What Women Can Learn From Studying Pickup Artists

Women unconsciously collude with sexual predators. Know their tactics, and reclaim your power

Women aren’t helpless little ‘targets’. We can fortify ourselves against males who seek to exploit our psychological weaknesses. Photo by SilviaP_Design on Needpix

The smarter a girl is, the better it works. Party girls with attention deficit disorder generally don’t stick around to hear the routines. A more perceptive, worldly, or educated girl will listen and think, and soon find herself ensnared. — Neil Strauss, ‘The Game’

Loren blew into my life like a Highland warrior, the literal embodiment of the sexy, chesty, take-charge, long-haired hero of a medieval romance novel.

We both belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-creation group I was part of in my twenties.

Charismatic and compellingly attractive, dark-haired, dark-eyed, brash and brimming with sexuality, he glommed onto me like a Scottish laird to a guileless virgin. Except I was a flamboyant and outrageous belly dancer, famous throughout New England SCAdian ‘kingdoms’ for my flirting and sexual innuendo as well as my energetic performances.

Loren epitomized the hottest, most popular guy in school whose head, just a few years previously, my dorky ass could never hope to turn.

But, ugh, he flirted with every woman he met and often had a woman (or two) under each arm. Right in front of me, even as he actively worked to crank my every sexual button into hyperdrive.

Seventeen years later, pickup artist (PUA) Neil Strauss, a/k/a Style, explained in his exposé and how-to manual The Game how this was ‘social proof’: “The notion that if everyone else is doing something, then it must be good.” Have one or more beautiful women around you, which always looks better than if you’re alone.

I was no longer La Dorkola. Now I was Gisèle, with a ton more self-esteem and male admirers than high school. I disliked arrogant assholes, hip to the games they played with women to massage their own mammoth egos.

Today we call them ‘players’. Back then I called them ‘sluts’.

I decided not having sex with Loren would give me far greater pleasure than bedding him.

I made a conscious decision to be the one woman he couldn’t nail.

The best and worst of pickup artist practice

Not all The Game’s advice for men is bad. It offers some pretty basic female attraction lessons many men never learn, even well into middle age. Here’s what makes me want to scream, “Hallelujah, Brothah Style! Say it again! Tell them like it is!”

  • Smile when you enter a room. The game is on. You’re together, you’re fun, you’re somebody.

  • Be well-groomed.

  • Have a sense of humor.

  • Connect with people.

  • Don’t approach a woman with a sexual come-on; learn about her first. Strauss thinks she should earn the right to be hit on. No, he must earn the right to hit on her.

  • Demonstrate value. Be different. (Oh dear gods on Mount Olympus, if men learn just one thing from The Game let it be this!)

The Game, for women, is a road map to every easy exploit in the female brain. Patch your weaknesses, and you’ll be impervious to the perv-ious.

Ladies, take note of the following. This is just a taste of what women need to understand about themselves to effectively avoid not just PUAs but other toxic men. The less laudable, if lamentably effective advice:

  • Negging. Alienating her by lowering her self-esteem and displaying an active lack of interest in her. (Remember: This works, particularly for those women PUAs correctly label LSE: Low Self-Esteem.)

  • Cat string theory. If they make it too easy for her she loses interest and goes away. (The Game’s female counterpart, The Rules, is entirely based on this same premise.)

  • Using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques to, essentially, trick her into wanting to be with him. NLP is considered hogwash by scientists, but it seems to work for PUAs, and strikes me as being at least a little based in current neuroscience: We can, indeed, rewire or ‘reprogram’ our brains.

  • Strauss really nails many women (figuratively) with what I call woo-woo. He calls it ‘chick crack’, the conversational ice-breaker psychology ‘tests’ and New Age fluffy nonsense many women adore. One example: He writes down a number and asks you to choose between one and ten. You chose 7; he reveals that’s the number he wrote down! He knew you were going to say that because you’re meant to be together or some such crap! Amazing! (Except that 70% of people choose 7.)

Or, he gives you and your friend some silly ‘best friends test’ and spouts a bunch of psychobabble he made up utilizing fairly pedestrian knowledge about people. Not only is he rarely ever wrong, but if he is he can find a different frame to make it look like he wasn’t. It’s what fake psychics do: ‘Cold reading’.

The really execrable advice for men:

  • Challenge yourself to overcome shyness doing things like talking a homeless person out of a quarter. If you can overcome that, you can be an effective PUA. You’ll also be a horrible human being, and everyone in Strauss’s book paid a price later. TANSTAAFL.

Still, there’s a point: Push yourself to face rejection, and get so good at what you do you don’t get it nearly as much. Relentless rejection saps your will to live, but only occasional rejection is just part of The Game.

I can’t wholeheartedly condemn their tactics. I’ve been in sales for almost all my career; we, too, know a lot of little tips and nudges to win prospects over. (As PUAs dehumanize women as ‘targets’ or ‘sets’, we salescritters refer to prospects and leads. No, nothing dehumanizing here.)

Early in my career, a savvy, successful salesman told me, “When someone objects or resists, distract them by talking about something else; then go back to it, and keep doing this until they give you what you want.”

I did this just the other day to a woman resisting booking a meeting with our team lead. I cracked a joke and she laughed and I laughed and then I cracked another joke and then went back to booking the meeting. And I did.

These tactics work.

Who’s truly being victimized?

The #MeToo movement has focused much-needed attention on predatory men. Women have slid male manipulation, control and abuse under the microscope, scrutinizing experiences and exchanging data like scientists parsing the differences between ancient fossilized bacteria.

Some women don’t yet connect the fact that we’re not, or don’t have to be, helpless recipients of m