It’s a question a lot of men have – they see themselves as feminist allies, they don’t want to be objectifying or creepy, but they still want to be able to express their sexual attraction to women whom they find appealing and ask them out on dates with a view to an eventual sexual relationship. And so they should – men and women enjoying sex together is a good thing! But I can understand why some of the things one learns as a feminist ally could make one reticent, because of the possibility of putting one’s foot in it and being perceived as one of the bad guys, or even worse: appearing to be one of those predatory faux-feminist men who’s only parroting glib sound-bites in order to get laid.
What I see as the major problem for many men who are relatively recent feminist allies is that of re-educating oneself away from the traditional “what do women want?” view (as if all women want exactly the same things and if some man perfects The Universal Formula it will work on any of us) towards a “how can I appeal to this woman right here and now?” view where you acknowledge that each woman has her own unique set of tastes and preferences and priorities, with which your own attributes may or may not mesh.
No matter how charming and/or forthright you attempt to be, you may just not be her “cup of tea” – perhaps never, perhaps just not right now. No matter how much you like somebody, there’s nothing you can do to make them like you just as much. That’s just how life is – there are many women out there pining for men who don’t find them appealing too – being a decent person is not enough on its own to guarantee anyone a fulfilling sexual partnership.
Sometimes people simply don’t put their best foot forward in terms of letting others discover what they have to offer, so yes – they can get overlooked. How to highlight one’s best qualities without appearing to brag or to beg is the challenge.
So, feminists: what are some dos and don’ts in your own personal experience of what you’ve found a turn-on and what you’ve found a turn-off? Also, so that this isn’t a purely heteronormative exercise, what do our LGBTQ readers have to share about cultural differences and whether non-het sexual approaches manage to minimise offputting sexist tropes?
It’s a long time ago now, given that we’ve been married for over 20 years, but I recall that he laughed, genuinely, at my jokes and my turns of phrase. And he still does. I guess that indicates a real meeting of minds, which is not something that can be turned on like a switch for the purpose of attracting someone. Taking the time to actually talk to me always worked, instead of pouting and preening. I guess this just reinforces your point, tt: it’s focusing on the particular person you are with, rather that that person as just one of hir gender.
[…] How Can Men Express Sexual Interest in a Feminist Way? June 10, 2010 by spitfiregrrrl Great Question via Feminism101. […]
This feels like some kind of trap. There’s a stereotype that feminists would say: He could be kind and interested in me and then they meet a man who is those things and reject him, but meet a man who is none of those things and be attracted.
Straightforward attraction is not unfeminist.
I must confess that the thing that worked best for me was someone who let me make all the moves, while also simply conveying in the usual unspoken way, that he was interested. I honestly liked that and married that person.
The truth is that you have to genuine respect women and see them exactly as people, just like you. If it is completely and totally part of your mindset, then you can just do all the usual things anyone does to approach another person. If there’s weirdness in your attitudes to women–misogyny or fear or anger or resentment–women can tell. Not that women are never interested in total bastards, of course.
It’s not like there is an approach. There is a whole frame of mind about women not being really different from you and just being human and a general respect for other humans, whatever their gender that some people have other people don’t and if you have it, then no worries.
Certainly not meant to be from my end! We did another post back in March about Dating While Feminist which concentrated on what women find to be red flags or deal-breakers with the men who they date, so this is flipping it to focus a little more on what various women have found appealing.
That’s part of what I tried to address in the post – this idea that there’s some Magic Formula that will always work on all women, which is ridiculous because different women want different things. Just because some feminists are only interested in kind men who are interested in their lives doesn’t mean that this is what all feminist women want in every single sexual encounter.
Also, although most people have a mental picture of the sort of person they want to be with (not just appearance but character as well) but that doesn’t mean that they will never fall for someone who doesn’t fit that picture, especially if they have different pictures about the sort of person they want to settle down with one day versus the sort of person they want to fool around with right now.
That’s my take too.
I also wonder whether too many men focus on “picking up” women at nightclubs etc, which I always thought was absolutely the worst place to meet men who would be at all interested in “the real me” rather than just interested in what I looked like in a cocktail frock. I was always more interested in guys that I met at the library, or the sports club, or bushwalking. (ETA) At least then you’ve got some shared interests to start with.
I’m going to second what Deborah said. My husband (who is a fabulous feminist/ally, I must say) and I talked constantly for the first three months that we knew each other. We had to, because we lived halfway across the country from each other, but it meant that we got to know each other before anything physical even entered the picture.
I also think it helped that neither of us was actively looking for a relationship at the time, because actively looking to any degree (in my experience) makes a person seem desparate. We had also had enough experience – both of us – with other people that we knew what we liked in a person and what we didn’t. In other words, rejection may hurt but it can help if you allow it to. Besides, if your personalities fit, they fit; if they don’t, they don’t.
That idea – that neither of you are actively looking for a relationship – is what you need to find a good relationship… I have heard this :a lot: and it has always bugged me. I really, really hate this idea and don’t think it’s at all accurate or a useful thing to tell people. Particularly since my last relationship ended, that I thought was heading towards marriage, with a feminist guy, and I found myself still with the desire to have a good long-term relationship… but no one to have it with. I was not nuts and I was not desperate. Once I got over that relationship, I realised I had simply got to a point in my life where I wanted a long-term relationship and I wasn’t going to be with just anyone, and there – because I am older now and move in different circles and more people have paired off – just weren’t as many nice single blokes around. And so I :did: keep my eyes open for the kind of bloke I wanted.
(I have noticed that this tends to make a good number of other feminist women uncomfortable.)
I don’t take issue with your whole comment though, because I now believe I’ve met someone totally awesome, and we currently, like you did, live very far apart and we’ve gotten to know each other over the phone and text and it’s been really respectful. That part is awesome! Unfortunately most people do meet and live in the same town so it’s not applicable to most people.
I decided, in knowing that I wanted a feminist man but that they were rare (and that lots of single blokes will say they’re ‘feminist’ but it’s just a ploy), that what I would be more likely to find was a man who wanted a strong woman, ok with her having her own ideas, who understood that gender issues are my passion (seeing I work in gender issues – they REALLY have to be ok with that), and who liked learning new things and was open to new ideas. The last one was really the key one. If you are with someone who isn’t afraid of new ideas, they’re more likely to be interested in why you think differently and having an interesting discussion about it, rather than getting scared or flatly telling you that you’re a humourless oversensitive harpy.
Well, I did say “actively” looking. I did a lot of active looking before I met my now-husband and while I got one or two good friends out of it (who I appreciate and adore), that’s all I got – not the relationship that I was looking for. As for desperation, I didn’t mean to imply (even though I did, on accident) that that DOES make a person desperate. I meant that it can make it seem to prospective partners that one is more interested in having a relationship than the person themself, which is never good. Of course, there’s the caveat that two people actively looking who find each other (say, through personals ads) may not interpret it this way…
Passively looking, on the other hand – keeping an eye open for the possibility while continuing to enjoy your regular single life – is a whole different thing. So I don’t think you really disagree with me at all.
Not to mention, I didn’t mean this as a prescription for everyone. For us, passive looking worked. We were actually both at a stage where we were very cynical about relationships, but for us, that made us realize that the attraction was real rather than just a desire to be coupled. Whether or not that would work for anyone else, I don’t really know, since I’m only me. 🙂
First of all I’d say that I completely agree with the two comments above that say that talking, listening, more listening, and mor talking are the absolute bedrock of building up the necessary rapport and the trust with any person that you want to develop a relationship with.
When I think back on the approaches that worked best for me, there does seem to be a pattern. The most appealing and trust-building way for a man to convey his attraction to me is by some very simple, disarmingly honest means, such as plainly stating “I am very attracted to you” or “I find you incredibly attractive”. “I think you’re very beautiful” could also work, or “I’ve always been extremely attracted to women who are X” (where X is an attribute I obviously possess+). But in general simplest is best.
And then, crucially, having staked out their territory and intentions with unthreatening candour, the men who really stand out in my romantic history just sat back and let me make all the moves. This worked in their favour on many levels:
– It showed they had guts and a strong sense of self. It’s hard for men to be passive, they are socialised very strongly to be assertive and thrusting. So meeting one who is content to have someone else take control of a situation/interaction is in itself a major flag that this guy is different in a good way.
– It’s unthreatening. Men get up in women’s faces all the time, be it street harrassement or just drunken over-zealous advances at a party. We know that not all of you want to rape or hurt us – but let’s be honest, sometimes some of you do. And we can’t tell which ones are which just by looking (which is why talking is so important!). So sitting back and letting me decide how close I want to get to you is the equivalent of showing your empty hands – no weapons here, no intent to scare or dominate.
– It’s sexy. We’ve all grown up with the deeply ingrained cliché that men “love the chase”. Well, (some) women love the chase too. In and of itself, like a pair of tight jeans or the right set of pecs, the need to assert one’s sexuality in order to, for lack of a more feminist word, seduce a man one fancies has a definite erotic flavour to it.
I don’t know how universal my preferences are, so this advice may be of limited use. That’s OK – women are people, and people are individuals, and individuals are all different. Hopefully the little peek into my psyche will at least give you an appreciation of how different women are from each other, if nothing else!
+ That one is a little bit more tricky, because if that attribute happens to be large breasts, you’ve misfired. It needs to be something about the woman as a person – intelligence, speaking multiple languages, a lovely singing voice, something that shows you’ve paid attention to what the woman says and does as well as what her packaging looks like.
“something that shows you’ve paid attention to what the woman says and does as well as what her packaging looks like.”
That makes me think: I don’t think anyone expects a heterosexual man to NOT be physically attracted to a woman. We’re not saying that looks are not important at all. Everyone likes to have beautiful things to look at, particularly if we’re going to look at them everyday.
But there are two issues that turn a lot of women off when it comes to men’s evaluation of a woman’s physical appearance. First of all, that shouldn’t be the ONLY thing that is important, or even the most important thing. Yes, that is the very first thing you have to go off of when you are meeting the woman in person for the first time but forgetting that she is far more than just her appearance is essential. Second, “good-looking” is an incredibly relative term. A woman who doesn’t look like Angelina Jolie is not automatically unattractive. Consider talking to women who aren’t “super hot” or even “hot” – they are people too, and may be far more compatible with you than the Megan Fox look-alike. Even if she’s not, MOST women will appreciate that you are willing to evaluate them as a person rather than on their looks.
For me the physical attraction comes after I find that I’m attracted to someone, not the other way around.
Perhaps I’m not typical, but for me the order of things is that I lover her sense of humour, or I’m interested in what she does, or I can’t help but listen to her opinions – I find her an interesting person first. Though this impression I feel a bond forming, and only when I’m feeling something do I begin to notice how her hair moves, a slightly lopsided smile, her figure, the way her body moves when she runs up stairs – physical attraction.
It always seems to me that physical attraction without emotional attraction is sleezy. Perhaps you feel differently, but without emotional attraction, how can you tell if physical attraction isn’t just a by-product of the objectification of women by our society?
@ Kandela since I can’t directly reply, I agree that there has to be some sort of emotional attraction. It doesn’t even have to be “love” per se. I’ve had relationships that have ranged from my current, long-term, totally-in-love relationship to just sex, but even the latter – when they were good – involved some emotionality. The one f-buddy relationship that I’ve had that was really awful was awful because the guy treated me like a piece of meat and never communicated any feelings of any kind with me while we were involved and then, when I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore, finally decided to bring up all his emotions.
And while I tend to find people beautiful first, their personality definitely can effect that. The guy that I was just describing was physically beautiful but after the way he treated me, I wasn’t physically attracted to him anymore and thought he was ugly.
This is an amazing piece of advice and I think I melted a little bit reading it. There’s a couple of interesting bits I wanted to reply to though
As a man, I find it all too easy to be passive. If you somehow missed that gender-conditioning session, or have been conditioned to be assertive and thrusting but discovered you suck massively at both, then being passive isn’t necessarily a sign of guts or self-confidence. I’m really glad you wrote this, and a little bit in love with you for suggesting turning passivity into an asset. Also, having said that, not all women will necessarily go for guts and a strong sense of self.
Not necessarily. It needs to be something she’ll appreciate. I’m guessing for most people on here that won’t include looks much, but that’s not true for all the feminists I know. Some women might feel overlooked by men, or just be sick to the back teeth with hearing “you know I’m not intimidated by intelligent women”.
Also I think it’s a massive mistake to read the question as “expressing sexual interest in feminists”, rather than just in a feminist way. This isn’t a niche pick-up guide, it’s about dating with feminist principles, and that should involve holding on to them even if the object of your affections isn’t really that bothered about patriarchy. Men don’t become feminists so’s we can pick up feminist chicks, we do it because we bloody well believe in it, and I’m not about to drop all commitment to gender equality the moment I think I don’t need it to get laid.
to go more on what you said…I feel as if I was complimented more on a level where a physical attribute is mentioned, and tie it in with something it makes the man feel…connecting a physical attribute with an emotion a man feels (not horny…that’s not an emotion..lol) it would be deadly…in a good way… or a state of emotion…” Your smile makes me feel at ease.”
Something as simple as that that is ACTUALLY connected to the emotion you feel at the time…and if you’re being genuine…would absolutely melt my heart…
I agree with the difficulty the other commenters have pointed out: that if it comes from a rock-solid, basic place of respect for me as an individual human being, almost anything — zealous pursuit, rough sex — can be attractive as hell in a mutually enjoyable, feminist way; but if that rock-bottom platform of basic esteem and regard for me is not at the core of a person’s sexual interest in me, they *will* come across as a jerk and not even the most calculated sensitive-guy act can conceal it.
But moving beyond this basic issue — because it’s kind of something a person either has or they don’t, and my interest is in finding out if they don’t as fast as possible so I can scram — I think there ARE some gestures, some signals, some tactics people can use to telegraph their interest. some that spring to mind…
-on our first date, the guy who’s now my husband would stop talking when I would unintentionally interrupt him to interject something (or just to exclaim over how good the food was or point out something in the room) — he would break off and be like “oh, what? what is that you were starting to say?” Treating your date like someone whose words matter, whose words you hold yourself accountable for listening to and understanding — actually taking in and processing, and remembering what they said later— communicated how acute his sexual interest was like nothing else.
-I don’t really share the tastes of the person who said she liked when guys sat back and let her make all the moves — I like pursuit, and what makes a guy’s pursuit of me feel genuine and humanist is when it’s both UNashamed AND UNcalculating. When he just ASKS — do you want to come up and drink a bottle of wine? can I take your shirt off? should I get a condom? do you like this? do you want to go to dinner and a movie with me on Friday? would you be my date to my uncle’s bbq? (you get the idea) — and if I say “Yes,” the excitement and enthusiasm with which he executes whatever activity I have just agreed to makes it crystal-clear how into me he is. Don’t we all really want to be with people who are so happy to be with US they can’t hide it?!
