Teach a socially-slow guy how to get from "flirting" to "hooking up."
February 9, 2009 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Teach-a-Martian-to-socialize-filter: moving from flirting to "hey, come back to my place."

So there was a party last week, a big one at a friend's house back in the city I went to college in. I - a 20something, just-graduated male - was flirting with a girl. Eventually the girl left with her friends. The hostess, a good friend of mine from college, IMed me this morning and mentioned that the girl was confused and annoyed that I didn't actually hook up with her. And I realized, as she said this, that I have no idea what I should have done, because I wanted to make a move at the time, but didn't know what a move would look like.

Now, I won't be seeing this girl again any time soon as she lives Far Away; it was just an encounter that made me realize I have a problem. I'm a relatively late-socially-blooming nerd, and while I have no problem engaging in light flirtation, and I long ago learned how to ask girls out, I have no clue how to specifically move from a state of "I think we might be kinda into each other" into "hey, let's go hook up." Obviously people vary, but I have no idea what the 'standards' are here, or how it could be reasonably approached. I guess I'm looking for is the hookup equivalent of what "hey, what are you doing on Saturday?" or "Do you want to grab coffee sometime?" are for dating, eg, ways to progress from a general interest to a more explicit "Let's take action based on this interest." I may or may not also be missing a skillset for taking light flirtiness and adding a more sexual edge to it; my formative years were around people who were a lot more socially conservative than I am, who - for example - treated guys touching girls during flirtation as crude and universally rude; years later I'm discovering that there obviously are times and situations when it's perfectly acceptable. Tips on making my flirting-game a little more direct would also be useful, so I can better establish whether there is interest.

To clarify a couple of points: Yes, I'm also a bit annoyed that the girl in question didn't make a move herself if she wanted it; for the sake of this question please ignore that fact. I should be able to make moves myself, regardless of her willingness to. Also, please no "do you really want to do this," I've had my share of extra-relationship hookups, but always with friends or exes; never with someone I've just met at a bar, or party, and am hitting it off with. I'm basically looking to fill in a gap in my social skills; I feel like a guy who owns a toolbox, and has it pretty well-stocked, and then somebody says "Dear god, you walked by all those nails, why didn't you hammer them in?" and he realizes he doesn't even own a hammer. Or something.

My locally-available friends are no good for this as 'models' for me: not many are single, and of those who are, most are relatively homebodyish types who don't care for parties or the like. I'd also rather not go asking them directly; I'm redfaced enough over this to hide my identity from some Internet Strangers.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

I realize Anonymous probably won't answer, but do other readers think that "hook up," the way anonymous is using it, means "go back to my place and have sex"? His question is somewhat vague if he doesn't define "hook up."
posted by jayder at 7:14 PM on February 9, 2009

If you're at a social gathering, and are flirting with somebody and they are flirting back, the best approach would be to suggest you find a quieter corner together at the same venue. If they answer in the affirmative, that's a pretty big hint. Once you find this quiet corner you do all the usual body language/body contact bullshit and if you get to the point where you've got your hands in one another's clothing, suggest that you repair to your place, or theirs.

Going from "I like some of the same things that you like" to "Let us go to my house to perform intercourse" isn't really A to B. It's A to, like, at least E or F.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:17 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Either sex or just a shadowed-corner makeout session, I'd guess - since it appears neither happened, and one is a logical (albeit not strictly necessary) prelude to the other, I think we can answer without knowing for sure which one the OP is asking about.

