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The seduction community, also known as the pick-up artist, PUA, or pickup community, is a movement of men whose goal is seduction and sexual success with/access to women. Members of the community are often referred to as “pickup artists” (PUA). The community exists through Internet newsletters and weblogs, marketing (e.g. banner ads, seminars, one-on-one coaching), forums and groups, as well as over a hundred local clubs, known as “lairs”.
The rise of “seduction science”, “game”, or “studied charisma”, as it is often called, has been attributed to the “chaotic” modern dating scene reportedly as a result of the increased empowerment and equality of women in western society and changes to traditional gender roles combined with the influence of distinct biological imperatives in men and women. Commentators in the media have described “game” as sexist or misogynistic, acknowledging that the techniques espoused do sometimes succeed in attracting women. Academic researchers have also studied seduction techniques and hypothesize a basis in evolutionary psychology.
The modern seduction movement dates to 1970, with the publication of How To Pick Up Girls! by Eric Weber, credited as the first modern pickup artist. However, one self-described “picker-upper of women” preceding Weber was rational emotive psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who wrote The Art of Erotic Seduction, a how-to guide for men that encouraged them to meet women through the “pickup,” with Roger Conway in 1967. Ellis claimed he had been practicing seducing female strangers since he overcame his fear of approaching them through “in-vivo desensitization” in Bronx Botanical Garden in the 1930s. The 1970s and 1980s saw independent authors and teachers, but no organized community.
The seduction community itself originated with Ross Jeffries and his students. In the late 1980s, Jeffries taught workshops, promoted a collection of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques called “speed seduction” (SS), and published a short book of his techniques, How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed. Other exponents established themselves in roughly the same era, but lacked contacts with each other. In 1994, Lewis De Payne, then a student of Jeffries, founded the newsgroup alt.seduction.fast (ASF), which marked the birth of the community per se. This then spawned a network of other Internet discussion forums, email lists, blogs, and sites where seduction techniques could be exchanged.
The original alt.seduction.fast became overwhelmed with spam, and a group called “Learn the Skills Corporation” developed a moderated alternative known as “Moderated ASF” (commonly “mASF”). During the same period, in the late 1990s, Clifford Lee began his Cliff’s List Seduction Letter as a central independent voice of the community.
Other seduction teachers emerged with competing methods, and became known within this community as “seduction gurus” or “gurus”. The first commercially successful seduction/pick up book was a manual by Tariq Nasheed (also known as King Flex) entitled The Art Of Mackin, which was released in 2000. Tariq Nasheed went on to write several other seduction/dating books such as The Mack Within: The Holy Book Of Game and The Elite Way:10 Rules Men Must Know In Order To Deal With Women.
The community was brought to greater mainstream awareness with the 1999 drama film Magnolia, in which Tom Cruise portrayed a charismatic yet embittered and emotionally troubled pickup guru who was loosely modeled on Ross Jeffries. In 2005, journalist Neil Strauss wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, an exposé of the seduction community. The Game reached the New York Times Bestseller List, and made known pickup and seduction techniques to a wider audience. The community was further publicized with the television show The Pick Up Artist (2007–2008) on VH1.
Within the community, seduction lairs are underground meeting groups for men devoted to the study of seduction as it is taught in the seduction community. Lairs first began as study groups soon after Ross Jeffries released his first products and began teaching sometime in the early 90s. Hundreds of lairs now exist worldwide. A “lair” typically involves two elements: an online forum and group meetings. These elements are used as resources for men who want to learn to become well-versed in how to successfully attract women.
Supporters of this community typically believe that the conventional dating advice for men is flawed. For example, they reject the notion that men should attempt to woo women by spending money on them (e.g. buying drinks, presents, jewelry), calling it supplication.
Many members of the seduction community work on their “game” (seduction skills) by improving their understanding of psychology, their confidence and self-esteem (termed “inner game”), and their social skills and physical appearance (physical fitness, fashion sense, grooming) (“outer game”). Many members of the community believe that one’s “game” is refined through regular practice, with the idea that the abilities needed to interact in this way with women can be improved.
The seduction community has a unique set of acronyms and jargon for describing male–female dynamics and social interaction. For example, ‘AFC’ (“average frustrated chump”) is a term coined by Ross Jeffries to describe males who are typically clueless and incompetent with women. Alpha-Male Of the Group (AMOG): a reference to a competing male, who is usually either befriended by the PUA, or, if necessary, ridiculed.
The community claims that the above-mentioned concepts derive from scientific disciplines, such as the concept of social proof from the psychology of influence, and various concepts from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology (such as the term “alpha male“). Up until recently there has been very little in the way of direct scientific proof that learning these techniques can create success with women, aside from a study by German researcher Andres Baranowski, who trained participants in these techniques – and found that this training did improve his participants’ skills in dating.
A pickup artist (commonly abbreviated PUA) is a person who practices finding, attracting, and seducing sexual partners. Such a person purportedly abides by a certain system deemed effective by that community in their attempts to seduce partners.
