Until recently the extent of my knowledge on Pick Up Artists was pretty well limited to the Tom Cruise storyline in Magnolia. A hurt, though charismatic man, preaching seduce and destroy.
Pick Up Artists (PUA) have been thrust into the spotlight recently. After the successful campaigning to shut down/boycott several recent events in Australia, and the increasing, worldwide notoriety of one Julien Blanc, the sub culture has come mainstream and is coming undone. (Read this in depth piece on the Daily Beast for more on the movement and personalities within)
Questions have been raised: Why do these groups exist? Why do men flock to the, rather expensive, seminars and boot camps? Are they lonely, misogynistic, both? How does the language of “targets” and “negging” become accepted and embraced?
My response centres on the idea of the Other and the perception that the Other is unfairly advantaged in the world because they do not ‘play by the rules’.
One of the most reoccurring complaints made by angry young men is of the friend-zone, or of being friend-zoned. Now much has been written on the illusion of the friend-zone and how it doesn’t exist, but the essential view taken by such men, though never articulated thusly, is that women are machines that you put “nice coins” into until sex comes out. That is seen as playing fairly, ‘I was a nice guy, ergo she should choose to have sex with me’. Thus when it doesn’t happen (and is there any wonder it doesn’t) these men abandon ‘fair play’ and choose ‘the game’.
The rallying call of the PUA seems to be: If women are going to play their game, if they are going to insist on their unfair advantage (of saying no, I guess), then we are going to play ours.
But this is simply a microcosm of the fundamental, deeply ingrained belief that the Other (whomever that other may be) is advantaged by an unfair system. As if we are all playing the same video game, but they turned the rules off and gave themselves infinity lives: leaving us on level one, whilst they fly carefree around the secret hidden level (or something like that, I don’t really play video games).
Another example of this is when the White American worker laments the fact that he’s out of a job because of Mexican immigrants. There are two stereotypical complaints leveled against the Mexican (often in the same breath), he is lazy, and he’ll take job by doing the work for less. The unfair advantage in this (dubious) logic is clear, where I play by the rules (being born here and thus expecting work for what I expect to be paid) the Mexican does not; they are privileged by the system for their lazy/willing to do more for less attitude.
Despite whatever privilege may actually exist, we do not recognise it in ourselves. Rather the assumption is that when the Other succeeds they do so through an advantage (or loophole) that is not made available to us. In the world of the PUA, women ‘succeed’ because, generally, they play the role of the pursued, and thus have the option/ability/right to say yes or no. The men who subscribe to the PUA ideology believe themselves to be robbed of this advantage; they do not get to say yes/no (at least in their minds), and so they develop or practice methods of ‘seduction’ aimed at circumventing the women’s option to respond in the negative. This is why men like Julien Blanc (and others from this movement) walk a dangerous line of compliance and come off so rapey all the time (did you watch the video in the Daily Beast article?).
What we must force ourselves to confront is that, much like the friendzone, the unfair advantage afforded to the Other, does not exist. If a woman does not choose to have sex with her male friend it is not because she found a loophole in the system (taking your nice coins and dispensing the sex elsewhere). It is not because she, as Other, operates with the rules turned off, and the deck stacked in her favour. When the Other ‘succeeds’ it is not because in their secret meeting, (you know the one; it’s only open to them and all the other Others), they rigged the game and loaded the dice. It simply is. It is for any number of reasons – clear reasons, messy reasons, reasons that can be explained, reasons that don’t need to be.
Some of these reasons may be difficult to confront, no one likes to hear someone finds them unattractive, or someone is better at a job than they are (which is why secret underground meetings are easier to swallow). But nothing comes of illusion. Nothing is gained from fairy tales about the Other. And guys who follow all that PUA bullshit just come off like jerks.