Paul Janka and the Art of the Pick-Up
“I’ve found that with a system and a deep pool of talent, p***y is really the second most abundant commodity on Earth, after water.” - Paul Janka, from his 2005 booklet, “Getting Laid In NYC.”
Wearing a slightly-showy blue and gold baseball cap and large black sunglasses, Paul Janka looms on an Austin, Texas street corner, his lean frame accentuated by skinny jeans and a form-fitting blue and white flannel shirt. As afternoon traffic whizzes by, a cute blonde approaches and Janka, his normally lightly scruffy face sporting a fuller beard and mustache than usual, springs into action. Under the pretense of asking directions, Janka chats the young woman up and within seconds, charmingly interrogates her into revealing her name (Allison), where she went to college (University of Texas), what she does for a living (works for a production company) where she’s from (Newport, Calif.) and if she goes out during the week (“Not really, but sometimes”). His next question, “Can I text you and try and convince you to grab a drink?” is met with a smile and a “Sure.” Janka seamlessly loads her number into his cellphone and he’s gone, the entire exchange having taken about 90 seconds.
This encounter was just one of thousands of times Janka has approached a woman on the street and gotten her number in the hopes of sleeping with her within a matter hours or, failing that, days. That didn’t end up happening in Allison’s case – the two never ended up getting that drink or having sex – but more than 250 other women can’t say the same.
A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Janka’s parents divorced when he was young. Somewhat of a wallflower in high school, Janka was raised primarily by his mother and had more success with swimming, soccer and studying than he did with the opposite sex. That’s all in the past. Now Janka is a recognizable face in the Pick Up Artist community, a collection of alpha-male teachers, mentors and advisers all helping less confident men to answer one question: How can I have more sex with women?
The Pick Up Artist community has spawned books (Neil Strauss’ “The Game”), television shows (VH1’s “The Pickup Artist”), forums (led by guys with names like Gambler and Sinn) and of course the mark of anything successful, an acronym (PUA). Besides the obvious value of having seduction skills, there is clearly money to be made in the field. Exhibit A: Author, adventurer and admitted A-hole at large, Tucker Max, who’s gotten rich detailing his exploits with women. Janka has also found a way to make money off his pick-up skills, albeit in a different way.
But there’s a twist. “New York’s #1 Playboy” no longer practices what he preaches; he’s out of the game and out of the country, maybe for good. The 37-year-old Janka is now (debatably) happily monogamous and living in the U.K. with a girlfriend. He may have the answers about having sex with women, but Janka’s situation raises some interesting questions, not least: Can a retired pick-up artist preach what he doesn’t practice? And, how long can such a man actually stay retired?
The one purpose is to get the digits so you can contact her later. After that, keep moving. You have nothing to say to her anyhow; you’ll just f*** it up.
In 2005, Janka was in his late-20s and living in New York City. Tall, dark and handsome with a physics degree from Harvard and a restless streak as wide as his smile, Janka found himself bouncing from job to job and was “in a holding pattern.” That was before he discovered his true calling, picking up women by day, sleeping with them at night and doing a little SAT tutoring whenever he had time. He was so proficient at this lifestyle that friends encouraged him to write about it and, eventually, he complied. Janka sat down at his computer and wrote a 17-page manifesto entitled “Getting Laid In NYC.” Upon completion, he sent it out as a PDF to a few friends. They in turn sent it to a few friends and in less time than it usually took him to take a girl’s number and get her into bed, his words had gone viral.
The handbook contained totally uncensored advice about using a fairly basic system to get a woman into the sack with as little effort as possible and without spending a dime, the overwhelming themes being to exude confidence, get as many phone numbers as possible and date constantly. The guide contained tips on things like appearance, proper conversation techniques, where to meet, utilizing text messages and knowing when to make a move, as well as realizing when to give up.
As Janka’s booklet circulated through inboxes and printed copies changed hands, his name began to pop up in the press and media. The NY Post, Jezebel and Psychology Today wrote about him and Janka also appeared on “The Today Show” and “Dr. Phil.” Janka’s time in the public eye brought to light the presence of another project he’d been working on, a project whose existence at least partially explains the nonchalance with which he revealed the raw, sexual details contained in “Getting Laid.”
In 2001, during a cross-country drive from Vancouver to Boston, Janka began making a list (these were pre-binder days) of girls he had slept with, about 20 in all. This list eventually turned into a spreadsheet that then became two spreadsheets, one for “leads” - girls he had met on the street but hadn’t slept with - and “closes” - girls he had taken to bed. As the “closes” sheet grew, so did Janka’s desire to add to it. “I’d meet a girl, f*** her, go to breakfast, come home and add her to the list,” he says. “Since I had a document in front of me, it became fun, like a game.”
Besides a phone number, the “leads” list included descriptive information like “skinny blonde with small dog on Upper West Side,” or “girl upstairs at Union Square Whole Foods eating sushi,” so Janka could remember who she was, whereas the “closes” list had a date and was sometimes annotated to indicate what kind of sex had taken place (X marked the spot for anal). By comparing the lists, Janka was able to calculate his “close rate”– 11 percent. “It sounds like a low percentage but I didn’t spend any money or much time at all, so it’s a pretty good rate,” he says.
