Help me win PUA hearts and minds
September 30, 2013 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I have a rare opportunity to tell a PUA about how repugnant I find the practice. I want to do this with uncharacteristic diplomacy.

I play on a team with someone who recently declared that he was "negging" a girl he wished to date, and it was going rather well. Another teammate affirmed that this dude employs negging a great deal when trying to get dates. I immediately expressed my disgust, and the subject was dropped. I will see my teammate again tomorrow, and I want to make use of an opportunity to turn this into a teaching moment. Instead of expressing disgust and anger at the practice of negging and other PUA bullshit, I want to make the case to this dude coming from a female perspective - I am pretty sure he's never talked to a chick about this sort of thing before. How best to make my case without coming off all shouty? I think I need a script. I could probably avoid this altogether, but I sense I may have an opening to give this guy something to think about.
posted by msali to Human Relations (54 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Try negging him, see how he likes it?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2013

Yep. There's this scenario, as portrayed by xkcd.
posted by jquinby at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2013 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Before you try this, lemme just ask: are you sure he's going to listen to you?

That being said: I'd actually take the approach of attacking the PUA system in general, and getting Socratic about it. Asking him - what exactly does he want? Does he just want to rack up a notch on a bedpost, or does he want a real human connection?

If he says he just wants to fool around and have fun - then, ask why is he going for this girl rather than others who maybe have approached him, if he's not being serious and it doesn't matter what girl he gets? You know? Why is he expending energy on pursuing this one girl in a such a roundabout way if it doesn't even matter whether he goes for her?

If he instead says that no, wait, he wants this one girl specifically, then ask whether it maybe wouldn't better serve him to investigate who she is specifically and get to know her as a person, rather than putting up this applies-to-all-women system? How does he know it will work on her, unless he gets to know her first? Better yet, why bother using this one-size-fits-all system if he wants someone specific?

You know? Don't just diss the system, use the Socratic method to get him to see that it's a premise that is inherantly flawed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If the guy brought it up again, I'd probably say something along the lines of, "Yeah, I don't know, everything I've ever seen on PUA techniques makes it seem like training guys to manipulate women. There's a reason no one loves used car salesmen, being a manipulative person doesn't seem like a winning personal strategy long-term. I think it's totally legit to be open to learning about better ways to present oneself, but it seems like a lot of the PUA stuff goes beyond making yourself seem like a wildly attractive studly dude and into screwing with a woman's head so you can control her. But then again, I probably haven't looked at this stuff as much as you have, so who knows." [Shrug shoulders.]

In actuality, I have strong opinions on the PUA stuff, but I think it's a useful skill to be able to criticize something while simultaneously adopting a stance of having enough uncertainty in your own interpretation to allow them to save face. He might argue with you, in which case you can shrug and say, "Okay, it's just the impression I've gotten from stuff I've heard, like the negging thing," and change the subject--but it is the opportunity to plant a seed that might grow into doubts on your teammate's part.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2013 [7 favorites]

Learn why PUAs think negging works, and explain why that's wrong, with illustration of what works. "The last time I gave my guy a number at a bar and had a date with him the next week he was ______ and did _______." PUAs don't thing negging is wrong or right, they think it works.
posted by MattD at 2:06 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anyone who would buy into the PUA thing is probably not very interested in the opinion of a woman. And even if he were, you're not the kind of woman he wants to date. He's targeting women with low self-esteem.

You can ask him if he's receptive to a discussion, "You know, I like you as a person and it rather put me off that you think this is an okay practice. I'd like to understand more about what validates it for you. Are you open to discussing it?"

But chances are, he isn't, because anyone who buys off on this as a viable way for connecting with women doesn't really like women or respect them and basically only wants to randomly fuck women.

Be willing to back off and leave it alone, because it's horrible arguing with a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [47 favorites]

I'm a little disturbed by the preachy tone you take here -- you are taking the opportunity for a "teaching moment"? Despite my own feelings about the PUA community, I'm not sure I would be interested if a teammate of mine came up and started splainin' to me everything I was doing wrong in life. In fact, I would most likely be angry and defensive and shut that shit off immediately. I would not want a teammate of mine smugly giving me "something to think about."

You could take the advice above and when (IF!) he brings it up in front of you again, you could simply say what ruthlessbunny or iminurmefi suggest. But I bet he has no interest in your generous offer of truth telling because you already showed your disgust.

Sorry if this is the unpopular opinion, but I think you should make note of your disgust if he brings it up again but otherwise you shouldn't try to sit him down for a SERIOUS TALK about his nefarious ways. People don't like that and that's not why he came to your team in the first place.

