Pick-up techniques - interview with Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss

Kirstin Innes talks tactics with Legendary seducer Neil Strauss, and explores Scotland’s fastest-growing seduction subculture

IceDragon, Scotland’s number one PUA (pickup artist), is trying to lock me into conversation. However, he’s quickly surrounded. Deep Vertigo has perched at his shoulder and five other members of the Glasgow lair are hovering on the fringes. Chance, 20 years old and ‘peacocked’ (see below for glossary of terms) up to the nines in a floor-length brocade coat and a smudge of eyeliner, stretches himself out in the chair next to me, and begins, slowly to take over the interview, employing light ‘kino’ tactics and not breaking eye contact as he turns my questions back on me. The others lose interest and drift off. They’ve been ‘AMOGged’.

Despite the codes, the ‘lairs’ and the silly names, I’m not online in Second Life, World of Warcraft or any other gaming fantasyland. I’m in Waterstone’s on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Chance, IceDragon, and Deep Vertigo, all of whom have asked me to use their PUA nicknames (‘we don’t want what we do to affect our normal lives,’ says Chance), are certainly all engaged in a game, but it’s composed of calculated conversational routines and secret weapons, it happens in the real world, and the objective is not to slay Orcs or vanquish trolls, but to seduce as many women as possible.

The PUAs are ‘sarging’ me in Waterstone’s, rather than a sticky, darkened corner of a bar or a club, because Neil Strauss is giving a reading. Back in 2005, Strauss was best known as a mild-mannered, LA-based music journalist for the New York Times and Rolling Stone. Then he published The Game, a personal narrative describing his ascension from AFC (average frustrated chump) with little sexual experience or confidence, to seduction community royalty. Strauss, or ‘Style’, as he became known, was voted number one PUA in the world three years in a row.

‘I didn’t get into it for reasons of manipulation, or power,’ Strauss says, when we meet for a drink at his hotel prior to the reading. ‘It was something I did because I wasn’t happy with who I was. These days, though, people assume that I play everybody, all the time – someone actually said, “I’m scared! I don’t know how you’re playing me!” recently. It was just a normal conversation!’

Until The Game came along, pickup artists operated much more covertly – by going public, Strauss helped to create the international community. ‘I read The Game in 2005,’ IceDragon tells me, ‘and it changed my life. I tried one of Style’s routines out in a club, and I got the girl’s phone number. I realised later that it wasn’t necessarily the routine that had done that. It was me. That’s why I started the Scotland Lair website – it’s a support community.’

The game is being played, now, in almost every city in the world. The Glasgow lair, with 260 registered online members, is relatively small compared to the London and Los Angeles lairs, which now stretch into the thousands. Members of the seduction community meet up online to discuss techniques and post ‘field reports’ of their approaches on HBs (hot babes, often accompanied by a number denoting their attractiveness out of ten). Men – many, many more men than would publicly admit it – passed The Game between their friends. There are splinter factions squabbling online about whether you’ll get better results by using neuro-linguistic programming or simple hypnosis. By ‘better results’, I mean ‘more women’.

‘My books aren’t just about pickup routines, about tips and tricks,’ Strauss insists. ‘I’m tracing the evolution of a subculture.’ Later, at the reading, he’ll wonder, in front of a 200-strong audience of stammering boys, peacocked PUAs and older, nervy men in suits whether ‘this whole thing will just be a blip on early 21st century culture, or if we’re seeing the beginnings of a new phase of male self-improvement.’

Pickup is a huge, money-making business these days. Chance, Deep Vertigo and IceDragon have all been employed as ‘approach coaches’ by Alpha Interactions, the biggest seduction company in the UK, training up other AFCs on sarging bootcamps, which happen in nightclubs and cost upwards of £295 a session. Conversely, while the current storm of publicity for Strauss’ new book The Rules of the Game – essentially a 30-day seduction manual – has brought the community even greater exposure, women still seem largely oblivious to the manoeuvres being used around and on them.

