What is Sarging? Strauss Learns a PUA Technique

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What is sarging? What does it mean to sarge in the pickup artist community?

Sarging is the actual act of picking up women. The term sarging is one of many words specific to the PUA community that Neil Strauss learned.

For PUAs, sarging is one of the main components of being a pickup artist. Read about Neil Strauss learning about the sarging technique.

Sarging and The Seduction Community

When Neil plunged into the seduction community’s online world of websites and message boards, he discovered an entire subculture. People used aliases—Neil’s would become Style—and they used a jargon that included terms such as: 

  • AFC: average frustrated chump
  • AMOG: alpha male of the group
  • HB: hot babe
  • PUA: pickup artist
  • Sarging: picking up women

Members of the community wrote posts sharing strategies, divulging details of their exploits, or asking for advice. Beyond the virtual world, men in cities around the world gathered weekly to share techniques and then go to clubs together to put the tactics to use. 

The community’s leaders were a handful of PUAs who had reached guru status, each of whom taught disciples his distinct set of rules and principles of the pickup game. The gurus used a combination of psychology, magic tricks, and hypnosis to seduce women. Then, they’d use sarging to actually pick up women.

Neil decided he wanted to meet all the gurus, and he planned to integrate techniques from each. The first guru he met was a Canadian magician named Mystery, who had certain ideas on what it means to sarge.

Neil’s Introduction to Sarging

Mystery was a celebrated PUA who had written more than 3,000 posts on the community message boards. Mystery started offering workshops for PUAs-in-training shortly after Neil joined the community; naturally, Neil had to sign up. 

For $500, attendees would get a four-night basic training that included: 

  • Lectures on Mystery’s principles and techniques
  • Field training in bars and clubs, as the trainees were coached through putting Mystery’s strategies to practice
  • Debriefing after each night’s outing and the results of sarging

Mystery was only the second guru to offer workshops—the first was Ross Jeffries, a pickup pioneer who we’ll talk about shortly. However, while Jeffries led seminars, Mystery was the first to bring trainees into clubs for real-time coaching. 

Although Neil was investigating the community for his book assignment, he also earnestly wanted to learn from the PUAs. He hoped that this could signal the end of his struggles with women. However, Neil was also embarrassed to admit that he was so bad with women that he was now paying for advice from self-proclaimed experts. He was about to learn about sarging in PUA communities, and how it works.

The Mystery Method

Mystery didn’t know that the seduction community existed, so he conducted his own research. He studied women and their reactions when he tried to hit on them. Over 10 years, Mystery pieced together the principles of social interaction and the patterns of male-female dynamics. Part of this involved the process of “to sarge” aka to go out and pick up women.

Mystery developed techniques that incorporated magic with the lessons he’d learned. His strategy—which he dubbed the Mystery Method—broke down into these steps: 

  1. Walk into the club with a smile. A smile indicates that you’re confident, fun, and, above all, an alpha male. 
  2. Select a target (a woman you want to seduce) in a group. Don’t pick up women who are standing alone. 
  3. Follow the three-second rule: When you see a woman you’re interested in, approach her within three seconds. If you wait longer, you risk either overthinking it or staring at her too long and looking like a creep. 
  4. Approach the group confidently and start conversation with a scripted pickup line, such as, “It looks like the party’s over here” or “Did you see those two girls fighting outside?” The lines are simple; they’re just meant to get people talking. 
  5. Ignore your target. Instead, make her friends like you—especially anyone who would be likely to try to interfere with your pickup attempt (such as male friends). Winning over the group makes you seem like the life of the party, while ignoring your target makes her more eager for your attention. 
  6. Further provoke your target with a neg, which is a backhanded compliment or vague insult—for example, offer her gum after she talks, or tell her that her hair would look better if it were up/down. The neg reinforces your lack of interest and further injures the woman’s self-esteem.
  7. Isolate your target. Use an excuse to get her away from the group, such as saying that you want to show her something. 
  8. Look for indicators of interest (IOIs). For example, if she asks you a question about yourself, or if you squeeze her hands and she squeezes back. 
  9. Demonstrate an interesting skill, like a magic trick or an ESP test, to impress and intrigue her. 
  10. Once you get three IOIs, try to get her to kiss you by saying, “Would you like to kiss me?” This question is fool-proof: If she says, “yes,” you get a kiss (PUAs call this a kiss-close). If she says, “maybe,” you can say, “let’s find out,” and go in for a kiss. If she says, “no,” then you can deflect and say that you weren’t asking for one. 
  11. Keep her wanting more. Create a false time constraint and say that you have to leave, but that you’d like to continue this another time. At this point, she should give you her number (PUAs call this a number-close). 

Mystery’s whole strategy was designed to pick up women subtly. Rather than coming on directly and forcefully, Mystery instructed men to take their time and build the anticipation so that the woman would want to be hit on. Sarging for PUA’s was an important part of the technique.

Mystery’s Theories, Tricks, and Principles

Mystery had developed countless theories and principles that dictated his tactics while sarging in the field (while hitting on women). The strategies were all meant to make the PUA seem like the most interesting person in the room, while simultaneously appearing disinterested in the woman he was hitting on, so that she would essentially pursue him.

The primary rule of the game was that PUAs don’t do what everyone else does. For example, if every man in the club was gawking at a particularly beautiful woman, the PUA practically ignored her. When the PUA did approach the woman, he never acknowledged her beauty—he may have even subtly downplayed it. The effect was that the PUA stood out among the crowd. 

Two dominant theories balanced the goals of standing out and laying back: 

  1. Peacock theory stated that men should take a cue from peacocks and make themselves eye-catching in order to attract desirable women. This involved wearing loud, colorful clothes and accessories, such as bright or shiny shirts, outlandish hats, and light-up jewelry. 
  2. Cat string theory proposed that women act the same way with men as cats did with string: A cat would chase a string feverishly when it was just out of reach, but if the string dropped right in front of the cat, the cat instantly lost interest. This was why PUAs had to avoid appearing too eager or available. 

Per cat string theory, Mystery advocated an indirect approach. He advised students to: 

  • Approach women from an angle. Avoid walking directly toward her, which appears confrontational, and avoid approaching her from behind, which may startle her. 
  • Speak over your shoulder when speaking to a woman, as if you’re about to walk away. Don’t face her directly.

Mystery taught these concepts, as well as scripted pickup lines and routines, to his workshop students, and then he set them loose to practice. 

Though sarging was initially something Neil Strauss struggled with, he found that improving at it built up his confidence. Sarging, like other PUA terms, is specific to the community and has many different strategies attached to it.

What is Sarging? Strauss Learns a PUA Technique

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Game summary :

  • The secrets of the Pickup Artist community in seducing women
  • How key Pickup Artist leaders fought with each other and split the group apart
  • What author Neil Strauss took away about women from his years of training

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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