By my reckoning, the sub-header for this title should be ‘A Sympathetic Feminist Critiques the Seduction Community’. The actual line is ‘Long Interviews with Hideous Men’ which I’m not a fan of. I wanted to work in publishing in an alternative life. Perhaps it’s just as well.
In any case, Clarisse’s book was lent to me by X. Mostly through me, he developed an interest in both pickup artistry and BDSM. Considering his feminism, one natural place for this to take him was to Clarisse.
Clarisse spent some time immersing herself in the world of pickup artistry. She spoke to and read a long list of interesting people, some of whom I was familiar with through my involvement with pickup artistry online and a significant amount that I was not. Meanwhile, she reflected on how game affected her relationships, which can be quite the minefield as she navigates her world of polyamory and BDSM. She thought about girlgame and had some ideas/contributions of her own. She constructed a PUA typology which I found useful to think about those involved in it. She has written clearly and engagingly about all this.
She talks about a light side and a dark side to Game. She spoke about it as a tool of self-improvement and sex-positive ideas that can be found within it. On the other hand, she reflects on how many theoretical frameworks allegedly underlying Game can be problematic about their assumptions. She sees misogyny and misandry here; she explains what she means by that. She examines the people who play the game as well as the game itself. The infamous roissy gets practically a whole chapter to illustrate the dark side of game. Which I believe can be far more attention than he deserves, but he is conveniently illustrative due to his hyperbolic deeply cynical contemptuous misanthropy. However, I’m just sure he’d only be delighted by being characterised The Source of All Evil (not Clarisse’s words) by a ‘femtard’(probably his words).
I really liked this book and I like Clarisse. She’s guilty of saying Alienating/Annoying Things That Feminists Say (I’ll expand on that in a separate post), but those are actually at a thankful minimum. I like how she genuinely approached the community with a reasonably open-mind. She recognises herself as a flawed individual and relates difficulties she’s had to pickup artists. She recognises how she herself engages in behaviour that’s not ethical during it. She’s happy to present personal anecdotes that present her imperfectly, whilst critiquing herself within them. For some reason, I sometimes felt she’d rationalised the behaviour of men she’d had relationships with, e.g. it’s okay to hate on a pickup artist for doing x but not a non-player for doing x. The difference is apparently consciousness of the individual, but an action from neglect and an action from intent are still not excusable.
I wish she’d talked more about ideas regarding femininity and masculinity, although perhaps that would’ve taken momentum out of the book. Biology sans environment is not the simple explicant to human behaviour. That doesn’t mean we don’t act and respond generally in cultural gendered ways that are important to acknowledge. We are all individuals indeed, but the individual white sheep will go where they are herded. Neglecting or evading these points — and what they mean in practical social reality — is one of the reasons why feminists weren’t the first to come up with practical and effective seduction advice. This while a gendered world is central to feminism and the very need for it.
The book is overall well-researched as far as I can tell given my familiarity with her subject material. Rarely, she did seem to interpret things I was familiar oddly. There was one glaring issue to mention even though it wasn’t that big of a point: George Sodini was a rather infamous misogynist murderer. Clarisse allied his motives rather carelessly with pickup artist ideas, when his story is more complicated.
I can relate to her on many levels, including the sense of wanting approval from those in the community particularly as a woman involved in it. I’ve had experiences where my insecurities would be confirmed. I’ve also had moments where I felt very good about myself. A particular contrast is that I had earned respect as a person and a mind by a community prone to objectification. It puzzled me why Clarisse would become paranoid that PUAs weren’t interested in her that way: she is a feminist who ‘gets it’, an unusual specimen. Again, I do think she’s very brave to be so honest in how she writes. Her self-awareness can be painful.
I like that she does actually propose solutions to problems she finds in the pickup artistry community, solutions that are sex-positive. I needed to read her at this point in my life, because my ideas on masculinity, sex and gender issues have all been evolving. She’s re-energised my interest in both game and writing at the moment. I think that even if someone disagrees with her, it’s important to anyone involved in the community to read her challenging perspective and self-examine themselves for their ethics and ideas regarding pickup artistry. I also think that this book can be a great and healthy introduction to the topic, especially with the glossary she attaches. All that’s missing is an index.
You can buy Clarisse’s book by following the links on her books page.
You can also read posts about pickup artistry and masculinity on her blog to sample her writing. Here’s two of them: