Can this be done?
March 27, 2012 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Do the strategies in "Why Men Love Bitches" really work? I'm almost at my wits end in the dating scene. I'm not clingy or anything of that sort but I could use a little help in self-preservation. Is there a proper way to use the tactics in the book w/o too much manipulation?
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think that any manipulation is too much manipulation.
posted by sugarbomb at 4:39 PM on March 27, 2012 [37 favorites]

if you replace "the strategies in "Why Men Love Bitches"" with "the strategies in most PUA books" i think you'll have your answer.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:41 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do they work? Yeah, kinda. They seem to work better for some people than others, depending among other things on what their goals are.

Is there a proper way to use them? If by 'proper' you mean something like 'ethical,' I don't think you'll find any consensus on that.
posted by box at 4:44 PM on March 27, 2012

The best thing I've seen on the goal of "scenarios and advice aimed at making women subtly stronger and self-empowered" (Amazon's description of "Why Men...") is Baggage Reclaim. I'm a straight man & many of the lessons there are for women to deal with crap men dish out (and how to spot it in the first place), but many others are gender-neutral exhortations to work on self-esteem and standing up for yourself.

Example: How To Spot Emotionally Unavailable Men
posted by morganw at 4:51 PM on March 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yes, if you want to attract the kind of man who loves bitches. If you want to attract a man who will love you, I'd try acting like you.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2012 [40 favorites]

I've just browsed WMLB on Amazon, but I'm gonna go with oh Jesus Christ no. I mean, inasmuch as the book seems to encourage good self-esteem and taking care of yourself, who wouldn't agree that, even if there happen to be guys who'd prefer otherwise, you should aim at that. But I must be missing the part where it suggests being thoughtful and altruistic while needing to be cherished are also good things. The best book I can think of that's similar enough to be helpful is How to Win Friends and Influence People, which although it sounds manipulative and self-serving has a lot more to do with understanding other people's needs and how to meet them genuinely and well in conversation.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:57 PM on March 27, 2012

This kind of thing might be a salutory lesson in where the other edge of the spectrum is if you're currently a doormat.

I would point out that Ms. Argov, though she has certainly made enviable boatloads of money from her book, was single the last time I heard an interview with her where the interviewer pressed her on the question. Not that there's anything at all wrong with being single, in my opinion, but that's not the argument of her book, and she didn't sound happy about it. Perhaps her strategies have worked better for her since.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sure they work, if you are looking for guys who like the thrill of the chase.

The hardest part of dating is opening yourself up, sometimes time and time again, just to be disappointed. OK, the *hardest* part is stepping off that cliff *again*, after multiple disappointments. But what you have to remember is that to the extent you close yourself off, that is a wedge in your next potential relationship. It's some thing that you are going to have to correct for later on.

Better to gain more comfort in letting your true self shine through and finding incompatibilities early on than it is to remain closed off and hope for the best and end up with another 2.5 month relationship failure.
posted by gjc at 5:03 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a proper way to use the tactics in the book w/o too much manipulation?

Depends what "too much" is to you. Power is always a problem in relationships; it's quite often the case that one person loves or desires the other more, and it's also quite often the case that one person wants to move the relationship forward before the other does. Some people like a little inequality (at least in one area or two, one space where they're clearly in charge and responsible for the other person) some people can't abide a relationship where they're not on equal terms on everything. Some people can't love someone who smarter/dumber, richer/poorer than them. Some people can. So it depends which you are and what you want. Because what books like that'll tend to preach is how to disguise weakness and carefully cultivate selected areas of inequality in areas that don't matter to you, in order to make sure you retain the real power in the relationship. This is not un-akin to the compromises you have make in any relationship. But you can't have a real relationship if equals if you're consciously thinking about the proper tactics by which to pacify rebellion and win loyalty. That kind of relationship is rare, though, and you have to have the right temperament to make it work...
posted by Diablevert at 5:10 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

One of the smartest things I've ever read about books like this was something Christina Nehring wrote in The Atlantic a million years ago.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:11 PM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think one of the reasons why these sorts of books are so popular is because dating and courtship have become deformalized over the past 50 years or so - it's hard to know what's going on sometimes if the rules aren't clear, so the books attempt to decode male and female behaviour.

