Posts Tagged ‘pickup artists’

2013 8 May

How My Self-Published Book About Pickup Artists Made Me Famous In Germany

On April 27th, I returned from a week-long trip to Berlin, and I’m still kinda shell-shocked. Over that week, I spent hours every day being interviewed by all sorts of people: Europe’s biggest newspaper, for example. The German edition of Andy Warhol’s magazine, Interview. Four different German television stations. (Seriously. Four.)

This is all because my first self-published book, Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, has been acquired by a “real” German publisher. The German translation of Confessions will soon be available in many German-language stores.

Perhaps oddly, this is my first deal with a traditional publisher. I started out as an obscure subculture blogger/activist, and then people started calling me an expert, and then I started selling articles and getting speaking engagements, but all my books have been 100% self-published and self-promoted until now. I used the constellation of platforms that we now call “social media” to aggressively promote my ideas, but I certainly did not expect my self-published book to captivate Germany. I don’t even speak German!

I am handling such complicated feelings. It is taking me forever to write this. But my first TV interview just aired — the channel is Taff on Pro7, and the German translation of my words has occasioned much discussion on my Facebook wall. Unfortunately the interview cannot be viewed from the USA, but there was also a recent article in a well-respected German newspaper, Zeit. (I hear that Zeit is analogous to the Sunday Times.)

There’s been other coverage too, plus a lot more on the way. So I guess now is the time to put this out into the world.

* * *

Where to begin?

The translation deal began with a piece of fan mail last year, early 2012. The message came from Jennifer Kroll, who bought Confessions on Amazon after the book hit #1 in two categories. She found me on Facebook and wrote: “I don’t think I have ever recommended a book that frequently to anyone before, and I work in publishing.”

We talked, and then we talked more. She flew me to Berlin, and then she flew me to Berlin again.

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2013 22 Apr

Meet me in Berlin

I don’t know why I haven’t written this post before now. I’ve been busy, of course. But I think it’s actually because this all feels unreal. Also, I was trying to update my site design before I got to Berlin, and there were technical difficulties — but it’s done now! I apologize in advance for hiccups while the site transitions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Plus, my new site is beside the point. The point is: I’m in Berlin. If you’re in Berlin, then you should totally meet me at the Liberate, 7pm Wednesday evening (April 24th). And the news gets bigger: I have a translation deal with a real German publisher, and I’m in Berlin on a real promotional tour.

Yes indeed — my little self-published book has been picked up by a real German publisher, and my publisher has flown me to Berlin! Check out the German-language cover for Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser:

I laugh with excitement whenever I look at that cover. It is soooo European and amazing! The title is not a direct translation of Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser — it translates instead as Evil Guys?: Out And About With Pickup Artists. A Close Encounter / Experiment.

I’ve only been here in Berlin for a couple days so far, but I have already interviewed at BILD — Europe’s largest newspaper — and I guess that article is going live soon. There’s another interview with me in the April 15th issue of NEON Magazine — I don’t know what the interview actually says because they translated it into German, but my publisher told me it came out great. I’ve also interviewed at FluxFM, an alternative radio station — the sound clip starts with the host introducing me in German, but the interview is in English because I don’t speak German. I have a ton of other interviews this week, including TV appearances. I am both terrified and thrilled.

I’m sharing my terror and thrills on Twitter, as always. If you’re in Berlin, then again, please come meet me at 7pm on Wednesday the 24th. And I’ll write more when I’m less jetlagged. I have a lot to share. I can’t believe I didn’t write about this sooner. It’s just that I was so busy at home, and then I’ve been so busy in Berlin. And this didn’t feel real until now.

2012 16 Sep

[continued] New Pickup Artist Discussion Thread

The comment debate after my previous article on pickup artists, Rapey Pickup Artists: Analysis Of A Field Report, has been long and intense. Long enough that the page is getting hard to load for some folks.

So we’re starting a new thread. Although really it’s because I wanted to put up a picture of this guy:

Zorro could definitely pick me up.

(Also, Isabel Allende wrote a pretty decent Zorro novel.)

2012 29 Jul

Rapey Pickup Artists: Analysis Of A Field Report

UPDATE, September 2012: The Field Report that I linked below was just modified in response to criticism. (The author showed up at my blog and talked about it with us here at Comment #80.) I still have serious problems with the author’s attitudes, but I will admit that the post is better than it used to be; he’s trying to build a career, so perhaps he took my point that asshole PUAs will be frozen out of the market. The excerpts that I quote below were accurate when I quoted them, and I stand by everything I said.

