...subtitled, "ancestral responses to ancestral principles in relationships"
John Durant of Hunter-Gatherer.com has recently made some comments on Game as an instantiation of evolutionary/anthropological wisdom, including a review of Athol Kay, RN's recent book Married Man Sex Life Primer. If you don't know what Game is, you might recognize it as "The Rules of the Game" or "Mystery Method" or be familiar with such web luminaries as Roissy, Roosh V, or Ferdinand Bardamu. If none of this sounds familiar, you have missed out on some serious social developments of the last decade or so. Let me fill you in: in short, Game is the attempt to define, systematize, and make reproducible the male seduction of the female in our species.
Although Game purports to be based on research and development (or at least trial and error) and to apply sound scientific principles of evolution and psychology to the techniques of seduction, it is really much broader than that. Men (and women) who subscribe to Game tend to hold some implicit or explicit critiques of society that go something like this:
(1) Women are driven by evolution to choose the best mates among men based on results of male competition and dominance. (2) Animal and human research show that female choices for dominant males are on-going and not constrained by previous mating. (3) Western civilization constrained female choice with legal and social norms, such as marriage and the shunning of divorcees, that promoted male reproductive interests. (4) Feminism is the attempt to assert female reproductive interests by dismantling traditional legal and social norms and replacing them with new ones. (5) Because feminism is ascendant in today's society, men have lost control of such long-term reproductive interests as control of resources for child-rearing. (6) Therefore, men should not invest in reproductive relationships, but should instead pursue only short-term interests with low investment, such as one-night stands.
Game, therefore, is usually seen as a tool for maximizing short-term, low-investment interests for men at the expense of women. As you can imagine, this makes for some bitter men and women.
Nurse Athol Kay and Paleo celebrity John Durant represent a minority of Gamers who believe in the evolutionary principles behind women's choice and modern relationship crises but want men to use the techniques of Game to build better long-term relationships (or at least make them possible).
What have I to add?
on the wisdom of living by science alone
This last week, while Mr. Durant was, unbeknownst to me, reading Mr. Kay's book, I was, unbeknownst to them, reading The Four Loves, an extended essay by the late Cambridge professor Clive Lewis on the expressions of love identified by writers in classical and medieval times. The great value of Professor Lewis is that his work stands as a bridge to forms of thought common to humanity in past ages that have now been largely supplanted. Lewis is a master of self-questioning, self-criticism, definition, differentiation...: the qualities of honest and perceptive thought that were ideally cultivated by western educators from antiquity until the progressive German models of mass education became the world standard.
Although introspection, reflection, and philosophizing are properly relegated to a place secondary to research in psychology and psychiatry, the failure to deploy them at all does not lead to unbiased results, it simply makes us susceptible to being taken in by culture and memes, to becoming provincials of our age. For example, Mr. Durant takes women's choice as a given biological reality and wants us to ask how men can conform to this reality to build better relationships.
While at first glance this approach seems a culture-neutral one grounded in science, in fact the current state of women's reproductive choice is biological reality plus social construction. In fact, Mr. Durant asks us how men can conform to biology while also conserving all values and social assumptions proper to an early 21st century Harvard grad and NYC resident, what he himself is. The truth of this is made plain by the questions whether the men and women portrayed in Sex and the City would be subject to the same evolutionary constraints as the men and women portrayed in Lysistrata and whether the same relationship advice should be given all.
I would ask Mr. Durant on what basis we should accept his assumptions social, political, legal, ethical. My own view is that we have progressed linearly upward in our social organization about as well as we have progressed linearly upward in economies of food and nutritional science.
What I suggest is that there is a type of ideological monist fallacy in assuming that happiness must be compatible with the current state of gender relations if only men could figure out how to conform to the current regime. Perhaps it is compatible, but perhaps there are trade-offs built into the human condition such that the freedoms of no-fault divorce, deference in the court systems, sympathy of media, co-workers, friends and family, etc are not compatible with the happiness of most women with their relationships.
a Gilbert and Sullivan interlude
I am the very model of a modern Harvard graduate.
I've access to intelligents and many others hard-to-get.
I know all the great apes, and I can diagram our proper clade.
And then explain our co-eds choices 'bout who they will let get laid.
I think that we're all equal in the maths and in the sciences
(For Larry Summers did mistake that free thought privilege was his)
And should it seem that any girl's standard's hypocritical
I change my mind, for I know gender's legal and political.
For literary jargon, I've read Jacques Lacan and Derrida
To let me deconstruct great books with falderall and la-dee-da.
You see, in gender matters, I am not just a novitiate,
I am the very model of a modern Harvard graduate...
the revenge of imperfect information
To illustrate what I'm talking about, let me draw your attention to a review of Mr. Kay's book on Amazon. Reviewer PrincessSB complains that using techniques designed to trigger a woman's sexual interest is "manipulative" and "psychological warfare." But it takes only a moment's thought to realize that, as far as a woman's subservience to her own buttons goes, it makes no difference whether the techniques are conscious or not--i.e., a woman who falls for a man being unconsciously himself has fallen as much as a woman who falls for a man acting. There is no reason for sore feelings here, and crying foul is not an outcry over justice as much as one over the vagaries of human romance, fate, biology.
