Girl Game

A world-famous pickup artist tried to teach single women to attract decent guys in S.F. It was harder than he thought.

"Can we neg men?" I asked.

"No," he said.

Walters wanted to know whether she could use the line she had just come up with: "Hey, I'm being coached on how to pick up guys. How am I doing?"

Jason Levesque
Jennifer Pattee, Anna Walters, Laura Stevenson, and Aynne Valencia get some advice from pickup artist Jeremy “Soul” Bonney.
Frank Gaglione
Jennifer Pattee, Anna Walters, Laura Stevenson, and Aynne Valencia get some advice from pickup artist Jeremy “Soul” Bonney.

"That's gonna make the guy really nervous," Whim said.

"Is it making you nervous?" she asked.

"He's a professional," Soul interjected.

Walters had in fact begun to notice that Whim's game expertise and Australian accent were kind of sexy. For now, though, she wanted to practice her lines. She jumped up, took off her coat, and pulled me with her on a wingwoman mission, targeting three guys in the back of the bar patio.

The men's conversation about finance trailed off as they peered up quizzically at Walters and me. "Tainted Love" came on the jukebox, which seemed totally appropriate, and she presented our line from Soul. "We were on our way out, but you guys look ... interesting," she said. "We just wanted to come say hello and introduce ourselves."

Though a bit weirded out, the guys offered us seats, and even asked if we'd like beers.

That was easy.

The conversation meandered from North Face apparel to Mad Men to the Carolina-Duke basketball game, and finally the men asked us what we were doing that night. We said we were part of, um, a seminar. "We're learning how to pick up men," Walters announced, seizing her opportunity. "How are we doing?"

Looking a little taken aback, the men said we'd done well, and that it was refreshing to have women come to them. But they weren't entirely impressed. "You focused a lot of your attention on him," one said, indicating his friend. "It was a little aggressive." Another awarded us a B-plus.

We left the Tipsy Pig without getting any numbers.

Starting with the publication of The Game, the seduction community grew into a full-blown pop-culture movement. PUA all-stars like "Mystery" (Erik Von Markovik), who starred in his own VH1 reality series, The Pick-Up Artist, started to attract a huge online following.

Gurus like Mystery and even rising stars like Soul routinely get recognized on the street (during the men's workshop in San Francisco, a random guy approached Soul and insisted on getting a picture taken next to him). Soul has built his reputation to the point where desperate, adoring men will fly across the world to attend his $1,500, eight-hour seminars.

Self-proclaimed female pickup artists or FPUAs, on the other hand, have largely operated under the radar. A few give advice online and offer tips on how to pick up men, but there is no FPUA community. In fact, many of the Web sites and forums dedicated to women picking up men, including Womenslair.Herforum and Natural Seductress, are seemingly inactive. The idea just doesn't stick.

The reasons for this may seem obvious. First — as the PUA coaches seem to have recognized — society 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.

Of course, we weren't thinking about any of this on our way to the Hemlock Tavern, a Tenderloin bar and rock venue that seems perpetually filled with available men. The women agreed that after practicing on the "low-hanging fruit" at the Tipsy Pig, the Hemlock — a classic San Francisco hipster pick-up joint — should become stop two in our experiment.

As we entered the dark club, pretty much quadrupling the number of females inside, a few heads turned briefly in our direction. Stevenson went straight for the bar, where the male bartender chatted her up. The others broke into pairs and scouted out the scene: one attractive man surrounded by nearly all the other women in the bar. A few more men with mustaches stood around, looking aloof. And, finally, there were two men off in the corner. They were hot.

Soul beckoned to Stevenson and Pattee and prepped them on how to approach. They should be casual. Smile a lot. Flip hair if necessary.

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.

It was Lin's turn. She was ready to do something she never had before: approach men at a bar, and hit on them.

There was resolve in her graceful step as she approached not one, but three men sitting in a semicircle, and introduced herself with a big smile. The men immediately swallowed her up and placed her on a stool. She held their attention for the next 20 minutes, and each took her phone number. Although she was impressed that one was a professional videogame designer, she said they weren't really her type.

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