Life is not an Axe body spray commercial.
Sex sells, and what is often sold to young men is the concept of banging every hot woman in his area code. Use this hair gel, follow these pick-up tactics, spray this noxious scent and you’ll have scantily clad females chasing you down like it’s a foxhunt.
Thanks to evolution via natural selection, sex is a motivating force. As a fitness writer, I know that the desire to fornicate motivates some men to quest for six-pack abs, like a rippling midsection miraculously causes women to drop their pants and commence ovulating. But I took a survey, which showed that doesn’t actually happen.
I don’t care how many partners you’ve had, or want to have. While there are plenty of products that promise to transform you into a ladies’ man, I’d like to propose an alternative; a more realistic one; an alternative that can make you a happier man, a better man.
If you’ve wasted time reading the creepy-rapey-misogynistic bullshit spouted by self-proclaimed pick-up artists (PUAs), then know that this is the exact opposite of that kind of advice. To quote a light-saber wielding little green puppet: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
My perspective is that of a heterosexual male. Based on that, here is what I know.
Part One: The case for one woman rather than many
I’ve seen a lot of guys selling methods for getting laid. These PUAs have all sorts of ridiculous methods and games that promise to provide you with a new sexual conquest every night. Just insult her, act aloof, wear a fuzzy hat and treat your female encounters like it’s a hostage negotiation, where what you’re negotiating over is the release of her panties, or something. You’ll be awash in more labia that your bruised boner can possibly tolerate.
I know precisely diddly squat about picking up women for a one-nighter. I mean, I managed to do it once or twice a very long time ago, so I know what it’s like, but I’m not even sure how I did it. I think it was more their idea. Anyway, what I’d like to do first is convince you of WHY you’re better off with being dedicated to one woman than trying (and probably failing) to have sex with many.
First off, guys in relationships get more sex than single men do. Check out this chart from the Kinsey Institute, which shows that married guys and guys with girlfriends are far more likely to be engaging in regular sex than single dudes. It’s the single fellas who regularly go more than a year without sex.
Anecdotally, I’ve spoken with many single friends over the years who lament the infrequency of their fornication. I’ve been with the same woman over 25 years, and I have a happy and regular sex life (and that’s all I’ll share on that subject). Look at the Kinsey chart again. Married people do have sex, no matter what comedians and sitcoms tell you.
I would venture that even guys who are supposedly good at the pick-up game don’t get as much sex as guys who are good at relationships. (Guys who are bad at being a boyfriend / husband probably don’t get laid much – this article is about teaching you to be a good boyfriend).
I’ve spoken with both a well-known PUA and a friend who was just so charming and good-looking that women seemed to flock to him, and I still averaged at least as much sex as the former and more than the latter. The second eventually decided to hell with being single, got married to a nice woman, and has a couple of kids now. The first, as far as I know, is still kind of damaged, incapable of having a lasting relationship. He told me he wished he had what I did.
But the single guys get to have sex with several women, while the balled and chained ones only get to have it with one. That sucks!
Says who? Why is it that sex with many is better than with one? First off, let’s question those words “many” and “several” by taking another look at the Kinsey chart. Do you actually know real-live men who have had tremendous and high frequency sex using these PUA tactics to “score copious vagina”?
And second, what can you learn about a person in one night? Sexual encounters, if you’re a caring and unselfish lover who is capable of, you know, learning, get better over time with another person as you figure each other out. You get even more comfortable with each other. You learn what the other person likes and dislikes. A lot of stress is removed and you can jump into it in seconds and start going at it like bonobos on IV Viagra just because it’s a day that ends in “Y.”
Third, you may enjoy a lack of condoms.
Well, if you do all the health background checks, and have a reliable alternative form of birth control going on, and are monogamous or have made equally suitable arrangements, then you may be able to go without condoms. I admit to liking that part a lot.
And finally, being in love is also awesome. It can make you a better person.
That whole “ball and chain” bullshit is just that. Bull and shit. Every time I look at my wife – the person who has been my very best friend for more than two decades – I think of how lucky I am to have her in my life. I know that no matter what happens, she has my back. I could get sick, deformed, poor … and as long as I stayed loyal and decent she wouldn’t leave my side. She’d help me through it.
