I shall begin by saying that I hate the notion of pick-up lines. I hate the notion of pick-up culture. I hate the notion that there is a large subculture which dictates that men must pick up women, and that this effect mushrooms into many men believing that the only way they can possibly spend time with a woman is by following these ludicrous rules and feeling like failures if it doesn’t work out for them.
It is not surprising then, that this article, 10 Pickup Lines That Work, pissed me off somewhat.
As its title suggests, it presents ten pick-up lines that apparently work. Unfortunately, little detail is given as to how these techniques were evaluated: it all appears to be anecdotal evidence. In order to adequately test the efficacy of these pick-up lines, one would need to administer the pick-up line to a large sample of recipients, ideally pitted against a control pick-up line with already-known effectiveness.
The unscientific and misleading title aside, these pick-up lines are absolutely awful, and if a man came up to me and started saying any of these things, I would, at the very kindest, decide never to have sex with him ever. At the very kindest.
Our top ten tips come in a number of varieties. All of them are pretty fucking sexist. All of them, in order to work, rely on a vision of society that wants radically throwing: that where it is a man’s responsibility to “approach” and “pick up” a woman. That society wants killing with fire. And so do these pick-up lines.
Type 1: Assault a woman
Remember how, in the popular construction of the Stone Age, men hit women round the head and dragged them by the hair for dating purposes? This pick-up procedure is still alive and well according to Proven Efficacious Pick Up Lines 10 and 4.
Tip 10 involves a bit of minor grabbing followed by the threat of further assault, saying “You’re going to kiss me or I’m going to punch you in the nose!”. Tip 4 is somewhat more direct in the violence and is, for some peculiar reason, titled “be modest”.
As she walks by at a bar, pinch the side of her butt (not hard, but enough to get her attention). She should be mad and say something negative about you. Then you say:
“Sorry, I thought that girls like you would just ignore a normal guy like me. Did it hurt? Maybe another drink will ease the pain.”
I suppose there is some modesty in there. Right next to the sexual assault.
Type 2: Be bafflingly creepy
Ninjas use smoke bombs. Stage hypnotists bark out a strange range of conflicting orders. Confusion as a tactic is also incredibly popular among men who subscribe to the cult of the pick-up line. Utilising confusion seems to comprise a large chunk of the list of useful techniques, ranging from Tip 9 (Stare straight at her, and smile broadly while slowly advancing towards her) to Tip 7 (the thoroughly puzzling “nice shoes, want to make your parents proud?”) through to Tip 5 (which is not, as it says, being sarcastic, but asking a woman’s favourite colour knowingly).
Apparently, women are “always thankful” after being completely thrown by a total non-sequitur. The explanation for how this works is as bamboozling as the line itself, and I still don’t want to have sex for the author, providing anecdotal evidence against the efficacy of this approach.
Type 3: Be cocky in a flat-out sexist way
The word “cocky” contains the word “cock”, so it’s hardly surprising that cockiness implies a performance of the most unpleasant aspects of masculinity. The pick-up lines of this type tend to include displaying a massive amount of sexism, in the hope that the woman on the receiving end finds it funny.
The least offensive is Tip 6, which involves telling a woman she should buy you a drink as she has been “checking you out”. Tip 3 is titled with the rather innocuous “find something you have in common”, which is actually very good advice for men who are interested in meeting and forming relationships with women. What is not good advice is what follows: “convey[ing] it to her with a well-balanced delivery of cockiness and playful insult”.
Then there’s Tip 8, wherein men are directed to use a classic street-harassment tactic: “Hey girl, why you being all sexy ‘n shit?”
The last time someone said that to me, I considered wearing their testicles as earrings. The only thing that stopped me was the fact my earlobes can’t really support pendulous accessories.
Type 4: Assume she wants a boyfriend
Traditional gender roles hold that men want sex and women want a boyfriend. Traditional gender roles are, of course, a big heap of shitting arses.
The readers of askmen.com apparently missed this memo and so voted, as their top pick-up line, the following:
“You know what material this is?” [Grab your shirt]
Unlike most of the pick-up lines, this one does not come with an anecdote about how use of this line resulted in fifty young nubile nyphomaniacs immediately losing their knickers, “proving” that the approach works. It is just printed there, on its own, and presumed to work.
It is presumed to work, because that is, of course, what women are presumed to want. There is absolutely no concept that women might not be interested in the concept of a boyfriend and might just want a shag. Target is woman. Target wants boyfriend. Hunter disguises self as boyfriend.
I suppose that perhaps, I would not mind a shirt made out of ex-boyfriend material. As long as the material was the tanned hide of an ex-boyfriend.
…and the one that actually works
Surprisingly, Tip 2 contains some actual, decent advice for starting a conversation with a stranger. Unfortunately, it is placed under the heading of “be a gentleman”, which is unfortunate, as “being a gentleman” generally involves subscribing to benevolent sexism.
The “lines” presented are very good advice, though. They involve introducing yourself, saying hello or simply having a conversation with the other person to see how you get on. This advice is not really gendered in the slightest: it is a good approach to initiating contact with someone you don’t know that we can all follow fairly easily. As the tip begins, “no pick-up line is the best pick-up line”.
And that is completely true. Fuck pick-up culture. It is outmoded, outdated, and we would all be better off if we consigned it to the dustbin of history along with the bourgeoisie, Mensheviks and Trotskyism. Oh, and of course, patriarchy.
People sometimes send me things, presumably so they can find themselves amused by my blind rage. This gem was a little gift from @jedweightman.
Edit: I’ve asked askmen.com to explain why they think the violent tips are acceptable. I will update if I get an explanation.
Update 11/11/11: Askmen.com has not replied, but have quietly changed the tips advocating assault and threat (10 and 4) to more innocuous ones (introduce yourself and show off, respectively). This is a step in the right direction, but nowhere near good enough. They need to formally apologise for the earlier version of the article, as is good practice.