On December 10, 2011, 1:32 p.m., I pull open the doors to the Ramada Hotel on Jarvis and Gerrard. I can’t stop thinking of two words.
I saw the term on Wikipedia this morning: “Seduction lairs are an underground meeting group for men devoted to the study of seduction, as it is taught in the seduction community.”
Michael has sent me to a seduction lair.
As I wonder if I can sue my boss for sexual harassment, I walk up to the front desk and ask for the location of the Love Systems seminar. The clerk directs me to the second floor, past the hallway, on the left. I thank him and head up the elevator.
This is a story about love. It’s also a story about 10 men. Ten men who each paid $3,000 to learn about love—and all the activities associated with it.
But to tell that story, we’ve got to talk about the seduction community, and a company called Love Systems.
Love Systems is a dating coach—a training firm that teaches men how to seduce women. The company exists thanks to Nick Savoy, a Canadian pick-up artist, businessman, and member of the Toronto Crew featured in Neil Strauss’s The Game.
Love Systems sells books, runs seminars, and offers personal coaching sessions to help men improve their chances with women. The company employs over 30 coaches. These coaches run classes spanning “day game”, phone flirting, and even seducing strippers. The company is based in Los Angeles, and runs seminars across the world; cities include Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, and Toronto.
Seduction is nothing new. Teaching seduction is nothing new either (the Kama Sutra dates at 200 BC). But the seduction community—the modern group of players and pick-up artists of The Game, Magic Bullets, and Keys to the VIP—they’re something new.
The modern seduction community formed in Web forums around the late ’90s and early 2000s. Across the Internet, men were experimenting with how to attract women—which approaches worked, and which ones flopped.
What made the seduction community unique was their approach. This wasn’t dating advice; this was dating science. These proto-pick-up artists tested their techniques with almost scientific rigour. Today, dating coaches refer to psychology textbooks to get their advice, and Love Systems’s website boasts that all of its teaching comes out of evolutionary psychology.
While most of the readers in Medium Magazine’s demographic were watching Dragon Ball Z, getting cootie shots, and deciding which Pokémon was the best (it’s Bulbasaur), a community was growing, and a new philosophy of dating emerged.
We know the seduction community from Neil Strauss and his book The Game. You might’ve seen The Game on shelves at Chapters under the shelf “What a Man Should Have”. The current print run is an impressive tome: thick, leather-bound, with a pimping red ribbon, just like the family Bible.
Medium Magazine had the chance to send an intrepid reporter to Love Systems’s Toronto seminar—someone who knew people, who could pierce the veil of ignorance and return triumphantly with a story of our society, our humanity, and the need for social value in an increasingly alienating world.
Instead, they sent me.
I’ve never read The Game. In fact, I have no game. I once asked a girl out by shouting at her from across the street (we didn’t talk much after that). Sometimes I’m creepy. And I’ve been told my nose is big.
At the Ramada, as I headed up the elevator towards the Love Systems boot camp, I wondered what I was about to learn. What was it that let other guys chat up girls at parties, while me and my socially unfortunate brethren inspected the ceiling and made fake texts on our cellphones? Was it our walk? Our talk? Our way of thinking? Love Systems claimed that dating was a science—so what was the empirical difference between me and the dating coaches, the living and the dead?
But as the elevators opened, I stepped out, and realized there was one question burning brighter than all the others. One answer I wanted more than anything.
Just who were these guys?
We’re not so different, Mr. Powers
I found two men waiting outside the Ramada’s courtyard room.
They had an Odd Couple vibe going on. One looked like money, wearing a classy steel-grey suit with a tie and vest. His aquiline face and gelled hair screamed fanciness. The other looked a lot more down-to-earth. He had an open, friendly face and short-cut hair, and wore jeans.
“Hey, are you the guys with the Love Systems boot camp?” I asked. “Cajun? Tenmagnet?”
“Yeah, that’s us,” the classy guy said.
“Cool.” I pulled out my notebook. “Um, if you guys aren’t busy, could I ask you about the stuff you’re gonna be teaching today?”
“What? Oh, no man—we’re here for the class. We’re the students.”
The suited guy introduced himself as Andrew. The other man’s name was Carl.
They seem disturbingly normal. And yet each of the two had paid for the Love Systems boot camp.
For $3,000 I could put a down payment on a car. I could contribute to an RRSP. I could buy a white tufted marmoset (market value $2,000 USD), eat it, and still have money left over for a puppy. It was a lot of money.
But Andrew and Carl don’t look like they needed help. They were both different kinds of good-looking, and they seem friendly enough. What were their problems with women?
I asked them. It turned out they had no problems. Carl was from Windsor. He read Nick Savoy’s book Magic Bullets and tried it out with some success back home. He wanted to learn more theory at the boot camp. Andrew was from McGill. He learned about the pickup community from The Game and wanted more experience from “in-field” training.
We headed into the courtyard room. It was a small conference room with a projector screen up front and a paper canvas for making notes. The walls were striped white and beige, and the windows were frilled with curtains like Victorian underwear.
