What’s love got to do with it? Emma Bernstein on the gurus who would guide you to the perfect pickupYou might expect that the art of seduction had changed since 1 BC, but you would be mistaken. Thanks to Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, published that year, the Roman was well schooled in all manner of sly tips and tricks, which bear more than a passing resemblance to those proposed by today’s praeceptores amoris. But there’s a difference. Whereas the scandalous advice of the Ars Amatoria caused a sensation (rivalled only by a certain birth the following year) and resulted in Ovid’s extradition to the Black Sea, nowadays, the authors of dating manuals can enjoy the reverence and gratitude of their lonely-hearted readership. Undoubtedly the most notorious of the numerous guides to seduction is Neil Strauss’ 450-page tome, The Game: Undercover in the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, which has achieved cult status among its lovelorn disciples. This is no simple, step-by-step instruction manual for the wannabe lothario. Rather, the book chronicles Strauss’ initiation into the “seduction community” and his transformation from a “formless lump of nerd” into his alter-ego, Style, the “master pickup artist”. Here, seduction is a field dominated by professional predators, relying upon mind control, hypnosis and persuasion techniques. Lest there be any doubt as to the credentials of The Game, Strauss’ own proficiency is confirmed when an incautious Britney Spears gives him her number. One seduction method beloved of the pickup artist is ‘negging’, which is “to actively demonstrate a lack of interest in a beautiful woman by making an ambiguous statement, insulting her in a way that appears accidental, or offering constructive criticism”. Whilst it beggars belief that classic ‘negs’ such as “you look great – are you wearing make-up?” would melt hearts, ‘negging’ apparently has the dual effect of empowering the pickup artist and making the woman vulnerable. Other methods of seduction rely upon neuro-linguistic programming, “a form of waking hypnosis”, which uses repeated mesmerising hand movements and “flirtatious hypnospeak”. Yet its amoral techniques and nouveau jargon have only served to increase the allure of The Game, whether as a glimpse into a fascinatingly sordid enterprise or as a guide to follow with religious fervour. However, in terms of sheer notoriety, a serious contender to The Game comes in the unlikely form of The Rules – Time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr Right, its exact opposite in every way. Where The Game uses advanced mind-control and invented terminology, The Rules espouses the traditional approach, and is bloated on its own self-hype. The two authoresses assure readers that they too can “make Mr Right obsessed with having you as his by making yourself seem unattainable”, by simply following their 35 rules. Their credentials are all in the book’s dedication: “to our wonderful husbands”. Quasi-scientific justification is offered for women playing hard to get; “men are born to respond to a challenge” and that “biologically he’s the aggressor”.Can a “good marriage” really be based upon such superficial rules? Women are advised that “if you have a bad nose, get a nose job”, are told to limit phone calls to ten minutes and to end the date first. The publications of The Rules had feminists up in arms, but the authors argue that their empowering methods enable every women to get what she wants, namely “a marriage truly made in heaven”. It remains to be considered whether the approaches of these two very different books get results.