In 2011, while in college, I spent about 6 months actively reading and participating in what is referred to as the Seduction Community (I think “seduction” is a terrible word for this community but since it’s the word everyone knows it by I’ll use it in this post). In particular I spent a lot of time on Reddit’s Seduction forum. I left when I felt that I was looking for something that this community could no longer provide.
I’m writing this post because of a recent outrage over a seduction book being funded on Kickstarter (the campaign, though successful, has been removed from Kickstarter). I know nothing about this book, I don’t intend to justify or qualify it, that’s not what this post is about. However, in the wake of this controversy I’ve seen a lot of anger and shaming directed at the seduction community, which is what I would like to address. If you continue to read this post, all I can ask is that you set aside any preconceptions you may have about the seduction community and the people who participate in it.
For my entire life I’ve experienced terrible anxiety around women I’m attracted to. Seeing someone I found attractive evoked less “fear” and more “complete and total emotional shutdown.” Rather than attempting to express myself around women, I began denying that I had any interest in women in the first place. It was easier to suppress my instincts than deal with the muscle-paralyzing terror of having to flirt with them (something that society told me was cool for guys to do). It wasn’t until my body told me loud and clear that I was fooling myself and that I actually do have a sex drive that I decided to do something about it.
For a guy in this position, who actively wants to better himself, there are few outlets that are both socially acceptable and actually useful. For example, if you go to your friends about this, they’ll tell you “just be yourself! Just be natural and genuine!” or “you’re so funny, any woman would love to be with you!” For someone in my situation these suggestions were about as useful as it would be to tell a depressed person simply to “lighten up” or to “look on the bright side of life.”
I wanted an action, I wanted something I could go out and specifically begin doing, something intended to cut through my incredible fear. Although my friends were very supportive, none of them could relate on a level to offer useful advice.
And oh, look at this, if you just go onto reddit, there is an entire forum of people there who are specifically practicing the art of socializing! These are people like me, with an incredible fear of meeting women who are attempting to work through that fear! And not only do many of them seem to have gotten quite good at it, they’re just here for me to talk to and ask advice from! For free!! This was not a dating service, it was other people over the internet who wanted me to be a better socializer and to conquer my fears! Holy crap!!
So this is where the context has to be laid, because the seduction community is granular. Like almost any community it is populated by a variety of people with a variety of needs and interests. Everyone sees themselves in the things they seek out, and seduction offered many different things to many different people.
For example, many people came to the seduction community purely just seeking sex. They would ask specifically about how to get laid and post the stories of when they did get laid. I found my interests particularly at odds with theirs since the actual act of sex was less important to me than simply being able to socialize in a healthy way. So, like in any community, you acknowledge that those people are there but you don’t invest a lot of energy in them.
But then there were the people like me, who wanted to master expressing themselves genuinely with women, men, people in general. People who, like me, had been terrified of women their whole lives and who just wanted to be good people. People who, like me, could not ignore that their bodies were asking for something their brains didn’t know how to provide.
I met many of these people in person. They look and act like any perfectly lovely person you’d meet at a party or over dinner with a mutual friend or work with at the office. I became good friends with some of them not over a shared love of getting laid but just because I liked them. We supported each other, we pushed each other to go out and practice socializing, we cheered one another one when a crippling social fear was shattered.
But there are people in the seduction community who I did not have this relationship with because they wanted something different than I did. Their primary goal was sex, being a leader of women, being socially dominant, and a whole range of other things (everyone brings something different to the table). Sometimes these needs were expressed in a healthy way, other times they were borne of insecurity and anger. And unfortunately, the low hanging fruit is easiest to latch onto. Whenever someone from the community made a flagrantly misogynistic/insecure remark, that remark is what the rest of the world latched onto and thus associated everyone else in the community with. I became afraid to tell my friends what I was doing because I didn’t want to have that stigma attached to me.
The same people who wanted me to be more socially expressive then went and shamed the community that offered me the one viable outlet for doing so.
A few weeks ago I was at a party and mentioned to a girl I had just met that I made video games, to which she responded “oh I don’t like video games.” I probed further and it turned out she had played and loved Flower, but she didn’t think of it as a game because to her video games were this monolithic culture of shooters, violence, and men. Because she latched onto the most alienating element of video game culture she completely missed the incredibly expressive, artistic, and beautiful parts of that culture.
If you’re reading this you’re probably a part of the video game culture, which means you’ve probably at some point been lumped in with other video gamers you don’t identify with as a part of “video game culture,” but of course it doesn’t work like that. Many people like many kinds of games and come to the culture for many reasons. Are some of these reasons unhealthy and insecure? Absolutely. But by not acknowledging the granularity of this community we end up suppressing the people on the margin who do have something very expressive they’re trying to communicate.
(to clarify, I do believe that there are ways of being extremely sexually assertive without being disrespectful toward women or encouraging rape. It's a fine line that is not easily conveyed in a short and simple explanation, but that's an entirely different conversation)
My intention with this blog post is not to excuse or qualify any of the actions of anyone in the seduction community who has caused harm to women, perpetuated rape culture, or influenced other to behave in an insecure or disrespectful way. Yes, those people exist. I simply want this to be a reminder that from outside any given community, the most surface and inflammatory aspects of that community tend to be the ones latched onto first, and that a more critical examination always reveals something more intricate and granular. It reveals that these people are just people with the same needs and fears as everyone else. Saying that “the seduction community preaches ____” is an active dismissal of the people who that community who were in it for reasons other than ___.
I did come to understand that interacting with women I was attracted to meant being honest with them, genuine, knowing myself well enough to be able to wear myself vulnerably on my sleeve wherever I went. To step into the things that scare me because they make me stronger, they make me a better person. And as I become a better person, I can make other people better as well, and this is how I wish to socialize, by making others better.
I could not have known this if I had not gone out to a bar to pick up women to understand why it had no interest to me. I could not have known this if I had not read a lot of forum posts from people who only wanted sex and decided I wanted something else. I could not have known this without a reference point around which to orient myself.
I stopped going on the seduction forums when I felt I had nothing more to learn. It became more energy than it was worth to distinguish between the healthy advice and the unhealthy. As with my entire academic life, I felt I gained far more by experiencing the kind of things I didn’t want to learn than the things I did. But that education was important, and laid the groundwork for discovering how I actually did want to express myself. There was a lot of bad, but I needed it to point me in the right direction.
You might know people who have been or want to be a part of the seduction community because there’s something that feels incomplete in their lives and they need a guide that will get them somewhere, anywhere away from where they are now. They may be too afraid to admit this to you because you’ve said the seduction community ought to be ashamed of itself. They may feel like they need to hide it from you because they don’t want to be judged. But they’re still looking for something, something that helps them feel more normal, something that will push them through crippling fear, something that will offer a light in what feels like an infinite crippling darkness. These people will make mistakes in the pursuit of that light, and their ability to recognize and manage those mistakes will forge their character for the rest of their lives.
To these people I offer my complete and unconditional love.