Clueless: Autism and the PUA Community

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When the average person thinks of autism, or Asperger’s, she likely thinks of the stereotypical social difficulties. Because social problems are often the easiest to see and notice, neurotypicals have a tendency to think of autism as a largely (if not entirely) social disorder. While this is far from the truth, it is not an entirely unreasonable point of view. Social difficulties unite those of us with ASDs, and many of us share similar struggles with cognitive empathy*, nonverbal communication, and unwritten social rules.

Yet, while we flounder with social skills, these superpowers seem to come naturally to neurotypicals. Despite the fact that such intuitive social graces may elude autistics, many of these skills can be learned with the help of the right tools. Autistics will always have to put forth more conscious effort during social interaction, but education can be surprisingly effective in the battle against social disability. In this modern age, resources like the Internet have laid the needed tools at our feet. All a young autistic need do to begin his research is open a tab in his web browser.

But beware, brave adventurer, when you step outside your door.

Autistics desperate to learn the social skills intuitive to neurotypicals are faced with a frustrating paradox, at times amusing, yet more often tragic: Those who know the least are also the least equipped to differentiate between helpful and toxic advice.

One such niche that aims to teach social skills to the unenlightened is the Pick-Up Artist (“PUA”) community. In this post, we will explore the world of Pick-Up Artistry, and how it both aids and cripples autistics.

For those who may not be familiar with the PUA community, I will use the Wikipedia definition of a “pick-up artist”:

A man who trains in the skills and art of finding, attracting, and seducing women. Such a man purportedly abides by a certain system deemed effective by that community in his attempts to seduce women.

The PUA community exists for two distinct reasons, one legitimate, and one vaguely (and often explicitly) sinister:

  1. To teach the socially awkward and naïve how to navigate social situations and become confident in their romantic pursuits, and
  2. To teach men how to easily have sex with women.

Many of those who read and make use of PUA literature are in the first group; these are well-intentioned individuals who just want to learn how to make friends, find romantic partners, and feel more comfortable socializing. But more often than not, self-styled PUAs are entitled misogynists who view social interaction as a game for all the wrong reasons, approaching romance as a battle to be won or lost, disregarding the feelings and desires of the women they manipulate and reducing them to objects.

It has probably already occurred to you why a discussion on the PUA community is relevant to the plight of autistics struggling to teach themselves social skills.

There is a startlingly fine line between the two major mindsets present in the PUA community, and a socially disabled autistic with little natural intuition for these kinds of social codes can easily become swept up into The Game and indoctrinated into the second group.

Before I get too deep into my criticisms, I want to pause to say that I recognize the value in certain PUA guides, and that I myself have learned a great deal about social interaction from PUA literature. The concept itself—analyzing socialization and breaking down human connection into logically explained steps and rules—is not inherently wrong, and can be very useful for autistics.

I’ve encountered many neurotypicals who believe that such things are inherently wrong and manipulative, who believe that referring to social interaction as a game (as in resources like The Games People Play, by Eric Berne) is cold, artificial, and totally defeats the purpose of such interaction. But these opinions always seem to come from those to whom these games come naturally, those that don’t see the game, and don’t realize they are already playing. These are the kind of neurotypicals who can’t empathize with the plight of someone who might need to be taught such basic things as how to introduce oneself to a group of strangers, or how to start a conversation with a girl at a party.

So, if you are one of those people who has always felt that learning how to escalate a flirtatious situation to the point where one can naturally transition to a kiss is manipulative, and inherently wrong, know that you are half right. It is manipulative, because all communication is inherently manipulative*, but it is not necessarily wrong. Just because you have done such a thing without having to learn and remember the steps doesn’t mean your unconscious method is any more “right.”

Every animal communicates, both intentionally and unintentionally. A large colorful tail on a male peacock communicates his resource gathering proficiency and overall health (as seen in his ability to grow and carry so much mass), as well as his fitness in surviving (he is alive despite this wacky hindrance that weighs him down and makes him more visible to predators). A male seagull bringing a female a piece of food during the courtship period communicates his ability to provide future resources, should she choose to make a nest with him. One human leaning closer to another while making prolonged eye contact, glancing briefly to the mouth of the second, then resuming the prolonged eye contact, communicates a desire to kiss their partner. While most neurotypicals would engage in that last scenario intuitively, an autistic may need to learn the meaning of such a sequence in order to understand or utilize it.

