What Strauss isn't here to advise you about is sex, or even what to do should you actually wind up on a date. This book is more thirsty than it is horny; its are teachings primarily concerned with how to transmute your desire for others into making women desire you. His thesis is clearly outlined in the "Day 7" section of the Challenge (shockingly, with one of the book's only disparaging mentions of magic):
Your goal today is to be so cool that she doesn't want you to leave. The quickest way to reach this goal—the hook point—is to demonstrate value. After all, she has the possibility of meeting any number of guys that day. Why you?
The idea that there might actually be a way to hack human interaction and speed-run your way to love or lust is broadly appealing—the Times has their 36 questions shtick, which promises potential couples the ability to fall in love after mutually answering 36 carefully designed questions about themselves, their goals and their values—so how is that kind of boldly analytical optimism so different from the Rules? Consent, is how! Talking through a series of increasingly intimate questions, exchanging astrological star charts, or even speed dating requires two or more parties mutually debasing themselves to try to find the keyboard shortcut to passion; ROTG relies on one-sided manipulation and coercion.
If there were a single sentence that magically made women fall in love or lust, every man would be using it… What does exist is a specific sequential process that can be used to develop a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman.
The insistence that the reader raise their nonspecific, but seemingly essential "status" is corny:
Don't touch or grab her right away. If she touches you say, with a smile, "Hey now, hands off the merchandise."
The turn-based-strategy game approach to human interaction—opener, hook, root, display value, dodge, attack, dodge—is not just corny, but backbreaking. Every part of a conversation, from inserting yourself into someone's conversation to (somehow) obtaining a phone number, gets its own special name and explanation for how it can be optimized to prove to the woman you're talking to that 1. You don't want to sleep with her, but 2. She should definitely, definitely want to sleep with you. It's almost a shame that Rules was released before the proliferation of dating apps. While systematizing in-person conversations is flat-out sociopathic, an entire, slightly less repugnant industry has grown up around gaming the various dating apps and helping users accrue more and better matches. Had Strauss focused his energies on coming up with quirky introductory messages to send to Tinder matches, or recommending ways to move a conversation from DMs to texts to a coffee date, Rules of the Game could've been sinister-yet-practical, instead of sinister-yet-hopelessly-outdated and a foundational text for a new strain of violent misogyny. Sliding doors, man.While reading the book, I wrote in my notes, "What is human interaction. Why and how do we do it," and I hadn't even gotten to the short stories yet. (Did you think I was kidding about those?)
Study after study has shown that women are attracted to personality, dominance, and status… In other words, if you exhibit the right traits for success, some women will take a chance on you even if you're currently unemployed.
"If you had to choose one thing in the world that makes life worth living, what would it be?" I asked as we walked in the room.
Mostly, the stories depict a burnt-out and sad Strauss acting the part of an international playboy despite himself. In the years after Rules of the Game's publication, Strauss reportedly checked himself into rehab for sex addiction, retired from pickup artist life, got married, and spawned. In 2015, he wrote a book called The Truth about his journey out of the "seduction community" and assimilating into monogamous, heterosexual adulthood. In a later interview with The Atlantic, Strauss described pickup artist tactics as "objectifying and horrifying," and said The Game, the prequel to the Rules, "became the Bible of what it was trying to chronicle in a more neutral way. So I think all of a sudden there were these horrid ideas that people read about in The Game and… The Game became the origin of those ideas."Though he's out of the game himself, Strauss's books and their cultural impact are still with us. Well, most of their cultural impact. Try as he might, he hasn't done much for magicians.Follow Calvin Kasulke on Twitter.Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
"Hmm," she said, nodding her head and pulling off her dress.