A woman's privacy and freedom of choice have not been tampered with by Game, only her ability to separate genetic wheat from chaff. PrincessSB says, in effect, that a man makes "psychological warfare" on a woman if he intentionally improves his ability to attract women vis-a-vis his "naturally developed" ability. This is a misandric and anti-romantic position as it suggests that men are worth little more than DNA on a stick and that any attempts at doting or seducing are irrelevant to a woman's interest. What could induce such strongly misanthropic views of life?
Any economist will tell you that the basis of markets and games is imperfect information. In a world where buyers had near-perfect information, the value of a product could be determined far ahead of time by a large computer isolated in an office. In reality, decisions are made as bets and based on probabilities. The meat-market of your local bar or of your marriage involves such decision-making about reproduction.
Women would like to have better information about a man's genetic assets, to increase their probability of making good choices, while Game creates static. PrincessSB's complaint is, in fact, that even with all the advancements women have made in getting control of their relationship circumstances, there are still biological and existential boundaries to their power.
In fact, it could be that women have mistakenly gained power in ways that highlight these existential boundaries and that actually exacerbate the problematic feelings women have in entering into relationships. It is uncommon in life to find pure unalloyed and lasting happiness in anything; much more common to have mixed feelings and periods of waxing and waning. Perhaps our current social organization has primed women for the ebbs of feeling. Mr. Durant, would you be a misogynist in collaborating with such a system?
married man sex life
I ordered Mr. Kay's book from Amazon, and I won't write too much about it as it seems to be mostly a summary of his blog content. His basic message is that people are beholden to their biological drives and that men, in order to keep their wives happy, must (A) improve themselves by developing real characteristics of dominance and (B) learn techniques for piquing a woman's sexual interest.
As Mr. Durant notes, the science of semen competition is pretty wishy-washy. I would go further and suggest that the entire science of relationships as presented is wanting. For example, genetic similarity of the cellular Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) has been shown to increase female adulterous behavior by 60%. Since there is always some minority of people who do not cheat out of concerns having nothing to do with the desire to cheat, the number is probably misleading in under-predicting the impact of MHC compatibility on women's desire. For another example, take research that shows that the chemical reactions that occur during physical contact between people who are "in love" change after several years in a relationship. In essence, all people fall out of love or have their love change qualitatively into a more stable pattern akin to friendship. What findings like these suggest to me is that the biology of adultery is more complex than dopamine and dominance.
Also problematic is the fact that Mr. Kay's recommendations, while supported by some evidence, are essentially the results of his own experience. And he and his wife were virgins when they married--a very abnormal circumstance for today's man to find himself in.
Nevertheless, the book is not without value. I'm sure there are married men or men contemplating marriage who fall into some strategic errors that this book could help fix. It's just that I cannot accept the premises of Misters Kay and Durant that men should accede to the current age. They would plead sexual realpolitik, but there are other ways of weighting the outcomes, like moving out of New York City and the NE states, looking for love among the religious, or insisting on a ban on MSM, modern music and film, etc as a condition of marriage.
ye olde loves
Professor Lewis' The Four Loves addresses affection, friendship, Eros, and charity, which he presents as the four categories of interpersonal disposition that might be called love. Surprisingly, adherents of Game may find more in this book about antique and medieval philosophy than they would expect. Lewis is fully in communion with the idea that men and women have some fundamental psychological differences. And in his description of the origin of friendship as the banding together of primitive men for mutual advantage, Gamers will find a precursor to the evolutionary psychology that guides Game subculture. But it is really Lewis' discussion of Eros that will be of concern to us here.
What a modern Harvard graduate will tell you about Professor Lewis is that his method of investigating the loves, of starting with an inherited intellectual tradition and contemplating that tradition in light of one's own experience and observations, is likely to make one narrow, dogmatic, and culturally constrained. In fact, the discussion of Eros shows Professor Lewis to be worldly and cosmopolitan. Lewis lived with an older woman for quite some time and signed some of his early letters with a Latin pseudonym meaning, essentially, "The Spanker." His mythopoeic vision of religion allowed him to embrace pagan insights and perspectives on gender relations as well as ones from monotheistic religions and modern psychology.
Lewis is quite clear in distinguishing Eros from Venus, or love from sexual activity. He even asserts that Eros is no prerequisite for good Venus, and that Eros may even interfere with pure sensual pleasure. He has a rather lengthy discussion of the fact that Eros does not make for stable marriages and that the introduction of other forms of love such as affection is necessary for successful marriage as well as a dedication to sexual continence per se, rather than dedication to the beloved. Here is no starry-eyed romantic "Beta".
