The Game is a pick-up manual that has been telling nerds how to manipulate insecure women into having sex with them since 2005. Written by Neil Strauss, this perverts’ charter teaches such tricks as “going caveman”, where men aggressively escalate physical contact, and “negging”, where a backhanded-compliment is used to chip away at female self-esteem (“Nice trousers — are they pyjamas?” was one such line tried on me recently).
If that alone doesn’t make you think Strauss should be crowned King Creep, consider a quote on the cover of the Game’s follow up: “Neil Strauss’s writing turned me from a desperate wallflower into a wallflower who can talk women into sex.” It’s from Russell Brand.
Strauss has now moved on, though: he married Mexican model Ingrid De La O in 2013. The Truth tells how he went from wanting the hurly-burly of the orgy to accepting the peace of the (standardly populated) double bed.
It begins with a warning for Ingrid: “If you are reading this, please stop now.” Despite being as happy as he had ever been in a relationship, Strauss had cheated on her, “fuck[ing] one of her friends in the parking lot of a church”.
To save the relationship he goes to an addiction clinic but fights against everything he’s told. He excuses his behaviour as hormonal determinism: “Am I even a sex addict? I’m a fucking man… Put a beautiful woman in a tight dress in a bar… and it’s like throwing raw meat into a den of wolves.”
Predictably it’s his parents — especially his suffocating mother — who get the blame for his aversion to commitment. Eventually Strauss makes some breakthroughs and leaves, assuming himself cured, only to break up with Ingrid wanting his freedom.
He then explores alternatives to monogamy in a series of tales so unsexy the Church should circulate them to promote marital fidelity. There’s a drug-fuelled orgy where Strauss falls asleep and ends up spitting chocolate into his date’s hand; an attempt to build a harem where the women regress to childhood, jealously bickering over who gets the front seat in the car; and sex with a woman while her husband watches and gives a running commentary.
There’s something of the man-boy about Strauss. Not just in his phobia of commitment — “one of the most terrifying and obscene words in the English language” — but in his insecurity, apparent both in his frequent name-dropping and his “need” to sleep around.
It’s also there in his attitude to women. Ingrid is the “otherworldly” angel, while almost every other woman is described in a sexualised way. By the end, at least, he recognises his own juvenility: “It turns out that relationships don’t require sacrifices. They just require growing up.”
It’s lucky Strauss is a good writer, because otherwise The Truth would be unbearable. It’s self-indulgent, full of psychobabble and he’s prone to assuming every man is like him (“ultimately men are more attracted to sexual availability than they are to beauty” is one of many generalisations). In Strauss’s eyes, almost all women look like supermodels and want to shag him — if the latter were true, then I should lower my opinion of my sex.
There are some interesting observations here: “Partners are actually treated more like possessions [in open relationships] than in monogamy”, getting passed around as a form of male-bonding. But it takes Strauss 350 pages to come to the “well, duh” moment that most of us figured out as teenagers: “Sex is easy to find… love is rare.” And given all the awful alternatives he sets out, monogamy really doesn’t sound so bad.