The Peacock’s Tail

In belated honor of Valentine’s Day-I think you could view Roissy, Roosh, and the rest of the PUA gang as an artificial attempt to resolve the tension between the culture’s obsession with sexuality as the sole key to adulthood  on the one hand and the very odd way in which we bring up men now on the other, which for many (basically anyone who isn’t good at sports) involves relatively little exposure to socially mediated performance of masculinity.

That is, you could tell a (mostly-true) story about how in days of yore, boys went through a structured process of “becoming a man” and gradual assimilation into mating rituals that led to them performing masculinity as adults relatively naturally. Late age of marriage may have given them some additional time to sort things out, at least in some corners of the world.

age of marriage england

Middle class and upwardly mobile men in contemporary American society, on the other hand- those who aren’t good at sports at any rate- are likely to have been specifically sheltered from these rituals, as part of intensive academic-focused human capital accumulation (as well as the ease of pawning childrearing onto electronic media). Meanwhile, the post-monogamy, feminist/gender-egalitarian society we are becoming is one in which the rituals of mating and the performance of masculinity have become  often implicit and unacknowledged rather than explicit and condoned. Lastly, ubiquitous pornography has distorted male expectations (and female expectations as well, possibly) and possibly made men less willing to pursue relationships altogether, while the increasing availability of easy electronic tristes for a desirable segment of men has arguably made the market for commitment something of a market for lemons.

The result is a skills deficit of sorts in a growing fraction of men that the society is reluctant to address in the more natural manner of a less degendered childhood and adolescence, combined with a culture that has abandoned the presumption that everyone will marry and (at least half of the time) valorizes  promiscuity for anyone over eighteen while  (almost all of the time) evincing a visceral disdain towards those who aren’t sexually active.

This is what Scott Aaronson was talking about in his infamous comment 171– not that he felt entitled to sex or a wife, but that as a young man he had no idea what to do, and that the seeming impossibility of knowing what to do (or of squaring the explicit prohibition of most attempts at soliciting female interest with their continued manifest necessity to him) was driving him nuts.

In some ways, PUA stuff is an attempt to help guys like Scott know what to do (while amping up the “visceral disdain of sexual inactivity” part), but as with adult literacy interventions, there are just significant difficulties to what late remediation can accomplish. The business model and culture of most of these guys is a promise of the quick fix, combined with the frisson of a “secret knowledge” (essentially bastardized evolutionary psychology, already the bastard child of more legitimate behavioral ecology) and counter-intuitive proposals that flirt with abuse.

Even so, the actual content is a mixture of techniques to assert masculinity for young men who- both in response to the general culture and by dint of who they are or how they were raised- are uncomfortable doing so; it’s also a way of convincing men to accept the terms of the low-stakes, low-commitment sexual marketplace. I guess there’s also a lot of “woo white power, girls are sluts” stuff thrown in there to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise.

I was reading this article, though , about a man who successfully used the techniques and was generally liked and viewed warmly by the women he dated, but who then began trying an online identity in the PUA world, which was found out (to the women’s great consternation, given the disdain and disgust with which he described them online.) He was subsequently ostracized from his real-world Asheville, NC community and shut down his business.

At one level, there’s a general hypocrisy there, in that engaging in a behavior is rewarded but describing what you are doing is censured. (As Socrates might have told us.)  On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that overall, the would-be Game impresario would have been better off keeping some of his illusions, rather than pursuing a dream of strings-free promiscuity and pseudonymous prominence* that was bound to end badly one way or another.

Now that I’m pushing 40, my single friends are often a cautionary tale, some of them lonely and some of them- the successfully promiscuous ones- self-destructive.

*Yeah, the joke’s on me.

 

 

 

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