The thoughtful Ramada staff had left paper pads and pens on the rows of desks set up classroom-style facing the screen, but when we sat down, Carl and Andrew pulled out notebooks, already filled with notes. Andrew had a Moleskine.
I own a Moleskine notebook. They’re good notebooks.
I sat in the back, surreptitiously pocketed a Ramada pen, and tried to keep quiet. Maybe if I just listened to them talk, I’d find the smoking gun—the quirk that unified these people.
Instead, Andrew and Carl started talking about the weather in Montréal. And bagels. They taste better in Montréal. Did you know that?
More students came in. Some were young. Some were balding. Some were dressed up. Others needed some help. One of students looked exactly like my high school English teacher, and I avoided making eye contact until I figured out it wasn’t actually him.
The students settled, and compared notes about their in-field training last night. During the in-field training, the coaches had rallied them through a bar called the Madison, letting these students test out their new knowledge. I attempted to wheedle out more quirks. I was disappointed. No obvious signs of neuroses.
A man in red flannel entered the room. This was Chris Shepherd, stage name Tenmagnet, one of the two instructors for the boot camp. “Hey guys, how’s it going? John, what happened to you last night?”
“Didn’t go last night,” one of the students answered from the back. “But I did get laid. Which was nice.”
“Cool,” Tenmagnet said. He pointed to an Asian guy draping his coat over a chair. “And you didn’t even sign up for the field training. What’s the deal?”
“Girlfriend,” he answered.
Another man walked in—bearded, with a blue rose inked on the inside of one forearm and Mic Mac hieroglyphs on the other. This was Cajun, the other instructor. He and Tenmagnet looked like people you’d see on the street. They looked normal. No fuzzy hats.
These people can’t be like me, I thought, stealthily grabbing another Ramada pen. They just can’t.
Tenmagnet beamed when he noticed me in the back, “Hey, you’re the journalist from U of T, right? You know, I used to write for The Varsity.”
What the fuck?
The session starts with “self-adjudication”. The guys all went out last night in their first experience as pickup artists. Tenmagnet—he insists we call him Chris—tells the class that last night was all about “getting their feet wet”.
“Okay, let’s go around the room,” Tenmagnet says. “Carl?”
All of Carl’s approaches last night either went perfectly or well. He stuck to indirect approaches, but found it hard to get heard. Bars in Toronto are louder than in Windsor. Tenmagnet nods.
“Your voice is a muscle,” Tenmagnet says. “And you have to work it. If a girl can’t hear you, you’re boring her. Here, try shouting at me. Do it. Just go ‘Aaaah!’.”
“Aaah!” Carl tries.
“Aaaaah!” Tenmagnet shouts back, louder.
“Try breathing from your stomach,” Cajun advises. “You have to be loud to be taken seriously. It’s silly, but that’s how the world works.”
After wrapping up the rest of the adjudication, Cajun and Tenmagnet start the day’s class, writing notes on the paper easel in black magic marker.
The Love Systems boot camp pushes their students through three days of dating science. It covers roughly three stages: approaching women, getting their number, and having a great first date. In this framework, the instructors throw in a bunch of strategies for making step one to three fun and natural.
Today, Cajun and Tenmagnet build on the openers the guys learned yesterday, and will later cover how to have great conversations inside the bar. One of the openers the guys used most last night was “Are you guys friendly?” Somehow, they got numbers using that.
“Are you guys friendly?” It must be in the delivery; if I said that I’d probably get pepper-sprayed. Maybe it has something to do with the confidence. I missed yesterday’s class on confidence-building.
After the conversation-builders, Cajun and Tenmagnet instruct us on indicators of interest (that’s IOI to you), the body language cues that indicate if a girl is interested. Guys have to learn this because, according to Tenmagnet, girls are often unable (because of social pressure or just conditioning) to pursue men, even if they like them. As Tenmagnet says, laughing, “Girls have no game.”
We cover different topics to pursue during conversations, and more clever openers.
We talk about games to entertain people at the bar.
Halfway through the class, I get a text from my friend:
Raj: “Did they teach you how to neg?”
I text back: “I’m not sure.”
Raj: “When they teach you how to neg, call me back.”
But no negging comes.
Instead of ways to trick women into bed, these classes seem to teach confidence. They seem like lessons on being clear about what you want in a relationship, and then having the guts and social skill to go through with it. It seems like a primer on becoming a social guy.
Unless, I realize, they’ve already used their seduction psychology on me. Unless I’ve already become their slave.
I shift in my seat.
“Now we’ll cover how to tell interesting stories from your life experiences,” Tenmagnet says. He points to me. “So this might interest you.”
“Huh?” I ask. “Oh. Yeah.”
Again and again, I’m awed by the logic behind the advice. The basis for Love Systems is research. Lots of research, experiments, and trial and error. Tenmagnet and Cajun use the aesthetics of Greek statues to illustrate proper body language and evolutionary psychology to explain their concepts of “social proof”. And the nuts-and-bolts experimenting of going out constantly to try different lines and approaches amazes me.
Cajun and Tenmagnet experiment constantly. Cajun once tried to pick up girls using only sentences of three words or fewer. The technique was intended to study expressive body language, but he still got a few numbers. He also spent months practicing the perfect first date by mastering online dating.
