Question #116: How do I seduce women? (Yes, this was an actual question).

Dear Captain Awkward

I’m a young guy, 20s. I was a bit of late bloomer, and have only limited (but a little!) experience seducing women. I feel like I might’ve missed some cues because of a very inactive teenage sex life. So my question is about the very cliched topic of wooing and fucking the women of my affections. 

Nowadays I’m ready to go. I’m hot, kind of charming, and rather socially adept. I don’t pop my collar or act like a douche-bag or any other ridiculous-ness. I’m sweet and totally not a creeper. But let’s just say that women definitely know when I’m attracted to them. Maybe I’m kind of intense. I see lots of examples of women liking intense, but it doesn’t work for me.  So I try to tone it down, by being smiley and non threatening. Which doesn’t seem to work either. 

It seems to me that a man must apparently be simultaneously aggressive and tender. And  that every woman likes that ratio a little different. Which suits me just fine, but I don’t know how to express it? For example, I am a fan of snuggling, smooching and etc. And I’m not into sneaking out in the morning. But I also like my passion with a healthy (and consensual) dose of aggression and roughness! I don’t want to misrepresent myself on either count. So how do I convey both of those things? 

In the past women seemed to get spooked when I was just thinking about grabbing them or pushing them against the wall. (What are you — psychic?) And they didn’t get particularly hot and bothered when I patted them sweetly and played with their hair. So now I find myself playing a ludicrous balancing act to show that I am not “too nice” (read: bad in the sack) but also that I am not going to rape them. And guess what? It doesn’t work! So. How can I convey that I’m good for spooning AND forking? And actually get some? 

Spooning and Forking, Eventually

Dear Spooning and Forking:

When you describe wanting to somehow “convey” that:

  • You are sweet,
  • Smiley and nonthreatening!
  • And not a douche or a creeper,
  • And you like cuddling,
  • But you also want a healthy and consensual dose of aggression and roughness!
  • Which you convey by sometimes thinking graphic thoughts about grabbing women and shoving them against the wall-
  • While leaning in close and playing with their hair or patting their hands,
  • But that doesn’t mean you’re some kind of rapist!
  • And you want to be intense – women like intense! – but not TOO intense.

Yeah, I pretty much picture this:

No human being can “convey” all that stuff at the same time.  If you were an actor and you tried to fold all that stuff into a performance, the performance would be stilted and weird.  And if I were the director, I would pull you aside and tell you to forget the lines, forget the backstory, forget trying to be cool, forget what you look like, forget about delivering a performance, and think only about the other character in the scene. Listen harder.  Pay the most attention. React truthfully in the moment to what the other person is giving you.

Let me recommend some reading. Here’s a very famous Internet post about how to approach women in a way that makes them feel safe(r). Here is another excellent lesson in how not to be creepy.  I love this part:

2) Don’t treat your life as a quest for sex.
I’ve done this. I’ve shaved my pubes before going to social gatherings, gone to them with “am I gonna get laid, am I gonna get laid?” foremost in my mind, and come home alone with my head hanging. Not only did this make me miss out on all the other fun I could have had, not only did this hurt my chances of getting laid by someone who’d like to get to know me a little first, but it was creepy. It meant that I’d do things like:
-Only talking to people I wanted to bang, and ignoring others (people really notice this)
-Turning the conversation around to sex (and specifically, to my sexual desires) too eagerly and too often
-Propositioning people as soon as they seemed remotely friendly
-Giving the impression that I was desperate and would fuck anyone (people are not flattered by “so, you seem to have a pulse” as a come-on line)
-Publicly sulking when it became clear I wouldn’t be getting laid
-Emitting loud, obvious vibes of “I’m only here to get laid” (people are amazingly good at receiving those vibes)All of these were creepy-ass things to do. Once I started going to social events to socialize, with an attitude of “if I get laid, great, but if not, I’ll definitely get to hang out with my friends and meet new people,” not only did people feel more comfortable around me, but I got laid more often to boot.

Before I translate all of that back into “seduction” for you, let me just state that I don’t give a shit about whether you get to sleep with lots of women. Women aren’t some reward you “get” from the universe for surviving gawky teen years. “Not being a rapist” isn’t a credential you present to get a pat on the back from ladies everywhere, it’s literally the minimum standard of human behavior, and there is no formula – no set of behaviors, no outfits, no Sex Panther cologne, no “Game”, no system – that is guaranteed to turn you into Don Draper. So I advise you to forget the word seduction and think instead about connection.

To review, my personal rules of dating go like this, and I think they are true whether you’re looking for serious relationships or more casual affairs.

  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends. (I’ll waive this one if you’re just looking for Casual Encounters….I guess.  Maybe I’ll replace it with “Use good spelling, grammar, and photos OF YOUR FACE” for your circumstances.)
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.

It basically boils down to “Meet a woman (singular).  Talk to her and figure out if you like each other.  Maybe she won’t like you.  Maybe she will.  You can’t really control it, so you might as well just relax.”

And for you, just for you, I’m going to add a new rule.  Should you ever find yourself in the same place at the same time as a woman (again, note the singular) you are interested in and who might have sex with you, 9. Ask stuff out loud with words.