Would some one-night stand you met at the bar do that?
So, let’s recap why one woman > many women:
- The whole “many” part is likely an exaggeration.
- More sex. Probably way more if you’re a good boyfriend.
- The sex gets better as you learn more about each other.
- You might be able to go without condoms.
- New best friend who likes being naked with you and makes more than just your penis feel good.
Not all women are awesome, but a lot are. If you’re just a young guy don’t fear that I’m talking about marriage and mortgages and multiplying and minivans here. This is just about finding one woman you can be with for more than a weekend, and then you’ll see where it goes from there.
Part 2: Advice for finding a girlfriend
My relationship with my wife predates the advent of the Internet, so I’m talking about old-fashioned face-to-face interactions here.
Put looks in perspective
There is a lot more to a woman than how she looks. She could be a runway model, but if her personality makes you grind your teeth, it won’t last even a little while. I’m not saying you should chase women who you don’t find appealing, but understand that the vast majority of the population doesn’t fit into that mold you see on the cover of magazines or in porn. Real women look like real women. Even cover models are well-lit, made-up, and Photoshopped to hell and back.
And besides, are you Idris Elba? If you were, would you be reading this?
You need to find someone you can have a conversation with; someone who makes you think: This person is cool. I like this person. I want to spend time with this person. You want to find a woman who, the more time you spend with her, the better looking she becomes.
Be your (best) self
The guy I am when I’m hanging out with my male friends isn’t really the guy I am most of the time. We’re talking trash and saying some pretty raunchy stuff. None of us really believe the crap flowing out of our mouths. Probably.
When you meet a woman for the first time, you can’t pretend to be a person you’re not in an effort to impress her. She might buy it for a little while, but the long-term potential is doomed. You have to be yourself, but be your best self. Be the man you really aspire to be more like. Basically, behave. Be a gentleman. Be a little nicer than usual. Be your “helping the elderly lady with her groceries” self rather than the “I’m on my fifth beer and watching football with the guys” self.
Women understand you have multiple personalities. The old-woman-helping personality is probably more the true you than you realize. She realizes it, and appreciates it, and probably doesn’t mind the “jerk” version of you that you pretend to be around your friends as long as she doesn’t need to be subjected to it all the time. She understands it’s basic male-posturing bullshit that we’re often prone to. Although I’ve found that, as I age, my friends and I are far less prone. Yay for maturity!
What I’m saying is, skip all that alpha male crap and just be the polite and kind version of you.
Where to meet them
Absolutely anywhere. Don’t ever feel like you have to go to a place where alcohol is served. You could be waiting in a line, waiting for a bus, in an elevator, at a bookstore, buying groceries, at the gym, in a park, in a coffee shop, out for a walk. Anywhere women are present is an acceptable place to meet them. You can strike up a conversation and see where it goes.
Avoid the disinterested
If she has her headphones on and her nose buried in a book, this is a signal that she’d rather not be disturbed. Leave her alone. Depending on the circumstances, you don’t necessarily need to wait for a “come hither” look, but if someone seems at least open to a friendly chat, take a shot.
Here is my advice on taking such shots.
Observations work, pickup lines don’t
Women often say, “Hello, my name is …” is the best form of an introduction, and I’ve never heard one who says they like a pickup line. However, you can show some creativity that sets you apart by making a witty or insightful comment.
Although I am 100% dedicated to my wife, I still do occasionally talk to other women. Not long ago my son was taking his learner’s license exam. A woman sat next to me while her daughter was taking the same exam. We were both on our iPhones doing … nothing important.
I said, “You know, in the days before smart phones we might actually have been forced to talk to one another.”
She chuckled, per her phone down, and said, “What do you want to talk about?” And so we chatted for the next 20 minutes. All it took was a somewhat witty observation about what was happening right then. It poked fun at something that we were both well aware of. Most importantly, there was nothing sexual about it. In my (married) case, I’d never do that anyway, but in your case it’s equally important to make these introductory observations completely innocent.
The reason why is women are subjected to sexual innuendo all the time. It’s too jarring. Too suggestive. In almost every case, it’s not the way they want to be approached. It’s crass, unintelligent, and shows a complete lack of creative thought.
