Scheherazade Goes to College

March 12, 2010

In the year or so that I’ve been blogging, I’ve heard a lot of stories. Many of the them have recurring themes. Even Shakespeare stole his stories from the Greeks; there just aren’t that many different variations on human behavior. A few weeks ago, though, I got an email from a reader that astounded me. I fired back a response and thought I was done with it, but it’s been on my mind quite a bit, so I thought we could discuss it here.

Dear Susan,

I need your help! I am in such a complicated situation, and I desperately need some advice. The past two weekends I have hooked up with a super hot guy that I’ve been crushing on forever. He was just really flirty one night so we went back to his place and he was really sweet. I knew that he had been hooking up for a few weeks with another girl, but she’s totally haggard and a slut, so I figured he’d be happy to ditch her. The second weekend we hooked up again on Friday night, but then someone saw that other girl walking home Sunday morning, so she was probably with him Saturday night.

Here’s where it gets really complicated. Last night I was out and the other girl was there too. He was there and being pretty friendly to everyone, not singling either of us out. So I’m in the bathroom and there’s this girl crying and talking to her friend. And I’m in the stall and I can hear what they’re saying. She likes the exact same guy, and she’s just found out about him hooking up with the other girl. She’s really upset, and she obviously doesn’t even know about me. I can’t believe that he has something going already with two other girls!

So my question is, how can I get him to make me his #1? I just want to get these other girls out of the way! I would appreciate any advice you can give me.


Can you see why this letter has haunted me? Holy hell.

I’d like to think that this is a description of something very rare, but I know that it’s not. Katherine obviously hadn’t read any of my posts before writing – or she would have known that I would not be the person to give her the advice she seeks. In that sense, a letter slipped through here unlike most of the ones I get, and I’m glad it did. Though it may sound extreme, there is only one possible conclusion:

Katherine aspires to membership in a harem.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Katherine aspires to membership is something not nearly as beneficial as a harem. The word harem first appeared in English in 1634, and comes from the Arabic word haram, meaning forbidden, specifically with respect to women’s quarters. From Wikipedia: “The Imperial Harem of the Ottoman sultan, which was also called seraglio in the West, typically housed several dozen women, including wives.” Because the women were forbidden to other men, they were served only by eunuchs and slave girls. One Persian harem is believed to have contained over 3,000 women.

1001 Arabian Nights, thought to have originally been a Persian book of folk tales, featured the story of Scheherazade. She literally kept her head by thinking up a new and exciting story to tell the King every night.

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of last night’s story. At the end of one thousand and one nights, and one thousand stories, Scheherazade told the King that she had no more tales to tell him. During these one thousand and one nights, the King had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and had had three sons with her. So, having been made a wiser and kinder man by Scheherazade and her tales, he spared her life, and made her his Queen.

This is the fairy tale that Katherine is trying to live. She wants to be made Queen, having made her master a wiser and kinder man.

There’s a lot of talk in the blogosphere, especially around the topics of Game and Men’s Rights, about women increasingly living in “de facto harems” as a result of the declining marriage rate. Obsidian predicts that they’ll become a lot more common (link here). Blogger Butterfly Squash mentions harems in a recent piece as well (link here). And of course, when Tiger Woods got caught with 12 pairs of pants down, there was much talk of his having a harem (photos here).

Stuart Schneiderman of Had Enough Therapy? wrote a post called Welcome to the Harem (link here):

“If the ratio of women to men [on college campuses] is 60%/40% this will obviously have an effect on dating and relationship behavior. One effect…is that with men in such short supply those few remaining men have become empowered.

They can do what they want, when they want, with whom they want… and women, unhappy about being alone, go along because they feel that they have no other choice. If the choice is between hooking up with an anonymous male and going home alone, no small number of women are choosing the former, on the grounds that something is better than nothing.”

For the most part, I’ve always considered this to mean that women will have sex outside of relationships, even if they want a relationship, because holding out doesn’t really get women anywhere, and it’s hard to spend four years in the romance desert. Now it appears that women have found a way to be brought into the harem tent, no longer left to wander across the endless sands. Sharing the man is the price many women seem willing to pay.

Schneiderman continues:

“The gender disparity has granted men so much power that women’s voices, their needs, their interests become trivial psychocultural excrescences.”

