True Stories: Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser

A writer in a cocktail dress faces a pickup artist in a leisure suit, in an all-night battle royal.

by Clarisse Thorn

My dress was bright red, I was wearing an obscene amount of eyeliner, and I was surrounded by thumping music and flashing lights. As part of the research for my book on pickup artists (PUAs), I'd spent my evening hanging out with a bunch of them in their natural habitat: a nightclub. They were a mixed group. Some seemed shy and awkward, some blustery, and some completely confident. One of them took a shine to me: David, a PUA instructor who wore a lavender rhinestone-studded suit to the club.

"Are you taking me to your apartment?" I demanded. "Yep," he said, and laughed.

Most of the PUAs departed the club around one a.m., except for David, still hilariously out of place in his sparkly suit. We hit the dance floor again until David asked, "Want to go get something to eat?"

"Sure," I said, and left the club with him. On our way out we ran into one of my non-PUA friends, who gave David a sharp look. "You get her home safe," said my friend.

"Of course," David said amiably.

We jumped into David's car, and within ten minutes we were driving through an area that was definitely not the twenty-four-hour-diner district. "Where are we going to eat?" I asked, and then my circumstances caught up to me. "Are you taking me to your apartment?" I demanded.

"Yep," he said, and laughed.

I couldn't help it... I laughed too. "I've read that you guys do stuff like this," I said, "but I can't believe you decided to take me to your apartment without even asking. You know that I read PUA materials, right? Look, I'm not going to have sex with you, okay?"

David waved one hand airily. "There are so many different definitions of 'sex,'" he said.

"Seriously," I insisted, "I'm not going to have sex with you."

He changed the subject. I took a quick mental inventory: I felt alert and not-drugged. One of my friends had seen me leave with David. David seemed pushy, but I didn't feel threatened. My internal safety warning bells weren't going off, even though he was a pickup artist. Still... "I don't know if I should trust you," I said aloud.

"You were referred to me by a good friend," he pointed out. "I wouldn't mess with you."

David is reminding me that he's trusted by someone I already know... and, well, that does happen to be true, I concluded. Let's go home with him and see how he acts. I felt like an old-time anthropologist venturing into the jungle.

David's apartment was a masterpiece of PUA layout. "We can't sit in the living room," he said as soon as we got there, "because my roommate's asleep and if we talk, we'll wake him up." Of course, the only other available room was his bedroom. Where there was nowhere to sit except the king-size bed.

"I thought we were going to eat something," I said.

"Oh, yeah," said David, and rummaged around until he found a half-eaten chocolate bar.

Seriously? I thought. It was so sleazy, but I was more entertained than appalled. David sprawled on one side of the bed. I perched on the other edge, as far away from him as possible, and kept my spine ramrod-straight.

"Tell me PUA stories?" I said, and he did.

My personal favorite anecdote involved his roommate. Apparently, at one point the roommate brought home a girl and had sex with her. Afterwards, the roommate decided to leave the apartment for a cigarette, so he and the girl came out into the living room and chatted with David. Five minutes into the conversation, the roommate addressed David in German (which they knew she didn't speak): "Dude, I think she's into you."

"Do you mind?" David asked in the same language.

"Not at all," said the roommate, and departed to smoke his cigarette, leaving David to seduce the girl.

"It didn't take much effort," David told me cheerfully. "She was totally into it."

I complimented him on some candles. "Oh, do you like them?" he asked. "I have a giant box of them. You can have some! This one girl followed me home one night, and she had this big box of candles. She accidentally left them behind in the morning."

"Why didn't you call her to give them back?"

"I didn't have her number." In a more serious tone, he added, "I never take a girl's number unless I plan to call her."

I got the impression that this was an ethical boundary for him. In one way, it made sense: taking a girl's number without the intent to call could be seen as leading her on. On the other hand, sleeping with someone and then never speaking to them again seemed harsh. I wondered if this girl had left the candles behind in an attempt to get him to track her down. (Yes, I took some candles home with me. My mom loved them.)

Commentarium (25 Comments)

Mar 19 12 - 3:35am

Ugh, that guy sounds awful.

Mar 20 12 - 1:29am

No kidding. Research or no research - Does any girl want to be the girl who went home with the PUA Instructor guy in the lavender and rhinestone suit? I feel like I almost got gonorrhea just reading about it. Please let natural selection weed out these sabre toothed douche bags.

Mar 19 12 - 4:18am
TOO MANY Fedoras

Ah yes, all of the ugly parts of BDSM with none of the trust/intimacy or fun. I can see the appeal.

Mar 19 12 - 5:12am

If I use PUA techniques (hitting on my target's friends while temporarily ignoring her, "peacocking" with loud clothes, setting down implied challenges in an effort to make her seek my approval, etc) while searching for a woman with whom to have meaningful relationship, does that make me a PUA?

Mar 19 12 - 5:49am

If I'm unable to comment on an article with making the comment entirely about myself, does it make me a jackass?

Yes, yes it does. You'll fit into the PUA world perfectly.

Mar 19 12 - 9:14am

Jackasses. Both of them.

They deserve each other.

Mar 19 12 - 4:00pm

Yeah - and all they got was this lousy book.

Mar 19 12 - 4:06pm

"But there was something so incredibly hot about pickup artistry in general..."


Honestly, this article makes me pause to consider my entire philosophy of open communication and "good karma".

Sociopaths, that's who's out there waiting for you. Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you.... and I don't mean in the good, trusting BSDM way, either.

