There are so many clueless comments in this thread that Old Man PZ, grizzled veteran of the sex wars, successful lothario who has managed to reproduce three times, and champion who successfully landed a Trophy Partner in an extremely long and happy relationship, feels like he needs to step in and give some friendly advice. So here you go, the short sweet simple Decent Human Beings’ Guide to Getting Laid at Atheist Conferences.

The first thing you must know is that you haven’t failed when the object of your desire says “no”. That’s a perfectly reasonable response, and even if you do everything exactly right, you’re going to hear “no” more often than you do “yes”. Accepting a refusal graciously is an important part of being a Decent Human Being.

You have failed if the person you’re interested in calls your behavior creepy. That’s where you need to step back and re-evaluate: you did something wrong. Decent Human Beings do not blame the other person, they recognize that they screwed up, accept their responsibility, and decide not to ever do that again.

What could you have done wrong? Here are some general suggestions.

Be self-aware. Are you sweaty and rumpled? Did you just eat a pound of greasy garlic fries? Are you drunk? Did the conversation just die because you’re too tired to think straight? You are probably at a nadir of attractiveness, then, and this probably isn’t the best time to step forward and invite close contact.

Be aware of your potential partner. Are they looking like they really want a hot shower and to brush their teeth? Do they look worn out after a long day of meetings? Then maybe they will regretfully turn you down, because as a Decent Human Being themself, they’re not going to inflict their hygienically unprepared body on you.

I know, this should be obvious, but if you are hoping to get laid at the big atheist conference, the first thing to do after the day of meetings is to go back to your room, take a shower, and dress nicely. Go out for a pleasant evening with the people you’ve met, drink in moderation, be friendly and pleasant and interesting, and strike up conversations with people. Your goal should be to make a connection, first; if you don’t, then you’re not going to get laid, and you should resign yourself to that.

What about tactics? I know all the games entitled young men, in particular, play. If you are deploying wingmen, if you are approaching this as you would a gazelle hunt, where the goal is to isolate a target from the herd and make them vulnerable so they will succumb to you, where getting the target stupefyingly drunk is a desirable means to an end, then you might get laid — I don’t deny that those tactics works for unscrupulous people — but you will have forfeited the title of Decent Human Being, and we’d rather you didn’t come to our meetings. Also, atheist women tend to be assertive and not at all bashful about telling everyone else about your behavior, and you’ll find yourself discussed on youtube and on blogs and perhaps even from the podium at the meeting. Then you’ll feel compelled to comment anonymously on those blogs, complaining about ball-busting man-haters, and you’ll be forever receding from that desirable status as Decent Human Being.

You don’t get to whine about being called out. It’s what we do. Join a cult if you’d rather have rules of silence and obedience.

So you’re down at the bar having a good time. How do you make the next move? Actually, asking “Would you like to come up to my roon for a cup of coffee?” or “How about if we continue this someplace a little more private?” are perfectly acceptable lines to use! Context is very important, though. If you are actually having a fun and sparkling conversation one-on-one with someone in a public place, with maybe a little flirting going on, then yes, ask away! If all you’ve been doing is general banter with a group, well then, there hasn’t been any really personal interaction so far, so expecting more is a bit presumptuous.

Remember, this is not a gazelle hunt. Decent Human Beings always give potential partners opportunity to gracefully decline, and best of all, put them in positions of equal status so they aren’t afraid to decline. If they look startled or their eyes dart around looking for an avenue of escape, you screwed up. Apologize and back off immediately.

Now you might find this hard to believe (I know I do), but I’ve been in this position several times at atheist meetings. I’m a homely old guy, not exactly what anyone would consider romantic material, and I’ve received variants of the “come up to my room for coffee” line from several women and one man. I did not find it at all creepy — it was extremely flattering, as you might guess — because in every case these were offers from intelligent people in reasonable contexts, that is, Decent Human Beings.

Being a Decent Human Being is actually the best defense you can have. Don’t abandon it for short-term gain: you’re in a community, and you’re going to lose that if you think of yourself as a predator on the make.

Now at this point, hopefully, you are two people in a hotel room. What next? I can’t help you much at this point, because I’ve always turned those offers down, and all of my dating experience is from 35 years ago, and in my current long-term relationship, we dated for two months before we even kissed. I’m pretty much the wrong person to ask for advice on what to do on one-night stands, except that as someone aspiring to be a Decent Human Being, “no” will always mean “no“, and maybe it should always be a good idea to keep on communicating as equals during the engagement. Also, everything that follows should be personal and private, so if you’re checking a blog post on the internet to see what to do next, you’re probably also doing it wrong.

Of course, if any more experienced commenters would like to offer further suggestions, they’re welcome to continue…as long as they remember these are guidelines for Decent Human Beings, not misogynistic exploiters and parasites.