In other words, stop depending on successfully “projecting” or “conveying.” Just ask if you can kiss her.  Ask if she’d like to come home with you or if you can go to her place.  Ask her if there’s anything you need to know STD-wise.  Ask her if you should stop at the drugstore and pick up some protection.  Ask her what she likes.  If you do get physical, check in frequently – Does she like what you’re doing?  Would she like you to do more?  Would it be okay if you tried ______?  If you want to do anything rough, and she’s into it, work out a safe word she can use to immediately put a stop to it (It’s just common sense and basic safety).

And then pay very close attention to the answers.  Stop “performing.”

Now, I know you know that “no means no,” but especially in the casual sex game it is very, VERY, extremely absolutely 100% important to make sure that you are getting an enthusiastic “yes.”  If it’s someone you’re not dating seriously and you haven’t gotten to know very well, you’re not going to know how to read her nonverbal signals, and it’s not an area where you want to rely on plausible deniability.  If you’re making out with someone, and you ask them if they want to go somewhere else or remove pants or otherwise take something to the next level, and they don’t give you an answer or get quiet or freeze, you lose nothing and gain everything by interpreting “Reply Hazy – Ask Again Later” as “No” and pulling back.  It may result in you not getting laid right that second.  But if she is into it, she will explicitly let you know what she wants, and she will know that you are someone she can trust to back off, and that’s good for everyone.

I know this doesn’t sound like the awesome romantic effortless “I’ll just figure out how to project the right vibe, and then it will be magical and zipless and women will just let me push them up against walls and grope them because they will be able to tell that I am safe and nice and it is all in good sexy fun” advice you were hoping for, but once you are dealing with actual human beings you have to learn how to speak frankly about your desires and ask people to speak frankly about theirs.  It gets easier with practice, and when you do it right it’s sexy on its own.

71 thoughts on “Question #116: How do I seduce women? (Yes, this was an actual question).

  1. As soon as I saw the question all I could think was, “If you’re asking that question, that’s why you’re not getting laid.” I mean, there is no way to Seduce Women. Women are not a monolithic category. They are individuals who like different things! Nothing works across the board. But many women do prefer the kind of guy who doesn’t think women are a monolithic category that all want the same thing.

    (Okay, I’m not saying anything that the Cap’n didn’t say more eloquently and tactfully. But… this question! I have a hard time believing that anyone who actually reads this blog would ask it.)

  2. This is seriously excellent advice.

    LW, we can only guess at why you might not be getting the reaction you’re looking for, but it’s pretty clear from your letter that when you’re out trying to meet women, you spend most of your time a) thinking about sex and b) trying to convince women to have sex with you. That might sound sensible to you, but trust me when I say that women can tell when the guy they are talking to is trying to figure out how to have sex with them. And unless that guy is Don Draper, most women are not going to enjoy that. It’s one thing to flirt with a woman, and it’s another to spend your time trying to “seduce” them.

    As Captain Awkward wisely suggested, you need to start talking to women with the attitude of “hey, you look cute and I am interested in chatting with you” and not “how long do I need to smile at her before I can try to shove her up against that wall?” It may seem like you should be able to go out to a party or a bar and hook up with a different person every night — lots of people do it! But it’s not working for you, at least right now, so it’s time to stop trying for a bit.

    I think the very best way to figure out what’s happening would be to ask a woman you’re friends with, who has seen you in action, whether she can give you her perspective on what’s going on. Note: for that to work, you need to ask nicely and sincerely for her feedback, acknowledging it’s kind of an awkward question, and then not argue and not get defensive. But assuming you wouldn’t be writing to a blog if you had that option open to you, my best suggestion is to go out to somewhere you would normally try to pick up with the goal of talking to three women but NOT having sex with them. Not even if they beg you. Make talking to them an end in itself, not a means to getting off. I can virtually guarantee you that you will get a better, friendlier reaction. The more times you do that, the better you will get at reading women’s cues and reacting sincerely and non-creepily to them, and the better your chances of having a friendly interaction with a woman turn into fun sexytimes.

    1. I so agree with this. This guy sounds like a basically good dude, but he needs to take the pressure off himself.

  3. Women are not the Boss Level in a video game. There’s no universal cheat-code.

    Even if there was, you’d be a skeevy evil jerk to be looking for it because you want a way to convince women that their judgment about not fucking you should be ignored.

    I hate this question and now I feel sick so I’m going to bed.

  4. “I didn’t have much sex as a teen so I deserve loads now” is an oddly common belief. It comes out in NiceGuysTM as well as this LW who seems to believe all the sex he didn’t have (although early 20s isn’t a particularly late bloomer, really) was deposited in a high interest shag account in his name, but for which he’s not got the PIN.

    The thing that gives me hope in the LW is he chose to write to you, with your clear “women are people and not interchangeable” stance, rather than to someone who’d sell him a magic sex-get trick. I hope that he takes this excellent advice and that it makes him happier.

    1. Who has tons of excellent sex as a teenager? It’s like complaining that you had no money, no freedom, and no legal access to alcohol as a teenager, therefore you should be a drunk wasteful sociopath all through your twenties. I mean, some people clearly make that argument too, but it’s not right.

      1. I couldn’t decide whether to type something approximating to “yes! that is so right!” or “ha ha! that is so funny!” so I crossed them.

        yaya! that is so fritey!

