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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.

Wednesday, Mar 3 2010
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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.

The other women were mulling around the bar, marveling over how a novice had held down three men at once. There weren't really many options for them. A shaggy-haired creep here. A seemingly foreign guy there.

Finally, Walters and her roommate, who had come as backup, decided that the attractive men at the back, gay or not, were the most worthy of an approach. They walked up, introduced themselves, and had a friendly 10-minute conversation about the wonder that is Tila Tequila. At one point, Starlight wandered up to see for himself whether these guys were gay. He still wasn't convinced.

"He's jammin' the clam," Stevenson joked, using the female version of "cockblock."

Upon his return, Starlight conceded. "It definitely would have worked if they were straight," he said brightly.

Maybe it was because we were out on a Wednesday. Maybe we had chosen the wrong bar. But that particular scenario — having just a couple of attractive men to fight over, finding out they're gay, then hitting on them anyway — seemed a perfect representation of what it's like for a single woman in San Francisco.

Standing by herself, Valencia didn't feel much like sarging any men. It's just not something she does. She didn't believe that any of the methods Soul and his sidekicks were explaining were relevant to her or the kind of men she was normally interested in.

"I don't think they're very helpful," she said. "I think they could use us coaching them. ... These guys are what, 23?" She was doubtful that someone with so little life experience could explain much to a woman about how to handle a man. She had been married before. "It sucked, you know," she said. "It was just the wrong guy."

Valencia said her mother has a theory about men. "A good guy is like a good bra," she used to say. "He should uplift and make you look beautiful. He should fit really well. He should flatter you and never poke you in the wrong place or make you uncomfortable."

Hearing this, Stevenson took out a pad and pen, and for the first and only time that evening, she wrote down the advice.


Whatever the women thought of Soul, by the end of the night he had come to understand San Francisco from their perspective. "There weren't that many good-looking or interesting dudes," he said.

For their part, some of the women didn't make things easy on him, either. They weren't as receptive to instruction as he would have liked, but he said he could understand why. They hadn't paid $1,500 or flown across the world for his class like the men who typically soak up Soul's wisdom in reverent silence. The women, on the other hand, seemed to take pleasure in contradicting him.

Soul also noticed that women have different areas of need. They are naturally more social, he says, and they know how to have conversations. He recognizes now that with women, the focus should be on selecting, filtering, and "learning to get the coolest guy in the room."

"Also, women need a bit more coaching on the date management," he said. That could require weekly or monthly meet-ups for a dissection of dating possibilities, rather than just a single session on approaches. He admitted that an experienced woman would probably make an ideal coach of such a class, and that he would be on the lookout for talent.

About The Author

Ashley Harrell

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