My dating life hasn’t always been a roaring success. I have, in fact, had my share of failures. I once tried to charm a woman in such toweringly cack-handed fashion that it pains me to think back on it— well, actually more than once, but I’m thinking here of a particular instance when, instead of just turning me away or shooting me down, she gave me some honest and very memorably direct feedback on precisely why my approach wasn’t appreciated.
Thankfully, I didn’t then go to Real Social Dynamics (RSD) for help. This is the “dating coaching company” that employs Julien Blanc, who recently made himself notorious with a video of his methods of seduction (if you can call them that)—most notably his habit of pushing womens’s heads toward his groin while saying “Pikachu,” which in his mind makes it all cute.
There was an immediate response to the video. The #takedownjulienblanc twitter campaign saw protests at his prospective speaking venues, seminars canceled, his visa for Australia rescinded and permission refused to even enter the U.K. Since this happened, examples of his behaviour posted on sites such as Tinder and Twitter, where he actively and consistently cultivated an image of spiteful misogyny without any apparent irony, have exposed him as a truly odious individual, despite his unpersuasive after-the-fact apology on CNN.
As the story spread, there was naturally something of a rush to judgment, and rightly so. However, in riding the wave of popular revulsion, some commentators roundly condemned the whole “pick-up” field, customers and providers alike. As reprehensible as they are, is it fair to judge an entire industry on the actions of one man?
No one is born with immaculate social skills, and they develop at different speeds in different people. So naturally some of us are lacking. I see little difference between, say, an aspiring journalist investing time and money in taking courses to acquire the necessary skills, and a man with poor social skills doing the same. You might as well criticize someone who wants to lose weight for going on a diet.
To my mind, what’s in question is the quality of the advice and products available for this purpose. Just as there are fad diets and no end of quackery aimed at people who want to lose weight, so the content of pick-up products varies dramatically. Some programs offer genuine insight into the psychology underpinning male-female interactions, and consist not really of “game” rules but life coaching disguised as dating advice to appeal to men who would otherwise be averse to the idea of self-help.
However, there are also of course charlatans and profiteers, seeking only to rake in cash by exploiting the market. They deal not in self-improvement but in manipulation, tricks and techniques that disguise inadequacies rather than eliminating them—and some of them can plumb the depths seen in Blanc’s video.
This market isn’t going to go away, though. So where are men to find the products they need?
Most seminars and courses are run by men, with males making up the vast majority of speakers. On the RSD website, all the “executive instructors” are men appointed by men and trained by men. Is it really possible to learn about the nuances of male-female interaction when you’re seeing only one side?
When I got that feedback from the woman I tried to charm, it stung at the time. But in a wider frame, I found it genuinely helpful. And that’s where I think the answer lies: courses, programs and seminars for men, but envisioned, designed and presented by women.
This would work for men because they’d not only acquire the skills they need—and want—but also learn the difference between irreverent and disrespectful, cheeky and coarse, acceptable and offensive. And in the face of this competition, the other players in the market would be forced to evolve, improving their product and raising standards all round.
It would also then work for women because, with their own insight available directly to men, there would be no forum for people like Blanc to pass on their “wisdom,” no excuse for men to seek it out, and hopefully no men acting on it—or at least fewer.
That’s how to take down Julien Blanc. Banning him would just add to his notoriety and give him the publicity he wants. Squeezing him out would make him irrelevant—and leave him assuredly behind.