Once upon a time, as an awkward 15-year-old with no knowledge of autism, before I had begun intentionally researching social cues, I found myself in the middle of many such situations with my first boyfriend. Worried that if I showed too much enthusiasm I would be shamed for my feelings, like some bastardized internalization of the plight of Helga Pataki in Hey! Arnold, I accepted his hugs with the stiffest imitation of nonchalance I could muster. He would let go and pull away, and we would stare at each other, nervously trying to figure out what to do next (because of course we both knew what should come next). His gaze darted back and forth between my eyes and my mouth, and every time I saw this and thought, “Wow, he’s so uncomfortable right now. I’m no good at this. He probably just wants to leave.” Looking back on those afternoons I laugh (and cringe). I’m sure the poor kid just wanted to kiss me, and had no idea how to go about it. And I know for a fact that my anxious misinterpretations of his flitting gaze made everything that much worse. My desperate, sexually frustrated, self-sabotaging teenage self could surely have benefitted from PUA literature.

And yet, PUA literature often causes more harm than good, especially for the autistics that need it most.  While I know that if I’d stumbled upon such a thing as a young teen I might have conquered my fears and actually kissed that boy, I’m glad I didn’t find the PUA community until much later. By the time I first started to read PUA guides I was a self-aware adult, armed with an ASD diagnosis, and educated on the merits of empathy, equality, and compassion. I was able to sift through the garbage to find the take-home messages of truth. The same cannot be said for most autistics exposed to this community.

Perhaps the biggest problem with “Pick-Up Artistry” is the way in which the literature views and talks about women. This is a community of mostly men in an inherently privileged position who struggle to empathize with the women they are targeting. While many of the core truths at the heart of PUA are grounded in logic, these truths are easily interpreted by those who lack cognitive empathy in a way that dehumanizes and objectifies women. To make matters worse, much of this advice is explicitly objectifying in and of itself.

An example that embodies both of these issues is one of the most common elements of PUA literature, as well as one of the most controversial: the “HB” rating scale.

Practical in concept, albeit fairly problematic for (hopefully) obvious reasons, large portions of PUA approach and connection techniques rely on on the context-dependent status of the targeted individual. Put simply, this means that if the aspiring PUA wants to approach and “pick up” a woman, his methods, and how she reacts to them, will depend on her social status.

Common sense, right?

This method becomes problematic because PUAs distill this complex, valid concept into a high school romcom style 1-10 rating scale, called the “HB” scale. “HB” stands for “Hot Babe” (yes, really).

In concept, an “HB5” is going to respond to a direct compliment differently from an “HB10.” This is true, when one keeps in mind that in theory the status described refers not only to physical appearance, but also to social standing, presentation, and context. A pretty girl dressed in a t-shirt and sweatpants, listening to her iPod on the bus, is going to respond to direct approach differently from that same girl in heels and a cocktail dress standing at the bar in a club. Yet not only does this scale inherently objectify women by reducing them to “HB”s, and implying that the whole of their presentation can be condensed to a number from 1 to 10, but this scale completely warps the individual PUA’s view of women.

Take, for example, this self-styled PUA’s explanation of the HB scale:

HB6: would be glad to get approached, feel flattered by a decent compliment

HB7: appreciates flattering attention, but it doesn’t make her day

HB8: probably only wants compliments/cold direct approaches from guys she already has interest in. Will turn down most approaches politely

HB9-10: Expects free drinks at bars, expects to be hit on, interprets men asking for directions on the street as hitting on her (and she’s usually right), might hold out all night, shooting down with sass every guy that approaches, then maybe go home with the guy who impressed her the most that night.

A naïve autistic man who struggles with cognitive empathy will have a hard time putting himself into the figurative shoes of these hypothetical woman, and may nod along with this description: “Ah, I get it! That makes perfect sense! I’m probably about a 5 or a 6, and I would definitely feel flattered if a stranger complimented me!” Even many neurotypical men often think this way; it’s the catch 22 of privilege.  “Flattering attention is always appreciated,” seems like a logical conclusion to these people.

Men often have a hard time empathizing when women don’t appreciate such flattery because they do not live in a world where their physical appearance matters more than every other character trait they possess, where they are raised to believe “men only want one thing,” where that “one thing” is given a very weighty social value that can make or break a woman’s standing, and where she is taught from childhood that men can, and may, take this “one thing” from her through force.

A man perceives a compliment on his physical appearance as flattering, an indication of potential romantic interest, and a comment on a positive quality about himself. While a woman may perceive a compliment from an unknown man on her physical appearance as flattering, in many instances it simply serves as a reminder of things she’d rather not think about (or worse, she may be intimidated). In addition, these condensed scales often ignore context. An “HB6” walking on the sidewalk is not universally “glad to get approached” by a stranger looking to compliment her; she might be late to work, preoccupied with her day and not looking to ward off the potentially violent advances of a cat-caller. Men often seem to forget that women are raised in a world where they are taught from a young age that male sexuality is a violent, uncontrollable thing, and she has no way of knowing whether a compliment from a stranger is really “just” a compliment.

