I'm going to recount a tale from one of my friends on Wednesday evening. Let's call her Mary. She's in her late twenties and would be considered attractive by most observers.

Mary and one of her friends go out for the evening. They encounter a group of dudes led by, well, let's call him Tool. Tool tells the ladies that they are out drinking wildly because one of their friends (in the Dude Group) lost his job. No problem, right? Tool asks Mary to hug said friend to cheer him up. The ladies politely decline and leave. Incident over, right? Tool tried his little pickup line (creepy, albeit essentially harmless) and it didn't work; on with the evening.

Nope. Tool follows them into the bar asking them to hug his friend. They decline again. He leaves to re-join his group. Surely we're done now, right?

Not so. He comes back with his posse and Mary noticed his return when she feels Tool's hand grasping her arm. She yanks the arm away, subtly transmitting the social cue, "Do not touch me." He continues to linger and ask them to hug his friend. Mary's friend informs him that he's starting to get annoying (starting!) and he should leave. Tool then grabs Mary's forearm and tries to pull her toward him. She rips her arm away and explicitly tells him what he has failed to pick up on thus far: That's it. Leave us alone.

He tells them that he is sorry if they think hugs are rude. Her friend says, "No, you are rude. We find YOU rude," and he responds, "I think you're a bitch," as they walk away.

I have more female friends than male ones, and I hear stories like this all the time. And I never cease to be astounded at how tone deaf, clueless, and aggressive the men in these stories are. OK, granted, this is not to say women are incapable of rude behavior or that these men are representative of all men. But good god, the absolute inability to read very basic non-verbal cues, followed up by the absolute refusal to follow verbal ones, is beyond comprehension. I'm more surprised when I reflect and realize that, at age 34, I've never once been in a group of men who behaved this way. And that's not to pat myself and my friends on the back for being Great People. We're not. It's not an act of kindness and nobility to leave someone alone when they say "Please leave me alone." It's just…a basic part of human interaction? I don't even know how to state this effectively. It would be like saying "My friends are awesome because when a waiter brings us a check, we always pay it." You don't get to applaud yourself, or anyone else, for doing the bare minimum expected of you.

Granted, my friends could tell you that I am particularly easy to dissuade; if I meet a stranger at a bar, I usually break off conversation after about two minutes because I just assume that the person wants to be left alone, or I think they look bored (I'm extremely boring). If someone did something as explicit as turning their back or walking away, I…I would not hesitate to get the message. Would you? And then to think that the situation would progress (because I followed someone who was trying to avoid me) to the point that an explicit "Please go away" was necessary is beyond my experience. Again, this doesn't make me a good person. It merely makes me a person who can read basic social cues and…not act all rapey? That doesn't seem like Good. That seems like the absolute bare minimum that we can expect of the other people in the world.

I don't get it. I don't understand how some people can charge right through so many red lights. I've seen women do it too, but somehow it's just not the same – it comes off more as, I guess, "desperate" rather than scary-aggressive. Because when it happens to me I don't end up thinking "Gosh I hope I don't get raped" whereas a woman experiencing this probably thinks exactly that. I don't have to worry, "If this person grabs me, can I break their grip? How can I get out of here as quickly as possible? Can anyone here help me?" I don't feel threatened, I just feel moderately annoyed (OK, this only happened to me, like, once. But you get it.)

Clearly, social situations between single people are a sort of game, and sometimes people play games to get one another's attention. Everyone has their own little conversation starters, ice breakers, and so on. And I can't blame anyone for trying. If I'm in the mood to be left alone, or focusing on a conversation with one of my friends, it would not be reasonable to shout, "OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU FUCKING SPOKE TO ME!" if someone makes an attempt. But neither is it reasonable to refuse to give up in the attempt. Sometimes people aren't interested in talking to you. To me. To anyone. Is that so hard to accept? My self-confidence is not high, granted, but I have enough to withstand the minor rejection of someone saying "Ha. No thanks." to an effort to start a conversation. We live in a society, though, in which it would apparently be socially acceptable for me to ignore that and persist until I'm maced or escorted out of the bar.

And then, of course, I get to call the woman a bitch. For resisting my charms.

