DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A long-time reader of your website here! I must say I like your no-nonsense and humane approach to things, although I haven’t really needed your advice the past years. Since I am now in the position that I do, I thought to ask you for some advice in the hope you could help me out.
My girlfriend and I recently ended our relationship and I am looking to start dating again. Before I settled down into a relationship with her, I dabbled in the Pick-Up/seduction community. I’ve had my successes, but not as big as some people in the community make themselves out to be.
I have a love/hate relationship with Pick-Up. I feel that it has given me some valuable lessons at the time, but I also think that some mindsets and thoughts in the community are highly poisoning or simply misogynistic. I’m afraid that without guidance I’ll fall back into some of these patterns, so I was wondering if you had some advice for someone with a (dabbling) background in Pick-Up. I’m not looking to spend five nights a week negging girls in a nightclub anymore. No more, I say!
Right now I’m a clean slate as I can be, regarding dating. I’d like to learn how to engage with women healthily this time. Do you have any advice? I know I don’t really have a specific question, but some general pointers on how to learn from, yet dodge the poisonous swamp that Pick-Up can sometimes be would be immensely helpful!
DEAR PUMAYBE: Y’know, it’s really easy to forget that the pick-up artist scene never really went away after it’s hey-day in the early 00’s and 10s. It surprises some folks to find out that not only is it still around, but it’s mutated in a number of different ways, from “classical” pick-up to the overtly misogynist Red Pill community, and even influenced the growth of groups like MGTOW and other MRA communities.
But hey, for as long as people have wanted to get laid, there’ve been folks who’ve been trying to teach people how to find all the shortcuts in the process.
Occasionally I’ll get a letter from someone that might as well be me ten years ago. Welcome to my life, PUMaybe; I’ve basically gone through most of what you’re going through and then some.
One of the ongoing issues – something that I started this site specifically to address – is that men don’t really have any way of learning HOW to interact with women. Our society has basically saddled us with an unfortunate dating binary: you’re either good with women or you aren’t, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you admit to being bad and are trying to improve, you’re looked down upon as a loser. Half the time, our only “instruction” comes from watching other people get together and trying to backwards engineer it. God knows our parents don’t teach us much about meeting potential partners, and asking other guys for help is frequently a crap-shoot.
And honestly? Dating is literally the only place where this is true. If I wanted to get better at playing basketball and worked with a coach, nobody would blink twice. If I wanted to brush up my conversational Japanese and I bought a DuoLingo subscription or hired a private tutor, it’d be business as usual. But if someone sees you leaving Barnes and Noble with a copy of The Game and people will react with derision; not just because you’ve got a copy of The Game but because you’re clearly a dateless loser looking for a way to manipulate women into bed. If you admit you’ve worked with someone to brush up your Tinder profile, you’re gonna get some serious side-eye from folks because it represents the idea that you just didn’t know how to do this instinctively.
And let’s be clear: yeah, there’s a whole metric f
k-ton of people who got into pick-up because they wanted to manipulate women into having sex with ’em. But there are ALSO people who simply want to get better at dating and have no idea how. Pick-up is the only real outlet for those people because… what else do we have? Movies that teach us all the wrong goddamn lessons? Say what you will about pick-up but at least it’s an ethos.
But I digress.
As I’ve said many times before: I’m of two minds about the pick-up scene. On the one hand, I learned a lot from my days as a pick-up artist, stuff that I find incredibly valuable to this day. On the other hand… well, let’s face it, the pick-up scene is full of some seriously toxic, hateful and occasionally downright dangerous beliefs and information – and this is without getting into areas like The Red Pill aficionados, various ovulation-obsessed online “personalities” or Men’s Rights advocates and the rest of their ilk.
So the obvious question is: how can you separate the gold from the dross, the wheat from the chaff and the valuable information in pick-up from the misogyny and toxic ideas about masculinity?
(In before: “You can’t.”)
