Why Pick Up Artists Make Me Incoherently Enraged

07Mar10

I’m going to start this off with a mild disclaimer. I’m a social engineer. A people hacker. Social engineering is as simple as catching patterns, comprehending them and then learning the trigger points to change those patterns socially, allowing an adjustment of another’s behavior. I use it to protect myself and others and I use it to deal with situations where I’m forced into a power dynamic that is unequal. I also use it to read people, to get an idea of what’s up so that I know if I’m safe or if I’m in a bad situation. I avoid it in power dynamics where I have the upper hand and in equal dynamics (although I still read for safety). I didn’t always use it only for those purposes in the past, I used it then for personal laughs as a troll. Social engineering works through the concept of observed and conserved patterns of behavior for a given culture (and some seem to ignore culture) and through observing individual social patterns of behavior for an individual (which vary widely but can still be exploited just as easily if you’re saavy enough). The conserved patterns are conserved in everyone who is neurotypical or close enough to neurotypical that they are still socially similar to the culture they’re in. Literally. Cis man, cis woman, trans man, trans woman, nonbinary, genderqueer, etc etc. Provided you aren’t intensely non neurotypical or from a radically different culture, you will have exploitable conserved patterns that can really be applied all over based on what you learn from watching average folk (among individual patterns that take some time of reading to comprehend). And even these folk have conserved patterns, you just need to learn them first (as they tend to differ a bit from the average patterning of your culture and neural group). Conserved patterns are not the majority of patterns, so generally, reading is a more important skill than pushing.

So why, pray tell, do pickup artists (PUA, of the Nick Savoy, Tucker Max, etc sourcings) piss me right the fuck off when I myself am a social engineer who is still fairly active? Two reasons.

1: Theory
2: Ethics (which, unsurprisingly, arises from theory)

Let’s tackle theory first.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of something called evolutionary psychology, no? It’s a mixed bag, evo psych is. Parts of it deal mostly with how the psychology of humans evolves in a society that evolves technologically. Perfectly valid, afterall, sociological and psychological changes brought on by behaviors that are more or less successful is something that occurs and is fairly well backed (a sort of sociopsychological evolution, not a genetic and biological one, structured through loss of influence that can be used to teach behaviors, instead of inability to breed one’s genes). The problem arises in the sections of evo psych that attempt to imply (using absolutely horrid studies, with tiny sample sizes, huge control sample issues, massive confounding variables and a lot of “correlation equals causation haha!” stupidity in them) that straight cis women and straight cis men (queer and trans folk are usually ignored in this stuff, SURPRISE!) have psychological differences based on biology in mating habits, attraction (not sexual orientation, but what preferences for sexual behavior they have), interaction, psychological patterns, approaches to human interaction and trigger points for certain emotional response.

This is, of course, a load of fetid bullshit.

You see, the interaction, attraction, mating habits, patterns and trigger points that are not heavily conserved in all people of a given set of neuronal functionality or culture (not gender) are not conserved at all (and note carefully that the number of these conserved patterns? Not high). In fact they vary from person to person. These apparent neurological differences vary more between individuals then they do between cis men and cis women. Despite the fact that this doesn’t take into account trans folk, the fact that we’re not exactly common means we can’t really account for widespread individual variation, even if a good number of blendy or cissexual/pre-transition trans folk were scattered among the cis people looked over (none of this is to say that absolutely nothing is inherent in the brain genderwise, for instance, gender identity is fairly immutable and doesn’t appear to change over culture, although its expression certainly changes). In fact, more and more evidence is mounting that many of the social interaction differences between heterosexual cis women and heterosexual cis men is purely sociological, as more and more variation shows itself in a society loosening up on gender (no small thanks to us trans folk, especially our nonbinary and genderqueer siblings, who have done some good work to pick apart the rigidity of gender boxes for our and their survival).

So what does this have to do with PUA? PUA’s base theories and reasons for why their systems work is sexist evo psych. The theories they follow are the wrong, poorly backed, sexist, cissexist, heteronormative, erasing, pseudoscientific bullshit that is used all over the place to justify all kinds of oppressive asinine bullshit. Well that’s no good. You see, PUAs aren’t proper social engineers. They’re the dnd hedge witches to our wizards/sorcerers. They found a few tricks of social engineering that work, think they comprehend why and use them stupidly based on that shit poor comprehension. Whereas social engineers understand what they’re using and where these patterns come from. People hackers recognize that patterns are often individual, that conserved patterns are often cultural or based on neurotypicality and the type of nonneurotypicality. Someone with ADD is going to have a different set of conserved social patterns from someone with schizotypal disorder and they’ll both have a different set than people with neither. Someone from the US will have different cultural patterns than someone from China. Social engineers recognize that 90% of S.E. is reading a person, comprehending their patterns, which vary a lot. PUAs (largely) think that “all” women think the same based on biology because of some shitty studies that say poorly backed claims about cis het women (erasure, it is grand).

Golly, now you know why I’m annoyed, being that I hate pseudoscience and stupid bullshit. But why am I incoherently enraged? That’s usually more of a response to people doing fucked up shit to each other, not to people just being wrong and stupid. Being a social engineer, you’d think I wouldn’t have a problem with PUAs engaging in it how they do on that sort of level, just a mild annoyance at the stupid.

Well, that’s where we get to Ethics.

You see, the “great” part about theories that are built on erasure, -isms, oppressive bullshit is that they often cause erasure, -isms and oppressive bullshit. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. Things that are built off of -ism by their very nature have to act in justification of -ism. This justification is often entirely subtle, much like the usage of slurs and oppressive language. But just like the usage of slurs and oppressive language, how we speak, what theories we use to describe the world, they influence our thought patterns. The mind learns through absorption and repetition. Constant exposure to oppressive tropes will train you to accept them, even implement them, and it doesn’t matter if they’re just in using a slur like “shemale” or a problem usage like “lame” or “gay” being used for “bad” or “pathetic” or a theory built on concepts that downgrade, erase and/or oppress certain groups. Those tropes will still affect you and how you operate. So using the bad parts of evo psych isn’t just pseudoscientific garbage peddling, it’s pseudoscientific garbage peddling that encourages unethical and oppressive practices both subconsciously and consciously. Yes, a mouth full.

