PUA Without the Misogyny?
December 14, 2020 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information about how cis men meet, approach, and communicate with potential sexual and/or romantic partners in a healthy, non-misogynist, non-manipulative manner. This could be along the lines of Pickup Artistry type self help/methodology (without the grossness!) or more academic. I just can't find a way to search for this kind of thing without the internet taking me straight to PUA stuff.

I have "The Ethical Slut" which I suspect will contain useful information but I'm looking for more specific resources. All media are welcome but especially books.

General advice, pep talks, self-confidence stuff, etc. Is great but not what I'm looking for. I'm hoping for as specific of information as possible.
posted by cmoj to Human Relations (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've seen references to Dr. Nerdlove, which to my understanding leans towards masculine love advice, but given that I've seen that reference through Captain Awkward, it's not going to be the nasty PUA stuff. But you can read it over and make determinations of its usefulness/appropriateness to you.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you are looking for ways to manipulate people, you can't get that without the misogyny. Dating isn't about manipulating.

If you are looking for tips on how to date/flirt/court respectfully, there is a lot to easily google up. Just include "respect/respectful" or similar in your search term. Examples:

Dear Cis Hetero Men: Here Are 7 Ways to be a More Respectful Date
Love is Respect, a project on how to have healthy relationships
This Men's Health thing isn't terrible, but always be a little wary of information suggesting you can interpret subtle body language as "signals." Someone turning away from you though - that's clear.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on December 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

I would consider watching YouTube dating videos whose target audience is women because the advice is pretty universal and also you can see what "best practices" are being recommended. Anna Ankana has great advice for all and the YouTube channel/Patron podcast Psychology in Seattle is amazing. Matthew Hussey isn't unproblematic but has some good points and probably the most popular advice giver for women. Mark Rosenfeld and Mathew Boggs also are worth checking out.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:43 AM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here is an article with some basic guidelines.

I think you will probably have better luck staying away from searches that include “pickup” or “pick up.” A search on “how to approach women respectfully” (not “girls,” because those results will be full of the trash you are trying to avoid) will yield some decent results.

If you are looking for an actual, literal class on dating that emphasizes respect and communication, there is a dating boot camp through the UCLA PEERS Clinic. The program was originally designed for non-neurotypical folks but everyone can benefit from it, to the point where it should be a part of high/middle school curriculum for everyone.
posted by corey flood at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The book, Intimate Connections by David Burns, is an old one, but I think it's quite good.
posted by akk2014 at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Three sources which I found useful:
1. Dr. NerdLove (reformed pickup artist). He has articles, podcast episodes, and e-books. I mostly read the articles. The podcast is OK if you prefer podcasts, but he has a weirdly intense delivery style on them. The e-books look pretty good, for example New Game +.
2. Mark Manson. I read his book called Models: Attract Women Through Honesty as an audiobook and found it quite useful.
3. Mate: Become the Man Women Want. This is the most problematic book, but I thought it still had some good advice. It is by evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller and 'reformed' frat boy writer Tucker Max. Neither of them are exactly great role models, but I think they have some solid advice that is very much opposed to PUA stuff. There is some stupid language thrown in by Tucker Max which you have to avoid, but I think it is worth it.
posted by catquas at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2020

I think the nonmanipulative parts of PUA are something like "Make people feel pretty good when they talk to you, show off whatever honest good qualities you have to show off, and don't be afraid to let someone see you're attracted to them."

Those are legitimate social skills that are ethical to use, so long as you don't laser-focus your attention on someone and you back off when they want you to. Probably, if you read PUA books, take the techniques for doing those things, and leave the rest behind, you'll be in good shape. (But you can also get perfectly good advice on it from other sources.)

The manipulative part of PUA comes from withholding those things selectively. Basically any time PUAs tell you to be deliberately inconsistent, run hot and cold, turn techniques on and off, or say or do the opposite of what you mean, that's a red flag. Ignore that part. A likeable, trustworthy person doesn't swing back and forth in conversation between making you feel amazing and terrible. They're just... calmly low-key pleasant and kind most of the time.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:20 AM on December 14, 2020 [22 favorites]

As a woman who dates men I think the best bit of advice you can possibly internalize is that you should treat a woman you're interested in exactly the same as you would treat a man you want to be friends with. As an equal human being with qualities you enjoy who you would like to get to know better. Except you use the word "date" when you are ready to hang out.

There is literally no trick, no secret combination of words, no way to gamify this. Women are people, just like you.

You should be interesting, interested, kind, honest, and clear in your communications.
posted by phunniemee at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2020 [69 favorites]

Best answer: Strong agree with phunniemee.

I'm not in their age demographic, but maybe Scarleteen's relationship advice would be helpful.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:32 AM on December 14, 2020

Oh and if you want to give a compliment, compliment specific choices or actions.

Compliments are great, people like feeling nice about themselves, and they can be good conversation openers. But the failure mode is extreme.

I created this cool piece of art, I accomplished this charitable thing, I made a funny joke at a party. I picked my hairstyle, picked my shoes, picked my outfit, picked my nail polish. I didn't pick how my face looks, I didn't pick the shape of my body.

