What the PUA Academy reveals about the way we raise our boys

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The Facebook page came under fire when posts by their members containing nude photos and sex videos in so-called “lay reports” spread online. To these men, it seemed that women were nothing but conquests. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them,” author Margaret Atwood once said. The PUA [Pick-Up Artists] Academy’s now deleted Facebook page, and the outrage that ensued when people discovered what they were teaching (and selling) served as reminders of these anxieties, and the stark difference between what men and women must deal with.

The Facebook page came under fire this week when posts by their members containing nude photos and sex videos in so-called “lay reports” spread online. As screenshots from various users show, PUA Academy is an “online dating company” that offers seminars or “bootcamps” on meeting and eventually sleeping with girls. They have trainers who go by names like “Smooth,” speaking in tutorial videos bearing titles like “How to attract women,” “How many numbers can you get in 2 hours?” and “How to create drama to make her fall for you.” Before it was deleted, the page had over 21,000 likes.

Dozens of users called out the group and its members for how they were treating women. They referred to the process of seduction a “game,” where women were “sets” and the ultimate goal was to score a “lay,” which some would then report online, sometimes with incriminating photos and videos. To these men, it seemed that women were nothing but conquests.

The “art” of picking up women

The “art” of picking up women grew in popularity in the west around 2005, when Neil Strauss released “The Game,” the definitive guide on the secrets of the pick-up artist. Defenders of the community say it’s all in the name of helping shy, socially anxious men talk to women. The lessons cover confidence and self-assuredness, seemingly targeted at men who have little to no dating experience, selling them the idea that with a few simple steps they would be able to navigate the field without any hitches. Even in one of PUA Academy’s videos, in a seminar-type setup, a speaker mentions how some men panic mid-date and call him up for advice on how to move forward.

But they also teach persistence to the point of harassment. In the same video, the speaker says, “May mga girls na pakipot, gusto nila ‘yung dominant guys para ‘yung guilt nasayo … mas maganda 'pag ikaw ‘yung kasalanan, na parang ‘finorce mo kasi ako, kaya may nangyari.’ Kaya gusto nila nagpapa-force.”

When boys ignore personal boundaries, when they refuse to take no for an answer in a sexual context, their behaviors are dismissed as “boys will be boys” and “palibhasa lalaki.”

Certain pick-up “techniques” promote the idea that a woman’s attention can be gained by making her feel bad about herself. In a post on PUA Academy’s now deleted Instagram page, the caption read: “If you show a woman interest right away, she will reject you.” A technique called “negging” involves giving a woman backhanded compliments to lower her self-esteem and make her crave more attention and validation.

These techniques promote the idea that women are vapid, shallow, and manipulable — both pawns and trophies in a game where only men are allowed to play. A game that’s hardly fair to half of its participants (if you can even call women that).

Ultimately, at the core of pick-up culture is the concept of “othering” women, or viewing them as secondary to men. In philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s book, “The Second Sex,” she argues that as man is considered the “default” in society, women then become considered as the “Other” — “… man defines woman not herself but as relative to him.”

The idea of maleness as default is the very definition of the system of patriarchy, which asserts the need for male dominance and breeds sexist behavior. It is therefore unsurprising to see our men struggling with an overwhelming desire to take control, lest they be considered failures.

‘Men are afraid that women will laugh at them’

Through the influence of elders, peers, pop culture, and even public officials, boys learn what it means to be a man. Ideas of manhood and machismo are taught to boys from childhood, where they’re told that crying is a sign of unmanliness, and that the toys they are to play with are the rough and tough kind like cars and toy guns. On the playground, being lampa is shameful. Boys are taught to deal with bullies with their fists.

As kids discover crushes, boys are taught to be confident and assertive. When it comes to dating, they are taught to be competitive, persistent, to not give up too easily, to never take no for an answer. Being torpe is unattractive, embarrassing.

As kids come of age and learn about sexuality, boys are taught to view sex as a rite of passage. The measure of one’s manhood depends on his losing his virginity. You aren’t a tunay na lalaki if you haven’t had a sexual experience yet.

Ideas of manhood and machismo are taught to boys from childhood, where they’re told that crying is a sign of unmanliness, and that the toys they are to play with are the rough and tough kind like cars and toy guns.

For many of the boys who don’t fit into the macho mold, there is an immense pressure to conform, and this can be harmful to the point of driving them to experience personal problems like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Repressing emotions and having no outlet or form of expression may also result in anger issues and violence, which can extend to those close to them.

Society doesn’t just shame boys who don’t conform. It rewards those who do, and gives a free pass to those who overdo it. When they become overly aggressive, when they ignore personal boundaries, when they refuse to take no for an answer in a sexual context, their behaviors are dismissed as “boys will be boys” and “palibhasa lalaki.” This does a great disservice to our boys, who are then made to feel like bad behavior is simply a part of who they are.

‘Women are afraid that men will kill them’

Gender roles are just as harmful for women. When we insist that women must be demure and modest to be considered respectable, it makes it much easier to blame those who are neither for falling prey to harassment. Victim-blaming is often a big factor in what makes it so difficult for some women to come forward about sexual abuse and rape.

Though social movements like #MeToo show that people are slowly understanding that victims are never at fault and that men must be held accountable for their actions, the discussion often stops at condoning how men treat women, not why they treat them the way they do.

Perhaps it is worth questioning the way we raise our boys to think and feel — what value is there in dictating that boys act a specific way when it is costing our girls their dignity?