Why Pickup Artistry is So Toxically Tempting to Men
When guys can’t believe in their natural power, they’ll believe in magic tricks.
By Noah Brand
Given that men and women are far more alike than different, and that most people are predominantly heterosexual, there are certain experiences and attitudes that both men and women share when it comes to the opposite sex. One of these is the frightening realization, around the time your sexuality develops, that the opposite sex has enormous power over you. They can break your heart, control your actions, completely dominate your thoughts, and (let’s be honest) basically turn off your brain.
This obsessive need for the approval and affection of the opposite sex that straight kids find themselves prey to is one of the defining aspects of our lives, and it’s terrifying. The awareness that girls, or boys as the case may be, hold so much unsought power over your mind and your actions can be frightening. It’s why young girls tend to adore what The Simpsons called “Non-threatening Boys“, the sexy but somehow desexualized lads in One Direction or the Disney Channel. They’re a safe outlet for these girls’ burgeoning sexuality, but they’re designed to not be scary. The immense power they wield over their fans will not be used to hurt them.
Another manifestation of this phenomenon was the assertion by many men in the 1960s and 70s that feminism was unnecessary because women already had all the power in the world. This assertion is still repeated by various MRAs who claim that desire for women is the driving force behind everything men do, and therefore all power and responsibility in the world devolves to women.
Indeed, the primary source of much misogynist anger toward women is from men who feel that women’s power over them has been abused, that they’ve been unjustly rejected or abandoned by women who they loved or desired, women who had that power over them. A key component of this anger is the fixed belief that that power relationship is one-way, that women hold the power of attraction over men, but not vice-versa.
It is, unfortunately, a belief that our culture encourages. Denial of the female libido is only part of it. We’re far too invested, culturally, in the idea that men are useful, but not attractive. This reinforces the notion of a one-way power dynamic of attraction and romance.
Just as it’s easiest to sell quack remedies to people without access to real medicine, it’s easiest to sell magic charms to people who can’t believe they have any charms of their own.
The problem is that in our culture, women are taught to make use of the power they have over men. All those articles about “50 Ways To Drive Him Wild!”, all the Wonderbras and negligees, it’s all part of the training women get, part of teaching them to maximize the power they have to turn men’s brains off, as it were. Unfortunately, this comes packaged with a whole lot of assumptions and programming about how that’s their only real source of power or value, something that feminism’s been trying to deprogram for decades.
The flip side of that, though, is that men are never taught to use our power to turn women’s brains off, to be attractive. We’re usually not even told that we have it. We tend to assume that some guys just have a mysterious ability to attract women, some unknowable secret that renders them immune to the sting of rejection or loneliness. We can’t connect that idea of being attractive to our own lives.
This is where the pickup-artist business model comes in. Unending books and seminars and “gurus” and god knows what all, all telling men that yes, the lies are true, women’s attraction to men is an impossible mystery that can only be unlocked with magic, and we can sell you the magic.
In the absence of any real sense of their own attractiveness or what about them might be interesting to another person, in the absence of any teaching or training about how to use their natural power of attractiveness, it becomes easy to sell men on magic tricks. Just as it’s easiest to sell quack remedies to people without access to real medicine, it’s easiest to sell magic charms to people who can’t believe they have any charms of their own.
The tricks they sell vary from relatively sensible stuff about being confident and interesting, all the way through to outright date-rape instructions, all of it lumped together under the same label. And all of it is selling men something they already have: the power to attract (straight) women.
Some men reading this will have an instinctive aversion to this idea; they’ve felt enough rejection and pain that they completely believe the idea that they are not and cannot be attractive just as themselves. They’ll buy into the crazy myth that 10% of men sleep with 90% of women just to justify their own experience in a way they can make sense of. These guys have a hard time believing that for every one of them, there’s a woman wishing she could find a guy to love her, to be with her, or just to schtup her into the middle of next week. These guys think they’re locked into loneliness forever, and consequently, are easy marks for guys peddling supposed magic keys.
This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.