By Pickup Culture

The Gold Digger 1923

The ‘gold digger’ archetype popularised during the 1920s

Gold digging is the very ancient female ‘art’ of manipulating susceptible males, using sex and seduction to gain some form of material benefit – not just money, but also jewellery, travel and any other personal perks. Traditionally, society has looked down upon gold diggers.  But consider this quote from a self-confessed gold digger, to give you a sense of how the behavior might be rationalised:

Until I was old enough to vote I had a romantic attitude concerning the relationships between men and women.  I was, in other words, a feminist.

As a scornful victim of false idealism, I had scorned the very words ‘gold digger.’ I had thought the prostitute more brave and fair.  At least, she did her very best to give value.

And now I confess, without apology, without a sense of guilt that I, too, belong to that wise sisterhood who might be called gold diggers.

These are not the words from a Jezebel following activist, or even a sex traveling feminist from the dating site Miss Travel; but rather the words of the popular writer Betty Van Deventer – in 1928.

Her rationale for gold digging sets up an interesting false dichotomy that’s worth revisiting today.  Is feminism a socially useful movement, or is it really the same as whoring yourself for a few freebies?

Van Deventer was a writer for the popular series of magazines called The Little Blue Books, a forerunner to Reader’s Digest.  Her book Confessions of a Gold Digger discusses the new social fad of gold digging in the 1920s, when so much fake wealth was generated through booming stock prices and easy credit.

Gold digging – a ‘how-to guide’

The book is a how-to-guide for ‘liberated’ women of the 1920s, instructing them on the best methods for spinsters and younger women to make money by flirting with men.

The book describes a number of useful techniques for the modern gold digger, and what signs of weakness to look for in a man.  Simply asking for money is far too risky and obvious, but attracting rich stock brokers by feigning an interest in their investment philosophies is a trick every woman needs to try (before the market collapses, preferably).


Crystal Harris tried to cash in on TV fame before they were married – a strange marriage indeed in the Hefner gold mine.. umm Playboy Mansion

Other techniques are more underhanded, and involve some slight trickery during a lunch time date:

One old-fashioned way is to take a man for a window-shopping walk after luncheon or the matinee.  The stop in front of an alluring show.  Suddenly the woman remembers that she needs some silk hose, just the color of her gown.  She goes into the shop and the man follows.  She selects three or four pairs of hose and fumbles in her purse for money.  Of course, the man gallantly comes to the rescue.  She is surprised, insists that he must not pay for the hose.  The more she insists, the more the man declares that he will foot the bill.  The clerk in the shop smiles, for she has seen many similar incidents.  She knows that the woman is a more valuable customer, so she readily takes the man’s money.  Then the stockings are wrapped up, and the clerk does not smile sardonically until the door has shut, and the couple is out of the shop.

The gold digger knows, of course, that such a ploy works by inflating the man’s so-called ‘chivalrous’ instincts.  A sense of frivolity and forgetfulness go hand in hand, and match every Hollywood cliche of the damsel in distress – alluring to rescue, but illusive for romance.  Indeed it’s the man’s greatest folly to fall prey to the rescuer/victim script, set up to rob him of his resources and so-called noble intentions.

Prey on men’s weakness

The most interesting part of the book, and one that many men might benefit from reading, is the section on male psychology.  Gold digging is only really effective because of male insecurities, a man’s desire to feel ‘loved’ and be rewarded for the ‘sacrifices’ he makes.


Men need to remember that they’re only being played by the gold digger because of their susceptibility.

In her book Van Deventer often talks about using a man’s ego to get what she wants, by flattery and making him feel sexually attractive.  She realises that men feel a desperate need for recognition in their lives, as many work jobs that are quite boring and socially unrewarding.  This creates a sense of inferiority, if he believes he can achieve much more with his life:

The psychology of flattery relates to the knowledge of the inferiority complex.  Man feels inferior to other people for any number of reasons, and he is always searching for people who will bolster up his shattered ego.  Who can do this better than a handsome girl or woman?  The gold digger knows just how to do it, too!

