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October 23, 2012 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Can I Buy You a Coffee? "Harassment isn’t once. Harassment comes from a lifetime of dealing with people constantly doing things to you, whether you wanted them or not, at random intervals. You learn not to trust people. And what might have been pleasant, once, as an isolated incident, starts to feel pretty oppressive when it’s something you deal with on a weekly basis. It changes you, and then guys call you bitchy when you don’t feel like playing along and pretending this is just about the coffee."
posted by sweetkid (509 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like Starbucks isn't a library!
posted by hellphish at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But...but...men's rights! Or genetic wiring. Or something.

Seriously, this is an awesome article, and I love the way she set it up by using religious proselytizing as a metaphor for unwanted sexual advances.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's actually written by a man. And the comments section is pretty interesting (for once).
posted by sweetkid at 3:35 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Preach! Or, um don't...
posted by vegartanipla at 3:35 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yet, STILL, there was a need for a followup: "But If I Can't Buy You A Coffee How Will Our Species Reproduce?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


It's actually written by a man.

You're right.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad that this man is explaining how I, as a woman, feel about men.
posted by mochapickle at 3:38 PM on October 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's very weird when separate parts of my Internet life show up on the Blue. (I occasionally read The Ferrett's LJ as he is friends with a favorite author of mine.)
posted by Kitteh at 3:38 PM on October 23, 2012


Nice analogy, but he needs to work the threat of force in there somehow. Also he should've set it somewhere other than a coffee shop because now I want coffee.
posted by contraption at 3:38 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad that this man is explaining how I, as a woman, feel about men.

I think this is a little unfair. He's making a point to other men.
posted by sweetkid at 3:40 PM on October 23, 2012 [86 favorites]


From the followup post, linked above:

"The overall reaction from men is a whiny, “But I’m being nice!” No, sir, you are not. You’re buying a coffee to try to get in her pants. The whole “What a nice guy I am!” aspect makes it easier for you to approach an intimidating situation, but let’s not romanticize this moment. You’re not paying a compliment to that old, unattractive woman, or sharing your love of Terry Pratchett books with that dude over there. You’re trying to buy five minutes of a cute woman’s time via a combination of guilt and gift-giving. Jeez, what a prince you are!"
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [94 favorites]


argh, so conflicted. On the one hand, I agree with his point. On the other hand, omg-people-who-work-in-coffee-shops-and-feel-like-they-have-the-right-to-a-clean-quiet-peaceful-personal-environment-there-for-8-hours-a-day.
posted by jacalata at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is crass of me, and missing the point, but...

“Excuse me,” she asked. “Can I buy you a coffee?”

[...] I told her sure.

She brought me a nice iced chai, and sat down next to me, and then asked, “So have you heard about Jesus?”


Ugh. "If I say yes, will you start talking about Buddha or something? 'Cause I'm still waiting for my coffee."
posted by Sys Rq at 3:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


I just had some coffee. It was pretty good, for coffee that's been sitting in the office pot for hours.

I liked this. And I'm reading the follow-up, and liking that one, too.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on October 23, 2012


I'm so glad that this man is explaining how I, as a woman, feel about men.

Hell, if the men ain't listening to US, then maybe they'll listen to another guy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [23 favorites]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2012


You were bothering a woman in a clear attempt to get something from her.

As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.
posted by the jam at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [78 favorites]


I think he did a decent job and the analogy has some utility.
posted by Miko at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Compare and contrast the comments to "how can we reproduce article" to ours on the article about online dating. This paragraph rings kinda hollow in light of that:

Will the human race die out without your botheration? Well, maybe it would have in the past, but now there’s this thing called “OKCupid,” where like-minded people can specifically search each other out for romance. While I appreciate your concern for the future of humanity, I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way to get by if you don’t call out, “Hey, you so beautiful!” on the street corner.

I also find it funny they went from talking to someone in a coffee shop to catcalls.
posted by zabuni at 3:48 PM on October 23, 2012


I haven't read the article yet (shame on me), but it may be worth noting that the author is The Ferret of Open Source Boob Project [mefi previously] fame/infamy.
posted by hackwolf at 3:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

It is a common problem for women on EARTH.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [107 favorites]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

FTFY.

As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

Did you RTFA? He deals with that.
posted by Miko at 3:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


anywhere a woman wants a quiet moment to herself in public, there is a problem of being hit on. public transit, libraries, coffee shops, walking down the street, waiting in line at the post office...
posted by nadawi at 3:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


And if you keep bugging women just because they happen to be within eyesight, then you send the none-too-subtle message that “A woman showing up in public means that she’s fair game.” Which means she’s not a person, but an antelope in a game preserve.

By George, he gets it.
posted by ambrosia at 3:49 PM on October 23, 2012 [59 favorites]


As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

Did you RTFA? He deals with that.


He deals with it in the followup, not the main post.
posted by aubilenon at 3:51 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aren't we all just antelopes, trying to get by?
posted by hellphish at 3:52 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the article yet (shame on me), but it may be worth noting that the author is The Ferret of Open Source Boob Project [mefi previously] fame/infamy.

That is surprising and definitely worth noting.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:53 PM on October 23, 2012


From his follow-up:

And even if you’re really nice about it, recognize that hundreds of men have done this before, and this may not go over well. If she rejects you coldly, she is not a bitch. That’s on you, chum. You took a shot, knowing full well you might irritate her, and lo you got exactly what you deserved. Don’t tell yourself the story that “I was just trying to buy her a present!” because you were not. You were bothering a woman in a clear attempt to get something from her.


Also: As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

Why? I mean, you are trying to get something from that stranger, right? Whether it's the time, an answer to if you're at the right bus stop, or the attention/phone number of an attractive stranger, you're trying to get something from them. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but don't pretend like it's something completely else.
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


He deals with it in the followup, not the main post.

Oops! True. Read the followup!
posted by Miko at 3:55 PM on October 23, 2012


hackwolf: "I haven't read the article yet (shame on me), but it may be worth noting that the author is The Ferret of Open Source Boob Project [mefi previously] fame/infamy."



huh. I'm surprised to have such a good article from someone with that on their record.
posted by rebent at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

Well, yes.

As a woman I'm pretty grateful for this analogy, because I've been trying to find a way to explain the low-level frustration of this kind of thing to men forever. I'm glad a man wrote this blog post, because it gives me hope that other men can and will bother to understand.

As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

As a shy woman, I really don't want guys trying to chat me up on the bus, train, in coffee shops, at the library, or anywhere else where I'm trapped or trying to focus. (Obviously non-shy women often feel the same.) I really don't want to be proselytized to in public, either about Jesus or your dick. So if you have the opportunity to chat with a woman in public, chat with her the same way you would with a man. It is that simple. Keep it light, casual, and short, the same courtesy you would offer to a fellow non-female human.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [36 favorites]


I definitely feel like I am from another generation. I "met" many people in coffee shops in my younger years. Sometimes I started the conversation, sometimes they did. If I didn't want the conversation to continue I told them so. If they didn't want to continue the conversation, then it was obvious.
On the green people always encourage questioners to look for love in safe places like coffee shops.
Okay- go ahead and hit me with your best shot.
posted by Isadorady at 3:57 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


huh, I had no idea about that Boob Project thing.
posted by sweetkid at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2012


I definitely feel like I am from another generation. I "met" many people in coffee shops in my younger years. Sometimes I started the conversation, sometimes they did. If I didn't want the conversation to continue I told them so. If they didn't want to continue the conversation, then it was obvious.

I think that's the more important message here; it's, "If someone doesn't want to be chatted up, respect that and leave them alone," not "DO NOT TALK TO ANY STRANGERS EVER."
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


I "met" many people in coffee shops in my younger years. Sometimes I started the conversation, sometimes they did. If I didn't want the conversation to continue I told them so. If they didn't want to continue the conversation, then it was obvious.

A big point in the article is that it's important to understand if the other person wants to continue the communication or now. So it sounds like you did things correctly.
posted by sweetkid at 3:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I "met" many people in coffee shops in my younger years. Sometimes I started the conversation, sometimes they did. If I didn't want the conversation to continue I told them so. If they didn't want to continue the conversation, then it was obvious.

There are men for whom a lack of interest is either not obvious, or is something that they ignore. It is for these men that this article has been written.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [24 favorites]



I think that's the more important message here; it's, "If someone doesn't want to be chatted up, respect that and leave them alone," not "DO NOT TALK TO ANY STRANGERS EVER."


Exactly, how can people not understand the difference between these two things?
posted by sweetkid at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't mind chatting with people in coffee shops. The problem is when they're not talking to me as a person but as a woman, and don't give up, because they are single-mindedly set on getting me to date-mode. Which isn't going to happen. And I'm not going to be all "NO I WILL NOT GO ON A DATE WITH YOU" before they drop the bomb because everyone agrees that's rude and presumptuous behavior, so yeah, I don't know. Maybe guys who try to flirt in coffee shops have worse social skills these days.

I even endorse flirting in coffee shops to a certain degree, but not with women/people who are obviously actively reading or working, it's just not cool.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the followup (which is really starting to feel like recommended reading because he deals with most first-tier objections) he explicity says
There are those who think you should never ever approach a stranger in public; I’m not one of them. But if you take the attitude of, “Hey, anything could happen, might as well take my shot,” then you are being a dick to women. What you should do is size up the situation: is this a space conducive to strangers talking to each other? Does she look involved in something else? Does her body language say she’s receptive? Would this friendly approach look threatening if she had no clue as to your intent? (Because despite your peppy smile, she does not.)

If all of those clues don’t add up, then fucking walk away. Give her the privilege of being a person, and not some slot machine for you to take your shot at.

And even if you’re really nice about it, recognize that hundreds of men have done this before, and this may not go over well. If she rejects you coldly, she is not a bitch. That’s on you, chum. You took a shot, knowing full well you might irritate her, and lo you got exactly what you deserved. Don’t tell yourself the story that “I was just trying to buy her a present!” because you were not. You were bothering a woman in a clear attempt to get something from her.

As I said, I don’t think you should never approach a stranger in public. But I think you should carefully consider it, because some people do think you should never approach a stranger in public, and the rest usually don’t like to be bothered. So the hitting on people should be a rarity, that time when all the planets align.
posted by Miko at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm surprised to have such a good article from someone with that on their record.

The OSBP was a colossal fail in so, so many ways, but the Ferret actually did a pretty good job demonstrating in his Livejournal that he understood what the fail was, and learning from it. I'm not surprised he's the author of this.
posted by fatbird at 4:02 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


We did this at great length a couple of years ago, and the advice came from a woman instead of from a guy whose primary claim to fame appears to be an "open source" effort to cop a feel.
posted by The Bellman at 4:03 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, word to that follow-up. So spot on. Better than I could explain it myself, actually. I do feel like a human slot machine when guys pull this stuff on me.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:04 PM on October 23, 2012


I'm impressed that after Ferrett's previous drama, he came out with this. Good for him.

I really hate that I'm supposed to "pretend" that it's all about the coffee and a nice chat. You're there to get in my pants, correct? That's what you're going for, whether I want to or not. You're trying to rent/bribe me or something in order to get in my pants?

I am very rarely attracted to anyone, so that makes this kind of thing awkward. Sometimes I just want to cut to the chase and say, "Look, I don't want to fuck you. Sorry. I haven't wanted to fuck any dude who's been interested in me in a billion years and you are not the streak breaker either. Giving you "a chance"* is not going to make me want to nail you now, I swear. Sorry." Except then I'd get really terrifying scary reactions from dudes, so I don't.

* i.e. the other one I always get browbeaten with an anvil about. I used to hand out a billion chances and 99% of the guys I've dated I had zero interest in, and I didn't get more sexually interested by "getting to know them better." Plus then I'd led them on with a date because then they reasonably thought I liked them back because I said yes. Not doing this any more.

posted by jenfullmoon at 4:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the OSBP was horrible, but whenever I've been linked to the Ferret's stuff since I've been impressed, and I really enjoyed his short story "Run," Bakri says (which I didn't know was his at first), so I've decided that it looks like he learned his lesson about that.

There also seems to be a good argument that men aren't listening to women when they say these things, and even though they should be, well, there's an aspect of the perfect as the enemy of the good if we insist men shouldn't be the ones speaking for women ever.
posted by jeather at 4:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


[It will shock no one that this is a topic that gets kind of personal for some folks, but let's just kind of keep it cool in here please.]
posted by cortex at 4:07 PM on October 23, 2012


The Bellman, I think this is a different issue. I usually don't feel threatened at a coffee shop (though I definitely do, sometimes, fuckers), but it's worth saying "hey could you quit just bothering women all the time, you're as annoying as a fucking checklist evangelical" too, IMO.

And yeah, fuck that open source thing, but this was well done so I don't really care who the author was. Maybe it will be passed down through the ages attributed to anonymous or King Solomon or something.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:08 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was just trying to find that thread. But in fact that wasn't the one I wanted to find: it was "My Fault, I'm Female," with a ton and a half of stories about being bothered in public, asked to "Smile!," etc.

I distinguish between fear ("this guy might be a creep who is gonna try to hurt me") and just not wanting to be bothered, though. There's the thing, discussed at length in that thread and later ones, of women kind of being considered public property and fair game and expected to contribute to the comfort and entertainment of men, just by virtue of being female. Even if the guy is totally harmless, it hardly matters whether their intent is to actually get your number or their intent is to get a little ego hit by making you react to them. You're asking for somebody's attention - if you're doing it to satisfy your need for attention and no other reason, you're probably not enriching their lives.

I actually really like neighborly moments between strangers and have met some nice people by initially connecting with them as strangers, but I feel that I can always tell when I'm being given respect as an equal and when someone's seeking something from me that's a lot more about them and what they want and a lot less considerate of me and what I'm doing at the moment.
posted by Miko at 4:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [28 favorites]


As a somewhat shy guy, why someone would do something like this is beyond me. If I'm in a coffee shop, it's because I'm buying coffee or I'm trying to work; either way, I'm not interested in being disturbed. It seems obvious to me that trying to pick up women in a public setting like a coffee shop is not a good idea, but then I have an aversion to talking to any stranger in public, so I guess there's that.

But as someone who has basically no experience with talking to women outside of work or friendships, articles like this just reinforce my hangups over, "Am I doing this right? Is this inappropriate? Am I coming off as a creeper? Am I being too subtle? If I was just blunt about it, would I come off as a douchebag?"
posted by Noms_Tiem at 4:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


On one hand, I agree with most of the points he's making. On the other hand, this whole attitude of "omg strangers talking to you or doing questionably nice things for you are only doing it because they want something" is really not helping to build community and make people less fearful of each other.

I am a very happily married, fairly fabulous gay man. When I hold the door for a woman, or tell her how nice she looks today, or offer to pay for her coffee when I'm next in line and she can't find any cash... yeah. I'm not doing these things because I want to get in her pants (because, eww), I'm doing these things because it's nice to do nice things for other people, and there have been times when someone picked up my coffee or held the door for me, and that small thing totally turned a shitty day around for me.

I get that a lot of time there are ulterior motives, but it's unfair to paint it as being so all the time.
posted by xedrik at 4:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [33 favorites]


Why? I mean, you are trying to get something from that stranger, right? Whether it's the time, an answer to if you're at the right bus stop, or the attention/phone number of an attractive stranger, you're trying to get something from them. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but don't pretend like it's something completely else.

I don't think this is helping. Or the slightest bit human or humane. Economists and Objectivists undoubtedly adore the assumption that all human interaction is inherently about acquisition and sales.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


Many years ago, I was sitting in a cafe talking to a friend when a guy wandered up to make some kind of "you look pretty" opening gambit to me. I told him, fairly curtly, that I was talking to my friend, and not interested in a conversation with him. He was annoyed, called me a bitch, and wandered away again, at which point my friend chided me about how mean I was to the guy. My female friend. Who then went on to imply that I was rude because a) I wasn't as used to being bothered as [by implication, more attractive] her; b) I could have been 'nicer' and c) maybe that guy was intellectually delayed in some way, why would I be so nasty to that poor guy.

I don't think I'm unique in feeling that the mere fact of my being female means there is some kind of social compact that I must always be friendly and receptive to any male advance, ever, anywhere; but apparently there are people, male and female both, who think that I should.

I liked the articles a lot.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [24 favorites]


My daughter gets hit on rather regularly at work (used book store) to include being asked out by, as she puts it, "creepy guys."


Don't be a creepy guy. In general (I realize there are exceptions) it is always best to approach people that you already know for dates. Because if we don't know you, dude, you are the creepy guy. Back in my day it was that way as well. Only the creepy guys tried to pick me up. Decent nice fellows got to know me first.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems like it really doesn't matter how eloquently this whole concept is explained, though. No one likes people coming to their front door to sell them cleaning products or tell them about the Lord. No one likes getting called by telemarketers when they're trying to eat dinner. No one likes being accosted on the street by the homeless person who wants to explain their theory about how the world is being invaded by aggressive warbles or whatever.

In short, no one likes to have their space and privacy and previous enjoyable activity interrupted at random so they can be forced to interact with a stranger who wants something from them.

But a subset of people still continue to think that when THEY are the stranger, and the thing they want is sex, that suddenly it's a COMPLETELY different situation.

If I'm at a cleaning products conference maybe I want to hear about cleaning products. If I'm at church maybe I want to hear about God. If I'm sitting in a bar alone, forlornly making eyes at all who pass, perhaps I want to be hit on. But otherwise, please, assume the answer is no.
posted by crackingdes at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [27 favorites]


I have been a little stressed recently, and I am feeling very hostile to the entire world. Yes, I probably would. It would be a nice cathartic moment, I think.

Of course, that wouldn't happen often. But if you want to just randomly play the odds like that, sometimes it'll explode in your face.
posted by jacalata at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2012


xedrik, I think I'd be able to tell the difference between your behavior and the Nice Guy's. You probably aren't looking for an "in" or a way to extend the conversation when you open a door for a lady or compliment her outfit or pay for her coffee in the event of an emergency. You're being nice and then you're out and done. You probably don't follow the lady back to her table and cop a squat and hang around for a half hour after being nice. The Nice Guy thinks that kind of behavior should be putting money into a machine so he can get sex later and he's waiting around on his investment. That's not you, so you're good.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


I (male) love the evangelical analogy.

I hadn't realised he was the same fellow as the OSBP, but reading back to that it's clear that he was definitely interested in gaining consent, and establishing a space where regular fears about sex and attraction didn't apply. I definitely agree with the criticism of it, but I think it came from naivety more than sleaziness. It's wonderful to see he's come to this point now.
posted by twirlypen at 4:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


So the hitting on people should be a rarity, that time when all the planets align.

The problem with this is that talking with strangers is a social skill, and skills require development and practice. If you only talk with strangers, say, once a month, and only talk with a stranger you're really attracted to, say, once a year, you're going to be HORRIBLE at it. You'll come off non-confident, awkward, probably even creepy, not just because you're simply bad at it, but also because you're really invested in the outcome of the conversation -- "The planets aligned! This is my one big chance!!"

The more you talk with strangers, the better you will be at talking with strangers. And the better you are at talking with strangers, the more welcome your conversation will be.
posted by LordSludge at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


I get that a lot of time there are ulterior motives, but it's unfair to paint it as being so all the time.

But he's NOT, though.

I am a very happily married, fairly fabulous gay man. When I hold the door for a woman, or tell her how nice she looks today, or offer to pay for her coffee when I'm next in line and she can't find any cash... yeah. I'm not doing these things because I want to get in her pants (because, eww), I'm doing these things because it's nice to do nice things for other people, and there have been times when someone picked up my coffee or held the door for me, and that small thing totally turned a shitty day around for me.

And if you were to do them for me, I would be able to tell that you are being altruistic about it. Many women can tell the difference between altruism and ulterior motive.

If your motives are indeed pure altruism, this article isn't talking to you. Don't worry. You're fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Is there any way to make this required reading? A public service message, maybe? YouTube video that goes viral?
posted by she's not there at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

Well, it has happened to me, and as a non-coffee-drinker, I spend very little time in coffee shops. So either my experience was statistically improbable, or it is a common occurrence. And yes, to me it was a problem, because I wasn't there to hook up with strangers and it was bothersome to have to fend off the attempt.

I agree with stoneandstar: the human slot machine analogy rings true.
posted by Orinda at 4:21 PM on October 23, 2012


When I hold the door for a woman, or tell her how nice she looks today, or offer to pay for her coffee when I'm next in line and she can't find any cash... yeah. I'm not doing these things because I want to get in her pants (because, eww), I'm doing these things because it's nice to do nice things for other people, and there have been times when someone picked up my coffee or held the door for me, and that small thing totally turned a shitty day around for me.

The issue isn't doing polite things; it's picking and choosing who you do "nice" things for based on how sexually attractive you find the recipient. When you hold the door for a woman, or when I stop and help an old man in a wheelchair get over the bump in the sidewalk, it's not because we're trying to tap that and it doesn't matter what the recipient looks like or what we think we can get out of them. The guy zeroing in like a homing missile on any young, attractive woman while ignoring everyone else around him is what's gross.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:24 PM on October 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


The problem with this is that it's creating rules for people who think they don't need to follow rules1. The other problem is that it's creating rules for people who really think they need to follow rules2.

The actual point is: use your best judgement, but only if your best judgement is any good. I'm not sure how helpful or actionable that is.


1. Guys who hit on everything that moves
2. Guys who are shy and have no clue how to interact with women

posted by danny the boy at 4:27 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


When I was in high school, I once went to a backyard kegger at a friend's house. At some point in the evening, a classmate who I didn't know that well approached me and asked me out. I was pretty new to the school, and had no real reason to think that he wouldn't be a fun date or even just a cool guy to spend time with (or kiss!). But I said "no thanks." He was quickly followed, laughing, by his buddy who explained to me that the guy was asking out every girl at the party just to see how many strikeouts he could gather.

I was relieved that I hadn't been made a fool of by being more welcoming to the guy, but even at 16, my spidey sense was strong enough to know that The Guy Who Hits on You Out of the Blue Is Probably Not Really Interested in You for YOU.
posted by argonauta at 4:28 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, to be fair, he doesn't sound like someone I would want to have coffee with, so.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:29 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

It is a common problem for women on EARTH.


Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate universe. I'm young and not hideous and I never, ever, ever EVER get hit on in public places like starbucks, etc. (even pre the wedding ring). It's hard for me to believe this happens, though of course, I accept that it does.

I think I give off a strong "don't talk to me" vibe.
posted by murfed13 at 4:31 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


To me, it's not unlike those people who are hired to stand on busy streets and promote causes or sell things or get you to try their new product. Usually with some gimmick. "HEY, YOU THERE! DO YOU LIKE ORANGES?! Have a piece of fruit while I tell you about our new bank loans!" That sort of thing.

Except that it's not a busy street. You're the only one on it, or at least the only one who meets the target demographic. And this street vendor is actively standing in front of you or walking with you so that there is no possible way you can continue to move in the direction you were moving, alone. So you have to play the charade about the "free" something that you don't want and they think you won't be able to refuse. Which in a sense you can't, without violating social norms or such. And so you're like, crap, now I have to do this dance of rejecting something (or someone) I don't want without breaking social ettiquette and I'm only in this stupid scenario because somebody tricked me here and they know it and I know it and it's totally ridiculous buy hey we'll all play along until it's game over for at least one of us.

And so now imagine that this happens at least once on your way home, almost every single day. Even with earphones on or a pack of friends at your side, you still see the vendor from 20 paces and think to yourself, "Oh god, not this again."

After a while, you might decide to make choices around this possible scenario. Like going to a less tasty but more out of the way coffee shop, or taking the other, longer route home, whatever. It's stupid and anxiety-making, and doesn't need to exist at all, really.

I also think that in the long run, these types of impositions and annoyances make socializing and dating much more difficult and potentially unpleasant for everyone.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:33 PM on October 23, 2012 [24 favorites]


The more you talk with strangers, the better you will be at talking with strangers.

it's not anyone's job to be a practice dummy, especially since a great big heap of that practice seems to focus intently on women who are sexually appealing to the person looking for practice.

i am a 31 year old married woman who is overweight. recently a guy who was working at the grocery store i was walking through said "you behaving yourself today, young lady?" in that creepy, paternalistic, stare down my shirt sort of way. it happens far less often these days and for that i'm grateful. i don't envy 18 year old women at all.
posted by nadawi at 4:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


I've never, ever tried hitting on someone at a coffee shop. But once I noticed that a stranger had a big ole makeup smudge on her face. I'm not the kind of person who lets someone walk around with toilet paper stuck to their shoe, so I went over to tell her. The "oh no not again" look that she had on her face told me pretty much everything I needed to know about this kind of thing. It's also why my "tactic" at bars, when I was single, was to laugh and talk to my friends and enjoy myself and not try to hit on anyone who didn't come talk to me first. That worked out fine.

She was grateful about the smudge, btw.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:38 PM on October 23, 2012


But if you take the attitude of, “Hey, anything could happen, might as well take my shot,” then you are being a dick to women.

I'm confused as to how this is supposed to be working here.

If I'm in line, and am casually chatting with an attractive woman and my turn comes up, if at that point, I say, 'hey, can I buy you a coffee', clearly in hopes of continuing the conversation and seeing what happens, I'm a 'dick'?

'Cause that seems a bit extreme.

Or are we talking about just sitting down at a table and offering? 'Cause, yeah, that's a bit overbearing.

Can someone who is still dating clarify this for me?

(Granted, I haven't dated in years, but if that's the way it is now, I'd better never get divorced.)
posted by madajb at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


1adam12, that reminds me of a story I read, I think on mefi, maybe somewhere else, about a person who, when they wanted to work without interruption, would stick a piece of knotted string or dental floss up one nostril and let it dangle.
posted by rebent at 4:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


So never approach a woman I don't know in public for any reason whatsoever. Good to know. I would only ask the same courtesy of you ladies of course. The last thing I need is some woman hitting on me trying to get my money. I'm also married and my wife might have words with the offending lady.

And for gods sakes whatever you ladies do don't travel in Latin America or the Arab world.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:42 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


No article is going to change this type of behavior for one simple reason: it works.

Now don't shoot the messenger!
posted by roquetuen at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


So never approach a woman I don't know in public for any reason whatsoever. Good to know.

Nope, no, this has been addressed ad nauseam already, this is not the point, you're either not paying attention or you're deliberately misunderstanding.
posted by clockzero at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [50 favorites]


I'm in line, and am casually chatting with an attractive woman and my turn comes up, if at that point, I say, 'hey, can I buy you a coffee', clearly in hopes of continuing the conversation and seeing what happens, I'm a 'dick'?

'Cause that seems a bit extreme.

Or are we talking about just sitting down at a table and offering? 'Cause, yeah, that's a bit overbearing.


Presumably, if you are already chatting with a woman, then she has been chatting with you and is clearly interested in chatting with you. This is called "reading her signals," and you have read them successfully to ascertain she is interested in further engagement. That is fine.

What we are referring to is the sitting down at a table and offering. You are correct in assessing that it is overbearing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


murfed13, you aren't alone. I read these threads and feel the same way. And when someone says people like us are lucky, somehow that just makes it even more strange, even if it's true.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


madajb: If you're in a line talking to someone, and you are BOTH smiling and enjoying the conversation, sure, why not? If the woman is not looking at you while you talk/smiling fixedly/actively ignoring you/telling you to leave her alone, then obviously, no. I'm sure you can see the difference between continuing a mutually enjoyed conversation, and randomly thrusting yourself into someone's day.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I'm in line, and am casually chatting with an attractive woman and my turn comes up, if at that point, I say, 'hey, can I buy you a coffee', clearly in hopes of continuing the conversation and seeing what happens, I'm a 'dick'?

No, because if she is into the conversation then it's OK to take it forward. Her consent/interest is the important part. The extremely important part.

Does this make sense?

This is the scenario I think of when I read things like this, and how I'm sure other women experience it:

Man: "Hi, you're beautiful, can I buy you a coffee?"
Woman: " No, thanks I'm on my way to work/picking up a kid/waiting for doctor's results, but thanks."
Man: "Do you live around here?"
Woman: "Um...hey I'm in a hurry..."
Man: "How old are you? Where do you live? You are really beautiful."

Woman gets up to move.

Man: "Come on I'm being nice to you. I just want to buy you a coffee, is that a crime? You're ugly anway, stupid bitch!"

And like, that, everyday, all the time.

Sometimes I take a deep breath before I leave the apartment building.
posted by sweetkid at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [35 favorites]


I think I give off a strong "don't talk to me" vibe.
posted by murfed13 at 7:31 PM on October 23 [+] [!]


With practice I have managed to cultivate Fuck Off Mode. It is a particular mix of "bitchface", forceful, focused walking style, and a exceptionally curt tone of voice. It may sound more exaggerated than it actually is--it just isn't super-smiley and relaxed. There is a definite difference between the number of times I'm approached and the persistence of the approacher depending on whether Fuck Off Mode is engaged. I think some women are lucky enough to naturally exist in Fuck Off Mode while in public, and so do not get to experience the shithead onslaught.


If I'm in line, and am casually chatting with an attractive woman and my turn comes up, if at that point, I say, 'hey, can I buy you a coffee', clearly in hopes of continuing the conversation and seeing what happens, I'm a 'dick'?

So never approach a woman I don't know in public for any reason whatsoever. Good to know.

Did you read the article? The guy made it perfectly clear it did not concern coffee-buying where he is already engaged in animated, flirtatious interactions with the woman. He is sitting at a table, doing his own thing, then the woman barges in, buys him a coffee, then brings up Jesus. Now switch the genders and pretend "Jesus" means "sex". Oh look! That has no relation to your example at all!
posted by schroedinger at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate universe. I'm young and not hideous and I never, ever, ever EVER get hit on in public places like starbucks, etc. (even pre the wedding ring). It's hard for me to believe this happens, though of course, I accept that it does.

I think I give off a strong "don't talk to me" vibe.


