Loneliness and Love in a Darwinian World (a rational critique of PUA)

Introduction and disclaimer

I’m not quite sure why I have written this. I guess I just wanted to write about my past experiences with loneliness, admittedly to get my story out there but also to evoke some sympathy for a lot of lonely shy guys who must have made similar experiences – and are still making them. Another reason was to write a critique of the “worldview” of PUA – but one that makes rational and scientific arguments, in contrast to most critiques of PUA which are overwhelmingly motivated by political correctness and reality-denial. I wish I could have read such a critique 3-4 years ago, that would have saved me from a lot of pain.

In the first part I will try to convey my past state of mind as authentically as possible, meaning that I will not only write about my experiences but also about my PUA-influenced interpretations of them. As should be clear by now, I no longer agree with substantial parts of the PUA-body of thought (and also with other more philosophical views of the first part). So if you only read the first part and think it’s misogynistic crap, please keep in mind that there is a second part before sending me death threats. Thanks.

Oh, and one last note: You can skip the next 3 paragraphs in case they are too boring.

[ETA: I don’t agree with the negative language of the post anymore, though even at the time of writing I was using a hyperbolic style as this is more fun to write and read (which is true for most of the posts on this blog. But even so, the language strikes me as too, hm, judgmental. Actually, this is again true for most of my other posts. Lastly, I’ve used this blog always more in a therapeutic way (as compared to the most accurate description of my epistemic map), as an outlet for my feelings and experiences with the aim of inducing catharsis and eventually getting over them.]

Part 1: My own story – Experiencing the darwinian abyss

I like to think of loneliness as the worst fundamental existential evil of the human condition: Loneliness is associated with an around 30% increased likelihood of mortality (after controlling for possible confounding variables), which is comparable to smoking and obesity. But even more important for my belief in the seriousness of loneliness are my personal experiences.

About my youth I will only mention a few things because I was basically a superficial idiot until 18 so there is little to talk about anyway. I met my first girlfriend with 16 and was together with her for two years. At the beginning it was lovely (of course still shallow from my present perspective) but soon the relationship transformed into a nightmare because besides being depressed and suffering from low self-esteem she was pathologically jealous: During the last 12 months my home was essentially my prison. Just to take two examples of the absurdity that permeated this whole relationship: I wasn’t allowed to see my friends – because I could meet pretty girls there – or read the newspaper – because I could see pretty girls there. Why I didn’t break up with her? Well, I was an idealistic, naive and romantic “white knight” and wanted to marry her. She was my “true love” after all! I would probably still be together with her, if she hadn’t cheated on me by sleeping with another guy (and kissing yet another guy 6 months before this) and then telling me, that she wanted a break. It’s not unlikely that I would have stayed with her if she hadn’t initiated the breakup because I somehow never was angry at her for this and forgave her immediately. Sometimes I think about all the Everett branches in which I’m still together with her and cry a bit.

Anyway, from 18 to 19 I became ever more interested in philosophy and science, briefly had another girlfriend but she was too much of a stuffy, boring satisficer and I broke up with her. I had already become disillusioned after my first relationship and after the second breakup I swore myself to not waste time with romantic relationships because I came to believe that emotions like love and sexual attraction just delude people and fool them into fulfilling their genetic imperative – having offspring – and, most importantly, distract them from the truly important stuff: philosophy and science. Consequently, from 19 to 23 I didn’t have any physical or romantic contact with females (not even hugging) because I basically cut all my social ties and only focused on reading and figuring out “the meaning of life”. To make a long story of intellectual development short, my interest in girls renewed around one year after I had discovered LessWrong, EA and related ideas. On LessWrong I first encountered this thing called “PUA” – short for pickup artistry – and got convinced that it is an excellent method for improving your social skills and confidence. After years of near social isolation I basically didn’t have many social skills left and thought that it would make sense to try to find a girlfriend, improve my confidence and social skills at the same time, which would make me happier and more productive. Basically “finding a girlfriend” was at the beginning merely a subgoal to the main goal: “saving the world”. Ok, and I guess I actually  started to feel lonely after all those years of solitude even though I might not have admitted this to myself back back at this time.

