The Rules vs The Game

article-new_ehow_images_a06_0s_0v_standard-game-checkers-rules-1.1-800x800The Rules and The Game are manuals created to teach men and women how to attract the opposite sex. What do they tell us about the war between the sexes in this new millennium? For in these manuals, it is war.

The Game

The Game was written in 2005 by Neil Strauss after his book editor asked him to investigate the community of pickup artists. After a few workshops this self-described “chick repellant” found that the techniques worked surprisingly well for a “pick up” — but not for relationships. And, as it turns out, the game works best for misogynistic men, but only works to attract women who are misogynistic, themselves.

Here are some rules of The Game:

  • Approach a woman within three seconds of seeing her so you won’t lose your nerve
  • Ask something benign like “What’s your sign?” or “What’s your type?”
  • Act somewhat disinterested
  • Briefly disqualify yourself from being a potential suitor
  • Ignore the girl you want and flirt with one of her friends instead
  • Ogle other women
  • Subtly insult her to lower her self-worth
  • Isolate “the target” from her friends

Clearly, these rules are all about bedding women by means of controlling them and weakening their self-esteem, while inflating the confidence of men.

The Rules

The Rules were written to aid women in getting a man to commit. Published in 1995, they were updated in 2002 to reflect single life in a high-tech culture.

Here are a few rules:

  • Let him take the lead
  • Don’t talk to a man first and don’t ask him to dance
  • Don’t call him and rarely return his calls
  • Always end a date first
  • Don’t see him more than once or twice a week
  • Don’t talk very much on the first date
  • Break up with him if he doesn’t buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or Valentine’s Day
  • Don’t open up too fast
  • Be sexy

In sum, The Rules urge women to manipulate men by playing hard to get. In an ironic twist women are advised to make men the leader even while creating a sense of female independence. (Even keeping her mouth shut works to create a sense of “man as leader” as some research finds that when women talk more than one third of the time they are seen as honing in on men’s space.)

On the bright side, women are urged to get on with their lives instead of waiting around for “him.”

What The Rules/The Game have in common

Both manuals advise game-playing, so we have not evolved much — or many of us have not.

Both amass power to “their side” by means of disinterest – which may work since whomever cares least has more power.

The Rules advises a traditional source of power for those who lack it: manipulation, controlling men without their knowing. Interestingly, The Game urges this same feminine technique for men, who do not have direct control over women’s minds and bodies.

And we find sexism surviving in both books.

The war of the sexes lives on

Not surprisingly, the books also differ in a way that reflects traditional gender norms. The goal of The Game is to bed women while the goal of The Rules is to snag men. The stereotypes live on.

My students are surprised that The Rules weren’t written in the middle of the last century. But The Game’s even more recent publication comes as no shock. I guess we are more puzzled by women who agree to sexism, whereas no one is surprised that some men continue to support it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 14, 2013, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Timothy Dela Cruz

    I first read THE GAME after a friend recommended it to me. At first glance, the concepts being taught in this book seemed priceless. As I kept reading, I realized how sad their lives were and that they built a completely disillusioned mindset. The women described in their stories showed plenty of insecurities, which the gamers manipulated to their liking. Although they were able to sleep with many women, it did not satisfy the loneliness they were feeling throughout the book. It was frustrating to read about all the women and men that did not value themselves, but it was even more frustrating to read about, how instead of giving value they would take it away.

  2. I think that a game-playing will not lead to any serious relationship and it is kind of childish to do this type of thing – follow some imaginary rules.
    I picture that this game could be done in a big city with bored people, or desperate for relationship.
    The game could be attractive to those who were raised to follow the rules, some pedant people who have low social skills.They think that game will work, because the rules were made by smart people, which means it would lead to something what is wanted – in this case it is a relationship.
    Instead of using some society based rules,I suggest to use Neurolinguistic programming, if you want to attract someone, without being a sexist.

