Isla Vista

“Those are the most dangerous people – dudes who didn’t get laid.”
-Louis CK

When I was in college I met a guy who recommended that I read a book called The Game. Written by a former New York Times reporter, The Game chronicles the author’s infiltration of the Los Angeles pickup artist (PUA) community and subsequent transformation from a nerdy milquetoast writer into a suave master of seduction by learning how to “game” women into sleeping with him through a variety of conversational and psychological tricks, which he explains in detail.  

The nerdy milquetoast editor who’d recommended the book to me gave it a ringing endorsement: “Before I read The Game, I’d only fucked like three girls. Since reading The Game I’ve fucked, like, 20 girls.”

I thought that was a pretty crude thing to say, but I also really liked the sound of those numbers. So I went ahead and torrented a PDF copy of The Game – I was pretty sure they didn’t carry it at the university bookstore, and even if they did I’d prefer not to be seen buying that sort of thing.

The pickup artist community documented in The Game is comprised entirely of antisocial young men who were heavily picked on in school and remained involuntarily celibate well into their 20s. Eventually, some combination of horniness and bitterness towards women as a whole drove each of these guys to take a drastic step and become students in the PUA community, paying big bucks for seduction seminars and one-on-one lessons with accomplished pickup artists in hopes of transforming themselves into alpha males.

The other artists teach the author the rules of The Game: Dress flamboyantly to attract attention. When you approach a woman in a bar or nightclub, start by talking to her friends, not her – this way she’ll feel left out and want your attention. When you do start talking to her, make light, backhanded insults so that she’ll feel as if she has to earn your approval. Always act disinterested, like you’re about to leave, so the woman feels like she has to fight to keep your attention.

Y’know, that kind of thing.

According to the author, this type of behavior worked like gangbusters for himself and his new PUA friends, who eventually all began renting a house in the Hollywood Hills and bringing women home five nights a week. Models, actresses, dancers – the author even claims an extended affair with Courtney Love, not that I think that’s anything to brag about.  In the book he goes to great lengths to point out that he and his PUA buddies aren’t especially attractive – the secret to being able to have sex with any woman you want is just saying the right set of things to make her desperate to have sex with you.

I quit reading The Game around halfway through because I thought the attitudes these people displayed toward women were fairly atrocious. I decided that if I was going to be not getting laid, at least I’d be not getting laid on my terms instead of traipsing around some bar in a red fedora having drinks thrown in my face.

The pickup artists in The Game didn’t treat women like humans, or even like prey – these guys behaved as though women were simply commodities to be harvested and collected in order to affirm their masculinity. The author wrote that as time went by, some of the pickup artists became so fixated on approaching women and flirting that they lost interest in sleeping with them – once it was clear that a woman was interested, they’d just fade into the crowd and start flirting with a new girl. They were obsessed with just knowing that they could sleep with any woman, whether or not they actually followed through.  

With that in mind, here are some quotes from an unsuccessful former member of the pickup artist community who killed six people last week:

“I don’t even have a young girl’s number in my cell phone. And that’s just such an injustice because I’m so magnificent. I deserve girls – much more than all those slobs I see at my college who are somehow able to walk around with beautiful girls.”

“I dress nice. I’m sophisticated and magnificent. I have a nice car – a BMW.”

“I put a lot of effort into dressing nice. These sunglasses here were $300. Giorgio Armani. I’ll put them on. See? Look how fabulous I look.”

“I see so many beautiful blonde haired girls walking around everywhere in your revealing shorts and cascading blonde hair, pretty faces… And I want one for a girlfriend.”

“I should be the one with the girls. I mean, look at me! I’m gorgeous, but you girls don’t see it.”

I’m not saying the PUA community is responsible for these murders – that wouldn’t make any sense, since they’re laser-focused on having sex with as many living, breathing women as they can. I’m saying that the worldview that makes it possible for a pickup artist community to exist is responsible: The idea that women are status symbols, accessories to be acquired right alongside nice clothes, cars, and sunglasses.

The idea that getting close to women is as simple as following a checklist.

From the shooter’s videos and writings it’s clear that this was a person with some serious problems, many of them stemming from social isolation. It’s also clear that a long time ago he’d decided that acquiring a beautiful woman would solve all of his problems. When he found himself unable to get close to women on his own, he turned to the PUA community and the tactics they swear up and down are foolproof. When those didn’t work for him, he became hopeless, angry, and violent.

Any man who looks at this situation and feels like he has to stand up and remind the world that not all men are like that should probably sit down again. If members of a specific gender had to defend themselves every time somebody else of the same gender did something horrible, nobody would ever get anything done because at any given moment tons of people on Earth are doing terrible things.  

There are always going to be men who find reasons to hate women. And really, the only thing we can do – not as men or as women, but as people – is to marginalize the communities that feed that hate and try to make them as small as possible, so that when somebody feels confused, angry, and alone, that’s not the community he turns to for support.

Truman Capps has a nice pair of sunglasses that so far haven't gotten him laid, but that's okay.