The Non-Etiquette of Pickup Artists

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When I talk about etiquette, I'm talking about the way a man should conduct himself. Etiquette changes depending on the circumstances, but there are behaviors that should always be adhered to. A man should be polite, charming, and above all else, engaged. There are a number of books that strive to teach and expound on these ideals. I recently even wrote about one! There are books and guides that seem to go out of their way to teach the exact opposite. In order to write this story, I had to turn to the darkest parts of our culture. I have turned over the rocks of the internet to gaze at what lies beneath. I have done what every single lonely teenage boy has considered doing… I read “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Societies of Pickup Artists”.

I have read a pickup artist book.

For those blessed enough to not know what I am talking about, I’m jealous. A pickup artist, or PUA, is a dude, usually in their mid 20’s to late 30’s, who has a skeevy system to pick up girls for one night stands. These PUA’s most often are found in cliques of like-minded men. These men spend their days bragging about their conquests, loudly and repeatedly. They are obnoxious. The entire Pickup Artist movement is antithetical to a modern gentleman.

Going into this I wanted to be as thorough and objective as possible. It’s possible that I have fallen victim to believing any negative stereotypes about these PUA’s. I decided to read Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” because it started off as his personal journey into the world of PUAs. I figured we are in the same boat. I wanted to see if the tips and tricks written about could be useful for the modern lovelorn gentleman.

One of the most infamous tactics employed by Pickup Artists is that of “The Neg”. Negging is the practice of giving a woman a backhanded compliment in the hope that she would go out of her way to impress you. Insulting her is supposed to make her crave your validation. It goes without saying that if your attempt to pick up a woman involves insulting her right out of the gate then you should reevaluate who you are as a person. The entire concept of negging is flawed and terrible. A gentleman should never lash out and insult anyone upon first meeting them. This is especially true if you want to hook up with them.

Another popular technique is the much less reprehensible peacocking. Peacocking is to wear something flashy, something that draws the eye of potential mates, like the male peacock. It sounds silly and ostentatious, but the idea behind it is solid. You want to stand out in a crowd. A man should take pride in how he looks and what he wears. Peacocking puts that idea in the forefront. Goodbye drab polos and hello paisley print. A man’s clothes should announce who he is, at least partly, to the world. Peacocking is the simple act of making the intangible tangible.

The most nebulous thing about “The Game”, and the most insidious, is the idea that beauty is the be all end all factor in determining worth. Beauty is important don’t get me wrong. Physical attraction is a cornerstone of any healthy romantic relationship, be it a lifetime or a single night. It's important to look good, to dress well, and present oneself in the best light. “The Game” and Pickup Artists, in general, abide by the rule of thumb that you should not even consider approaching a woman if she is not at least a 6 out of 10. 10 being the most desirable. The problem with this is that many pickup artists, and “The Game”, only push for a stereotypical western ideal of beauty that is more at home on a photoshopped model than it is on a normal person. Assigning a woman's worth to her looks is sexist. Assigning a woman's worth in comparison to idealized beauty standards that do not naturally occur is insanity. A man should strike up a conversation with women that he finds attractive. What you find attractive is different than what I may find attractive, and that's great. Assigning an arbitrary number to a person reduces them to that number and limits everyone involved.

So is “The Game” a cesspool of misogyny? Yes and no. The misogyny in the book is never intentional, yet it permeates every page of it. The book does have some useful tips, provided you modulate them enough. A man should have a unique style all his own. Polo shirts and khaki pants are not going to do you any favors. “The Game” and the PUA’s inside of it, also talk about going up to and talking to a woman 5 seconds after seeing her. This is a good thing! Men should be polite, and they should be the one making the first move. If there is a woman you find attractive, you should go up and speak to her. Most importantly “The Game” stresses the importance of being engaged and engaging. These two things are of utmost importance. They should be the primary takeaways if you read this book. There's a reason everyone wants to drink with “The Most Interesting Man in the World”.

So if you are desperate or lonely enough go out and read “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” by Neil Strauss. Sure it is filled with garbage men who give questionable advice, and it’s true that the book itself is a repellent for women, but some of the ideas contained within could be useful. Just be sure to go in with an open mind and very good parsing skills.