You want to start a dialogue? Then drop the holier-than-thou attitude and concentrate on actually thinking about what you want to learn and not just what you are going to teach someone.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

A large part of the PUA culture is that women don't know what they want. You (and I) think that women have valuable things to say about our experiences, and how to best connect with us, but that's the opposite of what a PUA thinks.

Also, negging does work. Not because it's a meaningful way to connect, but because it's an easy to filter out women who will not be manipulated. And once he finds the women who ARE able to be easily manipulated (often because they're insecure), the rest of the PUA's tricks also tends to work.

Do they have a genuine connection? No. Does a healthy relationship involve one person manipulating another person with their insecurities? No. But does it allow the PUA to pick up women, as their stated goal? A lot of times, yes.

So I don't think you will convince this person. At best, he'll brush you off. At worst, you'll come off as some crazed preachy feminist who thinks men and women are both humans and who both just want mutual respect, understanding, and companionship.
posted by ethidda at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2013 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Just jumping in really quickly to make one point clear that I failed to state initially:
Teammate has expressed dismay over email that he offended me. I have an opportunity to tell him why I was offended. It is precisely because I don't want to get "preachy" that I asked the question in the first place. I think I have a valuable opportunity to share a female perspective with him.
posted by msali at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2013 [10 favorites]

Part of the Urban Dictionary definition of negging: " Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances. This is something no decent guy would do." Since you have email contact with the 'guy', perhaps you could let him read and learn without confronting or teaching him.
posted by Cranberry at 2:36 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't overthink it. Just tell him that kind of talk is disrespectful and ask him if he'd want his sister to date a guy who talked to her like that.
posted by elizeh at 2:37 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not your duty to come up with a script or an irrefutable argument in order to achieve some desired response from this guy. Don't try to control his response or aim for any particular outcome. Just express your thoughts as best you can, while respecting his right to hold a different opinion than yours.

Why are you asking us to put words in your mouth for you? If you feel clearly and strongly on this topic, and have thought it through carefully, just use your (own) words.

Frankly, it sounds like you do have an agenda to preach and teach. I don't think that's a good attitude to go into a difficult conversation with.
posted by nacho fries at 2:38 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I want to make the case to this dude coming from a female perspective - I am pretty sure he's never talked to a chick about this sort of thing before.

Because you are female and want to offer a woman's perspective, I suggest completely avoiding the angle of it being "bullshit", because that's going to be pretty much like a consumer arguing to an advertiser that advertising has no significant influence on what they buy. The consumer may totally believe this, partly because the consumer is personally invested in believing it, partly because it seems so stupid that how could it work, but the consumer being ignorant or in denial doesn't make advertising ineffective, and often makes the influence even more effective. I think that if you take that angle, you risk invalidating everything you say.

So, which of the other angles to take? One possible one - perhaps take the angle that while PUA might be various levels of effective, that it's just not worth selling yourself out and sliding down the slope of becoming a manipulative asshole. Manipulation becomes habit, it becomes natural, you think it's normal, and later down the track, the cost can be a life surrounded and limited to circles of people of lower caliber than he would have attracted and kept if he instead aimed to be a person of deep integrity and trustworthiness.
People will never tell him to his face that there is a hint of slime, he'll never even know it's happening, they'll just hang out with people they like more, and he'll end up with the kind of people who are simply used to a world with a higher asshole quotient, and that's a shittier world to end up stuck in.
posted by anonymisc at 2:38 PM on September 30, 2013 [17 favorites]

FWIW, and without knowing anthing about the context or players, but it sounds to me like this is a twisted way of hitting on you.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think I need a script.

I'm not sure that using a script to talk to someone about why using scripts to interact with people is something he might reconsider is going to be helpful.

If you really want to be able to say something that will have an impact on how someone else sees the world, you need to be able to find out what, how, and why they think the things they do about how the world works.

If you want to have a teaching moment here, just telling him he shouldn't be doing what he's doing now isn't going to do it, you have to give people something to do instead of what they are doing, a new approach to the problem. (Although I do like anonymisc's explanation! Ooh!)

