Monday, 5 August 2013

The Tao of bullshit

For some reason a lot of the traffic to this ’ere blog lately seems to be coming from a video advertising The Tao of Badass, a book by someone called Josh Pellicer. He starts out doing the RSA Animate thing of hand-drawing cartoons to illustrate what he’s talking about, but halfway through he seems to have got bored with that and switched to (badly-punctuated) text in the middle of a blank white window. This is far from the only way that Pellicer’s video is a waste of space, so I’m not linking it here. You can Google it if you must. How exactly Pellicer is sending pageviews my way I don’t know, because there’s no link to Very Rarely Stable on the video page. Either it’s on a message board which you have to sign up, presumably having bought the book, to see, or it’s some kind of spambot. Spamming people’s blog traffic stats doesn’t strike me as a terribly effective way to sell a product, but hey.
Josh Pellicer is a man on a mission. A mission to (make money by pretending he’ll) help guys get laid. You can tell it’s dodgy right from the get-go, because there are no controls on the video. You can’t stop it, pause it, or even change the volume. You can only watch. That tells you straight away, same as a telemarketer’s pitch, that this person can’t afford to let you stop and think before you commit to what he’s selling. At the beginning the voice-over tells you the video will be taken down after 24 hours. I’ve now seen it three times, weeks apart – no, I only sat right through it once, but I’d say that’s a pretty good gauge of the quality of what Pellicer has to hand out.
Oh, and when you close the browser tab, you get the following alert:
Without these secret psychological tricks, your success with women may NEVER improve...
So if you want to STAY and learn all of these POWERFUL DARK SECRETS of attraction...
Are you sure you want to leave this page?
Seems legit.
Being as how he is in this to make a quick buck off the gullible, Pellicer’s presentation is light on content. He kind of hints at what some of the “secrets” are; the main one seems to be that if you convince a woman that there are a bunch of other women after you, it’ll get her interested despite herself. His supporting evidence is that this is what happens with fish. Another thing that happens with a lot of fish is that they spontaneously change sex if they find themselves in single-sex groups, so, you know, if you’re a guy living and working in an all-male environment you might want to start buying menstruation products just in case. Unless of course not everything that’s true of some species is automatically applicable to all species. Just saying.
But let’s admit that it might apply. Pellicer doesn’t stop there. Repeatedly, he promises that the secrets he’s revealing are “hard-wired” into the female brain. In other words, say these magic words and women will drop their pants for you. They’ll have no choice. Need I point out that this isn’t how it works? Actually, to the kind of guys Pellicer is preying on, probably, yes.
Now, I do try to mount the best opposing case I can think of, because that makes for the strongest rebuttal; so here’s the most plausible defence I can muster. Humans of all genders are animals, and animals are driven by reflexes, instincts, urges, and desires, some of which can override prudential considerations when they are strong. (For instance, people who are trapped underwater cannot prevent themselves indefinitely from inhaling, with lethal consequences.) Getting laid is not a matter of life and death for us as individuals – but brains aren’t built by individuals, they’re built by genes, and your genes are just as dead if you fail to have sex as they are if you neglect to eat or breathe. Many men have been disturbed to discover their own capacity for self-deception as to the advisability or otherwise of a given sex act when they’re in the moment, especially during adolescence; this is one major reason why abstinence-only sex education is such a flop. There’s no logical flaw in supposing that women might have similar experiences.
However, (1) that’s when you’re already aroused, and (2) being manipulated by someone you’re not interested in is an instant turn-off. Pellicer claims that he can get you past (1) for women, with no evidence beyond a bunch of e-mail testimonials that he probably wrote himself, plus he says he’s read lots of textbooks. This makes him dubious on the face of it. His advice is, in fact, far more likely to run you headlong into (2), because women, like most men (though perhaps this is less true for men likely to be taken in by Pellicer), keep an eye out for dishonest and manipulative intentions in those they interact with. And make no mistake, Pellicer’s prescriptions amount to blatant manipulation.