Anyway, approaching girls actually was waaay harder than I thought. I’m relatively shy by nature and years of social isolation certainly didn’t help to improve this. In addition, the human brain is essentially programmed to find the idea of approaching strangers terrifying because in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness this was a big deal (e.g. if you got rejected by a woman of your tribe you lost not only her as a mating opportunity – and there were only around 10 appropriate women “available” in total in most clans – she also would probably tell other women and it would be much harder to attract them). But presumably the biggest problem was that I didn’t have a social circle or friends. Normally it’s not so difficult to talk to “strangers” if you meet them, say, on a party of a friend – you immediately have a sort of social connection, you have “social proof” and often you even get properly introduced by the common friend. Alas, this option was not available for me. That’s why I had to go alone to night clubs, festivals or other parties and try to meet my soulmate there (or so I thought, more on the stupidity of this strategy later). But trying to approach groups of strangers while having no “wingman” requires incredible amounts of confidence, at least for me. After numerous failures and rejections my confidence actually started to severely decline. While searching for possible solutions, I had the great “epiphany” of trying out drugs especially tranquilizers in order to be calm, confident and happy before approaching girls. But even this didn’t help because I was just such a pussy. I don’t remember how often I went to clubs alone, high on some drug or another, but still not uttering a single word to anyone the whole evening – and I was there for like seven fucking hours. I felt like the greatest retarded loser of the whole fucking Milky Way. After all, I only had to blame myself for my misery and loneliness because I was such a pathetic coward, unworthy to live for another second. And of course there is also the fact that taking drugs is pretty bad for you so my depression and confidence naturally deteriorated even further.

Let’s get a bit more concrete here. I wrote about “rejections” in the abstract but people not familiar with the process may not truly grasp what this word actually means. First, what you have to keep into account is that approaching girls required me to summon all my willpower and courage. We are talking about an amount of willpower and courage that probably exceeded what I needed to finish my whole bachelor thesis, heck, probably my whole degree. With this in mind, let’s imagine a typical night: I’m standing there in the club and after preparing myself to approach this cute girl for like an hour or two, I finally do so with an innocuous opener like “hey, do you know the name of this track?” or something like this. And then, depending on the situation, we would either have a short conversation and after a few minutes it became clear that she either had a boyfriend or was shallow and mentally deficient. Or she would reject me by screwing up her face and waving me away like I was a genetically modified maggot. You know how this makes you feel? Imagine God himself pointing a finger at you, in front of every earthly and celestial being that has ever lived, and saying “Look at this deformed piece of subhuman genetic garbage. You are the only mistake I’ve ever committed. You are a disgrace to my whole creation. Please kill yourself. Immediately.” Needless to say, my evening was over.

But what probably disillusioned me the most was reading numerous blogs and books about PUA and evolutionary psychology after which I was forced to discard my idealistic and romantic notions of love that I was holding dear since my early youth. I was forced to stare into the darwinian abyss of human nature and realize how arduous, competitive, mechanical and brutish this whole endeavor, actually our whole existence is. This shift in perspective stripped the whole concept of dating and love down to the essentials: Love is not magical. It’s merely an epiphenomenon of the biological drive to mate. As in most biological species, the male has to fight to gain sexual access to the woman. Women as the picky sex choose, and men have to prove themselves. I will quote wikipedia, because I’m too lazy to explain everything:

In many species, sexual selection is closely linked to parental investment. In theory, a male from such a species can produce a large number of offspring over the course of his life by minimizing parental investment in favor of investing his time instead impregnating any reproductive-age female who is fertile. In contrast, a female from said species typically can have a much smaller number of offspring during her reproductive life, partly due to an obligatory non-nil parental investment (i.e., gestation and delivery). This suggests that females will be more selective (“choosy”) of mates than males will be, choosing males with good fitness (e.g., genes, high status, resources, etc.), so as to help offset any lack of direct parental investment from the male, and therefore increase reproductive success. Robert Trivers’ theory of parental investment predicts that the sex making the largest investment in lactation, nurturing, and protecting offspring will be more discriminating in mating; and that the sex that invests less in offspring will compete for access to the higher-investing sex (see Bateman’s principle).

So basically my state of mind when entering a club resembled that of a lonesome warrior, who has to compete with all the other males there – and most of them have more muscles, are way more confident and have “social proof” than me, that is they are accompanied by male and/or female friends in contrast to me who is just being awkwardly alone there. Going to nightclubs or parties was no fun. It was war. All males trying to impress females with their dancing skills, charisma, confidence or whatever they had in their arsenal in this big fucking darwinian mating contest. And losing it condemned you to loneliness and death (from your gene’s eye perspective).

