Close Encounters with Jeffy, Our Local Rape Van-Driving Pickup Artist
By Clarisse Thorn
If you haven't heard of Jeff Allen, then you haven't seen the lady blogs this week. Jeffy lives in Bernal Heights with his van -- which is adorned with a rape joke -- and he teaches men how to pick up women. He just got profiled on Jezebel after pursuing a woman on the dating site OkCupid.
I might have felt bad for Jeffy -- the Jez profile was pretty mean -- but I have no pity, for two reasons. One, a follow-up post at Jezebel demonstrates that he's a bigger asshole than anyone might reasonably have predicted. And two, I've encountered Jeffy before.
I first came upon Jeffy in mid-2012. I'd just released my awesome book about pickup artists, Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. In my book, I did my best to cover both the positives and negatives of the pickup artist subculture. PUA-world is a weird amalgam of:
- Shy, awkward, and/or analytical guys who are slowly puzzling out social skills -- and who I have a lot of sympathy for;
- Men working out various issues of masculinity -- who I also have sympathy for;
- Predators -- whom I have no sympathy for.
After my book was released, I received fan mail from a dude named Jon, who's spent a lot of time among pickup artists. Jon thanked me for my book and suggested that I take a look at an awful thread on the forum for a major PUA company, Real Social Dynamics. At the time, the thread was basically a How-To for conducting a date rape against a drunk, inexperienced girl. My correspondent told me: "This points to an institutional problem [among pickup artists]," and noted that although the thread was created by a Real Social Dynamics customer, it was praised by RSD employees -- including Jeff Allen.
I swiftly wrote about the awful thread and quoted Jeffy, who said in response to criticism that "We're here to fuck girls not assuage hypothetical psychological wounds and/or better society. I'm frankly a little sick of moralizing and hand wringing about this shit. Let's not sugar coat what it is we are doing here too much. We're FUCKING WOMEN."
Because, hey, what's a little rape? Reasonable collateral damage as long as you fuck women, am I right?
Fast forward a few months. My article got a fair amount of attention; then I moved on to other projects and forgot about it. And a friend of mine received an OkCupid message from some dude named CaptainDerp. And he was hilarious.
I don't think I've ever laughed so much at another OkCupid profile, except maybe the giant otter, whose author I would marry sight unseen. I did not yet realize that CaptainDerp was ... Jeffy himself!
That is, I didn't realize it until I tried to contact him through my friend, at which point Jeffy called me a "PUA groupie" and asked, "Clarisse does know who I am, right?" At which point I fell over laughing and notified my various social networks that Jeffy was a man about OkCupid.
Now here we are today, with Jeffy's face spread everywhere within the Internet's reach. I'm pretty much over my PUA habit these days, but I felt compelled to weigh in on the fracas for several reasons:
Jeffy can be hilarious. I laughed at his profile as much as anyone -- maybe more. Lots of the women whose testimonials are currently featured on Jezebel were attracted to his wild profile, too. But the fact that he's funny doesn't mean he's not a predatory asshole. And there's a larger moral here, which is: funny, charming people can also be predators.
Plus, what's worse is that Jeffy is a predatory asshole who teaches other men how to be predatory assholes. I don't think all PUA coaches are jerks -- in fact, some PUA coaches are people I like. I am the first to admit that there are good bits in the PUA subculture, and you're obviously welcome to read my book if you want my entire detailed analysis. But guys like Jeffy are, in fact, one legitimate reason that the PUA subculture has a bad reputation.
It's easier to make fun of PUAs than it is to think deeply about why they exist. The PUA subculture is around because there are lots of men in the world who don't know how to begin dealing with women -- or how to analyze a cultural masculinity that tells them they should want nothing more than constant sex. Those guys are so starved for understanding about masculinity that they actually listen to men like Jeffy -- men who are more charming than reasonable -- and get sucked into PUA ideas that can be toxic both for their female partners and for the men themselves.
Some of those guys are trying to push back against the bad stuff, like the guy who emailed me that awful thread and encouraged me to write about it. But a lot of them don't know where to start.
I suppose it's entertaining enough to snark on Jeffy, but in the bigger picture, we could see him as a symptom as much as a cause. It would be nice if two things came out of the Jeffy dust-up:
1. More conversation outside the PUA subculture about how toxic gender roles can be tough and confusing for everyone, not just women.
2. More conversation within the PUA subculture about how to recognize and reward the most reasonable coaches, rather than the grandstanding assholes.