That description of the HB scale also brings to light the toxic view many PUAs have of beautiful, “high status” women.

This PUA’s description of an “HB9-10” woman is that of someone who not only is flirted with often, but also is incredibly entitled. She expects free drinks? She’s probably going to sass every guy that approaches her? The “women are bitches” trope is rampant in the PUA community. PUA literature in no uncertain terms reinforces the idea that beautiful, confident women are mean, selfish people. I can say with certainty that I know a great number of exceptionally beautiful, confident women of high social status who are also incredibly kind, polite, and conscientious. These women don’t sass guys who hit on them, and they don’t treat men like competing bucks and peacocks, “hold[ing] out all night” for the one bellowing alpha male who “impressed her the most.” Sure there are shallow, high status women out there, and there are plenty of normal girls who appreciate unprompted compliments from strangers, but PUA guides instill the message in their readers that all high status women are shallow, and all average, everyday women are desperate for male attention. And we all know that autistics are prone to latching on to such black and white dichotomies.

Another huge problem in the PUA community is its pathologically strict enforcement of a binary gender divide. PUA literature, in large part written by and for men, teaches the reader to “other” women in a very damaging way. This can be seen in the use of systems like the HB1-10 scale. This mindset, that women are so different from men and should be treated and approached very differently, is scattered throughout even the most basic of tips.

For example, this is a tip quoted from a PUA guide to getting close to girls romantically without accidentally creating a purely platonic relationship:

Game every girl. Even if you’re just being friends, the game is always on if there is any potential you’ll want to be more than friends later.

Again, a naïve autistic man who has little experience with women and few, if any, female friends might see this and nod along, taking it as good advice. This is especially true when one considers that most autistic men who lack experience dealing with women find themselves in this position in the first place due to their own inherent “othering” of women. They are afraid to talk to girls, but not boys, because they see girls as inherently different to an almost comically exaggerated degree. The concept of intentionally othering his female friends might seem normal to a person like this. But what this advice is saying is essentially: Make sure you treat all the women you interact with like potential sexual partners, not people, first and foremost. This is the epitome of objectification. A girl becomes not a fellow human who follows a different gender presentation but a Girl, an object of potential romantic interest who, even if there is no interest, must be kept in that box where females belong.

The PUA community is littered with official terms that oversimplify and objectify women. Went on a date that ended in sexual intercourse? Guess what, you didn’t share an enjoyable experience with your partner, you Closed! Brought a girl home who just wanted to make out a little, and doesn’t know you well enough yet to feel comfortable having sex? Don’t respect her autonomy, dude, focus on breaking through that Last Minute Resistance (“LMR”)! Flirting with a girl who’s so hot she must get bored with flirting? Make yourself stand out by bringing her ego down a notch with an insulting Neg! A girl you’ve targeted is trying to let you down gently by telling you she has a boyfriend? Nah, bro, that’s called a Shit Test! Demonstrate your Alpha Male status by cruising right past her clear signals with a witty one-liner like, “That’s okay, I’m not really the jealous type.” Teehee.

Ironically enough, the best pieces of PUA literature are those that don’t directly address picking up women. And the most useful parts of explicit pick-up guides are those that can be applied to all general social circumstances.

Many of the things I’ve learned from the PUA community have become invaluable to me. The key is in the sifting. The PUA community is like a thrift store: if you can dig through the endless racks of moldy, outdated nonsense, you might find something useful.

For example, one unnecessarily gendered, fairly sexist guide called “On Being A Modern Alpha Male” (gag) contains surprisingly helpful techniques for self improvement and confidence building, that I myself try to keep in mind in my everyday life, such as: Be Self-Validated (“You don’t look to others for approval because you know you’re an all-star”); Be Non-Reaction Seeking and Non-Reactive (“You are positive, understanding and beneficial to others yet do not need this fact acknowledged”); Be a Value Giver, Not a Value Taker (“You do not need approval from others. […] Every person you encounter in your life is better off for having met you. You look out for and protect the people in your life”); Be Fun (“You’re able to have fun everywhere you go. […] People want to be with you”); etc. This perfectly good guide to becoming confident via self-improvement is tainted with the gendered ridiculousness of the PUA community, but underneath all the gross “Alpha Male” nonsense is some legitimately good advice. The true take away from guides like these are that if you are a good, genuinely likeable person, you will be more confident, and thus have an easier time navigating social situations.

Amidst the cesspit that is the online PUA community one may find other gems, such as a guide on the “Importance of Projecting an Aura of Happiness and Well-Being.” Another guide, also meant to boost confidence, advertises itself as “10 Resolutions” for self-improvement, and tells the reader things like: exercise, dress nicely, make healthier food choices, smile more, pick up a new hobby, etc. These are tips that build confidence in a natural way.