Naturally, this kind of Lovecraftian perspective leads to desperation, soul-crushing cynicism and further isolation. Because if you tell anyone, they will accuse you of misogyny or “biologicism” or some other “ism” they  invent in order to not have to face reality. Or they say that you are just a self-pitying, pathetic “nice guy”. In our society you are basically not allowed to say that there exist certain areas where men have it at least as difficult as women, if not more. But one such area is definitely dating. At least women under 30 whose attractiveness is not significantly below average can far more easily find a partner than most men. How anyone who has ever been to a party or a night club does not see this is a fucking mystery to me. Contemplate this: Myriads of idealistic, good-hearted but lonely and nerdy “betas” sit at home, dreaming about merely hugging a girl and crying in front of their computer while murderous psychopaths in jail get flooded with love letters.

As hinted above, the whole nightmare gets even worse once you realize which type of men are actually attractive for most women. Certainly not nice, intellectually curious, attentive men as everyone wants you to believe. Women may say that they like such traits but they actually long for confidence, aloofness, arrogance, wealth and status. Naturally, the man should also be desired by other females – called “pre-selection”. Of course it makes evolutionary sense for females to seek those traits (personality traits like confidence e.g. are at least partly genetically determined. So if you as a woman have sex with someone who is e.g. confident then your sons will also be more confident and more likely to have lots of genetic offspring, too. Similar arguments can be made for the other traits. Why pre-selection should be crucial should be obvious for example). The problem was that I wasn’t confident, aloof or rich. I was insecure, idealistic and poor. I had no social proof. Non. Not a single friend. I also had not pre-selection at all. In fact, I didn’t have any sex for 5 years. In terms of those criteria, I was the most unattractive male at the whole club, if not in the whole city. So of course this made me even more nervous and insecure – so I had to take even more drugs to fake being confident. I had to hide my nervousness as if my life depended on it – but women can smell nervousness from miles away like hyaenas. Knowing this makes you even more nervous, of course. A truly vicious circle.

Love, i.e. mating is basically one big Matthew effect: Males who already have slept with a lot of women can easily get more women because they are so confident and aloof. And romantic but desperate, nervous and lonely males who would do everything for their future girlfriend are as attractive to females as a fruit fly contaminated with radiation. Here is the real law of attraction (not to be confused with this shit): The more you are attracted to a woman the less she is attracted to you. The more you love a girl the more nervous, unconfident and needy you will behave around her – which is as repulsive to women as a supernova of vomit. The less you are attracted to a girl the more aloof and confident you will act around her and the more she will be attracted to you. True love is impossible. Human nature is rotten to its very core and fucked up beyond all redemption. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Anyway, during the first year of searching for a girlfriend/doing PUA, I  somehow managed to not kill myself and became better, more experienced and eventually succeeded in getting a few dates. I still remember the first time I actually got a date after a approaching a girl in a bar. She was really pretty and during the first two dates I’ve developed a strong affection for her partly because of her great nihilistic humor and the fact that she was sharing some of my interests. After the third date I was deliriously euphoric because I had just kissed her goodbye – remember: my first kiss in half a decade. I was so happy and optimistic about our “relationship” I was practically planning our honeymoon already. Of course I never heard of her again after kissing her.

The doors of desolation were opened and the world appeared as it is: infernal.

Absurdly enough, essentially the same thing happened three months later: Met an awesome girl, awesome conversations, fell practically in love with her, kissed with her on the third date, only to never see her again. What the fuck was going on here? Did I really have such a bad breath? Did I suck at kissing so hard? Or did these girls just find me repulsive because I was so romantic and idealistic shy and nervous that I merely kissed with them and didn’t physically escalate more? (Not only this, I also needed aeons – until the third date! – to merely kiss them!) About three months later I finally could experimentally confirm the last hypothesis: I had sex with a girl on our first date after I had approached her like two days ago. She essentially fell in love with me and continued to write me for a year or more although I basically stopped answering her messages (she was nice but quite boring, sorry).

