What woman would actually sleep with a pickup artist? One who hates other women.
The pursuit of heterosexual sex has always relied on a bit of low-grade sexism. Gender roles influence the traits that men and women code as attractive; they guide them through the first date ritual; they determine who will initiate sex and who will be branded a "slut" if she suggests it first. One group of men discovered that this delicate process could be accelerated if they stepped up the misogyny. These men call themselves "pickup artists," and their exploits have since been detailed in bestselling books, reality television programs, and extensive online forums.
Less is known about the women who will agree to have sex with them. Now, a new study hopes to shine a light on the pickup artist's "target"—and what she sees in him.
Traditional courtship is marked by "ambivalent sexism"—a mix of both hostile and benevolent attitudes toward the ladies. While hostile sexism is marked by "negative attitudes toward women and an overt justification of male privilege," benevolent sexism is "seemingly more positive toward women, but is paternalistic and views women as lovable but helpless."
Pickup artistry puts a renewed emphasis on the "hostile" part, encouraging men to pair sexist manipulation with stupid hats to ensnare women into sex at the first possible opportunity. Their "speed seduction" strategy directs a man to compete aggressively for a woman's attention, lightly insult her, then isolate her before steering her to bed. In the study, "Sexism and Assertive Courtship Strategies," Jeffrey A. Hall and Melanie Canterberry researched these techniques, then surveyed hundreds of Midwestern college students and a wider internet sample of adult volunteers in an attempt to smoke out the women who are into them.
According to their research, pickup artist techniques are strongly linked to "men who have negative attitudes toward women and believe women are a threat to male dominance," guys who get off on "putting women in their place." As it turns out, women who respond positively to these attitudes tend to hate women, too. "Women who have negative attitudes about members of their own gender find men who treat them in a dominant way during courtship more desirable because it is consistent with their sexist ideology," Hall and Canterberry found. Apparently both "men and women who believe women can be isolated and teased into sex have a low regard for women in general."
And when these sexist beliefs are present in people who are also into "short-term mating"—my new favorite scientific euphemism for being down to do it—a beautiful fleeting relationship between a pickup artist and his target can blossom.
But as you might have guessed by the frothy mix of misogyny and self-loathing stirred up here, this fortuitous meeting of the minds is not without its risks. The researchers note that hostile sexism is linked to "sexual coercion by men" while benevolent sexism "is related to higher rape myth acceptance for both men and women." That means that the "matching of men who use such strategies and women who are receptive to them would be a potentially dangerous combination in terms of unwanted sexual advances and the possibility of date rape." It turns out that hanging around men and women who despise women isn't just a quick and easy path to getting laid—it's also a pretty effective way to rape someone.