How can I stop looking at websites that just make me upset?
June 9, 2014 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I can't stop reading PUA websites even though they make me unhappy, and I'm not sure how to deal with the effects it's having on me.

This is going to sound like a silly question, but I have a terrible habit of reading blogs about pick up artists and feeling upset about it afterwards. I found out about this way of treating women a bit less than a year ago, when my dad tried to help me be wary of PUA's by sending me a link to one of the blogs. He is not like this at all but he says that most men are. I particularly read one where it talks about how as women become older, men fall out of love with them. I am 23 and am now terrified that I will meet somebody who will then leave me for somebody younger with no wrinkles, and now anybody who is my age I will not consider dating because in the future he may leave me, so since finding out about these blogs I have been more interested in much older men. I know this is completely out of my control and I don't even know why i read these websites, but I can't stop. I told my dad recently about this and he said I'm being ridiculous and only some men are like this.
Recently I managed to go 2 weeks without reading them, but today I caved again. They make me feel very sad, because lots of men are like this. What do you recommend to deal with this, I feel like even if I don't read these blogs again, my mind has been corrupted and I can never see men or myself the same way again. I used to just be happy being myself, and now I feel like my eyes have been opened to how lots of men see women which has just completely deflated me.
posted by aivilo91 to Human Relations (45 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know what to tell you, other than anecdatally, not all men think this way. I'm 34, my wife is ten years older than me, and I love her more and more every day we share on the planet together.
posted by stenseng at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2014 [23 favorites]

Not all men are like this. The good news is that, by reading these blogs, you're giving yourself the means to detect the men that are like this, so you can laugh at them. And avoid them.
posted by benbenson at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can really relate to this! The way I frame(d) it, at the time--and I was dating around and meeting lots of men--was to take it as information. Just gathering information so that I could spot an aspiring PUA and be sure to avoid him.

That's really all you can do, is arm yourself with information so that this crap doesn't interfere with your actual life.

Eventually, it will get old and boring and you'll stop on your own.
posted by magdalemon at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding stenseng: not all men think that way.

In the short term, you could use firewall software on your computer to block access to the websites that bother you. Honestly, though, maybe the best thing you can do is expand your social circles to include more men. After all, the more men you know, the easier it'll be to see that they're not all PUAs.
posted by gmb at 2:23 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This question and your last one tend to point to some anxiety and obsessive thoughts you're having and struggling to control. Have you been working with a therapist on that? The way you've phrased looking at the comments and resisting and "caving" sounds like a cycle of obsessive thoughts.

One way I've dealt with obsessive thoughts is by putting a rubber band around my wrist and snapping it to remind myself to stay mindful of what I'm doing.
posted by sweetkid at 2:23 PM on June 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

What you need to do is to find some men who are not like this and start noticing them, so you have direct experience with men who are not like this. They don't have to be boyfriends - they don't even necessarily have to be friends. Married friends' husbands, the guy who runs that mom-and-pop grocery in your neighborhood that always says sweet things about his wife, old couples sitting on park benches holding hands, anything.

And if I may be so bold, I'm not entirely convinced your father is one such person. I mean, seriously - first he's the one who shows them to you and says "most men are like this", then he criticizes you for doing what he asked you to do? And backpedals by saying "only some men do this?" If it's something only some guys do, why did he make such a big deal out of showing this to you?

Feh. Find better, positive things to pay attention to. That's always what helped me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

Well, first off, you're trying to stop reading the blogs but you don't say if you are replacing them with anything. Can you proactively replace the PUA blogs with positive media? Books about women doing great things. Blogs by men who aren't "like that". Websites with fluffy kittens. Websites about some other cause you care strongly about, like animal testing or prison reform, where you can read about men and women doing important work together to improve the world.

I know this is completely out of my control and I don't even know why i read these websites, but I can't stop

This sounds like it's really affecting your relationships with men, and it sounds like it's terribly stressful for you. Have you considered talking to someone --a doctor or a therapist?

This isn't a silly question at all. Dealing with the huge weight of the patriarchal system can get to anyone -- really it can. But it sounds like you might be having trouble dealing with it -- maybe for biochemical reasons, maybe for family history reasons, maybe for any damn reason at all. It might be time to ask for help in dealing with this.
posted by pie ninja at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

The PUA community is a small but highly embarrassing subgroup of men as a whole, and on behalf of men as a whole I personally apologize to you (and all women) for their ridiculous and pathetic behavior.

Feel free to read their blogs so you can be on the lookout in the event one of them crawls out from their rock/parents' basement and crosses your path--but do be aware that the great preponderance of men are not PUAs, and are not going to cast you aside in favor of their next conquest.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

Print this out.

Recently I managed to go 2 weeks without reading them, but today I caved again.

Block them. Get an "anti-distraction" browser plugin like StayFocusd or LeechBlock -- heck, a plugin for all your browsers -- then add those URLs and throw away the key.

The internet makes small things look like big things because it provides the means to concentrate them all in one or two places. Sometimes that's good; sometimes, not so good.

Perhaps every time you feel the urge to look at PUA stuff, you can instead read some of the women who are gradually making their voices heard online against this awful nonsense?
posted by holgate at 2:28 PM on June 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

This is a more superficial solution, but have you tried a site blocker? You can disable it if you try but it can be a helpful way to put a roadblock between you and hate-reading. I do this on FB with some specific profile pages of people who I unhealthily check up on.