To sum it up: Through reading PUA-materials, evolutionary psychology and above all my own experiences (and the ones of friends) I became deeply hopeless about the prospect of ever finding a girlfriend. I lost my “faith” in humanity. All women appeared to be essentially the same. All of them seemed like superficial, hypergamous, rationalizing, status-whoring, compartmentalizing, self-righteous, false-hearted, hateful hypocrites without souls. But what good is life without true love? What good is even a positive singularity if all this talk about romance and soulmates is just a mendacious charade and (at least) half of humanity is wicked and attracted to psychopaths but disgusted by people like me? Sure, creating your own soulmate using advanced AI could be a way out. And wire-heading is always a possibility. But those options felt a bit hollow.

Part 2: How I finally found my soulmate and why (much of) PUA sucks

Alright, the above part should have given you a feeling of how a felt during that time. I think it’s important to note that I now feel much better, have a girlfriend with whom I happily together for two years. Most importantly, I do not subscribe to many views anymore that one can read on many PUA-blogs. I believe that that these views are wrong and maybe even more importantly, also depressing and in a certain sense self-fulfilling.

But first let me admit that there certainly exist women – probably even a lot but certainly not all of them (as I will argue later) – who are truly superficial and fit the description of PUAs almost perfectly: They seek aloof, arrogant, almost semi-psychopathic men with lots of money and power and don’t care about much else – except astrology, shoes and their looks. So what. Human nature is fucked and many humans are shit. Big news. You should have internalized this by now if you ever read about the Holocaust, the Milgram experiment or thousand of other tragedies and wars in which the pettiness and cruelty of humanity revealed itself. But notice that I’m writing about humans in general. There are also lots of men whose superficiality, perfidy and predictability is in no way inferior to the type of women I described above. For example, PUAs often complain that women are disloyal and hypergamous and leave their current partners if they have the chance to get a partner with higher status. But many men also leave their partners if they meet a girl that’s younger or more attractive. In a way, men are even more cruel and superficial than women: Men care about the physical attractiveness of women to a much greater degree than vice versa. But physical attractiveness and “inner beauty” – say, altruism, intelligence, kindness, etc. – essentially do not correlate at all. Moreover, physical attractiveness starts to rapidly decline once you get past the age of 30 or so. “How fucking cruel is that” you could ask with good reason. In contrast, women care about things like status, confidence and “interestingness”. But that’s completely understandable, maybe even laudable. “Status” isn’t a bad thing. Most awesome people have high status – just think of Albert Einstein or Bertrand Russell. And low status correlates at least with being boring or shitty, albeit by no means perfectly. Lastly, of course no men or women is at fault that they genetically programmed to seek certain traits in the different sex. We humans were designed by evolution and now we are equipped with psychological mechanisms that tended to maximize inclusive genetic fitness in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness. But I would love to edit my neural algorithms underlying those psychological mechanisms and e.g. delete my preference for fatty and sweet food or my preference for slim, young female bodies and make it much less discriminating. I guess this is true for many men and women out there. We are the slaves of our genetic past. Let’s not blame each other for having preferences we never deliberately chose.

(And of course most dictators, psychopaths, murderers and rapists are men, but let’s not even go there.)

Probably the most crucial point to keep in mind is that all women are not fundamentally the same – a fact that some, maybe even a lot of PUAs deny. But of course some women are different. You really want to tell me that e.g. Marie Curie or Irena Sendler were superficial? Many PUAs claim that their beliefs about female nature are true for all women and although I agree that their views pertain in many ways to many women I’m pretty sure that the traditional concepts of PUA are at most very limitedly applicable to the women I like most: intelligent, curious, rational, altruistic, empathetic and a bit existentially depressed and nihilistic. I know that this won’t convince anyone, but for me the strongest evidence against the traditional PUA-view of female nature is my girlfriend who certainly doesn’t fit the PUA-female-stereotype –or at most in very few instances 🙂 .