Frustratingly, many guides contain a tricky mix of helpful and toxic advice, such as one guide addressing “Alpha Body Language & Tonality” (again, why must being a good, likeable person be conflated with this toxic machismo wolf pack silliness?). This particular guide lists a variety of positive ways to improve one’s nonverbal communication, and dissects the natural signals of confident people for the benefit of the not-so-confident, such as: Vocal Projection (confident people are confident in their speech, and not afraid to be heard); Unreactivity (confident people are not dependent on the validation of strangers); Physical Presence (confident people do not worry about the space they occupy, and allow themselves to take up as much space as they need), Stating Your Opinion (confident people are not tentative, they openly share their opinions); Escalation (if you’re flirting, don’t be worried about rejection and make your intentions known, if your feelings are not reciprocated, be “unreactive” and don’t think it reflects your self-worth); Be Comfortable With Silence (panicking to fill pauses vs. staying calm and letting conversation progress naturally); etc.

The problem is learning to sort the good advice from the bad.

That same guide also includes confidence tips that range from easily misinterpreted to downright toxic: Entitlement (“You fully assume that she is yours”); Indifference (“You are emotionally indifferent to her reactions”); Be Unapologetic (“You don’t try to please people, you just tell it like it is”); etc. There’s a fine line between being confident and just being an asshole, and it usually involves being conscientious and genuinely caring. A confident person who feels entitled to someone’s time or attention is an asshole. A confident person who is genuinely indifferent to the reactions of those around them, and is unapologetic when their actions may cross lines, is an asshole. Sure, caring less about other people and feeling more entitled might make you more confident, but it will also make you a jerk.

The test I apply when sifting through these guides—besides my own intuition as a woman who can imagine herself on the receiving end of these behaviors—is to imagine people I know in the real world who are genuinely confident, likeable, good people. Someone who’s naturally confident speaks more loudly than someone shy, and may also take up more bodily space. But I can clearly picture what it looks like when a kind, conscientious, confident person speaks loudly and clearly, and takes up more space because they are relaxed. That confidence looks very different from the kind of loud and space-filling behavior that comes from someone who is confident because they are an asshole. A kind, confident person will be unapologetic when they stand up for what they believe in and defend their own opinions, but will know when to apologize for going too far and hurting someone’s feelings. An asshole will tease and bully to get a reaction and then be “unapologetic” when the recipient feels hurt.

If you are an autistic who lacks confidence in social situations, flirting or otherwise, I do recommend a certain degree of rote learning of logically dissected social games and nonverbal communication. Read body language dictionaries. Read classic books on social interaction and cold reading. Skim PUA guides with a critical eye, and don’t take any advice that wouldn’t work just as well for a woman as for a man. Once you have a basic understanding of certain truths (such as confident people speak more clearly than their shy counterparts, or the basic pattern of flirtatious escalation), spend your time observing confident neurotypicals in their natural environments. Watch that couple across the restaurant and see if you can tell from their body language whether they’ve just met or if they’ve been together for years. Observe the couple arguing in the metro station and note their body language; what about their body language lets you know they’re fighting? Watch that confident friend you’re always so envious of as he makes small talk with strangers, and think about what he says, how he speaks, where his feet and hands are, where he points his body, and what he does with his face.

Learn to read body language out in the world, and you’ll have a skill you can actually use.

The biggest problem that arises from us autistics trying to learn social skills from written guides (the way most of us feel comfortable learning everything) is that social interaction can’t be canned. You can have canned openers, canned approaches, canned responses to equally canned questions, better known as scripting in the autism world (“Hey, how are you?” / “I’m good, how are you,” for example), but actual interaction is a fluid thing, dependent on ever-changing variables of human thought, emotion, and context.

Because I do believe in the usefulness of written guides—I myself couldn’t have learned from observation alone, or I wouldn’t have needed to learn in the first place!—I will write future “How To” guides for various types of social interaction. But it’s still important to keep in mind that the written theory is useless without real-world observation. For every hour you spend studying written texts, devote twice that time (or more) to studying real people in situ.

It’s ok to learn from guides, in fact I encourage it, but don’t rely on them. Learn your applied social skills by watching real people, and leave the “Pick-Up Artistry” to the clueless misogynists.

