How Reading About Pickup Artists Helped Me Accept my Sexuality
The art of pickup has remained a secret interest of mine, even during my 2 year celibacy
Ever since The Pickup Artist TV show, I have been fascinated with the whole “pickup” community/writing/videos/thing/etc. As a bisexual woman, whenever I encounter a new bit of information, my curiosity is always two fold; could I use this to pick someone up, could someone use this to pick me up? Many feminists view “pickup” as a type of misogynistic nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be.
Although, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it can be. Probably my worst experience in the world of pickup was when I was hanging out with a friend who had come to SF to help run a class on it. He invited me to hang out with him and a bunch of freshly minted pickup artists that night. And, though my friend was affable and charming as ever, these new pickup artists were somewhat tedious. Basically, they’d go off, try their new moves on some hapless woman who’d reject them, then they’d return and practice on me.
Let’s just say, I got negged to high hell that night. Now, I think “the neg” is one of the most misunderstood parts of pickup in larger society. People think it’s simply “insulting” a woman to lower her self esteem. This is not the neg at all. The neg, really, is a sort of half compliment half insult where the insult isn’t actually that bad. In a weird way, it’s actually a technique to deliver a compliment to a woman who’s difficult to compliment. Here’s an example of a good neg I got that night; one of the guys turns to my friend and says “she has a really pretty smile, but she doesn’t use it much.” That neg was so good I remember it 5 years later. I felt more complimented than insulted, but not awkward or trapped like I might have done had he just said “you have a pretty smile.” However, it didn’t get that guy into my pants because he failed to appreciate the context.
I wasn’t smiling because I wasn’t having a good time.
Had he been smart, he would have realized I was *desperate* for anywhere else to go, and I would gladly have jumped at any excuse to leave the group. Somebody else did realize that, and took me off to go dancing, but he also didn’t get in my pants even though I totally wanted to fuck him. He did this thing where he’d like, leave me alone for a bit, then come back. I’m actually still not sure what move that was, but I was willing to go with it once.
However, right before he did it the second time, he whispered to me “you seem like the type of girl who doesn’t go after what he really wants.” Presumably, he thought what I really wanted was to get in his pants — and if so, he wasn’t wrong. But, as I stood there alone, I realized that what I wanted more was to not get dicked around by a group of terrible men with poor social skills.
So I ghosted.
Here’s the thing; I hit on women too. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s scary, and I’m willing to cut a guy a break even if I see he’s using some move on me. But, the part where the feminists start being right is where things start getting programatic. The reason guy-I-kind-of-wanted-to-fuck-but-ghosted-on-instead failed was that he used the same big move on me twice. It seemed unlikely he needed to excuse himself to take two shits in the same night, and it became more obvious that he was just mindlessly running through his moves. He was treating me like a computer “do w, x, and y to get z.” At that point, I started to feel dehumanized and objectified.
The problem is not pre-learned moves, the problem is a refusal to engage with my inner world. The problem is being unable or unwilling to read me.
To some degree, we’re always running through pre-learned scripts. “Hey Janet! How you doing today?” “Good, good. And you?” And, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of society. The problem is, when you refuse to adjust your script to circumstances. If Janet is crying, for instance, you don’t say “How’s it hanging, Janet?” you say, “Oh my god, Janet, are you ok?”
And the problem with pickup artists can be that they’re so focused on what they want that they’re unwilling to engage with what the women they’re interacting with want. However, if they don’t make that mistake, they can actually be quite charming.
Do I use pickup myself? Not really. Maybe I neg women a little bit, but only because I like getting negged! If we’re going to have a real honesty moment, I’m actually embarrassingly passive in my romantic encounters. In my defense, this is in part a holdover from sexual assault. My #1 concern in all sexual situations is making sure I have an out and unless I feel very safe, I will clamp down on all signs of sexual interest. To put it in perspective, I’d rather not get laid for 2 years than risk going to bed with the wrong person. I’m also afraid of rejecting people because a bungled rejection was basically how I was assaulted. But, even though I don’t use pickup, I do appreciate it.
Probably what I appreciate the most about pickup is the the unwavering acceptance of female sexuality as it is. I actually haven’t encountered this in many areas of society. A lot of feminist ideology around this point sort of implies women should act more like men to be sexually liberated.
In fact, you can sort of feel my feminist guilt in my shame over being embarrassingly passive but, more real honesty, there are few places I feel as comfortable about my sexuality as in the presence of a man who accepts, without complaint, the masculine role in the courtship process. Because, for all the feminist women can make the first move ideology, I actually face some negative repercussions if I do.
First of all, because of widespread gender expectations, I don’t get to maintain the role as the aggressor unless I’m in a very progressive circle. For instance once, when I was young and drunk at a club, I went around secretly grabbing the asses of the men who were dancing. One guy caught me, and within 60 seconds, he was all over me. I had to physically fend him off, and I felt guilty about leading him on. If you’re a guy, and you hit on a girl and you lose interest, you can just walk away. If you’re a girl and you hit on a guy and you lose interest, you now have some guy stuck on you.
Second of all, if I make a move on a dude and it gets somewhere, there’s a good chance I have just picked up a guy who is terrible with women. I mean, not always, but if a guy is able to pick me up it means he’s probably able to pick other women up too. Why is this good? Well, I’ve been stalked (to some degree) by more than one of my ex boyfriends. I want to know that, if I lose interest in a guy, he’ll move on to someone else instead of making plans for an Emma skin suit.
This all falls apart, of course, with women and people of non binary gender, and I am more willing to make the first move with people who aren’t men. But, I’ve also never been stalked or sexually assaulted by someone who wasn’t a man.
Anyway. Back to pickup’s unwavering acceptance of female sexuality; unlike basically ever other place in society, pickup artists don’t try to change women as sexual beings, they try to work with women as they are. Here’s a fun article that basically gets to this point. It’s not perfect, there are some points I disagree with. For instance, I don’t actually think women are necessarily more sexually fluid than men. In Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational, he points out that what men claim turns them on when they’re horny is very different from what men claim turns them on when they’re not. My experience with dudes is they’re a lot more open minded when their dicks are hard, and that it’s easier to see sexual fluidity in someone else when your own identity isn’t at stake. That said, the mindset of the article is unique. It exhibits a general curiosity and hypothesizing about female sexuality with no overtone of judgement. Feminists can sometimes judge the traditionally feminine.
But, it’s ok if you like to get hit on. It’s ok if you won’t make the first move. It’s ok to let yourself be pursued. As a society, we tend to judge such feminine expressions of sexuality but pickup artists don’t. Men who are successful with women generally have very little resentment around female sexuality, and it is such a relief when you find yourself with such a man. It is such a relief when you find yourself with a man who doesn’t hate you for exhibiting the scars that the oppression of sexism has left on you.
Because for all those men out there who resent having to make the first move, I can tell you from first hand experience, it’s a lot more fun not getting raped. Working up the nerve to get a girl’s phone number isn’t nearly as difficult as emotionally recovering from sexual assault. And, I’m sorry for the men who are lonely and frustrated — I really am — but the grass isn’t exactly greener on the girl side of the fence.
And to girls who are assertive, that’s great! But, you’re probably already crushing it, so like, don’t need my advice.
It is tempting to view people who study seduction as manipulative, and some of them are real assholes, but any good pickup artist knows it’s not fun unless she’s really into it. It’s not fun to con a girl into sex she doesn’t like. The place of genuine female desire is a forbidden place, and few people are willing to take a good look at what women really want — especially women themselves. But, pickup artists aren’t.
Also, Nancy Friday isn’t. Check her out.