What Is Chemistry? Part One: Building Sexual Tension

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Ask anyone “What are some of the most important parts of a date?” and one of the most common answers you will get is “Chemistry”.

Of course, when you ask them to describe chemistry, you’ll hear a mix of inconclusive – and fairly unhelpful – answers: “It’s… you know. That spark.” “That intensity.” “That feeling…” “That moment when it clicks.”

You might as well ask nerds to try to explain the Force – it’s about as abstract and just as helpful.

“You want to give me a handy…”

The problem is that because we have such a hard time explaining chemistry it takes on the level of myth – chemistry is just there or it isn’t.

Which – brace yourselves, I’m about to blow your minds – is bullshit.  Chemistry is a mix of sexual tension and emotional and intellectual engagement, and it can be built, if you know how.

Sexual Tension = Frustrated Desire

One of the key components of chemistry is sexual tension. Not attraction – you can find someone attractive or even be attracted to them but not feel that “spark” – but tension. Sexual tension is desire for someone that is somehow thwarted, whether by circumstance, obstacles… or by design.

Yup – by design.

It’s a facet of our personalities that we want that which is denied to us. Ever want to make somebody want something? Tell them they can’t have it. Ever want to make them go nuts? Keep it juuuuust out of their reach. Y’see, when your desire for something is frustrated, you tend to want it more. The closer you get to actually getting it but without actually being able to achieve it causes the desire to grow. Marketers know this, which is why they practice artificial scarcity – they’ll tell you “Call now, supplies are running out!” and rub their hands with glee whenever the news outlets pick up a story on how the HOT NEW GADGET is unavailable.

Want to see it in action? Check eBay the morning after a new iPhone is released.

But we’re talking about sexual desire, not materialism, right?

Except the same principle applies: we want what we can’t have.

And we can deliberately invoke that in the people we’re dating.

I See You Shiver With Antici…

Think about roller-coasters. What makes them work isn’t the steep drops, the loops, corkscrews and hard banking turns, it’s the loooooong build-up at the beginning. It’s the building of expectations that makes the sudden drop immediately afterwards so satisfying; just launching into the ride – the way some coasters do – is less satisfying.

When people – usually guys – talk about “the thrill of the chase” in dating, they’re talking about the lead up to the “conquest”, the heady feeling of inevitability that grows like an orgasm to a crescendo just before you reach the point of no return.

Sexual tension – deliberately building and then frustrating sexual interest – is all about the lead-up.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This is the key to sexual tension: the build up and then the release.1 It’s a game of “go away a little closer”, where you run hot and cold – you pull someone in, then push them away. You start to build the tension and then cut it off. Think of it like a pressurized tank of gas: it has an emergency release valve. If the pressure grows past a certain point, the tank ruptures; the valve is there to equalize the pressure, keeping it just below the danger zone.

“Better call Kenny Loggins…”

It’s the same with building sexual tension: keep building the tension for too long, whether through flirting or physical contact, and you’re going to redline – either you’ll creep out your date or overwhelm them. Either way, the date’s over and you’re stuck in recovery mode instead of leading towards a night of passion and several hours of squishy noises back at your place. You want to provide a takeaway in order to pull the tension back as well as keep them off balance.  The take-away actually works to your favor by creating a vacuum. The tension is even more notable by its absence, leading the other person to want to fill it. Push, then pull. Bait, then release.The uncertainty, the feeling as though you’re getting closer then having it pulled away, builds the overal desire towards its resolution.

How do you release? There are various ways, depending on what it is you’re doing.

Flirting, Fighting And Teasing

I’m a fan of playful flirting with just a hint of antagonism. Antagonistic teasing is all about the struggle for frame control and dominance: who holds the upper hand in the interaction – and by extension, the relationship? The key is that it’s for fun, verbal sparring rather than an actual fight. Power exchange and and dominance struggles can be hot – they build a tension that demands resolution2 . Witness this exchange betwen Vesper Lynd and James Bond in Casino Royale (jump to 1:04 for when the two start to fight to be on top):

Vesper and Bond are striking sparks off one another with little teasing digs paired with insight into each other’s character and ending it with a compliment about his perfect arse.

This is how teasing and antagonistic flirting works: a compliment followed by a tease, or a tease followed by a compliment. They’re both a little combative, a little dismissive and a little playfully condescending, but they never cross the line into actual insult; it’s an unspoken agreement that this is just play fighting, pushing against each other and then pulling it away with the compliment.