Aside from helping him track efficiency and compare notes with his buddies (some of whom slept with the same girls), the spreadsheets also came in handy when Janka contracted what he thinks was either gonorrhea or chlamydia. “I was able to look back on the list and ballpark who gave it to me,” he says.
Women who became aware of the spreadsheet had varying reactions. Some were mortified, insisting their names be changed to aliases; others wanted on the list. “After I was on TV, a couple girls contacted me via Facebook wanting to get added,” Janka says. “I’d bang them and then we’d walk over to the computer and put their name in together.”
One spreadsheet entry with whom Janka is still friendly is an actress, Kiki. Now living in Los Angeles, Kiki, 26, met Janka at a Starbucks and was immediately impressed by him, even after learning his history. “I just thought, ‘Oh my God. This guy’s been with hundreds of women. I have to get a piece of that.’” The two had instant chemistry with one another and soon began an open relationship that lasted for about a year. “We would have sex with other people during the day and have sleepovers at night,” she says.
After they split up, Kiki (a self-admitted X), began keeping track of her own sexual encounters much like Janka. Although not as open as Janka is about her current tally (“None of your business”), she has no problem sharing her feelings about the guy. “Paul is an incredible man and a genius,” she says. “I really learned a lot from him, and I know he can teach people a lot.”
In 2008 Janka began selling PUA advice full-time, hocking his book “The Attraction Formula” ($19.95), selling a DVD-set called “Beyond The Digits” ($147), offering online training ($97) and improving his website, pauljanka.com. The first few years weren’t very profitable, but as the Attraction Formula brand grew, so did the returns, and in 2010 Janka and his business partner brought in enough cash to begin drawing modest salaries. 2011 was a different story.
After hiring a fulltime ad-buyer to generate website traffic, the business began bringing in the bucks with 1.2 million dollars in sales and Janka anticipates 2012 ending similarly. Although primarily Web-based up until this point, Janka was recently in Los Angeles shooting an infomercial that could begin hitting the late-night airwaves usually reserved for super-charged blenders and wearable blankets in early 2013.
“Any successful business must follow a blueprint if it hopes to achieve significant results; the same applies to shagging women.”
On a recent Sunday, while many of their brethren were enjoying a football-packed afternoon, more than 25 men instead opted to make the trek to midtown Manhattan and plunk down $19.95 for a seminar entitled “Get That Truly Great Girl.” The seminar, part of a monthly series held by the Gotham Dating Club, covered topics like “How to use Active Disinterest” and “The Magic Girlfriend Activation Technique.” The seminar was led by Craig Miller, who founded the dating club in 2009 after being a member of other men’s advice groups.
Miller, 29, has a wide mix of clients, ranging from college-age guys hoping to improve their game to older men looking to re-integrate into the dating scene after a divorce. He thinks his clients are genuinely looking for long-term partners, but if they have some short-term hookups along the way, all the better. “Most men who come to the club have a similar story,” he says. “They are looking for one great girl who they can spend a lot of time with, but at the same time, they understand that it’s a process to find her. They aren’t going to turn down any sex or fun that comes along the way.”
Across the country, Nick Savoy, founder of the Hollywood-based PUA organization Love Systems, has been helping men with advice ranging from ways to get back their ex to how to have threesomes on a nightly basis for the last 10 years. Savoy, now in his late 30’s, says that Love Systems’ approach to teaching differs from Janka’s in that it’s customizable to fit each of his clients’ specific needs, whether they are trying to live like a young, Viagra-free Hugh Hefner or simply seeking to avoid becoming a 40-year-old virgin. “No offense to Paul Janka, but I don’t think he has anything to tell a guy who’s not extremely good-looking, rich, Harvard-educated and living in the middle of a city,” he says. “He’s got nothing to tell the 45-year-old, divorced, Asian-American investment banker who lives in a small town. I don’t think he has a damn thing to tell that person.”
It’s impossible to know when the first “pick up” occurred, but the roots of pick-up artistry can at least be traced as far back as the 1600’s when “rakes” (immoral men with a penchant for womanizing) were running wild in the court of King Charles II (Aristocrats Gone Wild). Hundreds of years later, Eric Weber, a former advertising copywriter, ushered the art of picking up into the modern era.
In 1970 Weber, penned “How To Pick Up Girls!” a book detailing what he discovered after conducting in-depth interviews with women in New York City. Weber published the book himself and spread the word about it by taking out ads in the back of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. In the 42 years since publication, more than 3,000,000 copies have printed worldwide.
When writing such gems as - “Divorced men are attractive. Why? A man who has been married has had a lot of sex. He’s experienced” and “March in a peace demonstration. Even if you’re for war. I’ve heard countless stories of guys who have picked up fantastic broads in peace demonstrations” - Weber, now almost 70, could hardly have anticipated that his book would pave the way for guys like Miller, Savoy and Janka to make their livings. (For his part, Janka says he’s never heard of him.)