I’m not clear whether Pellicer himself thinks his theory of women’s sexuality is true or not. It is clear that he doesn’t care. Pellicer is, in short, bullshitting, to use that philosophical term as defined by Harry G. Frankfurt. What’s disturbing about Pellicer’s sales pitch is not the parts he doesn’t believe in, but the parts he does: namely, his ideas about how women and men relate to each other and what roles they play.
To explain how he came to be the great expert he’s claiming to be, Pellicer tells a big sob-story about a previous relationship. He was living with his girlfriend, and paying for their flat, and then one day her father came to town for a surprise visit, and she hadn’t told her father that she had a boyfriend let alone lived with him, so she made him pack up all his things and leave town for three days so she wouldn’t have to let on. Quite reasonably – pretending for the sake of argument that I believe the story – Pellicer decided, after being caught by the police sleeping in his car behind an abandoned house, to break up with her. I’d entirely agree that her actions there signalled gross dishonesty and a fundamental lack of respect. I’d agree, that is, if that was in fact what Pellicer is complaining of. But that’s not how he puts it. What he says is that he was “whipped”, and that after the encounter with the police he started to think “I’ve got to get this attraction thing sorted out.”
This is highly revealing. The absence of respect and trust in their relationship seems to have bothered him not at all. By “whipped” he means he was doing what she wanted because he wouldn’t get sex otherwise; by “getting this attraction thing sorted out” he means figuring out how to get sex from other sources so that he wouldn’t have to depend on her as his sole supplier. The same attitude is evident throughout Pellicer’s presentation. He promises, for instance, to help his marks “get out of the Friend Zone”. The “Friend Zone” is when one of a pair of friends hopes that the friendship will blossom into a romantic and/or sexual relationship, but the attraction is not mutual. A disappointing and frustrating experience, to be sure, and if that was all there was to it I wouldn’t object to the term, but it also connotes “—and she’s stringing him along on purpose and she keeps going out with douchebags instead and isn’t it mean of her...” with a strong subtext of “If I can’t boink her what’s the good of being her friend?” Exactly how guys who think this way define “douchebag” to exclude themselves, I couldn’t tell you.
Pellicer ranks women on a “hotness” scale from one to ten. Worse, he doesn’t actually say so, he just refers to it from time to time (his ex was “not even that hot, no more than a five or six”; he claims to be able to teach men how to score with the “nines and tens”), which means he thinks it’s something that doesn’t need saying because anyone can see it already. I’m not claiming to be any less visually-oriented than most guys but I have at least figured out that my tastes and attractions are in my head, not objective standards that can be applied to other people.
The one that pulled me up sharpest, though, was when Pellicer started talking about how guys think they have to meet all these standards to attract women. It’s just like what women do, he explains: women think they have to jump through all kinds of hoops to attract men, all those things that the women’s magazines promise to help them with, the endless time they spend on their make-up and what not, when any guy knows we don’t care about that stuff. Up to there I was kind of “Well, that’s true, at least.” Then Pellicer goes on to say that guys only want two things from women: “One, be hotter, and two, give great head.”
There’s so many things wrong with that I don’t know where to start. I guess what surprised me, even having seen Pellicer’s attitude to women quite a bit already, was the sheer lack of understanding. Empathy is about getting it right as well as being nice. To the extent that all the make-up and clothes and the tips and tricks in the women’s magazines are aimed at attracting men, they constitute attempts precisely to “be hotter”. Now, if I were inclined to be charitable, I might note that “hotness” has more to do with attitude than anything else – at least, attitude better accounts for my own attractions, and what I gather about other men’s, than any particular feature I could put my metaphorical finger on – so perhaps Pellicer is merely recommending that women be more confident and more comfortable with themselves; in which case, way to undermine yourself, dude, but half a point for trying. But I don’t seriously think that’s it. To Pellicer, sex is a service that one purchases from women by doing boyfriend-y stuff, and its market value is determined solely by the physical sensations accompanying it, not what it means in the relationship or anything like that.
