Models is the single best book I’ve read about finding a romantic-sexual partner. Although intended for straight men, the vast majority of the advice is useful for people of all genders and sexual orientations. Many people I know have difficulty finding romantic-sexual partners, and it often causes them a lot of pain.
If this summary intrigues you, I urge you to buy the book. I cannot summarize an entire book in three thousand words; there’s a lot of advice and examples I can’t include, and then you will get Mark Manson’s version which isn’t filtered through my opinions. If you can’t afford the book, I hope you will find this summary helpful anyway.
Alpha Males Are Everywhere
For the purposes of this subsection, I will define “alpha male” as a straight man who, if he so chooses, could go out on an ordinary Friday night and, about half the time, find a stranger they find attractive to have a one-night stand with. (Sorry for the terminology, feminist readers, but I’m trying to talk to the anti-feminists here; if this is teeth-grindingly awful, skip ahead to ‘summary’.) I don’t mean that they necessarily go out and have a one-night stand every night: some people don’t want to. There are some men who are saving themselves for marriage but, if they decided to stop having this goal, could easily have a one-night stand this weekend. Alpha maledom, as I’m defining it, is a fairly high level of attractiveness for a man. Nevertheless, it’s not wildly unachievable: it’s not Keith-Richards-level attractiveness, it’s hottest-guy-in-the-room attractiveness. In my adventures as a promiscuous person, I have had the opportunity to observe many men in this category.
Here’s the thing.
I know broke alpha males. I know alpha males who are financially supported by their girlfriends. I know fat alpha males. I know bald alpha males. I know short alpha males. I know ugly alpha males. I know alpha males with small dicks. I know alpha males who are programmers. I know alpha males who love D&D, Star Trek, and World of Warcraft. I know feminine alpha males. I know sexually submissive alpha males. I know alpha males who rock a dress. I know alpha males who cry at every single Pixar movie, all of which they have seen, because Pixar movies are their favorite. Extroversion definitely helps, but I know some introverted alpha males and even some socially anxious ones.
Alpha males are an incredibly diverse bunch of people. Many, perhaps most, of them are people you would never expect to be as attractive as they are.
It’s harder to come up with as clear a definition of attractiveness for straight women and queer people. Straight men as a group tend to want casual sex more than straight women as a group (even from a sex-differences-don’t-exist feminist perspective this makes sense– women are more likely than men to be slut-shamed and less likely than men to have orgasms during casual sex). So “ability to get casual sex” is a useful metric for straight men and less useful for everyone else.
But I am pretty damn sure the same thing is true for straight women and queer people. The ones who have the highest level of sexual success do not necessarily look like what you’re imagining when you think “really hot straight woman” or “really hot gay man” or “really hot lesbian”.
Now, I’m not saying anyone can be an alpha. Many people are going to have a hard time being alphas: if nothing else, if you can’t talk to attractive people, you are never going to be able to date them. But what I am saying is that that narrative you tell yourself where you’re short and therefore you’ll never find love, or you’re a nerd and therefore you’ll never find love, or whatever– maybe you should be open to the possibility that that’s not true. Because a surprising amount of the time, other people with that trait have more dates than they know what to do with.
The two rules:
- Be vulnerable.
- Don’t be needy.
The three fundamentals:
- Having an attractive lifestyle.
- Knowing how to flirt.
- ACTUALLY ASKING PEOPLE OUT.
If you can’t get a date, you have a problem with at least one of the three fundamentals. Possibly two. A few people are in bad enough straights that they have trouble with all three. And surprisingly often, your problem with the three fundamentals is rooted in a problem with one of the two rules.
This can be overwhelming: there’s a lot of specific advice. I’d suggest working on your vulnerability and non-neediness first, while picking one or two pieces of advice from your weakest fundamental. For example, if you have trouble flirting, you might concentrate on touching people you’re flirting with on the arm when you tell them a joke. That will be incredibly awkward the first time you do it, because you’re not used to it. Keep trying. It will get easier.