OTOH, you aren't required to put in the time to make this a teaching moment. You could just say you don't feel that negging supports respectful ways of getting to know someone else and leave it at that.
posted by yohko at 2:43 PM on September 30, 2013

Instead of expressing disgust and anger at the practice of negging and other PUA bullshit, I want to make the case to this dude coming from a female perspective

I was trying to think of specific times when someone has made me question something I believed in. I'd say nothing has gotten my attention faster or more bitingly than when someone has genuinely laughed in response to something I was spouting off about. This has to be genuine laughter, though. Sudden, genuine unmistakeable outbursts of laughter sting pretty bad. And, when it has happened to me (long ago! in my youth!) it has always led me to (at least privately) question whether I was totally misguided/ etc.

As people have mentioned, he probably does not care what any woman thinks, at least not now. But if you do say something, who knows if it won't sink later when he matures or after hearing enough things from enough people over time. I like to think people aren't lost causes, even some guy bragging about employing PUA techniques. Good luck!
posted by marimeko at 2:45 PM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: "Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me; I respect you as a teammate and really appreciate that you're open to having this discussion.

"Negging and other related behaviors really bother me because they are designed to make people, especially women, feel badly about themselves. There are other, more positive ways to communicate and many women, including me, would appreciate it if you used those. We will respect you more and you will not be hurting anyone."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:45 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

In like 99% of arguments about women/feminism the most powerful thing you can say is "Would you like it if someone did this to your sister/daughter/mother? How would you feel if something like this happened to them?"

If they refuse to empathize with women even at that level, I feel there's little hope left.

(Lots of people are going to be mad at you for daring to tell someone what they're doing is wrong, but it is wrong. I get why you don't want to come off as strident, and why it's hard, since this is something that really touches at the core of what it is to live as a woman IMO.)
posted by stoneandstar at 2:46 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, this is probably known to you, but it's not clear from your question: I assume you have some confidence this guy is into PUA? (You only mention use of the word "negging" and I don't think that necessarily means PUA any more - it's a newly-mainstream word for a recognizable interaction (that has always existed beyond PUA). A person can notice that someone else uses a lot of negging, with neither person being into PUA. You have more context than us. You'll know if this is anything to consider.)
posted by anonymisc at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't get my hopes up, that this "teachable moment" will really work out. Teaching moments rarely do.

That said, if you're going to fight him, consider fighting him on his own ideological turf!

Negging is "supposed" to never actually be insulting, but just a playful display of not being threatened by an attractive woman. For example, if you're a PUA, wearing a your trademark fedora, and a woman says, "nice hat," you would say something like, "thanks wanna try it on?", and let's say she says yes, so she tries it on, but when she does so, you laugh in a friendly way and say "enh, I guess it doesn't work for everyone". So, you take your hat back, and change the subject. The hat remark was not insulting - at most, it was playfully teasing.


Because he's an Actually Existing PUA, he's almost certainly just outright insulting women, in attempts to lower their self-esteem, or to make them so insecure that she wants to chase him.

So, viewing it through that rubric, ask him for some sample negs, and point out how they all suck, because they're all just insults of some form or another.

"You're not even doing it right. You're never supposed to insult women. At most, just playfully tease. If you can't playfully tease, then don't bother, because you're just going to piss people off!"
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:52 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he seems at all enlightened on these topics, even in an abstract way, I'd mention that negging specifically preys on things that make women feel bad about themselves as women and that's why it's specifically harmful and toxic and contributes to misogyny.

Example: Telling a woman it's great that she's on a diet, like in the above XKCD. It makes a woman feel 1) like she looks overweight, isn't attractive enough, and 2) that she's a "typical" vain, silly woman who's too uptight to eat a cheeseburger. In other words, it traps women inside of sexist double standards, on purpose, to make them feel trapped.

Women already live in a world where they do uncomfortable things to themselves all the time to appeal to others-- pointing at those things and subtly humiliating them ("oh, you're on a diet," "oh, you must be so uncomfortable in those fuck-me pumps," &c.) is making it worse in a way that is characteristically sexist.

Looking at another human being who's trying and not only putting them down but insulting their attempts to try in order to manipulate them to your own ends is obviously cruel and disrespectful. That the end game is "getting a woman" doesn't make it any less so.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:53 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

when i've noticed that i'm being negged i usually say something like "oi, is that some pua bullshit? i dunno man, that stuff seems pretty rape-y to me. i thought you were better than that."
posted by nadawi at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2013 [9 favorites]

you laugh in a friendly way and say "enh, I guess it doesn't work for everyone". So, you take your hat back, and change the subject. The hat remark was not insulting - at most, it was playfully teasing

I get the point but unless the person is clearly ribbing (which is just normal non-threatened friendliness) this is actually pretty insulting, or at least rude.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:55 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you may want to open your discussion with this guy by getting specific examples of what he said or did to his woman-of-interest, and what her response was. I think you need more info before you make any assumptions, otherwise you'll be entering the conversation on the wrong foot.

