Playing Our Own Game … and Keeping Our Headphones On

Ovid actually wrote about game many, many years ago. He'd have mentioned headphones if he could have.
Ovid actually wrote about game many, many years ago. He’d have mentioned headphones if he could have.

By Alexa Day

Long ago, I would have been able to tell you the number to the pay phone in the center of the local mall, in the town where I grew up. This was back when there was such a thing as a group of pay phones in the center of the mall. In fact, I think the mall itself is gone now. But at one point, I had that number memorized.


At that point in time, long ago, I had a lot of people rolling up to me to ask for my phone number. It’s hard for me to say that; it sounds kind of immodest. I don’t think I was getting any more attention than any other woman moving unattended through the world. I do have a fairly high opinion of myself, but I don’t think I’m so hot that dudes are running across the street for my number.

At any rate, men were at that time coming up to me to ask for my number and then not leaving me alone until they got a number. So I gave them the number to that pay phone. They wrote it down — this was in the Dark Ages, so everyone had papyrus but not a cell phone — and then they’d go about their merry way. Most of these guys wouldn’t ask for a name, just the number. Sometimes, just to screw around with them, I would give them the number and then ask who they planned to ask for when they called. But most of the time, they would take that phone number and go, and I’d be free to go to the bookstore or wherever I was headed.

A few things have changed since then. I’m older, so I’m not getting as much attention. (Don’t feel bad. It’s nice to go to the bookstore uninterrupted.) Guys are using their cellphones to validate your number, so if you give them the mall phone, they’ll find out before calling. (I do still have a throwaway number, though. I wish I could say more, but for now, it’s enough to say it exists.) And a few women have paid with their lives for refusing male attention, which is a sad commentary on our modern society.

On top of that, the pick-up artist has become more visible.

I was introduced to the cult of the PUA, thankfully, by a male friend, with whom I had an arrangement. He knew I was dating, so he loaned me his copy of The Game, a book that looked like the Bible and which he treated with similar reverence, and told me to read it. “I just want you to know this is out there,” he said.

The world of the PUA has changed a little since The Game, but its essence is simple. The PUA appeals to the man who has so little confidence in his ability to attract the women he’s after that he needs to rely on tricks (called “game”) in order to fool women into sleeping with him. The success of the PUA stems from a few factors, one of which is that there is no shortage of men lacking in confidence. I do think the PUA community is overlooking a couple of important things, though.

1. Women can — and often do — read.

2. Women tell other women about the bizarre, pitiful, and downright abhorrent behavior they observe in men. We love doing this. We name names. We assign nicknames. We build a rich oral tradition. This has always been true of women. Somewhere out there, an archaeologist is about to discover an ancient text entitled The Song of Julia and the Nameless Dipshit Who Said He Would Give Her a Chocolate Every Time She Pleased Him, as if She Were a Dog and Not a Woman.

I’m grateful to my friend for telling me about the world of the PUA, especially because he had to know I would be angry when I read The Game. He put himself at risk to make sure I knew the PUA existed, and he didn’t have to do that. Because of his generosity, I know enough to keep the PUAs on my radar. That isn’t hard to do because, as I’ve suggested, they don’t seem to think that we are capable of reading about Game, silly creatures. They don’t even lock their forums down, so if a girl wanted, she could absolutely Google the stupid little chocolate game I mentioned above and find out exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Game doesn’t make me angry anymore, though. For one thing, it helps that I can see Game coming from miles away. But ultimately, the real problem is not Game itself.

It’s Wack Game. Wack Game is a problem for women and the men who employ it.

The Chocolate Stupidness is a prime example of Wack Game. In it, a dude is supposed to show up on a date with a bag of chocolates. When you ask the predictable question, “Why the hell did you bring a bag of chocolates with you?” the response is that he’s going to give you a chocolate every time you please him.

That used to make me really angry. Because seriously, what the hell is that? Does that ever work on anyone? And what’s to stop me from really making a scene over how ridiculous this is?

Now I see that it’s not my fault this person’s game is pitiful. It would only be my fault if I lowered myself to that level.
Into this environment rises The Modern Man, Dan Bacon, with his advice about how to get a woman to remove her headphones and subject herself to game.

I personally am unfazed by this, but then I’ve seen some incredibly wack game in my time. Still, I’m not surprised by the backlash to Bacon’s advice. I’m a little saddened that he’s edited the article under the negative pressure, but I understand negative pressure.

I’m not here to yell at Bacon, though. Because honestly, his advice is the same advice I would give to both men and women in this situation.

Let’s be objective about this for just a second.

Yes, the article does suggest that these men walk up to us and make a little gesture indicating that they want us to take our headphones off. Bacon recognizes that the presence of those things in our ears sends a message: I do not wish to interact with you. I myself have worn headphones connected to nothing at all just to send that message.

But you know what? If I’m wearing my earbuds connected to the inside of my jeans and some dude comes up to me with wack game, I just make get-away-from-me gestures and keep it moving. No problem. It works just as well as the number to the pay phone in the middle of the mall.

Indeed, Bacon himself advises men that we might decide to leave those headphones in. “If you notice that she doesn’t want to take off her headphones and doesn’t seem interested in talking to you at all,” he writes, “just respect that and leave the interaction without trying to talk to her any further. While it’s perfectly normal for a man and a woman to talk to each other, it’s not appropriate or fair for a guy to annoy a woman who doesn’t want to talk to him at all” (emphasis mine).

