Are Pick-Up Tactics Sexy or Sexist?

Do pick-up tactics work on women?

Posted Aug 31, 2011

Welcome back to The Attraction Doctor

As a social psychologist and dating expert, I have kept an eye on the pick-up community for years. Now, research is beginning to take a look too. An upcoming study in the journal Sex Roles has tested a subset of the more "assertive" techniques of the pick-up artist to evaluate whether some women like them and why some men use them.

For my two cents, while I personally don't advocate every single tactic employed by the pick-up artist, I do believe the overall message of empowerment and self-development for men is positive. Just like everyone else, men need to know they are valuable, lovable, and worthy of getting their needs met too - and sometimes they don't know it. I also believe that finding love (and sex) requires a diversity of methods, depending on each person's goals and desires. The techniques and tactics that work for some are useless or distasteful to others. The conclusion of the above-mentioned research appears to agree with me...

Research on Assertive Courtship Strategies

In a soon-to-be-published article, Hall and Canterberry (2011) evaluated the relationship among desire for casual sex (sociosexual orientation), beliefs about women (ambivalent sexism), and the use/attractiveness of assertive mating strategies. Both men and women were surveyed in two studies - men for their use of the tactics, women for how attractive they found the tactics. Also, the techniques chosen were the most "assertive" of the pick-up cache, not a representative sample of all tactics by far. Particularly, those chosen included techniques of teasing women, competing with other men for their attention, and getting women alone - as found in the book The Game by Neil Strauss.

The results of the study primarily indicate that such tactics are used for short-term mating and casual sex. Both the men who employ them and the women who find them attractive are high in sociosexual orientation - basically looking for more casual encounters. Furthermore, there is strong support that the women who find these "assertive" tactics appealing have more traditional/sexist views about women (higher in both hostile and benevolent sexism). There was mixed support (one of the two studies) for the view that men who choose to use such techniques also hold such gendered perspectives as well.

What This Means for Pick-Up

The results show that whether pick-up techniques are sexist or sexy depends on your own beliefs and goals. For women and men who desire short-term sexual encounters and have particular gendered views, then the more assertive dating techniques are sexy. For others, who are looking for more long-term and egalitarian relationships, the techniques may be unappealing and sexist.

These results also show that pick-up tactics, like all mating strategies, perform a particular function called "assortive pairing". Essentially, they help communicate what is desired and sort through partners to find one of similar interest. The strategies researched, for example, help men and women looking for short-term sex find each other and connect. Other strategies might be better suited for those looking for a monogamous marriage partner instead of a fling.


My grandfather was a great fisherman. He told me that the type of fish you catch depends on the kind of lure you use. Dating and mating are no different. The subset of assertive strategies, borrowed from the pick-up artist tackle-box, are indeed appealing to some women. They also apparently lead particularly to casual sex encounters (as they were designed to do). So, if that fits with your love-life goals, then such "assertive" strategies may work for you. If you have other goals, then be mindful to stay away from that "lure" when you see it in the water. That way you won't get "hooked" into something you're not interested in.

Happy fishing all...I hope you catch what you are after :)

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Until next time...happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

Previous Articles from The Attraction Doctor


  • Hall J.A., & Canterberry, M. (2011). Sexism and assertive courtship strategies. Sex Roles. DOI 10.007/s11199-011-0045-y

© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.