Keep in mind that in some cultures, good-natured ribbing and put-downs are a form of accepted flirtation, where the women give as good as they get. It's not negging, it's banter. I grew up in one of those cultures, and would be put-off to have someone outside that culture assume I was a "victim" of negging.

Go in to your convo with open mind and ears.
posted by nacho fries at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Teachable moment? Not really and not your job.

What you can say is how you respond to his behavior. "That makes me like you less because I can't trust you."
posted by 26.2 at 2:58 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

yeah - but these other cultures don't call it negging. this guy called his behavior negging. that's pretty strong evidence for where he found those techniques.
posted by nadawi at 2:59 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Intentionally making a woman feel insecure so that she's submissive to you is usually called 'emotional abuse.' It's not a good way to start a relationship dynamic."
posted by jaguar at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, if he specifically wants to know why he offended you and you are looking for a specific script:

"In the first place - any of the PUA stuff assumes that all women are alike, and we aren't.

"In the second place - the whole theory about why 'negging' is supposed to work is that it's trying to make women insecure, which makes them want your attention. But if that's true, then that means that it's okay to make people feel insecure to manipulate them - and it isn't.

"And finally - 'negging' kind of implies that you yourself aren't a good enough guy for any woman to want to be with you unless she's desperate. And that's not fair to you, is it, to think that a woman would have to be desperate to be with you?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:25 PM on September 30, 2013 [18 favorites]

Labelling and making grand statements isn't going to help. Questions gets people to reflect on their actions. Why do you put women down? Why don't you want people to genuinely like you?
posted by heyjude at 4:20 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

perhaps take the angle that while PUA might be various levels of effective, that it's just not worth selling yourself out and sliding down the slope of becoming a manipulative asshole. Manipulation becomes habit, it becomes natural, you think it's normal, and later down the track, the cost can be a life surrounded and limited to circles of people of lower caliber than he would have attracted and kept if he instead aimed to be a person of deep integrity and trustworthiness.

This is the gist of it. PUA techniques work, for a given value of 'work' - people aren't that complicated, and PUA is just a few hacks of body language, self-esteem and social interaction cues when you get down to it.

But (1) there's a diminishing return as people get wise to them and (2) is that the sort of way you really want to play?
posted by Sebmojo at 4:29 PM on September 30, 2013

I think it is a fine idea to try to explain to him why you were offended, particularly if he still seems open to hearing it when you talk next. I like EmpressCAllipygos' points here. I'd also ask him some questions about what he's looking for in a partner and if he says anything that points to his wanting to be with someone he actually likes and respects, then that might give you a further opening. Do you like the way he interacts with people when he's not playing some PUA game? Are the two of you friends, or at least friendly? If so then he is at least able to see women as peers in some contexts, and you might be able to help nudge him towards realizing that he could see women as peers in a dating context too.
posted by aka burlap at 4:37 PM on September 30, 2013

You're not going to be able to convince him that PUA doesn't work. Because PUA does work -- it works in the sense that the alternative to PUA for its target audience is to either not try or not communicate any romantic or hook-up interest at all. Or, worst of all, put off an aura of resignment. It works in the sense that you strike out 100% of the time that you don't step up to bat and PUA gives a person the confidence to step up and instructions to at least swing wildly. PUA means working for what you want instead of being a passive observer. PUA provides structure, impetus and goal-driven, low stakes baby steps towards a well-defined objective.

I once caught a PUA blogger's attention by commenting regarding his love for Nietzsche with the existential idea that PUA is a cop out from one's duty of defining oneself, but I was too bored to continue the discussion.

Other questions: Ethically, do the ends justify the means? Is the goal really the right goal for you? Is the PUA working towards becoming the person that he wants to become or is he making short term concessions that work against the ultimate goals of finding meaning and happiness?

I would argue that for the most part, the theoretical mechanism that is supposed to make PUA work is flawed, unethical, and based on the assumption that women don't know what they want, what they, really, really want. That women are easily deceived.

What a horrible world that would be to live in. Since I have a choice in how I perceive the world, I choose to perceive a world where common women (and men) have agency and I, therefore, have a great chance to meet a partner of substance.

I don't want a partner like the partners that PUAs target. I want to be with a partner who is self-directed, autonomous and strong-hearted. I deserve to be with partners who want to be with me for its own sake, because they see me as lovable or friendly or valuable prima facie.

