By Pickup Culture

Travel guides and PUA advice in the 1970s


Very few travel guides today will tell you how to pick up girls, let alone the best lines and approaches to help get into their pants.  That’s what the internet is for, after all.  You can do no worse than buying Roosh V’s travel guides, for instance, but you won’t discover the best pick up venues and customs of the local womenfolk from books in your local Borders or from reading magazines at the airport.

But if you were going on holiday back in the 1970s you might encounter advice on picking up girls in more ‘respectable’ travel guides, alongside information on holiday resorts, cheap places to eat and even how to get a job.  As I mentioned in my last post on the history of pick up and seduction, the practice of picking up women for casual sex became ‘a thing’ in itself – a cultural practice – in the 1970s.  Without the influence of feminism in the early part of the decade, there was considerably less judgement about how men and women could seduce each other at singles bars, swingers clubs or through chance encounters on the street.

Even a place like Detroit, now a shadow of a city made famous through motown and the once thriving automobile industry, was seen as a place where attractive women were abundant, and waiting to be picked up.  Sheldon Annis’ Detroit: A Young Guide to the City (1970) does a great job in selling Detroit as a destination full of culture, interesting places to go, societies and organisations to join, people to meet and women to seduce.

It’s an excellent example of the growing acceptability of pick up culture in the 1970s, an acceptability that developed with women’s liberation but without the moralising that later came with feminism.

The demographics and ‘The Ritual’

As a bustling destination on the rise, the book covers so many different facets of the city – the history, famous buildings, places to eat, and the many different migrant groups scattered across the suburbs.  These places and cultures are intended to appeal to an important ‘breed of cat’: the ‘young professionals’ such as engineers, managers, accountants, lawyers and the like, all ‘coming to the clutches of automobile land by the promise of a job with a “future” (spelled M-O-N-E-Y).’


No matter how middle-class, educated or uneducated these people were, The Guide tells us that they all had one thing in common – they liked to meet people of the opposite sex.  But where does the traveler find these people?  Bars are the obvious place to start:

You are […] a lean, hungry, horny, prowling bachelor of either sex.  Well, you’re not alone – unless you choose to be.  Every weekend thousands and thousands of young unpaired Detroiters celebrate en masse.  They come home from work about five o’clock, eat supper, and cleanse themselves.  They sprinkle oils, liquids, lotions, potions, salves, scents, and ointments on their bodies and then carefully select robes, scarves, banners, and ribbons to drape across their properly anointed limbs.  Then they cast themselves into the current that flows through the myriad of singles bars.

Pick up is more of a philosophy in the book, treated with the reverence and good humor it deserves.  Advice on meeting women is just a small section covered by The Guide, and if you already have good skills and a sense of style it’s a section you can just skip through:

Some people don’t need guidebooks.  They arrive on the scene with looks, manners, connections, and letters of credit augmented by a wardrobe tailored in European capitals.  They don’t practice one-liners or walk up to absolute strangers saying, “Pardon me, haven’t we met before.”  If that is you, you’ll have a good time in Detroit.

This is the mark of a good city – how well people dress, how well they talk, and how well they … well … pick up.

‘If the music make you move…’

Back in 1971 Isaac Hayes sang these famous words: ‘If the music make you move, ‘cus you can really groove, then groove on’.  The Guide captures this ‘do your thing’ sentiment nicely, and all that that entailed in terms of lifestyle – and not just the sexual side either.  It was advice given to swingers, liberals and conservatives, young and old, male and female.  If you have faith, go to church; if its politics that you enjoy then go off and join the Young Dems or Republicans.


Ever the lady’s man in the 70s, Isaac Hayes starring in the 1974 Blaxploitation film Truck Turner

The important thing was just getting out there and enjoying the city: ‘Go by yourself.  Go looking happy, interesting, friendly, mysterious alluring, rich, freaky, sensuous, your down-home self; but go.’  Pick up was a normal part of many young people’s lives, alongside politics, stamp collecting and any other hobby or pastime that interested the young:

Go to conferences.  Stop in any of the big hotels and see what’s conferring.  Detroit, in the throes of urban blight, is always conferring.  Become an expert.  Can you speak?  Give speeches.  Can you not speak?  Get on your feet and vigorously object to all that has been said.  It’s an outrage.  Someone will come over during the coffee hour to tell you how much (s)he (dis)agrees.

A great tongue-in-cheek swipe at the rising political activism of the day, going to a conference may have been the place to get your voice heard.  But it also could have been a place to pick up a hot, politically-minded young woman.  The two things weren’t mutually exclusive.