Also, you don’t have to be perfect! You don’t have to be a god of non-neediness and vulnerability to get a date: the vast majority of people who date or get married are needy sometimes and are ashamed of some things. You can become very sexually successful even if your clothes don’t fit, or you don’t have a sense of humor, or your opinions are bland and boring. If you’re unsatisfied, then work on your fundamentals; if you’re satisfied with your romantic life, enjoy your poorly fitting clothes and bland opinions to your heart’s content.
The Two Rules
Neediness is when you care about other people’s perceptions of you more than you care about your perception of you. Your actions are primarily motivated by gaining approval from others. Non-neediness is when you care about your perception of you more than other people’s perception of you. Your actions are primarily motivated by your own desires and goals.
Specifically, you must care less about a romantic partner’s approval of you than you do about your own approval of you. You can care about whether a romantic partner approves of you– most people do! — but you have to care more about your own opinion of yourself. If your romantic partner is like “I will only love you if you kick that puppy,” you have to be the sort of person who can say “uh, fuck off.”
Non-neediness doesn’t mean that you’re a dick! You can compliment people, or give them thoughtful gifts, or remember their birthdays, or let them crash on your couch for six months, and be non-needy. If you’re letting someone crash on your couch for six months because they’re cool and you like spending time with them, non-needy. If you are seething with resentment but don’t dare to say anything because what if that makes them unhappy with you, needy.
You can be non-needy and be an effective altruist or a white anti-racist or a male feminist, as long as you’re that because of your own values and desires. “Maybe if I give lots of money to charity people will like me and I won’t be evil”: needy. “I think it’s wrong that I have so much and other people have so little”: non-needy. “I am not going to buy you a diamond necklace for Valentine’s Day, no matter how much you feel you deserve it, because I’m donating the money to the Humane League”: epic-level non-needy.
Which brings us to the idea of polarization. At its core, polarization means this: if a person turns you down, they’re doing you a favor.
Most of the time, we think about romantic and sexual success as decreasing the number of rejections you get. In reality, romantic and sexual success means trying to get rejected as quickly as possible.
Nearly always, the reason a person has for not wanting to date you is also a reason you don’t want to date them. Someone rejected you for not wanting kids? Imagine five years from now when they’ve worn you down and you have to wake up six times a night to feed a child you never wanted. Someone rejected you for being bald? Imagine having sex with them while they try to hide that they aren’t attracted to you and it doesn’t work and you feel awful about yourself. Someone rejected you for being boring? Imagine all the bitter fights you’ve prevented about how you NEVER take them out anymore and it’s like you don’t EVEN CARE ABOUT THEM AT ALL.
It’s true that sometimes people reject you for stupid reasons. I have seen a list floating around the Internet where the author offers the opinion that you should always reject someone who sleeps on a mattress on the floor. That’s a pretty dumb reason to turn someone down, but think about it this way: now you don’t have to date someone who would turn you down based on whether you own a bedframe. What a fucking asshole. Good thing they rejected you.
Many people try to get dates by being as boring and neutral as possible, hiding anything weird about themselves, in the hopes it prevents rejection. This is literally the opposite of what you should do. Wave your freak flag high! Be open about your bald, kid-hating, boring ways, and then you will only date people who loathe kids, enjoy counting their silverware, and have a thing for Picard.
And that brings us to vulnerability. Vulnerability is the willingness to stick your neck out, even if people might think you’re stupid or weird or make fun of you about it. It’s making jokes that might not be funny, sharing fears that might make people think you’re a coward, trying things that you might suck at, telling someone you like them when you might be rejected. Vulnerability is saying: “this is who I am and I am not going to be anyone else.”
There is a deep connection between vulnerability and non-neediness. If you care about what other people think about you more than what you think about you, then there are lots of aspects of yourself you’re ashamed of or embarrassed about. If you care most of all about your own self-respect, then you’re willing to be more open.
The thing about the attractive guy who cries at Pixar movies is that, when the subject of Pixar comes up, he says “I think Pixar movies are some of the greatest movies of the twenty-first century. People don’t give them as much credit as they should because they’re children’s movies. I challenge any person with a soul not to cry at the first twenty minutes of Up.” If you love Pixar with all your heart and soul, and when the subject comes up you go “uh um they’re children’s movies I mean um I have occasionally watched one I guess but it’s not like I REALLY like them or anything,” that is not attractive.