Me too, sister! Once in a while, a really choice specimen of obnoxiousness will power through the brick wall of my "do NOT talk to me" face. See: getting complimented on my boots (not a typo and I had never realized that a guy could inflect a shoe compliment with such bare horniness) and then called a "whore bitch" for failing to respond.
posted by sallybrown at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2012


you're either not paying attention or you're deliberately misunderstanding

It is very painfully obviously the latter.
posted by elizardbits at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


I remember pre-boob project Ferret, when he wrote articles on multiplayer strategy for Magic the Gathering. I think you can still see some of the foundations of those articles in his later writing on interpersonal relationships - the OSBP felt very much inspired by a rules-based "if you do X, then Y will counter" system, while this is much more a "know the table and the order of play" feel.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:49 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


No article is going to change this type of behavior for one simple reason: it works.

Now don't shoot the messenger!


Like this? From my previous example:


Man: "Hi, you're beautiful, can I buy you a coffee?"
Woman: " No, thanks I'm on my way to work/picking up a kid/waiting for doctor's results, but thanks."
Man: "Do you live around here?"
Woman: "Um...hey I'm in a hurry..."
Man: "How old are you? Where do you live? You are really beautiful."


This works?
posted by sweetkid at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm confused as to how this is supposed to be working here.

if i were single and in line with you and we were having a nice conversation, i'd like it if you let me buy my own coffee and then you invite me to come have a seat. this doesn't make me feel like i "owe" you something and you still make your intentions clear.

the complaint is - a guy will make some sort of weird comment about your smile your shoes or whatever and then offer to buy you coffee and then follow you back to your table - or buy you coffee and just sit down where you are already sitting - or not buy you a coffee, but corner you into a conversation - or beyond this article, pull the ear buds out of your ear when you pretend to ignore them.

what a lot of us are asking for is for people to not approach us with lines or rouses to get our attention, but to talk to us like we were of your same gender and you thought our superhero shirt was cool. start the conversation off neutrally so you can gauge interest. check in to make sure the other person is actually participating in the conversation and isn't answering with a lot of nods and looking away.

on my side, as a woman who likes shy, nerdy people and understand the difficulties shy, nerdy guys have - i try to be open in public and say hi first sometimes. i try to extend the branch of neighborly/friendly conversations in public. i find it hard sometimes though, because when i'm being focused on in an uncomfortable way, it makes me want to extend everyone less benefit of the doubt. i would love it if the friends of guys who do this would pull them aside and say "hey, that's not cool or funny and you make it harder for nice guys to approach women honestly." i think we can all work at this together and make it better, but i do think some movement needs to made on the topic of women being allowed to just exist in public spaces without constantly being called on to be welcoming to advances.
posted by nadawi at 4:52 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


You know there is a lot more grey area than just dick or not a dick. You're not a dick for offering to buy someone a cup of coffee, but maybe you could stop and think about the dynamics in play by offering to buy something for someone, and specifically a woman, you don't know. Maybe you can go oh wait she might feel awkward and almost uncomfortably indebted to me if she lets me buy this for her. She might feel like she now has to continue this conversation whether she wants to or not and while that's not the intent, that still might be the result, which sucks for her. On the other hand, it's very awkward for her to turn me down. Women are socially conditioned to always be nice and polite and so she might feel like she can't turn me down even of she really isn't comfortable taking a gift from a stranger. So you know maybe even though my intentions are good in wanting to buy her a cup of coffee, maybe this isn't all about me. Maybe I'll look at the possible result of my actions, not just my intent because I'm a mature, considerate adult who realizes the consequences of my actions are not necessarily the same as the intent behind my actions.
posted by whoaali at 4:52 PM on October 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


Yeah I guess I really don't get all the guys who seem to not be able to distinguish between normal friendly interactions and sexual come-ons. It must make daily life confusing and Extremely Awkward
posted by crackingdes at 4:55 PM on October 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


There's the thing, discussed at length in that thread and later ones, of women kind of being considered public property and fair game and expected to contribute to the comfort and entertainment of men, just by virtue of being female. Even if the guy is totally harmless, it hardly matters whether their intent is to actually get your number or their intent is to get a little ego hit by making you react to them. You're asking for somebody's attention - if you're doing it to satisfy your need for attention and no other reason, you're probably not enriching their lives.

This is also perfect, thank you, Miko. People who are concern trolling about "but the sense of community" or whatever really don't get it. I personally LOVE when I eat a a certain neighborhood cafeteria-style restaurant and the older crowd there stops to smile or chat or wink at me. It's a really warm, community feeling and that's why I keep going back and eating there. A guy my age (or older) who is literally trying to get something out of me (my number, a date, whatever) is way different, it has nothing to do with community, and it's usually frankly annoying.


No article is going to change this type of behavior for one simple reason: it works.

Now don't shoot the messenger!


Lol, really? Because I have never gone on a date with a guy who asked me out in public, nor do I know anyone who has. Unless you mean it forces women into a captive audience and therefore works, which yes, it does.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

Well, as an overly polite Southern woman, I have been trained to be nice, at least initially to almost everybody. Which results in my default response to compliments from strangers with a chirpy "Thank you!" Even if the compliment is along the lines of "nice ass" although I do now follow it with, "hey not cool."

I totally get the shy thing, but seriously, you can talk to strangers just understand that just because you're interested in someone, she is not obligated to be interested back.
posted by teleri025 at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2012


I think it's also worth mentioning that when a guy opens a door for me or offers to pay for my coffee because I don't have a buck, it really does brighten my day. I'm not cynical out of the gate. It's just pretty obvious when "picking me up" is the actual goal, and the neighborly kindness is just a ruse to get me to be polite to them and then I'm just ughh whatever, scribbly Peanuts-style cloud above my head.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


well said teleri! You may have had to work up your gumption to even say 'hello' to someone, but that doesn't oblige that someone to be receptive.
posted by Mister_A at 5:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ira Glass, in the video linked to in this post, makes the obvious point that height seems to matter more to people who are short than those who are tall, that sexual experience matters more to those who have none than those who do, and you don't have to go much farther than the presidential race to see that issues of money matter more to those who don't have much than those who do.

People often discount the problems that are caused by the lack of the things they have plenty of. It's easy to do. One of the most under-rated cognitive biases seems to be the tendency to believe that your self-interest is universal.

The reaction of the women of metafilter to this article and others like it makes it clear that many women are suffering from the lack of privacy in the public realm. I think the analogy made in this article is excellent.

What I still have a hard time grasping though is how little sympathy many people seem to have for men who have, largely, the responsibility to attract mates and the inadequate answers given (online dating, go volunteer, ask your friends to set you up). The overwhelming response seems to be, "Well, it's not my problem to solve." Except it seems to me that it is. These are not two separate problems. One follows directly from the other. Women have problems being private in a public space, because men have inadequate formal opportunities to attract them.

What frustrates me in these articles is that very little ever seems to be said about how to solve this problem other than, "Leave women alone." This is not going to work any more than telling someone to be taller, just ask your parents for the money to start your business, or (one that keeps popping up in this thread) only start talking to people who you're already talking to.

I don't have a good answer to this question. I know a lot of the comments that I appreciate the most are ones that at least recognize that men have a legitamite problem here too.
posted by bswinburn at 5:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [36 favorites]


IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII...dunno, you guys. I can see how this would be a punch-the-air kind of piece for a lot of people who have had to deal with pushy assholes when they were just out trying to have a good time, but I'm not sure this is the article that people are lionizing it as. I feel like there's a complicated degree of self-loathing here -- the advice to basically just commit romantic suicide if this is really that complicated, because the species will continue without you; the idea that a woman being attracted to a man she's just met is some kind of one-in-a-million shot and not something that happens like sixty thousand times a second -- and I don't know that that's something that should be rewarded, and certainly I am not sure it's something that should be held up as an exemplar of desirable human behavior. I am given pause by this piece, for some reason I cannot quite name. I'd like to see an update of it in, say, a year's time from now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:02 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


> The overwhelming response seems to be, "Well, it's not my problem to solve." Except it seems to me that it is.

Are you kidding me? Go back to the beginning of the first article, the Jesus analogy. How would you react to the proselytizer saying "But dude, how am I supposed to convert people if I don't approach them this way?" You would say "That's not my problem," and it isn't. How men get laid is not women's problem. Furthermore, it's not some terrifying mystery that women are making even harder with their weird, inexplicable reactions. It's a matter of learning social cues and finding appropriate venues to practice. There are people who teach these things, and it is their job to do so. It is not the job of that nice-looking woman sitting alone at the coffee shop.
posted by languagehat at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [98 favorites]


the responsibility to attract mates

The article is about harassment. You don't "attract mates" with harassment. I understand you have some frustration around articles like this bswinburn, but women don't owe men sexual attention, ever. Men don't owe women sexual attention, ever, either.

Also, why do so many comments about these things have to employ "attract mates" type wildlife documentary language?
posted by sweetkid at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


The only truly effective and ethical way for a man to find a long-term relationship is to not get broken up with by his current girlfriend.

100% success rate if instructions are followed.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lol, really? Because I have never gone on a date with a guy who asked me out in public, nor do I know anyone who has.

Please don't generalize your experiences to all women. I've gone out with girls I met and asked out in public -- even married one of 'em -- and many of my friends have too.
posted by LordSludge at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


What frustrates me in these articles is that very little ever seems to be said about how to solve this problem other than, "Leave women alone."

I don't see how. Approaching a total stranger out of the blue who is giving off the signs that they are busy writing/reading/Tumblan/knitting/building a bird house and making them some offer of the privilege of your company is a great way to get shot down and, more importantly, is disrespectful of personal space.

It isn't rocket science. All that is required to "solve this problem" is to consider your social context first and, if it's conducive to chatting with strangers (e.g., a party, poetry reading, art exhibition, bar etc.) then at least engage with sincerity rather than with a motivation similar to one a person takes approaching a craps table or buying a scratch-off ticket.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


For a couple years I worked out a fitness club where I got hit on a lot by other men. I'm straight so getting hit on was kind of a novel experience but it was annoying for sure.

Every so often a new guy would show up at the gym — it was attached to a hotel so there were always lots of new guys — and at some point while I'm doing curls or something New Guy would walk up to me with a charming smile.

Dude. You seem really nice but I'm trying to finish my set here...

No one ever tried to buy me coffee though.

posted by axoplasm at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had an epiphany today in the shower. I'm going to move back to the city I just left because dating wasn't working out, buy a little fixer upper house, live in it with just my two cats and someday a dog or four.

And never care about dating again.

This has nothing to do with the article, but since I already intuited what is in the article years ago, I don't hit on strangers unless we're both sitting alone at a bar and she smiles at me when I glance over.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


For a couple years I worked out a fitness club where I got hit on a lot by other men. I'm straight so getting hit on was kind of a novel experience but it was annoying for sure.

Every so often a new guy would show up at the gym — it was attached to a hotel so there were always lots of new guys


A gym attached to a hotel is like pickup central, I hear. There was an AskMe about it a few days ago!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not a dick for offering to buy someone a cup of coffee, but maybe you could stop and think about the dynamics in play by offering to buy something for someone, and specifically a woman, you don't know. Maybe you can go oh wait she might feel awkward and almost uncomfortably indebted to me if she lets me buy this for her.

That's fair enough, and I hope that women I have bought drinks for in the past have not felt obligated to keep me company for the price of a coffee, but I also hope that in the last 20 years, young women have not lost the ability to simply say 'No, thanks' and carry on with their day.
posted by madajb at 5:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many times does this have to be talked about before people stop their disingenuous 'YOU MEAN I CAN NEVER TALK TO ANYONE EVER' bullshit
posted by shakespeherian at 5:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [78 favorites]


Women have problems being private in a public space, because men have inadequate formal opportunities to attract them.

i'm open to your argument generally as i noted in my comment, but this part i disagree with strongly. women have problems in public because society/sexism/the patriarchy/whatever you want to call it dictates that women are public property and should be giving and open in all interactions. sexism hurts men too and this is one of the ways. if less men creepily hit on women, women would probably be more open to flirting with strangers. this behavior hurts men and women and should be discouraged from all sides.
posted by nadawi at 5:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


So never approach a woman I don't know in public for any reason whatsoever. Good to know. I would only ask the same courtesy of you ladies of course. The last thing I need is some woman hitting on me trying to get my money. I'm also married and my wife might have words with the offending lady.

Other people have pointed out how totally ridiculously wrong and irrelevant this is, but if it's the takeaway you're determined to run with and internalize then I don't think anyone who might have been on the business end of your bullshit will be too upset.
posted by invitapriore at 5:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


No, because if she is into the conversation then it's OK to take it forward. Her consent/interest is the important part. The extremely important part.

Does this make sense?


Oh sure, I was just making sure, since the idea of just dropping down in an empty seat and attempting a chat-up out of the blue is just seems so ... unlikely to succeed.
posted by madajb at 5:12 PM on October 23, 2012


sexism hurts men too and this is one of the ways. if less men creepily hit on women, women would probably be more open to flirting with strangers.

I keep being about to write something like this -- yes, this exactly. If we didn't have this problem of men aggressively harassing women, or it were even a LITTLE less super frequent,
women could be much more relaxed about talking to strange men in public, which would be a win really.

I know men in this thread aren't responsible for every man's behavior always, but the I CAN'T TALK TO ANYONE stuff is really just hurting things.
posted by sweetkid at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's mostly just don't bother people who are busy. That is the lesson. If someone is sitting in a coffee shop glancing around a lot, you can feel free to say hi and if they respond positively continue talking.

But it's all exhausting, hence my just wanting a house and fuzzy pets.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many times does this have to be talked about before people stop their disingenuous 'YOU MEAN I CAN NEVER TALK TO ANYONE EVER' bullshit

Honestly, it's because it lets them reject the message out of hand. Rather than saying, "Oh, okay, maybe I should be mindful of social and body language signals when initiating a conversation with a stranger in public," they can go "PFFT THIS IS SO STUPID HOW WOULD I EVER FIND A MATE AND PASS ON MY GENETIC LEGACY", thus allowing them to avoid both the painful truth of their behavior potentially making people uncomfortable and the painful empathy of realizing other people have feelings and should be respected, all wrapped in a thin candy shell of biotruth pseudoscience.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [34 favorites]


crackingdes: "Yeah I guess I really don't get all the guys who seem to not be able to distinguish between normal friendly interactions and sexual come-ons. It must make daily life confusing and Extremely Awkward"

eh, for a lot of guys, or at least look at my own self years ago, there isn't really much difference between the two. Or at least, it's all a muddy grey mess of emotions and trying to keep each girl I knew partially interested in case the rest turned me down.

It was all for naught. The best conversations and closest friendships I made were after I got into a steady relationship. I wish I could go back to my younger self and say "Don't try to get it because when it comes you will have it and until then, you are just making everyone uncomfortable!"

But that's undergrad for ya...
posted by rebent at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2012


Please don't generalize your experiences to all women. I've gone out with girls I met and asked out in public -- even married one of 'em -- and many of my friends have too.

Please don't generalize your experiences to all women. I'm a woman who has been approached by strangers in a very scary and threatening way, and I can report that I didn't like it when it happened and wouldn't have gone out with someone who didn't seem to notice he was scaring the shit out of me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:15 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


The suggestion made in the comments (I think I've suggested it myself in AskMe) that people use their hobbies to meet women simply pushes the problem along: what, now that we've made women uncomfortable with buying coffee, we've got to make them uncomfortable with going to evening classes too?

People really do meet partners in semi-social places, and if you don't have a good social network then one way to broaden your range of potential partners is to increase the number of semi-social activities you engage in. This inevitably leads to AskMe questions about whether that cute girl studying Elizabethan Drama really "likes" me; and the standard advice is to ask her out. I don't think this is unusual advice, but it's fair to say that the cute girl getting asked out might be studying Elizabethan Drama because she actually likes it, and your interaction is the third approach she's had to deal with tonight.

I'm not the Relationship Fairy and I have no idea how to solve this problem, particularly for people ill-served by dating sites, but I think we need to recognise that some of the relationship advice we give is really just shuffling misery around.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


I mean, if bothering women in public and acting like a jerk "works," go for it. Polite, considerate behavior toward women you are attracted to is fine, I repeat, fine. More power to you, especially if you don't act like your penis got bruised when they turn you down.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole discussion reminds me of, I think I saw it on Mefi, a woman's take on being hit on by other women. In the comment, she talked about how the other women were always polite, asked permission, and assumed nothing, making the whole experience much less stressful and fearful for the poster.

I learned a lot from that comment. I think it's a great example of what men should strive for. If only I could find it... grrrr
posted by rebent at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Boy oh gosh let's not have a broiling Men's Rights: Pro Or Con derail in here, thank you.]
posted by cortex at 5:19 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


When I was 16 all I was super shy and believed in true love. If I had a girlfriend, I would treat her like a princess. And I was all about just coming out and telling a girl how I felt if I was brave enough, one giant display of affection, and that somehow it would work out great because secretly she had been harboring that same crush for me all along. If you've seen Louie Season 3 Episode 4, at the end where he asks out Parker Posey, I mean a little like that. Actually, exactly like that.

After being rejected pretty painfully several times, and seeing women end up with total assholes while I was left by myself... my theory changed. I thought I had to be cocky and confident. That worked a lot better.

In this later stage of life, my new theory says, never buy a woman anything at the bar or in a coffee shop, she will feel like you want something from her. NEVER compliment her looks. Have a casual and friendly conversation and watch her body language. Let her tell you she likes you by continuing the interaction and giving you nonverbal cues.

I think the key is acting like you are not being phased by her beauty and charm (like maintaining eye-contact with a grizzly bear), and meanwhile displaying your own attractive qualities so that she can get to know and become interested in you.

The bottom line is, some girls will like you, some will not, and you can't take it personally. So don't go into the interaction with your heart on your sleeve like I did when I was 16, or you are bound to get it broken. Sometimes I could go back to the way I felt about women when I was younger... that feeling of putting my whole heart on the line for someone for the chance of affection being returned. Women will destroy you if you do that.

I still hope for true love but... finding someone really is just a crapshoot.
posted by banished at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Since I switched from offering coffee to saying "Woman, I have come bearing my seed, yield unto me" I have had no significant reduction in my success rate.
posted by biffa at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [45 favorites]


we've got to make them uncomfortable with going to evening classes too?

I think the idea is that you go to the class, you talk to people (all the people, not just the ones you want to fondle) about your shared interest, and then allow conversations to take their natural course, observing over time that you and fondle-target seem to always sit next to each other in class, and then you notice that they touch your arm when you're talking about shared interest, and then you make a non-pushy move. It's not that you run into the class, see someone you think looks good and say "YOU LIKE KNITTING ME TOO LET'S BALL."
posted by Bookhouse at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2012 [49 favorites]


uh, banished, I was with you until...

that feeling of putting my whole heart on the line for someone for the chance of affection being returned. Women will destroy you if you do that.

Wow. What?
posted by sweetkid at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


women have problems in public because society/sexism/the patriarchy/whatever you want to call it dictates that women are public property and should be giving and open in all interactions. sexism hurts men too and this is one of the ways. if less men creepily hit on women, women would probably be more open to flirting with strangers. this behavior hurts men and women and should be discouraged from all sides.

I agree with you entirely. I'll try to be a bit more explicit with my argument.

I believe there is already a moderate social prohibition against talking to strangers. This prohibition is more often breached against women by men attempting to attract them than for pretty much any reason save, perhaps, people begging for money. I believe the motivation for men to breach this social prohibition is what they perceive as a lack of other opportunities to attract women. I, therefore, believe that if there were more formal opportunities for men they would not risk the social stigma by breaching the prohibition.

I disagree with you that if less men hit on women in public that they'd be more open to it. I think as became less common for men to breach that prohibition I think the prohibition would probably become stronger and the stigma for breaching it greater. I think of it in terms of how you end up with areas where beggers congregate because they know they'll be tolerated there and stay away from areas where they won't [leaving aside all the various laws and police action].
posted by bswinburn at 5:25 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just excused from a jury pool, and one of the questions that came up in voir dire was "does harassment require repetition?" I thought yes.
posted by Windopaene at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2012


swinburn, are you proposing a cotillion?
posted by Mister_A at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think the key is acting like you are not being phased by her beauty and charm

I think the key is to understanding that women are individual human beings and not video games which require the correct combination of carefully-managed input sequences in order to win.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [68 favorites]


My upcoming novel has an appendix of cheats to get the perfect woman. Up, up, down, down...
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:29 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the key is acting like you are not being phased by her beauty and charm (like maintaining eye-contact with a grizzly bear)

Now there's a telling analogy. Have you tried laying on the ground and pretending to be dead?

So don't go into the interaction with your heart on your sleeve like I did when I was 16, or you are bound to get it broken. Sometimes I could go back to the way I felt about women when I was younger... that feeling of putting my whole heart on the line for someone for the chance of affection being returned. Women will destroy you if you do that.

This sentiment reminds me of that George Burns quote about "The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

Seriously, I hate to sound like one of those personal affirmation PSAs for kids from the 70s, but sincerity isn't a poor choice when socializing with others. Women will not "destroy you" for not treating them like walking casinos, I assure you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:30 PM on October 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


sweetkid... you get rejected because the woman doesn't know you. You might find her attractive and see her in your class every day, and watch her interacting with others and develop this insane crush... but then when you tell her your feelings she steamrolls you because you never took the time to let her actually get to know you. A lot of men think they can buy a woman something... or compliment them profusely, and she will just fall in love... but from the woman's perspective she doesn't even know the guy! Being "nice" can't supplant getting to know someone. So it doesn't work. And I don't mean to generalize, this is just my own observations.

shakespeherian That's not my point at all. I don't think women are video games. I explained pretty well I thought that I think you need to show the woman your personality and have her get to know you a little bit so that she can become attracted to you. Not trick her by being artificial or not yourself.
posted by banished at 5:30 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Decent nice fellows got to know me first.

no decent guy would try to befriend someone they want to date.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree with you that if less men hit on women in public that they'd be more open to it.

we'll just have to disagree then. what i can say is that personally i became less open to friendly conversations with men who are strangers after having my personal space not respected many, many times. i used to be much more open and smiling and pleasant in public, but i've learned my lesson and try to look as closed off as possible now.
posted by nadawi at 5:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The thing is, hitting on women is a numbers game. Eventually, it will work. If you're a guy (or a gal) with close to no sense of embarrassment or shame, hitting on women works. At the bar, at the nightclub, even at Starbucks. If one woman rejects you, then just move on to the next, and the next, and the next. If 99% of women reject you, just keep going past woman number 99! The caveat for this is that you have to have a near sociopathic level of detachment for others' feelings.

I am most certainly not this guy, but I've been out in city, on the weekend, with friends and acquaintances who most certainly played the numbers game. I remember one night when I was in my early 20s. I was with a friend in the "meat market" area full of bars and clubs, my friend locking in on pairs of girls (to match us two guys). He did all the talking, charming but very blunt: "Hey, do you two wanna go get a drink?" If they said no, we went on to the next pair. Once a pair of girls looked angry, and I started thinking "maybe this isn't the best way to spend my night..." One pair looked at me and my friend, actually did a double take, looking at us from head to toe (nice reversal there), looked at one another, burst into laughter, and walked off. I wanted to crawl into a hole at that point, but my friend wasn’t fazed in the least; he was enjoying this. I managed to at least steer him into a particular bar so we didn’t have to continue the hunt, and I learned just how much of a Numbers Game guy I am not.
posted by zardoz at 5:40 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah honestly, in my experience, women are far more receptive to sincerity than 'nice guy' schtick. I'm not talking about icky teenage lovestruck maudlin 'sincerity' that makes everyone uncomfortable, just, you know, if you have an interaction with someone–anyone! Not just someone you're attracted to – be sincere. Don't try to impress, that tends to be insulting; flattery from a stranger is creepy. I mean, you can hold the door for a person (man or woman), but don't try and turn that into something it's not. Some small kindness can brighten a person's day, but not if there are strings attached; not if you feel like that person owes you their time now. That's not a kindness anymore, it's an imposition. Examine your motives. Are you holding the door because you're a door-holding smiling kind person, or because you have a desperate hope to parlay that act into some hideous, excruciating, mutually humiliating 'pass'?
posted by Mister_A at 5:42 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


swinburn, are you proposing a cotillion?

I'm not proposing anything, but that's one of ways that have been used. As have matchmakers, prenatally arranged marriages, or simply living in the same small village all your life.

In a "really big picture" sort of way I think this is part of social transformations from countryside to cities. 2008 was, after all, the first year we, as a species, went from mostly living rurally to mostly living in cities. That's a huge change. I'm sure a lot of my thought is influenced by my belief that people moved to cities for three main reasons (a) safety, (b) economic opportunity, and (c) anonymity.

And cities have been great, overall, about giving people those three things. Now, I think privacy is part of anonymity (yeah, it can be argued), and it saddens me that women are being denied that. I'm aware of the safety issue too, but since the original article didn't deal with it, I'm leaving it aside now too.

I am not, believe me, hiding anything that I secretly think is the perfect solution hidden away. Things like grindr seem pretty damn imperfect to me and also have serious implications about destroying a person's anonymity in other ways.

If anything "meat market" bars seem like a decent thing, which sorta sucks for me because I can't stand the places.
posted by bswinburn at 5:42 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm so glad I'm married. You poor, poor souls (guys and gals). For the record I've never hit on a woman in my life. I do have this bad habit of talking to strangers, but I've never seemed to have any of the problems you all seem to be having. I'm sorry that some women in this thread are fed up with creeps, but some times them are the breaks...try and cheer up. I'd tell you "it gets better", but we all know that won't be happening anytime soon.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:43 PM on October 23, 2012


On reflection, I see you added:

I explained pretty well I thought that I think you need to show the woman your personality and have her get to know you a little bit so that she can become attracted to you. Not trick her by being artificial or not yourself.

This sounds a lot different than where you were coming from before here, with the grizzly bear thing, and even the gambling language. So maybe the whole "heart on your sleeve" thing is referring to something quite different - like, guys who lay bare their mystification and utter amazement at how radiant you are, or who pour out their feelings of loneliness to such a degree that the other person might feel as though they are being made to feel obliged to do something about that. I mean, that is pretty off-putting.

Not sure saying "women will destroy you" is a fair assessment of the usual response to such behavior. I think it's more accurate to say people in general like to believe they are being engaged with for who they are rather than for being some celestial ideal, nor do people like feeling as though they are responsible for someone else's personal sense of happiness and making their loneliness over.

In other words, I think the reality behind the mystery isn't that you should game other people to achieve some goal, nor should you regard social interaction with the kind of numbers approach normally taught at telemarketing - be yourself, and respect the fact that other people want to be interacted with for who they are, and as your peers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey I think some kind of neutral meeting ground event for single people is a great idea, whether it's a cotillion or not. That's one of the things that churches used to do, believe it or not! Help single people find other single people in non-threatening situations.
posted by Mister_A at 5:45 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mister_A wrote: Hey I think some kind of neutral meeting ground event for single people is a great idea, whether it's a cotillion or not. That's one of the things that churches used to do, believe it or not!

Perhaps we should reach back into our cultural history and combine the various suggestions. A supplicant (male) would enter a church and make an offering. A priestess would appear with a large container of coffee, half of which he would consume and the other half offer to the priestess. Then she would sleep with him.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:49 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do have this bad habit of talking to strangers

You aren't helping, here, with this.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:51 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmmm bring back the Ishtar cult??? I like it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:51 PM on October 23, 2012


I'm sorry that some women in this thread are fed up with creeps, but some times them are the breaks...try and cheer up.

I'm wondering what you hope to achieve with saying something like this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:53 PM on October 23, 2012 [53 favorites]


neutral meeting ground event for single people is a great idea, whether it's a cotillion or not. That's one of the things that churches used to do,

Mormons still do this. Singles wards vs. Family wards.
posted by ambrosia at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I seem to do pretty well for myself making friends with people I like and later if it turns out there's a mutual attraction, dating them. Can't guys do that?
posted by stoneandstar at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry that some women in this thread are fed up with creeps, but some times them are the breaks...try and cheer up.

The problem with the analogy in the article is that - as one woman pointed out in the comments -- that it doesn't address the fact that some of the people who try to hit on you get angry and threatening when they get turned down.

Them may be the breaks, but they sure as fuck SHOULDN'T be, and god damn you for suggesting I should just suck that up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [25 favorites]


[If you think a subject is pointless or without discussion merit or whatever, it's totally okay to just skip the thread instead of hanging around bullshitting about how you don't get it or it doesn't affect you, etc.]
posted by cortex at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm so glad I gave up on relationships. It's given me some time to think.

My read on it, is that for man, particularly younger men, this is coming from a place where their only validation of status is their ability to get women receptive to sex. Sex is the same as status; and a lot of men are insecure. I think that's where the hostility, both to this sort of rejection and to discussions of it come from.

A man reads a perfectly reasonable description or description about why such and such a behaviour is unwelcome or what effects it has. It feels like an attack on his position, his status. So you get misunderstandings and hostility back.

None of this excuses male behaviour, particularly harassing behaviour. But that's my take on why these discussions go the way they do.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The woman is wily and elusive, but how will she deal with getting delicious termites out of this rotting log? Let's watch…
posted by Nomyte at 6:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


I found his articles well intentioned but incredibly bad advice overall. In particular, his credibility vanishes when he recommends OkCupid as an alternative to face-to-face interactions.

There is surely a useful conversation about when and where people should initiate personal interactions with strangers, but someone advocating online dating cannot initiate this conversation.

I'll comment however that most males experiment with hitting on women in new venus fairly rarely, maybe a couple times per year, mostly men hit on women only in places where they've been successful before.

I'm afraid nadawi and sweetkid's "if women were harassed less they'd flirt more" line fails hard as well. All the women I know who flirt with strange men lots come form cultures where men harass women more, like Italy and France, they just tell men to fuck off much more effectively as well.

It quite simply isn't the harassment that's the problem but that women feel self-conscious about rejecting guys. A rejection should not cost any more emotional energy than an attempt.

I believe our friendly Ferrett's article skirted this observation when criticizing males for (a) acting like they weren't hitting on the woman and (b) criticizing the woman for rejecting them. I loved those parts!

