Urban Dictionary defines “pick-up artist” as a person who “uses a variety of underhand tactics to try and get laid.” They are also described as “inexperienced” people who compensate for their lack of social skills and actual experience. Most of the time this is used to manipulate their targets into submission.
You’d think that these kinds of people would only exist in pop culture materials like Neil Strauss’ The Game or the old VH1 show The Pickup Artist. But, scarily, they’re real and they have an “academy” here in the Philippines where they teach these dirty dating tricks.
Enter PUA Academy, a now-deleted Facebook page that caters to men who need advice on dating and getting laid—in other words, stepping their game up. Their posts range from instructional videos on how to catch a woman’s attention to convincing her to go home with them. By “convincing,” it practically means to never take no for an answer. As evidenced by this video of PUA Academy CEO Sein Meneses (aka “Smooth”) where he told men that when women decline, they’re just playing hard-to-get.
Most of their instructional materials on their page had a similar tone of machismo, telling men to assert dominance over women and to be persistent just to get their “score.” Because, apparently, that’s what women want. (Uh, no.)
“Based on [Smooth’s] videos and statements, they clearly glamorize sexual violence and disregard women’s rights,” says artist Nikki Luna. “He reinforces the idea to ignore sexual consent and believe in the deep-seated myth that you need to ‘force some women’ to have sex. This is rape.”
It’s also troubling and questionable how this enterprise (or whatever it is) became legitimate. They would even charge their members thousands of pesos for boot camps, seminars, and online tutorials. In a statement last month, Smooth explained that he created PUA Academy to help men gain confidence and that it’s “practical psychology on how to approach women.” He also noted how this is rooted from his devastation after his wife cheated on him and that he’s been teaching this for 10 years already.
Talk about victim blaming. This is exactly why victims of sexual harrassment and rape are afraid of coming forward. Your vision and mission are purely grounded on female sexual objectification. #PUAAcademypic.twitter.com/zmSuKHROnh
Should a painful experience like this give people the right to teach men to be persistent even when they’re told “no” or “stop”? Grrrl Gang Manila’s Mich Dulce tells us this is unacceptable regardless of the motive. “It’s just revenge-oriented. Just because someone became awful to you, does that give you right to be violent toward other women or the one that hurt you?” Smooth’s explanation also draws a pity card wherein he tries to excuse his actions and motives for the academy in the guise of vulnerability and supposed sincerity.
But this doesn’t stop with the academy. Netizens also found a secret Facebook group called “PUA Academy Forum” where men post awful tips of their own. Many also post photos and videos of the women they’ve slept with without their knowledge, complete with a detailed rundown of how they conquered (read: possibly manipulated) them. (As of writing, the group can’t be searched on Facebook anymore.)
According to a recent report on GMA News, these posts were first spotted on PUA Academy’s Facebook page. But Smooth told them that they’ve banned these members already and have taken these posts down. He also defended the academy saying, “If you go to our seminars it’s not about getting laid. It’s not about women actually.”
That’s obviously not the case because this is about women. Nikki points out that this just shows how “men believe they have (could have) power over women, violate women, and treat them as possessions.” And clearly, these men now have another outlet where they can display their toxic masculinity.
PUA Academy is yet another facet of rape culture that many people have been trying to eliminate. Men are being told to be forceful rather than respectful, which is basic human courtesy. In fact, some apologists of the academy are claiming that what they’re doing is considered “charming” and similar to “women wearing makeup to please men.” First off, we don’t wear makeup to please anybody. Second, their definition of “charming women” is skewed and normalizes their actions.
And, whether we like it or not, pick-up artistry also places the burden on women to protect themselves. Mich says, “While this culture still exists, my priority is my safety. As women, when we know that we will be around such predators, it’s the least we can do.” Likewise, she still feels hopeful after seeing men also calling out PUA Academy. “They’re saying how these guys are such douchebags. It proves that masculinity shouldn’t be toxic. It shouldn’t be equated to disrespecting consent.”
While PUA Academy has scrubbed its existence from the Internet, there’s a possibility that their influence is still floating around. So it’s the responsibility of both genders to not propagate rape culture, especially in public spaces, and to combat its existence in any form. We don’t need another enterprise like this that will take advantage of women. We’re already dealing with toxic and fragile masculinity, we don’t need more men to add to the problem.