Be willing to admit to your embarrassing moments, your flaws, your mental health issues, your weaknesses, your mistakes, and your habit of drinking milk out of the carton. This is attractive.
Fundamental One: Lifestyle
The basic rule of lifestyle is that like attracts like. You attract what you are.
If you’re goth, you attract goths. If you’re a nerd, you attract nerds. If you’re Christian, you attract Christians. If you’re an educated professional who likes fine wine and travel, you attract educated professionals who like fine wine and travel.
Here are some problems people have with lifestyle:
Looking in the wrong place for partners. If you’re quiet and love thoughtful conversation and fantasy novels, you’re not going to be very successful at a bar. However, you might do very well at a book club. A quick heuristic is to think about where you would look for friends (and then filter that for places that also have a lot of people of the appropriate gender and sexual orientation– straight men, book clubs are better than Magic tournaments; straight women, the other way around).
Pretending to be something you’re not. If you’re quiet and love thoughtful conversation and fantasy novels, but are pretending to be loud and enjoy sportsball and crushing beer cans on your head, you are only going to attract loud people who like sportsball and crushing beer cans on their head. This is not the recipe for a long and happy relationship.
Attracting the wrong people. If one person you date is a narcissistic manipulative asshole, or hates sex (if you’re allosexual), or runs up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt you have to bail them out from, shit happens. If every person you date is a narcissistic manipulative asshole, or hates sex (if you’re allosexual), or runs up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt you have to bail them out from, then you are doing something that attracts those people. Consider:
- Are you, yourself, the kind of person you keep attracting (e.g. a narcissistic manipulative asshole)?
- Are you the complement of the person you keep attracting (e.g. someone who can’t set boundaries)?
- Do you believe everyone, or all people of your preferred gender, are like the kind of person you keep attracting (e.g. you think all men are narcissistic manipulative assholes)?
Now, most of this advice is pretty vague. Here is some more specific advice. However, every piece of advice must be tested against the “like attracts like” rule and the non-neediness rule. If a piece of advice makes you less like your best self, or it attracts people that you don’t want to date or have sex with, ignore it.
Some traits are physically attractive, like a symmetrical face. Some traits are psychologically attractive, like charm and talent. In general, men tend to care more about physical attractiveness and women tend to care more about psychological attractiveness. (This is a generalization, there are lots of exceptions, and regardless it’s like 60% one and 40% the other for most people anyway.) If you are a straight man, you probably are falling victim to the typical mind fallacy and care too much about being physically attractive and not enough about being psychologically attractive. If you are a straight woman, it is possible that that’s the problem, but it’s also possible that the media has taught you that men care 95% about physical attractiveness and you should work on being charming instead.
Here is some general physical-attractiveness advice:
- Pay attention to basic hygiene, including showering, deodorant, brushing and flossing your teeth, haircuts, and clean clothes without holes.
- Wear clothes that fit you. Consult howclothesshouldfit.com. Dresses (which are not covered on the site) should skim the body without squeezing it; you should be able to see the shape of your body and it should not ride up when you walk.
- Wear colors that match. I am actually generally confused about this one myself and rely on blunt friends and/or take the attractiveness hit.
- Wear clothes that match your personality and signal the things you want to signal. You can look at what celebrities you want to be like wear (Mark Zuckerberg counts).
- Exercise. EXERCISE. EXERCISE! EXERCISE!!!!!!
- While the most important kind of exercise is the kind you actually do, lifting weights improves the attractiveness of everyone, male and female. (No, women, you will not get “too bulky” unless you repeatedly trip and inject yourself with steroids.)
- Limit soda, candy, fast food, and desserts; eat fruits and vegetables.
Here is advice for people who want to present in a masculine way. This is mostly straight men and queer people, but straight women who feel drawn to masculinity should consider it too. It’s great polarization and you will never have to shave your armpits again. People who wish to be feminine, sorry, both I and Mark Manson are totally unqualified to provide you advice.
- Move your shoulders back until the seam on your shirt that extends from neck to sleeve is straight.
- Raise your chin to a 90 degree angle; make the back of your neck as straight as possible.