For example:
"Wow, you really killed it on that improv set!" is a good compliment.
"I love those green glasses, they really suit you!" is also a good compliment, a bit riskier.
"You have beautiful eyes!" is a terrible compliment and only appropriate if you're already dating.
posted by phunniemee at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2020 [21 favorites]

I genuinely think you're asking the wrong question, because this post sounds like you believe there are standard best practices any/all straight guys can follow in order to be more successful at dating any/all straight women.

Yes, okay, there are some impersonal general social rules, such as
- smell good
- be pleasant and relaxed
- don't monopolize the conversation
And yes, there are impersonal rules for potential romantic interactions, such as
- be kind and respectful
- seek explicit consent
- don't argue with rejections
And all right, there are impersonal rules specifically for how men can engender trust and safety during initial interactions with women, such as
- give her your card/napkin with your contact info and walk away. Don't ask for her info, don't ask for her phone to type your number in yourself, don't wait to see if she puts your contact in her phone.
- meet her in public
- respect her personal space (say "Shall I take your coat?" and wait for a response rather than physically reaching for her coat)

But that's all just the super basic rules for how not to immediately make people feel uncomfortable with you. The sort of goals that Pick Up Artists focus on is well beyond this: how to sell yourself to women, how to increase your odds of having sex sooner, how to sustain a romantic partnership, how to set boundaries and communicate expectations, how to break up, etc. Pick-up artists advise egregiously dishonest, manipulative, and misogynistic ways to do all of these things, as you know. But if you want to learn how to do dating "right", it's not just about doing everything PUAs say except honestly and non-manipulatively... somehow... whatever that means. There's no translation of PUA methods into "good guy"-ese. That's because a fundamental error PUAs make is to suggest that all women are alike and all men want the same thing, and there's a way men can crack the singular female formula to get their singular desired output.

But women are not a monolith, and what's more, *you* are also unique, so there is no standard rulebook for dating. What you're really looking for is
(1) to figure out YOUR own needs and tendencies and desires
(2) to develop people skills that allow you to connect authentically with potential partners,
(3) and then to either negotiate a whatever type of relationship with a partner that satisfies both... or to fail well, minimizing feelings hurt, values betrayed, and time wasted on all sides.

How could there possibly be a "good guy" version of PUA methods for this? This isn't about "methods" and "rules" at all. What you're asking us is: how can you develop self-knowledge, people skills, and relational abilities tailored for YOUR unique personality and dating goals? All three components are equally important, and none of them have generic answers.

But once you're asking the right questions, it becomes possible to discover your personal answers.

(1) Relationship books! These are very relevant to you even if your goal is a first date or a one night stand, because good relationship books address self knowledge, people skills and relationship negotiation skills all-in-one. That's exactly what you need. Dr. Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Intimacy, Sue Johnson's Hold Me Tight, Declaire and Gottman's The Relationship Cure - these are all good books to start with. Remember, these won't teach you a set of impersonal rules for how to get dates with women. They will help you develop your personal set of tailor-made guidelines instead.

(2) Therapy! A lot of the time our dating/relationship failures are the result of our anxieties, insecurities, low self esteem, triggers based on childhood experiences, false beliefs about yourself or other people, unproductive thought patterns, etc. Therapy can help you identify and address these. Feeling whole and secure and happy inside yourself is legit one of the most reliable ways to achieve relationship success.

It's not a shortcut. But also, you don't have to wait until you're "all done" or "graduated" from therapy/reading in order to date. Developing these skills is a process that's compatible with the rest of your life, including dating. You'll keep doing both, and you'll keep getting better at both, and the rewards will stick with you for the long haul. Good luck.
posted by MiraK at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2020 [26 favorites]

Any resource about improving interpersonal relationships, that is targeted toward business/professional relationships INSTEAD of targeted toward sexual/romantic relationships. For example, the classic "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie contains tons of information about initiating conversations, presenting yourself well, interpreting and using conversational cues, etc. Everything can be applied to dating but, critically, it's not ABOUT dating and therefore doesn't have any stupid PUA 'techniques'.
posted by smokysunday at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm looking for information about how cis men meet, approach, and communicate with potential sexual and/or romantic partners in a healthy, non-misogynist, non-manipulative manner.

In terms of meeting and approaching women, think of women as people and be respectful. Don't act or be entitled to someone's time and energy.

That's it. That's all my advice.

To expand a bit more, think about how you want to meet and talk to people (men, women, NB people) in general. Apply the same rules. Maybe in some cases you exchange contact info to continue talking, maybe you exchange pleasantries and never talk again, maybe there's a spark and interest and somewhere along the line you decide to meet up for a date.

So now you've had a date or two and you sense there may be mutual interest and you want to kiss them and make sure it's ok. Have a look at this Dr. Nerdlove article about consent.
posted by foxjacket at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think a lot of the answers here were thrown by your reference to PUA. I read your question as asking for information about the first part, "how cis men meet, approach, and communicate with potential sexual and/or romantic partners in a healthy, non-misogynist, non-manipulative manner." And I applaud you for it!

