On the secret Pick Up Artists will never tell you

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’ve read The Game. I’ve read manuals and articles and websites about pick-up artists (or, irritatingly – PUAs), and their magical and mysterious secrets to ensnaring women. Like a grisly child with a knee scab, I’m simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the whole thing, and I just can’t help picking at it.

Recently there was a kick off because a pick up artist set up a Kickstarter project to fund a book that had some pretty questionable advice in it. The material in question involved such gems as:

“You have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”

You can read more about it in this Vice interview, in which the author explains that he wasn’t advocating sexual assault or rape, he was simply trying to give shy guys the confidence to ‘be awesome with women’.

And herein lies the problem that I have with every single pick up guide I have ever come across: PUAs think there’s a complex and secret formula. Wait – scratch that. They say there’s a complex and secret formula. Presumably, if they’re the experts on women that they pretend to be, they know that there actually isn’t, but pretending there is one gives them either kudos or, in some cases, money from exactly the shy guys they’re trying to help.

So, in an effort to slightly decrease their revenue, I’m going to tell you what their actual secret is. There’s no complex formula, script or rule book, just one small nudge in the right direction. It’s mentioned in all pick up artist literature but (as far as I’ve seen) the significance of it is never properly explained. Here goes:

The key secret Pick Up Artists gloss over

Talk to women.

That’s it. That’s the secret. Disappointing, right? The problem is that this ‘secret’ is hidden within a bunch of irrelevant and often obnoxious crap. So, if a guy has success when he talks to a woman and follows the obnoxious crap rules, it’s frequently (and in my opinion incorrectly) attributed to the fact that the crap is somehow magic, rather than the one significant thing that the guy actually did: he dramatically increased the number of women he spoke to.

Shy guys and chatting up

Allow me to explain, using some of the words of Ken Hoinsky, author of ‘A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women

He explains that the audience for his book – and indeed the audience for most PUA material – is very specific: “men who were me five or ten years ago – shy, nerdy, maybe introverted.” Men who “don’t have experience in social situations” and “who’ve maybe never kissed a girl“.

Realistically, these are not the sort of guys who will frequently approach women they fancy. They are, understandably, the sort of guys who might hang back in a crowd or avoid speaking up because they’re worried about being rejected. Ken author admits that this is the case – what he’s doing, he says, is not about encouraging men to force themselves on women, but encouraging shy men to take that small step forward.

“The seduction world is self-help in disguise. The majority of it is about developing confidence in more traditional self-help.”

The Game helps that, apparently. Pick-up artists help that, apparently. Because they give men self confidence and tricks and scripts and plans and all the extra bits and pieces. However, the self confidence isn’t the stated goal for the vast majority of people in this community: sex is. What’s more, self-confidence on its own won’t get someone from being a shy, nerdy never-kissed-a-girl type into their first relationship. The thing that will most dramatically increase the odds of any guy sleeping with, or having a relationship with a particular woman, is talking to her.

All pick up artists will tell you to do this, but few will make a big fuss over it. They’ll tell you how to talk, and when to talk, and sometimes what to say, but they won’t tell you that the key to all of their success comes from the simple fact that you’re doing it. That, absent any peripheral voodoo, they’re taking people who never talk to women, and getting them to talk to women.

Applying this secret to the Real World

Is it any bloody wonder that people who implement the PUA’s rules have more success with women than they did before? If they’ve never before spoken to a woman, then of course they’re going to have more success if they start speaking to women. Even if they’re nervous. Even if they don’t know what to say. Even if they’re rejected three out of four times. When you start at zero, anything’s a win.

Don’t believe me? Stop comparing pick-up artists to the ‘shy, introverted guys’ they all claim they used to be. Compare them instead to someone you know who is simply confident enough to talk to new people. Someone who doesn’t use tricks or wear a magic hat or tell the women they’re fat in order to manipulate them into sex. Compare a pick-up artist to your average, decent guy, and see who is more successful at getting a date.

Let’s do some science

Trust me on this, people – it’s a very simple scientific error. If I want to test whether car A is faster than car B, I run them both under identical conditions. I don’t have a different driver in each, on different tracks, with different weights in the boot and then try to claim that the vastly bigger engine in car B is a barely irrelevant factor in its success. Likewise, including a ton of misleading misogynist waffle alongside what is fundamentally good advice (“Hey! Talk to women!) shouldn’t lead you to conclude that it was your value-added bullshit that really made the difference.

I appreciate that this isn’t going to help you much if you’re one of those shy guys – someone shouting “Just talk to women!” in your ear won’t make it any easier to wander up and approach one. All I need you to understand for now is that the journey from ‘lonely dude’ to ‘man who has a girlfriend/wife/shag’ isn’t nearly as long and complicated as PUAs would have you believe.

These guys do not have access to secret knowledge. They are not better than you. They are not magic. Many of them, in fact, are gold-plated bastards. So look on the bright side: if you avoid becoming a bastard and start talking to more women, there’s a fairly high chance that you’ll be more successful than they are.