What worries me about the seduction community, I tell Strauss, is that it seems to set heterosexual relations back a good 50 years, and, ironically for a movement that purports to teach men how to talk to women, ultimately widens the gap in understanding between the sexes. I refer to a quote in The Game by a pickup artist who calls himself Tyler Durden: ‘I never used to be a misogynist until I discovered the Game.’
Strauss takes a while with his answer.

‘Yeah, yeah, I-I-I understand what you mean. Um. But anyway. I’ll come back to that. But, looking at the positive and negative sides of the Game – I’d like to focus on the positive sides first. When guys are afraid of women, that fear and sexual frustration can turn into hatred – and hatred leads to some guy opening fire in a supermarket! There was a college shooting in America recently (the incident at Virginia Tech in April last year), and that guy started it over a girl who rejected him. A lot of guys are very intimidated by an attractive woman, and they dehumanise her because our culture perceives beautiful women as commodities. But I think if you’re able walk up to a person and get to know them, and you see their flaws and their impurities, and realise that they’re like you, then you can humanise them again.’

And the negative?

‘Well, yeah. Where women have to be treated by a certain set of rules, and according to the Game, they do, it does create that curtain between men and women. Because it does become an addiction, running game. It gets into your head and changes the way you look at things. I’d just be in a business meeting and there’d be a female in the room and I’d have to sarge her, get her phone number, often without even realising what I was doing.

‘Hopefully,’ he says, with another nervous giggle, ‘once men get to understand how they can swipe that curtain away, they’ll step over it. That’s the ultimate message of The Game; that sometimes you gotta drop it and act from the heart! My books are not Loaded magazine! They’re not Nuts!’

Later a group of us, including Strauss, go out to dinner. I put the same question to the other PUAs.

‘But women have had the power for hundreds of years,’ Chance says. ‘We’re just trying to make things equal again.’

When I ask what power women have had, he looks at me as though I’m stupid.

‘Women are the ones who get to decide.’

As the evening comes to an end, IceDragon leaves with an arm round each of the beautiful young women he’s been accessorising with all night. The rest of the Glasgow lair are eager to take Strauss sarging along Sauchiehall Street, their prime hunting ground; he’s much keener on checking out the Glasgow music scene. He met Sons and Daughters recently, and wants to visit Nice’n’Sleazy’s on their recommendation.

Unravelling the language of the seduction community

noun: a socially comfortable male who competes with a pickup artist for a woman or interferes with a pickup artist’s game. 2. verb: to remove a potential male competitor – through physical, verbal or psychological tactics – from a group of women.

noun: a pattern, routine or line a pickup artist uses with the intention of seducing a woman who already has a boyfriend.

verb: to touch or be touched, generally with suggestive intent or the purpose of arousal, such as hair-stroking, hand-holding or hip-grabbing; precedes actual sexual contact.

noun: an ambiguous statement or seemingly accidental insult delivered to a beautiful woman a pickup artist has just met, with the intent of actively demonstrating to her (or to her friends) a lack of interest in her.

verb: to dress in loud clothing or with flashy accoutrements in order to get attention from women. Peacocking items include bright shiny shirts, light-up jewellery, feather boas, colourful cowboy hats, or anything else that makes one stand out in a crowd.

verb: to pick up women, or to go out to try and meet women.

noun: the woman in the group who the pickup artist desires and is running game on.

The above is taken from The Game, by Neil Strauss, published by Canongate.


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4. Auntie Ashley27 Oct 2008, 11:19am Report

Good on you guys. More power to your elbow (or less! ha ha)

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5. Renegade28 Dec 2008, 12:29pm Report

I'd also recommend Around The World in 80 Babes! -- the classic tale of Nige 54 and his adventures meeting women and showing them a good time. Unlike many guys who are all talk and only think they know how to meet women, through his story, Nige 54 imparts the required insight and strategy that other guys can actually use to maximise their success. In contrast to "The Game," which painted a very negative picture of the whole seduction community, Around The World in 80 Babes! motivates and inspires every guy out there to make some changes and start living the "54" way.