* * *

When I wrote my awesome book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, I did my best to present a relatively balanced picture of the pickup artist (PUA) subculture. I tried to show good facets, bad facets, and shades-of-grey facets. Perhaps inevitably, a lot of people — some of whom I respect — felt that I was over-generous to this strange mix of analytical nerds, hedonists, entrepreneurs, and misogynist assholes. Others felt that I was over-judgmental.

Many feminists claim that the culture, mores, and/or tactics within the PUA community encourage rape. In my book, I quote one feminist who said: “I’m just going to come right out and say it: PUAs rape women through coercion and manipulation. Full stop.” I think that’s an overblown blanket statement rooted in a simplistic view of the community. But also in my book, I described a written report from one PUA in which he basically documented a date rape. And after I published the book, a reader sent me a link to one of the more unsettling PUA forum threads I’ve seen (thanks Jon).

I would’ve broken this thread down in the book if I’d seen it before publication. I didn’t, so I’m breaking it down for you now. I do want to start with two important caveats:

A. This does not represent all PUAs. Some guys really do get into the community because they’re having trouble figuring out answers to questions like, “How do I ask that cute girl in class for her number?” This kind of thing is, however, one reason that lots of guys who found decent advice in parts of the community won’t associate themselves with the community as a whole.

B. PUAs are not the only people who do this. PUAs did not invent this. Other people are doubtless out doing this. PUAs are just the ones who have jargon for it and document it publicly on message boards.

Here’s the thread. (It’s posted on the forum for Real Social Dynamics — for those of you who read The Game, that’s Tyler Durden a.k.a. Owen Cook’s company.) If you usually stop reading when there’s a trigger warning, you should probably stop reading now.

Let the games begin:

Thread title: Lie your way inside a womans vagina (People with morals DO NOT READ)

First sentence: When i pull girls and fuck them, i cheat, i lie, and i steal (their booze). And i feel good about it, cause in the end girls like to be outsmarted and physically and mentally dominated.

We’re off to a good start, and by “good start” I mean “this thread already makes me want to shoot myself in the face.” Sidenote: when I see words like “dominated” used in this context, I feel the immediate need to give everyone involved a lecture on S&M 101. Yes, some women are sexually submissive, but not all; also, submissive women still want to be respected, not generally treated like garbage. And since we’re talking about submissive heterosexual ladies, I’ll throw in a link to a piece of mine about men and feminism and dominance, too.

Onward! Next, the writer describes his main type of lady target: The retarded, drunk and fucking hot 18 years old. … Dont let the friends see you.

Pick someone drunk and inexperienced, and isolate her from her friends? I’m amazed how blatant this dude is about being an asshole. People, this is one reason we keep an eye on our drunk friends at nightclubs. While it’s not your fault if your friend gets in trouble, sometimes there’s a chance that you could provide support at a crucial time.

Also! A broader note on the nature of abuse: abusers very commonly seek to break their targets’ social connections.

Pace it a little bit so a vibe actually forms but never let her time to think, otherwise shea going to see her friends, and you’re done. Once you pulled her away from the friends, made out, and have a somewhat chill vibe going on (takes 15 -30mins), you say “this bar sucks, lets go to another bar”.

Based on this self-reported evidence, this guy is somewhat charming. Charming people can still be assholes and/or predators. And people, this is one reason that if a friend disappears at a nightclub, even for 15 minutes, we make sure we know where she is.

If she wants to know where it is, you say 2 min walk. … Once youre out, walk 2 blocks away from the bar. get in a cab and go to your house. If she objects, say its too cold/hot to walk./ Its just 5 min/i just wanna kiss/ can we kiss?/ ignore what she says and physically force her. If you cant verbally and physically dominate a drunk 18 yo girl that likes you, please kill yourself.

Outright lying in order to get a girl home is not an uncommon PUA tactic. It’s happened to me; I wrote about it in Confessions. (Spoiler: the PUA did not succeed in his goal.)

To get inside your house, tell her you need to get money before you guys go to the bar.

To all the women who might find themselves in this situation: If a guy tells you you’re going one place and you mysteriously end up in another with zero discussion, then firstly, let me tell you that it is not your fault. You don’t deserve to be dealing with this.

I suspect that for a lot of people in this moment, the big question would be “How the fuck do I get out of this in the lowest-stress way?” So, here’s a tactic for you: “Okay, you go up and get the money. I’ll stay here in the cab.”

Later in the thread, a PUA actually asks for advice on what to do if a woman does this. The original writer says that he would stay in the cab and make it a waiting game, basically. But it’s a cab, so he can’t make it too much of a waiting game, and you always have the option of saying “Look dude, I think I’m just gonna take this cab back to meet my friends at the original bar.”

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2012 7 Jun

“The S&M Feminist” NOW AVAILABLE, plus: reading tomorrow in Berlin!