Acting like you aren't hitting on her is classic gaslighting. You should only hide your intentions if you want to make her feel uncomfortable about rejecting you. And protestant cultures makes this perverse passive aggressive male strategy standard.

It simply isn't hitting on women that problematic, it's psycho-bullshit guilt-tripping her into not rejecting you outright that causes the problem.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:02 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

It is 100 percent fine for you to not talk to strangers in public.

So never approach a woman I don't know in public for any reason whatsoever.

If this was your takeaway from the article, then your grasp of social nuance is so slight that you should not approach women you don't know in public.
posted by grouse at 6:06 PM on October 23, 2012 [31 favorites]


well, since it's all the women you know it must be a universal truth. and women are nervous about rejecting guys because we're never quite sure which rejection is going to get us followed and threatened and insulted. silly women trying to keep an eye towards their own safety.
posted by nadawi at 6:08 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I seem to do pretty well for myself making friends with people I like and later if it turns out there's a mutual attraction, dating them. Can't guys do that?

Yes! And this right here is what I don't get about the "numbers game" theory of dating. Even in those questionable terms of dating behavior, let's look at the numbers, as they were - compare what you think your chances of initiating a happy romantic encounter would be between:

1. Someone you know, with whom you have developed a friendship and know you share common interests, can communicate with, and where there is a base level of mutual respect and

2. A total stranger sitting in the back of Starbucks typing at her laptop.

There is surely a useful conversation about when and where people should initiate personal interactions with strangers, but someone advocating online dating cannot initiate this conversation.

I don't want to start a derail about the pros and cons of online dating, but you state this without offering why you believe this. OKC matches people based on up to thousands of spectrum questions on a variety of subjects, in an environment where people are (unless otherwise specified) there to meet someone to date. Why is someone recommending such a medium wholly unqualified to talk about interactions with strangers?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


sweetkid: "Man: "Hi, you're beautiful, can I buy you a coffee?"
Woman: " No, thanks I'm on my way to work/picking up a kid/waiting for doctor's results, but thanks."
Man: "Do you live around here?"
Woman: "Um...hey I'm in a hurry..."
Man: "How old are you? Where do you live? You are really beautiful."
"

If this is the pattern we're concerned about, then the analogy shouldn't be Starbucks. We should be talking about petition gatherers. Holy crap those people are harrassing.
posted by pwnguin at 6:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I seem to do pretty well for myself making friends with people I like and later if it turns out there's a mutual attraction, dating them. Can't guys do that?

No. Not all guys can do this.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:13 PM on October 23, 2012


Why not? And if they really can't, how will hitting on strangers be a more successful tactic for them?
posted by stoneandstar at 6:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


AElfwine Evenstar: We should get Dustin Hoffman involved somehow.

stoneandstar: I seem to do pretty well for myself making friends with people I like and later if it turns out there's a mutual attraction, dating them. Can't guys do that?

Guys ought to do that, but they're socialized, I think, to believe things should move faster than they plausibly can.

I narrowly dodged this. My father, after my brother and I entered puberty, always tried to turn gawking at women into a social activity. This was after my parents had divorced, but it was also after he married my stepmother, which only doubled our reticence about the whole thing.

As we accompanied him on errands, he would point out women - out of earshot, thank God - who caught his eye. We never joined in, but he kept it up. It finally got to the point that he would grumble a hallelujah if I turned my head to look at a woman going by.

He was trying, I think, to model masculinity for us. He ended up making his idea of masculinity look ridiculous, because he was doing it as much to score points against our mother, whom he thought to be turning us against him, as to benefit us. And articles like this show what a poisonous benefit it would have been.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


women can tell the difference between altruism and ulterior motive Because no women have trouble with social cues.

I'm wondering what you hope to achieve with saying something like this. Well, for starters, it's not as if women got together and published a standard on which words-in-a-row uniformly make a man a creep. While there's no excuse for anyone to turn threatening, there's really no reason for reasonably courteous people not to express an interest.

I'm a pretty low key person, but I've observed plenty. Just sit in a coffee shop for ninety minutes and watch the barista/customer interaction. For any given identical dialog, X, there's a guy who gets a blush and some digits, and a guy who gets a sneer and a brush off.

followed and threatened Yeah, safety. But the statistical odds are in fact pretty low. Relative risk compared to say, driving to a coffee shop, negligible. I think 'annoyed' is probably a term that fits this discussion better.

All in all - I'll agree with the don't-bother-somebody-who-seems-busy approach.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:17 PM on October 23, 2012


Is getting hit on a common problem for women at Starbuck's?

My best friend was asked what her price was when a man mistook her a prostitute. While she was studying for her MCATs. Apparently he thought the big textbook, laptop, and mismatched "made no effort" clothing were just a cover.
posted by zennie at 6:18 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


stoneandstar: I seem to do pretty well for myself making friends with people I like and later if it turns out there's a mutual attraction, dating them. Can't guys do that?

How do you become friends with people if you don't approach them? I think this is what most of the coffee guys were trying to do, with the possible small difference being that they were only approaching people they were attracted to in the first place.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:19 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just for the record, men who are hitting on me are totally in the same mental class as 1) evangelicals trying to convert me and 2) petition gatherers on the sidewalk, except that I extend maybe a little more sympathy to the last of those three. I COULD start just telling them to fuck off like a French or Italian woman, but since the problem for men here seems to be that women are being too mean (and/or destroying community and the social fabric), I don't see how that would make them happy either.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think the key is acting like you are not being phased by her beauty and charm (like maintaining eye-contact with a grizzly bear), and meanwhile displaying your own attractive qualities so that she can get to know and become interested in you.

The bottom line is, some girls will like you, some will not, and you can't take it personally. So don't go into the interaction with your heart on your sleeve like I did when I was 16, or you are bound to get it broken. Sometimes I could go back to the way I felt about women when I was younger... that feeling of putting my whole heart on the line for someone for the chance of affection being returned. Women will destroy you if you do that.


Oh dear lord.

As an aside, I see we're fully into the swing, as usual, of pretty much ignoring what women are saying they experience, and focusing on how to get men laid. Le Sigh.

But since we're on the subject, as a more general bit of advice for any shy men reading; the number one, absolute rule for picking up women...

There isn't one.

The big secret? Women are normal, ordinary people. There are a million different things they like, dislike, want from a partner/sextoy/debate fellow. You can't point at a random woman on the street, and say, 'this is the way to get into her pants'.

Yet pointing at women and trying to figure her out, trying to treat her like some puzzle that if you just figure out the trick you'll get sex, is in fact the actual problem. She's a person, not a fucking slot machine. Or a slot machine for fucking either.

Most women get hit on, a huge, vast amount. Every day, every where, every when. They get treated like so much meat, that they are public property, that so many men think they can take ownership of her time, her attention, that the only reason she's on this earth is to please men - and this man, in particular. If you're a guy, you have no how irritating that is to experience all the damn time.

And of course, it's not just the chat-up lines, the 'I want to buy you a coffee so you'll owe me something', the lewd comments on the street, the treating her like she's a walking collection of body parts instead of an actual person, the cornering in shops, lifts, trains for her phone number when she's just trying to read/listen to music/get the shopping in/have a normal fucking day where I'm not treated like a goddamn piece of meat thank you very fucking much.

1 in 4 women will be raped or seriously sexually assaulted. And given what I've read in other threads such as the infamous 'watcha reading' one, along with many others, that number is, and how hard it is to go through the process of even talking to the police, let alone the actual trial, I suspect that number is actually far too low.

So you're now not just a jerk who can't read body language, you're a guy who could decide that today's the day you're going to follow her home. Or you're that friend who's always a bit grabby, but that one time you get drunk together, and when she says 'stop', he doesn't...

If a woman is shutting you down verbally or with body language - or you're so tone deaf you barge right into a situation that no-one in their right mind would think was an appropriate one for a come-on - then what you're basically saying is this:
"I am either so clueless about what you want and think, or I just don't care, that even though I'm only violating your boundaries this little bit now, you can fully expect that I will carry on doing so later, and when it comes to a bigger boundary, I'm going to blow right through that too. So yeah, can I get you drunk now?"
You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to grasp, that men would stop doing it so bloody much. Alas, I present all of recorded history as counter-evidence. Or for the time-short, youtube comments.

And the reason? Because there are men, predators, who WILL keep trying this on with every vaguely attractive women - or underage girl, they're not picky - until they find one naive enough, depressed enough, damaged enough, or in a temporary bad place - or the odd woman that does like random sex with risky strangers - that it DOES work, that she ignores her inner warnings, and well, you know the rest.

So to return to the methods of successful dating:

1) don't be a creep. A creep is creeping towards a goal. If your ultimate goal is 'sex', then that will be apparant. And you'll do creepy things creeping towards your creepy goal of 'sex' - regardless of who the unlucky lady in possession of the body parts is - and well, it won't be fun for anybody.

2) women are normal people. They're also not stupid. Treat them like normal, ordinary people, rather than sex objects, puzzles or slot machines. Be nice. not Nice, i.e. I give you something, so now you owe me something, but actually nice because you're a nice person who does nice things with a genuine desire to do nice things for other people - even non young sexy ones - without expectation of repayment.

3) related - be prepared, willing and able to be friends with women. Don't be friends, but try to secretly creep up on being a sex partner (see 1). That's the worst thing, when she thinks you're a friend, and one day you leap on her and try and snog her. If you feel more than friendship for her, and you're in a place where she won't feel
trapped/threatened/discomforted, fine, tell her how you feel. And if she says no, then respect that, and give her room to cope with the sudden change in your relationship.

4) Respect people's boundaries. Err on the side of caution. Striking up a nice conversation about the weather/the music playing etc etc when someone seems open to it is fine. Exchanging glances at the bar, then coming over to say hello? Also fine. Barging into her current conversation, sitting down at her table, following her when she leaves, trapping her in a lift/corner/shop/work place, interrupting her book, pulling out her earbuds. NOT fine.

5) Don't sexually assault anyone. Consent, willingness, desire are pretty straightforward to judge - even for shy people, and I am one. Just don't. Especially if she's drunk. Doubly especially if you're someone she trusts already. Again, you'd think a no-brainer, but alas so very, very not.

5) dating websites. Seriously, they work. Because both parties know going in that they're planning on going on a date. Failing that, finding someone elsewhere on the internet can work. Alternative plan; remember how we were able to be genuine non-sexy friends with women? Sometimes they have other single friends. Hey, it works!

6) don't be a dickhead.

If you respect women, like women, treat women like the people they are instead of a walking thing that holds the keys to carnal pleasure, are prepared and happy to talk about things other than yourself and the size of your wallet, have at least some self-belief (or can fake it), and can empathise with women and actually act like your penis isn't in fact in charge of your primary brain functions...

You're well ahead of a significant proportion of our fellow men. Good luck.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [79 favorites]


Hey, can I write an article for you?
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 6:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr, that's kind of the thing, they're picking women based on who they're superficially attracted to, because they're attracted to them, and it's obvious. I usually make friends with people who are smart or clever and funny regardless of whether I'm attracted to them or not. I want my dating pool to be "people who I find smart or clever and funny," I'm really not interested in random strangers, even if they're hot or cute or whatever. I think the former approach is putting the cart before the horse a bit. Maybe these guys think they're smooth enough to come off as totally innocent and just wanting to be friends, but really quite often you can tell. And it's a bit insulting to watch them pretend. I start looking at my watch after about five minutes of "hey, I just met you, and this is craaaaaazy..." style conversation.

And I don't know, I make friends with people by working with them (hanging out outside of work), or volunteering with them, or going to school with them, or meeting them through other friends. I make friends with men the same way I make friends with women. I have never ever made friends with someone through randomly approaching them in a cafe, so it's weird to me to act like this is a crucial tactic for men in the dating pool.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


stoneandstar: Not all guys can make friends easily. Not all guys have the experience of mutual attraction developing in friendships they have made, so don't even know what that might look like. Not all guys have the confidence to pursue opportunities in friendships if they exist. Ask different people you will get different reasons.

In all cases hitting on people is a tactic more likely to succeed because the stakes are much much lower in terms of rejection; even if the odds of success are lower.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: How do you become friends with people if you don't approach them?

I think the manner of approach is the deciding factor here. I've never made a friend just by sitting across from a person at a coffee shop and asking how their day's going. I've always met friends through organized activity of some kind.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:29 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


How do you become friends with people if you don't approach them? I think this is what most of the coffee guys were trying to do, with the possible small difference being that they were only approaching people they were attracted to in the first place.

I'll let the original author of this article answer that, in a comment he made in response to a guy who asked this exact same question.
You can claim all you like that “it’s not about fucking.” But realistically, what you want is to talk, and get to know her, and go on a few dates, and make it a very intimate relationship…and then fuck.

And if fucking’s not a part of it, chances are extremely good that you’re going to feel like she’s wasted your time. Which makes you a liar. It’s like you’re saying, “Oh, no, going out to a restaurant’s not about the eating! It’s about the atmosphere, the good conversation, the experience.” But if you got the bill and went home hungry, you’d be ripped off.

The point is that yes, maybe fucking isn’t your primary intention, but it’s certainly well in the mix. And they know that. And you going up to them and dancing around your boner, going, “No, this is about getting to know each other! It’s about conversation!” is the kind of sad tactic that makes women not trust you. Because yeah. You want other stuff, but all that is stuff you could get elsewhere. You could have many fine friends who you don’t fuck. Instead, you’re lying about the friendship, and what you really want is the sex.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that you apparently feel that it is wrong. Most people want sex. But you, you’re going, “No, no, it’s more than that,” missing the point that since all of this camraderie is going to be worthless WITHOUT the sex, you’ve pretty much made sex the core of it. That’s a scummy lie you’re telling yourself, and it’s doing you no favors, because chances are good women know what you’re really after, and are turned off by your dishonesty.

You say it’s not the first thing on your mind. But I’m willing to bet that if you’re straight, you don’t approach guys like this for fun conversations, or angst about it this much if they reject your hand in close friendship. That means that you’re lying to yourself, because really… it IS the first thing on your mind. You just are doing a little dance to pretend otherwise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 PM on October 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


CTRL+F "boob project"

Good.

Ferrett writes a lot about feminism but honestly his status as an ally makes me uneasy after all of that noise. It's not like a "one strike and you're out" sort of thing but a sort of well-intentioned stupidity that makes me suspicious about the white knightyness of stuff like this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


How is that actually more likely to succeed, just because the stakes are much much lower? I'm being honest, I don't see how that follows.

I used to be a very shy young woman, and that was exactly why I usually ended up dating friends. I really only dated men who I knew a bit and who I'd clicked with on some level and knew I'd enjoy being with. Versus a total stranger, who I probably wouldn't have much in common with, even if they were sexy to me or whatever. Maybe those guys who are bad at making friends should work on it a bit and not so much expect to pick women up if their social skills could use a bit of polish.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


huh, so Tom Waits was right when he said you don't meet nice girls in coffee shops.
posted by mannequito at 6:34 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


[snark omitted]I'm a woman who has been approached by strangers in a very scary and threatening way, and I can report that I didn't like it when it happened and wouldn't have gone out with someone who didn't seem to notice he was scaring the shit out of me.

Clearly that was a bad thing. And obviously I did not approach my wife-to-be in a scary or threatening way.

Not sure what your point is. Are you implying that it's not possible for a man to approach a woman in a non-scary, non-threatening way?
posted by LordSludge at 6:36 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


> What I still have a hard time grasping though is how little sympathy many people seem to have for men who have, largely, the responsibility to attract mates and the inadequate answers given (online dating, go volunteer, ask your friends to set you up).

On the contrary, I think online dating is a great answer to 'how do I go about finding a girlfriend?' (or indeed, 'how do I go about finding a boyfriend?'), for people who come to AskMe saying they're uncomfortable or embarrassed with working out who/when/where/how it's ok to approach someone. The people on match.com are there for the same reason you are. Maybe we don't have matchmakers or formal systems with who's in what order on your dance card any more, but it's not like we have no explicit arena for doing this, flawed though it might be.

But also, more importantly... the idea that women should have more sympathy for these guys, because they're just doing the best they can when they're supposed to be the initiators and yet they have no culturally-accepted route to do that initiating, is missing a few of the finer points of this, I think. Such as:

- as a woman - even as a woman who is largely oblivious to a lot of flirty signals - it is really, painfully obvious when men are just hitting on you because you're there and you're female and you'll do. This is not unique to coffee shops; it is also obvious at parties, or in online dating, venues where it's a lot more acceptable to hit on people. Even in those environments, there is a difference between someone hitting on you because they're trying to get to know you better and see if you can both hit it off, and someone who is hitting on you because your breasts are the closest breasts in the room and he doesn't really care who they're attached to. The second approach automatically makes someone a poor bet. And hitting on women in coffee shops, without paying any regard to whether they look busy or interested in starting a conversation with you or anything, comes across much more like the second approach than it does the first.

- it's not really a question of 'sympathy'. Wanting sex/relationships/flirtiness but feeling awkward and weird and shy about actively seeking it out is a general human thing. See: every teenager ever ("I have this SUPER SECRET crush and s/he can't EVER find out about it or I'd die of embarrassment!"). I have plenty of sympathy for people just trying to get through life, but that doesn't mean I should be sympathetic to the guy who thinks I owe him my time because my breasts are the closest ones in the room.

(But also! I have hardly ever been hit on in coffee places, and don't see it happen very much at all where I live, so I think it is partly a cultural thing - certainly in the US and France I've noticed guys will explicitly approach you in cafes or walking down the street, etc., much more than they will here. I am very glad of this. But the phenomenon of "I said hello nicely, so now you owe me a conversation for however long it takes me to find that verbal cheat code that'll make your clothes fall off" does happen sometimes and is unpleasant to deal with. Last time someone hit on me while I was out drinking coffee with a friend, it rapidly went from him saying "Can I join in the joke?" and me saying "I'm sorry, it's a private conversation" to me saying "REALLY, GO AWAY. NOW. GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE" while he sat blocking me into my seat and casually rolling a glass bottle around on the table, saying "But I just want to taaaaaalk to you!". It's not unsympathetic to be jumpy around people when they've proved they don't care about your personal space.)
posted by Catseye at 6:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "CTRL+F "boob project"

Good.

Ferrett writes a lot about feminism but honestly his status as an ally makes me uneasy after all of that noise. It's not like a "one strike and you're out" sort of thing but a sort of well-intentioned stupidity that makes me suspicious about the white knightyness of stuff like this.
"

I can understand how you would interpret this as white knighty. I don't think it is, though. I don't think he expects to get anything out of this, other than a general betterment of the world. And if that's white knighty, then excuse me while I hang up my spurs.

Of course, you might know more context about the guy than I do. All I know is the whole osb thing, and reading this. Does he go around conventions telling people to stop creeping out women, just so that he has less competition?
posted by rebent at 6:38 PM on October 23, 2012


Not all guys can make friends easily. Not all guys have the experience of mutual attraction developing in friendships they have made, so don't even know what that might look like. Not all guys have the confidence to pursue opportunities in friendships if they exist. Ask different people you will get different reasons.

Well, that sucks for them, but the onus really isn't on the women around them to accommodate and grit their teeth through unwanted advances in public places. I don't mean to sound callous there, but it's kind of an unfair shift of personal responsibility.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:39 PM on October 23, 2012 [39 favorites]


Not sure what your point is. Are you implying that it's not possible for a man to approach a woman in a non-scary, non-threatening way?

No. My point is that just because YOU had success approaching women in a non-scary way, that didn't mean that the women who report that they don't like it are oversensitive feminazis.

Who knows. You may have gotten lucky, in which case....not everyone is lucky; you may be good at reading signals, in which case this article isn't about you and the women complaining aren't who you're talking about; or you may have been playing a numbers game in which case (uh....I'd better not finish that). But to pooh-pooh the women in here for "speaking for all women" when we say that we are sick of a certain behavior, and then attempt to back it up with your special snowflake exception as if that disproves the whole thing, is really arrogant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


How is that actually more likely to succeed, just because the stakes are much much lower? I'm being honest, I don't see how that follows.

Infinite monkey theorem
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:41 PM on October 23, 2012


Infinite monkey theorem

From the very same article:
The relevance of the theory is questionable—the probability of a monkey exactly typing a complete work such as Shakespeare's Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time even a hundred thousand orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe is extremely low (but not zero).
So you're saying there IS a chance!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I can understand how you would interpret this as white knighty. I don't think it is, though. I don't think he expects to get anything out of this, other than a general betterment of the world. And if that's white knighty, then excuse me while I hang up my spurs.

White knighting isn't necessarily so much about getting something out of the deal (though I guess it can be) as believing women need defending, which often comes with a whole host of other weird attitudes about women. You know, the sort of attitudes which were on display in the whole OSBP thing. Entries like this*, which pop up in his journals now and then, don't precisely reassure me. It's not that I don't think he's well-intentioned. I do. I just feel . . . wary.

*I know he's discussing the words slut and whore in a specific context with a specific partner(s) but he seems to universalize his conclusions in a way that make me feel uneasy, and the suggestion that liking these terms is just something that sexually liberated healthy women should do is off-putting, too. It just all makes me feel sort of uneasy, not right.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: I completely agree with you and I wasn't trying to suggest anything of the sort. Just trying to answer the question.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The article is about harassment. You don't "attract mates" with harassment. I understand you have some frustration around articles like this bswinburn, but women don't owe men sexual attention, ever. Men don't owe women sexual attention, ever, either.

I think you encapsulate the problem pretty well here, sweetkid, albeit unintentionally. There's sexual harassment, there's neighborly conversation with no ulterior motive, and then there's this huge fuzzy gap in the middle. And that fuzzy gap is the source of the problem, because it's hard for anyone to know exactly where to draw the line, especially for those lacking social nuance. But framing the issue in absolute terms really doesn't advance the conversation in any useful way.

This is a problem for women. This is a problem for men too. This is a problem for everyone, for different reasons. No matter what side of the issue you're on: please, if you can't talk about these things without your shoulders getting tense, just sit these threads out.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:55 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole discussion reminds me of, I think I saw it on Mefi, a woman's take on being hit on by other women. In the comment, she talked about how the other women were always polite, asked permission, and assumed nothing, making the whole experience much less stressful and fearful for the poster.

This is actually a super good point. I was thinking back to my public flirting history and what made me uncomfortable and what was okay, and I remember being asked out by a guy while I was ice skating alone at a public downtown rink (wasting time before a speech I was going to that evening). He was really friendly, asked if he could skate with me a bit, pointed out some of his friends and said hi, and later asked for my number so he could invite me to a comedy club he and his friends were going to that weekend. It didn't work out, but he was so friendly and polite that I genuinely believed he'd like to be friends as well as have a date with me. Maybe part of it was inviting me to a group outing. But it was also that I was ice skating alone, i.e., clearly not avoiding people, and he was unassuming and seemed to purposely avoid putting me in an awkward position of needing to escape/reject him "effectively." The key was probably that he was looking for friends as well as a partner and that really came through.

We still didn't end up dating, though, even though he was quite nice. We didn't have much in common. That's why I'm a bit perplexed about the "asking out strangers" thing. But if you want to not be a creep, really I'd avoid asking out random women unless you'd be interested to hang out with them in a non-romantic context as well.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:57 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, a million years ago in thread time, I said:

> Why? I mean, you are trying to get something from that stranger, right? Whether it's the time, an answer to if you're at the right bus stop, or the attention/phone number of an attractive stranger, you're trying to get something from them. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but don't pretend like it's something completely else.

Then Slap*Happy said:

> I don't think this is helping. Or the slightest bit human or humane. Economists and Objectivists undoubtedly adore the assumption that all human interaction is inherently about acquisition and sales.

And I wanted to respond: Don't put words in my mouth. If you're interpreting what I said to be all about acquisition and sales, that's on you, not me. People have wants. That's normal, that's okay. There's nothing wrong with wanting to to talk to people, but if you're going to approach people you don't know, be honest with yourself about why. I talk to people all the time when I'm waiting in line at the local donut/coffee place; we talk about out favorite donuts, how the Giants are doing, the weather, whatever. It passes the time, you get to have a nice interaction while doing something boring/annoying, so okay!

If you (general you) want to approach that attractive person in the coffee shop because you find them attractive, don't pretend to yourself that it's because you read the book they're reading (especially when you haven't), or you like their shoes, or whatever. Own your motives.
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


j_curiouser: "Just sit in a coffee shop for ninety minutes and watch the barista/customer interaction. For any given identical dialog, X, there's a guy who gets a blush and some digits, and a guy who gets a sneer and a brush off."

This idea — that women are somehow black box processes, into which you put a set sequence of words and in return receive positive attention — is the same kind of problematic orientation that leads to Nice Guy Syndrome, and to people needing to point out that the concept of the "Friend Zone" is bullshit because "girls are not machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out".

Guy A said something and got a positive response and Guy B said the same thing and didn't. Do you know anything at all about the differing relationships they have with the counter staff? There are things I could say to some of the baristas at my regular coffee shop and get a smile, but which if you said you'd get a cold stare. That's because I know them and we already have a relationship.

Women, dating, social interactions — there is no standard on which words-in-a-row uniformly make a man a creep because it depends on the man and it depends on the interaction. Life's complex that way.
posted by Lexica at 6:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


I should also add to that that I could tell if I said "no" at any point he'd drop it and still be friendly in a genuine way. He was just genuine overall, I guess.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:59 PM on October 23, 2012


Lol, really? Because I have never gone on a date with a guy who asked me out in public, nor do I know anyone who has. Unless you mean it forces women into a captive audience and therefore works, which yes, it does.

Met my ex-husband of 25 years that way. It happens.



This whole discussion reminds me of, I think I saw it on Mefi, a woman's take on being hit on by other women. In the comment, she talked about how the other women were always polite, asked permission, and assumed nothing, making the whole experience much less stressful and fearful for the poster.

Been hit on by asshole women as many times as asshole men

Why do so many people on this thread think they represent ALL women or ALL men?
posted by Isadorady at 7:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Because I have never gone on a date with a guy who asked me out in public, nor do I know anyone who has.

My mother has. Some bloke asked her out in the bank parking lot once. Which my brother and I thought was kind of creepy, but she went out with him nonetheless. I think she went on one date with him, so it's not like it was true love or something.

Then again, my mother met her partner via the New York Review of Books classifieds, so...
posted by hoyland at 7:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: i don't understand, is that suppose to be some kind of dig at me? i tried to answer an honest question, though i was a bit cryptic i thought it would add a little style and be more fun.

or, is it a dig at the idea of a "numbers game" as so many people say? because citing the specific details, the kind that are abstracted away in any analogy, as some kind of proof that the other side of the analogy is false seems ... disingenuous. not you, the argument.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:05 PM on October 23, 2012


Do you know anything at all about the differing relationships they have with the counter staff?

Yeah. When I connect with a stranger it's usually quite obvious to me-- I detect the glances and smiles and chuckling at my dorky little jokes, obvious eye contact, &c. I do the same in return when I'm interested. That's when I might ask to hang out or go on a date, maybe, with the likelihood increasing depending on how many casual interactions we've had. I would never do it totally cold. The idea that it's this totally random roulette is strangely dehumanizing (and thus off-putting to women). While you could maybe sometimes get a date through "cold calling," men who are successful at dating are usually actually reading social cues, picking up on interest, and not just throwing themselves out there at every cute girl. I mean, do you really want to be the telemarketer of the dating world?

I've had cute little "connections" with baristas, waiters, pharmacy techs, the guy at the video counter, blah blah. If I were working at a counter and giving signals like that, something in excess of polite and friendly customer service, I'd be okay with someone asking me out. But doing it without any of that intermediate stuff is maybe kind of weird. And the weirder part is the sense of entitlement, like women aren't people with dynamic personalities who you could potentially flirt and/or be friends with, they're women and as a man you're just supposed to throw everything out there and see what sticks. That's why I don't really like the "numbers game" stuff either.

(Also some women maybe don't want to be hit on at work, so I am not trying to speak for all women, but it is possible to actually flirt with strangers and not calling randomly approaching women and chatting them up regardless of their lack of interest "flirting.")
posted by stoneandstar at 7:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you (general you) want to approach that attractive person in the coffee shop because you find them attractive, don't pretend to yourself that it's because you read the book they're reading (especially when you haven't), or you like their shoes, or whatever. Own your motives.

Honestly, what you -- well, fuck it, I don't know about you but what I find sexy about a woman might very well be her shoes, or that she's reading that particular book, or whatever. There's something so basically reductive about so much of what's being said in this thread, like any attempt to talk to a person is some kind of ruse to get sex, which of course is a thing only men want and must obtain from women via some sort of black magic ruse. All this stuff is mixed up in a big vat, you know? The things that I find sexy about a person do include physical attributes, but also include signifiers that imply the sort of person this is. I reject this entire notion that men have these inherently base motives, and anything else is bullshit intended to deceive a woman into thinking he cares about her, for a man to self-deceive that his motives are "pure," or...whatever. You don't know what my motives are, quite frankly.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:18 PM on October 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


i thought the article was reductionist bullshit. i got the feeling the dude who wrote it was basically trying to make himself look sensitive. i like talking to strangers of all genders, except when i don't. some dudes are stupid and pushy, sometimes. meaningless generalizations abound.
posted by facetious at 7:20 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


My thought is if a man has trouble making friends to start with, he needs to work on THAT because if he doesn't have those social skills, he would certainly be at a deficit in any romantic relationship.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


No. My point is that just because YOU had success approaching women in a non-scary way, that didn't mean that the women who report that they don't like it are oversensitive feminazis.

Who knows. You may have gotten lucky, in which case....not everyone is lucky; you may be good at reading signals, in which case this article isn't about you and the women complaining aren't who you're talking about; or you may have been playing a numbers game in which case (uh....I'd better not finish that). But to pooh-pooh the women in here for "speaking for all women" when we say that we are sick of a certain behavior, and then attempt to back it up with your special snowflake exception as if that disproves the whole thing, is really arrogant.


I addressed ONE woman who said she'd never, ever dated anyone she met in public, nor did any of her friends, implying that it's very rare, if not impossible, for a woman to date a man she met in public. And that's clearly bullshit, easily refuted. I'm no "special snowflake". You can probably think of several examples yourself.