In the 1970s it was quite possible to meet women in a bar, just as much as it was (sometimes encouraged) to date a secretary from your work.  Sexual discrimination laws hadn’t come into such force then, but today any discussion of sexual opportunism outside of the sanctioned scripts of the nightclub one night stand or a Tinder hook-up might be considered dangerous to today’s single man.

Singles clubs, and ‘the rules’ of pick up

Singles clubs were a much more accepted part of public life, with The Guide advertising party lines and numbers for people to organise meet ups.  But this ‘pick up community’ did have its limitations, being that it was very white and middle class: ‘They live in suburbs or in downtown enclaves.  They tend to part their hair where they’re supposed to; they like to drink; and they take Hugh Hefner seriously.’

Not everyone fitted the bill for these discrete meet ups.  ‘But let’s say you’re not a joiner.  You don’t like classical music, you’re not a Maltese-American, you don’t like motorcycles, and political activity bores you’.  Whoever you were, as a traveler in Detroit, you could still meet, date and have sex with attractive members of the opposite sex.  But to do so, you needed to know the rules.  This included not just understanding the best places to take your date, but also the more universal ‘principles’ of female attraction.  This includes knowing when to ask a girl out:

It is the rules that give the game its respectability.  For example: a girl, appropriately accompanied by a female friend would be considered perfectly within bounds of singles morality to give out her phone number to a young gentleman on a Friday night – but never on a Tuesday.  A good girl just wouldn’t. After all, NO ONE goes to singles bars on a Tuesday.  And certainly, for God sakes, not on a Monday.  Wednesday, however, is almost as good a night as Friday, which is the best.  Thursday is a so-so night, and no self-respecting girl would be caught out alone on a Saturday night.  She’ll watch television, write a letter to her mother, bite her nails, or order a pizza and talk to her room-mate; but she won’t go out without a date.

As many a PUA knows, dating a girl – whether it is in New York, Dallas or Detroit – is all about timing.  Once the rituals of the workaday week are understood, the next important step in The Guide’s PUA advice is deciding on where to take her.  To avoid worrying about being mugged, avoid Saturday night first dates in the city:

Defuse the strain of the situation by going out during the day instead.  She’ll less likely be tired, have a headache, be frightened of crime in the streets, aggressive first dates, and drunk drivers.  Saturday morning is the best time.  You can get things rolling with a breakfast steak at Butcher’s Inn or fried matzoh at Samuel Brothers followed by shopping at Eastern Market.  You’d be surprised how fast you get to know someone while haggling with a farmer over a bushel of pomegranates.  And after you’ve packed all your pomegranates, cantaloupes, honeycombs, and cabbages into your car, drive over to the Taj Perfume Company, which is a bit to the right on Gratiot.  For about $2 apiece you can cover yourselves with enough lotions, scents, aphrodisiacs, oils, and body powders.

Bookstores in the city, going for a swim, betting on the horses, visiting the zoo or ice fishing on Anchor Bay are some more very creative suggestions for first dates in Detroit.


The Eastern Market was the place to take your girl in the 1970s

It’s important to remember that Detroit: A Young Guide to the City was not a book about dating per se, but was a guide book that contained advice about picking up girls because that was a normal part of enjoying life in a big city.  Pick up advice was a way of promoting the city for the 1970s tour guide.  It’s difficult to imagine today’s lavishly-created booklets for Chinese tourists, backpackers and visitors on how to meet girls (and boys) from your local library.

Advice for boys, and girls

As I mentioned in my last post about sexual behavior in the 1970s, attitudes towards pick up culture were much more egalitarian in the 1970s than they are today.  Advice could be given to both men and women, and men weren’t demonised if they acted like playboys or PUAs.  The Guide rightly assumes that most of the picking up is done by the young men, but that doesn’t mean to say that young women are excluded from getting good pick up advice either.

Adams encourages them to go out and have a good time, even though they might face a different set of challenges than men in the sexual market place.  If women were to get used to the idea of getting picked up by a stranger, as they were increasingly asked to do in the 1970s, then they needed a little encouragement:

For women: If this is all unfamiliar to you but you’re game, it will still be tough.  In addition to the usual raking yourself over the coals in front of the mirror, there are a million What If? propositions that present themselves.  What if some sleazy creep starts talking to me?  A lech, a leech, or a leper?  What about a drunk or a kook or a clod?  What if Mr. Wonderful does walk in?  Is he sincere?  Is he really married?  Is he interested in the real me … or my body … or my money … or my friend who I came with?  Or what if NO ONE EVER TRIES TO PICK ME UP?

