen survey you linked is interesting, and thank you for the citation. There are of course other surveys in which women overwhelmingly indicate that they are looking for nice guys. This one is particularly interesting in that the researchers have been asking the same questions since 1939, and have found significant generational shifts in the traits women are seeking: So it may be true that women aren't placing as much of a premium on niceness as they used to, but this study at least still finds that it's a desirable quality in a mate. (Obviously surveys are prone to various kinds of biases, and I'm sure we agree that no single survey is going to provide a conclusive answer to this question, but it's still interesting to look at what data we can.) Or maybe we've just heard a lot of aggressive misogy
He sounds like a confused person with a justified gripe who is now being an asshole (and so does Jeff Fecke, the author of that article). The "nice guy" has been taught a certain approach to female sexuality based on exchange: rather than understanding how to arouse female sexuality, he is taught to attempt to exchange some sort of platonic goods. This view of sexuality is extremely misguided, but it is ubiquitous in our culture among both men and women. When the attempted exchange failed, he grew frustrated: "You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy." Of course, this notion is ridiculous because emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are not the same "kind" of good. Where I part ways from Fecke is where he starts reading the Nice Guy's mind: When Fecke says that the guy wasn't "nice," he is equivocating on the word "niceness" so that he can say that the guy lacks it. Believing in exchange over sex is misguided, but so many people believe in it that I don't that we can say that they are all assholes. Unless he was actively trying to obligate particular women into sex in exchange for platonic favors, it's too much of a stretch to accuse him of "antipathy toward this woman, and all women". Merely feeling stiffed on the "exchange" makes the guy misguided, but not an asshole. (Analogously, women who feel stiffed after hookups that don't turn into relationships aren't entitled assholes; they are just misguided.) There is also no basis for Fecke to say that he wasn't her friend. There is no contradiction between being friends with someone, pursuing them, and feeling frustrated and resentful if they reject you, even to the point of not being able to still be friends with them. Fecke goes even further: Here Fecke manages to be both sexist and ableist at the same time. People who have high social anxiety, or who are non-neurotypical, may often have trouble making a move, yet according to Fecke, these folks aren't acti
It is worth adding that part of the 'brainwashing' process includes spending too much time in communities where more effective instrumental beliefs are stigmatised but where romantic advice is still given.
Yeah, no. This guy is ranting at an audience filled with imaginary women who have wronged him or someone like him, taking apparent pleasure in telling them all what shallow bitches they are (that's the misogynist part) and how many men are "out there looking to unleash his cynicism and resentment onto someone just like you" (that's the aggressive part). I give zero credence to the "let's pity him because society screwed him over" argument. First, I observe that most men seem to to do just fine in the romantic arena, which is a big strike against the generalized-societal-brainwashing hypothesis. And secondly, if if he did have a run of bad luck, it's no excuse for the way he's generalized his resentment against women. Look, I got mugged by a black guy not too long ago. If I start ranting about how black men are dangerous criminal thugs, people are going to quite rightly perceive me as racist--my experience might go some way toward explaining my racism, but wouldn't justify or excuse it. Same with this guy and his hostility toward women. And yes, the fact that you see him as sympathetic or "the primary victim" in the situation tells me that we have radically different ideas of what "nice" really is. Yes, I would expect the proportions to be about the same, although this is a weak expectation and I wouldn't be incredibly surprised to see some variance, on average, between the genders. I would be surprised by a really large variance. The problems with self-reporting are well known (which is why I attached the disclaimers I did to the university survey) but I'm not sure the Herold methodology is such an improvement: in asking women to comment on the behavior of their gender in the abstract, it's getting more at women's ideas about other women than it is at what women really do. Best of course would be "study[ing their] actual relationship choices," but that's not what the survey you cited does. Do you know of any that do?
I don't think it's a surprise to either of us that we read the rant differently. Could it be consistent with the thoughts of an asshole misogynist? Yes. Could it be consistent with the thoughts of a genuinely "nice" person who is in a bad mood, who's bark is worse than his bite? Yes, and I think that's more probable. Could we say that the rant contains misogynistic ideas? Yes. He never refers to women as "bitches." He refers to their preferences as "infantile," which is insulting, but is it misogynistic? That depends on the definition of "misogyny." He is observing that there will be a bunch of cynical and resentful guys who women have ignored, and women will run into those guys. It's unclear how much he is talking about himself, and if he's not, then he's not being aggressive: he's just making an observation that follows from his previous ideas. Even if he is talking about himself, he is rather vague about what he actually intends to do. Remember, this is a guy who thinks practically every guy who is more successful with women than him is a jerk, so his idea of being a "jerk" may be pretty mild. I don't think his language compels us to believe that he is out to get women. It's a rant, and if we asked this guy whether he is out to unleash his cynicism and resentment on women, he would probably say "no." I think his essay is a bunch of angry posturing, and I'm skeptical that he could back any of it up (based on observations of other guys making similar complaints). I said that it was particularly men with "men with certain temperaments and upbringings" who were vulnerable to that brainwashing. For instance, certain young men who are more introverted and sensitive are more attracted to notions of courtly love, rather than going to parties to make out with people while wasted. Furthermore, men who are less socialized disproportionately base their ideas off what the media and authority figures say about how romance works, which doesn't always match up to reality.