Some women clearly DO want to be approached sometimes -- in a non-scary manner, of course.

And please don't put words into my mouth. That is really uncalled for. Nobody accused anybody of being an "oversensitive feminazi". I'm reminded of something a wise old lady once told me: "If you go around expecting the worst in other people, you're gonna find it."
posted by LordSludge at 7:22 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ok. Much younger me, who frankly was a bit suicidal in a Just-don't-give-a-damn way due to some relationship issues. So please realize I am now fully aware of how stupid I was in this incident. I was driving across country to a friend's wedding and was near Chicago at around 4pm. Guy in a suit and sports car pulls up beside me with a lollipop (yes, really) and uses it to point at himself, then me. Makes a "pull-over" gesture, and incredibly stupidly, I did it. I did find a parking lot with lots of people, but I did it. So we get out, and I asked if he wanted to get a cup of coffee or something, and he says, "No, I just thought we'd fuck."

I. Was. Floored. (Oh, the naïveté!) I said, this can't possibly WORK for you!? And he acknowledged that it did often enough that it made it worth his while. I then told him, well, not with me. He said cool, got in his car and drove away.

So, it is a numbers game, to some extent. Some guys don't care how many women they creep out and those guys are probably a lost cause. It's the guys who don't see how they come across, not those that don't care, that perhaps can be reached.

Man, telling you guys this story was horribly cringe-inducing. And in a way, as much of a creeper as this guy was, he was fine with me saying no, so not ENTIRELY a horrible person? Confusing.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:22 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think that, uncomfortable as it may be, there really is a negative social effect going on. There are a lot of young men I know who would be excellent providers for a wife and family who don't get that opportunity; who seem perennially passed up, and who now are entering their thirties without, in some cases, a single serious relationship.

Am I saying that hitting on women at Starbucks is the best course of action? No—certainly not. On the other hand, when is a less-outgoing man supposed to meet someone? In the past, this would have been taken care of by older female relatives, or social structures like church and local culture, and meant pretty much that everyone got someone. Now there's a whole swath of the population who, well, don't, and won't. What does that mean?
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:27 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or even not a horrible person at all. I was entirely free to ignore him. I can't believe I still haven't completely worked through an incident from 20 years ago.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:29 PM on October 23, 2012


Now there's a whole swath of the population who, well, don't, and won't. What does that mean?

Is this actually a thing? Real numbers of men unable to have relationships because they're too awkward to do so?
posted by ndfine at 7:31 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"There are a lot of young men I know who would be excellent providers for a wife and family who don't get that opportunity; who seem perennially passed up, and who now are entering their thirties without, in some cases, a single serious relationship."

When did I wander into the Romney dating thread?
posted by klangklangston at 7:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


The problem isn't a guy politely inquiring whether he can buy me a coffee. The problem is when I politely respond, "No, but thanks for the offer," and he doesn't drop it, but instead badgers me, as though he has the right to buy me coffee if he wants to. Or if he sees the buying of the coffee as creating some kind of deficit I have to repay by flirting with him, going out with him, going home with him, etc.
posted by sallybrown at 7:33 PM on October 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


I don't talk to women I don't already know, ever, unless some pragmatic circumstance requires it. And then I keep it short and sweet.

There are a great many comments from people in this thread, and there are moments in the linked article that suggest that the problem isn't men talking to women in general, but rather, creepy men who don't "get" a woman's body language, hints, etc to go away. Heed these, and you're fine. The huge problem with this is that everyone, man and woman, is different, with different boundaries, different cultural upbringing, different reactions to the same situations. So, actually, in a practical way, the problem is men talking to women they don't already know. Just don't do it.

An example: for the past week or so, on OKCupid, I've been messaging back and forth with a woman who waited an incredibly long time (over a week) to reply to my first message. Then in every message she sent, she mentioned how much she wanted an "x friend" (where x is an activity of shared interest between us.) After three such messages, each one shorter and more terse than the previous, I read this as a clear indicator that she wasn't interested in dating me, and I sent a message saying "Cool. If you ever see me at an x event, please do come up and say hi." Boy, was she offended. She was upset with me for making assumptions, and couldn't believe I'd just read into her words so easily.

So I showed the exchange to several women friends, and all of them were pretty surprised at her reaction; a few of them decided she was "crazy" and that I'd do well to steer clear of her altogether. I don't know that I agree with that diagnosis, but the main point here is that not everyone sends the same "signals." Shy people want different things from interactions than not-shy people. Some women really enjoy being hit on. Others do not. Some women have been socialized to act like they're interested when they aren't. Other are very comfortable saying so up front. I can't count the number of times I've been talking to a woman and not even trying to flirt, and being surprised when she offers me her number, seemingly out of the blue, only to then have her never answer or respond when I call.

On the other hand, there are several women who have become frustrated with me over the years because apparently, they were interested in me, but I didn't pick up on what they believed were obvious signals of interest, whereas I just thought they were being friendly. I just don't assume that sharing an interest with me or having a conversation with me means you want to jump my bones, but apparently that is exactly what some women do to express interest.

Of course, I write all of this deeply aware that women have a far more difficult time that I do; all I have to do to not be bothered by this state of affairs is go about my business and leave women alone. Women tend not to have that luxury. So I don't begrudge women wanting men to leave them the hell alone.

In short, I operate on the assumption that women aren't interested in me, and would prefer not to be bothered by me. And 99% of the time, I'm right. The other 1%? Haven't met them yet.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:33 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I reject this entire notion that men have these inherently base motives, and anything else is bullshit intended to deceive a woman into thinking he cares about her, for a man to self-deceive that his motives are "pure," or...whatever. You don't know what my motives are, quite frankly.

If your motives are to get a date with me, that is just as annoying as trying to fuck or whatever, if I'm not interested and you can't tell I'm not interested and keep pressing it until I have to physically leave or get rude. It's actually maybe more annoying then "wanna fuck?" because the "wanna fuck?" guy I can just give the finger. I don't care about the precise nature of your motives, I just don't want to be bothered when I'm trying to do other stuff. I mean, I don't care if the evangelical Christian sincerely wants to save my eternal soul, either. Great intentions, indeed totally self-abasing and noble intentions, but still annoying.

sonic meat machine, again, why aren't they making friends with any women, or meeting women just as people in other contexts? I get that making friends is hard, but finding a partner you'd get along with is hard too, this is all hard.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:34 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which results in my default response to compliments from strangers with a chirpy "Thank you!"

You remind me of my favorite Texas joke!

What I still have a hard time grasping though is how little sympathy many people seem to have for men who have, largely, the responsibility to attract mates and the inadequate answers given (online dating, go volunteer, ask your friends to set you up)....men have a legitamite problem here too.

Those are pretty fantastic solutions, though. In that they really work as places to meet people. In short, if your goal is "I'd like a relationship, Step One is to meet people who might also like a relationship," then your goal in all honesty is meeting people. And you can meet a lot of people in those settings. Some of those people might become someone you ask on a date, some might become your friends, some of those friends might introduce you to people to date. In general, though, if what you need is actually a set of social connections, these are great ways to build social connections. One random stranger woman cannot be for you an entire set of social connections. It's like you want a shortcut. You might not be able to get a shortcut, and you might have to meet women the way historically people have almost always met their mates: through a social network of which they are both a legitimate part.

Every so often a new guy would show up at the gym — it was attached to a hotel so there were always lots of new guys — and at some point while I'm doing curls or something New Guy would walk up to me with a charming smile.

My SO has said he really didn't get the whole culture of sexual pressure and constant evaluation for women until he lived in the Castro as a straight man. It does seem like it's pretty enlightening to be on the target end of intense, immediate sexual interest from males when you aren't up for it.

I'm not the Relationship Fairy and I have no idea how to solve this problem, particularly for people ill-served by dating sites, but I think we need to recognise that some of the relationship advice we give is really just shuffling misery around.

I don't think so. The advice is actually intended not to "shuffle misery around" but to point people to more functional ways of relating to one another than the simple, shortcut, transactional way that some men seem to wish for. As I noted above, if you take a class, ideally you're developing some complex of aspects to yourself: you're learning something, you're meeting a lot of new people (not just prospects), you're changing your daily habvits and patterns, you're indulging an interest all your own. This is all kind of important self-development stuff that everyone can use. Ideally the social structure of a class gives you an entirely different platform to interact on, and discover a different set of skills, communications standards, and parts of yourself that would never get expressed if you stuck with the habit of approaching women in bars and coffee shops. That's kind of the point - it enlarges the frame and helps you become more of a full person, who might actually be attractive, as a full person, to someone else who might get romantically interested in you.

Eventually, it will work.

Yeah, it probably will, but....why does it work? Well, you've run through everyone who had the wherewithal to freeze you out, ignore you, or turn you down. What kinds of women do you suppose are left at that point? What do you think their motivations are for accepting the overture? Is this awesome? It's pretty fishy stuff. You're right that eventually someone will go home with you. However, guessing here, "trolling for the most desperate to hook up" is probably not the partner selection mechanism you really want to be activating.

Hey I think some kind of neutral meeting ground event for single people is a great idea, whether it's a cotillion or not. That's one of the things that churches used to do, believe it or not! Help single people find other single people in non-threatening situations.

I agree that our social structures for meeting partners are pretty well decayed. Myself, I was at the end of my rope of frustration with the whole scheme until, at about the age of 30, I discovered a couple of things that suddenly snapped the whole picture into place. The first, goofy as it sounds, was swing dancing. This is a huge scene, and what's great about it is that at the same time as it's fun, active, stylish, physical, and cool, also has embedded in it a set of clear etiquette protocols about how you treat people you've just met. You dance with a different partner each dance. Men ask women to dance and women ask men. You should ask anyone you want to dance, and you should invite people who seem shy as well as 'belle of the ball' and 'big daddy' types as well. No wallflowers, everyone gets a chance to dance.

This set of rubrics, courtly and old-fashioned as it may seem, really worked. There are a fuck of a lot of swing-dance couples out there - I expect in large part because the entire culture of this scene is structured around being fair, friendly, non-creepy, and casually intimate but without pressure for every single person participating. The playing field is totally even. The stakes are super low, it's just a dance.

It's no coincidence that societies had abundant mechanisms like this until the last couple of generations. they worked well. We've broken down those old systems, but replaced them with pretty much nothing, leaving both men and women at the mercy of this idiotic idea from the movies that you can just put the moves on a complete and total stranger and end up in the romance of a lifetime. A few people meet that way, but only a few. For most of us, this isn't the story; most people meet in a social setting with some shared history or mutual contacts or online, where it's more negotiated. Negotiated settings actually work better to pair people. Classes, workshops, volunteering, dance, cycling, running, work, whatever - these are negotiated settings where we become known to each other, and these are the places where we meet most of our mates.

There are some very thin reasons why anyone should even expect that doing a cold open on a total stranger should immediately lead to romance. That's the anomaly. It's no wonder it really doesn't work that often, that simply. It's been rare in history. It's not all that productive. And it definitely creates expectations and pressure on women that other social settings - which are predicated on establishing a relationship antecedent to any romantic conversation - don't.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


ndfine asked: Is this actually a thing? Real numbers of men unable to have relationships because they're too awkward to do so?

People (not just men) in AskMe and other relationship forums keep saying that they fall into this category, and I've certainly met some people who seem to do so. And I really don't know what would work with some of the ones who are Looking For Love but don't know how to go about it, other than locking them together in a room and saying "You. Him. Work it out." Historically, this really did go on to some extent - but it's also true that many people never found a partner. We tend to discount this because we assume they didn't want to, but I have every reason to think that many did, but couldn't, and they weren't in the right society to get any assistance.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:40 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your motives are to get a date with me, that is just as annoying as trying to fuck or whatever, if I'm not interested and you can't tell I'm not interested and keep pressing it until I have to physically leave or get rude.

Honestly, if this is the attitude you kinda generally have -- and you're entitled to it, that's cool -- I highly doubt I would even think about talking to you, because that's the kind of thing that tends to be communicated pretty effectively in body language. I'm sorry if you're approached often by people, as that sounds unpleasant for everyone involved.

But understand that I'm thinking less here about the hypothetical of a guy approaching a woman cold at a coffee shop and more about the motives ascribed to men generally in this thread. I think they're weird bullshit and they greatly simplify and even kinda demonize what goes on in a man's head. I think this article is weird bullshit that, while it may feel vindicating to women who've been harassed, strikes me as very very Nice Guy TM, and basically like either an exegesis of self-loathing or some kind of hardcore Jedi level reverse psychology PUA shit, or both. It's a line. "Check out how sensitive I am...ladies" leads nowhere good.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Men have to treat women like fellow human beings and not like perpetual receptive objects of their love-spew. This is the message but it gets interpreted as "Oh so I'm not allowed to ____?" It boils down to "You have to let people escape from you and not lash out at them or prevent them from escaping" but it gets responded to like "I'm a pretty princess and my poo doesn't stink." It's so frustrating and tiresome.
posted by bleep at 7:47 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


I feel like there are a number of dudes in this thread utterly convinced of their right to bother women in public because they have a hard time dating, or are awkward, or can't make friends easily and are out of ideas.

Well, it is that attitude that is more in the way of any progress as a human being (whether that is finding love or simply becoming a desireable himan being)than nonexceptional looks or a bland personality or an inability to converse. Can't read social cues? Don't talk to women in public. Because if you do, you are putting your needs over the needs of a potential mate (or whatever NatGeo terminology you want to give it) and self-importance of that sort is hella
obvious and hella ugly.
posted by griphus at 7:47 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


Men have to treat women like fellow human beings and not like perpetual receptive objects

That is so very basically what it comes down to.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "White knighting isn't necessarily so much about getting something out of the deal (though I guess it can be) as believing women need defending, which often comes with a whole host of other weird attitudes about women. You know, the sort of attitudes which were on display in the whole OSBP thing. Entries like this*, which pop up in his journals now and then, don't precisely reassure me. It's not that I don't think he's well-intentioned. I do. I just feel . . . wary."

I think I understand what you mean, and I get how that blog post about how women deep down love to be called sluts kinda colors your reaction to him (and my reaction too, now that I have read it as well).

However, with the "white knight" thing, I have questions. Throughout this and past threads, there has been a repeated comment of "Oh, now a MAN has to tell everyone what women feel," implying that by the very nature of trying to be helpful, the man has put himself into a powerful position and the rest of womankind into a submissive, endangered-and-needing-rescue position.

On the other hand, I think that one of the main problems that contribute to ongoing sexism is the fact that men don't really talk about it. When a guy makes a sexist joke, none of his guy friends call him out on it. If someone does complain about sexism, man or woman, they are basically told to not rock the boat because status quo is, heh, king.

(In my own view, this article is an example of a man seeing another man doing something inappropriate and telling them to knock it the fuck off. Which is, as far as I can tell, the most innocuous and appropriate thing a man can do with regards to sexism.)

So, my question is this, and I guess it's the age old question etc, but how can men help? I know that some people say that they can't. Other people say that even asking the question is taking the focus off women and putting it onto men again. If that's what I'm doing, then ignore the question - but if that's the case, then I guess I've got no place in this discussion.
posted by rebent at 7:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's interesting how much the motives of men are asserted to be X, Y, Z without any evidence. I'm thinking about the "Kindness Coins" metaphor, but there are others, i'm just too lazy to link to all of them. i think what people are really saying is that they INFER these motivations based on their observations.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


cupcake1337: "Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: i don't understand, is that suppose to be some kind of dig at me? i tried to answer an honest question, though i was a bit cryptic i thought it would add a little style and be more fun.

or, is it a dig at the idea of a "numbers game" as so many people say? because citing the specific details, the kind that are abstracted away in any analogy, as some kind of proof that the other side of the analogy is false seems ... disingenuous. not you, the argument.
"

it's a movie joke
posted by rebent at 7:57 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, my question is this, and I guess it's the age old question etc, but how can men help? I know that some people say that they can't. Other people say that even asking the question is taking the focus off women and putting it onto men again. If that's what I'm doing, then ignore the question - but if that's the case, then I guess I've got no place in this discussion.

Helping to create safe spaces for women's voices is the most important thing a male ally can do. There's a subtle, but important difference between saying "Hey asshole, listen, I've figured this out and this is what's going on" and "Hey asshole, listen to her, she's experienced it!"

That's not to say that I'm completely opposed to male allies speaking up, too; the sad truth is that, with male-dominated spaces being the way they are, sometimes they can speak more effectively than women can. And men have valuable experiences to share, too. But one's past counts, and I'm more skeptical of these arguments coming from men who have pretty bad track records in regards to self-awareness about privilege and gender than those who haven't initiated public gropefests in environments already hostile to women.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, safety. But the statistical odds are in fact pretty low. Relative risk compared to say, driving to a coffee shop, negligible. I think 'annoyed' is probably a term that fits this discussion better.

Can I just say that "annoyed" doesn't actually cover it? "Annoyed" is for times when my latte tastes burnt or I can't taste the cocoa or whatever. I live half a block from my local coffee shop and close to many of the other places I shop at. Weird conversations and too-persistent guys often prompt my roommate and I to loop around the block or duck down alleys, because, look, following me around the coffee shop is one thing but I don't want to know if you'd follow me home.


But understand that I'm thinking less here about the hypothetical of a guy approaching a woman cold at a coffee shop and more about the motives ascribed to men generally in this thread. I think they're weird bullshit and they greatly simplify and even kinda demonize what goes on in a man's head.

I don't really see a lot of demonizing going on. Have you ever had a stranger who outweighed you (or a casual acquaintance) ever come over and ask how you are in bed? Ever been phone-stalked, or had your phone taken from you and a number programmed in? I don't even get a lot of catcalls or missed connection-type things, but I have to tell you, the three or four scary incidents are hard to get over. And I like dudes! I've had great conversations in coffee shops and art things and bookstores! There are categories of approaches, and many of them fall into the Just-About-Creepy demographic that overlaps with the Danger Will Robinson flowchart and you know what, it's frustrating when "nice conversation" turns in "sex" or "latte to study for final" turns into "chance to stare down strangers."

i think what people are really saying is that they INFER these motivations based on their observations.

haha no I am saying I have flat out had man friends who a) wanted to know about my sex life and b) wanted to be in my sex life because c) they were men and had a penis and I wasn't dating anyone and they were there, so.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


We tend to discount this because we assume they didn't want to, but I have every reason to think that many did, but couldn't, and they weren't in the right society to get any assistance.

I can see how this might be the case, and I would definitely be interested in seeing some statistics because it just doesn't seem to play out that way in an anecdotal sense. I mean, I work in software development which is apparently awkward guy central, and the numbers seem to play out just like everywhere else. The underlying factor, so far as I can see, for those that have been lucky in love is exactly what griphus said upthread, they treated their SO like the person that they are and not some mystical other whose rituals they had to perform.
posted by ndfine at 8:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


ndfine: Is this actually a thing? Real numbers of men unable to have relationships because they're too awkward to do so?

Anecdotes amount to nothing, but I'd like to second what Joe in Australia said. I've known guys who are just too awkward to date. One was an anime fan who recoiled in fear at a video of a pretty woman reciting an innuendo-laden script. Another was a libertarian who suspected his roommate's girlfriend had touched the bible he kept under his bed. He told me this during our first conversation.

I'm no master, either. When I was younger, the family joke held that I turned to stone around pretty women. Later on, my stepmother said she thought I'd make a good monk. My behavior has changed since then, but not without difficulty, and I don't think I'd feel comfortable asking someone out without maturing a little more.

That said, when I do ask someone out, it won't be someone who's just minding her own business at a coffee shop.

On preview, I, like ndfine, would really love to read a statistical report on this.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:08 PM on October 23, 2012


"Can I buy you a coffee?"

"No, but thanks anyway."

"Alright. Have a nice day!"

Take no for an answer is all that's being asked for here, and frankly I can't believe this even needs to be asked for.
posted by fatehunter at 8:08 PM on October 23, 2012 [44 favorites]


I like TFAs, but if a dude is going to explain this issue to dudes, then the following, from 1adam12 above, should probably be repeated at great length and in many forms:

It's also why my "tactic" at bars, when I was single, was to laugh and talk to my friends and enjoy myself and not try to hit on anyone who didn't come talk to me first. That worked out fine.

And you know what? I'm far from a fan of gender-based behavioural norms, and I'm lucky to somehow be the product of circumstances such that masculinity has never really been a thing on which much of my ego is predicated, but the Starbucks Issue is problematic enough that maybe some "Real Men have a strong desire to respect their fellow humans, detailed knowledge of how to do this in practice, and razor-sharp executive function that means that they can deploy forethought and judgement in normal circumstances instead of stumbling around letting their sexuality influence their behaviour in a way that interferes with their moral goals. Real Men therefore don't wantonly hit on strangers." rhetoric might be helpful in a dude-explains-this-issue-to-dudes piece. It's predicated partly on lies and on a completely bogus premise -- the "Real Men" construct -- but maybe this is an issue worth being Machiavellian about.

Everything between the italics and here is sort of hamburger cut with TVP, I guess, but something it might be worth addressing as a culture (more to the point, something about which certain dudes have a responsibility to have lucid and frequent ponders by themselves) is the fact that a certain extremely common dude subspecies has this problem where way, way too much of their self-concept is dependent on (more or less) the frequency with which they get laid. (This is probably not even the main cause of women getting absurd unwanted attention from randoms, but I bet, based on more anecdata than I'd like to possess, that it is the animating spirit of the fedoras-and-Neil-Strauss crowd.) I don't have a well-supported idea what the solution is, but I think it has something to do with certain dudes getting off their asses and developing self-contained means of genuine self-esteem development* instead of letting their sexuality run in daemon mode in the hope that a glorious Event will end their personal self-worth crises. (I'd hazard a guess that I'm only talking about one subtype of Wanton Hitting On Strangers, where the species of the problem are classified by the motivations of the perpetrators. I'm talking about the Entitled Nice Guy problem, which might not even have that much in common with, and therefore might not have a similar solution to, other variants of the problem. I don't think, for example, that the women I know who've spent time in Mediterranean-type cultures, and experienced way more unwanted random sexually-motivated attention than they were used to, came back talking about men who were acting with the same motivations as the Entitled Nice Guys, exactly.)

A difficulty is that the Starbucks Issue is a pressing problem, but I don't think telling dudes, en masse, what constitutes correct behaviour will be effective unless dudes are somehow refraining from subjecting each other to enormous social pressures that result in asshole attitudes and behaviour (it should still be done, though). TFA makes an implicit appeal to the Niceness of the Entitled Nice Guy, by pointing out that his behaviour isn't in fact nice, but I doubt that the ENG's desire to be able to think of himself as Nice without cognitive dissonance will outweigh his other motivations when the psychic chips are down. A very strong message of "nobody gives a fuck about your sexual 'success' or lack thereof, and it's pretty lame that you're so out of ideas, feelings-of-personal-agency-buttressingwise, that you feel the need to be a fucking imposition on strangers" is probably more the order of the day.

[Maybe there is more biology involved than I am crediting (I very often suspect that I don't have a good experiential understanding of the median male sex drive's magnitude, even though I'm personally acquainted with its direction, more or less), but I doubt it, and it certainly doesn't offer any ENGs an excuse, especially if they go to Starbuckses where smilingly stealing someone's baked goods is widely frowned upon.]

*I hate how I phrased this. The particular phrase I wanted to use is tendentiously-sourced, though, but is "self-contained and fulfilling surrogate activities".
posted by kengraham at 8:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


As OKCupid (and other online dating) become more and more prevalent I expect the utility of such sites to diminish tremendously (without some modification I haven't yet troubled to imagine). The reason for this being continued gender asymmetry in likelihood of approach.

Talking with my female friends who use OKCupid and talking with some of the dates I've been on via the site there is a recurrent pattern: men "approach" women (via messages and the other facilities of the site) much more often and probably a fair lot more shallowly than they might on the street. Several women have told me they receive more messages than they can stomach sorting through for the one decent messages from guys who may or may not actually be interesting to them.

I would estimate the average OKCupid-using woman in my age group and similar tier of attractiveness, in my city, gets on the order of one to twenty messages per day from men (who have disregarded match percentages entirely!) attempting to initiate conversation. I see one message like that from a woman about once every month.

This dynamic also kinda skews my strategy (approximately "will I conserve energy by being brief, waiting to see if she responds, then open up the conversation more?" vs. "will I write the 500 words that came to mind from some evocative paragraph in her profile and hope she at least gets a chance to read it amongst other noise?")

OKCupid just serves to make the idiot guys more efficient as idiots. I don't think it or online dating can be legitimately seen as a solution as long as the idiot guys will find ways to be tone-deaf assholes in whatever the prevailing meat-market-media of the day is.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate universe. I'm young and not hideous and I never, ever, ever EVER get hit on in public places like starbucks, etc. (even pre the wedding ring). It's hard for me to believe this happens, though of course, I accept that it does.

Thanks for writing this, Murfed13. Like you, I don't doubt the anecdotes of women who post in these threads attesting to being hit on "constantly." But reading FPP after FPP where women not only attest to these experiences but also characterize them as universal, I begin to wonder, because I do have conversations about these issues with female friends and they often tell me, "I never get hit on."

While I don't doubt the anecdote of a woman posting on MetaFilter who says she gets hit on constantly and needs to steel herself every morning before leaving the house, I also cannot doubt the anecdote of a woman who tells me, "I never get hit on." I remind myself that few things are probably universal.
posted by cribcage at 8:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


This article isn't about men's motives, it's about men's actions.

It's saying "when you do X,* it is particularly negative for women in this way." Some have countered, "but when I am doing X, my motive is good (just trying to connect with a woman, not trying to harsh her buzz), so it's unfair that I can't do X." People in the thread have explained there are different ways to achieve the goal of connecting with a women, other than by doing X. What people are trying to stress is that doing X is negative for women no matter whether your motives are pure or malevolent, so we would appreciate if you would cut it out.

*Let X equal pestering a women to engage with you you even in the face of her obvious desire not to. As has been repeatedly stated, things other than that--simply approaching a woman who appears open to chatting (not busy doing something else, not avoiding eye contact, not crossing her arms in front of her) to initially ask whether she wants coffee, chatting with a woman who is not trying to shut down the conversation or express disinterest, asking a woman out if she continues to engage receptively in conversation with you--are not the subject of this article.
posted by sallybrown at 8:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


crackingdes writes "Yeah I guess I really don't get all the guys who seem to not be able to distinguish between normal friendly interactions and sexual come-ons. It must make daily life confusing and Extremely Awkward"

Boy howdy it does. I can't figure people out; men or women. I'm seemingly completely incapable of picking up on body language, tone, flirting, and all the other nonverbal indicators that have been trotted out in this thread as a way to determine whether the person you are interacting with is interested in expanding the interaction. And I've known this about myself since before puberty. I work around it but avoiding that kind of interaction.

Luckily I'm also shy so I don't think I've creeped anyone out because I for the most part don't interact with people on anything but a business/professional level. I can't for example imagine complimenting anyone (man or woman) on anything but their choice of tool. Certianly never on how they look.

I sure as heck am not going to be asking anyone for their contact information unless I've known them for months. I'd never ask anyone out who I'm forced to interact with. That means no one from work or clubs or classes. But then I also wouldn't ask anyone out who I hadn't known for a long time either.

The weird thing for me is my father is a social ninja.

PS: Not looking as I've been happily married for years. Thank $Diety$.
posted by Mitheral at 8:15 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if this is the attitude you kinda generally have -- and you're entitled to it, that's cool -- I highly doubt I would even think about talking to you, because that's the kind of thing that tends to be communicated pretty effectively in body language. I'm sorry if you're approached often by people, as that sounds unpleasant for everyone involved.

I am approached often, I'm actually quite friendly, I've never aggressively confronted someone (even men who were groping me on the subway), and honestly you're acting like a real jackass by suggesting that I'm a frigid bitch because I don't want to entertain men who don't know how to read my obvious disinterest. I really enjoy chatting with strangers, just not ones who are viewing me through relationship-tinted glasses, or assuming I have nothing better to do than talk to them. I usually try to make pleasant conversation with the date-angling guys, and it's most of the time very hard because they're so single-minded about the approach they're taking or how they're viewing me (as a potential romance).

If a guy approaches me because he finds me attractive, or likes my shoes, or thinks that the book I'm reading means we'll be soulmates, this is unlikely to lead anywhere because either way it's a superficial assessment of the situation. I don't care if a guy finds my shoes sexy or my tits, either way it's awkward to deal with interest you don't reciprocate, and when you try to humanize the situation by being neutral and friendly it never ever works. In their mind they have a vision of you as their girlfriend (or their sex partner) and they don't want to just chat or be friends.

"Check out how sensitive I am...ladies" leads nowhere good

My feeling upon finishing reading the article was not "wow, do I ever want to sleep with this guy!" A guy actually being sensitive actually leads to all kinds of good places.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:18 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


This is the message but it gets interpreted as "Oh so I'm not allowed to ____?"

Yeah, Jesus. No one is saying you aren't allowed to do anything. We're pointing out that you're being an asshole.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:19 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


I don't really see a lot of demonizing going on. Have you ever had a stranger who outweighed you (or a casual acquaintance) ever come over and ask how you are in bed? Ever been phone-stalked, or had your phone taken from you and a number programmed in? I don't even get a lot of catcalls or missed connection-type things, but I have to tell you, the three or four scary incidents are hard to get over. And I like dudes!

Well, yeah, and I like chicks, but I have had some do some pretty dreadful things. They are all women I was actually involved with, though, which...I don't know if that makes it better or worse? It's certainly different, and yes, it's less likely that a random woman will do something horrible to me. The closest I can think of to anything like that was years ago when a woman kept asking me to take her number (I had a girlfriend, and said no), and would not relent until she finally wrote her number down and shoved it into my coat pocket. That was weird. But not terribly threatening.

That said, I am not any more comfortable being the stand-in for a jerkass guy than I think most women would be happy to find themselves wearing a mask that looks like one of my old girlfriends. I feel like there's a lot of "men are like this" happening in this piece, and ironically it's happening because of something that a man wrote, and that man sounds like kind of a weirdo to me; he sounded like it from the get, and I'm feeling like my misgivings are being borne out, yo.