It is difficult.  But of course you always have the option of a firm but polite No.

And this is all very sensible advice, but not something that you’d read today’s mass market guides – for travel or lifestyle.   Despite how accurate that scenario might be portrayed in women’s magazines and rom-coms, of women’s hypergamous doubt when dating a man, it would be seen as patronising and sexist in the context of mainstream advice for women today.  From this example, it’s clear that by the early 1970s feminism hadn’t yet created a space for the Modern Independent Woman to strike out against the more feminine forms of power that some women still enjoyed.  The fact that women can just say ‘no’ is an irony lost on those Modern Independent Women we call feminists today.

Travel, pick up and self-growth

In many ways, narratives of travel entail an element of personal growth.  This is certainly conveyed through the Eat Pray Love paradigm for women, just as it might have been in the Western or action movies for men.

Separation from home is a defining part of masculinity – being separated from the maternal caregiver, exploring the world, whether it is through Aboriginal walkabout or business trips overseas, men grow through exploration, challenge and engagement with the world.

Sheldon Adams’ Detroit: A Young Guide to the City shows how travel and sex were an ordinary part of masculine identity in the 1970s.  Partly bathing in the baby boomer prosperity of the 1960s, the book is a great illustration of how pick up culture was just another part of society, a so-called ‘cultured’ society at that.

Alongside the joys of eating out, exploring the town and meeting women, the advice is simple and timeless: ‘Do the things you like, not the things you think you’re supposed to do on a date.  Detroit – at times – can be a joy.’


Now that’s a philosophy worth taking anywhere, particularly when you consider what can happen to a place in just 40 years!

By Pickup Culture

Studies into sexual behavior

book cover

In this blog post I thought I’d flesh out in more detail some of the changes taking place in behavior and attitudes towards sexuality in the 1970s, and the social science research seeking to document those changes.  My last post explored the impact of these changes, and in particular the emergence of what I’ve called ‘pickup culture’.  Whilst these changes have their origins in the ‘swinging sixties’, it was only in the later decade that the practice of meeting women (and, to a lesser extent men) for unattached sexual encounters became mainstream.  ‘Sexual liberation’, the loosening of taboos on sexual relations among young people, first manifested itself through pop icons and the developing culture of concert-driven, drug-fuelled utopic music festivals, but in the 1970s pickup found itself in more everyday contexts like travel-guides and movies.

As creative and interesting as those times were, the economic constraints on society were being felt in the oil crises of the early 1970s; and the sudden devaluation of the dollar (as a result of the United States coming off the gold standard in 1971).  The ethos of sexual liberation lived on, despite the temporary end to the prosperity of the previous decade – mainly through radical feminism, and the emergence of ‘sexual cultures’ found in swingers groups, gay bars and straight pickup venues.

I’ll explore how pickup culture manifested itself in popular culture in another post, but here I wanted to look at how cultural changes effected everyday sexual behavior in the 1970s.  The data comes from a book written by Morton M Hunt in 1974 titled Sexual Behavior in the 1970s.  Though liberal in its outlook Sexual Behavior resurveys some of the same terrain that the Kinsey’s studies covered in 1948 and 1953.

The survey was commissioned by the Playboy Foundation, which aimed to use the findings to promote sex education.  Findings were based on surveys of married and unmarried, men and women across the United States, asking questions about their backgrounds, religious influences, occupations, sexual practices and attitudes to relationships.

Sexual Culture in the 1970s

The book’s introduction gives a good rationale for the study, citing examples of some of the cultural changes taking shape during that decade:

The nude female breast, formerly portrayed only in trashy or arty magazines, has become an everyday sight in family, fashion and men’s magazines, and the hairy female pubis, which had always been rigorously hidden even in nudism literature, made its mass-circulation debut in the January 1972 issue of PLAYBOY.  Other magazines have followed suit and gone on to male frontal nudity…

In “soft-core” X-rated films, virtually every sort of sexual act was openly portrayed, through erection, intromission and orgasm were simulated or suggested rather than pictured in actuality; in “hard-core” blue movies, however, full-color close ups of erect penises penetrating every available orifice, and freely spurting semen, were being exhibited publically in erotic movie houses not just in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, but in Des Moines, Kansas City, Nashville, Dallas, Denver and a number of other cities.

Films like Last Tango in Paris (1972) reflected the change in film culture to some extent; an entire plot, for instance, focused on two strangers making out over the course of a week in a sordid Paris hotel.