I have, on different occasions, just kissed her already, made a pointed remark about how much I'd like to kiss her, and had someone walk up to me at a party and say "You're cute. Your place or mine?" which ended satisfactorily. (Her place, not that it's relevant.) There's no way to guarantee success - the girl I kissed was most enthusiastic about that, but kicked me gently but firmly out of the house before we got any further - but directness does have its charms.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:22 PM on February 9, 2009

That's a source of confusion to this non-North American also. When I think 'hooking up' I think of pieces of wire.
Let's assume, anonymous, you do mean "leave the party in order to go back to my place and have sex". The girl who communicated to your host that she was confused and annoyed at you for just-standing-there-and-not-busting-a-move is being unreasonable. She's perfectly capable of busting that move herself.
Further; any set of social standards where you can make a faux pas by not offering such a hook-up sounds like one where you could make a far worse one by offering and being turned down. As the saying goes, Refusal May Offend!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:27 PM on February 9, 2009

In my opinion the best way to get from flirting to "Hey, come back to my place." Is to go on a couple dates.

Hook up is a pretty broad term, and in my neck of the woods would just mean making out, and probably not at your place but something more neutral. For instance your car parked in front of her house because you were kind enough to offer her a ride home. Or in the bar, at a party... and so on.

To get to the point of the make out, first make some physical contact at least in passing, if she returns the gesture see about moving to a more appropriate place to kiss. Then you just have to bite the bullet and kiss the girl.
posted by magikker at 7:32 PM on February 9, 2009

[In this context, I'm seeing "hook up" as anything more private. Doesn't really matter what it means, the progression is the same. Got to move from flirting to making out first.]

As for the answer, turgid dahlia has it. You want to invite the person to the next level of the encounter, which in this case is somewhere a little more private. Sometimes, if you're nervous, making it a humorous or non-sensical invitation takes some of the edge off. The invitation back to your place or hers, in my experience, comes after the kissing and groping, not before.
posted by gjc at 7:35 PM on February 9, 2009

And I realized, as she said this, that I have no idea what I should have done, because I wanted to make a move at the time, but didn't know what a move would look like.

if you'd like to kiss her, and she looks receptive, kiss her. if things go well, then just ask her if she'd like to go do whatever it is you want to do. there is no magic handshake, no secret dance. you just have to do SOMETHING, anything.
posted by lia at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2009

follow-up from the OP
First of all, I've just created askingthegreenforhelp@gmail.com as a throwaway for this. I'm going to try to clarify what I wrote a bit:

To everyone: Sorry, I should have been more specific. Yes, I'm referring to sex in 'hooking up,' though it's kind of immaterial whether that means "intercourse" or "oral sex" or whatever else. Mea culpa for using a phrase, without definition, that I know perfectly means vastly different things to different people. The point is that something that happens in real life is that people who meet at parties, etc, sometimes engage in sex shortly thereafter, and I have no idea what process gets them from the party to someone's bedroom later that night, and I'd like to know how that process works.... and, as absurd as it sounds, a template for what I should say; do people actually literally say "Do you want to go back to my place?" or are there other stock phrases a la "Let's have coffee?"

turgid dahlia: The A-to-E-or-F is part of why I mentioned the need to potentially learn a new type of flirting as well, though in this case apparently I was all the way to D and didn't know it. You mention "all the usual body language/body contact bullshit," but I truly have no idea what you're talking about.

Fiasco de Gama: Yes, she was being absurd by not busting a move herself, but that's *not* the point; it's simply that I'd like to be able to move-bust myself when I want to. This is a case of "missed opportunity," not "faux pas;" I'd like to know how to take advantage of such opportunities in the future. After all, yes she should have acted herself, but that doesn't change anything about my *own* ability to act.
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2009

This has worked for me maybe twice, but I can't remember if I've even tried it more than twice. I am female.

- One time was at a party. There was a guy I knew from school who I was talking to outside at the party and he seemed pretty clearly to be flirting with me. It was pretty early in the evening and I didn't want to spend time at the party playing guessing games so I flat out asked him. "Hey will you go home with me?" "Huh?" "After the party, my roommates are away, do you want to come back to my place?" He said sure and so we spent the rest of the party sort of doing separate party things and then he gave me a ride back to my place and left the next morning.

