Getting diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease was one of the best things that ever happened to me. If you haven’t yet done so, I highly recommend you try it.
You think I’m being ironic. I promise that I’m not. My diagnosis with a common and transient sexually transmitted disease led to one of the more difficult and psychologically painful periods of my life. But the end result was worth it.
Lifting heavy weights will give you bigger, stronger muscles. Sparring with better fighters will make you tougher. Reading challenging books will make you smarter and more focused. Pushing through discomfort in negotiations and awkward approaches will make you more socially confident.
In the game of life, pain and difficulty lead to growth. Comfort leads to stagnation.
Going through a year of medically-enforced celibacy was a painful experience. It was frustrating and inconvenient on a physical level. More importantly, it made me acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about my values, my self-image, my inner resolve, and my priorities in life. It was painful, frightening – and necessary.
The Power Of Rejection
My first rejections weren’t particularly harsh or embarrassing. I asked out a few girls in middle school, and they said no. Other girls eventually said yes. Life went on.
But, those early rejections were traumatic. They created memories that stuck in my mind for years, creeping up unbidden during quiet moments of inward shame. It took four years of social and sexual success as an obnoxious high school bully for me to get over the feelings of inadequacy that I developed during a mildly awkward pre-teen phase.
If these brief and mild rejections were enough to hurt me as much as they did, I can’t imagine how much more difficult it must be for a young man to overcome a young adulthood of constant rejection. A man who is unsuccessful with women until his mid-twenties (not an uncommon story) will feel inclined to carry a chip on his shoulder for the rest of his life. He will pursue sexual conquests not for the sensual pleasure or the emotional connection, but rather for the base thrill of petty revenge. He will pursue sex, because sex is a confirmation of his value. He will take excessive pleasure in stories of older women ‘hitting the wall’, and of women rationalizing self-destructive relationships with men out of their league. He will waste precious hours of his life reading forums such as r/relationships and r/askwomen, reading gleefully the stories of the sort of women who rejected him years ago, receiving their comeuppance in the great karmic circle of life.
If all of this sounds familiar to you: Relax. I’m not here to lecture you on the morality of what you feel. But I will ask you some questions:
- Are those feelings helpful and productive?
- What purpose is served by holding on to your feelings of anger and inadequacy?
- How many girls will you have to sleep with, before you can truly leave the past in the past, and focus on building the future that you want?
Rejection hurts. I get it. You can’t control what has happened to you in the past, and how it has affected you. But you do get to choose how it affects you from this minute onward. To quote Marcus Aurelius:
“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.”
The flip side of the sting of rejection, is the joy of acceptance. If you give a woman the power to crush your ego, you also give her the power to build it. There is no ego boost so powerful as the approval of an attractive woman. A woman’s interest is the validation of the sum total of your being, and it is much more powerful than any other achievement. Lifting a heavy weight suggests that you are physically strong. Earning money suggests you are intelligent, conscientious, and have skills that others value. But a woman’s desire demonstrates that, on a fundamental genetic level, you are worthy.
As men, we play games to measure our worth and sort ourselves into status hierarchies – but not all games are equal. Who is the true winner: The world champion Magic: The Gathering player? Or the team captain in an NHL franchise? No matter what pretty lies we tell ourselves, the final arbiter of earthly status is sexual access to pretty young women. Every fiber of a healthy man’s body desperately wants him to have sex with pretty young women. He is biologically programmed to judge his worth as a man according to his success at that task.
In the face of this awesome force, modern pick-up artists (often the closest successors we have to the ancient Stoics) preach the doctrine of outcome independence. According to this ideal, not only is it psychologically healthier for a man to base his self-worth on metrics other than his success with women; doing so will also make him a more effective seduction machine.
When I started having a lot of success with girls, I lacked outcome independence. I believed: Attractive women desire me. Therefore, I am a worthy man. I am accepted. I am complete.
But as the years went on, I started to tell myself that I had severed the link between the quality of women I was getting and my perceived self-worth.
If you had asked me, I would have told you that my confidence, my happiness, my pervading content – it was all unrelated to the validation of female approval. Even to the extent that I would have admitted an external basis to my self-esteem, I would have pointed you towards other accomplishments, other talents, and other relationships, and I would have said: “There! There is my self-worth! There is my ego!”
And I would have believed it – until I spent a year unable to use sex to reassure myself of my worth, and learned that I was completely full of shit.
Sexual Success Was A Necessary Part Of My Narcissistic Self-Image
The first thing I did when my doctor put me on sexual hiatus was think about the lies I would tell my friends. I was in no rush to share the truth with anyone. So, how was I going to explain to the world why I no longer had a new random girl on my arm every week?