So, I have trouble reconciling statements like "Could we say that the rant contains misogynistic ideas? Yes" and "I have trouble seeing his views as analogous to racism." You seem to be saying that he's stating misogynistic ideas but that's really okay, reasonable, and ultimately sympathetic--which I don't know what to do with. This part, though, I understand: Your experience leads you to sympathize with him, and (from my perspective) to rationalize away the parts of his rant that are aggressive and threatening. My experience leads me to view him very unsympathetically, and (from your perspective) to zero in on the parts of his rant that sound the worst, and blow them out of proportion. I could switch over to talking about what in my personal experience has led me to the views I hold, but I don't anticipate you and wedifrid changing your views based on that story, and it would be painful for me to hear you sympathizing with the self-described "nice guy" from my own past (who in my view was a stalker, and made my life completely miserable for some time). At the same time I'm sure you have similar stories from your own past that have led you to the views you now hold. So, to use the rationalist jargon, in the true sources of disagreement list, I'm chalking this up to "patterns perceptually recognized from experience." I don't know what to tell you except that I and many other women have observed that stalkers, misogynists, and other not-truly-nice-at-all guys often use the "women only date jerks!" line to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their own romantic failures, and to justify their continuing resentment and anger toward women in general. We use the "Nice Guys(TM)" label to refer to this phenomenon, not to play "gotcha" against reasonable & sympathetic dudes. Your response, of course, will be to say that your own "patterns perceptually recognized from experience" lead you to believe that women often do seem to prefer jerks to nice guys, and the "w
The reason you are seeing seemingly-conflicting assessments is because I am conflicted over exactly which aspects of the rant are misogynistic or not, and why. I could make arguments either way. If being insulting towards women is misogynistic, then some of his language (e.g. "infantile") is misogynistic. If "unleashing cynicism and resentment" is a threat rather than an observation or impersonal prediction, then it would be misogyny. As for making generalizations about women's preferences based on his experience that are wrong, I think it's more tenuous to call that misogyny. The reason I sympathize with him is that he had a life of romantic rejection due to bullshit that was fed him, and that he hasn't actually harmed anyone (as far as we know). The primary person hurt by his misguided ideas about romance is he himself. If we did have information that he was intentionally attempting to hurt women, or that he had stalked someone, then any sympathy I feel would get extinguished pretty fast. Stalking is indeed outside my conceptualization of "nice" (and outside my schema of how self-identified "nice guys" behave). I appreciate your summary. I have no trouble agreeing with you on this point. The question on my mind from the start of our discussion is about the proportion of these not-truly-nice-at-all guys relative to the larger population of self-identified "nice guys." If that proportion is low, then we should be less worried that the "nice guy" in the rant actually holds stable misogynistic attitudes. The problem is that those phenomena are not always correctly demarcated. My worry is that reasonable and sympathetic dudes may make certain complaints that sound similar to complaints of genuine misogynists (e.g. "nice guys finish last"), leading certain feminists to fail to recognize them as reasonable and sympathetic, and instead classify them as "Nice Guys(TM)." I already believe that that when women talk about the Nice Guys(TM) concept that we are reporting h
Okay, so we're arguing over percentages--but I perceive guys like the nice-guy letter writer to be ginormous assholes, where as you view him as reasonable and sympathetic. So my population of jerks is obviously larger, because we define "jerk" differently. In my personal experience, probably about 80 percent of guys who will express to me the sentiment "women only date jerks" are dudes who I perceive to be jerks (yet who are not having stunning success with the ladies). But I will be the first to acknowledge all the biases that are going into shaping that view, firstly the fact that these are men who think it's a good idea to buttonhole women of their acquaintance with their complaints about women generally, which is quite a filtering mechanism right there. Still, it's what I got. I think you may be ascribing to me views that I don't hold, given that a good deal of the material you've cited isn't directly relevant to the original question. I don't actually believe that "the ideal man is a woman in a man's body," so I don't need to be convinced otherwise. I believe women are attracted to men, to manly qualities. I dispute that manly qualities = jerkitude, and I object to a model of What Women Want that is presented as categorical yet excludes huge numbers of real-life women. I also want to circle back to a question you asked earlier and I skipped (because I perceived it as addressing views I don't hold): I think those statements are all wrong, at least as presented, although in each case it would be possible to formulate a more careful and sophisticated version that might be supportable. "There is a significant population of men that is primarily attracted to the 'dumb blond' presentation" or "Most men give physical appearance strong weight when choosing a mate." I don't know if they are insulting, although if you as a member of the group being characterized tell me that these statements (the original, or the reformulations) are insulting, then I will update acco
