Pick Up Artist: Can the Toxic Skills Really Help Guys Find their True Love?

The Guardian UK reported in 2019 that teaching men how to become master pick-up artists in order to get women into bed is a staggering $100 million industry. But do these toxic skills work in Chinese? Can they really help Chinese guys find love? Why they choose to learn this toxic skill? How have their lives changed after learning PUA tricks?

In mid-September 2021, Chinese people are just recovering from the COVID and are going out to the streets to enjoy the summer night. At that time, in the TaikooLi shopping district of Chengdu, several men appeared on the street and went up to the fashionably dressed girls with nice bodies and invited them to go out for a drink. The vast majority of the girls refused their invitations, but despite this, they persisted in striking up conversations with as many girls as they could.

Xia Lin is one of these guys, they are all students from a PUA skills course in Chengdu. Xia Lin hid away, smoking a cigarette in annoyance. “I don’t really want to talk to these girls anymore, I find it useless and awkward. People won’t go with you, no girl would be that stupid.” Xia Lin said, “but it’s better than staying at home and playing games to meet girls, that’s why I’m here. I really want to make some changes, about talking with girls.”

Put learners are inviting girls to have a drink

Xia Lin is the student member in this PUA skills course in Chengdu, and there are about 20 of his classmates in this session. PUA, or pick-up artist, is a group of men who have been skillfully trained to speak and act in a way that leads to seduction of women and sexual success, dating back to the 1960s. It was first introduced to China in the early 20th century through the translation of international students. The first PUA courses institution, called “Wandering Emotional Education” (closed now), was opened in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, since then, PUA education has blossomed all over Chengdu. And the founder of this PUA education institution was one of the first apprentices of the Wandering Emotional Education.

“This company is upstairs in TaikooLi shopping center. They give lectures in the afternoon and bring us down in the evening for direct practice. A term then online class is 488CNY (around 50 Pounds), offline course 3999CNY (around 450 pounds). If we participate the night out practice, like going to the nightclub, then one person one night needs to pay 600CNY (around 65 pounds) or more.” Xia Lin said, “In fact, what we pay is to share the seats in the nightclub so that we could invite girls. Sometimes we can get girls to drink with us, but rarely can we take them home (to have sex).” Xia Lin took another hard drag on his cigarette and said, “I don’t feel that the content of the lectures and the fees are of equal value, I don’t learn anything either. In fact, it’s just for fun, I don’t expect to really learn anything, but the guys I met here are all quite nice, so I can talk to these mates about anything that bothers me, maybe it’s worth it.” Xia Lin smiled bitterly.

A lecture about “how does PUA effect love” was wildly popular in Sichuan University.

I slept with a hundred girls to join the company, but I didn’t like any of them.

Huan Ma, who smokes with Lin Xia, 27 years old, is an assistant PUA coach at this PUA training institute. He met the PUA theory by chance two years ago. “At that time, the Wandering Emotional Education was hot, people told me that if I pay 5,000 CNY (around 550 pounds) I could learn the PUA theory, after learning and issuing a certificate of eligibility, I can enter the company as a PUA coach.” Says Huan Ma. “There were many people earning 100,000CNY (around 11,000 pounds) a month in the PUA emotional education industry, so I was a little jealous.” However, Huan Ma did not expect that after passing the theory, the company would have a rule called “seduced 100 people”. All the PUA masters must have sex with a hundred women and have their photos to be counted. “I started out to earn money, so I started to know new girls widely on various social media apps. I used PUA tricks mechanically, messaged different women, and went to hotels to have sex and take photos every day.” After completing the company’s “Seduced100 people” entry requirement, Huan Ma did succeed in getting into the company. “It was a really disorienting time, cheating on women for the sake of cheating on women. I became numb and I didn’t have sex for a long time after that.” Huan Ma says, “But the incident still had a huge impact on me, I felt like I was wearing a fake face, living in this PUA condom, and whenever people talked to me, I would subconsciously respond them with PUA techniques. I wouldn’t get along with people normally anymore, less than find my true mate.”

if falling in love is a game, then I’m going to be the strongest king.

