“In one more drink, I’ll be ready to hit on you.” “You’re too much of a nice girl for me.” “I like your shoes, they look really comfortable.” According to one popular Reddit post, these are a few classic examples of “negging,” a tactic self-described “pickup artists” use in an attempt to attract women.
Sound terrible? You’re right. The technique originated in “pickup artist” communities in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, in which some straight men aimed to become experts in “the art of seduction.” These communities have been widely condemned as misogynistic, and even accused of inciting violence against women: Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014, was a member of online pickup artist forums.
In a New York Times article published in 2004, pickup artist Neil Strauss credited the invention of the “neg” to fellow pickup artist Erik von Markovik. “Neither a compliment nor an insult, a neg holds two purposes: to momentarily lower a woman's self-esteem and to suggest an intriguing disinterest. ('Nice nails. Are they real? No? Oh, they look nice anyway.'),” Strauss writes.
No sooner did the general public learn of negging than they, largely, condemned it. Urban Dictionary’s most popular definition, written in 2009, is: “Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances. This is something no decent guy would do. They say that the assholes get the girls, but I can spot negging a mile away and I reject these f*ckers straight off.” In 2015, Jezebel asked readers to share the “best worst neg you’ve ever heard.” A few gems: “You know, I usually like really skinny, pretty Barbie doll types, but I really like you. You are so real and low maintenance. I like how you don’t put so much into your appearance. You’re so real,” and, “I love homely girls. You remind me of my grandma. But you’re kinda sexy, can I have your number?”
So, is there any truth to “negging”? Writing for Psychology Today, Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D., notes that one 1965 study found that “when an individual is made to feel ‘low,’ they find potential romantic partners more attractive” — but only in the short term. “First and foremost, using such tactics often comes from a place of powerlessness and low self-esteem,” Nicholson writes. “In the end, then, they may not lead to lasting, satisfying relationships — just to both individuals being miserable. Therefore, while the potential short-term effects are intellectually interesting, any temporary gain could be off-set by even greater long-term difficulties.”
Although negging has been around for a while, it’s unfortunately still thriving in 2019. Reddit’s r/seduction, a popular “pickup artist” group, features a guide to “negging” published just three days ago. So, women who date men, be careful out there: if someone tries to hit on you with an insult, stay far, far away.