It is a surprisingly common belief that the dating world makes sense or that, failing that, the dating world can be MADE to make sense if you shove it hard enough and throw out enough data. It’s common among pick-up artists, of course, and the more misogynistic brand of Redditor; but Cosmo does it, self-help books do it, friends and family and coworkers do it, hell, I’ve done it on this very blog.
You would think it would make sense. That people would, more or less, all tend to like the same thing: kind, interesting, physically attractive people or, failing that, jerks/bitches. That there is some consistent behavior that people can adopt and then they will all have sex. But that’s not true! The dating universe does not make sense.
Christina Hendricks, who is basically the hottest lady alive, and her husband Geoffrey Arendt, who looks like one of my nerdy ex-boyfriends.
This is Pierce Brosnan, aka James Bond, aka the definition of masculinity and manliness and heartthrobness, and his wife, who is a perfectly ordinary person.
Exhibit C: Ferrett Steinmetz. I have to say, I am kind of fond of his writing, as I am addicted to confessional essays. (It is a SICKNESS.) He has also had quite a lot of sex, despite being (as extensively documented in his own essays) overweight, nerdy, prone to cheating, a slob, needy for affection, and a fucking Magic the Gathering writer. He is currently happily married and has a couple other partners (that his wife knows about, obviously). I am just saying.
Now, I’m not saying that whether you get a date is completely up to chance. Many people who can’t get a date with someone they find attractive have pretty obvious reasons why they can’t. “Has no friends of the appropriate gender.” “Has no friends, period.” “So passive that you basically have to stalk them to date them.” “Doesn’t ask people out.” “Has problems trusting people enough to date them.” “Only attracted to people who look exactly like the person they had a crush on in elementary school and borderline asexual with everyone else.”* None of those are bad things in and of themselves, and certainly none of them make one a bad person; however, they will make it harder to transform the X percentage of people who are attracted to you into people who will date you.
But there ARE people who can’t get a date, and there’s no reason for it except that the universe chose to shit on their heads. Congratulations, you’re today’s lucky winner of the door prize of celibacy! Come in and collect your winnings!
This is the point at which a lot of people accuse people who make stupid generalizations about dating, of the “women like jerks” or “men like big tits” sort, of not being able to get laid. But I don’t think that’s the case. Some of them might be, especially on the Internet, but not all of them are. Some Cosmo writers are fucking married.
I think, in a lot of cases, it’s just overgeneralization– either from whom you’re attracted to or from who’s attracted to you. If you like smart guys, you’re going to assume that most people are into smart guys; if you get laid by making tons of jokes, you’re going to recommend making tons of jokes as the Dating Method Par Excellance.
Consider pick-up artistry. If you try PUA stuff and you get laid from it, you’re going to assume it’s telling the truth about the dating world, even if it isn’t. There’s a huge leap from “I went out and started teasing girls and being cocky, and suddenly I started having casual sex” to “therefore all women like cocky guys who tease them.” Maybe the type of women you like, in the place you live, are more likely than average to like it; maybe it works with your style and your personality better than your previous tactics did; hell, maybe it’s a complete coincidence– that happens, sometimes, when your sample consists of one thing. (And the dude who tried PUA stuff and it didn’t work isn’t exactly going to be sticking about the PUA community selling ebooks, so there’s some pretty heavy selection bias, too.)
What it doesn’t mean is that pickup artist dogma is necessarily going to work for everyone (it won’t) or an accurate description of how dating works (it’s not). Because people are different, and the dating world is fucking complicated, and a lot of times it just comes down to luck.
Imagine dating as some very complicated system, like economics. After more than two centuries of scientific study of economics by many brilliant minds who have devoted their lives to it, we’re only beginning to comprehend how the modern capitalist economy works, and new, revolutionary discoveries are still being made. Why do you think dating would be less so?
But a lot of the scientific study of dating is shit. For one example, I do not understand why psychologists like asking people about “objective attractiveness” so much. I have seen it in seriously SO MANY papers, and it makes no sense. For instance, here is a man whom I would call objectively attractive:
Here is a man I want to bang:
Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics!
You will notice that they don’t look a hell of a lot alike. Thor’s got that dopey expression on his face, for instance, and Ryan North has an adorable smile lighting up his face and glasses and *sigh*… wait, I was making a point, wasn’t I?
What is objectively attractive and what I’m actually attracted to are completely different. Objective attractiveness is good if you want to talk about beauty standards or body image, less good if you want to talk about whom they get boners for, and even less good if you want to talk about whom they fuck.
*All of these are people I’ve met, stripped of identifying details, so don’t go complaining in the comments about them being unrealistic.