-the big DON’T for me (in a somewhat related vein) would be to equate being “sensitive” or “feminist” with being CAGEY — like when guys act like the worst, most misogynistic stereotypes of women “playing hard to get”: not calling when they say they’re going to, weaseling out of plans, telling half-truths about their plans/whereabouts, running hot and cold. Too often I think guys have some warped thought process where they think dating a feminist woman warrants this kind of behavior — I think it’s a warped mis-understanding of what MarinaS above said she liked, when guys leave room for her to pursue them too. You can do that without being CAGEY, dishonest, or weaselly. Even if a guy is sitting back and letting me make all the moves, that’s very different from being passive-aggressive, hot-and-cold, or ‘oooh I can’t decide if I like you or not.’ Basically, your overwhelming attraction to the person should come out in every interaction, regardless of who’s taking the initiative. It mirrors the dynamic of good sex, right? Everyone’s actively participating even when it looks like 1 person is in control… 😉
“the big DON’T for me (in a somewhat related vein) would be to equate being “sensitive” or “feminist” with being CAGEY — like when guys act like the worst, most misogynistic stereotypes of women “playing hard to get”: not calling when they say they’re going to, weaseling out of plans, telling half-truths about their plans/whereabouts, running hot and cold. Too often I think guys have some warped thought process where they think dating a feminist woman warrants this kind of behavior”
I wish you would have told me this ten months ago 😉
I realize this thread is old, but as someone that struggles with showing interest to woman for fear of being a bad person, this is the most helpful thing I have ever read:
Thank you so much for that. It makes so much sense. I feel freer somehow.
It’s always felt to me like the act of showing interest was somehow disrespectful in itself. And so I felt like I was in this bind.
Everything else that everyone has said here was like a big, “Yeah, of course. I do that. I already respect the women I talk to, and I show it. I already know that. But how do I show interest? How do I show interest???”
And this nailed it. Thanks. Most helpful thing I’ve ever read. Well, at least related to this stuff. 🙂
I’ll add my own two cents, pretty much along the same lines as everyone else. For what it’s worth, I date men and women (and people in between), perhaps women slightly more often then men, and the number one thing I require in a relationship is the same, no matter the gender, sex, or identity of the person I am dating: it is communication. Real back and forth, give and take.
A lot of people on this thread have mentioned listening, and I agree listening is great, but it has to be real, active listening. I need to feel engaged, and you shutting up when I talk isn’t enough to satisfy me. I want occasional indications that you’re paying attention, I want a response, I want to know that I’m getting through to you, and I want you to give me something to think about too! I’ve dated guys who will ‘listen’ to me, but not tell me what they think, or what they think about what I think, and I find that SO INSULTING, and I really hope I don’t have to explain why. There are times when I am willing to carry the conversation 90% – but I won’t ever be willing to carry the conversation 100%, and I won’t carry 90% all the time.
Similarly, talking isn’t good enough. I’ve dated people who tend to expound, and I enjoyed it – because the way they expounded indicated to me that they were talking with me in mind, making points to me and in ways that they knew would appeal to me. I’ve dated people who tend to expound who drove me up the f***ing wall, because I wasn’t connecting and they didn’t even notice. So even if the other person is doing 90% of the talking, I KNOW when they are trying to communicate, and when they love the sound of their own voice. And one is cool and the other is not.
All this goes back to the same idea – IMO, REAL attraction is not about you being awesome and appealing to them, nor is it about you appreciating obviously how awesome they are (though presumably in a relationship, both of those conditions hold). It IS about a meeting of minds, and you must each (or all) be engaged WITH EACH OTHER for it to work.
I don’t know if that was coherent, but I hope so?
BTW, I just deleted a comment from a guy who runs a Dutch Pick-Up-Artist (PUA) website where the banner ad is all about how to rack up one night stands. The comment itself was fairly innocuous, but that site is not somewhere that this site is going to link to.
I see nothing inherently wrong with promiscuous men making an approach to a woman to see if she is into no-strings sex as much as they are – plenty of women out there don’t mind an occasional fling that neither party intends to go any further. Unless they are actively masochistic though, they still want to be treated with a certain level of respect/esteem as an individual while the hook-up/fling is happening, and especially once the sex is over and they go their separate ways.
Some PUA sites acknowledge that genuine engagement with the woman so that they too feel happy and satisfied about the encounter (and not just in an orgasmic way) is as much part of the goal as the blokes getting their leg over. Other PUA sites are all about the bedpost-notching, which is dehumanisingly sexist. The site linked to in the comment appeared to be the latter, and that’s why it was binned.
That’s a shame, because in my extensive writing and thinking about this topic I’ve learned that a lot of PUAs have a lot of interesting things to say about questions like this. I respect your preference not to link to that site, and I respect your right to moderate your own blog, but I would have liked to be able to read the gentleman’s comment.
What I’m reading above, is that true attraction stems from two people being kindred spirits – a meeting of the minds. This is a sentiment I’m in total agreement with. The problem for feminist men though is not how to tell if you’re attraction is a good one but how to meet women you might be attracted to in the first place.
To know that you have a potential connexion with someone requires that you know them, to do that you need to have had at least a couple of in depth conversations with them. This usually requires that you have a friendship with that person. The best atmosphere for a meeting-of-the-minds romance to occur in is one of genuine friendship – it should be serendipitous. One problem with a patriarchy is it says that men and women are too different to be friends – we only get together to be intimate don’t you know. This severely limits opportunities for developing friendships that might sometimes lead to the type of meeting-of-the-minds relationship we all desire.
The patriarchy sets up an atmosphere where, if a man tries to strike up a friendship with a woman, the woman is inclined to think he’s a suitor in the first instance. A feminist man worries that he may appear a suitor, and, not wanting to enforce the predatory stereotype of our society, is much more cautions. He might think calling out of the blue looks like I’m too keen, seeing if she wants to have lunch makes it seem like I’m too keen, asking if she wants to see a movie we might both like but no one else is interested in seems like a date, so he will wait until an invitation seems just the right kind of casual. A man who is interested in dating in the first instance has no such hang-ups. Meeting people through work is less problematic, but there are still professions that are so male dominated that few opportunities present themselves.
It is the notion that men and women can’t be close friends that is most reinforcing of the physical attraction inspired relationship being the archetype. Women will often be cautions of a man seeking friendship. Those that consider friendship with a man are usually those that feel safer, confident that the man involved doesn’t want a relationship – typically this means they themselves are already in a relationship. So the women who typically strike up friendships with men are already involved, this is no bad thing for the friendship (I have a few good friends who fall into this category), but it does mean that men who disavow the idea of hooking-up with a girl they don’t know have a harder time finding romance.
I guess what I’m saying is, if we all thought of members of the opposite sex as potential friends first and partners second rather than the other way around, feminist romance would be more natural.
I wonder whether this level of gender compartmentalising is mostly an urban phenomenon, and partly down to people moving around rather than staying in stable communities. If you live somewhere with people who’ve known you all your life, there’s a lot more mixing going on as part of everyday life with various community social activities.
It’s easy when one moves to a city to live an atomised life where you don’t get to go to community activities other than the occasional work function, which is very different from Saturday mornings at the tennis club, or Tuesday night volleyball, or a monthly book/film club, or weekends hiking. Yet it is possibly to do all these sorts of things in cities as well. Shared social pursuits are IMO the best way to meet more people, whether just for fellowship or for potential romance, as they often tend to be mixed gender groups even if some of the activities are gender-segregated (e.g. sports competitions) for part of the gatherings.
I’m also a great personal fan of the art of recreational flirting, although I know it’s not to everybody’s taste. As a happily married woman who works around showbiz types, I love it when the opportunity for some recreational flirting comes up with a man who is not going to seriously hit on me in a million years, but we both enjoy the interaction just for the playful aspects and the touch of ego-boost. It is an area where some fine judgement of the line between charming teasing and sleazy come-ons is necessary though, so probably not best for the shy and nervous.
I agree with the shared social pursuits sentiment. This tends to work better for those who are in their late twenties to early thirties or older. For the majority of the younger set their social lives revolve around parties and night clubs and talking to anyone in these environments can be difficult. Meeting younger people at the sort of social events you mentioned is harder because fewer of them are into those things.
Also, often I find (as do others) if I just pursue the social activities I’m most interested in, there can be a huge gender bias one way or the other. I have broader interests than many men I know so I’m not as badly off in this regard but there is certainly a division in which social activities men and women go for. Quilting groups are dominated by women, car racing meetings are dominated by men. Those are extreme examples, but even hiking for example, when I was in England I went hiking with a group of ramblers who told me there were 3 hiking groups in the area. The group that took leisurely walks around the village was all women and a couple of husbands, those that pushed themselves on long hikes were all but one men. The group that was somewhere in the middle was better balanced. So, when deciding on activities you have to figure out am I doing this to meet members of the opposite sex or am I doing it because I enjoy that activity? I view this phenomenon as detrimental, and as being a result of patriarchy. Differing cultures for men and women is one of the key reinforcers of patriarchy. Perhaps part of the answer is for more of us to purposely try non-traditional activities for our gender, but then if I try basket weaving I’m going to meet the type of woman who is in to basket weaving and I’d much rather meet the type of woman who is in to astronomy. In the city I’m in though I find that the astronomy group is 90% men, so what do I do?
These types of issues are compounded by the predatory male stereotype of the patriarchy. If you as a woman are looking to join a group who races model cars for instance, you will find that there are almost no other women, you will then likely find that you are approached by many of the men, because they are keen to find someone who shares their interest. As a feminist male/ally I’m conscious that the women in these situations get hit-on enough, I don’t want to show sexual interest or flirt continually because I don’t want to add to their stress. The woman in this scenario has joined the club to race model cars, is it fair that for that she instantly becomes of interest to 30 men at once? No, I’d imagine it is quite harrowing.
Kandela: “One problem with a patriarchy is it says that men and women are too different to be friends – we only get together to be intimate don’t you know.”
Agreed! I think a big barrier to men and women actually getting along is this “othering”, the belief that we are different species.
So my advice to a man who wants to get to know a woman better is to drop the games, forget all the “what women want” manipulative advice that posits that women are irrational and demanding.
Just think about what a *person* wants. Which is usually, respect, acknowledgment, and a few honest positive comments about something the person can rightly be pleased about about hirself.
Just started blogging myself, and this compared to some of the other rad-fem blogs I’ve read is very refreshing. Free opinions without fear of retaliation, just open-minded discussion. *sigh of relief*
Welcome to the party, marriedfem.
I can’t deny that we do occasionally get more towards the acrimonious side here, but so far not on this thread.
I find these comments unhelpful, honestly. What you’re saying to do is basically what I do all the time. I’m constantly building relationships based on intellectual rapport, communication, talking, listening, etc, and all it’s gotten me is a lot of women who just want to be friends. And it has been sincere, by and large, and not just a blow off line; most of these women have become my friends. It’s not like I’m just pining away, worrying about “ruining the friendship” either; I’m asking them out. They just all only want friendship from me. It’s frustrating, and it makes me think that my approach is fundamentally flawed.
I’ve generally assumed that you can’t get someone to like you, you can only present yourself to them and find out if they like you. But is this true? Or is it the case that between two people, some approaches will work and some won’t and if you choose poorly you can get stuck in the “friend zone”?
I can only really talk for myself, Greg – but in my own experience it’s never been the guy’s “approach” that has stuck him in the “friend zone” – it’s always been as simple as whether I fancied the guy asking me out or whether I didn’t, which is something I generally knew either at first meeting or soon after.
Not that being fanciable to someone is necessarily enough. Sometimes men to whom I have been attracted have made me back off entirely from wanting to even be friends with them because of something they’ve said or done. However, there’s never been a man whom I fancied who said or did something to make me think “right, we can only ever be friends now”. If I fancied someone who was a bit hesitant and awkward about getting to the dating stage, I was very indulgent and forgiving, because I fancied him.
If a guy fancied me but I simply didn’t fancy him back, then the ones who could deal with that became good friends for years, and the ones who couldn’t deal with it hurt me because they didn’t want to be around me unless it was romantic/sexual, so I felt dehumanised. It was also very obvious to me when I was in the dating era that some guys whom I fancied liked me just fine as a person but were never going to ask me out because they just didn’t fancy me. I’ve also had male friends who didn’t fancy me and vice versa introduce me to men who they did think might fancy me, and I’ve done the same when I thought it might work for those two people. (It mostly didn’t, but it’s worth a shot.)
Can someone sometimes be initially dismissive of a person and then later on get to know them better and find them sexually attractive after all? Certainly, but I think that happens between acquaintances rather than between friends. If you know someone well enough that they view you as a friend, then generally they know you well enough to have judged whether they feel a sexual frisson or not, and it’s generally not down to you doing something either “right” or “wrong” – it’s just emotional response.
Greg: also? This thread is not about “how does a feminist ally get a girl?”. This is “how to express sexual interest in a feminist way”.
It appears that you are expressing your sexual interest in a feminist way, and making friends with women even though they don’t want to be your lovers is a very good sign that you are doing so appropriately.
There is one way, despite what I said above, where a guy who I might otherwise find fanciable could torpedo his own chances. That’s if he appeared too needy – not in terms of wanting/needing sex, but needy emotionally. If he seemed like he might be a bit too invested in romantic soulmate stuff, and wanting to spend all his free time with me, every single day? That would be someone who I could only be friends with until he got that clinginess out of his system.
It’s a stage that a lot of young men seem to go through, and many young women keep such young men at arms length until they get through it.
In Greg’s defence, “how to express sexual interest in a feminist way” should really be “how to express sexual interest in a feminist way successfully”. After all, if you are expressing sexual interest in your friends and acquaintances, it’s not usually just to make conversation. So it does sort of boil down to “how does a feminist ally get a girl?”
Alex, this is the core disjunct as I see it: what you have suggested is still looking for some Magic Formula for sexual success. No such thing exists.
If you want to append something to the title of this thread, I would suggest a spectrum for what you have written all the way through to “how to express sexual interest in a feminist way so that women do not recoil and tell every other woman they know to avoid you”.
Actually, I reckon I’ve almost nailed that one.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Magic Formula in either case though. Different women will find different things objectifying and condescending, and different things appropriate for a professed feminist ally, but this won’t necessarily match up with what will tip them one way or another, especially if the woman in question isn’t sure how she feels. I just don’t think we should leave out the “getting a girl” bit, as it is basically the same issue of “how do I successfully ask a woman out without buying into all the misogynistic-prick routines?”
Fair enough, Alex – your clarification seems reasonable.
So, is this a fair summation?
The best approach is to be honest and accepting that what she wants won’t necessarily be what you want, and that’s OK (even though for you it may be less than optimal). For most people, so long as you are engaged in things you like for your own reasons, you will meet compatible people, and some of them should be women that you find sexually attractive. So long as you remain honest and respecting of women’s right to their own preferences and choices, you will be expressing your sexual interest in a feminist way. That doesn’t mean that your interest will necessarily be reciprocated in every or even most instances, but in the long run it’s the only way.
