Revelations about Bond came just weeks before Roosh V., another infamous pick-up artist and founder of the misogynist and anti-feminist website “Return of Kings” (linked via DoNotLink.com) announced a planned workshop series that would have spread Roosh’s pick-up artist philosophy — including his argument that rape should be legalized — worldwide. Roosh received enormous international backlash, and was forced to cancel the planned appearances.
Now, activists are hoping to place David Bond — whose videos include racism, as well as physical and emotional coercion of women — under similar international pressure.
In 2014, self-described “dating coach” Julien Blanc drew the attention of feminists (myself included) for a series of videos wherein Blanc engaged in street harassment of Japanese women, boasted of groping them while yelling nonsensical Japanese words like “Tamagochi” and “Pikachu”, and advised workshop attendees to use physical and verbal coercion, including choking, in order to “assert dominance”. A public outcry against Blanc ensued – coordinated in the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc – noting that Blanc’s behavior is illegal in many of the countries that he visits, and these activities culminated in Blanc being formally banned from travel to Australia, the United Kingdom, and Singapore, with additional efforts focused on his travel to other countries such as Canada, Japan and Germany. Eventually, Blanc was invited onto CNN to be interviewed by Chris Cuomo, and in that segment, Blanc offered a qualified pseudo-apology for his videos and workshops.
In one of my first posts about the Julien Blanc outcry, I urged us to focus not solely on stopping Julien Blanc, but rather to see Blanc’s videos as symptomatic of the broader misogyny of the pick-up artist community. As shocking as Blanc’s videos and endorsed techniques are to the wider world, they are not unusual within the subculture of pick-up artistry. This is a community where the deep-seated fear of being labeled as a “beta” perpetuates a culture of misogylinity — the defining of masculinity through ownership of female sexuality. This is a community where #MasculinitySoFragile has been distilled into its most concentrated form, where heterosexism runs rampant, and where any notions of feminism and female agency are met with open hostility. In that context, the racialized violence of Julien Blanc’s teachings is not exceptional; rather, it is par for the course.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that another self-described pick-up artist has stepped into the vacuum left open when Julien Blanc was taken down. It should also come as no surprise that the same racism and misogyny endemic of Blanc’s videos has reappeared.
For those who aren’t familiar, pick-up artistry is basically what would happen if a self-help motivational speaker had a love-child with a mens’ rights advocate. Pick-up artistry is a system of taught social interactions designed to seduce women. Associated with the self-described seduction community, pick-up artists charge between $2000-$3000 for a multi-day workshop targeted towards single men, and promises to train men to improve their sexual and romantic success. To gauge the degree to which men are improving their seductive abilities, workshop attendees are taught to treat women as targets, and to rank us on an “objective” (not to mention objectifying, and often racialized) scale of attractiveness. Men are taught to value their own self-worth based on the ranking of the women they are able to target (sound familiar?), and the workshops promise to improve the “caliber” of woman they can seduce by several points on this scale: the expert claims to be able to easily seduce women of ranking 9 or 10 under any situation, and this is proposed to be the eventual goal of anyone who adopts the “pick-up artist lifestyle”.
Supporters of the pick-up artist system (which include some of my personal friends), claim that pick-up artistry isn’t about sex; it’s really intended to be about bolstering male self-confidence through bravado. When a (heterosexual) man is able to “pull” hotter women, so the thinking goes, their own self-image improves. Furthermore, pick-up artistry claims that its skillset is applicable to business and other platonic relationships by teaching language and self-awareness, not to mention grooming and eye contact. And, to be clear, a self-help program for socially awkward men and women that teaches a few basics of social interactions like eye contact and how to hold a conversation doesn’t bother me.
The problem is that pick-up artistry isn’t just that. Pick-up artistry is, at its core, about manipulating and objectifying women for the purposes of sexual and/or social exploitation. Period.
Julien Blanc isn’t the exception in the pick-up artist community. He’s the rule.