That’s the beauty of being a man - you can always walk away from a situation that has bad energy…The single most powerful word in the English language for a man is “Next!”
Four years ago, Janka met his English girlfriend (who asked not to be named) when she was 21 and interning in New York. It would be romantic to say Janka’s heart melted at first sight, but the truth is he picked her up on the street, the same way he met so many of the girls that came before. On their second or third date he wanted to “come clean” and told her about his business and his past. She was shocked but also intrigued and what started out as a casual relationship led to a long-distance romance that culminated in the couple living together in the London neighborhood of Islington.
At first some of her relatives were a bit freaked out by his past, but after four years, he says they’ve come to accept it. “They’re more concerned with how we get along one on one and if I treat her well,” he says. “It’s much more about us personally than my reputation or public persona. Especially in this economic climate, her parents are glad she has a boyfriend who can take care of her.”
Janka’s happy with the relationship and enjoys having a work-at-home schedule that leaves that him plenty of opportunities to pursue his hobbies (reading, painting and traveling), but there are some drawbacks. The biggest one? That whole monogamy thing.
Janka misses his days of carefree sex and isn’t overly fond of all the strings that come attached with a relationship. “With a girlfriend it's a lot less sex and exciting stuff, and a lot more of the other stuff that's not all that interesting,” he says. “My girlfriend knows that I’m always struggling with monogamy even though I love her. The concept of banging only one chick...I don’t know. That's probably why I'm not married yet. I can't quite mentally get to the point where I think it's a good deal.”
His girlfriend isn’t necessarily happy hearing about his issues staying faithful, but he thinks it “keeps her on her toes,” and also keeps him sharp. “I know if my girlfriend left me, I could very easily go out and kill my prey tomorrow night and get laid,” he says. “She can feel that strength. A guy needs to have that.”
Despite Janka’s issues with his post-Playboy life, he insists the experiences he had while single have helped, not inhibited, his ability to have a successful and fulfilling long-term relationship. He’s seen what’s out there and therefore is better equipped to appreciate the girl he has. “A reformed rake makes the best husband because he’s able to see the temptation,” he says. One expert begs to differ.
Dr. Satashi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science and contributor to the knowledge forum Big Think, has spent some time contemplating the science behind dating and finds it difficult to believe Janka’s assertion that his years of sleeping around have better prepared him for success in a long-term, committed relationship. “The qualities that make men suitable short-term partners are negatively correlated with those that make them suitable long-term partners,” he writes in an email. “Men are either one or the other, not both.”
According to Kanazawa, the numbers that Janka would joyously punch into his spreadsheet in his single days have probably added up in way that will count against him staying monogamous. “It is impossible to make precise predictions for any given individual, but based on aggregate statistics, I would think it is very unlikely,” Kanazawa says. “If he (Janka) was indeed as successful as he claims to have been, then there is very little he gains by committing to one woman.”
One Janka client, a 50-year-old divorced airline pilot who goes by Captain X (no connection to the spreadsheet designation) agrees with Kanazawa about monogamy. Captain X was researching seduction and investigating the methods of other pick-up “experts,” but after stumbling across Janka’s system more than four years ago, his search was over. “Paul is the only one who’s ever answered, ‘How do I have sex with a girl?’” he says. “I don’t see that data coming from anybody else.”
Captain X was in a relationship with a “great” girl, but something just wasn’t right so he broke it off, an action he wouldn’t have taken prior to learning Janka’s system. “If I didn’t know what I know now, I would have married her and the relationship would not have been okay,” he says. “Like most guys, I would have just told myself it was the best I was going to do.” Currently involved with eight women, Captain X has options for monogamy but doesn’t really see the point. Has the student surpassed the teacher?
There may be honor among thieves but it also appears there is solidarity among PUA instructors. He doesn’t agree with his teachings, but Love Systems’ Savoy (who’s also in a relationship) supports Janka’s claim that his experiences will make him a better long-term partner, a sentiment that “the man who started it all,” Weber, also agrees with. “When you’ve seen you can sleep with sought-after women, it puts to bed that feeling that maybe you’re not a great catch,” he says. “Once you’ve accomplished that you can start looking for other things. Some guys never properly scratch that itch.” Apparently Weber has; he’s been married for over 40 years.
Janka’s old friends contact him from New York trying to entice him into coming back with tales of their sexual conquests (an old acquaintance recently doubled him up with his 506th lay) but he insists he’s staying put. “I was ready for a partner and I met a girl whose character is so strong,” Janka says. “I found a woman who’s so much fun, so appreciative, so loving and is a great person. There are so many data points where she comes through.” Older and wiser with more money and less uncertainty than he had when his pick-up powers were peaking, Janka believes he’s done playing the game, much like the way he quit the habit he equates it to.
“It's almost like cigarette smoking. You want one so bad, you have it, it’s a few moments of pleasure and it’s done,” he says. “A year out, you're not going to get any value from the memory of that cigarette. It's the same thing with banging chicks. It's not really worth anything in the long term. It's ashes.”
Evan Bleier is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @itshowitis
Photos: Paul Janka; Alvin Smith (Flickr, Creative Commons); Caitlin Thorne.