A series of posts from Conor Friedersdorf about the “Neg”
Friedersdorf links to Sebastian Flyte. Flyte:
I’ve been thinking about the neg recently. It’s an amazing little tool that accomplishes so much in such a small amount of time. For those who don’t know, the neg is a comment lobbed at a woman that knocks her off her pedestal. It is not an insult… well, actually, it kind of is (semantics). Who are we kidding? But it’s a playful insult, and some women secretly like being insulted.
Negs: turning your back to her, pointing out a flaw in her clothes, her hair, something, anything. ‘Hey your nose wiggles when you talk’. ‘Your lipstick is weird’. Eating a sandwich while talking to her, with sweet sandwich in your mouth. Ignoring her. Correcting body language is a great neg. I don’t like when people cross their arms, it’s a sign of anger, so when girls do it I tell them to uncross them. They always do, it’s a very alpha neg… and compliance test… and IOD… and DHV!!! Oh sweet negs, you do so much, so very very much, you are the swiss army knife of pickup!!! They Alice-in-Wonderlandise the world, black becomes white, up becomes down, cute becomes ugly – that 9 you would covertly beggar yourself for is suddenly seeking your smile, your good graces, like some moon-pale concubine in Kublai’s court!
I’ve never seen anyone do this to a woman who hasn’t seemed to me a complete asshole even beforehand — and I’ve been dismayed at the frequency with which it works. Oh, Sebastian Flyte overestimates its utility. But it does work sometimes. Wait, let’s try that sentence again. It works sometimes! And I must admit that the author does a pretty solid job describing when it works: “Be wary though, it must never rampage out from bitter fields – it must always be quick, indifferent, and stealthy, like a dark assassin or pot of poisoned pears. It reaches just out over the abyss without falling in…”
I suspect that often our judgments about kosher behavior depends as much on who is involved as the specific scenario in question. A friend comes to us for advice about how to handle an awkward situation wherein she’s inadvertently scheduled two dates for the same day — and knowing she is generally an upstanding person, we laugh, sympathize, and help her formulate a solution, whereas if we were on a date with a women who deceived us about having another date immediately following ours — or even worse, a guy our sister was dating pulled the same stunt — the whole moral situation would seem to us entirely different.
I’d be curious to hear dating situations that Dish readers have experienced, or hypothetical situations they’ve conceived, that shed light on deception, dating, and the way we ought to think about how they intersect. Shoot them to conor dot friedersdorf at gmail dot com, and I’ll mull them over and post a followup that lays forth my own thoughts.
The reason “player[s]” don’t realize that anything is wrong with their behavior is because there ISN’T anything wrong with their behavior. A sick world calls for sick strategies, dude. Get on board or perish. [:]
As a result, he is quite unabashed as he describes a male behavior that I’ve observed on many occasions, and that I abhor more than any other mainstream pickup technique. Though I’d never heard it referred to as such, Sebastian Flyte dubs it “the Neg,” and calls it “the Swiss army knife of pickup.”
The amount of hate squares like Friedersdorf have for a particular pickup technique is directly correlated with the usefulness of that technique. The neg is an invaluable tool for men in the modern mating market, and I can’t imagine a world without it. At least part of the animus directed at the neg is due to its name, a legacy of the seduction community being founded by a bunch of socially retarded nerds. “Negging” is simply a geek-speak term for what is more commonly known as teasing. When a man negs a woman he has just met, he is displaying that he is unafraid to bust on people, including her, which sets him apart from the long lines of nice guys who slavishly kiss her ass. If you look at lovers and married couples, you’ll note that they tease each other all the time. There’s even a scientific basis for negging women. The message is clear, guys: neg early and neg often.
The wrongness of the Neg probably depends on circumstances. Maybe people who go to bars to meet strangers understand they’re playing a game with special rules — a game in which deception, manipulation and hurt feelings are to be expected. When I imagine that kind of situation I don’t have strong anti-Neg intuitions, whereas when I imagine people in less artificial situations my anti-Neg intuitions are pretty vivid. Curiously, though, I have some difficulty imagining non-weird scenarios where playing hard to get seems wrong.