Generally when you talk to PUAs, even the ones who claim to be the “good” PUAs you notice the same patterns of viewpoint (all of which completely ignore nonbinaries in every way possible):

1: “Women’s” (erasing queer women, trans women, women from other cultures and any woman who doesn’t fit this trope) attractions are based on Items A through F, where items A through F are elements of dominance and control in society. This is justified through the “this is just science and I’m being honest” trope. This can be used on trans women (in a more limited fashion than on cis women generally because most straight cis men with these kind of views regard us as sexuality traps or men faking being women) especially in certain contexts (like in chaser culture) where this sort of treatment is in fact accentuated for trans women in comparison to cis women.

2: “Men’s” (erasing queer men, trans men, men from other cultures and any man who doesn’t fit this trope) attractions are based on Items U through Z, where items U through Z are elements of the sexualized image of women (cis or trans) and the social commodity of our bodies. This is justified through the “this is just science and I’m being honest” trope. This can be applied (in a more limited fashion because a lot of straight cis men of these types will still regard trans guys as just masculine girls) to trans guys. And if the social acceptance for trans men is there, it is just as easy for a trans guy to get caught into this shit as a cis guy, provided they all have the right outlook or desperation for a lay.

3: Active manipulation of emotions through social engineering is a-okay to get sex (as opposed to having sex with someone who yanno, likes you that way) with absolutely no concerns regarding the ethics of manipulation for sex and can be analogized to passive methods of boosting attractiveness, like say, appearance, self confidence. This is justified through the previous faulty analogy. (This applies across the board with no limits)

4: The cognitive dissonance maelstrom of “women are a game that we can play to get what we want” justified by the claim “We don’t see women as just objects to fuck!” (this is applied across the board with no limits, in fact, trans women often face it far more heavily from chaser PUA’s than cis women do)

There’s a few more actually but I can quite honestly make my base argument right here with just those four. If you’d like to watch a “nice guy” PUA attempting to defend himself (and simply digging an even bigger hole through exhibiting those patterns and more), go to this locked thread on the xkcd forums. As always, external links, especially to forums, may contain problematic language or even possibly triggering concepts. There’s no way for me to catch everything there, so read with discretion. The thread is locked, mostly because the moderators got tired of Jon’s derailing and mansplaining (and good god can PUA guys derail and mansplain) but it does offer a pretty good show of how even the “nice ones” are still subject to these problems.

So Ethics. Key to social engineering is that it is a tool. It is not evil or good in and of itself. Merely a tool, a practice, a comprehension method and a skill. The thing about tools is that they have no ethics themselves. Their usage being bad or good depends entirely on the ethics and behavior of the tool user. A tool user may have great ethics but still use the tool in horrible ways (in such cases, you know how much intent matters to whether they misused the tool). And that’s the crux of it. Your use and implementation of social engineering is what is bad or good. Not social engineering itself, how it is used. PUA is an implementation of social engineering that is built on sexism, cissexism, binarism and heterocentrism (arising mostly from the pseudoscience it draws its theory from). So already, it’s fucked out of the gate for ethics. But it gets worse.

You see, social engineering is a very dangerous tool. It’s like having a gun or drugs, that you can use pretty freely on others. We live in a society where, ethically, it simply isn’t acceptable for people to not have full autonomy over their own bodies, what happens to them and their lives. This of course isn’t really honored much, but we do live in an oppressive hegemonic system of layered and parallel dominance structures built to deny power and resources to some while elevating others and to play off all of these groups against each other through oppression on different axes. Another mouthful. But yes, ethically, any system that denies bodily domain and lifestyle autonomy (for any reasons other than to prevent one from denying another those rights, and then only in ways that are specifically required to prevent such denial) to anyone is a bad system. And any tool used to deny people their autonomy, even subtly, is being used unethically. Enter unethical S.E.

There’s a reason I listed off the purposes I put social engineering towards above. Those are ethical usages of a very dangerous tool. When you use S.E. you are manipulating someone’s autonomy, denying it in more extreme usages. Using it to protect your own autonomy (especially if you lack the physical strength just to gut punch someone who fucks with you) is fine. Using the passive skills to gauge situations is fine. Using it to manipulate and hurt people for shits and giggles (one of the many varieties of trolling)? Not fine. And using it to manipulate people into giving you access to bodily domain when they would not have done so in the first place? Not fucking fine. It’s like the drugs and the gun. If you hop someone up on alcohol or some kind of powerful drug, for the express purpose of fucking them, when they wouldn’t have done so normally, you’re crossing some fucked up lines and doing so often crosses the rape line specifically (two or more people getting trashed to grease the gears for themselves to have sex is fine, because all folks involved are wanting the same thing, it’s just really fucking risky, since it’s tougher to know when one or more needs to stop when you’re trashed. Different post for a different time). Holding a gun to someone’s head to get them to have sex with you is pretty obvious fucking rape, the most extreme example of coercion and manipulation. So where does unethical S.E. when it comes to sex stand? I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rape (not unless you engage in a fairly extreme S.E. manipulation, like say manipulate someone into thinking they have no choice at all). It certainly isn’t ethical and it certainly undermines bodily domain. None of this is to say that you can’t use S.E. passive skills to gauge if someone wants you and whether you’re wasting your time, or to boost your own social viability. And no doubt, passive skills still leave the choice entirely in the hands of the person you want, allowing bodily domain to remain fully intact.

But PUA isn’t passive. And it’s built on theories that oppress a lot of people and filter into the behaviors of PUAs. This is a bad combo. This is why PUA makes me incoherently enraged. Because it isn’t just pseudoscience. It isn’t just garbage that makes this arrogant snobby social engineer go pffft. It’s unethical and dangerous garbage, that teaches men (trans and cis, yes I know trans guy PUAs) that women (trans or cis, worse if for us if you’re dealing with chaser PUAs) are toys to fuck with, in order to get laid.

