Anders Axel Wallace, phdUX researcher & Designer

phd dissertation
in cultural anthropology

Don Juan clearly didn’t need any training in flirting skills, but many American men feel they need help.

In nearly every major city of North America there exists a seduction community: a community of men who train each-other to pick up women. Together with online dating, these communities have emerged over the past 10 years from a subculture to become a globalized industry in seduction spanning from Brooklyn to Beijing. Hundreds of thousands of men participate in these groups at different levels of engagement — from online forums and subscription-based clubs to week-long intensive training courses known as bootcamps — and often at a personal cost of hundreds, often thousands, of dollars.

Trained by a seduction coach, these guys participate in self-help rituals to transform their personality in hopes of getting laid. But the point is not just learning to attract women. It’s also about embodying an empowered masculine sense of self.

As a cultural anthropologist, I conducted twelve months of interviews and ethnographic observation in men’s dating and seduction training communities in New York City. I also did digital ethnography in chatrooms and online forums of the manosphere, a male-centric digital ecosystem of blogs, podcasts, and online forums. Here you’ll find a motley crew of men’s rights activists, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, disgruntled dads, male victims of abuse, self-improvement junkies, incels, bodybuilders, bored gamers, alt-righters, pickup artists, and alienated teenagers. You’ll also find nerdy, shy, and analytical types who find comfort in being able to talk about their fears and desires in the anonymity of cyberspace.

I sought to understand how and why men are pursuing seduction training – and what happens to them and their social relationships. These guys feel like their dating life sucks. More accurately, they feel deprived of intimate and supportive human contact. I discovered that seduction training blends self-help and hookup culture with a distinctly American male angst rooted in sexual shame and the eroding of once-unquestioned male social privileges. The flipside of being a self-made man, after all, is being a nobody. As cultural values of masculinity continue to transform in the #MeToo era, these men are trying to understand what it means to be a man today - with explosive and unsettling results.

You can read more about my work here, here and here.