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Epic battle of Nice Guys® vs. common sense at Penny Arcade

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 22:04 EDT
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Thanks/curses to Darcy for alerting me to this deeply disturbing public conversation between the writer (Tycho) and illustrator (Gabe) of Penny Arcade, a conversation that had the unfortunate result of reinforcing the perception that geeky dudes are seething misogynists that you better hope don’t have guns or the ability to get you alone. Tycho played the part of the man of reason, a man who sees women as human beings, and a man who is therefore properly and completely skeezed out by the pick-up artist crap.

I get fascinated by sparkling things sometimes, things I want to incorporate into my nest, and it cinches a noose around my mind which locks me into a kind of inexorable “information accrual” mode. Scientology is a perennial in this regard, to the extent that I actively avoid information about it because it’s too fascinating and I don’t want to join the “church” in a moment of weakness. I recently had the misfortune of being exposed to some propaganda from the “seduction community,” and I’ve spent the weekend on a kind of data bender that has left me psychologically gutted. I’ve been trying to navigate away from this page for about an hour now, and I can’t do it. That these people are base manipulators should be apparent to any literate person; they’ve made a cage of language that I can’t escape from.

As I’ve asserted before, I think the PUA shills are class A hucksters, and just as Scientology is not going to clear you of the aliens ruining your life and homeopaths aren’t going to cure your cancer, PUAs aren’t going to teach you the one! perfect! system! to bed! any! woman! you! desire! The people most being manipulated here are the sad sack misogynists who are so busy throwing a no pussy blues* pity party that they can’t even grasp that their inability to see that women are basically people is being exploited to free them of their spare cash. I appreciate Tycho’s concerns here, and he’s not wrong. Once you get a group of men together to socialize around the concept that a woman’s will is merely an obstacle between you and her pussy—an obstacle that you not only can overcome, but should overcome to prove your manhood—then I fail to see how that doesn’t slide into making excuses for and even outright calling for sexual assault.

Which is all the more reason that Gabe’s reply misses the point.

I don’t know, Love Systems doesn’t seem so bad to me. It’s really hard to talk to girls, and this is just helping guys with their confidence. Women are terrifying and strange, I don’t see anything wrong with getting some advice.

You think women are terrifying? Men who clearly don’t respect your will or your right to say no are terrifying. Men who approach you with a “system” that’s “guaranteed” to get you into bed are terrifying. Women put a lot of work into finding ways to defuse situations when you’ve been selected by such a man, and you realize no isn’t an answer he’s willing to take, and he’s going to neg you and manhandle you until you a) scream or b) give him a fake phone number so he can feel he’s accomplished something and leave you alone.

Tycho remains calm:

I’m fairly certain the purpose of this course is to make you a better predator of women. Check out their offers of “in-field training,” as though you were going to hunt antelopes from a jeep in the Goddamned Savannah.

That’s certainly the intention, though again, I remain skeptical of the success rate. But if you encourage men to put so much value on whether or not they dipped their wick that night, you are setting a lot of them up to get very angry with women who don’t comply to the system. The Sodini massacre is just the most outrageous example, but I shudder to think of what less nutty PUAs might be tempted to do when the system isn’t working because those damn stubborn females keep refusing them access to the pussy that is rightfully theirs. But Gabe has a rejoinder that made my jaw drop:

I think you’re being overly dramatic. Girls have been using their “feminine wiles” to manipulate men since the beginning of time. Do you really think the mind games girls play on guys are any better or worse than this stuff. The only difference is that this sort of thing comes naturally to women. Guys are in a tight spot because in very real terms, we have nothing they want. They on the other hand, have vaginas. They can make us do pretty much what ever they want. I don’t see anything wrong with guys trying to learn some tricks of their own.

