The book called the game about dating
Any way you could do this—and there were lots of bizarre techniques with goofy names, like “peacocking,” where you might wear an outlandish hat to give people something to comment on—helped you get the access you needed to try to convince someone to sleep with you. I was surprised when I first read [Strauss: Yes, totally.
One is that I really wrote it honest to my experience, and to what I saw and to what I thought were the good and the bad.What do you think that says about the utility of the techniques for banging lots of women versus finding someone who likes you without your having to use tricks on them?Strauss: Yeah, so if you’re going to talk to me today about it versus then, right?But now coming out of the other side of it, I can see how there were maybe unconscious forces operating on me that made me so obsessed, and even when I thought “the game” was over, that it still had this hold on me. It’s more controversial now than when it came out, and I think that’s a good thing for society. What happens when you grow up with your identity being squashed by this mother who never sees you but only sees herself, is you grow up with a fear of being overpowered by the feminine again. Even the relationships you get in are maybe with people you feel safe with because you’re in control. So when I would do seminars [about ], I would say, let me ask you, how many people here were raised with a narcissistic or dominant mother figure? And then when you start to realize, ok, this has nothing to do with the world, it’s just me, I’ve got to get over it—that’s when everything kind of changes. They engineer their behavior to such an insane degree.Gilsinan: It’s amazing to think of such a book coming out now and what the reaction to it might have been. Gilsinan: A lot of the criticism was, well, men are afraid of women’s sexuality, and the response to that is, yeah, obviously. To me at least, that’s entirely why this pickup community exists. To me, the biggest shock of my life, was how, myself who wrote Gilsinan: What? Gilsinan: I’m reading this book 10 years ago as a female person.So I’m wondering if the guy you meet at the beginning of or was it something else? I would hope that at no time is that ever okay in history. But now he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed without rocks being thrown through his window. But I’m wondering, aside from some of the abhorrent techniques that you’ve sort of disavowed, are there any principles you think apply in the Tinder era?
Strauss: Obviously in my journalistic life, I’m just a big believer in free speech and art not being censored no matter what it is, and I don’t think a book is responsible for someone’s behavior. For me, it spoke to a wound of mine that already existed before. People already exist and they find their communities. Gilsinan: And then there’s other small stuff, like one guy whose signature move is to bring women home to look at his Win Amp media player with him. These are problems that people are still trying to solve.
Kathy Gilsinan: It’s hilarious that this interview got postponed a couple of times. So I think all of a sudden there were these horrid ideas that people read about in Gilsinan: It’s interesting you say almost regretfully that it became the Bible, because it was marketed that way, right?
I have a copy that’s on my desk that has [gilt edges], it has a red-ribbon bookmark. It was designed by my publisher at the time like a Bible. Gilsinan: But it’s interesting too, given the way the book ends, with you meeting this woman who is not impressed by any of this stuff, and then you end up with her.
Like surely there are female-specific tricks to, in effect, manipulate people into sleeping with you. Because obviously if you’re trying to get something from someone—it doesn’t even have to be an outcome like sex, it could be self-esteem—when you talk to somebody who’s needy, where they’re just being funny and entertaining but they just need a response to feel better about themselves—Gilsinan: I don’t identify with that at all ... It becomes like hits of crack, whether it’s laughter or sex or admiration or fame or money, all those things—I can speak to the sex part—don’t end up making you any more happy than you were without them. [If your] status is lower in that moment, it’s like, how can I make it equal to [hers] or higher.
And his response was, verbatim, “Be hot.” And I think that’s kind of true. But you have to work on it from the inside before you can get to them in a healthy way. The answer is that if your status is higher, if you’re not making someone feel good about themselves, you’re a jerk.
Even when I wrote it, I didn’t think it would be a guide. Before that I really thought I was healthy, I had parents who loved me, they were never divorced, I had a good childhood, and all of a sudden she saw the story I didn’t. Gilsinan: And the reason there’s an entire book that takes place after that is because seeing the problem is not the same as solving it, right? Strauss: It’s true, that’s when I went to such an extreme that everything’s a technique.