Last Tango in Paris – lots of sex and nudity, 1970s-style.

Restrictions on printed publications were being lifted too; the word ‘fuck’ being included in the Oxford English dictionary for the first time in 1972.  The Sensuous Man (1971) and The Sensuous Woman (1969) were two classic sex manuals written at that time (by authors simply known as ‘M’ and ‘J’).  The Sensuous Man includes a good deal of information about male sexuality, covering topics like penis size, impotence and premature ejaculation.  Here are a few excellent excerpts from The Sensuous Man, illustrating in very plain English the role of the clitoris and vagina in sexually pleasuring women:

To test for lubrication, insert one or two fingers in the vagina.  If she is wet inside, you may now excite her further by stimulating the in-and-out motion of the penis with your fingers.  Pay particular attention to the upper part of the vagina near the entrance, so you can indirectly stimulate the clitoris as well.

The depictions of sex were very new too, exploring the dynamics of particular positions in fairly explicit detail:

She kneels and bends forward, resting her elbows across a couch or hassock.  You stand behind her.  Have her raise her buttocks as high as possible and then put your penis into her vagina.  Your two hands are free and can now be used to excite her breasts and clitoris as you go – right – you guessed it: in and out of her vagina.  The greatest depth of penetration is effect utilising this position.  There is also an unmatched feeling of power as you hold her hips tightly against your groin, her body helpless to resist your thrusts.

So with these kinds of material circulating within the culture, was it true to say that a revolution was truly under way?  What were regular couples doing – were they all swingers and sex addicts, as some sexual libertarians might like to think?

Premarital Sex

One of the biggest changes in attitudes towards sex, according to the survey, is the shift away from a prudishness mindset when it comes to premarital sex.  Although the Kinsey survey did not include data on such a topic, an omission which is itself reflective of a more conservative time, other surveys between 1937 and 1959 show a general disapproval for both men and women engaging in premarital sex – 22 percent saying it was alright for both sexes; 8 percent saying it was acceptable for men; leaving an almost 80 percent believing it was not OK for either sex.

Figures from the Sexual Behavior in the 1970s data show a huge shift towards a greater acceptance of premarital sex.  Anywhere between 60 and 84 percent of the men surveyed said that it was acceptable for women to engage in sex before marriage.  Overall women were less permissive in their attitudes – between 37 and 73 percent saying it was OK for men, and a slightly lower 20 to 68 percent said it was acceptable for women.

By contrast to the more liberal 1970s, the study cites Kinsey to show just how conservative the 1940s was regarding premarital sex – well over ‘one-quarter of unmarried American males had not yet experienced intercourse by age 25’.  That’s more than a quarter of unmarried men being virgins, at the ripe old age of 25!  By contrast, in the early 70s the report shows that figure to be as low as just 3 percent. ‘The more significant increase in premarital intercourse’ the study proudly claims, has ‘taken place among females.  One-third of females (single and marriage combined) in Kinsey’s sample had had premarital intercourse by the age of 25, as compared with over two-thirds in our sample.’  Women are more liberated, hoorar!

‘Permissiveness with Affection’

The emerging liberal narrative was clear: ‘The double standard [regarding female sexual permissiveness] has been relegated to the scrap heap of history’.  But to show that this was actually the case, the data included some interesting caveats.  The slut shaming tendency of women in previous generations was under attack, led by feminist activists – but it was still women themselves, and not men, who were the ones most resistant to this change.  In social science surveys, women were – and still are – sexually conservative in their stated views about sex.

free love

This is nothing new, of course, but the book presents data in such a way that makes the reader think that slut shaming was a thing of the past.  Attitudes to premarital sex were measured via responses to the following question: “Do you think it is all right for either or both parties to marriage and have had previous sexual intercourse?”  The answer should be clear cut – a yes or no.  But the answer shows a 20 to 68 percent range of women approving of sex before marriage, which is a fairly sizeable gap.  The clause ‘[d]epending on the degree of affection or emotional involvement between the partners’ was added; obviously this makes it more desirable for women to answer yes to that question.  To what degree, of course, varies according to each woman’s understanding of the words ‘emotional involvement’.

‘Emotional involvement’ will mean different things to different women, but the study draws upon sociologist Ira Reiss’s work to explain what it might mean in the context of the sexual liberation movement.  Given the increasing acceptance of sex parties and swingers clubs in the 1970s, women’s more liberal attitudes towards sex could be understood as a form of ‘permissiveness with affection’:

But if young women are much more likely than their mothers were to feel that they have a right to a complete sexual life before marriage, they do not exercise that right in a lighthearted and purely physical way; the inhibitions of the demi-vierge of the 1940s have been replaced not by free-and-easy swinging but by sexual freedom within the confines of emotional involvement, the new norm of being, in sociologist Reiss’s words, “permissiveness with affection”.

