"For an instant you even consider rape": The terrifying 1970s manual that shaped the pickup-artist movement

"How to Pick Up Girls!", the PUA community's foundational text, is a deeply disturbing portrait of male entitlement

Published July 21, 2014 11:00PM (EDT)

     (<a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=699781'>RichLegg</a> via <a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/'>iStock</a>/Salon)
(RichLegg via iStock/Salon)

The 1970 manual “How to Pick Up Girls!” opens by asking the reader to imagine what at first seems like a romantic scene. “You're walking down the street. Minding your own business. ... And suddenly you spot a girl,” it reads. “Not just an ordinary girl. Not just a fantastic girl. But the girl.” It’s a bit of a generic setup, but, OK, I’m following. "You've just got to see more of her long lean legs," writes author Eric Weber. "Her fine rounded breasts. Her high, firm behind. For an instant you even consider rape.”

Whoa. As Redditor putontheglasses, who featured this passage in a post this week that subsequently went viral, said, "Well, that escalated quickly." Later editions of the book, which was a runaway success in 1970, by the way, replaced that disturbing line with the marginally less terrifying, "For an instant you even consider grabbing her right there in the street." So, like, rape but not "rape."

Four decades have passed since that original line was written, and in that time there has been a lot of desperately needed awareness-raising about sexual assault. So, it isn't particularly remarkable that a dated book espouses such disturbing attitudes. Here's what is fascinating about that rape-normalizing passage: The book is the progenitor of what we know today as the pickup artist community. It not only helped mainstream the term "pick up," but it's also referred to as a biblical text among some of today's leading "pickup...

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By Tracy Clark-Flory

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