That’s a goddamn problem.

Oh and did I mention that all of the passive S.E. skills, self confidence boosters, anxiety reducers, grooming tips and other non invasive skills that PUAs claim is the concentration of their… “art” can all be learned without the sexist bullshit of evo psych and the dehumanizing, objectifying bullshit of The Game? Yeah. No fucking excuse, PUAs.



44 Responses to “Why Pick Up Artists Make Me Incoherently Enraged”

  1. 1 Nentuaby

    Sounds more like they make you very coherently enraged!

    The ethical fail among at least a subset of those types cannot be overestimated. I had the dubious pleasure of talking to one once, he was totally upfront about basically launching an attack on the mark’s ego to break her down into compliance- basically he was talking about classic brainwashing technique, minus physical coercion.

  2. 2 bellim

    You are brilliant. This is brilliance. And I saw that you got a nice shout-out in the thread of FAIL – someone made a very relevant link to your post on Intent.

  3. Pretty much. Unethical social engineering often slides into brainwashing zones.

  4. 4 Sarah

    Hey. Just giving you a shout-out to let you know that I really like this post. I found it because someone linked in from the xkcd forums. (It’s from our SECRET forum, else I’d link you the link. =p)

    I was part of the thread you linked to, and it really tickled me to see some of our arguments being linked positively from such a thoughtful and well written blog. When I have the time I’ll be sure to check out some more of your posts. =3

  5. Oh, god, Tucker Max… I’d almost forgotten he existed, the stupid little brat. I made the mistake of reading his book once, after a friend gave it to me. It’s just full of manipulation, getting chicks into bed with him, and at one point, a massive amount of transpanic because ‘omg if I’ve slept with 100′s of real women, a few fakers must have slipped through!’. What an asshole.

    And thanks for yet another intelligently written post I can link to next time someone’s being a twit online or in real life.

  6. I thought my first response in the thread was a brilliant masterpiece of subtly and restraint, personally. But I’ve got a huge ego about such things.

  7. 7 dedalus

    As one of the other participants on the xkcd thread you linked to, I think that you’ve done a marvellous job of summing up mostly everything that we were trying to say and analogue. It’ll be kind of ironic if JonScholar does come back, because I think I know where he’ll be directed to… he never did actually finish responding to our arguments (the discussion was continued elsewhere if you were wondering, but he’s since disappeared…)

  8. Haha, if he comes here, it really will be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I’m a lot less nice than y’all. XD

  9. Genderbitch, this post is a thing of beauty. Thank you for explaining all this.

  10. 10 Roo

    PUAs would not be so popular if what they say was useless. About the unethical thing, agree, BUT:
    If a lot of guys are taking this courses/material and using it without guilt, I would think they have stopped beliving in the fair play, and those things happens when you have been victim of a lot of nasty moves against you, and you live in a culture where it is about winning, not about playing well.
    (A lot of…) Young american women (25-) are pretty far from saints. Remember this is a post-feminism culture and exceses and double standards have been reached (and not stopped yet).
    So, if a lot of men are training like soldiers to manipulate and get laid, sure it would not be cool that they have success. Hope they don´t!
    But the root problem is that they want to. Why? Well, every system seeks homeostasis and all that misogyny didn t come from nowhere: Maybe from misdanry (when this guys were kids). Belive me, a lot of men are tired of demonstrating and having to be evaluated to be loved, without clear demands from the opposing party, and don´t have enough self-esteem left in the tupperwares. It may come from feminist mediocre mother traumas and too much of a hard time in the dating scene. Yes, they are desperate, because it really sucks.

    Chauvinism is now against men… THEY can handle it. Boys can´t.
    - Christina Hoff Sommers

    Not justifying, just trying to explain: We should think in a compassionate response. By the way, Cosmopolitan and so many other magazines and female sites talk about manipulation, control, and provoking men´s desire, and nobody gets scared. Maybe because if women does it, it is like… not so bad?

    P.S.
    I like the way you explain things.

  11. 11 Roo

    misdanry = misandry
    woops sorry about this.

  12. Actually lots of things are popular and useless at the same time. I define utility as being a non harmful benefit. PUA is harmful, ergo it does not have utility.

    Now, I think you’re kind of stringing some things together that don’t really work. For one, there’s no guarantee that these guys even realize that they’re eschewing fair play by going PUA, in fact, nearly all of the PUA’s I’ve talked to about this are either ignorant of the manipulative and unethical nature of PUA or are in denial of it. What that says to me is that these guys want to play fair, believe they are playing fair and don’t support not playing fair. Otherwise, why go into denial? So no, it doesn’t guarantee nasty moves against guys. And even if they didn’t believe in fair play, there’s a lot of situations where people just run with an advantage, even if they’ve not been nailed in any way. Being unfair or manipulative is not always a revenge move or an evening the score move. It’s pretty common for people (not just guys) to press any advantage they have, even if they’re lucky in all straits of life.

    Women aren’t saints either, but I’ve yet to see anything on such a scale as PUA and as damaging as PUA. Most of the excesses from women are taking advantage of guys who think that being insincerely nice will get them laid. Which isn’t great, of course, but it isn’t on the same level as PUA. It would be closer to meeting a girl who’s really looking for a lay and is willing to settle on you and taking advantage of that. It’s freely offered, it may not be the smartest idea, but you can go for it without issue.

