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Meet The Pro Pick-Up Artists Helping German Men Get The *Fraulein*

That's just one way to say, "getting in the sack...," which is all they're about. Are you impressed?

Serving up the charm at the Lutece Bar in Berlin
Serving up the charm at the Lutece Bar in Berlin
Diana Frik

BERLIN - Alex has bright blue eyes that he keeps focused on the table when he talks.

This gives the 25-year-old six-foot man with an athletic build -- a social education student -- an endearing and misleading look of shyness. Because Alex (not his real name) is not really shy. In fact he’s a big hit with the ladies. So what’s he doing on this sunny afternoon sitting in a hotel bar being coached on how to pick up women?

Alex is training as a "pick-up artist,” and this is his second coaching session. If you somehow missed the TV series' like How I Met Your Mother and dubious best-sellers like The Game, and don’t know what a Pick-Up Artist is, here’s sociologist Leonie Viola Thone’s definition: "Pick-up artists are manipulative, female-hating womanizers. They follow an elaborate plan and use rehearsed tricks to get as many women as possible into bed with them," she writes in her Master’s thesis on the pick-up artist phenomenon.

The phenomenon, which originated in the U.S., has reached Germany where since 2005 journalist Neill Strauss's book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists has been enjoying an ever-growing reputation as the bible for womanizers and wannabees. Strauss’s book has made the occupation socially acceptable – well, sort of.

The book declares womanizing as a new favorite sport for men in which women become objects to be rated on a scale from one to 10. As if doing this were not enough, it is larded with tips about how to give women the feeling they are on their way out, that you’re not really interested, that she’s less viable than she really is.

Sebastian, Florian and Aron from Berlin certainly don’t look like professional pick-up artists. They don’t sound like it either. Yet they are pros who in August 2012 founded their own company called Charisma Community to help all the men in Berlin who were going nowhere with women get proficient at meeting them. Alex is being coached by them, and in his second session he’s learning how to change a “situation” so that he can get a woman in the sack – because euphemisms aside, that is what it boils down to, isn’t it?

This angers the three coaches. "We’re not about hurting women, or seducing as many as possible," they maintain, adding that they are unimpressed with the sort of games and tricks described in The Game. "Women can smell rehearsed behavior; that is not the point of our coaching." They defend their work by saying that the aim is for women to feel good about themselves, and for both sexes to spend quality time in each other’s company. Sounds like a win-win.

Nevertheless – not only feminists would vehemently disagree with the trio. Comments on relevant Internet forums are talking a whole other language. This is where self-proclaimed pick-up artists share tricks and tips for getting women into bed asap.

And what the Berlin pick-up coaches claim also contradicts what Jan experiences day in, day out. The medical student from Freiburg is middling-attractive, but he’s a great conversationalist. He gives a woman the feeling he’s not only listening to her but understands her. Everything she says, no matter how banal, appears to interest him deeply. Yet Jan makes no bones about the fact that, to him, women are collector’s items – and sometimes not even. He actually lives The Game.

“It works with every woman”

One of his many targets is Sophia. She was Number 35. Jan knows that exactly because he keeps tabs on how many women he’s slept with. He sees women as numbers. He says Sophia was a number to him from the beginning. "I rated her 8.5, which means: ‘f*ckable,’” is the way he describes his first meeting with his fellow student.

How could an intelligent, savvy woman like Sophia fall for somebody like Jan, who should have set off all her alarm bells? Now 26, Sophia is somewhat cagey when asked this. "I knew there were a lot of women before me. But I really thought I might be the one.” The one to tame him. The one to whom he would remain faithful for the rest of his days.

"And that’s exactly what I led her to believe, it works with every woman,” says Jan. “It doesn’t matter how aware and confident a woman is, they all want the same thing – a committed relationship. And at some point they fall in love.”

This "Push and Pull Method" beloved of pick-up artists worked for Jan with Sophia. "One day he told me that I might be the mother of his children. The next day he told me I wasn’t what he was looking for,” is the way Sophia describes the way he used the push-and-pull technique on her. She had broken up with her former boyfriend to be with Jan. And now he was gone. He’d gotten what he wanted. Game Over.

Can you be happy if you keep changing partners? "No," says Sophia. She’s learned her lesson and wouldn’t fall for Jan today. "His addiction to having as many women as possible is in many ways like an illness,” she says. “He’s emotionally stunted and incapable of a proper relationship. He’s one of these men who probably has unresolved issues from childhood.”

One other professed recovering Don Juan agrees. "Many guys are part of the pick-up artist scene because they were badly hurt in a relationship with a woman, or have massive self-esteem issues,” he says.

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The three Berlin pick-up artists agree: "Most men are lonely and want to get into a relationship,” they say. The coaches say that nearly all pick-up artists want just one thing: to finally meet The One. Security and, yes, love are what it’s really all about.

Anybody who takes a closer look at the German pick-up artists scene these days will notice one thing: the phenomenon is undergoing a sea change. The 2005 Game generation appears to have grown up and understood that numbers and rules and tricks actually don’t get you where you really want to go.

The best example of that is Munich-based former pick-up artists. "When I started, what I wanted was to get as many women as I could into bed. That’s changed. Now I want to understand women, work on my failed relationship with the woman I love, and learn how things really work between the sexes." Perhaps pick-up artists are a one-generation thing – a generation that couldn’t make up its mind, and didn’t want to commit. Not to a job, not to a life course – and certainly not to one woman.

In Berlin, Alex writes his ultimate goal down on a piece of paper and pushes it across the table towards the three coaches. It says: "I want to get to know women." Then looking down in that winning way of his, he says: "Actually I would be happy if I were finally to meet the right one."

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