Though the data showed an increase in women becoming more approving of uncommitted, premarital sex; it also still indicated a preference for some form of commitment.  This is paradoxical, and seems to align with rationalising, hamster logic.  Women in the 1970s, as the book clearly shows, seemed to be enjoying greater levels of sexual freedom, but that sexual freedom always came with ‘emotional ties’.  Sexual liberation was certainly appealing to some women back then, but ‘in relative terms it remains true that most sexually liberated single girls feel liberated only within the context of affectionate or loving relationships’.

The Female Orgasm

With all of this positive talk of promiscuity, and the belief that it would lead to women having more satisfying lives, the study contains very little data measuring satisfaction – either during sex or in life more generally.  The data does show that 1970s men and women were practicing fellatio and cunninlingus more often, but it doesn’t show how satisfied they are with their husbands or wives, sexually or otherwise.  It’s interesting to note that the average time spent in foreplay among married couples had increased from 1938-49 to 1972 by … hold your breath … (a massive) 3 minutes.  The average in the 1970s was reported 15 an average of minutes, which was lauded as a huge improvement in terms of sexual progress in that decade.

marital coitus

I thought I’d take this opportunity to insert some data porn here, only to illustrate a point these kinds of sexology studies often (‘controversially’) like to make – that couples are having more sex than they did in earlier generations.  The authors of the study are keen to illustrate that the younger (16-25 year old) cohort were getting it on at a rate of over 3 times per week in the 1970s, up from just under 2 and a half times in the 1940s; and the 26-35 year olds were enjoying sex over 2 and a half times in the 1970s, compared with under 2 times over two decades ago.

All that is great, of course, but let’s not forget that the earlier generations were working harder, and had less recreational time to enjoy sex, given that the country was also involved in a war.  It’s amazing that couples had any time for sex in the first place.

It’s no surprise to find that married women in the 1970s were reaching orgasm more often than their mother’s generation, as the following chart shows.  But everything is relative, of course, and the fact that the data also shows almost half of the women in the 1940s reaching orgasm almost 100% of the time with their husbands was not such a bad thing either.

orgasm in marriage

Marriage and Orgasm

Reading through all the data one thing stands out when thinking about the narrative of sexual liberation presented throughout the book – married women have far more orgasms than single women.  This is something that Kinsey also noted:

Whether or not women had had premarital coitus, however, Kinsey found their orgiastic regularity increasing with the duration of the marriage, and continuing to improve even up to the twentieth year of marriage, a phenomenon most experts attributed to such internal processes in the marriage as the growth of intimacy, and trust, growing familiarity of the partners with each other’s physical needs, the slow wearing away of inhibitions, and the growing willingness of the wife to learn from the husband and to make little experiments at his suggestion.

Despite the fact that this view seemed more and more outdated with the emergence of the new feminist narrative, the data showed that there was only a slight increase in rates of female orgasm in marriages from previous generations – about 8 percent overall.

Looking back to the pre-sexual revolution days it’s easy for researchers and feminists to characterise women as victims of very unsatisfying encounters with their oafish husbands.  Many theories were developed around the issue of female orgasm in marriage, with Freudians suggesting that non-orgasmic women maintained a mental resistance to the idea of being dominated sexually by a man.  As Sexual Behavior in the 1970s indeed notes, with both psychological accounts and popular relationship books over the years, the onus has always been placed on the man, for either being too quick or not knowledgeable enough about his wife’s anatomy, to pleasure her properly.

With all the promise of sexual liberation in the 1970s, the radical politics of feminism in the air, the data still showed that women still enjoyed sexual intimacy within – rather than outside of – a committed relationship.  Much of the hamsterisation around the ‘permissiveness with affection’ idea continues today, as it must if feminists are to believe the continuing fallacy that sexual promiscuity is a social – much more than a biological – hurdle, one that gets in the way of their personal fulfilment.

Sexual Behavior in the 1970s, the legacy

The data from Sexual Behavior in the 1970s is interesting, and it certainly does depict how society was changing in its attitudes towards sex.   Permissive forms of sexual activity are welcomed in the report, characterised as a good thing for women and men.

