The internet is in an uproar this week over Julien Blanc, an American and self-described “dating expert” who travels the globe giving workshops to men who are seeking to become so-called pick-up artists.
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.