Communication Games: Dating Coaches, Masculinity, and Working at Play in Seduction Communities
This article examines the work of affective labor in remediating experiences of inhibition and insecurity among heterosexual men in "seduction communities": communities of men who train each other in embodying seductive masculinity to pick up women. Considering how men in seduction communities construct and enact symbolic boundaries in their performances of seduction, this paper will seek to answer the following question: what do seduction communities reveal about the vulnerabilities and frailties of masculinity in the US today?
Based on original ethnographic fieldwork carried out in New York City, I examine the ways in which men experience states of cognitive absorption, affective license, and also of disability and abjection in fashioning themselves as objects of female desire through rituals of shared affective labor among men.
I argue that men experience culturally based ambivalences around norms of self-help - including ideas of freedom, dependency, and addiction - in ways that complicate heteronormative masculine identities. I furthermore assert that self-fashioning through seduction training invokes ideas of work and play in order to differentiate contradictory ethics of persuasion and self-expression, and that these ideas in turn instantiate different technologies of embodiment that reproduce inequalities between men along lines of race and class.
Hacking 'The Natural': Seduction Skills, Self-Help, and the Ethics of Crafting Heterosexual Masculine Embodiment in Seduction Communities
Close relationships between men and women have been theorized from feminist, psychoanalytic, and political economic perspectives. In seduction communities, dating coaches and pickup artists act as expert mediums in scripting norms of heterosexual courtship between men and women.
Based on an ethnographic case study of intimate labor between coaches and male clients in seduction communities in New York City, this article follows men in these communities as they experience emotional and affective states of flow, inhibition, and embodied abjection in learning and practicing seduction skills. Observing how these men embody contradictory cultural norms of self-help - including ideas of freedom, dependency, and addiction - in ways that reproduce a range of social, economic, and gender-based inequalities, this article suggests three things.
First, that apprenticing in techniques of heterosexual seduction is about masculine self-fashioning; second, that practices of self-help in seduction skills-training complicate heteronormative masculine identities by creating intimate spheres of dependency and self-disclosure among men; and third, that seduction communities strategically graft culturally-situated ideologies of labor as alienable and sexuality as inalienable onto cultural ambivalences about communication as instrumental or expressive in ways that enable the commodification of expertise in intimate relationships.