Tag Archives: sex

Book: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

My fiancée and I have a great relationship. We’ve been together for almost three years and today, we bought wedding bands from Tiffany’s. Everything we do is romantic—from the day we met (on the Beijing subway) to the normal, suburban life we now lead in Australia.

Of course, no relationship is perfect all the time. But when I picked up this self-help classic from the library, I learned that when it comes to love, I’m not as clueless as I thought…

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
Self-help classic

So theoretical. And where’s the sex?
286 pages, ★★★

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus screams, “NINETEEN-NINETIES!” at you. It’s a relationship manual written for sexually dimorphic salarymen and housewives, and it rose to fame in the 1990s while the Spice Girls were still a surprise. Men and women were changing, but weren’t yet sure of who they were. Call it ‘pre-post-feminism’, if you like.

Enter this book. It’s so theoretical! Each double-page spread sports at least two sub-headings, and there’s a pull-out quote every three pages. You can skim-read all the sub-headings and still get the gist: “men and women think differently”.

Sometimes, it’s too theoretical. It’s somewhere between a self-help book and an instruction manual! I’d prefer to learn the same information in a more entertaining format—by attending John Gray’s lectures and seminars, for example, or by watching a TV documentary. The message of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus begs to be served in a more interactive way than a printed book.

Despite focussing on the sexes, I’m surprised to see that this book is completely devoid of sex itself! If you want sex tips, you’ll need to read another book called, The Secrets of Successful Relationships, also by John Gray. I know that sex is only one part of a romantic relationship, but it’s quite an important part… I’m sure John Gray had his reasons for omitting it from this book.

I have two problems with this book. First, who starts a love letter with “I’m angry that…”, then includes four paragraphs of negative emotions followed by one paragraph of love? Is this normal? I’m certainly not going to do it, even though this book says that I should.

Second: it’s very basic in places. The list of 101 things that a man can do to ‘score points’ with a woman are so glaringly obvious that I already do all of them—and more—without even thinking about it.

This book can help couples who have small problems (i.e. too small to seek professional help). Otherwise, just read it because it’s a classic in its genre. Remember that while men and women are different, they’re not as different as John Gray claims—and nor should they be.

Feminist talks are everywhere, but here’s a great TED talk for men. Men changed in the feminist revolution, too. Enjoy. 🙂 ★★★

Book: Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
Thanks to bookyish for scanning the front cover.

An uncomfortable, unforgettable, necessary read.
434 pages, ★★★★★

A Japanese-born woman in New York recalls her youth as a geisha in 1930s Japan.

Reading this, though, I learned more about the sex trade than about Japan.

Protagonist Chiyo was taken into an okiya (geisha compound) as a 14-year-old virgin. There, she learned the arts of etiquette and seduction, and was trained to sing, dance, play music, tell stories, pour tea and sake, and entertain rich businessmen and aristocrats. The most valuable skill she learned there was how to endure commodified sex. Her sister, Satsu, was also taken, but promptly sold into prostitution under the new name of Yukiyo. Geishas are, in a way, upper-class equivalents of prostitutes. Both are paid by the hour for entertainment—including sex.

After being given training and kimonos, geishas are bonded to their okiya by unrealistically large ‘debts’, which they must spend many years repaying to their bosses through geisha service. For some, geisha training is a once-in-a-lifetime investment that will make them rich and powerful (by meeting a danna, or sugar-daddy), while for many geishas, it marks the beginning of a downward spiral. In this respect, too, the geisha industry is remarkably similar to the sex trade.

In fact, geisha is written “芸妓” in Japanese, which translates as “artistic prostitute”. Uneducated, uncultured geishas (i.e. prostitutes) can only entertain their clients with sex—because they don’t know how to sing, dance, pour sake or play music.

Protagonist Chiyo leads a successful geisha career. She tries to find a suitable danna in a company that makes electrical appliances. Her successful run begins when a high price is placed on her virginity (as verified by incessant hymen-touching), and she is able to repay her debts to the okiya with ease.

Pleasing male clients is paramount for the geishas. At one point, the okiya boss arranges a meeting between Chiyo and the doctor—a potential suitor—by carefully cutting her with a knife and then sending her to hospital. It paid off: the doctor ultimately purchased her mizuage (virginity).

I see glamour in politicians racing to please millions of voters, or in celebrities frolicking around to attract millions of fans. But for some reason, I feel sadness in seeing geishas cater to the irrational whims of one person. I find the idea of a “VIP celebrity” industry quite disturbing. Admittedly, this conclusion is based on gut instinct and not on logic.