6. Statler29 Dec 2008, 9:00pm Report

IceDragon is Scotland's No.1 nothing except maybe liar. Even within the Scottish community he's a joke and has done more harm than good to it with his fake conquests and claims for himself, none of which he can back up in person. The PUA scene is essentially self-help and very enriching but IceDragon and anything associated with him is to be avoided.

7. Zorro15 Feb 2009, 10:19pm Report

I have met IceDragon several times, and had the privilege of seeing him in action. He's like a master craftsman at work, completely captivating beautiful women.

Among others, I was lucky enough to be invited to the dinner with Neil Strauss.

I saw the two stunning girls Kirsten Innes mentioned, whom IceDragon left with. All I can say is 'wow'.

He's a living legend. Learned so much from him.

He has earned a formidable reputation and gained unprecendented recognition from the international PUA scene, and has done Scotland proud by putting us firmly on the map.

Someone as successful as him will inevitably arouse intense jealousy among lesser men, and that's perfectly normal. My message to the haters is 'don't try to bring a great man down with your lies, but try to raise yourself to a higher level'.

I am proud to have met the man himself and wish him all the best for 2009.

8. Statler25 Feb 2009, 2:16pm Report

^ Thanks for stopping by IceDragon. Numerous aliases are one of Ice's signature trademarks as is the sort of rubbish written above. So obviously Ice it's laughable. A quick Google on his name should reveal all you need ever want to know about this 'legend' (LOL!): a nobody with delusions of social skills. As before, AVOID!!

9. Ninja26 Feb 2009, 3:27am Report

haha! Neil Strauss couldn't pick up a banana. This whole 'game' shit is what people don't need. What's wrong with being normal and just talking to girls like a human being.

Don't buy this book, instead, dress well, keep yourself fit, and girls will flock to you.

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11. Arthur27 Feb 2009, 8:47am Report

I don't know whether to laugh at or feel sorry for anyone who buys into these 'pickup artist' techniques. But, if it's any help, an enduring truth - girls are always attracted by a fat wallet, no matter what your age or looks.

Also, regardless of how colourful so-called 'PUA' techniques are, it seems to me that "any" group of men that dedicate 7 days a week to go to clubs, bars, and discos to pick up women will do so in the end. The main reason being: there they'll find plenty of girls who are easy party girls or needy and looking for some emotional validation. If they came across normal girls, they wouldn't know how to relate to them.

12. Gordon222 Mar 2009, 12:32pm Report

It's a bit low bringing IceDragon's ethnicity into the equation. I've known Ice for a few years, and he's the nicest, most genuine guy you'll ever meet, who has time for everyone. I've been sarging with him loads of times, and the guy has solid game, anyone who says otherwise is clearly talking a load of bollocks.

I wouldn't bet against both 'Statler' and 'T-man' being the same person, slandering anyone who writes anything in support of Ice.

13. Ralph2 Mar 2009, 12:36pm Report

There are men who act as if their virginity were only misplaced and might one day be restored; as if a dearth of sex will cause them to metamorphose into the callow, playground laughing-stock of macho nightmare.

Neil Strauss, professional womaniser and author of The Game. Strauss, a journalist and writer, was a bit nervous, a bit on the short side, a bit on the bald side. He had no luck with women. That made him sad. Then a more effectively libidinous friend introduced him, via the internet, to the world of pick-up artists, men who claim to have cracked the code of female attraction, and who, for a handsome fee, will share it with their frustrated brethren.

According to Strauss, it works. He researched the theories, tested them and, by his account, copulated relentlessly for around two years.

Some of the recommended techniques are sinister. One involves discreetly undermining a woman's self-esteem by paying her a backhanded compliment in the hope that she will hang around to seek your approval. This manoeuvre has its own name: 'the Neg'.

But sinister soon gives way to pathetic.