20 Comments

  • Alex says:

    But if they stop believing in The Game, the next thing you know, they’ll stop believing in all the sales training and THEN WHERE WILL WE BE?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Good point, I’m sorry. This stuff is excruciatingly important, especially if one wants some windows double-glazed =)

      • Alex says:

        The two things have a lot in common; all the PUAs I’ve ever met but one were salesmen. They are in the habit of both believing in this stuff, and identifying intensely with selling. I think the whole phenomenon is conditioned by capitalism; people trying to apply the stuff their bosses use to motivate them as a way of getting laid.

        radge, eh, to quote Irvine Welsh.

  • Can't remember my pseudonym says:

    I think there’s one other important step (although arguably it’s included in your single one, but when dealing with people who are not that good with social cues it’s important to be explicit in these matters):

    LISTEN to the women you’re talking to.

    This is important a) because it is rather key in terms of picking up on their interest or lack thereof and b) it’s a lot more interesting having a conversation with someone who exhibits interest in your side of it, rather than someone who is just waiting for you to shut up so they can say their next super-interesting thing. I am… not exactly a natural socialite, so I know whereof I speak (although I am a ladygirl and that) having been on both sides of both types of convo (one-sided and two-way).

    • G says:

      I was actually hoping that nobody had said listening, as that was the overriding thing I thought reading the post. In order to effectively talk to anyone, you have to effectively listen. One big lesson I learned, coincidentally when I was a salesman of double glazing to pay my way through Uni many moons ago, was that in general, you have two ears and only one mouth and should use them accordingly.

      I’m a bloke, and I have friends who are perfectly sociable, good humoured nice guys, but say they can’t talk to women. I don’t get it as long as you talk to women the way you would ANY human. If you can talk, and listen, to men well enough, you can talk to women. Both men and women are humans after all.

      • nemo says:

        Well, this depends. I do a professional job. I lecture. It’s a job where effectively, you perform, in front of people. But you occupy a position of power so it makes life easier. It’s just a job.

        But, outside the teaching room I am painfully shy. It’s not just about not being able to talk and listen to women, it’s about talking to strangers in general. I hate social gatherings, they drain me. And then I’m one of those people who are “cursed” with the affliction of over-thinking pretty much everything.

        I spent my teenage years as an awkward, odd-looking socially maladroit teenager, only to find that I became an awkward, odd-looking socially maladroit adult. While not being hideously deformed I have never really been that attractive to the opposite sex. That first, visual barrier is a difficult one to overcome most of the time. Or maybe I’m just way too picky. Then, instead of exhibiting what some might call animal magnetism I seem to have been imbued with a strange, almost spooky “anti-charisma”. I can count the number of relationships I have had on the fingers of…well, two fingers actually. When I was younger this bothered me, but now I have adjusted to the fact that this is just the way I am. Some of us really are just that shy.

  • Fractos says:

    I’m pretty sure that if more men talked _with_ women then a few of the world’s problems might get resolved before the next ice age.

    So tired of the barriers between us all.

  • R says:

    Can I suggest a blog here? I have no connection, I just think it’s awesome: http://www.postmasculine.com

    The guy gives the best advice on this subject I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot – as a woman). His book is really good. No manipulation or games – all based on principles of good character and honesty.

  • Legless says:

    I always found that the best line to use was:

    “So tell me little about yourself……”

  • Heh, …awesome take-down of some folks that certainly deserve a little decrease in their revenue.

  • Jess says:

    I knew a self-proclaimed pick up artist. His friend told me he was his wingman and that if he wanted to sleep with me he could. He tried. Nope.

    The arrogance of it all is so off-putting! And having read up on it a little myself, I can tell what some men have tried to do to get me to like them in the past – using props, and ridiculously egotistical techniques. The result is just me thinking how disingenuous and boring the guy must be to have to follow someone else’s rules for conversation.

    Dating is hard and scary, but why aren’t people encouraged to create their own ‘openers’ and then improvise the rest? Isn’t that what men have done for centuries, and it must have worked because we’re all here..

    Personally, the awkward stutters and embarrassed glances are one of my favourite parts of dating.

    • Bernd Jendrissek says:

      “Men” have indeed done this for hundreds of thousands of years, but that is of little relevance to particular men, who still have to figure out openers and improvisation techniques that work. Just as we’re all here because our parents figured it out, there are many peers of our parents who never figured it out, and who don’t have children among us. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that we will all figure it out just as our parents did.

      • Girl on the net says:

        True some people need help, but I’m challenging whether this kind of help is always useful in the long run.

  • RNW says:

    I so so so agree with you on all of this. The Game is both awful and fascinating, but you’re right. Talking to women is at the crux of it all.

  • Sarah says:

    The tragic thing for me is that, these less than confident men on Reddit are being flagrantly lied to. When a woman comes in an voices her opinion on what actually would work, they’re shouted down as liars.

    It’s really quite simple. Most women have experienced sexual harassment at the very least, often worse. Many do not respond well to uninvited touching – I certainly don’t.