  3. After reading this post, I think that the “game” and “rules” are sexist because they tell us as a man or woman, how we should act when we want to “attract” the opposite sex. From the “game,” men are taught to play women, like to “act somewhat disinterested” to the target woman and “subtly insult her to lower her self-worth.” On the other hand, women are taught to follow to rules in order to keep the man, like “let him take the lead” and “be sexy.” Both game and rules try to make women to feel lower than men. By the definition of “game,” men can treat the relationship playfully, while by the definition of “rule,” women have to be controlled. It is quite unfair since as a woman, it is a bit insulting. When we are in a relationship, we have to respect each other. It is actually meaningless even if we really can follow the “game” and the “rules,” because they do not lead us to a serious relationship with others. If we really want to attract others, we should be ourselves and be friendly, instead of using other useless methods.

  4. Blessed Son of man

    I’m not for slavery of women or men, What I mean on the prostitution side is more of a regulated system similar to Amsterdam requiring checks and government intervention periodically. If men had an outlet then this 56% divorce rate might drop some.

    Long as the man has no say on aborting the child, Yes I do believe that the burden of raising should be with the women and if women never want sex what is the loss? If sex is only used when its advantageous then it really just a weapon against men with really doesn’t help the whole equality thing. I swear my gender is insane sometime when it comes to the pursuit of sex and love when honestly they should just stick to alternatives till they weed out the BS people who only want to use and abuse.

    And plenty of people are sexiest otherwise this website would be lacking on material and the creator of those books wouldn’t make money. Also as far as understanding what a woman wants? It doesn’t matter how much we please a woman all that matters is status, long a man has status he can literally get any type of woman he desires.

    • If my husband were visiting a prostitute I’d divorce him.

      You have a strange view of why women have sex. If that’s your view and your attitude toward women, I’m guessing you don’t get much.

      If a woman wants to keep the child and a man wants an abortion then perhaps she should agreed to cover the costs. That said men and women should both be responsible when they’re having sex so they don’t have to end up in this situation the first place.

      Of course I know that plenty of sexism continues to exist. And that certainly is the reason I have this blog.

      • Blessed Son of Man

        Yes if Your husband was sleeping with prostitutes then divorce him. I’m talking about single men to laid before they go stupid and get married for sex or infatuation.

        I think women are goal oriented while men are pleasure oriented. I don’t have a low opinion of women if that what your thinking, also I get laid on a regular but that is why I can afford to be more sensible about dealing with women. Women aren’t my only option so thus I can afford to be choosy.

        I might come off sounding a bit bitter but men do think with their lower parts and the brain is only a quiet voice in the background. Let a man have a steady source and his head will be a little more clear.

      • Okay. But if you have so much sex with women I don’t get why you’re so hostile toward them (us).

    • I think I sort of get some of the points you’re hopefully trying to address. Many men want sex and can become discouraged about all the work involved in getting a particular woman or one they are already dating to sleep with them: how many dinners? how many movies? how many conversations about family and hopes/dreams must they bear? All that can equal lots of time and money, for sure. Those types of men (which are a lot, by the way) would benefit from the business of prostitution or non-committal casual encounters. However, systematic prostitution does exploit the most vulnerable, and sex trafficking is rampant in the industry. Too bad the guys that just want sex can’t say, “hey, I want sex, who’s up for it?” or go to a bar/club and easily get a sexual encounter (unlike gay bars/clubs).

      At a high school I work at, a student was taking a survey of the students in the media center: if a guy knew he couldn’t “get with” a girl, would he still continue talking to her in depth about their lives by talking, texting, and FB’ing. Most guys said: No. Girls were stunned. Would a high school guy date a girl he knew wouldn’t sleep with him until they were in college? Very few, I imagine.

      While this isn’t an accurate survey, I think it is telling: men are sexual creatures, and when they’re young, most really do want sex. Women, on the other hand, seek relationships. This isn’t to say all men don’t want relationships–but one can’t deny the fact that high school boys, college men, and men in the workforce want and seek out sex, and I’m sure most don’t enjoy the work involved to get it.