Let X equal pestering a women to engage with you you even in the face of her obvious desire not to.

I think the problem I am having is that the article presumes a woman's default state is to not be interested...or anyway, at least not interested in you, mouthbreather. Put another way, I feel like there's a lot of conflation between patently harassing behavior and just being a person living in society. I think we all agree that harassing people is bad, but the article seems to believe that approaching anyone, save under rare cosmic circumstances, constitutes harassment. I mean, if you think of yourself as some sort of unlovable monstrosity, okay, sure, maybe that's true. I wouldn't know. But to be honest what I really think this article is is someone who is himself super awkward arriving at a conclusion that he himself will ultimately reject down the road, as he realizes that socially isolating himself for the good of womankind will lead to a lot of long, lonely nights of Babylon 5 marathons and D&D sessions played on Twitter. It's just not workable.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I realized that how people meet is an answerable question - there's data. So if we're worried that "gee, if I can't commandeer the attention of strange women I'll never meet a partner and the species will die out," we can actually treat that claim as an investigable statement.

Fortunately there is a giant longitudinal study of this. Snopes presents a summary.

Upshots:

Here's where people meet most of their partners: Friends, work, school, social gatherings, and online.

Here's where people meet relatively few of their partners: restaurants, bars, coffee shops, clubs.
The most important arena for meeting partners has always been, and continues to be, the community of friends. Regardless of when couples first met, the percent who report that they met through friends (either their own or their partner’s friends) is never less than 32 percent. No other category is ever as high as 32 percent.
Takeaway: if you want to meet a partner, a really good idea is to have friends. Also, having friends is in itself a marker of the kind of person many potential partners want to be with - a socially engaged, not isolated person who is capable of forming lasting platonic relationships. So, strategy 1: get and maintain lots of healthy, fun friendships. Bonus, this is fun and good for you in and of itself.
Family connections were mentioned by 25% of respondents who met their partners in 1989-1993. For respondents who met their partners in 2007-2009, only 13% reported meeting through family connections.
Takeaway: no great surprise. Our families are smaller and less powerful compared to our other social networks. 13% isn't chump change, but don't count on Aunt Judy to introduce you to your next SO. Because family links to potential partners are declining, there should be other social mechanisms to fill the void. One of those, again no great surprise, is the internet:
For couples who met in the two years prior to the HCMST survey, the Internet was the second most likely way of meeting, after the intermediation of friends...., the group most likely to have met their partner online is the middle- aged group; persons age 35-44 at the time of the HCMST survey, of which 22.9% met their partner online
Takeway: yeah, get online. Not only are people on online dating sites at least ostensibly indicating interest in pairing up, there are other forms of online participation - fanboards, forums, things like MetaFilter, which engender new contacts/friends, host meetups and events, and might also offer an introduction to a partner. Full disclosure, that's how I met my SO! That's why the study authors said:
By meeting online, or meeting through the Internet, I mean that the couple’s relationship began with an online interaction, and then developed into a personal and physical relationship. Online meetings include meeting through web dating sites, through Internet classifieds, through online chat, through social networking websites, and through other types of online communications. If the couple had first met decades earlier, fell out of touch, then rediscovered each other through Facebook, that would be “meeting online” for our purposes, because the online interaction brokered the romantic relationship.
Ultimately, I think that even if no woman ever again got a random advance in a public place, we'd muddle through. And if you want to get a partner, odds are very low that a public-place interaction with no prior introduction is not going to be spectacularly productive.

We've all grown up in an era with a popular culture that's invested in making partner selection seem wild, chance-ridden, and extraordinarily unpredictable and exciting. But I don't think that's ever really been terribly accurate. We find partners in places where we're able to evaluate them a bit, and place them in a broader social context. Sometimes we're less discriminating (one night stand) sometimes more so (spouse hunting), but I think overall we've tended to incorrectly minimize the importance of being known just enough to one another to build interest, insure safety, and enhance curiosity - something a loose friend connection, shared class, or frequent casual encounter can do.

So if you're worried that your future is doomed because you'll see Mrs. Right only on some crosstown bus and will be prevented by neoPuritanical mores from fulfilling your destiny, well, that's probably a bit overwrought. Get some sleep, eat a good breakfast, and go make more friends. All the usual advice - classes, volunteering, hobbies - applies. Put yourself where more people will meet you and get to know you. That's really the way this game has always worked, and it still works, with a little bit of internet as proxy for a family marriage broker.
posted by Miko at 8:23 PM on October 23, 2012 [61 favorites]


Here's my take. I think this problem starts from the beginning. I'm going to generalize a bunch here and I realize it's not so emphatically drawn like this for a lot of people but in broad strokes, it is. Like:

You're a boy, a kid. Girls play house and play dress-up and play dolls and wear dresses. You've already learned you don't do that stuff because you're a boy, and girl stuff is icky. Girls can do boy stuff like ride bikes and play kickball but if you tried to wear a dress everyone would laugh at you and tease you and call you a girl, maybe call you gay. Maybe even just if you play with a girl or with that group of girls, the other boys would tease you about it. So by extension, girls are icky, and you don't hang around girls, you play with other boys, doing boy stuff.

You're a teenager. Girl stuff is still icky - ugh, shopping and boy bands and makeup, why are girls doing all that dumb stuff? You're not interested in that stupid girl stuff. Maybe a few girls like cool stuff like you like, video games or whatever, but mostly you can't relate to what the girls are into at all. But SEX. Girls give you the tingly feelings and making out is awesome and if you want to do sex stuff you need to find a girl to do it with.

So already you've been implicitly taught that girls are other, this mysterious other that you wouldn't be friends with, but SEX. You haven't been taught to relate to girls or even allowed to relate to girls really, but now if you want to do the sex thing - and probably you do because hormones - you have to interact with girls. Somehow. But you don't really know how.

You're a young adult. Now it's all about who's getting laid, who's hooking up. You have to approach girls to hook up. You have a couple paths here: you can turn into the "salesguy" who treats it like a numbers game and is always pushing to seal the deal; or you were never good at the alpha-guy model anyway, you think those guys are kind of jerks, and anyway there's all these rules how to get girls to pay attention to you and you're not very good at it. And it sucks because you'd like to get laid, you'd like a girlfriend too, but it seems to involve being someone you're not really like, and the girls seem to like the guys that are pushy and kind of dickish - well, at least, the guys you know who are like that don't seem to have problems getting laid, so what's your problem? And you feel like yet again, you're not measuring up somehow, you're being rejected and it just sucks and you feel bad.

Again, at no point do many guys learn how to just be around women as people, how to relate to women aside from the sexual aspect, how to talk to women and find shared interests. Men are on one side, women are on the other, and women are to be both chased (for sex) and resented (because they don't want to have sex with you). Boy stuff is superior to girl stuff, girl stuff is inferior and yet girls like girl stuff and boys can't like girl stuff. Boys don't learn to relate to girls as people - girls do learn to relate to boys because most girls like some boy stuff, and liking boy stuff is okay; girls do learn that boys will pay attention to them if it's sexual.

So it's often obvious in the end that many men who are talking to you are doing it specifically because they find you sexually attractive - because they're not used to talking to women without the sexual context, and it shows; many men are so focused on "is this woman someone I could be interested in, or not?" because they're so used to evaluating women on this basis to the near-exclusion of all others; if you're not a woman a man finds sexually attractive, you're often pretty much invisible to him no matter what the context, often even in just-plain-friendly casual contexts. And as a guy, if you're not talking to women regularly simply as people, without the sexual freight to it, then each time you talk to a woman it's like you're putting yourself on the line for this eventual possibility, so if she rejects you, it's personal, it's another failure, "forever alone".

We always hear "women like a man who is confident" but I think some of that is simply - a man who is used to talking to women as people does not approach women with this need he would like them to fulfill - he just talks to them, as he would anyone, and if they have shared interests and get along, there's a spark and it goes from there; and if they're not interested, it's no big deal. A woman wants to feel someone is interested in them for themselves. Men who are not used to being interested in women for themselves, with no sexual object or attraction in mind, probably don't know how to talk to women very well; women do sense a man like this tends to see women as interchangeable, each woman he's attracted to a possible provider of sex and girlfriend-ness, rather than as herself first, being attracted to her for herself.
posted by flex at 8:24 PM on October 23, 2012 [42 favorites]


In short, I operate on the assumption that women aren't interested in me, and would prefer not to be bothered by me. And 99% of the time, I'm right. The other 1%? Haven't met them yet.

Or you have, and neither of you said anything.

Which might be fine. I understand the polite principle behind not engaging strangers, and honestly that's usually the way I live my life for a variety of reasons: I usually assume strangers aren't interested in what's going on in my head (particularly since it's frequently pretty nerdy anyway); I know I don't have grand social skills needed to make an opening conversation feel comfortable instead of awkward; and most of the time, I have other things to do.

But I sometimes think the world's actually a poorer place for a lack of more common engagement. I'm reminded of this on the occasion where a stranger says something to me on the train and it turns into an hour of conversation, or I'm candid with a clerk about thoughts/feelings and we enjoy a few minutes jawing before we move on. This feels less objectifying and degrading to me than a lot of daily interactions where other people border on becoming nothing more than scenery or cogs.

On the other hand, there is harassment, these situations where someone engages with an agenda, and then either out of a desire to manipulative or lack of emotional maturity/stability takes offense if you exercise the unassailable prerogative to not engage. I know I can find these interactions uncomfortable. I suspect that if I were a frequently-approached woman, I'd get pretty tired of the whole thing. Maybe I'd even wish we could get everybody on board with the idea that it's never OK to approach strangers.

But I honestly don't think that's going to help much: I think people who for whatever reason already think you owe them a reply to a conversation they start are also not going to think they owe you their silence.

And I don't know that it'd really be a net improvement to the world if we succeeded.

YMMV. If it does, my apology in advance if you happen to be the rare stranger I end up speaking to.
posted by weston at 8:24 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though I agree with the obvious "don't be an asshole" message, I want to go on record here: this is such a load of bullshit I am in disbelief. I've never hit on anyone. I'm a friendly person, and many if not most of my closest friends, male or female, I've met through striking up a chat with no pretext whatsoever. I have made very few female friends in recent years, because I assume that they would not appreciate being talked to outside of "proper channels". Put yourself in my shoes. You have just moved to a new city. You're lonely, and you happen to be an introvert with normal social skills. How do you make friends? How do you find a boyfriend? Remember, no random chatting! Let's see... Okcupid? You sign up and... what? Wait to get chatted up? Chat someone else up with the ulterior motive that you want to find a friend to alleviate your loneliness? Seems like a catch-22. Solution? Stop thinking about crap like this post, and be yourself. Talk to whoever you want to. If you don't want to talk to someone say "would you mind leaving me alone please?" I refuse to believe that we humans, so advanced, have such difficulties just connecting with other humans.
posted by Astragalus at 8:25 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think a good rule of thumb for straight guys is to behave towards women the way they would a gay male stranger behaving towards them.
posted by Dasein at 8:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


"but I also hope that in the last 20 years, young women have not lost the ability to simply say 'No, thanks' and carry on with their day."

The thing is (and not to pick on you, I was thinking about this all through this thread), it takes time and experience and maturity to learn how to gracefully accept or decline a compliment, gift, or favor. These threads are so much, "OMG, poor awkward nerd-men, how will they attract women? Why are women being mean about a nice gesture?"

But the woman being offered coffee, chances are reasonable that even if she likes the look of you, even if she's interested, saying, "Thank you!" fills her with a burning awkwardness and embarrassment. Saying "No thanks" if she's not interested may be even harder. But I think men who are themselves awkward tend to discount how very awkward women can feel. It's embarrassing to be singled out in public, even if nobody else is noticing. When it's unexpected, you have to shift into that conversational mode and lots of people aren't great at sudden conversational shifts into unexpected territory that require an immediate -- and in this case, emotionally loaded and potentially embarrassing or hurtful -- response.

It sometimes feels like some men are saying, "I am awkward. Women, possessing as they do girly parts, are not because they are different from me. So I will be awkward and if she feels awkward in response, it is because she is mean, not because she is also awkward. I will then get angry and resentful SHE is daring to be awkward at ME because *I* am trying to be awkward at HER and she is supposed to figure out how to gracefully deal with that. I am not responsible for graceful public interactions."

I just so vividly remember when I was younger and just receiving an innocent compliment (from your mom's friend! Not even some dude, let alone hitting on you) was so embarrassing, and so hard to respond to appropriately. Dealing with that kind of positive, complimentary social interaction is a learned skill, and for a lot of people, for whatever reason, it is hard to learn and that kind of attention is hard to deal with. Which, if you are a young gentleman of both awkwardness and sympathetic character, should give you a clue that hitting on women may make them feel awkward and unhappy (sometimes. not always.), and you should adjust your approach accordingly.

But geez, awkward guys, being awkward should give you sympathy for woman-humans sometimes being awkward, not make you pissed about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 PM on October 23, 2012 [46 favorites]


Agreed - I get hit on by guys about infinity times more often than I get hit on by girls. Sometimes it's creepy. Generally, it's slightly annoying, slightly flattering, and leads to a few minutes of friendly chatting that takes another turn, which I politely refuse, smile, and go on my way.
posted by Astragalus at 8:29 PM on October 23, 2012


Well...

I do think that it's an important general fact about life that something that's not annoying when it happens once or seldom can drive you insane when it happens over and over.

And it's good to explicitly point out to guys that this general principle applies to unwanted sexual and quasi-sexual advances, as to just about every other unwanted thing...

OTOH, I do get the feeling that once MeFi gets going on something like this, virtually anything one says--if one is not completely toeing a certain line--will be accused of some subtle (or not-so-subtle) kind of sexism.

And that gets pulled above several times; one favored tactic around here is the snide reminder that women are individuals...as if anyone here didn't realize that, and as if no generalizations whatsoever were permissible...

So let me try not to relish the turning of the tables too much when I point out that...women are individuals. And one thing they disagree about is being approached in public. They have different opinions about this, different views about what's ok and what's not, and so forth. (Which is, of course, not to say that there aren't all sorts of things that are out-of-bounds by any reasonable lights... Too bad I have to put in such disclaimers...)

I was really impressed by old-school egalitarian feminism as a kid. But it told me an amazing number of false things about actually meeting women, and about sex. For example, it told me:

1. Never, *ever* approach women in public on anything like a trajectory to ask them out. They hate it.

2. And don't even think about drifting in a more-than-mere-friends direction with your female friends, because they hate that, too. They are tired of never being able to have male friends who are just friends.

1 and 2, taken together, put some pretty severe constraints on one's options.

It turns out that I'm lucky enough that, even though I really did buy both 1 and 2, enough women took the initiative with me that I have nothing like grounds for complaint in this sector in my life...but I honestly shudder to bloody think what my life would be like if I'd been less, well, y'know...irresistible... To be serious again: I shudder to think of it.

Look, I've had all sorts of female friends who thought I was totally uptight basically because I accepted the basic view being promoted here. Some people just live in a much more...how to say...free-flowing, uninhibited world. (Which, again, is not to say that anything goes.) They are more comfortable being approached, more comfortable shooting people down (or not), and so on. I used to live with some female dancers who were simply appalled at how non-on-the-prowl I was...though by the standards of this comment section, I'm, like, a rake or something...

Anyway...I have largely lived my life being really, really scrupulous about this sort of thing...while more assertive guys got notably more sex than I did. (Contrary to what's said above, hyper-assertiveness works a fair bit of the time.) Then I read things like this, which somehow still seem to have an air of blanket condemnation of males about them...though perhaps I'm wrong about that...

I mean...who, after all, is a piece like this one aimed at? Is it aimed at the douchebag aging frat rats and borderline sexual predators who think that women should be receptive to their every advance? Because those guys aren't reading this, and wouldn't listen if they did. Or is it aimed at the rest of us, the guys who don't do that at all? Because it kinda sorta seems that way to me. I mean, maybe that's ok...maybe the point is: don't take it too hard when a woman turns you down with annoyance, because she has to deal with those assholes all the time. Ok, that's cool. Though perhaps a little acknowledgement that this is not so much men vs. women as it is good people vs. bad people would not go amiss...

Meh. Maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:29 PM on October 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


I want to go on record here: this is such a load of bullshit I am in disbelief.

I don't know what to tell you except that the women in this thread, in the previous threads, and in thousands of conversations like this one are not lying to you about their experience.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:30 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


I think the problem I am having is that the article presumes a woman's default state is to not be interested...or anyway, at least not interested in you, mouthbreather. Put another way, I feel like there's a lot of conflation between patently harassing behavior and just being a person living in society. I think we all agree that harassing people is bad, but the article seems to believe that approaching anyone, save under rare cosmic circumstances, constitutes harassment

I'm not sure playing the odds when the chances of "making a woman uncomfortable and wary" are well, well over non-zero (as evidenced by overwhelmimg in-thread agreement among women of a wide gamut of races, creeds and social statuses) speaks well to the character of the person playing said odds, regardless of how it had worked out for them.
posted by griphus at 8:35 PM on October 23, 2012


I begin to wonder, because I do have conversations about these issues with female friends and they often tell me, "I never get hit on."

In my life I've been youthful and I've been fortysomething, and I've been overweight and I've been buff. The level of attention varies - sometimes I'm totally invisible, and other times a target. So I know that no, not everybody gets overtly hit on. To be 100% clear, it has everything to do with how you look on the outside.

Still, I don't see that as awesome. This whole transactional experience places women in categories of 'hit-on-able' or 'ignore,' which is certainly the opposite of the "neighborly community" vibe so many claim they want.

So if we're really trying to have a warm neighborly community, we'd all equally feel it, all the time. We don't. It's pretty much a function of whether you are seen as viable as a sexual target or not - which is evidence that it's not an innocuous behavior at all.

There's another thing though - even when old/overweight, you still get the old guys and the "smile!" people tapping you to be cheerful and maternally happy or whatever. That role doesn't seem to go away unless your entire visage and body language seems to say "don't fuck with me" very clearly.

But the "I'm going to pester you for a while in a flirty manner" is entirely responsive, in my experience, to how closely you hew to standards of attractiveness. So I have no trouble believing that some of us get it all the time, some of us get it more rarely, since I've gotten both, and know exactly why/why not in either case.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The women you refer to - I am not impugning their truthfulness - the fact that many women feel that way is pretty obvious. What I ask is - what do these women do to meet guys that have ulterior motives towards?
posted by Astragalus at 8:36 PM on October 23, 2012


Who are you talking to, astragalus?
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on October 23, 2012


I don't know what to tell you except that the women in this thread, in the previous threads, and in thousands of conversations like this one are not lying to you about their experience.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:30 PM on October 23
posted by Astragalus at 8:37 PM on October 23, 2012


This article isn't about men's motives, it's about men's actions.

Actions are always motivated, and it's probably not effective to try to curtail problematic actions by giving people arguments that don't counter their probable motives. The writer of an article like TFA therefore has a responsibility to try to understand the motives involved if they'd like to write something that is likely to affect anyone's actions. It would be unfortunate if the pretty unambiguous Right Side of this issue -- i.e. those holding views similar to those expressed by TFA -- started framing things in a thought-terminating way that discouraged people who agree with them from speculating about how they might argue more effectively to their target audience.

What people are trying to stress is that doing X is negative for women no matter whether your motives are pure or malevolent, so we would appreciate if you would cut it out.

Since I used the word "motives", and discussed motives, I wonder if this is directed at me. If so, please find the place in my comment where I claimed to be one of, or even defended, the men who behave in the way described in TFA, before busting out the word "you" in the quoted context.
posted by kengraham at 8:38 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ulterior motives" is not a catch-all term for attraction. It is a specific set of behaviors. The conflation of the two, and that of sex to deception, is one of these behaviors.
posted by griphus at 8:39 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


what do these women do to meet guys that have ulterior motives towards?

1. What women?
2. Who has ulterior motives towards whom?

Are you asking how women meet guys they want to screw? See my post above about how couples meet.
posted by Miko at 8:40 PM on October 23, 2012


I am approached often, I'm actually quite friendly, I've never aggressively confronted someone (even men who were groping me on the subway), and honestly you're acting like a real jackass by suggesting that I'm a frigid bitch because I don't want to entertain men who don't know how to read my obvious disinterest.

Yeah, there are precedents for my jackassery. It's pretty possible. But I mean, you basically jumped right to needing to get rude and/or leave and...yeah, wow. That kind of blew my hair back. I promise that if you were giving off such signals in real life, I would absolutely not approach you. But I trust that you are indeed actually a very friendly person.

If a guy approaches me because he finds me attractive, or likes my shoes, or thinks that the book I'm reading means we'll be soulmates, this is unlikely to lead anywhere because either way it's a superficial assessment of the situation. I don't care if a guy finds my shoes sexy or my tits, either way it's awkward to deal with interest you don't reciprocate, and when you try to humanize the situation by being neutral and friendly it never ever works. In their mind they have a vision of you as their girlfriend (or their sex partner) and they don't want to just chat or be friends.

I would say it's less a superficial assessment of the situation that it is a tentative one. I would also say that liking the book a woman likes is probably a better indication of a relationship potential than liking her tits, a factor that says nothing about her as a person, and probably a better indicator than the shoes (though shoes can say a lot!). No, none of these is an insight into a person's soul. But the book and the shoes at least are signals that this person is someone who might be worth getting to know. I mean, we don't live in a contextless vacuum...these things say things about us. But I'm not sure why it's negative to just cop to the idea that what it's about is seeing whether this is someone you might want to date. No guy has ever wanted to "just" chat. But you want to chat! You want to know that person, if there's something that interests you. You want to be friends. Wanting to be friends does not mean that you don't want a girlfriend, or wouldn't want that woman to be your girlfriend if it turned out your instincts about her were right. That doesn't mean that sex and romance are ulterior motives, though. It's all kind of...like...one motive. And in all seriousness, isn't it for everybody?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:40 PM on October 23, 2012


Fists O' Fury, this article is simply asking men to take no for an answer. To suppose that that means we should never speak to women is silly. Plus, what griphus said. If you really must approach someone you don't know at all, at least be polite and don't expect warmth.

Miko, I've run out of favorites today, but rest assured I will favorite your comment as soon as I can. Good reading.

And I bet I've fallen into Eyebrows McGee's "Men are awkward, women aren't" trap more times than I'd care to admit.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:42 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The women you refer to - I am not impugning their truthfulness - the fact that many women feel that way is pretty obvious. What I ask is - what do these women do to meet guys that have ulterior motives towards?

Existence. It's not something they do. They exist, and that is taken as all that is required by lots of creepy guys to get their creep on.
posted by ndfine at 8:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


liking the book a woman likes is probably a better indication of a relationship potential than liking her tits

This is a really common mistake.

No guy has ever wanted to "just" chat.

As a generalization, I reject that. I don't think that's true, and it's not a helpful way of thinking about men or encouraging them to think about themselves.
posted by Miko at 8:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


In short, I operate on the assumption that women aren't interested in me, and would prefer not to be bothered by me. And 99% of the time, I'm right.

Carry on down this road of self-hate and you'll be right 99.9%, 99.99%, 99.999% of the time. Honestly, why would a woman want to be with a guy who views himself as so lowly?

Flip that around: You aren't interested in 99% of women out there. Take the role of the valued one. Assume the attitude of a hot girl, if that helps you visualize it. Be the hero of your own movie.
posted by LordSludge at 8:50 PM on October 23, 2012


As a generalization, I reject that. I don't think that's true, and it's not a helpful way of thinking about men or encouraging them to think about themselves.

Well, I'm saying if a man approaches a woman he doesn't really know. In other contexts, sure. In that context? He's at least thinking about it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:52 PM on October 23, 2012


Miko's got it-- extremely common mistake. And exactly the kind of misconception that leads to these awkward situations, where a guy really wants to get to know this awesome looking woman who is really just trying to go about her day, blah blah. See: (500) Days of Summer, I guess.

Yeah, there are precedents for my jackassery. It's pretty possible. But I mean, you basically jumped right to needing to get rude and/or leave and...yeah, wow. That kind of blew my hair back. I promise that if you were giving off such signals in real life, I would absolutely not approach you. But I trust that you are indeed actually a very friendly person.

What are you talking about? I said that if I was in a situation where a guy wasn't reading my interest and leaving me alone, I would feel the need to get rude or leave, which basically means if he's taking up a significant amount of my time or getting into my personal space without picking up on any other signals of polite disinterest. What else is a person supposed to do? Keep your shorts on, man.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:53 PM on October 23, 2012


LordSludge, hating oneself and acknowledging the indifference of the world are two different things.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assume the attitude of a hot girl...

Goodnight, everybody.
posted by griphus at 8:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


What are you talking about? I said that if I was in a situation where a guy wasn't reading my interest and leaving me alone, I would feel the need to get rude or leave, which basically means if he's taking up a significant amount of my time or getting into my personal space without picking up on any other signals of polite disinterest. What else is a person supposed to do?

Uh-huh, but because you leapt to that example totally independently of what I was even talking about, I was like, well, jeez, okay. Agreed, in a situation where a person is totally getting in your space unwanted, you get out.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm saying if a man approaches a woman he doesn't really know. In other contexts, sure. In that context? He's at least thinking about it.

Crux of the problem.

A - Talk to people more often, women included, women of all kinds, ages, shapes, and sizes, even when you aren't interested in having sex with them. Then it will seem less strange to talk to women in general, and you might actually find them interesting and valuable as human beings. You might find that you enjoy talking to all kinds of people, and that your world expands. Talk to all kinds of people. Take the "in the back of my mind I'm fantasizing about laying this person" out of it. Stop thinking about what it is you secretly hope to get out of the interaction, and start thinking about yourself as one small individual in a big society full of complex people with full lives.

B - When you are interested in having sex with some random woman you see, don't assume that talking to them without an introduction and with no sign of their interest in a public place is a good way to get started.

This 'strategy' is so clumsily, haplessly conceived and idiotically managed that it's truly a wonder so many people still consider so essential as to be practically inevitable and are so unable to imagine alternatives.

I mean really.
posted by Miko at 8:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Well, I'm saying if a man approaches a woman he doesn't really know. In other contexts, sure. In that context? He's at least thinking about it.

This is exactly what's kind of annoying about it. If you see me reading a book and genuinely want to talk about the book, that's totally cool actually, I like to talk about books I'm reading, and if we have a good conversation I'd be up to hanging out or something. But if the reason you're talking to me is really "your shoes looked cool" or "that is a neat book, but I have nothing to say about it," ... where is that conversation going to go? Why would I want to have it, rather than doing my homework or whatever? I like friendly chat and all but "I want to get to know this person totally from scratch" is usually something that only the attracted party feels, so when a guy approaches you with that attitude, and it happens every time you're out, it gets pretty annoying. I don't want to be that fantasy in someone's head (however mild a fantasy) when I have other things to do and am a little burnt out on being treated that way.

Really the point is that it happens all the time and begins to really wear. Most guys probably won't fully get that unless they use an analogy like the one in the post or have been hit on a lot by people they're usually not interested in.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:02 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think a good rule of thumb for straight guys is to behave towards women the way they would a gay male stranger behaving towards them.

Fun thought experiment for the guys: Imagine a 400lb horny guy aggressively hitting on you.
posted by LordSludge at 9:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Talk to people more often, women included, women of all kinds, ages, shapes, and sizes, even when you aren't interested in having sex with them. Then it will seem less strange to talk to women in general, and you might actually find them interesting and valuable as human being.

Wow, um. I now don't find women interesting and valuable as human beings? That's a hell of a conclusion to draw on the basis of admitting I find women sexually attractive. What the hell, I don't even
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the "I'm going to pester you for a while in a flirty manner" is entirely responsive, in my experience, to how closely you hew to standards of attractiveness. So I have no trouble believing that some of us get it all the time, some of us get it more rarely, since I've gotten both, and know exactly why/why not in either case.

To the extent that this reflects your experience, this is worth adding to the discussion. But to the extent that it was responsive to or disagreeing with my comment specifically (which you quoted), I'm not sure it's relevant. "I never get hit on" has been said by very conventionally attractive young women, both to me personally and in this FPP, and on the other side of the coin there have been many comments from women who say, "I am not conventionally attractive, and I get this attention all the time."

My common sense tells me that you are probably right, that "conventionally attractive" women get hit on more. But from listening to various women's experiences, it seems that common-sense impression might be naive or oversimplified.
posted by cribcage at 9:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I now don't find women interesting and valuable as human beings?

You just said that just about whenever you talk to a strange women you're "at least thking about" having sex with them. I'm not sure how else to interpret this.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is exactly what's kind of annoying about it. If you see me reading a book and genuinely want to talk about the book, that's totally cool actually, I like to talk about books I'm reading, and if we have a good conversation I'd be up to hanging out or something. But if the reason you're talking to me is really "your shoes looked cool" or "that is a neat book, but I have nothing to say about it," ... where is that conversation going to go?

Well, no: If the conversation doesn't go anywhere, then he'd want to bail, too. I mean, he might fumble awkwardly for a minute trying to re-rail. But it's a two-way street, that conversation. It shouldn't be, "Hey, and if this works, we can ___!" but rather, "Oh, I guess this isn't working out so good. I kinda hoped we'd sync up a little better. Well, that's disappointing, but hey."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But from listening to various women's experiences, it seems that common-sense impression might be naive or oversimplified.

Then I really didn't understand your comment.

On reflection, it's possible that all kinds of women get sexually pressured regardless of appearance. Personally, I've noticed a distinct dropoff when I've departed from the conventionally-attractive category, a distinct increase upon re-entering it, but sure, that's just my experience. And there have been different dynamics at play when I was less conventionally attractive, where people assume that you must have lower standards and therefore be 'easier' - or the harassment takes a shaming/putdown form instead - that sort of thing.