  5. Aw, dude! Been there, with the whole “Okay, now I am in my early twenties and I finally feel ready to have sex … er … how exactly does one go about that?”

    I’m a girl, so “find a sleazy party, wear a short skirt, and look as if you’re drunk” worked for me, eventually — but even that was actually more complicated than it sounds. Like the Captain says, it’s important to communicate with the specific people around you, rather than trying to find the magic formula that will work on anyone. The question isn’t which level of intensity is ‘right’. The question is, how comfortable is this, specific person, at this stage in the conversation? Rather than trying to be “simultaneously aggressive and tender,” you should be looking at whether there is a level of aggression or tenderness that is being welcomed by the person you’re with; either of those can amount to coming on too strong, sometimes, you know.

    If you’re not getting much interest, then just follow Holly’s advice as quoted by the Captain above, about enjoying the party, and being open to sex, but not fussing about it too much.

  6. Another reason to take the Captain’s advice is that when you’re too busy trying to project yourself a certain way and think of what to say or do next it’s almost impossible to listen to what the other person is actually saying. I have found myself doing this in job interviews – realizing the interviewer is talking and I’m not really listening. I have noticed when men do this when talking to me as well… and it’s not very appealing.

    1. Yes! I so agree with this comment, and with CA’s every word. When “projecting” you run the risk of appearing self-conscious, self-absorbed, or arrogant, with an undertone of trying to manipulate. Look to the other person, listen, connect as humans!

      Sorry, no short cuts. Connection is not something that can be sold, it has to be nurtured.


    LW, I think part of this – along with the Captain’s excellent advice – is that your inexperience is going to hamper you for a while yet. It doesn’t seem fair, I know, but your late-bloomerdom means you’re gonna be making some rookie mistakes. The kind that the more sexually precocious people out there were making at age 16. You’re just going to have to roll with that, cause there is no shortcut for plain old experience and practice. In fact, your whole mentality of “how do I do this correctly?” is one of those rookie mistakes. Trust me, I can vividly remember just how I would stand around at parties trying to look just sexy enough but not, like, slutty or desperate and nervously glancing at the cute guys, waiting for one of them to pick up my Magic Sexvibes and come talk to me. You will surely not be shocked to hear that this didn’t work any better for a straight 20 y.o. woman than your Magic Sexvibes are working for you now.

    There is one thing in the post I’d like to gently push back on, and that is Schrödinger’s Rapist. In my humble opinion, that post is good for helping men understand what street harassment can be like for women, but it is NOT GOOD for regular, well-intentioned guys to have in the back of their head when you’re trying to meet women. Like, yes, obviously “this guy could commit a violent crime against me” is something many women will tend to have filed away in the back of our heads. But please don’t think that the majority of women out there are looking at you and asking themselves primarily, “Rapist? Or not rapist?” That’s way too grim and it’s also inaccurate in my experience. What’s going on in my head, personally, is more like “Is this guy a person I want to interact with or not?” Some of that is due to safety concerns, but a lot of it is also that I don’t want to end up getting treated as less than human – I don’t want to get groped suddenly, I don’t want to get “BITCH” yelled at me if I decide to end a conversation, I don’t want to have to hear crude comments about my body, stuff like that. And frankly, I go into most conversations with strange men, lacking in any sort of trust that those sorts of things won’t happen. When I am a little standoffish, which is a lot of times, it’s not about a fear of rape per se but about a profound disinterest in being violated or disrespected in smaller ways.

    There is one obvious way to help women put a basic trust in you that you won’t suddenly turn from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde on us. Keep it light. When I try to picture how you attempt to “convey” your profound desire to fuck, but totally consensually, but like also you wouldn’t be averse to a little hair pulling, but not in a BAD WAY! it all just sounds so serious and intense. Serious and intense would make me nervous, not because of potential rape but because that would indicate to me that this conversation is incredibly important and high-stakes for you. The idea that a total stranger’s self-esteem is dependent upon whether or not I continue the conversation or go home with him is… unsettling, because in my experience it correlates pretty highly with an inability to take rejection in a reasonable way, and then, see the paragraph above. As you can imagine, serious and intense also does not make you seem like a good prospect for casual sex, which is meant to be, you know, casual.

    There’s also something to be said here about the whole pressure cooker situation of trying to pick someone up in a bar and take them right on home with you. Sure, there are people out there who can pull this off, but you don’t have to be one of those people in order to get laid. My suggestion, because it worked well for me, is to adjust your expectations for the first time you meet someone. Why not try to get a phone number or maybe just spend some time kissing and making out before going your seperate ways for the night? Sure, in this way I ended up making out with a lot of guys who I never saw again – but it was still fun. If your nights out on the town are less high-stakes, then you won’t be OMG FAILING TO GET LAID every single time you head home alone.

    Ahhh, wall of text, anyway good luck dude. You’ll be OK. Every one of us has been through, or is going through, or will go through, the phase you’re in right now. So don’t panic.

    1. Yes, all of this.

      One of the things that makes me most upset about PUA manuals is the idea that you should become your own hard salesman. Because selling, really, is manipulation–and a lot of sales techniques are designed to get the customer to buy something they don’t want. That’s not a moral thing to do to a prospective partner. It’s not the right direction to head in. It can work on a transactional level, just like at Best Buy and TGIFriday’s, but it’s demeaning and inferior.

