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?