- One time I was at work at the library and a guy came up to the reference desk looking for the books we kept behind the counter about mushroom cultivation and we started having a conversation and again we were sort of flirting and I mentioned that I was married [but in an open relationship] and he said something like "well I've never kissed a married woman before" and I said something like "I'm done working at the reference desk at 10" (or whatever) and then we went out for a drink or food or something and wound up at my place.

So, if you're at a party situation you can play it sort of slow which involves going someplace at the party more private and having a conversation that's a little more openly flirty (literally like "hey your eyes look really pretty in the moonlight" it doesn't matter terribly if she's already agreed to go for a walk outside with you) before offering to give her a ride home or whathave you (and yeah this can lead to kissing in the car and possibly an invitation upstairs) or you can just flat out ask "hey I'd really like to hang out with you some more, what are you doing after this?" and see what happens.
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 PM on February 9, 2009

I usually find myself thinking, at the time, and later on, 'how on earth did this happen?' (so I can try and recreate it later), but it's often not really clear. This leads me to believe that the whole process is based on semi-subconscious signals (or maybe I'm just making the guy do all the work?).

One incident that did seem to have a clear cause and effect was at a party, the guy made some nice pool shot and asked didn't he deserve a kiss for that. I went to kiss him on the cheek and he dodged to get my mouth, further random kisses as the pool game progressed, before the end of the game he asked if I wanted to go back to his place afterwards. Started light-hearted, no pressure, it all worked out.
posted by jacalata at 8:07 PM on February 9, 2009

You mention "all the usual body language/body contact bullshit," but I truly have no idea what you're talking about.

Well, that's fair. Rather than going into turgid (!) detail about it, you may want to read through the SIRC Guide To Flirting, which I think has been linked here before.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:10 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

...sometimes engage in sex shortly thereafter, and I have no idea what process gets them from the party to someone's bedroom later that night...

Being perfectly honest here, that "process" is, more often than not, inebriation. But don't worry, because that is one of the purposes inebriation serves.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2009

The point is that something that happens in real life is that people who meet at parties, etc, sometimes engage in sex shortly thereafter, and I have no idea what process gets them from the party to someone's bedroom later that night, and I'd like to know how that process works.

You're trying to go straight from "hey, nice shoes" to "let's fuck," but really there are almost always a dozen or more steps in between. Someone above referred to it as A to F, and I'd make it more like A to M or even A to Q and back to G.

So it might go something like chatting, to flirting, to flirting in a more secluded spot at the party, to some platonic touching, to some more serious flirting. And it kind of depends on the kind of party you are at what happens next -- can you make out in a dark corner, or do you need to thank the hosts for the lovely dinner and drive somewhere else for the making out?

So let's say it was a more formal dinner party, you've been flirting and she keeps touching your arm while she talks and leaning in really close. So you offer a ride home, or suggest going out for drinks after the party, or coffee, or whatever, anything that gets the two of you together and away. Then more flirting, you hold hands while crossing the street, and then our little movie fades to black.

Or it's at a loud and crowded party in some student rental, full of people you don't know. Then it's not at all inappropriate to maybe (assuming that she is enthusiastically enjoying everything) start the kissing and groping right there on that disgusting couch in the back room while some drunk hippies argue about the Grateful Dead on the other cushion.

It's all context-dependent, and it's important to remember that just because someone is flirting doesn't mean they necessarily want to kiss, and just because they kiss doesn't mean they want to fuck. Enjoy each part of the process for what it is, rather than fixating on one particular end goal.

And TD is right -- alcohol smooths the process along nicely, though not if you overdo it and puke on her shoes.

and, as absurd as it sounds, a template for what I should say; do people actually literally say "Do you want to go back to my place?" or are there other stock phrases a la "Let's have coffee?"

Yes, people do say things like "do you want to come in for coffee?" -- but just like with anything people say, sometimes it is code for "wanna fuck?" and sometimes it is code for "wanna coffee?" So there's no clearly unambiguous codebook you can follow that will work well in every situation; for better or worse, you are deeply in the realm of messy and imprecise human interaction.

