The Trouble With Pick-Up Artists

On Wednesday, a Kickstarter project for a self-published book on picking up women entitled “Above The Game” started rocketing across blogs and Twitter. The author, a regular poster on r/seduction, a sub-Reddit dedicated to exchanging tips on meeting and hooking up with women, was looking for $2,000. He ended up getting over $16,000 – mostly from Redditors. Nothing terribly interesting in and of itself.

The samples of his advice he was giving… well, that was a different story. Ken Hoinsky shared excerpts from the upcoming book on r/seduction… and they were some doozies. As soon as the controversy broke, he took them down, but the Google cache is still available.

Some samples:

Never, ever, ever, wait for a SIGN before you escalate! You will miss out on the vast majority of chances if you sit around waiting for SIGNS. Men are notoriously bad at reading women’s minds and body language. Don’t think that you’re any different. From now on you must ASSUME that she is attracted to you and wants to be ravished.

All that matters is that you continue to try to escalate physically until she makes it genuinely clear that it’s not happening. She wants to be desired, but the circumstances need to be right. With some experience, you will learn to differentiate the “No, we can’t… my parents are in the next room… OMG FUCK ME FUCK ME HARD” from the“SERIOUSLY GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME, YOU CREEP” variety of resistance.

Rub your hands up and down her legs. Make her push your hand away as you get closer to her vagina. Fucking ravish her.

Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.

"Also: consider investing in chloroform and a windowless van."

“Also: consider investing in chloroform and a windowless van.”

This right here is an excellent example of why I have problems with the Pick Up Artist community.

In Defense of Pick-Up

I am actually not anti-pick up in general. Quite the opposite in fact; I think that there’s a lot of good to be found in it. I think that, when approached rationally and sanely that it can be a valuable resource.

The state of dating advice for men is, frankly, fairly abysmal. As I’ve said many times before, men are socialized to believe that to be masculine is to fuck; the more notches on your metaphorical bedpost, the more of a man you are. At the same time however, our society teaches us that for men, being good with women is a binary state; either you’re skilled at talking to them, interacting with them and seducing them or you aren’t. If you are, then great! The world’s your oyster. If you’re not… well, sucks to be you. But if you acknowledge that you’re bad at dating and interacting with women and want to improve… well, then you’re just a loser. 

"Quit trying to better your lot in life, freakazoid."

“Quit trying to better your lot in life, freakazoid.”

It’s fascinating in a perverse sort of way that such disdain is heaped on someone wanting to get better at getting women to like them. If a young man were to decide that he wanted to get better at math, nobody would blink twice at his finding a tutor or taking extra classes. If he wanted to get better at basketball, it would seem like the most normal thing in the world to find a trainer to help him improve his skills, build up his fitness and zero in on his weaknesses.

But to want to improve at one of the most fundamental areas of human life is shameful.

This unhelpful attitude can frequently be found in the comments section of articles talking about the PUA community – the phrase “losers”, “freaks” and the like are tossed around fairly freely, which reinforces the idea that simply wanting to get better at human interactions is somehow a bad thing. And to be perfectly honest, if someone wants to get better at finding sex partners rather than a relationship then more power to him.

In many ways it’s easier for women. Women are socialized to be more open with their feelings and insecurities, to not feel ashamed for asking for help or admitting weakness. It’s more socially acceptable for women to admit that perhaps they could use some help in getting better at attracting a partner – whether for romance or sex. As a result, there’s an entire industry built on women’s dating advice, from magazines to books to TV shows. Some of it is good, some of it is awful, and some of it is absolutely absurd, but it’s there.

I mean, sure some of it might cause permanent injury but c'mon...

I mean, sure some of it might cause permanent injury but c’mon…

There isn’t as much out there for men. We have precious few role-models for how to approach women we want to sleep with in a healthy, respectful way. In many cases, our major source of how to get women to like us are our peers – and that’s often a case of the blind leading the blind. Moreover, those who are blessed with a seemingly-innate affinity to women – “Naturals” in PUA lingo – often don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just being themselves; they don’t know how to articulate it into anything other than “I guess women just like me”. It’s incredibly frustrating to be a young man

That’s where the pick-up community comes in – it’s filling an economic niche, a void in the marketplace.