In case you, dear reader, are also a guy who thinks that, this is what’s wrong with it. I’d guess, just as a matter of probability, that you have male friends, and that there’s at least one guy in your social group who’s particularly good at making people laugh. Yes? A real funny guy. You’d pay to go see him if he decided to go into stand-up. Now imagine something bad happens in his life, his dad is diagnosed with cancer or something, and for a wee while he can’t joke the way he usually does. How do you respond? Do you hang out with him less, make him buy his own beer, because you’re not getting as much out fun out of his company as you’re accustomed to getting? Do you go out and Google for a book called “The Tao of Funny” to figure out how to get comic geniuses to tell you better jokes?
Yes. Sex is the same. Yes it is. Yes, it is. Yes, women are people you can socialize with. Sometimes at the same time as having sex with them.
Oh, all right, no analogy is perfect. You’re quite right, your hilarious friend probably won’t mind you getting your laughs from other people, and you don’t mind that he’s entertaining other people besides you. That’s an important difference. But that makes sex less of a commodity, and more of an intimate personal relationship thing, than laughter.
Look, I get it. I really do. I am a male with a social disability who’s attracted to females, which means I have extensive experience of unrequited love and sexual frustration. That’s just the way the world works. Women might desire sex just as much as we guys do, but desire is only one side of the ledger; the other side is risk, which falls far heavier on women than on men. I don’t have to explain why, do I? (Do I? Starts with P. Rhymes with “regnancy”.) On my twenty-first birthday I had yet to go on a date, let alone hold hands or kiss or anything more physically intimate, and I was seriously scared that that’s how life was going to be. That fear had already fuelled the longest and heaviest depressive episode I’ve ever had, which started in 1997 and went most of the way through 1998. My point is, I know where guys who fall for bullshit like Pellicer’s are coming from.
But now? Now, I’ve been with my partner for eight years, and we’ve been living together for five of those. Before we met I’d been with a number of other people. I’m in no position to boast of either my prowess or my continence, they were all brief flings because I needed a few learning experiences before I was ready for a long-term relationship. So how did I get there? I’m afraid there’s no magic formula. That’s kind of the point, really. I can remember being disappointed, and eventually angry, back when I was still undiagnosed and desperately reading self-help guides in the back of the University Book Shop to see if I could find any insights at all into my relationship woes, to find that none of them even pretended to offer advice on how to approach women in such a way as to be reasonably hopeful of a “yes” answer. That’s because there isn’t a way to do it. Nothing works. If a woman agrees to go out with you, or go home with you, or go to bed with you, it means she thinks you’re an exciting enough person to be worth her while, not that you tried something on her that “worked”. All my partnerships grew out of talking to women as if they were people. There’s a reason for that, which you’ll think of if you ponder it really carefully.
And, having now given Pellicer and his bullshit more time and attention than either one deserves, I shall leave you to do just that.


  1. Love it. I laughed out loud at the bit about the fish.

  2. Wow, this piece of writing is nice, my younger sister is analyzing such things,
    thus I am going to convey her.

    my website ... tao of badass

    1. I wonder if there's a word for spam that is relevant purely by accident?

    2. I went to your "website" and tried to comment. Surprise, surprise, it failed to post. I'm going to assume you're a Josh Pellicer sockpuppet until shown otherwise.

    This is completely irrelevant but I thought you might like it.

  4. cant believe how many resources the douchebag has spent getting fake reviews of his crap on the interweb... just try googling

  5. How is Pellicer getting all those reviews (clearly typed en masse by foreigners making a dollar a post a la CCP) to show up in Google search results? How many webdomains did he purchase solely for the purpose of this scam? Google josh pellicer scam and u get 15 ESL reviews lauding the mystery and awesomeness of this scam, its unbelievable. Just to make help this blog page appear in the search results
    , josh pellicer scam scam pellicer propinquity scam...etc