Recently, a friend told me about PUAHate, a website announcing itself as "The Forefront of the Anti-Pickup-Artist Movement." Its mission statement, posted on PUAHate's splash page, reads: "Revealing the scams, deception and misleading marketing techniques used by dating gurus and the seduction community to mislead men and profit from them."
At first glance, this seemed reasonable, even great. The PUA community profits tremendously from young men struggling with anything from simple social discomfort to full-blown personality disorder. I liked the idea of a site debunking PUA myths about picking up women. But when I clicked into the forums of PUAHate, I saw that the stated purpose of the site was generally ignored, and as with many Internet communities, the "anything goes" forum was the one where the conversation was really happening, and the conversation revolved almost exclusively around physical appearance.
The threads about women were offensive in an unsurprising way. “Are ugly women completely useless to society?” asked one. Another pondered, "Have any hot women ever committed suicide?" One user gave the forum a modest proposal: fat women, he said, should be prevented from leaving the house. “What is there for them to do?” he asked, suggesting that it would be best for these women to be kept inside until they reached a healthy body-mass index.
Even more popular, however, were threads that did surprise me: men counseling other men on what types of cosmetic surgery they should get, as to better enhance their chances of sleeping with a woman.
The users of this forum call themselves "incel," or involuntarily celibate. They are on PUAHate, I realized, to debunk PUA myths not because of theory, but because of practice. The PUA techniques didn’t work; they need something else, and, with the PUA obsession with objectification lingering, the “incels” turn their physical critiques of women onto themselves.
The owner of the forum goes by the username Nicholaus. His avatar is a distorted picture of a face, maybe his. He was kind enough to explain a few things about the forum.
What is the mission of PUAhate?
The mission of PUAhate is two things. The first is, what is stated on the site's entry page. The second is, to provide people with a place to talk about whatever (legal) things they want, without having to worry about it being censored, even if what they talk about goes against the point of the site. The users here are allowed to say bad things about the site (or me) if they want, and their posts will not be edited or censored because of it, nor will they be punished by being banned for doing it.
Are these two things that are the mission of the site contradictory at times? Absolutely. Does that make for some really interesting discussions on here sometimes? You bet it does.
Do you think it is a constructive site?
For me personally, absolutely, in that I have made friends with some really great people here so far. Is it constructive for other people? You would have to ask them. It would be pretty arrogant for me to presume that something I created has been good for other people.
Do you think the obsession with physical appearance here is unhealthy?
I don't really think about it, because I don't really participate in that section of the forum where they talk about that stuff (shitty advice). Once in [awhile] I'll pop in there and criticize something they are saying because I don't agree with it, but overall that physical appearance topic isn't interesting to me, so I don't read 99 percent of the posts that are about it. My stance is that every user is responsible for regulating their own personal emotions and interests.
What do you think keeps bringing people back to PUAhate?
I honestly have no idea. Many people over the years have said the site is addictive, and I don't know why that is. I even get addicted sometimes, and I will say to myself, "What the hell, I had stuff to do today, how did I get sucked into being on here for four hours straight?"
On the site, the users say "see you tomorrow" to anyone who says they are done here and are going to leave forever, because usually the person comes back the next day, or within a short period.
Do you think it's misogynistic the way women are talked about in this context? Specifically, the way women are still being treated as objects to obtain?
Yeah, I think it's very unhealthy to think of a woman as anything different than just another person. I have posted about this many times on the site, but to classify women as being "this way" or "that way" is completely retarded to me. I believe that how people act is not based on their gender, but on their personality. For the guys that complain that women are a certain way, you can go find just as many women who aren't like that. So is the thing they are complaining about still a woman thing? Of course not. It's a personality thing.
Nicholaus was incredibly honest about the forum, which I appreciated. When outsiders, or “normalfags” as they’re referred to in the shitty advice forum, breach a small online community like this, they are often made to feel very unwelcome.
Still intrigued by the cosmetic surgery threads, I joined the forum under the innocuous username “p90x guy,” playing into the fitness aspect of the community. I uploaded two pictures, one wearing a hat and one where I slicked my hair back to accentuate my receding hairline. A sample of the responses:
You could be a pretty boy type 6.8 or even 7 if you had a jock NWO hairline. You are a 0 with that hair tho.
(I searched and searched, and still have no idea what a jock NWO hairline is.)
No, he would be 5/10 either way, wrote another poster. Long oval face with no jaw. Totally gay lips, beta eyes, poor height, and scrawny build. Overall beta vibe.
How did they know my height? (I am 5’10.)
Another wrote, The fuck is wrong with your hair doofus?
Many more users just uploaded pictures of hats, which was helpful. I was also told to “thicken up,” and go for that “muscle/bad boy/rape game.” One user suggested that I looked like a "white guy trying to be black.” The harshest commenter wrote, The guy in those pics should take up bungee jumping. And leave the bungee rope in his rucksack. Several more posted memes mocking my look and clothes.
The subtext: you’ll need to do more to trick a woman into sleeping with you. You’ll need some wizardry. I poked around the forum some more, hoping to find a user who acknowledged a yearning to go on a date, make a human connection, or make a new friend. I didn’t find one. It was sex and nothing else.
Nicholas had acknowledged the contradiction in PUAHate, but it was much greater than he seemed to want it to be. This forum, actively dedicated to warning users of the perils of PUA sites, was operating on an almost identical premise. What was different, and weirdly gripping, was the near-inherent expectation of failure. This expectation of failure created a deep insecurity and self-hatred, which gave rise not to a healthy support community but to a community still dedicated to the use of deception (in the form of cosmetic surgery) to achieve their ultimate goal: sleeping with a woman.
At base the users of PUAHate direct their anger not at the pickup artist movement, but themselves. They understand at some level that PUA thinking has entrapped them and done them wrong; their attempts to get out of it trap them further.
And I hated all their hat suggestions.
Patrick Kearns is a New York-based sportswriter. He is the New York correspondent and columnist for the Fourth Period Magazine.