At long last!

I’ve learned from my previous experiences. This time, I’m releasing all formats of The S&M Feminist: Best Of Clarisse Thorn at the same time.

* Click here to buy it for Amazon Kindle for $5.99.

* Click here to buy it for other ebook formats at Smashwords, also $5.99.

* And click here to buy it in paperback for $14.99.

* Also! If you’re in Berlin (or you know someone who is), I will be reading from The S&M Feminist and answering questions at Schwelle 7 on Friday at 8pm. Here’s the event on Facebook. I have totally gone international!

For this collection, I included all the articles that readers requested, and many more; I’ve written quite a lot since I started in 2008. There are 48 pieces in all, plus introductions describing the context in which I wrote them and thoughts I’ve had since writing them. Plus cute “study guides” in case you like that sort of thing! I recommend S&M resources, too, and have a glossary of common S&M terms.

The amazing adult sex educator Charlie Glickman, of Good Vibrations fame, has already posted a great review of The S&M Feminist. Excerpt:

Clarisse isn’t afraid to talk about her own experiences with BDSM, relationships, and sexual politics. But she’s also not afraid to explore some of the issues around consent, violence, and safety that a lot of the kink cheerleaders would like to sweep under the rug. She brings a refreshing honesty to her writing that is often lacking. Add to that a deep commitment to feminism and sex-positivity, and you have an amazing combination.

The tension between kink and feminism is a tough one to hold onto and most people end up firmly in one camp or the other. What makes Clarisse’s writing phenomenal is her steadfast refusal to avoid doing that. The clarity with which she discusses both sides without resorting to caricatures or stereotypes is simultaneously inspiring and challenging. If you’re interested in either or both, I can’t recommend her enough.

Thank you, Charlie! And on Facebook, the writer Alyssa Royse said:

I’m not especially into S&M and struggle with the word “feminist.” But Clarisse’s writing about autonomous sexuality is second to none. She can help you find peace and power in your own ideas of sexuality in a way that few can, simply by being brazenly and powerfully true to herself, in the gentle way that only someone who isn’t trying to please anyone else can be.

Now just for completeness, here’s the full book description:

Clarisse Thorn is a sex-positive activist who has been writing about love, S&M, sex, gender, and relationships since 2008. Her writing has appeared across the Internet in places like The Guardian, AlterNet, Feministe, Jezebel, The Good Men Project, and Time Out Chicago — and this is a selection of her best articles. Also included is Clarisse’s commentary on the context in which she wrote each piece, the process of writing it, and how she’s changed since then. Plus, there are “study guides” to help readers get the maximum mileage from each section!

Clarisse has delivered sexuality workshops and lectures to a variety of audiences, including museums and universities across the USA. In 2009, she created and curated the ongoing Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s historic feminist site, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. In 2010, she returned from working on HIV mitigation in southern Africa. She has also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable S&M institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. For anyone with an interest in activism, S&M, polyamory (open relationships), dating dynamics and/or sex theory, this book is guaranteed to give you plenty to think about.

Yes! Buy it! Kindle. Or Smashwords. Or paperback. And tell your friends. Your lovers. Your reading group. Your local dungeon. And anyone who’s anywhere near Berlin. (San Francisco, I’m coming for you next ….)

2012 1 May

Relationship Tools: Monogamy, Polyamory, Competition, and Jealousy

This was originally published at the gender-lens site Role/Reboot, under the title “When Jealousy is a Turn-On.”

* * *

The above image is from the art site PostSecret.com. People send postcards to PostSecrets with real secrets written on them. This one says, “I wish you would stop comparing me to your kinky ex.”

* * *

Last year, I wrote a piece called “In Praise of Monogamy.” I currently practice polyamory in my relationships, but I spent years dating monogamously. I’ve noticed that when people talk about monogamy, they usually either assume that it’s the only way to go … or they assume that it has to be thrown out the window entirely.

I think this either-or approach is completely wrongheaded. So the goal of “In Praise of Monogamy” was to talk about the advantages of monogamy in a more neutral, nuanced way. Different relationship models are all tools in a toolbox, and some people are better with some tools than others.

“In Praise of Monogamy” was probably one of my most successful articles ever — it was republished at a ton of websites, including high-profile venues like The Guardian. Simultaneously, the article received mixed comments. Some people felt that I wasn’t praising monogamy enough; others felt that I wasn’t praising non-monogamy enough; there were lots of other frustrations too. My big takeaway was that these conversations don’t happen enough, most people aren’t used to having them, and it’s really hard to know where to start.