This falls nicely into the push-pull dynamic: the fight building tension then the release of the compliment and changing the subject – in this case, effected by a cut to a new scene.

In practice, you want to cut the conversational thread and move on to another topic – one unrelated to what you were just discussing and one that doesn’t immediately lead to another verbal fencing match. You need to space things out, to give the tension room to grow. Going from banter to banter to banter can be exhausting emotionally; you end up feeling as though you’re constantly having to be on guard rather than letting yourself relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Flirt With Your Eyes

Eye contact is a critical part of how we communicate – and it can be shockingly intimate. Our eyes are one of the most expressive parts of our body- yet their value in flirting is under-appreciated. The eyes can be a potent source of non-verbal sexual communication; they can lend a sexual subtext without having to actually say a word.

To start with: just because the triangle gaze is a way of telling whether your date is interested in kissing you doesn’t mean that you can’t use it yourself to inspire dirty thoughts. Looking from one eye to the next, then to her lips, then back up to her eyes, especially while leaning in, can be a very powerful move.

Even just a look can be used to build sexual tension. You may have heard of celebrities with a “penetrating gaze” or “bedroom eyes”- a look that says they’re not only seeing through you, but they’re already picturing you naked and the insane things that the two of you are going to be doing later.

He can see the future you know. That’s what the smoldering look is all about.

There’s a lot of discussion on how to communicate sexual desire through a glance – such as visualizing what you want to do to your date while smiling and looking into their eyes –  but I’m a fan of strategic intense eye contact.

Direct eye-contact can be intimidating, even uncomfortable if you hold it for too long… unless you know what you’re doing. As a general rule, I recommend not holding someone’s eyes for longer than a few seconds to avoid creeping them out. However, once you’ve been more calibrated for how long you can hold someone’s gaze without intimidating them, you can actually use that fear response to your advantage.

You see, our brains are ultimately controlled by our body’s reactions; we react to the stimuli and backfill the reasons for it afterwards.

Staring into your date’s eyes for a fraction longer than you would normally can cause their heart to race and feel a little light-headed. This is the beginning of the body’s fear response – they’re getting ready to go into fight-or-flight mode.

However, what other emotional states does this sound like to you?


Holding the stare for just a second, then deliberately breaking it by looking up and away will prompt that shortness of breath and rapid pulse. The brain starts searching around for a reason: am I scared? What’s going on? Is there a tiger in the bushes?

Failing to find something to be scared of, it settles for the next option: you’re not scared, you’re getting turned on.

Break The Touch Barrier

I can’t say this enough times: you have to get used to touching when you’re trying to get better at dating. The power that touch has with building sexual tension cannot be understated. Physical contact is a key component to sexual tension; call it one of the benefits of those thousands of nerve-endings we have running through our skin.

Now to be sure, you need a certain level of intimacy and comfort before you can move from casual touching to more sexually charged touch – you don’t want to just reach up and stroke the neck of the woman you just met at the bar unless you’re interested in wearing an amaretto sour for the rest of the night. But when you do…

You might run your nails gently down their back before pulling back and stepping aside. Warm breath on the neck – perhaps accompanied by “you smell nice” can make the difference between a chaste kiss and being grabbed by the back of your favorite head for major make-outs. The hair can also be an incredibly charged area; stroking the hair, or even running your fingers through it and grasping it gently near the scalp can help charge things up.

One popular trick I’ve learned – and used to great success – from player friends of mine is what’s known as the “almost-kiss”.  There’re many variations of this; some people will set it up by suggesting that you try an almost-kiss, but swear that you’re not going to actually kiss because it’s just too soon. You lean in close as though for a kiss and hover close to their lips for a moment or two and then pull back – the push-pull dynamic in action, building up the sexual tension then pulling back just as you’re starting to get near the point of no return. It can take some practice – if you’re not careful, the set-up is going to sound cheesy, and not in a charming way – but it’s a powerful technique.

Don’t ignore the back or hips either. A hand on the small of the back, guiding your date through the restuaraunt or to your car can be quite the turn on, as can physically turning their hips. One of the reasons why latin dances such as salsa, cha-cha and meringue are so charged is because of the way that the leading partner guides the following partner by physically moving her hips.