- Your feet should be shoulder-length apart and either straight ahead or at a slight outward angle.
- Swing your shoulders and your arms a little as you walk. (Not too exaggerated; just a little swagger.)
- Speak from your chest voice. If your voice sounds different when you hold your nose closed, you’re speaking from head voice.
- Speak slowly yet loudly (without screaming).
Most psychological attractiveness will be covered under “Flirting.” However, relevant for lifestyle is whether you are a super-boring person. If you spend all your time working and watching the same sports and sitcoms everyone else does, you are probably boring. If you go skydiving, write poetry, or climb mountains, if you are Internet famous, or if you have ever eaten a spider, you are probably interesting. The easy way to become interesting is to try more things with an open mind. If it exists, it exists because someone finds some value in it; try to find the value and then decide whether you like it.
Fundamental Two: Flirting
Flirting is all about subtext. Two people can say the exact same thing and one is successful flirting and one is failed flirting, because the subtext is different. If you compliment someone because you’re needy and want to validate yourself with their affection, that is very different from complimenting them because you appreciate them. Subtext is also the difference between teasing and insults, sharing and bragging, and so on.
So what subtext do you want to establish while flirting? First, of course, you need to be non-needy and vulnerable. Second, you want to create sexual tension, which means creating uncertainty (that’s the tension bit) about whether you’ll have a sexual or romantic relationship (that’s the sexual bit). A really obvious example of this is playing hard-to-get.
But you can also create sexual tension by stating your intentions boldly, such as by complimenting someone on their appearance. The uncertainty comes from what will happen next and what you’ll say or do.
(NOTE: if you are flirting with a shy nerd, they’ll come up with the uncertainty all by themselves, you don’t have to make any.)
How to Flirt:
- Do not startle or scare someone when approaching them, such as by approaching them from behind, screaming, grabbing them, or saying something offensive.
- The best three pickup lines are “hi, I’m X”, “hey, this is kind of random, but I wanted to meet you,” and “hi, I thought you were cute and wanted to meet you.”
- Whenever possible, be brief. Don’t use ten words when you can use four.
- Instead of asking people questions about themselves, make mild predictions. For example, instead of saying “where are you from?”, say “you look like a California girl.”
- If the conversation stalls, just say whatever you happen to be thinking, no matter how random it is.
- Teach yourself to notice jumping-off points in other people’s statements. For example, if someone says “I go to Harvard now, but I want to move out west because the weather is too cold,” you can talk about Harvard, the west, or the weather.
- Learn to tell stories with a setup, a conflict, and a resolution.
- Open up about yourself. Talk about your passions, your ambitions, the best and worst things that have ever happened to you, your childhood. That will get them to open up about themself, which leads to an emotional connection.
- Make jokes. Here are some kinds of jokes:
- Misdirection– saying something that makes your listener think you’re going to make one point, but actually making a different one (“you know that look women get when they want sex? Me neither.”)
- Exaggeration– blowing things out of proportion in an interesting way (“I’ve seen more appetizing things in the bottom of an airport urinal”).
- Teasing– humorous, derogatory comments with a good intention (to a person sitting by themself looking bored: “who put you in time-out?”)
- Puns– playing on words (“surely you can’t be serious!” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley”)
- Roleplaying– pretending to be something you’re not (if a person you’re flirting with says something you dislike: “that’s it, we’re getting divorced. You can keep the kids, I’m moving to Italy.”)
- Only ask someone for their phone number if they seem genuinely interested in you and if you want to hang out with them again. Don’t make up a line or a reason, just ask for it.
How To Date:
- If a person likes you, they will make it easy for you to date them. If Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johanssen asked them out, do you think they could rebook those weekend plans? Then if they’re not doing it for you, they aren’t that interested.
- Have dates at night, but early enough that you can spend three or four hours together if it’s going well. (Lunchtime and afternoon dates often come off as platonic.)
- NO MOVIE DATES. (Exceptions: Rocky Horror Picture Show, midnight releases you’re both looking forward to.)
- Dinner dates are okay but you can usually do better.