siduri said: Actually, I view the letter writer as sympathetic, unreasonable (see my rebuttal to some of his views in a previous comment), and somewhat of an asshole (though I think his assholishness is specific to the context of the rant, and is probably not the source of his troubles with women). That's probably true. Interesting. Perhaps the context of the complaint makes a difference: guys who rant about women to a female acquaintance might be different from guys who rant to male friends in discussions of relationships, or from guys who rant on the internet. Very well, the Vincent quotes might not be relevant. The Herold & Milhausen study, and the quotes from Serano definitely are. If people who aren't cis male are coming to some of the same conclusions as self-identified "nice guys," then those conclusions should seem less exceptional, and shouldn't get those guys so quickly tarred with the "Nice Guy(tm)" brush. Obviously there is something going on that many self-identified "nice guys" are seeing, 56% of women are seeing, and Serano was seeing... yet for some reason, a certain segment of nerdy or feminist women aren't seeing it, and I'm wondering why. I'm glad that I managed to get it across. Anyway, have I answered your question about my views of the letter? Where there any other big issues that we were talking about that are worth pursuing at this time?
Well, 56 percent in one survey, when other surveys framed in different ways come out with contradictory findings. I accept the finding as data, but not as such conclusive data that we can make confident assertions about what a majority of women believe. As you pointed out in one of your followups, these women seemed to be talking about two very different definitions of "nice guy," where one definition basically meant weak and whiny. Weak and whiny is a turnoff, for sure. I think we agree that what you described as the exchange-oriented script of female sexuality is a misleading way of looking at the world, and can lead genuinely nice guys into frustration. And I think we've located the source of our disagreement regarding the Nice Guy(TM) syndrome--we both think it exists, but our different experiences lead us to different estimates of how common it may be. And I'm apparently harsher in my judgments than you are, which is also a contributing factor. Is that a fair assessment? I do want to thank you again for providing the link to the Herold survey. Even though I don't accept it as fact, I do accept it as evidence, and I have modified my estimates on that basis. Like I said, going into this conversation I would have put the percentage of Nice Guys(TM) among self-reported "nice guys" at somewhere around 80 percent. Now I'm pegging it at somewhere between 40 to 60 percent.
Also, I wonder if it would help if you and Hugh clarified what each of you mean by behaving like a jerk.
I would expect the same logic that leads you to conclude that it's legitimate to attribute a negative judgment to the class of women based on my (non-universal, but pervasive and emotionally significant) experiences with women to also lead you to conclude that it's legitimate to attribute a negative judgment to the class of soi-disant "nice guys" based on my (non-universal, but pervasive and emotionally significant) experiences with such men. So I would expect you to accept siduri's judgment that soi-disant "nice guys" are misogynists with the same casualness that you accept the essay writer's assertions about women. Instead, you contest the former and defend the latter. Why is that?
What exactly is the negative judgment that you think I think is legitimate? Where did I say that I accept the essay writer's assertions about women? I already stated that I think his views of women are misguided and oversimplified. The question is not whether I agree with the author, but whether his views of women's preferences are so beyond the pale as to be misogynistic. I think the "nice guy," Fecke, and perhaps siduri are all committing various sorts of errors, such as the availability heuristic, ignoring base rates, or the typical mind fallacy. I also acknowledge the potential of the availability heuristic on my part, when evaluating the qualities of "nice guys," which is why I pulled up a bunch of evidence in my last reply showing other people different from me independently coming to some of the same conclusions about "nice guys" and women's preferences. The difference is that the "nice guy" is on trial for sexism, while the other two are not, which is why I'm trying to give him a fair trial.
Fair enough; perhaps I've misunderstood your position. It certainly seemed that you were claiming that the essay-writer's (1) assertions were legitimate, and that siduri and others were inappropriately censuring them, but reading through the whole exchange up to this point I feel like it's become entirely muddled. So I suggest we Taboo "misogynistic" and "sexist" here and unpack a bit. You agree that the essay writer's position is incorrect, but you nevertheless feel he's being inappropriately accused of ("on trial for") something, I'm not exactly sure what, that you feel entitles him to your public defense. Yes? So, can you clarify what you feel he's being accused of, and why he's entitled to more support than he's otherwise getting, without using those words? (1) Edit: it occurs to me that there are two essay writers here, so this is ambiguous: I mean the self-identified man who wrote the initial essay that the quoted essay is quoting. That's probably obvious, but I figured I'd clarify.
Upvoted purely for "soi-disant". I'm a professional writer and editor; it's not often that I learn a new word.
(nods) I'm fond of it. In most contexts I use the more accessible "self-styled" instead, but the connotations are different.
I take it you are referring to the guy mentioned here? I ask because I was expecting to see an example case that was, well, hostile against women. There certainly are people who fit that category. It seemed to be a guy communicating in an aggressive masculine style. The sort of bluntness that is more commonly used when guys are showing 'tough love' to other guys. Complete with the bravado. The content was fairly circumspect as far as such things go. It seems more condescending than hostile. That it was a response to women complaining about their lot rather than purely a complaint about his own also changes the interpretation somewhat. When I make aggressive exhortations on that subject it tends to be for the benefit of another guy, emphasizing their personal responsibility for their own success. That is, "quit being a pussy and stop whining" rather than "quit having internally inconsistent preferences and stop whining".