I've had my share of extra-relationship hookups, but always with friends or exes; never with someone I've just met at a bar, or party, and am hitting it off with.

I don't know if anyone has accurate numbers about this, but I'd be willing to bet real money that the likelihood of sex is in direct proportion to how well you know the person. At an extreme, this is why married people (jokes aside) have a lot more sex than single people. A friend or ex doesn't have to worry if you are really an ax-murderer or a creepy stalker, whereas going home with a total stranger represents a very real risk. Hooking up with strangers is a movie staple, and certainly happens... but probably happens a lot less often than sex the old fashioned way, through your social networks.
posted by Forktine at 8:42 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here is the flow chart I like to consult when out at parties:

eye contact --> smiling --> smalltalk --> enthusiastic conversation --> standing close --> casual touch on the arm --> more intimate touch (extended arm contact, hand-holding, etc.) --> "Do you want to go for a walk?"/"Do you want to find someplace quieter?" --> "I'd like to kiss you."/"You're gorgeous, you know? Of course you know." --> light kiss/kissing --> heavy kissing, hinting at stuff you can't do at a party in front of all your friends -->"Do you want to go back to my place?"*

That's the usual order, anyway. The last leap is a big one, but presumably by this time you've at least got her hot and bothered. If you get interrupted in this process anywhere after casual touch on the arm (by something other than her taking an awkward step back or suddenly remembering she needs another drink) then you should be good to ask for her number, at least. Sometimes she just has to go before you've had time to make a move.

If you don't get interrupted, well. Here's the thing. Someone has to escalate things at each step of the way, otherwise we all would have died out when Gggrrr couldn't bring himself to approach Nnnnhh after staring at her across the mammoth carcass all night. Take the risk. It's not the end of the world if a girl doesn't want to sleep with you and you're not a sleazeball unless you don't accept it if she says no.

* Speaking as a girl, just because I say no to that doesn't mean I'm not interested in casual sex. I may just be cautious about my physical safety. I'd actually like to see if people on AskMe can suggest a good solution for this.

(Oh, and caveat: This is just what works on me. Other people may be different.)
posted by shaun uh at 8:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [16 favorites]

When you feel like you want to make a move, ask, "Hey, you wanna get out of here and go someplace else?" You have to actually say these things, though. Thinking them won't help.
posted by rhizome at 8:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

On new years I was flirting with someone and after some talk and lots of eye contact, just brazenly told her I thought she was smart and cute and she said "really?" with a nice smile. I suggested we "discuss" the issue on the porch, which she agreed to. So we went on the porch and "discussed" it. Just let your eyes and smile do the talking and slyly suggest anything that would involve the two of you alone.

Once you get alone just make a move. Scary, gotta do it.

Being somewhat buzzed on alcohol is helpful but not necessary.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on February 9, 2009

Watch The Pickup Artist. It's a reality game type show. The second season finished airing a few months ago.
Basically this guy (The Pickup Artist) has actually studied women and the art of picking up women and now trains guys to do the same.
In the show he has a group of guys (who start of shy, nerdy, awkward, weird, etc) who he gives makeovers to and trains in the various arts and each week he'll eliminate one who doesn't achieve the goal (get a number, get a hug, get a kiss, be a good wingman, get someone into your bedroom, and so on).
It's ... strange but it's real and I think it has a lot of good tips and pointers. Plus these guys start from the bottom and move up so you can really see the entire process behind it.
posted by simplethings at 10:35 PM on February 9, 2009

OP, you do this: (a certain degree of alcoholic lubrication helps): 1) normal, somewhat-flirtatious chit-chat is the ongoing thread, 2) watch for smiles, 3) casually lean in closer during the chit-chat, 4) casual on-the-arm-or-shoulder-or-etc. touching -- again, during the convo, 5) lean in even closer, 6) finally, say, "I really want to kiss you right now, 6) if she's into it, *she'll* kiss *you*; if she's not, apologize, and exit stage left (or keep talking depending on your comfort level), 7) kiss as much as is politely possible in public or maneuver yourselves into some sort of alcove-type thing, 8) say, "let's get out of here - i've got a great bottle of wine at my place... ?" 9) enjoy!

