The View From A Thousand Different Points

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 16.884% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Here is a flowchart, telling you how to pick up a woman.  It’s long, and visual, and probably pretty effective.
I can’t stop reading the fucking thing.
See, viewed from one perspective, the whole Pick-Up Artist thing is an eminently rational response to a common conundrum: I’d like to have sex with someone I find attractive.  How do I do that?  Well, let’s use science!  And so the breaking down of the stages of flirtation into small, easily-digestible chunks and methodologies is something that really is quite helpful for guys looking to know how to charm a girl – or at least a certain type of girl.
Viewed from another perspective, it’s absolutely goddamned creepy.  It’s mind-manipulation at its crudest, using hooks to push the animal centers of a certain type of woman to goad them into having sex with you.
Yet viewed from another perspective, I mean, shit, isn’t that kind of crude hooks what corporate America does all the goddamned time?  We’re flooded with advertising and political campaigns designed to do exactly what the Pick-Up Artists do – hell, Yahoo! has at least an article a week on “How Supermarkets Manipulate You.”  We’re in an age where scientists are paid to find our weakest points – they’re like a psychological karate-master, knowing that if they hit us in the back of the knees, we go down like this every time.
The reason we don’t find that every bit as creepy as the Pick-Up Artists are a) we rarely get a raw look inside the mind-process of a corporation in the same way that we get a look inside the brains of Mystery and company, b) “men wanting to have sex” is often seen as inherently a creepy thing for men to do, and “women consenting to have sex with men” is something that OMG WOMEN DON’T WANT ICKY SEXX THEY MUST BE MEZ-MO-RIZED, and c) the corporations that create that sort of mind-scanning really don’t want you to look too closely at it, so they tamp down that particular animal terror.
But somewhere inside the corporation are a bunch of modified Pick-Up Artists, looking at your buying and voting habits with just this kind of creeptastic eye, looking at you as though you were a Skinner box with buttons to punched.  Their goal: find those buttons.
Yet viewed from another perspective, is learning manipulation explicitly really bad?  I mean, shit, speaking as a guy who had to learn whatever charm he possesses naturally, I can tell you that when you have zero skills in the “get people to like you” department, the folks at the top of the high school social pyramid did things that seemed like magic.  I had to watch them and learn things that seemed elementary to you, like “Don’t wear a shirt full of chocolate milk stains” and “Don’t interrupt people to tell them how they’re wrong.”
Some people have the charm naturally.  But that charm is still a form of manipulation, whether they consciously honed it or not.  They may not overtly mean to charm you when they touch your shoulder, but somewhere deep within they’ve learned that the shoulder-touch gets better results, and they do it.  So why is it creepy when one person is naturally talented enough to do something by a set of naturalized instincts, and the other learns it through hard work?
Isn’t that just punishing the socially inept, telling them that if they don’t have it, they never should?  Shouldn’t we encourage the kind of charm that sways us, no matter where it comes from? Why is it kind of a creepster thing to say, “I totally live by Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’?”
To me, it feels like a way of saying, “We had all this talent naturally, and you shouldn’t be able to get it if you didn’t acquire it.”  That barrier to entry is creepier, in its own way.
Yet then I go back to the flowchart, and I see some pretty creeptastic shit buried in there: “It’s on, bitches!” and “No matter what she says here [at this stage], you’ll have to accept her” and “If all three answers are sexual, she’s a tease… you’ll have to build a lot of rapport to get through her barriers.”  GUH.
And I realize that for all of my rationale that this could be a thing that could help the innocent asocial nerd become a person who can get by in “normal” society, this is also the kind of Lex Luthor shit that can turn a nerd into a guy who views other people as safes to be cracked.  You wind up with a bunch of super-nerds, charming on the outside, shitty on the inside – not pick-up artists but con artists.
Then I loop back to the corporations doing the same shit to us, and I know for a fact they don’t give a rat’s ass about me aside from the contents of my wallet.  Shouldn’t I be more concerned about their manipulations, which are constant and effective?  What about the lonely nerds who could benefit from this?  What about the creepy way that a lot of the negative reaction to all of this assumes, on one level, that women are so hostile to sex that any normal guy who gets a “hot” woman to sleep with them must be an evil mastermind?
It’s creepy.  It’s useful.  It’s institutionalized.   And so I keep looking at this goddamned flowchart over and over again, trying to fit all the pieces together, and they don’t quite mesh.

1 Comment

  1. Mishell Baker
    Sep 2, 2011

    To distill my long angry rant into something pithier: if a nerdy guy finds it that hard to -genuinely- listen to, empathize with, and relate to a woman, he can goddamned well get off somewhere other than her vagina.

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