Ken Hoinsky is an executive recruiter by day and a Internet pick-up artist guru by night.
The forum, often called “Seddit,” features confidence-building exercises along the lines of what you'd find in Neil Strauss’s The Game: Penetrating the Society of Pick-Up Artists. Users ask and answer sex questions, offer advice to get over self-doubt, debate strategies for wooing women, and then share hookup stories.
Hoinsky has a name for his personal pick-up method: “Above the Game.” It's also the name of the book he’s writing—subtitled A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women—based on the two years’ worth of advice he’s been dishing out at r/seduction. And people love to learn from Hoinsky’s experience. His Kickstarter for the book met its $2,000 goal within 24 hours. As of Thursday, it's sitting at more than $7,000.
DD: When did you start posting to Reddit?
KH: I started posting to Reddit in summer 2010. I was searching around because I’d moved to Tokyo in May 2010 and I was looking to meet people, to build a network, and I was looking to meet women and that’s how I came across the seduction community on Reddit.
Because I was in Japan, I did a search on Reddit for posts where people mentioned Tokyo or Japan and for whatever reason, even though the community at that point was small, it had 5,000 subscribers, now it’s up to 130,000 subscribers, there were a handful of people from Japan posting in there, so I ended up meeting local people from the community and they weren’t weirdos or creeps. I had a really good first impression about how people are in that community.
I started posting under a different username in September 2010, which is really when I started to get involved online. There’s definitely people that take the “Mystery” approach and are like The Game, but there was another guy popular on Reddit named David Wygent: He was doing the same thing as sort of like the alter ego to Mystery—he’s the person the character Hitch is based on, with Will Smith. He was promoting a very different style of “game” which he wouldn’t even call “game.” I thought it was a great balance because you had two extremes.
That’s one of the great things about Reddit: The good stuff gets voted up and the crap stuff gets voted down. One of the really cool things about the seduction subreddit is that one ideology isn’t prevalent. There are trends in waves. There was another thing that was popular called RSD Real Social Dynamic and that’s more of a “natural game” or an “inner game” and is about your own internal belief systems and gaining confidence from within so you can start to meet people. That was big back then and it still is.
DD: What are your qualifications to be giving out dating and pick-up advice?
KH: When I came to r/seduction, I was already older. I was 28 years old. I had dated plenty of people. I lived in New York City for a long time and in Japan. I was coming from an experience level where I wasn’t a virgin and I’d dated girls and figured out a lot on my own. I thought, "OK, can I take everything I’ve learned on my own and really study and learn and gain more knowledge from what other people are writing about it, and then can I use all that to go out and basically create a new social network from scratch?"
While I was doing that, I was basically liveblogging it on Reddit. At the time, I listened to audio books a lot, I was reading a lot, and I was processing it all and going out. I’d write field reports for nights I was going out, based on what I was seeing, I would write my insights and bits and pieces of what I was learning. That’s where it started. Then I was being validated by what people were saying, and my content was being upvoted. That’s how I became a moderator because people said, "This guy should do it because he knows what he’s talking about."
It was a lot of life experience up to that point and then all the time and research I was putting in. I wasn’t just talking about it, I was actively out there living it, meeting people and posting my own advice from real-world experience. I wasn’t a keyboard jockey.
Mystery. Photo via singledudetravel.com
DD: The reigning consensus seems to be that Reddit men are clueless. Have you found that to be true?
KH: Most Redditors aren’t going to get super hardcore into being pick-up artists and make this their entire life. The vast majority of them are just looking for the basic stuff: getting more confident with women, how to meet women or where to meet women. A lot of them don’t have experience around women either growing up because they didn’t have sisters in their family or girlfriends at a young age. They might not have a lot of sexual experience or they might want to know how to go from a date to actually hooking up. A lot of the things people take for granted, some men don’t have any experience with so by and large they’re looking for basic advice to get them on the right path.
Most people don’t stick around r/seduction that long because typically once you fix the problem it’s time to move on with the rest of your life. I stuck around because I really enjoy teaching and mentoring people where, you know, I see a bit of myself in them. That’s what I’ve been about for the past two years.
DD: What kinds of problems need fixing?
KH: Most people just need to end up doing the stuff for a while, practicing it, learning it, and then finding that girlfriend who they’re really happy with, who fits their standards and likes them back. That’s the level most people want to get to. On the flip side, there are people who try to make this a lifestyle. My advice caters to both, and with the book I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible.
Some people kind of lose track of really building a solid connection with a person and there are people who take it too far in the wrong direction. What we’ve been seeing on Seddit has been there are other more hardcore communities that spawned off it—a community called PickUp, or theRedpill, which is the idea of throwing away the traditional idea of man and wife, so I try to stay away from anything that’s objectifying or dehumanizing women. I’m about helping men build a connection and helping them develop standards so they’re not needy doormats, and are able to attract the woman they want to be with.
DD: So treating women like human beings?
KH: That’s what it boils down to. People treat women, especially very attractive women, like they’re a different species and they’re afraid to talk to them. I’ve seen this first-hand because in San Francisco and in New York, there are local communities for Seddit and guys hang out all the time and I’ll hang out with them and one-to-one or with a group of guys. They’re so funny, so personable, amazing people, but you put them in front of an attractive woman and they act like a different person. I’ve said that you have to go in there and treat them like an old friend. Assume that she’s possibly attracted to you and that there’s already a rapport there. If you treat them like one of your friends, you’re not putting them on a pedestal or treating them like they’re so different.