Jealousy is one obvious starting point, because people always bring it up in conversations about non-monogamy. I talked about jealousy in “In Praise of Monogamy.” Specifically, I wrote:

Some people experience jealousy more than, or less than, or differently from other people. Plenty of people in non-monogamous relationships experience jealousy — and plenty of non-monogamous people handle it just fine, through open-hearted communication. (Often, jealousy is managed through very detailed relationship agreements such as this fascinating polyamory “relationship contract”.)

But there are also plenty of people who appear to lack the “jealousy chip.”

And then there are plenty of people who experience so much jealousy, who feel that jealousy is such a big part of their emotional makeup, that the best way to manage it is simply through monogamy.

Personally, I used to get a lot more jealous than I do now. I think I’m less likely to get jealous these days partly because I’ve gotten better at finding low-drama men. Jealousy has a reputation for being an irrational emotion, and sometimes it genuinely is an unreasonable, cruel power-grab. But I think jealousy is often quite rational, and often arises in response to a genuine emotional threat … or deliberate manipulation.

There’s another reason, though … I’ve also noticed that some switch in my brain has flipped, and I’ve started to eroticize jealousy. I occasionally find myself fantasizing about men I care about sleeping with other women, and sometimes the fantasy is hot because I feel mildly jealous. I cannot explain how this happened. It surprised me the first time it happened, believe me. What’s really fascinating is that I think the same part of me that eroticizes jealousy, is the part that used to make me feel sick at the thought of my partner sleeping with someone else. S&M masochism: the gift that never stops giving!

I think it’s important to note here that I didn’t become less jealous because I felt like I “should,” or because I was told not to be jealous. In fact, I had an early boyfriend who acted like I was a hysterical bitch every time I got jealous … and he made things much worse. With him, I just felt awful when I got jealous; I couldn’t get past it. I felt like he was judging me for something I couldn’t help; I felt like my mind was fragmenting as I tried to force myself to “think better” without any outside support; and worst of all, I felt like I couldn’t rely on him to respect my feelings.

It was the men who treated my emotions like they were reasonable and understandable who decreased my jealousy. It’s much harder to be jealous when your partner is saying, “I totally understand,” than it is when your partner is saying, “What the hell is the matter with you?” Maybe that’s what makes monogamy such an effective jealousy-management tactic: monogamy can be like a great big sign or sticker or button you can give to your partner that says, “I respect your jealousy.” Which is not to say that monogamy is always effective for this — we all know that monogamous people get jealous all the time! (Which only adds to my point that monogamy might be viewed as just one of many tactics, rather than an answer, when jealousy is a problem.)

Now, back to the current article. Jealousy is a hot-button topic, so I’m nervous about this, but let’s focus in on it a little more.

* * *

The Feeling of Jealousy

Jealousy and its cousin, competition, are both things that happen a lot in relationships. Some people are so uncomfortable acknowledging this that they repress those feelings, or ignore the behavior that goes along with them … but I’ve rarely seen that end well.

I believe that some people lack jealousy and competitive urges … but I’ve also seen a lot of people who feel those things but can’t admit it. Not even to themselves.

I dated a guy last year who told me at the start of our relationship that he never got jealous. At first I took him at his word, but I quickly noticed that he changed the subject aggressively when I mentioned past lovers. We had a mutual friend with whom I had a lot of chemistry; when the three of us were together, my boyfriend acted uncomfortable and irritable, and when I specifically acted in ways that made it obvious I was with him — like by giving him Public Displays of Affection in front of the other guy — he relaxed.

I sighed internally when I observed this, and I felt frustrated, but wasn’t sure how to talk about it without sounding like I was calling him a liar. Fortunately, he brought it up later. “I think I do get jealous sometimes, and I just don’t like to think about it because it makes me feel like a bad person,” he said, one night while we were making dinner. In that moment, my respect for him skyrocketed. It’s hard for people to keep track of themselves like that, and to shift their self-image when confronted with new evidence.

Some people seem to interpret their lovers’ jealousy as a sign of love. I’ll admit that I’ve had moments of being flattered or pleased when my boyfriends show signs of jealousy — or when they act a little competitive. Sometimes those things are scary, though … or threatening … or frustrating, like in my example above. It’s complicated!

However, I often see those dynamics play out in ways that the participants won’t admit, no matter how much evidence comes up. I think it gets especially complicated when people experience jealousy as a sexual thing, a turn-on. Most people have a hard enough time discussing their sexuality in the first place. When you add an ingredient as controversial as jealousy, the potential discussions become much more combustible.

