I was lucky enough to be able to read an early copy. Originally, when I got the email, I intended to read the first chapter and then do a few chores. Six hours later, the dishes were undone, the laundry was growing musty in the dryer, and I was doublechecking the last page just in case the book had grown an appendix while I wasn’t looking.
To be fair, I am not sure if there is a target audience targetier than me for Confessions, since it combines many of my favorite things to think about: pick-up artistry, kink, sex-positivity, feminism, Deep Thoughts about how relationships work, and gossip about other people’s sex lives. I am pretty sure the only way it could be more up my alley is if it included an extensive discussion of My Little Pony and Star Wars. So, you know, if you aren’t interested in pick-up artists and feminism and other people’s sex lives, you will probably enjoy this book much less than I did.
Clarisse Thorn is a sex-positive blogger and activist who focuses a lot on masculinity and BDSM; she’s perhaps most famous around the people-who-talk-about-men circles for her post on creep-shaming. She is also impressively well-liked. Seriously, that lady. I have no idea what magic she uses to make MRAs and radical feminists think she’s awesome, but she needs to loan me some. (Maybe she stole all of Hugo Schwyzer’s likeability?)
Confessions focuses on a period in Clarisse’s life in which she became obsessed with PUAs and the lens they offer for modern dating, sexuality, gender norms, and masculinity. (I am currently in the middle of a similar period in my life, and am kicking myself that I didn’t think to write a book about it.) She intersperses theoretical discussions of PUA theory and sex-positive feminist ideas with stories from her romantic life and of her interactions with PUAs.
Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser features a lot of people you’ll recognize, if you spend a lot of time hanging around the sexy parts of the gendersphere. Holly Pervocracy gets name-checked; Hugh Ristik is extensively quoted; the Heartiste Formerly Known As Roissy has his own section, in which it is pointed out that he is rather a misogynistic asshole and pretty much PUAs: What Not To Do.
(Gah. This post is taking me forever because I keep rereading the book on accident. People, stop writing things I like.)
However, I think it provides some… context, perhaps?… that a lot of the gendersphere discussions don’t. Clarisse’s big strength in Confessions is her empathy. A lot of times people only understand their little corner of the gendersphere and have ideas that are at best strawmen and at worst outright lies about the other corners. But Clarisse understands why men might take up pickup, and how it would help them, and how it can become destructive. She understands the eroticism of power, both in vanilla and kinky sex. She understands actual sex-positivity, not the caricatured version of “we are all SLUTS because it is EMPOWERING” that idiots continually push.
Clarisse Thorn understands that shit is complicated. To pick an example she discusses in the book: a lot of feminists, including me, adopt the “you have to talk about sex, or you have to get used to not having sex until you learn to talk about it” position on sexual communication. However, she points out that a lot of people prefer nonverbal communication, that some people are better at nonverbal communication than verbal, and that people have lots of understandable reasons not to explicitly communicate. In fact, even a lot of sex-positive people are not exactly paragons of explicit verbal communication of everything ourselves. On the other hand, she still gets that explicit verbal communication has many, many advantages (particularly for non-normative sex like BDSM and polyamory) that shouldn’t be ignored.
Another strength of Confessions is the personal nature of it. Although I have a minor degree of PUA obsession myself, it mostly manifests in making all my friends take the Heartiste Formerly Known As Roissy’s Dating Market Value Test. (I’m lesser beta as a guy, greater beta as a girl.) Nevertheless, I can recognize a lot of the thought processes Clarisse goes through– the second-guessing, the trying to read people, the constant wondering if you’re genuine or just playing the game without even knowing it. Not to mention that her personal anecdotes quite often serve to illustrate her theories!
So yeah. Confessions of a Pickup Artist is a very good book. Buy it! Read it! Tell your friends! Also if you are a pickup artist and want to run game on me PLEASE do so, I am endlessly curious about whether it’d work on me.