There’s a NYT post on the Freakonomics Blog about negging. As usual, it totally misrepresents what a neg is, and therefore comes to the conclusion that the community is a bunch of jackass misogynists who run around insulting women.
Under particular discussion is a pickup technique that Mystery advocates known as “negging” — a move that involves interjecting an insult during an initial conversation with a woman. The motivation behind the insult is, as Esquire’s A.J. Jacobs puts it, to “lower her self-esteem, thus making her more vulnerable to your advances.” While this tactic has provoked considerable ire, by all accounts from Strauss and his skirt-chasing Svengali, it seems to work.
Meanwhile, the psychologists Steve Stewart-Williams and William F. McKibbin have been researching the topic of men insulting women, publishing a study called “Why Do Men Insult Their Intimate Partners?” in the July Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.
Notice how the article doesn’t quote Mystery or Style or an MM instructor, but quotes Esquire, engaging in a game of journalistic telephone that gets worse and worse.
Anyway, here’s my reply:
As an instructor for the Mystery Method, I feel it’s my responsibility to clear up this situation. Negging is *NOT* insulting a woman, and if you insult a sensible, sane woman, she is much more likely to throw a drink in your face than to become attracted to you.
What a neg *is* is a friendly tease; the kind male buddies might do to one another, or the way you might tease your kid sister. Done properly, they’re witty, friendly and assertive. It should strike the right balance between “having a spine”, and “being a jerk”.
For example, a woman you are talking to does something slightly rude or impolite (perhaps cutting you off mid-sentence). A good neg might be “Hahaha, I can tell you and I are not going to get along – we’re too similar” (with a smile). Not a jerky thing to say, but an assertive yet friendly response to rude behavior.
Ok, ok, I sanitized it a bit for the non-community audience – I mentioned the most inoffensive neg that I could think of; but communicating the subtlety of negs is REALLY hard over the internet, especially to a bunch of skeptical NYT subscribers. The fact is, I have said some stuff that divorced from context and sent through the internet in bits and bytes sounds REALLY rude, but in the moment, at a bar with a girl that’s engaged, it’s hilarious and cheeky.
But I’m not going to try to explain to the NYT audience (in 200 words or less), how “Haha, you are SOOO retarded! How many chromosomes do you have?”, can be really funny, cheeky and not rude under certain circumstances.