      Males and females in the U.S. culture do play games a lot, and the techniques outlined in this blog unfortunately work on a lot of people. Is it ethical one person asked? Of course not, but it occurs and it works in a lot of cases. Women like men who are popular, have power, or have money. Using a high school example again, lots of women love certain young male movie/tv stars. Yet, if those same males were going to school with them, I doubt many women would show them the same level of affection. Women like men’s statuses. Sure, not all women, but I think more so than not.

      I think it really comes down to the fact that men and women are very different from one another–beyond similarities in genetic makeup. The genders think differently, feel differently, and behave differently. You mentioned that you don’t really take to evolutionary psychology, but I think it’s fairly relevant in today’s modern world still. Slowly, however, I think the sexes are moving away from these traits, just look at what has happened to the “desirable male image” among women: look at what men were physically like during the 50’s-70’s, and look at the ones who are desirable to women nowadays.

  5. Blessed Son of man

    Personally I like both books it shows the value of who we really are when the paint starts to peel. Men just want a quick lay and women just want to suck a man dry.

    I bet there would be so much less problems with relationships if we legalized prostitution and removed alimony and child support. Made married have a two years processing period instead of being so easy. I promise you dating would be so much better if a man knows he has a steady supply of sex no matter what and a woman knows she doesn’t have to put out so fast or act so aloof to hope to keep a man since he has got to wait two years to start being afraid.

  6. Wow… just wow! This sounds so ridiculous but the sad thing is I one hundred percent could see people following this advice. I for one have only been “out “as a married woman so any advances made have been quickly turned down. With that said I have been out with single woman and have seen plenty of men act like jerks and am now starting to wonder if any of them have read this book. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind men and when playing games in the hopes of a hook-up or an actual relationship. I see it all as a waste of time. I think men and women should all just be honest in what they want.

  7. After reading this article Two things seem to come to mind for myself. 1. is that i never act that way and if a woman tries to use “the rules” on me i instantaneously find that person unattractive. 2. i am amazed to see that both men and women use these tactics frequently and most people seem to be receptive toward manipulation. These rules to me shows someone who is unwilling to legitimately show anyone who you really are and negatively stereotypes the rest of their gender facilitating no equality for both genders. I believe a man and woman should become friends first to ensure a mutual agreement of ideals,morals, and ability to compromise overall. I like this post because i have seen both men and women use these tactics successfully in order to “rope in” a member of the opposite sex.Even though it is entertaining to see this process in action, i personally find it a tad childish but to each their own.

    This blog is very entertaining. thanks for the creation of it!

  8. I’m aware of these books and their tactics. I find then trashy, manipulative, shallow and disrespectful. Yes they work, but I find them highly unethical. In contrast when I meet people I like I am as open and honest about myself as I can, I let people know if I like them and let them make up their own mind about whether or not they want to get involved with me further.

    I refuse to seduce or pursue women, my only “Rule” is if they like me for who I am then I don’t need to use any unethical psychological manipulation.

    Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂


  9. While a lot of these rules seem to be from the past, a lot of it is still present. I see my friends falling into the mindset that the male has to be the one to always act first. I even see myself doing it sometimes. It is a notion that if he does not contact you then he must not like you followed by the yearning to be wanted. The idea that whoever is more disinterested has the power seems to be a sad but true statement. I have seen in many relationships that as soon as one member checks out, the other member, often female, will do whatever if takes to attempt to get their attention. I feel like this only ends up putting of the disinterested member while simultaneously driving the caring member mad. Even if the seeker is really only seeking the attention, not the love and affection they think they want. Unfortunately it is not widely spread through society that it is okay to be caring and show your desires and interest. In fact these “rules” probably are the reason that about half of all marriages end in divorce. While it seems foreign the minute you start to evaluate the relationships that are around you, you beging to understand that these “rules” run most of the relationships you know.

  10. Whoa. This is so alien. I’ve seen several of those rules at play, but not in the context of dating, and independently of which sex the person was. For example, if a couple has had a fight and one of them calls to make up, sometimes you’ll hear friends advising the other one not to respond immediately: “let her worry”.

    I can definitely say Spain isn’t big in either The Rules or The Game… fortunately.

