What Pickup Artistry Can Teach Us About Consent and Better Sex

I studied and practiced “The Game”-style pickup artistry back in the day. This may sound far-fetched, but it’s actually shaped my attitude on the subject of sexual communication and consent for the better. One of the biggest teaching points of many PUAs (pick-up artists) relates directly to the topic in the news of late: sensitivity to non-verbal signals (see Aziz Ansari).

Central to this set of teachings is the idea that straight guys are the dumb-asses who need everything verbalized (Yes, you can stick your penis is my vagina or No, I do not want to have sex with you), while straight women are the emotionally intelligent creatures who are sensitive enough to operate and communicate on non-verbal channels. Much of the advice we got was the same that Em & Lo advocate — e.g. don’t sleep with drunk girls, don’t be pushy if she’s reticent, etc. — if not for the sake of women themselves, then at least for the sake of self-preservation (PUAs are very sensitive to rape accusations). And we were taught to tap into female patterns of thought, emotion, and modes of communication.

I began paying explicit attention to things I’d never thought of before: her body language, her tone, the way she positions herself in relation to me when we first interact, the quantity and quality of her responses, the initiative (or lack thereof) that she puts into forwarding the interaction, etc.

Guess what word I never again heard from a woman in the context of seduction? The word “no.” Not because any woman I was with ever felt she couldn’t say no, but because I didn’t push it with women I knew weren’t into me (or into sex with me). Thanks to the conscious work I put into understanding non-verbal signals, I can tell from a mile a way if a woman isn’t interested sexually. I learned to disengage politely and with good humor long before it ever came to the point of predictable rejection or uncomfortable evasion. So I only ended up sleeping with women who were thoroughly enthusiastic (enthusiasm being a key element in much of the current discussions around consent). When you know what you’re looking at, female interest — and disinterest — are as obvious as a brick wall.

Unfortunately, when straight men don’t know what they’re looking at, disinterest is as imperceptible as a glass wall. Like I said, I put a good deal of work into upping my consciousness. It didn’t come naturally to me. I had to learn. Prior to all this I was the type of guy to ask a woman out eight times because she gave excuses and deferrals in response to my invitations, rather than explicit rejections. The type of guy who wondered things like, “Why are women so shitty?” when they ghosted on me. The type to orbit a woman for weeks or months in hopes that she’d just kinda magically fall for me.

Mixed signals can be confusing, men tend to err on the side of optimism, and many of them just don’t “get it.” I used to be one of them, so I can personally attest to the benefits of explicit instruction in decoding non-verbal signals (even if mine came from a source as reviled as PUA’s).

And for the record: I personally don’t believe Ansari is one of these guys who don’t “get it.” He has money and a TV show: he must get laid left and right. A celebrity at that level — especially one who promotes feminism in his act — surely has enough positive sexual experience to accurately read a woman’s non-verbal signals and make a good call. I think in the absence of an explicit “no,” good ol’ entitlement kicked in and he chose to plow forward past her boundaries despite her apparent discomfort.

While there are some PU schools of thought that regrettably encourage behavior like Ansari’s, any decent, self-respecting (and woman-respecting) pickup artist wouldn’t stoop to such lows — and wouldn’t need to.

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    1. Yikes. That’s hard to defend, especially since you’ve found the creepiest explanation of the concepts I’ve ever seen (I’ve always heard ASD & LMR described as behavior, not “involuntary biological imperatives,” or whatever crap that author is spouting).

      Here’s how it was explained to me:

      ASD is about appearances and it comes into play long before you’re in a sexual situation together. Example: you’re out on a date with a woman, and she says, “just so you know, I do NOT go home with guys on the first date.” ASD is why it’s a bad idea to try and make out with a girl right in the bar – now plausible deniability is blown and she can’t go home with you without facing ramifications from her social group.

      LMR is just what the initials stand for – last-minute resistance to the act of sex. It’s just the two of you now.