Again, you want to maintain the push-pull dynamic. For every two steps forward – kissing, say – you want to pull back again. “That’s all you get for now,” you might say, after a particularly passionate kiss, pulling yourself away and keeping a physical distance between you. It may seem counter-intuitive – if you’re kissing, you would think you would want to try to move things forward, not backwards – but showing restraint, taking the tension to a crescendo and leaving it there dials the sexual tension way up. It’s a powerful move… and it’s better to leave them wanting more than pushing too far and risking blowing the whole thing.


Keep in mind: building sexual tension isn’t just a way of escalating things until your date is panting to get you into bed; a little goes a long way, especially in the early stages of dating.  You don’t always want to rev the engines to full at every available opportunity. When you’re building that valuable chemistry, you want her to feel that spark, that fission of sexual excitement that comes when we meet that somebody special.

“Oh god, you’re never going to return my calls…”

  1. Not that kind of release. Pervert. []
  2. which is to say, bangin’. []

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  • Jay

    That scene was the main reason why I "bought" their romance in the movie. Absolutely love it.

    The advice to space the banter out is well-given. I'm in the middle of some antagonistic flirting right now – over FB messages – and I'll be mindful of switching the tone pretty soon here. Even great verbal fencing can get a little stale when you find yourself becoming interested in finding out more about the other person without having to pair your remarks with a clever insult every time.

  • djTeslaRose

    3-Part Comment!!!

    1. This is great advice though I will place 1 caveat. Don't use these techniques to play games with a girl or guy. Flirting and building sexual tension with a push/pull approach is great when both parties are very interested and that part is well understood. It can be really nasty to use these techniques on a person that you view as passing fling or have no interest in really doing anything with.

    2. Ok, some advice for the ladies. You can use the eye trick, holding a cute guys gaze for just a second too long, to have your pick of men in a bar. It indicates interest with you having to make more of a commitment. The best way to use is it is to catch their eye, hold the gaze, then let your eyes slide away slowly to the side (NOT DOWN). Down is submissive (please don't notice me). To the side is powerful, inviting and sexy. Check back in a minute or two. I bet he's staring at you, trying to get the courage to come over and talk to you. Mission accomplished. I've used this to great effect. (My guy friends call them my "special eyes")

    3. As for the sexual tension, with my current partner, I deliberately waited a long time to have sex with him. This is the first time I've chosen this type of dating route. There were passionate makeouts but I held off. In fact, we ended up waiting until he asked for a monogamous relationship. I didn't plan it that way, but that cementing of intimacy and trust before sex made our first time with each other amazing. Ladies, do what feels right, but when you feel safe, loved and you trust your partner, the sex is way hotter!

    Happy Arousing!

    • mycroftviii

      1) Play reasonably "fair" generally good advice.
      2) Actually down for the ladies is o.k. up to a point. A small amount of submissiveness in a woman is attractive to most guys.
      3)Be very careful here. Men and women are wired the exact opposite in sex/relationship patterns. Men approach intimacy through sex and women approach sex through intimacy. To soon and his wiring will push him away and make it very hard for you tell if your really in love or just reacting to the sex (orgasm and love are damn near identical for women at the level of brain chemistry). Wait to long and his instincts will cause his interest wane and go elsewhere without a lot of work on both your parts. How long is to long or two soon, NOW that is the hard part. Too soon is before you've developed clear feeling beyond initial attraction for each other. To long is when things have been static/stale for a while, though there is hope as long as he's still trying for it. If that stops he's gone even if he's not broken up with you yet and only a minor miracle can help here. And one more thing, Playing hard to get is very bad for her, and only good for him till the first date, maybe the second in rare cases (women who could easily have any man they want and know it),

  • LeeEsq

    This is helpful because the usual response I receive from women when asking them out for a second date is that they had great time on the date, and I'm sweet guy but they are declining because they felt no chemistry. The other response is that after an hour, she determined that we would not make a good couple together.

    My main concern is how to you build chemistry in a chemistry adverse environment. Basically, the first date over coffee or whatever, which is often the best you can manage with women you met online. Most of these dates are audition/interview like where both sides are trying to get the role of boyfriend/girlfriend or determining if you have enough in common to make a second date worth it. In nearly every first date I've been on touching was not an option.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      You've had opportunities, you've just trained yourself into not noticing them.

      Even in the coffee date, you have points where you can get into a position to actually do casual touching. To start with: if you're at a local place, odds are good you're going to have couches and love seats as well as traditional tables. Sit on those instead of at a table and you'll a) feel less like you're at an interview and b) be in a better position to touch her arm when you make a comment or to reach and give a high-five when she says something awesome.

