There was a time, before the internet, lads’ mags and six-packs, when a man’s preparations for a night out extended to digging out his favourite shirt and slipping into his lucky underpants. I’m thinking this with a smile – because I’m too old for it to be my problem any more – as I walk into a cheap hotel in London for a three-day seminar on how to pick up women, something I do these days only if they’ve slipped on some ice outside Tesco.
Because this event is about something more macho than, say, motivating people to sell office equipment, it’s not called a seminar. It is a “Bootcamp” and it is run by some of the world’s most successful pick-up artists, men with names such as Savoy, Keychain and Jeremy Soul.
They’re part of Love Systems, a company dedicated to helping men score with women, an evangelical seduction network that this year alone will ram home its message in the UK and a dozen other countries, from Hong Kong to New Zealand. It isn’t the sort of function I’d normally attend. An old bootcamp might be more appropriate. Or even a camp old boot. And as I walk in, I can’t decide what is going to be worse: meeting the instructors – who will surely be macho, narcissistic braggarts – or the sad students, who have paid £2,000 for lessons to improve their love lives. That’s right, £2,000. Learning the art of seduction doesn’t come cheap. With more men turning to self-help guides, DVDs and courses such as these, the global market for dating self-improvement is thought to be worth millions of pounds.
Inside the foyer, a group of men are standing around, chatting uncomfortably. One or two appear a little shy or lumpen, there are a couple of disabled men and a chap with only one arm. They look like regular guys. Over the next three days, they will learn how to approach women, how to meet them in bars and clubs, how to get their attention, open a conversation, charm them into the bedroom and, surprisingly, how to nurture and maintain a relationship. I say surprisingly because I’m expecting this to be just about unlocking lingerie, but Nick Savoy, the man behind the business, says that it’s about more than that. He is a 35-year-old Canadian who began learning how to pick up women after losing his girlfriend in 2003. He ended up writing about it, then setting up a company and hiring instructors that teach in class before taking students “in-field” – to clubs and bars.
Savoy’s presence is causing excitement among the students and instructors. He was featured in The Game, the bestselling book about America’s secret seduction community, and he visits the UK about once every 18 months from Love Systems’ Los Angeles HQ. He went to Spearmint Rhino last night and looks very tired. Probably has jet lag. So, I ask, isn’t this designed to help men manipulate women into bed? “You’re presupposing that there’s something wrong with consensual adults having sex,” he says. “All we have here are guys giving other guys tips on what works and what doesn’t. Women give each other hair and make-up advice. Is that manipulating men? Not everyone wants to learn how to get women into bed. Some do, but we find that, generally, that’s a healthy phase they go through and get over. We get three types of students. There are guys who want more and better dating options and who aren’t ready to settle down. There is the 40-year-old virgin type who has had a lack of success and just wants to learn how to get a date. And there’s the guy who sees his friends going home with women, but he’s always going home alone.
“We give them the tools to achieve what it is they want to achieve. But it isn’t just about getting laid. You get through that. Then it is about knowing you have the ability to choose what it is you want.”
Before attending, I chatted by phone to Mr. M, aka Jim, the principal Bootcamp instructor. Now I’m expecting to meet someone from the Planet Porno. Instead, I get a thoughtful and softly spoken Australian of South East Asian descent with degrees in law and business. He’s diminutive but muscled, the sort of cool dude who can look good wearing a teacosy on his head.
In class, the ten students, who, to my disappointment, seem neither macho nor pathetic, are taken through the Love Systems’ seduction method. There are important steps to meeting a woman, getting her attention and then keeping her interest, says Mr. M. In a nutshell, these phases are: Approaching, Transitioning, Attraction, Qualification, Comfort and Seduction. Most of this is common sense, but there are useful tips about basic human psychology and the students are taking notes furiously.
Approaching might seem self-evident, but Mr. M explains how to pick a moment and advises on what to say and how to say it. Some of it is a bit sick-making: “You’re wearing high heels; are you high maintenance?”; “Don’t you know dancing’s forbidden here? Hi, my name’s X.” But it is all just an excuse to get into the Transitioning phase. That means turning an approach into a proper conversation. Believe it or not (if you’re a woman you probably have no problem believing it) most men don’t have a plan for this. The advice to “just be yourself” doesn’t work if you just mosey up and say, “Hi, my name is X” and have nothing else to contribute. Instead you say something about the place, or her clothes, or the band – anything that elicits a response.
Next comes Mutual Attraction. According to Savoy there are emotional triggers that can help this along. First, he says, women like to feel that a man’s value is equal to, or greater than, hers. Then, say the boys, comes the Qualification phase, where a woman apparently experiences a comfortable connection in which she can move on to feeling aroused by a man’s touch without awkwardness or embarrassment – the Seduction phase.
