The shadowy world of the PUA’ers is slowly being revealed – but are they heroes, or villains?
Last year, when I was deciding what to spend my Audible credits on, I learned about a book by New York Times journalist Neil Strauss called The Game. It was the story of his time within the shadowy community of “Pick Up Artists” – men who have teamed up, in person and online, to develop and perfect foolproof methods for seducing women.
The Game isn’t a “how to” book about how to pick up women – it’s actually a memoir; one of the best I’ve ever read. But it did spark an investigation into the culture and community of so-called PUA’ers and it’s a fascinating subculture. I was keen to learn about it for my M for Man blog; in which I hope to teach my two boys some of the skills they’ll need growing up.
Now a lot of women in general, and so-called feminists in particular, have serious issues with the PUA culture – because they claim it’s manipulative at best, and encourages misogyny and even “rapey” behavior at worst; and not without good reason.
One particularly nasty example is the infamous Pick Up Artist who went by the moniker “GunWitch.” His “GunWitch Method” of seduction boiled down to the philosophy of “Make the Ho say “No”" (or, essentially, keep verbally and even physically harassing a girl until she either surrenders to the ‘seduction’ or loudly and definitively says “no” – which sounds a little rapey to me.)
It probably comes as no surprise that the crowning achievement of GunWitch’s career was being arrested for shooting a woman in the face at a New Year’s Eve party (for the record, historically this pick up method has had a very low success rate.)
But GunWitch is by no means a fair representation of the PUA community – which for the most part, I see as a positive thing, rather than a negative.
In fact, back in the 1990s – long before there was an official PUA community – I benefited from many of the teachings they share online today.
I was 19 and single back them – and rather pathetic. So I picked up a book called How To Make Anybody Fall In Love With You, by an author called Leil Lowndes, and it changed my life.
Written by a woman (so definitely beyond the scope of traditional PUA material) it covered the social skills needed to build up a rapport – and eventual attraction – with a member of the opposite sex.
It covered some specific, deliberate techniques you could employ (like eye contact, mirroring another person’s movements, and guiding conversations) to trigger a release of phenylethylamine, the “love hormone”, in your “prey.”
And the techniques worked. Not so much romantically – although I did manage to steal a ravishing brunette from her boyfriend that summer – but charismatically. Since reading that book, I became known as a very charming, charismatic person and part of that stems from continuing to employ the techniques I learned in that book in pretty much all my interpersonal relationships.
So long story short [a bit late for that - Editorial Bear] the tips and tricks PUAs exchange do actually work. In fact, if I hadn’t learned what I did from that book, I would probably have never married my beautiful, brilliant Mummy Militant.
But does that make them manipulative? Or even intrinsically evil?
I’d argue no. From my perspective, the PUA community might be framed as a desire to “pick up women” but at its heart, it’s something bigger than that. It’s a community of men who are exchanging amongst themselves practical and effective social skills that can help them interact with other people – of either sex – better.
Some of these would-be PUA’ers are unsuccessful with women – and with relationships in general – because they actually lack some of the most basic social skills we all take for granted. Smiling at people. Making eye-contact. Being able to keep a conversation going.
Others, like the so-called “gurus” of the community, were simply unexceptional beforehand; and used the techniques they’d learned and shared to simply become more effective socially; by learning the tips and tricks that came instinctively to people who were naturally successful with women.
In short, it wasn’t manipulation, or ‘cheating’, or being dishonest – it was just a skill that could be taught and improved upon.
And perhaps representing the best of the PUA community is its most famous figurehead, Neil Strauss. After the success of The Game, he actively embraced his new career as a PUA instructor, and taught eager students how to be successful with women while maintaining a strict and admirable ethical code.
For example, he encourages his students to become “the best version of themselves” rather than to lie and deceive women (and this has a positive effect in other areas of their lives as well.) Likewise, he teaches the golden rule of “always leave a woman better than you found her.” Which means no lies, no betrayal and no broken hearts.
Neil, amongst others, often refers to PUA techniques as being like the stuff Jedi Knights do in Star Wars – and if that analogy is true, he’s definitely one of the “good guys” – a Yoda, or Obi Wan Kenobi.
But similarly, “evil” PUAs exist – like GunWitch, and some of the other sinister characters online (some of whom post ‘field reports’ of their seductions which read like how-to guides to date rape.)
But at the end of the day, Pick Up Artistry is neither inherently good, or bad. It just is. It’s what people do with it that produces the positive, or negative results.
I kind of look at the PUA community the same way I look at Mini Militant’s karate classes. For students like Mini, it’s a positive thing. He learns focus, and confidence, and the skills and ability to defend himself and others. But equally, some shitty little kid could use the punches, blocks and kicks he learns in karate to beat up his siblings, or other kids in school.
Knowledge is neither good or bad – it’s how you use it that counts.
And that being said, I think there’s a lot of validity to many of the techniques taught within the PUA community; and much of the hostility so-called feminists have towards PUAs stems from misunderstanding, mistrust and – more often than not – a little bit of misandry.