I get that it’s about expressing sexual interest in a feminist way, and that’s what I’m concerned about. I didn’t draw the point to its full conclusion in my original post, but my worry was that by emphasizing intellectual chemistry in my approach I come off as sexless. That is, I’m not actually expressing sexual interest. I’m good at conveying “I’m interested in getting to know you better because you are a fascinating person” but not so good at conveying “I would like to have sex with you as soon as is practicable because I’m attracted to you.” In fact, the last couple women I’ve asked out have seemed surprised that I was asking them out on a date, and had to double check that they were understanding my intentions correctly.
The other worry I have is that I’m mistaken for being gay somewhat often. I don’t care so much, except in this particular scenario. If the women I’m approaching think I’m gay, it speaks to a failure on my part of conveying sexual interest in them, and it makes it harder to accurately read their responses.
I basically agree except the bit about “…and that’s OK”. Sometimes you’re not going to be ok with that. Sometimes it’s going to completely fucking destroy you, and sometimes you’re just not going to be able to deal with it. In my experience at least, the more esteem you hold someone in, the more you care about them, the more it stings if they’re not interested in the same way and the harder it gets to be around them. It’s neither productive nor fair to assume it always will be ok, or to feel someone has dehumanised you just by not being strong enough to cope with rejection.
Yeah, that’s basically all the same neuroses as me. Most people seem to have been looking at expressing sexual interest as the serious, one-off “shall we go for a walk, I have something important I need to tell you” sort of way. But it’s also worth looking at the casual, low-level expressions of sexual interest we both seem catastrophically incapable of. They might be to test the water, they might be to bolster each other’s self-esteem, or just for fun. But there might also be the chance to tip the other person one way or the other if she’s unsure, or make her look at you in a light she never had and so hopefully fancy you back or even make the move herself. Is there a feminist way of doing this as well?
The other thing worth wondering about is: are expressions of sexual interest unavoidably degrading, or do they just seem a dodgy area, to feminists male and female, because they have been used so often to systematically degrade women? Is there actually anything inherently wrong with telling a woman you think has a nice rack, if it’s not to the detriment of more important body parts like the brain? Is the question of expressing sexual interest not as much a ‘how’ as a ‘when’?
@Alex, I didn’t mean that disappointment should just be shrugged off. I meant “and that’s OK” in a more general sense, as of: she’s not done anything ethically wrong by not feeling the same way as you do. Not that I think Greg in particular was suggesting this, but there’s a definite trope out there of women playing manipulative games around attraction when IMO it’s more about women being socialised that for us to bring up the topic of attraction before a man does is wildly inappropriate/presumptuous, even if it’s in an attempt to forestall someone we can see has an unreciprocated crush for us but who is for whatever reason hesitant to be frank about it. So we try to be light-heartedly friendly while we wait for them to say something, and try to be politely discouraging when they do, and then we’re as likely as not to be accused of leading them on.
I wasn’t clear enough on that – I’ve only felt dehumanised in that way on the couple of occasions (many years ago) where somebody I viewed only as a friend firstly flabbergasted me by expressing something more, and secondly abruptly cut off all contact when told that I didn’t feel the same. I would not have the same sense of betrayal of trust and dehumanisation with someone who was more of an acquaintance rather than professing a deeper friendship.
Well, there’s that, and just not wanting to upset people they care about, even if it means giving ambiguous, sugared answers rather than a straight-out kick-in-the-teeth ‘no’ that’s really required. The “manipulative harpy leading me on” trope is probably as much men’s interpretation of that than your theory. And that’s just in the cases where women actually know what answer they want to give, which shouldn’t really be assumed.
I can see how you’d feel betrayed by that, but the fact he didn’t want to continue the friendship doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t genuine before. Just that, after getting your reaction, he decided the friendship was more awkward or painful than it was fun.
(Obviously this might have been because it was already an awkward and painful pretext anyway, and he was seething with bitterness at you and your kind and in a frenzy of bridge-burning self-destruction, but like I said, not necessarily)
Your “friend’s” reaction is actually pretty understandable. If you tell someone you like really like them and they don’t reciprocate, they nearly always start analysing every contact you make with them to see if it is unreasonable for a friendship. Often this quickly results in the end of the friendship anyway, not to mention a lot of pain for both parties. In extreme cases, if the feeling is very strong, the relationship can degenerate into what seems like stalking.
There is something else people often fail to consider in these situations. Just because you are in love with someone does not mean you want a romantic relationship with them. There could be a number of reasons for this, from not wanting to risk the friendship, to being in love with someone else as well, already being in a relationship, them already being in a relationship, you’re not ready for a relationship, you don’t see yourself with them in the long term, it may be inappropriate, i.e. student/teacher, or a friendship is more valuable to you/them than a relationship. There are also certain kinds of depression that are triggered by loneliness or rejection. It has never been clear to me whether in such a situation it is right to tell your friend how you feel, as doing so will almost certainly have unwanted consequences, and if you can hide your feelings long enough they may go away. Do you have the right to burden a friend with feelings for them you have no intention of acting on?
Your friend may have found themselves in the above situation, and having failed to keep their emotions to them self was so utterly embarrassed that they felt they could not face you again. The longer you leave telling someone that you feel for them, the harder it is to do, and the stronger you feel. If you feel really strongly for someone, to the point where you are having trouble keeping your emotions in check, then the only safe course of action is to avoid that person.
I feel for you that you lost a friend in this way. It really sucks. I lost a really important friend in rather the opposite way, by revealing too much of what I felt (without actually understanding that was what I felt). These things are really painful, sometimes we never truly get over them, but I don’t think you should feel dehumanised as a result. These are very human scenarios that can only come from human emotion.
@Alex (separated into a separate comment because the first was already quite long)
Again, I have no magic formula. What would have worked for the young single me is not necessarily going to work for any other woman. However, for what it’s worth, and as I said earlier, I’m personally a great fan of recreational flirting. Practice flirting in the most light-hearted and superficial manner, with women you hardly know and are unlikely to meet again, with the sole purpose of giving them a pleasant little boost to their day. This way any mistakes won’t matter. Get better at it as you do it more. Enjoy simply making a woman smile (try it on grannies first!) and maybe feel a little wistful as you go to catch your train or whatever. Gain confidence at being gallant just for the sake of the fun of it, because when it’s done right everybody enjoys themselves – you don’t have to be the most naturally charming person in the world to be a fun flirt, just be looking for something you can like about the other person and chat nonchalantly about it so that they feel appreciated but not overwhelmed. Then when you are with women you are more interested in, keep flirting. In my experience, men who are confident flirts are able to tell a woman quite honestly that she knocks their socks off and they want to move on to dating without either causing offence or coming off as too clingy.
As to whether expressions of sexual interest are inherently degrading, my own answer is a vehement no. You might be onto something with the perceived dodginess because of the history of systematic degradation though.
It seems like the essential dilemma of the genuinely nice guy (as opposed to the Nice Guy) is that asking someone out creates tension for the person being asked. When the tension is greater, the askee will feel a lot better when they reciprocate, but worse when they don’t. The genuinely nice guy is aware of this fact, and so will often approach women with an eye toward minimizing the tension and thus any potential discomfort, but that also lowers the upside potential and makes them seem lacking in self-confidence. The so-called asshole that succeeds with women to the resentment of the genuinely nice guy accepts the higher risk of causing discomfort to have a greater chance at the sexual chemistry that comes when a bolder approach is reciprocated.
@ Greg, I think you’ve got something there. Again, this to me is a large reason that people should join social clubs/groups for shared activities to form the backbone of one’s socialising rather than having it all be on your own head, as it were. Plus what I’ve already said about recreational flirting.
One other problem I run into as a feminist man trying to date is that I follow your suggestion of shared activities/groups, but often the group in question is an explicitly feminist organization I volunteer for, like Planned Parenthood. I’m often surrounded by attractive women I’m interested in, but I’m scared to ask them out, because I don’t want to seem insincere in my commitment to the cause, like I only joined to meet women.
Greg, perhaps you need to choose one social group that you go to just for fun rather than activism. It’s a question of balance just for you as much as anything, plus it gives you an opportunity to invite someone you meet campaigning to come along to your fun activity to get to know each other better in a way that’s still fairly casual? If she’s keen on the same activity, or keen to try it at least, then that’s a shared interest outside campaigning, which would probably be good for any relationship anyway.
Greg, are you stealing my life?
Seriously though, I don’t think that matters. If you ask out a woman from a campaigning organisation and she says no, then as long as you keep turning up everyone who knows about your advances (which you’d hope was just her) will know you’re still serious about the cause. Besides, even if you do have ulterior motives, they won’t hold you back from collecting signatures or shaking your tin.
I think possibly the best approach in a workplace or activism setting (or just about anywhere, really) to someone you find attractive is something as simple as “You’re lovely. I’d like to spend more time with you. How about a coffee together sometime soon?”. This is a frank but low-drama approach which ratchets any anxiety for either person down quite a few welcome notches regarding both invitation and acceptance/refusal. Best used fairly early in an acquaintance, too – so everybody’s positions are clear that the attraction exists – and it doesn’t imply that one is necessarily seeking any deep commitment – it’s just coffee, and it could go anywhere from there.
“Best used fairly early in an acquaintance, too – so everybody’s positions are clear that the attraction exists”
I find this a problem. If you, like I, find attraction comes from a meeting of the minds, very rarely does this come early in the acquaintance. We’ve already covered above that this type of attraction is a favourable one as far as feminist romance goes, but if attraction must be expressed quickly for it to be reciprocated there is a problem.
This can be made worse if the woman involved is hesitant to form friendships with men for fear that they might just want sex. If you as a male are interested in friendship first and relationship second then you swear off the relationship track so the woman feels comfortable, but in doing so you’ve defined the interaction as one of friendship for good. It’s a catch-22: you need a friendship to know if there is romance there but you can’t have friendship without swearing off romance.
The complaint of many men who approach romance in a feminist way is that they are far less successful in finding romance than men who don’t. One shouldn’t have to choose between promoting equality and being happy oneself, but this is often what it seems to come down to for feminist men.
The notion that women are attracted to what they are attracted to, and that there is nothing you can do about it, is also problematic. Women have been exposed to a lifetime of patriarchy telling them consciously and subconsciously what is attractive in a man. And what the patriarchy says is attractive in a man is decidedly not a feminist man.
I don’t have any great solutions. I do ask that women to be more open minded in considering approaches from friends, and that they not close off the possibility of romance as a condition of friendship. I think we all need to learn better how to move from attraction to friendship and back again if things don’t work out. There is a trope out there that says that if a friend is attracted to you they have betrayed your trust in some way. I think if we can recognise this idea as being wrong, we might make better progress.
Kandela, sometimes you do nitpick to the extreme. If nobody’s told you before that this is an unattractive trait? <== There.
I said "best" as a general impression of statistical probability. I didn't say it would work for everybody.
Sure, some people, of both sexes, reassess friendships as time goes by to acknowledge the possibility of romance. Others (most?) never will. I don't think that castigating those who find themselves constitutionally incapable of such reassessments as somehow lacking generosity or whatever is helpful.
Either one is the sort of person who reassesses relationship potential amongst one’s acquaintance or one isn’t (without therapy). Many people just are not good at any sort of self-examination, let alone in the area of their romantic inclinations. It’s natural to wish that they might be, but futile to expect it to happen against someone’s character. Therapy of various sorts might help people be more open, but I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to expect people to undergo therapy solely on the grounds that they could be making other people around them happier. If they are happy enough as they are, even if you think they would be happier paired off with you, would you force therapy on them for that?
I like this. I think most people have been at a point when they found themselves strongly attracted to someone who wasn’t “their type”. There’s all kinds of pressures and expectations on women and men for what they should find attractive, and not always directly gender-related. Part of it is not about making people change their minds, but reconciling what they’ve convinced themselves that they like with what they actually do.
Though I’d say the bit about patriarchy probably works the other way too. Gender norms don’t just determine what’s “attractive”, they’re enforced by it as well. Branding deviations “unsexy” is a very effective way of deterring them, just because sex and relationships are quite fun and something most people are willing to change their style, personality or even body to improve their chances with. Why do you think straw-feminists wear such awful dungarees and never shave their armpits? Women who want to be like men and so don’t bake or wear make up are unfeminine and therefore unattractive. Men who sympathise with women’s issues might be nice and all, but we just aren’t masculine enough, and everybody knows women need to be swept off their feet by a dominant man with big dominant muscles and a dashing dominant uniform.
@tigtog: Yes, I’m aware that I’m pedantic. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though one person said they liked that about me. Away from philosophy and technical regulations in sport or whatever I do actually try and tone it down a bit. But I believe, there are times when being pedantic is important, and not enough people recognise that.
My concern is that by biasing chances for a relationship in favour of those who state attraction earlier, we are actually biasing in favour of those who express attraction in a non-feminist way. But you make a good point, many people simply don’t self-examine, or re-examine relationships, it often takes some traumatic event for them to do that.
Of course I don’t want to force people into therapy. I didn’t mean to suggest anything of the sort. I do think a portion of people recoil at the idea that their could be romance with a friend in part because that is what society teaches is what should happen. All I want is for individuals to recognise this is a societal teaching. If they do that some might be more open to the idea.
Kandela, I’m pretty pedantic myself, so I get that you see it as a feature rather than a bug.
I don’t see that. What’s non-feminist about saying that “I like you, I want to get to know you better, can we spend some time together?” or variations thereon?
I’m all for encouraging people to challenge normative gender role expectations, but I think you’re pulling a very long bow on this one, and it seems to be just because you personally don’t get tingly for somebody early on, and you’re imputing all sorts of unattractive generalisations to people who do.
I’m kinda insulted by the idea that knowing whether I was attracted very early on in an acquaintance somehow means that I was reflexively responding to stereotyped gender conditioning and thus could never be attracted to guys who fall outside the stereotyped macho hunk box – you have no idea what it is about blokes that I either respond immediately to or I do not, but it’s not anything pushed by Hollywood or Madison Ave glosses over ancient gender tropes, I can tell you that. It’s there nonetheless, and I don’t apologise for recognising my own emotional responses to other people and considering them valid.
Please don’t be insulted. I’m not saying it is anti-feminist to find someone attractive almost straight away. That’s perfectly valid.
I do say that it is more common for feminist men than non-feminist men to take their time recognising an attraction. And that it is a societal stereotype that a confidant (desirable) man will act quickly, so that it is not worth thinking about anyone who acts later.
Ok, I see where we have been talking at cross-purposes now. I never said that a a man who takes his time to ask a woman out isn’t worth considering. That isn’t true at all. I also wonder whether we are using “attraction” in the same way.