    This sentence here is were you just stop making sense: “Why? Well, every system seeks homeostasis and all that misogyny didn t come from nowhere: Maybe from misdanry (when this guys were kids).” For one, homeostasis is maintaining a given state. Not every system seeks homeostasis (some systems are self destructive) and homeostasis as an example for a system like society doesn’t exactly fit the idea that misogyny comes from misandry. They’re unrelated concepts. Even as an analogy it doesn’t function. I can point out to you where misogyny comes from. It comes from a society that construes women as property, lesser, less capable and commodities. Misogyny is not the best named thing. It describes a phenomenon of using women, treating women as less, not through explicit hate, but usually through apathetic entitlement. Men feel entitled to women providing things to them. This is a component of misogyny. It’s a part of our society and present in all men (to varying degrees, some small, some large) and actually present in all women too, in the form of self directed bigotry. So these guys who are doing the PUA thing? Those feelings can just as easily come from sexism, which is still alive and well.

    Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t double standards and bullshit coming out of some of feminism. 2nd wave and radical feminism especially has invoked misandry often and in brutal, completely unacceptable ways, like say talking about how guy babies should be aborted or talking about genocide against men and trans women (who rad fem lumps together erroneously). And I agree that Cosmo and other mags set up some nasty social engineering elements too (although most of that shit doesn’t work and is based on some really broken logic, so not really genuine social engineering). So it’s definitely not so bad if women do it. Still definitely a problem. But I’m not seeing your logic on how those things cause PUA. Sexism is already here and it already explains it pretty darn well. Very much an Occam’s Razor situation.

  13. I got what you were saying, no worries.

  14. 14 Roo

    I have to disagree in your definition for utility, since I consider a lot of things really useful even when they can be harmful: like a medicine with adverse effects: you would not say it is useless, do you? What I meant is that if some people were not getting laid by using PUAs advises, PUAs would not be reccomended/searched/payed. So, logical and cientific or not, they may work (horoscopes and alternative medicine may be popular without working but they promise things that are a lot harder to check out if they really worked, so there´s a bigger margin for superstition).
    I see your point where you state that this guys are not trying to not-to play fair. I belive in you because I haven´t talked with many of them as you have.
    By “far from saints” I didn t mean taking advantage from insincerely nice guys. I was talking about male disposability and objetification of the guy´s personality wanting him for his survival value and testing him often (Of course, not ALL of them. And that s a mistake PUAs make.).
    About the homeostasis I thank you because it is a shift of paradigm to me and you are right, there are autodestructive systems. I guess the only system that gets its homeostasis all the time is the entire universe as a whole undivided thing and this doesn t help us analyzing PUAs. So I guess I was not having a point.
    Not sure if misogyny and misandry are unrelated concepts, I thought they were exact opposites. Do you have some sources that I could check? Thanks.
    When you say “Men feel entitled to women providing things to them.” I just can´t agree, because of my empirical/personal experience. All I was told by my parents and school about chivalry, was providing to, and protecting women, not as a property but as a queen: accepting her will.
    And God, I didn t know about the aborting male babies stuff!!! I was thinking about much more common and accepted doube standards such as: the earning gap without talking about the spending gap, violence against women without talking about violence against men (I live in Mexico and this year in the newspaper they published that violence against men represents 40% of the partner violence and 90% of it stays unreported.). So much concern about breast cancer without talking about prostate cancer (well, actually talking about it, eight time less). And almost no reports about the huge suicide gap, homeless gap, life expectancy gap… When school performance gap was against women, they said it was because of discrimination. Now that is against men, they say it is because of their laziness and apathy. Sure those things can make a man trust less in the principles he learned form the people that put him in this politically correct upside down knowledge system. Here I am talking about the lack of moral that is obvious in PUAs, accepted by them or not. At this point you could say, “well, it may explain why they are influenced to act like this, but it doesn´t explain why they do…” Yeah, they don´t have justification. I just thought it was worth pointing out other things that I don´t consider unrelated.

    At the end you are saying “not so bad if women does it” just because it doesn t work for them?
    What worries me is the intentions…

    Anyway thanks a lot for replying so soon. I am open for another response if you like to.

  15. Excellent points and very timely with the spread of evo psych atm.
    Especially bringing Ethics into it. A topic far too often ignored these days and so very critical in everything!

  16. I’m gonna do some summarizing here, because I really think it isn’t necessary to rehash that much to make your points

    Medicine with adverse effects still has a net gain, as in the benefits outweigh the harm. Medications that lack a net gain don’t make it to the shelves and to prescription lists.

    The fact that PUA works on many doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Social engineering is a powerful tool, even when done poorly and unethically.

    Male disposability and the objectification of the guy’s personality? Testing for survivability? You’ll need to explain what those even mean because it sounds like you’re bullshitting me.

    Misogyny and misandry are related in that they are both discriminatory prejudice based on gender. They are unrelated in this case, in that you have no evidence that misandry is causing the misogyny of PUA. That’s what I meant. More clear now?

    Your empirical/personal experience is actually fairly good evidence for my point. Chivalry, in and of itself, is a system of entitlement. Chivalrous men feel entitled to the woman’s time and involvement in his efforts to either woo or “aid” her and to provide company, happiness, friendliness and sometimes even sex in response. At the very least, you likely expect thanks for holding open a door for her, even when she may not of wanted you to.

    The spending gap? Sounds like more bullshit.

    Violence against men tends to be greed orientated. I.e. theft that turns violent. In the cases of actual gender based violence on men, the majority of the cases are perpetrated by men, not women (although certainly, there are women abusers and no doubt that needs to be made known). So if you’re dealing with systemic issues, men need to solve that problem in house. Whereas the majority of gender based violence women experience are done by men. That’s why feminism and related movements hassle you about violence against women. Because your people are perpetrating a lot of it. They don’t hassle you about violence against men and ignore your hassling them, because your people are also perpetrating a lot of it due to the battle/dominance dynamic, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

    You’ll need to show a little evidence that there’s a suicide and homeless gap. Life expectancy gap is, unfortunately, biological. And so far, sociological research has shown that men do worse in school not due to discriminatory practices but due to peer pressure and the coolness factor. So it’s not something egalitarianism can solve.

