On Dating: Five Things the Pickup Artists Were Right About After All

Ten years ago this month, Neil Strauss released his bestselling book: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. It was the golden era for them.ย Men who could seemingly approach any woman, charm her, and take her home at will. I was naive and I believed them.

We all know how that “movement” turned out. The last time we heard about pickup artists, it was for all the wrong reasons: misogyny, police investigations and online petitions. Pickup artistry is dying.

It made its impact though. While traditional pickup is on the fringe, I believe it paved the way for the more wholesome men’s dating advice we have today. And while I can’t condone the extreme views many of them had, some of the things they taught actually made sense. Here are five of them:


1. Women want Sex too

I don’t know who suppresses it more: culture, religion or tradition.

But in a lot of places around the world, people are still taught that women aren’t supposed to feel sexual. That sex is a “dirty” thing that can only be discussed and decided by men.

It leads to bad things: women feel ashamed of their own desires and their own bodies. And men think they need to swindle their way into a woman’s pants.

Yes, she may not want it exactly the same way you want it, or as often as you want it. Maybe she needs commitment before she will take the next step. And it’s likely a more complex emotional process for her than it is for you.

But she wants sex too.


2. Dating is a Numbers Game

I’ve seen too many guys who get hung up over that one “special” girl — that they waste years of their lives not being with someone better. A lot of times, guys need to move on, and move on quickly.

It’s not that every person you date is just a warm, interchangeable body.ย  Or that you should immediately dump anyone who’s less than perfect. But there are more than seven billion people on this planet. And maybe in the city you live in — there are fifty thousand people who are eligible right now.

It’s OK if she’s not available. Or interested. Or if she was once interested but isn’t any more. You can and will love again.

If you let yourself.


3. You can Learn to Flirt

The pickup artists called this “game”.

And you’ve seen this with your own eyes too. Some guys, whether by virtue of nature, practice or intention just do better with the ladies than others. You can tell by the way women look at them, smile at them, or playfully hit them.

Is it some unfair natural advantage that these guys are born with? Or is it what the whiners will point to: “he’s good looking and rich”?

“Just be yourself,” they say. Which is fine if you have no problems meeting women. It’s bullshit advice if you’re struggling. What if you grew up in a toxic male environment with unhealthy views of women, and had no women to teach you better?

Money, looks, and height will only get you so far.

But social skills — whether it’s public speaking, networking, or flirting — can be taught and improved.


4. Character Determines Your Ultimate Success With Women

So let’s go back to the tall, handsome guy with loads of money.

We see him with a lot of good-looking women. But why is it that he can never settle down or make a relationship work? Maybe he’s just at the stage of his life where he doesn’t want commitments. Fine. A lot of us go through that too.

But maybe he never learned the truth of the game: character is the most important thing.

Men can be taught how to flirt and attract women. But we will never have meaningful relationships until we go much deeper than that. Bar tricks and jokes are entertaining for a while. But relationships are built on communication, trust and empathy. Things that don’t come from being shallow.

Some pickup artists eventually realized this, and pivoted to conventional dating advice: not just how to attract women, but how to have great relationships with them.

In the end, good women go for good men.


5. You Have to Face Rejection

On the first evening of my “boot camp” with an ex-pickup artist, we hung out at a club in the heart of Singapore.

There, I shyly tapped women on their arms, and said something to them. What I said didn’t matter. What mattered was I approached and said something. I got the full spectrum of responses: warm smiles, neutral statements and awkward glances. Some women ignored me too.

Rejection was painful.

It’s also the most important thing the pickup artists taught me: to chase your dreams, you have to face rejection. It always feels horrible when it happens. But part of growing up is learning to feel the fear — and then doing it anyway. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

It doesn’t just apply to talking to women though. It applies to everything in life. Whether you’re applying for the job of your dreams, pitching your idea to an investor, or asking your friends to read your blog: all of us have to deal with fear and rejection.


* * * * * * * *


Last month, I read the popular Vanity Fair article: Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”.

It painted a picture of men and women in a bar, staring into their mobile screens, swiping for their next Tinder hookup. It made me think and it made me cringe.

I’m all for technology and how it helps improve our lives. Tinder is wonderful in how it brings a huge number of potential mates right to your mobile phone. But the way Tinder practically eliminates rejection (you only get to talk to people who are interested in you too) is both the best and worst thing about it.

Because I think that certain things the pickup artists taught are still worth remembering.

And that if you gave me the choice to be in a room full of people staring at their Tinder screens, or one where men actually go up and risk speaking to women — I’d hope to be in the room where the brave men are.



A version of this article was first published at The Good Men Project

Pic by Rolands Lakis at Flickr

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