The idea that there should be an entire community of men devoted to learning the best ways in which to take a woman off guard and thus "pick her up" seems insane, but pickup artistry is in fact one of the largest fringe 'self help' networks operating in the world today.
In the early days of its existence, the global community of pickup artists was in the main confined to an online forum of inept misogynists who would swap tips and tricks on how best to successfully approach and ultimately sleep with a woman. The process was thrust into the spotlight when one pickup artist, or PUA, wrote a book on the subject in 2005 called The Game. The book became a bestseller, bringing the insidious activities of the PUA community to the fore of social consciousness.
Although it can be dressed up as a non-creepy occupation — the art of picking up has been described as "dating coaching", made necessary by the fact that "it feels like there's definitely an element of our society that shames men out of wanting to meet women" — the process is fundamentally weird, and an uncomfortable thought for the vast majority of women. The behaviours of high-profile members of the PUA community does nothing to help the community's reputation.
With pickup artist Julien Blanc having made recent headlines for the consternation surrounding his seminars, and for reports of his disturbing treatment of women, we've catalogued fifteen of the weirdest and creepiest PUAs in action today.
15 Julien Blanc
The creepiest man of the moment, Julien Blanc, is a self-styled PUA who travels around America holding seminars which teach men how to first meet and then seduce women. Blanc tried to travel around the world and spread his wisdom all over the globe, but surprisingly many countries weren't happy about this, and made it difficult — if not impossible — for him to enter. Australia revoked Blanc's Visa after an overwhelming petition, and similar efforts are being made in countries such as England, Japan, Brazil and Canada, to name a few. He has been listed as perhaps the 'most hated man in the world' according to TIME, as his seminars reportedly incite violence and abusive behaviours towards women.
14 Zan Perrion
Zan Perrion is a pick-up artist who prides himself on his "more 'natural' approach to women [and] dating". He practises the Ars Amorata, or the art of love, an approach which focuses on an 'enlightened' approach to male-female interaction. In addition to this admirable modus operandi Perrion also generously insists that all women are beautiful. He aims to destroy the "us" vs. "them" mentality of the PUA community, believing that the key to a pickup artist's success is the destruction of such boundaries.
His early writings have been a huge influence on the pick-up artists of today — or, as they're collectively known, the "seduction community". He boasts having held seminars in cities worldwide, including Warsaw and London, as well as various cities around America.
13 Andy Yosha
Andy Yosha is seen as king of the "Daygame", which involves pickup artists trying their luck with women during the daytime. This is unusual, since the tradition in the PUA community is to act after dark. This innovative approach has led to Yosha's acclaim. His approach has been described as "direct, sincere and authentic", which seems an oxymoron since the entire PUA approach is carefully crafted, carefully practiced and finally creepily enacted.
Yosha set up daygame.com in 2010, and works as a PUA trainer. His methods are widely revered in the community both on and offline, with one frankly terrifying review saying that "[t]he art of catching girls off guard is the beauty of daygame."
12 Erik Von Markovik
At number twelve is Erik Von Markovik, who also goes by the name of Mystery. Von Markovik is one of the most famous figures in the PUA community, and is the star of VH1 reality show The Pick-Up Artist. He developed a now-famous approach to picking up women, called The Mystery Method, which advocates an indirect style that should swap regularly between comfort and seduction.
This method is popularly used to teach aspiring PUAs worldwide. However, he recently bizarrely resorted to sending a woman a Nickelback video via text message as part of his seduction, which may suggest that he's losing his magic touch.
11 Ross Jeffries
At number eleven is Ross Jeffries, who gains a place on this list due to his renown as the supposed inspiration for the character of Frank T. J. Mackey in the 1999 movie Magnolia. Just as Mackey is a 'charismatic' chauvinist who teaches seminars on how to pick up women, so indeed is Jeffries.
In an incredibly creepy move, Jeffries invented a hypnosis technique to pick up women, failing to realise that if you have to resort to extreme mental manipulation you're clearly doing something wrong. His technique purports to be able to change his target's state of seduction, which we can only hope is extreme delusions of grandeur on his part.
10 Richard La Ruina
Richard La Ruina is at number ten. Apart from the fact that his surname sounds something like 'the ruiner', La Ruina is suspect in many other ways, not least because he has been described as a "geek turned ladies man". Based in London, La Ruina founded PUA Training in 2006, which is now the UK's largest pick-up enterprise. La Ruina runs classes for aspiring PUAs, and also makes YouTube videos to inspire men to start learning pick-up techniques.
