Why Aren't There More Female Pickup Artists?

It's been tried before, but why has female pickup artistry never caught on? Recently, a group of San Francisco women found out.

Of course, one reason PUA, "game" and the like aren't more popular in general might be that they endorse such practices as wearing ridiculous getups, adopting silly names, and treating potential dates like prey animals. But women are willing to buy dating books that endorse practices almost as idiotic — why haven't they become pickup artists? Ashley Harrell tells the story of a group of women — Aynne Valencia, Jennifer Pattee, Laura Stevenson, Janene Lin, and Anna Walters — who teamed up with male PUAs known as Soul, Starlight, and Whim (not pictured — those guys are the cast of VH1's The Pick-Up Artist) for some "Girl Game" training. Here's why it didn't go so well:

— "Game" is based on pursuit, and women aren't supposed to pursue.

Harrell writes,

[S]ociety tends to frown on aggressively forward behavior in women, and men are often turned off by it. For that reason alone, the average woman might not be inclined to sign up for a course on how to meet men, no matter how much dating trouble she may be having.

The ideas that men are turned off by female aggression, and that direct flirtation by women (Whim nixes one of Walters's lines: "Hey, I'm being coached on how to pick up guys. How am I doing?") constitutes aggression in the first place, are stereotypes, of course — but their prevalence may explain why women will reach for The Rules before they'll put on a Mystery hat. Women, says Soul, "should forgo aggression, and instead create a "window of opportunity" for men to initiate a connection." If Game is about identifying prey and dragging it back to your lair, Girl Game is about identifying yourself as prey. Which doesn't sound like much fun.

— Some women already have PUA training.

PUA experts aim to teach men how to read body language and make conversation with women. But the San Francisco women were already good at the former — better than their teachers. Harrell writes about an encounter with two men:

They slowly made their way toward the men, stopping every few steps to whisper something about strategy. They didn't want to blow this opportunity. But when the women got within about five feet of the men, they abruptly turned and hustled back to the group.

"Gay," Pattee explained.

"How do you know?" Soul asked.

"We just know," Stevenson said. In fact, the men were practically sitting in each other's laps.

Soul thinks women "are naturally more social [...] and they know how to have conversations." While this may not be "natural," it's certainly true that women, at least in America, are expected to be more social than men. It's harder to make it to adulthood as a woman without learning to be polite, ask questions, and otherwise grease the wheels of interaction. This makes things even more difficult for shy or socially anxious women, but "Girl Game" tactics — "create a window of opportunity?" — may not help them much. Which brings us to:

— Women don't want advice from PUAs.

Harrell writes,

[S]ome of the women didn't make things easy on [Soul]. They weren't as receptive to instruction as he would have liked, but he said he could understand why. They hadn't paid $1,500 or flown across the world for his class like the men who typically soak up Soul's wisdom in reverent silence. The women, on the other hand, seemed to take pleasure in contradicting him.

It's disturbing that some men react to Soul with "reverent silence," but it's no real surprise that the women didn't — and the fact that they hadn't shelled out cash probably wasn't the only reason. After all, they were trying to be proactive about meeting men, and he was telling them to be passive. He sometimes had a worse sense of social interaction than they did, and he had no idea what it was like to be a woman ("Whatever the women thought of Soul, by the end of the night he had come to understand San Francisco from their perspective. 'There weren't that many good-looking or interesting dudes,' he said.") All these things should, by all rights, turn guys off of PUA too, but it's probably easier to sell a fundamentally misogynistic strategy to men than to women. That is, unless you give it a catchy title, dress it up in a nice cover, and plug it on the Today Show. It's refreshing that women weren't buying what Soul was selling — now if only they wouldn't buy Marry Him.

Girl Game [SF Weekly]