Toronto-raised sexologist Shan Boodram on winning ‘The Game of Desire’

By Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Toronto-raised sex educator Shan Boodram wants to bring a more “human approach” to pickup artistry.

The 34-year-old clinical sexologist has penned her own player’s handbook, “The Game of Desire,” outlining a five-step strategy for romantic success.

Published by HarperCollins on Tuesday, the book follows L.A.-based Boodram as she coaches a group of down-and-out daters through an immersive process of self-reflection, changing habits, learning from experts, practising their seduction skills and using them to attain the love life of their dreams.

Boodram, who has more than 450,000 YouTube followers, said her work in the amorous arts has been profoundly influenced by Neil Strauss, author of “The Game,” often cited as a foundational text in the so-called seduction community devoted to training men to improve their sexual prospects.

The 2005 book has drawn ire from critics who accuse pickup artists of promoting a degrading view of women as conquests to be won in a self-gratifying game of machismo.

In the wrong hands, Boodram admits these methods can be exploited by self-styled lotharios to the detriment of others. But deployed correctly and consensually, she said everybody wins when people are equipped with tools to navigate today’s “dating famine.”

Boodram spoke to The Canadian Press by phone about the rules of “The Game of Desire,” the pitfalls of fast-paced dating culture and the role Drake played in pushing her to write the book.


CP: What is “The Game of Desire,” and how does one win it?

Boodram: “The Game of Desire” is based on the premise that attractive is not a gift bestowed on the few. It’s a set of tools, strategies and techniques that can be acquired by anyone. 

I think games get often characterized from a negative standpoint (in) relationships. Let’s back up. What’s a game? A game is something that people play consensually; it’s a bonding activity. It brings out the best in each individual and every person has a fair shot at the desired outcome.


CP: What would you say to people who may feel duped if they find out they’re being “gamed”?

Boodram: If you’re sold something and you get home and it breaks, yes, you should feel duped. But if somebody markets themselves and positions themselves for success and has intention behind what they want …  and is really mindful about sharing that in mutuality, I don’t know how mad you would be.


CP: What do you see as the conditions of today’s dating landscape?

I think it’s very gaslighting when we say to people, “Come on, it’s never been easier to date.”

The competition is steeper. People are waiting longer to make connections. Societal pressure to couple up has eased up on one sector of the population, while the other still faces that heavily.

We’ve continued to increase the vehicle at which we make connections and make it go faster and do more things but we still haven’t taught people how to drive. So if you’re crashing and burning, that’s OK.


CP: How do you think the MeToo movement has influenced the modern conversation about dating?

Boodram: I think for a lot of women, consent is just part of our language. For men, it may not be the case … so I’m happy to have them join the discussion. I would like to see them invited in compassionately.

I think the MeToo movement did it in a very aggressive way, which was necessary because so much pain and so much hurt had been happening for so long. But now that we’ve gotten over the shock value of how often this is happening, let’s continue the conversation in an inclusive way that helps people get up to speed.


CP: What have you learned from the pickup artist community, and how does your approach differ?

Boodram: We can have a bunch of debates about the kinds and quality of people (pickup artistry) attracts. But what I think is nice at the heart of it, it says to men in particular who have felt left out of the dating narrative, “We can teach you.”

What pickup artistry does is it puts whipped cream on poop … What you end up doing is being really good at drawing people in, but you draw people into a person who doesn’t yet know and like themselves.

My book takes a holistic approach to pickup artistry, in which you start with you — you know yourself inside out. Once we do that, now we can start to add the tips, techniques tricks and strategies, but the base and foundation has to be solid.


CP: I noticed there’s a celebrity shout-out in the acknowledgments. Can you tell me about that?

Boodram: My first book, “Laid,” came out in 2009, and I just told myself I’m not ready for a second book… I just kept pushing it off because it’s such a sensitive space for me and putting out a book is really like putting out your heart and soul.

Drake is actually someone I know because my best friend, Andrea Lewis, used to be on “Degrassi” … I was over hanging out with him in 2017, just chatting it up. And he was like, “Boodram, where’s your book? Why aren’t you teaching women, like, how to maneuver in relationships?”

He definitely just sparked the idea, and I actually texted him yesterday just to say thank you … I got a push from the person who personifies pushing, and that was an important part of my story.


—The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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