And it’s a huge field, one in which we have lots to learn.
When they talk about the techniques in The Game, Cajun and Tenmagnet grin a little shyly. “Yeah, we’re a lot more clever now.”
“It’s sort of like when you think something’s cool when you’re a teenager, but then you look back and say, ‘Man, how did I think that was cool?’ ” Cajun says. The field of dating science is constantly changing. And the guys at Love Systems extend their reach into every area of it; Tenmagnet has even authored a book on seduction over the phone.
Class ends at 7. The students disperse for dinner. They’ll meet up again at 10 for more in-field training. And I’ll get a chance to find out if this stuff actually works.
Are you guys friendly?
It’s dark by the time I find the Madison pub.
The Maddy is actually six different bars, all housed in a beautiful Victorian building on Madison Avenue, just off of Spadina. It sits across from a Tibetan Buddhist temple and a bunch of frat houses. I’m not Buddhist, but as I flashed my ID to get in, I felt a guilty twinge as the Dalai Lama beamed down at me from a billboard.
The interior of the Maddy is all-out English-pub: lots of threadbare red booths, lots of gleaming oak, lots of people drinking lots of golden alcohol.
Andrew and Carl are early again, sitting at a table to the side. Carl isn’t feeling too good. He ate a suspicious burger for dinner, but he wants to make the effort nonetheless.
Tenmagnet and Cajun come in with the others just a few minutes later. We gather in front of the bar as a team of servers crank beer from shiny brass taps.
“Okay, who wants to make the first try of the night?” Tenmagnet asks.
Andrew raises his hand. “I’ll do it.”
“Okay…” Tenmagnet looks around. He nods to three girls sitting up front. “Those girls. Go.”
Aaron strides in—confident, energetic, dashing in his three-piece suit. He starts talking. He slips himself into a chair, next to a blonde with crinkled hair.
The blonde smiles.
“Let’s head upstairs,” Cajun says. We line up behind him and troupe up a narrow flight of stairs to a different pub. He tilts his head at an older group in a booth. “Ron, go.”
Ron walks up. He leans into the table and starts talking. Cajun shakes his head. “He’s not locking in.”
Meanwhile, Tenmagnet looks out for more girls. He points to three Asian girls sitting at the bar. “Sully, go.”
It continues. Cajun and Tenmagnet troop the guys through the pub, sending them to groups of men and women. At 20 minutes in, every guy has ventured forth at least once.
Aaron walks by me with another student. They’re heading to the smoking room.
“How’d it go with those girls from before?” I asked.
“Crash and burn!” Aaron said. “I used the grandma joke and they thought I was serious.”
“Nah, it’s fine.” Aaron flips his hand. “If I’d done this a month ago, it would’ve been worse, but yesterday night I realized—hey, this stuff is fun.”
Sully is still talking to those Asian girls. So I go talk to Ron. Ron is hanging back with Cajun and Tenmagnet. He’s an older man, and the Maddy isn’t his demographic. Case in point: there’s a girl at the pool table wearing a corset and not much else.
“How’d it go?” I ask.
“It went pretty good,” Ron said. “It turned out she was married—and her husband was with her. But we still managed to have a pretty fun chat.”
Aaron and Cajun leave with another guy to go to the smoking section. Tenmagnet stays nearby to debrief Sully, who finally comes back after 10 minutes.
Sully looks happy.
“How’d it go?” I ask.
“It was cool!” Sully said. “I got her number and we have a date for next Wednesday.”
I take out my notebook. The bartender looks at me funny.
“I just used a direct opener—just said, ‘You guys look cute’,” Sully explains. “It turned out she was Japanese and loved to travel. I asked her where she’s gone, and it turns out she’s been to New Zealand. I’ve been to New Zealand!” Sully flashes a thin jade pendant I remember seeing on some Kiwi relatives.
“So, are you used to this kind of stuff?” I asked, struggling to keep up with my pen.
“I’ve never done this before!” Sully exclaims, nearly shouting.
“Okay,” Tenmagnet comes in, “now here’s what you do. Text her back and pretend you got the wrong number. Say something like, ‘Dude, I just met this cute girl. I’m going back up to her right now. What should I say?’—and then see her again on the way out.”
But it’s only 10:30, and the team won’t be leaving for a while. The guys spread out to different rooms.
I have to catch the subway.
On the ride home, I get a chance to figure out what I think about all of this.
The Love Systems boot camp is not what you’d expect. It’s not about tricking women. It’s about attracting them. And that happens not through psychological tricks, but by learning how to become more attractive.
Chris—sorry, Tenmagnet—said it best when I interviewed him.: “There’s this prejudice that as a male you’ve got to accept your lot in life, and that you can’t make yourself more attractive.” It’s not true. The way I figure, this seminar doesn’t teach how to pick up women so much as how to step out of your shell and be the guy you want to be.
On the subway back, there’s a group—two guys, three girls—sitting across from me. I put down my copy of The Stand.
“Are you guys friendly?”
And I put it back up, smirking.