The cold approach: where typically a man is brave (or foolish) enough to go up to a woman with no social ties and shoot their shot. This method is of course what pickup artistry mainly revolves around. Just how effective is it? This is what Clark & Hatfield’s (1989) landmark study explored, as well as how the results varied by gender. There aren’t any advanced seduction techniques being deployed here however, instead participants (or ‘confederates’) simply approached opposite-sex students on campus that they considered adequately attractive and after telling them that they’d been checking them out and found them hot they propositioned them with one of three requests: “Would you go out with me tonight?”, “Will you come over to my apartment tonight?”, and “Would you go to bed with me tonight?”.

In the first experiment, while about half of both men and women’s date requests were accepted, none of men’s overt sexual requests and almost none of their apartment requests were accepted compared to about 3/4th of women’s. The second experiment successfully replicated the first.

They failed to find an effect of confederate attractiveness on outcomes, maybe due to limited variation as they apparently varied from slightly unattractive to moderately attractive. On a 1-9 scale male confederates rated their subjects 7.7 and female confederates rated theirs 7.3 on average. This would make them more attractive than the confederates themselves, though there is significant room for the influence of subjective taste here.

About a decade on, another study was conducted. The results were largely in line with the previous studies. Even in the midst of the AIDs epidemic, men were as keen as ever for a quick fling.

In the second experiment, confederates made the requests to single friends on behalf of other friends who they assured were trustworthy and so on. While almost all of them accepted a date request, there was little change for the bed condition. Only 5% of women accepted the sexual request compared to 50% of men. This means that safety concerns are unlikely to be a significant factor in their unwillingness, reinforced by the fact that only 2 women in the first and none in the second experiment stated that they were a reason for rejecting requests.


A similar experiment was also conducted in 2003 by a journalist who approached 100 women in German cities for sex (Voracek et al., 2005). Interestingly he claimed no prior knowledge of the previous studies. He was apparently above average in attractiveness. 6 women accepted, and the following encounters were confirmed (by him at least). Five out of six successful approaches were made indoors, four of them in the evening or night-time. Only one was below the age of 30 however, while he was in his late 20s. Two were 38 and one was 50. I guess the takeaway is to go for cougars.


Has sexual openness converged at all as society has become increasingly ‘sex-positive’? The Clark & Hatfield paradigm was eventually revived by Hald & Høgh-Olesen (2010), who had Dutch students approach opposite-sex subjects on a University campus or pedestrian/park areas. The results largely mirrored the original studies’. Only 2% of women accepted the bed request, or 1 of 54. This compares to 38% of men, or 59% of single men. The consent rates for dates were a bit lower in this study with 30% for men and 20% for women (statistically insignificant difference). They found a significant effect of subject-rated attractiveness for male but not female confederates whereby more attractive men had a higher success rate.

How many men and women accepted date and sex requests in Denmark? (Hald & Hogh-Olesen, 2010)


Another such study was conducted by Guéguen et al. (2011). Two men and two women were selected from a group of 14 male and 11 female university students, one of middling attractiveness and one who was rated the highest. Targets were aged 18-25 and were approached in a pedestrian zone in a French town.

Again only 1 of 60 female subjects accepted the bed request. The attractiveness of confederates in this study had a stronger effect on male subjects’ compliance rather than women’s. This is because while it influenced men’s decisions for both requests, it only significantly influenced women’s when it came to the apartment condition.

How many men and women accept date and sex offers in France? (Gueguen et al., 2010)


Baranowski & Hecht (2015) had German students approach subjects on a university campus or student clubs. After confederates approached subjects they rated their attractiveness. The subjects also rated the confederates’ attractiveness and ‘sexual ability’, etc. Those who were approached in the party condition reported how drunk they felt. Confederates also rated the subjects’ drunkenness.

Yet again, just 1 of 52 women accepted the sex request. Contrary to expectations, only male subjects’ consent rates significantly rose in the party condition.

Confederate attractiveness and consent correlated at .29, and perceived sexual skills at .38. These intercorrelated at .53. Self-perceived level of alcohol intoxication correlated with consent rate at .2. Confederates’ ratings of subjects also correlated at .43 with self-perceived intoxication. Ratings of confederate attractiveness correlated with subjects’ drunkenness at .21. So it does seem like alcohol loosens people up a bit and also makes them more forgiving in their looks judgements.

