A look at the world of Pick-Up Artists and why we love to hate them.
Another senseless tragedy in California, the shooting of six people by Elliot Rogers, the self-admitted sex-deprived young man, unleashed another round of finger-pointing, blame-laying and accusations. This time, the target of this latest fury is a society of self-proclaimed Pick-Up-Artists (PUAs).
According to the latest Wikipedia definition, a pickup artist is a "man who trains in the skills and art of finding, attracting, and seducing women. Such a man purportedly abides by a certain system deemed effective by that community in his attempts to seduce women." Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It became even worse when the internet bloggers, bored with blaming guns violence, mental health and other tangible issues, uncovered a whole new societal underbelly: the world of PUAs and anti-PUAs. Oh, yes — where there are PUAs, there are anti-PUAs, a group of people determined to bring down PUAs by ‘exposing’ them for their deceptions, scams and misleading techniques. For many bystanders, unfamiliar with both, it’s like the rivaling cults of Star Wars vs. Star Trek fans. But if that were all, I am afraid it would not attract many blog readers. So bloggers took to their Macs, painting for us a picture of the War-Of-The-Worlds proportion battles between PUAs and Anti-PUAs. Sara Hedgecock, of the BUSTLE, wrote, “Women, in PUA culture, are not humans deserving of respect; they are a necessary evil to conquer in the name of sex.” Amanda Marcotte, in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, takes it to a whole new level when she declares that “Having established that women are stupid and awful for supposedly preferring men that are bad for them, the PUAs then go on to argue that it’s OK to treat women like garbage.” Amanda Hess of SLATE, who, at least claims to not blame the PUA community, nonetheless, finds it “disturbing, if not surprising, that they are using these murders to reinforce their hatred of women…” Interestingly enough, Ms. Hess does not elaborate nor bring examples on that point.
So how did we come to this? How did we come to hold men in contempt for trying to learn how to attract women? Perhaps the answer lies in another statement made by Ms. Marcotte that “Dating advice of the sort you find in Cosmo magazine and other women’s media usually starts from the premise that the advice-seeker has flaws that need to be fixed in order to make her more attractive. But pick-up artistry argues that men who can’t get laid are fine the way they are, and it’s women — the entire lot of them — who are broken.” AH! We’re onto something. So Cosmo’s advice to women = good. PUAs advice to men = bad. Where do I begin to tackle that one?
Let me start first by saying that in my practice as a dating coach, I specialize in working with men. For that I do a lot of research on the world of PUAs. I read as much as I could on their theories and practices. Not once, repeat: NOWHERE, did I see a statement made by PUAs about the fact that if a man can’t get laid, it’s the woman’s fault. It is usually quite the opposite. The man is told that if you cannot get a woman attracted to you, it is your fault. You have to work on yourself in order to do so. However, in Ms. Marcotte’s world, and, sadly, in the world of many women, while it is ok for women to share and propagate dating methods and skills, if the same is practiced by men, it is deemed creepy and disturbing. Why? Why do we assume that just because it is expected of men to take a lead in dating they would automatically know how? How many articles did Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour and company published about the best way for women to achieve orgasms? Is a subject like that even acceptable? Of course it is! For women... When it comes to men, we find it unnerving at best, and sinister at worst.
Take a look at the self-help books on love and dating for women. There are thousands of them on the market. I compiled lists of them for my female clients — organized by category, age and need! When it comes to dating-help books for men, on the other hand, there is only one category and it is very short. There are less than a hundred books that I could recommend that helps men enter the dating world and become attractive to women.
Our society continuously frowns upon men who are not in touch with their feminine side. Yet even men who got over that hurdle, the ones that have found and owned their feminine, sensitive, great all-around guy persona, may need help when it comes to dating. Do we cut them slack for the second because they succeeded in the first? Not at all. How many of these men are willing to sit across the room from a friend, or a therapist, and are not be afraid to admit they need help dating? There is still a stigma attached to men who are not ‘pros’ at dating. We expect every man to graduate high school with a PhD in courtship. When they fail, we, as a society, shrug our shoulders and secretly wonder what’s wrong with them. What went wrong in their upbringing that they are not successful in dating like the rest of us? We drill that thinking into men’s heads so effectively, that many of them are even afraid to be seen reading a book about dating, never mind talking about it with somebody.
The result is a culture of PUAs and, in answer to that, anti-PUAs. Men, who read PUAs books, take courses and feel part of a club that accepts them with all their flaws. They find comrades in need in other men who have similar issues and are working through them. Many of them establish support circles and see each other through each other’s progress. To be sure: there are individuals who take the teachings of the PUAs to the extreme. In those cases, living the lifestyle of a PUA becomes a goal in itself. These men so revel in their abilities as a PUA they will exploit that existence without seeking a relationship for as long as possible. That is their choice. Many others, however, eventually settle down and have happy marriages.
What many PUAs teach is not much different from what most dating coaches teach their male clients: if you put a woman on a pedestal, you will relegate her to a deity, whom you can never approach. It is only when you treat her like another human being, that you will not stop being afraid to talk to her and start to form a relationship.
Unfortunately, every tragedy needs a scapegoat. It just so happened that for this latest bloodshed in California, the blame came to lie at the door of PUAs. As a woman, I may be very unpopular in proclaiming my support for what they do, but as long as Cosmo continues to enlighten women on “what men think while going down on them”, men should have a right to learn how to attract women without fear of being blamed for instigating bloodshed.