‘You’re just making someone feel far better about themselves. It would certainly be selfish not to’ … the London-based pickup artist and dating coach Johnny Cassell. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian
‘You’re simply making someone feel better about themselves. It would certainly be selfish no to’ … the London-based pickup artist and dating coach Johnny Cassell. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian
Teaching men just how to strategy women lock don’t recognize is a $100m industry. But does it assist men uncover their dream mate - or simply encourage street harassment?

In an upmarket bar close to Oxford Circus in London, ns am watching two males hit top top women through all the desperation of a doomed mounties charge. But without the heroism.

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Mike and Raj (not their actual names) one the bar, scanning because that women, drinks organized at an awkward right angle to their chests. Once they identify a target, lock approach. The females stiffen, your smiles tightening. They swirl drinks with straws and chit-chat politely before mentioning boyfriends – real or imagined. The males retreat, regroup, recognize fresh women. Advance, engage, retreat. On and also on that goes.

I’m standing with the male coordinating this operation, the british pickup artist Johnny Cassell, as he watches together Mike and also Raj – his student – run drills. This evening is the culmination that Cassell’s intensive, day-long “Impactful Connection” workshop. Because that £700, Cassell guarantees to help men “master the arts of attracting the females you important want”. Yet watching as Mike and also Raj fight on ladies indiscriminately, it looks as if any type of women will certainly do.

It has been a long and also disturbing day. Getting here at the venue, a four-star Mayfair hotel the morning, ns had discovered Cassell, 31, in a black mood: a customer had simply dropped out. Tall and also handsome, with a wolfish air, Cassell switches in between being charming and also cold. He does not prefer being contradicted or mocked. At one point during the session, ns joke around spreadsheets and also GDPR violations. Cassell is visibly displeased.


The post that the guys are law a an excellent thing, and that women gain being struggle on, is continuous reinforced by Cassell. Photograph: Assembly/Getty images (posed by model)For the uninitiated, pickup artist (PUAs) are typically men – female artist are much rarer – that attempt to coax women into having actually sex with them with a mixture the flattery, emotional manipulation and coercion. The movement has actually a surprisingly long pedigree, dating back to Eric Weber’s now practically 50-year-old manual exactly how to choose Up Girls. Today, this seems reasonably sedate stuff. Weber writes, “the most crucial tenet that a choose up is the it’s shared … Women space entitled come say ‘no’, plain and simple.” yet the neighborhood really exploded into the public consciousness with the publication of Neil Strauss’s 2005 international bestseller The Game, which offered 2.5m copies. It introduced a generation of men to the murky, underhand human being of pickup artists and also their nefarious tactics, such together negging – violation a mrs to undermine her confidence, and make she feel together if she needs to seek your approval – or peacocking, whereby you dress flamboyantly as a talking suggest to struggle on women. I checked out university 2 years after ~ The video game was published, and watched its affect spread favor a virus with the men in my year: i don’t think ns went top top a night out in 2007 without part drunk rugby player trying to “neg” me.

What was as soon as an underground ar has grown right into a seduction sector valued in ~ $100m (£75m). “The basic premise of every seduction teaching and practice is that interactions in between men and also women room subject to certain underlying principles that, as soon as understood, can be readily manipulated,” describes Dr Rachel O’Neill that Warwick University, the writer of Seduction: Men, Masculinity and Mediated Intimacy. “This is one impoverished watch of sex and relationships, in which intimacy is much less something come be proficient for its very own sake and an ext something come be completed for other ends.”

With the arrival of the internet, elements of the pickup artist community’s ideological background hardened into something darker. “ paved the way for other masculinised self-help formations come emerge, such together Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules because that Life,” claims O’Neill. Peterson, a Canadian academic, published his bestselling self-help tome in 2018 and is a doubter of feminism. “It likewise connects through masculinist factions such together the incel movement <“involuntary celibates” – qualified by an extreme hatred that women>, and men’s rights activists.” This globalised network of pickup artists, men’s legal rights activists and incels all emerged out the the same primordial sludge.


‘I desire you come take the shot’ … Johnny Cassells take away his pickup workshop in London last week. Photograph: Andy Hall/The GuardianAttending today’s workshop space Mike, a 31-year-old technology worker, and also Raj, 26, who stays in Dubai and also works in finance. We sit approximately a circular table in a panelled conference room. Oil paints of equines stare down at us. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years,” Cassell says. “It began off together a need for myself. Currently I teach various other people.”

Raj provides PUA terminology abundantly. “I have an worry with approach anxiety,” the says, meaning that he it s okay nervous hitting on ladies for the an initial time. He also refers to “sarging”, the process of choose up women. Both Raj and Mike space (perhaps unsurprisingly) edgy roughly me. Ns shunt mine chair right into a corner and also arrange my functions into a neutral expression.

The workshop starts with Cassell urging Raj and also Mike to choose their dream women. Raj favours Kylie Jenner; Mike opts because that Amber Gill, native Love Island. Through the appropriate mindset, Cassell says, castle can bring their dream women right into existence. He states reassuring if somewhat oblique points such as: “You space not a mass-market product,” and, “If you are acquiring rejected, girlfriend haven’t resolved what girlfriend want,” and, “The magic word right here is, choose.” (Cassell to write “choose” on the whiteboard.)

Pop psychology conference over, Cassell teaches castle a conversation model. Once approaching a woman, they should start by making an assumption, before using a hook to draw her into conversation. Following they should an obstacle her, then present a time constraint and also close the interaction by asking for a phone number. Raj and Mike hunch over your notebooks like dutiful schoolboys.