Sexual Behavior in the 1970s also embraced pick up culture as a reflection of these changes and, compared to attitudes today, embraced pick up in a much more egalitarian way.  Men picking up women was seen to be acceptable, just as much as it was when women chose to pick up men – however and where ever they did it.

Today, however, male pick up artists are despised in almost every newspaper and television feature, whilst women gallivanting around the world ‘picking up’ men for travel, expensive meals, and other undisclosed benefits, are celebrated for their pro-sex, feminist lifestyle.  That (some) women have been practicing this kind of sexual permissiveness for forty years now is nothing new, but today’s media loves to remind us of how they’re fighting the good fight against that old patriarchal ‘double standard’.  When we see reports of how brave it is that a new Sex and the City-type starlet challenges the patriarchal norms by sleeping around with whichever alpha she so happens to meet, the hamster comes out for another run.

travelling feminist

Young dating traveler, celebrated for traveling to 7 countries on the back of 30 anonymous ‘dates’.

Reiss’s idea of ‘permissiveness with affection’ was used to explain how women rationalise this kind of sexual permissiveness, but the term has broader implications.  A footnote in the book refers to the idea of ‘liberalism with affection’, referring to how people develop politically progressive attitudes in general.  It’s an interesting term, one that can be used to describe how social science data is often interpreted through particular political lenses.  In some social science reports data is not used to provide an accurate account of social reality, but rather – as is so often the case with academic research into sexuality – to make the reader feel good about who she is, and what she does.

By Pickup Culture

Pick-up in the 1970s, and the beginnings of game


A personal hero, and very hairy lady’s man Barry Sheene in the 1970s

‘What makes a man sexy?’  According to Eric Weber’s 1970 classic How to Pick Up Girls, it’s long hair.  ‘So if you have an army crew cut or a marine mo-hawk, and you want to do better with women … try looking a little more like a shaggy violinist. According to the girls, long hair is dynamite!’  How to Pick Up Girls is a very 1970s publication, coming from a place of cultural excess – not just in terms of hair, but also for its exuberant display of masculine confidence and sex appeal.

Despite being the very first modern pick up book, it’s a very crude and direct account of what women think, filtered through a Weber’s own anecdotes.  Weber’s simplicity cuts through some of society’s judgements about sexuality, in a time when young men and women were both actively questioning the meaning of traditional gender roles.  The post sexual revolution politics are evident in the book’s attempt to ‘uncover’ what women really think about sex, drawing as it does on the author’s ‘interviews with 25 beautiful girls’.  Weber uses the quotes to reflect quite a ‘un-feminist’ truth for the 1970s – women actually enjoyed being picked-up.

Reviewing the very brief history of game in parts 1 and 2 of my blog, such an upfront approach reflected a time when ‘pickup’ became a thing in itself.  Weber’s book showed the increasing acceptance of the idea that two people could meet in a public place and escalate their mutual interest in such a way that it could quickly lead to sex.  With the death of the concert-induced utopian ideal of the sixties (such as Woodstock, Newport and The Isle of Wight), the politics of sexual liberation would manifest itself in other popular fora such as Playboy articles, swingers parties and the new cultural practice of picking up women – however much these cultural forms favored the man’s preference for uncommitted sex.

In a very odd combination of feminist politics and pick up culture, Nicole Ariana’s 1972 How to Pick up Men! even tried to replicate Weber’s success for the lady’s market.  But unlike Weber’s book, How to Pick Up Men! failed to appeal to women for the obvious reason that it’s not that hard for many young women to attract a man’s sexual interest.  Both books are a good example of the shift towards an increasing acceptance of pick up culture in the 1970s; and the varying success of these two publications underlies the fact that men and women are biologically different, especially when it comes to picking up and being picked up.

What do women want, in the 1970s?

As second wave feminism emerged in the early 1970s, young women were able to explore their sexuality in a less socially restrictive society.  Many women still wanted the conventional, monogamous relationship which led to marriage and children during her early twenties, but increasingly the ‘progressives’ were also keen to participate in the new sexual market place.  The most disruptive elements of radical feminism had yet to be felt by society in 1970, as it was still a time of radical possibilities – for both sexes.  Ever the optimistic opportunist, here’s what Weber had to say about the women’s liberation movement:

Even with Women’s Lib coming into its own, it’s going to be a long time before the average chick can approach a strange man without feeling like a whore.

