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Posts Tagged ‘casual sex’

Over at GirlGame, aoefe posted an essay, “Dissonance“, on the contrast of her traditional beliefs about gender and relationships against the truths (and untruths) she has learned in the Roissy-sphere. In one column, she presents what I call the “nice guy” view of relationships; in the other, she presents the most dystopian elements of the Roissy sphere. Obviously, for all of these dichotomies, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’ll attempt to mediate these incongruities as well as I can.

1. I thought my accomplishments [as a woman] mattered vs. they are inconsequential to men. Achievements matter to men in relationships, but not in the same way they matter to society at large. Why is this? Society values devoted specialists, while in relationships, there’s a premium on well-roundedness. It’s better for one’s spouse to be modestly intelligent, good-looking, charming, and educated than it is for that person to excel at one to the detriment of others. As is a husband’s, a wife’s role is difficult and multi-faceted. She has to be a lover, a mother, a best friend, a spiritual and intellectual partner, and (when her husband is ill) a caretaker– a tough job with a wide array of responsbilities. Integrity and kindness are crucial. So are intelligence, education, ambition and beauty, but diminishing returns have already set in by the time a woman enters the top 1% for any of these. It doesn’t hurt for a woman to have a 150 IQ, but it’s not necessary.

Society, in the external sense, rewards people for being “pointy” rather than well-rounded– for reaching the apex of a narrow discipline. No one gets a promotion for being a great father, or for having a lot of hobbies. Professional athletes are not expected to be belletrists, nor are poets expected to excel on the basketball court. Obviously, there are practical limits on the extent to which one can invest all of one’s endowment into one discipline, but those who excel are often those who reach and push those limits, and they’re rarely well-rounded. This is just an inherent trade-off in life.

The female lawyer is a Roissy stock character for overblown “pointiness”– the woman who has invested the bulk of her time and emotional energy into the rigid, competitive, and rationalistic discipline of law, placing her social and inner lives on the back-burner. This is what’s rewarded (and requisite for any measure of success) in large-firm law (“biglaw”). It is not what most men want in a relationship.

Are a woman’s accomplishments treasured by men? Yes, absolutely. Skill, passion, intelligence, dedication, and artistic talent are major turn-ons. That said, while the difference between a “10” concert pianist and an “8” matter for one who aspires to the world stage, it’s just not an important factor in a relationship. Moreover, sacrificing important virtues for the sake of achievement, as is required in the most cutthroat careers (investment banking and large-firm law) makes a woman undesirable.

2. I thought confidence was attractive vs. confidence in a woman is not required. A woman’s confidence is an asset in a relationship, and a major turn-on in the bedroom. Yes, it is very attractive for a woman to confident, just as it is for her to be accomplished.

The world of “game”, however, is that of the crude sexual market. Sexual market value (SMV) is different altogether from desirability in the context of long-term relationships, to the point that there’s very little overlap. (This is one of the reasons why combat dating, casual sex, and the nightlife scene are among the worst places to look for relationships.) A woman’s SMV is based on her ability to provoke short-term, r-selective sexual desire. Intellectual, personal, and spiritual confidence– all of which matter immensely in long-term, loving relationships– have no bearing on a woman’s SMV. Even sexual confidence, although it makes a woman great in bed, does not appreciably raise her SMV. Her “market value” is largely determined by her looks, although it can be boosted via a certain bitchy social confidence that many men conflate with physical attractiveness, because they lack the self-awareness to recognize its influence.

On a related note, here’s a nasty secret about SMV. It has very little correlation, if any, to whether a person is good in bed. The casual-sex scene is focused entirely on the pursuit of social status, not great sexual experiences. In fact, most people would agree that peak sexual experiences require intimacy, trust, and love between the two partners, and are therefore completely impossible on the casual scene.

3. I thought men enjoyed curves vs. men are turned off by less than slender. We’re all different. I’d say, in general, that I prefer a curvy and slightly muscular build with a BMI around 21-22. On a 5’8 (173cm) woman, this would be 138-145 pounds (63-66kg). Muscle, curves, fat– I like it all, in moderation. My tastes differ from those of the stereotypical male in other ways: I prefer small-to-medium breasts (perky A-cups) and dark skin color. I also find small bellies– the kind that are flat when a woman is standing, but soft and slightly pudgy when she sits– irresistably sexy. We men are all different in what we like.

What’s relevant to a woman’s success on the sexual market is the ratio of the number of men who prefer her body type to the number of women who have it. About 0.5% of men prefer obese women. If only 0.25% of American women were obese, instead of over 30%, they’d be “niche” lovers in a privileged position. Very thin women are in a good position because they’re preferred by such a large percentage of men but, in my experience, many of those are not the best men, just as women who prefer six-pack abs tend to be uncultured. The men who criticize their BMI-20 girlfriends for being “too fat” tend to be jackasses in other ways– misogynists, cheaters, bad lovers, and creeps.

Also, let’s not forget that the men who are most critical of womens’ bodies are those who have very little experience with real women. Men with even modest amounts of experience know that the emotional context triumphs over minor nuances in physical appearance. The Internets harbor quite a few basement virgins with this attitude, but I wouldn’t put much stock in what they think, unless one is interested in dating men like this guy (watch 1:00 – 2:00).

4. I thought aging was natural and acceptable vs. aging is ugly you might as well die. On the sexual market, a woman’s value plummets precipitously in her early 30s but, as I’ve said before, SMV is irrelevant to a woman’s long-term desirability. Desirable men marry women in their 30s and 40s all the time. In fact, most desirable men I know in their 30s and 40s prefer a woman 2-5 years younger than they are, not 10-20.

