Are there situations in which "PUA" advice could actually be helpful?

I’m not defending this game, I think the PUA movement can be quite disgusting. I think some of the things in the game (blocking someones path in public for example) are really bad advice at best and harassment at worst. Most of the rest of the footage from the trailer is cringey and uncomfortable. However I have to say that in the big world of sexual games I think this is probably the only game that allows you to do stuff that is ill-advised and actually connects negative results to that. I find this fact worth mentioning and I think it’s a bit click-baity that the title of the boingboing post doesn’t mention this part. It suggests a game that is only about grabbing body parts, like a trump-simulator, which would weirdly just be a porn game and not this bad? But I get why this editorial choice was made.

@bobtato Raises a point that actually matches my experience with this. When you are a (usually young) male that has had no romantic success this can wreak havoc on your self esteem. And the advise you get from your friends and family will be mostly useless.

I think the question in the thread, the one @daniel also tries to raise is: Is there a situation where this PUA advise could actually be helpful? And if there isn’t what would actually helpful advise look like?

First I want to address the unhappiness, isn’t that problematic in itself? Why should the ability to find or not to find a romantic partner have such a big impact on your happiness?

I think there are several reasons for this, one reason is that all humans are hard wired to want intimate human connections, another is that media has taught men that their value is based at least in part on how many ladies they can “bed”. A less sexist society would prevent or at least lessen the latter cause, but not the first. Overall I think decreasing sexism and having more people find love are both good things to strive for and can go hand in hand.

You could still explain this as guys needing to “use” women to validate their self worth. You’d be right, in a sense, but I think everybody wants to be loved and not achieving this will be a cause for unhappiness in nearly everyone (male and female). So in that way I see “helping helpless young guys get laid” not necessarily as a bad thing. (What percentage of misogynistic trolls online do you think are in a happy relationship? Just imagine some of them finding love for themselves (and from someone else) and leaving their online prey alone)

So this advise, the type Bobtato gave out to his friend, usually given in the form of for example: “Don’t go looking for it, you’ll only find love when you’re not looking” or “Just be yourself” I think this advise is mostly useless.

I think it is actually good advise, and is in fact usually exactly what the person in question needs to hear. It’s just that the advise doesn’t ring true because it doesn’t reflect their lived experience. If your every interaction ends in being rejected the good advice from friends and family feels like your mom telling you you are special. You know they mean it, but it’s worth nothing to the rest of the world.

When I was a teenager I would put any woman I interacted with on a impossibly high pedestal, I would just agree with everything she said in order to get on her good side. It took me a while to learn that this is not how flirting works.

Some of that learning came from PUA books and websites.

The scenarios they sketch made me realize (believe it or not) that I should treat women more like equals. When all you are doing in conversations is telling your conversation partner exactly what you think they want to hear, you are not going to be flirting, you are a creep. If you are assertive, funny and teasing, just like you would with a male friend, you will have much more fun and maybe actually be liked in the process.

When you are trying to kindle some romantic interest with someone, and your every action signals that this is your goal, you will come of as extremely needy and have no luck. However if you can convey the message that your interested in them but are not yet decided, that you expect some effort from your conversation partner before you decide, you will be in much better shape.

This is also where the nice guy meme comes from, people want to be treated as equals to each other and want to be challenged a little. If you are too much of a nice guy you will not provide that, at the same time you will see assholes that do provide this be much more successful.

All this can be traced back to having respect for yourself and for others. And it is nicely summed up by the good advise from earlier (be yourself = don’t suck up, don’t go looking = don’t be so needy) this advise is mostly useless since it is usually only understood as well meaning platitudes.

Having respect for yourself, being someone that is worthy of being loved, “no-one will love you if you don’t love yourself”, are all extremely clichéd phrases that finally made sense for me when seen through the lens of a PUA.

This brings us to the question, in the continuum the stretches from “just be yourself” to “grab them by the pussy” is there any point where the given advise would actually help unwillingly-single males find romantic success? I think there is, but I also understand the general hatred against the PUA community. I think there could and should be a middle ground somewhere but I don’t know if I could find it.

Since I made this quite personal, maybe I should share a bit more about me. I did not turn out to be a super creep (although I know that is also what a creep would say). I’m currently in my second long-term relationship (4+ years), I got there without too many detours and never harassed or tricked any woman on the way. I think I owe part (however small) of my romantic success to the information from the PUA community. The “success” in not harassing women is not included in there, that comes from a good upbringing and being generally too shy to be such a dick I guess.

I think most of the audience of the PUA’s are actually in the same circumstance, they just want to be loved. I feel like the assumption from people hating on PUA’s is that all guys following their advice will be successful in dating/sleeping with a unending string of women. This is not how humans tend to work, our media has more or less instructed men that more bed partners should be a goal every man should have (look at Barney from how I met your Mother or Charlie Sheen on two and a half men for good examples) the vast majority of PUA followers however will end up in a long-term relationship once they get their foot in the door (so to speak).

I could tell my younger self anything it would be the above lessons, I was pretty unhappy with myself for quite a long time.

Part of this was because I was not living up to the standards set in the media. This same conditioning also makes it hard for me to share the personal aspects of this, if you are a man and have to admit to being (or having been) bad with the ladies that is quite embarrassing. Even as I am aware of this conditioning and while I know it is stupid, I still hesitate to post this.

Wow this has become quite a long story… it is really time for me to go home now :sweat_smile:


And it’s still unacceptable for that to be taken out on women. What do you think a lifetime of harassment and threats of violence, starting at puberty does to young women? Patriarchal structures hurts both men and women, and men need to be here for the deconstruction of that just as much as women are.


No disagreement there!


Yes, that is totally unacceptable, maybe I should have made that even more clear in my post.

I agree, it seems this may be something where I can actually shed some light and do some good.

I’m seriously thinking about writing some of this stuff down as a non-creepy guide to having successful romantic interactions for unsuccessful teenagers. I’m also hoping really hard someone chimes in that this guide already exists so I can just promote that one and not have this PUA association to my name :grimacing:

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You could start a thread with ideas here. I’d guess the women here especially would have lots to say on that topic.

But really, it just comes down to treat women like people. I mean you can certain fine grain it, but as long as boys are being trained to see women as either “the enemy” or as objects (which our culture plays a major role in reinforcing), then not much is going to change. Once they start to see women as individuals with their own desires, foibles, and autonomy, things will start to get better, I think.

But yeah, you want to avoid the PUA, as they are misogynistic pieces of shit.


I liked your long story.

However, there is a fundamental problem with PUA:

  • they are unattractive men (in the primary sense of the word: they did not manage to attract a mate)
  • they resort to manipulative tactics (that is the essence of the PUA teaching)
  • and their aim is to use others to their advantage.

They are a bit like the time-sharing agents roaming some beaches and living from having unsuspecting tourists signing a predatory contract in a language they don’t understand. That is inherently wrong.

In addition, they approach women on the street. We learn here that many women feel distressed by that. So that behavior is also inappropriate. Men should not address women on the street, point.

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I agree there is a lot of scummy behavior going on in the PUA community. And I agree that every time you do something, or even recommend something, that makes women feel unsafe, that is a problem and should be stopped. This includes addressing women on the street. (Although this also depends a little on the street, the country the street is in, whether or not there is a block party or something similar in this street) I am very weary, especially when I’m in a more sketchy area, of the effect my presence has on someone else’s feeling of safety and think this can and should be stressed more.

However I don’t really understand the problems you list here.

They are unattractive men, yes, this is true. By seeking out the PUA community they have taken a step to try and fix their unattractiveness. Should they not try to fix this? Should they just accept this as their lot in life, to be unattractive and alone?

It has been a long while since I read any of the PUA materials, and I probably followed the less horrible guys. However, all the things I read at some point mentioned that you have to be a interesting person, have to do something that makes you as a person attractive, for a potential partner to be interested in you. Improving yourself so you are more attractive does not fall under this manipulative behavior right?

I’m not sure what you mean with the manipulative tactics, maybe negging? Making a negative comment to make potential partner want to prove you wrong? This is something people (yes, men and women) that are good at flirting do naturally, flirting is usually just good natured poking fun at each other. PUA’s just spell this out so the more socially awkward amongst us can understand how to do this too. Sure some will take this and go to far, but if you just insult someone you will notice quickly enough that this doesn’t work right?

I actually really don’t get this manipulation thing. Are we afraid they are using some hypnosis-level techniques? I mean they don’t use blackmail right? I’m assuming here that the goal is to get someone to do something out of their own free will, if this is done in a manipulative way and you don’t like that you can still say no right? They are not selling you a timeshare in a language you don’t understand, you both speak the same language.

I feel like when you say you are afraid girls will be manipulated into sleeping with someone you are not giving those girls a lot of credit.

Is it like false advertising? That this socially awkward person gets what should be reserved for less awkward people? That you would afterwards find out this person is less then you expected?

I get the part that some guys will lie about their long term intentions and lie their way into a one-night stand with no intention of a longer commitment. I think that’s wrong, but I also think only a really small subsection of men will (be able to) do this. But that may be my personal bias.

I get that this “sleep with a different women every night” idea is what they are selling. I know a lot of PUA’s brag about having a lot of bed partners, and a lot are probably inflating the numbers they mention there. I think a big part of this is simply marketing. If your target demographic is men that are unsuccessful with women, how would you profile yourself? If you say you know how to be romantically successful and have been in a long term relationship for a few years, how convincing is that going to be compared to the guy that (claims to) sleeps with a different women every night?

I’m afraid that I will have to leave this thread alone for a while, I’m leaving for a holiday tomorrow and wont have a lot of keyboard time. I will keep thinking about this and get back in here in about 10 days.

In the meantime I am genuinely interested in the advise women would give to guys that are unwillingly single. Think of this nephew you have that is a full-time gamer or this friend from high school that was always awkward around girls. What would you say to someone like that between say 18 and 24 to increase his romantic success? And be careful, you may have to be a bit more specific then “just be yourself” or “treat women with respect” both those are not very helpful if you are a socially awkward teen.

