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Monthly Archives: March 2016

By Pickup Culture

the seven year switch

The Seven Year Switch, relationship porn about infidelity

As the housing boom reaches its peak in Australia, the so-called ‘property porn’ TV shows like The Block and Renovation Rescue are slowly being replaced by another type of commercialised porn – the dating and romance show.  The prototypical ‘relationship porn’ program is The Bachelor, which gained enormous success after it debuted in the early 2000s.  The format was bought into Australia a decade later, and has grown into one of the most popular shows on prime time TV.  New rival formats have emerged, with programs like The Seven Year Switch and First Dates appearing to meet the demand for endless gossip and a surplus of unfulfilled female sexual desires.

Relationship porn is much like actual porn, as it serves to meet similar instinctual drives in women that actual porn serves to meet in many men.  Though ‘relationship porn’ does not feature graphic sex, gangbangs or deep throat scenes, it doesn’t deny the possibility of such sexual encounters either.  It just doesn’t show them.  The power of suggestion, the power to imagine what is under the surface of cordial conversations and pleasant dates, is what makes these programs so powerful in the mind of many women.

Unlike actual porn, relationship porn is much more commercially viable as mainstream entertainment in our fem-centric society.  As amateur uploads have killed much of the production industry in porn, the ascendency of the feminine imperative has given rise to a new genre of commercialised porn that spills over into other facets of mainstream media.  Relationship porn is an important place where women’s expectations about relationships are shaped, building upon and intensifying the surplus of female sexual energy in the absence of dominant men in today’s society.

The Dating Show

The dating show genre has been around for some 50 years, with its origin in the 1960s game show format.  Over the years it has evolved to accommodate a more commericalised view of relationships.  First produced in the US in the 1960s The Dating Game was the first example of the genre, sporadically revived again during the 1980s and 1990s.  The game show format was adapted to include three eligible bachelors sitting behind a screen on the stage, with a female contestant asking questions to the bachelors.  Their answers provided a basis from which the she would choose her most eligible man for the date.

The early format included celebrity bachelors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson and Steve Martin, and there was a focus on wit and quick thinking in the answers to seduce the women.  Later incarnations reversed the female-selector/male-suitor format, and by the 1980s included a second segment where the single male contestant choose his date from three female suitors.  The Australian version – called Perfect Match – introduced a robot called ‘Dexter’ which predicted the couples’ compatibility ratings; but the emphasis on relationships was undermined by stories of hotel sex or infidelity when they were interviewed in the following segment when they returned.

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Dexter the Dating Robot

These programs were self-contained, with the only serialised interest in relationships being the interviews.  There were occasional updates about the lives of past contestants, on special episodes devoted to answering the question every woman wanted to know: ‘where are they now?’  For the most part though it was quick-paced seduction, and with no expectation of anything besides a bit of fun – whether that worked out or not, the outcome was never an issue.  The 30 minute format provided just enough excitement (the possibility of sex) under the guise of something more serious (the possibility of a relationship) outside of the show.

The prize – a date (usually a weekend holiday) enabled the couples to find out for themselves whether their Ying and their Yang matched.  The audience was primed to expect drama, but only the kind of drama that unfolded in the hot tub or the hotel bedroom.

Reality + Dating = Relationship Porn

The classic dating show was mainstream titillation from the 1960s up until the 1990s, pitting the battle of male conquest against the seductive testing of the woman.  Sometimes this dynamic was reversed, but there was never any pretence that a relationship was necessary – contestants knew they were going on a blind date, and the possibility of sex was a reward for the couple with the right chemistry.

The dating show began to evolve as the new reality genre emerged in the early 2000s.  Big Brother and Survivor competed for ratings across the globe – both as original series, then later as localised variations.  Though Big Brother focused on the interactions of so-called ‘ordinary’ people living in a large house, with challenges and evictions used to ‘spike the audience’, the producers realised that a house full of young, good-looking contestants produced its own source of (sexual) drama.

The first two series of Big Brother in Australia included a balance of sexually explicit and relationship-based content.  In the first series a dominatrix called Andy had an affair with a well-hung, buff-looking punk called Gordon; and in the second series a young couple called Marty and Jess formed a romantic relationship (but refrained from having sex).  Gordon and Andy were quickly evicted by the female teen audience in the first few weeks, whist the more subdued Marty and Jess stayed much longer.  Outside of the show their relationship formed the basis of a spinoff program about the young couples’ lives: Marty and Jess: The Outback Wedding.

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Marty and Jess, the reality TV relationship experiment

Much like their relationship, Marty and Jess: The Outback Wedding quickly fizzled.  The short-term focus on their relationship had replaced the equally short term focus on sex in the Big Brother house.  Nevertheless, the precedent was set.  Big Brother became a source of endless chit chat on day time television shows, radio segments and magazine articles all speculating about who would get together with whom; and who would find ‘true love’ in the artificial media world that was Big Brother.

The Virtual Harem: The Bachelor

It was upon this foundation that the highly successful The Bachelor emerged, dominating the ratings by focusing exclusively on relationships as the primary driver of the show.  The program evolved from the self-contained dating show format, and instead increased the serial focus on relationships through elements of reality TV.   At the centre of the show was the alpha bachelor, and his harem of suitable women who would compete – fighting tooth and nail – to win his ‘love’ by the end of the series.

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The Bachelor‘s virtual harem

In terms of unfettered hyper-gamy, The Bachelor contains the right components for success: an emphasis on fame through marriage (rather than achievement), and being able to outwit other women for the same alpha in the marriage market.  At the same time, the program generates ongoing interest as audiences gossip about the bachelor’s actual charisma and motivations, as well as the women’s own sexual strategies in attracting his attention.

Many women proclaim to have a ‘love to hate’ relationship with the show, but still enjoy watching it.  It’s part of the deniable plausibility that characterises so much of female desire, ensuring that women are always able to eschew responsibility due to the fear of being rejected or, even worse, being called a slut by the other women in the harem.  It’s a balancing trick each woman performs –maintaining good relations with the tribe (other women), but also covertly competing against her sisters without lower the market value of sex (i.e. being a slut).

The Bachelor is a virtual harem, a concentration of female fantasies that already exist across the broadcast media.  Whether it is the aging rock star stepping out of a limo for an interview in the entertainment segment, or a story of the young prince visiting a tribal village for a photo opportunity in Africa, the mainstream is full of female hyper-gamous fantasies of such alpha males.

The Perils of Watching Media

Whilst I enjoy watching these programs myself, I find them interesting as a reflection of our culture’s attitudes towards male-female sexual dynamics – and the important part mainstream media plays in shaping what women think love actually is.  By that I don’t mean to deny those ‘butterflies in the stomach’ women like to talk about (aka ‘gina tingles), but rather to emphasise the way that those ‘feelings’ can be manipulated by commercial media.

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The new relationship porn First Dates

For many women relationship porn is seductive, but it doesn’t replace the value of a man in real life who has good game.  Just like real porn might be arousing for many men (and no-doubt women too), too much exposure to cocaine-addicted college co-eds or amateur gangbangs is not very helpful in finding a real sexual partner.  There is a huge difference between virtual romance and real-world romance, a distinction which relationship porn exploits to the hilt.  A quote from a contestant in First Dates illustrates this nicely when she talks about what it is she wants in a man:

I’m looking for a gentleman, do you know what I mean?  Someone that can do it the traditional way where you go on the dates and you’re spontaneous with each other, and then one thing will lead to another sort of a thing.

Spontaneity in real life is one thing, but spontaneity on a television program is quite another.  The whole premise of the show relies on the traditional idea of what romance is meant to be for a woman: a candle-lit dinner, roses and a bit of small talk for an hour or two.  Keeping with this convention makes sense for television producers, limiting the show to a one set location, but it obviously limits the endless possibilities of what a date can be.  She later questions her own understanding of those conventions, after rejecting the young man she seemingly had so much in common with:

I feel today love is so forgotten about. It’s definitely underappreciated, like when you see books and see movies and there’s that love but then is that real.  Is that even real?

Today’s relationship porn is a good barometer of how well the media is gaming women, and making a neat profit as they do so.  If men are interested in competing in the market for female attention, it’s helpful to realise that it’s a profit made at many-a-beta’s expense.  On the other hand, understanding the genre is a good way for us to leverage our value, by not following ‘the rules of romance’ and expressing sexual masculine desire in much more spontaneous ways.  These programs can also provide a good point of conversation too, given that the man knows how to harness the surplus sexual energy created by the show.

Unplugging, and gaming the world

Finally, we should forget that porn is a reflection of our base desires as biological organisms.  Whether its relationship porn on television or hard-core porn on the internet, the media can only ever supplement, and not replace, real human interactions.  Having a critical eye on the mainstream is useful for any man trying to understand how the Matrix works, yet being critical also means being able to step outside of that world of unreality.  Being your own world is even better.

Addictions are also a sign of our personal demons.  Overcoming addiction means accepting that the world cannot satisfy our endless human desires.  Like many things in life, genuine satisfaction is fleeting.  The most lasting forms of satisfaction are the by-product of hard work and achievement, which pale in comparison to the diminishing returns we get from TV dating programs or videos on XHamster.

By Pickup Culture

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Not all male feminists are created equal

In one of my undergraduate classes last week a female student expressed disappointed with her boyfriend, and his reaction to her identifying as a ‘feminist’.  A little earlier the same day a female colleague confessed how her husband (of ten years) didn’t like her frequent use of the word ‘patriarchy’ to explain the causes of injustice in various parts of the world.

Complaining about men is also a common theme in the media these days, whether it’s done by targeting men as a collective through the vague language of identity politics and feminism (‘the patriarchy’) or whether it’s through women bloggers who enjoy proclaiming how lame individual men are (the ones they chose to date).

Even when men proclaim their credentials as feminists they can’t seem to win either, as women still find a way to be unhappy.  This was the case with the feminist backlash to the election of Canadian Justin Trudeau who, despite forcing an equal representation of men and women into his parliament, was vilified by many feminists for being too sexy and opportunistic.

Women’s dissatisfaction with ‘liberal’ men also occurs in the news-sphere of dating and personal relationships.  An article in The Daily Life last week illustrates this nicely, with the author using the term ‘brogressive’ to describe her disappointment with the ‘male feminists’ she so-frequently seems to date.  It’s an excellent example of a current trend in dating journalism, which combines the feminist collectivist approach (blaming ‘the patriarchy’) with the individualist focus that relies on anecdotes from women’s dating lives.

Either way, from a self-development perspective, such writing reveals an underlying pathology that feminism, mainstream journalism and many individual women seem reluctant to address: why do these women attract such deceptive men in the first place?

What is a ‘brogressive’?

obama-feminist

‘Why can’t my boyfriend be like this?’

As the author suggests, the term ‘brogressive’ refers to men who claim to be feminist simply because they want to get into a woman’s pants.  What she’s actually describing here is a sub-category of beta game, a mating strategy used by men who aren’t getting laid as a result of their masculine virtues alone.  In evolutionary psychology, this is known as virtue signalling – in this case the man seeks to appear more virtuous because he’s aligning himself with the ‘feminist cause’.  There is an implication too that such male feminists ‘hate the guy who normally appeals to women’, which is the stereotypical alpha douche.  In the author’s own words:

While the more sinister, predatory types deliberately adopt seemingly progressive identity politics to lure left-leaning women into romantic or sexual relationships before revealing their true colours, men like my exes sincerely believe that calling themselves feminists is enough, as though basic decency deserves a gold star. They talk the talk, but walking the walk? Nah, too much effort.

Basic decency here is the decency of calling yourself a ‘feminist’, as if the term itself automatically confers virtue.  But what is a ‘feminist’?  The problem with the term is that it’s an identity category, and not a behaviour.  Surely ‘decency’ is a judgement about character, which can only be assessed on the basis of what a person does rather than what they say (they do).

Behaviour is a tricky and slick beast to understand – because it also involves understanding your own actions, and the motivations behind them.  It’s easy to say you care about women, or refugees and the poor unwashed masses of the world (as many feminists like to claim they do), but how does that manifest in your own life?

You are what you attract

To some degree I agree with this sentiment, but to implement it in your dating life entails a degree of self-reflection (and discipline).  With the feminist dating bloggers there is a mismatch between reality and expectations.  If, as the author suggests, she is looking for a feminist man to date, then why only look for ‘white … middle-class and well educated’ men who are already comfortable on their ‘patriarchal throne’s?  If white, middle-class and educated men don’t generally seem to share your values, then why date them?

The author describes herself as an ‘emotional and passionate woman’, not because of her personality but because the world has made her that way.   ‘The world we live in is not one that is kind to marginalised groups’.  Having written other articles about her family’s ancestry in Vietnam, I’d be keen to know why she doesn’t focus on men who are more curious about that side of her life.  There are also plenty of ‘marginalised’ Vietnamese men in Australia who might enjoy a date with this young, attractive blogger.  And so why not date them?

vietnam

A marginalised Vietnamese man

Understanding behaviour (in this case female behaviour) makes this an easy question to answer.  Nguyen is a writer for the trendy Daily Life blog, which is owned by Fairfax – one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates.  As readers of the manosphere know well, women’s sexual selection strategies predispose them to marry up – a process known as hyper-gamy.  Claiming to be marginalised, and doing so whilst getting paid by one of the wealthiest media organisations on the planet, will seem a little discordant to many white, middle-class, educated men – the type of men middle-class journalists find attractive.  It’s this misalignment between values and behaviour that some men might be tempted to exploit.

Boundaries and expectations

A lot of writers in the manosphere talk about the importance of personal values when it comes to relationships, a lesson many feminist bloggers would be wise to learn.  Models by Mark Manson underlies this philosophy by suggesting that, as men learn the skills of pickup and game, they become less needy when it comes to sex.  By not needing sex they can afford to be more honest, and able to communicate what they actually want in terms of values and the character of a woman – from the very start of the relationship.

Pickup artists and writers like Manson teach these skills because they work.  The practical value of finding the right person for a relationship starts before you form that relationship.  If dating a non-feminist is a deal breaker for you, as it is for Nguyen, then be upfront about it when you first meet them.  Have some self-respect, and be willing to walk away – don’t wait until you’ve slept with them to find out the truth, then complain about being deceived in your syndicated column afterwards.

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An excellent book for feminists

The main problem with feminism, though, is that it’s a belief system rather than a set of practices.  Like all belief systems it has many interpretations, which is why it’s easy for men to feign an allegiance to in order to get laid.  If feminists are intent on screening alpha assholes and brogressive betas, then they need to look more closely at their own beliefs and behaviours.  That’s particularly hard to do when they believe in an ideology that insists on judging a man’s worth based on how he identifies himself, rather than what he does or who he is.

By objectifying men as ‘feminist’, ‘non-feminist’ or ‘brogressive feminist’, feminists not only become blind to ordinary forms of male benevolence but are more likely to attract those men who objectify them in return.  You are what you attract.

You can’t Cheat an Honest Man

As the classic WC Fields film title suggests, ‘you can’t cheat an honest man’.  The same could be said of the honest woman – any person with self-knowledge has the ability to confront their weaknesses, learning to understand how they may become vulnerable to manipulation.  As feminists like Nguyen and bloggers such as Craven in the City demonstrate, popular culture and feminism have a long way to go in helping women reach that level of self-awareness.  Emotional susceptibility to deception is certainly a problem, but one that can’t be resolved by blaming other people – as feminists are so fond of doing.

By Pickup Culture

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The 1940s style and charm of being the ‘Young Man about Town’ (in the country)

The art, and science, of pickup is as old as, well … many a good simile. The art of pickup affects us all in some way or another; either through stories shared amongst chatty college girls, or boys bragging about their success on the weekends; it culminates in greater narratives of how wives met their husbands, your father asking your mother out to that local darts match back in the early 1970s, as my own father fondly likes to recall.

Sexual seduction is all around us, yet despite its cultural importance, historians care very little for it. Jack Hanley’s 1937 Let’s Make Mary makes this very point when he writes:

All history is interwoven with stories of seduction. Historians, however, are much too meagre with details, which may be one reason why history is an unpopular subject with our youth. This thought is offered to our educators. We learn that Soandso went to Whatsisname’s tent or palace or whatever and they did Thusandso, this saving the day, or winning the war or stuff. But how? Why? By what method?

Academics are even worse, with only the French philosopher Baudrillard taking the subject seriously. Before disappearing into the historical void that we know as postmodern theory, he was cited as the inspiration for The Red Pill concept in The Matrix.

The idea that modern society is more a Simulacra than reality implies that we should not take anything at face value, including Hollywood Rom Coms or corporatist feminist media campaigns. Pickup Artists have known these truths for a long time, and their ability to cut through public façade and political correctness should give them an important place in our understanding of history.

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) – The Master of Touch

Ovid

Naughty Roman Love

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria was written way back in 2AD, and its explanation of the seduction process in book one gives it the reputation of being the first recorded pickup guide. The second volume looks more at seduction in the relationship, whilst the final book focuses on the woman’s side of things – and how to keep her man happy in marriage. Like most latter day pickup advice books (though not all), there are suggestions on how to set up a date, what to say, and where to go. The best suggestions for locations are the chariot races, the theater and, yes, even the circus. Choosing the right seat, in the most spacious part of the amphitheater is important; but so too is the conversation:

Enquire whose chariot this, and whose that horse?
To whatsoever side she is inclin’d,
Suit all her inclinations to her mind;
Like what she likes, from thence your court begin.

Not big on pickup lines per se, Ovid often emphasised the importance of physical proximity in the courtship process. Whilst the conversation was meant to be polite and cordial, nothing could happen if you didn’t sit ‘Close as ye can to hers-and side by side’. From here the more mundane methods for physical seduction could be pursued:

If dust be on her lap, or grains of sand,
Brush both away with your officious hand.
If none there be, yet brush that nothing thence,
And still to touch her lap make some pretence.

Ovid was a master of what today’s pickup artists call ‘kino’, or techniques of kinaesthetics – the art of touch. Finding an excuse to brush the dust off her dress might seem a little lame when written this way, but it’s the intention behind the action which is important:

Touch any thing of hers, and if her train
Sweep on the ground, let it not sweep in vain;
But gently take it up and wipe it clean;
And while you wipe it, with observing eyes,
Who knows but you may see her naked thighs!

It’s always best to be a true gentleman in these situations, remembering to treat her with the utmost dignity. Advice about the personal hygiene should be headed too, as it’s never a good idea to date a woman smelling like a farm animal. Other dating suggestions are more enduring, such as ‘not asking about her age’; and ‘letting her miss you – but not for long’.

Confidential Chats with Husbands (1922) – Mr Lay’s seduction advice

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The studious, non-wanking husband of the 1920s

Economic prosperity – however brief during the 1920s – created a brief consumer economy, based on spending which expanded new opportunities for dating. Publications like Readers Digest (1922), Time (1923) and the New Yorker (1923) rapidly established themselves as general interest magazines, focusing on issues such as politics, science, lifestyle and culture. But it was the Little Blue Book series which combined its interest in these subjects, with frank and open advice about sexuality that helped them corner the market on the topic of seduction.

There were no pickup books as such, rather advice focused on the seduction process within marriage. Wilfred Lay’s (perhaps the coolest pseudonym for a relationship expert) Confidential Chats with Husbands (1925) is an excellent example of this genre, advising husbands on how to make their wives happy – both inside and outside the bedroom. Many feminist accounts of 1920s draw attention to sexology’s interest in ‘frigidity’ as ‘the dominant way that women’s disinterest in coitus was understood’, but popular writers like Lay show that the ‘problem’ of frigidity was more about educating men about female needs and desires.

A precursor to today’s seduction books for single men, Confidential Chats with Husbands outlines seven steps a man needs to observe to escalate with his wife. Noting the need for self-control at the beginning, the first two steps highlight the importance of observation – paying attention to the woman’s feelings, through her words and actions, before and after the love ritual. Step number 5 entails an active, and sensitive responsive to these feelings: ‘He should continue to caress her with his hands and listen… He needs only to let her know that he is awake, and is with her, and avid to know that she can tell him of her soul’. Moving towards the passionate phase of the encounter, the next step assumes that the man is artful in his lovemaking, advising that he pay attention to whether or not the woman:

… has her eyes open or closed, whether she opens her mouth, whether, in this ecstasy of erotic feeling, she pants or stiffens or moves convulsively, as the spirit of love descends upon her, whether she loses consciousness, or for a moment seems even to lose her mind.

At this point Lay makes it clear that ‘most husbands have not observed these phenomena, because their love ritual has not caused them in her’.

These are skills the man needs to learn, yet are seldom considered by most men due to an excessive interest in their own pleasure. ‘Autoeroticism’ interferes with the masculine desire, and diminishes the man’s virility in pleasing the woman’s taboo desires – in short, it makes the man more like a woman, focusing his energies on himself, rather than his wife’s more responsive body.

A useful book that highlights just how rare sexual enlightenment is in modern society, not just in men but in women too. Encouraging men to be responsive to their woman’s desires sounds like a very feminist idea, in a book which has never been embraced by actual so-called feminists.

Let’s Make Mary (1937)

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Learn to walk first to approach a girl (after she gets off the phone first)

Jack Hanley’s book Let’s Make Mary (1937) is often considered the first book about ‘game’, and the art of pickup. From the opening pages, he reminds the aspiring pickup artist that seduction is a two-way process, and so husbands also need to be mindful when leaving their wives at home when the traveling sales man pays a visit!

Let’s Make Mary is a parody of the times, as much as it is an actual guide to picking up girls. His description of the approach phase clearly illustrates the ‘inner’ barriers that get in the way of meeting a fine woman, the psychological hurdles reinforced by social constraints of the era. Just to underlie the ridiculous simplicity of ‘acting naturally’ when approaching a woman, he sends up the state of apprehension most men tend to feel:

Assuming that Mary is some twenty feet distant from you, you face directly towards her, lift the left food from the ground, swing it forward and place it down firmly in front of the right. Shift the weight to the left foot and repeat, swinging the right foot forward and placing it down firmly before the left. After a little practice you will be able to carry on this action continuously, with alternate feet. It is a process of locomotion, known as ‘walking,’ and if practiced correctly, will bring you in close proximity to Mary.

Other approaches include using roller skates, crawling on hands and knees, and the most elaborate of all – approaching on a stretcher. Not only does this approach involve having a stretcher (well, duh), but also the assistance of two helpers: stretcher bearers who, for some reason, need to be Chinese.

The logistics of kino and escalation are discussed – how to get Mary to sit beside you, or standing up seamlessly without drawing attention to your injury. It’s unlikely anyone would try such an outlandish approach, given that the reply involved warning her of a pack of charging Elephants descending upon you; but the creative nature of the advice illustrates a need to be interesting, engaging and confident – no matter how crazy your approach might be.

For such a conservative era, it was a book that criticized many social taboos and contrivances of the day. Etiquette around alcohol; what to do when you take a dull girl out (or when you become the dull one on the date); dating the politically-motivated ‘Emancipated Woman; and being caught having an affair by your mistress’s husband; are all topics that this book explores … with a lot of surreal solutions.

The despised art remembered…

A cursory internet search for any of these texts will uncover a range of derisory views about these books, and very few criticisms provide any reference to the actual texts. Ovid’s work has been the target of much academic feminist criticism which bemoans the suppression of female voice – well, that does make sense, given that it’s a guide written for men on how to pick up women! Jack Hanley’s book is described as sleazy on a website called ‘Awful Library Books’, though the blogger can’t decide if it’s a ‘hilarious attempt at dating advice or semi-serious’.

Virtually nothing has been written about Wilfred Lay’s fantastic and creative book, which says a lot about how we choose to think about seduction in the time of our grandparents’ (and for some of us great-grandparents’) time. In part two of the history of pickup, I’ll follow the trajectory of the art through the nineteen-forties up to the swinging sixties.  Despite the crippling effects of the war, the very first gentleman’s guide to pickup emerged in that era – a book complete with lifestyle tips, advice about etiquette and knowing your way about town.

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