    But honestly, your entire reasoning for bringing up all of this is irrelevant. What PUA does is wrong. Stop making excuses for it. That is what you’re doing (and you’re doing it poorly btw, incoherently even) while trying to claim you aren’t doing it. It’s textbook apologism and frankly, it’s deeply annoying.

  17. 17 Roo

    Oh, annoying you was not my intention, sorry about that. I could present sources for the statements you think I am bullshitting with, but -getting out of the box- I feel like it´s getting personal: now you are attacking my person or my style and not only my arguments, so I´m gonna stop here and keep respectful distance with your blog (As I guess we both prefer…)

    Good luck, thank you for your time.

  18. Um, I haven’t once attacked you or your style. I have asserted that your content is playing off like apologism, but that’s hardly an attack on you. o_O

  19. 19 Adam

    Great post. I like your analysis of theory and ethics. I had thought of PUA as a collection of useful tools such as S.E. is but i also came across PUA as a subset of S.E. and while studying conversational hypnosis. I have seen far too often that people who are into PUA misuse it heavily. As you said a tool is not inherently good or bad but PUA is a package that contains tools within it as well specific instruction on how to abuse those tools in all the wrong ways without feeling bad about it.

    While i have found a lot of useful information to take away from PUA resources i had to search for this meaning and without the goal of picking up girls but rather wanting to be more social. One of the most useful things it helped me understand was how simple it is to just talk to people and how cooperative people are anyways. It was something i always had trouble with.

    You went into great detail and provided some great information :).

  20. 20 Don

    I am not a practising pick-up artist, but I definitely know the theory. I have read the books, the websites…hell, if there were pickup tips on the side of a ketchup bottle, I probably would have read those too. In conjunction, I am also not a practising social engineer (not anymore at least). It is because of those two things and a few others that I have some difficulties with your post.

    The first is your choice of subject. Anyone who says that pickup artists don’t “understand the patterns or where they come from” would also say the same thing about all social engineers, when their only examples are douchebags who pirated a copy of Mitnick and made a few matchstick phonecalls. I know some computer ‘hackers’ who can download a password sniffer and steal some useless information from their friends. As someone who attacks ‘pseudoscience’ and several, questionable, scientific studies, I was surprised that you mistook these miscreants as real pickup artists. For several social reasons (which I imagine you already know or have the capacity to lookup), assholes get girls. They don’t need to become pickup artists because they already have a talent, or should I say lack of inhibition, that allows them to sleep with women with adequate frequency.

    What happens is, we have the best friends, the nerds, the quiet types, the computer programmers etc. who don’t know how to talk to women. They consistently feel inadequate in a world (the same world that ‘objectifies’ women) that is telling them they should be having sex all the time with scores of beautiful women. While it is undebatable that this social construct is damaging to women, it doesn’t do well for men either. These men then seek help. Would you rather they ask their friends who would most likely tell them: treat girls like garbage? I doubt it.

    So, they turn to the pickup community. This community was created by nice guys who love and respect women. If you read any pickup book or website, many of the tips will address something like “be better in bed” or “satisfy your woman.” Why do you think these pickup artists have girls wanting to be with them even after they know they are pickup artists. To put it simply, if someone has to trick me into going to Disney World, Im not going to be angry when I find out it was a trick. Ask any person at a club (man or woman) what their intentions are romantically. Some are looking for a long term relationship, a summer fling or maybe just one night of unforgettable sex.

    Assholes will lie to get girls into bed. They lie about their intentions, their careers and their worth. Real pickup artists don’t instruct people to lie about anything. Telling the story of “That time I almost went to Australia, but didn’t”, or saying that you fix mechanical pencils for a living is not ‘deceiving.’ They are ways to lighten the conversation.

    Another issue I have is with your belief that PUAs believe all people can be broken down to enjoy/be turned on by/seduced by the exact same things. The problem is actually that you believe it not to be true. PUAs don’t go into conversations and assume that all women like money or care how much you can bench press. What they do know is that everyone enjoys spending time with someone who is fun, interesting and brings more to the conversation than they take away. One popular motto in the Pickup community is “Leave her better than you found her.” They tell jokes, flirt, play games and just generally work the room in such a way that makes people think they are a fun social person. If you can do all those things, you aren’t faking anything. You are a fun social person. That has nothing to do with evolutionary psychology. PEOPLE LIKE FUN. Now, I know someone is thinking that these guys aren’t actually fun and interesting, they are just using canned material. As a practising comedian (finally, something I do practise), I often use other people’s material or classic jokes in my everyday conversation. Does that make me not funny? I’m sure even David Blaine read “101 card tricks” when he was first starting.

    Now, onto this thing where “women are a game.” Women aren’t the game, women are players. The game is love (metaphysical and physical). If a girl definitely doesn’t want to play, she doesn’t have to. You can’t be tricked into having fun. Again, it comes from the nature of the concept of fun.

    So, if the girls are not being drugged, or in any way physically coerced into sex, and are choosing to do so because this particular guy appears to be a funny, interesting person (because he is), how is that harmful? Especially if she knows where the night is going (one-night-stand, fling, possibly longterm), and she gets to have a fun, interesting night ultimately leading to (often) extraordinary sex. What is the harm (that you mention in your utility definition) I repeat:

    What is the harm?

    So, in conclusion: while I understand your frustration, this appears to be a case of miscommunication. Before you begin to bash an entire culture of people, I would examine not just what the PUAs are doing, but who the PUAs are, why they are doing it and the actual after effect (look up “I got scammed by a pickup artist” or something similar on google). There are few, if any, cases of real women interacting with real pickup artists (again, not your copycat wannabes) and telling horror stories of the event.

  21. Oh golly, a wall of text. I hope you don’t mind if I summarize the shit out of it. Each paragraph is numbered

    1: Subject: Bullshit. Out of the examples of PUA I’ve used for this? I’ve included the smooth and capable, the caring and people like you. That’s right, you’re included. Especially since you said “assholes” get girls. No. They don’t. They get a small minority of girls and the rest of us go to confidence. Way to do prove me right about PUAs through stereotyping women.