      Don't have couches? Found yourself at a table anyway? Don't sit across from her, sit catty-cornered to her! Sitting across from her feels like an interview. Sitting at an angle next to her? Friends having coffee. Instant reframe of the situation.

      • LeeEsq

        No, what I meant was that I attempted touching and was told specifically not to.

      • Mellie

        Errr nope. No touching or kissing for me on the first date. Especially if you met the person online. I'd feel like the guy is not taking me seriously or thinks I'm easy or something. But then it depends on the guy and if he's really cute and I'm into him I prolly wouldn't mind.

  • LeeEsq

    More philosophically, I really do no believe in chemistry. At least I've never really felt a spark on the first dates I've been on. My usual instinct is to always ask for a second date unless the first one went really badly. Good initial chemistry isn't really a sign that you make a good couple and its hard to determine how well you like someone from one date. At least for the women I've been attracted to, the attraction developed over time from getting to know them rather than any sort of "chemistry" on the first date.

    • Max

      In my experience chemistry isn't something that happens when you first meet someone, it's something that builds gradually over time.

      • LeeEsq

        This is my experience to but the usual response when I ask for a second date was "no, because I didn't feel" any chemistry. Many people do seem to think that chemistry happens when you first meet someone.

        • Jay

          Sometimes chemistry is indeed what happens when you first meet someone. Usually when I'm going on a dating spree of guys I've met online, I don't really have the time, energy, or inclination to see if I can build something up over a long period of time. So I'll be looking for the guys who take the least amount of work to form a fun connection with.

          I'll give more second and third chances for guys I meet through friends, since I'm likely to see them more than once anyway.

          • smarties

            Thanks Jay, you just confirm my hypothesis. On those dating sites, women have the luxury to meet hundreds of guys so if you don't trow all kinds of sparks at them, it's up to the next guy. It's kind of a reflection of our society where we don't have patience anymore and want instant gratification. To be honest, if I was in these women shoes, I would probably do the same thing…

            So LeeEsq, I think it's not that most people think that chemistry happens when you first meet someone; it's more that they know that it can and they don't have the patience to wait for it to develop.

        • firsthelix

          Don’t worry about those chicks. I’ve had this, too and I am always getting physical from the the get-go when I feel the time is right to make a move. IMO you need to escalate sooner aor later in order to demonstrate your alpha qualities and she can feel your strength and confidence. And I am only looking for women that are comfortable with the physical part, cause I want to avoid the ones having hang-ups caused in their past. Nevertheless, some women will not respond to it – and yet tell you there is no sexual tension or chemistry. If you take a closer look at the dating history of those females, you often find out that they are unhappy ppl with very short-term relationships. They are waiting for the knight in shining armor. Let them wait and move on without looking back. They would be a pain do deal with anyway!

  • Kiki

    I was always rubbish at flirting, it's kind of like drawing or math, you can train yourself to be ok at it but some people are just naturally better at it then others. of all the girls i was in school with i was the most shit at flirting and making this tension chemistry happen.
    i just always felt like a fool. all that batting of the eyelashes, shifting eyes here and there, sideways glances and all these things i felt ridiculous doing them. i don't know if it's a common thing but i just always felt out of my element. Like i was some girl that watched too many Angelique movies and now is clumsily trying to do this elegant fan-dance and failing. like a kid who puts mum's makeup and shoes on.
    and then i just got so tired of it all. all these things women are supposed to do that are supposed to have a great affect and create this atmosphere and for some people it worked, but not for me. i found myself so lost in thinking what to do in this situation or that situation that i could not concentrate on the actual conversation. and i find that that is what i value the most in a person, that we can talk and talk and not get tired of it and not have the conversation be a pretense to something else.
    It's not that i can't do this if i try, it's that i, after trying, have developed an aversion for it.

    • TLD

      Kiki, Maybe it would be easier if you tried doing it simply for fun. Ultimately, flirting is supposed to be exciting and interesting, versus a goal-driven, "I will find a guy tonight, darn it!" sort of dynamic.
      I know when I'm trying new behaviors that feel a little uncomfortable, I like to think of them as simply an experiment. Something like, let's try the holding eye contact thing with three different cute guys tonight and see what happens. When I have curiosity as my main motive, it helps take the pressure off (for me).
      Good luck!

    • Amber

      I don't see a problem with not liking flirting. I always thought it was superficial and annoying. I couldn't even stand to be in the presence of a flirty person, especially flirty girls, because more often than not they act giggly and idiotic.