9 Neil Strauss
In at number nine is Neil Strauss, whose alias is Style. He is revered in the PUA community because of his bestselling book "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists", in which he chronicles the ultimate dream of every frustrated foolish man who's ever yearned to know the tricks of the PUA trade. He learned his tricks mainly via the Mystery Method, but has studied the modes of various other well-known PUAs extensively and as a result has cultivated a unique and multi-faceted style of his own. Strauss is surprisingly a New York Times bestselling author as a result of "The Game".
8 Stephen Nash
Stephen Nash, at number eight, appears as a character in the afforementioned "The Game" (he is Playboy, for all those interested in the text). He owns a company, Cutting Edge Image Consulting, which focuses on picking up women, but also bizarrely on the importance of a holistic lifestyle. He also has a PUA advice website, datingsecretsformen.com, and has written the subtly-titled dating manual "How to Get a Girlfriend". According to Nash's website he is "NYC's best dating coach", although the validity of that biased statement is dubious at best.
7 Ranko Magami
Ranko Magami, alias Shark, is at number seven. Magami is a dating coach who began his game in 2003. He was a controversial figure within the PUA community at the beginning of his career as he bluntly and brazenly showed his disregard for the "indirect method" of picking up, as popularised by the highly respected Von Markovik, amongst others. While this discrediting might seem like a good thing, sadly Magami proposed his own alternative of the "direct method", which is probably as intrusive and unpleasant as the other is insidious and unsettling. Magami's method eventually became a hit, however, and is used by numerous dating companies in some capacity today.
The mysteriously-named and seemingly faceless Franco is at number six. He deserves a mention on this list for the sheer audacity and deplorable nature of the content of his website, francoseduction.com. Marketing Franco's services as "Free Professional Coaching On Attracting Women And Managing Relationships", the website contains such gems as "What You Should Do When Dealing With Female Selfishness To Pass Her Tests" and "How To Compliment A Woman In A Masculine Way". The site also advertises Franco's dodgy-sounding book "How To Easily Sleep With Any Woman You Want", and contains more worrying content as well as the hilarious, such as articles on what to do when you're so obsessed with a girl you would rather kill yourself than be without her, and how to put "Female Erotic Hypnosis" into play in a date situation.
5 Joseph Matthews
Joseph Matthews, who also goes by the strange name of Thundercat, is at number five. A student of Strauss and Von Markovik, Matthews is well-known in the PUA community for his focus on the first step of approaching a woman as a pick-up artist. He has published an ebook on the subject in order to help beginning or aspiring PUAs, called "Art of Approaching", and runs a somewhat terrifying and entirely abhorrent blog called Thundercat's Seduction Lair, which contains articles and videos such as "How To Get Girls Who Are A "10"", "Cure To HIV Found In African Whores?" and the oddly out-of-place "Science Proves Women Can't Park!".
At number four, it's the vaguely punny-sounding Mehow. Something of a newcomer to the PUA community, Mehow has gained considerable gravitas amongst his peers in a relatively short period of time, thanks to his dedication to refining his personal seduction style after training with Von Markovik's method. Mehow Publishing Inc. was founded in 2006, and is now one of the most renowned PUA companies in the world. He is also famed for his highly suspect practice of making hidden camera pick-up videos that are available online.
3 Brad P
Brad P (last name tantalizingly only slightly revealed) is at number three. He has the dubious honour of consistently being ranked the world's number one pick-up artist in the world, and has an unusual seduction technique in that he advocates slow implementation of the core principles of picking up, thus allowing them to become a part of a person's natural demeanor over a period of time. His website, bradp.com, offers interviews, tips for beginners, the opportunity to join a PUA club and numerous PUA clickbait articles, such as "Don't Make THIS Classic Mistake" and "You've Got To STOP Doing "This"".
2 Dave M
Another PUA with a mainly anonymous surname is Dave M, at number two. Dave M is the owner of the Insider Internet Dating system, and has perfected the creepy art of employing pick-up tactics over the Internet, usually via dating sites. Having experimented with various styles on the unassuming women of online dating over many years, he's finally found a niche, and has reputably somehow scored "hundreds" of dates through sites like OkCupid, match.com and even Facebook — nowhere is safe. Dave M is also a regular and popular speaker at PUA seminars, seemingly because the PUA community will leave no social area unexploited for the purpose of showcasing their talents.
1 Wayne Elise
Finally, at number one is Wayne Elise. Elise, also known as Juggler, was formerly a comedian, which evidently didn't have the desired effect in terms of picking up women. Elise turned instead to the PUA community, and has gained repute for his direct and purportedly natural approach to the act. He has coached many of the 'big names' in the PUA community, and owns a company called Charisma Arts. Elise also featured on a PUA-based reality programme which aired in the UK in 2006, called Seduction School.