The use of pickup in this context, slang for making a casual acquaintance with a stranger in anticipation of sexual relations, dates from at least World War II, as attested by antiprostitution posters. The phrase was also popularized by the 1970 book How to Pick Up Girls by Eric Weber, Pick-Up Times, a short-lived 1970s magazine, and the 1987 semi-autobiographical romantic comedy The Pick-up Artist, written and directed by James Toback. More recent works of pickup artist culture include Neil Strauss‘s book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, and the 2007 VH1 reality television series, The Pickup Artist, starring the pickup artist Mystery. The pickup artist Roosh V has self-published 14 books describing techniques for seducing women. According to Salon, such books are the “cash cow” of the pickup industry.
The term pickup artist is also associated with the seduction community, a heterosexual male subculture which strives to improve sexual and romantic abilities with women. Routines and gambits are developed to stimulate purported “attraction switches,” often combined with techniques derived from an alleged form of hypnosis called neuro-linguistic programming. Members aim to improve their seductive capabilities through the development of various lifestyles. The culture surrounding pickup has spawned an entire industry servicing those who want to improve their social and seduction skills with consultations and in-field training.
Pickup artists receive mixed to negative responses from the press and general public, with many regarding both the practice and theory as immoral, sexist and ineffective. In 2014, following widely supported public petitions, U.S.-based PUA speaker and instructor Julien Blanc was denied entry to both the United Kingdom and Australia after he published YouTube videos explaining and demonstrating behaviors such as grabbing women by the throat, and forcing their heads towards his crotch.
Pickup is often divided into different styles, referred to as “outer game”, “inner game”, “direct game”, and “indirect game”.
Psychologist Petra Boynton has stated that there is “no evidence of effectiveness” for any claims of pickup artists. Research by Nathan Oesch of the University of Oxford Department of Experimental Psychology, however, confirmed attraction and seduction principles, as described in Strauss’ books on the subject, do have a factual basis in social, physiological and evolutionary psychology.
Despite primarily being a male movement, there are also female pick-up artists who use similar techniques to seduce men.
In The Game, Neil Strauss documents various practices that occur in the seduction community. Members of the community believe in achieving success with women through (what they believe to be) scientific and empirical means, rather than by relying on good looks or intuitive instinct, or by following societal courtship conventions. The practice of going out with the purpose of meeting women is known as “sarging”, a term coined by Ross Jeffries, after his cat “Sarge”. A pickup artist can “sarge” alone, or with a wingman.
“Negging” has been described as the practice of giving a woman a backhanded compliment such as “nice nails — are they real?”, to weaken her confidence and therefore render her more vulnerable to seduction, or that depriving a woman of obsequious validation and attention will influence her to seek it from the man who negs her. Conor Friedersdorf lambasted the use of negging by pick-up artists, but admitted that, based on his observations, negging did appear to be effective at generating attraction from some women. A 2009 science study found that men giving negative attention to “high social anxiety” women produced more positive behavior in the women than if the men treated them nicely.
“Pawning” is trading or discarding an unwanted woman as proof of the PUA’s own social value, and “going caveman” is escalating physical contact while reducing verbal contact.
One constellation of PUA techniques, called “Last Minute Resistance” tactics (LMR tactics), is designed to convince a woman to have sex after she has indicated that she doesn’t want to.
Approaching and opening
Pickup artists generally assume the mindset that men should lead and initiate contacts and plans in general in order to be more attractive, and that woman will not generally initiate contact although they want men to, requiring men to begin any interaction by approaching them, but many have also cultivated a sensitivity to direct and indirect signals of possible sexual interest.
Members of the seduction community often practice approaching and opening repetitively; some have done thousands of approaches. Strauss describes a pickup artist who did 125 approaches in one day.
Feminist BDSM writer and activist Clarisse Thorn, author of Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men, criticizes the PUA community as frequently “absurd and sexist,” “pushy and problematic” and encouraging adversarial gender roles. However, she also argues that PUA tactics are worth understanding because they are not unique to the PUA community, but instead represent society-wide beliefs and patterns and strategies of human sexual behaviour. Other dating coaches, such as Sebastian Harris, publicly speak against the misogynistic tendencies of the seduction community. The UCLA Center for the Study of Women argues that PUA culture is misogynist, and exists on a continuum of sexist behaviours and attitudes that includes rape and murder.
Professional dating coach, radio personality and self help book author Alan Roger Currie has frequently criticized the seduction community and many of the misleading and manipulative tactics espoused by many of the more popular pickup artists. Currie is specifically critical of men giving women the misleading impression that they are interested in engaging in a long-term, emotionally profound, monogamous romantic relationship when those men know in reality that they are really seeking to engage in some form of short-term, non-monogamous, casual sex with these same women.
After 48-year-old systems analyst George Sodini killed three women and himself in the 2009 Collier Township shooting, media asked whether he had been influenced by his involvement in the PUA community.