Warning: That experience of prima facie acceptance is totally foreign to many men in our society. I do honestly feel like I've had to fight tooth and claw for whatever love I've earned in this world and I think that feeling drives a lot of the misguided men's movements that we see today. I've had to fight against anxiety and depression and I've had great success but when I relax my efforts, it comes back and I'm alone. I think there are common variations for men and loneliness and men are often looking deeply for a final solution.

The counter to PUA's shallow self-help book tricks is to do the hard thing instead of the easy thing. To seek oneself instead of using a template. To better oneself for it's own sake, but with the side effect that like attracts like and we attract people who are complementary to our own self view. Sometimes that looks like opposites attract, but the truth is that if you think lowly enough of your partners then you will attract partners who see themselves lowly and you will become lowly in the process.

The hard thing is becoming the best version of oneself. Everything else is a cop out. The best me will attract the partner who is similarly on a good track.

I agree that Socratic questioning could get you there, but also be prepared for dude to throw up barriers. Like any other cult mentality, PUA has protective memes to keep practitioners engaged in the worldview. A guy putting down PUA is an Average Frustrated Chump or a White Knight. A woman is a warpig or a feminist or a hater.

If you have a good relationship with the guy, you might be able to get through and it's a worthy effort regardless. I wouldn't attack PUA outright, but use active listening to ask about his own goals and values and to promote questioning and comparing those values to PUA.

Anyway, dude sounds like a recovering Average Frustrated Chump who has oneitis and is friendzoned because he's talking up his game without even reaching an fclose yet.

One magic question? Sensitive approach:"When I hear you talk about this, I hear a lot of loneliness. What other things are you doing to meet people?" Intervention approach: "When I hear you talk about insulting women you care for, that makes me feel like you would do the same to me. If you keep acting this way, I don't see any reason for us to keep talking like this or hanging out as friends."
posted by Skwirl at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you really want to "teach," then say as little as possible. One or two sentences should be it - leave him wanting to understand more. Otherwise you will be preachy.

I would just say that the PUA movement is a convoluted way to avoid feeling the fear and insecurity that comes from trying to connect with another human being. PUA is a game to try to get what you want without taking any true (emotional risks). A satisfying emotional connection takes bravery.

Something like that. Otherwise, what's it to you that he's a dumbass? Play your sports and then go home.

If he's actually interested in "the female perspective," he will get it from interacting with you as a person, not as a "man" interacting with a "woman" if you know what I mean.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:54 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thirding the suggestion you ask how he'd feel (or perhaps what he'd think, if you want to get all Frank Luntz about it) if someone did this to his sister/mother/aunt, or if one of them had told him about someone negging them.

I think of it this kind of thing as a Manchurian Candidate for empathy: It's short and simple, and you don't have to trot out certain words or themes that might put someone on the defensive. They're probably not going to have an A-ha! moment right then anyway, so this is something that can be taken away and forgotten about until the next time they talk to their mother or sister or grandmother, or try to neg another woman.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:56 PM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: Honestly, I would frankly say "It's hard for me to trust or respect someone who is willing to deliberately hurt or damage the self esteem of others in order to get what he wants from them. That is pretty much the definition of what emotional abuse is."

People don't like hearing the blunt, negative truth that way, and I know blunt negative truth is not "uncharacteristic diplomacy." But it's always seemed to me that in the few cases where it's woken people up, it's the only thing that could have done that. Unfortunately, even after they wake up, they often are still mad at you anyway.
posted by cairdeas at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2013 [17 favorites]

My big problem with PUA and other aspects of the whole "Manosphere" thing that's been metastasizing on the internet in the last few years is the selfishness of it. These men are obviously aware that the prevailing culture we live in has been trying its very best to grind down women's sense of self for a long, long time. Instead of noticing it, finding it repugnant, and deciding to live their lives in defiance of that concept, PUAs spend their time trading ideas about the most systematic ways to personally gain from it.

The community in particular seems very predatory, too, and not just towards women. Something I've noticed in places like reddit's r/seduction is younger, socially awkward, and generally lost guys who don't have a lot of experience with women (if any) who are given some genuinely good advice to overcome shyness, depression or lack of motivation, then built back up in to the type of guy who goes ahead and does what I said in the last paragraph. It's really a cult, even down to the lifestyle devotion and guru worship.
posted by ltisz at 5:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just have to tell you about my favorite interaction with a guy who was PUA negging me. This was, of course, on an online dating site.