      If you don't see value in flirting, and prefer conversations with more substance, keep doing what feels natural to you. If you somehow learned to flirt and pretend to enjoy it, you'll attract guys who aren't really compatible with you.

  • Gman

    Well, let me start by saying that this post is especially relevant to me – because being a bit more physical is a great challenge for me. Reading this post, I started becoming uncomfortable – because to me, I was sure through most of my years that being physical with a girl you don't really know yet is against the norms. Only during the last year have I begun to learn that the opposite is true and that physical signals and non-verbal language are important in general but are critical in dating. Being more physical and learning to understand and also send non-verbal clues is especially difficult to me, because I have a MILD condition of something known as "NVLD" (Non-Verbal Learning Disorder) – which basically means that I have an inherently more difficult time at identifying and understanding non-verbal communication in social situations. Now, it's not that I CAN'T learn these things; it simply takes me more time to do so than the average joe. This is also the reason why I have started taking salsa dancing lessons – not only is it fun, but I am forced into identifying and sending non-verbal communication signals through the dance, plus I am practicing being physical with girls – so to me it's a win-win situation (both fun and educational!).
    As for the "push-pull" thing… that's another thing that I find hard to comprehend. Looking back at the few dates that I had in my life – I realize that in the few that actually led to some kissing/make outs, I had been comfortable enough with the girl that the "playful banter" and/or "push-pull" simply came out "naturally" and not planned in advance. What I mean to say is that I don't think I can simply fake a "push-pull" situation, because to me if I feel that if I am already comfortable with a girl, those things will simply come along as the situation gets more intimate.
    But maybe now I will be more aware to these kind of situations and whenever my next date is, if things will seem to be going well, I will try and apply a thing or two from this post (once again, if I already feel comfortable and "natural" with my date).
    So once again thanks for a great post! 

    • Denny

      Well that’s good that it’s coming off naturally. It’s SUPPOSED to come off naturally when you’re comfortable in her company.

      That’s what I think alot of problens stem from: some folks read Dr. Nerdlove’s articles as if the advice he’s giving is some straight-forward scientific/mathematic equation or some cheat code they have to punch in when in action when that’s not the case at all. It’s just about being more acute and aware of more social signs you may have not noticed before and getting pointers on what you could do to captilize on it when you seem them. I mean it’s not a One Size Fits All solution like I think some people expect this blog to be, because every person and every situation is different. So don’t get too caught up treating it like it is one, ya know?

      • Gman

        " It's just about being more acute and aware of more social signs you may have not noticed before and getting pointers on what you could do to captilize on it when you seem them."

        Wow – couldn't have phrased it any better myself. This is exactly what I think about my own personal process of improvment. When I first discovered this blog, I also started to think about the advice in a more mathematical thinking pattern and it took me several weeks to understand that I should simply take the advice and try to adapt/apply them so that they will fit my own personal situations.

      • gravau

        > Well that's good that it's coming off naturally. It's SUPPOSED to come off naturally when you're comfortable in her company.

        I think that's my biggest problem with dating out of my circle of friends: I do not feel comfortable with anybody I just recently met. I cannot do this naturally, but if I don't, I don't get the chance to get comfortable.

  • AFC1001

    This is something I can see being really difficult to me. I've seen a lot of these things mentioned in PUA material, and when I try to internalise it, it feels so artificial and forced that it makes me uncomfortable – particularly since I couldn't recognise chemistry if you showed me a molecular diagram, and the push-pull, eyeballing and physical contact all seem like they could veer quickly into creep-out territory if you don't judge everything perfectly.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      You get better at judging the same way you get to Carnagie Hall: take a left at 57th and Park and walk four blocks, it's on your right, you can't miss it.

      Wait, no, that's wrong.

      What you do is practice, practice, practice.

      Sometimes you have to go out there and give yourself permission to make mistakes until you learn how to be better socially calibrated.

      • AFC1001

        Thanks for the reply – do you have any advice for how to make the practice easier? I do feel that mistakes in the sexual/flirting domain have the ability to make things very unpleasant for all concerned (perhaps not as bad as mistakes in the automotive domain, but drivers have to take hours of lessons and a state sponsored exam) so this area's one in which I'm very reluctant to give myself permission to make mistakes, particularly since I'm getting started with all this stuff kind of late, and don't have the excuse of being young and stupid any more.

