Update: The original version of this article was headlined "Elliot Rodger’s Online Life Provides a Glimpse at a Hateful Group of Pick-up Artists." PUAHate was a message board for men who thought PUA was a scam, because its philosophies and strategies were not effective. Their community still subscribed to many of the basic PUA principles, however.
Yesterday, police in California confirmed that Elliot Rodger is suspected of killing six people (three with a knife, three with a gun) before taking his own life this past Friday. In a YouTube video posted to Elliot's personal channel, he chalks his psychotic killing spree up to not being well-liked by women: “For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure a life of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection, and sex, and love, to other men. But never to me. I’m 22 years old, and I’m still a virgin.”
This kind of statement should make Elliot Rodger’s motivations crystal-fucking-clear: misogynistic, mentally ill, desperate male entitlement. Elliot calls himself the “perfect guy,” and declares that he will “punish all of you [women]” for not recognising that he is, in his words, “the supreme gentleman.” In the video, he details a plan to slaughter women that he describes as “entitled sluts” living in UCSB’s “hottest sorority.” It’s a horrific, woman-hating manifesto that appears to have some of its roots in pick-up artist culture.
On Sunday, Business Insider pointed to a profile for a user that goes by the name ‘EliotRodger’ on a forum called PUAHate. PUA, if you’re not familiar, is short for pick-up artist; a manipulative craft largely developed by Neil Strauss’s The Game, a book that provides its readers with techniques like “negging,” which teach men to insult women in order to charm them into bed.
Since Elliot Rodger became a household name, the PUAHate forum has been completely removed from the internet, but you can find the spectre of Eliot Rodger through Google Cache. You can also dig up the thread that Business Insider originally quoted, where PUAHate members are reacting to his alleged killing spree.
One particularly awful quote warns the forum’s members to spread far and wide, as all eyes would soon be coming to their twisted corner of the internet: “This site, trolling aside, holds potentially dangerous material. Imagine a mass realisation amongst incels and the potential repercussions it will have. This forum will be closed, individual users will be investigated and will likely be prosecuted for crimes such as incitement etc.
We will be persecuted and hunted down like the vile abominations we are... Act quickly to avoid any link to this place.”
If you’re not familiar with the term “incel” (I sure wasn’t until all of this came to the surface), it’s a name that the PUAHate members gave to anyone who is _in_voluntarily _cel_ibate. Elliot Rodger, judging from the horrific bullshit he spewed on camera, would have counted himself as one of their kind.
Diving back into Google Cache, I took a look at the Shitty Advice subforum (where the above quote was posted) on PUAHate and instantly found some nauseating comments. One such message reads: “Elliot Rodgers = King amongst incels, gay rage, goodnightsweetprince... incel goes mainstream, incel rage, insel terrorism is LEGIT... WE ON TV. HI MOM!"
Other thread titles, such as “Obituary for Elliot Rodger, RIP HERO 1992-2014,” “daily mail has linked puahate to elliot rodger its over,” “when will society realize all mass shooters are incels?,” and “The Innocent Side of Elliot - As Chronicled by His YT Account,” would presumably contain relevant and disgusting material – but they are unavailable on Google Cache, likely because of how recently they were posted, and how quickly the forum was removed from the internet.
While much of the media discourse surrounding the UCSB massacre has focused tightly on gun control, there is also a much more complex narrative at play. Writing for the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik argued that Rodger’s “woman-hating philosophy” is a “peripheral issue” to the topic of gun control. I would argue that his hatred of women is just as important, if not more important, than that tired conversation which has ceased to progress since Columbine rocked America on April 20, 1999.
What we’re seeing now, through the lens of PUAHate, is that young men who can’t get laid – presumably because of their entitled and poisonous ideas of when and how women should pay attention to them – are angry enough about their romantic shortfalls to organise en masse online. There also seems to be, from what I can dig up on Google Cache, a certain amount of sympathy and even adoration for Elliot Rodger’s actions.
This does not bode well for the overall public image of pick-up artists at large.
While the PUA phenomenon appears to have many iterations and philosophies, it is by and large an offensive practice that treats women as prey who are easily manipulated and seduced, if men are able to master the “right” tricks of hypnosis or psychological manipulation. Being a charming, forthright, honest, and gentlemanly individual is apparently not in the cards for the PUA community – favouring practices like “negging” instead.
In a tweet on Saturday, VICE contributor Molly Crabapple wrote, “The Elliot Rodgers massacre is an act of terrorism aimed at punishing women for controlling their own sexual lives. Guns beside the point,” which was the comment that sparked this article. The conversation that needs to happen now surrounding male entitlement and misogyny is a lot harder to have than “our gun laws are out of control.” Because guess what? Americans already have over 200 million privately-owned guns. That ship has sailed. Plus, it hasn’t been that long since Montreal dealt with their own gun-toting, woman-hating madman in 1989; when Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women and wounded ten more, after insisting that he was “fighting feminism.”
We have to talk about gender equality, and we have to talk about it now, because this isn’t just an American problem. We have to try and root out the ideology behind misogyny before another generation of boys grow up thinking that sleeping with women is their right, no matter what, and that not getting laid is the fault of women at large.
There is also an obvious need for more ample mental health services that can keep people like Elliot Rodger away from society and in the care of professionals who are capable of managing what is clearly a deluded and psychotic mental condition. Guns provide the means to enact terror, but the seeds of misogynistic violence come from a much more complex place.