And in fairness, there’s a lot to learn and appreciate from the Pick-Up community. I’ve spent time in it myself in the beginning of my own personal transformation. I learned how to overcome many self-limiting beliefs about who I was and what I was capable of. I learned more about how to present myself in a positive manner, how to flirt, how to dress and, yes, how to seduce women.

I had fun. I lived a life that I didn’t think I could ever know, did things I never thought I’d have a chance to experience and I had a lot of sex.

Unfortunately I also absorbed a lot of shitty attitudes towards women and sex that took me to a fairly dark place and made me into someone I ultimately didn’t like.  it took me a while to climb back out of that hole.

Handling The Fear Of Women

One thing that most people who enter the pick-up community have in common is that they’re intimidated by women.

It makes sense when you think about it. Men who are at ease with women have an easier time talking to them, flirting with them and asking them out on dates; these are generally not the people who enter “how to meet women” into Google. Many of the people who write in to me have literal anxiety attacks at the idea of approaching a woman and striking up a conversation with her. For some men, that panicky feeling of talking to the girl you like in the 5th grade never fully goes away. Others may feel so insecure or unsure of themselves that they can barely bring themselves to say “hello” never mind working up the nerve to ask a woman for her number.

PUA culture deals with this pervasive fear by taking women’s humanity away in a multitude of ways.

The most obvious is the use of the 10 scale – referring to women in field reports (effectively “after action” reports of how their night went, posted to various forums and sub-reddits) as HB (for “hot body”) 7 or 8 instead of by name. It’s one thing to try to rank how attractive a woman is relative to others; physical beauty is as much in the eye of the beholder after all. But in PUA culture, the rating is treated as a value as much as an opinion; an 8 is by definition better than a 6 or a 7 because she’s going to be that much “harder” to “game”. By rating women – on this supposedly objective scale – turns them from individuals to scores; a 7 is worth more than a 5 so you’re a better PUA if you hook up with her. The elusive HB 9 or 10 of course are the best; a PUA who can regularly land 9s and 10s – known for being “next to impossible” to get with is god as much as guru.

"He that puts the sword into this beauty shall be the rightwise born King of England..."

“He that puts the fleshy sword into this beauty shall be the rightwise born King of England…”

Some PUA schools  have specific subsets of tactics for landing these wiley 10s, as though big-game hunters trying to bring down a king cheetah instead of your run of the mill gazelle or okapi. 10s require special handling, unlike those mere 6’s and 7s.

If treating women like points seems as though it’s a form of gamification of dating… well you’re not entirely wrong. Part of the point of many Pick Up schools is to reduce dating to a formula… or a game. Pick up is often referred to as “dating cheat codes” – a way of circumventing the “rules” of the game in order to get what you want with minimal effort. Much of this comes from the use of canned routines and concepts like the “emotional progression model” from classic Mystery Method/Love Systems – it’s human interaction as a flow-chart. If you want to talk to a woman, you run routine A. When she responds, you move to routine B or C; if it’s not working out as you’d hoped, you have back-up routines and material to fall back on – “boyfriend destroyers”, anti-AMOG1 tactics,  and the like. The Emotional Progression Model further simplifies matters by treating interactions as a series of stages that lead inevitably to sex. Instead of just getting to know somebody, bantering with them and getting to know them as a person, you have to build up enough Attraction in order to make it through to Comfort and keep her there long enough until you can make your move to the bedroom.

And make no mistake: that’s where things are meant to go. While there are PUA schools and philosophies that approve of, even encourage romantic relationships, the idea of monogamy – tying yourself to *gasp* just one woman – is the mark of the loser and the idiot. Why have just one pussy when you can have a rotating harem, dipping your cock in wondrous variety whenever you feel the need?
And why not? All’s fair in love and war when it means you get what you want…

“Make The Ho Say No”

…and what they want is pussy. And to be perfectly honest, a lot of the techniques that Pick Up Artists advocate are, frankly, coercive as hell to the point of sexual assault.