        • Jay

          Sometimes it helps just to get better with people in general. So I find that associating with people in hobbies, clubs, and associations are good practice for improving general people skills and learning how to read signals. And the stakes are lower than in a dating situation so you can get away with being more awkward for a while. Also you get to have fun, develop your skills, and find passions that make you more interesting anyway for when you do go dating.

  • LeeEsq

    Sometimes I think society would be better if schools taught socialization the way upper-class families and the schools they sent their kids to taught socialization. A lot of anxiety could be stopped if kids who weren't doing well socially were taught this at an early age rather than flounder at it alone. Maybe schools should take over this functioning of parenting the way they took over sex education since parents seem to be slacking at it, especially for boys.

    The problem is that I could say the same type of wars waged over sex-ed happen over socialization courses in school. Actually more people would be up in arms against it.

    • chegs

      I for one would be “up in arms” about a socialization course . Whatever exactly that would entail, Im not sure, but it would certainly teach to the dominant forces of socialization in our society… We don’t need yet more reinforcment of hetronormative, sex-negative socialization queues.

  • Gert

    I dont know, I've never worried about building chemistry or figuring out when is it alright to kiss. I've kissed guys as soon as we met on the second date and it was all spontaneous and they never seemed to mind.

  • Jess

    Guys, someone else mentioned this in one of the earlier posts from last week, I think the one on kissing.

    Romance novels are a blueprint and instruction manual for understanding romantic chemistry.

    Romance novelists are masters at it. They can hinge a 80k word novel on nothing but the development of chemistry. Read some historical romances if you want focus on nothing but how to flirt. I'm serious.

    I see that some of you are feeling off about touching. You can develop wicked chemistry without touching at all. The trick is to start to plant the seeds of "You know you want me," in the mind of the other without ever saying it. Not "I want you" no. "You want me, and I know it."

    In that Bond clip, they never touch, and that has great chemistry.

    Some tips for non-touching chemistry builders. Someone mentioned dancing. Dancing is great for chemistry, but every time you move it is part of a dance with your date.

    Mirror her, subtly mimic her movements and head positions. When she moves, say her hand on a table, you move as well in a complimentary way, pause, then move again and see if she "follows" the dance.

    Move in close enough to touch, but don't.

    Tease her. Make her want to play the game.

    Make it fun to play the game.

    And I'm serious about the romance novel thing. Julia Quinn writes some excellent flirtation so does Eloisa James.

    • firsthelix

      In that bond clip SHE takes all the initiative in flirting with Bond, btw… 😉

  • Fallible

    I dunno Doc, this post bothers me a bit. Most of the time I find your articles interesting, a different perspective and general advice, but this feels like it's gone over into PUA head-game manipulation.

    I think this is because it's not about presenting yourself in the right light, trying to read what signals your date is showing, or thinking about how you can show what you're feeling. It's about directly manipulating your date into feeling what you want them to.

    This post makes me wonder where you're drawing the line these days. I hope you know.

    • Denny


      The PUA stuff is all about shoving your alpha male macho dominance in a woman’s face by acting all coy and cocky and self-important and full of cheat sheets that you’re going to punch in until you claim your prize. You and only you is the only person that matters. This article is about how people in general tend to esculate from playful flirting to serious flirting to legit sexual tension, and the signs that may (or may not) help one recognize it and capitalize. Lord knows I’m guilty of missing signs that were lit up in neon and beating me over the head…

      It SHOULD be about having fun together and keeping each other on your toes with the sexy teases and building up to that crescendo that you can’t wait to reach. Stuff that takes TIME….which is another thing that threw me off with the PUA thing, which again is all about short tern gains.

      • Fallible

        Sorry, I have to disagree.

        Oh, I'll readily admit that I don't know much about PUAs and how they operate, but essentially they manipulate people. They might do it with checklists, alpha-dominance or whatever but essentially they're playing with what's going on in other people's heads in order to change how they feel and get what they want. The post was, when you come down to it, a list of ways to manipulate what other people have going on in their heads.

        Or is it okay to manipulate someone if it takes place over three or four dates rather than just when you meet them? For me the time it takes isn't as important as that you're setting out to manipulate them into feeling a certain way. I feel it's a crossing a line, especially when the first time "these are people, don't be a dick and play games with them" is in a comment (djTeslaRose's) and not the main article – previously Dr N. has noted that sort of thing himself.

