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The Seduction ”Game”, an exploration of virtual pick-up artistry

When Tinder was launched on September 12th of 2012, it sparked a revolution in dating culture. Although hook-up and dating apps had existed prior to Tinder’s launch, with popular site eHarmony arriving in 2000 and OkCupid following in 2004, the popularity of Tinder appeared unparalleled. Within two years of its launch, Tinder reported that users around the globe were making one billion “swipes” per day.

Hook-up culture also exists outside of the world of dating apps. Social media instigates a culture of flirting and casual dating, in which many see less value in monogamy and are more open to exploring options, especially in younger years before they may or may not choose to “settle down.”  As hook-up culture is increasingly accepted and sometimes even desired in Western societies, many fields have turned their attention towards it for profit, with some dating apps now including premium versions for an added fee.

There is, however, a largely controversial side to the idea of a hook-up culture. It is becoming increasingly common for individuals, frequently men, to seek outside advice so that they are able to achieve their own goals in dating. Companies monopolise and gain profit through acting as guidance and dating coaches, with one popular service known as “Game” charging hundreds of pounds for their services, geared to men.

This phenomenon of dating coaching is not new: self-labelled “pick-up artists” have existed since the 1980s. Within the modern pick-up artist community, there are “section lairs” in which men attend meetings in person or online to learn how to attract the women they desire. In these lairs, men are taught the “inner game” and “outer game”, with the former referencing improving hygiene and self-confidence, and the latter including advice on the actual interactions with women.

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The controversy in the usage of these sites is not rooted in stigma against those who struggle to date. At first glance, ideas of improving appearance, confidence and social skills, however clownish,  are unlikely to pose a threat. Underneath this, however, the communities of pick-up artists are blurred lines surrounding consent.

One example of this is the ties between “incel” groups and those who are part of the pick-up artist community. Incels are self-identified as involuntarily celibate men, well known for being misogynistic, racist and violent. Four mass murders in North America having been committed by those identifying with this subculture. They are also often “men’s rights activists,” strong opponents of feminism, Me Too, and many issues of equality in society.

Sexist attitudes are quite easily discovered within pick-up artist techniques. One of the most famous is the idea of “negging” – giving a woman a backhanded compliment to weaken her confidence, therefore supposedly making her more “vulnerable to seduction.” More concerns arise when assessing the ideas of “pawning” women. Pick-up artists will “trade or discard unwanted women” to prove their own social value and status, essentially treating women as if they were objects to be used and discarded at the will of a man.

In the era of Me Too, at a time where people are increasingly aware of sexual assault and harassment, the pick-up artist idea of “last minute resistance tactic” is the most troubling and controversial of all. This technique is designed specifically to convince women to have sex with a man, even if she has expressed a desire not to. This is undoubtedly coercion and can lead to situations of rape and assault.

The methods taught here are objectively worrying. However, it would be a mistake to paint all individuals who require help dating as going to such extreme measures as this. Others may simply seek help in the areas of the previously mentioned inner and outer game. Dating advice is sought by those who feel that they have barriers they can’t avoid, such as those with severe anxiety, confidence issues, or other problems in social situations.

It must therefore be questioned if the idea of pick-up artistry is inherently sinister, or if it is something else leading to the dangerous versions of advice offered. The mindset of simply improving confidence and charisma is worlds away from the ideas of encouraging men to push barriers of consent and take advantage of women in vulnerable positions.

Hook-up culture itself is not parallel to the male-dominated sections of incel culture. As a whole, there are many areas where women hold the power in the dating scene. But this doesn’t dismiss the concern caused by ideas in some aspects of the pick-up artist culture – it presents a danger for the women they seek to seduce and perhaps creates stigma for those who suffer from self-esteem and wish to seek advice about ‘’hook-up culture’’.

Image Credit: Tracy Le Blanc via pexels.com

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