I’m saying that for me, and in my experience of talking with many other women it is also true for many others, that as a general rule I know within a very short time of meeting a man whether I find him attractive sexually. My level of sexual attraction towards him remains fairly constant whether he makes a move or not, whether he even hardly notices me or not.
It makes very little difference whether he subsequently approaches me in the first week that we know each other, or a year later, or maybe never – whether I am sexually attracted to him or not will generally not have changed from No to Yes (although some behaviour of his may change my reaction from Yes to Not In A Million Years (and that would be somebody who would not be “relegated to the Friend Zone”, that would be somebody I would actively avoid in all circumstances)).
Some very sexually attractive men are unconsciously waving great big red flags about their attitudes that are offputting no matter how tinglemaking they are otherwise, so they are men that I would say no too despite being physically attracted. But I certainly never dated any man whom I liked but just didn’t find sexually attractive, because it would have seemed terribly unfair to raise anticipations of something further down the track that was never going to be what I wanted from him. That seems like basic sexual ethics – to not raise false expectations.
I’m not saying that other people can’t find themselves surprised by sexual attraction creeping up on them after they get to know someone better, I’m just saying that it has never ever happened to me, and I do find it rather difficult to imagine how it would feel.
PS I feel it necessarily to distinguish between sexual attraction and emotional attraction here. While I might know almost immediately whether I find someone sexually attractive or not, whether I find them emotionally attractive is what takes the getting-to-know-you time.
For me, no matter how emotionally attracted I might become to someone that I enjoy spending time with, that’s not going to change whether the underlying sexual attraction exists or not. If the sexual attraction has never been there, then I am going to just want to be friends.
Ok, I see where you are coming from.
For me personally, emotional attraction actually breeds sexual attraction (sometimes). But I recognise everyone is different, and that may not be the case for others.
Wow, I’ve fallen behind in just a few hours.
The problem with this isn’t that it’s not feminist, it’s that it’s not an expression of attraction. It’s the sort of thing you could quite easily say (and, going through a direct-about-who-I-think-is-awesome phase, that I actually do say quite a lot). Effectiveness is important for expressing sexual interest, as I’ve said, and if, either through your wording or the other person’s expectations, you don’t actually manage to communicate your interest, you’ve failed at the first post. Telling a woman unambiguously you fancy her shouldn’t necessarily be anti-feminist, but it’s definitely an area where seeing her as a sex object is going to give you an advantage. Expressing sexual interest less, or less directly just isn’t a viable option.
I wonder why that is with some people and not others. I suppose your own sexual preferences, or at least how you perceive them, become an important part of identity, and are heavily, heavily determined by social pressures. Of course your tastes can change as well, and one of the ways they can is realising what they really are. That it’s not you but male society that is obsessed with massive jugs and you can take or leave them, or that there are things you’d never have imagined yourself finding alluring, like a woman who drinks straight whisky. How able you are to reevaluate who you like might just be how in tune you are with your own tastes.
I strongly disagree that expressing sexual interest has to involve seeing/treating her as a sex object. You can be as direct as you like with expressing sexual interest while still treating her as the subject of your attraction, not the object. Keep on talking about her, as a whole person, exciting you – not just her tits/arse whatever. Unless you happen to be making your declaration to a woman who is very very horny right now and looking for a hookup right now and willing to overlook some crassness to get it (which does happen), I don’t reckon you’ll do very well with tits/arse lines.
What’s wrong with “You excite me” instead of “I like you” as a variation of my suggestion above? I would find that perfectly directly and clearly an expression of sexual interest, not just friendliness. There must be alternative wording options that would also work similarly. Most of this is going to be about your non-verbal communication anyway, if you didn’t know that. Some people can express sexual interest very clearly with nothing more than an arched eyebrow.
If you absolutely insist on very blunt directness with no chance whatsoever of being misunderstood, I’d say that “I would very much like to be naked with you” is as direct as anybody needs to be, probably too direct for most, yet it’s not objectifying. I’d recommend being very careful on rehearsing conveying non-creepy body language with that one though.
It doesn’t have to be, no. But I’m guessing if you talk to a woman like she’s a sex object, she’s definitely going to get the message that you’re interested, whether she reciprocates or not.
You’ve got to be careful with your wording, I suppose. I’ve found people what you could call “exciting” without actually fancying them, but then I’m quite excitable. It all depends on how you communicate, how she communicates and how you communicate together. That’s the thing with being honest and unambiguous about sex: language just plain isn’t honest, or plain, especially not when it comes to sexual relationships. ‘Like’ is ambiguous, hell, even ‘like-like’ is ambiguous without context. Telling someone you want to kiss them pretty much automatically implies you want to go further, especially if it’s a man saying it. Different people hug in different ways for different reasons. Some people will understand “I like you”, some people will be confused by “you excite me”. Some eyebrows will just go right over your head. Without wanting to throw your ‘pick-up guide’ thing back at you, there’s way more to this kind of communication than a phrasebook.
That’s interesting, definitely. I think if we want to develop a grammar of non-objectifying, non-sexist come-ons, it will have to cover all the bases from coy to gallant to direct. Direct would definitely be the most interesting, as it’s the trickiest, and the least respectful-sounding, at least. Also probably quite useful, as you never know what people will respond to, and some people can be immensely clueless about these things (trust me).
Just wondered why you settled on ‘be naked with’ and not ‘have sex with’ or even ‘f*ck’. It seems to basically convey the same intention, just more euphemistically. Is euphemistic objectification necessarily less so? Also what if it was just “kiss”? Or other sex-acts? Which ones would and wouldn’t be objectifying? What about the “I think you’re beautiful/attractive/fit”? It’s not necessarily expressing sexual interest, but it’s definitely recognised as a standard method, and between a heterosexual man and a woman is probably going to need a lot of context or clarification to seem anything else.
These aren’t sarky rhetorical questions by the way, you probably know a fair bit more about objectification than me and definitely know a lot more about courtship than I do, so I’d be interested in seeing your reactions to them.
Because I’m trying to avoid this site getting auto-filtered by institutional net-nannies. I want as many people as possible to be able to read it. I almost put in a disclaimer about that in my suggestion.
To start with I want to clarify:
That’s the main thing I’m interested in here (I’ve not got any particular person or situation in my sights at the moment, so a feminist pick-up cookbook wouldn’t really help me anyway), but I find it much more productive to look at specific examples, especially concerning language and what is/isn’t objectifying or sexist. As I said, a phrasebook isn’t any better than a dating guide, but pulling specific phrases or approaches to bits is how I best understand the principles.
Anyway, fair play on the net-nannies, I’d still be interested in what you’d think about that kind of bluntness in general. Do you think being euphemistic about sex is more or less feminist? I can see how it could go either way. (Also bluntness and euphemisms behave in funny ways – if she did say “I want to be naked with you too”, she might be disappointed if she wound up just playing badminton with you in a nudist camp.)
Openness is also important, and if you have just spent the past twenty minutes looking over at your friend and thinking “I would give my eye-teeth to lick your shoulder” there is something slightly dishonest about pretending otherwise and saying “let’s hold hands”. Obviously I’m not saying you should plonk yourself down next to her and tell her that squarely in those exact words, but do you think it’s necessarily feministic to express objectifying thoughts in non-objectifying language? Plus, some activities are a bit more one-sided than others. Do you think different principles apply depending on whether it’s “I want to do…to you” or “I want you to do…to me”? Obviously there’s a lot of context as well and it depends on the other person’s attitude to sex and direct language and all kinds of other stuff, but as you/I said, it’s all about the principles.
Again, I’m not formulating a battle-plan or anything, I’m just interested in what particular language or approaches you consider objectifying in what way, and felt jumping in at the deep end was the best way forward.
And there speaks someone who sounds awfully like a person who has never been to a nudist camp. I grew up around the nudist/naturist movement, and actual nudist clubs are quite prudish about physical contact between nude bodies in public – so “being naked with you” rather than “around you” is a fairly important distinction. An actual nudist would never say such a thing as an invitation to come along to their club. I also can’t imagine a nudist inviting someone along to their club without just a wee bit more information about what they might expect, which would be an array of bodies encompassing nearly all aspects of the human condition, which is one of those things that considerate people tend to prepare their mainstream/vanilla friends/lovers to encounter.
After dark, when other people can’t easily see, nudists are just as likely to engage in sexual peccadilloes as anybody else. But your scenario of a non-disclosing surprise doesn’t make a lick of sense – can anybody imagine that the most obtuse person would expect a positive reaction to a surprise nudist camp for a person who had never been to one and the inviter hadn’t bothered to establish such a basic fact?
Alright, steady on. All I was getting at was that if you say you want to be naked with someone, they will probably take nakedness as a synecdoche for sex, and assume you mean you want to go to bed with them (‘go to bed’ here also meaning ‘have sex’). You might mean the words at face value – that you only wanted to be naked with them and had no further intentions (reword the nudist camp thing, think up your own scenario based on life-drawing or ancient Greek wrestling, whatever takes your fancy), or you actually just wanted to share a bed with them because you don’t sleep well on their own. But if you did mean it literally and not sexually, you’d probably have to clarify. Just an offhand comment about how directness and indirectness aren’t always that simple.
Anyway maybe the person in question had never been to anywhere nudist before, was a bit nervous and just wanted a friend there for moral support. You can’t expect
mehim to know the lingo before getting properly involved.
I know you just threw the nudist camp thing out initially as a bit of what-if on the side, but really? Would you really ask anyone to come along to a nudist camp or a life drawing class or Greek wrestling without telling them exactly what they were up for?
Nobody would. It’s the stuff of farce, not real life.
ETA: your original comment on this raised a few good questions. I’ll get back to them unless somebody else addresses them in the meantime.
I said “end up”. Stuff would happen in between. Maybe you pulled the “naked with/around you” line, her heart leapt for a second, she blurted out “yes” and then, as you droned on, misty-eyed about chokeholds and the Olympian ideal, she realised what a tedious, non-sexual weekend she’d signed herself up for. By the by, anyway.
I don’t think objectification can be feminist. Using non-objectifying language to express it is just hiding it well. Or, at best, restraining yourself. If your objective in talking to her, is for her to fill a role as a sexual object, then that’s got to be objectification, doesn’t it?
I think the best you can do in this situation, is think to yourself, “I wonder what other appealing attributes that woman has?” and start a conversation with her on that basis.
That’s why I picked “friend” for this scenario. It’d have to be someone you also saw in respectful non-sexual terms, and who would assume as much. How much is communicating your other interests in her, which you would have been feeling anyway, in a direct manner a matter of politeness and how much is it a feminist issue, as I don’t think they’re really that interlinked. After all, if it’s a friend there’s not a lot of point in telling her you value her as a friend as she’ll either know it or work it out when you keep talking to her after she’s said ‘no’.
If it’s approaching strangers or very casual acquaintances we’re talking about, how much is it actually feasible to start a conversation based on personality traits, if you don’t at that point know about any? In fact in a lot of contexts, simply talking to someone you don’t know could be seen as an expression of sexual interest, and the tricky part would be approaching someone with only friendship or casual small-talk in mind.
“simply talking to someone you don’t know could be seen as an expression of sexual interest, and the tricky part would be approaching someone with only friendship or casual small-talk in mind.”
Tell me about it!
But with the friend I think the key is to say that you find trait x attractive. For example, “I find it really attractive the way you’re always there to listen when I need to talk,” or “I find your interest in sports really sexy.” A trait doesn’t have to be physical for it to be attractive. The key is to indicate that you find that person sexually attractive, but anything can be sexy, not just the physical.
Magic formula schmagic formula. If I wanted a dating guide I’d google that Dutch bloke, I’m here for cold hard ideology. Do you think there are feministic and anti-feministic ways of casually flirting? Though not just flirting, the more rocky ground of signalling potential interest to friends and acquaintances, not just in them but in women in general, so you know they don’t assume you’re either gay or just don’t have those parts.
I’d agree. How you react to being told “nice tits” depends on how you feel about your own tits, how often you’ve been told (especially by the same person) that you’d actually be worth talking to without them, and how many times you’ve heard “nice tits” to mean “shut up”.
Well, you were talking to Greg at that point, and he does seem to be rather more interested in a dating guide.
Yep. I would find it extremely difficult to view your example of “nice tits” as anything other than non-feminist. There are other ways of expressing sexual attraction without being that objectifying.
I’m a man who’s interested in the answer to your question in the title of this post for the purposes of applying any answers I might find to my own life. If that means I’m looking for a “dating guide”, then I suppose you’re right, but I don’t see how the disparaging tone is called for.
Greg, I was merely repeating Alex’s words. I in no way meant to disparage you.
I was just being flippant and making fun of the Dutch guy. No offence intended.
Honestly? I’m most receptive to the men who have approached me as just another human being, not especially a woman. (I mean, it’s obvious enough if a man is showing me special attention that he’s interested in me, physically, as a woman; there doesn’t need to be extra “hey lady” piled on. The same goes for me when I approach other men) . It’s not at all creepy to express interest; it’s creepy when someone continues attempting when they’ve been rejected, thinking they can win the other over. Women, and all people, aren’t puzzles to be solved!
Alex et al, this is where this conversation’s coming stuck. This is about principles of pro-feminist sexual interactions, not recipes.
Be honest, don’t play games, don’t assume that what “worked” or what “didn’t work” with another woman is necessarily going to be the same with this totally different person, and even if you are the perfect profeminist, that still doesn’t guarantee anything.
I see where you are coming from and completely agree with your sentiment. Sometimes people change or change their mind though, and I don’t see any harm in asking again, so long as the asker doesn’t make a habit of it, and has a good reason for thinking the circumstances have changed.
We should also keep in mind that feminist men will sometimes also be interested in non-feminist women, which can bring with it a whole different set of circumstances. Some women buy into the idea of playing hard to get, or making the man prove that he is worthy of her. These are not attitudes that feminists endorse, but they do exist, and when a feminist man encounters them he needs to know whether that should be a red flag for him or not. And if not, how best to proceed.
There is another related circumstance where the woman will invite the man to convince her that a relationship is worthwhile. The example stuck in my head is that of Marie and Pierre Curie. Both had sworn off relationships until they met each other. Pierre being the older, changed his mind after realising that it was simply impossibly rare to meet the type of woman who was right for him. Marie liked Pierre but still remembered her previous bad experience with a man who wanted her to abandon her vocation upon marriage. Consequently, their was a tacit invitation from Marie for Pierre to convince her that a relationship with Pierre was right for her. At least, that’s the message I got from reading Marie’s biography written by her daughter. Of course they went on to become the most famous partnership in science, together they won a Nobel prize, Marie won a second one after Pierre’s death, and another daughter also won a Nobel prize. I dare say that a happy marriage is necessary for that kind of success.
I guess my point here is you have to listen to the woman involved. Is she just saying a flat ‘no,’ or is it ‘no because…,’ where the “because” is something worth investigating.