    2: Stop stereotyping guys too. CS majors, nerds and best friends often can talk to girls. And the reason why some fail is choosing women who aren’t into them. Lack of compatibility isn’t a talking issue.

    3: You mean Nice Guys™ who think being emotional support will get them laid, which in and of itself is disgusting, sketchy and insincere. No wonder that skeeve carries over into PUA. A minority of girls are into that sort of thing. And some just aren’t willing to leave. The rest? They just find something worth enjoying in your actual personality once they get past the PUA bullshit. After all, just because someone is a PUA doesn’t mean they aren’t a fun person anyways. Same for social engineers.

    4: Deceiving covers creating an impression that is untrue. Which PUA can and do engage in. You don’t have to lie to decieve. Social Engineering taught me that. So did lawyers.

    5: You’re very silly. What is fun differs among different women and men. Stereotyping again? The proof piles up.

    6: You assume every woman has fun in the manipulation or wants to play the game.

    7: The harm is perpetrating sexist evo psych bullshit and using SE techniques in a way that could cause serious problems for both of you. It isn’t guaranteed but the risks are high.

    So, in conclusion: holy shit dude, you could have added more evidence to my point while attempting to make your case with a much shorter comment. Next time write a fucking post at a blog. As a note, I did mention there’s some advice given in PUA circles that is sound, good and completely non harmful. If you guys could pull the evo psych bull, the skeevy gaming bullshit and the stereotypes out of it and just take the good advice by itself? It would be a damn good thing.

  22. Hello, genderbitch! I’ll bet you get this a lot, but you and I are very similar in our observation/fascination with social interactions. I’m glad to see that you’re using it to promote gender and sexual open-mindedness. Keep up the good work – I’ll be reading slowly – there is a lot of text – and entirely.

    When it comes to self-ascribed PUA who are either unwilling or intellectual unable to transcend to SE, it evokes paradoxical emotions in me. To see people trying to understand each other better (with varying levels of success), trying to manipulate smart-ass me with their learned “skills”, and pos/neg manipulating the social culture, I’m a combination of tickled, flattered, disgusted, and disappointed in the individual, myself, and the human race. You’re onto something big in this post and I hope you’ll report more on case studies you’ve personally experienced as a SE. You’re a very smart person. xo

  23. 23 Randomguy

    I just want to say a couple of things. Evolutionary Psychology is fairly accurate, I don’t give a shit what anyone sais. Especially when it comes to sex…you could watch a documentary about gorillas, copy the way the Alpha Gorilla acts, transfer that into present human behaviour and girls will be attracted to you. I’ve seen it, i’ve done it. I’m sick of this shit. Why won’t women own up to it. It’s not ignorant, it’s not mysoginistic…it’s nature. Oh yeah…since you are a transgender ([edited for slurs ~KH]), don’t you find it a tad ironic calling other people mysoginistic, when you are the ones who blatantly mock women? Every [edited for slurs ~KH] I’ve ever seen acted like a stereotypical over the top bimbo charicature of a woman, you would only see in cartoons. Talk about being mysoginistic. You’re not a woman…get over it.

  24. 24 Randomguy

    Oh yeah…a social engineer? Right…and I’m an amusement pioneer.

  25. @Randomguy:

    You don’t give a shit about what scientists say? Cool. I guess I can throw you in with the creationists then. XD

    Oh man, it’s so great that your experiences cover the universe. Because all trans women wear signs and shit. By the way, I’m a tomboy, dude. Try harder? Please? Your failure only makes me more giggle more.

    And you totally are an amusement pioneer because you amuse the bejesus out of me. :D

  26. Randomguy, your [edited for ableist phrasing ~KH] and ignorance gave me the best laugh of the day.

    You have watched a documentary on Bonobos right? You know, the apes equally geneticly close to us as the chimpanzee and vastly closer to us than the Gorilla?

    Here’s a question randomguy, why is it that so many out crossdressers, not transsexuals but crossdressers, that I know get lots of attention from women? I tell you personally that since i started being true to my own gender diversity I have been flirted with by women more in any one year since being out than in the whole decade previous to doing so. I got serious offers of threesomes out of the blue. Yes randomguy, out of the blue offers of threesomes, from attractive women younger than myself. I got pursued by women eager to be in a relationship with me. So much for misogyny and mockery randomguy. It wasn’t insulting to the women it was attractive to them. I should mention i get interest from men too, but i get more from women.

    Guess what randomguy, there’s not one but two different transgender-related genes found so far. One found in MtFs and another in FtMs. And they are still in the early stages, the scientists think there’s more genes involved for the whole gender spectrum. How could that be unless it was selected for? Unless there was an evolutionary advantage/s to Transgender? Unless Transgender was attractive to men and women? Does that mess with your head? Take a look at Anime and Manga and the popularity with Bishonen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bish%C5%8Dnen and don’t think that’s a Japan only phenomenon as i already mentioned it’s lived experience in the west too, of course Anime and Manga are becoming increasingly popular among many women in the west encouraging more trans-attracted women to be open about it.

    Maybe you should watch the documentary on the giant cuttlefish where gender-appearance changing small males swim right past the aggressive dominant males and mate with their whole guarded harem? LOL. Then again maybe you’re scared enough of Transgender competition already.

    But don’t worry, i’m not going to take all the women on you. I’m loyal to my partner and threesomes etc will occur only if we both want that. Or is it a deep discomfort with yourself that makes you anti-transgender like 83% of homophobes who studies show are self haters in denial of their own gayness? If so maybe you should try wearing that skirt that keeps catching the corner of your eye in the store so you deliberatly look right away in the opposite direction or asking out that transperson you don’t like to admit to yourself that you like? Maybe that’s not you but the odds are pretty good that it might be.

    Whatever your issue randomguy you are catastrophicly wrong. But you have given me a good laugh. Good luck in learning to deal with the truth of the real world.