"The nice guy you claim to want has, in reality, shed his nice guy mantle"--our nice guy seems to be speaking for himself here--"and is out there looking to unleash his cynicism and resentment onto someone just like you." Unleash his cynicism and resentment onto someone just like you. How is that not hostile???
(I do not consider that to be a tenable interpretation of the words.)
Which part is not tenable? That the self-described nice guy is identifying with the hypothetical nice guy? How else would you interpret it? That he wants to tell you about nice guys because he's a nice guy but by the time he gets to the end he's no longer identifying with the nice guys he's talking about? Seriously, how else do you interpret it? Obviously he's sharing in this "cynicism and resentment," the whole missive is built around it.
People don't threaten in the first person to unleash cynicism and resentment , at least without clear wryness or self mockery. That is incredibly jarring to imagine - particularly since he in no way claims to be speaking for himself anywhere in the message. Only in a historical sense. He doesn't appear to be identifying as a nice guy now. He is displaying none of the hallmark submissiveness that the nice guy persona is based around and is actively making assertions that he knows will prompt a certain subclass of women to attempt to shame him. 'Nice guys' notoriously (and almost by definition) let their actions be determined by fear of disapproval from women. Hence the unattractiveness. He seems to be sharing cynicism and contempt. That is, the following seems to be a reasonable caricature: "Are you serious? You're asking why there aren't nice guys? Of course there are no F-ing nice guys. Nice guys don't get laid or in any other way treated well. Nice guys existing wouldn't be a Nash Equilibrium. I am so much smarter than you - except for the thing where I interpret your complaint as a literal question that can be subjected to reason rather than verbal symbols used purely for signalling."
Right, which is why when he says "The nice guy you claim to want has, in reality, shed his nice guy mantle" I think he's speaking for himself. But in any case, you describe him as contemptuous and I'm happy to accept that characterization--contempt vs. hostility isn't a hair I feel the need to split.
You would, I assume, 'split the hair' between women and 'perpetration of a specific perceived hypocrisy'. It isn't the class women he is judging here. Lest there be the slightest hint of implied agreement here allow me to assert that in terms of (indications displayed here of) prejudice, hostility and generic unwarranted expressions of the contempt/resentment/anger towards a group of people 'letter guy' comes in third. Blog author and then yourself come in as greater culprits. I don't expect you to agree with any of that or even to consider my perception at all important, I'm just being clear that this is in no way a hair splitting disagreement.
I very much agree with siduri's comment, as well as grouchymusicologist's below. I don't know for sure which way the pros and cons of the proposed post go, but I do think it's important to consider not just the possible benefit to the current "average Less Wrong Reader" but also the other effects Siduri and grouchymusicologist identify - as Siduri says, not attracting women to the community/possibly driving women away, and as grouchymusicologist says, communicating the message "that the typical reader of LW is 20-34 and heterosexual and single and male and we prefer it that way." I think those effects are real - I would personally feel that LW was just a tiny bit less welcoming with such a post - even if I don't have a good sense of how to measure them. I'm torn because I'm sure that lukeprog's post would probably benefit some members of the LW community. I've read enough of the comments about PUA here to recognize that the PUA community is diverse and some of the voices that are most known/infamous outside of the community (e.g., Roissy) are not representative of what a lot of members of the PUA community (and certainly the LW community) study and admire. I'm also sympathetic that to those PUA members who don't like the Roissy-type approach, it must be frustrating to be lumped in with him. But, at least from what I can tell, that kind of PUA is all a lot of people casually familiar with the subject know, and so the mere mention of PUA evokes negative feelings for a lot of people. So I fear lukeprog's post would evoke those feelings and turn people away from LW, even if it also had the more agreeable effect of providing more balanced information to those who stuck past the original negative reaction to "PUA" and read on. Anyway, lukeprog, if you're collecting votes, I would have to vote no. At any rate, thank you for asking for input from the community.
This is a very good point, the disclaimer itself hammers home some information that may move the reader to a certain impression of what LW is. In some ways I prefer not to know too much about the typical LW reader. Especially if I learned their political affiliations it might activate unwarranted biases against them.
You've hit some key points here. I'm certain the post would be helpful to lots of Less Wrongers. I'm just as certain it would alienate many female readers, even if the post is not sexist apart from using terms that are usually identified with sexism. I'd never heard of Roissy, but I do hate being lumped in with Mystery and company. And yet, I understand tha is the public face of PUA. It's also annoying that a discussion of basic science of human sexual attraction response could be such a mind-killer merely because it's framed in terms of PUA. Are people really that bad at focusing on the material? If somebody was reading the exact same material in a book on human sexuality, I doubt it would offend them at all. But ah, such is humankind! Which is not to suggest I've transcended my humanity, it's just that, being male and all, this subject doesn't push my buttons that way.