I can imagine “becauses” that would be behaviours amenable to change, for sure. Then it becomes a question for the man whether he sees those behaviours as worth changing for himself as much as for her, because it’s perfectly valid for her to decide that she doesn’t want to promise to wait until he’s made those changes, so he might find that she’s found somebody else while he’s been off changing.
Oh, I agree! And asking again certainly isn’t a creepy move if it’s a bit further down the line; I was mostly referring to instances where the asker continues pressing over the course of a single day, or even a single conversation, after being given a clear rejection — as if there is a magic phrase that will change the other’s mind. It’s a behavior that seems to reinforce the idea that women and relationships are conquests.
As you said, though, there sometimes is still an implication of possibility later on if the asker “proves” his or herself, and there’s nothing wrong with that — it’s only problematic when it’s assumed that every “no, thanks” is only temporary.
In the end I think it really needs to come down to what tigtog said — we are all human beings, we are all individuals, and nothing is guarenteed!
I’m honestly impressed by this thread. I’m impressed that this question has been asked on this blog and by the way it has been discussed – with an explicit note in the OP that male sexual desire is *good* and a comment about the author being into “recreational flirting” as everyday escapism. Wow! To quote another commenter in another great, yet thematically broader, thread about “manliness and feminism” on Clarisse Thorn’s blog – “Best. Discussion. Ever. on the topic.” (http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/manliness-and-feminism-the-followup/#comment-2209). I was completely stunned that the host, tigtog, even had something positive to say about some PUA sites, given that their vocabulary is usually not feminist-compatible, which clearly makes it hard for feminists to even want to look further for potential value.
Language is so important in these matters, and it’s so easy even for well meaning people to completely talk past each other, or to prevent a discussion by not trying to give each other the benefit of the doubt. It’s simply a function of different sets of implicit assumptions about what the other person is talking about. So whenever actual communcation happens, it’s making the world a better place, one character, and one smile at a time. I smiled quite a bit, reading this. Thanks for that.
On the substance, so many valuable points have been made here that I’d only like to comment on three issues, which, to me, are a bit on a meta level –
a) levels of communication (principles vs. recipes)
In my (personal) experience in talking about attraction and gender aspects with women and men, I got to the point of concluding that most men are looking for behavioral advice on a more specific level than most women are. Maybe that’s a consequence of many women being – in my experience – much more detailed in their general discussions of such matters, while many, I’d say most, men aren’t used to talking among each other about these things beyond nods or single line statements. Still, or perhaps accordingly, there seems to be an immense need among these men for specific advice on any number of interactional aspects. This is, in my opinion, usually not about attempting to find a “magic formula” that works for every woman all the time, but about breaking their own often unhelpful behavioral routines. Saying “just be yourself” or “act confident” often just isn’t enough to induce behavioral change for people who feel they cannot be themselves around other people or act confident when talking to women. So their asking “how do I do that specifically” usually won’t be about an assumption that one kind of approach will work for everyone (what tigtog calls a “recipe”), but about their need to understand these concepts and learn to potentially expand their behavioral range one sentence at a time. I believe that many women are not aware of the discoursive challenges men face in this respect.
And that’s also what I read in Alex’ comment – “I think if we want to develop a grammar of non-objectifying, non-sexist come-ons, it will have to cover all the bases from coy to gallant to direct.” and tigtog’s reply “Alex et al, this is where this conversation’s coming stuck. This is about principles of pro-feminist sexual interactions, not recipes.” I have a hunch that a respectful discussion about how to bridge that would be valuable to every participant.
b) individual vs. socialized behaviour
We’re all snowflakes. Unique, and beautiful in our differences. Yet as with snowflakes, sometimes differences aren’t that easily recognizable, certainly not without looking more closely. And I think, for all out individual differences, we are also socialized to behave in certain ways – we’re all playing different social roles in different environments. It’s not unreasonable to assume that another person is (partly) behaving according to such social roles in a particular environment when getting to know the other person. Of course, individual preferences will vary widely, but as they are not usually intelligible upon meeting a person, their expression will be mediated by added layers of socialized behaviour that is deemed appropriate by the person for the environment in question. It is certainly possible to cluster useful behaviours without assuming that these are actually accurate representations of another person’s interest, in my opinion.
c) female and male sexual shame
tigtog says in the OP – “But I can understand why some of the things one learns as a feminist ally could make one reticent” – and I have been there. Well, in my case it was more about feminist and religious education that left me with a sense of having some kind of “toxic touch” rather than a conscious political/personal decision. But this certainly is a problem that can not be solved by the men in question alone, as their feeling is the consequence of a social discourse – not merely feminist, of course – that assumes a certain male sexual sociopathy as basic condition of human existence (and social organisation). It’s a setup in which sexuality is modeled as a value transfer from the woman to the man, which creates double binds for both women and men, for women because they, however liberated, are likely to still feel they’re giving more than they’re getting, and for men because they, however liberated, are likely to still feel they’re getting more than they’re giving. And that is likely more of a problem for those who are aware of it than for those who aren’t – both women and men.
Of course, as Morpheus (or Kierkegaard) said, truth is the only price for taking the red pill, and not everyone is built for dealing with it. But, as I see it, truth isn’t going to solve the problem on its own in this matter, a different kind of dialogue is also needed – and I think this thread could be a part of that.
“but they still want to be able to express their sexual attraction to women whom they find appealing and ask them out on dates”
Doesn’t feminism mean women need to ask men out on dates? …at least half of the time.
The idea that men are required to express “sexual interest in a feminist way” makes me regret the years I considered myself a feminist. It seems most “feminists” are just sexists in a thin disguise, blaming men for all the problems in society.
“Well”, you say to yourself, “men *are* responsible for most of them…”
Nothing about this post or comment thread precludes women asking men out on dates. This post is answering a question asked by a male commentor in another thread. You appear to be reading something that simply isn’t written here.
Women can, and should ask men out on dates, especially me. But since we’re discussing ways for men to make moves on women without sounding like pigs, it’s not really relevant. I bet you go on discussions about barbecues and get angry because nobody’s mentioned baking.
Isn’t that a bit like saying “The idea that I’m meant to interact with my black colleagues without consistently racially abusing them makes me regret the years I considered myself a civil rights activist”?
And it’s racist against white people to expect them to be considerate about racism.
And things were going so well…
Anyway, Eh: Yes, it’s extremely problematic for feminists to say that men are required to express their sexual interest in a feminist way.
But nobody here is saying that. This thread seems to be about how feminist men can express sexual interest without either violating their own already-expressed ideology and without being misinterpreted.
Anyway, like Sam said, I’m impressed by the general lack of acrimony of this thread. I, too, came over from the Longest Thread Ever over at Clarisse’s place.
Tangentially, @ tigtog –
I’d really love to ask how you’re using “subject” as opposed to “object;” unfortunately this doesn’t seem like the right time and place. [/word geek]
I don’t think this is news to anyone on this thread, but perhaps it will bring clarity to some stuff I saw glossed over.
What’s the biggest difference between “Nice tits!” (rack, ass, etc.) and “You are sexy!” (gorgeous, stunning, lovely, etc.) Hint – it’s not that one comment is sexual and the other isn’t (they both are). Give up? Here it is:
“Nice tits”: Nice = adjective, tits = object modified by an adjective. Subject of the sentence (implied)? The (presumably male) speaker. Yes, this is objectifying.
“You are sexy”: you=subject, are=verb, sexy=adjective describing subject. Meaning: You, a woman, a person, are sexy. That is a hell of a compliment.
“You have beautiful breasts”: You=subject, have=verb, breasts= object of adjective beautiful, and of verb “to have”, possessed by subject (YOU), and beautiful=adjective modifying object “breasts”. This one is tricky, it’s true, but I say okay because (1) the subject is YOU and is there explicitly, (2) the verb “to have” is not exclusive, one could have many things, beautiful breasts, and a beautiful mind, body and soul, and (3) this is active voice – “you” are the possessor, the actor, the point. I’ve gotten this one before. From a person I trust, and whose motives I trust, I like it. But I wouldn’t recommend trying it out on anyone you don’t know very, very well.
“Your breasts are beautiful”: your=possessive pronoun modifying simple subject, breasts=subject, are=verb (PASSIVE voice, unlike above), beautiful=adjective describing subject (breasts). So, IMO, this is objectifying. Your breasts are the subject, not YOU – this is plainly seen in the plural conjugation of “to be.” Also, the action of the sentence differs from the previous one; in the previous active voice sentence, YOU are an actor, you own the object; in this passive voice sentence, the action is the judgment of the speaker that your breasts are beautiful, so you are passive. So, definitely objectifying.
It’s okay to admire a woman who has great tits, it’s not okay to admire tits alone, at the expense of or in lieu of the woman.
And honestly, admire away in your mind, but people, there is an obvious time and place for this sort of comment. It is not at a mixer with someone you’ve barely met. Nor is it to anyone in whom you have not previously expressed sexual interest, nor is it to anyone who has not previously expressed sexual interest in you. It is NOT an opening gambit, or a public one.
I would love for you to dissect a PUA glossary one day ;).
“And honestly, admire away in your mind, but people, there is an obvious time and place for this sort of comment.”
Obviously, so I’m wondering if that isn’t really the most decisive part. I mean, I suppose the difference between “you have beautiful breasts” and “your breasts are beautiful” will be elusive to most people who are experiencing a situation in which such a statement could be usefully applied.
See, I recently got a compliment that was very similar to “nice tits” – “nice c*ck” – current social standards about exposure of said body part imply that the statement was made in an appropriate situation. Still, strictly speaking, it was “objectifying”. But really, I implied the “you have a” and accepted the compliment as the nice, and hopefully honest ;), statement it was intended to be – and I even liked the objectifying bit, I don’t get that too often ;). I don’t exactly remember how I phrased my compliments of her (truly beautiful) body in that situation, but I remember I was a little annoyed she discounted them as a mere consequence of my erection. Basically, the situational caveat cuts both ways, in my opinion. If you’re in a situation where it’s ok to say “You have beautiful breasts”, even “nice tits” may not be seen as objectifying in a bad way, but merely as shorthand for honest appreciation that is not intended to reduce a whole person to one of their body parts.
“It’s okay to admire a woman who has great tits, it’s not okay to admire tits alone, at the expense of or in lieu of the woman.”
This one’s tricky, because I think it is perfectly possible to aesthetically admire a certain shape as beautiful in its own right. What about Manet’s pictures of female necks being washed? What about portrays of faces, it’s just one body part. I think there’s a tendency to treat a woman’s breasts differently than other body parts, and there’s reason for that on a public discourse level, of course, but I think it gets trickier on a theoretical level.
You know what – I’m not an expert of the seduction community, but I find your following breakdown to mirror what I took away as their main approach reading Neil Strauss’ novel “the game” –
“What I mean is this: talk to her as you would to any new aquaintance you’re not attracted to first.PUA lingo: disqualify yourself as a suitor, use indirect approaches ] You don’t have to know every nuance of a person’s expression to be able to read “I’m having a good time talking to you!” (smile), or “I wish you would leave me alone,” (looking away pointedly). [PUA lingo: are you getting to the “hook point”? If not, don’t waste your time on a bad set], If you’re getting the former, you might flirt a bit or give a few signs. [PUA lingo: reward her indicators of interest by giving indicators yourself] Then PAY ATTENTION. It’s not hard to differentiate, “Ops! I didn’t see this coming and I’m totally not interested,” (uncomfortable body language) from “I think you’re sort of cute” (direct eye contact is a great sign). [PUA lingo: Calibrate your performance, look for signs of interest (body language, etc)] Eventually, make a move. Or wait for her to do it. Be direct – unlike Greg, I’ve found that the direct approach minimizes uncomfortable tension, because everyone knows exactly where they stand. [PUA lingo: direct approaches are great, but more challenging]
“If I’m reading Marx, it’s a fair bet that “I love Ayn Rand!” is gonna fail”
Haha, I’d love to try to make that approach work ;). How about continuing with… ” You know… Ronald Coase said that there’s no difference between a radical market and a radical planned economy approach in a zero transaction cost world… and in that world people could probably also just tell each other what they’re thinking when they’re thinking it… Hi. I’m Sam. I love Ayn Rand. How about you? Opposition research?”
I’d agree, but your straight grammatical approach is really oversimplifying it. After all “your intelligence astounds me” isn’t really more objectifying than “you are astoundingly intelligent” in the same way, is it? “You have beautiful breasts” isn’t any less at the expense of her other traits than “your breasts are beautiful”, just because the second-person component of the sentence is expressed differently. In fact I’d also say the implied subject of “nice tits” is the woman whose tits they are, with “you have…” being dropped from the sentence.
Everything with this is context, and the speech act of complimenting a woman on a (particularly fetishised) part of her body. If she’s brought up the subject of her breasts herself, she’s probably not going to feel objectified if you join in on the topic. If she’s giving you the impression that she wants a comment/compliment on her looks, or if you know she’s always open to them from you, it’s probably ok to provide. If she’s well aware that you’re actually interested in her as a human being, there’s probably no need to reaffirm that while discussing her rack. If she’s talking and you’re not actually listening, or you’ve barely spoken to her, or if you just seem not to care about anything else, no amount of flowery romantic grammar is going to help you. Evaluating a woman’s body, regardless of language, always makes her the object of your gaze. The only issue is whether, in that particular context, objectifying is acceptable. (Which if can be – what woman doesn’t like being the indirect object of “sit down and I’ll make you a cup of tea”?)
I’d say the real problem with “nice tits” is it’s short and ubiquitous. It’s easy to say and a stock phrase for complimenting a woman’s breasts, but these make it insincere. “Nice tits” tends not to actually mean “you have beautiful breasts”. It tends to mean “oi, you with the tits: talk to me”, “let’s talk about your body, ideally in the context of it having sex with me” or just “you have tits, you are a woman, I am not obliged to listen to you or look at your face”. I can’t imagine myself using it as an actual compliment except with a heavy dose of irony, to say “I don’t intend this phrase as it’s usually deployed, but in the far rarer sense of complimenting your breasts”. It’s objectifying because it’s an opening gambit focused on the body, or a way to direct conversation away from whatever girly drivel she’s on about and towards what you actually want from her (possibly sex, possibly silence). It’s not really anything to do with how nice her tits are most of the time. And because society fetishises those two particular bits, complimenting them is far less likely to even have anything to do with them. This is why furious protests about how you can’t even compliment a woman on her body these days yadda yadda completely miss the point. “Nice tits” isn’t a compliment but a social formality, and isn’t about her body but her position within the social institution of women’s bodies.
Objectifying isn’t really much to do with the grammatical subject and object of the verb, it’s about the woman’s relationship to the topic, whether she is active or passive within it. Phrasing things in terms of what you like about and want from her make her the object. Mentioning her reaction to whatever it is makes her the subject. This doesn’t even have to be questions and listening, just taking it into account, for example speculating that “you seem like the type who’d enjoy…”. Even with actions it’s tricky: “I’d pretty much do anything for you” makes you the subject in terms of the verb and the action itself, but she is the subject of the topic – benefiting from and choosing whatever it is.
