We’re kidding ourselves if we think the attitudes of pickup artists don’t permeate the dating mainstream
As he faces charges of sexual assault, voyeurism and behaving in a threatening or abusive manner, the so-called ‘pickup artist’ (PUA) Addy ‘Agame’ Ahmed is being held to account for the explicit and disturbing content he uploaded to YouTube.
Styling himself as a lifestyle coach who could help men “master their masculinity”, Ahmed runs a YouTube channel – named, in an all-out assault on parody, ‘D.W.L.F. (Dicks Will Last Forever) Game’.
His videos, with titles such as ‘How to Have Same Day Lays Consistantly’ [sic] and ‘How to Get and Keep a Rotation of Girls and have Threesome Sex’, show him to be a persistent scourge on the women of Glasgow.
Yet they have racked up thousands of views.
Ahmed seems to be paying the price, but how many of his followers are still out there?
Guys like him – and there are more of them than you think – are playing the numbers game.
The hyena logic: if you hassle enough women, sooner or later, you’ll find someone who’s feeling low or vulnerable enough that you can pick her off.
It’s almost 14 years since I picked up the New York Times bestselling book that kicked off the PUAs.
Styled like a bible, Neil Strauss’s The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists seemed like it would be an entertaining look at a society of harmless oddballs. How innocent I was.
In this handbook for misogynists, no never really means no, it’s just “last minute resistance” that has to be overcome.
All interactions with women are a zero-sum game. Women are the enemy and it’s OK to do whatever it takes to bed them. It’s a step-by-step guide to mind games for potential rapists.
A favourite PUA tactic is the use of backhanded compliments or “negging”.
Negging is intended to lower the self-esteem of the target, making her vulnerable to his advances. It’s a cute name for emotional abuse.
The Game lifted the rock and exposed PUAs, squirming, to the sun. But in 2005, they still relied on in-person meet-ups and one-to-one communication with men they thought of as mentors.
Today, with the rise of YouTube, 4chan and the like, these underground cliques can reach out into the bedroom of any sad and lonely boy, offering a seductive take on why they can’t ‘get the girl’.
It’s not you, it’s those evil, stuck-up women.
Online, the ideas mutated to spawn the deadly fringe group known as Incels (‘involuntary celibates’).
In April last year, Alek Minassian posted “The Incel rebellion has already begun” on his Facebook page, before driving his car into a Toronto crowd, killing 10 people, eight of them female.
Minassian wasn’t the first “Incel killer” – he modelled himself on Elliott Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 more in May 2014.
In 2009, George Sodini killed three people and injured nine more.
It’s heartening to see Glasgow and Scotland standing up against misogyny with strong responses from civil society, politicians and the police to the latest PUA scandal.
We can flatter ourselves that our self-image as a place where the game is not welcome is undented.
Aren’t we the country that scared off Ahmed’s fellow PUA Roosh V (who believes that any woman who agreed to go to a man’s house should be classed as having consented to sex with him) when he tried to hold his vile meet-ups here in 2016?
Yes, we should be proud that the likes of Roosh V and Agame think of Scotland as sparse hunting grounds, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think their attitudes don’t permeate the dating mainstream.
Feminist groups had been warning of Agame’s antics since October last year, but it was only after the BBC looked into him that he’s faced his comeuppance.
For a long time, he could be confident that the game was risk-free; that he was just another Lothario whose actions weren’t so different from other men.
There are already videos on YouTube asking whether Agame is just a scapegoat.
The very set-up of Tinder encourages users to see dating as a game, sitting on your phone alongside Candy Crush.
With its emphasis on volume, and a good opening line, it could have been designed by PUAs.
Friends report that this game has very different rules for women than men.
Routinely, men in their 40s and 50s state age preferences for women in their 20s.
Women’s appearances – from weight to body hair – are strictly policed, negs are a common opening gambit, and it takes effort and luck to avoid the ‘fuckboys’.
Following the #MeToo movement, it’s become common to hear men bemoan that they don’t know how to behave around women, so how can we possibly blame them for acting inappropriately?
It isn’t complex. If you’re treating women with respect, we have no beef. But tricking women into having sex with you is abuse.
Coercing women into having sex with you is abuse. Filming women without their consent is abuse.
Touching a woman without her consent is sexual assault. Having sex with a woman without her consent is rape.
It’s depressing that this rise in predatory male behaviour coincides with the enormous shift in the public conversation around consent powered by the #MeToo movement.
But it’s not a coincidence – and it’s not about confusion over the ‘new rules’.
As with all social structures, this is about power.
Women are taking some power back, and some men will do anything to stop that happening.