 

 

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*Footnote 1: The limits of the English language combined with the famous autistic “lack of empathy” has lead to a problematic association between autism and conditions like sociopathy, or Antisocial Personality Disorder. I have been asked more times than I can remember to explain the difference between an autistic and a sociopath. Many people believe these things are one and the same. While we use the term “empathy” to describe deficits in both conditions, this is only because the literature refers to different types of empathy. While sociopaths lack Affective Empathy (defined by Frans deWaal as “being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state”), autistics lack intuitive Cognitive Empathy (defined by Rogers Dziobek et al as “the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state”). Cognitive empathy is sometimes called Theory of Mind. While an autistic can also be a sociopath, lacking both types of natural empathy, autistics that struggle with cognitive empathy are not necessarily “unempathetic” to the emotional states of others. In fact, many autistics are emotional sponges, and become easily overloaded by the strong emotions of others around them. I will address this topic more thoroughly in the future.

*Footnote 2: When I say things like “communication is inherently manipulative,” reactions tend to be knee-jerk negative, so I’d like to clarify. My Animal Communication professor in college described this well; I’ll try my best to paraphrase his genius: Communication is, by definition, a signal intended to manipulate the actions of its recipient. A communicative signal should give its recipient some information about the sender’s identity and/or intentions, and thus change the behavior of the recipient to reflect this new knowledge of the sender. A neurotypical doing this instinctually, like any other animal, isn’t any less manipulative.

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24 thoughts on “Clueless: Autism and the PUA Community

  1. Ever since learning about the existence of the PUA phenomenon, I think that my social anxiety when approached by a strange male in an unexpected situation has more than tripled. After reading about it, watching some videos of it, and witnessing actual PUAs at work, I’ve become paranoid and expect it everywhere!

    Over the years I have become very confident in familiar situations, particularly in the classroom. (I suppose I’ve integrated some of those “good” confidence tips you mentioned through observing what confident people do, and through some reading myself.) I welcome and enjoy attention from classmates, both male and female. I’ve made some decent male friends in class no problem, but I guess those relationships sprung from a situation where I already felt comfortable around them because of class participation.

    The problem is that as soon as I’m in any other kind of situation, particularly if it’s one that doesn’t normally involve social interaction, I can get really thrown off by being approached by a guy. The sad part is that my reaction to being approached by a female is fine, while being approached by a male makes my heart race as cortisol levels rise dramatically. All I can think is: “This guy is going to try some PUA stuff on me. Oh no. Oh no. Here it comes.”

    I’m afraid that I won’t know how to handle it and that I still don’t know how to properly turn someone down. In the past, I’ve been really stuck when flirted with. When I didn’t literally run away, other people have had to step in and “rescue” me, and it’s one of the reasons I loathe being in situations that encourage flirting and “pick-ups.” I am fully aware that this isn’t fair to guys, some of whom probably just want a nice conversation, but it’s still a reaction I have.

    A couple weeks ago a guy approached me while I was sitting alone at school. I fully expected some awkward PUA techniques and was internally freaking the heck out while trying to remain cool and collected on the surface. I was so prepared for it, that my brain was racing with what answers I should give to his theoretical questions. In the end, I was actually the one pushing the conversation along. Once I realized I was doing that, I went back to reading my textbook and he started sketching in his notebook. I think we just sat in silence for a full half hour. Later we talked a bit more, he shook my hand, and left – no asking for contact information, not even any compliments. Reflecting on this, I realized that I had so wrongfully judged this other person just because he was a male and seemed to single me out. It’s likely he just wanted to practice meeting someone in general.

    I really don’t want to keep “othering” males like this. I need to keep working on my confidence and find out how to be strong when I do have to face manipulative flirting.

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    • This is a great comment! I totally agree. When I first started reading online and discovered this entire community of (seemingly horrible) men devoted to “picking up” women, I started to see flirting as inherently threatening. What helped me get over this fear was actually reading forum posts on other sites by men who really hate the PUA community, haha. Seeing normal guys talking about how PUAs are the exception, not the norm, made me realize that I was generalizing men the same way PUAs generalize women! Of course there’s still a part of me that cringes when someone is overtly flirting with me, but I’m able to recognize that knee-jerk reaction as illogical and keep calm. I mean, flirting still makes me uncomfortable. But I’m not as afraid as I used to be!

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    • So, we finally find (and some even spend thousands of dollars to get) some advice to help us understand and get closer to women, and what happens? Now, even that is used against us. It’s like these days, if you are a male, you can’t do anything right anymore, especially if you are a male that unfortunately has been sentenced to a lifetime of aspergers. Just as soon as we think we found answers to fix ourselves and get right, that thing is now labeled as a problem and becomes criticized like many other things. Can’t learn PUA, can’t approach to start conversations, can’t mess up or do anything weird or act in any way out of the norm, etc etc etc.

      All these rules and stuff in addition to how messed up the dating world is has even brought me away from believing in or towards questioning God or spirituality because I cannot see how a perfect Lord could create a system this messed up. I cannot understand how people could be created the way they are and how some people could be created in such a way that they have a strong desire to love and find love, but must suffer because they were made with a disorder that makes them pretty much undatable… Then they are beat up and pushed back even more for trying to find answers.