He then goes on to make a point that is usually overlooked in articles about hookup culture:

“As Charlotte Allen points out [in her recent article in The Weekly Standard, girls] are not hooking up with just anyone. Not just any man is going to succeed at the hook-up game. A group of ersatz alpha males seems to have garnered a disproportionate number of women, while the beta and gamma males, nice guys, guys who would make good husbands or boy friends, are left out of the game.”

And here’s the apt harem analogy:

“The interesting part of all this is that a woman who engages in a casual sexual encounter with an ersatz alpha male, only to return to the comfort of the sisterhood, is acting like she is part of a harem.

  • Women are attracted to men who seem to have had many women, because that is a sign of being an alpha male. Inexperienced men, who who are awkward and shy around women, need not apply for pick-up artist or alpha male status.
  • Many of these men are not especially good lovers. This also becomes a sign of alpha maledom. If you are a pasha and can have any woman you want you do not need to be especially attentive to the woman’s needs. You are not going to see her in the morning anyway.
  • Women learn to tolerate men who never call them again, because that too is a sign that he’s an alpha male, that he is never going to be hers, but that she belongs to his harem.”

In thinking about harems, it occurs to me that we also have our modern-day equivalents of those who guard the women forbidden to nearly all the males. The guy BFF, the guy who’s always hearing, “Let’s just be friends.” We have forced those guys into playing the role of the eunuch. Except that today’s eunuchs still have their balls, and they too want a shot at one of those 3,000 women.

The slave girls are the ones who flutter around the Queen Bee, happy to be in her sphere of influence, waiting on her hand and foot, constantly demonstrating loyalty. They hook up with sidekicks of the sultan if they can, happy to be on the fringe of his court.

Hundreds of years ago, women selected for the harem did not have a choice. Today they do. Signing up voluntarily for sexual slavery to the nearest alpha sultan strikes me as a puzzling, poor life choice. At least in those days, a woman got clean sheets. Katherine is sleeping on sheets probably not yet changed this semester, containing the bodily excretions of many other women. Ew.

Needless to say, I didn’t advise Katherine on how to become girl #1. In fact, I hope she fails miserably and gets kicked out on her bottom right away. She doesn’t sound like she’s anywhere near ready to face reality, which is that she is just one vagina among many, destined for the trash heap of regrets.

Katherine, your hookup is no sultan, and you are no Scheherazade. Step out of the fairy tale and into the real world before it’s too late, while men with a genuine pair are still willing to give you a shot.

  • Il Capo

    Mike wrote: "This is so spot-on it is scary. Reading this brought back memories from my past."

    Heh. As you have probably realized, the description was partly auto-biographical in nature. I was lucky to be in a setting where I had an inherent DHV due to career and other stuff, so my behavior was somehow tolerated. I also "learned" from some naturals by asking the wrong questions. They were taking girls to dinner at fancy restaurants, so I did so too. Little did I know that it is the details that matter.

  • Dragnet left an awesome comment during the changeover today, but it went into limbo. Fortunately, I have it as an email, so I'm posting it here for everyone's general edification. For any young guys especially, read and learn. It's clear from what I've read of his that Dragnet has very, very tight Game. Ugh, ID is making me split the comment in two.

    Part I From Dragnet:

    Great post—and a lot of great comments on this board.

    I read the Katherine letter and laughed aloud. I can very much assure you all from personal experience—it's not a parody or a joke. That's basically the scene for pretty much your whole 20s in large-scale urban environments and universities. The alphas & Game-enhanced betas (a smaller number) have 'harems' or 'rotations'…and the ladies are often aware and don't necessarily mind. I just didn't know they were so unabashed to the point of crowing about it in emails and revealing their identities. To be perfectly frank, Katherine seems like one of the kinds of women I hooked up with and then quickly dispensed with. She just doesn't seem like relationship material—not necessarily because she's in a de facto harem, but because she doesn't seem to mind and she strikes me as a bit ruthless—the kind of woman who would trade up for someone more alpha in a heartbeat. You can spot those muchachas a mile away if you know what to look for.

