Men who Date Women: Do You Feel Expected to Make the First Move?

I have a question for men who date women (it’s for a piece I’m writing for AlterNet): Do you feel a social expectation to make the first move in dating and sex?

If you do: Can you say more about that? How has this affected you? How has it affected your dating life and your relationships? How has it affected other people in your life — men, women, or alternatively gendered? If you’re not actively dating women now (because you’re partnered, have decided to be single, are primarily pursuing other men, etc.) but have in the past — how has this affected you in the past?

And if you don’t feel this — if you either don’t think such an expectation exists, or you think it exists but don’t feel like it’s affected your life — please tell me about that as well.

You can answer in the comments — or, if you prefer more privacy than that, you can email me, greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. Again: This is for a piece I’m writing, so please let me know how you want your name cited if I quote you, or if you want to only be quoted anonymously, or what. (If you don’t say otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to quote you with handle or first name only.) Thanks!

Men who Date Women: Do You Feel Expected to Make the First Move?
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145 thoughts on “Men who Date Women: Do You Feel Expected to Make the First Move?

  1. 1

    I do believe the expectation exists. It affected my life seriously while I was with my ex-fiancée because she was very much a disney-esque pop-culture/prince charming romantic & so the entire burden of romance & intimacy rested on my shoulders. With my current girlfriend that expectation has diminished significantly & our romance is much closer to a genuinely equal partnership. That said, I have internalized the expectation a little bit & I often feel shame when I realize I can’t afford to take my love out for dinner or otherwise initiate a romantic moment/evening/what have you.

  2. 2

    Yes, I do feel there is an expectation that I ask first. And given that due to various issues I feel extremely disinclined to do so, this has proven problematic.

    Essentially, it means that I don’t date unless a woman goes against cultural programming and asks me first. Given that I am no movie star in looks, you can guess how often this happens.

    The one relationship I have ever been in as a result was with a woman who was very sexually assertive, and has slept with anywhere between 40-50 people in her time. This shows so definitely wasn’t sexually inhibited by societal rules in the way many other women are. I was quite lucky that she chose me, but I can’t exactly rely on such a person happening again in my life.

    As for other people in my life, the difference can be seen in what my sister’s dating life is like. She has dated plenty of guys, guys who asked her out first. She is attractive and moderately outgoing, so she can pick and choose among the people who come on to her. I am not trying to make this sound like a bed of roses, its just how things are.

  3. 3

    Yes, I have definitely felt that social expectation, and I don’t like it. It requires having to be very sensitive to subtle hints and that’s something that I’m not very good at. All to often I’ve picked up on a hint that wasn’t there or missed countless hints that were there. It’s resulted in missing out on opportunities for relationships and/or sex and for awkward situations when I’ve made a move that turned out to not be wanted.

    I’m not saying that it needs to completely change, but it would be nice if more women were comfortable with making the first move.

    If you choose to quote me you can feel free to use my first and last name and to link to my blog if you want.

  4. 4

    Impossible to express how bad it is. The expectation is so deeply ingrained that it goes unreckognized.

    As a classic unsocialized, geeky, funny-looking etc. man, it seems that ‘normal’ folks are operating on a system of behaviour that they neither choose nor preceive.

    Having missed school the day the manuals were passed out, I feel helpless and trapped; the minimum agression required to make myself visible on female radar, feels to me like catcalling from a construction site. Women who find me interesting (I know they do exist) find me oblivious to any ‘signals’ they can send without making themselves feel desperate or depraved.

    I’m not sure how people have manged to reproduce 6 billion plus times in such a toxic atmosphere.

    Hard to be optimistic, but at 55 maybe (wo)menopause will give me a little relief.

  5. 5

    Yes, I do.

    I feel pressured to make the first move in every situation, starting from “Asking the woman out” to “initiating any sort of physical intimacy.”

    And, given my social anxiety (and some stubbornness) I rarely get past the FIRST part, ‘asking the woman out.’ So how has this affected my dating life? Mostly by ensuring my dating life is empty (barring some women who also ignore these social norms).

  6. 6

    Yes, I feel like I must make the first move. At least twice I’ve become friends with girls, had the impression they weren’t interested in more, then had them tell me months later (when either they or I was seeing someone else) that they had been waiting for me to bust a move.

    I asked the girl each time, “Why didn’t you say something, or make your interests apparent?” Each time they responded with, “Because the guy is supposed to make the move.”

    The other frustrating part of this expectation is that girls aren’t always casual about saying “no.” It seems particularly unfair to expect us to always make the first move, then be awkward about saying no, or to let that make it awkward to continue to have interaction.

    Anyway, I think this is a GREAT topic for you to write about, and I could say more if you’d like. Feel free to use my name and anything else in your writing. Cheers.

  7. 7

    I have not only had situations where a woman friend said “I was waiting for you to make the first move” I have also spoken to women who have said “I can’t find a boyfriend, all the men don’t approach me” (more or less).

  8. 8

    I always felt expected to make the first move in dating and sex. This expectation in the past meshed horribly with my already crippling shyness, unfortunately; even as I became more comfortable and confident with myself, making that first move always seemed exceedingly dangerous. I remember nursing an immense crush on this one girl in college; we hung out nearly every day and I made dinner for her on several occasions, but I never did anything. Predictably, nothing happened.

    Now though, as I near my own highly improbable wedding, it occurs to me that the first move might be something much more subtle: some signal from the girl letting you know she’s available, that she’s interested. Can’t that be the first move? Certainly, some men are bolder and have no reservations about making their feelings known straightaway, but for us more timid men, perhaps we just need to be more observant.

    I’ve strayed from my point somewhat. I think most men feel obligated to make the first move, an obligation that may make them nervous, but the true first move might be more subtle on the part of the woman.

  9. 9

    I’m married now, but back when I was in the dating pool (which would have been mostly the ’80s), I definitely felt the pressure to always make the first move to chat a woman up and ask her for a date. Given that I was an introvert, this had a major impact on my dating, and I went through several years of university until I got a steady girlfriend. There was one woman I could have dated, who in retrospect was so obviously interested in me that I wish I could travel back in time and smack my ’80s self around the head. That particular woman never, ever made any kind of move on me. If she’d asked me on a date I would likely have said yes (after picking myself up from the floor). I was smitten with someone else at the time, who turned out to be uninterested, and so missed the obvious girlfriend potential in front of me. So in that instance nothing happened due to my cluelessness combined with her lack of any sort of proposition. Most women back then also seem to have bought into the ‘man asks for dates’ model.

  10. 10

    I’ve decided to stay single. As rough as it gets, it hurts less than the alternative. (There’s my trademark optimism, you see.) My dating history was a ten-year litany of amusing-in-retrospect failures, whose causes are so tangled up together that I’m not sure I could pull out a thread labelled “social expectations”.

  11. 11

    I was a bit reluctant to post this as a comment, but… I guess that’s why I have a random username anyway. Also, I can see that my reply is similar to several that have already been given, but I’m going to say this anyway.

    I very much feel that expectation, and it’s completely crippled my dating life. The only semi-long-term relationship I have had was with a woman who was very eager to defy such conventions, and even then I was embarrassed at first and felt it necessary to try and “save face” with my response. After that, I attempted several times, and I usually did not get good responses, so now I have completely given up. I am resigned to a life of being alone.

  12. 13

    Was going to write a longer comment here, but John the Drunkard said just about everything I wanted to. The expectation is definitely there, and if you aren’t comfortable in social situations, you pretty much have to get used to being alone.

  13. 14

    I’ve found the societal expectation that men initiate any kind of heterosexual interaction to be ubiquitous, even in communities that are otherwise very counter-cultural. I spend a lot of time in feminist spaces, hanging out with other atheists, and even in the kinky and sex positive communities, and in all of those places the unspoken but iron-hard expectation is that a man will make the first move. This is even taken to its most illogical extreme at BDSM play parties I’ve attended, where I’ve seen women who identify as DOMINANT have a hard time initiating contact with submissive-identified men they fancy, the conditioning is so strong.

    It’s certainly affected my dating life; I’m not particularly aggressive or outgoing, so every time I’ve initiated an interaction with someone I fancy, it’s been because I forced myself to, against my nature. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and date pretty successfully, but those first few interactions are always a little awkward and forced for me, and I know it’s cost me some fine relationships because things didn’t quite feel right.

    My partner (we’re poly) recognized this, and utterly shocked and delighted me when she asked me to marry her a few years ago. Quite aside from being thrilled that I was going to marry the love of my life, it felt absolutely incredible to be WANTED like that. In my romantic life I’ve been wanted plenty of times, but there’s no substitute for a partner ASKING you for a date, a shag, or a marriage. I really wish I got to feel that way more often.

    You can quote me, by the way, that’s my “real” name up there.

  14. 16

    Yes, I do feel that the predominant pressure is on men to be the initiators. I also have stories of women whom I thought I was pursuing, only to find out later that they didn’t think I was interested because I wasn’t pawing them from the get go. So there’s no telling how many potential relationships I’ve missed out on for trying to not ‘be the jerk’.

    And the pressure still exists in the opposite direction also, as I know several women who get criticized for being ‘too aggressive’ for just being open about their attraction to specific men – much less making the first move. And this is in the relatively progressive SF Bay Area.

  15. 17

    I should add that my list of failures includes instances where I made the first move and also where I was moved upon. Either way, they ended, at best indifferently but never happily.

  16. 18

    I have always felt the expectation for making the first move. I am presently (and pleasantly) in a long term relationship with the best woman on earth, but prior to that, I definitely felt the expectation.

    What’s tough about it is deciding if that person thinks of you as someone they want to make a move. I have lost several friends because I misinterpreted the cues and made a move on someone. The trouble is that you can’t undo it, and while I am one who would be entirely comfortable just being friends with a woman I am attracted to, if I misread the cues (and it’s important to remember I’m saying “I”, taking the ownership here) then it can ruin a friendship, which puts a huge amount of pressure on.

    Honestly, I got to a point where I stopped making moves with people I wanted to date unless I was damn sure that she was writing in giant letters in the sky that it was okay to proceed.

    The woman I am with now was kind enough to make the first move. This was awesome, because she was also happy to tell me for weeks before she made the first move that she just wasn’t looking for a relationship ever. So there was no skywriting. But then she kissed me, and I had a pretty decent feeling she’d be okay with me kissing her back.

    I don’t think there should be an expectation on the guy, but there is. And it sucks. And we as a rule are really quite crappy at knowing when to take that shot.

  17. 19

    YES. I’ve never been asked out, only have asked out myself. In high school a female friend revealed that she hinted at me to take her to a dance for weeks and weeks, and that she cried the following summer when I found a girlfriend. My current girlfriend and I are very happy and our interest was mutual and intense from the start. But, she tells me that she would NEVER have asked me out herself under any circumstances. She only would “hint” herself (but did so quite expertly I will add).

  18. 20

    I seem to have drifted through life without this being an issue. My relationships have been considerably more organic; the notion of asking out or making a move just seems absent from my experience. I do think it’s something I would gladly see die quickly and quietly, the angst that others have about performing to culture’s expectations convinces me it’s not a healthy system.

    I make friends and some of them end up having some degree of romantic or physical nature that wasn’t forced or even imagined by me until such time as it happened. Does that make me lucky? It would appear absurdly so, but at the least I can attest that one needn’t be aggressive nor have aggressive partners in order to progress from conversation to more intimate contact.

    So no, I don’t feel like I need make the first move, nor do I feel that my life has been impeded in any fashion by that idea. This is not me saying it’s not a problem for other people, that other people don’t feel that pressure, or that I think my specific experience defines what normal is. I do wish that it could be though…

  19. 21

    I do feel the societal pressure that I should be one making the first move. I’ve had a hell of a hard time figuring out if someone was interested in the past with a few missed opportunities I was informed of after they were no longer on the table due to inaction on my part. Obviously this is not just an expectation of men to be assertive, but an expectation of women being chosen, not a woman choosing.

    Luckily my current relationship grew out of mutual interest in each other, growing very quickly from meeting to friendship to a relationship. She definitely made the first move in that case, and we like to joke about how our relationship was initiated.

  20. 22

    It’s definetly there.I distinctly recall this coming up during a lab and one of the women there saying that if a guy didn’t ask her out he obviously wasn’t that interested in her and so she didn’t feel the need to ask any guys out. I can’t say its ever been very good for me. I admit I’m a fairly introverted person and that lead to a lot of failed starts of relationships.

    I’m currently in my first real relationship and she’s made many of the first moves so at least some women are taking initiative.

    Complete aside men who date women seemed completely clunky at first until I realized some of the biases that were going through my thoughts there. Thanks for that.

  21. 23

    In my experience, it’s doesn’t feel as though I’m “EXPECTED” to make the first move.

    Expectation doesn’t really play into it at all. It’s rather more of a feeling that my making the first move is part of “the way things are.” It’s the only way I can hope to progress forward in any romantic endeavor.

    Having been “friend zoned” many times,* I have seen loads of women having a blast and making flirty gestures, giving out compliments, things of that nature. But it’s never been done with an explicit hope of romantic/emotional attachment. Just girls having fun. However, a lot of guys I have known (myself included) have had romantic interests in girls that seemingly never had any feelings of attraction toward them. In such cases, rather than wallow in lonely misery, the only advice that can be “acted on” is to man up and make the first move.

    I have also heard loads of women complain about trying to give signals (body language, verbal cues & such) and about how men they like don’t seem to pick up on them.

