Magritte: Woman Bathing    

The Science of Sex


Theory and Practice of Signals

Sexual Signals Detailed. EBIAC

Excerpts from Section 11 of

The Tyranny of Ambiguity


F30D = Female, 30, Dutch
M45DE = Male, 45, Dutch Employer



SIGNALS LIST. The following is a listing of the different signals, mainly female, which have been identified and collected.

ACCIDENT. Things being dropped, bicycle accidents and similar mishaps. An example and discussion appears early in Section 10.

ASSENT. The female transmits her decision to accept the male for sex. Unless he says or does something wrong he will be successful. This signal can be especially subtle and its precise nature is as yet unclear.

BLANCH (OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE, M/F). Literally to whiten, to turn pale, but by this is meant a visible involuntary facial signal made in reaction to the good looks of another. The upper lip may tremble, the mouth open slightly or the eyelids flicker. It may be one of a small subset of signals which are emitted equally by males and females.

BODY POUT (OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE). A part of the female's body is protruded or displayed.

BODY TREMOR. The body is rocked from side to side to emphasize the breasts.

BRIGHTENING. The female becomes alert, her posture stiffens and becomes more upright, she smiles or intensifies her smile and in this manner indicates her receptive state as a target male enters her vicinity or advances.

CHALLENGE (M/F). Challenges are expressions of defiance and can take subtle as well as overt forms. One kind of Challenge Signal is exemplified by a girl putting her nose in the air and adopting a posture of playful disdain to her boyfriend, which invites a response. Other characteristic examples are a woman ostentatiously leaning back on a chair while operating a computer, or arrogantly leaning against a photocopy machine which is in operation. The presence of a male is required for the signal to be emitted but in the presence of a perceptive one such displays are usually short-lived.

Overt Challenge Signals are impelling: they demand a response. They require attention, and secure a relationship by the involvement they demand; they can instigate or perpetuate a relationship. Challenges call for a limit to be imposed, pleading for the boundaries of acceptable behaviour to be made explicit. It may be an unconscious request for subjugation. Overt Challenges can take the form of confrontations of authority such as public demonstrations and subversive acts; they are ambiguous in intention if not in form. A good example of a male expression of the Overt Challenge Signal is knocking off a policeman's helmet.

Challenge Signals are a means by which power can be continually tested and incremented when a response is not forthcoming.

CLICK. The female transmits her realization that she is being manoeuvred into a position where sex could take place. The precise nature of this signal is as yet unclear. It is usually similar in degree to Assent.

COLLISION. A female attempts to intercept a target male with the intention of initiating a conversation in response to the encounter. Typically the female's eyes are set in a vague direction and she walks on an intersecting course in order to collide with or interrupt the course of the male, thus provoking a conversation. A comment might be made and the conversation then extended. In advanced form the female can deliberately collide with a male carrying a pile of papers and then help him pick them up.

EXAGGERATED BEHAVIOUR IN ALIEN CULTURE, EBIAC. A most distinctive instance was by one of a bevy of Middle Eastern (probably Iranian) women dressed in robes and traditional headscarves walking along the Nieuwendijk. One broke away from the rest and gave me a very pronounced Collision Signal; it was very obvious. This was similar in degree to Arabic women shoplifters in London. These women, even including the wives and daughters of diplomats and dignitaries, learning of the practice of shoplifting among the indigenous population, went at it with a vengeance, their enthusiasm apparently being in direct proportion to its prohibition in the culture from which they had come.

Germans could be forcefully uninhibited when they came to Amsterdam. It seemed that whatever behaviour was repressed in their home culture was expressed in exaggerated form in an environment in which it was not. These few reports of this effect are undoubtedly unsystematic, and in isolation might be regarded as unreliable, but in each case there is a consistent pattern. The phenomenon is evident among many different cultures.

A further example was British and other white emigrants to South Africa during apartheid. Reportedly they would spend their first year in righteous indignation, saying how disgraceful the system was and refusing to have coloured servants. After a year or so however their views would be revised and house servants, a luxury for the fairly ordinary people who would otherwise have no prospect of such convenience, would be accommodated. They would then treat them with less consideration and often more violently than the indigenous white South Africans who had grown up with the system.