    And I agree—there isn't much in the Game community on LTR Game and I would definitely appreciate a bit more study and literature regarding that topic. Obviously, I don't consider myself an expert on LTR Game (or even pick-up Game, for that matter) but at one point I was in an on-off relationship that lasted 3.5 years. This was before I'd known heard about 'Game' or the online seduction community (these days, I consider myself a natural now intellectually aware of why I was successful with women in the past). Looking back over that relationship a couple things stuck out to me as important:

    1) Picking the right kind of woman: You have a to pick a woman who is LTR material. You may think this means many things, but in my opinion it really doesn't. If you smell a hint of entitlement or ruthlessness or selfishness on your woman, you should know that she's also probably the type who would divorce you and take you to the cleaners if a better offer showed up. Bag her—character matters in LTRs.

    In a practical sense, it also means not necessarily fucking—or even dating—initially. Back where I'm from a lot of times you'd do what was called 'talking' to a girl (Obsidian would definitely know what I'm talking about). You wouldn't fuck her and you wouldn't even go out on dates. You'd just holla at her at times—on the phone or wherever—you'd get to know her character, all the while giving her a chance to fall for you. It's a delicate balancing act that requires solid Game and social skills, but it's highly adaptable and very helpful as to sussing out who's LTR material and who's just hook-up material.

    There are others ways of going about it, of course, but the point is that it's important to make a good choice. This is the most important aspect of LTR Game, in my opinion.

    2) Ambition outside the relationship: Always be making progress in some area of your life— in an LTR quality woman, it will inspire her respect for your provider instinct. And that respect can make the pussy tingle. Whether it's your education, self-improvement, your professional life, or your relationships with family & friends, volunteering or whatever, women like men who seem like they're going places and always striving.

  • Part II from Dragnet:

    3) Subtle displays of dominance within the relationship: Women are naturally submissive and both the guy and girl need to own that. When I say submissive I don't mean docile, weak, tame, or passive. I mean pre-disposed to yield respect & deference…but only to those who demonstrate worthiness. A way of doing this is by subtle displays of male dominance. One example of this that we're all familiar with: hand holding. When you hold your woman's hand, you instinctively put your hand in front of her and she submits to it. That model can really be applied across a range of behaviors.

    – Don't wrap your arm around her waist in public. I've seen guys do this and it's pathetic and insecure. Instead, place a hand on her casually on her hip (or her ass, but only for a few seconds depending on the situation). A favorite move of mine is to place a hand on the small of her back. I'm a big guy with large hands, so they generally cover her entire back and a bit around the waist. I've had many women tell me it turns them—it makes them feel little, hot, and reminds her who she belongs to.

    -Slap her on the ass when you're just around the apt. Resist the beta urge to shrink or apologize. Sometimes don't even acknowledge that you just did that.

    -Apologize less. Far, far less.

    -Head up, chest out and put a bit of swing in your shoulders when you walk.

    -Be decisive. Always have a plan.

    -Fuck her good, hard, and often.

    -Hold her when cuddling, not the other way around. And you're the Big Spoon 80 percent of the time. Minimum.

    -When you're at a restaurant occasionally place a hand on her thigh or rub her knee. Don't be afraid to order for her—if you're in an LTR you know what she likes. Stop reaching for your wallet as soon as the check arrives—it's okay to let her pay occasionally. Just play it cool and act like it's no big deal.

    And so on…"Playful dominance" are really the watchwords.

    4) Train your woman: Reward the behaviors you want, and discourage the ones you don't. Simple, but not easy. The ultimate point is to establish that your woman can obtain from you by her softness and femininity far more than she could by grrl power or whatever this bullshit is. Femininity is grrrl power—and if you're lucky and you've made a good choice then this is a much easier process because she knows this. But if not then you have some work cut out. In my opinion, this step is easier if the the other three things (making a good choice, male ambition, subtle male dominance) are present.

    Just my $0.02 on the topic. I'll admit that most of my experience is with short-term engagements, so you may take this all with a grain of salt.

    • vera44

      OMG. Number 3 is SO important, at least for me. It's what made the last guy I dated so ridiculously hard to leave — he did all of those, and it always made me weak in the knees.

  • ATS

    Sigh. I get a lot of these from single girlfriends. Two of them who are much younger, while having lunch with me, were tickled pink over the fact that the jerks they were after "had a lot of women after them!" and were basically cads who'd poke anything in a skirt. I could not believe my ears. I basically had to rain on their parade by telling them a couple of harsh truths, which Katherine would do well to heed :

    1.) As per Sherry Argov, competing with other women just lowers your value, period. A man will not value you if you do not value yourself, and being the one doing all the work in this relationship won't let him sit up and think, "Oh, SHE'S special!" It just sets you up for being a doormat.