First: examine everything that you’ve been taught. How much of it is saying that “all women are X” or “Every woman wants Y?” Much of “traditional” pick-up is predicated on incorrect – or toxic – ideas about women and female sexuality, especially that women are one giant monolith who want the same thing. Similarly, look at the ways you’re being told about being a man. How much of it is based around the stereotype of the “alpha male” and how much of it is “becoming the best, most authentic version of you”? Are you trying to present a false or puffed up version of yourself in order to trigger an “instinctual” response in women? The more any technique or belief is based in evolutionary psychology or “all women want X”, the more toxic it’s likely to be.
Next: ask yourself “How much of this is based on coercing, pressuring or “tricking” women into doing what you want? The classic example are techniques for overcoming “anti-slut defense” or “last-minute resistance” or LMR busters – techniques like “the freeze-out” that’re supposed to overcome a response of “no, I don’t want to have sex with you” when you’re back at your place or her place; the whole “Yeah, we’re going to an afterparty, I just need to get my wallet/camera/beer first, why don’t you come in for a minute?” dodge to get someone to come home with you. It’s pitched as “giving her a plausible excuse to come home with you” because women need a way to explain how sex “just happened” rather than look like a slut, right bro?
Yeah, not so much. Here’s what the unspoken follow-up to that false pretense: “…and now you’re stuck at a strange man’s house without any way reliable way of getting home. Better not do something he doesn’t like!”
(As an aside: I, to my shame, used the false pretense trick back when I was deep in the pick-up scene. I had no idea how goddamn sketchy it was and having a female friend explain it to me – and smack me upside the head in the process – was a serious eye-opener. I can’t emphasize enough how much I regret having used that particular technique. Guys: NEVER DO THIS.)
Another example of trying to use social pressure or coercion is the ever-classic “neg”. Negging is all about trying to make someone crave your approval while indulging your desire to “get back” at someone for daring to not like you. Unlike antagonistic flirting and bantering – which is about both parties having fun – negging is all about proving you’re “better” than the other person and trying to lower their self-esteem.
Finally: ask yourself what you’re trying to do. A lot of pick-up is based around overriding women’s interest with your own; your desire to approach her overriding her desire to be left alone, etc. Pick-up works best when it’s less about getting “any” woman and more about identifying the right woman – the woman who’s interested in meeting someone, who may be looking to get laid that night etc. You want to work more towards a collaborative model of sex – rather than an antagonistic one based around the idea that sex is something that needs to be wheedled into, bargained for or bribed.
I’d also suggest reading Clarisse Thorn’s “Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser: Long Conversations With Horrible Men” – it’s an excellent break-down of the problems with pick-up and it’s positive side, from a feminist perspective.
So with all of that in mind, here’re the things I’d suggest you focus on:
Work on where you’re meeting women. If bars and clubs are your thing then more power to you, but if not, you may find more satisfaction meeting women in other venues. If you’re doing cold-approaches – and being able to do cold approach is a valuable skill in general – then make sure you’re approaching women who’re interested, rather than pestering women who’d rather be left alone.
Focus less on canned routines or pick-up “tricks” like negging and more on generating chemistry – these will serve you much better and will actually be much more congruent with who you are.
Emphasize enthusiastic consent. Part of what makes a woman more likely to go home with somebody is if she thinks the sex is likely to be worth the potential risks. Generating chemistry is part of how you emphasize that the sex will be great but lowering the risk is the other half of the equation. Looking for signs of enthusiastic engagement and interest (rather than “going along with it” or “feeling like she’s obligated”) and responding in a positive and respectful manner to her boundaries help emphasize that you’re someone who will respect her overall. This doesn’t mean “be a respectful guy and get a sex cookie as a reward”, mind you; this means legitimately being a proponent of enthusiastic consent with everyone, regardless of whether it means you get sex or not. Creating a safer, more respectful world helps everybody feel freer to indulge their desires.
And hey, if you’re ever wondering how you can be an ethical, successful Pick-Up Artist, you can do worse than to look at Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who as role model.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org