For example, he may be suffering from an inferiority sense because he never went to college.  He feels that other men have better social backgrounds when they speak of their alma matters.  The clever woman will venture the opinion that self-made men appeal to her the most, and that education is a matter of intelligent experience rather than the perusal of text-books.

The effect of such flattery towards the man is potentially twofold – firstly it bolsters the man’s sense of importance, only in a superficial and temporary way.  He is able to virtue signal, much like the liberal politician or male feminist does today, by showing how much of a patron of women’s interests he has in his heart.

The second effect, which is not explored in the book, is more tangential –inflation of the woman’s ego.  This is perhaps where feminism comes into play, as some women develop this sense of false confidence that comes from acquiring resources through guile and manipulation rather than through hard work.

Today’s gold diggers

The emergence of the gold digger, as a popular cultural figure, emerged in a time of artificially generated wealth – the roaring twenties.  Such times of surplus capital eventually lead to the collapse of the stock market in 1929, leading rich men and women to be more prudent with their money.  No longer could the market, and their pockets, afford such extravagant indulgences of personal vanity.


The depression era film ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’

The post-crash film Gold Diggers of 1933, produced just 4 short years after De Venter’s book and in the midst of the Great Depression, showed a different side to being wealthy – and the virtues of concealing, rather than flaunting, wealth.  The comic gold diggers in the film do indeed exploit the weaknesses of the rich barons, but the heir of the family’s estate wins the admiration in the end by being humble and keeping quiet about his fortunes.

The film was much less about individual gain, but the coming together of different people in a time of adversity.  In the Great Depression the gold digger was less viable, and feminism was on the wane.

Today, perhaps as a mirror of the roaring twenties, the gold digger has made a return.  We are told that women can do anything, and we see vain male politicians bend over backwards to promise women everything they believe they deserve.  The rationale for that mindset is the same today as it was back in 1929 – that, if we give women more free things, the world will be a much better place:

If more girls of talent felt less guilt in doing a bit of honest gold digging, we might produce creative works of art in greater abundance.

This is the social justice rationale of the feminist sex travelers I wrote about in my previous post.  Gold digging isn’t, as it wasn’t back in the 1920s, a means of survival.  Back then it was about getting a nicer hand-bag, an expensive silk scarf and a profitable stock tip.  Those things weren’t essential, but if women didn’t have those things then the world would become dull and boring.  Today it is about traveling to Japan with geeky Hong Kong businessmen.  Such luxurious travel is not essential either, but we are told that it does help the young lady finish her liberal arts degree and to take care of her sick mum – according to the feminist travel bloggers out there.

With another potential stock market crash just around the corner, and the global economy awash with cheap credit, the temptations for an easy profit are everywhere.  But where is the long term sustainability in our economies, and the investment in a future where we produce rather than consume things of real value?  Like in the 1920s, the gold digger has re-emerged during a time when we care so little about what we produce but how much money we can make out of it.

By Pickup Culture

crying woman

Crying woman in China, the basis for the SK-II viral video.

This video has been around for a few months, but it’s still getting a lot of play on social media.  It came onto my Facebook feed just as I was writing up an article about the PUA phenomenon in China.  I couldn’t resist trying to change the tack of the conversation in the comments section, but I still got slammed by a lot of first- and developing-world feminists whilst doing so.


‘Sheng Nü’ is the name for the so-called ‘left-over’ generation of women in China – those who embody everything Western women are taught to be: modern, independent and happily single.  The main difference between the way spinsterhood is treated in China and in the West is evidenced by the comments on social media about the video, a selection of which are featured in the promotional pieces in news stories – they all characterise Chinese attitudes to marriage as backward and ‘patriarchal’.

Though I’m not overly supportive of the shaming tactics the parents use to cajole their daughters into marriage – clearly, they are not successful – I would say that this kind of campaign only works as part of a grand ‘feminist’ narrative in other parts of the world because it plays on the emotional susceptibility of women.

