The Not So Beautiful Game, Step 8: In Which our Narrator Dislikes his Housemates and Falls Prey to Consistency Bias
Trigger warning: discussions of taking photos of sex without permission. Sexy photos, taking and distribution of, without permission, is what I would consider a sex crime. See Jennifer Lawrence for more. Other than that, it’s just generally kind of a tawdry and creepy sort of step, this, so if you don’t want to read further, here’s a picture of my cat with a giant stuffed unicorn that’s rather grimy because I found it in a dumpster. These things happen to unicorns.
Onward, then, through this morass of compassionless egotism and the unsexiest sex scenes I have ever had the misfortune to read. Our narrator, if you recall from the days before the holidays when I last wrote about this, had just moved in with Mystery, Papa, Herbal, and one or two other pseudonymed seducers to a $50,000/month mansion in Hollywood. At first, all seems well. Style is exulting in having multiple girlfriends who do not know each other though they know/suspect the others exist. This bugs me because it sounds bad from a public health point of view. (and from what I understand of polyamory, good communication skills are vital. Not that this book is in any way a model of healthy relationships, so why should it start now?) The only thing I will actually accept as good about The Game thus far is that there are mentions of condoms for every sexual encounter plus recommendations for condoms as preparation for such. Way to promote safe sex! Next step, enthusiastically consensual sex! Anyway, through a chance encounter between two of these girlfriends, and one other anecdote encounter besides, Style believes that he has found the magic formula to engaging in threesomes (who needs a meaningful sample size?) and exults that via his teaching, libertines around the world will soon be engaging in threesomes. Since he is nothing if not wedded to stereotype, threesomes (strictly composed of two women and one man, of course) are his holy grail of sex.
Despite this feeling of triumph, things begin to go sour betwixt Style and his housemates. People who routinely treat others as objects or rivals aren’t necessarily the best at respecting boundaries, apparently. Shocking, that. At first, tension springs from what Style describes as a joke, though he is unsettled by it. He is having sex in the shower and Mystery and a few others burst in laughing and taking pictures. They regard it as a joke, he is perturbed, the feelings of his partner are not considered. Style, however, shies away from the implications of sex crimes as fairly expected consequences of a community that professes and enforces people as objects rather than people, and goes on to what he considers more important infringements, that is, more obvious infringements upon men’s egos. People, including Style, start seducing other people’s “targets” despite house rules against such behavior. Housemates start teaching workshops and seduction techniques without coordinating with other housemates, sharing the profits, or indeed, informing other people in the house of the large amounts of students granted accommodations in the house. Style, in one of his few moments of lyrical writing, describes these students as scuttling about like “so many peacocked rats.” Fortunately, these men are all white and rich enough to squander money on being students, otherwise, prejudicial stereotypes about certain often-impoverished minorities cramming too many people into a living space would probably come into play. What really bugs Style, however, is when the libertine who calls himself Tyler Durden moves in. Tyler Durden copies everything Style does, teaches his students to do the same, and, as a final straw of infuriatingness, he tells “targets” what other libertines will do to attempt to seduce them. The surest way to spoil game is, apparently, honesty. Anything that more information destroys is probably not a good thing. Style, however, is enraged, seduces Tyler Durden’s target in retaliation, while telling himself that he doesn’t mind Mystery seducing one of his targets. Women: still only important as objects of manly sexuality. Even snarkiness can’t give me quite enough emotional distance to not flinch a little at the abhorrent attitude of sleeping with women that are regarded as belonging to other men in order to damage those women’s presumed owners. Style’s other response to Tyler Durden copying him is to try to distance himself from the community (and specifically Tyler Durden) by talking about how much better he is morally than all other libertines. For example, he claims, he just says that if a woman isn’t interested in him, fine. He moves on. This has never come across in any of his stories of seducing women. He also claims that he cares about all his students in a way that Tyler Durden doesn’t, for example, Style claims that he kept in email contact with all the students from the first workshops he assisted Mystery at. He was concerned about them, saw his early self in them, and wanted to see how they were doing. This would be more convincing had this been mentioned in the earlier parts of the text, and if he weren’t constantly undercutting his own claims to be deep and have compassion by relating anecdotes that reflect poorly on himself. He treated Mystery’s bereavement at the death of his father as an annoying need for attention. He says very specifically that since Mystery complained a lot about his father, he doesn’t see why Mystery would be upset about his passing. The capability of having more than one emotion about a thing, or reacting emotionally to death despite a strained relationship in life, are things Style apparently misses for all his claims that his seduction capabilities make him a good student of human nature. One more instance of Style’s lack of self-awareness, or consistency bias, or something. He criticizes libertines who are becoming “social robots” and doing nothing but looking at women as targets and men as rivals. Yet by his own anecdote, he abandons a conversation with old friends of his at the first woman who walks by that he can get to go home with him.
Finally, we move on to the inevitable name-dropping. Style gets to interview both Courtney Love and Britney Spears, and uses seduction techniques on them. This leads him to let Courtney Love stick acupuncture needles of dubious cleanliness in him (eew! Also, WHY?), have a crisis about whether sleeping with people he is interviewing would be ethical journalistically (spoiler alert, it’s not.) and concluding that because of celebrities’ sheltered nature they are more susceptible to people persuading them to do things like sex. (Yet he can be convinced by a celebrity to suffer unsanitary acupuncture needles! Sweet Sanitary Pasteur!) This is also when Style starts referring to women not as targets, but as victims, which makes me cringe inside.
How much actual harm, directly, Style and his ilk are doing is something I decline to speculate too much about because we do not hear any other sides of the stories besides Styles, and I sincerely doubt that this narrative is close to the unvarnished truth (as a witness can recall such anyway). Since our narrator seems to completely lack any ability, or at least inclination, to empathize or even communicate honestly, I am not inclined to trust him. He thinks of what many libertines do as evil, and at least several times he has considered what he is doing to engage in sex to be irresistible magic, which makes him consider himself a rapist. Intent is not magic, and I consider most of what he thinks of as evil to be self-aggrandizement coupled with an inability to understand how suggestibility or persuasion really works despite employing it, but intent does count for something. He considers himself a rapist, even if he won’t use that term to describe what he is in trying to accomplish in bypassing the process of consent. However, that brings up the point that he is trying to bypass the process of consent to sex. He is trying to be a rapist. That I don’t think he is succeeding the way he thinks he is doesn’t make that better. Also, referring to women as victims is even more creepy and demeaning than target.
The good news is, there’s only 3 more steps! Gimme three steps, gimme three steps more, gimme three steps toward that door. The bad news, of course, is that one of these steps will be entitled “overcoming last minute resistance,” a phrase which refers to having sex with a woman after she says no, or, as we sometimes call that, rape.