Some years ago, I came across a series of web pages that offered what spam messages sometimes claim to offer—instructions to men on how to seduce women. They were labelled PUA, for "pickup-artist," and were more interesting than one might have expected, especially if one was twenty years or more out of that particular market.
Part of what made them interesting was that there was a theory underlying them: Women are attracted to alpha men, so the way to attract women is to be, or at least pretend to be, an alpha male. Another was the frankly amoral approach. As best I could tell, the authors did not regard either honesty towards or the welfare of their would-be partners as matters of much importance. The objective was simply to bed as many desirable women as possible, and the techniques were worked out in some detail.
Recently, reading comments on an interesting post
by Eric Raymond, I came across a mention of the current incarnation, or perhaps descendant, of PUA, and followed it up via Google. This time the label was "red pill," a reference to the film The Matrix
, where the red pill represents possibly painful reality as an alternative to pleasant illusion. The underlying theory—women are attracted to dominant men—is still the same, but the application has changed. The objective this time is successful marriage.
The tone has also changed. The central idea, as best I can judge it, is that the husband's role should be that of a benevolent dictator. He should work hard, do all the husbandly duties, pay careful attention to the desires and welfare of his wife, listen when she talks. But he should also make it clear that, in the last analysis, he is the one who decides things. I do not know if any of the authors of red pill pages are familiar with Blackstone's famous explanation of the legal status of a married couple: "In law, husband and wife are one person, and that person is the husband"—but I expect they would approve of it.
Which reflects how conservative the terminus of their intellectual journey is. They start with amoral hedonism aimed at as much casual sex as possible and end up with a conventional, if somewhat old fashioned, version of traditional monogamous matrimony. Their one addition to the traditional account, carried over from where they started, is the objective: Since women are turned on by dominant men, following their marital formula is supposed to provide lots of matrimonial sex and a happy and satisfied wife.
I do not have the data to judge how successful either the original program or the later version are. My guess is that both work for some people some of the time in some situations, but less universally than their proponents believe. The PUA tactics appear designed mostly for single bars where, as I understand the institution, the women present are there to be picked up, so the only question is which of the men they end up with; I would not be surprised if, in that setting, the advice works pretty well. And I expect there are successful marriages that work in part along red pill lines, as well as others that would not. But what I found most interesting was the way in which a mating philosophy designed for men in their early twenties with a single-minded focus on casual sex had morphed into a form suited to the same men a little older, a little more mature, and with a different set of objectives.
I will now await the comments of those who know both versions better than I do and can either correct my account or fill it out with their own data.