I’m definitely with you on taking the linguistic approach, I’m just not sure that kind of word-focused grammar is at all sufficient.
I feel weird weighing in on this when I haven’t been here since the beginning, but oh well. I’m a loud-mouth, no doubt about it.
Up at the top of this thread, we all agreed that “true meeting of minds” was the root of serious romantic and sexual relationships.
Now we’re talking casual attraction, hook-ups, and just the beginning of what might be serious some day. And we’re arguing over, what? Pick up lines? Is that objectifying? Is it okay to show sexual interest? Honestly, all of this seems straight forward to me: pick up lines are [rubbish]*, even for one-night stands, “great rack” is absolutely objectifying, and of course it’s okay to show sexual interest as long as you stop if its not reciprocated. That’s how hookups and beginnings of great romances happen.
How about applying the same principle as above? That idea that a woman is a person (not just an individual woman) and should be treated as such?
What I mean is this: talk to her as you would to any new aquaintance you’re not attracted to first. You don’t have to know every nuance of a person’s expression to be able to read “I’m having a good time talking to you!” (smile), or “I wish you would leave me alone,” (looking away pointedly). If you’re getting the former, you might flirt a bit or give a few signs. Then PAY ATTENTION. It’s not hard to differentiate, “Ops! I didn’t see this coming and I’m totally not interested,” (uncomfortable body language) from “I think you’re sort of cute” (direct eye contact is a great sign). Eventually, make a move. Or wait for her to do it. Be direct – unlike Greg, I’ve found that the direct approach minimizes uncomfortable tension, because everyone knows exactly where they stand.
When thinking about how to approach a person, look at her, and read what she’s telling you. How people dress, move, talk, and generally present themselves is a statement, usually deliberate, about how we want to be percieved and approached. If I’m reading Marx, it’s a fair bet that “I love Ayn Rand!” is gonna fail, and you really have no idea about, “Hey, you feel like surfing?” But ask me about my politics, ask me about classics, ask me about history, econ, math, philosophy, or school – now you’re getting somewhere.
Need some ideas? Contemplate the ways woman have expressed interest in you, that you’ve enjoyed – I’m fairly confident, even without knowing you, that they didn’t start with “nice ass” or “big dick.” Try using those same approaches on women you like – we aren’t all that different, ultimately.
If she doesn’t reciprocate, leave it alone.
Those would be my principles for asking people out (for a night or longer) in a feminist manner. It’s a method that has worked for and on me.
*[Moderator note: ableist language redacted]
You describe three steps:
1. Introduce yourself
3. Make a move
I’m all for the direct approach for step 3, but the tension I was talking about came in step 2, where depending on her interest level, as you point out, you can make someone uncomfortable.
Yes exactly, you could possibly make someone uncomfortable by expressing interest – that is true no matter how, no matter to whom, you express that interest. And that’s no reason to never express interest. But that is why you pay attention to the person in whom you are expressing interest, and her (or his) response – if you notice someone is uncomfortable with a certain level of flirting (which might be any flirting at all), and you will notice if you’re paying attention, then you stop. And probably keep talking, because as long as you stop promptly, he or she is unlikely to hold it against you. You don’t always get to step three, but, such is life.
Some people, myself included, just aren’t good at flirting. And being flirted with by somebody you’re not interested in is uncomfortable; even when the flirter is perfectly polite you’re still facing the prospect of having to reject somebody. Worse is when you express your disinterest via hints, body language (despite men’s laments that women should simply speak their minds, if she came out and said, “please don’t waste your time flirting with me because I’m not attracted to you” it’s probably not going to go over well) and the flirter persists. It give the woman the impression that the guy thinks he’s entitled to barrel on through to step 3, whether she wants him to or not. That’s never good news.
@snobographer, my only point about flirting was that (a) it isn’t non-feminist and (b) some people like it. Of course not everybody will, because people are different with different tastes and preferences.
That includes women, which is a point that seems to need regularly repeating on this thread (not to you) but to some who seem to think that any woman can explain any other woman’s feelings/motivations through the hivemind link or something.
@tigtog – yeah, I’m quite the anomaly myself. I rarely do what I’m told all women do all the time. Most women I know are weirdos like me.
Successful flirting for me usually looks more like joking around and hanging out. It’s not sexy per se, but it’s frequently led to sexy things happening. That’s not intended as a “how to pick up women” tip. I’m just saying personally making a sexy face at me while complimenting me on how my hair catches the light or whatever is just going to squick me, while another woman might really dig that. Actually that’s caused a lot of dating issues for me because what’s typically seen as normal flirtation just makes me nervous, even when I’m really into a guy, so my signals get crossed all the time. See? Women have issues with this stuff too.
Sam and Alex, yes, you’re right, the strictly grammatical approach oversimplifies things – though I do think it’s useful when trying to clarify what you mean before you say or write it. And that you should do this, I think, is my point, and yours, more than any other.
Responding to Sam’s “and I even liked the objectifying bit, I don’t get that too often ” and Alex’s “Evaluating a woman’s body, regardless of language, always makes her the object of your gaze. The only issue is whether, in that particular context, objectifying is acceptable.”:
Part of living in a society where womens’ bodies are considered public property is that it’s very hard to to make her the object of your gaze without also making her the object of everyone’s (or at least every man’s) gaze, even when no one else is around. (This might be what Alex was getting at calling “nice tits” ubiquitous?) I think a lot of men have difficulty comprehending what it means to be told every second of every day that you have to look nice and be pretty, because if you don’t than you’re ruining everything for everyone around you making them look at your ugly a$$, and also you’re worthless. It means that, when someone completely sincerely tells me “nice tits,” some part of me is hearing, “Good, everyone can stare at your tits, that’s what they’re there for” and also “Well, that’s your fault, if you didn’t want the men to stare, then don’t have tits.” (I guessing this was not part of your response to “nice c*ck.”) This doesn’t mean you can’t compliment a woman’s appearance, but it does mean that you have to be especially careful to minimize this phenomenon – I don’t believe one really can do away with it completely.
For me personally (I’ve never discussed this with other women, so I can’t speak any more generally), part of what an explicit subject does is allow me to share the gaze of whoever is complimenting me. Letting me share your gaze makes it more yours, less of a general, societal thing.
@Sam – I really liked your comment on levels of communication (principles vs. recipes). In my case, at least, you’re absolutely right; that never occurred to me. Your comment was in the back of my mind when I wrote up the grammatical dissection above – just rules to think about, until one has a handle on the principles.
I’m really not enough of a grammar nerd to take on a PUA glossary – I’m just a biochemist who lived with three English majors in college – but I’d love to see someone else do it.
Well, I’m somewhat non-normative even for a feminist (heterosexual) woman, but I’ll weigh in here.
I like it when men make the first move. I’ll make the first move myself if
(a) I’m extremely interested, or
(b) I’m not anticipating a serious relationship but instead a short-term encounter.
Otherwise, I won’t. If a man that I’m not extremely interested in wants to have a serious relationship with me, he’ll have to make the first move.
Men who have seduced me despite my initial lack of interest have done the following:
(a) read things I’ve written and given my thoughtful feedback,
(b) read books or experienced art that I recommended and had interesting conversations about them,
(c) recommended books or art that I was then able to have interesting conversations about,
(d) slowly scaled up the amount of time that they spent with me (visiting me at work if possible, going out for drinks or dinner, suggesting projects we could work on together, etc),
(e) until eventually the circumstances were right to approach (eg once we were lying around chatting on a lazy Sunday; or another situation happened when both of us were semi-drunk and hanging out at some party).
I have also adopted the A-E process to attract men I was interested in.
However, I am pretty sure that there have been men who were very interested in me, who used steps A-D but never went to E because I was not receptive (and there have definitely been one or two who tried for E and whom I had to gently turn down). And there have also definitely been times when I attempted to begin the A-E process and it didn’t work for me. Overall, my approach has proved relatively successful for me, but I’ve had to deal with rejection along the way. I wouldn’t know how to advise someone who was unwilling to use the approach at all, or who felt that they had used it a lot but it never worked.
Hs ny (mn) hr vr knwn “ml fmnst” wh wsn’t snvlng wsl? gy y’d rthr pnch n th fc thn hv br wth?
jst fnshd lstnng t Jhn Dnvr sng “nn’s Sng” n Y Tb. Hw h lvd tht wmn….nd ys, sh dmpd hm….tk hm fr bndl….h,ys, th mrcn wmn.
You fill up my senses
like a night in the forest
like the mountains in springtime,
like a walk in the rain
like a storm in the desert,
like a sleepy blue ocean
you fill up my senses,
come fill me again.
Come let me love you,
let me give my life to you
let me drown in your laughter,
let me die in your arms
let me lay down beside you,
let me always be with you
come let me love you,
come love me again.
You fill up my senses
like a night in the forest
like the mountains in springtime,
like a walk in the rain
like a storm in the desert,
like a sleepy blue ocean
you fill up my senses,
come fill me again.
What a misandrist, gold-digging harpy that Annie is!
Didn’t “Annie” dump John Denver?
Ah, yes, you gotta love American women for their faithful, loving, unselfish selves.
2 minutes of Google-fu presents:
Any man who nearly strangles his wife deserves to be “dumped”.
No woman has a right to break up with any man for any reason ever ever evarrr!!!
“We can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” ~Robin Morgan
Well that seems to have worked.
Why would anyone in their right mind date, let alone get near anyone that believes THIS at the core of their being – a philosophy that contributed to the destruction of the fabric or our society?!
Women whine about wanting nice men – men who have been feminized. Yet time and again they choose the thug who slaps them around, impregnates them – and leaves. Then after they’ve had enough they go and find a nice guy to help raise it – someone who’s responsible and kind, the one they couldn’t stomach before. These nice men, the ones they created through the “meat cleaver” of feminism – are vanishing: they’re beginning to wake up to the propaganda they’ve been fed.
Woman chooses to be feminist because they don’t understand themselves – or their true power as divine beings. We are therefore through as a culture. Too much damage has been done for it to be made right.
See ya at the bottom.
No, we’re not.
ntrstng y plld tht t f t.
nvr sd ll WMN r th sm – y dd – thgh y dd t lttl schzphrnclly bcs thn yr thr prsnlty dnd t. Thy hv mdctn fr tht. thght y wld hv t lst hd rgmnttn nd dbt n cllg. Yr n fn t ll.
N!! Nt ll wmn r th sm…phlsphclly. ll fmnsts R th sm – nd r rspnsbl – n nt s smll dgr – fr th dwnfll f scty – tht wld ncld th mltry – spcfclly th Nvy. vn thgh ‘m n vd nt-Fmnst – m Pr – Wmn.
Fmnsm s Cmmnsm nd fmnst wmn wsh t pt thmslvs frwrd s th dmnnt sprr sx, nt jst smply th mr cmplctd sx. Bt t’s rlly bcs thy [fmnsts] ht bng wmn – t’s brdn t thm – bcs th fmnst bx s vry smll nd thr’s nt lt f rm fr mprvmnt. t’s n th ttl f yr rtcl – “Thnk f Crtvs wys tht Y cn rlt t M bcs – cn’t – crtv wys tht Y “MN” ( bd wrd) – cn rlt t S…bcs – w cn’t… s n trn…/w cn’t – rlt…t y. Y hv t d th wrk – w fght fr yrs t gt ths fr (?!?) s w cn’t rlt t nythng r nyn nymr spclly y – MN. nly TH CS.” t’s ll thy cr bt. Ntc – ‘m NT syng – t’s ll y s prsn – crs bt.
Fmnsts hv cntrbtd nthng t th plftmnt f scty; thy wgh t dwn. Thy s thr ncnscs slf htrd nd fmnst phlsphy t bldgn vryn ls wth ntl (Th Gl) mn (n prtclr) hv n rghts t ll whch…s prtty mch whr w’r t.
vdnc – knw gy n Sttl tht spnt 8 mnths n jl fr – yllng – t wmn. Thy wr hsmts – sh shwd ntrst – h wsn’t ntrstd – thy rgd – h ylld – sh clld th cps – thy tk hm wy. Mnwhl sh gts nt hs ml ccnt nd snds drgtry mls t vryn n hs cntct lst. Sh dstryd hs rpttn. nd h bng n ctr – h wll nvr ct gn bcs f t. t lst thy’r cmpssnt ngh t -llw hm- t g bck t schl, ftr hs – shll w sy – scl mscltn. Th mns ttrny, wmn, nd frmr Sttl lgsltr tlls hm “lk, ‘m gng t b hnst wth y hr, n sttns lk ths, th gl s t strp mn f ll thr rghts. Yr nt gng t wn ths. Y hv t g t jl.” Ths s rlty n Sttl nd Wshngtn n gnrl. Bt ‘m sr tht fr y – tht’s n fr th tm – sn’t t? Wht wld y d bt smthng lk tht Tg…f y wr s ttrny? Nthng rght? Fmnsts dn’t plc thmslvs whn thr r ths mng thm tht gt lttl crrd wy – t’s ll fr th tm…rght?!?
S Hw SHLD MN shw ntrst t fmnst n FMNST wy? Ws tht th qstn? Ww…hw vry prtnts. “Hw shld h rlt t th tm s h cn b ncldd?” s th sbtxt. Th nswr qt smply s – h shldn’t. H shld rn. Hpflly, f h’s lcky, h’ll fnd hmslf rl wmn tht’s hlthy ngh t b hrslf, wtht dntfyng wth vcs pck mntlty. ssmng thy xst f crs – whch thy d. My mm ws n – s t s pssbl. Dmnds d xst bt r rr. Thy glw ndr prssr – nt bckl.
Bth MN – nd WMN r wkng p t ths hrrbl prpgnd tht hs grppd th cntry fr dcds. Thr s nw mvmnt n th hrzn t hl ths ntns wnds. t wll hl NNCNT mn f th ndsrvd scl btngs thy’v ndrd fr fr t lng. t wll ls hl wmn f thr wn slf vctmztn nsprd by cprt vmprsm t prft frm thr mnpltn. nd y cn bt tht – – wll – b – thr… t chm n – wth my tw cnts.
And you encrypted it so people can’t read it. How feminist of you. Proving my point entirely.
Disemvoweling is a standard method for dealing with disruptive comments. Your comments remain on the record for informative purposes with a clear indication to others that they are a potential derail that ought not to be responded to.
This site is for discussing what feminist theory does (or does not) say – it is not a place for entertaining absurdly wild accusations. If you can manage to restrain yourself to rational disputation, your future comments are far more likely to be approved without editorial modification.
whoa!!! hahaha this thread had got me worked up. I’m just a bit sad that i’m late in reading this thread. i really got quite a lot from all of their opinions. i really hope to get acquainted in this blog.