      Women are, IME, extremely sensitive to that dynamic, because women do have to live with the idea that their desires don’t really matter as much as…everyone else’s.

      For me, the best thing a guy can do is be nice without any expectation. Just be good to other people. Be friendly. Be courteous. Be nice. I know the Nice Guys all tell you that this will get you dumped for some leather-clad parolee with a tighter ass, but this isn’t really true. All of the genuinely kind and caring men I know have found wonderful partners, because their generosity of spirit shines out of them like light from a warm house. If you treat other people, women included, really well, then women will like you. Some of them will like you that way.

      1. But, but, women only want Rich Guys! And they Don’t Care About Looks! Oh, but except when they only want Pretty Boys! Where does the parolee get the cash?

        I’m trying to imagine the man who met all of the stereotypes for What Women Want but I’m failing because of all the contradictions.

        1. He engages in several parole violations in quick succession, of course.

          Okay, the other thing about that whole Nice Guy love-as-cutthroat-grift that bothers me? It’s sort of true but horribly wrong at the same time.

          That is, yes, (some kinds of) assholes get lots of sex. They don’t come by it honestly. They don’t give their partners love and affection in exchange for love and affection. They’re assholes: they manipulate and betray and lie to their partners, and sometimes they engage in straight-up abuse. They do harm. And if you pay attention, you’ll notice that none of their exes ever want to talk to them again.

          And yeah, that’s a really effective strategy. Heaps of advantages to that sort of behavior, if your accounting is narrow enough. That doesn’t make these people role models, and it doesn’t mean they’ve discovered some profound secret about human nature or women’s souls. It means that they decided to fuck people over for fun and profit. Nothing new there.

          So…it’s like, the Nice Guy rant pisses me off because it’s crass? But dig below that and it’s really sad and disturbing. It’s like getting upset because Halliburton is getting all the contracts. Maybe you won’t get to ride around in a corporate jet or pay less taxes than Alejandro Sosa or destroy entire cradles of civilization. On the other hand, you won’t be a horrible person. And isn’t that about a gajillion times better than blowjobs on the regular, really?

    2. I love this comment, thank you! I linked to Scrhodinger’s Rapist because it has valuable stuff in it about how to read signals and one of the LW’s questions was “How do I convey that I’m not violent?” But you’re right, what we really need is a post about Schrodinger’s Nice Guy – “He may not rape you, but he will annoy the fuck out of you make you deal with his unpleasant emotions should you try to extract yourself from his company.” Let me know if you want to write it.

      1. I will think about this! I’m moving cities and starting grad school atm (aaaahhhhHHHHHHHHH) but if/when I have time, I’ll email you!

    3. The thing about Schrodinger’s Rapist for me is that, yeah, I’m not looking at anybody as a potential rapist *until they do something that makes me worried*.

      I went on a second date with a guy, and I wanted to get laid. So I asked if he’d like to have sex with me, he said yes — cool. Then he attempted to get naked penis near my vagina, and that scared the piss out of me. It doesn’t even matter what his intentions are, it was scary and threatening and I’m not ever going to see him again. That turned him into Schrodinger’s Rapist, and I didn’t want to stick around to find out if he was Actual Rapist.

      So, LW — don’t do threatening things! If you don’t know what counts as threatening, learn, read, study! Talk to lady friends (I hope you have some)! And don’t get angry at a woman for not feeling the way you want her to feel.

  8. Why you gotta be so mean, Captain Awkward? Just give him the cheat codes and we can all get back to waxing our private parts and acting all irrational at the gym. It’s not like we can’t wipe his memory later. What else did our radical feminist overladies engineer Four Loko for, anyway? To increase the vomit-to-curbcut ratio?

    1. I believe that Four Loko was invented to help nice Midwestern college freshmen separate each other from their virginity.

      1. I believe that it was invented so that my dad could shake his head and wonder what’s wrong with kids today, with their fizzy speed drinks and their thong jeans and their angry birds.

  9. OK, seriously? In what world other than cheesy Hollywood-ville do teenagers have lots and lots of sex? I sure as fuck didn’t have a lot of sex as a teenager (unless you count losing my virginity and one subsequent encounter “lots of sex”), and I don’t think I deserve an avalanche of pretty roughnecks in leather jackets to make up for it now that I’m an adult.

    1. No, me neither–some of us had some sex, some had no sex, some had bad or useless or dangerous sex, and a tiny tiny number had regular healthy sex (plus a fair amount of the other options). Not to overgeneralize, but one of the ways in which teenage girls have lots of sex is to get entangled in dubious or bad relationships, sometimes with partners who are much older. I can believe that some teenagers have great sex lives, but they are not representative.

      One of the reasons teenagers don’t get laid a whole lot is that they’re immature, and not really emotionally equipped to play the field. Like, if you were awkward and lonely and confused all through your adolescence…you were pretty much on the curve. And if you’re in your twenties and just starting to figure out the whole adult sex life thing…you’re still on the curve.

  10. Perhaps it would be useful for the LW to enact of policy of “taking the pressure off” using The Hand of Preference (or both! we don’t judge!) before a party.

