What do pick-up artists want?

Pickup (from the English pick up – “pick up”, “remove”) is an acquaintance with a single purpose: to persuade a partner to a sexual relationship that does not imply further development. As soon as it appeared, the pickup instantly gained popularity and gained many adherents. They started talking seriously about the “pickup culture”, and in the end it grew into a whole ideology, which today is supported by trainings and books. Who are pickup artists and how not to become a victim of their manipulation?

“Pickupers are trying to make an excellent impression on you in order to please you from the first minutes of acquaintance,” says professor of psychology Susan Kraus Whitebourne from the University of Massachusetts (USA). “They rely on win-win tricks. Skillful manipulation helps pickups to appear like nice and open people. At the same time, their inherent qualities – manipulativeness, egocentrism and insincerity – are also characteristic of the “dark triad”, which includes psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism. “

The main thing for pick-up artists is to get sexual intimacy, avoiding emotional intimacy, that is, to “save money” by investing as few resources as possible, both mental and material, in relationships. Pickupers can leave their “victim”, having achieved the first physical intimacy and enjoying the victory.

“The pick-up artist perceives the next seduced and abandoned victim, if not as a trophy of war, then as an investment in the image that increases sexual popularity,” notes Jungian analyst Lev Khegai. But they can also keep the “victim” with them for a long time – as a sexually attractive and accessible object. In doing so, pick-up artists seek to maintain the illusion that the relationship has a future.

All research devoted to non-burdensome, only sexually charged relationships usually focuses on the dependence of this type of behavior on mental health. Thus, the work of a group of psychologists led by Melina Bersamin from the University of California (USA) showed that among all survey participants, it was those who often entered such relationships that the lowest indicators of emotional stability and general satisfaction with the course of life were observed *.

Pickupers and their manipulation

Psychologists Peter Johnson of the University of Western Sydney (Australia) and David Buss of the University of Texas have conducted research on the so-called “short relationship strategy” used by manipulators **. They defined it as an attempt to draw a partner into the “zone of sexual relations”, while avoiding the “zone of attachment.”

The pilot study of psychologists involved the “victims”, and mostly the pickupers themselves. Moreover, among the latter there were also women – contrary to the well-established public opinion that men are usually pickups.

Pickups have discovered antisocial tendencies and an addiction to narcissism

In their first pilot study, Johnson and Buss surveyed 102 participants who had identified themselves as victims of a pickup truck, asking them to describe their experiences with pickup trucks. 72 of them defined it as emotional abuse by a partner: ignoring phone calls and emails, avoiding meetings.

The pickup artists tried to avoid any form of non-sexual body contact (for example, hugs) and sought to maintain only formal conversations that did not involve depth and emotional involvement. In addition, they never introduced a partner to their friends and family.

The second study involved 300 students – both boys and girls. Previously, they passed the tests, which revealed in them distinct features of a pickup truck. Participants shared their own experiences and answered questions about their attitudes towards non-binding relationships. In addition, they were given the opportunity to evaluate their qualities as potential friends.

“Because people were judging themselves, perhaps they were trying to paint a much more positive picture than it really was,” notes David Buss. “Our research has also shown that women, along with men, exhibit pick-up features.” Depending on the tactics of behavior, the manipulators were divided into two groups.

What do pick-up artists want?

The former tried to never develop relationships to a close level and quickly changed partners. The latter kept partners in the sexual field for as long as possible, avoiding emotional closeness.

In general, all respondents used the same tactics, regardless of gender, but at the same time, men turned out to be more prone to emotional violence, while women did not hide that they were only interested in the sexual side of relationships, and showed themselves with a partner softer – with greater readily answered calls and messages, did not shy away from touching and hugging.

“The pick-up artists discovered antisocial tendencies and a tendency towards narcissism,” notes David Buss. – At the same time, men and women showed themselves in different ways. Women turned out to be more inclined to easily change partners and more often showed psychopathic traits – emotional lability, anxiety, a tendency to exaggeration, weak will.

Men, on the contrary, tried to keep their partner, but not to expend any emotional and mental resources. They turned out to be characterized by Machiavellianism – despotism and disregard for moral norms. In addition, if women more often turned out to be ready to introduce a new friend to their environment, just without attaching great importance to this fact, then men almost never did this. At the same time, both sexes were distinguished by extreme emotional instability. “

Pickup as ideology

The ideology of a pickup truck in the West has gone from being completely manipulative – and therefore marginal – to meeting social moral standards. Lev Khegay believes that the very concept of “norm” has changed.

“In Freud’s time, for example, having a mistress was a sign of depravity and qualified as a pathological propensity for promiscuity,” he says. – Today the average American changes more than a dozen sexual partners in his life. The question arises, from what amount can it be considered a pick-up artist? “

It is these narcissistic problems that make them confuse “to be” and “seem”

In today’s society, egocentrism, manipulativeness, and Machiavellianism, which really marked a psychopath a hundred years ago, are interpreted as a manifestation of independence, self-confidence, and competence in communication.

Pick-up is, in its own way, a logical development of Dale Carnegie’s ideas about the so-called “effective relationships”, when through psychological manipulation with respect to another person, you can – and should – get quick practical benefits for yourself. In the sphere of relationships, such “efficiency” began to replace love, depth and sincerity.

How does a person enter this path? Lev Khegai comments on the personality of a potential pick-up artist: “If in the time of Freud we could analyze them, drawing on the concepts of a power complex, or phallic inflation, or sadistic acting out, today we often see weak fragile personalities, bewildered by the market ideology with its obsession with the image, insecure, vulnerable, disoriented and simply not knowing “from which end” human relationships are built. It is these narcissistic problems that make them confuse “being” and “appearing.”

Caution: pick-up!

To protect yourself from manipulation by a pickup truck, you should pay attention to bright alarming signals in the behavior of your partner:

  • avoidance of hugs and touch;
  • unwillingness to introduce a partner to your close environment;
  • “Disappearance” – avoiding communication at the moment when you need it: ignoring your calls and messages;
  • the partner’s focus on himself – his appearance and interests;
  • inability and unwillingness to listen to you, reducing any topic that worries you to the level of a light joke;
  • lack of attention in relation not only to you, but also to other close people.

At the same time, according to Lev Khegai, the best protection against manipulation by a pickup truck will be self-confidence, a reliable system of values ​​and guidelines. “Psychological maturity presupposes separation from those false values ​​imposed by mass society and consumer culture, the development of our own, individual guidelines,” he says. “These personal values ​​will be the best protection against pick-up artists and any manipulation from the outside.”

* Journal of Sex Research, June 2013.

** P. Jonason, D. Buss «Avoiding entangling commitments: Tactics for implementing a short-term mating strategy», Personality And Individual Differences, 2012.

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