When I was researching pickup artists for my awesome book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, I found a number of discussions in that community that praise competitive feelings because they’re seen as making the relationship more fun. A lot of these guys say competition among different lovers within open relationships is awesome because it keeps everyone a little uncertain, and encourages them to be “on top of their game.” This contrasts drastically with most polyamorous perspectives; in my experience, poly folks see jealousy and competition as things that should be compartmentalized and managed very carefully, rather than encouraged or exalted. For polyamory theorists, a feeling of safety is often the goal, as opposed to a feeling of competition.

And emotional safety is certainly a concern, because jealousy is one of the most intense and overwhelming emotions out there. It’s a hard feeling to sit with and work through. My worst experiences of jealousy felt like I was choking, like I couldn’t breathe, like I was sick to my stomach, like I was terribly obsessed, like I couldn’t think of anything but the jealousy and how much it hurt. And yet … I’ve occasionally felt jealousy that was weak, almost nice, where I felt a little twinge of it and turned to my lover and got reassured … and that made me feel more safe, more cared for, more loved.

The bottom line is that people experience jealousy and competitive urges in many different ways. It’s important to acknowledge that and honor it. I don’t see it as productive to frame things like “jealousy is bad,” or “competition is awesome.” I’d much rather frame things like: “Jealousy and competition happen sometimes, and how do we deal with them when they come up so that everyone involved feels comfortable and happy?”

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2012 30 Apr

Inter-Generational Relationships; Another Pickup Artist Interview; Modesty; and more

In mid-December, I took on the role of editing the Sex + Relationships Section at the gender-lens site Role/Reboot. Role/Reboot is a nonprofit organization that is specifically designed to talk about gender issues with an audience that has little exposure to them.  This editorship has been a bit of an experiment for me, and there are aspects of it that I struggle with. The focus of the site has narrowed since I came on board; there’s less and less space for me to write and feature the kind of in-depth sexual analysis that I’m naturally inclined towards.

But these changes are part of the site finding its voice and its niche, and being accessible to a wide range of people. So while I struggle with it, I’m trying to go with it for now, and see what happens.

I don’t choose every piece that is published in the Sex + Relationships section, but I choose a lot of them. (My writers contribute to other sections, too.) Here are some of my favorites since early February, when I wrote my last post highlighting Role/Reboot articles:

* The Story of Leah and Vanessa, written by Rachel Swirsky (who is part of the team at Alas! A Blog). Rachel is an amazing feminist writer who actually won the Nebula award for one of her science fiction novellas. She writes with a lot of nuance; this piece is an examination of one cross-generational relationship that works, and the pitfalls of cross-generational relationships in general.

* I Taught Men to Pick Up Women: A Q&A with Former Dating Coach Mark Manson, by me! For this, I interviewed Mark, who features heavily in my book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. (Mark has his own site at PostMasculine.com). He’s a smart and empathic guy, and while I certainly don’t always agree with him, I always find his perspective interesting.

* Ask An Internet Sociopath, co-written by me and Internet Sociopath (who has a mind-bending Twitter account @AskASociopath). Internet Sociopath is one of my recurring commenters; those of you who have been reading for a while might remember some of his comments. I’ve never quite known what to make of him, but who could pass up a sociopath advice column?

* How Modesty Hurts Men Too, written by Sierra (who is part of the team at No Longer Quivering). I love Sierra’s work; she writes about her experiences leaving the evangelical Christian Quiverfull movement, and a while back I arranged for her piece on leaving for college to be reposted at Feministe. This article talks about how what she terms “the modesty doctrine” harms men as well as women. It follows her piece about modesty and self-harm, How Modesty Made Me Fat.

* Male Kindness Isn’t Always A Mask For Desire, written by a gentleman who called himself “Too Shy For This.” The gent asked not to publish the piece under his real name because he feels that it comes off as a bit arrogant. It’s a brief piece about how women often assume that male kindness = interest in sex, and what that might imply for many women’s wider perspectives.

Moving forward, Role/Reboot is specifically focusing on personal narratives and timely cultural critiques that are pegged to a recent news item. If you’re interested in pitching me your own work, or you know someone who is, please do get in touch with me: clarisse at rolereboot dot org.

2012 25 Apr

My Interview with World-Famous Pickup Coach Adam Lyons, and Updates to “Confessions”

Right after I released Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, I met the world-famous pickup artist Adam Lyons at the SXSW-interactive conference, where I announced the book release and spoke on a panel about feminism and pickup artistry. I seized the chance to interview Adam and add his perspective to my book. You can read the interview below, and it is currently part of Confessions, but the process of updating the book was weird enough that I want to talk about that first. If you don’t care about the intricacies of ebook publishing, then you should skip down to the photo of Adam and his wife.

(Adam Lyons is not the same Adam as my partner in Confessions, by the way. They’re totally different Adams. If I’d known Adam Lyons before I published Confessions, then I would have given “my” Adam a different pseudonym. C’est la vie.)

I’m learning a lot of lessons from publishing Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. It’s been so interesting and challenging … although I feel kinda bad for my readers, who are in the role of guinea pigs as I test new approaches! Thanks for your patience, folks. I promise that the release of The S&M Feminist: Best of Clarisse Thorn will go much more smoothly.

Publishing an ebook with Amazon Kindle can be frustrating, but Kindle is such a big platform that it can’t be ignored. The next biggest ebook publisher is Smashwords; unlike Smashwords, if I update the Kindle file, the change takes a while to register. What’s worse, if I make a change and I want the people who already bought the Kindle book to receive the change, then I have to email Amazon and ask them to allow those folks to download the new version. On Smashwords, a person who’s bought the book can download any version, anytime.

Anyway, I emailed Amazon around March 20th, telling them that I’d fixed some technical errors (a few footnote links) and added a new section. I asked Amazon to allow people who already paid for the book to download the new version. (This request was in line with their policy as I understood it from a previous email exchange.) I also asked them to let readers know that if they don’t want to download the new version of the book, they could find the extra section on my blog.

So this morning, I got a message from one of my readers, telling me that Amazon sent her the following message yesterday (April 24th — over a month after I filed the original request!):

We are happy to announce that an updated version of your past Kindle purchase of Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men by Clarisse Thorn is now available. The version you received had the following issues that have been corrected:

Significant editorial issues were present.
Also, new content has been added.

Then the email explains how to download the new version, with no further details about the changes. Sigh. Oh well. I apologize for the confusion. I thought it would be easy to update the book with my Adam Lyons interview, but it seems that the reality — even with e-publishing — is that a work should be treated as complete from the first day it’s on the market.

Anyway, if you bought Confessions before March 20th, then you should now be able to download the new version on either Smashwords or Kindle. (The physical copies are totally up-to-date; I released them on April 15th.)

And! Without further ado, here’s the section about Adam Lyons. It appears at the end of Chapter 6: Down The Rabbit Hole.

* * *

Adam Lyons with his wife, Amanda.

After I released this book, I was recruited for a panel about feminism and pickup artistry at the South-by-Southwest Interactive conference. It was a really interesting panel that included the famous PUA coach Adam Lyons. Naturally, I grabbed the chance to interview Adam Lyons so that I could add his perspective to this book. (Since the interview took place after this book’s initial release, you know you’re reading Confessions Version 2.0 if you’re reading this sentence right now.)

We met in an apartment that Adam Lyons rents for PUA training courses. The place contained a hefty amount of booze, a bunch of leftover pizza, and some instructors who were all worn out after a weekend of teaching. The guys invited me to go play Lazer Tag after the interview, but I regretfully had to decline.

Adam Lyons is one of nine coaches listed as “significant figures” in the Wikipedia entry for the seduction community. Compared to some other top coaches, he’s relatively new, but he got into the community when it was still pretty underground. “In maybe 2005 or 2006,” he told me, “The Game had just come out. I was halfway through reading The Game and I knew I had to try this. So I managed to find this bootcamp company and get in touch with them. My contact was like, ‘Come and meet me in a Chinese restaurant,’ so I took an envelope full of cash and I met him in a Chinese restaurant. He took the cash and counted it, and told me to meet the group in a particular bar later that week.”

“What did you learn?” I asked.

“In my first program, I learned the ‘fall on the floor technique,’ where you run up to a girl and you just fall on the floor. It was ridiculous.”

I laughed. “That would totally work on me. I’d think it was hilarious.”

“It can work surprisingly well,” Adam Lyons acknowledged. “But I once introduced a guy to my wife who then kept falling out of his chair, and it was so terrible. Anyway, most of the other ‘techniques’ didn’t work at all. For example, in that first program, they made me walk up to all these girls in the street and say, ‘I’m the kissing bandit — now you have to kiss me!’ It was so awkward.”

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2012 17 Apr

Can We Make This More Complicated?

Things aren’t black and white. Life is complicated. I’d like to think that these are obvious truths, but how do we express them, how do we understand them, how do we work towards them? Especially while identifying as part of a movement that is, arguably, a blunt ideology … such as feminism?

Some of my most valuable feminist experiences arose from being trained as an advocate for sexual assault survivors. Advocates are called in for crisis counseling and to help survivors understand the options they have for dealing with assault. My training instructed me to foreground three themes while interacting with a survivor:

#1. I believe you.
#2. It’s not your fault.
#3. You have options.