- Good dates: comedy club, dance class, walk in a park or plaza, concerts, bars, nightclubs, museums, looking at books together…
- Netflix-and-chill might come off as boring, but is also cheap and can result in sex really fast. Your call.
- Whenever possible, try to include multiple activities on a date. For example, you might meet for coffee, get ice cream, go swinging at the empty playground, and then go to a bookstore.
- If you planned the date, then lead the date. Say confidently what you’ll do next (“there’s this great exhibit at the Exploratorium”).
- Have deeper and more personal conversations, without becoming a job interview.
- TOUCH. YOUR. PARTNER.
- I mean it. If someone says “stop”, obviously, you stop, and in sex-positive contexts you should feel free to ask first if you’re uncertain, but YOU MUST TOUCH PEOPLE YOU ARE ON DATES WITH.
- Start by gently touching them on the arm or shoulder for emphasis (for example, at the punchline of a joke). Wait for them to touch you back.
- If they do, you can move to more intimate touch, like putting your hand on their back or around their shoulders. Notice if they pull away; if they do, it’s probably not welcome.
- In sex-positive contexts, if you think the person you’re with wants to kiss you, a simple “can I kiss you?” is appropriate; if you’re good at reading body language, you can just go for it.
Signals of interest
- Pre-approach: smiling; non-accidental eye contact; proximity; the person initiating a conversation with you.
- In conversation: smiling and laughing a lot; playing with their hair (usually women, femininely presenting people, and shy people); making lots of eye contact; makes excuses to spend more time with you; touches you; ditches their friends for you; comes up with some pretext to be alone with you.
Fundamental Three: ACTUALLY ASKING PEOPLE OUT
Lots of people are anxious about talking to attractive people, asking people out, the first kiss, and sex. They come up with various rationalizations:
- “Oh, she’s stupid.”
- “Men are shallow and only care about looks.”
- “I don’t really care about getting a girlfriend.”
- “I’ll ask him out tomorrow.”
- “I don’t know if I’m really bisexual, so I shouldn’t ask that cute guy out.”
- “If I ask her out I might sexually harass her.”
- “I need to learn more about how to flirt first.”
The way you learn to overcome your anxiety is a process of gradual exposure. For example, let’s say you’re scared to talk to women. You might start by going up to three women once a day and asking what the time is. When that isn’t scary, try asking them what the time is and how their day is going. Continue until you can walk up to a strange woman and say that she’s cute and you wanted to meet her. It may help to tell a friend that this is your goal.
Lots of men I know are scared of asking women out because they’re afraid of sexually harassing them, so it’s time for a pep talk.
First, there is no such thing as a romantically or sexually successful person who has never ever creeped anyone out. Give yourself permission to be creepy. I am not saying that you should go around trying to creep people out; of course, if you know something is going to scare someone, you shouldn’t do it; it is best that one avoid becoming Harvey Weinstein. But miscommunications, awkwardness, and misunderstandings happen. Sometimes people make mistakes. You are not going to become Harvey Weinstein by accident. Most people have interacted with someone who has creeped them out at some point, and it does not exactly cause lifelong damage. And while there can be some negative consequences, particularly of creeping people out at work, if you ask out a random stranger at a bookstore or something and they’re creeped out, you know what will happen? Absolutely nothing. The feminist police will not come lock you up for creepiness in the third degree.
Some quick tips to avoid being creepy:
- Like I said above in the “flirting” section, don’t begin a conversation by approaching people from behind, screaming, grabbing them, saying something offensive, or otherwise behaving in a way that would make a normal bystander go “hey, what the fuck?”
- If you’re doing something that violates a social norm, such as telling a strange woman that she’s beautiful, begin with “excuse me, I know this is random,” “I don’t usually do this,” or “I’ve never done this before.”
- Don’t be sexual to strangers (e.g. “you have nice tits”) unless the context is one in which it is appropriate. (If you’re in a context like that, you’ll know.)
- Try to match up your intentions with your actions. If your body language says “I want to fuck you” but your words say “let us have a purely platonic conversation about the weather,” you’re more likely to come off as creepy.
- Be, yes, non-needy and vulnerable. You’re much more likely to come off as creepy if your subtext says “PLEASE LOVE ME.”