In his initial message he included several negs. One of them was a reference to a line in my profile about how I liked friendly guys. He wrote something like, "You like friendly guys, wow, that's really unique! You really stand out from all those women who are looking for someone UNfriendly. Ha."

I replied to him with a really sweet message, and said, "Actually, it seems like some women do tend to go for unfriendly guys. Apparently there is this thing called PUA that tells guys to insult and neg women to get their attention. And it works on some women, can you believe that? But it's an enormous turnoff for me. I tend to run the other way from the sort of guy who would do something like that."

And then I actually got a really genuine reply back from him, saying something like "I just want to admit something, actually I have read PUA material before, but I don't agree with it at all, and I really am just looking for a happy relationship with a nice person."

That's where it stopped, because there was no chance I was going to actually date him or become further involved with him in any way, after he started our entire interaction with an attempt at emotionally abusing me. There is absolutely no way I could trust someone who would do something like that.

So maybe you could point out to your teammate something like this, that he might really ruin his chances with someone he might have really liked, because she could be that bothered by his deliberately insulting her and not feel like he was someone she could trust.

I can tell you that an UNBELIEVABLY HUGE turn-on for me is the sense that a guy is honest to a fault and could always be counted on to have my back. I don't think I'm alone in that. I wonder if your friend really wants to turn off the women who place a lot of importance on honesty and loyalty?
posted by cairdeas at 5:10 PM on September 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

The sad thing about "pick up" is that it frequently seems to achieve its intended goal, which is to get notarized and numerically labeled HB#whatever gullible women into bed or to have "multiple LTR" casual relationships with people who may or may not have signed up to go along for the ride. There's some stuff in it using pop-psychology techniques to exploit the vulnerable parts of people, which I think frequently works.

The problem as I see it is that it is not okay to manipulate and exploit people for personal gain. Sometimes I think you can get through to people by using a combination of kindness and radical candor to name explicitly what they are doing without judgment, in order to see it for what it is. Like what Louis Theroux is doing here: He nails the weirdness just by having a human conversation.
posted by mermily at 5:12 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hollaback has a bystander intervention section that I think would apply well here.
posted by brujita at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2013

Mod note: Folks, please do not turn this into a general discussion of PUA culture. Answer the question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:16 PM on September 30, 2013

For what it's worth, echoing RandallPatrickMcMurphy above, the "high level" pick-up artists I've had the dubious pleasure of knowing sometimes incorporate a woman's skepticism about pickup artistry into their "routine," and they regularly use their ostensible attraction to one woman to try and bait another.

So the dance would be something like, he makes a big thing about being attracted to this other woman, making you think that you're not the 'target,' and lulling you into a false sense of security while also subtly denigrating you (he didn't mean to offend you! you're like a sister to him! He hardly even noticed you were there!). Then he lures you into a position where you're explaining your anti-PUA stance to him, only you inevitably come off as preachy or judgmental, which is exactly what he's looking for, because it puts you in a defensive position where you need to explain yourself (as has already happened in this discussion) and you wind up apologizing to him. That's exactly where he wants you - feeling insecure and like you've goofed up, and that you need to win back his's the definition of a neg. And after you've apologized comes the moment of forgiveness, which is wrapped up in flattery - "Oh, maybe you can see past these techniques, but those other girls can't' which plays to your ego and separates you out from the herd and makes you feel special...but then he negs you again, and withdraws that approval, and you want it back, and so it goes.

I mean, the odds are low he's playing it out to quite this level of sophistication, and I don't intend to suggest you'd fall for something like this hook, line, and sinker, but I think there are two options here: one, he's sort of casually and clumsily experimenting with pickup artistry, in which case he will likely learn from his own mistakes without your well-meaning intervention...or he is actually a successful "pickup artist." If it's the latter, I would avoid the trap of thinking you can make him change his ways, any more than you think it'd be a fun challenge to reform a sociopath. Thinking you can "fix" or "educate" a guy out of womanizing is an ego trap, and it will only lead down the path of getting further entangled with someone who is openly trying to manipulate you.

Either way, if the conversation comes up again, I would say only, "I'm not offended by it, it's just not the way I prefer to engage with people" and leave it at that.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:27 PM on September 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

I get the point but unless the person is clearly ribbing (which is just normal non-threatened friendliness) this is actually pretty insulting, or at least rude.

Well, yes, that would be exactly the point! :)


If this guy really does think that he's doing negging "correctly", then he may very well think that he is not being insulting at all. After all, the book said not to be insulting, therefore he's not being insulting, QED.