If something strikes you at the spur of the moment as an interesting and potentially witty observation, then it’s a good icebreaker. If you’re good at it then it can work even better than the “Hello, my name is …” route because the latter’s more formal nature can imply your intentions outright, which can be awkward if she’s not interested or in a relationship, whereas the witty observation can be interpreted as simply making conversation. It lowers the risk, and allows you to bail a lot easier if you feel the conversation isn’t going well.
Remember, choose silly over sexual with an icebreaker. You could be waiting at a bus stop, and it’s pouring rain. You are standing near a woman you find attractive. You could say something like: “I have to remember to water the lawn when I get home.” Or, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anyone sing in the rain before.”
Whatever happens after that second one, don’t start serenading her.
Be ready to cease and desist
Maybe you thought you saw an opening, and maybe you were wrong.
Read her reactions to your approach. If she’s not interested, she’ll give you clues. Watch for them. If you receive such clues, back away. If she’s not positively engaging with you, then it’s not going anywhere.
But if it does start going somewhere …
Actually listen to what she has to say
Don’t view her talking as the mandatory period of time you need to sporadically wait until you get to talk about yourself again. Actually listen to what she has to say and process it with your brain rather than just thinking with the much smaller, stupider brain between your legs. Beyond just being respectful, it gives you key insights into her personality, which will let you know if this is someone you may actually wish to date for an extended period of time.
Compliment her on things other than her looks
I interviewed a number of women about how they like to be approached in the gym, and the consensus is that they don’t appreciate being appreciated solely for their looks. From my article:
Jen much prefers a compliment on her strength as opposed to her shape. “A workout-related compliment would totally work for me,” Kris says.
Michelle says, “I do tons of squats to keep my ass defying gravity, but a comment about that is not appreciated. You can save it for when we know each other better.”
Feel free to compliment a women on her technique, effort or strength, but, as Michelle says, save the compliments about her physique for when you know her better.
Outside the gym it’s the same deal. It you find an opportunity to give her a sincere compliment about something other than her looks because you are legitimately impressed, and not just looking to get into her pants, then that’s okay. But it’s probably not good to open with a complement. Open innocently, get the conversation going, and then if there is something you genuinely appreciate that is not attractiveness-related, consider saying so.
You don’t need to act interested in her; you need to BE interested
Remember, we’re talking about girlfriend material here. Not one night stand. A relationship is an investment of time, emotion and even love that goes way beyond sex. Find someone you find interesting.
If you think there is a chance to kiss her, then kiss her
It doesn’t have to happen the first time you meet or the first date. There are no rules here. Every person and interaction is different. The only caution I would have is not to wait too long. If you’re yearning to kiss her, and she seems like she likes you, then what have you got to lose? If she recoils in horror, then it was never meant to be. If you miss and kiss her on the eye, it’s good for a laugh, and years down the road you might still be together laughing about your lousy first kiss aim.
And it’s okay to ask, if you think that’s what is appropriate. I have asked, and it’s worked out very well.
Accept that rejection will happen
I know a lot of PUAs preach the numbers game. Hit on a ton of women and some will be interested. Screw that.
Be discerning. Engage in conversations with women you find interesting and attractive and see where it goes. But also realize that things could be one-sided. You may like her, but it’s not reciprocated. This does NOT make her a bitch. It makes her a human being deserving of respect. Don’t fall into that “poor me” trap spouted by men who erroneously believe the world of women owes them sex.
Women have every right to reject you. Accept it. Learn from it. Find someone you like who won’t reject you, and be happy together.
Focus on her
When you’re talking to her, focus on her. Don’t keep scanning the room for someone better to come along. That’s just rude.
Tell her what you want
Personally, what I think what you should want is to talk to her again, and that you should tell her that. Something along the lines of, “I’d like to call you and talk more. Can I have your phone number?”