Emphasis mine. Gabe now claims he was being over the top to be provocative, but what’s amazing is he summed up all the nonsense that creates the cycle that leads to Nice Guyness®. First, assume that women are not really human beings like you are, and therefore have no interest in sexual congress. Conclude that therefore the only reason they associate with men is because they’re trying to game them. Decide this gives you permission to treat women like they’re the Big Bad in some video game, an enemy to be conquered in order to get the prize of the vagina. Start to believe that women are gloating because they can touch a vagina whenever they want. Get really angry, and start to hate women. Your obvious anger and contempt runs off even more women. Assume that they’re out to get you, are trying to keep you from the vagina out of pure malice. Buy some books on seduction techniques that are Guaranteed Or Your Money Back from obvious hucksters. Find a community of men who agree with you that women are basically evil bitch users, and therefore you’re not only justified in using manipulation techniques to overcome their will, but you’re a warrior for mankind to strike back at women for hoarding all the pussy. If you’re lucky, you won’t nosedive into reading blogs that advocate rape as proper punishment for women who don’t give it up as instructed.

Never stop to think that many, many, many women happily have sex with men they’re attracted to every day, because it’s fun for everyone involved and not a matter of winners and losers.

Tycho basically gets the upper hand by pointing out that women are people, and Gabe retreats into the “Pity the pussyless! They don’t know how to get women!” Which is always the last ditch justification, even though it fails to address why well-meaning men seeking advice are determined to ignore all the free advice that actually works, such as, “If you want women to want you, you should not be creepy and seek women who are interested in a guy like you, instead of only thinking drunk sorority chicks as the sole representatives of womankind on the planet,” and “Remember, women are people, and if you treat them that way, they won’t be so damn mysterious.” They don’t want to hear advice like that, because it misses that critical element that attracts them to PUA hucksters, which is the rich promise that their system will punish some bitches. That you will “win”. That some woman will be hurt by you. That you’ll get your revenge.

To make the whole situation worse, Gabe comes back with a shocking comment about how he got the angry emails from women he expected—which he brushes off with alarming speed, because apparently who cares what women think about this whole discussion of our pussies and what’s fair play in getting at them?—and moves right onto playing a sad, sad song for geeky men who are scared by women and are forced—forced, I tell you—to give their hard-earned money to a bunch of PUA hucksters who tell them that they can’t get laid because women are bitches who have this crazy idea that our bodies belong to us, and therefore they need to treat dating like it’s warfare against women for the scare pussy resources. I can barely bring myself to quote it.

What I’m realizing is that sort of anxiety is almost like a kind of class feature for nerds. I got tons of mail from guys who aren’t using these systems to abuse girls or score one night stands. They are using them for the reasons that I listed jokingly. They really are trying to learn to be more confident and get past their anxiety with girls. They feel like all the douche bags out there give the system a bad name and more then one recommended a book called the Game by Neil Strauss. Where as I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever meeting a girl these guys are going out and trying to get help. I’m not sure how I can blame them for that.

Yeah, they say that. They may even believe that they need to believe women are shit, or they are at best machines that work like your video game, where you press A Up B Down and suddenly they perform the correct action (just spreading their legs instead of busting a mortal blow on your enemy). And we’re supposed to pity them, and not worry about how they’re going to act when the woman-machines don’t perform as instructed. I’ve thrown my share of video game controllers, you know, but I know the difference between them and human beings. But the seduction community actively dissuades men from seeing the difference.

Look, it’s all bullshit. There’s plenty of advice for the loveless and the lonely. But men that are attracted to the seduction community don’t want to hear it, period. Because it, and I can’t repeat this enough, tells them what they don’t want to hear, which is that the way to get good at dating is to start by believing women are people, and respecting and even coming to enjoy them in all their diversity.

But because this topic is so irritating, I thought I’d finish it up with a video from “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, which has one of the best ongoing jokes about a Nice Guy® ever. (MEGA SPOILERS) Charlie has a crush on the coffeeshop waitress, who is a fucked-up individual but not so fucked-up that she can’t see that Charlie—who doesn’t own a toothbrush and huffs paint for fun—isn’t exactly boyfriend material. So he stalks her and won’t take no for an answer, and finally, he strikes a bargain with her. She’ll go see a play he wrote, and he promises that he’ll never bother her again. Tempted by the opportunity to be free, she goes. And this is what happens.

At what point, he breaks his promise to leave her alone. Of course.

*That said, the song I posted above is brilliant and hilarious, and clearly not to be taken seriously, except as SERIOUS ROCK. Seduction community members should take notes on the first lesson to stop being such megawatt assholes: Stop taking yourself so fucking seriously. Get a sense of humor.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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