      There are many many MANY other things that don’t make sense and make me question the Lord, but this design flaw built in to relationships and attraction that cause good hearted people to be punished while the jerks and careless people to be rewarded just doesn’t make sense to me.

      I guess the internet is only helping me to lose faith in people as well because the more I see online, the more difficult I see it is to be able to relate to or get close to most people, especially females. Anything you do is hel against you, and then if you get upset or frustrated about it, you are ridicules for that as well.

      I just don’t get it.

      But one thing I do know is that PUA works, and even though I get limited results because I still come across and look like a “nice guy” and prematurely get judged based on that look, PUA is pretty much the only hope I have at learning to get things right. A lot of people try to preach the bullish*t “just be yourself” advice, but obviously, that doesn’t work, because if it dis, then you wouldn’t be in a situation where you had to be told that in the first place.

      Anyway, bottom line is I go by REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES as oppose to listening to what people say, and my REAL life experiences have consistently shown me that almost every time I stray away from PUA or doing things the way I’m “supposed” to, I fail with women. I’ve NEVER gotten anywhere by being nicez straight forward, and speaking my mind without games.

      People can say what they wish, but that doesn’t change my REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES, and I will continue to learn and stick with what actually works forme. Until the day comes when PUA no longer works and being my natural self does, I will continue to change and learn how to edit and improve my personality, and do whatever has been proven to attract women. I already know that being the nice guy (or even just looking like someone who COULD BE the nice guy) SURELY is not the answer…

      It’s sad that the PUA community is actually as successful as it is because that shows that something is wrong if many men have to go through all this just to have a chance at attracting women.

      I ask feel sorry for those guys who don’t know how to filter out the stupid PUA tactics and find the stuff that actually helps you read, understand and make women feel good.

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      • Did you read the article? I’m not talking about the concept of PUA in general. I’m talking about a specific niche within the community that is toxic. I’ll quote part of the article for you: “Before I get too deep into my criticisms, I want to pause to say that I recognize the value in certain PUA guides, and that I myself have learned a great deal about social interaction from PUA literature. The concept itself—analyzing socialization and breaking down human connection into logically explained steps and rules—is not inherently wrong, and can be very useful for autistics.”

        I do feel sorry for those who don’t know how to filter out the stupid tactics. It’s completely reasonable, which is why it happens so often. That’s why I care so much about the topic and wanted to write about it.

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  2. Dear Esh (short for Everything Shimmers of course). Since I’m hooked on your approach to cognitive imperfections I would like to diversify the focus on Pick Up Artist to perhaps HUA (hook up artist). Rather than as a member of the popularity herd I would like to connect on a thoughtful, personal 1-on-1 basis, more mental than physical. Before continuing, I’ll see if this is getting through at all. Sincerely, “Sten Lind”

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    • I think “pick up” and “hook up” mean essentially the same thing: both imply getting someone to agree to go somewhere with you and/or to have a sexual encounter with you. I think they are used interchangeably.

      So, you’re saying that you would prefer to connect with someone on a mental level rather than a physical one? Do you hope for a conversation, a potential romantic relationship, a friend?

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      • Dear Kirsten–I appreciate your personal response and would like it to generate a beneficial exchange of comments. The hook up comparison to pick up anxiety was basically an attempt to expand the subject area, from solely sexual to mutually friendly. With you I’m basically hoping for an intellectual analysis moving from the negative definitions of autism and asperger’s into beneficial possibilities. In the developing social environment we need to know what’s better than just being popular. How can we all benefit from braininess? (Of course I also share your “social anxiety”). Cheers!

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      • Thank you, but I’m not Kirsten!

        So far she’s done a great job at examining tricky issues like this one from an autistic perspective, with a focus on moving past typical or popular approaches. I look forward to seeing what comes up in her future blog posts.

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  3. I suppose most of the toxic elements are down to how the early PUA/Game material was reverse-engineered from Los Angeles club life.. the most narcissistic places you can think of. It’s also a reaction and adaptation to the Erica Jong Zipless Fuck model of the 1970s.

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      • It’s also a reaction to Sheryl Sandberg’s The Rules – which was called out by Barbara DeAngelis in her tome The Real Rules.

        The Rules promoted a manipulative approach to female dating – basically women manipulating and masquerading – becoming bitches – Game was an adaptation to this. If women were being more narcissistic, men were having to become equally adversarial. Combat Dating was born.. and fucked over the rest of us.