It’s not a date. You didn’t ask to “see her” again. It’s just a phone number where you can call and chat further and see where that goes. I mean, I guess people text these days, so whatever works. Just getting a number is, admittedly, the safe way to play it. The night I met my wife I spent about four hours talking to her to the exclusion of all others. I was so enamored it was like the rest of the world ceased to exist, and I could tell that she was interested in me as well – there were hints she gave that even I was able to read – and I asked her out on a proper date that evening. But that was specific to the circumstances. Don’t feel the need to rush. Speaking of which …
Don’t feel the need to rush
Every woman is different. There is no such thing as a “three date rule” about sex.
I know a woman who took a guy home from a bar she’d met that night, and he never left. They were together for ten years and had two kids. Other women take longer before they’re interested in having sex. There are also men who want to wait. Progress can be slow, but as long as you feel as though your relationship is progressing at a rate you’re comfortable with, no outside influences on “closing escrow” or other male-locker-room-bullshit terminology should matter one bit.
If it’s meant to happen, it will happen. And if it doesn’t happen, you need to accept that. You know what I’m talking about. Be a good man, not a bad man.
Don’t feel the need to follow traditional dating rules
Just ask to hang out with her and do fun stuff with her. Go out and live some life together. It doesn’t have to be all fancy dinners and movies, although sometimes that’s good too. Other times, it’s just hanging out.
Cook for her
It worked for me.
Talk about where things are going
You don’t want to weird her out by doing this too soon, but it’s worth talking about your relationship to find out at least an idea of where it’s going and what she wants to see if it’s in line with what you want. Again, not talking marriage and minivan here, but perhaps having a discussion about things like exclusivity and a desire to get closer could be valuable.
Don’t be a whiner
Many people, women included, like confidence, but that doesn’t necessarily manifest the way you might think. This doesn’t mean you act like I’m confident I can get you to take your pants off, because her reaction to that may likely be, I’m confident that you will NEVER see me naked. Instead, they prefer men who can handle the trials and tribulations that affect every life with a minimum of fuss. They don’t want a guy they have to babysit, but someone who can get excrement done and fix their own problems with a positive attitude rather than a defeatist who mopes about how life isn’t fair.
You’re right. Life isn’t fair. Deal with it.
Part 3: How to keep your girlfriend
You can’t trick, manipulate, cajole or threaten her into staying with you. There is only one way, and even it’s not a sure thing. What you must do is be the type of man she wants, and treat her in such a way that she will never think to leave because you’ve made her life so wonderful.
But there is something critically important to remember in all this, and that is that your happiness is just as important as hers, because if you sacrifice too much, if you make yourself miserable in order to make her happy, then eventually you will become resentful and it all falls apart. It must be a win-win situation, which is focused on creating a mutually beneficial relationship. Sort of like simultaneous orgasms. Remember, relationships are not a zero-sum game. For her to win doesn’t mean you must lose. Be a giver, and you will receive back.
Here are some of the basics I’ve picked up from convincing a woman way out of my league to stick with me for almost a quarter century.
This is not the same thing as being someone’s slave, but about being a man of your word. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.
Sometimes this means getting up off your ass when there is good stuff on TV when she needs you. Like if she needs a ride, needs help moving something, fixing something, or just needs to talk about something. You need to be there for her on a regular basis, and not just when you want to have sex.
And know that this is not one way. Be there for her, and she’ll be there for you.
Open or monogamous or something else, relationships usually have rules.
You need to establish the rules of your relationship, and stick to them.
If you choose strict monogamy, the rule is: you and her, no one else. To expect her to stick to that rule, you have to as well. It’s fair. It’s being loyal to your contract.
But it goes beyond this.
A long-term girlfriend, someone who may one day become your wife, is someone you want to support, sometimes in the face of criticism from others. I once told a friend, “One of the most important jobs a husband has is to protect his wife from his mother.”
It may be cliché, but mothers don’t always get along so well with their sons’ wives (or girlfriends). If your significant other is really, shockingly, badly wrong in an evil sort of way and others are telling you this, I’m not saying take her side over that of your family or your friends. Instead, I’m saying rethink that relationship. This happens. I lost a good friend to his crazy, manipulative girlfriend. Don’t think with your penis, but instead find a good woman who is worthy of you.
And if you do, know that even a good woman makes mistakes, and for these less serious matters, you’re going to want to take your partner’s side most of the time. If you break up, your mom will forgive you. If you’re always taking your mom’s side over your girlfriend’s, you won’t have a girlfriend much longer.