I'd recommend looking into some of the renowned couples therapists' takes on dating. You can find plenty of references but in particular, I'd recommend John Gottman and the work of the Gottman Institute. Here are some samples, but googling will yield more:
How to Stop Detached Dating and Create Real Connection
How Do Gottman Principles Apply to the Dating World?
The Biggest Gripes About Modern Dating

Best of luck to you.
posted by CiaoMela at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

nth-ing phunniemee. I'm a lesbian (but thought I was straight and have dated men) and nothing makes me feel more uncomfortable around a guy I don't know well, than a feeling I'm being viewed as "potential date woman" rather than "person I think is neat so far and might like to get to know further". Women don't come with a different set of social rules - we're just other people, and the best way to make me feel comfortable is to act in a way that shows you know this. If you get to know someone as a person and they find themselves attracted/not attracted to you, that is going to be what it is no matter what one weird trick you used (or didn't).
posted by augustimagination at 4:27 PM on December 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

I found this zine a very good read: Learning Good Consent: Building Ethical Relationships in a Complicated World
posted by splitpeasoup at 5:22 PM on December 14, 2020

Be aware that many women have been stalked to some degree so don't ask questions that could feel like stalker questions til you know her well.

Last name - Ethnicity - Where she lives - Does she hang out in this area often - Job details - Where she went to school - basically anything you could cross-google with her first name to find her online... = In my opinion, these are all too personal, until at least a third date.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:20 PM on December 14, 2020

Flirting isn't a getting-to-know-you technique.

It's a lot of fun! It's great as long as everyone's into it! I'm not anti-flirting at all!

But it's not how you meet women, and it's not how you get us interested in you. It's a thing we can do together after we've met and gotten interested in each other.

Looking at other people, it's easy to get it backwards. You might think "Oh, those two started flirting, then they started dating, clearly he got her attention by flirting with her." But it's almost always the other way around. He got her attention without any special tricks, just by being someone she liked being around. She got his attention the same way. And then once they started to realize they had each other's attention, they started expressing that by flirting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:47 PM on December 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

Oh man. I must say there is some good advice amongst the mostly creepy PUA crowd such as not putting all of your eggs in one basket at the beginning and looking after yourself in terms of hygiene etc. Just weed out the creepy bs.

I think because a lot of guys become friends with women only because they are attracted to them (not that they necessarily know this) it's confusing for men to know the boundary between friend and partner. I agree that a partner should be like a friend but only once you have established that you are dating. It's absolutely not okay to pretend you're looking for friendship when you want something else. This is the kind of thing that results in women starting threads like "when I became single all my male friends hit on me". The main focus should be on dating first not friendship. Friendship is built afterwards.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 9:55 PM on December 14, 2020

I think it's hard to say without knowing in more detail where you're coming from. Among men I know who could potentially ask this question or could have asked this question, one common thread is that they don't have many female friends and they don't talk to their friends about their dating lives. So they don't seem to know a lot of positive examples of dating and they don't have a real sense of what women go through when trying to date. I think one type of resource to look for, is rather than advice, is just learning about the experiences of a wide variety of people when it comes to dating. There are a lot of podcasts that are sort of this format if you need a place to start. I would especially look for podcasts aimed at women, so you have a better understanding of what things are like for them.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 9:05 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

You reference Ethical Slut, so you may appreciate this book as well: Playing Fair: A Guide to Non-monogamy for Men Into Women. It also has useful information about dating in general.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2020

Oddly you may find some useful information if you search for information on courting Christian girls, written for Christian men. They talk about being respectful, leaving open the option of just becoming deeper friends, of looking for someone who is growing spiritually as well not merely one that already has some good characteristics, not sending out messages loaded with sexual innuendo to all your potential future partners, and waiting for clear signals of interest from her. Of course it almost always comes with a whole load of other not so good advice or offensive advice, such as asking her dad for permission to court her, but things like asking your own parents what they think of her is not necessarily bad advice, nor is it bad advice to set boundaries for yourself so you have a plan about how you will react to your own sexual impulses before they occur.

One of the best guides for men on how to have sex with women that I ever read was on a Christian site giving advice to a husband on how to make sex more enjoyable for his wife. But Christian advice is going to have a lot of cultural assumptions that may disgust or dismay you, so you probably only want to look there if you are comfortable with discarding the stuff misogynist or cultish elements to get at the more practical and useful advice.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:55 PM on December 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

So, this is going to sound odd, but I find sometimes that seeing depictions of healthy relationships in media can be helpful models. If you haven't watched Friday Night Lights (the show), it may be worth watching just to see the way the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor. It's not a dating relationship, but it is an example of a healthy, respectful relationship and partnership, and keeping the idea of how Eric treats his wife in mind can help with understanding how to treat potential dates and girlfriends with a level of respect, kindness, and yes, romance, and will give you some helpful insight without having to resort to trying to translate PUA rhetoric without working to ignore the gross parts. I dunno. YMMV, but food for thought.
posted by nayantara at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2020

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