Apparently, we don’t understand each other.

What I was trying to say is that, from the point of view of the average woman, PUA is inherently creepy. The very principles underlying PUA is creepy. Why? Because, by definition, it amounts to tricking the victims into giving something they would normaly not give to someone they would normally not consider.

What I said does not have anything to do with any particular practice like “negging”. It is about the underlying principles.

Because the underlying principle is problematic, any discussion with women on the subject is going to cause conflict. That was, in a nutshell, the idea I wanted to express.

As to your last question, the only advice I would give to a young man who has no success would be to try to find out why. The reasons are more diverse than you think and what would help in one case may not help in the other.

Enjoy your holiday!


I don’t always agree with Kant*, but the idea that morality starts with treating people as ends rather than means has a lot of explanatory power. The PUA dudes exemplify the point vividly - if you treat some folks (eg women) as a means to your own end (eg sexual gratification) rather than as equals deserving of treatments as you would expect to be treated then you’re probably a dick**.

*i wish there was a gif/beer-related meme for this.
**confession - I didn’t read Kant in the original German.



And if there isn’t what would actually helpful advise look like?

Treat women like human beings with their own interests, accept refusal gracefully, no means no, and try to be a decent person.


Ok, imagine two guys, both identical except for their “natural” social skills. One is naturally good at making contact with women, the other for one reason or another is just always awkward around women. Now if the naturally good one could explain to the awkward one what he is doing wrong, or what he could improve in his behaviour to be more successful, would you see this as tricking women?

Now what if we consider another set of identical guys, both socially strong, but one of them has a bad sense of smell and never noticed his hygiene was bad. What if you taught him to better that part of himself, would that be tricking someone?

I remember this story, I think I read it on Boing Boing, about a man that was somewhere on the spectrum and had to remind himself, with reminders in his calender/on his phone, to tell his wife he loves her. Because this doesn’t come natural to him. His wife knows about this and was a little conflicted about it, but in the end she figured he is putting in the effort and that shows his love too.

If you consciously try to improve your social skills, is that deceptive?

Just to reiterate, I’m assuming all these hypothetical guys are behaving in a non threatening manner and treat women like equals and with respect.

The problem is not with the “tricking” part. The problem is with the intent. What is the intent of PUA? Don’t you see that some people see that as a problem in itself?


Ah! Kant explains it all! Seems like there was a recent Pearls Before Swine with a Kant joke, but I can’t find it now!

Don’t worry… I won’t tell anyone! And neither have I, BTW. It’s out little secret! :wink:

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The answer is no.


The only PUA stuff that is worth paying attention to is advice on personal conduct that you could have gotten from any number of other more reputable sources.


@kingannoy, this makes me sad.
A PUA is slimy, deceitful, misogynistic asshole.

Using PUA “advice” means you want to trick someone into a sexual encounter.

If you need advice to make friends and be a generally interesting person, may I suggest Dale Carnegie? Or your nearest Toastmasters club. Both of these, while appearing old-fashioned but not enough to be retro-cool, teach you how to be more outgoing and get people to want to talk to you.


I think part of the problem here is using PUA as the basis for learning like this. I mean, there are probably negotiating skills used by your local sleaziest car salesman that are not sleazy and in fact reputable sales tactics. However, having to weed them out of all the sleaze likely makes it either not worth the effort, or worse, puts you at risk to inadvertently use a sleazy tactic (or otherwise rationalize one) just because of the source, and association.

I think it’s probably inarguable that there are socially awkward people who would benefit from assistance and guidance at how to become more socially adept, and that’s without considering those who may have social disorders and genuinely need this sort of advice. But I would guess that the very difficulties these individuals have with social interactions would make removing the misogynistic portions of PUA culture much more difficult, defeating the original idea of filtering out possible “good” advice in the first place.


Is there a situation where this PUA advise could actually be helpful?


This is correct.

And if there isn’t what would actually helpful advise look like?

Treat women like human beings with their own interests, accept refusal gracefully, no means no, and try to be a decent person.

But this is completely unhelpful. It is the baseline necessary for normal contact between two humans, but it doesn’t tell a social awkward person how to be less socially awkward. It’s like telling someone who doesn’t know how to swim that swimming is normally done in water.

Not that I have the know-all answer, if it even exists. In my own case it was ‘meeting lots of people while doing something you love’ that made me forget my awkwardness. But that might not work for everybody.

I understand why someone would mistake the PUA community for a course in being outgoing. But the PUA guys are not the ones you want to take clues from to find a partner. They are the desperate bunch who gave up.


Which is just the same problem. If you are just such an uninteresting person that you need the help of Dale Carnegie to trick people into believing that you are interesting, you are also creepy.

(Disclaimer: I should probably have put some warning before the above text that I am just drawing a parallel.)

Leisure Suit Larry has this beat by a few decades.