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78 Responses to “NPF: THE GAME”

  1. play now Says:

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  2. moderateindy Says:

    I am amazed by the fact that so many of you are dumbfounded by this guy's behavior. Why do so many men act like this? Yes, because they are a-holes, but mostly because such behavior is so often rewarded by women. Basically, all too often, crap like this works. I have been very fortunate in my life to have had a crap load of friends. Ever since high school I have had multiple disparate groups that I feel comfortable with, and enjoy. I am as easily at home with Jocks/fratboy types as I am with deadheads, or sci-fi nerds, or gay dudes. If you want to see really creepy and agressive, hang out with a bunch of working class black guys, I am always appalled at what that group gets away with when dealing with their female counterparts.
    Starting in college, I noticed how often the guys that acted like complete jerks would get tons of girls. This did not stop as I got older. How many women do you know will tell you that they like a "bad boy"? What amazes me is how often women respond to guys that treat them like crap with affection. And by the way, it isn't just desparate or damaged women. I have often been bewildered by the way some females that I considered to be exceptionally bright, and confident, would respond to men that were total asses. ( and yes, I recognize that this paradigm works both ways)
    If something works for a guy once, where attracting women is concerned, you can be certain he will employ it time, and time again.
    Personally, I don't employ the aggressive ass/bad boy template, it must be the deadhead in me that makes me want to be kind to everyone until they prove unworthy of that treatment. The genesis of my own personal approach with women comes out of my life as a salesmen. First, always ask for the sale. Second, eat rejection for breakfast, and don't take it personally. Most women will gladly give you a chance at at least one date, and if you get shot down by one, do you really want to waste copious amounts of time when there are plenty of other opportunities waiting?

  3. just me Says:

    Wow, what great comments to a really pertinent topic. I only wish this kind of abhorrent behaviour had only one precursor. But the historical, religious and sociological precedents are so multitudinous I think there's little chance of ever eradicating it.

    Thank goodness there are men out there like Ed and so many, many more who have posted here that encourages me to think that there may be a shift in the majority towards balanced, respectful and indeed fun interaction. Because, just because I said "No" doesn't mean I find you unattractive, unpersonable or even un-tempting (is that even a word?). But it does mean NO. And you will undoubtedly never know my reasons, they are multitudinous and NOT personal. After all, I don't even know you.

    @JDryden (and not my first time wondering) – any chance you are single??? :) *sigh* highly unlikely, the good ones so rarely are.

    But you are wrong about one thing. We don't carry our car keys in our hand to get in our car quickly. We carry them with the keys protruding between our fisted fingers so we can use them as a weapon. Which we learned in what's called ladies kickboxing classes, given by an retired UFC fighter, that we tell our friends are fitness classes. Cuz we don't want to look too paranoid about a situation where our attacker might be 6 – 12 inches taller and 100 to 150 lbs heavier. Even though statistics show this happens to 1 in 3 of us. Many before we are 15 years old. Which is why the same fighter gives my daughters karate and ju jitsu lessons. And why, I presume, his daughter is in the classes with mine.

    It's not a solution. But since there doesn't seem to be one….any guy who grabbed my arm as Mary's was would have had his broken in return. And been given a nice roundhouse kick to the face as he was going down from the pain. Too much?? I don't think so, if you get "it".

  4. mclaren Says:

    "The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right is a self-help book by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, originally published in 1995.

    "The book suggests rules that a woman should follow in order to attract and marry the man of her dreams; these rules include that a woman should be `easy to be with but hard to get.' The underlying philosophy of The Rules is that women should not aggressively pursue men, but rather ought to get the men to pursue them. (..)

    "Another criticism is that because The Rules advise rarely returning phone calls and other such hard-to-get dating methods, some men may have trouble telling the difference between a woman who is genuinely not interested (or not interested anymore) and one who is genuinely interested, thus leading to misunderstandings and stalkers; not only for women using The Rules, but any man who believes all women are playing similar games even when they are not."

    Source: Wikipedia entry for the book The Rules.

  5. Grondo Says:

    Calling that dude clueless is being way too forgiving – he totally knew he was getting told to back off and he just ignored those messages because he wanted what he wanted and no means yes and he just knew she was playing hard-to-get and on and on… I think that's why the term "douchebag" was invented.

  6. Arslan Says:


    "How many women do you know will tell you that they like a "bad boy"? What amazes me is how often women respond to guys that treat them like crap with affection."


    Look, you may have gotten older, but you're still stuck in that high school mentality. I've never had a woman tell me she likes "bad boys." Women may be attracted to such guys when they are young and immature, just as immature men are often attracted to the wrong types of girls when they are that age.

    Any girl that legitimately rewards such behavior wouldn't be worth my time.

  7. J. Dryden Says:

    The "bad boy" crap has been thoroughly debunked and revealed to be the sexist bullshit pulled by men who "play by the rules."

    Because I'd argue that it's the counter-cliche that's true–insofar as any cliche that seeks to lump in the behavior of 6+ billion individuals can be true: It's not "bad boys" that these women are attracted to–it's confidence.

    Because confidence is an attractive quality. Not just in men. In everyone. In men, in women, in carrier pigeons. Confidence–security in self–unconcern about triviality–an engagement with the life one leads–not being a fucking baby who'll need hand-holding when things get rocky–these are qualities that make a person's company attractive.

