What Happens When A Former Pickup Artist Grows Up?

Above: Neil Strauss' book 'The Game' made him a fortune, but he later found himself in treatment for sex addiction. 10 years later, he’s a changed man

The pickup artist community is a movement of men whose number one goal is to seduce and sleep with women. While many rules a pickup artist follows to attract women are effective, there are also a lot that go way too far. Instead of simply being confident, they are cocky and entitled. Instead of putting their best foot forward looks wise, they are superficial and judgemental. And instead of being honest and genuine, they’ll let a woman believe they’re interested in a relationship when in reality all they want is sex.

Ross Jeffries has the distinction of being the first pickup artist to officially take on students. In the late 1980’s he taught workshops promoting his own self-developed techniques he called “speed seduction”. He even published a book called How To Get the Women You Desire Into Bed. It wasn’t long before other men started to follow the trend and add their own ideas about how to seduce women.

As the “seduction community” grew, various men emerged as “gurus” of the pickup technique that was previously discussed mostly in online forums. The first commercially successful book on pickup artistry was released in 2000. It was a manual by Tariq Nasheed, aka King Flex, entitled The Art Of Mackin, and it became a New York Times Bestseller. Nasheed wrote four more books, one of them devoted to dating advice for women.

Still, it wasn’t until 2005 when Neil Strauss published his book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists that the techniques of pickup artists really started hitting the mainstream. VH1 even produced a show, The Pick Up Artist, for two seasons that challenged a group of men who’d never been good with women to put some of the pickup artist techniques to the test.

While there’s no doubt that some of the advice many seduction gurus offer is good, lately there have been more and more men who call themselves pickup artists that have twisted all that good advice into something that borders on predatory. For example, there were recently petitions to keep pickup artists Julien Leblanc and Roosh V out of Canada completely. They were both accused of promoting misogyny and rape culture, but they used any backlash they received as a sort of free marketing strategy.

The criticism of the pickup artist movement is endless, and at the height of his popularity Neil Strauss always had an answer for anything negative someone had to say about his book and its advice. He had immersed himself in the community and developed another persona he called “Style”. Style was the guy who would go out and practice the pickup artist techniques he was learning. He was addicted, but he also maintained enough self-awareness to make the observation that many men who are serious about pickup artistry seemed a lot more interested in spending time with other men who enjoyed talking about and developing their “game” than actually getting to know women. Just more evidence than pickup artists aren’t as interested in women as they are in winning.

In 2013, Strauss married model Ingrid De La O and the two have a son together. This past October he released his latest book, The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships. But before that he went to rehab for sex addiction, and was a compulsive cheater. In the book he goes into detail about what rehab was like, and how he learned to deal with that fact that the strategies that had helped him come out of his shell and get laid more often had also turned him into a lying, self-loathing asshole. “Style” was no longer just a persona, it was who he was all the time. Needless to say, it’s pretty difficult to maintain a successful relationship when you can’t turn off your need to seduce every woman who meet.

Despite how he treated her at time, Ingrid took him back. But it wasn’t the pickup artist techniques that did that. He had to get rid of that way of thinking completely in order to have the solid relationship he has today. In an interview with The Guardian, Strauss said, “I think that a lot of guys who read The Game, they think that they’re fooling or tricking women. But most women are smart enough to know exactly what you’re doing. They just might like you enough to go along with it. I think one of the misconceptions is that someone else can be tricked into doing something they don’t want to.”

These days, Strauss organizes seminars on how to be a better man, because at the end of the day, that’s what will attract women. Sure, confident, alpha males are attractive to women, but modern pickup artists like Julien Leblanc and Roosh V have taken that too far. They think being an alpha male means being abusive, sexist, and controlling. Their version of “negging” is treating a woman like an object, and there aren’t very many women left who aren’t going to see right through that.

As Strauss got older and his priorities changed, he found it difficult to leave his bad seduction habits behind. But because he didn’t want to lose the one woman he really loved, he found a way to admit his old ways weren’t working anymore. So, maybe there is a little truth to the idea that even the biggest players will eventually leave all that behind when they meet the right person. Eventually we all want more than just meaningless sex for the sake of it. Because if you can pick up anyone, when you meet the right one it will be less obvious. She’ll be just like every girl before her— meaningless.

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