P.S. I'm of the female persuasion and the above works on me every time (assuming, of course, that I'm into the guy in the first place. Also, the time between each step is variable, but, as someone upthread said, this is the basic flow. Also, trust in your own confidence. If it's real - and you're real - it's irresistible.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you read up on courtship issues, with just about any mammal that isn't a naked mole rat, there's definitely a division of labor. The female makes signals, though not very overt ones, that she's approachable. The male does the approaching. Another round of evaluation occurs (are you right for me? am I right for you?) and then more signaling happens. Always, both parties are ready to break away, with some level of disappointment, until the point of committing to mating occurs. Similar studies talk about some order of operations when it comes to kissing, hands, where the hands go, and disrobing. Interestingly, switching up any of the steps can make one be perceived as "fast," much more so than having a short time interval between the one bit and another. There are steps to this dance.

Now, this rides against how we would like to perceive ourselves, liberated and equal, but that's the wiring we and most other mammals come with. Fighting it requires a lot of conscious effort on both parties and, let's face it, it isn't something most people are aware of enough to even begin combating, which is why you end up with conflicts between people's natural tendencies and what we'd like to aspire to. So, sure, women can make the very overt move of saying, "Come back to my place so we can hook up," but, between the firmware we came with and the still-extant double standard of slut vs. stud, they're probably hesitant to. Hence, the move is each turn is typically yours. Yes, it's faintly ridiculous. Yeah, you're reminded of just how dumb peacocks look displaying their otherwise-useless plumage. Don't let your tailfeathers become failfeathers.

Human mating is all about implausible denial.

Always present someone you're flirting with an opportunity to save face. Give them an out so that they can make an alternate excuse, even a far-fetched one, for what it is they are doing: I am talking to you because you know Sid, not because I'm interested in you. I wasn't touching your arm because I'm hot for you, I just wanted to look at your tattoo. You should touch my legs so you can feel just how smooth they are (yes, that actually happens). I don't necessarily want to be alone with you, I just want to get some fresh air. Even past the point of social witnessing, these potential excuses are necessary. I'll drop you off last so I can talk to you some more. I would like to come to your place to see your books.

The signals to approach are small, not easily noticed from a distance, and open to misinterpretation. Take the hackneyed backrub: if the woman you're with wants one to happen, you'll find yourself near some level surface. She'll touch one of her shoulders or roll it a bit, perhaps twist her neck some. This is the signal for which you should be watchful. Approach, lightly, without touching. Hand in the air. "Does your back hurt?" Set the stage for saving face: I wouldn't ordinarily let a strange man touch my vulnerable neck and back, but they ache from holding a drink at this party all night, and you seem nice. Oftentimes, the response will be delivered without direct eye contact, just a small turn presenting more of her back and a soft sound of some sort. Yes, it seems passive-aggressive as all get-out. Yeah, there are plenty of ways for things to be misinterpreted and go wrong. If you miss signals, they will reoccur, with varying levels of impatience and frustration. Miss too many and the scene is over. Once you're sure you're catching all of the signals (how would you know?), do not act on every signal, either. A tiny bit of frustration is good for both parties, as it helps ensure actual interest.

What you're doing is scripting a romantic comedy: a barely probable set of quotations, flirtations, and situations, written out in a shorthand whose text and subtext we all understand, wherein she finds herself alone with you on some pretext. At any point the scene should, as written, have the possibility to end in giggles and a quick escape. Confessions of interest will occur, but they are not turning points at which we can be certain the scene ends in an R-rating, only a chance to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Have people write down random bits from their surprise hookups and you'll always get "You have got to be kidding me" moments, like long-unseen friend from college wanting to stop by a sex toy store after dinner. It all looks fairly silly when written down, but that dialogue of excuse is usually present — it allows a potential rewriting of the encounter to avoid embarrassment. From the distance of time, the narrative will look clear, but in the moment, it's just one happy, innocent coincidence after another.