      ASD and LMR are presumed by PUA’s to be self-talk. She’s not telling YOU, the PUA, that you can’t sleep with her tonight. She’s telling herself that this isn’t going to happen, even though she totally wants it to, because society frowns on promiscuous women. PUA’s blame social conditioning: woman just isn’t as free to follow her biological urges as we men are (free from social judgement, free from the guilt and shame that women experience more frequently than men following casual sex). Basically the PUA’s attitude is that she wants it as badly as you do, but she has to tell herself a little story about how she isn’t one of the easy girls in order to make it ok in her mind.

      ASD a real thing. Here’s a real-life example of ASD from a woman I wound up dating for three years. We’re outside her building at the end of a date:

      Her: Ok, well, I had a nice time tonight, but I need to go home now.
      Me: Okay.
      Her: … I guess you can come up, but ONLY for a minute.
      Me: Okay.

      … guess where that went. So that’s ASD.

      LMR is a concept I’m much more uncomfortable with. I have almost no experience with it. If a woman tells me no once we’re actually in bed, I back way, way off. And yet… here’s another example from the same woman I described above:

      “Just for a minute” turned into us naked in bed. She goes down on me for a bit and stops. She tells me this is moving too fast and we’re going way too far. She wants to slow down. “Sure,” I say, “of course.” So I lay off. We’re lying around in bed mostly naked and flirting, when she goes, “oh my god, I am SO sexually frustrated right now,” which was my green light to green light to plow through previously stated boundaries, much to her delight.

      Here’s another example, in which I give LMR:

      I was a teacher [of adults]. I had an [adult] student who, against professional good judgement, I took on a date. We wound up in her place after a few drinks. We fooled around a little. She went for it. As she undid my belt, up came my LMR: “no, wait, I’m your teacher, this is so inappropriate, we can’t do this!” Know what she did? She scoffed, braced me with a hand against my chest, and used the other hand to whip my belt off with a great snap.

      So here’s LMR from my inside male persepective: Oh, PLEASE. Here I am in a woman’s bed after a date and a few drinks, talking about, “nooonono we can’t”? A ridiculous farce. We’re both adults who know why we’re here. I set that boundary up so that I could feel a little less culpable about the the ensuing sex. She knew this and plowed forward with the move we both knew I wanted her to make (the woman from this story and I have been together for ten years and now she is my wife, btw).

      So here’s the problem: ADS and LMR are both real and quite usual; genuine “NOs” are also real and usual. The only way to tell them apart is calibration, and not every guy has calibration.

      The underlying PUA mentality is this:

      1. women are complicated compared to men, and can operate on more channels at the same time than we can. NO/YES can exist simultaneously in a woman, and which side of that you end up on depends largely on how you play your hand.

      2. PUAs also believe that women have a number of roadblocks and checkpoints meant to weed out the unworthy, and that LMR & ASD fall into this category. In PU theory, women give LMR to guys they’re ATTRACTED to. It’s not the same as an “ew no” rejection.

      3. PUA’s are well-served by the notion that actions speak louder than words when it comes to female attraction. She SAYS she’s not going home with you tonight, but here she is on a date with you looking all sexy, and she’s got that lovin’ look in her eye, and her body language is clearly horny, etc. Which set of messages are you going to listen to? The favorable ones, obviously.

      All this sounds gross, I’m sure, but PUAs are nerds who put a lot of energy into experimenting and tracking their results. It’d be foolish to ignore their data set.

      … finally, if we’re going to talk ASD & LMR, we have to discuss “buyer’s remorse,” which completes the trifecta. Buyer’s remorse – regret after the act. In PU circles, no discussion of LMR excludes the concept of buyer’s remorse. PUA’s are well aware that if you miscalibrate – if you persist when faced with GENUINE boundaries, as opposed to token resistance – she’ll experience buyer’s remorse and then you’ve got a rape accusation on your hands. Again, knowing the difference comes down to calibration, which not everyone has.

      Em and Lo, I am aware of how offensive and disgusting these concepts are to feminists. As always I admire you for dragging them out into the light rather than attempting to suppress thought and discussion.

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