June 16, 2015
The Twisted World of Pick-up Artists

The world of pick-up artists is not about women. In fact it sees women as creatures to manipulate and conquer.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Issues // Politics and Society
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So my attempt at transforming myself into a chick magnet never really flourished, thanks in part to the high cost of the training to become a pick-up artist (PUA). But I might have done myself a favor.

By the late 2000s author and pick-up artist Neil Strauss’ supposedly secretive seduction community had been revealed, thanks to another Neil. Neil Patrick Harris became world-famous for portraying the womanizer Barney Stinson in the series How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). Barney’s techniques in approaching a female stranger and either getting her number or sleeping with her in matters of hours follow the PUA guidebook.

I bought The Bro Code and The Playbook, books written by the HIMYM creator and writer under the pen name Barney Stinson, and was amused to find out that they are parodies of Strauss’ The Rules of the Game (and The Secret). Eventually I bought Strauss’ first book The Game, and was so impressed by it that I believed Hollywood should have made an adaptation of the book. Each chapter is introduced with quotations from feminist icons such as Betty Friedan and Salt-n-Pepa.

Strauss, who created the persona “Style”, learned the trade from Canadian magician Erik von Markovik, who is known as Mystery. Despite his supposedly great sex life, von Markovik was perpetually despairing and unstable. Flush with cash from coaching fees, the duo bought a mansion in Los Angeles and recruited other promising boys, while dealing with unhappy older PUAs. They were constantly fighting over who had the best system.

Eventually there were five: von Markovik, Strauss, “Papa” (Nick Kho), and “Tyler Durden” (Owen Cook), and their mother hen, Courtney Love. Kho was so obsessed with making big money from selling The Game together with Cook, their “Project Hollywood” mansion had guys sleeping on the floor – their own disciples.

Strauss eventually left the imploding Project Hollywood to settle with Love’s guitarist Lisa Leveridge, while von Markovik went to rehab (before hosting his reality show) and the Kho-Cook team created their own company, Real Social Dynamics (RSD). After critics lambasted Strauss’ bestselling book and he broke up with Leveridge, he built his Stylelife brand, which reached my attention.    

The problem is that while seduction arts may help your social skills, but it does not encourage you to build a serious committed relationship. On the contrary, it laughs at the concept of love and fidelity, using evolutionary biology and pop psychology logic that men, the hunters, are biologically promiscuous. It encourages acolytes to “get out and have all the fun you can have”, since marriage means retirement from a fun and fearless life. But in the end it boils down to numbers: how many women you have slept with and how fast your method works.

It’s not about women. When top PUAs are having sex, they are past the stage of “I can’t believe I am with this babe.” They think, “Hurry up, I have to write and post this idea right now!” The best part of their week is not about having a threesome, but hanging out with other PUAs after another score, discussing the game and outlining new strategies.

But it gets worse. Guys who believed the PUA lifestyle bankrupted them, who believed that women are shallow, and  who are tired of seeing their video games and TV shows ruined by feminists, joined the Internet cult The Red Pill. In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves was given a choice of blue pill (blissful ignorance) or red pill (painful reality). The Red Pill takers see that women as arrogant and sadistic creatures who rule via political correctness, sexual manipulation, and feminism.

The goal of a Red Pill taker is to become an ‘Alpha’ – a macho man who will make a woman shudder before him.  Women are adversaries to be conquered by his penis.

The two subcultures crossed paths violently when Elliot Rodger killed six and injured 14 Santa Barbara students in May 2014. A sympathizer of the “Men’s Rights” movement, he had joined an anti-PUA forum and in his manifesto he condemned women and men of color (he hated his half-Asian background) for denying him his sexual rights.

The tragedy hardly shook the PUA community. In September 2014, RSD instructor Julien Blanc posted a video titled “White male fucks Asian women in Tokyo”. Subsequently, a campaign against him was started by Jennifer Li, resulting in the cancellation of RSD “bootcamps” in Japan and Canada. Blanc was banned from entering Australia, UK, and Singapore. Owen, Cook and Blanc apologized for the video, saying it was taken out of context, but Li replied “You’re sorry you got caught.”

Less apologetic is “Roosh V” Daryush Valizadeh, who combines the worst aspects of Pick-Up Artistry and the Red Pill. He has written sex guides on Latin American and European countries, maintains the anti-feminist and anti-gay blog Return of Kings. The blog argues that patriarchy must be defended, as it is the pillar of Western civilization.

What would’ve happened if I had gone on one of those boot camps in Sydney or Hong Kong, despite it being overpriced? It could’ve been hundreds of millions of rupiah wasted on nothing. Or I could have had some of the wildest nights in my life, coaxed by instructors who would have told me to find as many women as I could. Wherever I would have ended up sleeping, it would have been on a path that chooses to dehumanize women – as well as myself.

Neil Strauss, Julien Blanc, and countless others started like me – guys who wanted to have a better romantic life. But as they grew more confident – and attracted more women – they used their power to conquer the opposite gender  through sex. They turned into comic book villains who used their super powers for selfish gain, instead of the common good. But if they had read their comics right, they should’ve known that super heroes, not the super villains, always win in the end. Even Barney  finally gets it.

Mario Rustan writes opinion pieces for The Jakarta Post and is working on some other online projects and was featured in Guardian Football and SBS Radio. His dream job is still teaching High School History by day and writing for feminism by night.