Men’s preferences for age gaps tend to be correlated to their inexperience, and it’s easy to imagine why. I’m 26, and although maturity is much more important than age, I’d most likely prefer to be with a woman of 23-26. I have no desire to date a 20-year-old. Why? Because I have before, when I was 23. I’ve dated women of every age between 17 and 22, and I’m basically done with those ages. Most of the older men who prefer women in their late teens and early 20s, in my observation, are those who never had the chance to date attractive women when they were young. I have, and I’ve moved on.

A woman whose self-worth is tied to her sexual market value, and to a steady diet of crass male attention, “might as well die” on her 30th birthday, because these benefits are about to recede from her life forever. Women with more mature senses of self-worth generally do fine. If they take care of themselves and age well, they’re highly desired by men their own age (including, if they’re married, their husbands) for long-term relationships.

As for aging being “ugly”, I don’t think so. I know some very good-looking 80-year-olds. They aren’t sexy to a 26-year-old’s eye, but they’re still attractive people. Attractive young people tend to age into attractive older people, even though they don’t inspire carnal lust later in life. Besides, very few people are ugly, even among those who are overweight. Most people I find sexually unattractive, but I would qualify far less than 1% of people I meet as ugly.

Moreover, even beauty itself is not necessarily tied to youth or SMV. Consider Michelle Obama. She’s a stunningly beautiful person, physically and otherwise, but I certainly wouldn’t consider her a sex symbol. Her beauty is derived from her elegance, intelligence, passion, and physical comeliness– not raw sex appeal. As a 45-year-old woman, her SMV (outside of her marriage) is virtually nonexistent, but I’d be thrilled to marry a lady like her, and one who ages as well as she does; and it’s no surprise that her husband, even with the presidency and millions of options, adores her. I bet he’s faithful to her as well; if he weren’t, I’d be angry, because she’s a wonderful woman.

Most men in happy marriages remain in love with their wives, even as they age. Who minds a couple laugh lines on the face one fell in love with? They’re a reminder of times enjoyed together. On that note, shared memories and depths of intimacy achieved are not easily replaced, and keep a wife’s “marital value” buoyant, rendering what happens to her SMV utterly irrelevant.

5. I believed I had value vs. to men I have very little. You do have value, in the world of long-term relationships. If you’re in a happy marriage, your husband will adore and treasure you.

On the casual sexual marketplace, however, people are interchangeable commodities, valued and priced according to a single measure of status. Absolutely no one is exempt from this. For a woman, this is largely determined by her appearance; for a man, it’s based on his “psychosocial dominance”, or Game. People who find this immoral or appalling, such as me, are best to avoid the casual-sex market and the combat-dating racket at all costs.

It’s important to note that “Game’s” tenets are often self-confirming biases. People with such a dismal view of human nature tend to find themselves surrounded with low-quality people, and the behaviors they encounter confirm their negative stances. “Game” is calibrated toward sociosexual success with low-quality people, the reason for this being their sheer number. In truth, the quality of people is not distributed like a bell curve. It’s shaped much more like a pyramid, and those who desire lifestyles of high-frequency sexuality must target the wide but dismal base of it.

6. I was mate selective because of personality type vs. I am hypergamous due to biological drive. “Hypergamy” is a difficult word to discuss, because it means different things to different audiences. There’s good hypergamy and bad. For women to desire men for their character, intelligence, integrity, ambition, and integrity is a great form of hypergamy, and one that impels society to grow. For women to desire men based on their sociosexual dominance or because those men are desired by other females (preselection) is bad hypergamy. The word hypergamy is used pejoratively in the Roissy-sphere, but largely because the style of hypergamy seen in the world of casual sex, Game, and combat dating is the disgusting and immoral variety. Hypergamy doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

It’s virtuous for a woman to be selective, but vicious for her to be picky. The distinction is as follows: the selective woman places a high value on intimacy, love, and men worthy of her affections. She gives her body and heart only to men who earn them, but does not reject men prematurely. The picky woman is one who rejects men for trivial reasons, such as poor fashion sense or a lack of Game.

7. I thought men were just men vs. men are alpha, beta, omega and zeta. The sexual marketplace, and the reversion to pre-monogamous sexual norms, created these artifacts. Alphas are the men who succeed in this nightmarish world, much like the rats and vermin that inhabit ruined environments. Betas are men, leaning toward monogamy, who are desirable for long-term relationships, and who succeeded in the previous regime, but are shortchanged by this one. Gammas (or omegas) are the men who succeed at neither, and often make fools of themselves attempting to become “alpha”. Zetas are analytically connected to the distribution of the prime numbers.

8. I thought racism had died out vs. racism is alive & well. The world of casual sex and combat dating is hellish, bringing out the worst in people. It’s also one of the most superficial social environments on earth, focused intensely on physical presence. This means that race will undeniably have a major role in it. For woman, race has a strong but complex effect on her SMV. For example, the obnoxious alphas often desire racial variety for the sake of “collecting” a complete set of racial categories, but they prefer to date blonde white women for the status benefits afforded. By contrast, the betas, who are significantly more desirable for (and desiring of) long-term relationships, tend to be very open to dating women of all races, and many are dating interracially. Love is far too beautiful to be rejected on such trivial grounds.

Racism is dying out, slowly, but this society has a long way to go. Interracial love, relationships and marriage are bringing down racial barriers rapidly, although the dehumanizing and ruthlessly competitive environment of casual sex and combat dating is one of the last places we’ll see racism disappear.