So sure, if your point is that we can't usefully generalize about this, then I can basically accept and endorse that.
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've gotten asked out / hit on / approached at my gym maybe a half dozen times in a dozen years. Most of those have been perfectly OK, along the lines of "Gee that class was hard!" "OMG yes it totally was, I have found new ways to be sore that I didn't think existed!" "I feel great though, don't you love a hard workout?" "Yeah, it really clears the cobwebs out. After a long hot shower, anyway." "So, um, I don't know what you're doing later, but do you want to grab a cup of coffee or something?" "Oh! Actually, I'm not single, so no, I'm sorry." "Oh. OK. Well, enjoy your shower, I'll see you next Friday!" Next Friday comes along, dude sets up in the opposite corner from me in class, does a smile / wave when he catches my eye in the mirror, but lets a couple days go past before we resume friendly banter. Everything is great.

A couple times, though, there have been guys who really, really didn't get it. Both times, they tried to start a conversation when I was very obviously not in a place to have a conversation; once when I was in the middle of a very intense set of squats to failure, once while I was running flat out on a treadmill with earphones in. Both times, they opened their conversation inappropriately; squats guy said "Jesus, I bet if you wrapped your legs around a guy's neck while he was eating you out, you could kill him," and treadmill guy pointed to the TV that was covering our local marriage equality bill and said "So what do you think of these degenerates trying to ruin our society?"

In both cases, they kept trying to push their point after I politely pretended I didn't hear them the first time, and in both cases, they reacted really angrily when I said "I'm trying to work out, and anyway I'm married." Squats guy actually said "Bitch, I was only trying to talk, you'd think you'd be grateful!" Treadmill guy said "Married? Like to a man husband?" and when I said "Yes, to a man husband, not that it's any of your business!" said "I hope you can never have children!" and stalked off.

The difference is obvious, right? In the good example, the guys first established that I was in a place where a conversation was welcome, then they made light but brief conversation, then they asked me out directly and specifically, then they accepted my refusal graciously and made it clear they weren't going to go all harass-y on me. In the bad examples, both guys assumed that whatever I was already doing was less important than listening to them, they both assumed that they could say anything they wanted to me without me taking offense, and they both got angry when I told them I wasn't interested in talking. Just. . . just don't do THAT.

The little dance of non-verbal body language is a big deal. You look at them, they look back and smile. You move closer to them, they turn to face you. Conversation is ON! But if you look at them and they look away, or you move closer to them and they become very absorbed in whatever they're doing, then conversation is NOT on, and it is rude and dense to attempt to force it. I don't know why this is so hard to understand.
posted by KathrynT at 9:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [30 favorites]


it's a two-way street, that conversation

Which was the point of the posts in the FPP.
posted by Miko at 9:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just said that just about whenever you talk to a strange women you're "at least thking about" having sex with them. I'm not sure how else to interpret this.

Well, I don't mean like every woman I encounter in the world; I mean women who I would approach when in a proper social context, were I to approach a woman in such a context. Presumably, a woman I approached at a bar or a club I would approach because I had some flicker of interest in her. If sexual interest is to you tantamount to devaluing someone as a human being, okay; but that is your thing, and I do not want it. You can keep that, thank you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the "I'm going to pester you for a while in a flirty manner" is entirely responsive, in my experience, to how closely you hew to standards of attractiveness. So I have no trouble believing that some of us get it all the time, some of us get it more rarely, since I've gotten both, and know exactly why/why not in either case.

You calling me ugly? (Kidding... Sort of.).
posted by murfed13 at 9:14 PM on October 23, 2012


Which was the point of the posts in the FPP.

Wow, it so wasn't, to my mind. If I thought it was, I would have liked it a whole lot more.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:16 PM on October 23, 2012


To quote the FPP article:
My friends couldn’t understand my upset. “Dude,” they told me. “You never have to pay for coffee again in your life! You’ve got it made! Do you know how much money you’re saving?”

“But I don’t want to talk to these people,” I said.

“You’ve talked about God with us before,” they replied. “Sometimes, we’ll stay up until two, three in the morning discussing the nature of heaven and hell. You dig philosophy, Ferrett. If you like talking about that shit with us, then why not with them?”

“Because they’re just one-note and don’t really care what I have to say,” I said.

“Just try ‘em, man. Some of them are cute. Maybe some of them actually want to date you!”

“I guess,” I said. “But how do I know which ones are genuine without having to talk to a bunch of phonies?”
There are a million billion phonies out there who want to pretend they're interested in a woman as a person but are just waiting for it to become acceptable for them to bridge the gap to romance/sex. It's annoying. So annoying.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:20 PM on October 23, 2012


If sexual interest is to you tantamount to devaluing someone as a human being, okay; but that is your thing, and I do not want it

No, to me that is not an equivalence. But it seemed like if you're approaching someone only because of sexual interest, prompted by this sexual interest, and you aren't interested in any other aspects of them and wouldn't be as happy with any other outcome, and aren't approaching other people with whom you don't have sexual interest in similar ways, then yes, perhaps you're less interested in the other parts of them that are not as much about being sexual, and therefore, you're not aproaching as full human beings but as beings you're trying to define a specific sexual relationship with. In that case, you'd be approaching them because of your interest in a single dimension. That's where you lost me; it isn't "my thing" but something you seemed to be leading toward in your comment.

it so wasn't, to my mind.

It's really hard to understand how you could have missed that point. There's a lot of discussion of it in the followup post, which I actually blockquoted in this thread precisely because it seemed as though people were missing it. So perhaps you could reread.
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This thread, the article, and all the advice people are giving is, by and large, incredibly offensive.

Guess what everybody, I am a human being – please, for everyone's peace of mind but especially mine, be nicer.

Personally, anecdotally, this poisonous perspective has captured such a large mind-share that I actively avoid eye contact with strangers. How would you feel if multiple times a day, every day or many days a week, when you accidentally made eye-contact while walking in a direction, or waiting in a line, someone – a total stranger – scowls at you? It is disconcerting – you try to smile and sometimes this helps, but sometimes this only makes the scowl worse or more intense.

So I try to look down, but depending on the context, this can be fraught since my gaze will skip across bodies which can result in much worse than a scowl and if I just try to space out my eyes will often, of their own accord, be attracted to bright colors (like pink, or just end up idly reading words, like pink) and so I look up, or at my feet, and I feel fish-eyed and autistic, and often I almost run into people (total strangers) and they'll sometimes emote a grunt of disgust, which (and I try not to let it get to me) but I often dread is directed at me for being such an incompetent walker, and then I apologize and smile but if I am going to be honest this constant barrage is wearing me down so I stay home and try not to be the generator of so many scowls and grunts of disgust.
posted by Shit Parade at 9:31 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm afraid I must contest your claims about internet dating, Miko.

Those statistics place online dating sites as less than half as effective as either bars and clubs or other public places, basically around 3% across all internet savvy age groups, which frankly sounds optimistically high.

I'd expect the online chat forums will improve over time as more people worm their way into regional chat spaces, but doubt that online dating offers much room for growth.

In fact, I'd summarize those results as school comes first with 34% amongst people attending school, work comes second with 18% across all working ages, and friends comes third with 14% across all ages. After these, we've bars, social gatherings, and public places all tied with about 8% each. We might combine social gatherings with friends for 22% and lump together bars and public places for 16%, but school still obliterates these. In any case, all classically dating oriented meetings like arrangements, online dating, family introductions, etc. all ranking around 3-4% each.

I suspect these numbers say that your ability to date is mostly controlled by (a) the amount of time you dedicate to being around a group and (b) your ability to be creatively employ that time. Work takes lots of time. Friends offers flexible time usage. School offers both. All other activities are too infrequent or structured.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:34 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


One interaction that ends with rejection and no further contact is not harassment. Harassment is if the person doesn't take no for an answer.

I'm a nice, shy guy and the 80% of the reason I don't approach women in public is because of this. I don't wish to interrupt whatever it is they have going on.

But then again, if the guy were Hugh Jackman/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds/fill-in-the-blank, well, that wouldn't be annoying, that would be opportunity knocking.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:40 PM on October 23, 2012


I hate that people think anytime they get chatted up it is all about sex. I talk to anyone who looks interesting if I am in the mood.

There is a whole vast ocean of social interaction in between chatting with a stranger and having sex with them.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


"My common sense tells me that you are probably right, that "conventionally attractive" women get hit on more. But from listening to various women's experiences, it seems that common-sense impression might be naive or oversimplified."

One thing that gets left out of these conversations a lot is that there are big cultural and class differences. I got hit on by strangers pretty rarely because I grew up in and went to college in Midwestern areas with big personal space bubbles and limited topics of appropriate conversation among casual acquaintances or strangers -- and strong taboos against breaking those rules. Clearly, clearly in New York, interactions with strangers are very different. It's easy to forget how different personal interaction rules can be just across the U.S., let alone in foreign climes.

But there's a lot beyond that. For men who hit on random women, the possible reward is high (sex, romance, love of your life, whatever) but the chance of that reward occurring is very very low. So men will mostly engage in this behavior when the opportunity cost is low -- when it doesn't take a lot of time out of their day, when it doesn't interrupt other things they're doing, when the targeted woman cannot hurt or humiliate or retaliate against them if she gets angry. So men will approach women on the street when they're walking by each other -- takes virtually no time -- but they won't dash out of a restaurant when a woman goes by the window. And women in cars (and, by extension, in car-dependent areas) are largely protected against this form of approach. Similarly, a secretarial worker may get hit on a lot by visiting businessmen, where her lower status means she's unlikely to react with anger or disgust; she will at least be polite. But those same visiting businessmen wouldn't hit on that woman if she were the head of legal at the company they were visiting; the opportunity cost if she doesn't like it is too high. This is also why some men are perfectly decent around their social circle but totally creepy with strange women -- the social cost of being creepy around your friends is high; you might be ostracized. But with strangers it's very low; you get shot down and maybe yelled at. It's also part of why this is much more a big-city problem (as someone mentions above) than a small town problem; it's not just the social disconnection that can occur in urban areas, but that anonymity makes the opportunity cost of a failed attempt very low, while in a small community where everyone knows you, everyone will find out about it and make judgments accordingly.

Anyway, women's experiences of being hit on by creeps (and also of being politely approached by very nice men who are perfectly charming about it!) varies a great deal. Women who live in more culturally reserved areas, who commute by car, or who are professionals (and wear the visible trappings of professionals) are considerably less likely to be subjected to frequent approaches by strangers.

(I feel I must say I like dudes and I mostly like talking to strangers. But I like talking to strangers a lot better since I got married -- there really is a perceptible dip in creepy guys approaching you, even for someone like me who doesn't suffer a lot of it, when you're wearing a wedding ring -- and even better since I had kids since mostly people now approach me to say nice things about my kids and are no longer interested in hitting on me. Most people are pretty interesting and I like talking to them! I like talking to them better when it's not awkward, because I get pretty awkward and reticent pretty fast if I feel awkward about a situation.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [33 favorites]


In my life I've been youthful and I've been fortysomething, and I've been overweight and I've been buff. The level of attention varies - sometimes I'm totally invisible, and other times a target. So I know that no, not everybody gets overtly hit on. To be 100% clear, it has everything to do with how you look on the outside.

In my life I've been youthful and almost 40; I've been overweight and not overweight. I've made myself look pretty; I've not given a shit how I look.

The ONLY time in my ENTIRE LIFE that a stranger has hit on me, I was wearing sweatpants and hadn't brushed my teeth or showered yet that day.

So to be 100% clear, It has fuck-all to do with how you look on the outside.
posted by Lucinda at 9:42 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But then again, if the guy were Hugh Jackman/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds/fill-in-the-blank, well, that wouldn't be annoying, that would be opportunity knocking.

This is so, so, so VERY untrue. In my anecdote above, Squats Guy was hot as HELL, but I still wanted nothing to do with him. No matter who is doing the interrupting, being interrupted is annoying.
posted by KathrynT at 9:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [23 favorites]


No, to me that is not an equivalence. But it seemed like if you're approaching someone only because of sexual interest, prompted by this sexual interest, and you aren't interested in any other aspects of them and wouldn't be as happy with any other outcome, and aren't approaching other people with whom you don't have sexual interest in similar ways, then yes, perhaps you're less interested in the other parts of them that are not as much about being sexual, and therefore, you're not aproaching as full human beings but as beings you're trying to define a specific sexual relationship with. That's where you lost me; it isn't "my thing" but something you seemed to be leading toward in your comment.

I don't wanna make this thread about me and I need to go to sleep besides, so I'll stop here. But look: Without trying to make this a statement about men in all times, I can say that for me I would be bullshitting you if I said that if I approached a woman I didn't know in a social context that made that okay, it wouldn't probably be because I was attracted to her. I could say, "It's also maybe because she seemed awesome!" whatever that means, but if she seemed awesome, I would probably find her attractive. I really don't think these things are as distinct as people might want them to be. I think they're very confusingly all mashed up together and it's really hard to disentangle liking someone because they're a wonderful artist from liking someone because they have pretty hair from liking someone because she told you that story that made you laugh from liking someone because they have a great ass. I just don't think people compartmentalize the people they love that way, and I think even initial attraction is highly nuanced, just with a more, you know, limited data set. You can call that a cop-out if you want, but I really think some world where sexual attraction just isn't, or even shouldn't be, a factor in men and women approaching each other in social settings doesn't have a lot to do with real life at all.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:44 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


KathrynT wrote: The little dance of non-verbal body language is a big deal. You look at them, they look back and smile. [...] I don't know why this is so hard to understand.

A while back there was a thread in which people described their awkward obliviousness to social or sexual advances. There were accounts like She said Would you like me to take my shirt off? and I replied No, I think it looks nice.

I would laugh mockingly and snap my fingers at these losers, were it not for the fact that my response to a pretty girl offering to bring me chicken soup when I had a cold was Oh, don't come all the way out here. I can have it delivered! I can remember feeling proud of my considerate nature and good understanding of hygeine. I later married her, so that was all right, but I must have missed a zillion other social cues. You cannot understand the socially clueless without becoming one of us, at which point you cannot understand the socially clueless.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


One interaction that ends with rejection and no further contact is not harassment. Harassment is if the person doesn't take no for an answer.

I think part of the FPP's point is that one interaction may, for the woman, be part of a series of experiences that feel collectively harassing. Imagine that Paul offers to buy Jane a coffee. This may be merely "one interaction" for Paul. But Jane had this same interaction with Bill yesterday when she came to buy her coffee, and with Marty three days ago, and with Jeff the week before that, and tomorrow she'll have it with Tom. Paul might not be aware of these other interactions, but regardless, it is not unreasonable for Jane to feel harassed.

To me, that's the more interesting part of the discussion, rather than whether men can respectfully or disrespectfully approach women in public. Maybe charitably, I read the FPP as addressing both.
posted by cribcage at 9:57 PM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well, but I feel like at a certain point if you're THAT clueless, it's on you to get a clue? I mean many of these people have mastered such complex interactions as getting their driver's license or beating a video game, it seems like "When you look at her, does she look back and smile or look away and pretend she didn't see you?" is well within the bounds of learnability. Learning to be receptive to other people's subtle overtures is a far more sorcerous art than learning how not to be a boor.
posted by KathrynT at 10:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


these people have mastered such complex interactions as getting their driver's license or beating a video game

one critical difference is that there are usually manuals for these kinds of things.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:06 PM on October 23, 2012


yeah, but every time someone posts something like I posted above, we get all these cries of "But it's so hard! It's so complicated! nobody explains these things!" and it's like, dude, I am explaining them right now!
posted by KathrynT at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [24 favorites]


one critical difference is that there are usually manuals for these kinds of things.

I mean this is really being willfully obtuse.
posted by sweetkid at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The thing is (and not to pick on you, I was thinking about this all through this thread), it takes time and experience and maturity to learn how to gracefully accept or decline a compliment, gift, or favor.
...
But I think men who are themselves awkward tend to discount how very awkward women can feel. It's embarrassing to be singled out in public, even if nobody else is noticing.


Which then raises the question, how do I raise my daughter to be confident in her ability to politely but firmly disengage?
posted by madajb at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can call that a cop-out if you want, but I really think some world where sexual attraction just isn't, or even shouldn't be, a factor in men and women approaching each other in social settings doesn't have a lot to do with real life at all.

The problem is projections-- when men are interested in a woman because she seems interesting, and project their desires onto her, and are incapable of treating her as something other than the imagined object of their desire. Whether it's sexual desire, romantic desire (if you want to distinguish), or sometimes some kind of social/status-related desire. This does not have to be aggressively rude for it to be the underlying truth.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:11 PM on October 23, 2012


i feel like the conventional attractiveness part of how often you get hit on varies. i do think it is at least in part related to how you carry yourself. i've been hit on when i looked really, really bad and not hit on when i knew i looked good. sometimes it's luck of the draw. i think i have more stories of creepy guys than some and i chalk at least part of it up to being socialized as a mormon girl in the american south. i was taught to be warm and open and accommodating. i was taught to "keep sweet." i think some of that comes out still and i'm an easy target for this sort of attention.
posted by nadawi at 10:15 PM on October 23, 2012


But then again, if the guy were Hugh Jackman/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds/fill-in-the-blank, well, that wouldn't be annoying, that would be opportunity knocking.

False, false, false, false, false. Every guy who I can remember chatting me up in recent history has been perfectly attractive, sometimes even what I would consider out of my league. If he comes off as skeezy or too aggressive or like he's projecting his fantasy about me onto me so much he's not actually interested in what I'm saying, it's not an opportunity I'm interested in.

For sex, maybe. At a coffeeshop, no.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:15 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


Directly from the FPP:

And what might have been pleasant, once, as an isolated incident, starts to feel pretty oppressive when it’s something you deal with on a weekly basis. It changes you, and then guys call you bitchy when you don’t feel like playing along and pretending this is just about the coffee.

So that's exactly the point, that when a guy is kind of transparently interested but acting friendly, that you have to "play along," no matter now aimless it is and what else you'd rather be doing (working, reading, enjoying your meal, whatever). It's not about being antisocial, it's about not wanting to have to humor someone who is making an overtly friendly gesture but kind of dragging things out and making you feel sort of walked on.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:29 PM on October 23, 2012


...treadmill guy pointed to the TV that was covering our local marriage equality bill and said "So what do you think of these degenerates trying to ruin our society?"

Thanks, this is my new pickup line at the gay bar!
posted by en forme de poire at 10:32 PM on October 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Meta
posted by mlis at 10:37 PM on October 23, 2012


KathrynT: it's like, dude, I am explaining them right now!

sweetkid: I mean this is really being willfully obtuse.

There really is a difference between technical and social skills. For people of my age, I think we were actively taught to be technically adept, but for social purposes they (the teachers) left us to our own devices. I can drive my car very well. I can beat a video game (assuming save/load capability) with little real difficulty. But for social interactions, there is no absolute practice. Everyone has a different viewpoint, and there are no magical savepoints or empty parking lots to drive around.

Of course, I accept that it's OK to say that a person who doesn't try to make themselves socially acceptable has to accept the consequences and not blame others for their faults. However, it is another thing to say that any faults are completely avoidable and unforgivable -- the skills people are talking about in this and similar threads are not innate to any person.

tl;dr - it isn't fair to compare a skill that may be learned by rote with one that can't be measurably improved (much less mastered).
posted by timfinnie at 10:50 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know what to tell you except that the women in this thread, in the previous threads, and in thousands of conversations like this one are not lying to you about their experience.

Why does someone always need to point this out in every thread? Why does "I don't believe that women experience harassment while being hit on" get argued in every thread about women? Will this ever get believed by anybody already? What on earth can women possibly do to get this message across to some people? No fucking wonder we can't get anywhere if we aren't going to be believed only because we have a vagina on the Internet. No fucking wonder most women at some point do have "I hate men"-type feelings, regardless of whether or not they like to fuck men. No wonder the battle of the sexes never ends.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


"But then again, if the guy were Hugh Jackman/Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds/fill-in-the-blank, well, that wouldn't be annoying, that would be opportunity knocking."

"If it was Jesus himself who was proselytizing, you'd be happy to hear him preach!"
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Feelin' a little lecture-ey, Lexica? I subscribe to neither the Nice Guy Syndrome, nor the Slot Machine Theory. What I sense from some contributors in this thread is a great desire to see some actions by some people in some circumstance changed or eliminated. Cool. Got it.

Life's complex that way. Yeah, I'm just a two-dimensional reductionist. Thanks for clueing me in.

"Taking 'no' for an answer" ought to be sufficient to depressurize the sitch, I think.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:24 PM on October 23, 2012


Personally, anecdotally, this poisonous perspective has captured such a large mind-share that I actively avoid eye contact with strangers. How would you feel if multiple times a day, every day or many days a week, when you accidentally made eye-contact while walking in a direction, or waiting in a line, someone – a total stranger – scowls at you? It is disconcerting – you try to smile and sometimes this helps, but sometimes this only makes the scowl worse or more intense.

Uh, I am a young woman who lives in the city and I am frequently scowled at by people, too. Many days a week. Some people are grouchy. I'm also smiled at by others. People have no obligation to smile or not at anyone else. If you are this saddened by scowls, imagine being groped, harrassed, spat at, and called names in public, because this is what happens to women, and yet they still go outside.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:02 AM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have been groped, harassed, spat at, and called names in public (and I still go outside).

I certainly do not believe women (or men) owe me their attention etc, and while I would prefer not to get scowls and someone else would prefer not to get hit on at Starbucks all the time, it happens and it sucks, and we all should be better than we are, but elevating shitty behavior and making it a comment on "gender politics" (or whatever phrase I'm supposed to use) obfuscates the problem.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:25 AM on October 24, 2012


Met my ex-husband of 25 years that way. It happens.

It happens, but it really is not the sterling pick-up tactic some people seem to think it is. I'm sure lobbing a tomato at a woman and her finding it amusing that she's covered in tomato and chatting with you for a few minutes might work in some cases too, but it's still maybe not great. The chatting-up-a-stranger thing can work but as someone else pointed out, the effectiveness rate is very low, and I'd imagine works mostly if you're really just that charismatic. What I said (what you quoted) was in response to the claim that chatting women up "works," when the truth is, it really doesn't. So why do so many men try it, to the point where women are exhausted with it?

The only way in which I'm speaking "for all women" is in trying to say that it works way less often than it doesn't, which happens to be true, and it's worth saying because apparently lifetimes of romantic comedies and meet-cutes have led to the idea that it's common and in fact the ideal way to meet a mate.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:27 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have been groped, harassed, spat at, and called names in public (and I still go outside).

I certainly do not believe women (or men) owe me their attention etc, and while I would prefer not to get scowls and someone else would prefer not to get hit on at Starbucks all the time, it happens and it sucks, and we all should be better than we are, but elevating shitty behavior and making it a comment on "gender politics" (or whatever phrase I'm supposed to use) obfuscates the problem.


I still can't quite understand what you're upset about then. What shitty behavior am I elevating? I don't think I'm "elevating" scowling, I get scowled at too, I just told you. Making it about gender is not obfuscating anything, I have always been groped, harassed, spat at, and called names by men. Men expose themselves on trains more, men yell at women from their cars (or drive their cars toward women in an aggressive and threatening manner) more. It's gendered.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:30 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, none of the men I've ever spoken to about these things has said they've been groped, street harassed or spat at, and many have expressed wonderment that this is common for women. So I would tend to think you're an outlier.

That doesn't make it any less harmful, but it also doesn't completely reverse the well-attested trend of this behavior being overwhelmingly gendered.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:33 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does someone always need to point this out in every thread? Why does "I don't believe that women experience harassment while being hit on" get argued in every thread about women? Will this ever get believed by anybody already?

I think it's because at first sight, there just doesn't seem to be any connection between a one-time interaction (me offering to buy you a coffee) and a persistent, continual, long-time pattern of interaction (someone harassing you); it can be difficult for someone to understand how they can be harassing you if they've never even seen you before. What they don't realize, of course, is that they might not be the first person doing this, that even a nice guy can be part of an ugly pattern.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:34 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


timfinnie: it isn't fair to compare a skill that may be learned by rote with one that can't be measurably improved (much less mastered).

Wait -- are you suggesting that a person can't measurably improve their social skills? Or am I reading that wrong?
posted by LordSludge at 12:34 AM on October 24, 2012


[Some comments deleted; this isn't going to become the Women Are Worse Than Men conversation.]
posted by taz at 1:20 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the deletions taz, sorry for drawing out a ill-fated conversation.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:27 AM on October 24, 2012


elevating shitty behavior and making it a comment on "gender politics" (or whatever phrase I'm supposed to use) obfuscates the problem.

I don't know what kind of conversation you want to have here, and I suspect from this (I mean, you're the only person who used the phrase "gender politics" or even raised the idea of people being 'supposed' to use a particular phrase) that you're bringing a lot into this conversation from other ideas or debates elsewhere that I wasn't part of and don't know about, and so can't comment on.

But, I do know people in real life - good people, decent people, people I'm not demonising here - who also have a strong resistance to 'making it about gender' in conversations like this one, and who will rhetorically bend over backwards to find any explanation whatsoever for sexist behaviour in any circumstances rather than call it sexism - "maybe he's just like that with men too, you don't know!" "maybe he was on drugs and hallucinating and thought you were Jessica Rabbit!" - and I have thought about this a bit recently, and I do have some ideas on what's going on with that. So I don't know if this is similar to your thought process or not, but in the event that it is:

I truly think that the people I know who take that don't-call-it-sexism approach mean well by saying that. In their minds, it would be very very bad to be doing a sexist thing - so if they hear about someone doing something that seems/is interpreted as sexist, by me or another woman, their immediate response is to argue that it wasn't sexist because they think that'll make me/us feel better about experiencing it. I also think there's an element of not quite understanding how sexism typically works wrapped in with it - like, it can't be a low-level background noise that our society is affected by, it has to be a big conscious Bad Thing To Do on the level of Hannibal Lecter, so it's better to only accept something is sexist when you've exhausted every other possibility whatsoever. So they think "Oh, I'm sure that wasn't sexist, here is a series of increasingly implausible things it could have been instead!" is a reassuring thing to hear, when it's actually a lot more reassuring to hear "Wow, that must have been annoying/upsetting/infuriating."

Also, people who do this tend to be men. They are not always men - I've also noticed it sometimes in younger women/girls, in their late teens, when I've taught that age group - but usually they are men. And I do not think this means "Men are doing this bad thing because men are statistically worse humans than women!". I think it means "because of the way things work in our society and the way we're socialised to feel/think/behave, men experience the world differently to women in some ways, and one of the ways they experience it differently is to be more likely to believe that talking about gender is by itself a divisive thing."

But talking about gender is only divisive if you're doing it in epic War Of The Sexes terms, which isn't what's going on here. This is not saying "men are bad because they have this inherent quality of pestering women who aren't interested." This is, rather, saying "there is this low-level background-noise sexism in our society, and here is one of the ways that expresses itself, in men being more likely than women to think that any given woman they're attracted to owes them a chunk of her time." It's like saying "men often don't understand that cat-calls can feel threatening" - that doesn't mean "men are mentally incapable of understanding that cat-calls can feel threatening," it means "in our society, this particular kind of threatening behaviour is targeted at women fairly often and at men hardly at all, so a lot of men don't even realise it happens."
posted by Catseye at 1:40 AM on October 24, 2012 [24 favorites]


I think an important thing to have in mind in these discussions, from my perspective as a man, is that this is a topic that is going to call to mind hurt feelings and personal intrusions that men and women alike are going to have in mind when coming to the table. So far, I've pretty impressed with the restraint and candor everyone's been exhibiting in this discussion, and more importantly, that there are indications that folks are listening to each other. Nothing is going to change without that much at least. Just want to emphasise that I appreciate the sincere, good-faith input that's been made by most people here. This is one of those "print this thread and show it to X" threads, imo.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:56 AM on October 24, 2012


I disagree (or do not understand), the blog post and the followup blog post does discuss gender in a divisive manner.

The overall reaction from men is a whiny, “But I’m being nice!” No, sir, you are not.

One of the things that guys don’t get is why women don’t like to be hit on. As a guy, when you get hit on, even if it’s a clumsy attempt, it’s generally a very rare and remarkable event – it puts a spring in your step, even if you’re not particularly attracted to the woman, because as an average-looking guy, scarcity of compliments is the norm. So if a girl catcalls you and goes, “Nice butt!” and appears to be serious, there’s often this sort of strange pride. Hey, that doesn’t happen often, she must really be into me.

So a lot of guys have this unspoken attitude of, “I wish I’d be harassed.”

citation? Accepting these things as truisms is not helpful. Systemic Discrimination exists, which is a pervasive, noxious, individually imperceptible sort of discrimination and is very difficult to combat (the government mandating various affirmative action sort of policies isn't a perfect solution).

I remember hearing a cognitive scientist on a radio show discussing various sorts of bias, and while he was a bit pessimistic about our ability, as a species, to overcome every sort of bias, he did say that studies suggest that when people are aware of various (unconscious) biases they show improvement in avoiding them.

Harping on gender and making these large, vacuous statements doesn't seem especially helpful to me.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:13 AM on October 24, 2012


1adam12, that reminds me of a story I read, I think on mefi, maybe somewhere else, about a person who, when they wanted to work without interruption, would stick a piece of knotted string or dental floss up one nostril and let it dangle.

I'd read somewhere that if you wanted to be left alone in a crowded place, you should let a bit of string or floss dangle out of your mouth. I tried it on a Greyhound bus trip, and it was an epic fail. The string is supposed to make people assume you're sort of psycho, but an actual psycho sat down next to me and snarled WHAT THE FUCK YOU GOT THAT STRING IN YOUR MOUTH FOR??!! He said it just like that, in all caps, italicized, with the punctuation too. I mumbled something clever, like, "Um, I don't know." Then he ranted at me for a few minutes, and I spent the next few hours stuck next to a seething maniac who clearly would've murdered me if there hadn't been quite so many witnesses.

So, no, I don't recommend the string thing. Or Greyhound bus trips.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:28 AM on October 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I grew up gay and never played the dating game. I seriously do not comprehend a lot of what this is about. Some I do, but not all.

But seriously: Why is the male out to "get something", by definition? Why isn't the man out to give something? Isn't this notion inherently sexist as hell? Or is this just one of those areas about which society requires we pretend it is always a one-way street?

