How Pickup Artists Work

Winning and Losing "The Game": Pickup Artist Controversy

PUAs aren't innate "ladies men," endowed with the physical attractiveness and panache that draws heterosexual women like moths to a burning hot ember. No, PUAs start out as AFCs: average frustrated chumps who have trouble interacting with women [source: Thorn]. "I was so unhappy with myself," Strauss writes in "The Game," summarizing the common plight of the AFC [source: George]. Yet with that displeasure also comes a type of aggression toward women who are perceived as the sexual gatekeepers. Writing in "How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed," Ross Jeffries urges men to go seek and destroy their sexual targets, urging "Let's go to battle, men!" [source: Jeffries].

And when they inevitably lose the battle along the way, PUAs are trained to become desensitized to rejection by transposing the unattractiveness onto the woman. Suddenly, a lovely target idly perched on a barstool becomes a "sleazoid slut" [source: Jeffries]. Or, in the case of the Mystery Method, women are often characterized as nonhuman creatures, such as cats, that can be trained and manipulated [source: Markovik]. Not only does that create protective psychological distancing, but also fosters the notion that women are entirely disposable since they merely represent individual parts to a homogenous mass. At the extreme end of this misogynistic spectrum lies the Gunwitch method, which Strauss describes in "The Game." Coined by a PUA named Gunwitch, the idea is to "escalate physical contact until the woman says no" [source: Strauss]. In January 2011, Gunwitch was also arrested for allegedly shooting a woman in the face [source: Stewart].

Characters like Gunwitch and the PUA premise of "negging," or insulting, a woman in an attempt to sexually entice her have understandably attracted controversy to the seduction community. Neil Strauss in particular has defended PUA training, claiming that its pop culture portrayal has emphasized the misogyny and ignored the "inner game" or self-esteem buildings that it accomplishes. Becoming a master PUA relies on a man accepting and appreciating himself as a person -- rather than being a self-loathing AFC [source: Thorn]. Strauss has even described "The Game" as a socially acceptable form of male self-help since it revolves around sexual pursuit and hyper-masculinity [source: Thorn]. Lesser-known forms of pickup artistry, such as the Authentic Man approach, also direct more focus on building rapport with other men and understanding how to socialize with women, rather than needing to seduce them [source: Decker].

At the end of the day, considering the profits Strauss, Mystery and other PUA gurus have enjoyed, one also has to wonder whether "The Game" is a results-driven dating tool or a money-making device. After all, these men aren't preaching the gospel of "The Game" for free.