If you don't like what happens when you frame your material in terms of PUA, try a different framing. Write a post about the science of attraction, based on published research, and call it a post about the science of attraction. Or write about how social skills can help people be more successful, and portray it as a post about whatever specific social skills you're discussing. You could even include examples from the romantic/dating domain in your post, or mention that the experiences of pickup artists are a source of some of your information (possibly with a link, but the focus should be on the specific skills or techniques and the ways in which they're beneficial. If you start the post with a one-paragraph summary, that summary shouldn't need to devote more than a few words to romance or contain the word "pickup."

This post proposal that you've written encourages people to focus on PUA. It is framed in terms of pickup artistry from the first sentence, it has "seduction" in the title, and it repeatedly mentions things like "how to trick women into bed" and "getting ex... (read more)

Sure. I frame it in terms of PUA because that's where I learned most of those skills from, with a tiny role for Toastmasters. But that's an accident of personal history. What do people think of this? The commenters here are correct that a post on social skills, or one on self-presentation, or one on human mating behavior, need not mention PUA or seduction at all. Would such posts be appropriate for Less Wrong?
There have been a number of highly regarded "instrumental rationality" posts about how to effectively achieve one's goals. These are mostly clustered around productivity (akrasia, et al), but not exclusively. I can't see why posts about how to effectively socialize would be off-topic. That said, there is enough reflexive "Dark Arts" rejection around here that you might get more community support if you turn it around and frame it as how to best resist the techniques that other people might use to effectively socialize with you, and instead remain isolated and uninfluenced. I'd be saddened if that turned out to be true.
Well the posts that deal directly with the dark arts don't get anywhere near this negative a reaction. As such I believe the issue is not dark arts per se but rather that they are discussed in a way that by implication lowers the status of women.
The two questions to ask yourself are 1) whether your post can avoid the bad stuff involving PUA which is offputting to so many people, and 2) whether your post will have enough good stuff to be interesting/useful/relevant. Most of the criticisms and "nay" votes here have been about question #1. If you can successfully avoid that minefield we can move on to question 2. I think there could be a lot of interest (and even if there isn't, it's not a big deal). Posts on social skills or self-presentation fit with LW themes of instrumental rationality & self-improvement (as seen in the akrasia posts). They could also fit the theme of self-awareness (as seen in the Luminosity sequence) - in this case, being aware of the impression that you make on other people and the impact that your behavior has on the interaction. There has also been (highly upvoted) expressed interest in social-skills-related content, both in the comments here and in the More Art, Less Stink post. If you want, you could post a one paragraph summary of a possible post to get feedback on whether people are interested. You could also try asking yourself questions like "Would people outside of the target PUA demographic of young men find this post interesting & relevant?" and "Is this post relevant to many different domains of life, not just dating?"
I wouldn't have any problem with posts like that.
I understand the objection to these sorts of language, but in the case of the first example, what exactly should be used instead? What is the value-neutral term for "seduction?" Unfortunately, I'm not sure we have one.
When you are attempting to seduce someone, what is it exactly that you want to get them to do? How can you tell when you've succeeded? "Get them to have sex with me whether they want to or not" is an answer with different implications than "reduce the obstacles that impede them from acting on their desire to have sex with me" or "encourage them to act on their own desires in general" or "create a desire in them to have sex with me" or etc. Admittedly, not all of those are value-neutral either. If the thing being talked about is negatively or positively valued, it makes sense that the word used is as well... to eliminate that by blurring the connection between word and referent does not improve communication.