By the time we reach that place in the article, Bacon has made this point three times, and that was before he edited it.

Bacon makes another important point: if I actually take those headphones off, DO NOT BRING WACK GAME INTO THE SILENCE. Your continued presence is now an imposition on my free time. You have to be ready to add value to this interruption. The man who cannot do that, Bacon writes, shouldn’t even start.

Hallelujah. I can’t count the number of times I’ve advised male friends about not wasting our time. We have other things going on with our lives. Just don’t even start if your game is pitiful.

Let us be clear. I am not endorsing the use of PUA game to fool one’s way into another’s pants. I merely recognize that I cannot stop it. Because I can’t stop it, I’ve chosen to focus on avoiding or deflecting it. In other words, I can’t stop the fledgling PUAs of the world from waving their hands and making their headphones-off gestures. But I can absolutely make the decision to keep my headphones in and keep it moving.

Women moving through the world by themselves have always had to defend their spaces from unwanted male attention. I shouldn’t have to prepare myself to deal with annoyance (or physical danger) just to get from my couch to the bookstore. But sadly, that’s been a constant in our society for a pretty long time. I wonder if we’d get better results if we focused more on our own boundaries than on the erratic behavior of others. After all, I can’t control what other people are doing to and around me, but I have absolute control over my response to it.

Are you following Lady Smut?


  • Post authorKel

    I find that game funny, if only because it’s people who are *very bad* at the actual game trying to figure out the rules and then cheat. The actual game is, of course, social status and manipulation, and if you need to get a cheat sheet booklet for something as simple and easy as sex, you’ve already lost.

    Sorry, boy-persons… but the rules of the game are thus – boys pose and girls choose. And the worst part is that generally, the pickup artist is about quantity and desperation, which leads to bad sex for anyone involved. Bad sex is worse than bad pizza, and that’s all the PUA mentors are promising. (Bad sex. At least the pizza would be… something.)

    What’s really pathetic is the number of people who’ve never actually realized that they’ve never not had really terrible sex. That’s the part that makes it really hard to not fall out of my chair laughing when the normal PUA devotee comes around. Sex without emotion is dull compared to sex with someone who gives a damn; you might as well masturbate. At least you know you’re not going to catch anything nasty.

    And yes, even angry sex is better than desperate sex. Especially with someone you care about.

  • Post authorTymberDalton

    Oh, he has edited the everloving f*ck out of that article from the original. If someone pulls the original up on the Internet Wayback Machine, they can see the edits, and the original was far more obnoxious and did not include the words “respect” in terms of if she ignores the original “request” to talk, nor the descriptors about what is and is not appropriate. He also changed his headers for parts 2 and 3 of the “common mistakes” section from egregiously offensive in terms of coming at the interaction with a lack of respect for the woman and her right to say NO, GO AWAY.

    The fact that he only edited this article after massive fall-out, and the fact that he feels so insecure that he has to post “media support” for what he posted only goes to show me that he’s a sniveling jerk making money off guys who’d be better off spending that money on self-help classes with a reputable mental health professional who can help them boost their confidence and self-esteem in HEALTHY ways.

    These PUAs are just jerks, plain and simple.

    Reply to TymberDalton
  • Post authormadeline iva

    Thank the heavens for ear phones! Such a clear way to convey — “No, no, go away Stranger-Danger guy.”

    And finally, I feel sorry for folks — men or women — who don’t have a natural sense of how to get something going on when they want to. I remember giving advice to the women in my house in college on how to ‘study’ at the cafe to attract positive notice. To wit:

    Dress a little bit –you know, wear a bra and avoid sweats and greasy hair. Sit facing out to the rest of the room. Don’t slump over and bury your head in your book. Open you body language. Take a moment to look up around the room every now and then–make eye contact, give a little twinkle if you see something you like.

    My friend tried it and said it worked like a charm. So then we all went to the cafe together to try these tactics out. Looking up I’d notice 3 guys looking over at me. I was on crutches, and after we left the cafe, I was waiting for my friend to get her car when this guy from the cafe came up and tried to hit on me. Oh, and you’ll love his key pick-up artist move: acknowledging that he was the boyfriend of a fairly famous local musician. Gah.

    Reply to madeline iva
    • Post authorKel

      I never understood that particular approach, either I don’t believe you, so you’re a liar, and I want nothing to do with you, or I do believe you, so you’re potentially a cheater, and I want nothing to do with you. Either way, I want nothing to do with you. The only way it works is if you’re poly, and I’m not, so that doesn’t actually work for *me* but might work for someone else.

      Alternately, maybe he’s trying to drum up interest in his sweetheart’s band?

  • Post authorElizabeth SaFleur

    “We name names. We assign nicknames. We build a rich oral tradition.” I laughed so hard at this. I would think men would figure out we talk to each other. They complain about how much we talk all the time! What I can’t believe is how many men actually hit on you even when they know you’re married. Do they want to be rejected? Or are they really that delusional thinking the reaction they’ll get is, sure, I’ll go home with you, bonk the ever-lasting daylights out of you and then go home to hubby?

    Reply to Elizabeth SaFleur

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