DD: How can you help?
KH: A lot of what I do is actionable steps that people can follow or a model where people can do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where you’re doing increasingly advanced steps in succession. Like, go up to a woman and ask her the time, or start those baby steps and increase. My advice posts are to get people to a base level where they no longer have no experience talking to women and then they can move on to the rest of the process.
DD: Where do the misunderstandings between the genders come from? Media?
KH: Sure. The whole Hollywood stereotype. You’re being inundated with images of the man making the giant romantic gesture, winning over the woman, they get married, happily ever after, and in reality that’s not what it’s about. It sounds counterintuitive, but the men who have the least neediness toward women and who have an abundance of women are the most attractive. You’ve been validated as a hot commodity. You don’t see that in Hollywood stories, because it wouldn’t sell—a guy who is swimming in a sea of available women everywhere is able to get one more woman.
One of the first things I did which I thought was brilliant, I went to AskReddit and I asked women, "What do you remember about the men who successfully picked you up or who successfully dated you?" There were different stories about what worked or didn’t worked. But what was most interesting was the things they didn’t even mention. Men, and, I’m sure, women, are completely obsessed with text messaging. "When do I text, is it too soon, do I wait, do I send a smiley face?" They go crazy analyzing all this, and none of the women, and there were 1,000 responses, mentioned text messaging. Nobody remembers, "Oh, my last boyfriend, I really loved the text he sent me the next day so that’s why I’m dating him." It dawned on me: Women aren’t even stressing about that. The connection was way before you ever exchanged phone numbers and you could have sent anything and it would be the same outcome, so you’re worrying and spending all this mental energy on things that don’t matter. I posted my insights to Seddit, and I was going above and beyond, and my insights were pretty good.
DD: Is it Nice Guy syndrome?
KH: I always preach in the book and in my posts about being a value giver, and providing value without expectation. Doing things to make the lives of others better without expecting anything in return.
People will do these grandiose things and they won’t sexualize it at all, and they think if I keep doing nice things this woman will fall in love with me and we’ll live happily ever after and it’s like, you can’t be expecting something in return and just because you did something nice she’s not going to become suddenly attracted to you and want to hook up with you.
The fact that you’re expecting that in the first place, that’s the whole Nice Guy phenomenon. You’re doing something nice but you’re not a nice guy because you’re expecting something in return. Then, these guys get really bitter and that’s why a lot of guys come into the r/seduction world with this callous, damaged mentality thinking, ‘Oh man, women are such bitches because they ignore all these nice gestures but then they go sleep with that asshole over there who is sleeping with 10 other women on a regular basis.’ Yeah, but at least that guy isn’t expecting anything in return from the women he interacts with. At least he isn’t trying to manipulate his way into sex like somebody who is doing these nice gestures and expecting something in return.
I’m not saying adopting that asshole behavior is appropriate but you need to genuinely do good without developing, as in the pick-up world we call it, “outcome dependent.” Be “outcome independent,” and do things without caring what you get out of it, and you’ll be very successful in life and with women.
DD: Does the Friendzone exist?
KH: Absolutely the friendzone exists, but she’s not the one putting you in the friendzone, you’re putting yourself in the friendzone. It comes from being indirect with your intentions. If you’re being nice to a girl and talking to her and you’re expecting sex back but you’re not doing anything to show the woman, "Hey, I’m actually interested in you," then she’s going to get confused. I’ve seen so often, like, a guy and a girl go on a date, and he never makes a move and they both go home thinking, "Oh, I guess they weren’t into me." The guy is afraid to be more direct with his intentions.
I use the word "sexualize," but I mean it like, at any scale that you’re comfortable with. You have to let the woman know you’re into her early in the relationship because she’s going to get confused and be like, "I don’t know if he’s into me. Is he gay? I don’t know what’s going on," and she’s ultimately going to become less attracted to him because everybody wants to be desired, and being desired is an attractive quality and if they don’t feel desired from the other person, they’re going to fall out of attraction with them. If you make the desire known earlier on, you can avoid the friendzone all together.
Neil Strauss, author of The Game. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
DD: Do you have a girlfriend?
KH: I've actually been in a loving and open relationship for over five years.
DD: Why make this into a book?
KH: I didn’t like the fact that we didn’t have one source I could point people too. As Seddit grew, the content became so much and the good stuff was getting obscured. I feel responsible for the content on this community as a mod, so I’m gonna make it myself. I posted the first part online in November and started getting requests like, "This would be awesome as a book," and when I started hearing it from the community, that’s when I said, "I should make this a book."
DD: Why Kickstarter?
KH: I like the idea of self-publishing. I wanted to give some enthusiasm and buzz for the community and give them something to rally around and something to say, "Hey, we were involved in making this book happen." It should give them a little sense of pride and legitimize the community we came from.
When it came to traditional publishing, I just have no interest in doing the dog and pony show and going to all the publishers and convincing them to buy my book.
DD: Because you know there’s an audience already.
KH: Even right when I announced the Kickstarter, I was approached by mainstream traditional publishers, and I told them to wait and see how the Kickstarter does. I’m not against it because they bring a lot to the table, but for this book, I wanted it to be community-focused, community-driven, and to be about the people who supported me so far in r/seduction, as opposed to being a sellout. For now, it’s about the community first.
Illustration by Jason Reed