Love and Relationships: The Cringe Inducing Nature of the Pickup Artist Movement

It is strange that still in the twenty first century, there are still a number of young men still do not view women as being quite of the same species. Rather, they see them as computer systems to be hacked by clicking the correct buttons and entering the correct passwords. It is therefore no great wonder that so many of these young men end up being lonely and disappointed. They believe that they were getting a foolproof set of instructions, kind of like when you get a flat pack furniture manual from Ikea. Much to their confusion however, a sexual scenario cannot be orchestrated in the same way as a liatorp coffee table or an uppleva wall bracket. Women are sentient, intelligent beings with their own minds and sex drives which is a tricky obstacle for those immersed in the pick-up artist movement or the “seduction community” as they are sometimes known.

The aim of members of the pick-up artist movement is to have “sexual success” with women. Nothing of course immediately wrong with that. Men and women have been trying to pull each other since we were frequenting caves rather than clubs. However, this is a manipulative and misleading movement based on a pretty weird and misogynist set of principles. Unlike traditional methods of seduction, this movement is wrapped up in pseudoscience babble based loosely on vague psychological principles. There is also a strange preoccupation with social hierarchy with the fetishising of the idea of the “alpha male” drawing unreasonable comparisons with predatory animal societies such as wolf packs.       

It is directly and aggressively opposed to traditional seduction methods such buying a girl a drink or a nice present. This they see as something known as “supplication” with the obvious insinuation that women are money grabbing and shallow. This helps to prop up myths that are feeding a seedy new breed of misogyny, again backed up by shaky pseudoscience. Such men draw from the writings of anti-feminists such as James Taranto who uses dubious evolutionary language to explain his idea that men and women’s sexual desires are absolutely opposed. Taranto argues that men are naturally inclined to have lots of sex with lots of different women whereas women are driven by financial gain. These men refer to all women as “hypergamous” or “gold diggers” once you strip away any faux intellectual pretensions. The idea is that women aren’t really interested in the act of sex itself, viewing it as more as a sort of a bargaining chip to trade with “high status” men; ie. men who are more financially able.

Bizarrely, this has led to a crucial aspect of the pick-up artist movement being training men in how to appear to be “high status”. This, they are promised, will allow them to get more sex. The cynical leap of faith that this must involve is baffling. First of all, there is the tired, long since disproved notion that women are less interested in sex than men. Not only is this extremely offensive, it is also detrimental to a man’s success in terms of long term relationships. How can a person have a mutually satisfying and enjoyable physical relationship if you believe that your partner is not receiving any real pleasure?

Another problematic aspect of this attitude is the general bitterness that it reflects, that is just not healthy. As a straight woman, I have been in various scenarios where I’ve come home furious about the whole male race who I felt sure at times “Only want you for one thing”. Afterwards with a cool head, I have been able to see things much more clearly with the knowledge that there are many lovely men folk out there and a few creeps are not representative. For any men out there tempted by the promises by the PUA movement, please know this: feeling pained by heartache and rejection is natural for both sexes. Building a movement that thrives on the immediate anger that this usually accompanies this is not. One woman treating you badly does not represent the entire female sex. Moreover, a woman rejecting you does not equate to her “using you”. It is so much more easier to label those who have hurt us romantically as being shallow idiots who are of no real worth. However, part of a healthy development is to recognise that everyone receives rejection at some point in their lives and to deal with this is a mature manner.                        

Pick up techniques include some fairly questionable practices. Members are taught in the art of “negging” which involves paying a girl (or a “target” as they are so winningly referred to) a backhanded compliment in order to undermine her self self esteem, making her more susceptible (ie vulnerable) to “seduction”. Think comments such as “You would be really pretty if you lost weight” etc. This is a very deliberate and worrying method of weakening a woman’s self confidence and borders on psychological abuse. Another disturbing technique is Last Minute Resistance tactics. This is the practice when even after a woman has clearly signalled that she doesn’t want to engage in sexual activity, the man will try to convince her otherwise. The pushiness of this gesture raises a very serious debate about the nature of consent. Is the sex still consensual if a woman feels pressured into it? Clearly this is a question does not factor too greatly in PUA philosophy.      


Pick Up Artists, or PUAs as they often refer to themselves, see themselves as part of a community, or rather a sub culture. There is something slightly cultish about the movement that draws upon the loneliness of many young men. Not only is this a dangerous for the women who are being objectified, this is also takes advantage of by men who see the seduction community philosophy as an exact science for curing their loneliness. Many of these men will struggle from communication difficulties that need to be dealt with using kindness and understanding. These men will fork out hefty sums of money to attend courses and seminars ran by experts speakers. They will invest a significant amount of time frequenting online forums, reading newsletters and books by “experts” such as Neil Strauss and Ross Jeffries. They will meet up in specialist clubs; rather oddly named “lairs”. Such immersion into this culture creates an echo chamber where their own views are recited back to them over and over, with no real debate or diversity of thought.              

Often failure to get a woman into bed, by using what they were assured to be foolproof techniques, with them can lead to bitterness and even rage. This is what they refer to as being “friendzoned” in what is only one toe curlingly lame term in a PUA thesaurus of gamer style terminology. The fault will be placed firmly on the woman, or women, who have rejected them without factoring in the notion that their carefully honed approach might be perceived as being a bit creepy to say the least. Such rejections have led to the development of an equally misogynist anti PUA movement, founded by men who have felt that the PUA movement has let them down by not allowing them to have the endless stream of sex that they were promised. Their aggressive disappointment is channelled through a forum known as PUAHate.  Of course, the main villains of this backlash forum are still women who are still apparently keeping sex from these men despite pressure and coercion as some sort of punishment. Much like the adult who keeps the sweeties on the top shelf.  

In extreme cases we have seen this mentality lead to horrific eventualities. Perhaps most memorably was the tragic, hate driven university massacre carried out by Elliot Rodgers in retaliation to feeling repeatedly rejected by women. Rodger’s was an active user of the PUAHate. Many have noted the similarities between the language used by Rodger’s in the “manifesto” he wrote before his attack, and the language used within the PUA movement. He referred to himself as “superior” and an “alpha male”. He believed that his wealth made him a high status male who should have automatically got female attention, according to the rules laid out by the PUA movement. Rodger’s was dismissed as a lone, dangerous psychopath by many people but his actions reflected a wider philosophy of male entitlement. Rodger’s felt that he was entitled to female attention and to sex, viewing the female gender as a homogeneous, passive mass.             
One of my own personal regrets is that i have witnessed pick up artistry first hand, both towards myself and other women, and haven’t challenged it. Possibly because the general social awkwardness of the scenario leaves me flabbergasted. If you see it happening then make sure to speak up. This culture promotes real division between the sexes, demeans women and makes it incredibly hard for its members to foster meaningful long term relationships. It preys on the insecurities and lack of self confidence of both men and women and makes a few pretty shady people quite a lot of cash in the meantime.        


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