Furthermore, an important point about the “methods” of PUA: Going to night clubs, approaching strange women is a fucking bad idea – at least for people like me. Only superficial men or men who only want to have sex have something to gain from doing this. Since I’m interested in unusual things and a romantic maximizer, the chances of finding a girl that shares all my interests and fits all my other criteria are exceedingly small. And meeting her in a random night club is about as probable as winning the lottery twice in a row because attending a night club doesn’t select for intellectual curiosity, rationality or lots of other things I care about: So every time you approach a girl in a night club it’s almost like you draw a sample from the general population and just hope she will be the one. Not only this, going to nightclubs or festivals is also inefficient, expensive and detrimental to any normal sleep rhythm. Lastly, in a night club or at a festival you have to directly compete with dozens of other males trying to achieve the same goal as you. A way better method is online dating or trying to go to meetups or groups that are interested in EA, philosophy or something like this (admittedly, I also had tried this without success for the simple reason that almost no women were part of such meetups or groups – however the movement of EA/LessWrong is growing exponentially and thus it should keep getting easier to find like-minded women). Of course, ultimately the best method is going to a good university (or maybe a good company) and trying to find your girlfriend there. For example, if you seek an intelligent girl passionate about philosophy, your chances at finding this girl while studying philosophy in Oxford are astronomically higher than just going to a stupid night club. Also, it is quite easy and natural to get to know your fellow classmates or colleagues. That’s also similar to how I’ve met my girlfriend (although not in Oxford of course). What when you are trapped at your shitty university or your shitty job? Well, you are fucked. That was also basically my problem for basically two years. Just try to think long-term, even though that’s not easy.

Moreover, I think that many prominent PUAs like Roissy or Roosh are eternally discontent, hateful and restless, existentially empty beings, only seeking short-term pleasure, incapable of forming close human relationships and engaging in deeply personal conversations with women they love. In certain respects, they resemble psychopaths (Roissy says as much himself). I pity them. Some PUAs are maybe even more pathetic. For them the meaning of life consists of fucking as many women as possible who are as pretty as possible. That’s their sole life goal. That would be deplorable enough but then they go ahead and try to convince numerous young guys who don’t have a sense of purpose yet and are therefore vulnerable that they should adopt the same goal and measure their self-worth by the same metric of “lays”. This even happened to me: At the beginning I practiced PUA only for instrumental reasons and rather half-heartedly while still pursuing my other interests. But after a few months I became obsessed with it, forgot about all my other valuable qualities and equated my worth as a human being basically with how successful at PUA I was, that is how attractive I was to some stupid girl I met at 3:30 at some degenerate night club.

Another drawback of the PUA-lifestyle is that practicing PUA day and night requires extraordinary amounts of time and is basically not compatible with having other passions like art, music, philosophy or science or having an challenging job. But that’s not a problem because many PUAs don’t really have a life anyway and try to hide their own emptiness from themselves by focusing on putting their penis into as many vaginas as possible. I really have as much respect for a traditional PUA as for a heroin junkie: Both are seeking short-term pleasure at the exclusion of everything else and they don’t care about hurting other people in the process.

Also, PUA is generally not even good for increasing your confidence. Sure, if you are not too shy to begin with, don’t have too high standards and are good-looking, you can increase your confidence with PUA. But in all other cases the only thing that will get fucked is your self-esteem by the countless rejections and failures. Approaching and afterwards seducing women one doesn’t know at all is incredibly difficult and even the most confident and skillful PUAs have a success-rate of significantly less than 50% if they approach only attractive women.

Of course, PUA is not all bad. Some techniques are useful and I myself probably increased my social skills by practicing it. And sure, confident guys, maybe even arrogant, aloof assholes can be more attractive to many women than shy, nervous nice-guys. But I think the mistake that a majority of PUA-enthusiasts committed was the following: They discovered that many women are generally not attracted to shy, unconfident nice-guys, and so they simply reversed every trait into its opposite: Niceness is not attractive, so arrogance has to be! Likewise, shyness gets transformed into confidence and attentiveness into aloofness. And born was the ideal of male attractiveness– or so the PUAs thought. But reversed stupidity is not intelligence. Through merely reversing one’s previous unattractive behavior into its opposite one doesn’t reach the ideal behavior. Being confident, aloof and arrogant might be an improvement to being an awkward, nervous nice-guy. But being generally authentic and naturally confident, funny and interesting is vastly superior. Becoming naturally confident is of course not easy, but I guess one promising path is to find something one truly enjoys and at which one is good at – be it painting, programming or writing – and the confidence will more or less follow. Lastly, being passionate about something makes you interesting and distinguishes you from all the other bland, overly pushy zombies trying to hit girls in the clubs. And if a girl doesn’t care about your passion and rejects you because of it – good for you, or would you like to spend time together with someone who is not interested in you and your dreams? Ok, ok, I won’t lie and admit that it can be quite tough to find girls who share your passions if your passion happens to be mathematics, philosophy, EA or programming instead of fashion or sport.

But I never said that existence is worth experiencing.

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