At the Pick-Up Artist: How I Learned to Be Irresistible

Pick-up artists

Even ordinary men can learn to be irresistible to women: At least, that’s what providers of so-called “pick-up courses” promise. Harald Martenstein booked an intensive seminar – and tried out his charm in the pedestrian zone.
2 p.m. Crowds of people are on the move, everyone is in a hurry, most are probably stressed. In addition, there has been a large demonstration against the TTIP agreement this morning; groups of demonstrators stroll through the pedestrian zone with their flags and posters.

Our task: to approach ten women, talk to them and get their phone numbers in the end. Daytime street hitting on is called a “day game,” and the phone number is a “degree.” A close reportedly leads to a later date 75 percent of the time, if the woman hasn’t cheated and her number is really right. About a third of the time, a closure leads to sex, Drago told us. If you know how to play the game. Those are empirical values, he said.

Pick-up artist: It has nothing to do with love. Or does it?

In the morning, we met in a private apartment. We are three men, all of us wearing glasses. We have booked the course “Premium Escalation Training” with the company “Progressive Seduction”, which is supposed to turn us into irresistible seducers, into “pickup artists”, as Progressive Seduction puts it.

Other courses are called “Nighthunter Extreme” or “One Night Stands – at high speed to a fast number”. Premium Escalation Training” lasts two days. This has nothing to do with love. Or does it?

You don’t say much about yourself and only know each other’s first names. Thomas, 27, is still studying and is a pretty boy, dark type, he seems shy and looks a bit like a nerd. He has a girlfriend, he says, but that’s not enough for him. It’s his third course. Andreas, 40, red-haired and beefy, not a beau, has been in porn. He says that after the first course his sex life has become even more varied.

I am the senior. I tell them that after my divorce and before old age, I still want to experience as much as possible, sexually. That’s not quite true, but something has to be said. Drago*, our trainer, looks quite good in my opinion. However, he wears his shirt unbuttoned further than a style consultant would recommend. He smiles persistently, if somewhat artificially, and likes to wiggle his hips.

“I seem a little gay,” he says of himself, but that’s deceptive. Drago lives vegan and has been cultivating the pickup lifestyle for eleven years. Specifically, that means two new women a week, a few old things he keeps going in parallel. The pickup lifestyle is open to everyone, Drago says. However, he says, it’s difficult if you work more than five hours a day. Then you don’t have the power. “We’re men,” Drago says, “we want sex.”

When choosing targets, he says, it’s important to keep one taboo in mind, one taboo only. “Fucking in the company is trouble.” You can tell he’s speaking from experience. First, there’s an individual consultation. Drago advises me to modernize my appearance. I’m a guy who works best with humor when seducing, he says. If you’re old or not a beauty, he says, play the fun game. Look at British comedians, you have to copy them. Just don’t be like Mario Barth, he’s too crude. I say I’m not interested in young women, they should be 40 already. “That’s easy,” he says, “the older they are, the easier it is. Nineteen-year-olds can really make work.”

Pick-up artists and the science of flirting

Pick-Up Artists take a scientific approach, as it were, to flirting; they have their own terminology. Talking to a woman is called the “comfort game,” which is where it comes down to making her feel comfortable. At some point the “escalation” begins, you grab her, seemingly harmlessly, by the hand, the hip. The next steps are then called “Full Escalation” and “Lay”. A “Same Day Lay”, i.e. sex on the very day of getting to know each other, is a bull’s eye and good for the reputation in the scene.

During the seduction procedure, timing is the first thing that counts, and secondly, the inner attitude. “You can’t appear drooling or horny,” Drago explains. “You must believe in yourselves. Positive alphaness, dominance, most people like that. Force yourself, in the beginning, to think, ‘She’s interesting, I just want to get to know her.’ Later, in the escalation, you think: I want you, but I don’t need you.”

Practice test on the pick-up artist: the classic seducer isn’t simply after quick sex – that’s what you get in a brothel. It’s about the chase, like Casanova and Don Juan.
The classic seducer is not simply out for quick sex – that’s what you get in a brothel. It’s all about the chase, like Casanova and Don Juan.

Beginners should not try their luck with women they find stunning, one is then too nervous. “Do not take a 10, take a 7 or 8,” advises Drago. A “10” is the dream woman. If you lose your nerve and escalate too quickly, you’re out of luck. Whoever tries a French kiss before a careful escalation, i.e. goes for full escalation, usually comes away empty-handed.


Women are contradictory, sure. On the one hand, they want to believe that they are the seductresses, not, say, the man; they don’t want to be prey. On the other hand, Drago says, they like to delegate the responsibility for sex to the man – it was him, not me. I’m supposed to pay attention to the body signals, the pupils, the veins on the neck. Eventually you see, Drago says, that her body is ready for sex, she just doesn’t know it herself yet. Drago watches a Donald Trump speech every day. The guy is the shit. Old, ugly, but what alphaness!

There are quite a few providers of such seminars. Basically, they are really hunting courses. It’s not about quick sex, you get that in a brothel, it’s hunting. And of course Drago sees himself as a descendant of Casanova and Don Juan, also of Valmont from the “Dangerous Liaisons,” a 1782 pickup novel, filmed with John Malkovich as the seducer and Michelle Pfeiffer as the victim.

Most of what Drago recounts doesn’t sound particularly original. The practical exercises are probably the more important part of the event. We practice, in pairs, how to touch a new acquaintance for the first time without her finding it uncomfortable or assaulting. It is important to look her in the eyes while doing this and, according to our trainer, “cognitively engage her” by telling her something, then she hardly feels the hand, it comes naturally to her.

How to address? How to touch?

When addressing someone, it is said that it doesn’t matter what you say, even “Hello, how are you? Later, you need funny, interesting stories, at least five of which you should have ready by heart. Drago often talks about ironing, he likes ironing, that goes down well. We practice just talking off the top of our heads at any given keyword, without complete bullshit pouring out of us. When it comes to touching, there are 15 classic holds called “moves” whose names are a bit reminiscent of wrestling, such as the “big hug,” the “pusher” or “the claw.” These touches are still meant to seem noncommittal, but still build erotic tension. Other technical terms are “frame” and “pull”. Both are to be aimed at.

A frame is a carefully built atmosphere that is a little intimate, but does not trigger any flight reflexes in the woman: there are two of you at the bar, you smoke together outside, that kind of thing. The important thing, it can’t be said often enough, is that the woman doesn’t get scared. She has to find this guy pleasant, and she has to feel that she is accepted unconditionally, no matter what, even if she goes to bed with him right now.

Drago likes to tell people during the pull process that he just thinks sex is cool, and that he thinks the casual approach many gay guys take to sex is great. By pull process, it is meant that you arouse a woman’s sexual desire, such as by changing places often. This seems to have an eroticizing effect, supposedly putting the woman into a kind of trance, at best.

Hunting ground Club

As a setting you have to imagine a club, the most popular hunting ground, where dancing makes things easier. Drago often has sex in the toilets of clubs, he says, some women even get turned on by it.

I ask, “What if the woman pushes my hand away?” Drago says, “Then I apologize and shift down a gear. Most of the time it doesn’t work out then.” I say that in my experience, many women like it when men listen to them instead of yakking all the time. “Sure,” Drago says “if they start talking about themselves, you’ve already won anyway. That’s where you have to get to.”

It’s not until I’m on the Zeil that I get the point. It’s very exhausting to approach women. Each time you have to overcome your shame, the fear of rejection. I sit down next to a woman on a bench, ask “Do you mind if I smoke?” and then make small talk, terrible, these Saturdays, shopping, must it be, always smiling, always facing.