So, if you say something like, "it's not right to insult women in order to xyz," you may wind up talking at cross-purposes, because it might not be his conscious intention to insult anyone.

The reality, however, is that he probably is being insulting/annoying/offensive/etc. Perhaps it's just from his tone, but it's also quite likely because of the content of what he is saying.

So, if his examples of negs really are just insulting and obnoxious, which they almost certainly are, then not only is that problematic in and of itself, but he's not even doing a good job of what PUAs set out to do. As such, pointing out his failure to even be a decent PUA might make it much more clear to him just how irritating he is being.

He may very well receive undue pleasure at the idea of a feminist telling him that his PUA stuff is bad and wrong. However, he has nowhere to hide if somebody calls him out as somebody who's just being an obnoxious and offensive turn-off.

(My "knowledge" of PUA culture is limited to having read The Game and having seen some of the first season of the Mystery reality show. I'm aware that other schools of PUA "thought" might be more aggressive about negs. However, it is my understanding that negs are still, theoretically, not supposed to be insults, despite how they play out in reality.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:30 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think that you could try to be emotionally honest with him about why negging and PUA feels hurtful to you as a person. That involves being a bit vulnerable, letting go of the idea of winning an argument or a logic game or of out-reasoning him. Being willing to say, 'I hear that this doesn't make sense to you but this is how negging and PUA make me feel," and not getting defensive or apologetic about that.

I really think that if he has any trust or respect for you at all, that had a much stronger chance of making an impression on him that he can learn from than arguments would. And remember that he doesn't need to admit to you or even to himself (in the moment) that you are right and he is wrong. You are just giving him the chance to really hear you and to hopefully internalize some of what he hears.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:30 PM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

Based on the scenario that pretentious illiterate just spun out, this seems like one of those cases where it is better to say "oh no, I'm not offended, I have contempt for this way of acting..."
posted by umbú at 8:08 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Offer a method that works better or at least as good as negging and point to examples to defend this. If PUAs are anything, it's utilitarian.
posted by kigpig at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2013

The basic point you want to make is that women are people, not arcade games. The problem is that this lesson is not delivered via teachable moments. It is delivered by having actual relationships with women and having the peace of mind to get over various insecurities.

The other problem you have is that crap like negging actually kind of works. For example, look how motivated you are to make a difference to this guy. Aggressive mistakes create opportunities for social interaction.
posted by leopard at 9:09 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

The idea that negging "works" has come up over and over in these answers. I mention this only because I think that means you might hear it from him.

The reality is that a LOT of things work, if you're someone who just wants to bend other people to your will. Threatening and scaring people works. Extortion works. Physical abuse works. Killing their pets works. All of those things work really really well to get people under control.

We still think that people who do those things are bad people regardless of how much their methods "work." If you're someone who only cares about whether or not something will "work" to get others under your control, and not about whether it's the right thing to do or actually pretty despicable, then it's hard to respect, trust, or even want to be around you.
posted by cairdeas at 9:28 PM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would advise against comparing negging to extortion and pet murder; I think that would come across as unconvincing special pleading. People are drawn to PUA tactics because they promise control over situations that are inherently uncontrollable; this may be a false promise but the "You know who else liked to feel like he was in control? Hitler" tack won't convince anyone that control is a bad thing.

A cynic might notice that you're paying a lot more attention to this guy than if he had mentioned a less obnoxious dating strategy. He might also notice that being aware of and manipulating this dynamic does not necessarily turn him into Walter White, or even someone who is incapable of empathizing with other human beings.
posted by leopard at 10:06 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

leopard: "A cynic might notice that you're paying a lot more attention to this guy (...)"

Which may have been exactly his intention. I suggest you just disregard the whole thing. You don´t need to prove him anything, let alone teach him, and he probably won´t really listen anyway.
posted by Fermin at 10:29 PM on September 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

Coming at this from a slightly different angle that will probably make me very unpopular on this site: negging is dreadful, and so is a lot of pickup, but I don't think that makes pickup 'bad' per se.

Going to a bar, chatting someone up in a friendly way and asking for her number to set up a coffee date the next day is 'pickup'.

Asking a woman to dance in a club, hanging out with her on a sofa and taking her home is 'pickup'.

Meeting someone at your weekly salsa class, making friends, going bowling together, and then hooking up and starting dating later on is 'pickup'.

Negging and emotionally wearing a woman down is 'pickup'.

