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Charm School: Pickup Artists, Seduction Communities, and Working at Manhood

Anders Axel Wallace, Anthropology
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michael Blim

Charm School: Pickup Artists, Seduction Communities, and Working at Manhood

Don Juan clearly didn’t need any training in flirting skills, but many American men feel they need help. In nearly every major city of North America exists a seduction community: a community of men who train each other to pick up women. These men participate in rituals to overcome their inhibitions and embody an empowered masculine sense of self. Along with digital means for meeting strangers, these communities have emerged over the past 15 years from a subculture to become a globalized industry in seduction training spanning from Brooklyn to Beijing. From online forums and subscription-based clubs to week-long intensive training courses known as bootcamps, hundreds of thousands of men participate in these groups at different levels of engagement.

My NML project is a website that will accompany and complement my dissertation. This digital book offers readers a second-person journey into the life of men’s seduction coaching. The reader follows the course of an imaginary trainee as he navigates myriad environments and training situations in the process of becoming a seductive man. In the narrative style of game-books like Choose Your Own Adventure, readers will be asked to make choices by taking non-linear pathways through the data I collected during my fieldwork. Facing uncertainty invites readers to adopt the perspective of a seducer. It also allows them to discover unexpected social and cultural meanings in the phenomenon of seduction training. Along the way, readers will also find web pages that contain critical discussions of cultural phenomena (such as online dating, hookup culture, and the rise of the so-called digital “manosphere”) that are informed by my research.

This website has three goals. One is to foster connections between my dissertation and changing public reflections on masculinity in the U.S. Another is to provide access to my research findings in ways that engage diverse public audiences including limited literacy users. A third goal is to offer new modes of critique on how knowledge is produced in the social sciences by allowing users to explore unexpected meanings of seduction for the men who learn this skill. Please visit the website for more information.