Clarisse Thorn continues her exploration into the world of the Pickup Artist and finds a confused, often conflicting culture.
As I discussed in the first part of this article, some pickup artists (henceforth PUAs) get into the seduction community because they feel a lot of social anxiety and have trouble connecting with women. But some get into it because they want unilateral power and control over women—or even revenge against women. Aside from the “connection” vs. “control” distinction, there is also a distinction between PUAs who are seeking what is essentially self-help, and those who aren’t.
The PUA concept that best illustrates this is “inner game.” Inner game is, essentially, genuine confidence and sense of purpose. It contrasts with “outer game”—i.e., the things a PUA says and does to attract women. A “neg” would count as “outer game,” for example.
Most successful PUAs reach a point where they decide that, in the words of one coach: emotionless “sport-fucking kinda sucks.” (Some PUAs start at this point, but that is a bit unusual.) They conclude that it’s time to pull back from the game; to seek longer-term or more emotionally connected sex; to examine their priorities; and to discover interests aside from picking up new girls. Finding themselves in this way can be described as “inner game.” The men who discuss inner game often talk about developing their own businesses, exercising regularly, keeping a healthier diet, accepting their own vulnerabilities, pursuing hobbies, and improving their connections with people of all genders.
Most PUAs also realize that women respond well to genuine confidence and sense of purpose. This could be seen as ironic: notwithstanding the fact that “inner game” emphasizes self-improvement, the concept is still centered on seducing women. However, despite the fact that “inner game” is centered on gaming ladies, its ultimate result is usually to encourage PUAs to think about what they really want from life. PUA coach Mark Manson once wrote that, “You don’t end up in the Pick Up Artist community unless you are incredibly unhappy or unsatisfied about something. It may be conscious, it may be unconscious. It may be short-term, or it may be deep-seated and long-term.” He later wrote to me by email: “This is a giant self-help community in disguise.” I also once interviewed Neil Strauss himself, who said he hoped that his famous book The Game could become “the beginning of a men’s self-help movement—because self-help isn’t emasculating anymore if you’re doing it to get laid.”
Interestingly, Neil Strauss also told me that he agreed with feminism in many ways, and said things like: “We still are a patriarchal society.” Many feminists felt that my interview with him was full of problematic statements, and his words were picked apart by feminist readers. I do not disagree with many feminist critiques of what Strauss said—but considering where Strauss was coming from, his words were extraordinarily supportive of feminism.
Whether Strauss is an ignorant fool or an opportunist liar who wants to appease feminists in order to avoid negative feedback is anyone’s guess, but if his words are anything to go by, we can safely assume that the best-known public advocates of Game are perfectly OK with parroting feminist dogma.
For the few, mild pro-feminist statements Strauss made, some PUAs deride him as either an “ignorant fool or an opportunist liar.” (Others hurled particularly misogynist insults such as “mangina.”) This is both a demonstration of how vitriolic PUA anti-feminist sentiment can become, and an example of the social shaming that sometimes leads men in the PUA community to avoid associating themselves with anything resembling feminist thought or woman-friendly perspectives.
Clearly, many men view pickup artistry as a kind of therapy. The community can be a support group for self-confidence and self-improvement. Unfortunately, many corners of the seduction community are also a support group for virulent misogyny. Some feminists argue that any man who seeks self-help through the seduction community is effectively embracing misogyny, because so much of the community is misogynist. However, some PUA students could be interpreted as seeking self-help from the only avenue they see as acceptable, if they are coming from a culture that usually defines self-help as un-masculine or anti-masculine. Again, note that Neil Strauss said: “self-help isn’t emasculating anymore if you’re doing it to get laid.”
The most confusing thing about misogyny among PUAs is that although some more-misogynist PUAs separate themselves consciously from non-misogynist PUAs, and vice versa, the groups still overlap a great deal. Even PUA-influenced men who prioritize non-misogyny, and are willing to talk to a feminist writer like me, often seem to soak up misogynist ideas from the rest of the subculture. I had experiences like talking to one PUA I thought was committed to being non-sexist, and listening to him expound quite seriously upon how his favorite PUA blogger thinks the USA would be better off if women did not vote. One goal of my upcoming book, Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, is to draw clearer lines: to give examples of PUAs and PUA approaches that seem more abusive or inclined towards harm, as opposed to approaches that seem mostly playful, harmless, even positive.