From Women's Studies
Discussion Forums and the Seduction Community
The seduction community is a transnational male subculture with its origins in the U.S. It consists of pickup artists (PUAs) who systematically work to get better at approaching and attracting women. For most PUAs, introduction and entry begins on the Internet (Strauss 2004; PUAlingo.com). It makes up a considerable commercial industry, consisting of books, ebooks, bootcamps, events, websites, videos and movies. In 2005, the subculture was popularized in mainstream media after Neil Strauss published an account of his experiences in The Game. Popular characters and episodes in U.S. television series have also been based on Strauss or PUA culture, such as episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother.
PUAs can be understood as a subculture, in sharing a common language that resembles geek and gamer language (e.g. ‘negging’, ‘DHV’, ‘DLV’; Haenfler 2010: 104) and space (online discussion forums). It can be argued that like other subcultures, PUA culture emerged as a form of stigma management (Haenfler 2010: 88), where PUA members want to overcome feelings of inadequacy as “sexually incompetent” ‘nerds’ (105) by learning to ‘pass’ as confident and masculine. The goal is to eventually positively deviate (in their own terms) from the norm (78-79) by being ‘alpha males’. However, the extent to which members have challenged normative social perceptions of themselves as social ‘losers’ (105-6) is questionable: they remain a subculture that is generally judged negatively, not just as nerds, but also for their misogynist attitudes (Chivers 2010; Mapes 2007).
PUAs can also be understood as a virtual community. Despite the fact that members may be “geographically highly dispersed and…come from vastly different sociocultural backgrounds” (Constable 2003: 33), PUAs share particular experiences and interests with one another, lending practical and moral support (33). Awareness that members of the community come from cultures with diverse values and gender ideologies might potentially contribute to challenging “narrower conceptions of shared cultural values and shared local identities” (Constable 2003: 37). However, this potential is limited partly due to the unequal exchange of information between nations. Ideas about gender within the seduction community are still largely influenced by U.S. celebrity and sports culture.
The elusiveness of ‘authenticity’ and distinctions between the virtual and real is often highlighted in studies on virtual communities (Haenfler 2010: 107-8). Here, the seduction community can be taken to support Boellstorff’s (2008) argument that “it is in being virtual that we are human” (29): forum discussions at times meander into philosophical discussions on the boundaries between performance (of pickup lines and learned body language), manipulation and sincerity. Techne in PUA culture thus challenges the ways intimacy and authenticity may be understood and conceptualized in the Age of Techne.
Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life (New Jersey: Princeton University Press)
Chivers, Tom 2010, 14 Jan.”Pick-up artists, online seduction and dating tips”, The Telegraph <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/6987982/Pick-up-artists-online-seduction-and-dating-tips.html
Constable, Nicole. 2003. “Ethnography in Virtual Communities” in Romance on a Global Stage (University of California Press)
Haenfler 2010. Goths, Gamers and Grrrls: Deviance and Youth Subcultures (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Mapes, Diane. 2007, Aug 15. Single Shot: Is 'The Game' reduced to target and ambush? Seattle Post-Intelligencer.< http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/article/Single-Shot-Is-The-Game-reduced-to-target-and-1246647.php#ixzz1eN5AWmSh>
Strauss, Neil 2004, January 25. "He Aims! He Shoots! Yes!!". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/25/style/he-aims-he-shoots-yes.html?pagewanted=1&src=pm