I know ill learn more.
I guess those who posted contradicting view really have to reconsider their thoughts, tigtog, greg, and alex i guess really makes good sense, its just that they have some contradictions as to each others argument.
I also disagree that women are all the same. and why women chose to be feminist.
Its about knowing how different we are from one another but at the same time these differences makes us more worthy and essential.
The mere fact that women started to realized feminism is the start of how they do realize their role and importance, not because they dont understand themselves but then because they start seeing the inequalities and stereotypes the society had been imposing in most of our culture.
I admire men who acknowledge themselves as feminist, and being able to acknowledge that is already a success, being sensitive, respectful, and aware is already a start, they dont need anymore tips on how to express interest on feminist way. like women. they just have to be who they are and let the rest of interaction work. If women dont get interested. then dont. Lets not force things here. Lets just be who we are. I guess that’s one of the essence of feminism. Let women feel free to be who they are.
I dont think it is that difficult. Just be respectful. Be attentive to what she is saying and feeling. If you sense she doesnt like you and doesnt feel comfortable in your presence, just walk away.
Oh, and get rid of this expectation that you are going to have sex on the first night. This in itself is disrespectful of women.
You should be trying to get to know her mind first, and body second. If it is the other way aroung, then you are objectifying her.
Having said all of this, some women will reject you, confusing being respectful and a gentleman with being a wimp and not a ‘real man’. Just walk away from these women. Eventually you will find one who will appreciate you.
I don’t think a one night stand is inherently unfeminist or disrespectful. Plenty of women enjoy them. That’s why they happen so often.
I’m with Greg on this. Even getting to know her body first and her mind second isn’t necessarily unfeminist. Apart from anything else, getting to know someone’s mind takes a lot longer if you’re going to do it properly. The problem there is if you get want to know her body without any interest whatsoever in getting to know her mind. Though even then, if a woman wants a one-night stand, she might not be interested in or even comfortable with you getting to know her mind afterwards.
As I’ve said, confusing respect with romance is a red herring. Don’t respect what you think women want, respect what you think this woman wants.
The elephant in the room is this: if a guy’s feminist, he’s not going to expect sex as payment for just being nice. Lots of guys don’t get over that. Niceness is an investment they make in the woman. When they complain about not gettin’ any, they’ve just revealed that they’re not usually nice to women they don’t want to fuck, and that they think they’re entitled to sex. A feminist guy wouldn’t complain about getting laid because he’d already be getting laid. A Nice Guy, however, might vote for abortion or whatever and think he deserves a cookie for it.
While I’ve met some of those guys of whom you speak, I do think they’re only a subset.
No, I don’t think this is true at all. I’ve known guys who are genuinely kind, sweet, generous people who are also shy, at least when it comes to talking about sex. If a shy guy simply can’t find a way to express sexual interest to women to whom they are attracted, it’s natural for them to feel lonely and understandably sad about being lonely.
“A feminist guy wouldn’t complain about getting laid because he’d already be getting laid.”
You’re going to have to explain this one, as from where I’m sitting it looks like you’re saying:
1) Believing women have an unequivocal right to say ‘no’ means not being at all disappointed when they inevitably do, and never getting even a bit frustrated when none of them chooses to waive that right and say ‘yes’.
2) Feminism, by definition, gets men laid, and all feminist men are, by definition, beating the fanny off with a shitty stick.
3) By extension, this whole thread is basically jerking off.
Uh, no. You’re half right in some statements, and just wrong in others.
I try to be nice, but being nice has little to do with being a feminist. Being a feminist for me is about social justice, about trying to improve the world for the next generation, about treating each human being respectfully and giving everyone equal opportunity to pursue all of life’s pleasures.
I don’t get upset when a woman says no to me or any other feminist man. What I do have a problem with is when women find guys unattractive because their approach is feminist.
Feminist men don’t “expect” sex. Full stop. What disappoints us though is that often it seems harder to form a meaningful romantic relationship because our respectful approach is not construed as being attractive.
I’m curious as to how you have deduced that this is indeed what those particular women find unattractive.
Number one: it’s not about you.
Number two: Oh, look! We have a spotting of the ‘women like jerks’ myth in the wild!
@Ginmar: Since this is a thread about feminist men, and how they can modify their behaviour towards women, yeah, it sort of is entirely about us.
@Kandela: I’m not convinced it’s just to do with being ‘nice’, or ‘feminist’, or ‘respectful’. It’s more that acknowledging women’s boundaries and modifying your behaviour accordingly inevitably (and rightly) ends up making you more hesitant and less dominating. Our sexual behaviour is built around the assumption of male dominance, so as well as slowing ourselves down and taking fewer gambles on women we like, we’re less able to fulfil the sexy roles women get hammered into them from the moment they learn the word ‘princess’. Is there a way to be forward in a feminist way, as I’m pretty sure this is where our, and Nice Guys’, disadvantage mostly lies.
@tigtog: I didn’t say anything about particular women. I’m not having a go at you here, just feel it is necessary to point out that it is a trend I am seeing, rather than the actions of one or two particular women.
I admit I don’t have hard statistics to back this up, rather this is the impression I’ve formed from a large quantity of anecdotal evidence. By and large, when I meet men who have a genuine interest in feminism, more often than not they don’t have a girlfriend, or have relatively been involved in relationships for a lesser period of their lives. Whereas, amongst the men that I know who have no interest in feminism (not necessarily sexist, just not interested or “don’t buy into it”) they are far more likely to be in a relationship. From that I can only deduce that there is something in the approach of feminist men that isn’t attractive to women. Part of my interest in this thread, is figuring out exactly what part of the approach is a turn-off/ineffective.
If we can figure out what is holding feminist men back, then we can work out why it is holding them back. It might be something that society teaches women about appropriate partners, it might be that part of appropriate behaviour for a feminist shouldn’t be used in attracting women – it might simply be that some part of feminist behaviour is masking the signals society uses to show/inspire interest (a societal rule). If it’s a societal rule, then we need to work out how to change it, because holding feminist men back, holds the spread of feminism back.
@Ginmar: I never said women like jerks. Just that they seem to be missing out on forming relationships with men who have feminist interests. Consider if women have been coached by the patriarchy to find particular traits attractive in men, then the men who challenge the patriarchy by their actions are less likely to display those traits. I’m sure no woman consciously chooses a jerk, and most don’t unconsciously choose one either, but by the same token they seem not to be choosing the guys at the opposite end of the spectrum. Men fall into more than two categories you know, there’s more than just jerks and feminists, there’s a whole range of niceness, a whole range of principles. Saying that I don’t think women are choosing feminists, doesn’t mean I think they are choosing jerks.
Maybe I should have applied the “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you” rule to what you said, but I happen to consider myself a feminist guy. And since we are a small subset of the population, when you made a sweeping generalisation, I thought it would be instructive to share my contradictory experience as one of the group you generalised about.
@tigtog and ginmar – There are some very gender-essentialist women who shudder at the idea of feminism generally, and would find a feminist man especially ridiculous. They’re wrong, but they’re out there. I’m sure you’ve both met some of them or seen their townhall columns.
It seems remarkably quixotic for men professing feminism to complain that expressing sexual interest in a feminist way is not proving to be a successful path to follow with non-feminist or pre-feminist women who still expect the dominance gameplaying. It seems so obviously flawed an approach that I am not going to devote any time to thinking about it. If the egalitarian ideology of feminism matters to you, why pursue women who don’t share that ideology?
In any case, the feminist men I know are mostly doing just fine in the dating/partnership stakes – generally noodling along with the same patterns of serial monogamy as most other folks in today’s world except for the few that follow other relationship paradigms. But they are dating feminist women who don’t find men expressing themselves in a feminist way to be a turnoff at all – quite the reverse.
This thread is starting to squick me out, given that at least some of it seems to be about giving men tips on how to approach women—and how they seem utterly incapable of grasping at least two concepts:
1. All women are different but;
2. Basic respect and LISTENING to them will go a long ways.
Hello? Listen to what each different woman is saying. There’s no one size fits all advice. We’re not candy machines, and if you’re acting disrespectfully women will be able to tell. We’re not going to give you advice on how to trick women or get around that respect requirement.
You have to treat women like individuals, feminist or not.
Snobographer, I know about these women because they show up at my blog, protesting that they are TOO feminists, even as they kick the ladder down behind them for other women. They also despise men, but they pander to them, because it’s still easier than fighting sexism in the trenches.
@Alex: good comment. I started my reply, before you made yours so I didn’t see it until after I’d posted.
@tigtog: Well, I believe every woman deserves to be treated with the same respect whether feminist or not. Feminists generally don’t walk around with big signs on their heads, so you can’t tell whether a woman is a feminist until you get to know her. And I’m not complaining so much as saying it is a social phenomenon that we need to look at. If you as a woman find men aren’t treating you with respect, yes one approach is to simply avoid them and only talk to men who do. But that’s not activism, this is what I’m doing here, not trying to get a date, but being an activist and looking at the problematic parts of society that dissuade men from acting in feminist ways.
@ginmar: I’ve got those two things. I’m interested now in the deeper themes in society.
Well, there’s a SotBO. All people deserve to be treated with a fundamental level of respect no matter what. Even the Limbaughs, Becks and Coulters of the world deserve that fundamental respect.
I don’t see how the principle of respectful treatment for all really relates to your concerns that non/pre-feminist women might not appreciate that respectful treatment as much as feminist women are likely to do. Sure, I want more of those non/pre-feminist women to realise that being treated with that fundamental respect is the bare minimum that they should accept from any man, whether they are considering dating him or not, but I think that viewing that personal awakening/consciousness-raising only through the prism of which men those non/pre-feminist women find attractive is putting many dozens of carts before the horse in terms of helping those women unpack their patriarchal conditioning.
Scroll up. Right up. Then quit spouting essentialist drivel about what men are and aren’t utterly incapable of grasping.
“It seems so obviously flawed an approach that I am not going to devote any time to thinking about it. If the egalitarian ideology of feminism matters to you, why pursue women who don’t share that ideology?”
I disagree entirely. There are degrees of feminism, and not being hardcore activists who take objectification very seriously doesn’t necessarily mean women are self-hating misogynists and patriarchal stooges. As I’ve said before, I’m not taking part in this thread so I can learn to pick up women who read Wittig, I’m doing it so I can get women in general to snog me without compromising my quite firmly-held feminist principles. Although potentially successful approaches are obviously essential, if we don’t want this thread to descend into niche pick-up artistry, we need to focus on changing the male role in courtship. For the same reason I don’t think it’s relevant to discuss the whole thing of sex vs “meaningful relationships”. You might not agree with approaching women for one-night stands, but there are probably more and less feminist ways of doing it, and it’s definitely interesting to think about them.
Nobody’s just a feminist, there are quite a few ideologies that matter to me, and a lot of other things that I’m interested in, and only one is feminism. I’m not going to rule out a potential partner just because she doesn’t share one of my principles. Sorry about this, but if a vegetarian Stone Roses fan into monster movies and Slavic grammar makes eyes at me, I’m going for it, even if she does prefer Clarkson over Greer. I’m just going to try and go for it without treating her like an inferior being put here solely to entertain my genitals, because I don’t actually believe in that.
Obviously though, I’ll sort of need you lot to help me go for it because I suck at it.
We are talking at cross-purposes then. This thread is about which sexual behaviours do or do not conform to feminist principles and highlighting that there are many behaviours, including promiscuity, which are perfectly fine in terms of feminist principles. It is not about personal dating advice. I don’t have either the inclination or the expertise for that, plus I also believe sincerely that it simply cannot be done when only hearing one side of the interaction history.
Where did that come from? I’ve explicitly said several times on this thread that I don’t see anything fundamentally non-feminist about approaching women for one-night stands, because (newsflash!) many women enjoy one-night stands as well. It’s all about respecting her individuality when you do.
“Well, there’s a SotBO.”
Well, I would have thought so, but you seem to be suggesting that only feminist women should respond to a respectful “feminist” approach so it seemed worth saying.
“but I think that viewing that personal awakening/consciousness-raising only through the prism of which men those non/pre-feminist women find attractive is putting many dozens of carts before the horse in terms of helping those women unpack their patriarchal conditioning.”
Yeah, it probably is but I’m not suggesting this should be the first feminist thing they deal with, but it is one of many things, and picking which thing should come first is not as fast as a broad spectrum approach. Fortunately in our society these days, everybody has had some exposure to feminism, and almost all agree with some aspects of it. Like Alex said, there is a continuum of feminist behaviour and principles, it’s not as simple as placing people in an either/or category. Men, like women, have to interact with everyone on that continuum.
I don’t think we can break down patriarchy by first attacking the pay gap (for example) then when that’s all done look at dating dynamics. If we don’t treat all of the cancer at once, then it will spread and re-infect society.
By the way when I say a “feminist approach” (this is mainly for ginmar) I don’t mean one strict set of actions. There’s a whole spectrum of things covered by those two words, but some things are constants, and other things are prominent behaviours that might only be altered after you get to know a particular person.
Scroll up. Right up. Then quit spouting essentialist drivel about what men are and aren’t utterly incapable of grasping.
You’re way out of line, you patronizing little shit. Don’t tell me what to do or not to do, much less what I think. I’ve been blogging over ten years and I know good and goddamned well what a fuckload of men have told me and seen their behavior myself. I’ve never said all men so piss right the fuck off. And also? Men who get more pissed off at feminists than asshole men are a huge problem and you just proved it.
See, the asshole men who occasionally find their way here don’t really seem worth bothering with, and have the major redeeming feature of not having treated me as an enemy from the offset, personally abused me for being single and unhappy, and become highly offensive after not having read something properly.
That “they” and “utterly” combo makes it look an awful lot like you did mean all men. You might not have said it, but you certainly didn’t take the time to specify who and how many it doesn’t apply to.
Aside from that, your two concepts are far too vague and intangible for anyone to grasp and do very little to advance the debate. It’s all very well repeating what Tigtog has consistently stressed about people not being candy machines, and that listening is important, but I’m sure most PUA’s know to tailor their approaches and strategies according to the individual woman and what she’s saying. What do we listen for? How do we react? What frameworks do we use to interpret connotations, implications and ambiguities? Are there feminist ways to listen? ‘Cos I’m pretty sure there are anti-feminist ones.
That’s pretty much what I was saying. This shouldn’t be about dating feminists, it should be about dating with feminist principles. Just because I’m willing to compromise my principles and go out with a woman who isn’t a feminist, doesn’t mean the rest of them go out the window and I’ll feel completely at ease treating her like an ornamental doormat with a hole in. Since this is very much about feminist principles and not feminist prey, it pretty much needs to include applying them to non-feminists.
