There's no one-size-fits all approach to "picking up" women (I don't know what else to call it without sounding like a YouTube incel). I've hooked up with people who have made their intentions clear within the first ten minutes of meeting. But I've also hooked up with people who have been so subtle in their come-ons that I'm pretty sure the whole thing happened telepathically. Either way, as a queer woman who has been with different genders, one thing has always been clear: when it comes to chatting up girls, lesbians come out on top.
It's hard to say what makes lesbians especially good (at fingering, yes, but also at the stuff that comes beforehand). Maybe it's because we didn't have many TV shows or films to give us misguided romantic advice growing up, and therefore are generally (not always, my god) a bit more intuitive. Maybe it's because we're women too, and know how we don't want to be picked up (like hitchhikers). Or maybe it's, idk, a weird genetic thing? Who knows. But hetero guys deserve a little bit of lesbian wisdom, as a treat. With that in mind, I spoke to a bunch of lesbians about how to pull women, and what their advice to straight men would be.
For starters, a lot of lesbians I spoke to said that "negging" – when you give someone a backhanded compliment in the hopes they'll seek your approval – is not a technique that works. Whoever decided it did was lying. It's basically like when boys in the playground tugged your ponytail because they wanted your attention: annoying. This goes for Tinder, sliding into someone's DMs or meeting someone at a party.
"Most people don't actually like being insulted," says 24-year-old Maggie. "But I see men do that to my straight mates a lot, in subtle ways. For me, though, I tend to ramp up the charm rather than the other way round – without bombarding them. I think that has better results."
Rach, 26, says a similar thing: "You can flirt without being a dick to someone – it's not hard. If you're having that initial conversation, ask about what they do, what they're into, appear genuinely interested, see if you've got common ground. Be human. Be imaginative with subtle compliments. You don't need to say, like, 'You've got nice eyes.' Everyone's got nice eyes. They're eyes."
Brigida, 27, echoes this idea: "Be honest if you think something about them is cool or good, but don't spend a whole side of the conversation gushing." In other words, there's no need to employ any weird "techniques" or "formulas". Just show an interest and don't be a cunt.
The general consensus from a lot of lesbians is that clear communication and confidence is hot. If you're into someone, give them clues (don't just keep liking their tweets and replying "haha" to their Insta stories, although queers are as guilty of this as anyone). "Most people enjoy flirting, they actively want to flirt," says Janey, 25. But equally, being pushy or having expectations is the opposite of horn-inducing. There's a fine line between being forward and being the subject of an HR report.
"If you're into someone, ask if they want to hang out. Make it clear," says 27-year-old Alex. "But if they don't seem interested, or make up some excuse, like, 'Oh, maybe soon!' then move on. That's important. Don't keep pestering them, like, 'What about that drink then?' It comes across creepy."
So what about the main event? If you get as far as bringing someone back to yours, the lesbians are clear: try to make it look like a nice place to be naked in. This is where straight men and lesbians often differ. Go to a gay girl's flat and she's got scented candles, crystals, plants, a magic box of glowing dildos and some sort of complicated lamp situation. Go to a straight guy's house and there is nothing but one lumpy pillow and a bookshelf from uni covered in skate stickers. You're 27: you don't have to be psychopathically tidy, but rugs are nice! So are lampshades! "If I think I might pull I'll make my room smell and feel good," says Francesca, 26. "You don't want to forever be known as 'stained sheet girl', you know?"
Aside from the nice room thing, most of the advice from lesbians boiled down to one important element: intuition. Read body language. Sound it out. "Some of my most exciting hook-ups have been from a slow, back-and-forth build up, where you end up being like, 'Oh my god, when is it gonna happen?' but you both know you want it to," adds Francesca. "Lesbians are good at having unspoken conversations beneath the actual conversations. The straight men who have also mastered that particular skill are probably the ones who are getting the most action."
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.