In the beginning, there was Dear Abby – an American institution since the 1950s. Write in, and get nice, sensible advice on your dating dilemma. But the catch was that it was PG-rated, written by a woman and generally for them. Young men continued to get a lot of their dating advice from their peers in the locker room, and if they were lucky, an older male mentor who knew the ropes.
Away from the safe, clean-cut mainstream arena, there were always the racy magazines like Playboy which gave a totally different view. After finishing the articles, the attentive reader could go to the back and find books advertised with titles like “How to Pick Up Girls”. This classic by Eric Weber appeared in 1970, and included advice such as wearing bell-bottoms and marching in peace marches to pick up the hot hippies. The 1950s were gone, and men’s dating advice had moved on from how long you should wait to kiss a girl on the cheek at her doorstep. This was red-blooded and unashamed pick-up artistry! The term itself became part of the language, and the 1970s was a time when pick-up artistry flourished, albeit still underground.
Things changed as the 1980s brought in a different atmosphere. Reagan was in the White House, concerned parents were clamping down on rock and roll lyrics, and most importantly the specter of AIDS changed the whole dating landscape. The free-wheeling 1970s over, in dating advice magazines and on TV, there was understandably a focus on staying safe.
Moving into the 1990s, Oprah gave voice to women’s viewpoints on relations between the sexes, and ushered in the sensitive metrosexual. It was also a time of such bestselling books as “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and “The Rules”. While the former was written by a man, it seemed to cater more to women and required men to “get with the program”. And the latter defined the 1990s dating scene with what was effectively game for women. It was the decade of women making the rules. It was a tough and confusing time to be a man in the 1990s, as men no longer knew whether to be a traditional macho male, or a Sensitive New Age Guy.
Towards the end of the decade, new things started to stir. AIDS was no longer front-and-center in people’s minds, Oprah’s “you go girl!” brand of feminism was mainstream, and the time was right for men to start something of their own. Most importantly, the Web was starting to provide a new platform for men to give advice on the dating arena. The internet would well and truly shake things up.
One of the first gurus of the new era was Ross Jeffries. Selling books and CDs from his website, he told the would-be Casanova that no matter how nebbish you might be, you could learn to charm any woman into bed. Jeffries was big on NLP, effectively a rebranded form of hypnosis. In many ways, he was like a holdover from the 1970s with his unrepentant focus on getting women into bed. Love him or hate him, he showed that there was a huge market on the internet for male-focused dating tips.
Next on the scene was David De Angelo. More family-friendly than Ross Jeffries, who could come across as misogynistic, De Angelo promised you could “Double Your Dating” through attending his seminars or buying his DVD sets. De Angelo offered some key concepts which at the time were breakthroughs to many young men. His audience were the “nice guys” created by the feminism of the 80s and 90s who now found that the jerks seemed to be getting all the girls. He told them to be “cocky and funny”, skating just on the socially acceptable side of jerkdom. De Angelo also introduced the concept of the “neg”, one of the most notorious (and misunderstood) concepts of new-school “Game”.
Basically, a “neg” is giving a back-handed or ambiguous compliment to a girl, such as “I love your hair – is it real?” or telling an obviously glamorous and beautiful woman “ you’re cute – like my bratty little sister”. Designed to get the attention of sought-after women used to getting fawning compliments, it was easily abused by novices, who would make these kind of remarks to less attractive and more insecure women, or turn them into outright insults. This was the kind of dating advice that had its place, but could easily go wrong, and tended to get bad press. De Angelo was everywhere on the internet in the first few years of the 2000s, as he was essentially a marketer and businessman using the dating advice for men arena as his stepping stone to bigger things. Now under his real name, he has gone on to become a hugely successful and wealthy entrepreneur.
But even more important than De Angelo and the marketers was the ragtag group of men who started to congregate on various internet message boards in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was something new – men learning and sharing their dating experiences pseudonymously in real time. This new era of sharing allowed them to develop complex theories on everything from how to approach women to how to successful first dates to even, what women want in bed.
