Pickup artistry is highly controversial for its misogynistic implications.
At best, self-professed 'pickup artists' tend to speak of women as rare beings to be approached through cunning, or games to which cheat codes must be discovered, rather than - gasp - human beings.
And those in the scene, such as Julien Blanc and his physically abusive 'techniques', aren't exactly helping their bad reputation - like many here, I signed the online petition against his scheduled visit to Singapore, and cheered when he was banned from entering here last November.
But Ethan, a local pickup artist, wants to change the popular opinion of his trade. The founder of Gentlemen's Secrets - a service that teaches men the art of pickup - feels that Singaporeans have only a "surface view" of pickup artistry, resulting in misleading beliefs about its misogyny.
Ethan declines to reveal his full name or photos due to a marketing strategy aimed at "anonymity and mystery", but what he hopes to offer, he claims, is a more realistic, positive view on pickup artistry. Go ahead and read his story, and see if he can convince you.
Q: How would you define pickup artistry?
Ethan: Before I say what "pickup" is, let me first talk about what pickup isn't.
It isn't about harassing women in any way, forcing them into anything, or being physically or emotionally abusive. Pickup isn't about teaching you how to have sex with as many girls as possible.
Instead, it's about teaching you how to believe in yourself and what you have to say.
Pickup can teach you how to get over social anxiety and depression. It teaches you how to make friends and find love, not just with girls but with everybody around you…including yourself.
It makes me really sad when people look at us and say, "they're teaching guys how to manipulate women" or "they're tricking girls." If you think pickup is about "manipulating women," it's like thinking that martial arts is about beating the crap out of people on the street.
You could do that, but that's not the point. Same with pickup - it's not about sleeping with as many girls as possible. It's about creating an environment for you to grow into a better person.
Why did you become a pickup artist?
When it comes to dating, you could say I was a late bloomer. OK, let's be honest - when I started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was jealous of the guys who had a continuous string of girlfriends, and that led to a lot of self-doubt within myself.
I realised I had two choices: Blame everybody around me, and change nothing about my actions…or do something about it.
I chose to do something about it. In 2007, I started my journey. I went about honing my craft with vigour and determination.
I went to clubs and bars almost every possible night; walked the streets, practicing my "art" each day to find what worked and what didn't. I can't begin to tell you how taxing it was, but my desire to be good with women kept me going.
I made countless approaches - most of them wrong.
Wrong because I thought that doing things the way they've "always been done" was the right way. You have no idea how many times I spent money on drinks, dinner dates and gifts, just to see the girl take them and leave and never look back. It was depressing, to say the least.
Throughout my journey as a pickup artist, I took insults, enjoyed make out sessions, and even had some awkward moments. But these helped me learn not only how to talk to girls, but also to people.
I ended up injecting confidence into every aspect of my life, and the way I conducted myself completely changed. I was still the same person, but…I felt free, validated, different. I felt like me - 100 per cent Ethan, 100 per cent of the time.
In short, pickup made me a better person. If it wasn't for pickup, I would be a lonely, single guy and probably still a virgin. It turned my life around - and I started Gentlemen's Secrets to help guys turn their lives around too.