As a man (and as someone who has had to decode behaviour while living in a different culture), what I might suggest is to somehow shift dating to situations that are more formal. There have to be actual dating agencies or matchmaking agencies out there where you know that such and such a thing will happen on the first date, and if you have a second date or whatever it means you're interested in dating.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:24 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anything that specifically markets itself to someone "at her wit's end" is something to be wary of.

Let me ask you this. Let's say you were dating a guy, and you found a book in his house. The whole book was filled with sweeping generalizations about what women are like, and what they want. Specifically, it suggests making your dating partners feel insecure in the relationship, because this will make them more compliant. What would you think about this guy? Would you want to keep dating him?
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:31 PM on March 27, 2012 [13 favorites]

From my experience of once being in a similar place, you may be better off with the information in 'Dating without Drama'. It helps you look after yourself and maintain your self esteem without manipulation.
posted by Kerasia at 5:36 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was recommended the book "If the Buddha Dated" which was not nearly as cheezy as I thought, and was also somewhat helpful. if you're into that kind of thing, which apparently I am.
posted by genmonster at 5:40 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Unlike most people I have actually read the book:

The book is written towards women who believe that setting boundaries makes them a "bitch". The author explains that you can be kind and loving without sacrificing your deal breakers. It encourages you to set boundaries and make yourself a priority.
posted by Shouraku at 5:42 PM on March 27, 2012 [17 favorites]

It works. For women who are too nice and accomodating it definitely works to get the edge. I love that book because it owns the word "bitch". There is nothing wrong with putting your needs in proper perspective so that you are treated right.

It is not about manipulation. It is about standing up for who you are, not being a doormat, not depending on the man to make you happy. All good lessons. Read it and apply the principles, i would highly recommend it. I have done so and improved my life a lot after that.
posted by pakora1 at 5:48 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Unlike most people I have actually read the book

I have read the book, and also Why Men Marry Bitches. I agree that the author's encouragement that women should not be doormats could be quite useful to someone who was in that situation. I think a lot of her other advice and characterizations reflects unhelpful, gender-essentialist conventional non-wisdom.

Similarly, I think The Rules contains some of the same useful information (encouraging women to set boundaries and place a high value on themselves) and some of the same not-useful information.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I haven't read the book, but I was able to find excerpts. Here's one:

"A little distance combined with the appearance of self-control makes him nervous that he may be losing you."

So, yeah, if you want to be in a relationship where your goal is to make your partner feel nervous, then go to town, I guess.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:02 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've done some reading on this (not the whole book) and as with PUA training, some of it is legitimately good advice to help you increase your self-worth through practice and better mental hygiene. But as Diablevert points out, you're going to be playing this game forever-- or else there will be a time when you stop, ostensibly because you've "caught" your man, and then there is going to be some resentment and disappointment. If he fell in love with you because he cannot abide a woman's emotions, this is going to hurt someone eventually.

To be honest, I've unconsciously used these tactics before (as has pretty much everyone probably), and they do work in terms of planting insecurity in your partner. Has this ever made me happy? No. The principle behind this advice is that men are fickle and get bored, and you have to spend your life making sure "he" doesn't get bored with you. But in my opinion, if you can't accept that you will sometimes be bored in a relationship, you're not prepared for a serious relationship. (Sometimes life happens and you can't spend all your energy putting on a disinterested performance.)

On the other hand, cultivating true self-respect will always improve your chances at a fulfilling relationship.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:09 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite book of this genre is "He's just not that into you"

Don't get hung up on the book; what's sexy is confidence. Give yourself some credit I'm sure you are absolutely awesome!
posted by ibakecake at 6:12 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I too read the book when I was coming off a bad breakup, and it is really not the same thing at all as the PUA crap. I rolled my eyes at some of the suggestions, but essentially, yeah, it's about setting your own boundaries, sticking to them, and placing your respect for your own needs as a priority during dating. Not manipulation.

I can only speak for myself, but as someone who has been a "people-pleaser" in past relationships, it really helped me press the reset button before I started dating again. Shortly after I read the book, I started dating my now-husband, and I really do credit some of the advice in that book with helping me to take a "slow and steady", eyes-wide-open approach to our new relationship. Rather than flinging myself in blindly like I used to, I really took the time to ease in to our relationship and observe my husband treating me the way I needed to be treated (hint: with respect and care) before I committee 100%. Rather than feeling like the book's advice encouraged me to manipulate a man into marrying me, I feel like it reminded me that I should expect a loving partner to meet me halfway, because I deserve that.

posted by anonnymoose at 6:38 PM on March 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

ETA: There is definitely some gender stereotype-y noise in the book. Like Sidhedevil points out, sometimes good information and bad information get all bundled together.
posted by anonnymoose at 6:41 PM on March 27, 2012

The book is written towards women who believe that setting boundaries makes them a "bitch". The author explains that you can be kind and loving without sacrificing your deal breakers. It encourages you to set boundaries and make yourself a priority.