    But in my experience, men at least notice when women act weird. But whether that’s supposed to mean something? Anyone’s guess. Because I get how women send signals as an indiscreet way of “making the first move.” But I also get that women communicate indirectly, and what they say/imply may not be exactly what they mean. How am I supposed to get when a woman mentions something off-hand that it’s supposed to mean, “Hey, please ask me out so I don’t look like a slut?” The only way to know for sure is to respond with direct language.

    And in places where women gather (clubs, work, high school/college, etc.), this can lead to a potential toilet swirl for my life. As harsh as women can be on each other about everything from weight to clothes to sexual history, they can be similarly cruel in labeling certain men as creeps, losers, perverts, clueless, you name it. That’s the biggest negative in trying to “make the first move.” Failure can lead to crushing loneliness and social stigma. The only real way around taking that huge risk is to engage with women in settings outside of one’s social gatherings. And, of course, the only way to do that is to make the first move.

    It sucks, but not because someone “expects” me to potentially act like a clueless pervert. It sucks because that’s the only way I can even try to get out of being alone.

    * – The Friend Zone: The number one reason why making the first move is necessary. Women seem to make “just friends” with men without sexual tension/romantic interest being a part of the equation. Meanwhile, damn near every girl I have “befriended” has been one that, from the very beginning, I have wanted to marry/have children with. And I am not the only man in the world THAT’S happened to.

  22. 24

    Definitely, yes. The most obvious (and, in fact, only) effect it has on my dating life is making it non-existent, since my social anxiety issues prevent me from making the first move as well.

    (As an aside, I’d be open to dating men as well, but I’m still in the closet so they don’t ask me out either)

  23. 25

    I have always felt that unwritten and unsaid expectation. And other strange expectations. And I hate it with a passion.

    I feel that I’m shooting in the dark. Whatever is supposed to happen, I’m the one that has to initiate it. And I never get any feedback. No, wait, I do get negative feedback, but by then it’s too late.

    There’s a total lack of useful communication. I never have a frickin’ clue what she wants, expects or feels, so I have to resort to some kind of silent cold reading of body language. I really wish there were an app for that.

    I feel that if I don’t keep on pushing, pushing, pushing, then nothing happens. I don’t get ‘lucky’ in any meaning of the word, but then again I don’t get rejected. And I hate to keep pushing with no feedback. Where is the line between wanted and unwanted attention?

    If I persist in showing my interest, then sooner or later I will get rejected. I have been rejected in any and all imaginable ways except outright physical violence. I still remember the package with the apple core and banana peel.

    I have never had any kind of romantic/sexual relationship that was not initiated by her, and the last one was 20 years ago. I’ve started to reject and push away any and all single women reflexively, just to make sure that I don’t get rejected again, because there’s just so much I can take of that.

  24. 26

    Add one more to the pile labelled “I absolutely feel that expectation, and simultaneously feel that making that move is generally considered creepy, especially coming from someone with my (lack of) interpersonal skills.”
    And yes, I consider it debilitating to my ability to date (in addition to being dirt poor). I generally don’t feel comfortable even complimenting someone for fear of coming off as creepy, much less making a more direct proposition. It makes being a sociopath look enviable, sometimes (well, not really, but I hope you get my point).

  25. 27

    What counts as “the first move”? Leil Lowndes rasies some interesting issues in her book How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You (ignore the title it’s actually pretty well researched). According to her in two thirds of all encounters women make the actual first move. The thing is the first move is usually non-verbal and when it is verbal it’s indirect.

    The point she makes though is that when women make this kind of first move Men often think that they, the man, made the initial approach.

  26. 28

    I think the worst thing about this for me is not just the societal pressure to make the first move all the time in every romantic situation (which is there to be sure, if I don’t remind my girlfriend every now and then that she can initiate sex too, I’m the only one who starts anything), it is the guilt I feel for talking about it.

    Because it’s such a cultural staple, whenever I bring up to my girlfriend that I am sometimes uncomfortable making the first move all the time, it makes me feel like I’ve failed somehow. I get the same feelings of trepidation about bringing it up in conversation as I would about telling someone I’ve made an awful mistake. It shouldn’t be easier for me to admit I forgot an anniversary than saying I don’t always want to initiate romance; but it is.

  27. 29

    If anyone’s interested here’s a list of initial moves of succesful approches women make, from researcher Monica Moore. The number is the number of times they worked during her study period.

    Smile at him broadly 511
    Throw him a short, darting glance 253
    Dance alone to the music 253
    Look straight at him and flip your hair 139
    Keep a fixed gaze on him 117
    Look at him then toss your hair then look back 102
    ‘Accidentally’ brush up against him 96
    Nod your head at him 66
    Point to a chair and invite him to sit 62
    Tilt your head and touch your exposed neck 58
    Lick your lips during eye contact 48
    Primp while holding eye contact with him 46
    Parade close to him with exagerated hip movement 41
    Ask for help with something 34
    Tap something to get his attention 8
    Pat his buttocks 8

    From M.M. Moore, ‘Nonverbal Courtship Patterns in Women: Context and Consequences’, Ethnology and Sociobiology 6:237-247 (1985). Listed in ‘How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You’ Leil Lowndes

  28. 30

    The Friend Zone: The number one reason why making the first move is necessary. Women seem to make “just friends” with men without sexual tension/romantic interest being a part of the equation. Meanwhile, damn near every girl I have “befriended” has been one that, from the very beginning, I have wanted to marry/have children with. And I am not the only man in the world THAT’S happened to.

    Please, can we just let this idea die? If you have only befriended those women who you would have wanted to marry or procreate with, who has the problem? Who is being sexist? What is so terrible about being friends with a woman? Why would you only do so if you have interest in elevating that friendship? This kind of thinking is why many women are reluctant to be just friends with men. People who think in terms of the friend zone need to stop.

  29. 31

    Do I feel a social expectation to make the first move in dating and sex?

    Yes, but not an overwhelming societal pressure that severely limits or stifles my own desires and plans. It is somewhat less invasive, for me, than the “normal” social norms placed on dress. I might really feel like wearing my assless chaps to that wedding reception, but I know that it is not appropriate for that particular guest list.

    Also I feel the farther you stray away from the “mainstream” the less this is prevalent. And it really doesn’t matter along what path you are diverging along: queer, BDSM, progressivism, veganism, artistic. As long as you are moving vaguely “away and to the left” it is not as a big of a deal.

    As to how this has affected me, not so much I imagine. Quite a number of my “dates” have been initiated the woman including my current “non-same-sex-marital-partner”.

    The only negative issue that I can think of is that I may have missed some “dates” because I was not sure enough of the woman’s interest (or distracted or whatever) to actually make that “move”. But, that is really the corollary of the question you are asking.

  30. 32

    To Dhorvath (cuz I don’t know how to quote):

    I’m not here to start arguments with people. All I’m saying is that a lot of my now female friends started off as someone I wanted to persue romantic relationships with. As it stands, I know I have got no shot. So I’m perfectly happy to be friends with these boss ladies with similar interests. Seriously. Don’t be a dick. There is NOTHING terrible about being friends with them. The only terrible thing is that it’s hard to find someone who loves me beyond friendship. I don’t accuse people of being sexist for that. So knock of the crap.

  31. 33

    So, to squeeze my raindrop into the ocean, yeah, I’ve been acutely aware of the pressure on men to make the first move, and the corresponding pressure on women to NOT do so.

    -I’ve dated several women who simply stopped returning my calls after a handful of dates. More than one of these women who have communicated with me after the fact have said in no uncertain terms that they moved on because I clearly wasn’t interested in them, having made no move to touch, kiss, or grope them after a date or two.

    -The woman who is currently my wife started our relationship by making all the first moves, romantically and sexually, but lately she’s expressed that she wants me to be more sexually aggressive with her. The real difficulty is that … actually, aggressive dominance is the biggest, most satisfying part of my sexuality. I’ve suppressed that for years, though, because when I was younger, I was a DOUCHE. A royal tool. I’m trying to not do that anymore, thus the keeping my hands to myself with previous women I’ve dated.

    Now, though, even trying to be more aggressive with my wife leaves me really creeped-out and turned off.

  32. 34

    I’ll chime along and agree that I do feel an expectation to initiate romantic endeavors, and I don’t really like it. There is the advantage of not having to directly deal with anyone you don’t want to, but you do have to gather your courage and overcome a fear or rejection before there is a chance of anything happening.

    I have been married/committed to one person for about 10 years now, so things may have changed. That is how I remember my dating years though.

    It took me a long time to overcome my insecurities and cultivate an attitude that let me initiate things without holding my self esteem in the balance of every inquiry. A self fulfilling prophecy of failure really prevented me from any kind of sexual relationship until I was in my mid 20’s, mostly (I think) because I was unwilling to initiate things and risk rejection. It also took a while to be comfortable enough not to come off as a completely creepy weirdo.

    Most people I have talked to, male or female, get a great boost in self esteem when someone “makes a move” on them. Provided of course that their decision is respected and there is no perceived coercion going on. My perception is that most women think men will not consider them respectable if they are too aggressive, so they feel they have to be very subtle in how they convey what they want, thus the man has to be the one to make the first overt move.

  33. 35

    So knock of the crap.

    Brian Wayne @ #32 (and FYI to everybody else): I get that this is a loaded topic on which emotions run high, but please play nice. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. This is a loaded topic on which emotions run high — so please play nice. No personal insults. I never want them in my blog, and I especially don’t want them on this topic. If you want to debate ideas, that’s okay (although on this topic I’d rather the conversation stuck mostly to personal experiences and “I” statements)… but if you’re going to do that, please don’t use personally insulting language, and please don’t interpret disagreement with your ideas as a personal insult. Thanks.

    And to absolutely everyone who has commented on this topic so far: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your thoughtfulness and honesty on this topic. Please keep it coming. Thanks.

  34. 36

    What counts as “the first move”?

    Fair question. I would say “the first overt, unambiguous, verbal move.” I.e., asking someone out, or otherwise making a move that can’t be interpreted as anything other than a move, and that requires an overt response. (The point being that if you toss your hair at someone and they ignore you, you can save face and pretend you weren’t making a first move — but if you say, “Would you like to go out with me?”, that’s not possible, and you have to accept the possibility and indeed the likelihood of overt rejection.)

  35. 37

    I still feel expected to make the first active move. But as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with women, and especially as I got a more firm grasp of feminism, I’ve been able to understand better that most women have just had any kind of sexual assertiveness stamped out of them, and that often they ARE making the first move.

    It’s just that, for them, the first move can only be something subtle and passive, like finding an excuse to sit near me, or spending more time talking to me over the counter than they need to, or finding a reason to involve me in a conversation. But for me the “first move” is supposed to be the first *active* move: asking them out somewhere, or putting my arm around them, or leaning in to kiss them.

    Though this sometimes causes me trouble, in that I’m not a very personally aggressive person, and, since I’m also very kinky and consider myself a feminist, I have a very strong sense of personal boundaries. Thus, I have occasionally had women act surprised when they realized I was interested in them sexually, since I show so few of the “typical” male signs. It almost always ends well, I think they just don’t expect a guy to be able to be both in touch with, and firmly in control of, his emotions and desires.

    Ironically, being married and divorced (I met a stunningly attractive, very sexually assertive woman in college, and we spent nearly seven years together) has helped me to no end with my interactions with the opposite sex. For one, I don’t see them as the “opposite sex” anymore. They’re just people. People who happen to have different genitalia than me, but people nonetheless. They’re just as scared of being judged as I am. They’re just as afraid of being unlovable as I am. Often even more so.

  36. 38

    Ah Greta,
    I fear I overstepped. My apologies for moving from my own experiences to talking about others. Brian, I can only respond to what is written and that is why I use a lot of questions when I don’t know someone. I do have a fair amount of animosity towards the friend zone and that did get directed your way. My apologies for preferencing my consternation over your experience.

  37. 39

    I thought I had posted, but apparently not. Confusing.

    Anyway, yes, I do. I’m pretty sure it’s limited my dating life in the past (and present: poly). Like others, it doesn’t help that I’m bad at reading flirtatious signals (often thinking they aren’t there, and being told later they were). When I first told my wife I was interested, I thought I was going in cold turkey (she claims she was giving me signals). She said she would never have made the first move, because making the first move has turned out bad for her. My sister-in-law has said she refuses to do the asking because, in her words, “I want a man with balls.” My mother told me once that she never did the asking because “If he wanted me bad enough, he could ask. If he didn’t ask, he must not have wanted me bad enough.” The book and movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” also perpetuates this falsehood.

    My (rather frustrated) thought in response to the women I mentioned has been “What if we men want a woman with balls? If she doesn’t ask, does that mean she doesn’t want me bad enough?”

    It sucks.

    (If you quote me, feel free to use my full name, Nathan Salo Tumberg, or my handle)

  38. 40

    Feel free to quote me with my full name.

    I don’t feel a “social expectation,” in the sense that I don’t worry that my friends, family, or a nebulous “the culture” will think less of me if I don’t make the first move.

    However, I still usually make the first move, because women won’t. I’ve dabbled in online dating (we’re talking a handful of first dates and one relationship that lasted a few months) and it’s been especially obvious there. I rarely get messaged by a girl I haven’t messaged first. One girl told me she never sends first messages.

    Obviously it would be nice for me if women made the first move more often. But I chalk up “learning to make the first move” as a skill guys have to learn.

  39. 41

    Feel right at home here. Yes, I feel there’s an expectation, but my best (only?) relationships have happened when she made the first move.

    Have given that all up now. My last marriage was till-death-us-do-part, and I no longer have the emotional juice to start over.

