I’ve recently found a new favorite blogger, Doctor Nerdlove (no, he’s not a real doctor), that strives at teaching nerdy, geeky, or otherwise socially awkward men how to talk to, approach, and date women in a positive and ethical way (bonus scavenger hunt: check out his last few entries and see if you can find me). One subject I’ve noticed he’s broached a few times is why women don’t approach men. Many shy or introverted guys complain about this all the time, and the complaints range from fear of seeming creepy, to fear of rejection, and to outright calling women lazy and unwilling to do any of the dating legwork. I can see these complaints are coming from a place of fear and anxiety (Disclaimer: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to suffering” – Yoda), and I do understand that place on a very personal level. Approaching new people is hard and stressful, especially when you are introverted, and it’s even hard when you don’t want a romantic connection and are just trying to make new friends. I know it is a HUGE issue for me, and has been discussed at length with both my friends and my therapist. That being said, there are very good reasons why women tend to not approach men.
The biggest one is that women have been socialized from an early age that they are supposed to be passive players in the dating arena. The message is, “If you approach, call, or ask out a man first, you have taken the chase out of the game and he will lose all respect for you as a human being.” Now, as much as we would all like to throw that out the window by arguing, “But, feminism!” It just doesn’t work that way. Yes, I am a feminist. Yes, I am acutely aware of the socially constructed reasons I am not going up to the cute boy at the bar. No, it does not change a damn thing, because just because I’m a feminist and have evolved past outdated gender roles, does not mean he has. I work under the assumption that most men do not identify as feminists, and for the most part, do not try to impose my views on them, unless they actively engage me on the subject. Women are also socialized to be nice to strangers. Even when we are rejecting a stranger’s approach, we usually try to do it politely, unless the way the stranger approaches us is inappropriate, offensive, or downright threatening, and even in those cases, we tend keep things as civil as possible.
On the other hand, men can be downright cruel when a woman they do not find attractive dares to approach them. Depending on the contingent of the venue, responses to unwanted approaches can range from laughing at the woman to pointing out all the reasons that she is not worthy of his attention (usually in terms of physical flaws) to just ignoring her and turning away. However, if the guy in question finds the woman approaching him attractive, then he assumes that she is looking for a lot more than just conversation. The response becomes overtly sexual in nature, to the point where it can be downright scary for the woman who only wanted to talk to the guy and get to know him better. Even if the conversation doesn’t turn that way, and there is just flirting, there are many men out there take a friendly approach as permission for sex. Not every woman out there is savvy enough not to let a friendly stranger walk her home after she was drinking, and her drunken state combining with her supposed sexual enthusiasm can lead to a sexual encounter that is not exactly consensual. I know it’s a stretch to go from approaching a man in a bar to date rape, but not all guys are good guys, and women do not have a special power to tell the bad from the good on first glance. When we let a guy come to us, it lets us set the pace of encounter, and essentially keep ourselves safe. The approach carries a higher risk for women than it does for men. The worst consequence for an unsuccessful approach for a man is a cold shoulder and a “no, thanks”, while the worst consequence for a woman might be date rape.
The other big reason why women do not approach men is because we suffer from the same insecurities that men do, if not many many more. That girl you’ve been eyeing across the bar might be eyeing you back, but is too insecure to come say “Hi”. Our culture tells women that we are primarily valued for our looks, and the standard that is set is almost impossibly high to achieve for any normal woman. Many men perceive women as these gatekeepers to sex/relationships/etc., standing there like Empress Nympho from History of the World Part 1 saying “No, no, no, no, no, no, Yes! no, no, no, no, no, no, no, Yes!” That is not the case. There may be a handful of very attractive women out there who play this role, but the majority of single women out there do not get approached as much as men might like to believe. I know plenty of beautiful women who scrutinize every tiny aspect of their face, body, and hair until they are thoroughly convinced that they are some sort of deformed monster and no man would ever touch them. Just recently, I purchased a vanity mirror for my room to avoid lugging make up back and forth to and from the bathroom while getting ready. This mirror turned out to be the Satan’s own tool, because while one side of it was just a normal mirror, the other was magnified. So, while I was blissfully unaware of my face for years before, now, I get a clear view of every single pore and blackhead and budding pimple. Now, I can’t go out in public during the day for fear of sending young children crying to their parents upon gazing at the monstrosity that is my face!
It isn’t just the standard. As I’ve mentioned, our culture primarily values us for our looks. Hillary Clinton can log in more air miles than any other Secretary of State, but the media will still comment on her lack of make-up or slight weight gain. In our culture, a perfectly average (or even unattractive) man can approach a woman and dazzle her with his sense of humor and wit, and leave the bar with her in tow, or at least her number in his pocket (or smartphone). Alternatively, no matter how funny and witty and smart a woman is, if she doesn’t measure up to a man’s standard of physical attractiveness, she is not seen as a potential date; she has no romantic value. Granted, this is a sweeping generalization, and of course there will be exceptions, but in general, women are much more able to alter their physical preferences to allow kindness, sense of humor, and intelligence to make up the difference.
Please, please do not read this as piece accusing men of bad judgement, behavior, etc. This is a comment on our system. The system that benefits no one. It doesn’t benefit women, and it certainly doesn’t benefit men who often feel so disenfranchised by dating. I don’t have solutions to this, other than trying to plead with both genders to be more understanding towards each other. The men who put women at risk of approaching them are not the men who are reading this, so saying “Be nice!” or “Don’t rape!” does not really apply to the current audience. What I can advise men struggling to approach women is lower your physical standards. You may find that “what is pleasing to the eye and what is pleasing to the touch are seldom the same thing” (Pulp Fiction). Some of those standards you hold may not even be standards that you arrived at yourself, but rather those dictated by our culture. Forget about having a girl to show off to your friends, because in the long run, your friends will appreciate a girlfriend that they can get along with and laugh with and socialize with, rather than just a girl they can gaze at and be envious of. Break old habits, and things will get better. I promise!
On a side note, tweet me @onlyYevster if you’re feeling down about yourself and I will tweet you back an affirmation or something that will (attempt to) make you feel better!