Negging: Get Over It and Be a Gentleman Again

In recent years, we have seen the rise of a phenomenon that seems to have taken a large portion of the single male population by head-enlarging storm. It’s called negging. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve tried it or been on the receiving end of it. Negging refers to resorting to low-grade insults as a strategy to pick up women. Nice, right? The idea is that it undermines the confidence of a female, making her more vulnerable and subsequently receptive of such advances. In theory, she engages by defending herself (likely doubting herself in the process) and hopefully agrees to a date in order to validate her self-worth. Negging can be subtle and virtually undetectable, sometimes even disguised as a backhanded compliment. 

What, or who, is to blame for the demise of the gentleman when it comes to approaching women? Negging is a term that was coined, or at least made popular, by a pickup artist known as Mystery. It became a global phenomenon in the wake of the publication of a book by music journalist Neil Strauss called The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists (in which Mystery plays a prominent role) and TV shows like VH1′s “The Pickup Artist.” The only question we have is: did every single Toronto man opt for The Game as dockside reading material of choice this summer? 

From comments about the fully loaded late night poutine that we already weren’t proud of, to undermining jabs at our professions and imperfections, our girlfriends and ourselves have been negged a lot lately. The problem is, it’s never worked the way the guy has wanted it to. In fact, the last guy who tried to neg us ended up apologetically running after us – red-faced and arms flailing like a fool – as we quickly darted in the opposite direction. Negging may work on college girls, in a college bar, but other than that, not many young professional (YP) women have the time for that. More often than not, all it does is ruin an otherwise enjoyable evening out for both parties.

The Logic:
The logic behind replacing a compliment with a neg is as follows: in the negger’s eyes, attractive single women get tired of being hit on by guys who are quick to dish the compliments or seem way too obviously interested. For this reason, the targets of negs are typically attractive females. If a woman is out in her city’s social scene a lot and accustomed to men who drool all over her or bombard her with ridiculous pickup lines, it could be refreshing to meet a guy who’s willing to challenge her in a harmless, funny way. The tactful neg (keyword: tactful) offers a challenge, humour, and a potential way for the negger to appear confident and in control… but not like a total asshole. 

The Assumption Trap:
The theory behind negging is that very attractive women are not only used to getting hit on, they have the confidence to match their looks and are strong enough to handle and tolerate insults. News flash: some of the most attractive females are the most insecure. Not only could a neg kill the mood of an otherwise well-deserved and carefree girls night out, and potentially ruin someone’s entire evening, that comment that seemed harmless in your drunken brain could linger on the female’s mind for days, even weeks after the fact. For example, a woman may be sensitive about her recent breakup and out on the town to blow off some steam; reminding her that her ring finger remains void of hardware could literally send her home in a cab in tears. We’ve seen it happen.

When it all Goes Wrong:
The problem is that a neg is rarely done properly and there is a fine line between a lighthearted challenge (which we’re always up for) and being completely rude and offensive. Negging needs to be done so strategically that most men mess it up – after all, it is difficult to approach people at bars at the best of times. When you add alcohol to the evening’s mix, coupled with the agenda to challenge a woman’s confidence, the whole thing likely backfires. It is easy to take it too far. Again, a neg must be relatively harmless, funny and have at least some sort of complimentary component to it. Here’s another inside piece of advice, boys: those attractive girls have practice with fending off guys and have developed a bit of a fiery side themselves, especially if they have had a few glasses of wine. And the bouncer’s usually on the side of the attractive female.

In the End, Nobody Wants Insecure Anyway.
In its essence, the neg is about control, as it puts the man in charge of the interaction by encouraging the woman to earn his approval. In our opinion, a woman who actually responds favourably to a mean-spirited neg comes across as insecure or, frankly, like a doormat pushover. Just as an attractive woman theoretically welcomes the challenge offered by a neg, most guys need to be kept on their toes as well. Especially in the event of a relationship, the desire for a healthy challenge goes both ways. Not to mention, if a woman recognizes an attempt at a neg, she may immediately sense insecurity with the guy, who has to rely on an over-used tactic instead of being himself. And we don’t like insecure either. 

In general, if you’re looking for a relationship, it’s probably not a good idea to view meeting others as a game or sport, as that mentality may transpire into your courtship and relationship. Even if you’re simply looking for a one-night-stand, you’re more likely to get a slap in the face than so much as a kiss if your “game” involves negging. Plus, we women have caught on and it’s getting old. Take it from us.