    2.) You're fighting over a man who's sleeping with other women. So you win him. Great. Hooray for you. But here's a simple fact that's glossed over—if you compete to win a cad, guess what? You've won a CAD! To expect him to change now that you have him when his very behavior was what got you to gunning after him in the first place isn't going to suddenly make him do a total turn around and be the devoted, loyal, commitment-ready boyfriend you're wishing for. HE'LL STILL BE A CAD, because after all, why fix something that for him, ain't broke? So be careful with the prize you aim for, ladies. In the hot melee of trying to be number one in an ostensible harem, the goal of winning might not get you what you really want. You might get to be number one with a jerk, but that won't change the fact that he's STILL a jerk.

    (P.S. : Susan, had to change my name from AT to ATS, since your site told me my name was too short)

    • YES! These are both good points, but #2 is critical. In this post, I didn't even address the behavior of the guy, but I often say "Be careful what you wish for." Whether you're a woman going for a cad, or a guy lusting after a heartless, entitled woman, IF you can manage to wrangle someone like this into a relationship, you haven't got anything worth having. Cads do have girlfriends sometimes, and if you could see inside those relationships, you'd see how superficial they are. A cad's gf is really nothing more than a glorified f*ckbuddy. And he'll treat you poorly, and cheat, because that's what cads do.

  • Tvulture

    I like this "Susan goes East" series. You're trying to warn people off harems, Susan, so let me help you out…

    Who ends up in harems? Slaves. If you're in a harem, you're a slave. I bet they understood that very well back in the Sultan's day. Would-be volunteers for modern western harems don't. They should think about it.

    If you want a harem, you need slaves, so chances are the Sultan is going to have dealings with more than a few slave traders. Not sweet guys, so the Sultan probably isn't sweet either. Birds of a feather.

    A harem slave can dream that she'll end up as Sultana. That doesn't always work out. In the Ottoman Empire, succession went first to the brother of the Sultan, not the Sultan's son. More than a few Sultanas found out their darling boy wasn't going to be royalty after all. Literally, "bros before…."

    OK, so some women would skip the Sultan and go for a nice Bey or Pasha. Fine, until you find out you're with Stanke Bey…

    • The metaphor holds! Sex slavery is just about right – if all you provide is sex, and you get zip in return, not even honesty, you've got less than when you were alone. So why would anyone sign up? It makes no sense, despite hypergamy. Why can't this woman just admit to herself that she is miserable?

      • Tvulture

        It's more than determination. It's more like fanaticism.

        They're not fanatically loyal to anyone, so they're fanatically loyal to…debauchery?

  • LAC

    OMG my BFF does things like this CONSTANTLY. It's enough to make me want to lock her in a tower away from men for a few years. It's absolutely unnerving.

    My BFF is a brilliant, gorgeous, cynical, card-carrying member of MENSA, but is the most needy, desperate human being on the planet when a penis is introduced. The men she's most attracted to are the ones who refuse to date her for whatever reason, but spend 90% of their time with her, profess their love for her, and sleep with her at random intervals all the while rejecting an actual relationship. We call this "fake dating" and it has happened to several of my friends in the last few years (the men's behavior that is; the female reaction to it varies). This behavior will go on for YEARS while she's madly in love and spending all of her time: a) taking what she can get; b) pining over the relationship the man won't give her; and c) trying to convince the guy to change his mind. I've given the "you're better than that" speech so many times I want to record an mp3 of it and just email it when I need to. Watching her do this to herself continuously is so personally exhausting.

    There should be a rehab program for this stuff.

    • I cannot figure women like this out, although there sure seem to be a lot of them around. It's like a terminal masochism or something. How can women so smart fail to learn the most obvious of lessons? I agree, there should be relationship rehab. Hmmm, could be a nice business….

      • LAC

        Actually, come to think of it, there is such a business… That show Tough Love on VH1.

        And you know, I find that every single brilliant, strong woman I know nevertheless falls to pieces over a man (and I have been known to myself). I feel like almost no one with a vagina is immune to some of this behavior, as illogical as it is. My BFF has a saying she usually applies to these situations: "Logic only works when it's not happening to you."

  • Jennifer

    One of your best, Susan. I actually felt pain when reading this tragedy.