        In any case, I felt strongly enough about it I thought I'd try and call the Doc's attention to it, so he can check if his attitudes have changed, and if they have if he's happy with that. If not maybe he'll decide I've read the post badly, or that I'm being over-sensitive.

        • Amber

          Dear Fallible,

          I think you are confusing manipulation with building attraction. The Doc is not advocating that you head-game change how someone feels about you, but sexual tension is an important component of building a relationship. That doesn't have to be dishonest at all.

        • Gentleman Johnny

          Manipulation is something we all do all the time. If you prefer, you can replace the word "manipulate" with the word "convince" but it doesn't change things. People do this all the time, in fact any time you talk something up or down to get agreement from someone else. When you go to get a loan, you try to make yourself look as financially successful as possible. On tax day, you try to look broke.

          The particulars that Doc is discussing in this article are manipulative in the sense of trying to create a desired result. What they are not is manipulative in the sense of trying to create a desired result regardless of what the other person really wants. Ideally, its more of a game. Both sides know its going on and both enjoy playing it.

          • Jess

            I agree. If this is "manipulation" then smiling as you shake someone's hand during a business deal to set them at ease and make them feel like this is a good arrangement is also "manipulation."

            No, it isn't. It is the 90% of how we communicate that isn't verbal. Manipulating someone is getting them to feel like you have different intentions than you do. Which is why playing the backdoor best-friend gambit is manipulative.

        • Jess

          This isn't manipulation, it is communication. Okay, guys, as a girl I'm getting a little irritated with this "I can't ever express interest or I'm automatically a creep and taking advantage of the poor women who don't really want to be sexually interested in me" bit.

          Here's the deal. Women are not ubiquitously vapid. When you start to communicate with a woman on this physical level she's also having a non-verbal communication with you. She is deciding, do I like this? Do I not like this? Am I charmed? Or am I unimpressed? If you are on a date with someone, it is perfectly natural to start this non-verbal dialog.

          Please do! If women do not get this sort of non-verbal communication from you, then what we feel is that you aren't attracted enough to US to start this conversation, and we feel terrible. On the other hand, when someone starts getting flirty, it feels good, and if we are comfortable with the person, we want to continue the dialog.

          You are only being manipulative if your expectations do not match your dates expectations, and you are deliberately misleading her to assume that your expectations do match her expectations only to break that promise later. THIS is where the PUA garbage is so upsetting. They send all the signals that they are so infatuated and interested in the girl, but in reality she's a conquest, not a person that they ever really wanted to know. So all their intense attention is misleading. They don't really care who she is, only if they can break her down.

          That is manipulation.

          If you are on a date because you are looking for a "whatever" type of relationship with a girl that is on the same page as you. Then starting these non-verbal chem builders is NOT manipulation, it is communicating interest to her. Her response to that interest is up to her.

          We're big girls, guys. Stop beating yourselves up. We can handle ourselves so long as you respect us.

          Now please, flirt away!

  • Herman_Cain

    Nice article you got there.

  • Atalie

    I don't understand the video – so people generally see that exchange as flirting? I would be terribly insulted if someone spoke to me that way and would never believe they they were flirting. But then again I'm often accused of being too literal and either don't see or completely misread a lot of social cues anyway.

    • Jess

      Yes, that was flirting.

      Bonds end of the conversation: You're very attractive and good at what you do, but I'm the one in charge here, and I think secretly you like that.

      Vesper's end of the conversation: Really? Mr. Bond, you think you're something special, but I'm not about to fall for such nonsense. I have a job to do, and while you may be handsome and charming, I won't give in, because you are the type of man who gets what he wants too easily. Try harder, Mr. Bond. You may just impress me in the end, but I'm going to make you enjoy the chase.

      See, flirting.

      • Atalie

        I like your dialogue better. 🙂

    • AureliaVerity

      Actually, i agree.
      I've not seen the movie in it's entirety but this exchange doesn't really make me go "oomph, they are going to be breaking furniture tonight!"
      this is much more a scene which establishes that both characters are on even ground, sure Bond seems to be interested, but Bond is always interested.

      Also, i love how Vesper is supposedly wearing "Masculine clothing", i mean really that is a perfectly tailored feminine suit showing off every curve of her body. Annie Hall she is not.

  • Captain Bobo

    Holy crap doc! That’s a Jedi mind trick you pull with the fear response technique. Only for very advanced students I think.