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Before we start, I shan’t use “nice guy” without defining it first: a “nice guy” is man whose sexual intentions are focused on love and relationships, with no interest in high-frequency promiscuity or social dominance. A nice guy is one who treats others as he would like to be treated, in friendships as well as in dating. A “nice guy” need not be milquetoast or weak; in fact, most “nice guys” aren’t.

Paul Graham, a celebrity in the technology/startup community, is known for his brilliant essays on a wide variety of topics. (However, he is completely wrong about ML and static typing. Haskell is the pwn sauce.) Among them is “Why Nerds Are Unpopular“. Although long, I recommend reading it in full. The ideas central to his essay apply to the current dating and sexual market, so I’m posting excerpts, with commentary, here.

I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular.

Why? To someone in school now, that may seem an odd question to ask. The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way. But it could. Being smart doesn’t make you an outcast in elementary school. Nor does it harm you in the real world. Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries. But in a typical American secondary school, being smart is likely to make your life difficult. Why? […]

In the schools I went to, being smart just didn’t matter much. Kids didn’t admire it or despise it. All other things being equal, they would have preferred to be on the smart side of average rather than the dumb side, but intelligence counted far less than, say, physical appearance, charisma, or athletic ability.

So if intelligence in itself is not a factor in popularity, why are smart kids so consistently unpopular? The answer, I think, is that they don’t really want to be popular.

If someone had told me that at the time, I would have laughed at him. Being unpopular in school makes kids miserable, some of them so miserable that they commit suicide. Telling me that I didn’t want to be popular would have seemed like telling someone dying of thirst in a desert that he didn’t want a glass of water. Of course I wanted to be popular.

But in fact I didn’t, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things. […]

Nerds serve two masters. They want to be popular, certainly, but they want even more to be smart. And popularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school. (All emphasis mine.)

Paul’s thesis, which I consider correct, is that smart high school students aren’t popular because they don’t work hard enough at being so. I tend to agree. I wouldn’t say that nerds are unpopular. They’re respected but generally ignored, never popular and viewed as almost asexual. They get picked on by a few people, but most people are too wrapped up in their own concerns to bother the nerds. A nerd who tries very hard to be popular will be struck down, for punching above his weight, but no one is out to pick on him just because he’s smart.

If you don’t work hard to be popular in high school, you probably won’t be. You may be respected and have good friends, but you won’t reach the A-list. Likewise, if you don’t strive for psychosocial dominance, or “alpha” status on the dating market, you won’t have it. Here we confront the plight of the “nice guy” or “beta male”: too invested in higher interests– love, work, art, spirituality– to enter the idiotic “alpha” contest with force, he makes an insufficient entrance or none at all. He lacks “game”.

[…] I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. They occasionally take vacations; some even have hobbies. An American teenager may work at being popular every waking hour, 365 days a year.

I don’t mean to suggest they do this consciously. Some of them truly are little Machiavellis, but what I really mean here is that teenagers are always on duty as conformists.

The conformity is very similar to what we see in combat dating, defined as dating in which the assertion and assessment of social status take priority over growing to know, and eventually love, another person. Men want to bed the “objective HB9” because other guys desire her, so she’s a challenge. Women want the socially dominant badboy whom other girls want (preselection). In both cases, they’re operating against their own interests. The runner-up “beta”, getting one-tenth the attention, is often just as attractive, more interesting, and better suited for a long-term relationship. To pursue him or her would be a more intelligent decision, but one that is rarely made.

For betas to pursue each other would be the logical decision, but they generally lack the competence to find each other in the modern dating market. Beta males are very unskilled at discerning actual nerdy women from garden-variety bubbly/slutty girls who’ve co-opted the “quirky” look and aura. Beta females are shy and rarely make any approaches.

So far I’ve been finessing the relationship between smart and nerd, using them as if they were interchangeable. In fact it’s only the context that makes them so. A nerd is someone who isn’t socially adept enough. But “enough” depends on where you are. In a typical American school, standards for coolness are so high (or at least, so specific) that you don’t have to be especially awkward to look awkward by comparison.

This sounds exactly like the plight of the beta male. His social skills are average or better– more than enough to excel in the workplace, make friends, and hold a family together. Yet, he lacks a specialized and highly superficial set of social skills, and looks like a doofus (in comparison to the “suave” men) when he tries to get a date.

Around the age of eleven, though, kids seem to start treating their family as a day job. They create a new world among themselves, and standing in this world is what matters, not standing in their family. Indeed, being in trouble in their family can win them points in the world they care about.

The problem is, the world these kids create for themselves is at first a very crude one. If you leave a bunch of eleven-year-olds to their own devices, what you get is Lord of the Flies. Like a lot of American kids, I read this book in school. Presumably it was not a coincidence. Presumably someone wanted to point out to us that we were savages, and that we had made ourselves a cruel and stupid world. This was too subtle for me. While the book seemed entirely believable, I didn’t get the additional message. I wish they had just told us outright that we were savages and our world was stupid.

Kids are supposed to grow up, and adolescent cruelty should end. Should. Casual sex is an adolescent behavior, not an adult one. So is status-obsessed dating. The rise of “hookup culture” and combat dating among young urban professionals are an example of juvenilization, and the world they’ve spawned is, in fact, “cruel and stupid”. Americans are refusing to grow up, even in their 20s and 30s.

Public school teachers are in much the same position as prison wardens. Wardens’ main concern is to keep the prisoners on the premises. They also need to keep them fed, and as far as possible prevent them from killing one another. Beyond that, they want to have as little to do with the prisoners as possible, so they leave them to create whatever social organization they want. From what I’ve read, the society that the prisoners create is warped, savage, and pervasive, and it is no fun to be at the bottom of it.

