Chat me up? Pull the other one

Laughter is the best aphrodisiac, according to academics at Edinburgh University. While men believe sexual innuendo works, women much prefer humour. Sarah Harris and Tom McTague put the research to the test
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The Independent Online

Which is better - smutty or seductive?

Standing on the bustling fringes of the Market Place bar in Soho, a glass of wine in one hand, sweaty chat-up lines in the other, and my dignity in tatters, I survey the crowd of post-work drinkers for my first victim. I spot a nice-looking bloke leaning against the wall on the pavement, so I casually saunter over, clear my throat and drop my first nuclear one-liner:

"You want me. I can smell it," I whisper provocatively into his ear. "Ha ha ha!" He guffaws, bent double in full view of about 200 trendy media types. "That's probably because I've got my flies undone!" Not quite the response I was looking for, but then do chat-up lines ever work? I've never wittingly used one in my life, and yet here I am. My victim, Chris, explains that the most likely outcome of a smutty one-liner is a smutty conversation and probably smutty sex - but not a phone number. "But you definitely have balls," he says.

Over the next 20 minutes at least three other men tell me I "have balls", as though by making the first move I was trespassing into sacred male territory. And when I ask 30-year-old Matt "Do you believe in love at first sight, or am I going to have to walk past you again?", he laughs, and says: "I want to punch you, but I'll give you my phone number!" These men seem to feel emasculated and flattered at the same time, so when I spy a tall, handsome man with dark curly hair I try a more "feminine" approach.

"Excuse me," I murmur, "do you know any good bars round here?" He smiles and informs me that there's a nice bar round the corner. This is when I bring out the big guns: "But will any of the men in there be as good-looking as you?" I've cracked it: the seductive blend of being helpless and slightly wanton works like a charm, and he asks me whether I'd like to go to this other bar for a drink and gives me his number. "But if you're pretty, you can get away with saying whatever you like," he says.

So, my purse bursting with business cards, I wonder how many men would really turn down a woman on the basis of a poor opening line. Not many, is the answer, As one man succinctly put it: "Never look a gift horse in the mouth."

If you're not Jude Law, good luck to you - you'll need it

I'm outside a bar in central London. I feel out of place. I look down at my list of chat up lines again: "Baby, you remind me of a parking ticket - you've got FINE written all over you." Really? "You are the star that completes the constellation of my existence." That can't work. Surely!

I walk over to a group of three girls in their late 20s; pretty but not stunning; friendly but not boisterous. "Excuse me," I say to the closest, "your eyes are blue like the ocean and, baby, I'm lost at sea." I wait. "You must be pissed, luv. My eyes are brown." Good start, Tom.

After I explain myself we have a bit of chat and a laugh. I ask if they would pick the lines most likely to "work" on them. There's a definite consensus around the conversational, rather than the overtly sexual. But they all agree: if Jude Law were asking, it would be different.

Armed with the girls' advice I try out my new conversational approach. "Hi, my name's Tom. How do you like me so far?" Generally the answer seemed to be "not all that much".

In fact, it didn't really seem to matter what I said; things certainly weren't heading in the direction of "further interaction".

I decide to be normal. "Excuse me, I'm a journalist. I work for The Independent on Sunday. I'm writing an article about chat-up lines. Would you mind chatting to me for a few minutes?"

"Wow. Nice line," she laughs. "Er, well, yeah go on then." And I'm in.