It’s been ten years since The Game exposed/extolled the world of manipulative men known as pickup artists. A nice, round anniversary around which Strauss carefully timed the release of his most recent book The Truth. He’s been running the regular promotional circuit, podcasts, magazines, etc., for the past few months. The entire thing seems part a return to respectable journalism and part apology tour. Though, to be fair, he’s had plenty of journalistic success in the intervening years. But, that’s neither here nor there as he goes on to make yet another buck off the lessons he’s learned at the expense of countless women.
In the book (Apparently, I haven’t read it. How’s that for respectable journalism?) and through various interviews he’s renounced the pickup tactics he once embraced as “objectifying and horrifying.” It all seems terribly convenient. An easy out. A chance to look back on the years in which gave voice an underground culture that treats women like merit badges and wash his hands of the role he played in propagating it. The role he still plays in propagating it as he thanks his pickup artist experiences for “[opening] the door to self improvement.”
And yet, is Strauss working to undo the damage he has done? No, despite disavowing the tactics and some of the characters who came along for the ride, he stands behind the book because “it was honestly who I was at the time.” In nearly the same breath, he, again renounces the community. I’m sorry, you can’t divorce yourself from this community when this community was, in fact, who you were at the time. And just because something represents who you were at any point in time, doesn’t mean you weren’t a douchebag at the time. There are a lot of things that represent who I was at any given point in time, but I don’t always stand behind them for their honesty, because I have been a douchebag at various points in time. And who would stand behind being a douche bag?
He goes one step further to blame his narcissistic mother for driving him to the addictive flame of pickup artistry in the first place. In fact, once he realized he could blame his mother for all his dysfunction, that’s when he decided to become functional again. So, ultimately, it comes full circle. He’s blaming a woman for his mistreatment of women ergo the unspoken “they deserve it.”
He takes no responsibility for the biblical status his book gained, making sure we know his publisher designed the gilt lettering, faux leather and red ribbon marker. Yet, he certainly profited from the books popularity, the follow up book Rules of The Game (not meant to be an instructional guide? right.), and countless seminars wherein gawky men paid to learn exactly how to reap the benefits of these misogynistic tactics.
He points to journalistic observance and reporting whenever someone presses him as to why he might associate with someone whose motto was “make the ho say no.” But, the reality is, he wasn’t a journalist by the time the book ended. He was a memoirist. A memoirist who went on to grow the community he was merely reporting on.
The language used in The Game and even current interviews is incredibly dangerous: control, dominance, manipulation. All of these words point to characteristics of an abusive relationship. Though he claims The Game was about dating and The Truth about relationships, one gives way to the other. And a poisoned beginning will poison the relationship. Men who get what they want from women through lying and manipulation aren’t going to stop just because a date turns into a relationship.
Claiming these men are just insecure and shy creatures who have been given the tools they need to find happiness is a ridiculous lie. They are men who think women owe them something. They think they are entitled to happiness and success with women and they will do what it takes to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs. All of this is horrifying in the context of the greater problem of violence against women in our country. Strauss can claim these are merely guidelines to open the door to a happy relationship, but it’s naive to ignore the insidiousness of this behavior.
Strauss goes so far as to call The Game “a rite of passage for dating,” suggesting that every man must go through an asshole phase in which they lie and manipulate women to get sex, a relationship, what have you. How can he not see this as problematic? He’s essentially saying that as a person is forming into the man they are to become they must learn and embrace the objectification of women. And then when they reach the other side, they will magically see women as equal and and treat them with the respect they deserve?
The Truth and the interviews surrounding it’s release suggest he’s got his The Game life to thank for his beautiful wife and child. Got that insecure men everywhere? If you mistreat women for years and teach others to do the same, you, too, can marry a model and have a happy family. Lesson learned. And what of the manipulated and emotionally abused women left in the wake as the fully evolved moves into The Truth phase of his life? Is it just a rite of passage for them? Psychological damage be damned?
This is probably an extreme take on the matter. One colored by my own ongoing baggage. As Strauss points out, “I don’t think a book is responsible for someone’s behavior.” But the glamorization and normalization of this behavior does make it harder to fight against it. No pardon for journalistic integrity and childhoods tainted by overbearing mothers, sorry. Also, you don’t get to marry (and cheat on) a daddy-issued blonde 13 years your junior and call yourself evolved. Ugh.