    1. YES to this. Do it twice if necessary; don’t go inflicting your intensity on people who likely want to relax and have fun. You’re not helping them feel safe, SaFE.

  11. Sounds like LW is trying too hard to be what he thinks the lady wants. I swear I’m going to sound like my grandma, but instead of trying to be what SHE wants, why don’t you just be who you are? Trust me, just being yourself is refreshing, and there is probably more than one woman in your city who will get naked with you simply (well OK not simply, but you catch my drift) because you’re not being a fakey fake.

  12. Hey there, “Spooning and Forking.”

    I just wanted to give a little bit of signal boost to the notion that “seduction” is not the ideal thing you want to do here.

    Seduction, by definition, is convincing someone to do something sexy that they would otherwise not want to do. There are two things wrong with choosing the word “seduce.”

    1 – the fact that coercing women to have sex with you is pretty much the definition of rape (yikes!)
    2 – it’s also pretty sad if you believe that sex with you is something women would absolutely not do unless they weren’t in their right minds.

    I don’t think either of those is a message you want to send, so I highly recommend “connecting with” women.

  13. The good Captain’s advice is excellent, as ever, but I’d just like to share a few of my thoughts on being more attractive.

    –The abundance mentality. There are LOTS of people who might want to spend time with you. If this person doesn’t want to spend time with you, their loss. It’s important to note that that doesn’t make people interchangeable. “Person X is a special, unique, fun person, but if Person X doesn’t want to date me/treats me like shit/whatever, there is an equally but differently special, unique, fun person, Person Y, out there somewhere.”
    –Be yourself as hard as you can. OKCupid has done studies that show that people with a higher standard deviation of attractiveness get messaged more. That is, a person who has everyone rate him or her a 4* is less romantically successful than a person who has six people rate him or her a 0 and four people rate him or her a 10. Therefore, in general, being yourself is the winning strategy. Have a sleeve tattoo? Wear sleeveless shirts. Love bright colors? Wear bright colors. Overweight? Show off your body.
    –Have friends. In general, people who are very popular, have large friends groups, know everyone, etc., get laid much more than people who aren’t. This is because (a) they’re more fun to be around with because people keep hanging around with them and (b) they have a larger set of potential people-to-get-laid-with.
    –There are some things you can do that will make you more attractive, in general, to a target group of people. A gender is way too large to be a target group of people; I’m not talking “men”, I’m talking “socially awkward intelligent geeky men.” Unfortunately, given the way this interfaces with what bits of your personality you play up, that’s really something you can only figure out by trial and error. There are some shortcuts (ask honest friends of yours similar to the people you want to sleep with which celebrities or mutual friends they find attractive and why), but a lot of it is just practice.

    *Yes, I know, stupid numeric system is stupid, people are not actually numbers. This is shorthand, people. 😛

    1. *Yes, I know, stupid numeric system is stupid, people are not actually numbers. This is shorthand, people.

      I’m allowing it because you are talking about an actual rating system used by actual people, and not about “10s” as something that actually exist in the world. 😛

    2. “–Have friends. In general, people who are very popular, have large friends groups, know everyone, etc., get laid much more than people who aren’t. This is because (a) they’re more fun to be around with because people keep hanging around with them and (b) they have a larger set of potential people-to-get-laid-with.”

      Actually, speaking from experience and knowing several others in the same situation [being popular and having many friends] it doesn’t quite work that way.
      The two things working against you in such a case are:
      – You’re cool to hang out with. Period. End of sentence. You’re the perpetual friend and it doesn’t go past that.
      – Everyone assumes [and we know about assuming, non?] that you’re all ready having fun, shagging, sleeping around, blah blah with someone/everyone/anyone else.

      But to reiterate what everyone else is saying [and wondering if SaFe even reads these comments] be yourself *shrug* It’s really the only thing you got. No one else is exactly you. Learning to be patient is a good thing too ’cause you’ll need LOTS of that sometimes. Get comfortable [but not TOO comfortable] with people. Go out and have fun. Don’t feel entitled or have expectations. Communicate. Be clear. Prepare to screw up… though even that can lead to entertaining stories.

      1. Huh. In my experience people who are popular do get much more sex than people who are not-so-popular… but then, it’s true, the people who are REALLY popular have sex histories far less storied than one would otherwise expect. Maybe there’s some optimal level of popularity one ought to have? 🙂

        1. Different people have different experiences. I know a lot of DJs and musicians, poets and comedians, actors and just plain popular guys… and their lack of success with the ladies is often a topic of discussion. We usually chalk it up to being dense and having no clue when a woman is interested combined with the theory that it’s all fugged up anyways. Might be the city I live in, though my friends are scattered across this country and several others.

          If anyone ever figures out the ‘formula’ they will be a very rich person. One good publication and bang, best seller! Though the self help section of bookstores are stocked huge with books on how to find or get that perfect lady. I’ve read quite a few… they’re fairly common sense and not hugely helpful otherwise.

  14. “Women aren’t some reward you “get” from the universe for surviving gawky teen years. “Not being a rapist” isn’t a credential you present to get a pat on the back from ladies everywhere, it’s literally the minimum standard of human behavior, and there is no formula – no set of behaviors, no outfits, no Sex Panther cologne, no “Game”, no system – that is guaranteed to turn you into Don Draper. So I advise you to forget the word seduction and think instead about connection.”


