Having published a book years ago called The Game, Neil Strauss is now promoting another book ...
Gilsinan: But it’s interesting too, given the way the book ends, with you meeting this woman who is not impressed by any of this stuff, and then you end up with her. What do you think that says about the utility of the techniques for banging lots of women versus finding someone who likes you without your having to use tricks on them?
Strauss: Yeah, so if you’re going to talk to me today about it versus then, right? If you talked to me then about it, I would have defended the techniques as a way to learn courtship. If you ask me today about it, I’d tell you that anything that involves manipulation or needing to have a certain outcome is definitely not healthy in any way.
Strauss: It isn’t that I changed my mind. You said The Game was kind of a coming-of-age tale, but it was like coming to the age of adolescence at a late point. And I think The Truth in a way was coming to adulthood at a late point. Let’s just face it, I got so deep into that community and was seduced by it that I completely lost myself in it. It happens in the book. Why did I really stop writing for The New York Times, hang out with all these kids running around, you know, the Sunset Strip like a maniac in stupid clothing? I see those photos and I vomit in my mouth a little bit.
I even knew then that it was about low self-esteem. Even when I wrote it, I didn’t think it would be a guide. I thought it would be a book about male insecurity. But now coming out of the other side of it, I can see how there were maybe unconscious forces operating on me that made me so obsessed, and even when I thought “the game” was over, that it still had this hold on me.
The Mallory Archer effect starts to get discussed here when Strauss talks about how the thread in the PUA scene is its champions had domineering/narcissistic mothers.
Gilsinan: A lot of the criticism was, well, men are afraid of women’s sexuality, and the response to that is, yeah, obviously. That’s not a new thing. To me at least, that’s entirely why this pickup community exists. It’s all about getting over fear of talking to humans.
Strauss: That’s exactly it. And I’ll go one deeper. To me, the biggest shock of my life, was how, myself who wrote The Game, Robert Greene who wrote The Art of Seduction, Tucker Max, who, well, is Tucker Max—what do we all have in common?
Strauss: We all have narcissistic mothers. So what happened? What happens when you grow up with your identity being squashed by this mother who never sees you but only sees herself, is you grow up with a fear of being overpowered by the feminine again.
Strauss: Right? And so at that level you realize The Game was about being in this power relationship—ok, you’re safe because you’re in control, you’re not being vulnerable. Even the relationships you get in are maybe with people you feel safe with because you’re in control. There’s no way you can have intimacy from that. So when I would do seminars [about The Game], I would say, let me ask you, how many people here were raised with a narcissistic or dominant mother figure? Every time it was about 80 percent of the room. And then when you start to realize, ok, this has nothing to do with the world, it’s just me, I’ve got to get over it—that’s when everything kind of changes.
Then the spirit vs the letter of the Law quote that would be a highlight over at, say, Mockingbird:
Strauss: Here’s an example, even in The Game. There’s an idea of never buying somebody a drink. I remember, I was on a date with someone and I was just so excited to be with her, she was just so great. We each had one drink. The bill came, and it got awkward. I’m like, I’m never supposed to buy her a drink and now I have the bill, what do I do? Then I said, let’s split it. It was for two drinks, and I looked like such a cheap douchebag. That was a case where I just should have said, it’s no big deal to get it. The idea is that there are rules, but the real idea is that there are reasons why those rules exist. If you understand the reasons, you can throw out the rules and recognize that they’re just guidelines. [emphasis added]