DIRECT LOOK. Females tend to reserve direct eye contact for attraction and can go to quite absurd lengths to avoid eye contact, including using shop windows and mirrors for indirect observation. Occasionally there was accidental eye contact followed by a display of nervousness or embarrassment. A common occurrence was the very subtle and proficient 'merging away' of a female's eyes if a male returned her look or stare (see Rapid Look Away). There were also exaggerated swings of the head as a female eagerly sought my image in a shop window as I passed by. Females tended to only meet the eyes of a male when they were accompanied by one or more males, were behind the wheel of a car or were pushing a pram.

DOUBLE BLINK. Both eyes are blinked simultaneously, usually deliberately. It is chiefly a signal of affection and sufficiently non-sexual that in Amsterdam it was sometimes given by males to each other, especially on parting. It was a female signal imitated by males.

DRESS. Indiscriminate signals which can subsequently become commonplace as a fashion.

DROPPING SOMETHING (LADY GROUP OF SIGNALS). An item is dropped to the floor for a target to retrieve, intended thereby to initiate a conversation. This is a member of a large subset of signals intended to evoke the caretaking instinct in a target male. The set is called the Lady Group. The archetype is intentionally dropping a handkerchief on the ground as a Gentleman passes.

EMPTY GLASS (LADY GROUP). This takes the form of the gentle shake of an empty glass, as a cue for a drink to be bought, and is another member of the Lady Group of Signals.

EXAGGERATED LAUGHTER. Forced or over-enthusiastic laughter within hearing of a target male. It is often emitted by one of a group of females in a bar or café.

EXAGGERATED WALK. Typically the female swings her hips as she walks away from a male.

EXCLAMATION. This appears to be a pronounced expression of the Blanch Signal. A phrase is exclaimed (e.g. "Oh my God!") in reaction to the good looks of another, perhaps particularly in response to a Direct Look from a male. (Compare Loud Verbal Utterance.)

FERTILE. A female signalling that she has reached the fertile period within her monthly cycle may appear more alert, be prominent among a group of females and display self-assured movements, perhaps most distinctively in her walk.

FOOT STAMP. The foot is stamped flat on the ground, either while standing still or involuntarily while walking along. Sometimes it is seen as a slight perturbation of the walk but not heard, or it might be heard but not seen.

FREEZING IN PLACE (OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE). The head inclines to a particular angle and freezes there, or it freezes in position the instant a look, even an incidental one, from the male is ascertained. The primary purpose of the signal appears to be that the female be noticed, but an alternate interpretation is that it indicates fear of an approach being made. There can also be a narrowing of the eyes in response to a Direct Look from a male, as the female tries to establish whether the look from him is a signal. If the female is sedentary it can appear that the whole body freezes in place.

GOING QUIET. Falling silent or still, perhaps in nervousness or fear that any action will develop into a more overt signal.

HELPLESS FEMALE (LADY GROUP). The female seeks to directly inspire the caretaking instincts of the male using signals of confusion, self-depreciation or a plaintive manner.

HESITATION. The female exhibits uncertainty in her course of action or direction. The signal can be indiscriminate.

INCIDENTAL NOISES. Quiet hissing, tsk-tsk noises or making a clicking noise with the tongue are examples. An instance of hissing came from a Greek girl, tsk-tsk is reportedly used in parts of South America and clicking of the tongue was issued by a Dutchwoman.

INCIDENTAL TOUCHING. Most usually, brushes against the arm or shoulder or seemingly casual touches by a female's hand. In overt form, brushing the breasts against the male or rubbing the thigh against a male's leg.

JOSTLE. A target male is aggressively jostled or nudged. Two memorable instances of this signal are detailed. On the platform of Falmer station, after a visit to Sussex University, a girl signalled but I did not respond. When the train arrived I stood to one side to allow her past through the crush of people trying to get on, and she jabbed me violently in the ribs with her elbow.

The second example took place during the period I was working for M45DE. I had gone out to buy office coffee, was standing in a supermarket checkout queue and a woman behind nudged her shopping trolley into my back. On the first shove it occurred to me to respond, but I could not think of anything to say, or at least a polite and non-facile response to the shove. It was repeated and as the shoves intensified I started to feel angry, thinking 'Why can't she be the one to have to think of something to say to a complete stranger, for a change?' They became progressively fiercer until I was being aggressively rammed from behind. After five or six times she eventually gave up. Later I caught a glimpse of her on the other side of the checkouts and she appeared rather embarrassed.