How many men and women accept date and sex offers in Germany? (Baranowski & Hecht, 2015)

The takeaway

How many women accept requests from strangers for dates and sex compared to men

In my opinion the more interesting finding isn’t that women don’t take well to random sexual offers but rather that there is little imbalance when it comes to date offers. A success rate of 1 in 3 or so for average guys seems encouraging, especially compared to dating apps. On the other hand we can only guess how many would’ve ended up flaking. Getting through the door is just the first step as well. After the initial screening stage it may be the case that a greater selectivity gap emerges as women have more criteria beyond surface level characteristics to consider.

As to why women were so unwilling to hookup with strangers? It could be argued that this approach is simply too blunt and on the nose. Just going up to a woman and asking her if she’s dtf would come off as quite autistic. It’s worth considering that the apartment request had a higher success rate, and this is probably a more typical pathway to hookups. In most cases the right atmosphere has to be established first e.g. by Netflix and chilling and then slowly escalating.

Is it because they weren’t chad enough? Even the most attractive men in the studies didn’t have much luck getting women to sleep with them. Another example of this is this tall dark and handsome figure Paul Janka who only slept with 153 of the 3,428 women whose numbers he recorded getting. This would translate to less than a 5% success rate, and this is discounting all the approaches which were flat out rejected.

Paul Janka PUA

And how could we forget Johnny Bravo, who despite being an archetypal chad was brutally rejected every single time.

Johnny Bravo rejected

The fantasy of the mythical chad thunderc*ck who just walks up and drops a woman’s panties with a grunt is just that.

This is what we’d expect based on the large sex differences observed in a construct which has been termed ‘sociosexuality’ – essentially how open one is to the prospect of casual sex. These behaviourally revealed preferences mirror stated preferences in openness to casual sexual encounters (Schmitt, 2005), desire for sexual variety (Schmitt, 2003), attitudes toward casual, premarital, and extramarital sex (Oliver & Hyde, 1993), and requiring an emotional connection before engaging in sexual intercourse (Carroll et al., 1985). Moreover, men org*sm following a casual sex encounter at a far higher rate than do women (Piemonte et al., 2019).

The evolutionary basis for these sex differences likely lies in differential minimum parental investment (Trivers, 1972). The concept is relatively simple: the sex in which it’s greater will be more discerning with who they have sex with. Since the extended juvenile period in humans raised parental investment demands very high, they will also typically want to look for signs of commitment first.

Clark (1990) cast doubt on the notion that greater safety concerns were driving the difference. It’s not obvious that accepting a date with a random stranger is all that much less dangerous anyway. Others will bring up sexual double standards and slut-shaming. However, there was no notable difference in experiments conducted more than 30 years later in presumably a more sex-positive cultural context.

It would be interesting to see what the results would look like post-MeToo, but I’d imagine that it’d be harder to get the green light from ethics boards/universities these days. We’re not completely in the dark however. Similar to the previous field experiments, a user posting in the ‘Asian Masculinity’ subreddit approached 117 women and recorded his successes. He recorded 34 numbers, 5 dates, and 4 ‘lays’. Not too far off from the other results we’ve seen. This was during quarantine as well when women were likely behaving more risk aversely than normal. He rated himself a 6-7 and ‘not skinny or fat’, and the majority of girls he had sex with he’d also consider ‘6s-7s’. He also stated that he had comparatively little luck on dating apps.

Date Psychology in a recent survey found that of the men who reported approaching a woman in the past year, 60% had gotten at least one date from it, 47% had sex, and 13% formed a relationship. How ‘cold’ most of these approaches were I don’t know. It seems like it’s probably not a completely dead art at least.

On the other hand a 2018 YouGov survey found that a majority of women reported being uncomfortable being approached in a public space by someone they didn’t know.

How many women want to be approached by male strangers? (YouGov)

According to a 2023 American Perspectives Survey, contrary to popular belief it’s actually less common for younger than older people to be unacquainted with the people they date. While about half of boomers didn’t know their partner before beginning dating them, about a third of 18-29s didn’t.