And, agreed above - pick other replacement material to read. I hang out on AskMe sometimes if I'm feeling the urge to lose myself in the Internet but want it to be healthy rather than traumatic :)
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

It might help to point out that it only matters how your eventual partner thinks - you only need to find ONE person who doesn't think that way and is otherwise who you want etc.

And you're now more likely to be able to avoid the people who do think this way, so your odds have gone up.
posted by Ashlyth at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Keep hanging out here. I mean it. Look through the "human relations" archives and you will see the same advice for meeting and asking out women, over and over and over again: women are people, not some weird mystery species, and they want partners they can relate to honestly on every level, just like men. Most AskMe answerers are kind and wise, and PUA-style advice gets rightly smacked down around here.

You may also find blogs like We Hunted the Mammoth a good alternative: you'll still get upset about the lousy misogynists out there, but the blog approaches it from a "these fuckers are wrong" perspective.

Don't internalize the hatred. Get mad right back at 'em.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

Maybe change your attitude? Instead of "oh no it'll happen to me" think of it like hate-reading. The the guys on those sites are obviously such oinkers, right? Oh and here's ANOTHER idiot idea, ok let me read this for a laugh...

I like to hate-read websites from time to time. Like anti-vax nonsense. Gets my blood boiling. Then I go for a workout.

Eventually it will get old.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Those PUA guys are players but they settle down like anyone else, often earlier than they admit to in their blogs. Also, they usually dislike marriage so if you propose to someone and they accept, you're pretty likely dealing with someone who doesn't follow that philosophy.

If you want to not look at certain websites, install blocking software on your computer or your browser, or block them individually in your hosts file (google for instructions specific to your computer's operating system.)
posted by michaelh at 2:30 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Think about the power this gives you, though. You have knowledge of a particularly unpleasant subset of guys and how they tick.

You can use this to:

- recognize red flag traits in the population of guys you might date
- inform other women (not necessarily like pamphlet-style, but like when your friend is talking about some dude she met the other night)
- educate younger people (maybe even teenage boys!) about why this is problematic
- stand up for other women when you see this sort of thing happening to them

Yes, yes, it's not all men, but it IS some men, and it's better to know than to not know. Reading the threads on this sort of stuff here on metafilter has made me a better feminist, because it's made me better able to 1) recognize when this bullshit is happening 2) realize it's NOT JUST ME, but ALL women who have to deal with this bullshit, and 3) more likely to react, loudly, when a guy is shitty to me or a woman near me.

It is a fact of life that sucks, but you can use it as a tool.

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power, etc, etc.
posted by phunniemee at 2:31 PM on June 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

The PUA subculture is toxic and terrible. It targets young men with sometimes very serious social difficulties who are in need of socialization therapy-- some of the material explains to men with problems reading body language that if someone angles their body an obtuse vs acute angle away from you, they are sending signals of disinterest-- and gives them the interpersonal skill set of sexual and social predators.

The one thing that helped me tamp down the rage of reading PUA websites and discussion boards was actually reading the book that blew up the culture, Neil Strauss' "The Game." It's a memoir of living in a PUA frat house for 30 year old men on Sunset Blvd, and while it was publicized as a manual for men to learn manipulative behavior, it's actually a pretty devastating expose of the culture and the way it's a recipe for self-destruction. Aside from the rare few sociopaths among Strauss' ranks (who went on to become seminar leaders about social manipulation, realizing it was about power and not sex) most of the PUAs had complete emotional breakdowns after several months of running Game, which is fairly typical for dysfunctional young men getting their first experiences with intimacy even when they set out with the intentions of being stone cold manipulators. Most of the men broke down, and very notably their guru, Mystery, ended up being checked in to a mental hospital, effectively dissolving the house.

There are also some very entertaining (and sad-- the whole book is sad) bits in the chapters where Courtney Love, one of nature's true alpha personalities, moves into the house and becomes their den mom/barbarian queen, holding court, trashing their kitchen, and constantly baking them batches of muffins at all hours of the night.

It's a good reminder that PUA culture is toxic, pathetic, and ultimately unsustainable, and if you're feeling threatened by PUAs as well as angry and repelled, it might be a good thing for you to check out.

BTW, just because these guys are pathetic doesn't mean they're not dangerous-- they may not be the master manipulators they want to be, but they will usually end up in abusive relationships and dating situations. But they aren't, as they think, "winning the game." +1 to all the comments about your reading being a good list of red flags for predatory behavior in the men you and your friends may be interacting with.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:42 PM on June 9, 2014 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I get a sense that there's something deeper going on here. I mean, lots of us have read about PUAs and felt enraged or yeah, miserable, or vengeful or shocked, unsafe, whatever.
But you seem very...depressed about it. Like, very passive, like this is something that will inevitably happen to you and it defines you as a woman. Like you might as well just give up.
I dunno. This seems to have reconnected with or touched on a deeper anxiety. There's all kinds of questions popping up when I read your post. What kind of attitude did you have towards men before this? Were you always more passive, waiting for your prince (which would explain how hopeless you feel now)? Did you always have the sneaking suspicion that you are unlikely to find someone good? How does your father treat women and treat you? It's the kind of thing best explored in therapy.

The obsession might be your brain's way of working out some issues. So you could treat this as a chance to dig deeper and explore your relationship to men and whether it was healthy.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:51 PM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

First off, you have read enough and can stop now. There's not that much to know; stop giving them hits.