The solution to meeting women in this new, liberating society was to go out to places where women could be found.  This included venues like museums and bars, but also more everyday locations like parks and public transport.  Weber even suggested men join ‘ballet classes’ or hang out at ‘an all-girl college’.  The location didn’t matter; the point was that as women were exploring their interests together, being a part of that meant you could increase your masculine attractiveness to them.

how to pick up girls

Eric Weber’s 1970s classic – the first book about ‘game’

But rather than encourage men to feign an interest in women’s liberation to get laid, as is the aim of today’s liberal ‘brogressive’ feminist, Weber’s guide to pick up placed a far greater emphasis on honesty.  Men still need to be confident, and in practice this simply meant approaching women wherever you meet them – in your natural state.  In contrast to today’s best PUA advice, picking women in the 1970s didn’t involve ‘negging’ or elaborate pick up lines but instead involved giving her ‘nice’ compliments:

If you’re a genuinely nice guy, or at least know how to act nice, then you’ll be good at picking up girls.  Remember, when it comes to picking up chicks, nice guys finish first.

Contrary to today’s advice How to Pick up Girls avoided all the flashy techniques that post-feminist game offers because an unprompted conversation with a woman was itself a completely novel thing, regardless of how lame the conversation topic may have been.  As any PUA knows well the effectiveness of a single pick up line is often dependent on context (and the woman’s initial interest, of course), and in the 1970s the simple effort of showing interest was enough to get many women interested.  Here’s a sample of Weber’s classic, albeit very ‘cornball’, lines:

You’re a Pisces, aren’t you? (Most girls are fascinated by astrology).

You look sensational in that! (To a girl trying on a blouse in a clothing store).

How long do you cook a leg of lamb? (You’ve spotted a pretty chick in your grocery store).

Are you Italian? (She has such fantastic dark eyes is why you ask).

You’re the second prettiest girl in the world. (naturally she’ll want to know who’s the prettiest).

Leaving aside all the complimentary and situational openers, my favourite in the list is this one:

Hi. (Simple but direct and friendly).

I think any man willing to try this line as an ‘opener’ will certainly gain from having to improvise a response, which is why I’d certainly recommend it.

In a new era of pick up culture though, Weber asks the reader this important question about the pick up artist: ‘How does he do it?’  The answer has more to do with ‘inner game’:  ‘Because he likes himself.  He feels that the very fact that he’s a pleasant, decent human being means that he’s worth other people’s time and affection’.

Self-esteem and confidence are the solution to the lack of male social skills.  But making the approach a normal, expected part of your life was what the book was really about.   In the 1980s PUAs like Ross Jeffries’ used lines like the ‘Manny the Martian’ opener, and others discuss different uses of ‘the neg’ – all of which are more elaborate ways of doing the same thing – building confidence.

However, women’s sense of entitlement and inflated egos may have desensitised them to the everyday compliments and niceties that might have worked in Weber’s day.  It’s interesting to think that in the 1970s niceness was a marker of status and class, in a way that being arrogant and cocky is in today’s post-feminist pick up culture.

How to Pick up Men … or be picked up by them

how to pick up men

Nicole Ariana’s book, the ultimate redundant guidebook

The format of How to Pick up Men! is identical to Weber’s book, using interview material from ’25 of the hippest, sharpest men’ to explain what makes a woman desirable.  Just like How to Pick up Girls the book draws attention to the many ordinary situations where seduction might take place.  Some of the pick up lines are identical to Webers, but others seem a little weirder by comparison.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

Your head interests me. (Explain you’re studying phrenology and you’d love to know whether he has a bump behind his left ear).

Do you believe all those terrible things they say about cigarettes? (To a guy lighting a cigarette.  Real smokers love to talk about their theories).

Let me help you with that. (Said in jest to a man carrying a heavy suitcase.  He’ll be amused by the role-reversal of it all).

This last pick up line is a good example of the author’s insistence that men like more assertive women.  Though the book does encourage women to be more confident, How to Pick up Men! differs from Weber’s book in this one key area: it spends a great deal of time building up its feminist credentials.  In a way it might be seen as an early ‘sex-positive’ guide for women, with a strong element of feminist propagandising about what men actually find attractive in women.

In suggesting that women should enjoy picking up men (in exactly the same way that women enjoy being picked up by men) the feminist ideals in the book often downplay the importance of physical attractiveness.  Much like the self-esteem bolstering books written for women today, Ariana echoes the feminist fantasy that men are less attracted by looks than they are by a woman’s personality.  Ideally both are important, but this story from a man called Henry shows why women shouldn’t worry too much about maintaining a good figure:

Anyway, one day we went to the beach together and while she was changing, a short, chubby-ish girl with jeans and a bikini top saunters by eating an ice cream cone.  She had a tiny little belly hanging ever so slightly over the top of her jeans.  For some inexplicable reason, I just wanted to chew on that little belly … it looked so sexy.