How many people date their friends or acquaintances? (American Perspectives Survey)

While some might dismiss it as being for ‘beta cucks’ who’ll inevitably get stuck in the friendzone, ‘warm approaching’ is probably more effective and perhaps less intimidating, but of course it takes time to expand your social circle and build rapport. If one has to cold approach, it’d be best to at least wait until you pick up ‘IOIs’ such as extended eye-contact and smiling. For some men of course this may be a longer wait than others. Being around women who share interests would make things easier, but almost by definition most men will tend to have male-typed interests which won’t include many women. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to sign up for yoga classes just for the purpose of hitting on the women there, it probably wouldn’t take long to get a bad rap.

This isn’t a PUA blog, I’m not giving any advice or the magic pick-up line etc., but for better or worse the traditional script is the way some 90% of dates are arranged (Kendrick & Kepple, 2022) and it doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon. It’s probably still not the case that online dating is where all the action happens either. How much this data showing that the odds may not be hopelessly bad for getting a number/date is likely to affect someone’s fear approaching I’m not sure. Someone who was too anxiety ridden to do so before probably wasn’t holding back because they logically calculated that the odds of rejection must be a lot higher. It is still a nerve-wracking experience with a high chance of rejection and where one must place their self-esteem and reputation on the line.

References

Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 2(1), 39–55. https://doi.org/10.1300/J056v02n01_04

Clark, R. D. (1990). The impact of AIDS on gender differences in willingness to engage in casual sex. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20(9, Pt 2), 771–782. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1990.tb00437.x

Voracek, M., Hofhansl, A., & Fisher, M. L. (2005). Clark and Hatfield’s evidence of women’s low receptivity to male strangers’ sexual offers revisited. Psychological reports97(1), 11–20. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.97.1.11-20

Hald, G. M., & Høgh-Olesen, H. (2010). Receptivity to sexual invitations from strangers of the opposite gender. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(6), 453–458. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.07.004

Guéguen N. (2011). Effects of solicitor sex and attractiveness on receptivity to sexual offers: a field study. Archives of sexual behavior40(5), 915–919. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9750-4

Baranowski, A. M., & Hecht, H. (2015). Gender differences and similarities in receptivity to sexual invitations: Effects of location and risk perception. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(8), 2257–2265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0520-6

Schmitt D. P. (2005). Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: a 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating. The Behavioral and brain sciences28(2), 247–311. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0140525x05000051

Schmitt, D. P., & International Sexuality Description Project. (2003). Universal sex differences in the desire for sexual variety: Tests from 52 nations, 6 continents, and 13 islands. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(1), 85–104. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.85.1.85

Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin114(1), 29–51. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.114.1.29

Carroll, J. L., Volk, K. D., & Hyde, J. S. (1985). Differences between males and females in motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. Archives of sexual behavior14(2), 131–139. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01541658

Piemonte, J. L., Conley, T. D., & Gusakova, S. (2019). Org*sm, gender, and responses to heterosexual casual sex. Personality and Individual Differences, 151, Article 109487. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.06.030

Trivers, Robert. (1972). Parental Investment and Sexual Selection.

Frankovic, K. (2018). In an increasingly online world, Americans look for love in life. YouGov. https://today.yougov.com/society/articles/20903-americans-prefer-meeting-romantic-partners-offline

Cox, D. (2023). From Swiping to Sexting: The Enduring Gender Divide in American Dating and Relationships. Survey Center on American Life. https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/from-swiping-to-sexting-the-enduring-gender-divide-in-american-dating-and-relationships/

Kendrick, S., & Kepple, N. J. (2022). Scripting Sex in Courtship: Predicting Genital Contact in Date Outcomes. Sexuality & culture26(3), 1190–1214. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09938-2

2 Comments

  1. This gateway is incredible. The splendid data displays the administrator’s earnestness. I’m overwhelmed and expect more such astounding material.

  2. I mis-spent my youth in the PUA scene and have done hundreds of cold approaches both off and on university campuses. The odds are much better on a campus because it provides a degree of trust. Cold approaching is a skill that improves with practice so statistics from newbies are not so useful. I should clarify by saying that most guys improve in the first year and then plateau no matter how hard they try. The low odds are compensated for by the infinite opportunities for cold approaching for PUAs with the dedication of Olympic athletes.

    Many PUAs (term used loosely) have no success with cold approaching, but improve their confidence and social skills enough to meet someone in a warm approach environment. The real benefit is therefore long term “extroversion maxing”.

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