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By Rachel Swan
An e-mail from Jennifer Pattee arrived just minutes after the tweet went out. The blond, 38-year-old boot camp instructor isn't about to settle for just anybody. Based on how she says men often react to her when she travels elsewhere, she believes that at least part of the problem lies with San Francisco.
If Pattee still hasn't found a boyfriend by the end of this year, she intends to go on what she calls a "man tour" of the world, visiting all the places she knows lots of attractive men reside. "The fishing villages of Norway. Colorado. Alaska. Done and done," she says. "Whatever it takes."
Valencia has also had better luck in cities like Paris and Chicago, where she says men are forward about what they want. "They'll buy you drinks and talk to you," she says. "They act like they're interested, and it's so refreshing."
In San Francisco, though, women have to deal with a lot of ambiguity. "We don't even know what it is," Valencia said of some men she has encountered around the city. "Is it gay? Is it straight? Is it a friend? Is it a foe? Is it looking for a job? Is it looking for a place to crash?"
Another contributing factor to the dating doldrums: "There's no pressure to grow up here," she says. "The way I act now is pretty much the same way I acted when I was 24. It's culturally reinforced here. Nobody cares that you're in your late 30s and have roommates."
There are certainly plenty of single residents between the ages of 20 and 40. Based on San Francisco's population of single people, Forbes magazine named it the second-best city in which to be single, behind Atlanta. That may be true for guys, but it's seemingly not the case for straight women.
"Cities like San Francisco where the gay population is twice the national average may pose a challenge for single women looking for mates, even though the data suggests otherwise," says urban studies theorist Richard Florida, who created a map of single populations in cities across the country.
To find out whether the population of gay men and women would skew the numbers as Florida theorizes, SF Weekly took a look at the most recent census numbers. As of 2008, San Francisco had a total population of 808,976, including 93,820 single men and 83,840 single women aged 20 to 40.
Based on the best estimates by the Department of Public Health, there are around 65,000 gay men and about 27,000 lesbians living in San Francisco. Assuming that many of them are single (remember Proposition 8?), we calculated that 36 percent of single men in this city are gay and 18 percent of single women are lesbians.
After factoring in that information, there are 60,045 single heterosexual men and 68,749 single heterosexual women in the age range we examined. That would mean that in San Francisco, it's easier for men to play the field, while women have to compete harder and make compromises more frequently in their relationships with men.
Amy Brinkman, the S.F. franchise owner of the high-end match-up service It's Just Lunch, says she's heard from many female clients over the years that there aren't enough available hot men in the city. She doesn't buy that — she has plenty of male clients she considers desirable. But as someone who has lived in New York City, she has noticed that in San Francisco, men are not very bold in approaching women.
"Here, there are all these group get-togethers," she says. "Men prefer to see women a few times before asking them out." And, as in any other city full of young, ambitious people, San Franciscans seem less interested in settling down than in exploring their options. Of course, that can apply to the women as well.
Narrowing down the applicant pool for the pickup artist experiment would have been a difficult task — dozens of women replied to our tweet — but many quickly dropped out after they learned their photographs and names would be included in this story. Only the boldest women were willing to take part. They all had their reasons.
The Tipsy Pig crackled with activity on a recent Wednesday evening as an unlikely group of nine made its way to the outside patio of the Marina bar, where the relative quiet would allow them to learn the art of "sarging" men. (Sarging is the PUA term for approaching attractive strangers and running game on them.)
Pattee and Valencia were joined by three other women — Laura Stevenson, a 23-year-old barista; Janene Lin, a 25-year-old who works in advertising; and Anna Walters, a 23-year-old administrative assistant at a marketing firm.
Within minutes, the women had identified commonalities and bonded, making it somewhat difficult to quell various side conversations. But eventually Soul found an opening to introduce himself and his PUA sidekicks: Jesse "Starlight" Krieger, a store owner from the East Bay, and Aaron "Whim" Panasbodi, an Australian entrepreneur living in San Francisco.
Then came the disclaimer. "This is sort of breaking new ground for us," Soul said. "We can't promise a hugely structured syllabus, and we won't necessarily be complete with everything we say ... but we do have some notes for you."