The film invites us to identify with the single, urban, educated women in the film.  They are not rural, poor or by any other means hard done by.  They have a particular freedom that their parents did not enjoy: the freedom to date and be single.  That’s all well and good, but the social pressure to marry is one that burdens them much more than it does the society or their families as a whole.

But seriously – they are not being forced to marry at gunpoint, as some women in other parts of the world tragically are.  It’s not the threat of ‘patriarchal’ violence that brings us into the film, but rather something more emotionally appealing – the tears of a young woman.  For a young woman’s tears evoke such sympathy from both men and women, in a way that the depiction of a man’s suffering simply cannot.

Guang Gun – ‘Bare Branches’

Anyone who knows anything about Chinese society, and can do some very basic maths, will know that the One Child Policy in China has produced far more ‘left over’ men than women.   Though it’s fair to say that their plight hasn’t been completely ignored by the Western media; the lives of these Chinese bachelors don’t make for such interesting social media campaigning.

These men are referred to as ‘Guang Gun’, which translates to English as ‘bare branches’ – a slight on their masculinity, not being able to add the fruit of a child to their deep-rooted family trees.  Though guang gun fall under different demographics, most of them live in poor ‘bachelor villages’ throughout China’s vast countryside.

Consider the following story about one such village in Hainan Island, and how the problem of bachelorhood is framed compared to the story of the more urbane Sheng Nü.


The video touches upon some of the reasons for the guang gun phenomenon, in particular the gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy.  The ‘expert’ in the video correctly talks about the restrictive cultural stigma associated with being a 30-something bachelor.  But the farmer in the first part of the film also identifies a much stronger biological impetus for the change: women fleeing the countryside to work in the developing cities.

As these young women leave behind their rural menfolk, to pursue better paying jobs and husbands, the society as a whole is temporarily driven forward.  But such development in China comes at a longer term demographic cost, and that cost is one of population atrophy.  This is part of the worry that the parents in the first video share, that their daughters leave no lasting legacy for their families or communities.

Market distortions… emotional distortions?

But such personal stories are hard to contextualise within the much larger picture of national growth and decline – a multi-generational process.  Whilst the effects of China’s colossal labour market decline won’t be felt for some fifteen to twenty years from now, when it kicks in it will be just as devastating as it has been for Japan and Western Europe.

Though the bachelor of Hainan Island struggles to hold back his tears at the end of the film, all to the sorrowful sounds of the Chinese harp, his crying is not a match for the tears of the young Sheng Nü from uptown Shanghai.

Both of these films capture different emotions in post-One Child Policy China – male loneliness on the one hand, and female dejection on the other.  That sense of dejection is more powerfully felt than the blue-pill loneliness of the rural workers, particularly through our feminised social media.  The biological drive for material comfort is stronger in women, and that is perfectly natural.

What is not natural, and what is much harder to convey in a short film, is how these distortions in the marriage market emerged in the first place.  In China that distortion occurred through the One Child Policy, a policy that itself was enacted to deal with decades of disastrous population planning under communist rule.  The distortions in the West, of excessive welfare spending and broke governments, create a very receptive audience that can sympathise with the emotions of this new breed of modern, and very single, independent women.

The origins of emotions

Whist we feel emotions in intensely personal ways, it’s interesting to note just how contextual those emotions are – created through historical, government and economic realities.  The mothers of the Sheng Nü acted on the same emotions that their daughters do today, but were compelled to marry out of necessity and be happy with that decision.  Let’s not forget that their tears also come from a place of deep self-interest.

Understanding this, and knowing how these greater forces interact with our very basic biological selves, is a useful place to start when engaging in any Facebook debate about teary-eyed single women in China.  Sometimes you can’t argue with biology.

By Pickup Culture

The feminist sex traveler is a particular kind of female traveler who crops up in the mainstream click-bait news from time to time.  She is, of course, a feminist.

She doesn’t call herself one, but the stories about her make it clear that she is a liberated woman – one who travels on the expense accounts of nerdy, needy and rich guys.

