By Emerald O’Brien

The Nine Grooming Tactics Con Artists use to gain control of a “target” include:  Jealousy and possessiveness, Insecurity, Intimidation, Anger, Accusations, Flattery, Status, Bribery and Control.  Once teens can recognize the specific tactics that groomers use to manipulate their targets they can more easily detect and avoid the “players.”

9 Grooming Tactics Con Artists Use to Manipulate “Targets” (Unmasking Sexual Con Games, Chapter 2) - Love Smarts - Be "Love Smart" in a love-challenged world!
9 Grooming Tactics Con Artists Use to Manipulate “Targets” (Unmasking Sexual Con Games, Chapter 2) - Love Smarts - Be "Love Smart" in a love-challenged world!

Expressions of jealousy and other difficult feelings are normal from time to time but they are used by a con artist  to manipulate. These tactics are unhealthy in any relationship. You should never be pushed into a relationship that you’re not ready for.

You need to develop a healthy response to difficult feelings. Instead try to Name, Tame and Claim your feelings.  Taming means to find a way to express yourself appropriately.  Usually find a trusted adult or wise friend who will support you (like journaling, talking, crying, counseling. etc.) Once you recognize what you’re feeling you can move beyond it.

Insecurity is an attempt to control the target’s thoughts and feelings about herself.  The groomer hopes that the target will feel so bad and insecure about herself that she will stay in a relationship with the groomer and become reluctant to open up to others.

Intimidation is not at all normal.  It is always wrong and manipulative.  Teens should never have to tolerate, listen to or participate in sexually explicit, obscene or offensive language or touch.  It’s harassment and it’s illegal!  Please report it!

Anger when used to manipulate and intimidate others can be very dangerous.  It’s a sure sign that they are trying to intimidate and control you if they use anger in a “joking” or “playful” way to talk about sex.  Some groomers describe sex with phrases like “knocking boots,” Let’s hit it,” “tag that a–,” or “thumping.”  Referring to the other person as an object allows the groomer to distance himself from the target and makes it easier to use another person .

Accusations, when using this tactic the groomer creates false or exaggerated accusations to frighten, threaten and ultimately control the target.  Regardless of the specifics the real intent is to publicly intimidate and even humiliate the target.

Flattery, most emotional groomers are “smooth talkers.”  They know what to say and how to say it so that they impress others and appear completely trustworthy.  The groomer does not give sincere or honest compliments.  He merely uses flattery, -exaggerated and insincere comments- to get what he wants.  With flattery there’s always strings attached, something wanted or expected in return.

Status, for whatever the reason the groomer uses his or her popularity to lure a target into a sexual relationship.  More often than not, the target likes hanging around with someone so much that they will often be convinced that sex is “owed” to the emotional groomer because of the attention they get.

Bribery, unfortunately this attitude of “giving to get” appears to be widespread among many boys and men in our society.  In a recent survey 30% of seventh to ninth grader boys believe that a girl owes them sex if they spend a lot of money on her. Even more frightening is the attitude that it is acceptable to force sex on a girl if necessary.  A 1999 MA survey of students reported that 16% of girls and 6% of boys have had sexual contact against their will. (

Control, the ultimate goal of any groomer is to gain control of the target and the relationship.  The following are signs that someone is too controlling.

He or she: Constantly calls to check up on you.  Tells you how to dress, who to hang out with, how to spend your time or money.  Forces or manipulates others into doing what he or she wants.  Sends harassing or threatening emails, messages or notes.  Abuses others physically, emotionally, or sexually.  Uses violence or intimidation to get his or her way.  Humiliates or puts you down in public.  Makes demands or gives orders.  Tries to get you to keep the relationship a secret.  Has an explosive temper, throws objects, slams doors, punches walls, etc.  Refuses to listen to or show respect to others, attempts to keep you away from friends or family.

Source: Unmasking Sexual Con Games: Helping Teens Avoid Emotional Grooming and Dating Violence by Kathleen M. McGee, Laura J. Buddenberg, Boys Town Press