  • Jeff

    I don't appreciate the normative tone. This is one way that people often behave on dates, but it is not the only right way. If someone tells me that she doesn't want to go out with me again because we didn't have enough chemistry, I will take this to mean that we aren't compatible and that's okay. I will not take it to mean that I'm doing something wrong by not creating enough sexual tension. The problem is that both of us went into the date desiring to get something different out of it; I should not have to change my behaviour to what she wants. I would much rather find someone else to date who prefers directness over mind games.

    • AureliaVerity

      hear hear,
      Directness is sexy, it's so refreshing to go out with a guy and he's just there to get to know you and see when that takes his, not peacock about like a dingus.

      I think i understand what the doctor is saying to say too though. i think most of it comes down to the fact that if you're going on a date you have to input something in to get something back. you can't just ask twenty prepared questions, tell your pre-planned twenty answers and hope that this will convince the person on the other end of the table that yes, you are datable material. Because that's not a date, it's a dinner interview.

      You have to be engaging, take risks, make jokes, make conversations about topics interesting and unusual and throw the other person off, make them think "oh this is new" but not in a rude way. you have to resist telling them your life story, mention some things in passing, like a trip or an event and if your date looks interested but doesn't press you for it, don't continue. that way, there will be a reason to meet again. the person can't walk off from the date feeling that she knows all about you. Weave into conversation things that you think she might be interested in, hobbies, pass-times and so forth, and this way you'll know if there is a connection,

      of course there is a decent chance that you have nothing in common. She's want's to know if Kanye and Kim are still dating and you are still undecided how you feel about the news of a new Doctor Who companion. She loves paragliding and traveling to exotic locations and you can't stand heights and the thought of leaving your home for one minute. maybe it's even more obtuse then that, maybe it's something little but it's there and you don't feel like it's going to work out.

      Well no problem, order desert, maybe try for another date and if it does not work out move on. I don't consider that PUA behavior, that's just getting to know a person. now if you, despite knowing that you do not want to pursue any type of relationship with such a girl still try to get her into bed using the tricks above or other. well then you're a douche and you need to jump anus first on a rusty spike.

      but if you're not, well, bless you, keep trying.

  • Vic

    Just take the red pill and be done with it, Neo.

    • INITymous

      Ugh the arrogance! "suffering of the beta" I'm fine here thanks.

  • TLD

    I am impressed with your ability to clearly articulate behavior that has always naturally occurred for me. This break-down is totally helpful for those not as tuned in. And as a lady, when both parties are drawn to each other I don't experience this as manipulative at all– it heightens the whole experience exquisitely!
    Thanks Dr. NerdLove!

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  • woldead

    Am I the only one who finds the idea of deliberately building tension and chemistry incredibly manipulative? This sounds more like a PUA tactic and not something I'd want to do or have it done to me.

    • I think this is a problematic way of going about creating a connection. Antagonistic flirting does seem like a problematic PUA holdover. However building tension and creating chemistry I don't think has to involve that. Some amount of flirtation that involves body language, slight innuendo, the occasional off-colour joke while treating her like a full interesting human being with who has goals, ambitions and ideas about life and the ability to recognize those and acknowledge, compliment and value them together with a not-to-heavy physical contact that builds a physical connection are what I believe are the keys to success in this area. Teasing can be part of this but teasing is supposed to be a form of non-verbal sarcasm. If either of you however have any difficulty reading non-verbal cues, this can backfire spectacularly because you have just met them and you don't know their communication style yet.

      • woldead

        My point is that PUA generally advocate trying to manipulate women from the get go. This is one of the chief reasons why PUA and PUA tactics are disliked by people in general. So how is the advice in this article any different?

        The Doctor talks about:
        a) antagonistic flirting
        b) utilising the 'people want what they can't have' as a trick to make women want you
        c) flirting as a game of who dominates the interaction and the relationship

        among other things.

        The whole example of using eye contact to convert fear into arousal is textbook manipulation, the kind that I would expect a psychopath to use.

        I don't disagree with your version of building sexual chemistry.

        • firsthelix

          Well, the so-called mating dance exists since there is man an woman and has little to do with the PUA phenomenon. Many obviously unlearned this basic instinct of sexual polarity between men and women, and so the idea to re-learn this like any other skill sounds weird.

          If there is no sexual tension between man and woman, how do you imagine the interest for sex will be created? The less polarity, the less likely sex will be something of importance to you – or her. And btw, I call this attraction and not chemistry, two quite different things for me.