Secondly: don't date guys who are mean to you and you will never have to worry about dating these guys. "Most" men aren't like anything, but there are bad people out there - not just PUAs but all kinds of abusers - and you will largely not have to deal with them in depth if you date men who are upright-walking humans in word and deed. There are lots of them out there and your father is unkind to lead you to believe otherwise (it does, in fact, make him one of them if he's trying to control your behavior and sexuality with boogeyman stories).

If you are afraid you will fall prey to one anyway, do something about your self-esteem so that you are not an easy target.

I don't believe that hate-reading is especially good for most people's psyches, and at this point you seem to be actively hurting yourself by consuming their culture. Find something better and positive and good for you to do instead, and if you still can't stop looking at those sites you may need to approach this as intrusive/obsessive and get some professional help.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:52 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

nthing not all guys are like this, not even most. my ex's roommate in college was a pro PUA, as in he had pupils who paid him to teach them his ways. he talked openly about it and saw it as a way to give guys confidence to talk to women, and that's a common argument for it. i still think they're dirtbags. funnily enough, a few weeks after knowing this guy and hearing all about their tricks, a dude at a party came up to me and did one of the most common pick up lines I'd heard about. i was almost glad i had learned about this subculture because I saw through it so quickly.

see your learning as an advantage, and be confident that you won't fall for their tricks now.
posted by monologish at 2:57 PM on June 9, 2014

I also want to say that if this is your very first exposure to the levels of misogyny in our society, and the ways men objectify and loathe women, I'm sorry, because it's a hard, hurtful thing to wake up to. That being said, hashtag hate to the contrary, NOT all men think this way. Most men do not think of women as status accessories to ditch once they start getting wrinkles (most of the emotional meltdowns in 'The Game' happened when the PUAs started to become emotionally intimate with women, and that human connection challenged their terrible ideas about using women as trophies and basically emotionally destroyed them.)

Also, if you are 23, the older men who might be interested in you are SO MUCH MORE LIKELY to be predators who are interested in using young women than men your own age are. Please work on your issues about fear and intimacy, either alone of with a therapist, but stay away from creepy old men while you're doing that.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:59 PM on June 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

I have, in the past, considered being "in disguise" and making myself blandly unattractive so that I could be sure that any gentlemen who showed interest in me would do so entirely out of regard for my mind and personality, not out of a desire to possess the object of me. I decided not to do this because making myself blandly unattractive (not that I was that attractive in the first place) seemed to communicate something uncomfortable about my mind and personality. I don't really suggest disguising yourself, because you are you, and your outside is part of you and part of your personality.

However, reflecting on this unpursued (and a little crazy) strategy made me realize something else: it was predicated on the idea of a gentleman choosing me. I was trying to be sure I would attract the right sort of person. I realized that this was limiting -- I should think about being the pursuer, rather than the pursued.

All this is to say: you don't have to worry as much about being picked up if you are the one who chooses.
posted by amtho at 3:04 PM on June 9, 2014 [16 favorites]

Do you frequent any sites to counterbalance the crappy PUA sites?

For example, /r/thebluepill is dedicated to calling out these folks, with a good mix a sharp criticism and satire.

Of course, it's easy to become obsessed with these criticism sites as well, but it might be a good first step to start gawking at this subculture through a website that's critical of it, and then maybe you can move on to ignoring it completely. Good luck!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:49 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is a hard lesson for a young and tender heart but frame that knowledge as shield you can draw on as required. Check out the good men project, Dr Nerdlove and read up on attachment theory.

The behaviour is sounding a little compulsive so time yourself next time on.. the be on less the next time, wean yourself off. OR tell yourself you're inadvertently feeding the demand by looking - which may help you stops.

It's truly shit, I get it. But its not the whole picture.
posted by tanktop at 3:54 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to take a different tack and suggest that this question could be reframed this way:

"I love and respect my dad and am highly influenced by his input, much of which has been valuable to me over the years. So when he sent me this PUA site, it got associated in my mind with my dad, i.e. with an authoritative voice. How can I separate this loathsome, silly trash which my dad sent me, from my image of my loving and wise dad?"

Does that help at all? I'm offering it because I too deeply respect and want to please my own dad, and yet, in the age of the Internet, he has sent me some really ridiculous garbage - or worse - because he found it amusing or interesting as he was browsing. So, if it helps, reframe the question this way, and realize that your dad never meant to tell you to take this bullshit to heart. He just loves you and in the moment he clicked "send", he was thinking he could help warn you off one of the ways he's afraid the world will hurt his baby. Forget all about it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think a lot of answers are sort of sugarcoating the issue. PUA gets a lot of media coverage for a number of reasons: it exploits the media (and its readership)'s tendency to laugh at nerds and the socially awkward, it is a hot-button topic that is reliable fodder for money-making things like pageviews and angry comments and ongoing news cycles. But deep down, it's only the overt, caricatured version of mainstream society's views of women; it is to everyday embedded sexism what Stormfront is to everyday embedded racism (not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea). Maybe I'm just more radical than a lot of people here, but most men do think this way. They might couch their thoughts in mainstream slang rather than pickup jargon, but the majority of men are misogynists, in big ways and in small ways, because that's what happens when they grow up in a misogynist society. Maybe it'll make you feel better if you try to ignore it, but I doubt it'll really work, because it's not the kind of thing you can really "unsee" when it is all around you.

