Beware the Pick-Up Artist in Disguise
Many men in the seduction community now claim to be experts in "masculinity." What they teach couldn't be farther from the truth.
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Earlier this week, while I was deep in a surf video black hole, Youtube served me an ad with simple text captions and a friendly-sounding male voice that said:
“There is one innocent F word that turns a woman on and makes her start to chase you. Do you know what it is?”
I groaned audibly, having immediately recognized the language of a pick-up artist launching into his marketing pitch. If you aren’t familiar with the “seduction community,” it focuses on teaching men how to approach and bed women.
Lotharios have been around forever; however, the modern version traces back to the 1980s. It achieved mainstream attention in the mid-2000s when author Neil Strauss wrote a NY Times bestselling book called The Game in which he detailed his experience of embedding with a group of PUAs (the oft used acronym) to learn the “art” himself.
Today, techniques like “negging” (offering an insult disguised as a compliment) and “peacocking” (wearing outlandish clothing or jewelry to attract attention) are well known. However, at the time, they were passed around like trade secrets among those new to the craft.
This may all seem relatively harmless; however, many seduction tactics focus on emotional manipulation because the PUA mindset assumes that sexual intimacy is deserved, a kind of mineable resource that a man must learn to extract. (This is, in part, why the PUA and incel online communities are interlinked).
Then, there are PUA trolls like Roosh V, who received a mighty flogging for (among other things) suggesting that the way to stop rape was to legalize rape on private property. (He later claimed that his original post was “satirical”).
Strauss eventually sought treatment for sex addiction and effectively renounced that whole chapter. Roosh V miraculously became a devout Christian and wrote a memoir about “repenting from a life of evil.”
With two heads of the serpent removed and all of the vocal criticism over the years, you would think the PUA community might slither into a dark internet hole and go to sleep. However, sadly, I’m here to tell you it’s alive and kicking. In fact, many up-and-coming PUAs have reinvented themselves as experts in masculinity. What they teach couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The “Ethical” Pick-Up Artist
When I clicked on the YouTube ad, it took me to a horrendously designed site called makegirlschaseyou.com, created by Andrew Ryan. There, I sat through a 43-minute video offering me seduction tips that stretched my professional curiosity to its breaking point. Here are several excerpts for your revulsion:
“It's a proven scientific fact. 97% of women are turned on by jealousy and female competition. It's a biological instinct programmed by millions of years of evolution.”
Oh, this is “science,” you say?
“For the next six months, I went on a rampage that would have made Hugh Hefner jealous, perfecting my methods and sleeping with over 42 incredible women.”
Wow, soooo jealous...
“In this guide, I'm going to show you how to date as many girls as you want or have as many as you have time for and how to do it honestly and ethically without having to lie, cheat or be a player. This is also the easiest and fastest way to your first threesome because life is short. And I think every guy should experience two girls at the same time at least once before you die.”
Ok, I’ll spare you any more, other than to point out that his pièce de résistance was the caveat he casually mentioned before he hawked his book: you must pledge “to leave girls better than you found them.”
This seemed like such a crazy contradiction that it left my head spinning.
A little digging revealed that this sanitizing tactic is now widespread in the PUA community. I discovered another site called “High Integrity Skills” that teaches the same seedy stuff along with platitudes like "Think positive intention" and “Let go if there’s no connection.”
The trailer video on another PUA’s Youtube channel begins with a disclaimer that informs viewers that they are doing it wrong if they use the techniques for “nefarious ends.”
I’ll let you be the judge of these efforts to reframe the narrative.
The Pick-Up Artist Reborn
Given the backlash they’ve received, it was inevitable that some PUAs would make cursory attempts to address the morality question. However, I am more concerned with those who are side-stepping it all together by undergoing an act of reinvention.
Take Andrew Ferebee, a “coach,” “author,” and the founder of knowledgeformen.com, which claims to help men “Reclaim Masculine Power.” At first glance, he presents as just another Tony Robbins imitator, filming manic videos in front of a rented San Diego McMansion to give the air of living his BEST LIFE™.
However, a little digging suggests that he’s a PUA in disguise. His “book” The Dating Playbook for Men pledges to contain “no weird seduction tactics.” But the description also says it does offer “the EXACT conversational strategies that will help you capture any woman’s attention and spark instant attraction.” 🤔
Then, he steals an actual page out of the Tony Robbins playbook promising the “11 mental models...you need to master your romantic life.” IMO, this is nothing more than window dressing — the repackaging of pick-up strategies into the language of personal growth.
Again, Fereebee’s not the only one. Alex Valmont creates videos with titles like “How to approach women without fear while projecting authenticity and masculinity.”
Maros Cintura teaches “Masculine Confidence Growth Strategies” and offers an e-book called the Authentic Masculinity Checklist.
In 2019, Cintura wrote a blog post asserting that the pick-up artist community had given way to a new movement: the integrated man.
“The integrated man,” he wrote, “focuses on becoming the best version of himself as a man and that creates for him a sense of fulfillment, inner joy, and radiance of masculine penetrating love. Confidence, sex, and money are the side effects of his growth, not the causes.”
(For the record, I couldn’t access his course material, so I can’t confirm he teaches the really yucky stuff, but he did later write that men should connect with their “cock energy.”)
Appropriating Healthy Masculinity
About fifteen years ago, my younger self read The Way of Superior Man by pseudo-spiritualist David Deida. In the book, Deida posits that relationships thrive when there is “polarity” between masculine and feminine energy.
Deida’s idea of “divine masculine” is one that, in recent years, has spread like wildfire in testosterone-drenched spaces. (It turns out that The Way of Superior Man has been something of an urtext for PUAs all these years.) And many “real” masculinity apologists use it as justification to act pretty much however they want (“I’m just being authentic, bro”).
While this new generation of “coaches” may hide behind the veil of “authentic masculinity,” there’s no getting around the fact that the intrinsic message remains the same: treat women like Pokémon cards. Gotta catch ‘em all.
So when a Youtube PUA asks me if I know what “F-word” he’s referring to, I can say with confidence that I do.
(P.s. I guess, technically, that was two).
(P.p.s. Any guesses as to what Andrew Ryan’s “F word” is? The answer is both backhanded and banal. Drop a comment below).
Department of Links — Newsletter Spotlight
Sharing a great newsletter that I recently discovered. Written by Jared Holst, Brands Mean a Lot is a once-a-week commentary on the ways branding impacts our lives. I loved the first post I came across: a commentary about what a banner ad for a hyper-masculine hat can teach us about the state of online advertising. However, he’s followed that up with some consistently thought-provoking writing. (“How We Export Contempt” and “Murder Coffee” are a couple of my favorites) — Subscribe here.
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