In recent years, Cassell has been explicate himself together a dating coach as well as a pickup artist, and avoids the worst excesses the the PUA community, such as sexually coercive tactics. Infamous pickup artist Daryush Valizadeh – well-known as Roosh V – to be accused the advocating legalising rape, on private property, in comments he later on said were satirical. The American pickup artist Julien Blanc to be banned from entering the UK in 2014, after ~ 157,000 human being signed a petition protesting versus his visit. Earlier this month, pickup artist Adnan Ahmed – who called himself “Addy A-Game” – was jailed for two years after gift convicted the threatening and abusive behaviour. Ahmed would certainly harass women on the roads of Glasgow, leading to them distress, and offered tips on his YouTube channel on how to conquer “last-minute resistance to sex”.

While his patter is assured, Cassell’s teaching feels come me very comparable to the post of Neil Strauss’s seminal pickup bible. At one point, Cassell suggests daunting a woman who is right into Crossfit by informing her that Crossfit is for civilization who no really an excellent at any type of sport. This appears to be textbook negging.

Conversational model learned, it’s currently time for what Cassell describes as fieldwork, but would much more accurately be termed street harassment. Therefore follow two of the many dispiriting hours of my career, as I walk around central London in the rain, watching together Raj and also Mike torment women. Castle pretend to ask because that directions, and after the woman has pointed the end the route, say: “Actually I simply wanted to talk to you,” or, “You look at cute.”

At one point, Mike stops 2 women top top Oxford Street and also pretends come ask because that directions. After castle walk on, Cassell sends Mike chasing after castle – the is encouraged one to be being flirtatious, because she crossed her legs while speak to Mike. (She speak him she has a boyfriend.) outside Fortnum & Mason top top Piccadilly, over there is a surreal chat around whether the guys should strategy a young woman shopping v her mother. Cassell decides in favour that it, however by then, thankfully, the women have actually moved on.

As a young woman who has actually experienced street harassment transparent my life, it is an extremely uncomfortable point to observe. I know that, ~ above a an essential level, women perform not desire to it is in approached in this method by strangers top top the street. Not once they are running errands, or chatting top top the phone, or top top their way home from work. Us want men to leave united state alone.

But ns am right here to observe. So i say nothing and also we squelch on with the rain. Ns am win by the reality that all the ladies being approached room uniformly young, slim, white – and uniformly polite. Castle smile and also refer come boyfriends, but with the exemption of one mrs Mike interrupts having a cigarette external Pret – that looks furious – they execute not seem placed out. Why don’t any of these women tell Mike and also Raj to get lost?

“Women room socialised no to difficulty men,” explains Dr Bianca Fileborn of the university of Melbourne, an experienced in gendered street harassment. “But this response may likewise be about managing the instance safely.” as soon as you face a stranger you risk escalating the situation. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next. This are guys who’ve currently crossed your borders … deflecting them, by informing them you have a boyfriend – in effect, saying, ‘I’m the property of one more man, please leave me alone’ – deserve to be a strategy for regulating the situation.”

As us walk, Mike is having an interior tussle. “You perform wonder, am i bothering people?” the admits. “Especially with things choose #MeToo. But then ns think, you’re being nice. You’ve gone up to someone and said they’re attractive.” This post – that the males are act a great thing, and also that women enjoy being hit on in the street – is continuous reinforced through Cassell. The urges castle on, one officer rallying his troops. “I desire you come take that shot. You’re simply making someone feel much better about themselves.”

After Raj is rejected exterior Topshop (who knew so plenty of women in main London had actually boyfriends?), Cassell reassures that he has actually done naught wrong. “She’s walking to contact her friend and say: ‘Oh mine God, this guy just hit top top me!’ friend made she day.” exterior Piccadilly Circus pipe station, the cold rain whipping mine face, Cassell repeats: “You’re just making who feel much better about themselves. It would certainly be selfish not to.”

That’s not true. I think i am angry street harassment – other Fileborn provides emphatically clear. “This behaviour has a profoundly an unfavorable impact on women. It’s regularly excused together flirting, or seen as good-natured. And on the individual event level, I deserve to understand why you can think that: someone came and also spoke come you in the street, those the big deal? yet for numerous women, these aren’t one-off experiences, yet are repetitive constantly, often from childhood. They add up.” She sighs. “I don’t think men live through this suffer of being intruded upon and having world feel entitled to her time.”

Cassell tells me around a girlfriend that would choose to salary a handyman quite than questioning him for help. That didn’t like that, he says. The made him feeling redundant.On us walk. I think about the smartly dressed guy who said something crude together I was having actually lunch at a previous job. I told him not to talk to me prefer that. His rage was sudden and total. “Fuck you,” the snarled, as I recoiled in terror. I always remember how easily the fury came, choose it had been there all along. Eventually, we head earlier to the hotel. As the guys write under their aspirations because that the future, Cassell, surreally, puts on the score to Inception.

We decamp come the hotel restaurant and eat while making stilted conversation. The is not an easy meal for anyone. The males feel that ns am evaluate them. Mike claims he thinks males should be physically stronger, for this reason they can defend women, and also waits for a response. Ns chew mine food. Cassell tells me around a girlfriend that would favor to salary a handyman fairly than questioning him because that help. That didn’t favor that, the says. It made him feeling redundant. “What perform you think around that?” Cassell says, addressing me through a cold look. Ns make a feeble joke.

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And so, to the bar whereby the staff understand Cassell and don’t seem to mind the he is bringing men right into the venue expressly to afflict women. For the next three hours, Cassell identifies groups of women. The guys trot over obediently. “Try the blonde in ~ the bar,” he speak Raj. “You’d just be including to she night. She looks bored.” Cassell says going as much as a woman, saying “Trick or Treat?”, and also then holding her wrist. In ~ one point, Cassell sends Mike to sit with two women that are having a quiet drink. “What must I say?” Mike pleads. The is vibrating v nerves.