In other words -- it sucks. It completely sucks, and of course you feel sad. Any human would feel sad when people systematically dehumanize them for reasons like gender. This isn't feeling sad "for no reason," this is feeling sad for an excellent reason. Your feelings are completely natural and valid, and part of why sexism is so insidious and sucks so much is it tries to convince you that these feelings aren't, that there is some other proper response to being treated like shit than to react like someone who is being treated like shit. This is a problem with society, not with you. But you know what else is completely natural? To feel angry. As a woman, this kind of thing makes me sad, and it also makes me furious, because no human deserves to be dehumanized. Anger might be more productive.

I wish there was an easy answer to this, but there hasn't been an easy answer to this for millennia. But you can do two things. One, try to get to know feminist women -- even this might not always be easy, because feminists can be as cliquey and insular and racist and homophobic and all those things as anyone else can, and feminist media has its own issues -- and learn what they do to protect their mental health in the face of outright hate. Millions of women have felt the same way you do and have developed strategies to protect themselves; you don't have to reinvent the wheel. The other thing is, if you can, to get involved with activism somehow, where you'll at least know that you are doing some small part to make this suck less for women in the future.

You may also want to read the answers in this thread.
posted by dekathelon at 4:07 PM on June 9, 2014 [24 favorites]

I hate to digress, but...

"women become older, men fall out of love with them"

"now anybody who is my age I will not consider dating because in the future he may leave me"

"I have been more interested in much older men"

I'm a bit perplexed. How can you be interested in older men, when an older man's interest in you means he's looking for a younger woman - precisely the thing you say you're avoiding younger men for?

But to answer your question: Are you continuing to learn anything from these websites, or have you gained the insight you could from them (about what behaviors to look out for), and are now simply reading story after story of men screwing over/manipulating women (which, you know, isn't particularly helpful)? If it's the latter, it might be time to physically block your access to these websites (there are numerous free productivity software you can use to do this). If you're still learning from these websites, then perhaps countering them with positive stories about men will help balance your view. After all, you know that you're drawing a conclusion from a very small pool on these sites - there are billions of men in this world and for the handful of PUAs/creeps, there are just as many that aren't. Seeing good examples, especially when all you have are bad ones, is really important for reminding yourself not to stereotype so readily (I know it's really easy to do, as I struggle with it myself).

FWIW, I'm a man (early 30s - will leave it up to you to decide if that's 'young') and I find the older I get, the LESS attracted I am to younger people (both men and women). I don't feel this (PUAs and pursuing younger partners) is an age or gender issue. You're only at risk of your partner leaving you for someone younger if your partner is -attracted- to younger people to begin with; and I think we can both agree that there are plenty of men who are NOT attracted to a younger person - and who prefer their own age or older. After all, if young men were ONLY into young women, we wouldn't have a slang word like 'cougar' to denote the very real (and increasingly common) pairings of older women/younger men.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

i can positively assure you that as a general statement "as women become older, men fall out of love with them" is false.

start reading other blogs. finance, gardening, fishing, whatever. PUA blogs are poisonous.
posted by bruce at 4:35 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't help you stop reading the websites, but regarding whether all this stuff is like objectively true and you're going to die alone after inevitably getting wrinkles which will cause any man to leave you?

Dude, why would you even want to be with someone who felt that way about women? Even assuming your dad is right and virtually all men are dicks, wouldn't it be preferable to just be single?

Lots of men are not like this. In fact most men are not like this. Even a lot of guys I know who are sort of dickish and intrigued by PUA ideas aren't really that bad, and it's most likely a phase, anyway.

If you feel like you need to keep exposing yourself to this stuff because it's "the truth" about what "men are really like", you can stop, because your entire belief system about this sort of thing is incorrect.

I like the idea of replacing this with some other more constructive interest. I recommend Smart Girls At The Party, which is a site full of uplifting accounts of strong women doing good things. It's affiliated with the comedienne Amy Poehler, who is a great example of that, herself.

Also, on the off chance you subscribe to Hulu Plus, watch the hilarious TV show Broad City and laugh a lot and relax about all of this. You are OK. Everything is going to be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 5:04 PM on June 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe not the advice you want to hear, but every single man I've dated or that has been interested in me has ranged from slightly creepy to EGREGIOUS CREEP, mixed in with ample amounts of misogyny.

Quite frankly, I'm not very convinced that I will ever meet someone who is not a creep (I'm not saying I am right, I am saying that this is my personal bias and I know it), but at some point I realized I had to stop worrying about it (because I had definitely been obsessing about it also).

And more and more, I can be grateful for how things happened. I have been better able to focus on my goals in life and have become more independent because of it. Relationships are not even a distraction for me anymore. I feel safe being alone. I feel strong.

And since I broke up with the last creep, my life has never felt so "full", I guess. I feel blessed and grateful for life itself in ways I never had before. This new-found knowledge that I am not less without a man nor do I need a man has been incredibly freeing to me.

I do realize my equating "safe" with "single" is a unique response, and I'm not saying you should feel the exact same way. I'm not saying you shouldn't feel the same way. Whatever feelings you have about the misogyny going on around you are warranted. But I am saying that you don't have to despair because of it.