In outline, it was the same at the schools I went to. The most important thing was to stay on the premises. While there, the authorities fed you, prevented overt violence, and made some effort to teach you something. But beyond that they didn’t want to have too much to do with the kids. Like prison wardens, the teachers mostly left us to ourselves. And, like prisoners, the culture we created was barbaric.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it’s populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don’t think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

High school inherits its culture from the notion of an educational “factory”, and has been slow to deviate from this stencil due to the sleepy, gradual nature of suburban life. Prisons are institutions whose purpose is to confine and punish. Socialites have empty, pointless lives. All of the environments thus created are permissive but disempowering— you can do almost anything, but nothing you do matters– and in such situations, people become cruel and perverse. Respect fades and cruelty becomes common. This was observed most poignantly in Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Well-adjusted college students were placed into a makeshift prison culture and assigned roles of authority or submission. The experiment was terminated early because they were treating each other so badly.

The battleground of casual sex and combat dating, where men and women refuse to treat each other with basic respect, is a similar place: permissive but disempowering. You can fuck 50 people per year if you want, but you’ll be laughed at and treated as “clingy” if you strive for a serious relationship; you’re not even supposed, many advice-givers assert, to return calls! Most well-adjusted people do not want to be in this game, but there seems to be no alternative. One can abstain from casual sex, as I do, but avoiding combat dating is harder. Even I, “nice guy” of the Roissy-sphere, have picked up an abominable array of asshole dating habits over the years.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. (Emphasis mine.) That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue.

In the romantic sphere, the much-needed “real effects” are love– one of the most beautiful emotions we can experience– the heights of sexual experience that can only be achieved with a loving partner, and family formation. These give meaning to dating, romantic relationships, and sexuality. Without them, all of these are utterly meaningless. So, whatever happened to the “adult world” in which dating and sex were geared toward these ends? Why are we, the urban 20- and 30-somethings, possibly the richest and smartest generational subculture in history, completely unable to get ourselves out of a high-school-esque, “game”-ridden, sexual-marketplace hell? I can’t answer that. I wish I knew.

As a thirteen-year-old kid, I didn’t have much more experience of the world than what I saw immediately around me. The warped little world we lived in was, I thought, the world. The world seemed cruel and boring, and I’m not sure which was worse.

Because I didn’t fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn’t realize that the reason we nerds didn’t fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others.

Many 20- to 35-year-old betas feel the exact same way about modern dating. Unfortunately, the “real world” of love and marriage we had hoped to graduate into is being depopulated rapidly. Our generation has spent too much time learning “game” and too little time building the relational skills necessary to form relationships based on (in this order, with each supporting its predecessors and successors) respect, friendship, admiration, love, and then sex and (optionally) family formation.

And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.

What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.

We also have a “caste of giants” in urban combat dating. We call them “alpha males” or “pickup artists”. Instead of chasing a football, which at least counts as physical exercise, they develop a set of domain-specific social skills suited to a purpose that, thirty years ago, would be found extremely distasteful.

In almost any group of people you’ll find hierarchy. When groups of adults form in the real world, it’s generally for some common purpose, and the leaders end up being those who are best at it. The problem with most schools is, they have no purpose. But hierarchy there must be. And so the kids make one out of nothing.

We have a phrase to describe what happens when rankings have to be created without any meaningful criteria. We say that the situation degenerates into a popularity contest. And that’s exactly what happens in most American schools. Instead of depending on some real test, one’s rank depends mostly on one’s ability to increase one’s rank. It’s like the court of Louis XIV. There is no external opponent, so the kids become one another’s opponents. (Emphasis mine.)

I think it’s obvious how this applies to “game”. The single strongest determinant of whether a modern, urban woman will date or sleep with a man is if he has learned the superficial and manipulative skills necessary to get a woman to sleep with him. Modern women are actually consciously attracted to men with game, because it’s a signal of preselection, superficial sociosexual confidence, and experience. None of these would matter in the context of a loving relationship that develops over time.

The mediocrity of American public schools has worse consequences than just making kids unhappy for six years. It breeds a rebelliousness that actively drives kids away from the things they’re supposed to be learning.

Rebellion out of frustration? Yes. As much enjoyment as I get from bashing women and their behavior on the internet, I’d rather be in the arms of one.

And– shit, man– the fact that we’ve had an adult Columbine recently makes even more sense.

I mistrusted words like “character” and “integrity” because they had been so debased by adults. As they were used then, these words all seemed to mean the same thing: obedience. The kids who got praised for these qualities tended to be at best dull-witted prize bulls, and at worst facile schmoozers. If that was what character and integrity were, I wanted no part of them.

Hot Chicks With Douchebags.

If life seems awful to kids, it’s neither because hormones are turning you all into monsters (as your parents believe), nor because life actually is awful (as you believe). It’s because the adults, who no longer have any economic use for you, have abandoned you to spend years cooped up together with nothing real to do. Any society of that type is awful to live in. You don’t have to look any further to explain why teenage kids are unhappy.

Likewise, I disagree with the Roissy-ite misogynists who claim that all men are promiscuous, superficial assholes, and that women are alpha-seeking and amoral sluts. Human “nature” is to be infinitely flexible and adaptable, intelligent even beyond our own comprehension. Casual sex and combat dating have created a horrendous sexual environment but we, as humans, don’t have to be this way. A lot of us don’t want to be like this, and are desperately trying to find a way out.

I’ve said some harsh things in this essay, but really the thesis is an optimistic one– that several problems we take for granted are in fact not insoluble after all. Teenage kids are not inherently unhappy monsters. That should be encouraging news to kids and adults both.