I wonder if there’s something like an act/omission distinction worth making here. When you ignore a woman, you aren’t quite doing anything to her. You’re just leaving her alone. If that winds up hurting her feelings, that’s unfortunate but maybe your hands are still morally clean. But when you deploy the Neg, you’ve approached her, struck up a conversation, and then begun saying hurtful things to her. In that case it looks like you’re the one to blame for any hurt feelings.
Conor posts e-mail responses. Friedersdorf:
In most contexts, it seems obvious that it is wrong to gratuitously put people down for selfish ends. Why is dating different? That some men cannot understand this really boggles my mind, and makes me suspect that they aren’t even thinking of women as being people (interestingly, some of these men seem to think of women as less than human, and others as superhuman). Every man can imagine how he would feel if a woman approached him at a bar, assessed his dress or some physical feature, and breezily made some cutting public remark: “You dress like a guy who has a small dick.” Yet numerous correspondents seem utterly unable to imagine that women might also feel badly if criticized this way.
Reihan Salam replies by video:
Conor responds to Reihan:
I’ll first address Reihan’s comment that “the neg or the tease is a really useful thing.” Do watch the video. His monologue is characteristically insightful. What I’d object to is the parallel he draws between teasing and “negging” — the former seems to me a perfectly defensible kind of human interaction, and one that is quite distinct from the latter. Teasing can be good natured. We’ve all affectionately teased someone in a way that they’ve enjoyed, and been teased ourselves in a way we didn’t mind. Social skill plays a role, as does the intention of the teaser. Friends can tease one another more easily than strangers due to the knowledge that they’re generally fond of the person being teased. In a pickup situation, however, it takes far greater social skill to tease successfully because one’s opening comment is the entirety of the relationship between the man and the woman.
The pickup artist community, composed mostly of males who’ve turned to its techniques because they don’t have finely tuned social skills, in fact teases people with bad intentions, or so I’m led to believe by the e-mails that they’ve sent me. It isn’t that they’re intending to tease a woman as a friend might in a spirit of affection, or as a suitor might as a flirty way to simulate a friend’s affection, or as Reihan suggests, as a way to gauge how seriously a woman takes herself as a proxy for whether he ought to be interested — by their own account, the “pickup artist” uses the neg to “knock a woman off her pedestal” so that she’s “on the same level” as the beta male trying to pick her up. This is evidenced by the fact that “pickup artists” recommend “negging” more intensely the prettier a woman is. The intention is to reduce her self-esteem, or even worse to play on her insecurities with the knowledge that some women react to that technique by having sex or hooking up as a coping mechanism.
Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus at Bloggingheads
Mickey rightly points out that it’s creepy to lower someone’s self-esteem, then adds “because serotonin is good, and people generally perform better when their serotonin is high.” I’d say it’s creepy for Kantian, Christian, and maybe even Aristotelian reasons.
Bob asks, “What is the ethical difference between the neg and playing hard to get,” presumably because both involve calculated attempts to manipulate someone in a way that makes them feel less good than they otherwise would. The answer seems obvious to me. Would you rather have a person of the opposite sex play hard to get, or make negative comments about your appearance and/or personality?
It is one thing for a woman to conclude that, for some unknown reason, a man isn’t interested in her. This happens to everyone. It needn’t be a self-esteem lowering experience, or at least not a significant one, since no one expects that everyone they encounter is going to be attracted to them, and general social experience teaches that de facto rejection is a common enough thing.
Far less common is for someone to actively comment negatively on some aspect of your appearance or personality. That act can lower self-esteem in a significant way. The neg entails commenting on something specific to the person you’re trying to pick-up, which makes it particularly pointed, and because it is so unusual to be insulted — the fact that it is unexpected is cited by the pickup artist community as an explanation for its effectiveness — it is easy to conclude that you possess a flaw that is unusually noticeable or extreme, or else that unlike other people your feelings aren’t worth sparing. Contra Mickey, it is quite consistent to abhor the neg and accept playing hard to get.