  27. Sincere apologies for the ablist phrasing. I’m used to the term being used to refer to people willfully embracing logical fallacies rather than any other usage but i fully recognise that this term is also and likely most often used harmfully against people of cognitive and neurological diversity and i was wrong to have used it and I’ll strive to improve myself on this. I’m sorry.

  28. @Batty:

    Thanks :)

  29. 29 B C

    Excellent article. Fascinating read. Good stuff.

    …oh and you’re completely full of shit ;)

    The problem stems from your all-to-convenient designation “passive S.E. skills.” Passive to whom? Not the one being affected. Do you dress and present yourself in a way that’s sexually arousing to men? Of course, you do and at the same time I’m sure you’re aware that a good number of men (maybe the majority of men – I’m not one of them) would feel gravely injured upon discovering your nature. There are certain things – like big boobs and hips and a narrow waist – that without the most disciplined focus, trigger a deeply ingrained physiological response in us guys. You know this and yet persist because it’s just “you being you” and we’re all allowed to be ourselves, right? It’s those uptight guys’ problem right? They just need to know themselves in get their shit in order, right?

    Right! We’re all allowed to be ourselves. Between any stimulus and response there lies a choice and within those choices lies our free will. You may be intentionally striking a chord in the guys who see you but it’s their choice of how to respond – both in thoughts and actions. It’s free will baby! We all have it: you, me, the uptight guys who get all fucked up over their attraction to you – even the PUA’s target has it. And whether they actively exercise it – well you know what? That’s their CHOICE – their responsibility. In other words- NOT FOR YOU TO DECIDE!

  30. B.C. you might want to learn how social engineering works. Passive S.E. is appearance, body language and non invasive elements (which covers presentation and negates your complaint). There’s no neg, there’s no attempts to isolate the girl from her friends. There’s just making efforts to change your appearance and movements so you appear more confident and less scared (both things that often imply to people that you aren’t a good partner or a good lay). They also make you appear more, become more noticeable, asserting your presence. Cuz if you don’t get noticed, you don’t get with anyone. Also, many women do dress that way just for ourselves and not to affect you. That’s not passive S.E. that’s just having a certain style. And that’s the great thing about passive S.E. It blends into expression. It’s subtle. It’s not asinine.

    Those are passive. They do not invade, they do not push. They simply radiate an effect that people can either ignore or enjoy, not actively have to avoid or push away to get away from.

    And actually, I dress very tomboyishly, which usually isn’t all that pleasing to the menz. XD

    So I guess it’s you who’s completely full of shit. <3 Good show, I enjoyed.

  31. 31 B C

    Honey I know I’m completely full of shit. I’ll even go so far as to CHOOSE to believe things that are demonstrably false, simply because they produce a resourceful state. You know what’s funny about that? After a while my demonstrably false bullshit becomes a demonstrably true reality. That’s fucked up, no?

    To quote Kurt Vonnegut “be careful what you pretend to be, because in the end you are what you pretend to be”

    You see, your concept of PUA is about 19 months out of date (yes, it changes that fast.) What you’re rant was about is actually a specific sub-set of the PU community created by a guy named Erik von Markovik aka Mystery. All those Negs, takaways, IOI’s AMOG’s, AI’s, false time constraints, compliance tests, etc – that’s not PUA per se, that “The Mystery Method” – aka indirect game or (sorry) social engineering based game. And yes, for a while those things essentially WERE synonymous with PUA. Here’s the thing about von Markovik though, he’s a nightclub magician by trade – LITERALLY! The guy does card tricks and reads palms for a living. The skills of his trade are things like misdirection, slight of hand and mentalism and he’s very good at them. So this ‘game’ of his, this “Mystery Method” is specifically calibrated to use his unique skill set. And don’t get me wrong, he is phenomenally successful with it but your average doofus is no more able to use those tricks to get a girl than he would be to saw her in half and put her back together again. In other words, it’s not the Mystery Method, it’s MYSTERY’S METHOD. I will just bet you that 99.999% of all the women who ever banged a guy running this game did so not because of the tricks or gimmicks but rather because he approached her boldly and spoke with a ton of confidence and that REALLY turned her on.

    And that, my dear, has been the collective realization of the PUA community in the last year and a half. There are still these seduction “guru’s” – charlatans who sell “indirect game” seminars to chumps who don’t know any better – but that shit is NOT state of the art. You wanna know what is? Firmly internalize your own self worth, your own desirability and attractiveness. Have confidence. Believe in yourself. Then from the inside out, let that belief affect every level of your being – and bang lots of chicks as a result ;)

    …oh, and what does “<3" mean? I've never seen that one.

  32. @BC

    There must be a lot of chumps out there because the bad apples of PUA are still going strong. But I’m glad to see people are taking passive S.E. to heart in at least larger numbers than I suspected.

    Might be wise to drop the whole Pick Up Artist tripe name though and simply call it what it is. Confidence, self worth and self respect. Just sayin’ ;)

    <3 = a heart

  33. 33 Triscuit

    This may sound strange, But i really really appreciate this article of yours..Just as hollywood and the media try to influence women on how they should look, dress and act….This PUA garbage does the same, by exploiting the insecurities men have to do the same thing.

    Not sure that made alot of sense, im kinda feverish right now:D

  34. I Googled your site because I need serious help in clarifying my relationship with my MtoF girlfriend (I’m cis-male; you can follow this unfolding drama on my Facebook page. It’s a little like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumors’). I have read PUA (I’m nominally polyamorous–for security in cases like this) manuals since I was fully heteronormative (read: young and stupid) in the ’90′s, and I find their approach about as useful as mass-market astrology (I’m quite an educated critic in that field). In fact, astrology and “attraction tech” (PUA technique) have something in common: selling books. By trade I’m a bookseller for Barnes&Noble, so I understand the need of large-corp publishers and bookstores to move merchandise. Currently an increasing amount of attraction tech material is available only online to discourage free-reading and shoplifting. The end result that offends both you and me is simply marketing. As marketing expert Seth Godin says: “All marketers are liars”. My educational training is in marketing, public relations, and psychology (I’m actually an orchestra director!)