  40. 42

    I take a bit of that “the friend zone” on the chin. I’m not saying that I only made friends with a girl because I had ulterior motives, but I’m someone who is deeply attracted to a strong, smart woman. I have had many female friends who I grew attracted towards because of those characteristics. Now, I wasn’t intending on developing these feelings, but the pursuing of the feelings becomes difficult. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve lost a fair number of female friends over the years because I mistook their interest in me, and I’ve lost some as well because when I made a move, as much as it was wanted, the fear… Hang on, I’ll explain with an example.

    I knew a particular girl for a very long time. I found her physically attractive when I met her, but that generally isn’t enough to make me care. I actually was living with her and another friend, and my feelings for her grew based on how interesting a person she is. But the situation was not right by any stretch of the imagination, and nothing ever came of it.

    Years later, we reconnected, and our situations were not the same. Long story short, we wound up together. But things got weirder. The relationship didn’t last long, and it seemed to get progressively harder on her. I asked her about it, and she brushed it off as “girl stuff”, a term I hate because it is dismissive and sexist. Eventually, she admitted that she wasn’t used to having a guy treat her well. Her dad had manipulated her. Her ex-husband had abused her in a variety of ways. Her boyfriends all cheated on her. The last one was an “all of the above” sort of creep. And here’s me, a guy who just enjoys her company, finds her intellectually stimulating, sexually attractive, sexually compatible, and totally fun to cook dinner with.

    She broke up with me. Told me she wasn’t ready for a guy like me. She spent the whole time we were together waiting for me to treat her badly, and when I didn’t, she didn’t know how to deal with that.

    You’d be surprised how often that same story played out in my past.

    My present, ever-so-perfect girlfriend has had a similar history. However, for whatever reasons, she was prepared to take the risk on a good guy. We’ve been together over a year and a half and we live together now, and it still rears up every now and again… She’ll tell me she gets weirded out, has dreams about me cheating on her, and it all goes back to how everyone else has treated her. But she’s happy to get past all that.

    What can I say, I’m a catch. 😉 And modest, too. Modest as the day is long.

  41. 43

    Dammit, where’s the edit button. I read my comment and immediately regret saying “women won’t.” More accurate to say “women don’t do so often enough. If I didn’t make the first move so often, I’d be waiting a lot longer than I’d like in between opportunities.”

    I suppose there are men who don’t make the first move any more often than the average woman. The difference is that they tend to end up involuntarily single, whereas women can expect a steady stream of guys trying to flirt with them no matter what they do. At least that’s my impression.

    I also realize that my last sentence may have had a “that sucks but that’s how it is” tone to it. But I actually think it isn’t any more burdensome than the need to learn other basic social skills.

  42. 45

    As Brian Wayne alluded to @23, I don’t think “expectation” is the right word for it. It’s like asking if I feel a social expectation to put gas in my car. Nobody’s pressuring me to do so, but if I want to drive anywhere, I have to face reality and visit the gas station. If I want to date, I have to face reality and make the first move.

    I’m not sure how much it’s affected me. I can’t say it causes me any misery. Maybe a little bit of stress in that I have to risk rejection more often than I would in the counterfactual (for me) world where women commonly ask out men. But I see that more as my own flaw for being a little less secure and courageous than I should be than some cruel thing society has imposed on me.

  43. 46

    IMO is absolutely the norm that the guy takes the initiative in sending unambiguous signals.

    I have very rarely been asked out on a date by a woman, or had the woman make a first sexual move.

    I have more often heard “I thought you’d never ask” or “so-and-so wonders why you never asked her out.”

    That says something. And we’re not talking about random people here, but generally left-of-center types, most of whom clearly identify as feminists.

    I’ve always found that annoying, and I’ve discussed it with a fair bunch of women—pretty much any woman I’ve dated more than about three times, and a number of women I hadn’t dated at all.

    Its pretty clear that even women who are quite against this sort of sexist assignment of roles in principle play along with it, because it generally pays to do so. People take base rates into account in their intuitive calculus of risk and benefit, and things are the way they are, so you read the signs relative to the norms.

    Since a guy generally knows he’s supposed to do the asking, it’s a bad sign if he doesn’t ask. It’s often taken as a sign of lack of interest and/or lack of confidence, either of which is bad. Or maybe something else, but whatever it is, it’s likely a bad sign about the guy, or about prospects for a relationship. (E.g., maybe he hasn’t really committed to looking for somebody new, because he’s on the rebound from somebody else, and might go back to them. Maybe he’s generally self-confident, but not sure he should be asking, because he’s not confident that what he’s offering is what’s wanted.)

  44. 47

    Before I got married, I used to feel that way, yeah. It stressed me out. Of course, that’s nothing to complain about when compared to what women have to go through.

  45. 48

    (not a man but live with one)

    I initiated the relationship with my now-husband – it was never a case of anyone asking, it just happened.

    He’d never had a girlfriend before. He’d been on good terms with girls throughout sixth form (last two years of high school) and university but had self-perception issues that led him to believe no-one could fancy him.

    After two years, he proposed. Well, sort of. He suggested that our shopping trip the next day included buying a ring. Apparently he was massively nervous.

    Which leads to what is my actual point. He has said quite definitely that if I’d done the proposing as well as the initial move he would have felt less of a Proper Man.

  46. 49


    Being a 19 year old college freshman I haven’t had an extensive amount of experience with different women and dating. In high school I dated various women as an underclassman and was in a year and a half long relationship during my upper class years. This taught me a lot about dating, what I look for in a partner, and dealing with emotion. When I first started to open up and date I was rather promiscuous. However, as much as I was ready to try new things I always respected the women I was with and never wanted do anything that could possibly upset them or they would regret. Even if this was something as simple as watching “The Notebook” and making out on a weekend I still felt self-conscious to what my date felt about the situation. This posed a few issues for me. Typically, in any high school stereotypical setting, the man makes the move on the lady. And oh-boy did the girls I dated in high school stick to that stereotype. They would always lay down on the couch with me and cuddle up next to me, but never would my date advance bases-that was my job. In retrospect, I never took this as a sign that there was something wrong with me. I just perceived it as the social norm, guys are supposed to have the audacity to make a move based on lust or something. The only problem I had with the obligation of making the first move is that I would have trouble ‘reading’ the girl if that’s what she wanted. Countless times in my early high school years girls would always text me the day after our saying something along the lines of, “y didnt u kiss me last night?”, or “No!! i deff wanted you to make a move!” Saying these things to me after sitting on the couch motionless was quite confusing to me. It told me that it was going to be up to me from now on to judge the situation and have a bit more audacity when on dates with new women. Which I suspect was helpful after all. All in all, yes I do feel there is an unwritten rule that guys dating women are supposed to make the first move. I have experienced it first hand (pun intended) in my high school years and see no reason for it to be any different in college. Time will tell.

    ~Kenny F.

    P.S. Feel free to quote me, although I’m sure my anecdotes will be far less revealing to social sexuality as a whole :/

  47. 50

    Oh, and Greta, you should start a thread for “Women who date men: do you make the first move? Why or why not?”

    Chris Hallquist @ #44: I’m on it. That’s tomorrow’s thread. Or rather, it’s going to be, “Women who date men: Do you feel a social expectation to wait for men to make the first move?” And I’m going to start a thread for gay men, lesbians, and people who don’t identify as traditionally gendered as well, as I think these expectations affect them as well, although in different ways.

  48. Mox

    Thank you for asking this question Greta – I have no doubt you have an interesting piece of mind based on what people say.

    The answer, as you have already seen based on the numerous responses, is unequivocally yes. Women for whatever reason will only very seldom initiate the dating process, or make the necessary moves to facilitate it. This includes the initial approach, getting the phone number or contact info, calling/texting to set up the date, moving in towards intimacy, etc etc. It is REFRESHING whenever a woman does ANY of these things, and I’ll emphasize that sometimes they do. This is not a universal rule and there are always exceptions – some women are extremely confident and WILL make the first contact after you exchange info. But this is the rare exception. I almost always have to do all of these things. Instead women often will indicate their interest just by making these things easy for the man to do and generally being a team player.

    It is a numbers game, and many times you have to deal with flakes. This is why you must initiate this process with many women to find one who is interested in you AND is truly compatible.

    This is also why I have been leery at many who have said you must not approach women in certain contexts. It is hard to define what the “acceptable” situation is, and all this leads is to timid men who twiddle their thumbs and expect things to magically occur, then they wonder why they are single. Some women want to be left alone and some will be happy that you are talking to them – but the only way to find out is for you to approach. Women are generally not the aggressors. This is the unfortunate reality.

  49. 52

    This isn’t directly in response the the article, but I’m reading a lot of comments from guys who say they’ve been rejected badly in the past.

    Again, I’m no social wizard, but I’ve learned a few things in my (admittedly not horribly many) years.

    For starters, if you’re terrified of rejection, don’t ask her on a date yet. Ask her to coffee. People have friends for coffee all the time. People also go to coffee with dates. Try to fall somewhere in between. Coffee houses make people feel at ease.

    Secondly, don’t think of it as a date. There’s no reason to. An ideal date would begin by just talking to each other. If you can feel yourself being uncharacteristically charismatic, chances are she can sense it too. If you feel yourself being interesting but not flirtatious, at least you can enjoy yourself in conversation. If you go into it worried about what she’ll think of you, your conversation will probably be closed, phony, or overeager, and she’ll sense that as well as you can.

    Thirdly, and I’m going to be blunt here, hold off on wanking for at least three days prior to the day. Maybe I wank more than I should (this is true, or at least it used to be), but it takes your body a while to replenish your semen fully, and until you do, you’ll be operating at lower-than-optimum testosterone. This is both important in making you more assertive and in your release of pheromones (biology matters, bros). As far as your body knows, this whole dance is all about making babies. Obviously, we’re beyond that both individually and as a species (mostly), but it’s harder to make a strong romantic connection without some amount of base primitive instinct guiding us.

    Anyway, I’m not so arrogant as to say that this definitively works. It has helped me though, and most of my successful dates resulted from it.

  50. 53

    That expectation has always been there, more of a solid fact than an expectation really; if I don’t make the first move, nothing will ever happen. Since I’m thoroughly introverted, shy, and socially inept (also fat, hooray), I’m going on 30 years of being completely single. Haven’t even been on a date or anything resembling one.

  51. 54

    Yes, and I hate it. I always felt, perhaps inaccurately, that girls were in the position of ranking the choices on offer whereas as a boy all that was usually on offer was the risk of rejection.

    Perhaps the worst bit is when years later someone will say “I really used to fancy you, you should have made a move” – this does not help!

  52. 55

    Big ugly jim:

    She broke up with me. Told me she wasn’t ready for a guy like me. She spent the whole time we were together waiting for me to treat her badly, and when I didn’t, she didn’t know how to deal with that.
    Yeah, I dated her too, metaphorically speaking.


    Paul W.:

    Its pretty clear that even women who are quite against this sort of sexist assignment of roles in principle play along with it, because it generally pays to do so.

    I think it also is the safer (emotionally) place to be, from the women’s point of view. I would also chock this mostly up to societal pressure, but who knows.

  53. 56

    It’s mostly been expected of me to be the one who asks, but I’ve rarely dated anyone where it wasn’t organic for me to do so. The last date I went on (which, now that I think of it, has been awhile), I was asked, rather than the other way round. As far as how I feel about the general expectation, I dislike it, but more because it tends to start relationships off with men in the leading role than it’s had much impact on me personally. Having to ask out someone I like isn’t an enormous burden to me, and I also think (deep down), that any woman I’d be likely to date for very long doesn’t like gender roles anymore than I do. I do have friends, though, for whom this pressure has had more serious effects.

    One close male friend has become an obsessive body builder (though not that Schwarzenegger kind), and gotten sucked over the years into the “pickup artist” nonsense as a reaction to this expectation. He’s felt he needs to be able to “get any girl”; in other words, if he were an atheist, he’d have likely been on the side in elevator gate that said “but what about our solemn, sacred, holy right to hit on random women!?”

    Another was a woman, an old roommate of mine. She agonized constantly, for months and months, over this guy friend of hers she wanted something more with, but absolutely refused to just ask him out. Appropriately enough, actually, her reasons were religiously based; she said it wasn’t “God’s way” for her to pursue men, she wanted to be pursued. They did go out together once or twice; whether there was anything romantic behind those times, who knows. But it certainly never went anywhere, and she ended up just giving up and deciding it wasn’t “God’s plan.”

  54. HP

    Nobody enjoys rejection, and nobody enjoys being judged. I fully understand why even the most feminist woman would exploit the situation in order to avoid doing uncomfortable, unfun things. And I can’t fault anyone for doing so. I’ve been known to exploit my (white, male) privilege in moments of weakness. But I try to be conscious of it when I do.

    I think that the “men make the first move” thing is a reflection of the patriarchal commodification of women. After all, if men have to make the first move, and women have the right of rejection, then “it’s a seller’s market,” and the commodity is sexual access. So, what may seem like an unfair privilege for women (did I just throw out MRA bait?) is really a way to make men into agents and women into things. The fact that the male population gets stratified into Alphas and Omegas is icing on the cake, as far as the patriarchy is concerned.

    My own history is similar to others here: Maybe 30% my first move to 70% her first move, with long ( >5 years) stretches of celibacy. I’m now 48, and took myself out of The Game for good about seven years ago.

    The Game, for me, sucks so bad that the distant promise of sex and intimacy is not enough to make it worth my while.

    (And if anyone thinks it’s a shame that I feel that way, she’s more than welcome to show me a good time.)