And it goes even further.
Some guys, for some stupid reason, think it’s cool to make fun of their girlfriend in public. They use her as the butt of jokes to impress their friends.
Don’t do that. That’s stupid. That’s disloyal and disrespectful. This woman let’s you see her naked. Why the hell would you do that?
And even when she’s not around, don’t let your friends talk smack about her. Straighten them out. Tell them you don’t want them saying nasty things about her. Instead, tell others how much you appreciate her, because the way you talk about her will find its way back to her. You want people telling your girlfriend you say nice things about her, not unkind things.
I remember years ago at a company Christmas party my wife coming up to me and giving me a big kiss and saying, “You’re awesome.” When I asked what brought that on, she explained that one of my co-workers told her about how I always speak so highly of her.
And more recently I was on the radio discussing “useless” university degrees. I didn’t even know my wife was listening when I said, “The most value I got out of my undergraduate degree was meeting my wife.” The announcers laughed, but it prompted my wife to send me a loving text message.
Accept her body
Adoring / worshiping / massaging her body is good.
Telling her to change it: not good.
Let’s start off with body hair. Perhaps you’ve been programmed by porn to expect a certain depilated look. First off, know that the stuff is there for a reason. If she prefers the natural look, don’t try to guilt her into transforming into some shaved Barbie just to satisfy your infantile desires. You can make a gentle suggestion if you want once your relationship is well established, but accept her decision on the matter.
As for the rest of her body, I believe there is merit in being a good fitness and healthy eating role model for her, and creating a supportive environment that allows her to look after her health without any pressure to look a certain way. That’s about it.
Speaking of her body, let’s make this article a little more interesting and talk about body-touching-body stuff. All of what follows are optional suggestions you may wish to try out. There are no rules.
Kiss her like you miss her
Chances are you won’t be having sex every day. At least, not after a while. Well, maybe you will, but probably not.
Anyway, you should definitely kiss her every day. A lot. When saying hello and saying goodbye, even if you’re going to be gone only a couple of hours.
It keeps you connected. It lets her know you care about her. Hold her close and give her a passionate kiss. Frequently. She’ll let you know if it’s too much.
Cuddle morning and night
If you’re living together, then it’s good bonding to cuddle right before sleep, and right upon waking. Setting the alarm five minutes early to cuddle each other starts the day off right.
Note: Cuddling doesn’t necessarily have to involve sex. Sometimes, it leads to it though.
This isn’t a requirement, but I do think it’s good advice if you’re both naked in bed all night. It makes those aforementioned cuddles more enjoyable, and gives the two of you better access to the fun stuff. It makes you think more about each other in sexual terms. You don’t want to ever stop thinking about each other sexually, and spending more time touching each other while naked – even when no sex is involved – helps keep you sexually connected.
It also helps if you …
More naked time together = good. Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean sex. It’s just being naked together. Saves water too. I know some women say, “Shower time is me time,” so this may not fly. Accept her decision.
Get better at sex
We’re talking about keeping a girlfriend here, and if you keep getting better in the sack, she’s more likely to want to stick with you.
I’m not going to write a how-to-be-a-sexual-tyrannosaurus advice book. I know only a few things about getting better in bed, and I’ll share them:
- Have conversations about sex outside of having sex. Keep it light. Talk about things each of you like. Don’t take her comments as criticism, but as valuable feedback. Consider it a skill that takes time to develop and be determined to get better at it.
- Take pleasure in her pleasure. Think about you, sure, but think about her too.
- Listen to her voice. Pay attention to her moans and do more of stuff that has her making pleasurable sounds, and less of stuff that doesn’t.
- React to her body. Just like listening to her voice, you need to do the same with her body. Is she pulling away or tensing up with discomfort? Then you need to change your technique or perhaps even stop and ask what’s wrong. Is she reacting like she wants to pull you through the mattress? That’s good. Do more of that.
That’s what I got. Don’t overthink it.
Okay, back to the less naked stuff for a bit.
Early on in your relationship you probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but just because you’ve become comfortable with each other doesn’t mean you should get too comfortable.