  11. Throughout the 20 years of my life I have experienced and seen a lot of men and women who have portrayed those same tactics in society. I’ve dated many different guys and in a weird way they all seem to have similar character traits. For example, the guys I would date all would start off sweet and charming and in a week they fall so fast w/out taking the time out to truly get to know me. So I would intentionally put my guard up so that I was able to refrain from gaining any feelings for them. They would get upset because I would give them space or get upset when I acted like I didn’t have any emotion and didn’t pay them any attention like I didn’t need/or want them when deep down inside I knew I did. I noticed that playing the “hard to get” played an important role in the relationship because it would show the true colors of that person. For instance the guys that fell so quickly and got avoided weren’t able to handle the fact that a girl was strong and self sufficient and didn’t fall first because usually girls are more vulnerable and fall first but in my case I wasn’t so vulnerable and guys where intimidated by that so they would try and get at my friends or talk bad about me to make me feel worthless because I didn’t feel the way they felt about me. So basically, from my own personal experience I think this blog really talks about real things that we all face and its sad how men and women fight over power rather than joining together because using those type of tactics can sometimes be a huge downfall when wanting to persue a real relationship.

  12. Game playing period is a waste of time,throughout my life I have actually seen and experienced these tactics that men use on females. They think that they are building up more confiendnce when they actually “like” the girl they want, but instead trying to flirt with their friends, i guess to make them think that we ladies get jealous some how. As two people being together and trying to live in one roof,we as a society need to realize that even if one of us does have the upper hand it the realtionship doesn’t make anyone of us any smarter or bigger then our significant other. Also, it’s normal nowadays that when guys have mulitple partners,it is not a suprise to anyone, when in reality women also have the same problem. Its more viewed on guys and not so much on us females, but we also do have problems as well. I think that both men and women should have equal rights in their any type of realtionship. When reading this article it says we dont call much or even ever return phone calls, this isnt true about all of us, some of us ladies actually do like calling and returning phone calls back. We like to be consist because we would want the person were talking to also be that way towards us and know that were the only ones that their on the phone talking to. When there is two people in a realtionship then i think that all these different inequalites that we share should eventually change. Sometimes when your playing the “hard” to get role, you may be pushed off and away because not everytime does it work. The real you are and how much confident you have in yourself, it will show to the person that your like that your not like every other female trying to play “hard” to get and change the way they look at you. Not every female out in this world have to go by these so called “games”, not every man out their is a dog.

  13. Couple of points worth making. I am saddened that books like this exist, and more saddened that perhaps there are people who would buy them, read them, and then decide to follow their advice.

    A friend of mine went to learn sign language as an adult. He became quite proficient, to the point where he started going to social events with deaf people. He told me that the entire structure of what we consider romantic love to be based on: hints, hopes, conventions (“don’t ask him to dance”), disappointments (“don’t return his calls”), is absent for the deaf. For them, communication is troublesome, and therefore they can’t be bothered (and nor can I!) with the endless avoidance of saying what you really mean! Therefore, courtship among the deaf is open and forthright.

    A girl might approach you and say she fancies you, and wants to go out with you. You then say “yes please”, or “no thank you” and that is as much preamble as is required. If the answer is no, no offence seems to be taken. At first he was decidedly taken aback by this open approach, but soon came to value it for its simple directness.

    The actual behaviour of deaf adults didn’t seem to be any different: he wasn’t suggesting that they have free love or multiple sexual partners, just that it seems too much effort for deaf people to engage in the rituals of romantic attachment which the rest of us seem to be slaves to.

    My second point concerns economics. I don’t know what you think about “Freakonomics”; I personally adore it, and its sequel. A similar, but much more “British” (by which I mean more subtle and understated, but superbly scholarly nonetheless) book is “The Logic of Life” by Tim Harford, in which the author discusses relationships (and lots of other things) from a purely economic point of view. For a man, sex is pleasurable, and the costs are few. It is therefore economically rational for men to attempt to have sex as often as possible with as many partners as possible. (And therefore, I believe, there is some Darwinian impetus to it also). On the other hand, while sex is pleasurable for women, the costs (i.e. pregnancy) are appreciably higher. Therefore it is economically rational for women to attempt to form a stable relationship (“snag a man”) before engaging in sex with him, which makes him less likely to run off if pregnancy ensues.

