If a woman says "no", she's really just playing coy, right? Human interaction between men and women is just a game, or rather the game, in which ordinary guys can learn to succeed with "perfect 10s" without "fearing the outcome".
By utilising methods such as "negging", and spending time honing their skills "in the field", men can fulfil their entitlement to have sex with women.
Or so pick-up artists would have us believe.
If that sounds like a load of rubbish to you, you're likely a decent human being who sees women as people, rather than as trophies to collect.
Sadly, however, a growing number of men are seeking out the advice of self-anointed "experts" in seduction, whose methods teeter on the thin line between utter douchebaggery and criminal activity.
The news that a group of such upstanding educators was about to descend upon our shores broke this week to an understandable uproar. An organisation called "Real Social Dynamics" (you can't make this stuff up) was planning free workshops around Australia and New Zealand. It was forced to backtrack when women on both sides of the Tasman voiced their displeasure that men advocating the denigration and sexual exploitation of women were preparing to pay us a visit.
For those who have never heard the term "pick-up artist", a brief 101 goes something like this: pick-up artists (also known as PUAs) are generally heterosexual men who reduce interaction between men and women to a game to be won at all costs. The ultimate goal is the 'FClose' (I imagine you can guess what the 'F' stands for), with 'HBs' (hot bitches) generally achieved by dehumanising, demeaning and doggedly pursuing women for sex.
One of the most common PUA techniques is known as "negging". The idea of negging is to make a woman feel bad about herself - to lower what they term her "social value", and "bring her down a notch" especially if she is conventionally attractive. As a woman who has been [unsuccessfully] negged in Auckland more times than I can count, I can testify that the practice is unsettling and baffling.
The reason that pick-up artist techniques have any modicum of success is that they tap into insecurities entrenched in our society. As a young woman raised on a steady diet of feminism and self-respect I have no time for men who try to make me feel bad about myself, but for women who may be battling insecurities, a PUA's advances can play straight into existing negative self-narratives.
In New Zealand, it's hardly like we need to learn sexually problematic behaviour.
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They also call on sexist tropes already well established. A PUA may, for example, announce that his target is less attractive than her friends, activating the age-old assertion that women must compete for the attention of men. We need look no further than The Bachelor for an example that reinforces the notion that women should view each other as competitors, with male attention as the prize.
In New Zealand, it's hardly like we need to learn sexually problematic behaviour. As the current holders of the dubious honour of having the worst sexual violence statistics in the OECD, we're already champions at disrespecting, degrading and violating women.
Going out at night in New Zealand can be a minefield. If you're not fending some lecherous guy off, you're swatting them away from your friends. PUA techniques are already here, along with groping, plying women with alcohol and drink-spiking. While adding newly minted PUA graduates to a culture that treats women as objects and conquests is the last thing we need, we've hardly dodged a bullet now that Real Social Dynamics has cancelled its seminars.
PUAs are only the tip of the iceberg. They are unusual in that they declare their intentions openly within their community, sharing their success stories and debriefing their failures. In an environment that functions as an echo chamber, where the notion that women exist purely for male gratification is never challenged, they employ a form of honest misogyny that would never fly in mainstream society.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. While the vast majority of men wouldn't dream of insulting a woman or treating her as merely a means to his own sexual satisfaction, there is an undercurrent of sexist behaviour that feeds a culture in which PUAs can flourish. Problematic representations of women in porn, groups of young men such as the Roast Busters, sexual double standards, objectification and victim-blaming are just a snapshot of a culture that disempowers women.
PUAs are an extreme microcosm of a wider culture that perpetuates male entitlement to women's bodies. Ironically in their relentless pursuit of sex, PUAs miss out on the thing that makes sex truly great: a real emotional connection. One wonders whether they've ever heard of romance. Or had a real relationship.
I can't imagine why any woman would ever want to spend any length of time with a man who has so little faith in himself that he resorts to using a collection of tips that he learnt at a PUA seminar or on an online forum. The only feeling I could muster for such a man would be pity.
When you have to manipulate and abuse a woman to trick her into having sex , you may have won the game, but lost at life.