Amen, Paul. I think the same holds true of yuppies in their 20s. Many of us want to treat each other better, and to be treated better, and eventually to find love. Unfortunately, the normal method of achieving this– a patient dating process based on companionship and admiration, as opposed to the more modern one driven by sexual impulsiveness and obsessions over social status– is rapidly fading from the scene. People don’t even know how to do it anymore.

Our “nature” can be improved, and we can graduate to a “real world” better than the hell we’ve created, but we face two challenges that disaffected high schoolers don’t. First, unlike high school students, we have no one to blame. It’s not our bosses or our parents or even pop-culture that created this execrable sociosexual environment. It’s us. It’s men who use “game” and women who fall for it. It’s all the people out there– men and women, myself not excluded– who’ve made stupid dating and sexual choices in the past, rewarded bad behavior, and polluted the environment with a mean spirit and bitterness.

Second, high school has a defined end. Traditionally, graduating from high school and attending college meant that one would be entering an environment that encouraged and nurtured intellectualism, growth, and refinement. (Once “hookup culture” crept into the college scene, college’s social environment became an extension of high school.) The “real world”, as Graham defines it, begins when high school and its phony social contests end. Unfortunately, major cities nurture a dating environment that refuses to advance beyond adolescence. When the majority of young professionals are playing the combat dating game, it’s almost impossible to avoid it. Many of us desperately want to evolve into some notion of the “real world”, where things that actually matter (e.g. love, integrity, patience) are valued, but we fail to do so. Game über alles.

There’s hope. As dismal as Manhattan’s dating environment may seem, it’s not necessarily destined to remain this way forever. Despite the doom-peddlers’ extremely negative take on human nature– especially female human nature– I think we are capable of something much better than what exists. In fact, with sufficient good will and intelligence, we can create a better dating environment than any that has ever existed. (About half of the women I’ve dated I would not have been able to legally marry, in some U.S. states, before 1967.)

As adults, we don’t turn on our close friends when they lose their jobs or get sick, and we don’t stuff people in lockers at the workplace. Even in actual high school, at least as I remember it, peoples’ behavior wasn’t 1/50 as evil as Hollywood depictions of high school let me to expect– and I was a nerd at the 30th-percentile of popularity. So I don’t believe there’s anything natural or inevitable about an opposite-sex landscape characterized by adolescent behaviors like casual sex and combat dating, and I think we, as humans, can do a whole lot better.

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This is advice for American woman on how to “clean up” in dating by cleaning up dating. No gimmicks are involved. It’s a straightforward approach. Return his calls? Admit that you like him? Demand respect from him? Yes, it can be that simple.

Many early video games were wars of attrition against an increasingly unforgiving machine, with no clear ending. You could achieve a high score, but you never finished the game. The original NES version of Tetris, becoming increasingly difficult as the game progressed, was literally impossible (without hacks or cheats) to play at level 29. The pieces fell faster than the game could receive input from the controller. It killed you off. Before that was the original Pac-Man, which simply crashed after 255 levels– considered an irrelevant bug, as the designers expected no player to get that far. Both games were phenomenally successful; that they were never “completed” did not reduce their appeal.

Many other 1980s video games, as well, were unforgivably difficult, but surprisingly engrossing nonetheless. They had to be hard, as the game required repetition if one were to pack 100+ hours of gameplay into such a small space as was available at the time (on the order of 32-256 KB). Important to note, in the study of game addiction, is that the losses contribute as much to addiction as the high scores and successes. Yet enough about video games; let’s move our ludic focus to a different type of “game”: dating.

The goal of dating is the happy ending, a thrilling and lifelong partnership. It should be “winnable”. What happens when is you “beat the game” is that you find a lifelong partnership that never loses its luster, as is the case for a small set of couples. Many obstacles block people from achieving this successful outcome, and one among them is an addictive but losing approach, that has infected the urban dating scene to such an extent that virtually everyone is familiar with it: combat dating.

Combat dating is a dating process wherein asserting one’s own, and assessing the other’s person’s, social status is of primary importance, and treated as much more crucial than the “traditional” purpose of dating– getting to know, understand, and eventually love another person. In combat dating, the display and judgment of social status are achieved through subtle put-downs, displays of dominance, and bad behaviors (“shit tests”) designed to provoke strong, and potentially revealing, reactions. So-called “pick-up artistry” is the male facet of combat dating, but it has an equally ugly female component, in the form of not-returned calls, last-minute cancels, and inappropriate, rude shit tests.

Combat dating has the illusion of being a future-oriented activity. The Rules, while advocating combat dating (“never return his calls”), claims to be a road map to marriage. I’m sure some women have gotten “a ring on it” by behaving this way, but it’s not the foundation of a respectful relationship, and it’s only going to make everyone lose in the long run. People can marry despite fatal resentments created very early in the relationship, and the woman who refuses to return calls, or transparently pretends to be more busy than she actually is, is planting some very destructive seeds.

There isn’t the space to get into this, but aloof behavior by women doesn’t stoke the “hunter” or “chaser” instinct. It inspires the rape instinct, one that decent men have evolved so far from that they’ve extinguished it. In modern society, a woman is extremely unlikely to be raped for refusing to return calls, but when she ends up dating a string of overbearing assholes, she shouldn’t be surprised, because she’s stoking male resentment. An aloof, cold woman inspires a man to want to destroy or dismantle her, and this is why such women invariably find the most unhealthy relationships.

Winning combat dating is like winning a war, which, as a friend of mine says, is like winning an earthquake. The “game” is designed to feel winnable, but each success is utterly empty. So you’re a man who’s slept with his first HB9, even though she was terrible in bed? Or you’re a woman who has five men attempting to contact her, each leaving minute-long messages despite your refusal to return calls? Great job, Sisyphus. Now, those of us who aren’t interested in the pointless loss of time can discuss a different accomplishment: how to escape the hell of combat dating.

