Here's Proof That Pseudoscience Is a Proud Pick-Up Artist Tradition

Illustration for article titled Here's Proof That Pseudoscience Is a Proud Pick-Up Artist Tradition

George Antheil was a musician, a scientist, a “bad boy,” and a man who thought he knew a lot about women. He was only three of those things, and his articles about how to use glandular science to pick up ladies prove that.


George Antheil was at the forefront of that avant garde music scene in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s possible that he got there by waving his gun, which he brought on stage with him when he performed. A self-proclaimed “bad boy,” he is most famous, artistically, for Ballet Mecanique, a discordant piece written for multiple player pianos, all of which played at the same time.

Scientifically he’s famous for his work with actress Hedy Lamarr on a frequency-hopping system for torpedoes. This system would put the torpedo and the radio communicating with the torpedo on identical sets of “piano rolls” which would instruct both objects to change their communication radio frequencies at the same time and prevent signal jamming. It was a good idea, although it could not be put into practice before the end of the war.

Illustration for article titled Here's Proof That Pseudoscience Is a Proud Pick-Up Artist Tradition

The story of how he got in contact with Lamarr gives us a window into Antheil’s less admirable qualities. Lamarr went to him because she wanted a bigger bust. Antheil wasn’t medically trained, but he believed he was an endocrinology expert, and wanted to use his expertise to improve the female sex. He believed the pituitary gland, properly stimulated, could give a woman a bigger bust. That’s not bad, but he didn’t know how to properly stimulate it—something that became obvious to Lamarr very quickly.

Antheil did not want to deny anyone the benefits of his expertise—especially not men. In 1936 he wrote an early pseudoscience pick-up artist “handbook.” Today’s manuals and websites focus on the psychology of women, and ways to exploit that psychology to make a woman fall into a man’s arms. In Antheil’s time, it was all about endocrinology. He wrote his handbook as a series of three articles for Esquire. The first article was entitled Glands on a Hobby Horse, the second was The Glandbook for a Questing Male, and the third was The Glandbook in Practical Use. Antheil described how hormones make women, at the right times, wild for sex. An expert eye could spot this wildness by a woman’s skin, eyes, and other subtle glandular signals. The Practical Use article showed men how to exploit this glandular susceptibility and get women to go to bed with them. It’s doubtful that any man succeeded in hacking a woman’s endocrine system, but if any reader was a swinger in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s, they are welcome to tell us their stories of endocrinological success or failure.



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