    And confidence has fuck-all to do with lounging against the flat-bed of a pickup in the liquor store parking lot, sneering at all the 'wusses' who walk by to buy their lottery tickets and Pepsid AC. Nor does it have to do with the brutal "shut up and do as I say" treatment of women. It's everything to do with a man–or a woman–who knows who s/he is and what s/he wants and who acts in a way that is consistent with those feelings, and doesn't need them validated by anyone else to feel right about it.

    Granted, such an attitude produces plenty of assholes–"I want what I want and fuck everyone who doesn't like it"–and when those assholes partner up, resentful conformists look at them and think "Wow, women really go for assholes." But they don't.* They go for the confidence, and it is entirely possible to be "nice" AND "confident," and believe me, the men and women who will be attracted to BOTH those qualities are the ones you want in your life.

    Besides which, if you're really nice, why is there always envy lurking beneath the cry of offense at the "bad boy" dynamic? Nietzsche was right about some stuff, and like him, I suspect the "nice guy"'s objection is often just a veil for "I'm secretly the kind of guy who would like to treat women like shit, but I'm also too sniveling to act on those desires, so instead I will claim to be 'nice' and blame women for falling for the kind of guy I'd really like to be." (By the way, don't take that as encouragement to make the change. Stick with being a poisonous onlooker–they suck, but at least they're non-violent, and the world doesn't need any more abusive would-be silverbacks.)

    *OK, yes, there are women–and men–who suffer from serious mental/emotional dysfunction who seek out abusive treatment–but again, that's nothing to do with the men/women who're treating them like shit–the abuser is just a convenient delivery-system for the abuse they think they deserve. A subject that is so depressing that there isn't alcohol enough to make one feel OK about it.

    @ just me: I'm deeply flattered to be considered "one of the good ones." Not sure I agree, but the rest of your diagnosis is correct.

  8. Tom Says:


    The 1998 study concludes that (with suppressed uncertainties; I.e the conclusion really has no valuable predictive power — but let's let that slide for the sake of having something to talk about) 1 in 6 woman had been victims of sexual assault. Phaedra Starling misinterprets this as saying "1 in 6 woman will be victims of sexual assault"; there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that frequency of rape has been completely resilient to, say, DNA evidence being legitimized in the late 80s; or better yet, the pervasive effect that 4-5 waves of feminism has had on the country. If a sample were taken in, say, 2020 (once enough boomers and their moms have died), I'm almost certain (whatever that means) that the number will have sharply declined.

    It's a shame that so few police reports are made; would knowing that the present rates are significantly lower than sensationalist writers (dishonestly?) make them out to be quell your fears?



    I'm not white but I reckon white men get scared just as often as the rest of us timid princesses. Does the fact that you're more likely to be killed for no reason at all than for being LGBT help you sleep at night? And did you just tell me "fuck you"? ?!

  9. Hazy Davy Says:

    Just a note to point out that the "bad boy crap" has not been debunked, in my experience.

    Two friends, both in their mid-30s, explicitly told me they were attracted to bad-boys, recently. (Now, define what "bad boy" means, and maybe we agree…but it wasn't "confidence", as much as "free spirited", I think. Tattoos, motorcycles, thrill-seeking, …)One of them would definitely not have been attracted to the guy in Ed's story. The other? I can't say without asking her, but I suspect his schtick would have worked on her. The degree to which his blind pursuit was flattering might overwhelm her sense of dignity and self-preservation.

    Asshole was an asshole because he's an asshole. And also, because it has worked, in the past.

    Does it always work? Clearly, not.
    Should it work? No.

  10. Doctor Rock Says:

    Wow. Just wow. I almost dated a woman a few years back who decided to play hard to get. I told her that she was a bright, attractive woman that I might like to spend more time with, but she's not worth the artificial extra effort and sorry I don't like the games.

  11. Doctor Rock Says:

    I just realized how incredibly sexist that may have sounded. Believe me, I know the difference between outright rejection and playing hard to get, and this was the latter. Only woman who ever pulled it on me, because most women are normal and well-adjusted contrary to stereotypes.

  12. Doctor Rock Says:

    By the way, this involved a conversation about why we didn't have a second date and the implication that she was interested (we were in grad school). Weird situation all around. But yeah this wasn't in my head.

  13. Doctor Rock Says:


    Ah yes the "nice guy." Who think that pussy is theirs by rights and the girls who don't spread em just because they (at least believe they are) are decent human beings and respectful to their female friends and acquaintances.

    I was nice to her! I listened to her and I didn't even get any pussy from it! Is what it boils down to.

  14. guttedleafsfan Says:

    Doctor Rock,

    You were quite right to desist from association with the lady you referenced, and I do not think you are sexist.

    Normal women indeed have no pleasure in tormenting a respectable man.

    -Lizzzy B.