Don’t gross her out
I think it’s probably good advice that you should never marry a woman you can’t fart in front of. However, just because you can fart in front of her, doesn’t mean you always should. I’m not saying hold them all in so you explode, but don’t relish in constantly blasting away like you have a leaf blower strapped to your ass either. Show some class. Say, “Excuse me.”
And I think it is good advice to never crap in front of her.
Don’t let yourself go
Read my articles. Follow my advice. You don’t need to look like a model, but keeping healthy shows you’re committed to yourself and to her for the long term.
Hold her hand
Make plans for the future that involve her
It could be next week, next month or next year, but talking about what you plan for the future together is a sure way to get her thinking about your long-term prospects.
On that note, you may need to …
Sacrifice for her
Long ago I wanted to be a history professor. I went so far as finishing a master’s degree in military history. Then I thought about how nomadic the lifestyle is, bouncing around from university to university in a quest for a tenured position, and I thought about the havoc that would create for my wife, who wanted to start a family medicine practice.
I couldn’t ask her to do that, so I changed my plans for the sake of our relationship.
You may need to do something like that. Decide what’s more important to you: her, or this other thing.
Self-improvement: Work on it
If you meet her when you’re 20, she doesn’t want you to be the same guy when you’re 40. You’ll need to grow, and probably grow up.
Keep her interested in you by constantly striving to be a better human. Don’t see falling in love as weakness, but draw strength from it instead. Use it as motivation to better yourself. Be a man worthy of an amazing woman’s company. She doesn’t want you to turn into some lazy, couch-surfing, Doritos-scarfing, beer-guzzling, serial farting, unhygienic and unmotivated ass-clown. Quest to become the opposite.
Okay, back to sex.
Realize that what happens in porn and what happens with her is likely to be very different
Don’t let porn be your guide in the bedroom. Let her be your guide. Well, don’t be a puppet; guide each other. And don’t expect her to behave like Amber/Ginger/Jenna/Tori.
Those women are actors. Your girlfriend is not.
Speaking of porn, keep your usage in check
This isn’t about guilt or morality. I’m going to appeal strictly to your self-interest. The issue is with excessive usage. Because too much porn can have a negative affect on your sex life. I explain why here.
Let go of unrealistic fantasies
Many guys fantasize about having a threesome. With twins. Asian twins. Who do anal.
Okay, sorry about that.
If you’re in a long-term relationship – if she’s the one and you’re getting married – then the Asian twin thing isn’t going to happen. Let it go.
Do things that are important to her, even if you don’t want to
Remember that a relationship is give and take. Go to those family events. Watch that movie. Look at those curtain swatches. Take notice of the things she does for you that she probably doesn’t want to, and be appreciative.
Appreciate her values and point of view
Pay attention to what she has to say and digest it rather than dismiss it. You may learn something.
Give her the remote
Every once in a while. It won’t kill you.
Focus on her good qualities and not her bad ones
Chances are, you are light years from perfect. Accept that she isn’t either.
Here’s my advice: Think of her often, in a positive light. Daydream about her, and idolize her just a little. Imagine her as her best self, and you’ll want to be the type of man who is worthy of her.
Don’t dwell on minor things that bug you, but instead focus on appreciating the awesomeness that is your girlfriend.
I’m pretty sure a man doing housework is an aphrodisiac for women.
Be a good dad
Saving this one for second last, in case your relationship ever gets to that point.
A guy who looks after the kids, plays with them, changes diapers, is a good role model, is kind to them etc. is a turn on for most wives. (Note: Not saying you have to be married to raise kids together.)
And finally …
You know that expression, “If you love something, set it free”? Well, when it comes to a woman, that’s bullshit, because you never owned her in the first place to be able to set her free. She honors you with her presence based on your behavior, and she can choose to withhold that presence permanently whenever she decides.
The way to be able to trust her is to trust her. Jealousy has the opposite of the intended effect.
Again, she has the right to leave you at any time. There are some things in a relationship where it’s one strike and you’re out, so don’t ever fucking hit her.
There is a woman out there who is right for you. Go find her, and be good to her.
This piece was originally published on my old website in 2013. Minor updates have been made.
James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.