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  4. I was socially awkward with women, couldn’t get them for shit. I learned pick up and it helped me a lot. Your objections to the PUA are the result of your insecurities. You’re mad that guys judge women based on their looks yet women do the same to guys (money, height, strength, social standing). And your offense to the fact that girls react differently when they are dolled up ready for the club vs. when they are dressed raggedy doesn’t change the truth of the situation. And I’m pretty sure that men who have approached hundreds of girls know more about how to attract women than you. You’ve probably already been tucked up PUA’s anyways. Just didn’t realize it yet.

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    • Haha I think you’re misreading my analysis here. The issue isn’t intentionally learning social skills. I’m all for that! In fact, I’ve learned a lot from PUA literature. I’m specifically writing about the issues that can happen when autistics take everything in the PUA community literally, without knowing how to sift the good advice from the bad, and without the abilities needed to fine-tune many of the skills taught. This has nothing to do with judging people by looks and social status, which is perfectly natural and impossible to suppress. The fact of the matter is that there’s a huge difference between learning how effective “kino” (physical contact) can be in building a bond, and being able to apply that knowledge in an effective way.

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      • Of course there’s a difference between “knowing how” and “understanding why”. But the “understanding” part comes with practice. You’re putting a stigma on artificially understanding the way people interact.

        BTW if you claim it has nothing to do with judging people by looks then why the hell were you railing against PUA’s doing it? Own what you say don’t run from it.

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      • Oh, well that’s definitely not my intention! If you look through my other posts, you’ll see I write quite a bit about ways to artificially understand the way people interact, and I recommend a variety of “artificial” (intellectual) methods towards that purpose. I’m pointing out that practice isn’t always enough for these things, especially in romantic or sexual contexts, because clear feedback is often lacking or entirely absent. I have plenty of friends who’ve spent years practicing these things and failing to learn how to improve, simply because they aren’t getting useful feedback or critique. People need to be taught to practice too.

        And I’m confused. Why do you think I’m “railing” against PUAs for judging people by looks? I call the HB rating scale controversial, because it is (often PUAs get a lot of flack from the uninitiated public simply for nomenclature), and I’m definitely judging the name “Hot Babe” for the scale, since it sounds trite and tacky—something more clear like “Status” might be better. The main thing I’m “railing” against is that the system is very easy to misunderstand when a person doesn’t understand cultural nuances. Most people (especially overly literal autistics) who encounter the HB system think it purely revolves around looks, which is not only damaging to the women they try to target, but hurts them in the long run, as making that assumption leaves one destined to fail.

        The HB1-10 system is overly simplistic, and often times (in my experience) make of the failures of new PUAs happen because of these assumptions. For example, a man may see a woman at a party who is beautiful, socially successful (“life of the party”), well-groomed, and assume that the HB10 approach would apply to her (“Expects free drinks at bars, expects to be hit on, interprets men asking for directions on the street as hitting on her (and she’s usually right), might hold out all night, shooting down with sass every guy that approaches, then maybe go home with the guy who impressed her the most that night.”). Yet I know plenty of women like this who this description doesn’t match their experience at all. And, again, context is everything. Many overly-literal autistics won’t take into account what a woman might be doing or thinking when they try to approach—such as my example of the HB6 walking down the sidewalk; perhaps she would love flattery at a social event but not when she’s late to work! I recently talked to a (very neurotypical) guy who understood this well: cold-approaches only work if you can read the other person perfectly in a glance without even talking to them. And that’s something that many autistics getting into PUA don’t learn until it’s too late.

        PUA literature can be a great way to understand people, social dynamics, and interaction. But it must be taken with a grain of salt, because PUA culture can be incredibly damaging to an autistic who just wants to learn how to interact with people. It’s not a methodology for understanding people and making meaningful emotional connections (though it can be used, in conjunction with other resources and fields, as a means towards that end) it’s a methodology for sleeping with women.

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  5. Pua isn’t meant to be a method of predatory awkward men to creepily stalk women, it’s a way for men who more or less lost out on the high school or college experience and left out in the dust to catch up with the rest of us.

    Not all men are created equal. The Chad supermen and the anime nerd work on completely different playing fields. I think it’s okay if you as a woman don’t understand it. Women, especially women who are socially accepted and attractive can never understand the plight of poor poindexter sitting in his room lamenting over his failures with the opposite sex. Men like that disgust you.You can deny it, of course, giving examples of less than attractive men you have dated at one time, but truly, you wish these men to stay in their rooms with their selection of disgusting pornography and rot away never loved, never knowing the experience of being with a woman, never understanding the value of life.

    It is a different playing field for men who don’t stack up. Whereas women with deficiencies will always more or less garner support even though the cruelties, men who have nothing to offer, who are off in some way, who have some kind of problem rarely have support, if at all in the world. Mystery was once one of these awkward beings. Then he decided to change himself and found a method that more or less works for him.