  15. Oh, and also, this is another thing I like from Holly’s post that you linked to and follows along the same lines as things you said:

    “And if you want to have sex with someone, for God’s sake don’t be this guy. In every case, just freaking ask. The point of asking someone is not to get a “yes” by any means necessary; it’s to find out how they feel about you.”

    You know what? I was a little creepy when I was a teenager, something I grew out of eventually, but one of the things I did was not ask because I knew, somewhere inside, that the answer would not or might not be yes. So instead I mooned around and got mad when the object of my affection said, “I’m not interested in you.” I actually cried and stormed out of the room. Like a little kid. Because he was not an idiot, figured out I was interested in him and finally called me on it. Poor guy! Here’s the thing: I could have maybe kept that friend if I had from the getgo asked him out and gotten rejected and then gotten over it, or maybe not- but is it really a friendship if one person is being a friend and the other person is waiting to be sexed?

    1. ” ‘The point of asking someone is not to get a “yes” by any means necessary; it’s to find out how they feel about you.’ ”

      This, for real. I love that Pervocracy post.

      I would also extend what she says about asking to flirting. The point of flirting with someone is not to convince them to like you; it’s to express that you like them and see if they maybe like you back. If they don’t flirt back or tell you that they like you, that isn’t an invitation to flirt harder in case they didn’t get the hint. It’s an invitation to stop flirting because they aren’t into it.

      Of course, asking directly is much better than flirting because that way you can both make your expectations/desires clear and have a much smaller chance of being misunderstood. A lot of people won’t ask, though, and those people also need to know that when they get a “no”, even an indirect one, they need to back off.

  16. Basically, what CA and everyone else said.

    I just wanted to highlight the ‘intense’ thing. Thanks to fiction (yes, i’m primarily looking at you Twilight saga), this whole intense thing seems to have been revived as a good ‘quality’ in a (heterosexual) man, but as much as swoonful readers/viewers of fiction books/films may for a short time be convinced that ‘intense’- involving penetrating looks, stalking, late night visits and brooding – is attractive, this willing suspension of disbelief rarely converts into real world desire. Speaking for myself, if a guy approached me working and playing at intense I would probably have one or both of two reactions a) laugh at the pretentious dude trying to convey a high level brood or, if a convincing enough performance b) be creeped out and wondering why Mr Intense is acting all predatory in an environment where everyone else is trying to have good light hearted fun.

    If you happen to meet a woman who is attracted to you and interested in some casual sexy time, then be just that, casual. People are good at picking up on signals, and if you approach someone just focus on that conversation, and that conversation only. Otherwise chances are that the woman you are conversing with is going to see the cogs turning in your brain where you are, in your head, skipping the conversation completely and planning where and when you are going to do some wall slamming. When talking with someone it is a real turn off to see that all they want to do is get the conversation over and ‘fork’ you because it only serves to demonstrate that you are viewing them as something (to fork) and not someone. Erase the ‘endgame’ and focus on the flirt.

  17. ‘and there is no formula – no set of behaviors, no outfits, no Sex Panther cologne, no “Game”, no system – that is guaranteed to turn you into Don Draper.’

    Probably true. But did anybody actually see, o i dunno, every single episode of Mad Men? You do not want to be Don Draper. Don Draper’s life sucks.

    Don Draper is gorgeous. Don Draper gets lots of sex. Don Draper faces no consequences. You do not want to be Don Draper. Don Draper is miserable and pitiful.

    To just toss a very small bone to our OP, participate in group conversations involving women, speaking no more’n your part (i.e. if you are talking w/4 people, talk no more’n 20% of time) and keep track if any of em seem to feel your jokes are extra-funny. Listen extra-intently (not intensely! intently) to Giggly and see if Giggly seems fun, like someone you’d enjoy spending time around. If yes, recommend a book you imagine Giggly would like (not Bret Easton Ellis.)

    Now do you get to fuck Giggly? NO! You don’t seem to be paying attention. Baby steps, buddy.

  18. Some of the commenters are being a bit hard on “Spooning.” He never suggested all women want the same thing thing, & he said he wanted to convey his personality/sexual tastes to women, not “seduce” them.

    Anyway, there’s no real way you can communicate your sexual technique through casual social interaction. It’s not like in the movie Tom Jones, where Tom & a hot lady are munching on apples & chicken legs while eyeing each other suggestively (

    I do think it’s possible, though, to convey that you’re a nice normal person who also has an “edgy” or passionate side. The way to do this is to be polite and attentive, but not boring: Tell jokes that have some bite or show your unique perspective on life. Gently steer the conversation to topics you’re genuinely passionate about. Tell relevant anecdotes that show you in an interesting light. Move on quickly from lines of conversation that aren’t going anywhere; don’t cling to your interlocutor if she’d probably like to chat with someone else for a while.

    Being a good conversationalist is a tricky skill! But that’s what will help you develop chemistry with (some of) the women you meet.

    1. Maybe we’re all so defensive because when someone posts a thread on the internet about street harassment and how much it upsets her, the NON “fuck off and die bitch!!!1” comments are mostly, “So how am I SUPPOSED to talk to you when you are walking to work in your pretty dress?”

