“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
It was back in 2005 that those grimy nuggets of “locker room talk” bubbled out of Donald Trump’s puckered lips on the Access Hollywood bus. That same year, Neil Strauss published The Game, a how-to guide for wannabe ‘pick-up artists’ that would go on to sell 2.5 million copies. It recommended tactics like “negging”, insulting a woman to reduce her self-esteem, and “caveman-ing”, which it defined as “to directly and aggressively escalate physical contact”.
It seems clear that the culture The Game was a part of helped carry Trump to the Presidency 12 years later. We now live in a world where grotesque machismo is so commonplace that his chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly calls his White House rivals “cucks”. Bannon rose to prominence as chair of Breitbart News, which stoked the misogyny of Gamergate in 2014 and fuelled the rise of the Alt-Right. Many of its readers are the same young men who learned all they know about women from Reddit’s The Red Pill forum, which teaches that feminism is a lie and what women really want is to be dominated and manipulated by powerful men. Pick-up artist (PUA) philosophy has taken over the asylum.
So when I was invited to cover a three-day PUA ‘bootcamp’ run by a company called Love Systems, I was intrigued. If I wanted to understand what made these guys the way they are, this seemed like a good place to start.