Nerve's Caitlin MacRae decided to find out what happens when a woman uses the pickup-artistry techniques "pioneered" by guys like Neil Strauss and Mystery. The results: not good.
Unsurprisingly, some of the "strategies" that seem ridiculous in male PUAs look pretty silly when MacRae tries them too. She looks like a goofball in her "peacocking" getup, but so does Mystery. Her fake name, Cash, is a little ludicrous, but then, um, so is "Mystery." The getting-ready portion of her experiment doesn't really tell us much about gender differences — it just confirms that pickup artistry works better as theater than as reality.
Then she tries out her "game," which includes the famed practice of "negging," or saying mildly insulting things to people to make them want to fuck you. In the PUA "literature," negging seems to be based on two principles: that women need to have their confidence eroded before they will consent to sex, and that they are turned on by feeling threatened or degraded. Since men are traditionally thought to be turned on by the exact opposite, I was curious whether negging would work on them. It didn't. When MacRae called a man "grabby," he ran for the hills.
But women didn't really like to be negged either. MacRae drove a woman away by saying she had "man hands" — to hear her tell it, her PUA tactics were pretty much a disaster with both sexes. This could be because, as a commenter says,
The Game is designed to work on responses *to males* that are "hard-wired" into women. If women want a game-plan for picking up other women (or men, for that matter), some woman or group of women should do the actual work (hypothesis - experiment - confirm hypothesis- practice) the PUA weirdos did to learn how men should pick up women.
Or it could be because silly stunts are actually a bad way to get people to like/make out with/do you. Obviously MacRae was performing a caricatured version of "game," but the original isn't much less bizarre (cf. Mystery's fucking hat) — and, as the commenter mentions, it takes "work." But unless I'm totally missing the point of human interaction, flirting is supposed to be fun. One reason it's fun is that the other person has some agency — you can't be sure what they're going to say next, whether they like you, or what's going to happen between you at the end of the night. Following a whole bunch of tips to make absolutely certain that you're going to hit your "target" doesn't sound exciting, even if it were possible. Frankly, it sounds desperate, a way to satisfy a lack of self-esteem. Which makes sense, given that PUA maneuvers are all meant to give the appearance of confidence. As MacRae writes,
[E]ventually the eyeliner has to come off, the big hats and feather boas hung up, the prefab conversations retired for the night. And you're still whoever you were before you started trying to convince strangers that you are grand, mythic and studly - the same person with the same hang-ups and human foibles. Just with more silly hats.
MacRae's experience notwithstanding, I believe game could work for some people. I'm just not sure "work" is what you want your sex life to do.
Image via Nerve.