Pick-Up Artists Are A Cartoon Of Masculinity – But What Does Their Existence Say About Being A Man Today?

Dismissing 'PUAs' by simply saying 'men be like that sometimes' isn't good enough – we need to examine what we're dealing with
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Glasgow has once again proven to be poor hunting ground for pick-up artists. The city that screwed Roosh-V (who is now an “ultra-masculine” baker, if you can believe that) has, thanks to some excellent investigative reporting by BBC The Social, provided the setting for the downfall of another so-called “PUA”.

This time it is the turn of Adnan Ahmed, or “Addy Agame” as his YouTube followers know him, who leads a group called DWLF (“Dick Will Last Forever”, sorry) to shrivel up under the spotlight. Following the controversy surrounding Mr Ahmed resulting from the BBC investigation, it appears the women most interested in talking to him in the near future will come with flashing lights, wear black, and go by titles like constable, sergeant, and detective inspector.

For the uninitiated, PUAs use a set of techniques called “game” in order to attract and have sex with women. Some, like Ahmed, adopt the role of online life coaches in order to spread the so-called “red pill” (a reference to The Matrix for waking up and realising how the world “really is”) and promote the message. It’s an odd mix of evangelism, bastardised Darwinian theory, shallow self-help, and odd attempts at laddishness – think of a pastiche of Ali G, a Tony Montana cosplayer, and Johnny Bravo.

PUAs are merely one part of the broader “manosphere” which includes incels (of which I have some experience, they came after me in a now-deleted Reddit thread after I wrote this piece), takers of the “red-pill”, the voluntarily celibate “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOWs), and others. It’s a broad, if utterly repugnant, coalition of chaps.

There are those, with some justification, who view the existence and prevalence of the manosphere as a failing of masculinity, or at least a result of its toxicity. In one sense they are right – the rise of PUA and the red pill is a problem that is exclusively masculine and needs to be addressed primarily by men. After all, as a fierce feminist pal of mine once put it: “sexist men don’t give a fuck what women think”.

However, to argue that the disease of which behaviour like that of Mr Ahmed, inexcusable as it is, is a symptom is inherent in men, is to be satisfied with a mere surface reading of the situation – it is insufficient for such a serious problem. Put simply, just saying, “men be like that sometimes” and leaving it there is just not good enough.

Finding the connection between masculinity and PUAs and the like requires a more thorough examination of what kind of masculinity we are dealing with.

From what I can tell, given everything from the swagger, staccato-like and unemotional delivery, liberal use of Americanisms, and gamified approach to life, we are dealing here with a caricature rather than anything resembling how masculinity exists in real life. Everything from Mr Ahmed’s, and others less famous, speech, presentation style, and approach to “game” screams of a cartoon of masculinity, more similar to a bad drag king than how most men act in our day-to-day lives. In effect, pick-up artists are men wearing man-drag.

So, the question becomes, why do men begin wearing masculinity drag rather than embracing the real-life aspects of masculinity practised by the vast majority of men, such as patience, restraint, respect, consideration of others, and the many other character traits that make the vast majority of normal blokes a pleasure to be around?

Well, there may be a range of different factors but a lack of good male role models must surely play a significant part? Men learn from watching and emulating our seniors and those held up for us to follow and when there is a vacuum of positive male role models – bad ones will fill that space and encourage men to act horribly.

Therefore, if positive male role models who live their masculinity in an admirable way are what’s needed – where do we look?

At the risk of returning to a previously examined topic and also risking being an overly parochial Scotsman, I’d suggest looking again to Andy Murray. The Olympic medallist and Wimbledon champion this week announced his retirement in an extremely emotional moment while continuing to demonstrate the strength of character and masculinity that have always been his trademark.

His treatment of others and his conduct have been consistently exemplary throughout his public life and he stands tall as a role model for men at a time when that is needed more than ever. By looking to Mr Murray and walking in his footsteps, and turning away from those of the likes of Mr Ahmed, perhaps we can emerge with a generation of men whose masculinity is a source of pride for all of us.