Like XiaLin, Ziqiao Wang is also one of the members of this PUA skills course, but he holds the different thoughts. “I think this course has grown on me quickly and benefited me a lot. Today was my first day to learn PUA, and I took nearly three pages densely packed notes. This PUA has completely reshaped my outlook on intimate relationships straight away, and I was particularly impressed with one quote. The coach said that girls don’t come by chasing, they come by attraction. What we need to do is to establish a persona of yourself and play him, and then flesh out your profile on social apps. It dawned on me that no wonder I had been chasing a girl like a licking dog for over three years before and she still wasn’t warm to me, but she was so passion to others as soon as they talked to her.” Ziqiao’s eyes shone, perhaps because he was drunk, or because he was so excited, his face was flushed red. “I’m a bit regret that I didn’t succeed in asking the girl to go home with me today. But after today’s learning PUA skills, I’ve found a more comfortable persona for myself and recreated my personal page on my Wechat moments. Now I dare to talk to girls now and I’m keen to give it a try, I’m now waiting for the girls we had drinks together just now to message me back, while I was too scared to send girls messages before, let alone drinking with girls.” 

After a week, Ziqiao Wang told the author that he managed to have sex with the girl he had drink with last week. “It was the second time we met, we went to a hotel straightly. She was very happy about what would happen. I felt the magic power of the PUA skills, it was so intimidating, everything advanced and developed exactly as written in the handbook. It was like everything following the script in my mind. As long as I kept following my virtual character, she would be obsessed with me.” Now, Ziqiao has met several new girls on other social media apps, he chats with them at the same time and trying to seduce them. “I’m not interested in her (the girl he met last week) anymore after I slept with her. Now I want to meet more girls with different personalities. I need practice and try a lot of times to make me invincible. I feel a strong desire of conquer comes out from my body, my goal is to seduce more girls to have sex with me in less time. I even want to find two girls to have sex with me willingly at the same time, it let me feels like an emperor.”

Dr Songwei Li, a psychologist at Peking University, says that the PUA traps do not really help men to improve themselves in chasing girls. “It’s actually an act that exploits human nature’s suffering and dependency for sexual purposes. While using personas to attract women, they are actually attracted to the characters played by the PUA players, not the real man. The true personality will grow to have low self-esteem, which is actually a stifling of the true male ego.”

A brief about what the PUA classes usually do. (Credit: Pengpai.)

It’s not me that makes you happy, it’s girls who can make you happy.

Although Ziqiao’s words sounded a little crazy, it was clear to see that the PUA skills course had brought about a change in Ziqiao’s life and personality.

“I’m actually quite an inferior person,” said Ziqiao Wang, who was born as a child in a small town.  His parents made ends meet by working as a street vendor every day, so that they had no spare time to look after him. “I think they just raised me, and I can understand that they were also limited in their abilities, I guess, they really weren’t very capable.” When it comes to his parents, Ziqiao Wang’s expression is a little indifferent, “We rarely have more intimate emotional communication, so I don’t know what I can do when I found that I like a girl.” Says Ziqiao Wang.

“I hated poverty and I felt I was smarter than many people around me, but my living conditions were much worse than others.” After studying at university, Ziqiao Wang soon became sensitive to the fact that his families were not just a little bit poor, “How can a poor young boy deserve to fall in love?” Ziqiao says, “I was intimidated by pretty girls, we were not in the same world at all, I don’t deserve to be in a relationship with someone who really sparkles.”

After consideration, Ziqiao Wang find a girl who was in the similar family with him. He tossed around friends to get her contact number. “One day, on the encouraging of my roommate, I took her for a walk in the playground and we talked a lot. Actually, she spoke to me a lot and I was just listening, but I still felt happy. Then I suddenly got up the courage to grab her hand and I felt my heart beating so fast that it was about to pop out. But she immediately shook my hand away and I was in such an awkward that I couldn’t even say anything to apologise, I just stood there like a wood.” Ziqiao Wang thought he had messed up, but he was not at all chagrined, he was even a little happy. “Then I confessed to her at that night, I said, I like you, and I’m happy to think of you.”

“I tossed and turned in bed waiting for her answer, but she told me that it’s not her that makes me happy, it’s girls who can make me happy; that I like being with the opposite sex, not her.” The words were damaging to Ziqiao Wang, he even held a bit of a grudge from then on. Ziqiao wang would never allow himself to fail: he always did the best in his studies and he was the most active and present one in his class, even playing games. Ziqiao Wang says, “I was a very proud person, but I failed to confess my love to a poor girl.” Ziqiao says, “At that time, I was a sensitive and vulnerable person who lacked love. But there was another me in my heart, a strong me who faced life and pressure, a me who was so powerful that no one could match him.”

Via learning this PUA skills course made Ziqiao Wang find a sense of superiority that no one could match him when he was in school. “The powerful me in my body burned like a fire.” He says. But when asked if he would tell his future girlfriend that he had taken a course of PUA skills, Ziqiao Ma froze, “I haven’t thought about it yet,” he says, “I shouldn’t tell any of my girlfriends about it, I still don’t think using pua techniques is a decent thing to do.”