In both instances I had looked at the female at the outset, if only briefly, and failed to approach.

JUVENILE. Juvenile Signals are particularly characteristic and include dancing, spinning and twitching. They are relatively indiscriminate although likely to have been triggered by a particular target. Juvenile females will frequently respond to male attention by displaying their breasts, for example deliberately pulling back their jacket to demonstrate their presence (Body Pout). Breast size is undoubtedly of great importance to the female psyche; flat-chested females are frequently sensitive about it.

When a group of juvenile females gather and giggle it may often be that they are practising signalling amongst each other, demonstrating to one another the signals they have learnt and are rehearsing.

LEAVING SOMETHING. An item is left behind for the target male to retreive.

LINGERING. A very common signal and also an expression of Protraction and Postponement, with the effect of slowing everything down. A typical expression is hovering around on a pretext, and this is one means by which this influence can be subtly and progressively brought to bear. The signal serves to promote an impresion that if a situation is drawn out then something will happen to the male's advantage which, however, rarely does.

LOOKING BACK (M/F). A male or female looks back over their shoulder.

LOOKING FLUSTERED (LADY GROUP). While static the female appears agitated or disturbed. The signal takes the form of a twitching, shaking or shimmering of the upper limbs and torso.

LOOKING SAD. The female appears forlorn as a target male passes. The male may be inspired to approach with an exhortation to 'cheer up' or enquire what is the matter.

LOOKING THROUGH; A SPECIAL CASE OF OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE. There is a definite effect of being able to Look Through females if they are susceptible to a male, for example if they are attentive to the male or have a crush on him. Typically the female will be 'caught' in a posture with her legs slightly apart.

There was an early Brigitte Bardot film in which the actress got out of bed wearing a dressing gown and walked towards the camera. The film was shown to the censor who said that the film was acceptable save for the nude scene in which BB got out of bed. "I'll remove it" said the Director "if you show me the scene." The official had thought that Bardot had been naked; the actress had succeeded in putting the Looking Through Signal onto celluloid. This anecdote confirms that it is a signal emitted by the female and not simply a male perception; it is actually a singular example of Observation Acknowledge.

LOOSE WOMAN. This rare signal takes the form of waving the leg and arm, actually waving the arm while one foot is lifted off the ground, usually by a woman under the influence of drink.

LOUD VERBAL UTTERANCE. This quite uncommon signal consists of the loud and pronounced utterance of a single word, giving either an indication of the female's receptiveness or a clue as to how she may be located in the future, intended to reach the hearing of the target male.

NOT SAYING GOODBYE. Not saying goodbye following a conversation can be a cue for the male to follow in some circumstances. One example was F30D in BAR1.

OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE. THE MOST COMMON SIGNAL. GRIMACE RESPONSE. Observation Acknowledge is a response to the attention of another person. A driving instructor once asked me "What is the most common signal you see on the road?" and I replied "The turning signal." "Wrong" he said "It's braking, the brake lights." Similarly the most common signal is looking at someone and after that, the response to being looked at. Females in Amsterdam appeared to be able to tell and would react the instant they became an object of attention; if they did not respond directly they could be seen to suppress their reaction, often by an involuntary twitch of the head or a switch to using peripheral vision. Many would actually grimace in response, as if in physical pain. The females were exceedingly quick to show displeasure.

OPEN LEGS. The instinctive, involuntary opening of the legs by a female during foreplay is something with which many males will be familiar. It is very probably the strongest signal a female can issue to a male; when combined with the smile it is stronger still. The signal can be adopted as a manner in public places in which case the signal becomes indiscriminate.

OVERCOME. The female exhibits loss of control. Once a girl emerged from a sauna close to the house. As we passed our eyes met and I saw that she was attractive. She walked a few paces farther and then veered to lean against a wall, with her back to me, where she paused for some moments without looking back. I did not respond but continued walking, watching but not comprehending. On another occasion in BAR1 a woman appeared to have been overwhelmed by me. Afterwards I wondered whether I could have steered her outside and had sex with her there and then without meeting any resistance.

