Hi all, my apologies for not posting in so long. Truth is I've had a lot of thoughts and potential blog posts brewing in my mind for a while, but after my last piece I got caught up in several small and large adventures, including but not limited to a whirlwind PUA romance, beginning work with a new music producer for my band Arden and the Wolves, and enlisting two other lovely feminist seductresses to help me fight Kickstarter's shame-ban of seduction with a book project proposal called A Feminist Guide To Picking Up Men, now hosted on Indiegogo.
In the meantime however, I did an interview with Rachel Monte of Glipho, and I was really happy with how it turned out, so I wanted to share it with you all here. Because I've been so busy I ended up filling out these questions late at night and writing til around 9:00am, so there's a certain punchdrunk vulnerability that comes out (which often happens when I blog too; I start at 2:00am and write til daytime). Anyway, especially since my work has been more in the media lately, I'd like to post it here for people who find their way here as I think it's a good get-to-know-me-and-TNROA primer.
Also, I have several new blog posts coming up so you can finally expect to find the dust here brushed off on a regular basis!
Interview: Arden Leigh (@ardensirens), Female Pick-Up Artist and Author Of "The New Rules of Attraction"
by Rachel Monte
Thursday July 11, 2013
It was an absolute pleasure to interview the lovely Arden Leigh, self-styled "feminist pick-up artist" and the author of a seduction guide for women called The New Rules of Attraction: How to Get Him, Keep Him, and Make Him Beg For More (Sourcebooks, 2011).
Arden combines her knowledge of neuro-linguistic programming, brand marketing, and social dynamics with her experience as a pick-up artist, seduction coach, and professional dominatrix to offer women a proactive approach in achieving their romantic goals. With pick-up currently attracting a lot of negative attention thanks to the likes of Ken Hoinsky, it's refreshing to hear from one of the female voices in the pick-up community on how pick-up can also function as a tool for women.
She is currently collaborating with two other women from the seduction sphere on A Feminist Guide to Picking Up Men, a reaction to Kickstarter's banning of all seduction guides after the Hoinsky debacle.
photo by JM Darling
1. I really enjoyed reading The New Rules of Attraction. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so?
When I first discovered the pickup artist community back in 2007, I devoured as much material as I could get my hands on. I'd tried out the advice in the typical women's relationship advice bestsellers, and none of it had worked for me. Pickup presented a clear and actionable strategy for approaching the kind of people you want in your life and building attraction and connection with them, and also for combatting social anxiety, which I suffered from at the time.
As I continued going to PUA lectures and book signings (which is where I initially met Neil Strauss), I noticed there were small handfuls of women attending, asking what parts of pickup might work for them, and I never felt the male PUAs answered them in a satisfying manner. Men and women have different attraction switches, and I don't think PUAs ever really thought about what attracted them to one girl over another other than looks. So I studied all the things they studied, tested out material in field, and set about to develop my own methodology for women based on their proactive and analytical approach. The New Rules Of Attraction is that core philosophy.
2. For those readers who don't know what pick-up is, could you briefly outline what it encompasses?
Pickup artistry was developed by men who wanted to increase their romantic and sexual success with women. Most of what we know as the seduction community today started out as a bunch of guys at their computers posting on internet forums, and their methodologies read a lot like computer instruction manuals or video game cheat codes. The practicality behind the advice appealed to me, as it gave me something to actionably learn to do, rather than the advice in most women's books at the time that were focused on what NOT to do (e.g., don't stay on the phone longer than ten minutes, don't let a guy plan a last-minute date with you... I was like, "Wait, do I get a great boyfriend just by sitting still?"). It became popular in the mainstream when Neil Strauss published his memoir The Game, and Mystery hosted a reality show on Vh1 called The Pickup Artist.
3. I've noticed that there seems to be quite a lot of controversy surrounding pick-up. What do you think motivates it? And what kind of reception have you had as a female pick-up artist?
There is some really bad, really aggro, really misogynist pickup advice out there. The worst of it encourages the achievement of sex at any cost, even when it pretty much ends up looking like rape. It should go without saying that I don't condone this and that there are self-proclaimed PUAs out there who disgust me. I've been lucky in the sense that my mentors, the PUAs I've worked with in real life, have been really good guys (Neil, Mystery, Adam Lyons). The contemporary pickup that's being taught by the real gurus these days, particularly in Neil's latest venture called The Society, is focused on building a successful, passionate, self-actualized lifestyle so that it naturally breeds confidence and attracts quality people to you.
The controversy I've received myself as an FPUA is a little different. I sometimes get criticism about seduction being manipulative, about whether it's ethical to design your actions toward someone in order to get a certain response from them. (The answer is yes it's ethical, as long as you maintain your integrity, you represent yourself truthfully, and your actions align with your intentions.)