*Disclaimer: The tattoo thing didn't happen to me, but I have used it on someone else. The rest have happened to me.
posted by adipocere at 12:07 AM on February 10, 2009 [45 favorites]

I was going to say that I think the step C equivalent of "hey, what are you doing on Saturday?", is "hey, do you want to go for a walk?", which, at least in my neck of the woods, means "hey, do you want to go somewhere a little quieter and pash?". Then, step E of 'do you want to come back to my place' is at least not such a leap. But I think shaun uh actually explained it all pretty well.
posted by Emilyisnow at 2:36 AM on February 10, 2009

I learned this late in life. .too late. . .but a really good ice-breaker/escalation "line" is saying "what do you think would happen if I tried to kiss you right now?"

You need to be secure enough to withstand a rejection, but if it comes, smile and either keep talking or move on.
posted by Danf at 9:30 AM on February 10, 2009

do other readers think that "hook up," the way anonymous is using it, means "go back to my place and have sex"?

Yes, for a while now, this has been the vernacular among young people (see Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe).
posted by Rash at 3:10 PM on February 10, 2009

If I were this girl and complaining that "he didn't bust a move there at the party" it would definitely not ever mean "I sure wish I'd had sex with him that night." It would mean, "I'd love to have a picnic on the beach/glass of wine/cup of coffee with him, and see if I would Enjoy/Trust/MatchWithHim him in bed." If I got any impression that "that guy" thought he had a chance of getting his tongue into my mouth the first night we met, I'd be turned off.

I like confidence, but I don't like a guy that comes off as slutty. That, and I don't want herpes (I know, some people think this makes me an asshole, as something like 80% of Americans carry herpes already, and lots of people lie when asked directly "have you ever had a cold sore on your lip?" And even more lie when asked, "Do you have any STDs?" yes, I was surprised to learn that many Americans do not realize that Cold Sore=Herpes!) If I'm going to make out with you, it's certainly going to be a process, and you're going to have to prove that you're into me, even if I do know that the making out/hot sex will be temporary/meaningless. While I may hypothetically enjoy meaningless sex, I don't want to be (or feel like) a notch on your bed post. If I am a notch on your bedpost, you'd better be good and goddamn prepared to convince me that I'm not.

Because really, it's still not socially ok for woman to hop into bed with a guy she just met. So making out at a party (in front of our friends!) and then slinking out the door doesn't match up with the role I'm expected to perform here in America. I do plenty of other things to fight these bullshit roles. Hell, I'm here rather publicly admitting that I have sex. But I'm not doing any of my foreplay at parties.

So, the advice part of my answer? Have a nice long flirty conversation. Don't ever suggest that you think spousal violence is funny. Don't linger too long in her personal space, and don't persist in things that make her appear uncomfortable. (This may require some coaching and lots of practice. Too many of the guys I meet have to be told very directly that they are too close, touching me too soon, suggesting super inappropriate stuff - for real, "if I'm into kinky sex, it will come out soon enough if we're going to have sex. It's not for the first 1/2 hour of any conversation." If you brought it up so soon, we won't be having sex. Thanks for playing.)

If she's responding well to the gentle and brief forays into her personal space (this is 12 or so inches away from her) then, touch her arm, and then invite her to "take it outside" for coffee or bowling or a walk through the neighborhood.

Take all shades of no to mean no. Bring condoms everywhere you think you might have a chance of getting a piece of ass, and use them every time you have sex (I know, it's sad, but it has to be said!). Don't tell your friends about every hot lay (and definitely don't tell them who is bad in the sack). Without a doubt, don't tell her friends, or her exes, that you had sex with her. Don't disrespect her for doing the very same thing that you're doing.

Finally, please don't pillory me for my rambling, and my exhausted dependence on parenthetical notes.
posted by bilabial at 4:17 PM on February 10, 2009

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