In the pantheon of depraved men, Julien Blanc is a bottom-dweller of the lowest order. On behalf of his employer, the deceptively named pick-up company Real Social Dynamics, Blanc once distributed an "educational" video in which he put the heads of Asian women into his lap and told his students, "If you’re a white male, you can do what you want," and tweeted nuggets of wisdom like, “Times like these just make me want to choke fuck some whore behind a dumpster." His actions were echoed by his boss, RSD co-founder and president, Owen Cook, who in one video described forcing sex on a “slut whore slut” and saying, “I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m never seeing this bitch again. I don’t care’”—a sentiment that elicited chuckles from the men in his audience.
These actions were enough to prompt one activist to launch a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc; and to incite protests in Australia, where Blanc was set to appear, that got him kicked out of the country.
Blanc and Cook are so aggressively vile, they seem less like humans, and more like villainous cartoon characters. But both reflect, in their own egregious ways, the nature of pick-up culture. But just how representative of this community are Cook and Blanc? And is it fair to lambast all pick-up artists—who, at their best, come off as more sympathetically pathetic than outright despicable—based on the actions of a few?
To investigate, I decided to infiltrate one of the leading forums for men looking to work their game on women: MPUAForum.com.
After poring through enough posts to render my soul sufficiently crushed, I was able to parse out three dominant tropes that drive the ethos of the community. And if not terribly surprising, the blatant ways in which they are embraced by PUAs (that's the lingo for "Pick-Up Artists") is significant:
1. Feminism is the enemy
In the views of these men, women fighting for equal rights and agency unnecessarily stand in the way of an innocent desire for sex:
"Ignore everything feminists say. None of it is relevant to pickup. Listening to a feminist is the quickest way to a life of celibacy." -Hunter_Foxe
"Feminism was founded by ugly women that society ignored because they weren't attractive enough." -The delightful Hunter_Foxe, again
"Totally against feminism and politically correct crap ha ha. Just a jack the lad out to get every chick in sight." -Davemanc
There's also an entire thread about a podcast titled, none too subtly, "Feminism and mass media are destroying men."
2. Women have no value beyond their sexual utility
Surprise! Many of these men believe that women are sexual objects and nothing more:
"My mantra that keeps me going, that keeps me sarging and that keeps me succeeding is ALL GIRLS ARE DISPOSABLE!" -The charmingly named "Married Moderator"
"More pussy for us then, seeing as how women's biology is not going to change after of millions of years of programming." -Oceanx, responding to a story about the ways in which modern men are trained to hate women
"My understanding of women only goes as far as the pleasure. When it comes to the pain I'm like any other bloke—I don't want to know." -southern_gentlemangq, quoting Alfie in a borderline-amusingly earnest post about whether or not women should walk around topless
3. Women who reject men are bitches
You've heard this before:
"Negs [negative comments to the other sex] are minor backhanded comments that just destabilize a girls ego, help her lower her 'bitch shield'. They make her think you not another loser coming up to her in a bar wanting to score." -RogerRabbit1
"I think she's just bitter about me ejecting on the second date, no guy has probably ever done that to her. But hey, she was being a total bitch." -GhostRider777
"As a man fully in touch with his Precocious Child you may yourself have a talent for deflating egos. I'm talking about dealing with bitch shields. A woman may act like she is too important to talk to you, but if you can manage to deflate her ego and bring her down to earth, you will be on the right path." -threadstarter
Interestingly, not everyone in the community shared such disparaging views of women. A man going by "poodogr" wrote a post called "Men's Rights Guys Getting in the Way," in which he wrote, rather thoughtfully:
"Anyway, the manosphere / MRA movement for that matter is not about men helping other men out, to enhance their game as this community was intended to do, it's about whining about how tough guys have it."
Another man, dubbed "hugge," challenged men's responses to the viral video of a woman getting street-harassed:
"As I have said before to others, good game is about generosity, as in giving and offering, not expecting anything. Bad game is the opposite, taking and wanting. At first I thought the guys in that video were harmless and clueless, but they only comment her looks, thus objectifying. And they all have the mindset of wanting something."
There are also plenty of posts that elicit more sympathy than aversion. Take this plea from alexeevalexey8:
"yes im ready to be irresistible , but how... how do i become generally attractive.. any pointers.. could u help me.. im just a newbie"
Another man, natedrake96, posted a thread titled simply, "I need confidence."
Yet in a way, it's these moments of humanity that make the forum, and the culture it supports, all the more troubling. It's safe to say not all pick-up artists are like Cook and Blanc, or even anything like them. Nor do all men who feel shunned by women resort to violence, like Elliot Rodger or the man who murdered a woman when she didn't provide him her digits.
But the tropes underlying pick-up culture, or street harassment, or movements like GamerGate—the idea that women who seek autonomy are the enemy; the presumption that men are owed female sexuality; the belief that women have nothing more to offer than their bodies—don't have to manifest in overtly violent ways to be damaging. We may think a man who reads The Game before hitting the local bar scene is relatively innocuous. But utilizing the book's techniques for picking up women, especially since these men are not an outlier, scrape away at women's progress. And perhaps more importantly—and terrifyingly—these more subtle notions of women as objects to be manipulated and tricked into bed underlie a cultural current that bolsters abhorrent creatures like Cook and Blanc and their followings.
The only way to stop violent or offensive actions is to root out and challenge their source. In the case of Cook and Blanc, that source is a community of pick-up artists trafficking in degrading ideas about women, to an audience of men both despicable and vulnerable, in a society that still often fails to see women as autonomous beings. In other words, we can't just hate the players. We have to change the game.