    2. He did use the word “seduce”, and also “wooing and fucking the women of my affections.” He bangs on about “conveying” things, yes, but as a means to an end, the end being “get some”.

      Throughout his letter he treats women as an interchangeable “them” – in fact the only time he acknowledges interwomanal differences at all is where he gets cross that they want different tenderness ratios. These are all things we can read right there in the letter and it’s hardly harsh to judge him on his actual ideas about women.

      I think most people, particularly the Capt., have been extremely kind to the LW, and the mocking has nearly all been directed at the worldview that is making him unhappy. Go through the thread and count the instances of “Aw, dude, I was like you” and “good luck” and the paragraphs of sincerely given advice. Divide by the number of flat out insults. (I think there’s a “douchebag” in there somewhere.)

      The cultural expectation is that women should always always be kind and sweet and smiley to men and cut them all possible slack for being too young/old/stupid/clever to treat women with respect. This means that anything less than fawning, simpering sympathy is seen as hostile.

      1. I must correct myself. Nobody even called him a douchebag. I don’t know if there have been other rude comments that CA has deleted, but reading the thread I see mostly plain-spoken and thoughtful advice – with a few well-aimed but not cruel jokes at the LW’s misconceptions regarding a. the existence of secret, foolproof ladyhacks and b. the course of the average person’s sex life.

  19. I think something a lot of women overlook when this kind of question comes up is how much a man, by the age of twenty, has had it drilled into his head that sleeping with lots of women is the norm and if you can’t do it you’re somehow defective. It’s one of the ways in which patriarchal culture screws us up the most. I was raised by feminist parents who were extremely sensitive to these issues and I still struggle with it.

    1. Well, not to be all contrary and all, but women face the flip side of this (which in practice turns out to be pretty much the exact same side): if you haven’t slept with a lot of men by your mid-twenties (or at least, if men don’t proposition you on a daily basis while you blithely turn one and all down, something even more unlikely) then you’re undesirable, anti-sexy and also defective in some way. I think this is one of those myths that suck for everybody.

      Also, @Emily H: Actually, he did say “seduce”.

      1. Yeah, all that Cosmo/Rich from Marie Claire shit is about how to “convey” that you are sexy and totally available while not being “slutty” (ie, you should probably lie about your “Number” either up or down depending on the audience).

        “Conveying” is overrated. Just say! Or ask!

    2. Well, NAC, women are living with the /consequences/ of this problem and so I find it rather understandable that they would be a biiiit unhappy about the suggestion that women are mostly valuable because of the vagina they are carrying around. (Yes, I know he never said it that way but it’s the society’s point of view.)
      And that you had this meany mean cultural messages directed at you is sad, but it’s your peace of work to deal with it and not women’s duty, who have enough other problems (as your feminist parents probably told you).
      Everyone here probably knows that patriarchy screws men up, too but ” in which patriarchal culture screws us up the most” – for real? That’s … just wow.

      1. Uhhh, I’m actually 100% with NAC here. Speaking about the way men are hurt by the kyriarchy doesn’t ignore or negate what women go through. In fact if every time men try to go into detail on this, women jump in to tell them that what we go through is just so much worse and meaner &c, how on earth are we going to come to an understanding on these types of issues – which as you say, affect everyone?

        1. I just don’t like it when people are denying responsibility for their actions based on what they’ve experienced. If it wasn’t meant that way, I’m fine with NAC’s comment.

      2. Just to clarify, when I said “us” I was referring to men, not people in general, i.e. both men and women. But I guess I should have just gone with what I’m qualified to say and said “the way in which patriarchal culture has screwed up me, personally, and a lot of other men I know.” I didn’t mean us to imply the entire culture.

        There’s a difference between something being your problem and it being something you should be aware of when interacting with another group of people. And when interacting with men, especially men who are trying to have healthier sexual attitudes, the extent to which our values and priorities are screwed up is something to be aware of. That’s all I was trying to say.

    3. That was very apparent in the letter. I mean, WHY does the LW want to have sex with women?

      Because sex feels good? Cool!
      Because he likes the woman in question and wants to express something about that? Cool!
      Because he just wants to bang a lot of women and wants variety and orgasms? Maybe go somewhere prostitution is legal, then.
      Because it would make him feel awesome and powerful if he developed the ability to seduce women into having sex with him? Sketchy.
      Because he thinks that he should be having sex with lots of women to prove something to himself or others? NOT COOL.

      In our culture all of these get mixed up together in a gross way, sometimes. I’m not against sex and I think casual sex definitely has its place in a well-spent youth but I think even the most casual encounter is something that you do with another PERSON – that’s the magic of it.

      That’s why I hate the idea of sex as a performance that you do at someone and not an experience you create with someone.

      1. Beautifully said, and I think it ties in well with the “don’t treat your life as a quest for sex” point. If you’re looking for sex as a thing in itself, detached from any consideration of just who you’d like to have sex with, that strongly encourages the kind of fucked up attitudes you’re talking about.

        I mean, I love casual sex too (not going to lie, doesn’t happen for me *that* often), but at the very least one’s focus shouldn’t be on finding sex, it should be on finding someone you want to have sex with. That doesn’t mean they have to be the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE or anything intense like that.