  55. 58

    Genderqueer who dates people including women:

    I sometimes feel like if I make the first move with someone who lacks male privilege, I’m a douchebag. But I also am aware that many women are socialized to believe it’s slutty or clingy for them to make the first move. It’s as if I’m caught in a now-win situation, for which I blame the patriarchy.

  56. 59

    Yes, in my experience the expectation is almost absolute. While I wouldn’t want to compare it to the kind of sexism and discrimination that women still face, it is a real issue as far as healthy relationships go.

    In the past, I’ve been “courted” by some women, where that courting consists of basically goading me to make a move. I’ve never ever figured out why those women couldn’t just take the bull by the horns and make the move themselves.

    I can, however, think of two examples where the women did make the first move. The first one didn’t really work out because I realised after a few weeks that I wasn’t terribly interested, but boy did I respect her for not faffing around. She saw what she wanted, and she went for it. She was forthright without being aggressive or disrespectful. It was so refreshing to see someone who couldn’t be bothered with the social-dance bullshit.

    Now that I think about it, her behaviour during that short relationship, and even after it ended, is amongst the most mature relationship behaviour I’ve ever seen. She was pretty much unimpeachable.

    The second example is my current partner, who has no time for bullshit gender roles such as “The guy has to make the first move”. Been together three years, working out great, love her to pieces.

    If I hadn’t met women who spat in the face of this bullshit social norm, I don’t know where I’d be.

  57. 60

    Great topic, but I suspect you’re not going to hear much from men who are like, “Well, sure it’s unfair and I’m always cool with attractive ladies hitting on me, but I really don’t mind initiating contact.”

  58. 62

    I actively try to push women (and men, I’m bi) to ask me out or make moves. Because I look like somewhat-like a “jock” I try to make moves but then let the other person. Why? Frankly because I hate the expectation that I’m supposed to be leading the whole ordeal.

    Feel free to use anything, or ask for more of a response.

  59. 63

    Something else I meant to say, but forgot to add on my original post: I think if the expectation weren’t there, “the dating world,” or whatever one calls it, wouldn’t be all that much different than it is now; not from this one change alone. The thing is, the fear of rejection is a powerful thing. I think if more women felt it was okay to make the first move, and more men felt shyness and subtlety were luxuries they could suddenly afford, people would still be doing what they do now: trying to hedge their bets, hide their feelings, and so on, until they’re pretty sure about the other person; often dancing around the issue; sometimes growing to resent one another.

    I doubt it would add any special soul-searching to what women already do now, or reduce any that men do now, merely shift its basis. I think we would of course see more women asking men out, and less men asking women out, but that we’d still end up in the sorts of places we’ve seen enumerated here in these comments.

  60. 64

    It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for me, but overall I was say yes, that it is an expectation that I have felt pressure from. It was, perhaps, harder on me due to gender identity issues.

    The topic as a whole makes me a bit sad and frustrated and for a wide variety of reasons. Someone posted above about women not wanting to to be viewed as a slut. The social pressures on women to NOT be as assertive as they might want makes me sick to my stomach.

    Long ago I decided that I would have to be okay with trying to get what I wanted, to forge the relationships I wanted. It was hard for me for numerous reasons(I didn’t want to be seen as a slut either, as it happens), but eventually I got over it. I don’t have a problem acting on what *I* want any longer, but that women don’t feel like they *can* haunts me at times.

    I guess that’s the real core of it. I have sisters, and I know they are very similar to me. They want relationships like I do,
    to indulge passions, and have loving people around them. We all start from the same place, but the social context pushes us in different directions and is sucks for all of us.

    The only way I’ve found to make it better is to put it all on the back burner. Be social, be active in things you like. I go to plays and hang out after. Volunteer. Make friends of all genders. Create a social circle that enables everyone, regardless of gender, to be insulated from the demands of society at large. Create safe social spaces, even individual relationships, in which women can feel less threatened by acting first, and men can feel less pressure being more passive.

    It’s close to ‘be friends first’, but it’s more than that. It’s about letting the people you’re attracted to know that you respect and care about them *before* being intimate. Being in a social space in which rejection doesn’t mean as much of a blow to the ego because there’s more there.

    Get out of the social space that is causing the anxiety and it gets better.

    You can contact me if you like, Greta, or quote anon if I said anything interesting.

  61. 65

    Okay, I’m speaking from my German experience so I don’t know how it translates to American culture. I also speak more about meeting women in social situations (groups, parties, bars).

    I found women will make a lot of moves as long as they are just still deniable. They will make/hold eye contact or stand/sit next to you if arrangeable and say even ‘hi’ then when your eyes meet. What they will not do, in my experience, is crossing a room to say ‘hi’ after eye contact has happened. Even the most sexually liberated women I knew told me that was “my job”. I even kind of get it: crossing that room under observation and risking rejection, that’s really scary, for me and for her. So I don’t blame her that obsolete cultural norms give her some excuse not do it 😉

    I guess the reason is basically a kind of slut shaming. Even among people who would not slut-shame women for one-night stands or mistaken affairs: there’s still something allegedly wrong about a woman taking a series of rejections while asking for dates or sex. Men can actually book it as ‘courage in the face of the enemy’, so I kind of accepted it the way it is.
    Also, I understood in the meantime that women who don’t make a move often just feel as the shy teenager I was when I wouldn’t make a move. Maybe it’s my nerdyness (or sexism) but it was a major step for me to see that woman were as much looking for, nervous, and often unfulfilled about love, relationship, and sex as I was.

    Getting from talking to kissing is something I enjoy. As the male I still have to lead or at least show I know where I’m going, but it’s basically a give and take of little steps. Hard to describe in detail. When this is not fun you’re doing it wrong IMO.

    Now, going from dating/kissing to sex is something most women nowadays will do on their own. At least that’s the way I handle it (and I’m glad not to have to make that call). If at all, there’s a social expectation on the man to not reject sex when it is offered, even quite early. I guess that’s still the ‘rejecting women is bad’ theme, mixed with some sexism about men always wanting it. Maybe a different topic for another time.

    So in effect, I was aware of social expectations to make the moves when I was young. That added to my insecurities about myself and women and sexuality. Most of that fell luckily away with getting more experience. It’s not all that hard, and there’s a human you’re interacting with, faulty as you are.
    And I also stopped beating myself up about women I don’t click with or who have a totally different (or no) style of flirting. People are different, and it’s not always the male that’s the helpless nerd or the the one with absurd (or just different) ideas about relationships.

  62. 66

    >>How has this affected you?

    I would say that it has been both positive and negative. My perception is that it is mainly about my comfort level and also social skills I might lack — the “signals” they baffle me! I have a hard time externalizing it. In my head it sounds like whining. I mean, who wouldn’t like to have more (or more rewarding) sexual or romantic experiences? That said, I think it has been beneficial in other ways.

    >>How has it affected your dating life and your relationships?

    I have a very open dance card. Women who might be potential partners usually become “just friends” fairly quickly. I have probably dropped the ball during quite a few first dates by coming across as uninterested. As my Myers-Briggs test explains it: I find ideas far more interesting than people.

    >>How has it affected other people in your life — men, women, or alternatively gendered?

    My guess is that it has had something to do with my ability to form good friendships with the wives and girlfriends of my straight male friends. Most of my friends are in their early 30’s and are now coupling up and I am much more comforable being the only single person at a dinner party than show up only to discover I am essentially being setup with a friend of a friend who is the only single woman there.

    Some of my women friends have said that they feel very safe and protected around me. I appreciate that for what it is — an expression of trust and comfort. I should note that I am roughly the size of a bear so I feel like my masculinity is constantly reinforced, especially by other men. However, unlike my guy friends, my gal friends will often comment on the fact that I haven’t settled down yet or am not at least being goal-oriented about it.

  63. 67

    Overall, I’d say that yes, I do feel this expectation. It’s not universal among women by any means, but the number of women who will “make the first move” is low enough that it’s not really a viable option to depend on their existence. I’d say that my experience is less of women saying “men should make the first move” as a societal prescription and more of almost all women saying “I personally don’t like making the first move.”

    It used to be absolutely horrible for my dating, when I was terminally shy, as it effectively led to me not dating for a while, despite the fact that, as I found out later, some of the girls I knew at the time were interested in me (and they were less shy than me, so I think, though I can’t be certain, that they would have made a move if socialized differently).

    Nowadays, it’s not too bad, but it still has an effect. I’ve reached the point where the rejection aspect isn’t enough to deter me, but I’m still almost always worried that I’m overstepping some boundary, because pretty much any situation you can come up with where a man might approach a woman, I’ve been at some point told that that’s unacceptable. (And I know from conversations that I’m not the only one who feels that way.)

    So “Well, sure it’s unfair and I’m always cool with attractive ladies hitting on me, but I really don’t mind initiating contact.” is not a horrible way of phrasing things. Although I think it’s asinine to only think it’s okay if people you find attractive are hitting on you, so I’d note that I’m cool with unattractive ladies hitting on me too.

    Also, my method of figuring out whether men making the first move is more likely a benefit to women or men is just to compare the number of women who wish it was okay to make the first move with the number of men who wish more women would make the first move. That those numbers aren’t even close despite me knowing and asking more women suggests that the setup is good for the people who by default get asked.

  64. Mox

    “After all, if men have to make the first move, and women have the right of rejection, then “it’s a seller’s market,” and the commodity is sexual access.”

    Yes. This is exactly it. Its a sexual cartel, and its set up that way because women are taught to repress their sexuality through slut shaming, etc. This IS the fault of our patriarchal society.

    We should eliminate the word “slut” from the English language. Permanently

  65. 69

    Yes absolutely. I mostly “do” internet dating. I use two sites that are both free. Between the both of them I’d receive about three messages a month from unique female users. That’s it. In meatspace it’s even worse. I have NEVER been approached by a woman.

  66. 70

    I definitely feel the pressure to make the first move. Currently I mostly do online dating. I know that if I don’t contact the profile of someone I like, the chance of having someone write to me is extremely small, even if they’ve seen that I’ve checked their profile. Once I’ve initiated contact, I almost always have to be the one to ask for the date, and then the one to plan the date. At that point I also expect to pay for the date, but here at least it seems like a significant portion of women want to pay for half of the first date. If the first date goes well, then if I want a second date, I’ll almost always have to initiate it. If the second date goes well then roughly a third of the time I’m not the one to request a third date. If there’s any sort of physical intimacy, then I’m almost always the one to start it the first time.

    The funny thing is the only two women that I’ve been engaged to were the ones to approach me, instead of me approaching them.

  67. 72

    Generally women do seem to expect me to make the first move, which has been a problem for multiple reasons. Probably the biggest one is that my sexual motivation is just not very strong. I don’t mean that I have a low sex drive, I mean that I’m just not that driven to make sex happen, compared with other things that I want out of social interaction (such as decent conversation, exploring other shared interests, and the desire not to overload my introverted brain with social complexities).

    So I tend to put off making my move if there’s even a mild reason not to (more interested in doing something else at the moment, afraid of awkwardness, and so on). And that leads occasionally to frustration, where we are both interested in each other, but it doesn’t progress beyond the friend zone for some time because neither of us manages to signal that to the other. (It’s worth pointing out at this point that these are not “Nice Guy” type friendships I’m cultivating in order to get sex or a romantic relationship; they are just friendships with women that I also find attractive.)

    To be fair, I’m bi, and I’ve had the same problem with guys, but it usually is milder because, even if the other guy isn’t that assertive, it’s usually(!) easier for me to non-awkwardly get bi and gay guys to talk about their sexual desires.

    The funny thing is, if I definitely know someone is interested in sex, regardless of gender, I don’t have that much of a problem saying “Come on, let’s go fuck.” (or some less crude equivalent). It’s much harder for me to take a friend (or even a mildly-more-than-acquaintance) who may or may not be really interested, and risk introducing the awkwardness of hitting on them.

    All of that said, there is one selfish benefit to all this, which is that if there’s a woman who’s interested in me, and I don’t reciprocate, I have the option of just not acknowledging her interest. I wouldn’t do that to a friend, but when it comes to people I don’t know well, who take an unwanted interest in me, women are always easier to brush off than men. (Admittedly, an aspect of male privilege in this case.)

  68. 73

    Addendum: A side effect of all of that is that I’ve been much more successful in starting relationships with men, because there’s much less of a barrier (for me, in my particular social circles) between “platonic” vs. friends-with-benefits vs. “romantic” relationships (and so it’s much easier to figure out which one to actually pursue).

  69. 74

    There seems to be a definite expectation that when men and women are interested in each other that the man makes the first move, the first approach, the first advance towards sex, even the first move towards the permanent commitment that is marriage. I’ve had many opportunities fly by unexplored because I was sick of making the first move, there may be flirting or the tell-tale indicators of a girl who always turns up no matter how uninterested she is in the given event, but making that first honest verbal approach is apparently the man’s job. There are exceptions to the rule of course, but when a woman initiates it seems to be accepted, by both parties, that this will lead quickly to a sexual relationship. The two primary opening tactics of the female seem to be Coy versus ‘Sexually Aggressive’, and while Coy can evolve to a more sexually open position the reverse seems not to be true (no matter how much a mistake that initial tryst might have been). The unpopular stereotype of women valuing emotional commitment initially and offering up sex as the sign of full commitment, and men doing the reverse, seems to be alive and well.

    I can’t speak for same sex interaction, because I’ve never been interested.