The more beautiful a woman is the more most men find her threatening.  Men think they’d like to posses gorgeous girls, but basically they’re afraid of them.

Nothing could be clearer as a case of feminist projection: men like assertive women, and yet are afraid of girls who are too sexy.  In the context of the early second wave feminist movement, the subjective recasting of male desire sought to change what was attractive about women.  The attractive women as just like a man (assertive and direct), only less trim and less – well – feminine.

As a book which seeks to teach women about picking up men, this wishful thinking also extended to how men feel about feminism.  Right out of the brogressive’s play book, Ariana cites the following account from Adam to how sexy the modern ‘enlightened woman’ is:

From the bad publicity women’s lib has been getting you’d expect liberated types to be a bunch of threatening dykes.  But it’s not so.  Just the opposite, in fact.  It’s a lot less scary to go out with a chick with a good head – like the girls I go out with now – because they tell you what they’re thinking.  And they take an active part in the relationship.  If a girl wants to sleep with me, she lets me know, and if she enjoys it, she tells me so – which is a real turn on for a guy.  The girls I used to go out with made me feel like I was deflowering a virgin and I always felt guilty, as if I were being a boorish pig because I enjoyed a girl’s body.  Now we both enjoy it.

‘Contrary to what you might expect … good men find all this liberation sexy.  They get the feeling that an important woman chose them (as much as they chose her).’  Role reversals, chubby women getting undressed on the beach and bra burning feminists – they’re all hot, according to Ariana’s book!

The contradictions that we see in today’s feminist movement were ever apparent back then, with the book also telling women that wearing perfume and high heels, as well as having carefully manicured nails were also among the sexiest things a woman could do.  I’m not sure how attractive the male-female role reversals would have been with cosmetics and eye-liners for men.  Well, maybe the makeup was an exception – it was the 70s after all!

The new pick up culture

How to Pick up Girls and the less successful How to Pick up Men were books which introduced young people to the new pick up culture of early 1970s.  Both books gave young people advice about what the opposite sex might find attractive, and to varying degrees drew upon the emerging feminist narrative to show that picking up members of the opposite sex was as easy as saying ‘hi’ – despite how difficult it may have been for some women to make that very first move.

Ariana’s advice to women from 1972 reads just like an intro to Sex and the City in 2002, affirming the fantasy that women were just as happy pursuing anonymous, commitment-free sex as men:

How do you find a man for a one-night affair?  I think the best place is a singles’ bar. Better than half the guys there are on the make and if you pick up on their line, you’ll be where you want to be in no time – in bed.  Which is a fine place to be when you’re in the mood.  And you’ll probably learn what men have always known: that an affair with no catches can be incredibly liberating.  And fun, too.

Selling the idea of a one night stand to a man is not such a difficult task, which is why Weber’s book sold over 3 million copies.  How to Pick up Girls didn’t receive much attention from feminists at the time, but today there are hundreds of amateur ‘feminist’ blogs quoting sections of both books – all smugly trying to show how sexist we all were back in the 1970s.

Feminism, pick up and the continuing history of seduction

Game is a genre that encourages men to be comfortable with their own sexuality, and not to be ashamed of their desires in the company of women.  Harnessing male sexuality positively, whether it is driving a woman to the canasta club on a Sunday evening or chatting up a girl at a museum, game also teaches men that many women are naturally curious about male sexual desire.  This is a theme that connects books from the 1940s, 1970s and 2000s.  Women still find men sexually interesting, but since the 1970s there has been a distinct change in the suggested styles, content and the boldness of approaches.


The 1978 film adaptation of Weber’s book ‘How to Pick up Girls’

As feminism became increasingly mainstream throughout the 1980s, the emphasis on the chivalrous and gentlemanly approach to picking up women had to change.  Greater female entitlement, combined with the eased restrictions on sex, meant that women no longer found conventional approaches interesting enough.  In the new, mixed-gendered public spaces of work and recreation, men chatting up women by simply saying ‘hello’ and talking about mutual interests, fashion, popular culture or other safe topics, quickly lost its appeal.

In the 1980s pick up came into its own and gave men a more scientific and systematic approach to female psychology, and in doing so helped to deconstruct the feminist myth of sexual equalism that began to permeate through mainstream media and politics.  As part 4 of this history shows, pick up became strategic as a measure to counter the effects of feminism, a movement which itself was increasingly seen as a a form of female game – with sexual and political implications.

%d bloggers like this: