LAWRENCE — The strategies of pickup artists – the modern Lotharios who make a game of trolling to pick up women – work best when a sexist man seeks a sexist woman, according to a recent study by two University of Kansas researchers.
The combination can be dangerous according to a study recently published by Jeffery A. Hall, KU assistant professor of communications studies, and Melanie Canterberry, a May 2011 KU doctoral graduate in psychology.
They surveyed two groups of men and women to identify characteristics of men using pickup artist strategies and of women who respond positively to those strategies. Their study was published in the online edition of the journal Sex Roles.
Hall said that they were not surprised to learn that men who use aggressive strategies, also known as speed seduction, for casual sexual encounters have a low regard for women. They had not expected, however, to find that women who respond to the strategies also have a low disregard for their sex.
Attraction between like-minded partners is common in courtship, but this particular combination is dangerous, Hall cautioned.
“Harboring sexist attitudes is related to sexual coercion by men and to the justification of date rape by both men and women,” Hall said.
The speed seduction techniques that he and Canterberry examined were those popularized in a 2005 book by Neill Strauss, “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” and the cable TV reality show that followed: “The Pickup Artist.”
Speed dating strategies involve competition; teasing or the use of “negs,” negative comments or backhanded compliments; and isolation.
Competing for a woman’s attention via aggressive pursuit not only implies a man’s interest, but also his willingness to fight for the woman, Hall pointed out.
“For some women being controlled and isolated can be very sexy, but it is also indicative of a man’s sexist attitude,” Hall said.
Teasing may serve several purposes in courtship, but for pickup artists, teasing is used to reduce a woman’s self-esteem, Hall added.
The KU researchers found that the success of speed seduction tactics depends on a man or a woman’s level and type of sexism and level of sociosexuality – openness to casual sex.
They surveyed a sample of 363 college students from a Midwestern university and a national sample of 850 single, adult volunteers recruited online.
They found that men and women with a high level of openness to casual sex were likely to use and respond to all three tactics: competition, teasing and isolation.
But Hall and Canterberry also found differences in the use and appeal of the tactics when looking at levels of ambivalent sexism, which can be either hostile or benevolent.
Hostile sexism is related to the use and appeal of all three assertive pickup strategies for men and women alike. Hostile sexist men see women as trying to take power that rightfully belongs to men.
Survey statements used to detect hostile sexism included: “When women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically complain about being discriminated against.” Or, “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.”
In contrast, benevolent sexists see women as beautiful, delicate creatures needing a man’s protection. “The man is the white knight and the woman is the beautiful princess,” Hall said.
The study found that women who are benevolent sexists are not as likely to find teasing strategies appealing, but still respond positively to competitive and isolating tactics by men.
Women with benevolent sexist perspectives don’t view men seeking control as a threat, but rather as paternal, powerful protectors. When affectionate behaviors are blended with dominant and manipulative tactics, women often find it difficult to distinguish a man’s desire to care from a man’s desire to control, the KU researchers noted.