One of the biggest issues in the PUA community is the way that the community as a whole encourages treating women. The Pick Up Community is based around the commodity model of sex – that women are the gatekeepers to sex while men have to bribe, supplicate, cajole, manipulate or otherwise convince them to grant men access.

Emphasis on “manipulate”.

There are three concepts that are common through most PUA schools of thought: Anti-Slut Defense, Last Minute Resistance and Buyer’s Remorse – and they’re all toxic as fuck. All three are based on the idea that women may want sex but they’re socially conditioned to pretend that they don’t for fear of appearing to be a slut.

Let that sink in for a moment: impressionable, socially inexperienced men being taught that what women say and what women want are two different things. It follows logically then that you should ignore what they say… and the community teaches tactics to do precisely that. One form of Anti Slut Defense – or so the theory goes – is that women are socialized against deliberately going with someone for sex; they need the plausible deniability with their friends to say that sex “just happened”. So a PUA is taught to give her that deniability… by misleading her. They’re taught to make a pretext to either come home with him – to watch a movie, say – or to get into her place… or to lie about where you’re going in the first place. You say you’re going to the next bar… but you really take her back to your apartment, ostensibly to “get something”.

"How about we go to this little place I know. Very exclusive, you've gotta know someone to get in..."

“How about we go to this little place I know. Very exclusive, you’ve gotta know someone to get in…”

Because that’s not creepy at all.

(And to pre-empt the “Well she’s going back to a guy’s place with him, what does she think is going to happen?” comments: doesn’t matter. Going back to your place isn’t a contract that ends with your getting laid. Even if she is down, women – and men – are allowed to change their minds at any time.)

Dealing with Last Minute Resistance is where PUAs take the rape-cake. Last Minute Resistance2 is the final barrier of a woman’s Anti-Slut Defenses. In the PUA community, LMR is the boss battle of the dating RPG and it needs to be overcome so you can get your reward. Many PUA techinques are based off of high-pressure sales tactics (compliance escalation and The Yes Ladder, for example); the techniques for overcoming Last Minute Resistance are coercive to the point of sexual assault, taking advantage of women’s socialization to not want to cause offense and being unwilling to take a stand for herself.

One popular LMR technique is the Freeze Out – as soon as the PUA encounters resistance, he stops cold – gets up, puts on his pants, turns on the lights and goes off to do something else. This isn’t just “taking a break until she feels more comfortable”, this is giving her the silent treatment.  It’s intended to pressure her into sex by punishing her for resisting. It plays on the social message to women that men won’t like them unless they put out and to play on the socialization against hurting men’s feelings. It’s boundary-pushing and manipulative, and if you’re a woman with low self-esteem or weak boundaries… well, you’re more likely to give in, even when you don’t want to.

Another LMR technique I’ve seen advocated is for the PUA to whip his dick out – sometimes accompanied by putting her hand on it. Not, mind you in the context of escalating things while making out; this is about making her feel guilty. “Look at what you’ve done,” the PUA says. “Look at how hard you’ve gotten me. This is your fault; you need to do something about this.” It’s a classic coercive maneuver – trying to make a woman feel ashamed for having “lead you on” without a payoff; after all, as shameful as it is to be a slut, being a cocktease is worse.

Or of course you could always just keep pushing forward until she literally shoves you away – “Make the Ho Say No” is one of the mantras of the infamous PUA guru Gunwitch. Some “no’s”, so the theory goes are not “real” no’s, they’re just Anti-Slut Defense and you can safely ignore them until you get the “NO NO NO!” response.

"Hmm. Pretty sure that means keep trying."

“Hmm. Pretty sure that means keep trying.”

Again: do I really need to explain why this is problematic?

This is something that’s actively encouraged in the community; Clarisse Thorn has an excellent breakdown of one especially toxic PUA’s field report that frankly spells out how he straight-up raped a woman… to the approval of his peers, including Real Social Dynamics instructors and PUA guru Tyler Durden.

When you put sex as the end goal in and of itself regardless of the other person, you’re going to encourage coercive behavior. Last Minute Resistance isn’t about trying not to appear like a slut to her friends, it’s about not wanting to fuck you. 