During my celibate year, my story changed according to the audience I was in front of. For my work colleagues, who had grown accustomed to living vicariously through regular stories and Snapchats of debauchery, I invented a serious girlfriend who I didn’t like to talk about. While trading stories with friends over pints, I re-used past escapades that I had never gotten around to sharing, rather than sit in silence.
A better man could have told them something as simple, vague, and honest as, “I’m taking a break from dating right now.” But I wasn’t that man. I was incapable of defining myself independently of my sexual conquests. I was afraid of how I might appear to the world, without the incontrovertible social proof of constant access to desirable women.
For my entire adult life, I had defined myself as “the guy who gets a lot of girls.” It was one of the central pillars of my self-image. Maintaining this pillar had cost me time, energy, and a few relationships. Now it had cost me my health, but I still couldn’t put it aside. I couldn’t see myself as a man of value, unless that value was constantly validated by girls who wanted to sleep with me.
It’s easy to act like you’re outcome independent, when every outcome is coming up in your favour. But when that measuring stick was taken away from me, my ego flailed helplessly. Without sex, I became desperate for some instrument I could use to take stock of my worth.
Sex With New Girls Was My Purpose In Life
What’s my purpose in life? Surely it’s not to have sex with as many cute girls as possible, as often as possible. At least, that’s what I used to tell myself.
So how come I reacted to my diagnosis by drifting into spiritual ennui?
Even with the knowledge that my affliction was trivial and almost certainly temporary, and the logical understanding that a hiatus from the game would be a good opportunity to focus on other areas of my life, my motivation to become a better version of myself waned. What’s the point of working out and eating healthy? Why should I improve my skills, pursue leads, and grow my business? Why should I read great books for men?
I found that I didn’t have an answer. In retrospect, I had never come up with a good answer. Sleeping with a new girl every week was enough of a distraction to keep me from ever asking the question. Once that distraction was taken from me, I had nothing to keep me on track except for the good habits I had developed in the previous years of my life.
I had believed that success with women was an entertaining sideshow to my life, but my actions betrayed the reality of my reliance on sex for self-esteem, and a sense of purpose. Without the promise of sex with more and better women, I was adrift.
Pick-Up Culture Is A Road To Nowhere
Pick-up culture is a dead end. It is better than sitting in your room and doing nothing, and it is often a valuable stepping stone. But an identity built on the ability to attract women is a castle built on sand.
The pick-up movement has taken a set of genuine masculine virtues – social skills, sexual prowess, dominance, the ability to lead women – and turned them into cartoon caricatures. Every man should have the ability to approach and confidently seduce a woman. If you don’t, learning game should be a top priority in your life. But the existence of an entire sub-culture, with dedicated communities, language, and styles of dress – is odd and unhealthy.
The seduction community is an invaluable resource, and I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the men who have built it. But unless you are one of the few men who has made it his life’s work to understand and teach sexual dynamics – take what you need from it and move on. Don’t fall into the trap of defining yourself by the women you’re sleeping with.
You Are Not Your Notch Count
Sexual profligacy offers men an easy way to avoid difficult questions. Taking a vacation from the player lifestyle – voluntary or otherwise – is an important exercise towards better understanding who you are, and what motivates you. If sexual deprivation leads to a frustration of your physical desires, good – you are a healthy and vital man. But if it leads to an identity crisis and major psychological distress – as it did for me – you might benefit from asking: What needs am I really addressing with the pursuit of fresh conquests?
Jack Donovan and Chuck Palahniuk, authors of The Way Of Men and Fight Club, are two of the most insightful contemporary writers on the subject of men and masculinity. I once thought it was peculiar that they are both homosexuals, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Donovan and Palahniuk cannot define their worth as men by their ability to sleep with tons of women, so they are forced to look deeper.
In twenty-first century Western society, traditional masculine values are suppressed and demonized by a subversive culture committed to our destruction. Masculine energy is prohibited from finding its natural outlet in the construction and maintenance of a healthy civilization, so young men are confused, frustrated, and directionless.
One of our most common outlets is pick-up culture. We have identified one aspect of positive masculinity – sex with desirable women – and we have defined ourselves by it. We have built our egos, our lifestyles, and our identities around that one goal, and that’s not healthy.
You don’t have to become a monk. I’m certainly not. I continue to pursue sex, with the women I desire. But at this point in my life – after twenty-nine years, over a hundred girls, and a harsh reminder that I’m not as invincible and immune to consequences as I once thought – I’m no longer chasing sex to impress anyone, least of all myself.