This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Spend too much time on the internet and you'll end up thinking young men today fall into one of two camps: hypersensitive puppy dogs trying to fund-raise their way to true love, or those guys who think flirting means getting shitfaced and screaming rape threats down a traffic cone at girls in the street. While this picture isn't 100 percent accurate, it does seem that too many guys have adopted either the love formula or the Bro Bible as their seduction template, and frankly either of those approaches is as erotic to us as the idea of getting finger-banged in a Jacuzzi by the Elephant Man.
Of course, we know you're not all dumbasses. But the truth is, boys these days have really dropped their flirt game. Finding a woman to love you tender isn't about throwing a burlap sack over her head and tossing her on the back of a truck. It's also not about slithering up with some awful PUA lines and trying to bully-fuck her. We're not asking for Jane Austen; we just want to be wooed, and we want you to be cool about it.
Dating in the post-Tinder age is a romantic, political, and legal mine field, so here's a guide to help you through the painful business of chatting up girls.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND DATING APPS
Don't pretend you haven't spent every last toilet break this month hungrily trawling through girls' Tinder bikini pictures. We know you're not "new" to the whole dating-app game, and the evidence doesn't suggest you find it particularly "weird." The only weird thing about it is the 15 minutes you just spent on a perfect stranger from Happn's LinkedIn page. (Hi! We can see when you do that, by the way!) We're all desperate and shallow and lonely, so let's not pretend otherwise.
Never call yourself a "gin enthusiast" or a "coffee snob" in your bio. Beverages are not a substitute for personality. You don't have to put your height, but thinking girls don't care would be naive, so post a full-body photo of you posing near something for scale, like a "You Must Be This High to Ride" roller-coaster sign, a door, or—if you're really small—a cat.
Consider these topics to be banned from Tinder chat: your epic weekend plans, the undoubtedly epic hangover you're going to have as a result of them, music genres, your SAT or GRE scores, vacations. Playing flirty-uppies with a total stranger is completely unnecessary—just ask her out. It's 2015, half the work is done for you: This is an app that's designed solely to help lonely people have sex with one another. If you're still stuck making Tinder small talk about her "plans for the summer" or the exact location of her office, you're fucked.
TALKING TO US IN REAL LIFE
A lot of you have become so used to copy and pasting "you still up?" to your 47 Tinder matches that you've forgotten how to talk to us in person. Remember, there are some times where girls just don't want to be chatted up—if we look like we are already on a walk of shame, for example, or outside an abortion clinic.
Other than that, we're really fine with getting wooed anywhere. In fact, no matter how cynical the girl, it's a really pleasant to think that someone still wants to bang us when we're applying chapstick to our nose on a subway platform while contemplating a cheesesteak. Approaching a girl in an unlikely situation takes balls. Girls really like balls. Not to look at. Don't show us your balls. Don't text us your balls. Do talk to us (about things other than your balls and the size of your balls).
In an ideal world, us single gals would walk around with a vial of tears of solitude around our necks, or wear our loneliness as a decorative brooch. But unfortunately, you're going to have to go through the exhausting game of bullshit badminton that is finding out whether we're single. House parties are particularly fraught for this reason: There's a good chance you could be trying it on with a girl while sitting next to her boyfriend, on his own bed. It might sound elementary, but the quickest way round that is to just ask her whom she came with.
Everyone knows that house parties tend to run dry at about 4 AM, around the time the last bottle of Cinzano runs out and the angriest roommate is marching around, shouting in her slipper socks. It's your last chance to magnetize those sexy dangerous party girls who wear bangles around the tops of their arms, so you really ought to have held something back. And we're not talking about another line of mephedrone off the microwave—we're talking about an Uber account, a bottle of Glen's vodka, and (the promise of) a better party. If she wants to bang you/is high enough to believe there's a good party going on at 4 AM, she'll go along with this bullshit. Single people are, against the odds and contrary to common sense, always staggeringly optimistic about the night ahead.
CLUBS AND BARS
As fun as house parties are, once you're past your early 20s they can get a bit dry. This is because you'll have already systematically banged your way through your immediate group of friends ("just to check") and all their semi-attractive friends. You can, however, still pick people up in public, the good old-fashioned way, and that's where clubs, bars, and smoking areas come into their own.
Has anyone ever met on a dance floor? We're not sure, but it seems unlikely. If you, like many, aren't all that good at conversing with the rhythm of your body, then maybe just talk to her at the bar. Don't be put off by her ice-maiden face, or the fact that her back is turned to you, or that she has been trying to get served for five minutes already and doesn't want to break her gaze with the barman: Smile at her. Introduce yourself. Buy her a drink. Feminism might have killed chivalry, but everyone still likes free stuff.
At this point, how can you tell if she's into you?
–Her friends seem a tiny bit annoyed with her
–She's tried to make fun of you a lot
–She's doing the opposite of flaring her nose
–She has not mentioned shit once
–She is not eating a hot dog
–She's touched you on the top of the arm (this is actually a thing)
If you're determined to find love IRL, the best place to strike up conversation is a smoking area. Everyone knows that all the good flirty banter takes place when you're being herded around in the dark like cattle, so get puffing. If you don't smoke, you're just going to have to pretend. No one ever banged all the bad bitches babysitting a family of handbags in the corner of the club.