  70. 75

    Added Addendum: That doesn’t mean that there’s not still a distinction between different types of relationship. Rather, there’s less of a barrier to moving from one to another. Most (straight) women I’ve known are more cautious about the idea of just “trying out” a sexual relationship, or about friends-with-benefits being a possibility at all. So they require more tact and investigation before you decide when/how to talk about that, as well as more and earlier consideration about whether you actually want a romantic relationship, or if the attraction is limited to a few shared interests and sex (it can be hard to tell the difference early on).

  71. 76

    Addendum: I should also point out that I suffer from a dreadful condition that means I hear the word “No” as “No”. I have been told numerous times (including by my wife) that in the female lexicon no may mean “Not just now”, “Ask me later”, “Ask me when my friends have left” “Try again later” or “Ask me a few more times to show you mean it”.

  72. 77

    Hmmm…. I think I’m the only guy here who hasn’t experienced this expectation, but there’s probably a reason for that. As a mildly autistic person, I tend not to notice social expectations, and as a nerd, anarchist, and generally anti-conventional character, I tend to ignore them on the rare occasion I do notice them. Though I have seen other people dealing with this- I remember one instance in high school when a close female friend of mine was talking about how she had always had to make the first move because the guys she liked never took the initiative, and she wished she could “be the girl” (IE, be the one to get asked). I don’t remember what I said, but I remember being shocked that otherwise intelligent people still bought into sexist expectations like this.

    Come to think of it, I guess I have always been the one to make the first move, but I always assumed it was because the girls I dated were even more shy than I was.

  73. 78

    Addendum: I should also point out that I suffer from a dreadful condition that means I hear the word “No” as “No”. I have been told numerous times (including by my wife) that in the female lexicon no may mean “Not just now”, “Ask me later”, “Ask me when my friends have left” “Try again later” or “Ask me a few more times to show you mean it”.

    Which is another habit that should be killed dead.

  74. 80

    A couple of months ago I was on a first date, enjoying a delicious meal and lovely conversation with a charming woman, and suddenly she turned very serious and told me, “This isn’t going to work out.” She stood up to leave, pushing aside her unfinished dinner. I asked her why.

    “You were supposed to kiss me by now.”


    “You’ve had every opportunity and you still haven’t kissed me.”

    “Do you have a rule that if your date hasn’t kissed you within the first 30 minutes of a date, it’s over?”


    “If you wanted a kiss, why didn’t you kiss me?”

    “It was your move to make, and you didn’t.”

    “I see. I think you’re right, this isn’t going to work out.”

  75. 81

    My wife made the first move (by getting my attention, making snacks available when we were near one another and pointedly making sure I got them, and asking my friends about me over the course of a few weeks). Then I made the first move (by asking her for her contact info so I could ask her out later that day).

    Yeah, the whole “making the first move” thing is very strange. In all of my previous relationships, either we were set up, or it evolved from a friendship after a very long time. In all of my not-relationships, I was friends with them for too long for them to think of me as anything but.

    There appears to be a time frame early in the relationship, a window of opportunity, where either you pick up on the girl’s first “moves” and try to become more than friends, or you don’t. I’d suspect that in even most of the “guy makes the first move” scenarios, the girl actually made the real first move and he doesn’t even realize it. I sure as hell didn’t, given the two or three relationships that didn’t happen where the girl confessed interest several years later.

  76. 82

    Oh boy, does the expectation exist (and I go to a very liberal college).

    I have really nasty social anxiety (to the point where it’s probably just to call it a phobia) and it has been very hard to ask women out. Because of that, I used to do the ridiculous Nice Guy™ act of trying to become friends and then ease into a relationship. It’s profoundly stupid: for one, women tend to see through the act; for two, lying like that for so long is stressful; for three, it’s just dishonest.

    I’m not dating right now because I don’t have the time or energy, but when I was interested in a relationship, I didn’t really ever have one. It also goes both ways: I’ve learned, years after the fact, that several women I would have been interested in dating if I’d had the guts to ask them out were interested in me but were waiting for me to make the first move. Le sigh.

    However, online dating has really helped. My anxiety is reduced by having a screen between me and the girl I’m interested in, and there’s considerably less of an expectation that men will make the first move.

  77. 83

    I know I’m frequently told (by hetero female friends, mainly) that it is the guy’s perogative to make the first move in these situations. I’ve also been told “I had a gigantic crush on you back in [time in the past]” on several occasions by women who, presumably, wanted me to make a first move but were unwilling to do so themselves. Further, I’ve been told by some hetero female friends that they will not date a guy unless he makes the first move.

    However, I also know that this guy-initiation rule doesn’t match the profile of my relationships/sexual encounters – most of those have been at the woman’s initiation, and I can think of a number of times where women have unsuccessfully tried to make first moves on me. So maybe there is the male-initiation bias, but it doesn’t seem absolute.

    Of course, I’m willing to entertain the hypothesis that I’m absurdly sexy, so women break the guy-initiation rule for me – but even I don’t take that hypothesis all that seriously. 🙂

  78. 84

    I live smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. Most folks are pretty conservative and old-fashioned around here. Even in college (state school, more liberal than the general population) girls were considered too forward if they asked guys out. That was only 5 years ago, I’m sure things haven’t changed that much.

    I’ve been married over 8 years now and I definitely feel like it’s mostly on my shoulders to make the first move when it comes to sex or most anything else romantic. My wife seems to feel that it’s my responsibility as the man to handle that aspect of our relationship.

    How has that affected me? I’d like to think that in high school/college I missed out on some opportunities to date girls who thought I was attractive but weren’t bold enough to speak out, but maybe that’s wishful thinking. Sometimes it’s a downer that I have to be the one to initiate sex. When my wife wants it before I do it’s a little exciting for me, makes me feel more “wanted” (not only in a sexual way).

    Personally I think my wife is a bit sexually repressed – a byproduct of her conservative Christian upbringing.

  79. 85

    All of the above, honestly, which is a little weird for me since I would prefer not to make the first move. The internalized expectation is there, and the women I’ve discussed it with seem to generally expect it. I’ve been both ‘coached’ by other men as to correctly reading signals that tell us when to make a move, and been asked for advice on when to make it. No men I know expect to not have to make the move.

    But I think it varies geographically and (sub)culturally, as I recently moved from a very conservative city to a mainstream one – things don’t seem to be as well-defined now. Personally, I’m starting to think of it as a screening mechanism: I’m a little bit on the feminine/unassertive side of the spectrum, and would prefer to date women (or men, for that matter) who are more masculine/assertive then me, so I’m not really bothered or affected, except that some women who would like to make the first move feel like they would risk something by initiating. In fact, I’m more inclined to think that it’s purely a function of the men/masculine vs women/feminine issue, and will go away naturally as people become free from traditional gender roles.

  80. Mox

    “However, online dating has really helped. My anxiety is reduced by having a screen between me and the girl I’m interested in, and there’s considerably less of an expectation that men will make the first move.”

    Hardly. Women get bombarded with messages from dudes in all of these websites and they essentially have the pick of the litter. Your profile must stand out well to be noticed. If anything the discrepancy is worse online, although there are still exceptions to the rule.

  81. 87

    Not only yes, this pressure is strongly placed on men, but I have also had numerous conversations with women who describe themselves as feminists (which I do as well) who said that they wouldn’t consider dating a man who didn’t take the initiative and make the first move. It is okay for those of us who don’t mind being a little adventurous and making the first move, but I can see how it could be really quite frustrating for certain more shy guys.

  82. 88

    I am a heterosexual man and I feel like it is expected for men to make the first move. As a shy, avoidant introvert that is a real problem. I have experimented with various online dating sites and it seems that if you aren’t asking you get maybe one email a month.

    And having been in very few relationships is itself a problem when that topic comes up on first dates…

  83. 89

    Dear Sister Greta Christina,

    As a young man growing up in the wilds of backwoods Noo Zillund, I did what every redblooded kiwi male does, and practised my technique on sheep.

    How does this help in h-sapien to h-sapien courtship, I hear you ask? Surprisingly well actually.

    Sheep play as hard to get as a divine downpour in West Texas. Indeed, most woolly gals of my acquaintance prefer to clump with their sisters and chew the hay than stand still for a prospective lover. To woo a ewe takes tact, diplomacy, edible flowers, and a box of the best sheep nuts. And even that doesn’t guarantee you get past first base. Give some thought to your own attractiveness men. No gal wants a smelly fella! So wash, shave, floss and check your crotch for crusty bits before venturing among the baas hoping to meet a sweet wee lamb with a perfect rack. If you play your cards right, one day you might find yourself enjoying a one-night-shearing-stand with a sweet woolly gal reclining in your arms. That’s when real technique comes into play. As you stand over your beloved with your handpiece sharpened and vibrating with the promise of pleasure remember the mantra—”Too quick gets a nick!” Take it from me, nothing ends a date like an accidental shave of a nipple. And don’t assume she’ll want a bit of the rough first time round either. In my experience only Jesuits flagellate on a first date. To get her out of her fleece happily take it smooth slow and easy. Make it nice and she’ll be queuing up for a second go round.

    Of course, that was then and this is now. Since leaving Noo Zillund for the USA, finding Jesus and inviting the Holy Spirit to enter me, I’ve adopted Christian courtship rituals. I no longer ask permission—rather, when I feel a burden on my heart for a Christian lady of the opposite sex I tell her that Jesus wants us to do it for HIS honour and glory. Most of the sanctified maidens I meet are abstaining virgins, but that’s fine, because when I pray with them God quickens my heart with the message that he approves of anal sex when performed in a prayerful manner.

    As my friend Floyd Rubber once remarked—while frolicking in a bath of anointing oil with three elders from the Baptist church—normal courtship is fine for atheists, but nothing matches the excitement of a tribe of repressed Christians all busting out with sinful desire.

    Yours in complete confusion

    Smoggy Batzrubble
    One Time Missionary to the Atheists

  84. JJR

    Yes, it’s expected. As a Gen-X divorced (no kids!) adult with Asperger’s, I probably have the confidence only now that my Neurotypical peers had at 18.

    My first girlfriend in High School was older than me and surprisingly aggressive; She actually made the first move (a kiss), but dumped me like a hot rock when I got jealous of her oogling college guys on a school trip we were on. Next High School girlfriend the next year also wound up kissing me first; we had tender feelings for each other but it was an odd, on-again, off again relationship and it never quite worked out.

    With respect to my first sexual experience in college, the girl was unusually kind and did prompt me earlier in the evening, at the dance club, that I needed to make the first move if anything was going to happen. It was a one-night-stand kind of hook-up. It was great, but of course ridiculously, embarrassingly brief. Again, the girl was kind and didn’t make fun of me or say anything harsh. All in all, I count myself lucky…it could have been so much more traumatic with someone else.

    My relationships have never lasted very long and have been few and far between. One of my more successful ones lasted 6 months when I dated a fellow student going for her teaching certificate like me. We did kiss, but I dithered at heating things up beyond that and I’m pretty sure she eventually got bored with me…plus she was Mexican-American and still living with her mom, so I wasn’t sure what we could actually get away with, etc.

    With my ex-wife, she was a friend I met when I was back in grad school the 2nd time around, going for my 2nd Master’s, and while she was a senior undergrad. I was 30, she was 20, but I looked younger than my actual age (still do). We became really good friends over the course of a semester, and I really agonized over whether or not to take things in a more romantic direction, knowing that we could probably never go back to being friends if things went south. I decided (for once in my life, felt like) to GO FOR IT. There was also, sadly, a religious angle insofar as she seemed to be on the verge of abandoning her religion and I was already a confident atheist and she knew this already. I gambled that she would walk away from religion of her own accord soon enough. It’s a gamble I ended up losing, along with everything invested in that relationship.

    Still, while it lasted our relationship was beautiful and very loving and intimate. I was gentle but persistent and when we did have sex it was wonderful. Felt like we were making up for lost time, and we taught each other so much about physical intimacy those few years together…as lovers we were very generous and considerate of each other…if only the same could be said of our everyday life…

    …but her religious guilt soon got the better of her and she insisted that we get married as soon as possible or she would call it quits. I consented to marry her, even though we were impoverished students at the time. After about a year of married life, her religious guilt reared again and she stopped using any birth control and would get very pissy if I tried to use male protection. I decided it was irresponsible for us to continue in this manner, since we could barely feed ourselves and keep a roof over our heads, much less care for a newborn. She dismissed my concerns and said I needed to have faith that (her) God would provide. I said “NO” and left…though it took me awhile to muster the courage and gumption to do so; Meanwhile our nights together were a bizarre mix of joy and terror, a twisted form of biological Russian roulette. She was moreover a very insecure and very controlling and emotionally abusive person as well. I felt completely cut off from friends and family and felt like I was suffocating. I simply had to get out.

    In our rather bitter divorce, she not only tried to “save” the marriage but get me “saved” as well. She failed on both accounts.

    Post-divorce, I did have a very gratifying 6 month relationship with a co-worker; but again, this was an aggressive woman who sorta asked me out first… “…would you like to go get a beer with me?”. Our relationship was very casual, we did not live together, but we were exclusive to each other.

    I’m now 40; Was out with a group and checking out a 22 year old woman who shared the group interest (non-atheism related)…I thought she was really pretty but I later did the mental math and it kind of weirded me out to realize that when 9/11 happened, which to me still seems like only yesterday at times, she was only 12. My friends made their mild disapproval known when they met my ex-wife, 10 years my junior…can’t imagine what they’d say if I ran around with a 22 year old…but I still feel young at heart…I’m more attracted to women in their late 20s, and I do still look younger than my chronological age…but I’ve got so much stacked against me…I’m pessimistic of forming very many more deep intimate relations with someone of the opposite sex anytime soon, if ever again. Due to less than ideal working conditions, I live at home with my parents. I realize many of my career setbacks have in part been due to my previously undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, and that my AS also undermined my marriage, which itself was already flawed.
    Some women in their 20s won’t consider dating anyone outside their 30s. I would date 30-something women, but most are married or have kids from previous relationships and I’m not interested in getting tangled up in that. Also, I’m still a confident, open atheist in a Southern state. I’m no genius, but I am pretty smart and I don’t suffer fools; brains matter to me as much as beauty. I turned down relationships in High School with girls that were beautiful/hot because I thought they were too dumb/stupid; Kinda kick myself for that now, but there you go.

