I remember being around 10 or 11 years old and my brother telling me about a new book he had just started reading. It was called “The Game”, and he told me it was a guide on how to approach people and make friends. He read a few passages, told me a bit about the author, and immediately I was intrigued. Looking back now, I think the only reason I seemed so interested in the book was to suck up to my brother, but either way I asked him more and more about the book, with which I was fascinated.
He told me “The Game”, was a system, which helped people approach strangers and be friends with them. Little did I know that really it was only men who played ‘The Game’, and it wasn’t friendship they were looking for. The first few chapters seemed innocent enough: lessons on confidence, how to speak louder, appear more friendly, even a section on how to clean yourself (just in case you smell bad). But reading on, the chapters become stranger to me. They focus more on women and less on making friends. More on how to ‘read someone’ and less on how to appear friendly. It wasn’t till later on I realized this book was less of a “how to make friends guide” and more like the Bible of Pick Up Artists (PUA).
At the time, using a system or ‘game’ to get to know someone made sense to me. If you find it hard to make friends or you want a relationship, then sure, learning how to approach people you don’t know in a non-threatening manner is always a good skill to have. But the problem with the Game is that it treats people (particularly women) just as that: a game. Pick up artistry came into the public light thanks to Neil Strauss who wrote the book my brother had showed me, and after him more and more men found themselves wanting to get in on the PUA lifestyle. Soon reddit forums started popping up about the subject, and newer, more “experienced men” started writing their own book, claiming they had the best methods on how to chat up women money could buy.
A lot of the advice seen circulating around PUA forums involves simple confidence building skills including how to hold eye contact with someone, how to start a conversation with a stranger and how to dress well. There are certain pieces of advice on these forums and in PUA books which help to distinguish it from regular everyday self-help books. Terms such as “target” and “alpha male” are used by PUAs on certain forums, making the whole system sound rather douche-y and bone headed. Some PUAs have made headlines for the gross sexist advice they had been giving men in their books or on their websites; in one of his books on how to pick up women, famous PUA Ken Hoinsky, aka “TofuTofu” on Reddit, gave advice which basically advocates sexual abuse:
“Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”
It has gotten to the point now where some sites such as Jezebel.com have given guides on how to spot a potential PUA and avoid them. The irony of the situation is certainly rich, but it also shows just how uncomfortable some of these “artists” are making people. Although most men looking to PUA forums are, I’m sure just shy people looking to improve their communication skills with women, I’m afraid that the men who run these sites are determined to change these sweet men into power hungry alpha males who forget that women are people, but instead choose to treat them like a game.
The danger of PUAs gaining popularity is their ability to shape men’s perceptions of women. Vulnerable men see these PUAs as the man that they wish they could be: confident, sexy and most importantly a ladies man. But if everyone was a PUA, what would women be but just a piece in their game?