How to get chicks without being a jerk

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

Topics: Love and Sex, Sex, pickup artist, pickup artists, ken hoinsky,

How to get chicks without being a jerk (Credit: MaxRiesgo via iStock)

Is all pickup advice sexist? That’s what I found myself wondering after “pickup artist” Ken Hoinsky made headlines last week by raising more than $16,000 via a Kickstarter campaign to publish his book, “Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women.” Critics say Hoinsky’s idea of a pickup is actually predatory — for example, he advises men to “continue to try to escalate physically” with a woman until she responds by shouting “STOP” or “GET AWAY FROM ME.”

The controversy inspired Maria Bustillos at the Awl to write a defense of Hoinsky with a great big nod of sympathy to all the “shy fellows” out there. I disagree with her contention that Hoinsky’s advice is harmless — but we do agree on one thing: There is nothing wrong with wanting to attract women — whether it’s for a one-night stand or a long-term relationship. The problem arises when the advice is sexist, demeaning or hostile.

All of which raises the question of what reasonable, inoffensive advice on wooing women would look like. Clarisse Thorn, author of “Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser,” has put a great deal of thought into the question. “Ethics was a central question in my book,” she told me in an email. “ It’s a very complicated topic, but I think that ethical pickup artistry boils down to using ‘tactics’ that are mutual rather than adversarial.” There is plenty in the pickup artist, or PUA, community that is “ sleazy and misogynistic,” she says, but there are also self-help aspects that seem relatively harmless and legitimately therapeutic. “Some cognitive-behavioral therapists suggest that patients with social anxiety keep a log of successful social encounters in order to build up self-confidence — and PUAs sometimes do this by writing what they call ‘Field Reports,’” she says.



Thorn refrains from giving “concrete ‘tips,’” she says, “since any tactic can be used for harm or for good.” It’s possible, though, to give some clear pointers on how to avoid being a dick to women — and  despite the nonsense about “nice guys finishing last,” that is a pretty strong attractant (at least to women who are confident and secure). With the help of Thorn and feminist activist and author Jaclyn Friedman — as well as wisdom gleaned from my own unfortunate run-ins with pickup artists – I’ve devised a list of basic principles for guys who want to pursue women without becoming a Hoinsky.

Women are people

I know, crazy, right? Women are people, and people are different. As Thorn wrote in a blog post on “ethical pickup artistry” a couple of years back, “Pickup artists often say ‘women are all X,’ ‘women love X,’ ‘women all respond to X,’ etc,” she writes. “Sometimes they are correct for the majority of women; sometimes they are correct for a minority of women; sometimes they’re wrong. The bottom line is this: Anything pickup artists say about women is not true for all women.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a beloved female friend and wondered at how very alien her wants and needs were to mine, and vice versa. I remember the look of horror that registered on a friend’s face when I told her that I had never seen “Love Actually.” It’s the same look I’d given her years back when she asked me whether performers had “real” sex in porn.

Friedman brilliantly adds, “If you’re looking for any formula that will work on all women, you’re doing it wrong, because you’re treating women as vending machines that will dispense sex if you put in the right input.” On that note, the headline above is tongue-in-cheek: Stop thinking about women as “chicks” you can “get” and, ironically, you might actually get some.

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

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

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...