The point is to help survivors cope, and help them find resources. But while these principles seem clear, it’s never even close to un-complicated. A survivor’s story is never reducible to stereotypes or easy choices. The advocate’s role is to be there and listen without judgment — to try and help find a path through a thicket of pain, confusion, stigma, medical problems, and legal issues — and to support the survivor in their choices even if the advocate doesn’t agree with them. The point is to understand, not to judge.

I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of activism I am best suited for: understanding, communicating, building. Telling stories, where appropriate (and keeping confidence, where appropriate).

Of course, there are plenty of people that it’s very difficult to feel empathy for, as a feminist. Rape survivors are a group that feminists are expected to have empathy for, and expected to recognize as having complicated stories; we all know that’s crucial. On the other hand, I recently published a book about pickup artists (a subculture of men who trade tips on how to seduce women), and I’ve taken heat from feminists who feel that I’m over-sympathetic to those guys. Don’t get me wrong: I’m certainly not an “advocate” for pickup artists in the same way that I want to advocate for assault survivors. But I believe that there’s value in empathy here, too.

As one of my feminist friends observed while we discussed the pickup artist book, I am arguably providing a valuable service by giving the men in that subculture a non-judgmental space to look at feminism. Also, by giving them — as my friend put it — “space to be ambivalent about some of the problematic things they do.”

When trying to encourage a person to question what they’re doing, it helps to understand that person first — and to offer them a sense of that understanding. I think there are a lot of icky things about the pickup artist community, and some terrible people in it. But it’s not black-and-white, and there are decent guys who learn the tactics too. If a guy is trying to learn tactics for seducing women, is he doing it out of loneliness? Or perhaps out of desire for a strange revenge on the “opposite” sex? What about both? How would these different motives change my interactions with him, perhaps even enable me to influence the way he thinks about women? With me, could he have the space to heal the damage he himself has retained from our broken social norms around sex and gender? And how does understanding his perspective make my own richer — how does it make things more complicated?

* * *

One of the exciting things about being an Internet writer is that my old writing never goes away. It’s always there, cached and mirrored and easily found by both friends and enemies. Obviously, this is also one of the most un-exciting things about being an Internet writer. It’s rare that I completely disagree with an older article that I’ve written; but there are some old articles that make me feel self-conscious, because I understand the complexity of those topics much better today, and my opinions have become much more nuanced.

An example would be the way that I’ve written about BDSM and abuse. I write a lot about my experiences with consensual BDSM — Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism — and I’m a feminist, but BDSM has always been a controversial topic within feminism. Sometimes it’s been controversial enough that BDSMer-feminists have been silenced: an editor at the iconic feminist magazine Ms. once threatened to leave if the magazine published an article by a masochistic woman, and thereby successfully buried the topic. Sometimes it’s been controversial enough to inspire non-consensual violence: a group of radical feminists literally attacked a lesbian BDSM club with crowbars sometime around the 1980s, claiming that they did it in the name of ending violence against women.

So being a BDSMer-feminist makes for defensiveness, and I began from a defensive position. My first post about BDSM and abuse was called “Evidence that the BDSM Community Does Not Enable Abuse,” and outlined initiatives within the community that oppose abusive BDSM. Around the same time, I remember making comments I now regret, comments that I believed were critical but were actually harsh towards survivors — or comments that gave too sunny a view of the BDSM community, which is far from flawless. My next post on the topic, eighteen months later, was more empathic and complex. It was called “The Alt Sex Anti-Abuse Dream Team,” and outlined how I would personally create an anti-abuse initiative that was friendly to alternative sexuality abuse survivors.

Now, these posts seem simple to me, but I was growing out of my defensiveness. I started feeling like I was genuinely moving the conversation forward when I wrote a post called “Thinking More Clearly About BDSM vs. Abuse,” in which I wrote specifically about examples of abusive behavior within the community, and used radical feminist theory about abusive relationships to reflect on how a non-abusive BDSM relationship could look. Building bridges; creating synthesis rather than antithesis.

Women with strong and different sexual desires exist, and especially with the Internet, we can’t be permanently silenced. (Although even on the Internet, there are still some attempts; my comments are often deleted on sites associated with radical feminism, such as the Anti-Porn Men Project, though I do my absolute best to comment inoffensively.) But I try to push aside my self-righteousness, because I really don’t want this to be a fight where all I do is scream “BDSM can be feminist!” I want to acknowledge and deal with real problems, like how BDSM might be used as a cover for abuse and how we can deal with that. I want to be established in cooperation, not resistance. I want to move things forward; I want to make things more complicated.