    When I was in high school and college, I realize looking back I actually had plenty of opportunities but seldom had the courage or resolve…now in later life I have the courage and resolve but so fewer opportunities. So it goes. Considering my Asperger’s, perhaps it’s just as well I don’t reproduce…I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, even as mild as mine is.

  85. 92

    @The Letter K:

    That expectation has always been there, more of a solid fact than an expectation really; if I don’t make the first move, nothing will ever happen. Since I’m thoroughly introverted, shy, and socially inept (also fat, hooray), I’m going on 30 years of being completely single. Haven’t even been on a date or anything resembling one.

    Oi! Stop stealing my act you bastard! I’m SO going to sue you for copyright infringement!

    I live in country Australia (as an aside Greta, I think it’d be interesting to ask people where they’re from in the next articles) so I’m already in something of a social backwater but the expectation is extremely strong. Much like Letter K, I’ve got the kind of internal social pressures that help screw me over but I’m also the kind of person with very insular interests and am not interested in the pub culture which is pretty much all wagga has to offer in the way of social activities (this sounds somewhat whiney but it is sadly true). The weird thing is that I’m actually fairly good at social interaction IF I can actually START a conversation with someone but without some relevant hook to start a conversation on, I just can’t get one started, I just say hello & am then stuck for anything to say.

    Ultimately this, combined with the near ubiquitous social expectation, has pretty much kept me lonely all my life. Frankly if a woman did ask me out I’d very probably turn her off by spending the next 10 minutes asking variants of “Really? Why?”, after all if I can’t find any reason to like me, I’d not believe anyone else could

  86. 93

    As the “name” would indicate, I’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    And, yes, my experience is that we’re definitely expected to make the first (active) move. Since I’m yet another of the shy/introverted/possible social disorder guys that we have already heard from, this has resulted in me dating a single person in my nearly 30 years on this planet, and yes, she asked me out. It was, so far as I could tell, an out-of-the-blue request for a date from a co-worker, and I didn’t know much about her at the time. It didn’t work out… I think we went on two dates and I broke up with her as we had basically nothing in common.

    There was also a woman in a group of friends in high school that I was most definitely attracted to, and whom I am certain felt the same about me (even my mom said that she seemed interested), but neither of us made a move. Me, because of my anxiety about it, and her? I’d guess from the whole conditioning thing. She did go out with a mutual friend from the group for a couple of months, and yes, he asked her.

    For whatever it’s worth, I consider myself to be bi (finally figured that one out about 5 years ago; reading your blog actually helped with that), though I am, for now, effectively straight. If you have any questions or want clarification or anything, feel free to email me, I’ll try to remember to check it.

  87. 94

    I’m not dating any women now. If I did, my sweet wife would make the first move and kick my ass for that … so better not.

    But in the past – yes, there was this expectation. And from my personal experience, it had its advantages and disadvantages. It’s very difficult for me to say which of them prevailed.
    The main disadvantage is … oh well, all these lost opportunities. Lost because I was too shy, too young, too awkward, too nervous or didn’t know exactly what I want (but with an external impulse, like the girl making the first move, everything could happen!). Being rejected is also a bad experience, most definitely, and if you take the initiative, you take the risk – that’s obvious.

    But there were also advantages. First, there was a fun of it – the fun of taking part in a stylized game, the fun of playing your role. “I’m a conqueror, definitely male and active, and she is delicate, charming, smiling and waiting” – that sort of stuff. Taking part in such a ritual was fun! Sometimes I really enjoyed my role. (But sometimes I was paralyzed with anxiety; as I said, it’s not easy for me to tell which side prevails.)
    And there was also another luxury: I didn’t have to say “no” and hurt anyones feeling, at least in the open. When I found the girl unattractive, I just didn’t approach her and nothing happened (obviously, she didn’t take the initiative either). Sometimes I wondered how women can deal with it. Get used to it probably, huh?

  88. 95

    I’m actively poly and kinky, and have a lot of feminist and queer/queer-friendly friends. I’m at a liberal and socially non-normative college. I still am completely expected to make the first move.

    This was really problematic for me, for a while, because my feminist and kink beliefs mean that I want to be super careful about things like consent. And frankly, most “initiations” that are common in mainstream culture are really bad about consent. I can point to at least three potential relationships in about six months that died because we never found a way for me to initiate in a way that I found comfortable and ethical.

    I’ve since developed some techniques and strategies for making the first move in an ethical way, but: 1) It took some real work, 2) It required a huge leap of faith and willingness to be vulnerable, and 3) It was completely non-optional, if I wanted to be in romantic and/or sexual relationships.

  89. 96

    I was thinking about it, and I realized that I did have a woman make the first move at least once. A woman I worked with invited me to a holiday party, and as we pulled up, told me that she was interested in me, and had a condom just in case. Once I got over the shock caused by not having thought of her that way before, I was totally open to the idea. It only took a few weeks for us both to realize that we weren’t actually interested in romance with each other, but we’re still friends, and for a while, we had benefits. My point though, is that I didn’t feel like less of a Real Man because she did the asking. That actually surprises me a little, since I sometimes battle with internalized feelings that I recognize as coming from the culture or upbringing, but don’t agree with otherwise.

  90. 97

    There is definite social pressure for the guy to make the first moves. From asking the woman out on a date to the first kiss to etc…

    Trying to pick up some sort of “cue” is just flat out bad communication. It leads to all kinds of issues as discussed above. But, I think, because I haven’t read every one of the entries, it wasn’t touched on where the bad can happen.

    My now ex-wife makes the perfect example. After a week of what seemed like my ex-wife chasing me we finally ended up at my place. All the cues were there and we eventually kissed. Later, I found out that she actually was interested in dating me but the kissing was too soon and nearly chased her off. I was 21 then and now I’m 32–for a time frame reference.

    I have had a woman nearly write me off because I didn’t kiss her on our first date though she didn’t make it completely clear she was interested, or that it was our first date for that matter since it was just meeting up to study on a math final. She thought I wasn’t interested but I fortunately pushed for an actual date and after kissing her on that date she informed me all about how relieved she was and how she’d almost written me off. This was at 28.

    Any of these women, and I’ve discussed this topic with many other women, it’s always “it’s the man’s job to ask the woman out and make the first move” and it’s the man’s job to initiate sex (though a local column writer from the Kinsey Institute always makes sure to let women know that they too can initiate sex), and “if a woman does it she gets labeled a slut.” Though, it’s funny, I’ve never ever seen a woman end up with that label for going against the mold. All of that creates a tough situation: misinterpret a cue and get labeled a creep or lose a friend; or miss a cue and get some other label.

    It’s a no-brainer and being a guy who errs on the side of caution I end up missing lots of cues which leads to quite the lonely life. I live in an area where people are friendly and nice so how does a smile translate to “ask me out” and when does it mean “hi”? It also spans the spectrum of attractiveness; if the man isn’t being aggressive, then it’s a no go. Though, I’ll admit, it’s amusing in an ironic kind of way when women get all primped up with the most flattering clothing and sweetest perfume to the point half a room would be abuzz about her and she complains that no guy asked her out. If only we could push for a balance of the sexes in this untouched area…

  91. 98


    Have been a lurker for a long time, and now feel the need to respond. Which says something on how strongly I feel about this subject,….

    John the Drunkard said it all. I am shy, (with women. Since i feel the expectation of making the first move, this happens seldom. I am not flimstar looks, so even the forward women tend to ignore me, and go for the obvious guys. (Who are also obvious assholes, what is up with that?, why do women claim to go for nice guys, with humour and smarts, and then salivate over the macho asshole, who doesn’t know how to spell his name)

    I am from the Netherlands, so you got a western European perspective on this question too.

    Eager to know your findings on this.

    you can use my first name, rather you didn’t use my last name.

  92. 100

    +1 here.

    I think I missed out on a lot of dating from my late teens to late 20s (and some even later) through being shy with women (as well as being generally rather socially inept) and not asking out women who probably would have gone out with me if I had. I had definitely picked up a belief about this somewhere: in a therapy group I had an “aha” moment when I said that I couldn’t just tell a woman I liked her, could I? and was challenged “Why not?”! But even with that belief out of the way there’s still the fear of rejection (as so often there’s an xkcd about that!)

    I hadn’t really thought much about this until recently reading The Ethical Slut (which I highly recommend as a general User Manual for relationships – and ethics – whether one’s interested in poly or not). In their book the authors discuss the way gay men approach other gay men, gay women to gay women and straight men to straight women. Worth a read.


    On another tack, I noticed with dismay and discomfort that many guys in this comment thread use the word ‘aggression’ in the context of approaching women where I think what’s called for is ‘assertiveness’.

  93. 101

    Generally, the answer is yes, I feel that when I am interested in a woman and I think she is interested in me, I feel pressure to make the first move. I have experienced the reverse, where women have made the first move, and I felt totally comfortable with that, but in my own experience I have been the initiator most of the time. That is to say, I have been the one to ask a woman out, not vice versa (I think the first move can be defined in different ways). To be completely honest, and I am a bit embarrassed to say that this terrifies me. So much so, that I have to really like someone before asking them out (which only makes it more frightening). I’m in my thirties now, and I have had a few years of experience that I think help me come across as nonchalant, but inside I still feel like that high school kid who is trying to avoid eye-contact.

  94. 102

    just wanted to say, I agree with almost everything that is posted here, and feel better about it knowing that heaps of people out there have *exactly* the same issues as I have.

  95. 103

    I’m a bisexual man, and my experience (in the UK) isn’t the same as the overwhelming majority of posts so far.

    I’m very much aware of a mainstream cultural expectation that men do the initiating of romantic/sexual contact with women, but it’s not something that’s hugely affected my personal experience.

    Personally, I’m attracted to assertive, independent people, male and female. (Assertive, not aggressive – aggressive is a big turnoff for me.) So if I’m getting to know a woman and I’m not getting an assertive and interested-in-me-that-way vibe back, I just don’t find her sexy. I think pretty much all of the women I’ve had relationships with – from casual snog to life-partner – have been self-identified feminists of one sort or another.

    Picking the first unambiguous move that requires an explicit response is tricky: in my experience, it’s usually very much a graduated thing with face-saving space left on both sides as we move up the scale.

    All of my relationships with women have had a fair degree of mutuality about them at the start. But if pressed to give an answer, I’ve had two or maybe three relationships with women where I was more the initiating party, and maybe as many as a dozen (if you include very casual stuff short of genital contact) where she was.

    On reflection, my experience of initiating relationships with women is rather the opposite to most men’s as described above: I’ve had the experience of being the one who declines an unambiguous initiation request (whether verbal or non-verbal – and it’s much less awkward if you can stop things at the non-verbal stage) from a woman many many times, but I can’t recall it happening the other way round.

  96. 104

    The mere fact that the term “Approach Anxiety” exists testifies to the reality of this expectation. Yes, i feel expected to make the first move, and yes, it has affected my love life. Here’s another “me too” for geeky guy who grew up as a forever alone. Things have changed a lot since then, but no thanks to society.

    The biggest recommendations i could give to those who are now in that position are the books by David D. Burns (or at least the old ones, haven’t read his recent work), “No More Mr Nice Guy” by Robert Glover (which also analyzes why this bad position is now almost epidemic), and some very selected people on the net (like Sean Messenger before he retired to coach a sports team in some school, and also i’ve been reading the posts of Mark Manson lately (google them yourself), good stuff).

    I’m also now extremely curious to read whatever post Greta produces from this 🙂

  97. 105


    I also think this causes problems along the lines of “elevatorgate.” Many men are not comfortable making the first move, aren’t good at picking up cues, and when they try and take the advice, “Be assertive, women love men with confidence,” it comes across as creepy.

    Women can be incredibly awkward too, as evidenced by how horribly some women react to men approach them (including sometimes when they mean to say ‘yes’), but if you tell a man he’s obligated to do something he’s uncomfortable with and not good at, or else he’ll spend his life lonely, bad things happen.

    I don’t see this issue every becoming not awkward for everyone, but women feeling compelled to make the first move when they’re interested is a GREAT start.


  98. 106

    There’s absolutely an expectation that hetero men should make the first move. After missing a lot of opportunities in high school, I think I’ve learned enough to navigate that more or less successfully, though not to enjoy it.

    I’ve actually found it helpful to make the women in my life make some moves (not necessarily the first move) though. The more they expect me to do all the asking out (and the paying for dates, and the holding doors, and so-on) the less likely they are to be strong, independent women of the sort I prefer.

    …This probably explains why my dating history is full of gender-bending bisexual women.

  99. 108

    Long time reader, first time poster!

    I believed that I had to make the first move because that’s what’s expected. This obviously lead to some rejections and without and outside perspective these rejections caused me to change my view of myself (not attractive, did I do something wrong?, etc.) Ever since getting some dating advice, and lightly grazing the pickup community’s many websites, I’ve come to enjoy the act of acting first. Acting first, in my opinion, is the first interaction you have with someone geared towards attracting them. Acting first means you’re going after what you want, not waiting for someone to want you. This has improved my dating life drastically.