Why not do a research project on the guys NOT in the lavender suit? You know, the ones who might ACTUALLY take you to the diner and not their apartment? I guess that wouldn't be make for exciting headlines.

The Race to the Bottom Continues.

Mar 19 12 - 8:30pm
Clarisse Thorn

Sweet dreams are made of this!

Mar 19 12 - 4:35pm
mr. man

for many people (both men & women) sex games are really just power games to see who blinks first. what psychological cards are played, and at what times. my experience is that those who complain the loudest about the gaming are those who engage in it the most.

Mar 19 12 - 7:25pm

It's accepted when women spend hours on their makeup, clothes and fashion and lifestyle magazines while men or rather PUAs are looked upon as an entirely different race. They are men who wish to develop their social skills and learn how to become better at not only scoring women, but also socializing and hence aspire to become more whole beings with yet another competence added to their lives.

Is that so strange? Is that so threatening? Apparently for some, yes. And those who feel threatened by men developing their social skills, lack something in their own lives. If it's men, then they're obviously jealous. If it's women, it's because they feel threatened by the power of the PUAs. Instead of hating the game, get into it. That's what the PUAs did and look how far they have come. Respect!!

Mar 19 12 - 7:51pm

People don't dislike PUAs because they dress up. They dislike PUAs because they play mean-spirited, manipulative, aggressive games that often push the boundaries of consent.

And people look down HARD on women who employ similar ridiculous Cosmo-inspired game-playing, or have you never read the "Ridiculous Tips for a Miserable Sex Life" articles?

Mar 19 12 - 11:11pm

The dislike of PUAs has nothing to do with how they dress but instead how they treat women. They act like it's acceptable to treat a woman as an object without feelings instead of as a human being. They're manipulative and creepy.

Mar 20 12 - 1:47am

In fairness, most people treat other humans as objects, and are indifferent to their feelings. It's not like a woman who aims to marry rich is any more caring or sympathetic than a PUA type who wants NSA sex, or that wanting to get laid is somehow more contemptible than any of the other ways people get things from people they don't care about. When you treat a person as nothing more than a means to an end, or a conduit through whom a goal is fulfilled, then they're an object to you.

Mar 20 12 - 9:57am

"most people treat other humans as objects"...yikes. In my own experience, most people do not treat other humans as objects, they treat them as humans. Here's to you meeting some more of those people.

Mar 22 12 - 7:43pm

Heh, fair enough, though I was intentionally being hyperbolic to some extent. I just get tired of the idea that men wanting to get laid, and not really caring about the women in question, is some sort of anomalous event of human interaction that deserves to be singled out. People treat each other exploitatively all the time (though thankfully there are those who treat each other with kindness and compassion, as you point out), and introducing sex into the equation is only a variation on the same basic theme: the commoditization of human relationships.

Mar 19 12 - 8:36pm
Clarisse's mom

Clarisse would never wear those shoes. Jes' sayin'.

Mar 20 12 - 9:40am

I find the whole dating thing (including PUA's) quite fascinating. Several times I've meet guys who've read one of the books/ websites or aspire to be full-on PUA's (though I don't think I've ever met a real black belt). It's always hilarious to call them out. Almost started a dating coach business with one.

Anyone who paints all PUA's as scumbags, doesn't understand. Sure, there are total creeps out there, and some of them are PUA's, but no one's got the corner on assholes ...or angels, for that matter.

...and ya, you want to hate on someone, blame Cosmo, every Harlequin romance novel ever penned and 99% of the Rom-Com and Disney Princess movies ever produced for the PUA's successes.

Mar 20 12 - 11:16pm

"But there was something so incredibly hot about pickup artistry in general... "

Eew. Just, eew.

Mar 20 12 - 11:42pm


Mar 22 12 - 3:53pm

The whole PUA industry revolves around men who don't have sufficient personality to attract women just by being themselves. It's unfortunate if you happen to be one of those men, but you'll probably hook up with women who also lack confidence and personality.

Myself, I'll just stick with being me, and those women who like me for being GENUINE will be the sort I'd rather hook up with.

If you're thinking you need to part with money to learn these manipulation techniques, then good luck to you, but in my experience women respond much better to men who are just themselves, with all their inadequacies.

Mar 22 12 - 6:10pm

Haha. Personality. You have probably never dated outside your circle of friends. I'd love to see where it gets you at a club at 2am or on a busy road at midday when the girl won't even give you time to manifest your vaunted "personality".

See, the problem with personality is that it takes time to show. Hell, everyone has personality if you dig deep enough, so i don't know why you are holding on to it as though it distinguishes you in anyway. Sorry, you aren't a special little snowflake. Time you often don't get.

Mar 22 12 - 10:14pm
Mr. Man

You're way off base, not to mention insulting. And you picked one of the nicest posters to pick on, which makes you low.

Mar 22 12 - 4:01pm

"In fairness, most people treat other humans as objects, and are indifferent to their feelings" - you're a sociopath.

Mar 22 12 - 7:57pm

Let's see: you posted your response in the wrong place, AND it's a one-liner with none of the human warmth of Sad's post. What does that say about you, exactly?

BTW a real sociopath wouldn't say "most" people don't care about other people. They think everyone else is faking their emotions, and is dead inside just like them. Or, they recognize that most other people are indeed different, but see it as a weakness to be exploited.

But don't let the truth get in the way of your patting yourself on the back, there.