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You Don't Have to Be a Sexist Pig to Pick Up Women

With pickup artist misogyny in the news once again, here's some advice on attracting women -- without the sexism.

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Pay attention to her

Part of treating a woman as an individual, rather than a mass-produced kitchen gadget for which you have the instruction manual, means paying attention to her. Thorn says pickup artistry becomes unethical when “you stop thinking about the other person’s experience,” she tells me. “The experience, the journey, and making sure your partner feels OK is just as important as ‘results.’”

Similarly, Friedman suggests — wait for it — listening to her. ”Listen more than you talk! Want to let a woman know you’re into her? Pay attention to what she’s saying and doing,” she writes in an email. “Respond genuinely. This may mean you have to pay attention to the fact that she doesn’t want to talk with you, or you’re making her uncomfortable! On the other hand, sometimes listening will have the added benefit of making her feel more comfortable around you, and it’s hard to feel sexy when you’re feeling afraid, annoyed or uncomfortable.”

She isn’t an enemy

Thorn says her chief complaint with the PUA community is that it often frames women as the enemy. “The way we frame our relationships helps us decide which tools to use: If you feel like your partners are enemies, then you are likely to use social tactics that hurt them,” says Thorn. “On the other hand, if your partner is also a friend, then you’ll be more careful.”

Gain real self-confidence

Much of the PUA canon focuses on feigning confidence — by taking up space and seeming unavailable. It’s true, confidence is wildly attractive — but instead of attempting to trick a woman into thinking that you’re a secure human being with a lot going for you, be one. This way everyone wins: You become happier with yourself and can show it off without being a false-advertiser. (And that’s one of the main problems I have with pickup artistry: Too often it involves trying to deceive women about who you really are. There’s no respect in that sort of sleight of hand.) This route may not be as fast as learning to lean against a bar like you own the place, but it will last much longer.

Be honest

“I would also say that, properly deployed, honesty can be quite charming,” says Friedman. “‘I’m sorry, I’m listening, I swear, it’s just your smile is very distracting.’ ‘I felt I should tell you that I’m not just interested in you for your brain.’ That sort of thing.” But that comes with an important caveat: Only do this after “you’ve actually engaged with and genuinely paid attention to her for a bit, and have reason to believe she’s feeling comfortable around you,” she says. “If you open with, ‘You’re gorgeous, do you want to go back to my place?’ you’re going to have very poor odds, because most women are going to just roll their eyes and try to lose you as soon as they can.”

Sex should be win-win

Scoring should never be one-sided. Both parties should feel like they’ve lucked out when they land in bed together. Therefore, seduction shouldn’t mean physically escalating à la Hoinsky until the woman either screams “STOP” or feels pressured into sex; she should want you as much as you want her — and if she doesn’t, back off. Good sex isn’t something you get from another person; it’s something you experience with them.


Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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