    It seems vile. It seems disgusting. It seems desperate. But you have never seen things though the eyes of the opposite sex. How we can’t understand that despite our kind nature you flock to the unattainable. How we try so hard to impress you, to show our love and care only to be treated like dirt while you go off with a man fully in control and capable to do what he wants. All men have egos, and all men should have the opportunity to express that ego and enjoy life. PUA for men is like Pilates for women. It’s there to increase the happiness in our lives, and what better way to make life more enjoyable than with a beautiful, intelligent, talented women who actually wants you.

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    • Thanks for the comment. And don’t worry, I totally agree and understand. I’ve actually learned a lot of valuable social skills from PUA literature! I think the concept of manually teaching social and romantic skills to those who don’t “get” this stuff naturally is a great one.

      My point was more that the PUA community is very hit-or-miss because amidst the helpful social skills training is a lot of toxic stuff that not only teaches bad ideas but makes the social skills part even harder.

      For example, negging. Negging is something many women hate on in a sweeping way because the majority of guys who read about it a) don’t understand it properly, and b) don’t have the practical social abilities to pull it off. True, proper negging is essentially light hearted teasing, and very difficult. If an autistic who doesn’t know how to read people or situations walks up to the pretty girl with a belly shirt in his chem class and says with a blank aspie monotone, “Hey, just wanted to warn you, I think your shirt shrank in the wash,” the girl is going to be super confused and very put off. But in the proper context—a perfectly polished girl at a party who clearly spent ages on her hair, makeup and outfit, confident and surrounded by admirers and friends—a line like that, said with a smile, would get a laugh and make him stand out from the crowd.

      The issue with negging is that 99% of negging in real life is just clueless guys insulting women and making fools of themselves. You get a whole “generation” of autistic pick up wannabes who think being a jerk is what women want, because they don’t have the finely tuned social radar to tell the difference between funny and mean.

      That’s just a small example, because I don’t want to get into how damaging the scattered misogyny is to those who can’t recognise when sources cross the line. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

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  6. “Perhaps the biggest problem with “Pick-Up Artistry” is the way in which the literature views and talks about women. This is a community of mostly men in an inherently privileged position who struggle to empathize with the women they are targeting.”
    Oh yes, tell me about the privilege of those pesky cishetwhitemale so privileged that they find themselves so desperate to study for a lifetime just for the chance of attractive women. They are autistic, but they are male, so obviously they get a nice job, a fine car, and a wonderful life by the patriarchy.
    All this while you a female autistic woman managed to get a bf before even knowing you were autistic?
    And so, what’s exactly the harm of pua? Do you really think that PUA books will mold their view of the world and of the people? OMG, white autistic males are going to try to seduce women with preference based on how how they are in order to have sex with them… oh the humanity! Someone come and rescue the women, defenseless preys who get robbed of sex! Because when a man has sex with you and disappears, you lost, right?
    … I have no words.

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    • Thanks for your comment!

      First, I’ll address the word “privilege” as you seem to be having some hang ups there.

      Privilege in a sociological context isn’t a black and white concept. When I say “privileged position” I don’t mean “perfect, easy life.” Privilege refers to one’s umvelt and the assumptions others make about them. For example, when speaking with people of color about media involving race, I’m coming from an inherently privileged position because I’m white. The concepts addressed don’t affect me in the same ways. “Privileged position” in a gendered context simply means that men functionally live in a different world than women, the same way that white people live in and have a different experience of the world than black people, or neurotypical people live in a different world from autistic people.

      This is a fairly complex, abstract concept so let me know if you’d like some links for further reading.

      Lastly, I’d like to answer your question about what’s the “harm” of PUA. PUA isn’t inherently harmful, which is why my post is specific to those who can’t weed out the harmful parts from the good. The harm doesn’t come from sex, it comes from abuse. The entire PUA concept of “pushing through last minute resistance” in PUA is walking a dangerously fine line between peer pressure and sexual assault. There are contexts when last minute resistance really is just a flirting tactic, but the vast majority of the time it’s just pressuring someone into violating a boundary that they’re setting.

      This reminds me of that quote, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them, women are afraid men will kill them.” And the fact that men sometimes don’t understand that this quote describes a very real reality for women is a great example of privilege—it’s not that men have “easier” lives, it’s that the world really is different for different groups of people.

      The harm in misused PUA (intentionally or accidentally) is its potential to lead to abuse, assault, and rape. I have personally known men who use PUA tactics to rape women. They didn’t understand that what they were doing was rape, in part BECAUSE pua normalized it for them. Yet they leave a line of victims in their wake who feel betrayed by men they had chosen to trust.

      Hope this helps clear up any confusion!

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