    The truth is, if you want to know whether a woman wants you to touch her, there’s a very simple test – let your knee brush against or gently touch hers while sitting next to each other (eg nothing more confrontational than we deal with on the tube each day). A woman anticipating your touch will feel like she’s been electrocuted from those tiny touches – if she’s not interested, she will move out of your way. They should be learning to understand women’s signals, not how to assault them. Furthermore, just because she likes your knees touching doesn’t mean she wants your cock in her mouth.

    If a woman is interested, she’s interested. If not, she’s not. Now, obviously drugs and alcohol may make her less choosy, there’s no denying that. But if you don’t want to take advantage of vulnerable women in order to get your rocks off, you have to learn to talk to them as if they’re real human beings and figure out if they’re into you or not.

    The biggest bugbear of mine is this friend zone bullshit. All of my proper relationships and most of my flings have been with friends. That’s who I get the most love, respect and best sex from – rutting with strangers is unfulfilling to me, and usually shit too. There are many ways of turning friendships into relationships – but then you’re relying on the girl actually liking you and you requiring a personality, so I guess is easier to insult them until they feel so bad about themselves that all they can do is suck you off while sobbing. What a great sex life these guys must have.

    • SPQR says:

      A lot of this is some very old and tired wine in new bottles.

      I enjoy this blog a great deal, but I get VERY sceptical whenever I hear these claims that attracting and picking up women is so terribly easy and simple. And that’s especially so when I hear these claims coming from women. I listened to far too much of that sort of thing when I was young and single, and I wish I hadn’t listened because it was utter garbage.

      I recall such pearls of wisdom as “Women like nice guys”, “Just be yourself”, “All you have to do is say hi”, and (my personal favourite) “Take your time and get to know her as a person first”. (Their words, not mine.) And a hell of a lot of good it all did.

      I don’t believe women are deliberately giving men bad advice, but when it comes to this topic they just plain do not know what they’re talking about, and any advice they give men will reflect that. (Professionals may be something of an exception, but they’re few and far between.)

      • Girl on the net says:

        OK, here goes: I never said it was ‘terribly easy’. In fact, I said: ‘I appreciate that this isn’t going to help you much if you’re one of those shy guys – someone shouting “Just talk to women!” in your ear won’t make it any easier to wander up and approach one.’

        Yeah, it’s hard. But it’s hard because, whenever you are meeting someone new you’re putting yourself out there and saying ‘do you like me?’ which is bloody difficult because there’s always the option that they’ll turn around and say ‘no.’ And that hurts your self-esteem, and therefore it’s tricky.

        I’m not saying it’s easy: I’m saying that these magic tricks don’t have any special powers, other than to con you into thinking you’re doing something unique. While ‘be nice’ and ‘be yourself’ don’t sound particularly special, they basically are the best ways to meet people. It sounds like the problem you have is that they don’t work on everyone: they won’t successfully persuade someone into bed, or on a date, or into giving someone your phone number, if that person doesn’t actually fancy you. And that’s OK, because not everyone is going to fancy you.

        The difference between honest advice and pick up art is that honest advice isn’t going to pretend you’ll get laid with anyone any everyone you choose. Here’s some more honest advice, on how to actually chat up a woman: http://www.girlonthenet.com/2013/09/02/how-to-chat-up-a-woman/ It’s exactly the same as the advice I’d give women on how to chat up a dude. And it won’t guarantee your ‘success’ and make sure you get anyone you want into bed, because guaranteeing that would be spectacularly dishonest.

  • Bob says:

    It took me a solid ten years to suss the “talk to women” bit, daft as it sounds. To be fair it’s not the women that’s the problem, it’s, as nemo said similarly above, turning from a cripplingly shy odd looking teenager to a cripplingly shy odd looking adult. The person inside still has the problem, no matter what gender they are talking to.

  • Brad says:

    So your argument against pickup artists is that they tell men how to talk to women, rather than just telling them “go talk to women”?
    You’ve probably have conversations with men that were fun and flirty, and others that were dull small talk. This isn’t just luck. Saying hello doesn’t set you on a path towards sex, the conversation has to be taken in that direction – which is a delicate skill.

    • Girl on the net says:

      No. My argument: “The thing that will most dramatically increase the odds of any guy sleeping with, or having a relationship with a particular woman, is talking to her.”

      Sure, conversation can be done well or badly: with consideration and care and interest or via attempted manipulation, dodgy lines and excessive pressure. The thing which has the biggest impact on success, for “shy, nerdy guys” that PUAs claim to be helping, is that they go from a ‘talking to no women’ situation to a ‘talking to SOME women’ situation. I’d argue, too, that the techniques PUAs teach are incredibly bad conversational ones, because they do not involve listening to women and what they actually want, rather they involve treating women like we’re video games, and if you press the right buttons you’ll ‘win.’ Better conversations involve two-way communication, as well as the understanding that not all women are going to be attracted to you.

      You said “Saying hello doesn’t set you on a path towards sex”, and you’re right, but if you think that learning the correct cheat codes, applicable to any conversation, will work to ‘set you on a path towards sex’ I’d recommend you step back and have a look at what that says about your attitudes towards women. You have met and spoken to guys you liked, and guys you didn’t, right? Well, women are the same. We sometimes like some people, and sometimes like others. We have different perspectives and opinions and beliefs. We are people.

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