Of course, I also get controversy from the guys as well, mostly in the form of "Female pickup artist is a joke! Girls don't need pickup, they can get laid whenever they want!" This is so wrong it's hard for me to know where to begin. First, a lot of girls can't just get laid -- I didn't lose my virginity until I was 22, and at the time I first discovered pickup, the number of guys I'd slept with totalled to a whopping FOUR. But more importantly, even if a girl does just want to get laid, it's rare for her to want sex with just any guy who approaches her; she wants sex with the quality guy she's attracted to, who probably has a lot of women who want him already (the dj, the artist, the bartender, the lead singer of the band -- seriously have you SEEN what it's like backstage at a rock concert?). So she needs a way to approach him and build attraction with him in a way that's going to make her stand out, because she's already competing for him with probably ten other women in the room who are just as hot as she is. Yet even more importantly, girls tend to want meaningful relationships with the guys they want to sleep with. Even if they're not interested in monogamy, few girls want to have sex with a guy and then discard him and/or be discarded immediately after. So their version of game is to build attraction in a manner that's going to foster intimacy and keep their target coming back for more.
Here's how I described it to my boyfriend. Pardon the PUA lingo. We speak a common language.
Me: Think of it this way: You're a HVM [high-valued male], right? You have S [survival; in evolutionary psychology mates are attracted to survival and replication value] factor. You know how to attract women. Lots of women want you. Right?
Him: *rolling eyes* Go on ...
Me: How many women, would you say, competed for your top spot? How many desperately wished they could have you as their boyfriend? Fuck it, how many women on a given night competed just to be the one to go home with you?
Him: Well, virtually every girl. That's the point of pickup, to make the girl chase YOU. So, go after one girl, little spark. Go after 5 girls, opening 5 sets and merging them all, LOTS OF SPARK. Get all 5.
Me: Yeah, get all 5 - good for you! How many women secretly pined for you wishing they could be your #1?
Him: Well hun, of the 5, the cream rises to the top: you find yourself hanging with one of them more than the others. That makes her #1.
Me: EXACTLY. You created men who could get anyone they wanted. Sometimes five at a time. Where does that leave women who want an HVM for themselves? (Monogamous or not, doesn't matter - a guy who's going to provide/protect/prioritize.) Girl game is how to rise to the top.
Him: Alright... I'll buy that...
Me: Girl game is knowing how to emerge at the top of the cream. There you go. That's what I teach. Fuck, any girl can go to a bar and get laid. That's not the point. The point is, how do you approach, attract, create emotional connection, and add value such that it creates leverage.
Him: See, oftentimes it's not even about who rises as much as who falls.
Me: Sure. Patience is an important part of game. But still. It's not enough to just stand there and be hot anymore.
4. How do you feel about the recent debacle with Ken Hoinsky's seduction guide being banned from Kickstarter? And could you tell us more about your own reactionary Kickstarter project, "A Feminist Guide To Picking Up Men"?
I found Hoinsky's advice offensive, badly written, and misleading at best. I can imagine certain scenarios where enacting his advice would be okay, and I can imagine scenarios where enacting his advice would be sexual assault. Someone who is well versed in pickup would be able to tell the difference; there's a thing in pickup we call "microcalibration," which is a sharp attunement in to every reaction you're getting from your target to know how they feel in each moment, and another thing we call "compliance testing," which is a means of divining whether your target is on the same page with you and wants you to continue moving forward. If you're doing both those things, you can make a first move and know with almost perfect accuracy whether it's going to be welcomed. If you're really microcalibrated, you can start to go in for a kiss and stop halfway there if there's any sign of resistance or hesitation.
But telling a guy who DOESN'T understand those things to just go and touch a woman, and "force her to rebuff your advances"? NOT OKAY. Advising a guy to just take his dick out and put a girl's hand on it? Decontextualized? NOT OKAY. Given some context, if a girl is making out with you, and is clearly enthusiastic, and she's taken off her shirt, or your shirt, and everything is going great, then sure, escalate. And even then if you're microcalibrated, you should know if your move is going to be welcomed the minute you even start to put your hand near your zipper. If it's not, then back up a bit, or ask the girl whether she feels comfortable. Or as my boyfriend said, "There's a time and place to put a girl's hand on your cock. But it's not your opener."
The trouble with the internet is that it creates a million "experts" who aren't actually qualified to teach a damn thing. That's going to happen in any community where message forums exist and where there is no actual certification program for expertise. It was the same scenario when I was a professional dominatrix: a whole lot of young women dressing up and acting like they knew what they were doing, and very few people actually teaching them to play safely. (In my early twenties, that was my contribution to changing the world for the better -- running the pro-domme training program at my house of employment and creating fun, safe, skilled dominatrices for people to session with confidently and consensually.)
And now you have crowdfunding, which means those people can get money. I empathize with Kickstarter's dilemma. They let a skeezy project slip through the cracks and people started blaming them for hosting hate speech content. But it made me angry when they in turn put the blame on the pickup community by banning all seduction material. Seduction is not inherently misogynistic nor offensive. Seduction, when executed properly, is an essentially generous action, because its goal is mutually shared pleasure and the creation of peak romantic experience. So I wanted to call Kickstarter's site-wide ban of seduction into question. I created the project proposal for A Feminist Guide To Picking Up Men because it is a project that cannot possibly under any circumstances be considered misogynistic, and I brought on my co-authors Madame Rosebud and Amy Van Doran because they are people whom I believe to understand both feminism and seduction on a deep level. Now that we've discussed it, we feel it's a needed book regardless of Kickstarter. It started out as a reaction to Kickstarter's shame-branding of pickup, and now it's become a manifesto that we feel is important to put out into the world. We're going to host it on Indiegogo.