(more…)

2012 3 Apr

April Fool’s Day… and some things I actually believe

Firstly, just in case anyone missed the update: my previous post was an April Fool’s joke. There is a long list of things that I don’t believe in that post, and I decided to write a post to cover the big ones.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Anyway! Things I Said In My April Fools Post That Contradict My Beliefs:

* The most important thing I don’t believe is that cheating is a good example of polyamorous leanings. While I’m sure some people resolve non-monogamous leanings by cheating, I see cheating in a monogamous relationship as a huge red flag, even if that person later decides to be polyamorous. This isn’t to say that people who cheat are Incontrovertibly Bad People, and I understand that relationships can be very complicated. I try to be empathic to people who feel trapped in relationships for whatever reason, even if they cheat. But the bottom line for me is that polyamory requires a lot of honesty and self-knowledge and integrity, and cheating is usually the opposite of those things.

I will freely admit that I have some intense personal baggage around this topic, but I’m not the only polyamorous person who espouses this view. Many poly people get especially pissed at people who cheat and then label “cheating” as polyamory; that is not okay. Here’s an excerpt from an excellent piece by Technomom called Coming Clean: Transitioning from Cheating to Polyamory:

Note: I use male pronouns in the following article for the sake of simplicity, but I’ve encountered both men and women in this situation. My advice is the same to both.

Frequently, newcomers to various poly groups introduce themselves with a tale of woe. Alas, after entering into a committed monogamous relationship (usually a marriage), the poor man has just discovered that he is, in fact, polyamorous. In most cases, the newcomer has already strayed into infidelity, and wishes to have his cake and eat it too now. He asks for advice regarding how he can convince his wife to accept the relationship with the new lover so that they can all live happily ever after.

The newcomer, who I’ll call Phil, is usually surprised to find that he is not, in fact, welcomed with open arms. Most of us are very hostile to people who cheat on their partners and call it polyamory, because that has absolutely nothing to do with how we are living our lives.

… In over 20 years of being polyamorous and knowing other poly people, I have never, not even once, known of anyone who has been able to move from an affair in a monogamous relationship to a healthy polyamorous relationship involving the same people. I’ve known of people who did cheat on their partners in monogamous relationships who later moved on to be polyamorous, but they did not salvage the original monogamous relationship.

I’ve known people whose spouses cheated on them in monogamous relationships who ended the monogamous relationship, then went on to explore polyamory very happily themselves. (That fact surprises a fair number of those seeking help in this situation.) What you have to realize is that the real issue between you and your spouse right now is not polyamory or sex. It is your betrayal of the agreements between the two of you. It is about your dishonesty and dishonorable behavior. You have broken her trust.

She then gives advice anyways, and I think it’s really good advice.

* My standards for consent and communication are not “too complex.” What does it even mean to have standards for consent and communication that are “too complex”?

* I don’t believe that “true submission” is about allowing your partner to dictate your life, and I think any statement about “what submission really means” is intensely problematic. Submission (and dominance, and every other type of S&M) is different for everyone; for more on this, there’s always my post BDSM Roles, “Topping From The Bottom,” and “Service Top”.

Sometimes, in the middle of a really intense BDSM scene, I will enjoy having my partner tell me to do something that I actually really hate … but this is not the norm for me, it requires a lot of trust and intense connection, and I certainly don’t think it’s a good norm for everyone. I explored this a bit in my post on Anger, Fear and Pain.

Also, while I accept that some people are cool with it if their partners demand major life changes as part of the S&M relationship … that’s not how I do things personally. And I have trouble imagining any situation in which I’d choose a man over my writing. If a guy really feels so threatened by my writing that he wants me to stop entirely, then we are a terrible match and I’m kind of surprised we started dating in the first place.

* I would never use the phrase “real man” outside a sarcastic context. It capitalizes on too many socially-inculcated male insecurities that I think are completely unfair. For more on this, I really like Charlie Glickman’s article Picking And Choosing From The “Act Like A Man” Box. I’ve also explored the topic of masculinity in many places, including my old “questions” series and obviously in my super awesome book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser.

* I love the Beatles, but I was always skeptical of the quotation “Love is the answer.” I mean, love is awesome, don’t get me wrong; I’m very pro-love and pro-empathy. But … “the answer”? The answer to what? Does this mean we never have to work on our relationships or make space for each other because love will magically make everything work? My most problematic ex-boyfriend once told me “I just want to feel like you love me more than you love yourself,” which was the point that I should’ve walked out the door. Anyone who says something like that does not have your best interests at heart.

* Finally, “You have the second prettiest hair I’ve ever seen” is just not a very good neg, at least not for me. I like my negs served with epoxy, thank you.

The image at the top of this post shows a classical Greek-style picture of a couple at a table, except that the woman is smoking a cigarette and the man is reading a newspaper and the table is kind of Victorian-looking and there are coffee cups. I have no idea where it came from but I love it so much.