The 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 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 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.