    As with Freakonomics, Harford makes no mention of the relative morals of these approaches, nor does he consider the feelings of the parties involved, other than their desires. But his analysis is interesting and scholarly, and well worthy of consideration.


    • I’m not really into evolutionary psychology but I can see that women have more costs because of the pregnancy and baby thing.

      Despite this, women in some tribal cultures are — or have been — about as promiscuous as men. But in those cultures the whole community cares for the child so her only cost is the pregnancy thing.

      I think the reason women are more reluctant to have sex has to do with a lot of repression and the fact that women are sexualized in our culture and men are not. See this post:

      Sexual Desire & Sexism

  14. >>Don’t call him and rarely return his calls<< Um…….WUT???

    That is one of the worst pieces of advice that's ever been given to women. I personally get fed up with women who play games like that and quickly write them off. Not calling and rarely returning calls shows disinterest and I don't care to waste time pursuing someone who is uninterested. I much prefer women who *do* call. Or at the very least will *always* return calls when they are interested in me.

  15. Stephanie Orellana

    After reading this article I think some of these tactics would only be useful for casual encounters with the opposite sex. Because I think anyone who may be practicing these methods would not take the other person very seriously in a long term relationship. Although these rules of the game seem slightly silly I do believe that people are still tricked this way. This article gives examples of ways that both woman and men can use each others emotions to gain some type of affection by matters of manipulation or control but does not state the consequences resulting from it. Such as if you could truly snag a boyfriend by making him feel jealousy and insecure how long would you expect to play that game for it
    to last. Also it’s very stereotypical but honest that being “sexy” would draw men toward you but possibly not any of the ones that are actually good for you. The part that really made sense, even though completely unfair, to me was when it stated to subtly insult her to lower her self esteem. It’s a bit shocking to read but not far from reality of what I have seen to be as true that men do to keep a girl from leaving. Still the thought of men actually doing this deliberately knowing it would hurt a person just to get something they want is so selfish. I don’t necessarily agree with the rules or disagree because I have cone across various types of woman who use manipulation and their appearance to get what they want. Neither side is right to me but this is just the world we live in today. Both genders are seeking power and although not everybody can be the most dominate piece on the board that doesn’t stop the game from being played. I can only hope that people will follow logic and their true emotions maybe later in the future and discontinue playing these games. Also the way it states to isolate the “target” as if woman are mere object rather than human beings. Hopefully the times will change and until then to each his own.

  16. I’ve seen television shows showing the guys doing this to women. They feel that if they make the girl feel unwanted or belittled will make them feel like they will need a man to help them feel better. I’ve also heard that guys purposely ignore girls so the guy will be on her mind more because she will be wondering why he isn’t talking to her. I’ve also heard girls say that if they are hanging out with their boyfriend that she will not help pay for anything they do because that is the mans job in a relationship. When really a women is capable of paying for stuff too.

  17. This is something I see a lot in society. When it comes to modern relationships I think that women are more equal when it comes to job status and social standing than they were 50 years ago. But when it comes to sexuality and casual dating I feel more and more that it is socially acceptable to put down women. It is socially ok for men to have sex with as many women as possible and it is ok for them treat them as sex objects rather than a real person. On the flip side I think it’s still socially acceptable for women to let men take control of relationships. It is frowned upon for women to be too “controlling” or seem too “needy”. I don’t understand why it is becoming more common to see women in places of power at the workplace, at school and in politics but at home and in their spare time we are still seeing a stark contrast between men and women’s roles in relationships. When will it be ok for a women to have multiple sex partners or no sex partners? When will it be wrong for a man to treat a woman like she’s an object? I hope it’s sometime soon.

  1. Pingback: Relationships: How “The Rules” and “The Game” Can Cripple You In Life

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