  100. 109

    I would say “the first overt, unambiguous, verbal move.” I.e., asking someone out, or otherwise making a move that can’t be interpreted as anything other than a move, and that requires an overt response. (The point being that if you toss your hair at someone and they ignore you, you can save face and pretend you weren’t making a first move — but if you say, “Would you like to go out with me?”, that’s not possible, and you have to accept the possibility and indeed the likelihood of overt rejection.)

    So I went away and thought about this. I don’t think this is a very good definition. You can end up sleeping with someone without doing something that fits with the above, and then have the question, ‘Wait, are we dating?’ come up. That’s a bit late to be classed as a first move.

    You can get back to someone’s place, still operating with face saving implausible deniability, ‘Would you like to come in for a coffee?’. You can get into a bedroom without an announced explicit intention to sleep together, ‘It just happened’. Though here the man would probably have to make the first physical move. Is “I think we should take this to the bedroom” a first move?

    A woman and a man walk along, heading towards each other. The woman smiles and tilts her head. The man uses the most successful chat up line ever. He says ‘Hi’. Again I don’t think this meets your definition. I’m sure most people would say this is the first move, but this seems to arbitrarily discount women’s non-verbal ‘first moves’. Couldn’t it just as easily be a whole chain of first moves?

  101. 110

    Yes, and I think it is somewhat unfair. I’ve never believed in gender roles; the few times someone has told me to “be a man” (except when meaning “be a grown-up” when I was younger), I’ve always thought that was silly, as I am undoubtedly a man whether or not I conform with someone’s stereotype.

    I don’t like doing it nor am I good at it. The main effect is that I’ve made a fool out of myself quite a few times.

    My relationship history is rather limited, but that has more to do with the fact that I simply don’t meet many people. The phase when most people expand their social circles the most – university – I was in an unusual situation that made me unable to consider other students as “peers”.

    Certainly it would help if I were better at (or even more motivated to) make the first move or if it were more common for women to do that, but I’m sure that I would have plenty of opportunities simply if my social circles were broader. I’m horrible at initiating conversations, but I’m very comfortable with one-on-one conversations in particular with most even remotely like-minded people.

    Another thing that would be nice (but it’s unreasonable of me to expect) would be if women who are interested were more overt. I can often tell if someone is subtly hinting at that, but I have no idea how to steer the conversation in the right direction without sounding arrogant (oh the lost opportunities…). But obviously it’s unreasonable to expect someone else to do what I’m incapable of doing myself.

  102. 111

    Greta and all,

    I find the question and the answers extremely interesting. But I find them extremely dependent on the culture as well. For me, as a Spaniard, the very concept of “dating” barely exists. Of course I understand what you mean by “dating” when you say it, because I’ve been watching American movies and reading US-dominated blogs and other Internet content for ages. But your question makes the implicit assumption that the individual responding belongs to a very particular culture with a very specific worldview, i. e. that of dating. In Spain (and, I would argue, in most places of non-Anglosaxon tradition) there is no concept of dating. Actually, we don’t even have a word for “dating” in Spanish. We do flirt, pick up, socialise, pair up, fuck, mate, marry and all that; but the protocolised social practice that you call “dating” does not exist.

    I wonder how many of the answers to this thread come from people outside the US, or outside countries with a strong Anglosaxon tradition. Probably very few.

    My point is, are you interested in the views of only such a limited part of the world? Are you aware of this inherent limitation in the question being asked? If yes and yes, then no problem. But I thought I should point this out. Being a foreigner, everything sounded very alien to me. 🙂

    Best wishes, and keep up the great posts.

  103. 112

    It’s been a while since I dated, but what I remember — aside from being petrified with fear, uneducated in the extreme, and deluded on all fronts by the popular tropes of religion, romanticism, and Southern feminism (by which I mean that a man must contrive to be a chivalrous, courtly knight in shining armor and an equal, unpresumptuous partner at the same time) — is that yes, the man was expected to make the first move.

    And everyone knew exactly what it meant when a man made the first move: that he hoped to be a beast. But I was very impressionable, and I suspect that I was perhaps a bit more than ordinarily deluded by the tropes and expectations I described above. Other men’s mileage may vary.

    Related to the topic I’d like to recommend a track from Marian Call’s new album, Something Fierce. Here’s the video for “Dear Mr. Darcy.”

    “From that day to this, your timidity’s disenchanted me.
    You were looking so longing, why couldn’t you say you wanted me?
    I could vow that I’ll hate you with all of my will,
    But unfortunate me, you can see how I’ll fail.
    I’ve been waiting a year — I’ve been waiting for you –
    I’ve been biting my tongue, and I’m almost through.

    “Dear Sir,
    I am dropping my last guard for you.
    I’m fearful and I’m foolish and I’m agitated too.
    All this anticipation without consummation, it’s hard on a poor girl’s pride
    And though I doubt I’ll send this letter — If I did you’d see how I’ve tried.”

    I adore the song, but it illustrates the social standards at work. For the woman to commit herself to saying how she feels requires “something fierce,” and it’s an affront to her pride. The man is expected to take the risk.

  104. 113

    I feel like guys are expected to be the one to ask for a number, the one to ask for the first date, etc. How much a woman will act aside from that depends on the girl. I’ve known some who will do almost nothing and hope a guy comes for them, some that will be friendly and hope the guy asks, and some that make it very clear they’re interested. My current girlfriend, for example, after we’d been friendly chatting for a little while (had a lot of mutual friends) bought me a shot and dragged me on the dance floor out at a bar when we both happened to be there. So the “first move” was hers, but as the guy I still had to be the one to ask for the phone number, and then call and ask for the first date.

  105. 114

    Since you addressed “all”, and not only Greta, one comment.

    Being a foreigner, everything sounded very alien to me.

    I’m also not from the US (eastern Europe); nevertheless I feel able to relate to many things that were said here. I interpreted Greta as asking “who, if anyone, is expected to make the first step, or show the initiative, in male-female relations”. Whether these relations are dating in the American style, picking up Spanish style, pairing up Polish style, it doesn’t matter. An in fact many answers given here don’t seem to depend on the details of the show.

    (On Greta’s place I would be more concerned about the possibility of making any sensible generalization on the basis of our answers, since it is unclear to me if the readers of her blog can be treated as representative for some interesting more comprehensive population. But that’s a different worry.)

  106. 115

    It seems worth noting that whereas shy men tend to experience the expectation of taking the initiative as an unfair burden, this expectation can function as a privilege as well.

    For one thing it puts women at the disadvantage of having to communicate through hints instead of plain speaking, which I suspect contributes to the sexist stereotype that women are sly, untrustworthy, and manipulative when it comes to relationships.

    The expectation also carries with it the entitlement of being able to hit on women indiscriminately. We can see this especially in so-called “pick-up artists” and in the persistence of what I tend — perhaps unfairly? — to think of as a kind of frat-boy culture among many men, a culture that treats women as games to be played rather than people to be known.

    Plus, if you bear the responsibility to take the first risk, then you’ll tend to expect some kind of reward or extra consideration in return. “If I have to put myself out there,” the reasoning seems to go, “then the least women can do is give me a chance, or be extra-nice even if they’re going to say no.”

    Finally, the “men go first” social standard seems to have a weird side-effect in which women learn how to flirt and drop hints while men don’t—if you’re not allowed to be direct, you learn to communicate in code. But in my experience men often learn that this kind of coded communication—courtliness, we might call it—is a kind of servility and something to be despised. So social ineptness becomes a virtue (manliness) and social skill a marker of deceit (feminine wiles).

    Nobody wins in this game of double standards except the person who disconnects behavior from emotion.

  107. 116

    The general consensus seems to be that the guy is expected to make the first move. I agree; I’ve certainly felt the pressure and anxiety tied to having to be the “aggressor” all the time.

    When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I had countless conversations with other guys about how nice it would be if the girl would just come up to me and make her interest clear. I was lucky on several occasions to be approached in this way, but it was far from the norm.

    It’s not that I would be devastated if I was turned down, but I could not avoid feeling awkward and creepy. I would analyze and re-analyze any perceived signals from a girl until my head would explode, and then still come to the conclusion that I was imagining the signals in the first place.

    It’s not that I don’t think we should assert ourselves, or that we shouldn’t approach a woman if we’re interested (in the right way of course, and NOT in an elevator at 4 am, duh) but I have always lamented that it wasn’t more of a 50/50 proposition.

    I realize that one of the traits women like in men is confidence, I understand that. I find that confidence in a woman is equally attractive. But some of us don’t have the mental or emotional stamina to endure the “numbers game” as many friends have called it: “just keep on asking, eventually one of them will say yes!”

    I just remember reaching a point in my life where I was just tired. I had just become single again, and the prospect of building up the energy to go on the “hunt” once more was daunting. It lead to a three year involuntary “break”.

    Of course we can’t ignore the simple differences in men’s personalities; some guys have no problem approaching a girl cold, and others are just terrified. There are guys (and certainly girls) who thoroughly enjoy the chase. I suppose, like anything, most of us fall somewhere in between those extremes.

    My current girlfriend flat out propositioned me online, and we’ve been together for over two years now. It’s far more rare for the guy to be approached, and it was quite the thrill.

    In the end, I think both men and women naturally like the “safe” part of being approached. If someone makes an advance towards you, you know 100% they’re interested, so you’ve avoided the chance of getting burned 🙂

  108. 117

    I can’t really say, because making the first move hasn’t worked any better for me than “just being myself” and waiting for signals; I’m still a 40 year old virgin. But since I dislike being aggressive as much as playing mind-games, I gave up all hope of intimacy. I’m considering making imaginary friends.

    I’ve tried online dating sites, and once I accidentally checked the “female” box. My (empty) profile got some twenty hits from men -even though my interest said “women only”- in the hour or so before I noticed the mistake. After I corrected the mistake, the next hit (from a woman) came 6 months later…

  109. 118

    One other effect this expectation has had on me, is that it just widens the gap, and adds another layer of things I can’t relate to the opposite sex about. When a woman says something like “I am sick of getting approached by all these guys”, as much as I don’t want to, I feel contempt rather than sympathy. I want to reply, in a very sarcastic voice “oh, all these different guys want you? You poor thing! You must be jealous of me, I’ve never been approached by a member of the opposite sex”. Of course, after that fleeting thought I realize I’m being a dick, and that being constantly hit would become annoying pretty quick. The current system works out crap in a lot of ways for both parties, but it’s crap in different ways, which additionally makes understanding each other point of view difficult as well.

  110. 119

    Yeah, I think I want to do this under a one-off pseudonym….

    It’s not universal. Some women are willing to signal interest, or even
    take the lead. The extent of the expectation varies widely, and with the
    variance within and across the sub-cultures of the United States apparently
    increasing over time. However, it seems the overall norm remains for the
    man to be the one who initiates the more overt shifts in interaction.

    I’m not sure of the extent that this has affected my dating history. As
    I’m not inclined to lead this dance, I may have missed some
    opportunities, and I know that my lack of forwardness was at least once
    mistaken for disinterest, contributing to the doom of that existing

    I’d like to risk a peripheral observation in re: Elevatorgate. Yes, the
    guy was clueless, and yes, it would probably make Atheism a more
    female-friendly environment if guys are more conscious about the sort of
    situation where women are deeply uncomfortable with such approaches, and
    great GHU that response from Dawkins was stupid. On the other hand, that
    male-lead is the overall social norm means that if guys don’t take the
    initiative, they will miss most of the women who WOULD be interested in
    having a relationship — which is bad for both sides. However, any
    attempt to raise the topic in the Elevatorgate context seems to be met
    from a feminist contingent with cries of “MRA” and other dehumanizing

    Notionally, a female-norm shift to be more aggressive is one obvious
    possibility, but has a lot of drawbacks; for starters, it would
    eventually lead to the mirror-problem of men upset now the same way.
    Less dramatic would be a normative shift in expecting interest (general
    and/or specific) to be more distinctly signaled. At present, the social
    cues start out at a level that leaves pareidolia lots of room to
    generate false positives.

    On the gripping hand, atheists run circa 4:1 Male:Female. Barring a
    large-scale normative shift to polyandry, circa 3/4 of atheist guys
    should be looking farther afield and outside the atheist community —
    with the fringe benefit than a religious fundamentalist female who
    deconverts also (effectively on average) cuts ~2.3 fundamentalists from
    the next generation, hurting fundamentalism even more in the
    demographics. This seemingly implies either atheist guys will still need
    to be in the habit of taking the lead, or atheist guys will need to be
    conditioned to switch behaviors when switching social contexts, or the
    large-scale normative shift will have to rapidly spread across the whole
    society and not merely within the atheist subculture. The latter two
    seem a lot harder.

  111. 120

    I feel that this expectation exists.

    I’m somewhat shy. I’m not comfortable with ‘making the first move’ or approaching women as potential dates or partners in a relationship. I’d rather be approached. That’s the role I want, and that’s the role I feel comfortable in.

    I guess you could say I’m dissatisfied with the gender roles that are seen as the norm in our society.

    -Jared G.

  112. 121

    now married for 24 years, my prior dating life was more-or-less nonexistent. I couldn’t find a way to get past my social anxiety, or my fear of rejection/public humiliation, to actually let someone of the opposite sex know I was interested in them. Plus, I could not imagine anyone could be interested in me. Any signals coming my way never made it through. On the very few occasions I can recall where someone came on to me strongly enough that I actually recognized it for what it was, I was too shocked and confused to be able to respond. The only reason I was able to finally ask my wife out was because I was told by a mutual friend that she liked me.

