man flirting in barHow do you spot one? Pickup artists (aka PUAs) have their own language, their own code, their own game. Game being the operative word. Got game? It’s even come into the phraseology of modern culture.

A quick spin through and we’ve got: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists; Lolita Hypnosis: How to Seduce Women Using Their Most Intimate, Erotic Sexual Fantasies; Day Bang: How to Casually Pick Up Girls During the Day; and lots more titles that promise the thrill of the hunt (not to mention capture). Are pickup artists misogynists? Hopeless romantics? Emotionally unavailable? Or, simply misinformed AFCs (that’s Average Frustrated Chumps in PUA code).

Perform a Google search for “How to be a pickup artist” and you get over 89 million hits. No wonder there are so many books out there on picking up women. Books with topics such as: Tandem HuntSelect a Target; Disarm the Obstacles; Find Your Batting Average Ratio; and, Bait, Hook, Reel, Release. Yes, it’s always nice to be compared to trout.

Game on

Neil Strauss is perhaps one of the most famous of the PUA authors. His bestselling book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists includes a table of contents featuring: Approach and Open; Isolate the Target; Create an Emotional Connection; Extract to a Seduction Location; Blast Last-Minute Resistance; Manage Expectations, and more. I can’t help but wonder if I detect a whiff of combat language in: Approach and Open (fire on); Isolate the Target; and, Blast Last-Minute Resistance.

PUA-man-checking-emailDoes this constitute an Us vs Them mentality? A kind of war of the sexes for men who’ve long been ignored, put down, even dismissed by the opposite sex? Who feel stung and victimized? Strauss in his opening chapter, Select a Target, quotes feminist Betty Friedan: “Men weren’t really the enemy—they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.”

The Game starts off relating his experience living in a shamble of a mansion nicknamed “Project Hollywood” with a cadre of PUAs who went by the aliases Herbal, Mystery, Papa and Playboy. Strauss, himself, went by Style.

While he notes in his book that he is “far from attractive” with a too large nose and “wispy Rogaine-enhanced growths covering the top of my head like tumbleweeds,” he says he changed his personality and invented Style, his alter ego, who ultimately became more popular than he ever was—especially with women—but only after paying hundreds of dollars to attend one of Mystery’s workshops on picking up women.

“It is no easy feat to sign up for a workshop dedicated to picking up women,” he writes. “To do so is to acknowledge defeat, inferiority and inadequacy. It is to finally admit to yourself that after all these years…you have not grown up and figured it out. Those who ask for help are often those who have failed to do something for themselves. So if drug addicts go to rehab and the violent go to anger management class, then social misfits go to pickup school.”

Getting it on with science

But can you “really use a technique to get ‘someone to fall in love with you’ or ‘go to bed with you’? Is love just one trick, technique or pickup line away?” asks Dr Jeremy Nicholson, a social and personality psychologist, in his article, Do Pick-up Artist Techniques Really Work? published in Psychology Today. He notes, perhaps surprisingly, that “science supports ‘game’ and the ‘seduction’ techniques of pickup artists, citing an article, The Dating Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Emerging Science of Human Courtship, in which researchers Nathan Oesch of the University of Oxford and Igor Miklousic of Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia, examine the claims of pickup artists and compare them to similar findings from social, physiological and evolutionary psychology studies that courtship can be understood as a three-stage process of AttractionComfort and Trust, and Seduction.

The ‘artist’ at work

But the PUA community, some say, engage in self-serving, manipulative behaviors with questionable methods. Negging, for one; a means of giving a woman a backhanded compliment (What beautiful eyes, are you wearing colored contacts?) in order to take her ego down a notch and get her to chase a man. Really? Perhaps this is all derived from the psychology of the male mind. While men may covet the chase, a woman receiving a neg will, at least as this female writer would, hightail it quick as a bunny out of there.

And, while there are some who may advocate the methods of the PUA community, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, paints a darker picture of it in a Psychology Today article How to Spot a Manipulator.

couple trouble in bed“Pickup artists have to influence people who have never met them to like them almost immediately. They rely on general strategies that others use to make a good impression, such as seeming attractive, charming, or successful. Unlike a person truly interested in getting involved in a romantic relationship, though, the pickup artist needs merely to look like someone who’s looking for love. These qualities—being manipulative, self-centered, and insincere—are exactly those that show up in the personality constellation known as the “dark triad” of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism.”

She offers the following checklist of telltale behavioral signs to help identify a PUA:

  • Avoiding physical intimacy other than sexual
  • Being unwilling to introduce you to the important people in their lives
  • Openly flirting with others in front of you
  • Being unavailable and unresponsive to attempts to maintain or establish contact
Buyer beware

So if you suspect you’re being played by a PUA, take stock before you fall for their lines and advances, and remember it’s all just a game; but if you want to play, it’s best to learn the rules and stay one step ahead; and perhaps even learn how to play the player.

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