Pickup artistry is highly controversial for its misogynistic implications. At best, self-professed ‘pickup artists’ tend to speak of women as rare beings to be approached through cunning, or games to which cheat codes must be discovered, rather than — gasp — human beings. And those in the scene, such as Julien Blanc and his physically abusive ‘techniques‘, aren’t exactly helping their bad reputation — like many here, I signed the online petition against his scheduled visit to Singapore, and cheered when he was banned from entering here last November.
But Ethan, a local pickup artist, wants to change the popular opinion of his trade. The founder of Gentlemen’s Secrets — a service that teaches men the art of pickup — feels that Singaporeans have only a “surface view” of pickup artistry, resulting in misleading beliefs about its misogyny. Ethan declines to reveal his full name or photos due to a marketing strategy aimed at “anonymity and mystery”, but what he hopes to offer, he claims, is a more realistic, positive view on pickup artistry. Go ahead and read his story, and see if he can convince you.
Q: How would you define pickup artistry?
Ethan: Before I say what “pickup” is, let me first talk about what pickup isn’t. It isn’t about harassing women in any way, forcing them into anything, or being physically or emotionally abusive. Pickup isn’t about teaching you how to have sex with as many girls as possible.
Instead, it’s about teaching you how to believe in yourself and what you have to say. Pickup can teach you how to get over social anxiety and depression. It teaches you how to make friends and find love, not just with girls but with everybody around you…including yourself.
It makes me really sad when people look at us and say, “they’re teaching guys how to manipulate women” or “they’re tricking girls.” If you think pickup is about “manipulating women,” it’s like thinking that martial arts is about beating the crap out of people on the street. You could do that, but that’s not the point. Same with pickup — it’s not about sleeping with as many girls as possible. It’s about creating an environment for you to grow into a better person.
When it comes to dating, you could say I was a late bloomer. OK, let’s be honest — when I started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was jealous of the guys who had a continuous string of girlfriends, and that led to a lot of self-doubt within myself.
I realised I had two choices: Blame everybody around me, and change nothing about my actions…or do something about it. I chose to do something about it. In 2007, I started my journey. I went about honing my craft with vigor and determination. I went to clubs and bars almost every possible night; walked the streets, practicing my “art” each day to find what worked and what didn’t. I can’t begin to tell you how taxing it was, but my desire to be good with women kept me going.
I made countless approaches — most of them wrong. Wrong because I thought that doing things the way they’ve “always been done” was the right way. You have no idea how many times I spent money on drinks, dinner dates and gifts, just to see the girl take them and leave and never look back. It was depressing, to say the least.
Throughout my journey as a pickup artist, I took insults, enjoyed make out sessions, and even had some awkward moments. But these helped me learn not only how to talk to girls, but also to people. I ended up injecting confidence into every aspect of my life, and the way I conducted myself completely changed. I was still the same person, but…I felt free, validated, different. I felt like me — 100% Ethan, 100% of the time.
In short, pickup made me a better person. If it wasn’t for pickup, I would be a lonely, single guy and probably still a virgin. It turned my life around — and I started Gentlemen’s Secrets to help guys turn their lives around too.
What kind of value do you think Gentlemen’s Secrets can bring to the dating scene, or to people’s dating lives?
These days, it’s really not easy in the dating scene if you don’t know what to do. It’s like a gym — no amount of top grade equipment can help you if you do not know how to use them. Conventionally, the “equipment” we have in terms of dating are things like dating agencies, dating apps, or speed dating.
The thing is that I’ve personally attended a few “speed dating” events covertly. In my experience, the women there may prove to be rather challenging and selective, though their purpose in that event is to find a dating partner.
Gentlemen’s Secrets offers no-nonsense, pragmatic solutions which teach men EXACTLY how to get to the heart — and more — of a woman.
Critics point out that using a ‘method’ or ‘game’ to pick up women is demeaning — instead of viewing women as complex and unique individuals, practitioners treat them as a puzzle to solve, or a gatekeeper to manipulate. What would you say to that?
Pickup isn’t manipulation to bed women, as most people might think. Instead, it’s a way of helping nice guys present themselves better.
Acknowledging the fact that women have become more sophisticated these days, being a plain nice guy doesn’t really make the cut. They tend to lose out to alpha males who naturally exude confidence and eloquence. Bottom-line is: the lady wouldn’t know how a particular guy is nice if he can’t present himself, not as someone he’s not but as the best version of himself.
Sure, in every skill or trade, there’s bound to be people with different agendas. But in my experience, that’s a minority. I brought up a martial arts example earlier — a person trained in martial arts may choose to abuse his skills. But at the same time, martial arts are meant to instill self discipline.
Similarly, the art of pickup is meant to teach men practical methods to understand women, and to train their EQ. Some people were born with charisma, some just need to be trained. That’s all there is to it.
I think people are over-swayed by how pickup appears on the surface. No blame for that — it’s easy to follow the herd mentality if you don’t truly understand something in the first place.
What’re some typical motivations of the men you’ve coached?
Each and every one has their own unique reasons. To cite a few I’ve seen, it can be about personal self-development, or too little experience with women after a long-term relationship. There were some who invested too much in their career, and suddenly came to the realisation that they’d neglected their social lives. Then there’re those who have problems communicating with the opposite sex. It’s distressing — no woman would understand unless it’s a guy who’s been through that phase before, like myself.
What’re some reactions you’ve experienced when you tell people — family, friends, women you’ve approached — that you’re a pickup artist?
Here’s a problem I’ve seen with some guys in pickup — pickup isn’t a measure of ego. Some guys brag about being a pickup artist or how many women they’ve slept with — that’s really immature. Pickup is a personal development where you grow into a more confident, charming person. And you keep that in you.
People around you don’t need to know what you went through to become who you are today. Everyone takes things at face value these days. Most of my family, friends and women don’t know this side of me. I choose not to share to avoid unnecessary and inaccurate judgments, given how most people tend to jump to conclusions.
One tip or trick of pickup that’s your personal favourite?
I get this question a lot when people witness me with different women. The best tip or trick? To be yourself. It’s about the delivery and tonality of your message, your body language, etc. What works for someone might not work for another because of congruency. A woman can tell in due time if you are who you are. My “best opening line” ever? Hi, my name’s Ethan, nice to meet you.