        But think of sex like any other activity. Would you watch a movie with just anyone? Are you ever so desperate to watch a movie with someone that you’d just pick a stranger up off the street and lead them into the movie theater? It doesn’t have to be about finding THAT ONE SPECIAL PERSON, but it’s like, why would you even bother watching a movie with somebody you don’t care about? The fun of sharing that experience with another person is that you like that person and you expect to contribute something to each other’s experience of it that you wouldn’t get from a stranger, or by yourself.

        Many people would object to assigning sex to the same mundane category as such things, but I feel like looking at it that way helps to cut through a lot of the cultural bullshit about what it means to “obtain” sex.

  20. This may be far too late, but I’d really love to hear more about this piece of advice:

    “Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.”

    To me this reminds me of what used to prevent me from going after the smart guys I now know turn me on. I used to wonder what they would think and how cool they were and decide that smart and cool were not of the same core.

    Could you explain why seeking approval of your friends is key here? I mean, my friends are great great people but they are very different (indie folks) from my (sorta yuppyish) boyfriend, who treats me very well and is extremely loving and caring. If I used the “cool” measurement, I would probably be in a worse relationship.

    Am I mis-reading?

    1. I don’t think that it’s meant to be about your friend’s approval – although depending on one’s social circle that might be important sometimes.

      I take it as: if you don’t have things in common with them like you have things in common with your friends, if you don’t enjoy their company like you enjoy the company of your friends, and indeed, if they don’t know the stuff you expect your friends to know in order to have your trust, don’t date them.

      Basically replace cool with any adjective you find important: trustworthy, intelligent, faithful, responsible, brave, educated, entertaining… that sort of thing. Even if your partner won’t have much in common with your friends, your partner must live up to your “partner standards” the way your friends live up to your “friend standards.”

    2. Lou has the right of it. This is my personal rule, forged after a lot of boring-ass dates where I was searching for the bright side. It’s not about impressing anyone. I just don’t want to date anyone who isn’t as nice/smart/funny/kind/friendly/easy to hang out with as my friends. The experience of going on a date with that person should be as fun as if I were spending time with my friends. No “making it work.” No looking for the bright side. It is either an awesome time, where the conversation flows and we enjoy each other’s company, or it does not result in a second date.

  21. “Meet a woman(singular)……”

    Skipped over this part pretty quick didn’t you? What should I be doing if I’m not meeting women too often? Will having the right attitude automatically bring me into contact with women more often?

    1. In answer to your questions:

      1) I did skip over how and where to meet a woman. Women = half the population. They are not rare, secretive woodland creatures.
      2) Go meet some people where you would meet people. Women are people.
      3) Will having the right attitude automatically bring you into contact with women more often? No. Because there is no formula or “attitude” for meeting women.
      4) Um, given the way you are asking these questions, I kind of don’t care whether or not you ever meet women you are interested in. Go figure it out. Or don’t.

      1. Did you delete some comments? Because I read some of them via e-mail “alert” from Mr. “You’re doing your job wrong” and now they’re not here.
        Well, I’m not particularly sad.^^

    2. Grrr, comment gone…

      Do you like to talk to people in bars? Maybe women would. Do you like to have a conversation when buying toilet paper? Maybe women wouldn’t either.
      Do you have a hobby or would like to start a certain activity where you have to meet people? Go for it. Not necessarily with “I have to get to know women, more wooooomeeeeeen” in mind, because people would notice. Only for the sake of socializing, learning to have a light conversation, maybe get some friends.

      Women are people. People are everywhere. Men and women have the same emotions. Men and women usually dislike the same things when it comes to social interactions. That’s the secret.

  22. Hi. I’m the Lw. Original poster. Safe.

    Wow. Thanks for the many thoughtful, amazing responses. I didn’t realize I had touched a nerve. The linked articles are fascinating and lots of your comments and advice are quite excellent! Tons of food for thought. Maybe I was on a quest for sex. Oops.

    Just for the record though, I am not only looking for casual sex (didn’t use the word), nor am I driven by some mad notion of “deserving women” or patriarchy- inspired conquests. I just think that um……. women are neat! And the only way to find out which flavor is your favourite is to sample a few other delicious flavors 🙂

    When I used the word ‘seduce’ I was not thinking of manipulating women into my bed with lies and magic tricks. But rather in conjunction with the other words I used: “wooing and fucking the women of my affections”. You know — mutual swooning, maybe some candles. And I did not mean to convey that women are “the borg” from Star Trek or that I was in pursuit of universal ladyhacks (!)

    The question was less about finding some magical panty removing formula and more about balancing aggressive lust energy and regular everyday “friendly” energy. One size may not fit all for attraction, but I bet that a man who is creepy/ too intense/ off-putting to one woman will be off-putting to another. It’s not about the attitude of attracting (ok maybe a little) but more about the attitude of repelling. Thanks to K and Gretchen and Emily for totally nailing it.

    Now off to do some total nailing of my own. (couldn’t resist)

    1. I’m glad you found what you were looking for?

      But as soon as you start talking about “energy”, as in ” more about balancing aggressive lust energy and regular everyday “friendly” energy”, I’m right back to this:

      I mean, what the fuck is “energy?” And putting a smiley face after “flavors” doesn’t make that whole sentence less repulsive.

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