On this matter, it’s women who will lead our culture out of this mess. This is because there are already men who eschew such practices, but they are generally too naive and “gameless” to enjoy significant success. Men cannot re-civilize dating unless a significant proportion of women are on board with this change. In order to abolish combat dating once and for all, a “critical mass” of women will be required to step up. Here are four (out of many) ways a woman can remove herself from the combat-dating hell, making herself a highly desirable girlfriend.

1. Never sleep around. Casual sex begat combat dating. When such an emotionally loaded decision is expected to be made so soon, a hostile environment ensues. The “three-date rule”? That’s idiotic; you often know nothing about a person after 3 dates. If sex were expected to happen after the establishment of a love relationship, and therefore months off in the distance, we’d have a much more genteel and respectful dating environment. A woman who wishes to maximize her desirability to the best men is advised never to have sex outside of a committed and loving relationship. Then, dating can take a more relaxed pace. As for the men who’ll vanish if a woman doesn’t sleep with him after 3 dates? No loss; they weren’t worth dating in the first place.

2. Be enthusiastic. Return his calls. Women are afraid to be “too assertive” with men, as if to show genuine enthusiasm makes a girl seem “easy”. Often, they’re afraid it will make them seem slutty. Obviously, this is ridiculous. This aversion might have made sense in the 1890s, but in 2009, there are so many actual sluts out there that no one’s going to pass judgment on a woman for (gasp!) asking a man out to coffee. Men respect assertive women.

Also, it’s crucial that a woman make time for a man. Many women mistakenly believe that for a woman to be constantly busy is a sign of high social desirability. Wrong. To a man, it’s a sign of disheveledness and stupidity. A woman who forces a man to “apply for time” is not casting herself as desirable, but leading him to think of her as flighty and disposable.

The woman who refuses to return calls is going to be tossed out of bed as soon as she “gives it up”, and forgotten after a month if she never does. Once conquered or written off as a loss, she’s discarded. By contrast, the gal who returns (or even initiates) calls is communicating, I’m a great girlfriend. She’s much more likely to get a good man to stick around, regardless of when she has sex with him.

3. Demand respect. Although a great girlfriend is enthusiastic about and admiring of her boyfriend, she should never be a doormat, but an equal partner. Admire and grow to love him, but also love yourself. “You’re awesome, but so am I” is the best attitude. It’s not just women who value confidence in a prospective mate. In the long term, confident and assertive women are considered the most attractive. It’s much more meaningful to be admired by someone who holds herself in high regard than by someone who doesn’t.

4. Be very sexual– with him. Once in a sexual relationship, initiate sex. Know what you like, and demand it. (You masturbate, right? If not, start.) Don’t hold back. Express pleasure when he kisses you. Breathe heavily during foreplay. A reasonable man never loses respect for a woman because she’s sexual with him.

These four suggestions come from a list that could be miles long, but indicate the general shift in womens’ attitudes and behavior that needs to take place. None of these suggestions involve any deception; all of them call for above-board assertiveness and a degree of honesty that qualifies as “extreme” by the standards of modern dating. This is because, in truth, the single most important aspect of being a great girlfriend is being a great friend, and more important to being a great friend is being a great person. In this light, the combat dater’s quest for romantic success by being a horrible person should seem absurd and foolish. I hope I’ve convinced my readers that it is.

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Lust story, part 2

For part 1, go here.

September 22, 2009, and beyond: Mr. Aaron Wright is shocked by Sarah’s revelation. Nine partners, three one-nighters. Shit. For him, sex only made sense in the context of a committed relationship. Sarah does not share such values. He, nonetheless, is too nice to dump Sarah over her “number”. He doesn’t want to think of himself as a judgmental person or a “misogynist”. It’s 2009 and, if men can have casual sex, so can women. At least she wasn’t a total slut, and she came clean about her past in its entirety, right? She just had a “wild oats” phase. No big deal. The past is the past, mistakes were made, move on and we will work this out. This is what Mr. Wright tells himself, every time his creeping resentment of Sarah’s past enters his conscious mind. Mr. Wright and Sarah never discuss their sexual histories again.

A week later, they have sex. Mr. Wright turns out, despite his “inexperience”, to be a natural in bed. He’s the best lover Sarah has ever had. Despite one very uncomfortable conversation, the relationship seems to have promise from this point forward. Unfortunately, Sarah’s shame and Aaron’s resentment, neither acknowledged due to their armistice regarding “history” talk, fester over the winter. Over the next six months, the couple begins having increasingly heated arguments over trifling matters, proxies for the underlying issue. In February, Sarah shows up 15 minutes late for an engagement and Aaron berates her for her “total lack of self-control”. Sarah mutters something under her breath to the effect of: “at least I didn’t let my youth pass me by”. Aaron: What? Sarah: “Nothing.”

Fast-forward to the first warm day of 2010– a Sunday in late March. Sarah and Mr. Wright have a huge fight, and Sarah makes an unflattering comparison of Aaron’s bedroom prowess against that of an ex-boyfriend. She doesn’t mean it, it’s not true, but she can’t unsay it. Aaron calls her a slut, a bitch, a whore, a cunt. They break up and agree never to speak again.

Sarah, now 29, has a couple one-night stands in the months after the breakup, bringing her “number” to 12. Her sexual history has already made evident her lack of self-control, so the reader can probably intuit what happens next, but I’ll spell it out: ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. She gains 30 pounds and feels so bad about herself that she’s unsuitable for dating. Regarding any man who would date her in such a state– and, of course, there still are some– she’d be too turned off by his low standards (Mr. Wright wouldn’t date a fat slut) to make anything of the situation. Eventually, she decides to slim down and wait for an age when a double-digit number might be less of a big deal.