And then it lays out exactly what your priorities and deal breakers should be.
posted by gjc at 6:44 PM on March 27, 2012

Yes, there is truth in these sorts of books - but don't take it as a set of rules that should be followed like the gospel, more as insight into strategies that women generally find successful.

Like ibabecake, I would recommend "He's Just Not That Into You" - paired with Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends and Influence People" (so that more of them will be into you!).
posted by amaire at 7:04 PM on March 27, 2012

Is there a proper way to use the tactics in the book w/o too much manipulation?

Echoing others here that it doesn't seem to be about direct manipulation. If it were, the title would probably be "Why men are too stupid to realize what bitches are up to," or something like that.
posted by carter at 7:06 PM on March 27, 2012

Geez, it would be nice if everyone answering actually read the book!

I read it recently, and actually found it helpful as a person who sometimes has trouble with setting boundaries. It's not really about manipulation- it's about putting yourself first in a relationship and not catering to a guys' every need, not being available 24/7.

It was written by a comedienne who wanted a catchy title. Is a great book that completely changed my life? No, not even close. But it was an amusing read at a time I needed it with some solid advice. (apart from some gender stereotyping which I was not crazy about).

Op, it's not some magi cure-all, but if you have trouble putting yourself first in relationships, I think it;s worth a read.
posted by bearette at 7:10 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, the book doesn't have "strategies". It's not like The Rules in that way.
posted by bearette at 7:12 PM on March 27, 2012

I read through the bulk of the book when waiting at Barnes and Noble one day. I guess the stuff on boundaries was okay, but honestly, it has as much essentialist, gender-reifying BS as other lame dating books. When I came home, I told my boyfriend that I was going to have to start withholding sex from him, because the book said that nothing is sexier than using sex as a leverage to get what you want!

We had sex, anyway.
And - gasp! - we have not broken up.

If you are at your wit's end with dating, you can take a break. Go hang out with your friends. Start a hobby. Don't think about it for a while. You might really enjoy the time, and might develop your own new perspective about dating, without feeling like you have to follow some cookie-cutter list of instructions written by someone trying to make a buck off of your frustration.

Spring is about here; maybe you should go have a picnic!
posted by vivid postcard at 8:11 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, consider, too, that some proportion of folks in the available dating pool at any given time necessarily suck at the whole relationship thing (if not, then they'd be in a functioning relationship already). Thus, there's a market for dating/relationship books giving advice that privileges what a lot of us might find pretty counter intuitive at first.

And not to make this thread into the battle of the books, but since you've cited a few, you might look at another which takes a different angle: Amir Levine and Rachel Heller's recent Attached. I'm still deciding what I think of the authors' version of attachment theory, but it's definitely got me paying attention to what I'm encountering when I interact with others. Basic take-away: people have different habits for how they react to intimacy: some embrace it, some freak out, and some pull back. The authors point out that last group ends up over represented in the dating pool, and thus strategies that would seem weird or unnerving - maintaining distance, emphasizing boundaries, etc. - to members of the other groups resonate with these folks in some predictable ways. And some of these coping patterns can provide the rationale for strategies in the kind of advice books you reference.

I'll leave you to decide whether any of these perspectives can help you; for me the jury's still out mostly. But a bigger-picture issue deserves mention, and that's the fundamental (ethical) judgment we all make when we consider adapting ourselves to what we perceive as the mainstream/status quo of our culture. That is, if things in your life romantically aren't how you'd prefer, who do you assume has the problem - you or the audience of others to whom you're appealing? I mean, yeah, some of the advice you describe *does* work with certain men, but that's a different issue entirely from what kind of person *you* would become if you followed that advice on a consistent basis, which is another of saying that "success" and "happiness" aren't quite the same in the way some of these advice books imply.
posted by 5Q7 at 8:24 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nthing that the book is much more about setting boundaries than about manipulation. My declaration of interest is that I managed to evade a relationship with someone who later turned out to be very abusive, solely by following the techniques recommended in that book.