It was mostly an aside based on something Kandela said about not expecting sex but wanting “meaningful romantic relationships”. It’s something I’ve noticed about any kind of discussion about sexuality and women’s rights, and I’m sure you’d agree, that meaningless sex versus meaningful commitment is a massive red herring, and one that conflates feminist approaches with essentialist ideas about what women want instead of sex (romance, marriage and babies, in case you were wondering).
To be honest, I’m not sure we differ much on either of these, and we might be talking at cross-purposes about talking at cross-purposes.
Fair enough – not in disagreement at all there.
There just seemed to be an unedifying focus from Kandela on non-feminist women not responding to feminist men due to patriarchal conditioning to prefer more macho/dominant men, as if that was the most important part of their patriarchal conditioning that needed to be addressed because it’s the part that he thinks is stopping him personally getting dates. I don’t think Kandela meant it to sound quite exactly that way, but he kept on repeating it again and again, and I’m finding it irritatingly presumptuous.
I want more non-feminist women (and men!) to have that ‘click’ moment where they realise exactly how patriarchal/kyriarchal conditioning has shaped their views of human interactions along gender stereotypical lines (and all the other identity stereotypes), and that all that ain’t necessarily so. I want people to find fulfilment in relationships built along non-dominance lines. I just don’t think that putting dating difficulties front and centre when challenging patriarchal/kyriarchal conditioning is the most effective way of consciousness-raising.
Gee, Alex, DID I SAY ALL MEN?
I love it when men pull this kind of shit. I’m not going to add qualifications and shit and coddle your privilege. I love it how you cite a guy treating you well as proof of what, exactly? Oh, yeah, maybe guys aren’t as much assholes to other guys as they are to women.
Tigtog: “There just seemed to be an unedifying focus from Kandela on non-feminist women not responding to feminist men due to patriarchal conditioning to prefer more macho/dominant men, as if that was the most important part of their patriarchal conditioning that needed to be addressed because it’s the part that he thinks is stopping him personally getting dates. I don’t think Kandela meant it to sound quite exactly that way, but he kept on repeating it again and again, and I’m finding it irritatingly presumptuous.”
Firstly my comment doesn’t just apply to non-feminist women, you just assumed it did. Even on feminist boards you often see feminists talk about “non-feminist guilty pleasures” – things they like, usually because of conditioning that don’t fit into the feminist paradigm. And these are just the things we are consciously aware of. Why should taste in men be any different to other conditionings?
Also, I specifically said, I’m not reading this thread to work out how to get a date. I’m interested in how feminist principles are affecting the dating dynamic.
Certainly I didn’t mean that patriarchal conditioning of women was the only area on this topic worth discussing. No one else has even mentioned it though, so to say you are sick of it seems a little unfair to me. Especially seeing as how I’m used to reading thread after thread on many sites about how men are conditioned to do all sorts of nasty things to women and treat them like second class citizens. Which of course is true. My point is that we are all conditioned to some extent, and it is worth thinking about how women’s conditioning affects men in this particular scenario.
Another worthwhile discourse might involve the origin for one archetype of feminist man: someone who is more passive. Is it just that passive men are more likely to become feminists, or that men who take up feminism defer to women or don’t make the first move on a more regular basis and thus seem more passive. How does this affect the advice we might give these men about initiating romantic relationships with women?
Another good question might be, are thinkers and nerds more likely to become interested in feminist thinking as men, and does this bias the patterns of dating behaviour we see in feminist men?
Tigtog: “I want more non-feminist women (and men!) to have that ‘click’ moment where they realise exactly how patriarchal/kyriarchal conditioning has shaped their views of human interactions along gender stereotypical lines (and all the other identity stereotypes), and that all that ain’t necessarily so. I want people to find fulfilment in relationships built along non-dominance lines. I just don’t think that putting dating difficulties front and centre when challenging patriarchal/kyriarchal conditioning is the most effective way of consciousness-raising.”
I want more people to have that click moment too. Putting dating issues front and centre isn’t what I have in mind either, but they are our current topic of conversation. Feminist men, can’t change to a less feminist approach depending upon the woman they are interested in. We wouldn’t ask feminist women to do that. Sometimes the person you are interested in hasn’t had that click moment though, and you need to know how to deal with it, and just giving up on that person isn’t a great option. Other options need to be part of this discussion.
Alex: “It was mostly an aside based on something Kandela said about not expecting sex but wanting “meaningful romantic relationships”. It’s something I’ve noticed about any kind of discussion about sexuality and women’s rights, and I’m sure you’d agree, that meaningless sex versus meaningful commitment is a massive red herring, and one that conflates feminist approaches with essentialist ideas about what women want instead of sex (romance, marriage and babies, in case you were wondering).”
Fair enough Alex. I must admit to a significant self interest here because I personally am just not interested in casual sex. I’m just not. So I tend to skip over anything to do with it. That’s not to say that issues surrounding casual sex aren’t worth discussing. They are. I do think though, that part of the problem you’ve mentioned here, is caused by discussing these two things: casual sex and relationships at the same time. In some ways, particularly with regard to feminist men I think, these discourses are too immature to be discussed at once. We really need to split them up, work out what we think about each of them, and then examine the intersection. The thread is unfortunately a bit open-ended in this regard, as expressing sexual interest is necessary for both casual sex and initiating a romantic relationship.
I rarely agree with feminists but – John Denver was an abusive drunk A-Hole that beat Annie constantly. Yes she should beak up with him. Why shouldn’t she?
“I rarely agree with feminists but…”
I love this caveat. I bet it really stings when you order your favourite meal in your favourite restaurant, and then see a woman in dungarees eating the same thing.
No…I don’t. I no longer feel anything – she could be the most beautiful woman in the world and I’ll feel nothing – not one ounce. I have no attraction to either sex anymore. It’s a growing trend in the United States.
Which guys, Tigtog? You didn’t specify which ones.
I see Alex and his Porsche are back. Of course he’d get upest that nobody says yes to him and his high-paying job and his Porsche. Of course.
Basically, for feminist men there’s more to getting laid. They actually like women and find them interesting. They’re not generally PUAs looking to get, as dipshit so charmingly puts it, ‘fanny’. Because nothing says feminist to me like referring to sex as a part of a woman’s body!
Well, yes, of course I get upset. Wouldn’t you?
Also you managed to miss irony in the middle of sarcasm. That’s impressive, even for an [ableist slur redacted].
But for a student summer job it, yeah, is fairly high-paying, so you get half a point.
ginmar, as to which guys, I mean the guys who whine about how the terrible chore of being nice to women doesn’t get rewarded with automatic girlfriend – you know, the ones you were talking about in your comment to which I responded.
BTW, ginmar – Alex who is commenting on this thread is not Alec who bragged about his Porsche.
I wondered where all that came from.
That’s what I get for glancing too fast at the forwarding link.
Argh. A feminist man will be interested in more than just a woman’s fuckability or whatever. He might even—gasp!—-like her the various things that anti-feminist trolls find so disturbing.
“Argh. A feminist man will be interested in more than just a woman’s fuckability or whatever. He might even—gasp!—-like her the various things that anti-feminist trolls find so disturbing.”
I actually dont get it.. But i agree that a feminist man is interested not only in sex but rather in more important matters. One thing i know that a feminist (man or woman) knows is that there’s always much more than sex. It accepts the idea that sex is a shallow aspect of a relationship. Theres much more than that.
“It was just a social experiement!”
I smell a banning coming on.
Tigtog, my comment which guys? was not meant to sound so snippy. There’s Nice Guys—who only see women like some kind of coin-operated slot machine, where you put in a few nice moments and sex is the payoff—and genuinely decent guys, who might—just maybe—understand that all women are different, but that you can’t go wrong with actually listening to her, paying attention to her, and so on.
Ah, those guys. Well, basically, they might be more common on the internet than in real life, but I don’t know. I’m getting to an interesting stage in life, where cops have told me that I’m intimidating because I carry myself like the soldier I once was. If that’s all it takes….
Then, too, it’s a lot easier to spot this stuff in real life, now, too. I’m just out of patience with it.
” .. It’s not like there is an approach. There is a whole frame of mind about women not being really different from you and just being human and a general respect for other humans, whatever their gender that some people have other people don’t and if you have it, then no worries. … ”
I wish someone had told me that when I was 17. Or at least that I was smart enough to have worked it out by myself.
[…] he isn’t trying to rape anyone, what he is saying is that he just wants to be having hot sex and he wants to be a hot partner so he doesn’t want to kill the excitement by stopping and asking her to sign a consent […]
Seems to me that empowering women does not occur when men are “re-educated” on how to better please or serve women.
Empowerment comes from doing something for yourself. This is true for just about every problem women face. It is clear that women have been unhappy and dissatisfied with the job men have been doing. So why not learn how to do it yourself?
What I mean is, wouldn’t women’s own sexual fulfillment be empowered if they were taught to ask men out on dates? The notion that women shouldn’t or cannot is an archaic patriarchal notion. Women should take it upon themselves to ask men out and to learn how that can be empowering to their own relationship and sexual destinies.
The moment a woman abdicates responsibility for something she also gives up control and isn’t the major gripe of feminism that men control everything? Well men don’t have to control sex or dating if women get off their collective butts and do it themselves.
It’s also clear that the majority of men aren’t going to read this blog or pay attention to “feminist” “re-education” as you call it simply because enough feminism over the past 40 years has been extremely negative and dehumanizing towards men and has not lead to a more equal society. This may not be the most popular statement but there is a reason so few women in society will call themselves a feminist.
In other words if men can’t do something right then do it yourselves. There will be no mistake about a woman’s intentions when she says, “Hey wanna go up to my place as F@#$?”. And as long as she’s calling the shots then she’ll never follow a guy to a bar and get too drunk or follow him to his dorm room “just to get a jacket” or “just for a coffee” or “just to make an excuse to get you alone”.
Patriarchy is and has always been “male control”. Feminists cannot abolish patriarchy by asking men to “control” things even if it’s on their behalf or benefit.
Jean Valjean, what exactly does your comment have to do with the topic of this post? This post was in response to men actually asking how they could express sexual interest in women in a feminist/non-sexist way, because they had identified this as a problem in how they had learnt to interact with women.
Where is there any assumption , other than in your very own head, that women couldn’t/shouldn’t ask men out if they are sexually interested in them?
As Jesse Jackson would say, “The question is moot!”.
Men who consider themselves feminists shouldn’t be looking for ways to better serve women but rather they should look for ways to empower women.
Men taking control of dating and sexual initiation empowers men not women. When women take control of these things men no longer have to worry about if they are being offensive or sexually harassing women. It’s clear women know how it should be done. Then do it and you’ll never have to worry about some unskilled man making inappropriate comments while trying to be funny or asking a woman out.
Furthermore, men who consider themselves feminists shouldn’t be using feminist ideas and ideals as a vehicle for getting laid.
That’s what it has to do the the original question.
As Kandela just wrote, this is not about who has “control of dating”.
This is about people expressing sexual interest in each other. Which is a natural thing for both men and women to want to do.
Of course women should ask men out too. That doesn’t mean men should stop asking women out though. Both men and women are going to ask each other out, and need to know how to do that in a way that doesn’t reinforce patriarchy. That’s the point here, not who should do the asking.
I am kind of hesitant to comment on this for various reasons so I’m sorry if I’m doing something bad or annoying. I probably wouldn’t comment but the comment policy says we are encouraged to comment on old posts so I guess I’m being encouraged since this is pretty old.
Anyway first off thank you for this site. I’ve noticed A LOT of things I did a 2-3+ years ago that I’m not too proud of having done and it helps me avoid a relapse when it’s laid out like this. And I learn some new things too.
Anyway, I like a lot of things about this discussion, but I also notice that it’s exclusionary in some ways. For instance, I like the idea with tigtog in particular about basically approaching people as someone you’d like to be around and then going from there if you both want to in terms of dating, but I’m also wondering where that leaves people like me who can’t have too many friends because we’re trying to deal with being disabled and working/going to college/exist in a hostile environment. This means that there is just not tons of energy to run around being friends with everyone. I actually have not had a close friend in 3 or 4 years I think and I do miss it, but my other goals are more important to me. At other points in my life I have had 1 or 2 friends but that was about all I could handle. So like what do people like me do if they want to date someone but being a friend is already a huge investment and they can’t do it with just anybody? Are we just not fit for dating?
I also was uncomfortable with Fred’s whole thing about just reading body language because that’s so easy, when it’s not easy for me due to my specific disability (autism). Or “direct eye contact is a great sign” because I hardly ever make direct eye contact. I used to do that, but it interferes with my ability to listen to what people are saying and it flat out makes me uncomfortable. If someone was blind or something this stuff would be an issue too so it’s not just me or just “social skills” or whatever. I know you all didn’t have “you people” (us) in mind when writing this stuff and where talking about what people who can do these things should do, but other people exist too and I guess I would like the acknowledged more often.
By the way this is not really a personal issue for me directly in that I don’t and have never dated, but it’s still really negative to see people say that, for instance, they would never date some who doesn’t make eye contact. Even though I don’t want to date them, it’s sort of saying “I don’t care about your interests or beliefs or personality or even your looks, none of that matters if you can’t make eye contact while holding on a conversation with me.” That just feels like a huge erasure of me as a person and the sorts of rejection people have mostly talked about here seem like a huge acknowledgement of people as a person in that light. I mean you’re actually recognizing that they’re not physically attractive, they are bigoted, don’t have shared interests, etc etc, so the people are more real. (this is not a male specific issue by the way)
I’m really not trying to criticize anyone because I think if most people thought like this it would be a great paradigm shift and I even say some similar things myself. Like I’ve said “someone wanting to be friends with you is not something to upset about” and I really believe that, but I still wonder what these various barriers mean and what can be done about them. I’m hoping that maybe some people here have some ideas. Of course I know that really disabled people aren’t “supposed” to date, we’re just supposed to sit in a corner somewhere inspiring people. But you know.
Sorry if this is too long or too off topic.
In relation to the original article: I suspect that any men who try to do ANYTHING in a feminist way usually make themselves look a bit ridiculous, as though they’re trying to seek approval. Certainly I can think of times that both feminist and non-feminist women have mocked or insulted men like that (behind their backs).
Can’t men simply be strong, not seek approval or political correctness, and be kind, intelligent, respectful and strong? Be a good listener, but have enough going on in their heads to be interesting themselves? And it wouldn’t hurt to NOT NEED SEX (ie look after your own needs) until its going to happen anyway, because neediness is unpleasant for both parties.
My biggest turn off is about guys who comes to talk to me just because i’m a girl, not because they find me interesting.
I just want to yell : “You tried 2 other girls in the room before coming to me, how i’m supposed to feel impressed and pleased now ?”
Some are more subtile, but it’s usually easy to see if they’re just trying to find a girl, not the girl, because they won’t be interested in what you say, and if you say that you’re taken they’ll answer “Who cares ?” or just leave.
Seriously. Women are not kleenex you buy in a mall.