2013. Sarah’s 32. She’s still beautiful, but it’s harder than it used to be to get male attention, and very old men have been approaching her with more confidence, as if they might actually have a chance. Gross. She begins dating the less impressive “beta” males she spurned when she was younger– men who have mediocre jobs, bland personalities, and will be moving out to the suburbs in a few years, but at least they’re “sweet”. Some are more awkward than others. Once, on a fourth date, she admitted to having had 14 previous sex partners. Her date’s response, with a wide grin: “Hot!” (He didn’t get a fifth date.) Eventually, she meets John, a nondescript but reasonably handsome 40-year-old. He’s smart but has never been terribly ambitious, has a nondescript office job, and watches significantly more television than Sarah is used to. They date, get along well, and have a surprising lack of fights. Overwhelming “sparks” of passionate love never occur, but Sarah experiences flashes of contentment. Moving out to the suburbs, getting a big dog, having kids and a plastic slide in the yard… that might not be so bad, after all.

2016. Sarah’s 35. John and Sarah have been together for three years. She has accepted his marriage proposal, but is having second thoughts. The wedding’s in two months. He doesn’t make her feel sexy the way Mr. Aaron Wright (now married) did. They’re not even husband-and-wife yet, and John already seems more like a brother than a lover to Sarah. Sarah decides that she has to see Mr. Wright once, just for closure. She may invite him to her wedding. She asks him out for lunch, and he accepts. The “chemsitry” she once felt with Mr. Wright returns as soon as he walks into the diner. She tries to kiss him; he rejects her advance. After feeling a raw lust she thought inaccessible at her age, she wonders how she could have ever thought to settle for mere contentment. She knows she must break off her engagement with John. She does. John throws her out of the house. Later, Sarah calls John, on his 44th birthday, hoping he’ll forgive her. No response. They never speak again.

October 5, 2019. Sarah’s 38th birthday. Her closest friends are all married. She’s single. Her supporters all tell her that “you’ll find someone”, but they have no single men in their social networks. If she wants to get married, she’ll have to seriously consider 45- and 50-year-old men, and not the rich and handsome ones either. Her “number” is 22. She’s averaged exactly one sexual partner per year since losing her virginity at 16– certainly not a true “slut”, but she’s got a very high number on account of her relational instability. When she tells the truth about her history to a prospective boyfriend, he gets “sticker shock”. Not even the beta nerds want her. Worse yet, she knows it’s her fault. If she had laid off the strange cock in college and her 20s, she’d be married to Mr. Wright.

On this October night, Sarah reaches an epiphany: fuck it. No kids or marriage are in her future, so she might as well have whatever “fun” she can until she drops dead. She pulls out the sluttiest clothes she owns. She hasn’t worn them in eight years, and they fit her body poorly, but she squeezes into them through Herculean force. She doesn’t smoke, but she buys a pack of cigarettes; by lighting up, she can accentuate the “easy” look. She heads off to a dive bar near NYU, hoping to score a sufficiently drunk and desperate college student. She’s now a full-fledged cougar.

These 20-year-old men are absolutely awful in bed but… hey, at least they have fresh faces and nice abs. She never calls them afterward, knowing her calls won’t be returned. She doesn’t see a point in getting emotionally invested in them, knowing that they’ll never take her seriously. Given her casual sex history, men her age don’t exactly take her seriously either. At least with the college studs, she can blame it on their age and immaturity.

Fin.

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Here I describe the average-case life trajectory of a very average young professional female in Manhattan.

September 21, 2009: Sarah’s 28. She double-majored in biology and history at Brown University, and now has a high five-figure job in advertising. Sex and the City inspired her to come to New York. She came to the city after graduating from college, and has lived here since. She’s attractive, intelligent, and sociable. She has a large number of friends, and she’s never alone on a Friday night. Finding men poses no challenge for her, but the right man seems out of reach. He has to (1) make more money than she does, (2) have a prestigious educational pedigree, (3) have important friends, (4) not be full of himself, (5) not be religious, but not too atheist either, and (6) be exceptional in the sack. Plenty of men are available to Sarah who meet criteria 1-3, but they tend to fail #4. Finance guys are usually boring douchebags. Consultants are never around. Doctors want to get married too soon. Men in real estate? Sarah’s sown a few wild oats, but she’s not that slutty.

Enter Aaron Wright. Mr. Wright is a 32-year-old (Michigan B.A. ’99, Harvard M.B.A. ’04) whose career in quantitative finance ended last year with the market crash. Laid off in March 2008, he spent the summer backpacking in Asia, returning in July 2008 to join a venture capital firm where a few of his friends went after B-school. He works only fifty hours per week, and loves his job. Six-foot-two, handsome, and outgoing, he can easily “work a room”. He projects social dominance when he needs it. Yet he never comes off as overbearing or arrogant, as years of traveling have lent him a genuine humility and sensitivity to the needs of others. His politics? Mostly libertarian, but politely liberal, he voted for Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008. (Although Sarah pretends to hate his decision to vote for Bush in 2000, there’s something about Republican heartlessness that she considers masculine– sexy, even.) Religion? With a Jewish mother and Episcopalian father, he was raised in two religious traditions. He now attends an upscale Episcopalian Church irregularly, but is mostly agnostic. Perfect, Sarah decides.