5. Do you feel that pick-up works differently for women than it does for men? Both in terms of approach and reception? And, following on from the above question, how do you feel pick-up could be applied to same-sex encounters?
Personally, I am a bull in a china shop when it comes to women. Women pick up on subtleties far more than men do (it's an evolutionary thing), and my brand of seduction is not calibrated to that degree of subtlety. I had a crush on this one girl, and she invited me to her birthday party, and I showed up with a gift of a scented massage candle from JimmyJane, a luxury sex toy brand. The scent was Pink Lotus. Oh well.
I think a girl-girl seduction guide and a guy-guy seduction guide are much-needed. Unfortunately I'm not an expert on either subject. I've had my work criticized for being heteronormative, which is funny because personally I'm bisexual, kinky, and usually nonmonogamous. But every book can't be everything for every person and every relationship, and I'm okay with the fact that my work specializes in women picking up men. I would certainly support anyone who would attempt to fill the gap for gay, poly, and pansexual relationships. My guess is that's where the evolution of seduction is headed. That's the next frontier.
6. As a pick-up artist yourself, do you notice when someone is trying it out on you? How does it go?
Pickup is only noticeable when it's clumsy. A good seduction feels magical, like everything just "happened" in the moment, because the degree of microcalibration is so strong. So, sure, I notice guys trying out clumsy negs or trite stock openers on me. It doesn't go so great for them. I generally call them out on it and then pretend to be really offended that they haven't heard of me.
I long to be seduced well but I am also a huge control freak, and I am pretty sure at this point that I am only comfortable in sexual interactions that started out as my idea. Pretty hypocritical of me when you think about it! I'm working on allowing myself to be taken care of. I suck at that presently. I know how great it feels for my targets when they let go and let me drive things, when I'm devising that peak experience for them, since I'm so good at knowing every little detail that will turn them on or excite them, and I wish I could feel okay about letting someone do that for me. Secretly, I'm confessional in my writing (my blog for example, or even me telling you this right now) because I long to be seen for all my little quirks and vulnerabilities so that the right person will discern all the little things that make me tick and know which buttons on me to push, what are my emotional needs and secret longings, etc etc., and fulfill them in the way that only a detail-oriented seduction can.
It's like, sometimes I'll start dating a guy and he won't even read my book. I'm like, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? It's a book about DATING, and you are DATING me, and I WROTE it. So, that tells me a lot. At the very least he should be curious about what tricks I'm going to try and pull on him.
I did date one guy who immediately bought my book after our first date and, the following night, called me out on my conversational sexual state elicitation Paris-Hilton-on-a-desert-island joke tactic that I mentioned in the chapter on seductive conversation. I respected that.
7. You're trained in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), I believe. How do you apply what you've learned from that to pick-up?
It's funny, when I first started studying NLP, I thought I was going to learn all these secret mind-manipulating tricks. That's kind of how NLP is branded in the seduction community. In reality it opened my whole world view and empowered me to be more self-aware and make better decisions. One of the main tenets of NLP is to take responsibility for how others respond to you, and to change your own actions in order to change others' reactions to you. That's immensely helpful in seduction, obviously. It taught me to become painstakingly aware of the efficacy of my own behaviors.
8. In The New Rules of Attraction, you talk about the importance of creating and maintaining a consistent "personal brand". Could you tell us more about how you go about doing this?
Me personally? (I'm assuming that's what you mean, since my book talks about how to go about it in a more generalized, second-person-plural "you" kind of manner.) I looked to all the things I felt deeply passionate about and gave myself permission to embody them in a deliberate manner. I wanted the world to know what I stand for in as concise a manner as possible. So I look a certain way, I dress a certain way. I have a signature color. I choose avocational pursuits that I'm passionate about which all assimilate into that. I embrace certain contradictions about myself, certain purposeful juxtapositions. I sing in a rock band but I don't have any tattoos. I write books but also model lingerie. I wanted to convey my values: sensuality, passion, self-awareness, romance, with a bit of edge thrown in. The things that I choose to embrace into my life are reflections of those values. That's what it means to have a personal brand.
9. And finally, how has pick-up changed your life and your relationships with other people?
I'm so bewildered by how much my life has changed it's vertiginous. Yes, of course I have better quality relationships with people; sexually, romantically, platonically, professionally. But what is the most remarkable to me of all is how I've grown in my relationship with myself. I remember I used to feel lost, confused, and anxious. Seduction for me has been like the gift of an inner compass; if I start feeling something for somebody, I know where to go with it. That's what it means to be confident. And I keep growing and learning all the time, and that excites me. I get excited by taking new risks and seeing what happens, because I know I'll figure out something useful from it.
I think we PUAs get into the game to learn how to find other people, and ultimately the best of us end up finding ourselves.