There have been a spate of these stories in the media over the past few years, which always include slightly expressionless selfies with impressive backdrops.  Here are some examples from a couple of recent ‘stories’:


The ‘stunning British jetsetter’ Natalie Wood from Kent in the UK on holiday in the Seychelles.

Chelsea Snow Traveling Feminist

Chelsea Snow, from London and who works part time, and has enjoyed trips to 7 countries.


Monica Lynn, a former financial advisor with Merrill Lynch Alabama, on holiday in Dubai.

From Gold Digger to Feminist

In days gone by, these women would have been labelled ‘gold-diggers’.  Whilst I don’t want to shame them for what they do – I happen to think that traveling the world can be very enriching – I am more than a little skeptical about how their travel escapades are framed in these stories.

All of these women have jobs – they have their own money, and thus can afford to travel.  But their travel-dating takes them that step further, to exotic locations and five star hotels, at the expense of geeky men.

Despite having jobs, these stories all convey the sense that these women are ‘hard-up’ in some way.  Though they do have money, they either have part-time jobs or are studying.  A link in a story on the Sugar Babies Dating site draws upon a study from Durham University showing that ‘20% of students consider sex work at university’.

Looking at the feminist logic behind such a study, it’s not hard to see how we’ve moved from ‘dating’ as a way of ‘paying the bills’ to getting your way into a ‘5 star hotel’ in Rome or Hong Kong.

Rising tuition fees and the cost of living are the reasons for sex-travel in one story, and in the case of the wealthy financial planner – well, she’s overcoming the trauma of being raised by an overprotective mother through her international escapades.

Either way, for rich or poor, slutting it up around the globe is a brave, socially progressive thing to do.

Sex Tourism – The Feminist Cause

In the West, it is feminism that makes this kind of behavior much more acceptable – socially and commercially.  It’s always seen as socially progressive for the female sex-pat to cash in on her youthful looks in such a way; whether she has sex or not is never stated (a conveniently absent fact that obviously drives up her price).

It’s a different matter entirely, however, when it comes to men.  Contrast these stories of female sex-pats to a story about feminism in Thailand earlier this year, where a mainly male Facebook forum was banned for its ‘hate posts’ towards a woman wearing a feminist T-Shirt.

Feminism TShirt

Slow day in the news – a Western woman wearing a Feminist T-Shirt is criticized online.

Being a man, and dating foreign women (in poorer, developing countries) here, is implicitly shameful.  The story draws attention to the fact that these men don’t like western women, especially feminists.  The words ‘she’s alright’ is cited as hate speech – heaven forbid a man is caught sexually objectifying a (western) woman!

A video link in the story (see below) discusses the subject of older Australian men retiring in Thailand, but as a story also about their sexual interests in Thai women the tone is much less celebratory.  The issue is framed as one of necessity – single aged men wanting to lower their living expenses by retiring abroad … and finding young, hot wives in the process.  Many men are ‘lured to Thailand in search of more than just happy smiles’.  Thailand is a place of ‘sleaze and vice’, not liberation or fun.


A focus on inflationary pressures back home might have given this story more of a ‘social justice’ angle – after all, these men are struggling to survive on a fixed income after working hard their whole lives.  It’s these men’s interest in Thai women that makes them less worthy of journalistic sympathy, from western white-knighting journalists.

Feminism: The Great Unshaming

Why do these stories of young traveling gold diggers make the news in the first place?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that we need to level the journalist playing field, and publish more stories of men who go around banging third world prostitutes or hooking up with exotic women in far flung destinations.

The fact is that these women travel the world on their looks, and their looks alone.  By all accounts they haven’t worked hard or saved a lot of money, and they certainly haven’t achieved anything of any significance whilst gallivanting across the globe.  They may have graduated faster from their liberal arts degrees, but they didn’t learn any new languages or pick up useful life skills on the way to the Bahamas or Rio.  They just wrote a blog about where they went, and posted lots of selfies along the way.  That’s it.

Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with this – god bless the free market!  What I do find annoying is the way that a once shameful behavior – gold digging – is now something that is deemed socially progressive by mainstream feminists.


%d bloggers like this: