"Be Wildly, Passionately Pursued": Women and Passivity

“Just once in life, every woman should…”

How would you finish that sentence?

In the December 2011 issue of Glamour Magazine, the editors asked three women writers to finish that sentence. And Caitlin Flanagan (To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife) finished it this way: “Just once in life, every woman should be wildly, passionately pursued.” She went on to recount a story from her college days, when she was courted to near-obsession by a young man she had no interest in. She gushes breathlessly about how wonderful it all was and how special and desirable it made her feel, and she pities the poor sad modern girls brazenly asking guys for their phone numbers. “I know I should have been marveling at how far girls have come,” she writes. “But instead I thought, Wow, those girls will never be pursued.”

There were so many things in this article that were so very wrong, I could probably devote my entire blog for a month to picking it apart. The courtship that Flanagan describes as “wild, passionate pursuit” looks an awful lot like what I would call “stalking.” And, of course, the very idea that there’s anything at all that “every” woman should do — other than metabolize food and breathe in and out — is just flatly stupid on the face of it. But here’s the thing that really jumped out at me about this, the thing that made me facepalm so hard it made my brain spill out the back of my head:

“Being wildly, passionately pursued” is not a goal you can work towards.

This is not a goal you can make happen. This is not a goal you can apply thought and imagination and hard work to in order to bring yourself closer to it.

This is a goal you have to sit back and hope happens to you.

I mean, if I decided that just once in life, every woman should skydive, or dye her hair blonde, or sculpt a life-size statue of Charles Darwin out of ice… those are things I could probably do if I set my mind to it. Maybe not well; maybe not enjoyably… but I could do it. But if I decided that Flanagan was right, and that I really should be wildly, passionately pursued at least once before I die… what am I supposed to do about it?

I suppose I could try to make myself into the kind of woman that men wildly, passionately pursue. And I’m supposed to do that… how, exactly? Follow the advice in Glamour Magazine, I guess. Dress pretty, buy the right skin care products, toss my hair alluringly… and wait for a man to make my goal happen for me.


There are certainly worthwhile goals in life that rely on others to help you reach them. To get a law degree, you need others to let you into law school; to be a businessperson, you need others to buy whatever widgets you’re selling; to be a Senator, you need people to vote for you. But you can take positive, pro-steps to bring yourself closer to these goals. Steps other than making yourself into a more attractive commodity and then placing yourself passively in the marketplace, in hopes of being picked from the store shelf with greater enthusiasm. Yeah, turning myself into the next “Tickle Me Elmo” doll and inspiring an obsessive shopping frenzy, from guys I’m not even interested in. That’s what I want out of life. Reach for the stars, girls!

The sound you hear is my brain plopping out of my skull and onto the floor from the latest round of facepalming. (Again. And I just got it crammed back in. Dammit, I hate it when that happens!)

Maybe I’m overanalyzing. Okay, I’m almost certainly overanalyzing. I suspect that what’s mainly going on here is that Flanagan had this story she liked about this time that she was wildly, passionately pursued, and she wanted to tell it, and this “Just once in life, every woman should…” article was her excuse to do it. And besides, it’s just some silly article in Glamour magazine, filling in the gaps between ads for snake-oil skin-care “serums” and pictures of pretty shoes. Maybe I shouldn’t read so much into it.

Except this is how gender indoctrination happens. It happens in bits and pieces. It’s a thousand little jokes in sitcoms, a thousand little choruses in pop songs, a thousand little filler articles in fashion magazines. And pointing them out is how we counter them, how we raise our consciousness about them. Caitlin Flanagan can say all she wants that “I would never advocate going back to a time when women were passive.” But that is, in fact, exactly what she is advocating. When she waxes nostalgic about her days of being wildly pursued, when she advocates being wildly pursued as an experience every woman should have at least once in her life, and when she expresses pity for women who’ll never experience it because they do so much of the pursuing themselves… female passivity is exactly what she’s advocating. And for those of us who passionately oppose the old system with every breath in our body, it’s worth pointing out just how fucked-up it is.

"Be Wildly, Passionately Pursued": Women and Passivity
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60 thoughts on “"Be Wildly, Passionately Pursued": Women and Passivity

  1. 1

    She thinks every woman should be stalked?


    Let’s see what I could add to that.

    I think every young woman should experience what it’s like to get blitzed and wake up miles from home with no knowledge of how she got there, no money or ID in the middle of winter.


    I think every young woman should experience what it’s like to have a stranger breath down their neck on a crowded subway train while he mumbles things like ‘hot’ and ‘so smooth.’

  2. 2

    I’m curious what the other two answers were!

    Nevertheless, good on you for pointing out how silly this is. This is exactly how gender indoctrination happens, and it’s well worth fighting. I don’t remember at what point I started paying attention to jokes in sitcoms about small penises, but I notice them every time now, and every time the message is basically “there’s something wrong with you if you have a small penis.” Fantastic! Thank you for that.

  3. 3

    The other odd thing about that story (which, granted, I only know about from your description here) is that, if the guy didn’t cross over into stalker territory, it seems kind of mean. Unrequited love (or even just a fruitless crush) can be a messy and difficult experience.

    I can’t see how this kind of pursuit is supposed to end up well. If the woman makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be pursued, and the man continues, he’s turning into a stalker at best. If she suggests that she does want to be pursued, but she does so only because being wanted makes her feel good about herself and not out of any interest in the guy, that’s using someone in a kind of cruel way. If she doesn’t say anything about what she wants, she’s setting up a relationship with broken lines of communication and leaving herself vulnerable to whatever the guy in question just sort of guesses he should do.

  4. 4

    Call it like you see it, Greta.

    NOT saying anything is passively endorsing that fucked up, outdated time, and the old system is something we’re better off rid of.

  5. 5

    What an idiot.

    I know it’s been a while since I’ve worried about these things, being an old married woman and all now, but I do seem to recall that being wildly, passionately pursued means you’re chasing your pursuer as hard as you’re being chased! It’s no fun if the attraction isn’t mutual, after all.

    Besides, if your dating isn’t wild and passionate, you’re doing it wrong.

  6. LS

    Considering how romantically passive I am, I would be fucked if ladies took this kind of bullshit advice seriously.

    Or, perhaps more accurately, I wouldn’t be fucked. >.>

  7. 7

    I agree with all of the above, and am more than glad to be past my own days of waiting around for wild, passionate pursuit. Another problem with having that as a goal is… it’s kind of sadistic, no? If Flanagan is writing about a time she was pursued *by a guy she wasn’t interested in*, that sounds an awful lot like enjoying attention and adoration without any concern for the pain the unrequited lover was undoubtedly suffering.

    Most women I know hate when a man they’re not interested in is infatuated with them. Even if he is being respectful and non-stalkerish, there is the awareness that we are making someone unhappy, which is not a pleasant feeling for those of us with any capacity for empathy.

    So this “women should be wildly and passionately pursued” seems to lead to two possible interactions, both toxic: one where women shut down their capacity for empathizing with the pursuer in order to enjoy the attention and adoration he heaps on her, and the other where women pretend not to be interested in a man they actually are interested in, so as to enjoy the thrill of pursuit with the knowledge that they intend to give him what he wants after he’s worked for it hard enough.

    I prefer honesty, frankness, and reciprocity, thanks.

  8. 8

    I agree, Greta. When I read your description of what she said, the three things that came to mind were “stalking” and “Yeah, that’s how a lot of women get hurt” and “Thanks, that kind of attitude helped keep me single and lonely for a decade (because I’m not very outgoing and I’m careful to always take ‘no’ for an answer)”.

  9. 9

    So, if I want to avoid being stalked, all I have to do is approach guys that I think are cute and ask them out? And then I’ll be stalker-free, is what Flanagan’s saying?

    Sign me up!

  10. Leo

    Reason #42 to facepalm: Being passionately pursued is pleasant and flattering and you should feel like a pampered princess. It’s not like other people have feelings. At least not the sub-human servant who pampers you. Sure, it’d be best for them if you encouraged them to move on, but then you wouldn’t be pursued, and that’s what matters, right?

  11. 11

    THANKS for writing this! I know that we disagree about almost everything (especially on every Friday when you make me feel like an alien and I lose it in the comments 🙂 ), but this articles was very lucidly stating a lot of things I noticed as well.

  12. 12

    I’m curious what the other two answers were!

    Tim Martin @ #2: “Be a Fan of Something — Anything,” and “Be Friends with a Much Older Woman.” Both reasonably attainable, non-passive goals, and both of which I can get down with.

    And thanks to everyone who’s pointing out that this advice is cruel to men as well: that it’s basically encouraging women to lead men on even if they’re not interested, just so they can get the ego boost of being pursued. I can’t believe I missed that.

  13. 13

    What Leon said.
    To expand on that last point, besides the obvious harm (encouraging stalking and passivity) and general uselessness of that advice, it’s another thing playing into that knight in shining armor sort of fantasy that’s sold to everyone. That not only do women “need” to be pursued like this, but that anyone who doesn’t display stalkerish tendencies towards them must not be interested enough, and is therefore unworthy of getting involved with. And that, as a man, I am expected to go to borderline creepy lengths before I should expect a woman to pay attention to me.

    I’ll leave it at that before I wind up in a whiny nice-guy rant, which is not where I’m trying to go with this. My point is that by encouraging women to be passive and wait for that guy who will go to extreme lengths to get her attention, it’s also encouraging them to ignore those of us who aren’t stalkers. Which is bad for both of us.

    And, I think I would be far more interested in a woman who actually made the first move and expressed interest in me, than in one who required Herculean efforts to get even the slightest bit of attention from her.

  14. 14

    “Just once in life, every woman should…”

    Burn down news-stands that sell these utterly craptastical magazines?

    I am a very fortunate man. My wife’s idea of a great magazine is Scientific American and Nature.

  15. 15

    “Just once in life, every woman should…”

    Live on her own (if possible) for at least a year, and learn how to enjoy her own company and treat herself with the same respect and compassion she shows to others.

  16. PSG

    The feeling of being wanted, passionately, and wanting someone that way in return I can total get behind. I’m 100% with having a relationship with someone that makes you feel wildly, passionately pursued/wanted when it’s a MUTUAL feeling. Reading her words made me feel like that was what she was sort of getting at, but doing it so poorly because she was caught up in her own web of gendered expectations.

    It hurts me so to know so many people out there fail to see others as emotional creatures, who are affected by the things we say and the things we do. The story she tells is so unkind. She is not kind to herself or her “pursurer” nor is she kind to other women who act differently than she did. She is unkind to men who don’t prefer to pursue women, especially women who would lead them on like she did. Certainly, she needed this external validation from a man, because she doesn’t independently feel special and desirable herself. What a horrible way to live.

    Having before been pursued by someone I had no interest in, I agree 100% with Ginny – if you have any sort of empathy it is a deeply painful experience, not an exciting one. =/

  17. 18

    So where does her philosophy leave room for the people who don’t actually like the idea of being stalked? And what are the people who’ve been raised right enough to know that stalking is a bad thing supposed to do?

    I honestly don’t understand why any person would want somebody to pursue them if they didn’t reciprocate the feeling. Really, egos should not need that kind of sick food. Go build self-esteem for yourself already!

  18. 19

    “Just once in life, every woman should…”

    … plant a tree, mentor someone and write a book (or a story or a poem, or paint or draw or weave or solve a problem in mathematics or write a piece of music or design and execute an experiment … Also, bugger the “have a child” part – doesn’t suit everyone, and it’s not like we have too few. I think “mentor someone” is a better ambition; it could be your own child, but there’s no reason at all why it should have to be)

  19. 21

    I was once pursued like that. It was creepy. The guy tried to make my boyfriend break up with me. He would hurt himself on purpose to try and have me comfort him… I’m a bit clueless sometimes, so it took a little while for me to catch onto the act. He was jealous any other male I would talk to and he and I nearly had a physical confrontation. I cut him out of my life and even so 3 years later he randomly messaged me with a “This is your last chance to be my girlfriend” message.

    I would say instead that every woman should *avoid* having creepy obsessive stalker types following them.

  20. 22

    Good for you for pointing this out, Greta. People like Flanagan either don’t know or don’t care about the harm they do to impressionable people, and they need to be called out.

    I can only assume that the sort of people who value being liked and stalked based on their outward appearance alone have absolutely nothing of value on the inside. It’s sick that Flanagan has no problem with that, and wants other people to have no problem with that too.

    On a side note, she’s kinda sending a message to creepy people that it’s okay to stalk and obsess over someone who isn’t receptive. Because hey, you’re just helping them out in fulfilling their goal!

    Ugh, that sounds eerily close to the “she was asking for it” defense.

  21. 23

    I am old. Not an old married lady, just old. Born in 1941. And all this pursuit business reminds me of the battles we fought long ago..
    A woman should: manage her own money; manage her own life; drive her own car, and his on occasion; take herself out on a date, dress sexily and go to a posh place and pay your own bill and calculate your own tip (and refuse the types who would buy you drinks, you aren’t that cheap); laugh at a flasher; punch a mugger – poo, they always protect the gonads, hit the begger in the throat or your keys to the eyes; …..
    This goes on and on – be your own woman. If you want sex, I am sure the vibrator works better than any male. If the male won’t be a partner, why are you wasting the time on him. You can make your own babies.
    sorry about the rant – but I lived through all that, and I get annoyed when I see it happening again.

  22. 24

    I suppose if you really want to be wildly, passionately pursued you could just get in the habit of cutting people off in traffic. >.>

    …oh, romantically. Never mind. O.o

  23. 25

    I was once pursued like that. It was creepy. The guy tried to make my boyfriend break up with me. He would hurt himself on purpose to try and have me comfort him… I’m a bit clueless sometimes, so it took a little while for me to catch onto the act. He was jealous any other male I would talk to and he and I nearly had a physical confrontation. I cut him out of my life and even so 3 years later he randomly messaged me with a “This is your last chance to be my girlfriend” message.

    I would say instead that every woman should *avoid* having creepy obsessive stalker types following them.

    Eww. My ex-wife’s boyfriend before the boyfriend before me was like that.

    …unless she was just making that up, too… *whimper*

  24. 26

    be your own woman. If you want sex, I am sure the vibrator works better than any male.

    Um, I don’t think that these two things necessarily go together. I was agreeing completely with everything you said until this.

    There’s no reason to have a problem with men in general, or to scoff at the notion that a woman could want to have sex with one as opposed to a vibrator. That really shouldn’t be what feminism is about.

    I can empathize with you, though, because I know it had to be hard dealing with a time when the thought of you wanting sex always had to involve a man, and the thought of a woman masturbating just because she wanted it was a ridiculous notion.

    But I think that some of the best parts of the fact that women can be much more sexually open now is that we have the choice with how to express that, be it with a vibrator, a man, a woman, or anything else I just can’t think of. And that if a woman does have sex with a man (or another woman, for that matter) she can enjoy it just as much or even more than with a vibrator, because she has the freedom now to communicate the kinds of things that she does and doesn’t like, and she can be open in the fact that she does enjoy it.

    I just thought I’d mention that, because I really just don’t like hostility between the genders. It just makes it a little harder for everyone to be happy with the world.

  25. 27

    @20: nooooooo don’t make me skydive! I have enough problems getting into a plane when it’s required; please don’t insist I have to jump out of one! I’ll stick with mentoring and poetry, thank you.

  26. 28

    Yeah, why the hell should I jump out of a perfectly good airplane that’s not on fire or anything?

    Anyhow, this kind of “article” is exactly why it’s so damned hard to find a decent bit of fluff to read when you’re on your way to and from. I can’t wait to get my kindle. It’ll fit in my purse and not insult me.

  27. 31

    I’ve never liked it when a guy I wasn’t interested in was all over me. It was really distressing when it happened with a guy friend of mine. I had to stop being friends with him because he was being so obsessive. I felt bad for hurting him at the time, but I felt less bad the more ridiculous and stalkerish his behavior got.

    In short, Caitlin Flanagan has her head up her ass.

  28. 32

    NathanDST: That’s true. But I’ve yet to have a better orgasm with anyone but myself.

    Meh. Not arguing that you have (that would be stupid). I just happen to know at least one woman who doesn’t care much for masturbating at all, or any type or toy she has tried so far (which apparently frustrates her man because then he feels bad when he’s not in the mood, and she’s clawing the walls). I just wanted it clear that the stereotype is only a stereotype, that’s all.

  29. 34

    I can see the same problem with it you do, so maybe I’m over thinking it too, I guess.
    Wouldn’t be a first for me 😉
    But seriously, this is just wrong.

  30. 35

    I find most things said by Greta hard to disagree with. However, it reminded me some press articles I read quite a while ago. They concerned a phenomenon of active, educated, modern women who can’t find a male partner/husband. The claim was (more or less, I’m reconstructing it from memory) that the issue becomes more and more problematic: women who – in Greta’s terms – refuse to “make themselves into a more attractive commodity and then to place themselves passively in the marketplace” develop a standard for partnership which too few guys satisfy. And these women (at least so it went in the press) are by no means “feminists and proud of it” – they form rather a more and more disillusioned and disappointed group of users of various dating sites, looking in vain for someone who would satisfy their standards. (As far as I can remember, it had a lot to do with the feminization of education on the academic level – this at least I can see in my own university, where we have whole faculties with the vast majority of female students. In general, it may have something to do with the phenomenon discussed recently on Pharyngula – the one about “underperforming” males.) The press papers I’m mentioning concerned mainly my own country; I don’t know if any of this strikes a familiar note.

    Anyway, if the problem is real, then your Caitlin Flanagan from the Glamour Magazine could be the winner after all (at least in some quite crucial games). But is it real? I’m not sure, I haven’t seen any hard data on this, perhaps it’s just about making some noise in the press. Hoping to learn more from your comments.

  31. 36


    I’m perfectly aware that this is going to end up on the cutting room floor, or moderation limbo, or whatever you call it, but I need to get this off my chest. At least you will read it, and that’s the point, I guess.

    Many things that I have read from you, especially when they have to do with sex, gender roles, misogyny, etc., never cease to drop me into a solid week of hellish self-loathing and depression. Your posts are a trigger for me. I am nearly in tears as I write this.

    Because they always remind me of how much of a complete and total dickwad I used to be. How, not that long ago, I would look at a woman and only think of her as a means of gratification. This is very hard for me to admit, but the first thing that popped into my head when I read “Just once in life, every woman should…” was “let me bone her.” I was immediately overcome with self-loathing and absolute disgust for what I had thought. This is a common theme when I read your blog.

    It was the “elevatorgate” incident that opened my eyes. Since then, I have tried to treat women as the people that they are. But that doesn’t change the past, and so here we go down the spiral once again, because I haven’t been able to forgive myself.

    I had to stop writing for an hour or so because I had some things to take care of, and while I was gone, I thought about it. It’s jeaousy. Pure and simple. I am jealous of everyone who has a healthy relationship with someone they love. For me, that’s just a pipe dream. I’ve seen my reflection in mirrors. I’ve seen the look of disgust on a woman’s face when she notices that I’m looking at her. I’ve been on trains that are so crowded that people are squashed together like sardines, and yet the seat next to mine is still empty. I know from horrible experience that no woman in her right mind is going to find me attractive. And since I refuse to ever again be with a woman who is not in her right mind – plus, I am perfectly OK with taking no for an answer – I am pretty much out of options when it comes to a mate.

    And that makes me bitter. I am reduced to a) compromizing my principles and “coercing” a woman to be with me through deceit and/or manipulation or b) lowering my standards and being with someone who isn’t all there. Some may advocate that lowering my standards isn’t a bad thing, but to them I say, “You don’t know the hell I’ve been through. Never again.”

    Maybe I’m not so reformed after all. 🙁

    I’m not going to stop reading, because I need to be remided of how much of a complete fuckstick I used to be, so I won’t become that fuckstick again.

    I have agonized for a long time about whether to comment here, because the atmosphere is so positive, uplifting, even. That’s why I read; because of all the “positivity” that comes from your posts and from the folks that comment here. But this has been eating me up inside for months, and I just had to get it out.


    PS: If, by chance, I skip moderation and this actually makes it to the wall, I promise not to sully the place again.

  32. 37

    I was once “passionately pursued by a man I had no interest in”. It was awful. You can only enjoy it if

    A. You secretly are interested in some aspect of him (maybe he’s not attractive enough but you like his sweetness) or
    B. You enjoy watching someone suffer and string themselves along on your behalf despite your desperate efforts to make them understand they have to MOVE ON with their lives because they’re wasting their time.

    To answer the glamour question: a woman should never be afraid to tackle a job simply because it’s traditionally done by men, thinking they can’t learn how. Every time in their lives, not just the once.

  33. 38

    “Just once in life, every woman should…”
    …eat a plate of comfort food, and not count the damned calories.
    …mentor a girl.
    …try something difficult, something nobody thinks she can do. Something she can shove under their noses and say, “Yes, I can!”
    …go skinny-dipping with friends, and realize her body issues are all in her head.
    …wake up early and watch the sunrise.
    …go to a home-improvement class. Learn to do something that a lot of men don’t have a clue how to do, like plumbing.
    …go rappelling. It’s a rush.
    …learn first-aid and CPR. Everyone should learn first-aid and CPR.
    …fire a rifle at a rifle range. Feel the power, and realize she’s the one controlling that power.

  34. 40

    It is pretty messed up saying this to a woman but as a man I wonder what it says to us. It says that women enjoy being pursued and that “No” sometimes means “try harder”. It says that women are a commodity, they are a prize that you win if you try hard enough to catch them. That really isn’t a lesson that we chaps need to learn. We need to learn the exact opposite in fact just in case there is any doubt in our minds.


    Just once in life, every woman person should…
    …cook a meal for a large group of friends.
    …live alone for at least a year.
    …visit a museum.
    …take a science course.
    …learn a language.
    …become a blood and bone marrow donor (I gave my fiftieth donation two weeks ago).
    …learn the basics of plumbing and electrics.
    …grow your own food.
    …write and make a short film.
    …do whatever you like.

  35. 41


    If you’re being sincere in your comment, I think you have some serious self esteem issues that you neednt have.

    None of us were born enlightened. Some of us hold on to our ignorance a little bit longer. However the important thing is to realize our mistakes and let that ignorance go. If you do that you should not be ashamed. Of course it is important not to slip back in to old bitterness, but interacting with people more should help you stay away from that.

    Try not to beat yourself up so much or take yourself so seriously. I for one am extremely happy whenever I hear of someone that has stepped out of an ignorant mentality, whether it is from creationism, racism or sexism. Thank you for sharing.

  36. 42

    This is not a goal you can make happen. This is not a goal you can apply thought and imagination and hard work to in order to bring yourself closer to it… This is a goal you have to sit back and hope happens to you.

    Well, clearly, as others have pointed out, what we’re misunderstanding here is who is the target audience. Since this message is really of little practical use to the pursuee, clearly, it was meant for the putative pursuer

    So, in other words, it’s just some publishing system glitch. And this article was supposed to have shown up in one of Condé Nast’s somewhat less well-known periodicals: Stalkers Quarterly.

    … By the by, I used to subscribe to SQ. But it turns out I didn’t quite have what it takes to make it in the ‘brotherhood’…

    I mean, sure, I had some of the stalkerish/obsessive tendencies down. But I also had this woefully short attention span…

    … so, sure, I could get totally, obsessively, pointlessly infatuated with someone, so that it became a dangerous and terrifying idée fixe that I must have her, whatever the cost, whichever police force might hunt me down for the mad and terrfiying verses I had written in raptures to her name and thrown through her window on a rock in dead of night…

    … but this would also happen to me on average 2-3 times a day.

    It got tiring. I tried to make it work, for a bit, but the sheer logistics of it were just too much to keep up to. I’d lose track of anonymous deliveries of flowers, so on, send them out to people I hadn’t even been planning on stalking… It’s embarrassing, y’know, having to tell someone, actually, no, those were meant for someone else who has no fucking idea why she’s getting them and is actually pretty terrified by the weirdness of it all. You’ve actually nothing to worry about from me.

    Well, this week, anyway…

    (/Anyway, so I had to move on. Now I just write rom coms.)

  37. 43

    My first thought was that she sounds incredibly selfish. The story she tells is of being pursued by someone she wasn’t interested in, who was therefore doomed to disappointment. For anyone with any empathy at all, any positive feelings they might have of being flattered and/or valued would be swamped by feelings of sorrow for the pursuer.

  38. 44

    Crys 41 said:

    I for one am extremely happy whenever I hear of someone that has stepped out of an ignorant mentality, whether it is from creationism, racism or sexism. Thank you for sharing.

    Seconded. I wish you luck, anthonyallen.

  39. 46

    Perhaps I’m missing something. Her pity doesn’t appear to make sense. She’s specifically talking about being pursued by a man she wasn’t interested in. How does contemporary women actively pursuing men they are interested in change the likelihood of being pursued by men they aren’t interested in? Are the two behaviors even related?

  40. 47

    that is horrible for one
    for two, yes, that and most romantic fiction romanticizes stalking, teaches boys that when girls say “no” they mean “yes if you keep trying”, belittles both men and women that don’t fit stereotypical roles (meeker men and stronger women, like the scene in Last Days of Disco where they talk about how Lady and the Tramp teaches girls to like bad boys and make fun of nicer guys), and confuses the hell out of kids growing up who think that is normal behavior. It just makes me crazy sometimes. On top of it some of us didn’t grow up with good role models or had parents who talked about this.

    I have certainly been obsessed and pursued people, not to the point anyone was afraid, but certainly a few got annoyed with me 🙂 Actually I believe I’ve read fMRI scans show patterns very similar to OCD when people think of those they are in love with.

    My S.O. told me when she had stepkids, her and her husband would have the kids take them out on “dates” when they hit their tweens. The boy was given money by the father and had to take the mom out, and the father took the daughter out for dinner. They taught their kids how to treat other and how to expect to be treated. This seemed pretty helpful and may be a good idea for others. She has a hilarious story of the first time when the boy wanted to spend the money on toys and just buy mom McDonald’s 🙂 But dad told him no that’s not nice and it will hurt mom’s feelings 🙂

  41. 48

    Anthonyallen: *hugs* if you want them.

    Perhaps it is presumptuous, but your comment reminded me a lot of my thought process when I’m going into a depressive spiral. I also feel that I’m a horrible person, everyone hates me and that anyone I could be attracted to is disgusted by me. I don’t want to be Internet Diagnosis Person here, but if it is, then I want to say that your feelings may be deceiving you. Be a good skeptic. People are rarely disgusted at strangers; mostly, they just ignore them. How do you know that people are disgusted by you? Is this data better explained by a simpler hypothesis?

    Have you considered therapy, by any chance? It can help a lot of people.

    Also, everyone has had stupid and regressive opinions at some point. Having the strength to change your mind– to fight against the forces of confirmation bias and refusing to admit you were an asshole– that’s special and something really, really good. You should be proud of yourself for that.

  42. 49

    Just once in life, every woman should…

    …Question her sexuality.
    …Eat ice cream (or similar) for dinner.
    …Fight for a cause she believes in.
    …Create something meaningful, to leave the world a little more beautiful than how she found it.
    …Learn to laugh at herself.
    …Dance in public.
    …Do what she wants to do, not what’s cool or what others want her to do.
    …Develop her own sense of style.
    …Learn how statistics work and be able to identify common ways of manipulating statistics.
    …Learn about the Milgram Experiment, the Ashe Conformity Experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, the bystander effect, etc. Knowledge is strength. 🙂

  43. 50

    Well, I’m sure relieved that I can check this one off my bucket list. Yep, it sure was fun, at 16, to be wildly and passionately pursued for 5 years by a fella who would break into my home, sleep under my bedroom window, follow me wherever he could (even out of town), refuse to accept a breakup, and who generally wore me down to an emotional stub – it was easier to stay with him than it was to end things (since they never, ever ended).

    One good thing – after he finally let me go (he moved out of the country to chase someone else), I stopped being so damn passive.

    I suppose, though, Caitlin would pity me for asking out the amazing fella to whom I have been happily unmarried for the past 15 years. Sorry to disappoint, Caitlin.

  44. 51

    Anthonyallen –

    It takes a brave person to realize they’ve been wrong, and change their way of thinking about something. Some people never, ever do this. You did. Hold your head up high, and be proud. It’s a big deal.

  45. 52


    Thank you, I’ll take all the hugs I can get. They are extremely hard to come by in my personal meatspace.

    “People are rarely disgusted at strangers; mostly, they just ignore them. How do you know that people are disgusted by you? Is this data better explained by a simpler hypothesis?”
    Probably, but I don’t have an unbiased observer to confirm this. I am an irrationally biased observer. As for therapy, I’ve been there, in and out for 20-odd years, in fact. It doesn’t work for me. I am so fearful of what they might think of me, that I lie to myself (and by extension, to them) so that they will give me a “clean bill” of mental health.

    I’ve become very adept at it, in fact.

  46. 53

    I was raised, as a boy, by my (very much feminist) mother to understand that “no means no.” In fact, I learned while growing up that anything short of an explicit “yes” should be taken as a provisional “no” until an explicit “yes” was forthcoming. If, in the process, I failed to make anybody’s fantasy about “being pursued” come true, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

    I’m 40 now, but that still makes me young enough to remember how “stalking” became a common term for guys becoming a bit too invested in “pursuing” certain girls, and it wasn’t a good thing.

  47. 54

    I am an irrationally biased observer.

    If it makes you feel better, so is almost everybody, to the point that I wouldn’t even call it irrational.

    Also as far as therapy, maybe you should try it out again. Only this time, the instant you walk in and talk to the therapist, the first thing you should tell them is that you do have a problem with lying about your problems to yourself and to them. It’ll give them a basis for how to help you at the very least.

  48. JfC

    One thing I found weird is her statement that girls who are assertive and ask cute boys out will NEVER be pursued. It’s not a binary. In my life, sometimes I make the first move, sometimes the other person does. If I’m available, generally someone will be interested in me. Their interest doesn’t deflate when they find out that I asked out my previous partner first.

  49. 57

    And that makes me bitter. I am reduced to a) compromizing my principles and “coercing” a woman to be with me through deceit and/or manipulation or b) lowering my standards and being with someone who isn’t all there. Some may advocate that lowering my standards isn’t a bad thing, but to them I say, “You don’t know the hell I’ve been through. Never again.”

    Do you want the good news, anthonyallen?

    If you sincerely have learned from Elevatorgate and Greta and all the rest of us feminists, then you’re going to be a very different person before you know it. And that person you become will make it much more likely that you’ll be able to meet someone and have a genuine relationship, because you will have learned how to interact with women as people first. This is predicated on your standards not being so impossible that no one could meet them. Capisce?

    As for the bus thing–are you sure it’s your looks that put people off? I know that when I’ve been reluctant to sit next to someone, it’s for one of the following reasons:

    1) Their looks or body language told me they were fiercely possessive of their space–as in “don’t sit here, it’s my seat.” You may be putting off this vibe without realizing it.

    2) Your looks or body language tell me you’re pissed off, somehow.

    3) You look depressed, and you’re going to tell me all your problems. See point 6 for why I would look for another place to sit if I got that vibe off you.

    4) Are you the guy who stares too long at people? This makes women uncomfortable when a man does it.

    5) This is if you’re that guy who sits on the aisle seat. a) Some people are simply too shy to ask to sit next to you. Really. b) If you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t get up to let someone take an window seat, or move to the window seat to give them the aisle seat, that can put women (especially) off. A guy who won’t get up or move over is a blaring red flag to women warning that they’re possibly dealing with a groper. Try asking a woman if she wants to sit down, and get up when you do, so that she feels more at ease about taking the window seat. Or sit by the window yourself. You’ll find more people sitting next to you.

    6) Count your blessings if people aren’t bothering you on a train! You could be me, who far too often ends up with people thinking that I have “Shrink” written on my head and tell me all their problems. You could be hearing about a daughter who has cancer for the fourth time, or how someone’s husband has become a woman, or the son who is doing drugs and has gotten two prostitutes pregnant, or the confused homeless woman who only just yesterday talked to Elvis, and he said if she threw a bucket of KFC off Hemisfair Tower, she’d get to marry Tom Seaver. The next time someone doesn’t sit next to you, think, “Poor Aquaria. I bet she’s somewhere hearing the gory details about someone’s gall-bladder surgery and how his wife is sleeping with his 82-year-old dad.”

    Because I probably am hearing it. My husband is simply stunned at how people make a beeline for me and start telling me the craziest things when we take public transportation.

  50. 58

    I am so fearful of what they might think of me, that I lie to myself (and by extension, to them) so that they will give me a “clean bill” of mental health.

    I worked for two therapists once upon a time, and I never had one give someone a clean bill of health. If you were there to see them, something was clearly wrong, and they’d be saying, let’s talk, until they could get you to open up to them and get to the problem of depression as deep as yours appears to be.

    I also think they knew you weren’t honest with them, if they were competent at all. I’ve watched a good therapist spiral into someone’s facade of good mental health and lay that person bare in three minutes flat. The therapist stopped when she realized she had gone into therapist mode in a social situation, and took the person to a private place to discuss her problem in more depth. So I know what a good therapist is capable of when it comes to hearing something that ain’t so. But my last therapist, someone else, was able to do this with me, when I thought I was so smart and keeping him at a distance. He chewed me up and spat me out without trying. And only then did I start to benefit from therapy.

    Give therapy one more go, and, as stated upthread, warn the therapist about your tendency to deceive to make them think you’re okay. No competent therapist will ever fling it in your face or hold it against you, although s/he may explore why you feel the need to deceive this way. Most therapists undoubtedly know that nearly everyone lies to themselves a little or a lot at various times in their life, better than anyone. That you’re telling them your problem demonstrates that you are trying to get a handle on the problem, or that you’re at least aware of it. Now they’ve got something to work with. A big one, actually, if you think about it.

  51. 59

    Aquaria (57), I expect that you have one of those faces that invites people to talk to you. Despite the fact that I always sit on public transport with my ipod on and read a book or a newspaper I also seem to get the window lickers bothering me. I could be rude but I kind of feel sorry for them. My unwife has the same problem too. All we want to be is left alone and get from point A to point B.

    anthonyallen, I don’t say this to be hurtful but context is important. On a crowded train I’d rather stand than sit next to anyone, a lot of us just don’t like talking to or interacting with strangers in real life so we avoid those situations. We create barriers to interaction. We even label people so as to dehumanise them so we don’t have to think about their lives. It may be the case that you’ve got barriers up that you aren’t aware of.

    More importantly don’t go looking for an opportunity to meet someone in a context that is not appropriate to meet someone. Trains, buses, supermarkets, the queue at the post office, a rest room. These are all places where we have to be rather than where we want to be. We allow strangers to irritate us because all we want is to finish what we’re doing and get out. Try going to more socially appropriate locations like bars, social clubs, freethought events and even organised dates. The expectations are different and people make an effort to lower their shields a little.

  52. 60

    This is why I had such a hard time expressing my discomfort. I’ve managed to make at least part of this about me, and that makes me feel like crap. Would it surprise you to know that I was raised Catholic?

    And that person you become will make it much more likely that you’ll be able to meet someone and have a genuine relationship, because you will have learned how to interact with women as people first. This is predicated on your standards not being so impossible that no one could meet them. Capisce?
    I understand what you’re saying, and thanks. But what does “Capisce” mean?

    I’m aware that it isn’t just my looks that put people off. Even when I make a conscious effort to put a smile on my face, when I look at my reflection, it still appears that I am scowling. So you’re probably right about the “vibe.” I always try to be considerate and make room for others, though, and I’m a very quiet person, unless you talk to me first. Even then, it’s iffy.

    I’m also aware that no therapist worth his salt would give someone a clean bill of mental health. Therapy is an ongoing process, and lasts long after your final session. That’s why I put it in “quotes.” Perhaps I should have said “Turn me loose on the real world,” or something like that. But I seem to forget my lessons as soon as I am out the door. Maybe that says that I didn’t really want to be there, maybe it says that I’m a shitty learner, maybe it says that I don’t consider myself worth getting better. Probably all 3.

    Maybe I’ll give it another try, assuming I can find someone who is willing to accomodate my work schedule (Midnight-8am)


    PS: the capisce thing? It was a joke.

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