Mind, I REALLY appreciate the issue of unwanted advances! I've had the problem from both men and women. Maybe it's just a case of "like this, not like that", and "you had to be there to understand". Okay, I can imagine that. But still, always the man that's out to "get"?

Gender is no proof against sexism.
posted by Goofyy at 2:39 AM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I mentioned it once before, but it got deleted because the mods thought I was trolling, I have a strict policy that outside of professional situations I don't talk to women unless they talk to me first. I don't really care if there are a handful of women that want me to walk up to them and say hi. Oh well, I guess I missed my shot. It matters more to me not to harass all the other women who want to be left alone.

Some women want to meet guys just as much as some men want to meet women, so far plenty have had no problem coming up to me.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:44 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Shit Parade, I'm not understanding how these statements work together:

Accepting these things as truisms is not helpful. Systemic Discrimination exists, which is a pervasive, noxious, individually imperceptible sort of discrimination and is very difficult to combat (the government mandating various affirmative action sort of policies isn't a perfect solution).

I think the blog post is going the tough love route. I'm used to reading articles similar in tone written by women ("Ladies, he's just not that into you," don't be a creeper, blah blah) and it's maybe a little grating but the truth is that this is by and large an activity that (among people of relevant orientations) men direct toward women. As a phenomenon, it exists. As you previously noted, there are trends among men and women which can probably be attributed to many factors: physical size, social power, sexualization, &c.

The statements in the post might not be rigorous but they don't seem vacuous. They seem actually to resonate with a lot of people.


Goofyy, I think in this situation the man is out to "get" something because he's pursuing the woman. It doesn't seem strange to me to say that a woman is out to "get laid" or "get" whatever if she's the one on the prowl. I don't doubt that in general there's a trend of treating men like predators and women like gatekeepers, so I take your point, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:45 AM on October 24, 2012


Saying "Men do this thing more often than women do" is not a discriminatory thing to say. There are things men do more often than women do; there are things women do more often than men do. These things are typically different in different societies. Saying "Men do this thing more often than women do because they're mentally hardwired to treat women like lesser human beings," that would be a divisive thing to say. But it is not the same statement as "men do this thing more often than women do because they're socialised differently to women and this is one of the effects of that".

Nobody's saying the first thing, here, but you seem to see it as totally interchangeable with the second thing, and both as equally reprehensible. This is where we're parting ways, because I truly don't get what you're saying there. Do you disagree with the idea that men and women are socialised differently? Or do you disagree that men do this specific thing more than women do? Or do you just think it's divisive and discriminatory to bring up gender in any circumstances, even when one gender is doing something far more frequently than the other?

Honestly, I think it's more generous to say "this is part of a wider pattern of gender relations in our society" than it is to ignore the gender component altogether. If we're saying "these men are acting in this way because they're socialised to think this is okay, and they don't realise how it feels to the women on the receiving end", we're saying that they're not necessarily bad people, just misinformed. But if we're saying "this has nothing to do with gender, this is just bad people doing bad things," then we're saying... what? That the people acting like this are irredeemable? That men are more likely to be bad people than women are? That's neither true nor helpful.
posted by Catseye at 2:46 AM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'd read somewhere that if you wanted to be left alone in a crowded place, you should let a bit of string or floss dangle out of your mouth. I tried it on a Greyhound bus trip, and it was an epic fail. The string is supposed to make people assume you're sort of psycho, but an actual psycho sat down next to me and snarled WHAT THE FUCK YOU GOT THAT STRING IN YOUR MOUTH FOR??!! He said it just like that, in all caps, italicized, with the punctuation too.

That could have easily been me. I'm sorry, but you were being absolutely ridiculous.
posted by mannequito at 2:53 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate that people think anytime they get chatted up it is all about sex. I talk to anyone who looks interesting if I am in the mood.

Yeah, well, since none of us are telepathic, whatever snowflakian reasons one has to talk to somebody who has already had to fend off five other equally snowflakian attempts to talk to them, it doesn't really matter, does it? The end result is still somebody getting hassled.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:53 AM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel like if someone said, "hey, this famous actor has a difficult time because so many people flock to him for his fame and he doesn't feel like he can really trust anyone, and he actually feels kind of lonely looking for a girlfriend and of course has to swaddle himself up in public so paparazzi and fans don't always recognize him" the concept would be clear. As in,

1) people who are often pursued for reasons of status or looks or even talent tend to feel overwhelmed or eventually harassed (or even ignored) by it, and
2) you eventually start taking measures to "hide yourself" in public, or screen yourself in public, whether that's through sunglasses and a low baseball cap or a bitchface, because being approached is disruptive.

Obviously the plight of the typical woman is less than that of the famous actor in this regard. But when people are approaching you very frequently out of a kind of impersonal interest in your persona and not out of any kind of personal connection or regard for you as an individual, it does get exhausting, it can make you feel a little hollow, and it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for it. Plus it's just an interruption from the flow of your regular life, which is okay and even nice in small doses, but very bothersome in larger ones. (And ultimately totally life-changing in extreme cases like fame.)

Most people feel self-conscious about approaching a famous actor or author or musician. They think, "well, I'm just some schmuck, and they probably meet a million schmucks a day." There's no reason to be so self-abasing with a attractive or interesting woman (or man I guess, we're all just folks) but it is wise to consider how frequently they deal with random strangers and the likelihood that your advances will not be met with flattered enthusiasm, and might be a bit of a chore for them. As in, "well, I'm just a stranger, they probably get approached by a stranger at least once a day, maybe I should wait until I perceive some interest."

(Hopefully that was helpful and not, uh, self-aggrandizing. It has nothing to do with how fabulous women who get hit on are, though, it's just the human tendency to mediate our desires through tangible things like looks or clothes or books, personal brands, &c.)
posted by stoneandstar at 3:09 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, but I feel like at a certain point if you're THAT clueless, it's on you to get a clue?

Hear, hear. It's not a crime to be clueless or shy, but if you do nothing to remedy yourself but instead expect women (or men) to magically see through to the real you? You lose my sympathy.

If you're an adult, do not want to be seen as a creepster, than it's up to you not to act like one, to learn social rules, to listen when people say that actually, you may mean well by doing X but what it comes across as instead is creepy thing Y.

The most important thing to realise in any social situation is always that your motives don't matter, nobody can see into your soul, hence how you act is what you are to everybody who doesn't know you. Act like a dick, you're a dick.

it's because at first sight, there just doesn't seem to be any connection between a one-time interaction (me offering to buy you a coffee) and a persistent, continual, long-time pattern of interaction (someone harassing you);

Daniel_charms' example gives the other part of the equation: lack of empathy, of ability to look at the situation through the eyes of the person you're interrupting: a) not thinking whether or not this person would like it if you'd interrupt them and b) not thinking about the possibility that this happens to them more often and what this means for you, c) when inevitably rejected, not understanding why and getting upset.

Again, this is something that if you're an adult and want to be a fully functioning member of society it's more up to you to change than for everybody else to accomodate your deficiencies.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:40 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


But seriously: Why is the male out to "get something", by definition?

Because the original post is about blokes approaching women out of the blue because they want something of her, usually sex, and how this is incredibly obnoxious if you're a woman and are subjected to this quite a lot, while if you're a bloke and want to meet women and don't want to have them think you're a dickhead, it might be good not to do that.

simple.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:50 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I'm not the Relationship Fairy
posted by rough ashlar at 4:10 AM on October 24, 2012


.....So, I didn't get a chance to tell LordSludge that it wasn't clear he was talking to just one woman, and his words did read like he was writing off everyone's experiences when he asked someone to "please don't presume to speak for all women" with his comment. I'd question whether the general commons didn't already accept it as a given that "there are exceptions for every rule" already, but still am happy to chalk the whole thing up to miscommunication. Truce.

(innocent look) I've heard something about a MeTa?.....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on October 24, 2012


Have you tried laying on the ground and pretending to be dead?

If internet porn has taught us anything - being stiff attracts thin, buxom women who want U R seed.

(now awaiting the FPP about internet porn warping what men want from women)
posted by rough ashlar at 4:22 AM on October 24, 2012


.....So, I didn't get a chance to tell LordSludge that it wasn't clear he was talking to just one woman, and his words did read like he was writing off everyone's experiences when he asked someone to "please don't presume to speak for all women" with his comment.

See where it says "all women"? "All" meaning "all"?
posted by Wolof at 4:46 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A coffee is what, two bucks? Hey big spender. Wanna go big and get me a bagel too?
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on October 24, 2012


Wolof, I'm trying to extend an olive branch here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 AM on October 24, 2012


Carry on down this road of self-hate and you'll be right 99.9%, 99.99%, 99.999% of the time. Honestly, why would a woman want to be with a guy who views himself as so lowly?

Um dude, my assuming that most women don't want to talk to me isn't me viewing myself as lowly. Mot people don't want to talk to me, or you. They want to get on with their days. They already have friends, lovers, and full lives. That's not to say that I won't meet new friends, but it is highly unlikely to happen by my walking up to a complete stranger and interrupting them while they're doing something else.

I go on plenty of dates, and my social calendar is usually full enough that when I have a night free I breathe a sigh of relief. This isn't about me feeing sorry for myself; it's about me recognizing that I'm not a special snowflake that's going to make everyone else's life brighter just by flapping my gums.

The little dance of non-verbal body language is a big deal. You look at them, they look back and smile. [...] I don't know why this is so hard to understand.

The problem here is that everyone who sends "signals" believes that their signals are universally understandable when they are often incredibly idiosyncratic and particular, and it doesn't take into account the fact that there are a good many people who use those same body language/social cues differently and for different reasons. There are plenty of people, men and women, who were raised/trained to be polite and "warm" at all times, regardless of how they feel, and if one is interacting with someone with that background, then no amount of smiling or body language "dancing" means much more than that they're doing as they were raised.

Also, in an environment that's hostile to women, a lot of women are going to pretend to be nicer/more open than they actually feel, out of concern for their own safety. Women who have had men react violently/angrily to plainspoken, honest rejection are less likely to do what they believe is "rude." And a lot of women are socialized to avoid interpersonal conflict and awkwardness at all costs, and so will pretend to be interested when they're not -- I'm pretty sure most men here have had the experience of a women giving her number when she didn't really want to, and, I've had several times where I wasn't asking for a number and was offered it, only to have the woman never return my call. Since I don't walk around assuming everyone else is crazy, my best guess there is that the women in question wanted me to go away, and thought the best way to get that was to skip to the end of what they thought was flirting so they could get on with their lives.

In short, for every nonverbal cue or subtle hint you make that you think is a universally-understood communication, there is someone out there who is using the same communicative method to communicate something else, maybe even the opposite of what you're using it for. Some women don't call you back because they don't want to talk to you. Other women don't call you back because they want to be called twice before they'll respond because they like to feel pursued (I don't call people more than once without a call back, but I've heard stories from friends.) Some women will never approach men they're interested in, and prefer to be approached. Other women would like to be left alone, and prefer to do their own approaching. A third group of women are in relationships and just want to get through the chapter in the book they're reading before work. Some women smile at everyone. Other women smile as a means of inviting conversation.

If people who find this confusing need to "get a clue," I'd like to suggest that people who assume their very subjective and personal arsenal of communication techniques are universal and easily-understood might also get a clue - you may think you're being clear, but you're very likely not. That doesn't mean it's your fault if you have an unpleasant interaction with a creepy or annoying person who won't go away, but it also doesn't mean there's something wrong with the person trying to talk to you. I myself don't try to talk to strangers unless some pragmatic reason requires it, but I gather I'm rare in that regard.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:48 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was on the subway once when I saw a girl make a phone call. After the call she put on some headphones. A man asked her if her phone had reception in the subway. She didn't hear him clearly so she smiled blankly and didn't answer. He then launched a series of expletives that boiled down to "stupid bitch, I was just trying to make conversation.". Girl got off a couple stops later nearly in tears. Man was so violently upset that no one called him out on his behavior.
posted by leopard at 5:56 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suspect these numbers say that your ability to date is mostly controlled by (a) the amount of time you dedicate to being around a group and (b) your ability to be creatively employ that time. Work takes lots of time. Friends offers flexible time usage. School offers both. All other activities are too infrequent or structured.

Jeffburdges, I think you and I are saying the same things: chance meetings in public places rank very low as ways for couples to meet. If you look around for more of that study data, it varies quite a bit by generation. The internet ranks much higher for older people, lower for younger people who are still likely in school and still likely have a lot of single friends. But my general point is the same as yours - people meet partners in more structured situations where they share some sort of context that acts as a vouching or screening mechanism.

If people who find this confusing need to "get a clue," I'd like to suggest that people who assume their very subjective and personal arsenal of communication techniques are universal and easily-understood might also get a clue - you may think you're being clear, but you're very likely not.

This stuff doesn't take place in a lab. Yep, some cues can be confusing and some interactions can become unclear. But people handle it every single day. It's been a long long long time since I experienced that wonderful moment where you make a random connection, where I think someone's looking at me, I glance at them and they circumspectly look away, I look at them while they're looking elsewhere and see something I like, they look back and I turn my head and look away, and then when I look back we're looking right at each other and we smile. That's awesome. It's actually way more awesome than a direct approach, and it's way more subtle (though I've never ever had a relationship start like that, it's just one of those life moments). It's rare that the planets align like that, but I still think nothing about what's recommended in the article or advocated in this thread prevents that sort of moment. If someone's staring at me and I don't want the stare, I look away and shift and do not further encourage or engage the person. Maybe they continue trying to stare, I wouldn't know. That, unfortunately, happens way more often than the other example.

Nor does it prevent friendly chatting in a very open "hi person, let's see where our interaction might go" sort of way; I'm thinking of a lovely guy I met while signing up for an open mic once. We started with small chat and then met up with a bunch of others to go out afterward; eventually we became good friends and had ill-timed crushes on each other over the years but never got together. Still a relationship in life that I'm very glad I had. The male friend I was with at the time became a good friend of his too, and it's safe to say we all shared interests in playing music and drinking and the place we were, so there was a more open-ended and mutual interchange in general than "let me chat you up." I suppose if I think it through there are many many other times I gave the go-ahead to strangers to carry on a conversation and get to know one another, whether or not they were potential romantic partners. But at the same time, I've probably shut down/ignored/stonewalled ten times more people than that.

There's a green light/red light thing going on here. I'm sure because women are socialized to be basically polite and nice, it can be hard to tell when you're getting the polite brush-off and when you're getting the green light. All I can say is that we'll all make some mistakes, but also, learning to observe and understand people empathetically is an important life skill. It can be learned. To learn it, you just have to start with wanting to fundamentally show respect to others. Part of that is beginning to understand the context for what happens to women in daily life: they get a lot of unwanted attention for very confusing and superficial reasons that have little to do with their inner life. We play defense a lot. People who are pleasant, considerate, respectful win points. There are myriad ways to be that way and still have nice chance interactions with females. There's a difference between that and the behavior being condemned here, which is basically ignoring early signals (or the total lack of signals of willingess to force yourself onto the attention of someone and not noticing that you're pushing/driving the interaction and that she's not offering you the encouragement to continue. This difference is learnable.

I was discussing this last night with my boyfriend, who as the youngest of a family of sisters has seen it a lot himself and is sympathetic. He was saying that since this sort of thing is invisible to a lot of guys, it would be interesting to create a demonstration - Mythbusters style! Where women are miked and camera'd and hang out in a high-traffic public place. It's an interesting idea and to some extent could render this visible. Sort of comical that that's what it would take, though.
posted by Miko at 6:23 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have actually been proselytized at by a cute girl in a coffee shop, though she didn't offer to buy me anything.

I was looking for a place to sit at The Third Place on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, NC. By way of some background, for those that haven't been to Raleigh, there are 416k people inside city limits, and 2208 churches listed on yp.com. So for a back-of-envelope analysis, that's 188 people per church, though presumably some church attendees come from outside of the city limits, since most of the city is out there. Estimating from google maps, there are 14 churches within a one mile walk. From personal experience, the density is higher than that of mosques in urban Amman, though the population density is much, much lower.

It was definitely a very weird experience, and it makes the analogy in the article seem a bit strange. Asking somebody in Raleigh if they've heard of Jesus is incomparably naïve, and it took me a moment to realize she was serious — though I'm not accustomed to cute girls striking up a conversation with me to begin with. I think the key to why she was merely annoying, as opposed to really doing something morally offensive, and a key difference between what really happened to me and what happens in the article's analogy, is that she approached me while I was looking for seating and waiting for my beverage. It's very different to approach somebody while they're idle than to interrupt them while they're in the middle of a task or concentrating on something.

To me that seems to be a thing that's touched on but mostly overlooked in this thread. Several people have gotten stuck (legitimately so, I choose to believe) in a conundrum: how do you start having a conversation with somebody you don't know? The prerequisites offered seem to be that you've got to either know them or already be in the conversation. For a lot of introverted guys, that really can seem to translate to never meeting anybody ever again. The explanations for when it's okay, generally involving the coffee shop due to context, often start with the premise that you've already been chatting in line. I think the unstated part of that is that it's more okay to talk to somebody who's in line than to interrupt a person while they're in the middle of doing something. There's a certain callousness involved in interrupting what somebody is doing, a certain degree to which you are necessarily failing to empathize with and respect that person. So there's a subjective degree to which the interruption matters to the other person — standing in line is something you may even prefer to be distracted from, while studying is a case where the interruption is detrimental. Nobody came to Starbucks to stand in line (though I hear it's a great place for that!), but a lot of people do legitimately show up at coffee shops for reasons other than socialization, and they clearly deserve to be able to do those things.

Several people have also brought up that the guy should be conversing for reasons "other than sex", but inevitably that reads as "exclusive of sex" rather than "broader than just sex". To me, a far from perfect guy doing his best to make sense of the world, the important distinction in motive seems to be the difference between trying to pick up a girl versus trying to meet somebody.

That's just how I see it. I assume I'll get some corrections now :)
posted by atbash at 6:29 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We vacation in Ocean City, NJ, which started out as a religious seaside resort and is still a pretty religious town in general. Though there are many denominations, there is a large evangelical presence, and several camps/conferences for young religious youth happen there all summer. Over the years we have seen them practice proselytizing on the beach. Young women, in pairs, are sent out and they travel from blanket to blanket looking for young men to talk to. Our favorite opening line was "hey guys! How ya doing? I just wanted to come over and talk for a few minutes about sexual purity and making good choices."

I shit you not, this is their M.O. The story in the article isn't at all farfetched!

the important distinction in motive seems to be the difference between trying to pick up a girl versus trying to meet somebody.

Well, that distinction is also a distinction in who you choose to speak to and not speak to in the first place. Either you're a nice, open person who legitimately chats in a friendly manner to many different people, or you target women as sexual prospects and only speak to them, and only to propose yourself as a potential sex partner, in so many words or not.

I understand that human communication can be confusing. Maybe a simple rubric:

A. You start conversations with strange women (and lots of other people) because you're generally open and friendly and because you know how and when to do this appropriately.
B. You start conversations with strange women and you do it offensively and/or inappropriately to the point of harassing because you don't understand this from the perspectives of a range of women, you don't really care, and you are looking out for your own interests only.
C. You don't start any conversations with strange women or anyone else for that matter at all.

I guess I'd say that if you truly aren't sure if you can figure out how to be A, but you're very much afraid of being B, then sure, C is probably your point of retreat. It's not awesome but your only alternative is to try to understand how to be A. Fortunately I think there are a lot of good pieces of advice and sympathetic help which women and men who understand can provide to people who want to be A, but if you're just afraid you're never going to get it right, then I feel fairly sure that most women would rather you went with C than with B.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I'd say that if you truly aren't sure if you can figure out how to be A, but you're very much afraid of being B, then sure, C is probably your point of retreat. It's not awesome but your only alternative is to try to understand how to be A. Fortunately I think there are a lot of good pieces of advice and sympathetic help which women and men who understand can provide to people who want to be A, but if you're just afraid you're never going to get it right, then I feel fairly sure that most women would rather you went with C than with B.

I get what you're saying, and there's certainly merit to it, but I think for a lot of people, the process of learning how to be A involves a period of coming across rather unfortunately often as B. I'm sure I've come across to people this way in the past, though hopefully not to the point of it being harassment, and I feel bad about it. But at the same time, you can't learn what social norms are from a book. Even if there are really good books on this, that's just not how human interaction works. So there's a paradox here — the most effective way to learn social skills is to do socially awkward things until you learn how and why they're awkward. Retreating to C may help to avoid specific instances of these behaviors, but in the long run it makes you a worse person, not a better one.
posted by atbash at 7:23 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


That could have easily been me. I'm sorry, but you were being absolutely ridiculous.

So you're the kind of person who'd fly into an incoherent, murderous rage because somebody on a bus is sitting quietly by themselves doing some weird little thing you don't understand? Good to know.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:24 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So there's a paradox here — the most effective way to learn social skills is to do socially awkward things until you learn how and why they're awkward. Retreating to C may help to avoid specific instances of these behaviors, but in the long run it makes you a worse person, not a better one.

I think I'd agree with you more if so many of the guys who behave this way seem to be perfectly capable of knowing appropriate social behavior when it comes to striking up conversations with other men.

Not doubting that there are people who find social interactions with anyone to be a challenge - but what are your thoughts about the people who have no problem knowing when to engage with another man and when to leave them alone, but completely lose that ability when it's a woman they try to talk to?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


the process of learning how to be A involves a period of coming across rather unfortunately often as B.

Everyone's going to make some mistakes. Sometimes people will be forgiving, sometimes not. Sometimes people will misread you, sometimes not. You get better with trying if it is a sincere effort and if you observe and listen and ask others for ideas.

That's about as clear-cut as it's ever going to be in this kind of human communication. If you try to make it any clearer, then guess where you end up? Wearing buttons that say "it's OK to touch my boobs." Since our communications are not that mechanical, there's going to be some slush in the system.

you can't learn what social norms are from a book.

You can learn them by being in society. Strangers in a coffee shop are not the people to practice on. This is another reason why being active in social groups, having friends, being in a church, volunteering etc is a good idea- because these are places you can learn how to have positive and non-skeevy/predatory interactions with people in a safer environment.

Retreating to C may help to avoid specific instances of these behaviors, but in the long run it makes you a worse person, not a better one.

I'd say it makes you worse than A but a lot better than B, and if that's the best you can do, then yay C. It's safer and more comfortable for everyone to have a world that's 50% Cs than a world of 50% Bs.

I understand that there's a risk that "failed attempt at A" may look a lot like B, but given that the few instances of "clumsy and so it looks like B" that it might take to learn how to be better at this are a drop in the bucket of the hundreds of instances of "actual B" that women experience in a lifetime, it's probably an acceptable risk. And at least some of the time the woman will recognize your attempt and be forgiving, though sometimes they won't. But again, don't use strange women in public places as the place to make attempts at A. Start with women you at least share some sort of social setting and grounds for exchange with. Those are great, acceptable places to practice.
posted by Miko at 7:36 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's the REALLY bad taste left over from the "Open Source Boob Project" that colors my view on this guy, but I found this article to be built on a weak analogy that I saw coming from a mile away, and has been better illustrated here, the "Whatcha reading" thread, and even on the episode of "How I Met Your Mother" where they went to a gay club.

I guess if it helps creepers question their actions, it's a net good, but I can't shake the feeling of "ugh, this guy."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:50 AM on October 24, 2012


The only way in which I'm speaking "for all women" is in trying to say that it works way less often than it doesn't, which happens to be true, and it's worth saying because apparently lifetimes of romantic comedies and meet-cutes have led to the idea that it's common and in fact the ideal way to meet a mate.

This, a thousand times. Basically, if you're doing something because you have an idea that people will think it's cute, and especially if you got that idea from the movies or TV (god forbid, a TV commercial) it will most likely be obnoxious in real life. Everyone has a story or two where this has worked out or at least was found amusing. Mine is I had a guy walk up to me a few minutes before a very important exam and hit on me, telling me he'd been watching me around the university library for a while and had just decided to come up and introduce himself. I would have thought that was obnoxious except that he was so smoking hot, I would surely have dated him if I was single. He was also a PhD candidate in a sexy field. But you usually shouldn't kid yourself that you're going to make someone's day doing that. Any success is despite acting that way not because of it.
posted by BibiRose at 7:56 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not doubting that there are people who find social interactions with anyone to be a challenge - but what are your thoughts about the people who have no problem knowing when to engage with another man and when to leave them alone, but completely lose that ability when it's a woman they try to talk to?

It's certainly tempting to write this group off as a whole. I don't know. There's a wealth of subtlety to be had here. I can see the possibility of several reasons for this, and they've got various degrees of merit. I know in the past I've felt that talking to girls when I was younger and even women as an adult has resulted in what I can only describe as paralytic fear and like a 90-point IQ drop. But your question can have more interpretations for "lose that ability" than just that, and obviously it does, or we wouldn't have this thread at all. So I'm going to stick with "I don't know."

Of course I'm no expert — my wealth of experience involves basically mistakes (and non-mistakes) I've made, and times I've seen other people approach women. The latter of those isn't particularly many either, since I don't go out of my way to listen to and observe other peoples' social interactions around me. So my experiences here are clearly going to pale in comparison many womens' breadth of experience with having men approach them.

Apropos of nothing, my mp3 player just started playing this: o/~ Well, some people try to pick up girls, and they get called assholes. This never happened to Pablo Picasso. o/~
posted by atbash at 8:04 AM on October 24, 2012


I can see the possibility of several reasons for this, and they've got various degrees of merit.

Such as....what? This is a sincere question.

I know in the past I've felt that talking to girls when I was younger and even women as an adult has resulted in what I can only describe as paralytic fear and like a 90-point IQ drop.

Okay - so you're not talking about people who are just trying to be friendly, you're talking specifically about cases where a guy is trying to hit on a girl. Correct?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on October 24, 2012


Oh, and - I'm most certain that this kind of blow-off did happen to Pablo Picasso. Exceptions exist, I'm sure, but the attractiveness of the guy generally doesn't excuse the rudeness of his conduct. So the notion that "oh, but I bet if a hot guy tried to talk to you you'd be fine with it" is kind of a red herring.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on October 24, 2012


I can see the possibility of several reasons for this, and they've got various degrees of merit.

Such as....what? This is a sincere question.


Well, I'm attempting to answer your question about those that "completely lose [the] ability" of "knowing when to engage with [a woman] and when to leave them alone." To be completely honest I think I've answered the wrong question - rather than the ability of knowing when, I've spoken to the (in)ability to read the signals of when to stop.

I know in the past I've felt that talking to girls when I was younger and even women as an adult has resulted in what I can only describe as paralytic fear and like a 90-point IQ drop.

Okay - so you're not talking about people who are just trying to be friendly, you're talking specifically about cases where a guy is trying to hit on a girl. Correct?


I'm talking about both casual conversation and attempts to meet members of the opposite sex with intentions possibly including, but not limited to, shared meals, the occasional sorting of laundry, and yes, sex. I wouldn't use the phrase "hit on" – it's both quite ambiguous and incredibly loaded.
posted by atbash at 8:30 AM on October 24, 2012


Oh, and - I'm most certain that this kind of blow-off did happen to Pablo Picasso. Exceptions exist, I'm sure, but the attractiveness of the guy generally doesn't excuse the rudeness of his conduct. So the notion that "oh, but I bet if a hot guy tried to talk to you you'd be fine with it" is kind of a red herring.

Uh, yeah. I just found it funny that a song started playing that was vaguely related to the conversation I was participating in at the time, though completely unrealistic as songs often are, and thought I'd share since it was amusing. Didn't mean to imply the hot-guy thing at all, though I see how that could come across.

posted by atbash at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2012


To be completely honest I think I've answered the wrong question - rather than the ability of knowing when, I've spoken to the (in)ability to read the signals of when to stop.

A fair point. However, I think I have the same question in that instance - I've also seen guys who seem to know when to read another guy's "don't bother me" body language, but don't seem to know how to read a woman's. My "how do you account for that" still stands.

I'm talking about both casual conversation and attempts to meet members of the opposite sex with intentions possibly including, but not limited to, shared meals, the occasional sorting of laundry, and yes, sex. I wouldn't use the phrase "hit on" – it's both quite ambiguous and incredibly loaded.

Well, you were the one who said that you were personally affected when the woman to whom you were attempting to speak was attractive. Are you honestly saying that you don't think a hope that you could go out with her wasn't the cause of your "90-point IQ drop"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on October 24, 2012


I always wonder if these guys who are helpless to understand when a woman is approachable and when she is doing something else and thus not available to the public, or the guys who can't understand why a crass sexual innuendo is unwelcome as an opening line of conversation, also walk up to the urinal right next another guy and start talking about blowjobs or politics while they're peeing. If you can understand the Code of the Public Restroom, then the rest of this stuff is well within your grasp.
posted by KathrynT at 8:42 AM on October 24, 2012 [26 favorites]


"Well, some people try to pick up girls, and they get called assholes. This never happened to Pablo Picasso."

Jonathan Richman is wrong — Pablo Picasso was a tremendous asshole. Jonathan Richman is also not a great model for romantic behavior; his "I'm Straight," "Girl Friend," and "Someone I Care About" are all full of weird sexism (as you might expect from an awkward dude circa 1976).

The best advice that this thread can give anyone who's taken the overarching theme of hitting on women equals god botherers to mean that they should never talk to anyone ever, is that it's actually the opposite: Talk to people. Talk to everyone. Get comfortable talking to everyone. Then you can talk to women like people.
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sorry, I left a key sentence out of my last comment - it should have read thus.

--
I'm talking about both casual conversation and attempts to meet members of the opposite sex with intentions possibly including, but not limited to, shared meals, the occasional sorting of laundry, and yes, sex. I wouldn't use the phrase "hit on" – it's both quite ambiguous and incredibly loaded.

Well, you were the one who said that you were personally affected when the woman to whom you were attempting to speak was attractive. Are you honestly saying that you don't think a hope that you could go out with her wasn't the cause of your "90-point IQ drop"? If that's so - how was your attempt at conversation not a case of you hitting on her?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on October 24, 2012


So the notion that "oh, but I bet if a hot guy tried to talk to you you'd be fine with it" is kind of a red herring.