So I guess this comment is just to reassure you that your life will not all be for naught even if every single guy out there is a creep. It definitely sounds like this new-found knowledge of misogyny was like a bomb dropped on you (and I know that feeling). It can really disrupt your worldview. But in the end, after the initial shock, it is only as distressing as you let it be. (And if you feel like you need help getting to that point, maybe you might find it beneficial to look into seeing a therapist, as another commenter mentioned above.)
posted by sevenofspades at 6:26 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think feeling like you're never going to get to marry and have kids with someone because there is so much misogyny is really extremely sad, people don't have an obligation to be delighted about giving up something that you had hoped would be one of the greatst experiences in your life, and in fairness many people report that it is. You don't have to force a smile on your face and deny your feelings to appease a social claim that being sad over lost dreams is wrong or that you're forcing suffering on yourself rather than allowing yourself to feel your own feelings. Some people don't find a good partner and they're allowed to be in pain over it. But you are very young to think there's no hope. Of course we all can work through whatever tragedies we have to if necessary, but I think if you look for men who are actively feminist and knowledgeable about social justice you'll have higher chance of meeting someone not like this. You do still have to keep your eyes open because there are plenty of feminist men who wind up being abusers or have some misogynistic ideas they're in denial about, but there s tons of men who actively oppose the vile crap you've been reading. They exist, sometimes they are available for dating, and if you're lucky you might hit it off with one who wants to date you. They're totally real, I've even made out with a few of them. Try asking guys how they feel about feminism before you start dating and their response will give a hint. if they're a fake feminist to get laid you'll probably be able to figure that out pretty quick and cut it off as soon as you do. There are some guys who play at being good guys long enough to win your trust, but eventually it will come out and that's when you break up.
posted by xarnop at 7:12 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hoo boy.

Men have a lot of power in our world. Fact. They have power for good, and power for evil. They have power to protect their families and the environment, and to do constructive and wonderful things with their jobs. They have the power to be PUAs and inflict other sorts of douchebaggery or loathsome awfulness. Or worse acts of evil than that. If you want to find acts of evil committed by men, you don't have to look far. That is a consequence of them having power. You can also find acts of good if you look for them. Like... the Emancipation Proclamation. And the Gates Foundation. Or one of my personal doctors, Dr. CN, who has performed surgery on 15,000 women that relieved major pains.

In dealing with men, you are dealing with powerful beasts that are somewhat unlike women. In at least some ways. You can look at the harms caused by their power, and decide to exit the world of men and hide from it. There is knowledge of misogyny to be found that cannot be "unseen," true enough. Or, you can focus on BOTH the good and the harms, and find a way to live alongside men productively. It won't be perfect... nothing ever is... but it's better (for some) than the alternative. Which is to be closed off to a lot of humanity.

I'm with you in hating the PUAs and the harms of misogyny. It hurts. A lot. I've experienced things that, for me, have been the emotional equivalent of rape that hurt like nothing else on the planet. Those things have been inflicted by men. But me personally, I just ~can't~ live in a world that is closed off to all men, that focuses on this misogyny over and over again. I just can't. It's too depressing. It would lead to suicide. My brain says no. It has to find another way.

Some people find a way by closing themselves off. Other people (me) find a way, or at least try to, by trying to live alongside it with patience and positivity.

Other things I can focus on: how it's not easy to have all that power, and to be somewhat stupid because try as you might, you don't know all the answers about how to exert it correctly. To be stupidly swayed by your peers. How men do good as well as evil. That by aligning with a man, I can align myself with someone who has the power to harm me... but also someone who has the power to protect me. How I appreciate when I work alongside men and they can get certain tasks done more easily than me, because they're playing life on the easy level. To try to work together with that and benefit from the greater good.

It's not easy though, I tell ya. You have a point to be disturbed by the PUA garbage. I hope you can find a way to look at the bigger picture and find a way to be okay with it, or at least to still get along in life.
posted by htid at 7:23 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most men are distinctly *not* like PUAs. However, if you're at places where they operate (like bars), there's a pretty good chance that most men that chat you up at one of those places is one of those guys, so it's good to be are of the phenomenon and how to identify them.
posted by empath at 8:27 PM on June 9, 2014

As a point of reference, I am 55, fat, wrinkly and starting to grey. My husband treats me as if I looked like a cross between Miss America and a playboy bunny. Not even kidding.

There are Ralphs out there. Just find you one. You now know what to avoid in the search. I promise you that the majority of guys are not douchbags.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:54 PM on June 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

It may, or may not, but I hope may help to realize this PUA culture thing is every bit a damaging to MEN as it is to women. There are men young and older out there wondering if they are alphas or betas or gammas and whatever, signals and signs and tricks and really is sad.
These PUA gurus are indeed predators; they prey on insecure, disillusioned males every bit as much they target women who fall for such nonsense.

I firmly believe these PUA guys are one degree of separation away from becoming conspiracy theorists. If you look, there are a lot of similarities. But, just stop looking.

You need to rise above this. YOU are in control...set your standards, accept nothing less. Be the strong woman you want be, who knows exactly who she is and what she wants out of life, and these pick-up jackasses will want nothing to do with you (that is a good thing).
posted by Soap D. Spencer at 10:41 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Female in my mid 20s here.

I can relate. I was in your position for many years. I internalized a lot of terrible messages about being a woman as a teenager, to the point that I purposefully presented myself as gender non-conforming IRL (and pretended to be male online) not because it was closer to my real gender, but because I actively hated being a woman and didn't want to deal with all this bullshit.

