China to Ban Pick-Up Artists

Young Asian man and woman drinking cocktails in a café at night.
Photo by Khoa Võ from Pexels

China’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday announced the communist government will amend its Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests to “prohibit acts of mind control against women,” including “PUA (pick-up artist) moves.”

These rather severe amendments were announced as China is still dealing with the fallout from tennis star Peng Shuai accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of raping her a decade ago. The new restrictions against pick-up artistry could be part of China’s propaganda war to spin away the Peng story by touting Beijing’s supposedly tough stance against harassment. 

The Global Times made a point of mentioning the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights “came into force nearly 30 years ago,” and even preemptively castigated “foreign media” likely to claim the new regulations were imposed “after government suppression of the #MeToo movement.” 

The details of the latest revision certainly sound like a veiled promise that what allegedly happened to Peng Shuai will not happen again:

According to the draft, sexual harassment against a woman’s will be [sic] prohibited in ways that involve words with sexual connotations or innuendo; inappropriate and unnecessary physical behavior; displays or dissemination of images, text, information, audio or video with obvious sexual significance; or acts that imply that there will be some benefit in developing a private or sexual relationship.

The draft stipulates that women who are victims of sexual harassment can file complaints with relevant units and authorities. These units and authorities shall handle complaints promptly and inform the victims of the results in writing. The female victims may either report the case to a public security organ or file a civil lawsuit with a people’s court.

After relating lengthy details of the Western-style bans on discrimination against women in hiring and employment – particularly discrimination against pregnant women and prospective mothers, a major concern for a country attempting to pull out of a demographic death spiral – the Global Times dug into the provisions against “mind control” and “non-violent acts including brainwashing, manipulation of women, and instigation of female suicide.”

“Some local law enforcement authorities have investigated organizations and individuals conducting PUA-related training and online sales courses. In addition, the so-called girls’ morals schools using verbal abuse, and the contemptuous destruction of female dignity to poison women, have emerged in recent years,” the article explained.

These comments refer to a scandal that erupted in China in 2019 after a woman known as “Bao Li” (China’s version of the pseudonym “Jane Doe”) attempted to commit suicide and was declared brain-dead. Text messages from her phone revealed she was manipulated and demeaned by a man who wanted to use her for sex – or, as he put it, “I want you to get pregnant with me, then get an abortion.”

Bao Li was an undergraduate at Peking University, so the Chinese public was shocked that she could have been broken with such a crude campaign of emotional abuse. Her friends spoke darkly of trained PUAs, a major industry in China that apparently peaked sometime around 2017, with huge pick-up artist websites that boasted millions of members. Some of these PUA groups published training manuals that really did teach how to use brainwashing techniques – which are not hard to come by in a brutal Communist tyranny – to dominate women by shattering their self-esteem. There were men who worked as “professional PUA” instructors, charging thousands of dollars to teach other men to pick up several women per day.

There was never actually any proof that the man who pushed Bao Li to suicide was a graduate of these “PUA schools” or consumer of their materials online, but the Chinese Communist Party launched a major crackdown on PUA after the scandal.

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