The seduction community has received increased media attention, since the publication of Neil Strauss‘ article on the community in The New York Times, and his memoir The Game. Response to the seduction community has been varied; it has been called misogynistic, and a review of The Game in the San Francisco Chronicle characterized the community as “a puerile cult of sexual conquest,” and calls its tactics “sinister” and “pathetic.” According to the review, “if women in the book are sometimes treated as a commodity, they come out looking better than the men, who can be downright loathsome—and show themselves eventually to be pretty sad, dysfunctional characters.”
Feminists tend to be critical of the seduction community. Beatrix Campbell has stated that The Game “sexually objectifies women,” arguing that “Nowhere from its description do you get a sense of men being helped to be human in an easy and agreeable way…it’s not about having any rapport or relationship… the only thing that will help them in relationships is empathy and liking women.”
According to an article in Eye Weekly, some feminists believe that pickup “isn’t just cheesy; it’s offensive.” The article cites a proposal put forward by a feministblogs.org writer as an alternative to the formula used by expert PUAs: “Shake my hand. [Say] ‘Hi, my name is …’ Treat me like a human being. Avoid seeing women as conquests and men as competition.”
An article in the Houston Press claimed that the seduction community “isn’t the lechfest it might sound like.” The article quotes the webmaster of confidentup.com defending the community: “It’s no more deceptive than push-up bras or heels or going to the gym to work out…This isn’t just a game of words and seduction, it’s an overall life improvement.” Strauss says, “I really think all of these routines and manipulations are just a way for a guy to get his foot in the door so that if a woman connects with him, she can still choose him,” and that seduction techniques “can be used for good or evil!” He argues that “women are incredibly intuitive—the creepy guys with bad intentions don’t do nearly as well as the guys who love and respect women.”
Several writers describe observing men in the seduction community first-hand. Some women recount experiences with men they believed to be pickup artists who tried to “pick them up,” and some men recount trying out pickup techniques. Catherine Townsend, writing for The Independent, describes a negative experience with a man she believed was a pickup artist and used a lot of “negs” on her: “The problem is that some guys clearly don’t know when to quit.”
An article in San Francisco Magazine recounts the experience the blogger “Dolly,” who is the author of the popular sex blog The Truth about Cocks and Dolls, had with the seduction community. According to the article, Dolly was:
[…] put off by PUAs at first. But after she met more, including two from San Francisco, she wrote a letter to the Village Voice defending them, in response to the paper’s negative article on the subject in March. “PUAs try to create a fun, positive, and exciting experience for the woman,” Dolly wrote. “The credo many follow is ‘Leave her better than you found her.’ What’s so bad about that? That they want to get laid, too? Guess what? Guys have always wanted sex and will continue to want sex. You can’t fault them for finally discovering methods that are successful.— 
After spending three days immersed in a Mystery Method Corp (now Love Systems) seminar, Gene Weingarten expressed his uneasiness about “a step by step tutorial for men in how to pick up women, make them comfortable in your presence, and bed them, ideally within seven hours of your first meeting” and wondered aloud, “Is there something inherently wrong with the notion of seduction as a classroom-taught skill, complete with a long hierarchy of ‘lines’ that work, seemingly spontaneous topics of conversation that are anything but spontaneous, tricks for seeming ‘vulnerable’, and tips on how to behave so as to deliver subtle but effective nonverbal inducements to intimacy?”
For an article for the Times Online, Hugo Rifkind participated in a seminar by Neil Strauss. Rifkind describes initially struggling with seduction techniques, eventually learning to attract women’s interest, and then feeling guilty. Rifkind writes, “After a little more practice, my ‘game’ is improving dramatically. I can open with fluency, and there’s an injection of confidence which comes from knowing exactly what you are going to say next.” When he attracts a woman’s attention, “she is—quite honestly—looking at me like I’m the most fascinating person she’s ever met. As a human being and, perhaps more crucially, as somebody with a girlfriend, I feel like absolute scum.”
The media attention and rapid growth of the seduction community has led to commercialization and competition. Teachers of seduction tactics sell workshops, books, e-books, DVDs, and CDs over the internet. In The Game, Strauss describes the competition between seduction gurus. In The Journal, teaching of these seduction methods is shown by way of 50+ examples.
An academic paper on the community, published in 2012 by Eric C. Hendriks in the journal Cultural Analysis, details the value system guiding successful members of the Seduction Community based on an international study including participant observation of bootcamp and “lair” meetings in Germany.” The article argues that the values of successful practitioners of the “Venusian Arts” are informed by an intertwining of “hedonistic goals and diffused forms of innerworldly asceticism.” According to the article, the hedonistic goal of sexual satisfaction interacts in a complex fashion with a set of “disciplinarian and ascetic values,” and the author stresses that these disciplinarian and ascetic values are central to the value system of performant practitioners, even though the marketing of seduction gurus often promises an easy, effortless “quick fix.”
Research by Nathan Oesch of the University of Oxford Department of Experimental Psychology confirmed attraction and seduction principles, as described in Strauss’ books on the subject, do have a factual basis in social, physiological and evolutionary psychology.
- Bro (subculture)
- Hookup culture
- One-night stand
- Pick-up line
- Playboy (lifestyle)
- Sex tourism
- Sexual capital
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