Next I go out on the street with Jeremy Soul and the one-armed man, Mark, who is up for a job as an instructor. Jeremy, 26, is a Londoner of Sri Lankan descent and he is acknowledged by the other seducers as the best in the world at what they call “Day Game” – picking up women on the street during the day. On the street! During the day! Surely this isn’t possible.
We’re walking down Tottenham Court Road and I’m highly anxious as he calmly spots the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen and tells me he is going to chat to her. I hide behind a tree while he gently touches the girl’s arm and she stops. To my amazement, the girl breaks into a huge smile and keeps on smiling as they chat away. Five minutes later, they shake hands, part and Jeremy finds me behind the tree. “She has a boyfriend,” he says. He didn’t seduce her? Didn’t get a number?
“You don’t judge these things by those kinds of results,” he says. “Everyone thinks we just do this to have sex, but I never saw it that way. I did want to meet women, but not by finding some trick way to manipulate them or be dishonest. Now when I see a woman I find attractive, I just go up and tell her what I like about her and tell her that I’d like to find out more. Everyone likes a compliment and the women I meet seem to appreciate it.”
Getting rid of the fear of rejection seems to be a common theme. Mark is a comic-book artist from the Netherlands. He went through bootcamp several months ago and astonished the experts with his confidence and technique. If appointed as an instructor by Savoy, he will be called XOX (they all have silly names because the community started in webchat rooms in which it is customary to adopt anonymous user names).
“I lost my arm when I was hit by a tram in The Hague at the age of 5,” he says. “I developed a social circle where I met women, but for years I assumed I would never be able to approach someone cold because they’d be thinking that I only have one arm. I worked on the problem myself, trying to become more confident, but meeting these guys changed everything for me.
“I learnt that women are interested in more than just looks and there are ways you can approach them so that you can find out more about them and they can find out about you. It is about getting past that first base and allowing them to see the best things about you.”
Later that night, we go “in-field” to a bar called Jewel, off Piccadilly Circus, London. I’m with two students, Peter, an Irishman aged 40 who has signed up for the course because his relationship is on the wane, and Eddie, a 29-year-old Northerner who seems to want to have lots of sex in as short a time as possible.
I sit at the bar and meet a chap called Bradley, who makes aluminium extrusions for window frames. The boys go on the pull under the supervision of Keychain, a 23-year-old London musician of whom everyone is in awe. Within an hour, Eddie has spoken to about half the women in the place, using his newly acquired techniques and Keychain has told him where he’s going wrong.
“His opening was great but the longer he stayed talking to the girls, the harder he to try and that became too obvious,” Keychain says. “I told him he needed to lock in the situation better and become comfortable as part of their group instead of just standing there talking. He was fidgeting and leaning inwards as if he was seeking approval.”
Eddie took it well, but told me later that he didn’t get his leg over. Nobody did. But Eddie got the most phone numbers.
Peter seemed to have a pretty miserable time, but doesn’t regret spending the money. “I was too old for the places we went to, but I’ve learnt so much and I’m already putting it into practise,” he tells me three days later from an airport lounge. “While waiting for my plane I’ve approached three women and had a good chat, so it seems to be working.”
Whether women like to be approached at airports or want to be doggedly chatted up inflight is a moot point.
As for me, I couldn’t resist having a go. Back at Jewel, I spotted an attractive blonde, and sashayed over. I decided to use something simple, such as: “Hello, I hope you don’t mind me saying that you look lovely tonight. My name’s Steve.”
I repeated it in my mind and then delivered it: “Hello, I hope you don’t mind me saying but doesn’t tonight look lovely?” Bugger! I was so dazzled by the beauty and grace with which she blanked me and turned her back in one movement that I forgot to feel rejected. At home, my girlfriend had waited up for me with mock disapproval. “You’re late and your cocoa’s gone cold,” she says.
Five Top Pick-Up Tips from Savoy
1. Don’t be afraid to approach women. Establish the “eyes-feet” reflex: when you see a pretty woman, start walking to her, even if you don’t know what you will say.
2. Remember: even the best chatup line will only make her curious about what you’re going to say next.
3. For a guy, looks have more to do with fashion and grooming than what you look like naked. Women assume your clothes are a choice about who you are.
4. Being attractive to women can’t be switched on and off. Most Love Systems techniques can be practised.
5. Changer her mood, not her mind. It is impossible to get a woman into bed or into a relationship with logic.
Click on the image for full size. Article courtesy of the Times