It's also annoying that a discussion of basic science of human sexual attraction response could be such a mind-killer merely because it's framed in terms of PUA.

Perhaps you could refocus your proposal in this direction? If you're interested in writing it, a review of the experimental work on the psychology underlying human mating behaviors, both male and female, would be more broadly useful and should be better received than giving dating advice to a subset of the community. It would be entirely in line with the Less Wrong theme of understanding human motivation as it actually is, no different to the discussion of biases and heuristics, or status and signaling. I couldn't say the same about a how-to guide for manipulating women, and I'm glad you decided not to pursue it.

Many people are sufficiently bad at focusing on material that they would be offended even then.
The whole nice guy vs. nice guy(tm) debate is rather interesting in itself, I feel that many critiques of gender relations (feminist and otherwise) seem like low hanging fruit for rationality and should be discussed more here when not interfering with the primary objective. I mostly agree with the article you linked too (I've read similar texts on the phenomena from a female perspective in the past). However let me just point out that game does make such nice guys (tm) genuinely nicer even if they don't see it as such. I'm not sure how relevant this is to a debate about PUA, especially since there is overlaps between the PUA concept of a average frustrated chump and a nice guy(tm). There is even overlap in the kind of criticism and arguments both groups use against the demographic. To explain what I mean let me just comment a few examples of the top of my head. From the wiki entry you link to: I have yet to see a example where any PUA system has advised against interpreting such a statement as anything but a polite statement of disinterest on the part of a woman. Or: Is this really a view incompatible with PUA? There is s a culture in the PUA community where about any sense of bitterness and entitlement on the part of men who don't achieve success in their pursuit of sex is derided. The whole mindset that women are the one making the wrong choice is itself anathema to the basic principle of finding what women reward and value and becoming more like that. Even Roissy in DC who is far from a pretty picture is clearly in line with this: "No one owes you sex or love. Deal with it and stop bitching." Men's Rights activists have formulated long lists of criticism of PUA and many even actively shun it because they claim that PUA is all about men conforming to female desires in behaviour far more than women conform to male desires of behaviour and proclaimed the whole thing gynocentric.
That may be true generally; I don't date men. However, I know some serious past relationships have been destroyed by my being too nice and not sufficiently asserting my own interests. Women generally get put-off by guys who make a serious effort to cater to their every whim, regardless of the jerkishness of their motives, and a lot of guys fail to understand this. While there is certainly the strain of guys who are overly nice because they think it'll get them some, there are also guys out there who are genuinely nice because they obliviously think it will actually accomplish their goals. ETA: There's a difference between "Nice Guys (TM)" and nice guys. The former are perhaps justly disadvantaged. The latter can often find themselves unjustly disadvantaged, and PUA does a lot to counter that.
Love that wiki article! BTW, I didn't say women only go out with "jerks", but they often do. And don't expect me to say that evolution programmed women to love jerks. My bet is that evolution programmed women to be attracted to confident men (many of whom are jerks) - a point so obvious I doubt anyone will seriously disagree.
If you didn't mean to say that, you should edit this part: "I used to be one of those poor guys who complained that 'Girls say they want nice guys, but they only go out with jerks!' Merely reading enough evolutionary psychology to understand why this is the case..." I do, actually. Women aren't robots, and evolution isn't sapient. We aren't actually "programmed" by evolution any more than we were "designed" by God. And I don't share your intuition that confidence correlates highly to jerkitude. In fact, I think overcompensating for low self esteem is one of the primary failure modes that leads to jerkitude. I will agree that confidence is sexy, but I'm deeply skeptical of made-up just-so-stories that purport to explain social circumstances by reference to the ancestral environment. I'd really be interested in seeing your answer to mni's comment here, since it sums up my problems with evopsych very concisely--and while it's been upvoted a lot, nobody has actually answered her.
Lol, oops. Yes, not what I meant. Edited. As for programming, I apparently use that term in a weaker sense than you do. I'm aware that humans are not computers. On mni's comment: I read only that one comment, and I mostly agree with it. This is a common critique of evo-psych in general, and is salient for many claims of evo-psych. I'd have to spend more time than I have now if I want to respond in a way I'd be happy with, though.
I'm sorry if that sounded condescending. The word "programmed" rubs me the wrong way when applied to women, specifically. Maybe because it always does seem to be the women who are "programmed"; men mostly get to be "strategists," rational actors following an evolutionary strategy. It's just a vocabulary distinction, but it's annoying when you're always cast as the sexbot rather than the strategist.
Thanks for explaining; this did not occur to me. I haven't encountered this particular sexism or - just as likely - haven't noticed it. In my sense of "programmed", men and women are equally "programmed."
I prefer to use the word 'optimized'. Does the job just fine, with only 1/4 of the objections!
I prefer the term 'endowed' because our adaptations are often sub-optimal.
It is a truism in a some male communities too - in particular, among those who have started to take responsibility for their own dating success but are not willing to surrender their idealistic view that the dating world should somehow be fair or even that people should be rationally self interested. It isn't and they aren't. It is troubling to see that opinion put forward here as if it is a belief that might actually be about reality - or more to the point that it must be believed or else be alienating and generally shameful and offensive, which seems to be message being conveyed here. It would seem to be more alienating to any male readers who has ever dated a female. At least, any of us that mind being called 'jerks'. :)

I don't think you should write the post. Reason: negative externalities.


I do see the wisdom the caution on your side and that of the commenter on having material specifically tooled to one demographic with little hope for later expansion.