One of the more famous of these men was a young Canadian by the name of Eric von Markovic, better known as Mystery. Striding around the streets of Toronto in platform boots and a top hat, wearing a feather boa (“peacocking”), Mystery would perform magic tricks to the delight of young women, in the most flamboyant pick-up artist tradition. While perhaps not the greatest or most original of PUAs, he now had an online audience of eager acolytes who took his approach and went out on the streets to try to replicate it.
A movement was forming, and online forum posts were studded with enough jargon and acronyms to require a glossary. The online seduction community, or simply “The Community” as it was known, grew enormously as it bubbled up from the grassroots. Various gurus espoused their own approaches, such as “direct” or “indirect”. The most notorious would simply advise men to “get into sexual state” as they talked to women, and let their raging pheromones do the seducing for them. Others, building from Mystery’s more cerebral approach, built elaborate theoretical models which could be drawn up on a whiteboard like a physics problem.
The time was right for a breakout into the mainstream, and it occurred in 2005 with the publication of “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” by Neil Strauss. This book provided a window on “the Community” and revealed the techniques of Mystery and his followers, as well as their real-life stories. Suddenly, a whole new generation of young men were getting advice on women which wasn’t given by women or filtered through family values.
Within a couple of years, most young men were at least passingly familiar with this kind of approach to dating and women, especially after more media exposure like the VH1 show “The Pick-Up Artist” which starred none other than Mystery. Some people laughed it off, others drew out what they saw as valuable lessons. In the wake of this mainstream exposure, a number of companies and individuals sprang up, creating a small industry of dating and pickup advice through DVDs and coaching and “boot camps” where – for a fee – you could go out on the town with a seduction guru and learn the “crimson arts”. Many major cities have become accustomed to these groups of young men going out and practicing their techniques, with lesser or greater effectiveness.
This vast array of dating products and services flooding the market started to cause concern amongst large sections of the ‘community’, due to the complete lack of regulation. Any person could walk in off the street, proclaim themselves a ‘guru’, and start selling products and services, often for fees in excess of $4,000, to anyone who would purchase them. To combat the rise of the fake guru who was just looking to make a quick dollar, PUA accountability groups started appears. PUAWatchDog started analysing the claims of different Gurus to test their validity and dating product review sites such as Seduction Review started giving customers a voice to share their opinions and experiences with other potential customers. These accountability groups helped ensure that customers weren’t getting ripped off by unscrupulous marketers.
With the level of information on pickup techniques reaching new saturation point, with every possible scenario for attracting a woman having it’s own book, DVD, and live coaching program, seduction community focussed turned to the effect the inner-psychology of the individual had on the outcome of the flirting and seduction attempts. This was known as ‘Inner Game’. Companies such as Authentic Man Program and The Attraction Institute developed structures and tactics for eliminating ones inner-roadblocks that were getting in the way of a successful seduction.
At this point, the PUA gurus and online communities are no longer new and novel, but they haven’t become exactly mainstream either. More recently, there has been less of a focus on “Game” and specific techniques to seduce women, and more emphasis on general self-improvement – fitness, finances, etc. – in order to increase not only success with women but overall life satisfaction. This definitely seems to be a more balanced approach than going out to hit on dozens of women every night.
There are other trends for men seeking to improve their dating success, such as an increased realization that American and Western women in general are not the only women in the world, and many men are reporting having better love lives from branching out to foreign countries. Whole online communities are devoted to the life of the budding international playboy, who enjoys not only the sights and food of other countries but also reports back on their success with the local women.
Meanwhile, there are totally different online communities, such as popular dating advice sub–Reddits, where a group of peers give advice either to the opposite sex or to their own gender. It could be considered a kind of crowd-sourced dating advice and unlike the “PUA” communities, gurus are shunned in favor of a more democratic and gender-equal approach. Men who identify as feminist or are in favor of a chivalrous approach to women will find a more friendly place for dating advice on mainstream sites like Reddit. One thing is for sure, there are many options and approaches to dating in 2014, and the spread of information is ensuring that men have plenty of information and advice to help them navigate this aspect of their lives.