News / Ottawa

Ottawa pick-up artist hides YouTube videos after online backlash

An Ottawa pick-up artist and hypnotist who has come under fire on social media for recording women on the street without their consent says he's just trying to teach shy guys with social anxiety how to talk with beautiful women.

Luke Howard, 36, blocked his series of YouTube videos under the username Lukeutopia from public view after a few people on Twitter condemned his social media experiments.

In the videos, he approaches women on the street and engages in conversation in an attempt to get their phone numbers. A hidden camera captures the encounter and Howard does not inform the woman she is being filmed.

"Because I don't need to and it's not a legal requirement to do that," said Howard in an interview with Metro Friday.

"Once you tell people about what you're doing it affects the whole result of the experiment you're doing."

Howard said he came to Ottawa from the U.K. six years ago and started his YouTube series three to four months ago.

The goal, he said, is to motivate men who have social anxiety to have the courage to talk to women they are interested in during the day instead of in a nightclub.

"I want other guys to experience that freedom of being unshackled and unchained by these fears," he said.

Howard said he made his videos private after receiving threats of violence online.

Ottawa police said in an email to Metro that secretly filming people over 18 is not illegal if it is done in a public space.

But the experiment has turned off several women who say what Howard is doing amounts to street harassment.

One woman, who spoke to Metro on the condition that her name not be published, said Howard "turned nasty" when she turned him down the second time he approached her.

The 23-year-old University of Ottawa student said he approached her once last summer inside the Rideau Centre, a second time in the Byward Market last fall, and a third time this summer on Elgin Street.

"I saw him and I was walking in the Market to go to a show at the Rainbow (Bistro) and he actually runs up behind me and he's like, 'Can I talk to you for a moment?' and I said, "No, I have to go.' And he told me to 'f--k off,'" she said.

"I definitely felt creeped out. He was being too aggressive and (I was) very frustrated that he wouldn't leave me alone. I felt harassed."

Hollaback! Ottawa, a group that raises awareness about ending street harassment, said Howard's behaviour might be legal, but it doesn't respect women's boundaries.

"Women shouldn't have to prioritize being friendly over their own safety," said spokeswoman Julie Lalonde.

"His supposed goal is he's making it easier for people to interact in public, but I would argue that his work is actually setting men back and making it more difficult for good men to just strike up conversations."

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