Columnists Megan Ortiz and Stephanie Self weigh the pros and cons of “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” and whether or not these techniques are truly effective. Photo illustration by Kaitlin Oki/Nevada Sagebrush

by Stephanie Self

Whether this is a consequence of how much time I spend in bars and clubs or how physically attractive I am, I’ve been hit on by random guys more in the last 10 months than at any other point since I turned 21. (It’s probably the time spent in bars, though.) Nevertheless, I’ve experienced many different ways of having a guy try to infiltrate my life or my pants (usually my pants), and most of these ways have been horribly awkward and unsuccessful.

Once, one extremely unkempt, older looking guy came up to me, and without introducing himself or asking for my name, opened with, “You are so hot.” Sweep me off my feet! That’s all I need for a guy to catch my interest. I can appreciate the flattery, but it was a rather abrasive approach.

Another time, this guy I started playing pool with at Five Star tried asking me out to dinner, and when I declined because I was seeing someone, he somehow turned my comment about him being nice into me insinuating that he was a pedophile. In case you’re wondering: I didn’t think he was… until he brought that up.

Honestly, though, trying to communicate to someone that you are interested in them (sexually or otherwise) without really telling them, and going out on a limb just enough so that they suspect you’re interested, but not so far that they’ll be uncomfortable if they’re not as interested as you are, is an inherently awkward and terrifying experience. Courting is the strangest part of any budding romance or one-night stand.

And we all fuck it up every once in a while, if not 90 percent of the time.

Even as I write this, telling you about times when I was hit on by guys who miserably failed at impressing me, I know that it’s because we’re never really taught how to interact at that level. We all learn, but no one is doing any actual teaching.

Enter Neil Strauss’s “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.” The author tells of his immersion in the seduction community, in which men who would otherwise be sitting at home alone on a Saturday night are actually using all kinds of backhanded compliments, manipulation and disingenuous opening lines to get into the panties of as many women as possible. According to the book, these techniques work. But when it’s all about manipulation and essentially tricking someone into being at least sexually interested in you, I’m not that surprised that they do.

I understand that, as a man living in the society that we do, it must be endlessly nerve-racking having to consistently be the instigator of any and all romantic encounters they wish to have. The times that I’ve chased a guy have not always gone smoothly. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I’ve been the awkward one in those situations, too. I think the last time I tried to tell someone that I was interested in them in a more-than-friends kind of way, I pointed out how uncomfortable both of us seemed and attempted to leave immediately. I am not, nor do I claim to be, a smooth operator by any means.

However, my quibble with using scripted methods and techniques on women in order to get them to sleep with you is not that these guys are trying to sharpen their social skills and feel more confident in themselves; it’s because it takes any sense of authenticity away from the situation. From the very first exchange, the entire interaction thereafter is based on a pretense that the “pickup artist” is saying words and phrases they have said many times over to many other women. This is an indicator of something other than interest.

I guess I’m discrediting myself by telling you how awkward and uncomfortable I can be in romantic/sexual situations, but, for me, I’ve always been a lot happier when I could be both of those things and acknowledge them. Having to keep up a facade and be “cool” about everything is so much more work than just taking the risk to embarrass myself by saying something stupid or inappropriate.

Playing the game isn’t really about making connections; it’s about control. Reading someone a script while the other person has to improvise isn’t exactly fair. Sure, it takes away any anxiety for the instigator, but there’s nothing vulnerable or genuine about situations like those. If your end game is to have a one-night stand, then maybe manipulation is the right strategy for you. If your end game is to actually make a connection, then don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. At least you were being honest.

Stephanie Self studies English writing. She can be reached at