Got a question on Reddit:
Hey, I saw your post on [removed] and it hit a nerve. “I stopped pursuing sex with random women.” I’m a former sedditor, was reasonably successful PUA about 6-7 years ago, got into a relationship, but now married.
I still remember casual sex as intoxicating. I never felt so alive as having success with random women, I loved it. I still yearn for that experience. I’ve lived a good/varied life: married to a good woman, good friends, professional success, traveling around the world, skydiving, motorcycling, mountaineering. I’ve had people die in my hands, I’ve saved people’s life.
But nothing quite gives me that thrill that I had with casual sex.
I’m wondering what changed in your life to make you stop wanting that? Or if you do still enjoy it, could you clarify your position? I think about this a lot and don’t know many folks from the rationality community do.
And I answered that question:
Hey [removed] thanks for saying hi!
In short – casual sex still feels physically good but it doesn’t have the psychological reward it once did. This is because of an evolved worldview (from my studies and life experience) where I find it better long-term for both me and others to not pursue casual sex.
In long (this got out of hand when I started typing but I felt my story necessary to explain my answers to your difficult, and important questions)…
I got into pickup pretty immediately after graduating from college. I graduated a virgin, and had been plagued by sexual insecurities since middle school. I found the game community through Patrice O’Neal standup of all places, which led me to Heartiste, RSD, and the likes. I found these around the same time I started lifting weights and feeling good about my career.
I started becoming attractive. Both physically (weight lifting and social skills developed from game), and I started to feel attractive internally. Results followed (and reinforced both the internal and external feelings).
Losing my virginity was big, but it didn’t “solve” my problem. I became obsessed. For about 2 years I was going out to bars 5-6 nights a week hitting on women with the intention of having sex. And I had lots of sex.
This obsession led to indulgence. I became psychologically addicted to it all. The chase, the flirting, the sex, the sense of intimacy. You’re absolutely right that it was a thrill. Casual sex is a conquest. Like your mountaineering and skydiving, it is an accomplishment of a goal that we are rewarded for our efforts. Unlike mountaineering and skydiving, the conquest is another person. It’s primal, it’s animalistic, it’s *powerful*. It is awesome.
At least, that’s how I felt in the moment. In hindsight, it was the similar sense of power that comes with a good drag from a cigarette – it made me feel strong and powerful, but I didn’t feel as strong and powerful without *it* (nicotine, women).
After 3 years immersed in game, I started to doubt my end game. My end game was *happiness* and my method was to become the most attractive person I could. In the process, I destroyed my inhibitions and insecurities (which I see as a good thing), but I started to feel this wasn’t the ultimate good.
I took my “main chick” at the time as my monogamous girlfriend as sort of a personal experiment. I wanted to see if this was truly an unhealthy addiction and if I could find happiness without the constant pursuit. Not the best reason for entering a relationship (lol) but it was radically different from what I’d been doing.
Around the same time, again, I found my reading evolving. Instead of game blogs, I started reading a lot of old great texts. The latest on rationality is great, and Scott’s the best writer I know in this “sphere” but most writing on virtue and happiness is just boring regurgitation of the wisdom contained in old epic poems and religious texts. Those are easily dismissed because they’re 1) old and 2) didn’t show their data. More psych communities should start with the hypothesis that the old wisdom (eg biblical) is true and work to disprove it. /side rant lol
These old books preach virtue as the path to happiness. Virtue mostly being defined as living in accordance with nature while rejecting the pursuit of things (money, status, sex). Sex for me was the big one. I removed my want for money and status in my pursuit of sex as a PUA. Now, I wanted to focus on removing the unhealthy desire for constant sex and female attention.
This led to changing how I view the women I was interacting with and my actions. When I was in pickup, I saw the highest goods as *being attractive* and *honesty*. If I was attractive, as long as I was being honest, I was doing “the right thing”. For example, I always told girls I wasn’t monogamous and wouldn’t take them on dates to “get their hopes up” to keep their expectations in-line.
This is what changed, for me, the shared thrill you and I had with casual. Casual sex is fun, but it’s certainly not the ultimate good. I see what I was doing to women (even when they all enjoyed it) as ultimately destructive. I was giving myself hits of heroin by having sex with them, and I was giving them heroin at the same time. I was making them want more heroin, instead of *not wanting things* which makes a relationship based on virtue possible.
I know I keep making drug references but I’m not an addict and I don’t really have an addictive personality lol. It’s just for comparison, and I think it’s a fair comparison. Also I promise I’m not a Bible-thumping religious zealot. I just see a lot of wisdom in the Bible (and similar old books), and more and more modern science backing that up (short version: happiness isn’t found in hedonistic pursuit).
Now I see virtue as the highest good, and the true path to happiness, which I see as a *true contentedness*. I highlight this because it must be genuine – you must want this contentedness instead of secretly wanting attention from the hottie at the gym. I see this also in the case of relationships. Relationships based on this virtue (where each other’s happiness is the goal and virtue is the means) are much more likely to last than trying to maintain your attraction and attractiveness as the primary reason for the relationship (which, by definition, will fade over time). My reason for being in my monogamous relationship evolved over time, and that relationship eventually ended, but I’m grateful for all the experiences.
I’m happy to talk more about any of this.
I’m also happy to hear that you’re now married. I’m truly envious of that, and I hope you search for beauty and happiness in that and in you. Because it isn’t elsewhere… I looked 🙂