But my anxieties around gender performance, gender presentation, relationships, and dating eased up once I realized that there is nothing intrinsically wrong or terrible about being a woman. Instead, there's a lot of things wrong about how we talk about womanhood and gender in general in the world. tl;dr It's not you or me or our gender, it's all cultural narratives, and all of this can change and we have allies across all genders.

Some more specific advice:

1. About avoiding the PUA blogs specifically:
Replace them with positive and engaging reading material. I second the recommendation for Dr. Nerd Love, and reading webcomics that are hilarious, gender progressive, and sex-positive are also good. Oglaf and Girls with Slingshots are pretty great.

2. About your dad's advice:
Feel free to disregard most of it. Parents are usually only good at "protecting" their daughters, instead of empowering them. If I took my dad's love/gender dynamics/relationship advice seriously, I would have never found my loves, my joys, or gotten the great sex I've had. And parents can be hella inconsistent, completely scaring you one moment but then belittling you the next. Oftentimes, they don't realize how much power they still hold over their adult children, especially ones dealing with anxiety. Your response is just to not look for consistency. Appreciate their intention, but just ignore the content.

3. About dealing with the universalizing PUA discourse:
No, PUA is not reality. It's a caricature of misogyny and backward beliefs that do exist in our societies. But PUA writers like to pretend that it's the way and the only way things work, but that's just a way for them to sell their books or workshops or whatever. People may be affected by PUA or PUA-like beliefs, but in no way is it a "natural law of human behaviour". It's just man-made bullshit, and like all man-made bullshit, it will change and hopefully for the better.

4. About dealing with the patriarchy/male privilege/gender inequality in general:
These problems are very real and still affect each individual, but it's less like this giant black ocean we're all drowning in, and more like a blanket of bad beliefs that completely cover some, while being nearly invisible with others. It's not a binary, most people are somewhere on the spectrum between complete misogyny to enlightened gender progressive feminist. There is a way out, people change their beliefs throughout their lives, there are gender progressive men out there, you have lots of allies to talk to, and so on. Blogger Dr. Nerd Love used to practice PUA, then he completely changed his views once he realized that PUA was destructive to women AND men, and he's turned into an awesome progressive ally ever since.

Really, most people are shades of gray. But instead of seeing those men as "part oppressor", I recognize what progressive values they do have and see them as "part ally"--and try to engage them and get them to nudge closer to the progressive end of things.

5. About dating men:
Non-creepy gender progressive men are out there. I know it. My entire dating history (with some individual exceptions whom I quickly dumped) is made up of them. No, they're not perfect, and some of them have blind spots, but good people work on themselves to undo any oppressive beliefs they have. Any problems I had in my significant relationships with men had nothing to do gender, but more for mundane things like finances and so on.

Creeps do exist, yes, but that's the hidden blessing of your PUA obsession. You probably have a stronger creep-o-meter than other young woman, and so can dump creeps quickly, thus saving yourself time.

Yes, there are some men who talk as if they're progressive, but in reality they're not. Sometimes it's inconsistent beliefs, sometimes it's PUA guys who want to target progressive women… I don't know. In the end, it's about actions and behaviour, not the talk. So in your date, if you feel disrespected, belittled, manipulated, or objectified by him, you should dump him, regardless of how well he speaks the social justice and feminist lingo. That's it.

6. About how men are just as emotionally vulnerable as women:
When you take male privilege and gender narratives out of the equation, men aren't very different from women. Men experience emotionally vulnerability like women. They get lonely and wonder if they're going to be alone forever, men feel rejection, men long for companionship, men write bad poetry, men can feel like they're "doing their gender wrong" and so on.

It's just the PUA crap that doesn't want to acknowledge their emotional vulnerability, because their target audience are men who want to obscure/hide/disown that side of themselves by pretending to wield more power over women than they actually have (through manipulation, trickery, lying to others and to themselves, and hella stressful ways of dealing with people).

People of all genders are equals. We're lonely, and it's hard finding people who understand us.

Healthy relationships in reality are less about power and more about connections. It's about being able to be understood, loved, and celebrated by another person, and you doing the same for them. No amount of "sexual conquests" by PUA guys are going to change that, which is why PUA guys, even if they're effective at their trickery, are going to be happy for long because they are going against the natural and emotional needs of a relationship. It's not only about sex. And even if it was about the sex, looks alone do not determine sexual chemistry or compatibility.

A lot of my views about gender relations became less cynical once I had more gender progressive male friends. I like being reminded that they're out there, and they even ask me for dating advice once in a while, and it always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I see a gender progressive male friend have a happy and healthy dating life. Like yay, good people are rewarded with good things!

And obviously, your mileage will vary, but I became less anxious of men once I realized that I was bisexual. Things don't work out with the male gender? Well, whatever, I have an entire other dating pool to shop around in. So my dating angsts are less about "ugh, why do men treat women this way" and more like "oh gods why is humanity so weird."

7. About how PUA's definition of attractiveness are all wrong:
Women like men of all shapes and sizes, and men like women of all shapes and sizes. You cannot put people on an attractiveness rating scale like PUA dudes do. Attraction and compatibility is an inherently idiosyncratic thing, and so don't feel like you're not measuring up or you're not going to measure up.