There are 50 characters in this book, many of whose beautiful names are lost in translation. Women’s names which mean “Bean Leaves” and “Little Lily” in Japanese are stripped of all meaning when transliterated as “Sayuri” and “Mahema” in this book. The original Japanese version is probably more beautiful than the English one. I can’t read Japanese, but I’d like to see the original Japanese names to complement the English.

The geisha industry is shaken upside-down when Japan loses the war in August 1945. Okiya are dismantled and many geishas are sent to work on production lines, where the struggles of geishahood pale in comparison:

“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper” — final sentence

I recommend Memoirs of a Geisha for anyone who loves Japan, and for anyone who doesn’t know much about the sex trade. Not all geishas are glamorous, and not all prostitution is tragic; there are debatable ethical boundaries between the two, which I’m not even going to attempt to discuss here. The ethical debate becomes even more complex when you substitute sake (in this book) for the modern substance-of-choice, cocaine. Memoirs of a Geisha certainly makes you think. ★★★

Book: The Game

I’m currently reading an ebook, which will take me an epoch to finish. In the meantime, I think a back-dated review is in order. I miss blogging already.

Here’s one I read in 2011…

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
Fiction? Non-fiction? Porn? Thriller?

Thrilling, disturbing, true. A tale of self-reinvention.
452 pages, ☆☆☆☆☆

Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the bestselling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity. The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year — guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the opposite sex forever.

The Game is a story of management, success, sex, psychology, drugs, sleaze and celebrities laced with porn and self-help. The Game is a ‘true’ story about how a small group of “average frustrated chumps” (AFCs) deconstructed the art of seduction into a series of learnable steps, and transformed themselves into “pick-up artists”, or PUAs.

Enter the club, hunt out a gullible model-type, and start entertaining her less-attractive friends with jokes and magic tricks. Divert attention from the target and throw mild insults at her to erode her confidence (“that large nose looks great on you”; “is your hair supposed to look like that?”). Wait for three indicators of interest (IOIs) from the woman (touches her hair, adjusts her breasts, licks her lips, or touches you). Exit with a phone number (and not too late) and call her later for sex. The men in this book seduce hundreds of women with this routine. Supposedly, it works.

To understand The Game, it helps first to understand Fight Club…

Fight Club’s protagonist felt oppressed by his job. He created an alter ego, a schizophrenic hallucination, called Tyler Durden, who was “free in every way you’re not”: single, carefree, without want or ambition, yet Tyler was happier (in a hedonistic sense) and more successful than the protagonist’s real self. Tyler Durden gave the protagonist the strength he needed to leave the career-obsessed, materialistic life that he hated.

The Game’s protagonist, Neil Strauss, couldn’t get laid. He, too, created an alter ego called Style, who was bald, tanned, smooth-talking and, most importantly, women found him irresistibly seductive. Style was everything that Neil Strauss wished he could be: popular, respected, and promiscuous. He even became rich by running his own “how to be like me” seminars.

Neil Strauss (before, right) and his alter ego, Style (after, left).
Neil Strauss (before, right) and his alter ego, Style (after, left).

Both Fight Club and The Game are coming-of-age, transition-to-manhood stories, with struggles and pitfalls, and surprisingly tragic endings. Fight Club’s protagonist destroys the “capitalist world” with nitroglycerine, then shoots himself in the neck, destroying his alter ego. The Game’s protagonist quits when he finds himself surrounded not by beautiful young women, but by creepy “pick-up artist” men. Both characters give up their chosen image of manhood just moments after they achieve it.

Objectively, there’s little difference between struggles against the upper classes in Fight Club and against gullible women in The Game. But while I could sympathise with Fight Club’s anarchist/Maoist ideology, and find some humour in it, I had no sympathy for the manipulation of women for sex in The Game. My moral compass, I learned, was inconsistent.

I’m happy that this novel ends in tragedy. It’s the only way it could have been published, yet still be socially-responsible. Like Fight Club, the tragic ending is brought forward to Chapter 1, which depicts a down-and-out pick-up artist called Mystery needing drugs to stay awake, sleep or stop him from killing himself:

Mystery was beyond understanding. He was out of control. For a week, he’d been vacillating between periods of extreme anger and violence, and jags of fitful, cathartic sobbing. And now he was threatening to kill himself. — Page 1

The middle of the book builds towards this anti-climax.

The Game is loaded with promiscuous sex scenes. Between sex scenes, the characters talk about sex with lucid description, and discuss women and flirting tactics. Its mixed writing style (prose, dialogue, email, text message, and illustrations) suits a young audience—but read it carefully to avoid getting the wrong message.

I needed to read this in 2011. Whether The Game is true or not, pick-up artists like those in The Game really exist. This book taught me that everyone chases something—be it women, money, drugs, stamps, or gadgets… everyone plays a “game” of sorts.

My game is books. What’s your game? ☆☆☆☆☆