    Any good advice on keeping an MtoF girlfriend in love with me? I’m still new to this!

  35. No doubt Randomguy is paying a hefty credit bill for his “sarging” technique. He’s read the whole library–hook, line, and sinker. This is called “compliance”.

  36. Yes, Triscuit. Yes, exactly. The psychological manipulation is obvious to a freshman!

  37. @Vallin:

    Um, a trans woman is still, in the end, a woman. And as such we vary based on individuals. Pretty much the only thing in common among various trans women that will fuck up your relationship with us is being cissexist or otherwise bigoted in a way that directly affects us. So you should ask her. Talk to her. Find out what she needs and how she feels. And then give her that. It’s really no harder than any other relationship. We’re not that different from anyone else really.

  38. But really, G-B, you give PUA-gurus way too much paranoid credit (doth m’lady protest too much?). The stuff doesn’t work. I invented the prototype…back in the ‘Cheers’ era!

  39. @Vallin: Hey I never said it was always successful. Just that it was unethical. XD

  40. Pick Up Artistry is merely an attempt to use behaviorist conditioning to back-hack the Self-Serving Bias (i.e. the general belief that people have that they are ethical, valuable, and, above all, skilled motorists) in a way that puts the object of the back-hack into strife. PUAs attempt to use carefully constructed confidence manipulation techniques to tear down a target’s confidence to the point where they are willing to have sex with someone to restore it.

    Of course, throwing your heels in the air like you just don’t care doesn’t actually restore it; the fact is that you do care or else you wouldn’t have thrown your heels in the air. So now, not only does the mark feel more insecure than before; she now is thinking, “Why the hell did I just fuck that dude?”

    Conclusion: Tearing down people’s confidence tears down people’s confidence. Tautological statement is tautological. That’s it; fuck off; shut up PUAs (not you Miss Kinsey).

  41. Thank you for this, Kinsey Hope. Very well done. Very helpful to me, as I came to the topic with a virtually 0 data base; I’d read adverts for PUA materials – I now realize – decades ago, and fairly carefully, but never studied them. And certainly did not know the attitudes and technology had grown to be such a problem. I have posted a link to your blog on my Facebook page, and intend to discuss it with women I know, to see if they are familiar with the problem. I should probably abstract and memorize the most dangerous (isolation), damaging (confidence destruction), and deceitful elements of the technology so I can be somewhat explicit when doing that.

    Reading this, from 2010, in the context of the brouhaha over the entitlement of nice guys in recent months broadens my perspective on that argument, too. You are more than perceptive, tending toward the prophetic on this, especially in dealing with the entitled nice guys who so obligingly exposed themselves in the comments.

    I also really appreciate your early identification and clear description of the conceptual and methodological problem of evo psycho. Evolutionary biology is a significant part of my education, and the problems with evo psycho just make my skin crawl. Fortunately they have received some pretty good attention from real students of behavior and evolution over the last couple of years. I’ve a rough out of some thoughts on that on Fb, here:
    http://www.facebook.com/notes/jim-pivonka/on-the-practice-of-evolutionary-psychology-work-in-progress/10150264534013232

  42. 42 doubtthat

    That was a perspective on the issue I hadn’t encountered before, Excellent post.

    I would only add that I think you’re slightly overestimating the actual utility of their bullshit:

    “They found a few tricks of social engineering that work, think they comprehend why and use them stupidly based on that shit poor comprehension.”

    I would argue that 90% or more of PUA theory “working” is just brazenly talking to lots of people. I’m not sure they’ve even latched onto a sort of black-box psychological manipulation process so much as they’ve convinced themselves of their greatness so they experience no shame at harassing countless women.

    They remind of cold readers–the John Edwards folks. When it’s happening in real time, even if you know it’s bullshit, it’s still kind of impressive that he figured out so-and-so’s grandpa was named Earl, but if you watch the tape, you notice that he had to go through 50 names, including all names beginning with N, R, and S, before landing on Earl.

    I don’t mean to contradict anything you’ve said, I just think that these assholes are mostly hucksters, snake oil salesmen, who concoct this image of “getting any woman” and selling it to desperate rubes. My guess is that they’d have an equal “success rate” (as offensive as that sounds) if they talked to the exact same number of women and just said, “hi,” instead of running through these idiotic games.

  43. 43 Liz

    Hey Genderbitch, thanks for this post, it’s appreciated. I’d like to make a contribution to the ethical points you have made. I am a cis woman who actively supports all other sexualities/identities except any that exploit others. I’ve encountered PUA’s – including men who are supposed to be my friends – but who I’ve sensed are using PUA techniques on me (such as ‘negging’). As it happens I’ve read some of Neil Strauss (useful for self-protection) but I am pretty certain I would have sensed ‘something was up’ even if I hadn’t, but would not have been able to define what my instincts told me if I hadn’t had an awareness of their techniques. My point is that these techniques will perhaps work on some women – vulnerable, perhaps younger, and non-savvy women. But they won’t work on most women because most of us have an instinct as to when we’re being ‘played’ and we can smell it a mile off. So unless these men have qualities which would have attracted us to them in the first place, they’re actually going to put us off with these techniques. This happened to me with the friend (one of those I mention above) – and whereas previously I thought he was an attractive man, the fact that I spotted him applying PUA techniques to me (I didn’t know it was that at the time, just knew I was being played) put me off him forever. So in my thinking, these men are actually advertising themselves as being sad and/or manipulative by using these techniques. But worse still, if these techniques work on anyone, it will be vulnerable women. Therefore if they ever work, they are inherently unethical – and this makes the whole sordid enterprise (which includes scamming vulnerable, sexually-deprived men who are willing to try anything to ‘succeed’) a deeply unethical business. End of story.


  1. 1 “Women just need to learn to say no.” | Brute Reason

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