  15. Arslan Says:

    I'm sorry but Tool's behavior ISN'T rewarded. Men like Tool only get by with that if they move abroad to some Third World country.

  16. Doctor Rock Says:


    Thanks. I'm wary. I used to have a roommate who'd complain about women in grad school "leading him on." A real head scratcher because I knew one of the women in question (grad school again) and her body language obviously demonstrated a lack of interest. I've heard "hard to get" in some contexts as "uppity bitch who won't pay attention to me" so it's a thin line.

  17. grumpygradstudent Says:

    I think men are told by the culture and the media that, when it comes to women, effort=success, and that persistence pays off. It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that this Hollywood vision of romance looks a lot like stalking when performed in real life. So that iconic image of John Cusack holding up the boom box outside of his true love's window on her front yard? Yeah…that would be creepy as hell if done in real life.

    Kudos to people who drum up the guts to talk to a somebody they're interested in or to ask them out. That really is scary as hell to do. But once you ask, if they say no, you leave it alone. We need to purge this whole "pursuit" fairy tale from the culture completely. Unless somebody wants you to pursue them, what seems like romance in your head will be creepy to somebody else.

    And if you happen to be a person who really does want somebody to pursue you, to sweep you off your feet or whatever….stop it, cause you're being an asshole.

  18. guttedleafsfan Says:

    Grumpy, you have a point about persistence mythologized by the culture.

    I have read numerous profiles of celebrities or business leaders who "wouldn't take no" from their eventual wives, pursuing dates after repeated refusals, proposing 5 or 6 times etc. I hope they are hyperbolizing to compliment their wives. Really hope so.

  19. guttedleafsfan Says:

    ps grumpy wouldn't our screennames meeting make a great romcom? Too bad I am a grandmother!

  20. guttedleafsfan Says:

    WHoa isn't |Harold and Maude due for a remake?

  21. grumpygradstudent Says:

    Exactly. Those sorts of myths really don't help. It may not be "romantic," but it's a helluva lot safer and less creepy to adopt a cultural narrative like the following:

    "hey, how are you! i'm interested in you! Are you interested in me?" "No, no thank you!" "Ok, have a nice day!"

    No grand gestures. No persistent pursuit. Just politeness and honesty.

  22. Robert Says:

    Of course, the meme of 'you can get what you want, if you try hard enough' may be a contributing factor. I saw a cartoon decades ago that addressed this – two women talking, one saying "So I told him, I'm not playing hard to get, you clod – I AM hard to get.'"
    Nice guys (the ones who complain about the Bad Boy syndrome, not guys who are actually nice)always seem to have a current of bitter bile about the women who are having sex, just not with them. Men who refer to women as 'females' are especially bilious, in my experience.

  23. guttedleafsfan Says:

    Robert, omg, you just described a person I thought was rare.. you mean there are more of them? He hated all women until he learned to "Game".. and then he "learned to like" some of the ones he bedded, by lying and manipulation.

    I know this type is in the minority.

  24. Robert Says:

    A good friend of mine from university once told me that the only thing she envied about gay men was that they could get laid without dealing with straight men.

    Some straight men have helped me understand what she meant.

  25. guttedleafsfan Says:

    Jeez. This is one of the most surprisingly depressing NPFs I have ever read here,even the sports ones and I'm a well, you know…. pretty able to find the silver lining eh.What to say when I am out of the game and have been lucky in my playing days. Agree with nearly everyone, especially about learning how to treat women from your family.

    My two sons learned it from their father and learned pretty good. Their two sons will learn the same. What to say that Housman didn't, get ye the sons your fathers got, and ….

    great save!

  26. tenactius Says:

    E* please don't ever do what you suggested about messing with some drunken pick artist that way. You never know when a situation might get out of hand the man might just decide to physically assault you.

  27. mayya Says:

    If I were 20 or 30 years younger, I'd be joining in the crowd trying to figure out "why" some guys "don't get it." From my advanced years (mid-50s), I can say that they DO GET IT. People who behave like that know perfectly well what they are doing. They are bullying, threatening, and hostile, and they're like that on purpose. Because they CAN be. It doesn't take some sort of special guy genius to figure out how to NOT be threatening to women. As you said yourself, that's the absolute minimum social understanding.

    I've seen so many absurdities of people trying to explain or somehow understand this. When guys my age act like assholes, younger people will make some remark about "the time they grew up in," or similar hogwash. Yes, the time we grew up in – just after the Civil Rights movements, in the height of the Women's Liberation movement, in a time when sexual harassment training was mandatory in workplaces.

    Don't make excuses for these bar guys.

    And everyone – please stop writing articles teaching "clueless" dudes how to stop acting "creepy." They're not ACTING creepy, they ARE creepy. Don't help a sociopath disguise his nature so that he can get closer to women.