Bumming cigs off girls is no way into a conversation, although—sad as it may sound—having a lighter is. Do you remember someone at school once saying lighting a girl's cigarette was like a third of having sex with her? Well, he was right, if that figurative third is the bit where you prematurely ejaculate into her bellybutton.
Nothing in this world is more awkward than the moment of silence as you try to light a girl's cigarette in a breeze, so just hand us the lighter. And don't carry a Zippo, dude; this isn't the 1920s, and you're not a hardboiled detective.
Feminism might have killed chivalry, but everyone still likes free stuff.
CHARM THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF HER FRIENDS
If, while on your sexual safari, you've managed to isolate the buffest buffalo in the herd, you'd be wise not to underestimate the group's instincts. Her best friend's got you all figured out, and she is not afraid to trample your ass, reason being the sleepover you've got in mind is really fucking with her brunch plans. The wanton lust of your penis is going to leave her one poached egg short of a decent Instagram post tomorrow, and she's not about to let that happen. Here's how to tread carefully with our friends:
–Choose one of us and stick with your choice.
Aside from the fact that no one likes to be a second-stringer, you're going to end up spreading yourself too thin, repeating the same shitty jokes and quickly repelling literally everyone there. Also, don't try to coerce one of us into a threesome; you're not Dan Bilzerian, and suggesting that it might be fun for the girl you've just met to roll around naked with you and one of her childhood friends is (so, so obviously) not a good way to get either of them to like you.
–Be nice to our friends.
We might not want you to flirt with our friends, but we want them to like you enough to be jealous of us. So please, try to engage them in conversation. You probably want to work out early who's the leader of the group/running this whole thing and keep her on your side, because she'll be the bitchy one who says, "Amanda's too drunk, and now we all have to leave to go buy her fries to stop the crying." She'll be the one who mouths "NOW" across the bar at your sweet Juliet and then looks you dead in the eye like some sort of polka-dot Medusa. She'll be the one who has no problem mouthing, "Really, him?" and pointing right at you, while your crush's hand slackens apologetically in yours.
PICKUP LINES, GIMMICKS, NEGGING, AND "TECHNIQUE"
You can't really imagine what it's like to be a woman until you've been informed you're a bad dancer by an overweight man wearing a fedora, told your job is crap because "What value does PR actually bring to the world?" by a man who wrote copy for a yet-to-be developed children's entertainment app, and told you're a loser for wearing a waterproof poncho when it was pouring by a man whose mustache curls up at the ends.
What do all of these assholes have in common? They've all obviously read The Game, or watched The Pickup Artist, or lurked in any of a hundred internet forums that treat interactions with human women like a text-based RPG.
Perhaps you enjoy the idea of having sex with a woman whose confidence is so shatteringly fragile that she actually cares how you feel about the print on her pants. But let's just clear up negging once and for all: It doesn't pique our curiosity, or make you seem intriguing. If you think we're so intimidatingly hot that the only way to get us down to your level is to be rude, maybe we just are out of your league? Plus: We are all wise to this shit now. It's been going on for an actual decade, dude. Most of our very first PUA experiences were smuggling our way into a club with a fake ID just so some Julian Assange–looking weasel-in-a-waistcoat could tell us he can read palms.
HOW TO INTRODUCE THE IDEA THAT WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX
That's the tipping point: bringing sex to the table, like hefting your dick onto a side plate. It's all about sensing that delicate balance, that perfect moment. You're smoking at the gas station of a one-night stand, here, and you need to avoid saying something like "I want to get you wet" when you're trying to be suave. Saying sleazy stuff out loud, IRL, can turn a man into decomposing Tinder spam quicker than you can say "rape alarm." There is a really thin line between giving us pangs in our lower abdomens and making us want to call the police.
If you're in doubt about whether to invite her back to your place, sound it out. So often the difference between a creep and potential hookup is that a girl actually likes the latter. Ask yourself the big questions: "Have we kissed? Is she only talking to me because I am standing in the doorway of the girls' bathroom? Is she trapped here because I'm sitting on her coat?" Remember that, unless you're Scandinavian, propositioning a woman will never come naturally to you. This is no time for your jittery metaphors or your "let's-get-outta-here" California drawl. And please, literally never say "nightcap": You're not going for a midnight grappa in the Campo de' Fiori; you're both weighing up the idea of smuggling a road beer onto the subway. Know your limits.
HOW NOT TO SCREW THINGS UP ONCE YOU'RE BACK AT YOUR PLACE
So this is it. Everybody's down to bang. Go time. Game day. Welcome to Fuck City. Population: You and this girl you've been talking to for less than four hours.
In this situation, ambience is important—until you've had a guy change his sheets in front of you before you get in his bed, you don't know the importance of pre-prepared atmosphere. You are not a real estate agent. She doesn't want a tour of the house. Take her to your room at speed. God knows what happens to you guys—perhaps it's the Dorito-jizz fumes coming from your bedspread—but this is where you are capable of undoing an entire night's worth of decent flirting.
Don't pick up that musical instrument in the corner of your room and begin to play it. Don't warn us that you're emotionally unavailable while unbuttoning your trousers. Choose your sex music wisely: D'Angelo is way too obvious; the XX suggests you seriously watch music award shows. And don't use some nickname or innuendo for condom. We all know what you're talking about. Use a condom, obviously. But you don't need to invent some new triple-entendre to ask if we have one shoved inside a desk drawer.
And there you have it. You're getting laid. That wasn't so hard, was it?
Photo by Jake Lewis