I would still very much like to see an article of this kind (a rationalist approach to pickup) somewhere. I doubt very much that the PUA community is a very rational one. Yes they do have a strong culture of empiricism "the game is played on the field" but the community does have its glaring blind spots (mostly shameless selfpromotion) as well as seems particularly vulnerable t... (read more)

Seconded. There are obviously a lot of people who think they would benefit from reading this article, so if its not suitable LW material, write it and post it somewhere other than LW. This seems to meet all the objections raised in this thread so far as I can see. know what I want to see now? A post for the rational fashion of finding other people who are attracted to the same sex. I have never read any advice on this regard (nor do I have any experience in this regard), and societal signalling is really sketchy in this area.

Do you want to find a date, or determine whether the person you're talking to is queer? If the former, use the internet, a university club, or an interest group where membership is correlated with alternative lifestyle (e.g. social activist or vegetarian societies work well). If the latter, well...I always tell people there's a really simply rule-based system that gives you 95% accurate gaydar in most situations: unless you're reliably informed otherwise, assume they're straight. Generally I find that once I ask the question, "I wonder whether this person is queer?", I can't weight the low prior against the subtle signals I'm receiving properly. Once I've asked the question, I feel like I'm weighing evidence for two equally likely scenarios, and I end up with a lot of false positives. So I've found my overall prediction accuracy is higher if I just assume people are straight.
The frustrating thing about the former is that even the members of the local gay-straight alliance are close-lipped on the matter. (I only know of one closeted transsexual and two closeted bisexuals among their membership despite general alternative lifestyle and fashion signalling mechanisms common among the group.) There's really no reliable signalling going on at all - I am in fact aware of a young woman who dressed up as a fairy for homecoming week and has been seen multiple times wearing a T-shirt stating that "All the cool girls are lesbians", but was evasive when I questioned her sexuality, claiming that she merely bought the shirt because it was on sale at a store.
She was evasive when you question her sexuality? I suggest questioning her on her weight and age too, by way of a control. :)
Argh. Yeah, that sucks. In my university queer society people were generally a lot clearer, although some people did "reject the gender binary (or ternary)", as they put it. I get that sexuality is complicated and individual, but I did occasionally wish people could communicate more clearly. I guess this is part of the point of gay pride. It's a lot better for everyone with an alternative sexuality if people wear their heart on their sleeves in this respect.
Now I'm confused. Did you mean to say "latter"? If you are interested in a date, questioning people's sexuality is kind of irrelevant. Ask them out. If they turn you down, you don't know their sexuality, but you don't care. If they accept, you still don't know their sexuality (though you can exclude more possibilities) but you still don't care.
No, I meant the former. The fact is that in many environments, including my own, there is a huge difference between the amount of individuals who experience same-sex attraction and the individuals who publicly acknowledge that they do. I have previously tried just asking out girls that I like, but am inevitably rebuffed because, as was inevitable, they are straight. This has a greater cost than simply not getting to be in a relationship with them; there is actually often a negative effect on our (potential or already existent) friendship, as well as the disappointment I feel having already expended significant energy on sentimentalizing the concept of being in a relationship with them. Hence I would prefer to identify potential girlfriends before the sentimentalization and disappointment.
Ah, I see. Yeah, when the costs of being rebuffed are high, the two questions get entangled. Often, the most effective fix is to disentangle them, but admittedly sometimes that isn't an option for whatever reason. The best recommendation I can think of given that constraint is to establish friendships with people who are culturally affiliated with the queer community, and try to use that network of friendships to identify potential relationships. That is, get your friends to set you up with girls they know.
There are legitimate reasons to care about their sexuality. Particularly if you have, shall we say, distinctive preferences about the possibility of certain kinds of sexual encounters.
The best way to handle that is to simply discuss it later in the process. If that's really a high priority find an excuse to mention the Kinsey scale and see what they say. I've dated females in a broad range on that scale, and generally most people who are much higher than 1 on that scale will generally say so with minimal prompting.
Others take a more direct approach, making the assumption of bisexuality clear from the outset. Using "So what kind of women do you like?" as an early topic of small talk can set a strong frame and, if nothing else, help to get to rejection quickly - a good thing!
I don't think that's a good strategy. A fair number of moderately bi individuals or even people who are a 3 on the Kinsey scale will find that to be a signal of creepiness or will see it as signaling an interest in them only for sexual purposes. Those are signals that are probably pretty robust. I strongly disrecommend this tactic.
With most things to do with dating and with the label 'creepy' in particular how you do things matters far more than what you do. Just as critical is who you are, where you are and who you are interacting with. In this example the 'who' is a high status attractive guy who has spent altogether too much time specialising for a specific kind of night game and the target audience is particularly high status and sexually open women of the type that make up the upper echelons of that type of social scene. This is presented to demonstrate just how much the relevance of techniques can vary. In as much as you were giving advice to the less wrong audience I of course agree. But your claim of general robustness is wrong. Note: I don't think it matters either way and some reader has voted down all of the comments here by both of us as well as others in the surrounding context. This is not something people are comfortable discussing even in the abstract.
Ehh...You usually don't want to "ask someone out" in a way that's unambiguously romantic, because that makes any rejection explicit. People usually prefer to maintain some level of polite fiction about what's being proposed or rejected. If you go ahead and ask someone out this way, and they're a bit oblivious or you're a little too subtle, and they are the wrong sexuality, you can end up in a really awkward situation.
Agreed that making ambiguous requests prevents rejection from being explicit and allows for really awkward situations. This is true even if everyone involved is "the right sexuality." That strikes me as a reason to endorse unambiguous (though polite) requests and rejections. That said, I agree that some people prefer to avoid them.
I find dropping the phrase "my ex-girlfriend" into conversations to be a useful way of announcing that I like girls. I'm not aware of a good way to inquire, though.
Well, sometimes the announcing is enough, if it gives others the incentive to introduce themselves. (I find this works better for monosexuals, though... I frequently bewilder people when I talk about both my husband and my ex-girlfriend.)
That is an effective signalling strategy, but unfortunately would be ineffective in certain situations, including my own, where the matter of concern often involves trying to determine the answer in the absence of stereotypical indicators or a relationship history of sufficient length (e.g. one or zero) to draw conclusions.

