In an earlier post, I noted how academia’s disinterest in important questions related to dating facilitated the rise of amateur theory to take its place. One problem with this is that amateur theory tends to be bad, scientifically. A second problem is that it tends to be unethical, since amateur authors are not constrained by the same ethical standards usually applied to academia. Feminist Clarisse Thorn (who has an interesting and amicable interview with Neil Strauss) writes:
Some pickup advice only works because it capitalizes on the insecurities of women who have low self-esteem, and can manipulate those women — not because those women actually want to have sex…some pickup artists describe using “freeze-outs” on women who say they don’t want to have sex…the woman says no, the pickup artist says “Okay,” … and then he turns away from her and starts checking his email or doing something else very boring that does not include her…he goes cold and ignores her until she agrees to have sex with him.
I find this pretty deplorable, ethically. But so long as pickup artists remain an authority on dating theory, men are going to listen to them.
Historically, religion has been the strongest moral authority, but unfortunately, modern religion is not well positioned to confront pickup artists. First, I suspect that many young men who look to pickup artists for advice are fairly alienated from religious institutions. But second, and more importantly, the advice modern religion offers is antiquated, incomplete, and bad. The two primary distinctions drawn by religion with regard to the ethics of sexuality are marriage and intent to procreate. For most religions, any sexuality that fails to comply with one or both of these distinctions is at worst morally evil, and at best morally neutral. This leaves an enormous gray area, wherein an engaged couple’s sexuality is often treated the same as when a guy meets a girl in a bar, lies to get her into bed, and then never contacts her again. Clearly there’s a distinction to be made between the two cases, a line to be drawn, but modern religion has failed to do so.
Academia and religion both punt on an important topic. Amateurs pick up the ball.