With the most notable of all the Pickup Artists retired, is it time to re-examine the PUA culture?
If you're a man, and you break out into sweats at the mere mention of talking to a woman, what do you do to help get over the fear of approaching a woman? The fear and anxiety is real and I've seen it countless times, I suffered from it, too, for a long time. In the case of Neil Strauss, best-selling author of The Game, you create a community based around “game theory” designed to help even the odds for the lovelorn male masses. To be clear, that culture was already there, it's just that there was suddenly a name for it: PUA (Pick-up Artist). In the case of everyone else? Subscribe to the culture and play at “game theory.”
By now you've heard the terms: Negging, opening, the cube technique and so on. If you haven't, then I'll bring you up to speed. Negging is the practice of undermining someone's (a woman in this case) confidence with back-handed compliments in an attempt to gain trust and approval. Opening is simply a strategy for opening up a conversation with someone as opposed to naturally allowing a conversation to happen on its own. The Cube is a mechanism used to gain the trust of someone by applying base generalizations to the intended target. This is done through story-telling and hefty amounts of bullshit.
Today it's common for men to gather and participate in group activities on how to approach and pick up on women. I was at a co-working space where one such class was “in session.” There was a whiteboard with a diagram illustrated on it of different ways to approach women on your own and also with a wing man. The group of men would act out different scenarios and improvise their responses as if they were hunting big game. In this case, the big game is women.
Humble Beginnings: The Game
The Game pre-dates this site by about three years. Still, at the time I started the Urban Dater, the PUA culture was just beginning to hit its stride as it began to solidify its identity and saw its awareness raised with the TV show The Pickup Artist. Even then I began to hear the rumblings of frustration that came from “getting rejected,” “not being able to understand women,” and increased frustrations with being “friend-zoned.” Sure, I've been frustrated at various points when women I was into only wanted to be friends with me. I never got to a point where I felt like I needed to “rig the game.”
That's what Neil Strauss set out to do and succeeded far beyond what he likely imagined. When I say “succeeded” Strauss succeeded in giving a voice to this culture of men “playing the game” of manipulating women into doing what they wanted. He did that by letting men know that their frustration wasn't theirs alone, that others also struggled with this anxiety, too. That shared frustration continued to “snowball” and gave more momentum to the PUA movement, where it hit its peak popularity around 2009. There's no scientific evidence to show just how effective “gaming” women is. But, make no mistake, it is effective. I've seen it at work.
I recall having conversations with friends back around the time I started this site. They would say: “Bro, you should do some articles on pick up techniques” or “man, I went to this pickup workshop and we all got phone numbers! You need to be doing this, too!” I didn't realize what a juggernaut this way of thinking had grown into, but then it became crystal clear and what I saw bothered me.
The Pressure to Man-up
From what I have seen personally and what I have read elsewhere, men who participate in PUA shenanigans are often suffering from some form of social anxiety when it comes to women. Men who embrace The Game and associated theories aren't all men just trying to “score.” They are well-meaning people who suffer from a very real fear of rejection. There's an amazing amount of pressure for men to approach women in our society. They also need to be witty; to be good-looking, charming, well-dressed, and making the first move. Of course, all of that needs to be done while also not being “a creeper.”
This pressure can drive men to try just about anything to better their chances. However, this anxiety can turn into frustration and then resentment. You know what? I get it. When I came to the end of my rope in dating and relationships, I finally threw in the towel. I was done. I stopped dating for just over two years. I was angry and I was frustrated. I was chasing unavailable women, women who didn't want me or didn't want to provide the emotional overhead to make things work. It was a pattern that repeated itself again and again. I couldn't take it anymore. I was growing desperate and angry. That's when I did a “hard stop” and took a break to focus on me.
During that time off I began to examine my frustrations and those areas, I discovered where I was weak. At the end of this self-imposed dating hiatus, I knew I was finally ready. I went back into the dating scene and I more self-aware and better prepared. I had to overcome problems I had run away from and I had to get over some of my own self-esteem issues. This took time, lots of time and, certainly, I am not doing myself, or you dear reader, justice with this tl;dr explanation. Suffice it to say, to move forward, I had to take a step back and fix some shit internally.
A System of Coercion
I remember hitting up a couple of clubs with a friend of mine, “Dean.” Dean is very charismatic, witty, and charming. He is great at picking up women, so good, in fact, he was teaching other men how to pick up on women with his own workshops. One such workshop caught the attention and furor of a talk show host and her millions of fans which caused him to lose his job and go into hiding. Seriously.
What good did the culture of the Game produce? Well, in many ways it did help countless men overcome social anxieties stemming from a fear of rejection when approaching women they were interested in.
That night at the club, Dean had “picked-up” a number of women and got 9 phone numbers. I had a few decent conversations and no phone numbers. I was impressed by Dean's ability to dive right in and have conversations, I was envious, in fact. While hanging out with Dean and seeing him “go” first hand and also implementing these techniques it was clear to me that there was much more that was bad about the culture when weighed against the good it produced. And it's not because he did better than I did when it came to talking to women. What I saw was this forced dialogue. Something that wouldn't happen if Dean didn't have a routine at the ready. Ultimately, I think authentic interactions are the way to go, when you have a system or a routine at the ready to employ and then use them on a woman, that interaction is no longer “authentic” it's governed by this system of seduction.
What good did the culture of the Game produce? Well, in many ways it did help countless men overcome social anxieties stemming from a fear of rejection when approaching women they were interested in. I think that's pretty valuable, especially given that I, too, suffered this same social paralysis. Case in point? Dean. He told me his story of anxiety when it came to women. It took me years to overcome that same anxiety and Neil Strauss's PUA bible didn't help me with that. Getting comfortable in my own skin helped me with that. Overcoming myself and building up my own confidence is really what it came down to.
The problems with the PUA culture are numerous. In particular, what I see is that it devalues women and undermines their confidence by utilizing delusory techniques. At its root, PUA was designed to help men overcome issues with confidence and anxiety; however, the majority of what is known to the world is to deceive and coerce women; it's gone astray and convinced men that they need a “system” to control and seduce women. And for what end? To get them into bed? That's a sad and shallow goal. There has to be something more, right?
It's Time to Kill the Pickup Artist
When I look at my buddy Dean and another friend, Rick (also a PUA subscriber and practitioner), I see two good-looking guys who are charismatic and, at their core, “good people.” Their self-confidence and anxiety around women is what drives them to try to “get one over” on women using these techniques.
What these men fail to realize is that deception and manipulation are at the very core of whatever attraction or dependency they've built around the relationship. That's a recipe for failure. How can the expect something that will last? Authentic relationships cannot succeed when built on a foundation of “gaming” or manipulation. Period.
At the end of the day, I truly think most men (and women) value long-term relationships and commitments and want to be free of “the chase” and find someone who builds up their self-esteem and pushes them to be better than they were before. When I think about it, PUA seems to run contrary to what these men actually want to accomplish.
Even Neil Strauss comes to grips with the fact that the PUA ways are inherently bad, in his book The Truth. Strauss has learned from his own shortcomings and personal demons. His highly publicized marriage was, if anything, a vote of no confidence in the practice he helped to popularize.
The most notable pick up artist is retired, his single life is and has been dead; and I think it's time for the PUA community to retire this practice of seduction through manipulation. It's destructive, creates distrust and ultimately bears little fruit for the women fooled by the system designed to seduce them and really doesn't help men find lasting happiness and stunts their emotional growth. Beyond that, “gaming” women is one of the greater acts of disrespect that can be committed against a woman.
It has to end.