The Real Problem With PUAs


Tired of being shunned by every woman you try to chat to? Ever wish there was a fool-proof, systematic approach telling you everything you’ve ever needed to know about how women think and act and how to exploit it to your own advantage?

Look no further than the masses of books, seminars, websites, online videos and forums dedicated to just that: getting you laid. In fact, there is an entire underground community of men promising they can teach other men how to bed women. You can browse the forums or read the field reports of others, watch the increasing amount of YouTube videos in which guys go around picking up phone number after phone number or you can go the full hog and enrol on one of the many conventions taking place across the world.

From opening lines, interesting anecdotes to fashion advice and psychological techniques for self-improvement, the advice on offer claims to give you all the tools you need to get the woman you’ve been eyeing down the local pub on your arm within minutes.

They even have their own set of technical terms to help you internalise the content more efficiently, making it seem more like a game. There are ‘false time constraints”, ‘IOIs’, ‘negging’, ‘sarging’, ‘DIVs’, ‘DLVs’ and ‘peacocking’, amongst many others.

Some of the advice on-hand is just obvious. Who knew that dressing well, getting a sharp haircut and grooming appropriately would make you more attractive to the opposite sex? Some is more technical and requires the employment of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to either improve your own confidence or break down her barriers.

Welcome to the world of pickup artists (PUAs) and their many followers, aspiring to one day be as successful as their masters.

The term pickup, in such a context, dates back to at least the Second World War when it was used in reference to prostitution. It was then popularised by Eric Weber’s book in 1970, and further by James Toback’s semi-autobiographical movie in 1987. Ross Jeffries – a man who appeared in one of BBC’s Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends – then used the term a year later when he introduced his “speed seduction”, claiming the techniques were “beyond pickup”.

The industry has boomed since the turn of the century and there are masses of free or paid for content available for all you guys out there who consistently find their sexual advances rejected.

If you thought that all this sounds too good to be true, it is and according to a 2011 article in Salon there’s a problem with the pickup community: its commercialisation. Unfortunately, sex sells and therefore, by extension, teaching how to get sex sells.

Now, there are dozens of websites that will make statement after statement claiming it will arm you with all you need to attract any woman you want while withholding any practical information until you enter your bank details on a pay screen.

Dr Boynton, for example, describes users as “the most vulnerable of men”, claiming that the PUA industry is little more than an attempt to scam money from horny, insecure men. Poor men. It must be really difficult for them to learn techniques that trick women and play on their insecurities, in some cases using force, to get laid only to find out that the techniques don’t always work and are not one size fits all.

Of course, it is the most vulnerable of women who are the real victims here, which has been highlighted in the news recently in the form of the disgusting behaviour of Julien Blanc and his cohorts. The likes of Blanc objectify women and openly encourage men to disrespect them in order to get them to like you.

But it is not this that is the problem according to the Salon article’s author, Peter Lu. Neither is it the grabbing of Japanese women – because “in Tokyo, if you’re a white male, you can do what you want” – nor is it reducing the amount of phone numbers gained or women bedded into some statistic, nor is it the hypnotic techniques or ‘breaking down last minute resistance’ when she refuses sex – making their practice tantamount to rape at times. Rather, it is the men that don’t know if the site they are giving money to in order to receive this advice is legit or not!

PUA culture was relatively underground until the release of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists with its Bible-like gold indentation and red bookmark and within which Neil Strauss describes his journey from lonely nerd to one of the leading PUAs around. In the book, ‘Style’ – the pseudonym he adopts, a common occurrence among PUAs – learns mostly from Eric von Markovic – or ‘Mystery’ – and employs a bastardised version of Darwin’s evolutionary theory in order to understand and manipulate modern social dynamics and how women think and behave.

As well as this, Style learns how to improve his own confidence, rid himself of his own insecurities, which, in and of itself, is not a crime. It is that it is taught alongside a system of trial and error that involves approaching hundreds and thousands of women, insulting them, treating each one as either a learning curve or a bitch that underneath it all really wants to have sex, she’s just been conditioned by society to resist you.

Yes, that’s right, not content with being a self-help guide, the Game, as well as a vast array of other literature on the subject, teaches you to see women for the frigid bitches they are – some even go as far as to use dog training techniques – to start thinking of yourself as better than them, then go on some forum and brag to everyone about your ‘success’.

Some of the advice on-hand is innocent: how to dress well, how to understand body language, how to improve your own, how to escalate physical contact (this advice is morally ok up to a point but PUAs take it too far), how to notice when she’s interested. Personally, I would like to think I am quite adept at some of this. In my younger years I was clueless as to whether a woman was interested in me unless she was trying to kiss me, now I notice more subtle indications. There is nothing wrong with teaching this kind of advice so long as it is done tastefully.

The Game, however, refers to women as “targets”, their friends as “obstacles” that you must “isolate” them from, which again sounds like something ripped from a rapist’s how-to guide. It also teaches the use of fabricated lines and routines that are designed to “display higher value”. This practice is not only disingenuous, it is built on sand. Sure, you may get her number, you may even get laid, but spend any reasonable amount of time with her and most woman would eventually notice that you are not the uber-cool lifeguard that was working at one of Justin Timberlake’s pool parties the other week – even if she buys it in the first place.

Moreover, getting a number seems to be some sort of Holy Grail for some of those in the PUA community. If you are not already aware, getting a number from women sometimes means nothing. It does not mean she will answer your call, it does not mean she will agree to date you. Newsflash: sometimes when a woman gives you her number it is to shut you up and to make you go away.

The online forums frequented by PUAs are full of success stories but there is never a way of establishing the veracity of the claims made. The few who do find that these techniques work for them can rise up through the community and eventual publish their own seduction system or hold their own workshops and seminars.

This is where the exploitation of men comes in. It may be secondary to the problems that women face from the practice, but it is a problem nonetheless. So much so that it has spawned anti-PUA communities in which men condemn the teachings of Mystery and the like as sophistry yet retain the repulsive view of women that PUAs perpetuate.

None more so than in the case of Elliot Rodger, who shot and killed six people, injuring thirteen others, soon after recording a video in which he vowed to take the lives of women who had denied him sex and the men who were able to attain it at his expense.

“For the last eight years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty” says Rodgers in the video, “I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me.”

There may be men out there who are real victims of PUA culture, but even so there is usually a warped attitude towards women at the root. Progress in this area is being made, even if painfully slow. Julien Blanc has been deported from Australia and the UK and Canada look set to deny him a visa due to his racist and misogynistic comments and practices – in some of his videos he grabs the head of Japanese women and puts their head “Bam, on the dick!”

There is still a hell of a long way to go, however, and more work needs to be done in order to further expose this community. It’s just a shame that it took a mass shooting and a couple of hashtags to do so.