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Feminist pick-up artists fight Kickstarter’s seduction ban

Is pick-up misogynist by definition? Arden Leigh, author of A Feminist Guide to Picking Up Men, speaks out.


Gaby Dunn


Kickstarter is sticking to its new ban on all seduction and pick-up artist materials. In response to redditor Ken Hoinsky‘s controversial project, it shut down a dating guide called A Feminist Guide to Picking Up Men.

Last week, after a viral blog post by comedian Casey Malone accused Hoinsky’s crowdfunded book, Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women, of promoting sexual assault, Kickstarter issued a formal apology and a ban on all future “seduction” guides.

The site allowed Hoinsky to keep the $16,000 he raised, but issued a statement saying it would be donating 25,000 dollars to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. (Hoinsky also apologized and met with anti-sexual assault advocates to educate himself.)

Sticking to the new ban, Wednesday night Kickstarter rejected a seduction guide proposal from female pick-up artist Arden Leigh and two co-authors.

Leigh, along with queer burlesque artist Madame Rosebud and matchmaker Amy Van Doran, pitched the seduction book for women over the weekend in hopes of showing Kickstarter that the company’s ban on all seduction materials was too broad. The rejection letter read in part, “On 6/25/13, we made an adjustment to the guidelines that prohibits material offering advice of this nature. This isn’t a judgment on the quality of this project, just a reflection of our focus, which can change as we learn and grow.”


Leigh (in white, above), author of The New Rules of Attraction and founder of the Sirens Seduction Forum for Women, identifies as a seduction coach and the rare female pick-up artist, a game usually associated with men. She called Kickstarter’s ban “reductive” and said blaming pick-up artists for the company’s failure to read through its content is shifting the focus to people who aren’t necessarily to blame. 

In her pitch, Leigh wrote, “I found Kickstarter’s ban on all seduction guides disheartening, as seduction in itself is not inherently misogynist or offensive, and disappointing in the sense that it fails to address the real problem of the site’s failure to police hate speech in its content. It seems an avoidant solution at best, especially when you consider that Hoinsky got to keep his funding—rather like shutting the barn door after the horse is out.”

Leigh said she wanted to raise the question with Kickstarter about what they would do if a project based in seduction was designed to be feminist, and “a positive and proactive approach to creating your love life and finding the kind of lovers you want and getting them.” The book, she said, would teach women to achieve their romantic goals, without doing anything that is in conflict with their personal integrity. It will teach them not to just “sit on a barstool and wait for some guy to approach you,” but to go after who they want.

Leigh, who is associated with author Neil Strauss of The Game fame and the TV pick-up artist Mystery, feels Hoinsky misrepresented what pick-up artistry is all about. Malone’s major problem with Hoinsky’s material came from excerpts where Hoinsky seemed to advocate escalating sexual contact without a woman’s permission.

“Consent is key. Consent is everything. It is absolutely paramount,” she told the Daily Dot in an interview. “I don’t agree with Ken’s advice. Some of it I could see how it was taken out of context, and someone who has been involved in pick-up might know what he means, but it’s dangerous to put this out there to a bunch of men who don’t know what he means.

“I wanted to make Kickstarter question their own beliefs about the pick-up community. I’m really tired of seeing pick-up vilified.”

It’s easy, she said, to cherry-pick the bad advice out there. There are a lot of people dishing it out who aren’t qualified to do so.

Material is taken out of context, sensationalized, and held up as an example of the entire community. “The idea that you can learn attraction as a skillset is threatening to people who have a belief about love that it’s just magical and bound to happen to you one day when you’re not looking for it in a rom-com happy-ending way,” Leigh said. “Being proactive about it is somehow disingenuous and manipulative. But it’s funny, we go out and we take classes for skillsets for our careers and we learn skills for job interviews and paint ourselves in the best life possible, so why not into our love lives as well? It’s just as important for overall happiness.”

So is pick-up misogynist by definition?

“It’s not inherently good or bad. It’s like a hammer. A hammer can be used to drive a nail into a piece of wood and build a beautiful house one day or it can be used to bust someone’s kneecap. It’s all about the ethics of how you use it,” Leigh said. “It’s not seduction that’s unethical, it’s lying that’s unethical.”

Leigh said she and her co-authors are undecided on where to host their project next. 

Image via Kickstarter

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