I don't consider myself conventionally attractive. I'm geeky, queer, stuck between three cultures and feel like I'm doing all of them wrong, a bit chubby, loud and blunt, often gender non-compliant, can't wear heels or make up, and wish my skin would clear up. And yet, I've had a pretty interesting dating/relationship life so far. It's not incredibly difficult to find people who are attracted to me, it's more difficult to find people who I am equally attracted to and compatible with.

Yes, I do get attracted to conventionally attractive traits, like athletic upper bodies on men, curves and amazing thighs on women, but people are attractive in less conventional ways too. A cute overbite, an attractive face textured with old pock marks, a goofy squint, and so on. But people's attractiveness is way beyond the physical too, it's also about their humour, their wit, stories, mystery, insights, heart, histories, intelligence, and so on. Attraction is just a different kind of "fascination" I guess. As long as you are interesting, people will find you interesting and perhaps will find you attractive.

8. About how to feel better about yourself:
You're not helpless, vulnerable, and doomed to living in a world full of PUA dudes. That's just crap they tell themselves to feel less scared of women.

You are a woman in 2014. We have it pretty freaking awesome compared to most women in world history, and we are still working towards a more just, free, and equal world.

Instead of asking what conventional desirable qualities you have or don't have, ask yourself which kind of people do you find attractive? Who do you want to date? Who do you want to become intimate with? Then go approach them! Have serious relationships, have flings, have friendships, have awesome experiences, have embarrassing but hilarious experiences. The world is your oyster.

Yes, as women, we have to watch out for our safety in ways that straight men don't have to, but we can do so many awesome things. We have more power, control, and influence over our own lives than we were taught as children (and constantly told as adults), and it's just up to us to own it and run with it.

And if, even if throughout your adventures, you do not find a life partner worthy of your time, that's okay. Life is still fun and worthwhile. There are so many things to do, so many places to travel to, books to read, people to befriend, experiences to be had, art pieces to create, discoveries to be found, an entire planet to be explored and saved and nurtured… ! It sometimes makes me wish I could care less about relationships so I could do more things.
posted by Hawk V at 11:46 PM on June 9, 2014 [22 favorites]

If you read Reddit, you can always come on over to TheBluePill, a forum where people mock the denizens of TheRedPill, a section on Reddit that combines extreme misogyny and PUA shenanigans.

I worry about referring you there because if PUA culture makes you disgusted with the world, reading TheRedPill is like upgrading from weed to smack. But there's plenty of nice people on TheBluePill and laughing at the "terps" is good fun. In TheBluePill comments, a lot of the posters are men, which make reassure you that there's plenty of guys out there who despite PUA/MRA nonsense.
posted by tommorris at 11:55 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really agree with what sweetkid said. Further, if your father is suggesting things for you to worry about before anything like that has even come up, you may be coming from a family where anxiety is the norm. I have dealt with this myself and just want to say that worry is not only not mandatory, it accomplishes nothing. Knowing that PUAs exist is fine. Reading the same stuff about them over and over does nothing further to protect you from them.
posted by BibiRose at 7:09 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Know that even people with really odious beliefs and attitudes can change. If George Wallace could renounce segregation, there's hope for at least some of these guys.

When you find yourself reading these sites, say to yourself "you're doing it again." Just mentally take a step back. Then stop, and do something else.
posted by Anne Neville at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2014

Fear of getting old is as rampant in our society as misogyny is, and they are intertwined. 23 is right around the time when birthdays stop being about "yay! Now I have more freedom because I can legally [drive/vote/drink]!" and they can start to get a bit wistful because getting another year older might not feel meaningful in any positive way unless you make a personal effort to make it mean something to you.

And especially for young women, there are a lot of voices, including not just obviously gross PUAs but also some well-intentioned mainstream advice, telling you that your worth on the dating market will never be higher than it is now when you are young, healthy, and fertile. When I was your age, I felt like Wilbur the prize pig, trying to find an owner who would treat me as a lifelong pet and not slaughter me. Meanwhile, all the contradictory advice (don't settle, but don't demand perfection, and don't rush into it, but don't wait too long) made me feel like I was in a game there was no way to win. And then all the advertisements directed at women ten years older than I was, for how to look ten years younger, etc. made me feel like the clock was ticking. Meanwhile, plenty of well-intentioned people were telling me to relax! have fun! enjoy your youth! enjoy your thin, wrinkle-free, no-gray years while they last! The only thing that helped was shutting out all the advice, and trying to hear that little voice inside me that was telling me what I wanted to do with my life.

Try to identify what you are getting out of these sites. My guess is that PUA sites confirm your suspicions in a way; they're the concentrated version of something you sense at a low level in a lot of interactions. Maybe older guys assure you that it's safe for you to get older if you're with someone who's already older than you. Whatever confirmation or reassurance you're getting out of PUA sites or older guys, you'll be better off if you can find give yourself that confirmation and give yourself that reassurance. Your internal sense of what's going on in an interaction, if you're being subtly objectified, insulted, or manipulated, is worth listening to. Your internal sense that you are a person worthy of love, and that you'll be worthy of love your entire life no matter how old you get, no matter what, is worth strengthening.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:54 AM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Wait, wait, wait. You are afraid to date men your age whom (you assume) will fall out of love with you & start dating sweet young things; so you're after older men, thereby being their sweet young thing?
Are you *trying* to hate yourself? Because that seems pretty self-destructive, self-loathing.