Sarah and Mr. Wright met through mutual friends, early in May. They became “exclusive” in July. It’s now September 21, and Sarah is pretty sure this man is “the one”. He has the ideal combination of “alpha” social presence and “beta” sensitivity. Only one thing is odd: they’ve grown very close, and Sarah slept in Mr. Wright’s apartment once, but they haven’t had sex yet. This fateful Monday, Sarah decides that it’s time. In the evening, she invites Aaron to her apartment, they drink some wine, and he opens up.

Mr. Wright: “I’d love to sleep with you, Sarah, but I have something to confess.”

Sarah: “What?”

Mr. Wright: “Well, I’ve been working very hard for most of my life, and haven’t always had time for relationships, so I’m not as experienced as you might think.”

Sarah: “You’re a virgin?”

Mr. Wright: “No, but I don’t believe in sex outside of a committed relationship, and I’ve only had two of those. So I haven’t had sex in three years, and I’ve only slept with two women.”

Sarah: “Oh…”

Sarah doesn’t know what to make of this. A 32-year-old with a “number” of two is practically a virgin, from her perspective. This sort of man would have been ideal, in her eyes, when she was 16. But she’s not 16 anymore and, having had casual sex a few times, she’s had to tell herself all the ridiculous lies that casual sexers tell themselves to feel better about their behavior– that chaste women are frigid prudes and that chaste men are socially inept and horrible in bed. Mr. Wright, noticing Sarah’s sudden discomfort, becomes slightly worried.

Mr. Wright: “How many men have you been with?”

Sarah is well-versed in how a woman “should” discuss her past if a potential husband asks. She subtracts all the one-night stands and regretted relationships from her actual number.

Sarah: “Oh, three or four.”

Mr. Wright: “Four, then? So only in relationships, I assume.”

She’s caught in a lie, and she knows it. (Author’s note: In real life, she might be able to hold the lie for months, or even years. I know that women aren’t actually this dumb.)

Sarah: “Well… okay, more than four.”

Mr. Wright: “How many? I won’t judge you.” (Author’s note: Riiight…)

Sarah’s full sexual history: 3 boyfriends from relationships lasting more than 6 months. Normal. No problem. She’s had flings, one of which was an earnest attempt at a relationship that nevertheless failed early and explosively, and two of which were rebound relationships with no intention of permanence. She broke off all of those flings, each in an extremely rude way. Then there are three one-night stands– her first sexual encounter, at 16, was with an unemployed man then twice her age; one was in college (sophomore year, early winter) with a frat boy; and the third was at age 26 during a grinding dry spell, when she was “too busy for relationships”. She’s never cheated, technically speaking, although her college one-nighter occurred two days after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend, and everyone found out about it. Her total number is 9.

Sarah does not consider herself a slut. Sluts, in her mind, are those actively seek casual sex, those who have it a lot more often than she does, and those who are proud and vocal about having casual sex. Sarah has a clear definition of a slut and, by her definition, she’s not one. (Author’s note: I tend to agree with Sarah: she’s not a slut. She’s a worse-than-average modern woman, but I wouldn’t describe her as a slut. She’s just badly behaved.)

Confronted with the revelation of Sarah’s past, Mr. Wright is taken aback. He has spent 32 years doing the right thing– studying hard, getting good grades, working late, refraining from excessive drug use– in order to achieve his ideal future. Believing his future wife would be displeased by a string of casual encounters, he also abstained from casual sex. At this moment, he remembers the darkest and most trying point of his life. It was in the small hours of January 21, 2000– his twenty-third birthday– when he nearly surrendered his goal of becoming a venture capitalist. He hated New York– a city with frigid winters, where he had no friends. He was less than a year out of college, and he loathed his job– he was an analyst at an investment bank; the work was boring and the hours were brutal. A virgin to this point, he questioned his decision to pursue academic excellence in lieu of college “fun”, i.e. binge drinking and the pursuit of women. This is what I worked my ass off for? THIS? Taking a 3:00 am cab ride out to Brooklyn after a 19-hour work day, he was pretty sure that in five hours, he’d be resigning from Wall Street forever. No more rat-race, no more half-dead cab rides through the black, polluted Manhattan air. The stark, lonely aura of the Financial District at night would become a distant, nostalgic memory. His parents would let him live at home and regain his bearings, so long as he did his share of the housework.

When Aaron arrived at his tiny Brooklyn loft, he felt queasy and weak, as if he had lost a fight. His muscles ached and he could feel his heartbeat, throbbing, on the inside of his left knee. As soon as he sat down on his couch, he crashed. He hadn’t set an alarm clock, but who cares about being on time for a job that one is about to quit? Nonetheless, he arose naturally at 7:20. The winter sun had barely risen, but the sky was the clearest he had ever seen it. Outside, it was certainly very cold, but at least it was beautiful. Aaron, a freshly 23-year-old nobody, brushed his teeth, skipped the shower, suited up and went to work. He felt a bit better, and was determined not to collapse entirely, not to flunk out of his job. He could resign from his analyst position, but implosion was not an option. His only motivation for enduring analyst hell was the two-year track to business school; he could take a less impressive job and a 3- or 4-year track. He decided to resign in a more measured and polite way. He collected his bonus on June 30, and tendered his resignation, effective August 15, the next day. He was let go immediately, but given an excellent reference. He used his bonus to travel for four months, returned to the United States, and took a programming job in Silicon Valley. (Author’s note: sorry for the “Aaron’s career” diversion– ’twas boring– but I can’t have a semi-sympathetic character spend two years in I-banking.)

That night in January, when Aaron nearly lost hope, could have derailed his career. It was the point where he stared into the hibernal abyss, and nothing but a few drifting snowflakes stared back. At the same moment, Sarah was in college. At a party. Getting split open by a beer-breathed fraternity brother.

Part 2

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