Antagonism, Shit Tests and The Female Hive-Mind

That commodity mentality espoused by so many PUAs inevitably leads to a combative view of gender relations. Much of pick-up is based on the idea of women as opponents rather than as potential partners. Pick Up Artists are taught to see women as antagonists that the PUAs have to break down in order to “get that pussy”.

There are a great number of intellectual fallacies at work in pick up philosophy, especially the fallacy of composition. Because pick-up was originally based around trying to score with girls in nightclubs, and many of women in nightclubs can be arrogant or rude; they’re in an environment that encourages and rewards them based on their looks and accords them status because of it. Many of them are shallow or flaky or manipulative… but pick-up teaches that all women are like this, like a giant hive-mind.

This is never more evident than in the concept of “shit tests”. The idea behind shit tests is that women only respond to high-status men; anyone else is simply there to be used, abused and tossed aside. Therefore every woman is going to test any man who approaches her to see what she can get out of him. If he falls for it, then clearly he’s beta and below her, only good for milking a few drinks while he begs for attention like a puppy. If he passes… well then maybe he’s worth a handjob or two in the bathroom. So she will demand things like telling him “hold my purse” or “why don’t you get me a drink”. She may say “I have a boyfriend” when she really doesn’t, waiting to see how the supplicant reacts. She may tease him or call him out for saying something cheesy. The PUA will respond to put her in her place; the Average Frustrated Chump (that is: everyone who isn’t a PUA) will do whatever she says.

"Next I require you bring me... A SHRUBBERY!"

“Next I require you bring me… A SHRUBBERY!”

The problem is, when you’re viewing everything through an antagonistic lens, everything seems like a shit test when in reality, she’s just treating you like a normal human being. If she says “I have a boyfriend”, that’s not a test, that’s a sign that she doesn’t want to talk to you. A girl who teases you, makes fun of your shirt or your boots with a smile on her face and a playful demeanor is flirting with younot testing you. If she’s outright insulting you, then she’s not testing you, she’s telling you to go the fuck away.

“Bitch Shields” are another concept that only exists in PUA culture. According to Pick-Up Artists, some women deliberately put up a front in order to chase away the chumps; a true player knows how to break them down through a series of jokes and negs, refusing to give up until he’s broken through.

Once again: this is treating women as the Enemy. A woman who’s acting rude or dismissive isn’t trying to make you prove yourself. She may have had a bad day. She may be tired of all the dudes coming up to hit on her. You might look like her ex boyfriend who she caught fucking her sister and her best friend. Regardless of the reasons, she’s indicating that she wants to be left alone.

Ironically enough, if more people treated women as people rather than targets or opponents, they might find they encounter fewer bitch shields out in the field…

Papering Over the Hole

I’ll be honest: when I found my way into the pick-up community, I wasn’t in a good place. I was coming off simultaneously losing a girlfriend I thought was perfect and getting fired from the perfect job. I had just watched a girl I was flirting with go home with someone else. I had serious self-esteem issues and a host of problems with deservedness, intimacy and relationships.

And I thought that getting more sex would be the solution.

I’m hardly alone in this; most people who go into pick up usually have similar problems. But because society puts so much emphasis on men’s worth being equal to having lots of sex, it’s easy to assume that getting better at picking up women is going to make things better. And it doesn’t. All that happens is that you end up finding a new source of external validation – the “approval” of the women who sleep with you, the prestige your fellow PUAs accord you. It may numb the pain that you’re feeling, but never for very long; like a heroin addict, you build up a tolerance and constantly find yourself needing more and more.

All too often the problem isn’t where we think it is. It’s a mistake to learn the “cheat codes” for dating when you need to work on yourself first. You become all flash with no substance, trying to hide the hole in your life instead of filling it in.

Don’t get me wrong: I think pick-up can be invaluable, even ethical… as long as you’re going in with the right mindset and attitude. Learning how to better interact with women – whether you’re looking for love or just sex – is an admirable goal.

But when so much of it is suffused with antagonistic, misogynistic views of women, when it’s treated as a contest of wills rather than a collaboration between two partners, it can be unbelievably toxic and only causing damage in the long term.

  1. Alpha Male Of Group []
  2. Yes, in caps, like most pick-up jargon []