So how does the Four Loves relate to Misters Kay and Durant?
paleo perspectives on Game
One of Lewis' points is that modern life has become imbalanced, with sexuality concerning us far too much. He considers several approaches of the early church fathers to the body and sexual urges before he takes up Saint Francis of Assisi's perspective that his body is "Brother Ass," a fellow traveler in this life that--like a mule--is both useful and problematic, controlled with carrots and sticks, and with which one must deal with a certain amount of humor and nonchalance. What this means for modern man is not entirely clear, except that Lewis would tell us that the end of Eros is a very human and worldly occurrence that should not be treated as an existential crisis. My guess is that Lewis would even say that an adulterous affair was something not desirable but that does need to be taken in stride (as well as less likely to occur in a world where more women thought of their bodies as "Sister Ass," rather than being beholden to, in Game terms, "vag tingle").
This view is very similar to the one put forward by Julius Evola (no Christian, to be sure) in Ride the Tiger, that modern sexual mores are an essentially bourgeois phenomenon, and that for traditional (i.e., normal) people breaking a marriage vow should be a shame on an adulteress and not on a cuckolded husband. Here, again, is a more mature and balanced view of sexuality, one that sees life as something more than fulfilling evolutionary impulses while not denying the reality of evolution or its impact on our lives.
Kay and Durant would likely still argue for gender realpolitik. My Paleo perspective is that, if we seriously consider Evola, Lewis, and our early ancestors, can we as men say that we honestly want to pursue a relationship with a product of modern times, with a woman who reads women's magazines, watches TV, listens to Lady Gaga and is obsessed with facets of modern life like Facebook? If we, as our ancestors, try to live a good life, defined as balance and as fulfillment of obligations and as other values inimical to modern times, can we really fall in love with such a woman?
Another of Lewis' leitmotifs in The Four Loves is the Dark Gods. This is Lewis' way of acknowledging that we are still great apes and subject to the purely physical and compulsive forces of nature, that we can lose ourselves in beliefs and actions that cannot be reconciled to civilization or to the company of people who have not themselves embraced the Dark Gods. The pagans called this Bacchanalian while Camille Paglia calls it chthonic forces. Our great ape cousins like chimps and bonobos engage in forced sex, bisexuality, gang bangs and other practices that people have repressed for centuries but that have now broken out into civilization again under the protective guise of pornography.
For most people, the Dark Gods are unacknowledged or remain lurking in the psychic background of fantasy and dream. But more and more, they confuse us and act as a de facto measure of sexual fulfillment. My model here is Bobbi Starr, a burgeoning professional oboeist who was re-directed into a life as a pornographic actress. Her Amazon wish list includes books by the likes of Foucault on sexuality and society. But examine her recent comments on the sex she had with porn star Rocco Siffredi*. This educated woman is not able to tell us anything about the emotional or psychologic impact of her experience, despite having her head stuffed in a toilet.
Compare this with Toni Bentley's Surrender, a book-length investigation of the normal (vis-a-vis the range found in porn) sexual act of anal intercourse. My point here is that Starr, comparatively, lacks self-knowledge. She cannot tell us about her sex with Rocco Siffredi because she can't really put it into words--she acts without entirely knowing why, a devotee of the Dark Gods.
My Paleo take on the Dark Gods is that our ancestors understood them better than we do. Rather than denying the reality of their power or pathologizing them, our ancestors sought to control their destructive influences on our communal life through taboos and through the confinement of their expression to rites and festivities. By exiling the Dark Gods, they changed the way we as individuals measure sexual fulfillment within the contraints of communal life.
The Dark Gods are not the Gods of Game. The evolutionary forces that produced modern sexual psychology might encompass the Dark Gods but they are primarily the product of compulsions that can exist parasitic on communal life without killing it.
The Dark Gods act as an alternative to utilizing Game in two ways: (1) they might represent an actual alternative lifestyle; (2) like "Spanker" Lewis, we can consider them Dark Gods and consider them taboo rather than simply embarassing or an expression of civil rights. To do this internally and also publicly in spite of the anonymity afforded by digital culture and our sprauling cities is the road back to the consideration of sexual fulfillment on grounds other than compulsion and personal expression.
Barring the adoption of these ancestral perspectives, I think men have two choices--utilize Game a la Roissy for short-term, non-reproductive relationships or live a life of low-level anxiety constantly watching over your shoulder to see if you are falling prey to more dominant males. This latter strategy is the one suggested, however unintentionally, by Kay and Durant.
* From the BobbiStarr.com blog:
"One of the members of BobbiStarr.com asked about what it was like to be 'sensually' abused by a legend.
"Since I’m all about my fans, I’m more than happy to share my first hand experience of being fucked by Rocco Siffredi...
"I found myself alone with Rocco, and I told him that I wanted to fuck him. I really didn’t care if he shot it [on film] or not, I just wanted some quality time with Porno Jesus — and that is what I got. The memory of the scene was a blur (he did shoot it) and there may or may not have been another woman involved in the scene and there may or may not have been a miniature Statue of Liberty involved. Like I said, it was all a blur.
"It was hard, rough sex that landed my head in a toilet. At the very least having my head dunked in a toilet is something I’d want to know about beforehand, but he was Rocco and I looked at it as kind of a baptism...
"And that, dear reader, is the scene with a legend that I will always remember. When I’m 90 and Skynet and the Terminators have taken over and I’m telling my little grandchildren/resistance fighters what I did in my 20s, that is the story I will tell."