Following Clarisse Thorn and Amanda Marcotte, Rachel Rabbit White offers more pickup advice for guys.
Hitting on people can be hard, so I can empathize with guys who feel they need to use pickup tactics to meet women—sort of. (Maybe you’ve heard of “negs?” I once had a guy come up to me and say: “Oh those shoes look comfortable.” I turned around and hobbled away.) Aside from being just groan-worthy, seduction-community tactics are ethically and practically problematic and often, plainly, sexist. But the PUA approach is tempting for guys who have social anxiety—and a resulting awkwardness—around women. I understand that the fear of rejection can be paralyzing.
On this site, Clarisse Thorn recently offered ethical dating advice for men who might otherwise be lured by pickup artistry. Amanda Marcotte responded with a smart, useful article which can be boiled down to three essential maxims: 1) women are your sexual equals, 2) go after women who are in your league (with whom you have common interests), and 3) find some real self-confidence, kid.
These are necessary starting points. But I want to get specific about the actual pickups themselves, because I’ve been a victim of poorly executed pickups, as have most girls I know. There is nothing wrong with picking someone up in a bar, but you can do it with integrity—and without a furry hat.
When I was single and going out to “unz unz” nightclubs, I didn’t hook up with guys who approached me. The approach throws me out of my comfort zone. Here’s why: women get this shit all the time. We get it waiting for the bus at 7 a.m., carrying our groceries home, hobbling in heels: unwanted howls, name-calls, and come-ons. Sudden strange attention throws us into an scary, uncomfortable space we’re all too familiar with—and want out of. This is why my advice to guys is don’t approach randomly. Try letting women come to you.
Looking back on my $13 martini days, I did hook up with a lot of guys I approached. I chose guys who made friendly eye contact with me, who smiled, who struck up a conversation when we were near each other and unoccupied.
You’ve experienced a pickup if you’ve heard things like, “Hey, what’s this from: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’?” or “You look like trouble.” To which, four years ago, I would be like, “No, I’m ‘&Hearts’; ‘Trouble’ is Katie’s MySpace name. I think she’s here, though.”
But I get it—opening conversations can be tough. So here is my secret tip: smile and say hi.
It can be hard keeping a conversation going. My recommendation is to be in the moment—be spontaneous, not rehearsed. And be real—true to yourself and the things you care about.
After “Hi,” try some personal insight—it doesn’t have to be worked out all the way. Open with how strange life is instead of how weird the weather has been. The best conversations aren’t ones where you talk about movies and TV and books and music, but about your ideas and feelings in the moment—about what it’s like to experience this odd life. It’s about getting at the human experience. It’s about sparking empathy as well as interesting conversation. Finding yourself in one of these conversations feels like suddenly finding yourself stranded on an island with this person.
Back in those nightclubs, it wasn’t rare that I’d find my Long Island–swilling wing-lady trapped. There she would be, cornered, clearly uncomfortable, as she recited “312-728 …” to some creep with his cellphone out.
Often, women can’t say no to giving out the number when asked. Most of us are brought up from an early age to be cordial and accommodating. This is why my own cellphone is filled with multiple contacts named “Do Not Answer.”
So? Pay attention. Is she enthusiastic about talking to you? Is she warm toward you? Engaging you further? If not, don’t keep on her—or ask for her number, for chrissake! And because, apparently, it needs to be said: if you continually send a woman messages online or via text and she doesn’t respond—back off. Being relentless may work in the movies, but in the real world it’s called harassment.
Clarisse shared a particularly dark ploy of pickup when it comes to sex: the freeze out. It’s where a girl says she doesn’t want to go any further and the PUA relies on passive aggressiveness—instead of the less fancy aggressive aggressiveness—to pressure her. If they are in bed, he will turn away, check his phone, blow out the candles. Again, women are conditioned to keep the peace, to keep others from being angry at us. We are taught that what we have to offer socially is our looks, our sexuality. For this reason, it becomes easy for her to cave when the guy pulls away emotionally. Guys, do you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?
If you’re hooking up, know it is partly your responsibility as a sex partner to gauge how connected and enthusiastic the other half seems, and communicate. (This becomes necessary, for example, if your partner is drunk.)
You’ll have sex when the girl wants to have sex with you too—it’s a partnered dance. Prepare for the possibility that it might take more than one night (sorry). Gauge your partner’s enthusiasm and participation level; great sex comes when both partners are communicating and on the same page.
Understanding Women? Understand Yourself
PUAs use neuro-linguistic programming tactics, a part of cognitive behavioral therapy, to manipulate women through verbal ticks, pauses, body language … spinning hypnotist wheels pulled from a back pocket (which probably doubles as “peacocking gear”).
But why not use psychology to understand yourself? Facing why you are scared of hitting on women, analyzing why your relationships have failed, and engaging in some self-work is going to be more help with women than any hack.
Rejection is scary—we all want to be accepted. The fear of hitting on people is a shared human experience. What’s also shared is that none of us are perfect at it. At times, we are all going to mess up, say something stupid (You’re hot!), and blow an opportunity (whether real or imagined).
Pickup artistry might temporarily mask your insecurity, but it won’t address it in any meaningful way. Real confidence comes from accepting and loving yourself, not manipulating others’ insecurities.
Rachel Rabbit White is a journalist and blogger whose beat is sex, gender, and relationships. Don’t tell anyone, but she once made out with someone who was on Mystery’s reality TV show: The Pick-up Artist. Follow her on twitter for more strange confessions.
—Photo State Library of New South Wales/Flickr