I'm a male who falls explicitly in a PUA thread's target demographic. I don't think PUA is an inherently bad idea. I think there's a lot of good, worthwhile information to be learned that isn't necessarily sexist. I would like to be in a relationship but suck at avoiding the friend zone. I'd prefer a PUA discussion in an environment where the premier focus is on rationality rather than sex.

I still think this is a bad idea. For a lot of reasons. But the number one is:

As much as I'd like to improve my own abilities to get women to see me as a relationship pr... (read more)

Wouldn't the optimal solution be a rationalist discussion of the subject away from LW?
I think that'd be perfectly reasonable. What I myself would like to see is something of a "rational feminist PUA community," wherein a primary constraint is ensuring equal status, wellbeing and personhood of the women involved.

I thought it was the long-held consensus that PUA was dark-arts, possible mind-killer, potentially off-putting and off-topic. Suggestion to lukeprog is to use his (awesome) powers of research to pull up the old posts in which this consensus was reached before proceeding. I've had enough whiskey to prevent me from doing so.

The major posts appear to be 'Of Exclusionary Speech and Gender Politics' and 'More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA'. Thanks for your comment.
Alicorn's post, Sayeth the Girl, started of the discussion. It's also been edited to include links to five followups (one of which you linked to). Edit: in the interest of avoiding trivial inconveniences, here are links to the followups: * Roko (don't ask why his name has been deleted) * orthonormal * Eliezer * Yvian * Wei_Dai
I hadn't read the "Of Exclusionary Speech" link and find that it and this comment together say everything that I had wanted to say on the issue. So thank you for finding and posting the links.
Alicorn's post, Sayeth the Girl, started of the flame war
Alicorn's post, Sayeth the Girl, started of the flame war<\strike>
Is it just me, or are the terms "dark arts" and "mind-killer" becoming some of the biggest mind-killers and forms of dark arts on LessWrong?
I think it's just you. The terms themselves are probably overused, but the concerns behind them are real.

I think it's quite possible that, as other people suggest, this will put off many people from LW. However, as a heterosexual male in a LTR, I am still interested in this topic. From what I gather, much of the usefulness of the PUA literature is about understanding what is (statistically speaking) sexually appealing to women. I want to be maximally appealing to my partner, and it seems like the PUA literature might help with that.

Perhaps we can have small discussion level posts ?

I think we can gain most of the benefits of such a debate, with nearly none of the downsides if this is discussed by interested parties from LW somewhere disassociated from LW.

I would be interested to see the full post. PUA is not a subject about which I have much knowledge. Neither, admittedly, is attraction/seduction, as I am an undergraduate at a science/engineering university with only ~30% women.

Apparently, I'm more confident than some others about the ability of prospective new readers to weigh a wealth of information and discussion about various topics in rationality against a single post discussing a topic that has been stereotyped to be distasteful.


If I'm mistaken in my impression that some text of the article was edited away, let me then propose that you perhaps open a blog or something link to it and have a discussion with any LW readers that might be interested in the article there and hopefully complete it.

I think that there are major gains as well as genuine insight to be made by rationally thinking about the subject and discussing it. But there is no need to stain LW with bad signalling on this topic.


I used to read LW but never commented. Then I had a change of heart when there was a post that in effect invited people to take a more active part. I commented often and even posted but the experience was not a happy one and I have gone back to only reading some items and commenting very rarely. I do not feel welcome nor feel completely rejected. There are a lot of reasons for the alienation in my case and the repeated return to PUA is one of them. But there are many other reason that are more important. In a sense PUA is political. Evolutionary psycholog... (read more)


Though potentially harmful to the LW community, such a post could be quite instrumental (especially given your scholarly style) for some, so I encourage you to write it. If deemed inappropriate for LW due to its negative externalities, the post can be placed on another site (or maybe in the discussion section?).