I think it's better for screening out bad relationships than attracting good ones, which is very much more a matter of luck. It's the experience of a number of people that, as soon as they gave Snidely Whiplash his marching orders, Mr Wonderful materialized in a puff of wonderfulness. I have yet to experience this effect, and I really know of no sure-fire technique for causing Mr Wonderful to manifest.

I would also suggest that women are heavily acculturated to pursue or cater to men, and anyone who thinks this isn't the case only has to count the posts on the green from women agonizing about whether the occasional shower is too much to ask of a guy. Comparable posts from men do appear, but much less frequently. So I think it's likely there will be reduced numbers of men available to women who don't pursue or cater to them and it would be disingenuous to say otherwise.
posted by tel3path at 4:31 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of the anecdotes of how women should "manipulate" men? A Japanese woman cooks an elaborate feast in her national cuisine, for her American bf's birthday. He doesn't thank her or express any appreciation, instead, all he says is that she should use a different kind of soy sauce the next time.

Does she blow her stack? Does she run to MeFi to ask what she should do and is this because he has a psychiatric diagnosis or she's too needy or maybe this is an Ask vs. Guess thing? Does she drag him into therapy? Does she apologize and cook him another dinner?

No, she just tells him, calmly, that she's happy to cook for him, but if he complains, she won't be doing it again. The bf wakes up to the fact that he's been rude, and they never have this particular problem again.

I mean, of course, she could be more authentic with her feelings instead of working so hard to keep her cool, but it's not *bad* to at least start by approaching a conflict calmly.

Another anecdote is about a woman who spends all day cooking for her date, who cancels at the last minute despite having had opportunity to do so much earlier. She goes over to his place the next day and re-cooks the same dinner for him. He is unappreciative, and after a little while they break up. The book recommends that what she should have done is say "Mmm it's really good, too bad you're missing out," and left him to take the initiative to make it up to her. The idea was that either he would have woken up to the fact that he, too, had something to lose by being rude to her, or he would have moved on to another woman who would accommodate his rude ways, either outcome being less hurtful and time-wasteful to the woman in the story.

The vast majority of the anecdotes in the book are like this one. I grant you, there are some wincingly patronizing ones about pathetic ways of flattering his ego by pretending you don't know how to reset a fuse, and how doing your own spider-killing will leave your man feeling castrated. This is a much smaller part of the book and I found it easy enough to gloss over, YMMV.

This kind of assertion may come naturally to a lot of MeFites, who may find it offensive that such a book is needed, because this is stuff that people should know already. However, if you're intensely attracted to someone and don't want to lose them, people who aren't naturally assertive may find themselves trying extra-hard to please in the belief that this will keep the target's interest. When you're burning with desire, there's a lot more danger that you'll ignore what you know.

Despite the book's well-established flaws, I still have to wonder at the motives of people who are suddenly this will seem manipulative to you, and you'll be horrified that such pernicious material is circulating in society and might fall into your . But I think it's the GUY's behaviour that's manipulative here - in fact, it crudely maps to a PUA-style "neg", although I think in this case he was just being rude. The last-minute canceller could be seen as performing a "shit test", although, again, I think it was just rudeness.

So, yeah, if your goal is to avoid being in a one-down position, that book definitely "works".

Another anecdote, more positive this time: a Dashing Fellow surprises his crush with tickets to a cruise, departing the next day. She explains that she's delighted and would love to go, but she's already committed to hosting a Tupperware party, which he is of course more than welcome to attend, because she'd love to see him. He smells a rat and shows up to the "Tupperware party" intending to have it out with whatever other guy she is obviously seeing. The woman opens the door and he is faced with... an actual Tupperware party. He is gobsmacked.

The idea is that this woman Has A Life, and the fact that she is not so impressed with him that she'll rearrange her schedule, even for a luxury event, makes her independence irresistible and compelling and will cause him to burn with desire for her independent quirky self. Who knows whether that works or not, but she was right, you can't just blow off your party guests at the last minute because you get a better offer. That's just rude. I would have done the same, in the unlikely alternate universe in which I would actually hold a Tupperware party.

So, you might be alone, but by golly you will still have your integrity. And a big pile of unsold Tupperware.
posted by tel3path at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

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