I'm not denying that there's a lot of misogyny and essentialism out there - but there's also a burgeoning 'natural game' movement (e.g. [1]) which advocates self-improvement, confidence, good body language and plain ol' putting yourself out there, instead of negs, routines, and silly hats. Pickup is very heterogeneous.

Perhaps, instead of trying to get him to drop all of the PUA stuff, you could have a conversation about which parts of the seduction you like and dislike. Get the guy out of negging by showing him its emotionally manipulative. I suspect you will get further than just telling him 'pickup is bad'.
posted by henryaj at 4:59 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would say he has gotten your attention, which might be his goal.

Instead of getting all preachy and being ignored, you could respond to his email about offending you with something like.." Offended? No. I thought that frat boy negging went out in the 90's. But I guess if that's what it takes for you to get a date. Good luck" Or "Offended? No I was surprised. I thought you were gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that." Or "Someone told me guys who do PUA negging are trying to overcompensate for a small penis. Is that true?"

You could turn the tables on him and see how he likes it:

When he gets a haircut - " Nice haircut....It reminds me of my Grandfather, I sure miss him"

New shoes - "I like those shoes... I remember when they were in style"

Shirt/ or acket - "Nice jacket...My uncles boyfriend has one just like it"

Suit - "New suit?...I like to shop at thrift stores too, great bargains"

Car - "Did your Grandmother/sister/mother let you borrow their car?" Or use the uncle's boyfriend line.

I don't know what sport it is but say he gets new soccer cleats - "I like those cleats...all the girls on my HS team wore cleats just like those"

Pick something important to him or something he would be sensitive about and make fun of it..weight, baldness, physical prowess. Just be ready in case he starts back with you.

Say the negs with a smile. If he shoots you a dirty look, wink back at him.
posted by mikedelic at 5:40 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with those who say he has gotten your attention. You are also carefully plotting what you're going to say to him. It's kinda like a dating question, isn't it? "What do I say to the guy I [like | despise]?"

If I were you, I wouldn't lecture him. Nobody likes to be lectured. He'll be predisposed to tune out most of what you say.

What I suggest saying is "I feel manipulated, and I won't participate in this." Nothing more.

If you're going to continue interacting with him, withdraw your attention whenever you feel disrespected. Just glaze over and mentally leave the conversation. Give him positive attention whenever he is respectful to you.
posted by tel3path at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How intelligent/thoughtful is this guy? If he actually cares about your feelings he might not be irredeemable. Most guys initially read PUA in a clueless/self-absorbed way, "this will help me get laid", failing to realize that the technique is, in a nutshell, "lower the woman's self-esteem to the point where she feels the need to validate herself by having sex with you". They don't use those exact words on PUA websites though, because most decent people recoil in horror when it's phrased that way. Which is why you should phrase it that way when speaking with him.
posted by Ndwright at 10:32 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was an advocate of game-playing for years, because I feared that by being myself and having reasonable boundaries no man would ever want to marry clingy, straight-shooting me. That was, until I met my then-best friend, now-fiance. He's the nicest, warmest, most accomplished, smartest, and most amazing guy in the universe and I thank my lucky stars every single day that he saved me from the hassle and annoyance that his the dating scene. When we first met, he negged me once and I began to cry, hurt that he thought my glasses made my look like a martian--he then stopped playing games, cut all of the game playing out, and I stopped pretending to be harder to get than I actually am. Game playing is a short-term mating strategy. He proposed to me earlier yesterday (October 2) when I was bundled up at home looking positively disgusting with a broken leg and a torn ACL--seeing me at my worst, he decided it was time to commit to me for life. There was no in-between bf/gf stage, just friends to life partners. I love him. And I recommend anyone that has red my previous posting history and is familiar with my old habit of being an immature twat and talking about Game as if it was the only way to affair-proof and solidify a relationship to just ignore those posts and focus on what is real. That is, if you want an open, honest, loving relationship, you need to be open to really experiencing your emotions and developing a healthy attachment style. This community is what changed my view and I couldn't be more grateful.

Leave the game-playing for children. Those guys may be hotshots in landing casual sex with unsuspecting girls now, but they won't have anywhere near the level of emotional intimacy in their relationships as they age. Where you will be experiencing agape and true love in your future relationship, they'll be hitting the same bars and clubs trying to reclaim their youth. Be above that. Falling in love gradually instead of artificially through game playing has been the single most profound experience of my 21 years of life. I only wish other people could feel as I feel, especially because girl game and guy game desensitizes you to really, truly, madly, deeply loving.

Just trust.
posted by lotusmish at 10:11 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

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