Where the controversial school of Filipino pickup artists likely got its ideas

April 6, 2018 - 10:55 AM
The inspirations for a community of Filipino pickup artsts is more commonplace than you think. (Art by Interaksyon/Uela Badayos)

(3rd update, 11:30 a.m.) Youth Against Sexual Harassment, a non-profit and politically-unaffiliated women’s organization, exposed on Facebook a so-called “Pick Up Artist Academy” which runs an online tutorial on how to “pick up” women for sex.

The post of YASH, which has already been taken down, featured screenshots of conversations among PUA Academy members on how to win the “game” of dating and sexual conquests. PUA Academy members used the terms “lay” to refer to “sex” and even posted testimonies with lewd photos of women.

PUA Academy, which claimed on its Facebook cover photo that it is the “Asia’s Leading Dating Company,” was founded by Sein Meneses who calls himself “Smooth.” He also runs a page called “Smooth relationship expert and dating coach.”

The dating firm’s website featured products such as guide on digital dating, bootcamp on live-in field training, e-book titled “Smooth Seduction,” among others, all corresponding to certain fee.

In a video from one of PUA Academy’s workshop, Meneses was seen teaching the “LMR” technique or the “Last Minute Resistance,” where his members are taught to repeat sexual moves to women who initially rejects them.

“Women want to be forced,” Meneses claimed.

Meneses and PUA Academy were then called out by offended Facebook users and feminists alike who opposed the firm’s initiatives for “grooming sexual predators.”

“If you haven’t heard, there is this online group on FB called ‘PUA Academy’ that teaches men how to pick up or ‘game’ women. They share their sexual encounters with the women they were able to ‘lay,” a Twitter user said in his post.

“It is absolutely DISGUSTING. Worst part is they have been active for YEARS.”

“It is absolutely DISGUSTING. Worst part is they have been active for YEARS,” he added.

Another Twitter user decried how the PUA Academy looks down on women. In her tweet, she said getting girls is not a game.

As a concept, the PUA is a global one.

Interaksyon conducted a cursory check on the pickup artistry and learned that an international website called “PUA training” based in Ireland offers a similar service. It described its site as “natural mastery with women and dating.”

The site also featured collection of books about pickup artists. The webpage has been rendered unavailable as of posting time, but a cached version shows that topping the list was an investigative work “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” written by reporter Neil Strauss.

“What you’ll learn: The basics of how to be a PUA and advice on getting better with women by using tricks, mind gimmicks and proven stories that captivate them,” the page read, describing Strauss’ book.

An inadvertent guidebook.

The New York Times’ bestseller published in September 2005 likely gave the PUA Academy an idea. It is also known as “The Game: Undercover in the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” featuring the author’s encounters with the seduction community.

Some reviewers panned Strauss for his weak criticism of the community. “Strauss toggles awkwardly between… misogyny and limp bids at self-awareness,” The New York Times wrote.

The Guardian described the characters’ practices:”Women are trophies or tokens in an endless quest for esteem and standing between the adherents of ‘pickup,’ both in real life and on the internet message boards where people post tips and stories.”

“Women are trophies or tokens in an endless quest for esteem and standing between the adherents of ‘pickup,’ both in real life and on the internet message boards where people post tips and stories.”

Strauss himself confesses in the book: “A side effect of sarging is that it can lower one’s opinion of the opposite sex.” Sarging, in the community’s vocabulary, means chatting up women.

A boot camp.

In “The Game,” Strauss penetrates the world of “sargers” by participating in a boot camp where he meets Mystery, later identified as Canadian pickup artist Erik von Markovik. He developed a system of attraction called “The Mystery Method.”

“The sell is that, with the special techniques they learn from Mystery and other gurus, the ubergeeky can often give a convincing simulation of being a regular human being, even if, like one sarger in this book, they are in fact near-sociopaths,” the Guardian reviewer wrote.

A dictionary.

Another website called PUA Lingo, founded in 2008 by California-based Vince Lin, also featured a glossary on over 100 PUA terms, acronyms and jargons.

The website also indicated PUA routines, openers and product reviews, claiming to be “PUA’s Encyclopedia.”

“If you’re looking for information about the seduction community, PUA Lingo is the best place to start,” the website description read.

Both “The Game” and “PUA Lingo” claimed to help in the “social dynamics and dating” and educate the public on the seduction community.

PUA’s argument: We teach respect

PUA Academy also claimed to teach the same concept. However, it became controversial after some of its members were accused of sexual harassment and rape.

The Facebook pages of founder Meneses and PUA Academy’s website were also taken down after these were exposed on social media.

Despite this, Meneses defended his firm saying it teaches respect for women and does not teach forcing women into having sex with men. He added that the dating company would not have lasted if it did not value respect for women.

Meneses also responded to the workshop video circulating online where he was allegedly seen encouraging women for sex. He said he was just taken out of context because it was just a part of the seminar.

“They say that ‘One statement can change everything.’ If you listen to the sentence I said, it is truly wrong. However, if you listened to the whole seminar it would show a different meaning,” he said in an interview with GMA News.

Meneses said he would impose stricter regulations in their forums to avoid obscene materials and language.

Blowback from larger outcry

In 2017, Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the imposition of harsher penalties against social media users who post lewd and illicit photos of women and children on social media. This was after “secret groups” bearing silly innocuous name like “Pastor Hokage Bible Study” on Facebook and other social media platforms actively post and share obscene photos of women and children.

Hontiveros proposes a penalty of imprisonment of between five and 10 years against violators as she called for the passage of Anti-Gender Based Online Violence Law. She also wants violators to pay a fine of from P100,000 to P500,000.

A string of campaigns and testimonies against sexual harassment especially by authority figures came as part of the Weinstein effect, which reached the Philippines. Several Hollywood stars last year accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The use of the hashtag #MeToo also became prominent as actress Alyssa Milano, who was among the celebrities who spoke about the issue, urged the victims to share stories of abuse using the hashtag in social media. The campaign originated from writer and activist Tarana Burke in 2007.