If you’ve been on the internet, you’ve probably run into the “pickup artist” (PUA) community. If you haven’t, feel free to google, but I won’t be linking anyone here. Essentially, it’s a group of men (always and only men) trying to teach themselves how to pick up women (always and only women). Their methods are pretty gross, and they use a lot of dehumanizing lingo, creating acronyms for categories of women and trying to learn psychological tricks; the worst claim to be able to “program” responses via methods like NLP (and no doubt mesmerism, or the ancient techniques of the swamis, or other bullshit magical thinking). Truly awful stuff.
If you believe what they’re saying, it also works. Now, no small amount of this is likely due to the fact that they’re teaching these men to actually approach women, which they weren’t doing before. The dehumanizing stuff is also depedestalizing, and while ultimately toxic I’m sure it initially makes just approaching women easier. I’m sure most of the PUA gurus would say that in order to get men to stop putting women on pedestals, they have to knock them down a bit (although they’d probably say it in a less savory manner), but I don’t buy it.
Unlike Clarisse Thorn, I don’t think that there are useful bits to these models that need to be extracted and put in a different context, beyond super basic stuff like “approach more women”. I’d more agree with Amanda Marcotte, that “the PUA mentality is too toxic to be polished into something non-misogynist”, but…
The thing is that there really is a dearth of advice out there on this. Not a dearth of people trying to give advice, but a dearth of actual, useful advice that doesn’t come from a terrible fashion magazine or an even more terrible lad mag mentality. Amanda’s suggestions are really more ways not to be an asshole than they are dating/pickup advice. In the 21st century, I can learn how to do almost anything with a quick google, and have done: I’ve brewed beer, written bookmarklets, and boosted my FIDE score 300 points all just through some web research. But there’s nothing out there that is both useful and nontoxic for dating.
What is out there seems to fall into three categories:
- Very basic social interaction stuff, like “treat the other party like a person”(e.g., Amanda’s suggestions), which is probably useful for many men steeped in a misogynist culture who need to relearn how to interact with women. But it won’t get you very far, and it isn’t useful to non-cismen, or to cismen who’ve done the Feminism 101 thing and now need to learn the next steps.
- Folks who don’t want to admit that there are skills involved. Dating is just hanging out with people sometimes with sex at the end, although of course if you go into it hoping for sex at the end you are wrong and bad. You’re allowed to have sex on the first date, you’re just not allowed to care whether or not you have sex. There’s a lot of wishy-washy “you’ll only date if you don’t really want to” stuff out there, like an anti-The-Secret.
- Horrible claptrap in the aforementioned vein (like the PUA stuff) recommending all sorts of mental tricks to reduce your partner in your mind to something unworthy of you, and therefore eliminate all of the psychological risk involved in approaching someone. This is mostly aimed at cismen.
- Socially awkward boy googles how to date
- Socially awkward boy is introduced to a pile of anecdata about horrible methods of attracting partners that include one or two things that really work, like “don’t sweat it if you get turned down” and “ask a lot of people out”
- Socially awkward boy writes about how amazingly effective these horrible techniques are
- Repeat with a new socially awkward boy, with the echo chamber effect further magnified
- Of course, a woman looking to pick up anyone, or a man looking to pick up men, is completely SOL. It’s assumed to be trivial to pick up men (which, speaking as a man who has been on the receiving end of many a clumsy come-on, definitely not true), and basically everything I can find on women picking up women is, well, porn.