PERIPHERAL COMMENT. Something is said, typically to a female companion, to which a target male within hearing might react.

PLAYFUL ABANDON. The female indicates her receptive state by careless and playful attitudes. The defining characteristics of this subset of signals are as yet unclear.

PLEASURE GROUP OF SIGNALS. Included in this group of signals are small jumps up and down on stiff legs, dancing around and singing. They are generally not sexual signals but there is a definite function of female pleasure-signalling in the male response to it: 'If females signal pleasure then everything is alright' which is, of course, not necessarily true. An obvious example of Pleasure Signalling is women working in bars and coffeeshops, who are either instructed or tacitly understand that Pleasure Signalling is part of their role. Sometimes however it was evident that the Pleasure Signals were genuine, so much so that it occasionally occurred to me that they should be paying to be there, rather than the other way around.

PREENING. The female applies lipstick, adjusts her dress or toys with an item of jewellery in the presence of her target.

RAPID LOOK AWAY (OBSERVATION ACKNOWLEDGE). There is a rapid look away, in its most advanced form the look is into the air. The rate of looking away may be moderated for effect in which case it becomes a deliberate signal.

REACHING OVER. The female rudely reaches for an object in front of or past the male, without asking for it to be passed to her or saying 'Excuse me.' This is another device, perhaps typical of mature women, for attracting attention.

SHORT STEPS. This is undoubtedly a female signal if not an innate feminine characteristic. Sometimes as a signal it belongs in the Observation Acknowledge Group. It is also emitted by homosexual males and even by heterosexual ones immediately following resort to homosexual sex (e.g. out of desperation).

SOFTENING. Similar to Brightening but the facial muscles relax.

SPITTING. This can be a device to attract attention, particularly by adolescent girls.

TONGUE. The tongue is stuck out as a sexual signal. When this stereotypical deliberate signal is given by a female it appears to signify that the male is desired by her.

WAVE OF HAIR. This signal is commonly called the Hair Flick. It is the narcissistic stroking by a female of her hair or flicking it out from the shoulders with the hand. It may mean 'I love me, you love me too.'

WAVE OF KEYS. The female waves her keys at a target male, who is intended to follow.

WIDE EYE. In this very common signal the pupils dilate to indicate the switch to peripheral vision; often the whole eye widens to appear larger. (It could alternatively be called the Greedy Eye Signal.)


FEMALE PREFERENCE FOR SIGNALS. Clearly there must be strong reasons for the female preference for a form of covert communication such as signals, and definite advantages for them in their use. Signals are obviously intended to assist male targeting. They also confer the advantage of initial control, since a male response to attraction by a signal indicates that he is manipulable. This may be why timing is so important, because a rapid and unrestrained response indicates greater manipulability. Females have a definite preference for males who respond to their signals.

CONSPIRACY MECHANISMS. THE INDULGENCE OF ROMANCE, IoR. Another reason signalling is preferred by females may be that by their subtlety the risk of a female encroaching on another's partner is minimized. A male with an existing attachment will be considerably less likely to respond to a signal from another female than to a spoken proposal from her.

In similar manner, if a female perceives that a male is naive she may be inclined to leave him alone to allow another female maximal IoR. If a female perceives, rightly or wrongly, that a male is impervious to certain signals (such as deliberate signals) her instinct may be to leave that male untainted, permitting his recognition as an optimal match by another female: specifically, allowing that other female maximal IoR following an honest signal-response sequence at some future date.

IoR may be preserved during a signal-response sequence with the aid of denial. The female may deny to herself that she signalled; although she is mostly incapable of seeing her own signal she will almost certainly sense herself giving it. Whether the female denies to herself that she signalled or not, she is able to convince herself that the relationship has merit by virtue of being 'natural' and the relationship is thus of value to her.

There can be, on the one hand, a healthy and normal reliance on instinctive signals and on the other, a rigid, uncompromising female insistence on them. Some disadvantages of an over-reliance on signals are obvious: less obvious is that males can become too good at reading them and this is problematic in those situations when signals contradict intentions. Females can also become neurotic about the signals they are emitting.

Signals are cowardly in that it is a safe strategy which carries little or no risk: because of their ambiguous nature a female can always deny her intent. The Collision and Jostle Signals seem to be the closest females normally come to making an approach.




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