It is remarkable how Strauss races up the ranks of the pick-up fraternity even before he has procured so much as a snog from a lady. So bereft of charisma are most of the people who haunt the lothario chatrooms that anyone with a modicum of self-awareness and humour can take command.

For the most part, these are alienated and dysfunctional people, some profoundly damaged by childhood neglect or abuse. It soon becomes clear that the approval they get from other men is more intoxicating than the pleasure they get from sex.

It is unfortunate for Strauss, and his reader, that it takes so long for the realisation to dawn that they might have been getting this trust and support from women, had they turned their minds to it.

14. Arthur13 Mar 2009, 11:09pm Report

Seems like Neil Strauss has a new book out, called 'Emergency':


Totally unrelated to seduction and PUA, but looks rather interesting.

15. Gordon2213 Mar 2009, 11:13pm Report

Ice's new book:


16. Sundance Kid28 Mar 2009, 2:37pm Report

An extract from an email from Neil...
(Why) "shame men out of seeking help for their issues. Help that would bring them out out of their social shells. Help that could make them much happier with themselves. Help that will, for most of them, lead at some point to marriage and children - and, in the meantime, lead to new experiences and friendships, not to mention some fun, consensual late nights.

The truth is, from the thousands upon thousands of successful AND botched pickups I've witnessed: The game poses a far greater threat to the guy than to the girl.

The real victims of the game are the guys who get so into it, they lose themselves. They lose the things that are special about them as individuals, they lose their direction in life, they lose their ability to relate normally to people." Ice Dragon is a classic example of this please note. He is all that is wrong about the community. Sorry Neil continues...

"And that is a minority of guys. Most are smart enough to get it, and blossom into amazingly cool, fun, successful guys. When it comes to violence in society, which these shows [what ther article was primarily about PUA on TV shows] love to attribute to PUAs as an exciting plot twist, if you read the news, some of the most shocking crimes in society have been caused by men who have pent-up sexual desires but have either been rejected or just have no way to attain them. So they grow dark and bitter and hateful, and eventually lash out. Other instances of violence (like school shootings and suicides) have been caused by people who felt like social outcasts. And other instances (like domestic abuse) stem from an attempt to take control over the victim.

(Of course, some people are just crazy, fucked-up sociopaths.)

The point is: when taught and learned correctly, the game socializes men.

And the more socialized people we have in this world, the less anti-social behavior we'll see.

If fewer people feel powerless around and invalidated by others, than fewer people will resort to trying to get what they believe to be the upper hand through violence. So, rather than leading to more violence in the world, the game is at least a step toward leading guys to seek help with their issues and pointing to other attainable solutions.

Because the game is not about wearing a funny hat and insulting

It's about becoming your best self and making the best possible first impression you can. It's about understanding the rules that people use to make social and sexual and professional choices and alliances, and working effectively within that system.
It's about attracting others by learning to master yourself, rather
than trying to control them. And it's also about having fun when
you go out, rather than cowering timidly in the corner."

Thanks SDK

17. Arthur8 Apr 2009, 3:13am Report

Having met Neil Strauss in London, I find it very hard to believe he can attract women, never mind seduce them! Don't get me wrong, really nice guy, but if he wasn't a famous celebrity writer, I doubt he would be scoring with as many 'hot babes' as he is making out to be.

Time for a reality check, maybe.

I bought his new book 'Emergency', and I'm reading through it just now, it's a better and more believable read that the 'Game' nonsense for sure.

18. T-Man20 Apr 2009, 7:25pm Report

Gordon22 (or should I say IceDragon), how is it low bringing IceDragon's ethnicity into the equation? It wasn't a racial remark, the guy is Asian. That's no more offensive than pointing out he's short, slightly built and has thinning hair. That's not getting at the guy, it's just a description. Grow up. What's low is trying to hide the truth.

19. Ashley2 Feb 2010, 7:18pm Report

God you guys are good!!

I had to revamp the class to keep up!!!

SISTERS!! I always have your back.


The Venus Academy x

20. Lizzie D17 Sep 2010, 2:27pm Report

This is weird.

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