Most men are not like that. The same way that most women aren't evil bitches set on destroying a man's mind/heart/finances, etc.

But I will say this. Humans *want* to be right. And they will seek out and only see things that confirm their biases. If you happen to only meet men that fit in to that misconception, please understand that YOU are the one seeking THEM out (hello. You're wanting to date older men to prove your point!), you are the common denominator in that scenario.
Give yourself a dating break, pick up a new hobby or something. Or else, without even realizing it, you'll seek out confirmation for your bias, like dating dudes that only date your for your youth.
posted by Neekee at 11:45 AM on June 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the responses, they really lifted my mood from yesterday. Blocking the websites is a really good idea, I hadn't thought of that.
There is nothing more I can learn from the websites which is why it was draining me, i just read them out of curiosity but have read too much now. It's enough. Dr. Nerdlove is a nice website, thanks for the recommendation.
It is true that I have obsessive thoughts, and am becoming aware of it now. I guess I thought it is normal to obsess over things but am coming to realise it isn't very normal... This was my current obsession I suppose, oh and also I definitely don't have a good relationship with men, I always feel the need to please them and people in general, but unfortunately I can't go to therapy because I can't afford it, and am moving countries soon, to a place where therapy isn't available!
posted by aivilo91 at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2014

Response by poster: Oh and my dad was trying to protect me, as he works in an environment where he sees many men act like this, and I was upset by somebody who I was seeing, so he gave me a link to a specific website which opened my eyes to this way of manipulating people. He didn't intend for me to take it so seriously.
posted by aivilo91 at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2014

It is true that I have obsessive thoughts, and am becoming aware of it now. I guess I thought it is normal to obsess over things but am coming to realise it isn't very normal...

If it makes you feel better, I have had obsessive thoughts for years and had thought they were normal for most of my life. For a lot of smart people, it feels like researching and getting to the heart of a problem and thinking about it and researching more can help you "solve" and "work through it" and it CAN in a lot of ways, but for some people it gets to the point where it's obsessive and becomes an unhealthy cycle. It's not easy to start noticing it as a problem, and it's great that you have. I was also about five years older than you when I even started noticing this was a problem for me. Good for you for asking this question, and lots of luck.
posted by sweetkid at 2:37 PM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've dealt with problems of intrusive thoughts I have trouble controlling my whole life. Mine tend to what I'd call "worst case scenarios". What would I do if this incredibly awful thing happened? Fun.

It is not easy to control these things. I doubt I'll ever totally "overcome" these thoughts but I manage them better now. There are a couple solid things I've learned:

1. Nothing has really worked better for me than cultivating habits of being aware of the thoughts and clamping down on them as soon as I'm aware of them. That's not happening now. I don't need to think about that and I'm not going to. That's not interesting or true. Whatever you can think of to respond that resonates. Like any other good habit I find I'm more effective when I'm well rested, avoiding excessive hunger but not indulging in overeating or eating junk food, staying reasonably active, and meditating regularly (struggle constantly with the last one).

My basic theory is that the seeds of these sorts of thoughts are pretty basic fears or stresses (what if I lose someone close to me, what if I'm not good enough to rise to challenge X) and that the elaboration of thoughts responding to the imaginary scenarios these stimuli provoke is more or less scratching the itch. And like scratching it often just makes the underlying problem worse. I believe that when we indulge in these thoughts we are basically training our brains to believe that the underlying scenarios are in fact important and deserving of more thought.

2. One of many concrete, practical understandings I got out of several years of weekly talk therapy was realizing that even though spinning these mental scenarios might be unpleasant and ultimately lowered my mental health, the motivation for doing it was that it gave me some sort of positive reinforcement. This was very counterintuitive to me, and believing my experience of the thoughts must be purely negative supported the feeling that they were a sort of ungovernable compulsion that I was at the mercy of. When I realized there was a reinforcing aspect to these thoughts that I "got something out of" I realized I could oppose that intellectually and have more control. A therapist suggested basically that when I thought about terrible things happening it was in part a way of asserting control - I could imagine the worst thing possible, and as awful as it might be I would imagine myself surviving through it. Knowing I can't control many circumstances in life, I could at least imagine myself responding and dealing with outcomes that frightened me. For my own situation this really resonated with me, and it changed how I thought of and dealt with things. You're getting something out of your thinking about this stuff, you're getting some sort of reinforcement out of reading these websites. "Caving in" is an interesting analogy for doing something you've decided is bad for you and you don't want to do any more. It suggests a mounting pressure that eventually overcomes the structures you've put in place to hold something back. Where is that pressure coming from? What's making it build up? Could you respond to it in different ways, sooner, before you start to feel like you're under a burden you can't control?

It is very worth taking on this kind of thinking in your life now, because there will never be an end to negative things you might have to contend with in the future, and chewing and brooding on them inwardly can't prevent anything and except in very narrow, practical cases it almost never equips you any better to deal with them - and beyond that, it actively degrades your experience in the here and now.
posted by nanojath at 9:49 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

All I can tell you is to date men whose fathers are still devoted to their mothers. Both of my serious relationships were with guys like this, guys whose fathers were still quite literally in love with their mothers after 30-45 years of marriage. The sons were exactly the same and would have been good long-term husbands (except that I turned down both of them because I'm still holding out for Mr. Perfect... sigh).
posted by Guinevere at 4:48 PM on January 8, 2015

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