An Academic Approach To Creepy Pickup Artists

Plenty of people have called pickup artists creepy, but few have embarked on a full theoretical analysis of their creepitude. Now, a communications researcher does just that. Herewith, her breakdown of how Mystery twists evolutionary psychology to his own coercive ends.

Amanda Denes is a graduate student in Communications at UCSB. In a recent paper, she sets herself the unenviable task of reading all off The Mystery Method: How To Get Beautiful Women Into Bed and analyzing it from biological, cultural, sociological, and rhetorical point of view. Some highlights:

On Cat Theory

Mystery's animal metaphors [...] depict female sexuality as controllable. This point is exemplifed in Mystery's (2007) presentation of what he calls "Cat Theory," in which he explains that women are like cats because they do not take orders, but can be tempted to chase. They also like shiny new things, crave attention, can become jealous, and rub against you and purr when they like you (Mystery, 2007). Such metaphors are present throughout the text, with men constantly being encouraged to "train" the women they are pursuing and to reward positive behavior and punish negative behavior.

On oxytocin

Together, the work on oxytocin has led some researchers to suggest that the hormone serves an important function in individuals' relationship development and maintenance (Bartz & Hollander, 2006). While such work on oxytocin has largely suggested that the hormone has positive benefits in relationship development, the PUA community seems to be suggesting that such responses be manipulated to get women into bed, not necessarily to form healthy relationships. Mystery (2007) seems to appropriate much of the oxytocin literature to his method, suggesting a process of "kino escalation" (increased touch) to build a trusting base [to eventually get women into bed] (p. 123).

On women's thoughts and feelings

Mystery (2007) refers to all humans as "creatures of sentiment," but explains that a woman's "emotions are at the center of her thoughts and actions" (p. 24). Thus, he argues that logic should never be used to pick up women "... because what a woman thinks she likes, or says she likes, is not necessarily what she responds to in reality" (Mystery, 2007, p. 24). This base allows Mystery (2007) to make arguments for why women's rational thoughts (and words) should be disregarded and women's bodily responses should be the focus. In this way, Mystery (2007) conceptualizes emotional experiences as coming from the body and logic as coming from the mind. He then argues that the emotional, bodily experience provides a more accurate assessment of a woman's interest and later, her willingness to have sex. Mystery (2007) not only implies that the body should be believed over logic, but that women do not even have the capacity for logical interpretations.

On the "flow of kino"

As Mystery (2007) trumps the body as truth, he is also dually encouraging readers to manipulate bodily reactions. Mystery (2007) encourages the use of kinesthetics/"kino" to help comfort a woman. Kino focuses on touching, and is encouraged from the moment people meet so that touch will not appear inappropriate in greater degrees later in the seduction. "Instead, there is a natural flow of kino from the very early stages of the set that leads all the way to the sex" (Mystery, 2007, p. 137). Mystery (2007) is telling his readers to create a reaction and then to privilege the created reaction as truth. In other words, he offers his readers tricks on how to seduce women through touch, and then suggests that if these tricks work and the woman does become aroused, that this is a sign of sexual interest and implied consent.

On no meaning yes

An important part of Mystery's (2007) seduction manual is convincing readers that no woman can resist the methods presented in the text. Therefore, any resistance that a woman might demonstrate is never to be taken as legitimate, but rather, as token resistance (saying no to sex when meaning yes). Mystery (2007) explains that token resistance is part of a woman's "anti-slut defense," meaning that women want to have sex, but do not want to appear promiscuous (p. 28). In this text, all resistance is conceptualized as token resistance, as a woman "wants things to happen, but she wants it to feel right and she doesn't want it to be her fault" (Mystery, 2007, p. 148). This approach instills in the audience a belief that these techniques guarantee sexual desire from a woman, and that even if a woman says no, she really means yes.

On ignoring everything she says

Mystery (2007) depicts a woman's lack of clearly signaling non-consent as approval to move forward. He tells readers, "If you're undressing her and she says, ‘We should stop,' just agree with her... and then keep going. ‘I know, baby,' you reply as you continue to undress her. ‘We should stop'" (p. 202). Here, Mystery (2007) again suggests ignoring verbal communication entirely, implying that, unless physical force is used to stop the behavior, the woman is consenting to the activity. Thus, verbal resistance is ignored as pressure to have sex increases.

On making it hard to say no

The ability and decision to resist sexual activity may become dif␣cult with the escalation of foreplay, or "kino escalation" (Mystery, 2007, p. 123). O'Sullivan and Allgeier (1998) assert that "the nonverbal nature of most sexual interactions may inhibit verbal expressions of reluctance, and the ever-increasing levels of physical contact and intimacy may obscure less overt physical attempts to resist" (p. 234). Combined with Mystery's (2007) continual suggestion to disregard verbal responses and proceed forward with physical affection, signs of resistance are largely ignored in the Mystery Method.

Denes writes that Mystery's book "promotes the false idea that women's sexuality is both uniform and controllable, and thus that with the appropriate techniques women can be persuaded to engage in sexual activity." She cautions that "presenting such incorrect concepts as facts to large audiences may increase women's risk of nonconsensual or forced sexual activity." So if you spot someone reading The Mystery Method, you might suggest they take a look at Denes's paper instead.