  113. 122

    I’m another one of those people who is bloody awful (borderline autistic) at reading sexual cues and missed out on a lot of women giving off the Deniable Signals discussed above. Thankfully NZ and Australia have a high proportion of women who don’t play the you-Tarzan-me-Jane game. No relationship I’ve been in was initiated by me; my wife made the first move and I’m forever grateful for it.

    Come to that, my sisters all habitually make the first move. But we may do things differently in deep south New Zealand

  114. 123

    I’m surprised to learn that I’m not the only guy too socially inept and shy to make the first move. All I have to add is that the second time a young woman asked me to sleep with her I actually went into shock and had to lie down to keep from fainting. The next morning I felt strange, but triumphant, to walk back to my room from hers through a kitchen full of roommates.

  115. GBM

    Sort of.

    In my experience, generally she gives me permission to approach (smiling, sustained eye contact, etc.) Then it is usually on me to make the next move; this carries some risk of humiliation although not necessarily much if it is done delicately enough. Basically you just start talking, if you share interests you ask her to go to a whatever with you, if that works out rinse & repeat. If not, oh well.

  116. 125

    Almost invariably I have found that I am expected to make all the first moves. There was one happy exception, and I am glad it happened even though there was never a long-term possibility.

    Like many of the other men answering here, I am horrible at making the first move, and completely oblivious to “signals” that are sent my way. I see both of these traits as weaknesses on my part, and presumably I could do something about them. But I would welcome an approach from time to time!

    This post has got me thinking; I might state an upfront policy from now on that I will NOT make the first move. Maybe by saying so it will prompt someone who is actually interested in me to say so directly rather than using methods I am blind to. Then again, I might come across as a jerk.

  117. 126

    Disposable Pseudonym,

    You’re leaving out another possibility: men not behaving as though we’re entitled to pursue romantic encounters and relationships with strangers.

  118. 127

    Also there’s this, posted by a woman on G+ complaining about online harassment, which sprouted a discussion about compliments by strangers. You want to approach women you find attractive, but what that article (and specially that comic) describes is what’s on your mind. You don’t want to be considered a sleazeball.

  119. 128

    And you should see the comments in that discussion. One person even suggested that it should be legal to shoot “street harassers” (what is a street harasser? is it the construction worker that catcalls on you? and the geeky shy badly-dressed guy that built up immense courage to finally approach you? it’s up to you to decide!) with paintball guns, well aware that those leave bruises, so that they shut up.

  120. 129

    YEP. I feel obligated to initiate all generally agreed upon phases.

    Or at least I did until I found a very special lady friend, wherein we were open and talked about things frankly like adults and everything has worked out like gravy since.

  121. Mat

    This reminds me of that SNL sketch about workplace sexual harassment:

    “Franks’s eye contact made her uncomfortable, and authorities were contacted.

    Hello lawsuit!

    Next time, be handsome!”

    Welcome to Western culture. Still, I guess that’s better than cultures where women are property – at least you can work to make yourself more attractive, so there is a way out of the trap of being simultaneously expected to make all the moves while potentially suffering devastating consequences for doing so.

  122. 131

    C. Mason Taylor says:
    You’re leaving out another possibility: men not behaving as though we’re entitled to pursue romantic encounters and relationships with strangers.

    Does that do for women as well, or are women entitled to pursue romantic encounters with strangers? Perhaps you meant not entitled to expect?

    My adult dating period was in the 1980s, and I felt that it was definitely incumbent on me to make the first move. In my case, I didn’t care about being rejected (outside of the one girl who laughed in my face in high school), so it probably did not affect my dating life greatly (although there were probably one or two women who wanted to date me but I never knew it).

    Men need to be careful about respecting women’s boundaries. Regarding ElevatorGate, I think if the male in question had made his suggestion either before she got on the elevator, or as one of them stepped off, so there would have been no confining space, we never would have heard about the incident. I could be wrong, but I have not read Ms. Watson say that she never wants to be approached or that she wants to always make the first overt move, so I do not believe that is what she meant. For better or worse, women have used lines like “I think I’ll call it a night” in conjuction with body language that says they want to be persuaded otherwise (some of my fondest memories of nights), and a person bad at reading body language can have trouble with that. I think the typical urge of men to pursue, and of women to want pursuit, is somewhat innate (although every person is different and there are of course differences in degrees and the occasional outright reversal in proeferences).

  123. 132

    I could be wrong, but I have not read Ms. Watson say that she never wants to be approached or that she wants to always make the first overt move, so I do not believe that is what she meant

    She’s married. Its a pretty safe bet that she doesn’t want to be hit on. Ever.

  124. 133

    illuminata says:
    She’s married. Its a pretty safe bet that she doesn’t want to be hit on. Ever.

    That depends upon how long she has been married (assuming you did not mean literally being hit upon). Either way, I’m happy to rephrase it too mean Ms. Watson was not implying women never want to be approached or that women should always make the first move.

  125. 134

    Hey, guys. Rather than derailing the thread with speculation on what Rebecca might or might not have said or wanted, may I invite you to hash it out over here, where there’s a simple summary of what she’s said happened?

  126. 135

    Stephanie Zvan says:
    Hey, guys. Rather than derailing the thread with speculation on what Rebecca might or might not have said or wanted, may I invite you to hash it out over here, where there’s a simple summary of what she’s said happened?

    I was unaware that Ms. Watson could definitively say what ElevatorGuy did or did not hear.

    I agree that, given the conditions you state and with no other ameliorating factors, there is indeed no way to support the “zero-bad” argument. I’m not sure how that equates to what I have been saying.

  127. 136

    Hey, guys. Rather than derailing the thread with speculation on what Rebecca might or might not have said or wanted, may I invite you to hash it out over here, where there’s a simple summary of what she’s said happened?

    Stephanie Zvan @ #134: What Stephanie said. If this excellent conversation turns into yet another rehashing of Elevatorgate, I’m going to cry and throw things. Thanks.

  128. 137

    Yeah, sorry about that. That risk ended much as I cynically expected, though I hoped a test by experiment might show my intuitive social model wrong in a happy way. It didn’t. I may already have beaten you to the tears. Fortunately, the thread seems to be dying.

    Unfortunately, the result highlights that Elevatorgate may easily be an elephant in the room for your Alternet piece, if the Alternet piece will have anything obvious to do with your original questions.

    I’m not in full agreement with any of the followups (or followups² etc), though more from serious differences about reasoning and less from epic differences in conclusion. As I feared, though, there’s no point in trying to discuss it. Any detailed agreement or rebuttal would mix involving points unique enough to blow the pseudonymity, raising questions more taboo and more easily misconstrued than Kinsey, and risking rehashing the most futile parts of the damn mess again.

    I look forward to your Alternet piece.

    (Anyone wonder why the 1970s -gate suffix caught on when -dome from the 1920s didn’t?)

  129. Myk

    Yes, I definitely feel that expectation. Even in cases where I know someone is interested in me, and I’ve made it fairly clear I’m interested in them, women never initiate the next step. I have to ask for a date first, I have to initiate a first kiss, I have to initiate physical intimacy first, I have to initiate sexual encounters,…

    And it makes me constantly insecure, wondering if the person I’m with actually desires me at all.

    It sucks.

  130. 139

    I wrote you an email about this exact subject earlier this year.

    To recap: When I was single, decades ago, I definitely felt that it was up to the man to make the first move, and I felt it was a tremendous burden on me. Now that I’m married, however, I think that same expectation is an advantage, because it makes it easier to be faithful.

    You may use my name.

  131. yyy

    Ugh, all I can do is concur with all those who hate making the first move. Sure being insecure is problematic, an impediment, a psychological problem in need of medication… (Sigh… Americans and their obsession with “confidence” and drugs). And yeah its inevitable people bring up elevatorgate because the prospect of coming across like that scares 99% of us just as bad as actual creeps scare people.

    I like being a modest insecure nerd guy, thats who I am.

    But do I feel pressure to act macho and act first? Hell no. Girls do make the first move in flirting and asking for you to ask them for their phone numbers, and thank god for that. Then again…. I live in secular western Europe.

    Reading all this I am beginning to wonder about southern European, Asian and American girls who would talk endlessly with me. Note to anyone really interested in shy European guys: we might expect you to make the first move.

    If there is to be a straight female version of this threat then make sure to ask for woman from different cultures to speak up and identify their background. I suspect there is woman out there who dont recognize the idea men “should” act first, and are happier for it. Probably together with a nice shy guy.

    In fact, I just remembered, I have some Dutch stats from a sexual health survey among 12-25 year olds to back this up:
    * A boy is supposed to court a girl, not the other way around: Agree 14% boys, 20% girls
    * girls should be less easy then boys when it comes to sex: Agree 15% boys 21% girls.

    Its from a massive 2005 rutgers-nisso survey but it is in Dutch and in copyrighted bookform, so no link.

    I do think religion plays a role in this because, well, religion correlates pretty strongly with female sexual experience.

    The same survey claims christians and muslims have less sex except if you drill down into the actual numbers you see something else entirely. Yes there is a group of older no-sex-before-marriage types who move the averages by quite a bit but if you look at those 17 year old and bellow you get the following “experience with intercourse top-6”:

    muslim boys: 36%
    christian boys who say religion is important to them: 30%
    non religious girls: 29%
    non religious boys: 21% (and only about half that for those in higher education, it really wasn`t just me 😉 )
    christian girls: 13%
    muslim girls: 10%

    This data isn`t corrected for different age buildups, educational backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, city/rural differences and could suffer from self selection bias only partly evidenced in differing response rates… but still. And things get really interesting if you start asking these religious boys if they have ever persuaded someone into having sex, if they consistently use condoms or just ask them basic factual questions about sex. IE IMHO the important things in a partner.

    There is a similar correlation if you look at the boy vs girl split in this per country data:
    and put it next to gallup polling on religiosity. And it makes some sense that in secular societies the girls, uh, out-screw the boys since girls tend to mature a little earlier biologically.

    The point being woman should feel a little less constrained because in societies where they are they seem to enjoy the benefits.

  132. 142

    Yes, I feel that I have to make the first move, and be the more active partner in general… whether that’s completely justified or not. In retrospect, I often miss efforts and hints, gambits made by others for a closer connection, which would lighten my burdens (if they were less subtle or I more capable of getting a clue).

    In some ways, this is a good thing. I have my merits, at least on the surface :-), and get my share of contacts from women, especially in the more direct environment of online dating sites. But they’re seldom ones I’m attracted to, and after a small number of weeks of messages from the uninteresting, silence from the interesting ones I’ve written to, and a couple of uninspiring dates, I’m usually gone. I’m not sure whether rejecting or being rejected drains me more, but the combination doesn’t seem worth it. Reminds me to enjoy the more reliable, even if less intense, joys of a non-dating social life.

    The combination of my particular background with an expectation of guy’s initiative creates a challenging minefield for relationships. My upbringing was Catholic and feminist, in that order: the first overcome without much damage beyond a superstition that sex is some sort of profound sacrament; the latter giving me an awareness of privilege and a concern that I not oppress women, not treat them as sex objects. My Mom combines these attitudes into what I call the Cult of Marriage, whose main tenets are that you shouldn’t sleep with someone unless you Love them and are going to Marry them, and that divorce is not a good option when things aren’t working, not an option at all when there are kids (unless actual abuse is involved). It’s not that I completely disagree, but this all makes me anxious as any intimate relationship evolves through ambiguous levels of commitment.

    I take on a lot of guilt and responsibility, in my own expectations, for whether my lover is happy and whether I’m going to stay in love forever or if I’m “wasting her time.” Feeling compelled to lead feeds that anxiety while limiting her freedom to reduce the pressure, to take charge herself now and then. I’d like to be more laid back, but I fear that passivity will be interpreted as lack of interest, a cooling of affections.

    Other than a long marriage with a lot of angst and passive aggression on my part :-/, the strain of living up to the active role has limited my serious relationships to about three months, on average, before initial optimism fades and things fall apart. Whether dumper or dumpee, I overanalyze in trying to do better next time, so I put off trying again for longer and longer.

    On a more constructive note, it’s probably easier to overthink and guilt-trip when it’s not a good match. Maybe I’ve just not met the right woman yet. (Where there’s life, there’s hope, especially if you socialize outside of dating.) The main lesson I try to take is to invest myself in a relationship (romantic or not), to follow and nourish the inspiration, without trying too hard to control it.

  133. 143

    I’d just like to throw my experience in as well. Yes, I definitely feel like I need to initiate almost everything. This includes not just dating and sex, but there is also a strong cultural push for it to always be the man that proposes marriage. In fact, in many relationships I’ve had I feel that I’m supposed to be choosing everything from what we do out on dates and where we go to eat to what we’ll watch on TV.

    It makes life extremely difficult because I’m very introverted, particularly about relationships because I’m so afraid I’m going to say something and look stupid or be rejected. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still difficult.

    Also, I find it very difficult to read signals from women as to if they are interested or not. That might be a large part of where the issue comes from. I know I am much more comfortable asking someone out if I know they are at least somewhat interested in me.

  134. 144

    It’s just been the default assumption. I’m a guy who dates women, so I’m always, always, always the initiator. It was never discussed as though I had a choice; if I wanted to date women, I had to initiate, period, end of discussion.

    I’m a mellow guy and not terribly invested in gender roles, so I have a lot of room for sexually aggressive women in my life. For the others, the compulsive macho types, not so much; the girls in my circle don’t date those. There needs to be room for everyone to say “I choose you”.

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