It's a shitty, stupid, fucking offensive red herring.
posted by elizardbits at 9:06 AM on October 24, 2012 [28 favorites]


Jonathan Richman is also not a great model for romantic behavior; his "I'm Straight," "Girl Friend," and "Someone I Care About" are all full of weird sexism...

Wow, beat me to it. My favorite Modern Lovers song ("New Teller") is about a guy waiting in line at a bank so he can bother a woman at work.

Guys, please don't bother women at work. They're working.
posted by griphus at 9:10 AM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I always wonder if these guys who are helpless to understand when a woman is approachable and when she is doing something else and thus not available to the public, or the guys who can't understand why a crass sexual innuendo is unwelcome as an opening line of conversation, also walk up to the urinal right next another guy and start talking about blowjobs or politics while they're peeing.

Oh man these guys. I have to say they are few and far between, but when it happens I am filled with the desire to turn 90° and just pee all over them. That is, if I hadn't already autonomically pinched off the flow thanks to dude sauntering up right next to me to ask what I thought of the opening band.

But yeah - most guys with sincere difficulty in the When To Talk To A Woman Who Is A Stranger situation tend to be inexperienced with women, feel anxious around them or, as you suggest, just have trouble knowing degrees of social appropriateness in general. As I said upthread, I don't think it's on the people around them to hold their hands and show them the way - it's totally on them. But I've had this conversation with some younger male friends about this subject, and yeah, there are men who are genuinely clueless; not just eschewing any responsibility for their actions.

This is why, when talking to other guys about this subject, I've led with the social context thing. That's a lot easier to understand - are you at a party, or a public library, when you see the stranger in question? Is she reading at the bus stop, or are the two of you looking at the same painting at an opening? Parsing talking-to-strangers situations is easier for a lot of these guys than reading body language. Taking social cues is of course also crucial, but for guys who already have a hard time understanding this situation, the setting is easier to get their heads around.

Reading social cues is another thing. Guys who tend to be clueless about knowing when a woman does not want to be approached or chatted up do, often, have difficulty reading social cues from anyone. But not always. Sometimes they just flat-out choose to ignore these cues, out of their own single-mindedness or their own assumptions about women. This is willful ignorance, and I doubt these guys have much willingness to change. Among the guys who are just befuddled in general when it comes to body language, tone and the like, what I have noticed is that these genuinely clueless guys do not often attribute fault to the woman they were trying to chat up; they are aware something went wrong, and assume they were the problem, because they've been in this situation of misreading signals with men, too.

I say all this not to excuse overstepping boundaries, or even to say that it's hard to learn how to avoid. It isn't, really, for the vast majority of men - they have the mental potential to know that there are some settings where talking to strangers is more appropriate than others, and what the cues to politely disengage and depart are. Most men who ignore these things are doing so willfully. Nor am I saying that we're all obliged to put up with the genuinely socially blind when they do overstep. Just want to be clear there. But on the subject of the genuinely, sincerely clueless, these are the dynamics I've noticed, for whatever it's worth.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:10 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


A fair point. However, I think I have the same question in that instance - I've also seen guys who seem to know when to read another guy's "don't bother me" body language, but don't seem to know how to read a woman's. My "how do you account for that" still stands.

Assuming you're talking about the case where we're speaking about what the guy views as a plausibly romantic interaction — that is, we're not talking about not knowing when to stop talking into the microphone after ordering a big-mac at the drive-through — I think there's still a broad spectrum of reasons to account for that. Off the top of my head, some more and less acceptable ones would be general shyness towards women, inexperience in the situation at hand, legitimate ethnic and cultural differences, ego, and various forms of direct sexism which I assume you've already been considering.

Well, you were the one who said that you were personally affected when the woman to whom you were attempting to speak was attractive. Are you honestly saying that you don't think a hope that you could go out with her wasn't the cause of your "90-point IQ drop"?

Yeah, I think I can make that claim with a clear conscience. Just because someone is visually attractive doesn't mean I want to "go out" with them, or any other euphemism we could employ. Women can be intimidating, whether or not I've got any actual interest.

... the guys who can't understand why a crass sexual innuendo is unwelcome as an opening line of conversation, also walk up to the urinal right next another guy and start talking about blowjobs or politics while they're peeing.

I wouldn't doubt it at all, but unfortunately the demographics of the offended in these two cases make it very hard to correlate.
posted by atbash at 9:11 AM on October 24, 2012


related essay from Molly Crabapple partly about street harassment and the power exchange in Beauty.

For every free coffee beauty privilege gets you, it also gets you a guy following you down the steps on the subway, saying he wants to work his tongue into your ass.

When men harrass us, they blame it on our looks.
(NSFW cartoon nudity, rape discussed, VICE magazine.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:15 AM on October 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Jonathan Richman is wrong — Pablo Picasso was a tremendous asshole.

Um. So, the point of the song is that Pablo Picasso was a *giant* asshole and that people didn't call him on his shit because he was Pablo Picasso. That's why "called" is stressed every time he says it.

*sigh*. Sorry for the derail.
posted by atbash at 9:17 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Women can be intimidating, whether or not I've got any actual interest.

Okay, I will admit that I had a perception about your argument up to this point, but this has me sincerely and truly confused. What is it about women that you find intimidating, even when you're not interested in them?

Again, that is a truly sincere question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on October 24, 2012


I don't think this is helping. Or the slightest bit human or humane. Economists and Objectivists undoubtedly adore the assumption that all human interaction is inherently about acquisition and sales.

The stink of is, if I (as a former car salesman) look at this as a sales interaction, it's still pretty bad sales technique.

I promise that this will sound about 100 times more creepy than it is in practice.

The first step in the sales process is the contact. You introduce yourself and start building rapport. Now, on a car lot, it isn't unexpected to start out with a handshake and exchanging names. But you often end up having awkward conversations with service customers so it works better to start with some small talk.

Second, once you've established that the customer is shopping for a car, you want to get them talking about what's important to them by asking questions.

Third, you start to move towards the closing. Basically, this is where you start actually selling the car. You're not asking them to buy the car yet but you're highlighting it's attributes.

Four, the closing. You ask them to buy the car is a way that will bring any objections out in the open. The operative phrase is, "If we can make the numbers work, will you take this car home right now?"

The least successful salespeople had a lot of hustle and talked to lots and lots of customers. They tried really hard to make the deal happen right from the get go. Across the industry, a salesperson will, on average, sell a car to one out of every four customers they talk to. The guys who would burn through customers would get to one out of ten if they were lucky. They usually either got better at the job, quit, or got fired pretty fast.

On the other end of the spectrum were people like my dad. He usually sold a car to somewhere between one out of three and one out of two customers. He did it by being really sincere, being a good listener, and making sure the customer felt comfortable. It's not uncommon, when going anyplace near the dealership where he worked for someone to see him and say, "Hey Dave! How is it going?" He'd then talk to them a little bit and when he was done, I'd ask,"Who was that?" "Oh, someone I sold a car to."

The "getting a date as sales" metaphor actually seems to work pretty well to me.

The point of step one is really to gauge the person you're talking to. If they're not receptive to you selling them a car or a date (or maybe just not with you, right now), you'll find out pretty fast without things having to get weird. You just attempted to start a conversation and got shut down. If they're receptive introduce yourself and move on to step two.

Step two, get them to talk about themselves and be genuinely interested. I don't think that, provided you did the first part, anyone will have a problem with this. You could maybe ask if you could buy them a coffee at this point. I think you're implicitly asking to buy some of their time and that's okay since you're also giving them an explicit opportunity to refuse. What you're really after is some conversation anyways, the coffee is just a segue to that.

Step three, give them a reason to go out with you. If you've hit it off in step two, this should as easy as, "I'd like to take you out on a date."

Step four, close the deal and ask them for a date.

If you're doing thing right in a car sale, you'll have made a friendly acquaintance and also they bought a car. Sometimes you don't sell the car so you just made an acquaintance if you got that far, sometimes you don't get past step one and you just had a 30 seconds of pleasant chit-chat.

I know it seems super creepy but, as I said, the people who are best at it sell more cars because they are really genuine and sincere about it. As others have said, talk to them like people instead of someone who's pants you're trying to get into (for sex or for their wallet via a sale).
posted by VTX at 9:37 AM on October 24, 2012 [23 favorites]


Okay, I will admit that I had a perception about your argument up to this point, but this has me sincerely and truly confused. What is it about women that you find intimidating, even when you're not interested in them?

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not the most introspective person in the world, so there's really no chance I've got a thorough and complete answer to this question. I'll do the best I can, but I'm making it up on the fly. I'd also like to make the point that I can only speak for myself, but I'm aware that there are other people out there with similar experiences to mine, as well as many other unlike experiences.

I'm a fairly introverted person in many ways. I don't make new friends often, and tend towards having a relatively small group of friends. I've dated a what I'd estimate as a low-end-of-normal number of people, and I'm currently in a long-term, stable, healthy relationship. That being said, for the majority of my post-adolescent life, I've not been in a romantic relationship of any kind. I'm not trying to make excuses, but what I've just described leads to what you might call an expectations problem. Physically attractive women in our culture are often portrayed as aloof and entitled, and treating people in an unfair way. I know that's an unfair stereotype, you know that's an unfair stereotype. But cognitively knowing it's incorrect doesn't mean it doesn't have any effect, and there's no substitute for firsthand experience. If you don't have much experience talking to women, it's hard to reassure yourself that they're not going to treat you like people do on TV, movies, books, and so forth. And yes, I understand that I'm describing a form of sexism, though not as overt as what I suspect you're alluding to. But you don't have to be a bad person or have illicit motives to find yourself in the situation I'm describing, and you also can't just choose to have it not be so. It takes time and experience.

I suspect there are many other reasons as well, but as this isn't my therapy session I'll try to stick with the topic at hand :)
posted by atbash at 9:46 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


VTX, that doesn't actually seem creepy to me at all. That first step, the one where you gauge their receptivity? That's what makes all the difference. And again, I feel like this is a skill that is pretty essential to living in a social environment, so if someone doesn't have that skill, they had best prioritize learning it FAST rather than expecting everyone around them to just put up with it. This is, like, "don't fart or spit on elevators" levels of basic.
posted by KathrynT at 9:50 AM on October 24, 2012


Well, you were the one who said that you were personally affected when the woman to whom you were attempting to speak was attractive. Are you honestly saying that you don't think a hope that you could go out with her wasn't the cause of your "90-point IQ drop"? If that's so - how was your attempt at conversation not a case of you hitting on her?

Wow, have you seriously not felt awkward around anyone before? Have you never met someone and felt a bit tongue-tied because they were so charismatic, attractive or compelling it threw you for a loop? I have. Does that mean if I just talk to that person I'm hitting on him?

What is it about women that you find intimidating, even when you're not interested in them?

Again, that is a truly sincere question.


I really think you are beating this dead horse into a pulp here, Empress. And I have to feel there is a certain irony in your saying that here with total puzzlement.

Think about it: in this thread, we have many women saying please believe us when we tell us this is our experience and we are not lying.

So now we have a guy saying that he is intimidated by women he finds very physically attractive, even when he doesn't specifically want to date them, and he doesn't feel he is alone in this.

And your response, it sounds like, is to not accept that this is his valid experience.
posted by misha at 9:51 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


So now we have a guy saying that he is intimidated by women he finds very physically attractive, even when he doesn't specifically want to date them, and he doesn't feel he is alone in this.

And your response, it sounds like, is to not accept that this is his valid experience.


Not to speak for EC but I don't think that's true at all. I was also genuinely curious about what's inherently intimidating about speaking to women.

And I actually think VTX's response was really good.
posted by sweetkid at 9:59 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I always wonder if these guys who are helpless to understand when a woman is approachable and when she is doing something else and thus not available to the public, or the guys who can't understand why a crass sexual innuendo is unwelcome as an opening line of conversation, also walk up to the urinal right next another guy and start talking about blowjobs or politics while they're peeing.

I know it was rather a rhetorical question; but actually, yeah, there are guys that do that kind of thing. I've never actually thought to correlate whether they were also the guys going round the pub bouncing off all the women, though it wouldn't surprise me in the least - they're usually 6 sheets to the wind though.

To be honest, it's not my first instinct when they start chatting away to whip out a notebook and follow them back out.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:07 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A little late to the party on this thread. I often wear a combination of clothing that I refer to as 'the anti-burqa'.-- very very short skirts, eye-catching tights and boots that all scream 'SEX'. The pay-off from this is that although I get plenty of looks, men very rarely approach me and try to initiate conversation because if they did, it would be quite obvious WHY they are doing so. On the few days when I can't be bothered to assemble such outfits and wear jeans or conservative skirts, those are the days when I get unwanted male attention, the forced attempts at conversation, the strangers asking me out. I wear the sexy clothes because I enjoy them but there's a definite value added in how it manages to free me from having to deal with unwanted advances while not becoming invisible in the process. I'm not recommending this as a strategy for everyone, but it really seems to work for me.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:10 AM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I know it seems super creepy

See, I don't think this is creepy at all! Because your technique relies on you (the seller) paying close attention to what the maybe-buyer is saying, both explicitly and non-explicitly, and to follow their lead in the interaction. To me, that is the opposite of creepy.
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wow, have you seriously not felt awkward around anyone before? Have you never met someone and felt a bit tongue-tied because they were so charismatic, attractive or compelling it threw you for a loop? I have. Does that mean if I just talk to that person I'm hitting on him?

I once worked with a guy who was absolutely the most gorgeous human being, male or female, that I have ever seen in person, like a young and somehow even more good-looking Salman Khan. He was so good-looking that I blushed and stammered every time I had to talk to him, because movie star good looks are not usually found in data analysts.

The thing that made me awkward around him was the fact that I knew it had to be awkward for him. I thought about how terrible it must be to be continuously surrounded by people who cannot just treat you like a normal person. I labored mightily to treat him like a normal person, because it seemed unpleasant and unfair that everyone around him treated him like an object. It made it worse when some of my coworkers were incapable of not only trying to treat him like a person, but actively did nothing but hit on him in various unsubtle ways. He was always gracious about it, but it was remarkable to watch what was normally a dynamic with women get played out with a man.

So I guess trying to put yourself in the shoes of the good-looking person might help, if only to empathize with their annoying plight.
posted by winna at 10:22 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, have you seriously not felt awkward around anyone before? Have you never met someone and felt a bit tongue-tied because they were so charismatic, attractive or compelling it threw you for a loop? I have. Does that mean if I just talk to that person I'm hitting on him?

Can't say this has happened to me, no.

So now we have a guy saying that he is intimidated by women he finds very physically attractive, even when he doesn't specifically want to date them, and he doesn't feel he is alone in this. And your response, it sounds like, is to not accept that this is his valid experience.

If I don't accept it's his experience, then why would I be seeking to understand it by asking him to expound upon it for me?

Look, he said that "women were intimidating," which I"ll frankly admit is a surprising thing to my ears. I asked him what he meant by that, and even said "this is a sincere question" in an effort to emphasize that this wasn't a "what do you mean" kind of blow-offy thing. It's been made clear that a few people in this thread don't dig me, but gimme some benefit of the doubt, maybe?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Look, he said that "women were intimidating," which I"ll frankly admit is a surprising thing to my ears.

Yeah, this is not a weird statement, sorry. I too occasionally find talking to hot ladies somewhat intimidating, until I remember that I am super awesome and have nothing to fear.
posted by elizardbits at 10:27 AM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Bearing in mind that saying "women are intimidating" does not necessarily mean "women are deliberately trying to intimidate me". Sometimes you just meet someone who literally leaves you speechless due to their looks, charm, talent, eye color or accent. It's happened to me on more than one occasion that I can immediately recall. It's not insurmountable, but it happens.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:34 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I too occasionally find talking to hot ladies somewhat intimidating....

See, though, he didn't say "hot women" or "attractive" women, he said women. As in, "everyone with a XX chromosome set." I can understand "hot/attractive/charismatic/this one particular subset of" women, but it was the ALL women that threw me.

Mind you, I may have misread that, and if atbash came in and said "no, not ALL women," then fair enough, my bad. But that's why I asked for clarification, because I read that as ALL women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that if everyone who holds and refuses to dislodge the "dating as sales" metaphor would understand that, as explained above, genuinely good salesmanship has to do with establishing honest rapport and working toward "make person trying to buy a thing happy" rather than "convince a person to buy a thing," we'd all be better off. I think there's an unwarranted assumption of inherent deception and zero-sum-game-ness in people who rely on that metaphor, and I think those assumptions come from having no idea what sales actually involves.

So, I vote "not creepy" although I'd still rather no one actually use transaction metaphors with regard to these things. But if you're gonna, at least get it right.
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm totally wiling to give EmpressCallipygos the benefit of the doubt that she's responded to me earnestly.
posted by atbash at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2012


No, but "women are intimidating" is a weirdly othering phrase without the context. It strikes me as similar to when some men say things like "I love women," in the same tone as they'd say they love Mexican food, or marshmallows or Formula One.
posted by sweetkid at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, even if he is referring to ALL women, I don't think atbash is saying that they intimidate him on purpose. His anxiety sounds like it comes from a combination of being introverted, bad past experiences, and sensitivity to stereotypes. Most importantly, he is aware of this, which is crucial to being able to change it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:43 AM on October 24, 2012


I think a lot of people who say "women are intimidating" actually mean "I am intimidated by my conceptions of women" and these two things aren't the same at all. Acknowledging agency goes a long way to being a good person.
posted by griphus at 10:43 AM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's common enough that at least one sitcom has a character based on (an extremely exaggerated version) of the idea.
posted by VTX at 10:45 AM on October 24, 2012


even if he is referring to ALL women, I don't think atbash is saying that they intimidate him on purpose.

I didn't read it thus. He's answered my question here, so anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:45 AM on October 24, 2012


I didn't read it thus.

Yeah, I read that. And there I read:
I'm not trying to make excuses, but what I've just described leads to what you might call an expectations problem. Physically attractive women in our culture are often portrayed as aloof and entitled, and treating people in an unfair way. I know that's an unfair stereotype, you know that's an unfair stereotype. But cognitively knowing it's incorrect doesn't mean it doesn't have any effect, and there's no substitute for firsthand experience. If you don't have much experience talking to women, it's hard to reassure yourself that they're not going to treat you like people do on TV, movies, books, and so forth. And yes, I understand that I'm describing a form of sexism, though not as overt as what I suspect you're alluding to.
This, to me, sounds like he's fully aware of his shortcomings and prejudices and is not, at all, ascribing blame to women. For whatever the faults displayed here, I see a self-awareness and an earnestness about them. Where are you reading that he believes women are deliberately trying to intimidate him?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where are you reading that he believes women are deliberately trying to intimidate him?

Wait, where are you reading that I do believe that?

My "I didn't read it thus" meant "I didn't read it like he believed women were deliberately trying to intimidate him." I didn't for a moment think that, and i'm not sure why you think I did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on October 24, 2012


Oh, Jesus, sorry 'bout that. Think I'm having a problem with my grammatical negatives.

In any event, I find it refreshing to see him be so candid about his influences and biases. And when I think about conversations I've had with a couple friends of mine, a lot of what he's saying sounds, sadly, pretty familiar.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2012


I don't think it's productive to turn this thread into a referendum on one member's isolated phrase about something he feels. If you find yourself doing that here, maybe stop. If you find yourself doing that as a pattern and repeatedly being asked to take things to MeMail, then maybe give that fact some thought.
posted by cribcage at 11:01 AM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


In any event, I find it refreshing to see him be so candid about his influences and biases.

Me too. Told him in memail. But people deserve public props too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:10 AM on October 24, 2012


Yeah. I stuck it out this long but y'all are talking about another person like he isn't right here actively participating in the discussion, and it's gross.
posted by danny the boy at 11:12 AM on October 24, 2012


Civil exchange:
offer: accepted/rejected.

Go to the appropriate block of the decision tree:
Sit down/leave.

It's not good to overthink some things. My uncharitable reading of all this is: if you have to have "no thanks" explained to you, then you may be an asshole.
posted by mule98J at 11:18 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's productive to turn this thread into a referendum on one member's isolated phrase about something he feels. If you find yourself doing that here, maybe stop.

I really wasn't trying to make this About One User, as I thought what was being discussed had relevance to the general discussion about male and female behavior, but regardless of my intentions, I apologize for what seemed like an indictment on this one user. You're right, it shouldn't be done.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:21 AM on October 24, 2012


This is why, when talking to other guys about this subject, I've led with the social context thing. That's a lot easier to understand - are you at a party, or a public library, when you see the stranger in question? Is she reading at the bus stop, or are the two of you looking at the same painting at an opening? Parsing talking-to-strangers situations is easier for a lot of these guys than reading body language. Taking social cues is of course also crucial, but for guys who already have a hard time understanding this situation, the setting is easier to get their heads around.

This sounds like a really good strategy. In fact, talking to strangers really is a behavior governed largely by context. When I go to a gallery opening, yeah, I am hoping to meet some people, presumably maybe some like-minded ones. To some degree everyone there treats it as a space in which it is acceptable to strike up a contextual conversation with a stranger. A great approach.

There's still a need to read cues after that point, though, as all of us know who've been buttonholed by someone we'd rather not have to talk to any more. It's telling that we've all employed strategies at one time or another like walking up to someone you know already and saying "talk to me for a minute so that guy goes away," or "excuse me, I need to go get ...a thing! Nice talking to you!"
posted by Miko at 11:24 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess if it helps creepers question their actions, it's a net good, but I can't shake the feeling of "ugh, this guy."

I can't tell if his evolution is sincere or not. Likely because he used to write a lot from the "Aw, come on, feel sorry for the guys that keep asking over and over!" perspective. I can't find it at the moment, but he wrote a pretty long bit on how when you tell a guy "No", he hears "Not right now", and that you should respect that and not get angry when he keeps pestering you. Then, of course, the boobs nonsense.

So, yeah, it's nice that he's finally showing a bit of clue, but past experiences with him make me think "ugh, this guy".
posted by MissySedai at 11:28 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I too occasionally find talking to hot ladies somewhat intimidating....

See, though, he didn't say "hot women" or "attractive" women, he said women. As in, "everyone with a XX chromosome set." I can understand "hot/attractive/charismatic/this one particular subset of" women, but it was the ALL women that threw me.


I'm probably going to regret this, but I'll give it a shot.

I too found girls, and then women, terrifyingly intimidating growing up. Pretty much all of them, bar my mother and sister.

My sister is great; she's way smarter than me, funnier, and being 4 years older, she was pretty much a role model for me academically. And we would, and still do, talk for hours about everything under the sun. I've never had a problem seeing or treating women as fellow human beings with their own minds, fears and wants, partly because they obviously are, and probably partly because my sister was such a great example.

But I was always a quiet, bookish, introverted kid who kept to himself. Well, until you made me angry anyway, but that's a story for another day.

I went to an all-boys english grammar school, with 95% male teachers. Both at home and school, politeness was always drilled into you. I always did my best to be nice. I know you're probably rolling your eyes at this, because there is definitely a cadre of guys who pretend to be quiet, nice, butter-wouldn't-melt guys until they decide to get all handsy and aggressive and act like it's your fault, but it's the honest truth that I really was like that. I might play a suave, witty gentleman on t' internet, but growing up I really, really wasn't.

I did have a couple of minor relationships, solely through being part of a mixed-sex band that would periodically meet up and spend a few days at a holiday camp rehearsing for a big performance. They were such hothouses of relationships, it'd be kinda weird if I never hooked up. But never more than kissing. And only lasting a few days.

But aside from that? My sole exposure to girls in anything other than the most fleeting contact was basically books and TV.

Going to uni, and spending time on a mixed campus was like going to another planet. Filled with aliens. Female aliens.

Now, it turns out I never had a problem being friends with women, at either uni I went to. I didn't have a HUGE amount of opportunities, being as I was an engineer in engineering/science unis and the male-female ratio was something like 5-1 at best (more like 20-1 on my own courses). You might think that's a weird thing to say, given I also found women intimidating.

The best analogy I can come up with is public speaking. You can be terrified of public speaking; going up on stage, making a fool of yourself, have everyone laugh at you, can really make you break out in a cold sweat. I felt that about public speaking until I did it a couple of times, and realised that it was no different to taking my instrument out on stage and playing for a big crowd.

So working with and alongside women, becoming friends by proxy (i.e. they hang out with your male friends, you talk about whatever, you become friends, or you just end up soending time in the same places because of study and end up talking about random stuff that way). You end up with female housemates, which is an eye-opening experience for a timid introvert, let me tell you.

It's kinda hard going back 15 years, but though I respected women, and saw them as my equals, and was always polite, they did intimidate me. Not from anything they did, I hasten to add. Just because of who they were. How they thought differently, acted differently; I just couldn't get a handle on what would happen next. I had a LOT of practise predicting what guys would do, would say, how one action would follow another - even though obviously I didn't get on with every man, I could largely predict what would happen in any given circumstance. I understood their thought process.

Women though? Like another species. I just couldn't get a handle on what they were thinking, because I didn't have the experience to do so. I couldn't even predict my sister most of the time. It was a culture shock having to do it so much.

So I could be the quiet friend, I could be the nerdy bookish guy who would smile and be kind and sympathise and tell jokes. I could play it safe, and not take risks. Not risk being laughed at for saying something stupid, for making a mistake, being an idiot.

I'd be lying if I said that sex NEVER crossed my mind, either playing wallflower at the pubs and clubs, or wondering perhaps if a particular girl I liked might be interested in me. I was after all, an 18 year old guy with a sex drive.

But that wasn't what intimidated me, it was my fear of being an idiot by doing something wrong. Because who knows what she's thinking or feeling? Worse, how much eye contact is safe? Am I giving off stupid body language? Am I misreading hers? Am I going to be mistaken for a guy making a pass? Like the eleventy billion guys that do nothing but bounce around the room trying stupid chat up lines on every girl they meet, and worse, having it work quite often? God, sometimes I hated them, for just knowing what to say, what to do, and 5 minutes later have a girl walk out with them laughing on his arm.

So you add on top of that fear of doing something stupid and wrong that is misunderstood, you add actually trying to be more than friends with someone, and not just being the quiet friend guy, but actually trying to go looking for someone interested in a romantic relationship? To try and feel out whether they might be interested, and work out whether she's touching her hair because she's bored and I should shut up now, or because she's spotted someone else, or maybe she's interested in me, no that can't be right...

It's making me break out in a cold sweat even now, just thinking about. I was such a naive, helpless romantic terrified bundle of fail. And I emphasise, it was never the woman's fault. I'm sure she was wrapped up in her own bundle of nerves and anxieties, though that never occurred to me at the time.

I made mistakes. It's hard not to go back over your life with an ivory toothcomb in threads like these, eyeing up every act, every decision with 20 years more experience and trying to decide if that one time you went too far, made someone uncomfortable. I don't think I did anything too bad. I hope I didn't. I tried to be a good guy, at least. Not a saint, but at least honest.

Eventually, through practise, I started to figure it out a bit. Oddly enough, being on the nascent internet helped a huge amount; back when chat rooms and BBS and MUDs and mosaic were a thing... I did mention I was, and am, a massive nerd, right? But being able to hide behind a pseudonym was a massive help. Being able to work through words and typed emotions only was so, so, so much easier. Obviously there's still the dance, the play, trying to work out if you're just going to be friends or possibly more, but not having to do it through intricately subtle body language was such a relief. It was a way to practise, without being afraid of being pointed at in a public space and laughed at.

All my adult physical relationships, (the handful of them anyway), bar one, started on the internet. I never did attempt to chat a girl up from cold. It feels kinda weird and disloyal to my lovely wife thinking about it now, even though it all happened years before I met her. Note, I met her and dated via the internet before we ever physically met. But then, we were in different countries...

I'm glad I don't have to worry about that dance any more, now that I'm with my wife that I love, and loves me. I think I know her better than any other soul, but yeah, she still makes my mind boggle at times and I think "where did THAT come from??", and I'm sure I do the same to her. But now it's fun, not terrifying.

So I don't find women intimidating any more. And I can talk to anyone, public stage, in a crowd, at a bar, make friends, laugh and enjoy it. I don't LOVE doing it, but I can, I've learned how to. I can give every appearance of being confident in myself.

But yeah, I still remember 17 and 18 and 19 year old me, and there's so much advice I could have given them. 20 years on, I've learned a lot. I'll no doubt learn a lot more. but you don't forget the loneliness, the fear, the sadness, the wondering if you'll ever find something more, ever find someone who likes you for who you are. They're part of who I am, even if other worries are what vex me now.

I can't possibly compare or contrast what my life growing was like to other peoples, to being a woman, or anything other than what I am. It's just what _I_ know, because I lived it.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


I have favorited and flagged so many comments in this thread I'm exhausted now.

Several, I've flagged as "Fantastic comment".

But also, on both sides, I've flagged a lot as offensive and sexist.

Ignoring obvious signs that someone of the opposite gender does not want to be bothered--like that person is wearing headphones, sitting in a corner working--is obnoxious, no matter what the gender. I think we can agree on that.

Well, except maybe that person in AskMe who thinks men should make an effort to pursue her, and that she should play hard to get and also men should always be the ones to ask women out.

See, there's the problem, right there. There are ALWAYS exceptions, because people are individuals.

You can generalize based on social norms, but no one really thinks people are all the same, which is why it is disingenuous to say, "So, what, I can't ever approach any women I don't already know?"

But you also can't read an individual person's mind, or expect anyone to be able to read yours. stoneandstar, I've read all of your comments (seriously, you have like umpteen comments in this thread!), and I kinda feel that you expect a level of mind-reading.

I'm with you on not going out with a lot of strangers and wanting to know someone really well before I date him. I'm that way myself. And I've been harassed often enough that I understand how it gets grating.

But I do think you have this contradictory thing going on in this thread where you are like you don't like talking to strangers because you are shy, but okay you DO like chatting with strangers but you DON'T like strange men talking to you but okay you DO like men talking to you but only if they aren't attracted to you sexually, etc.

I think that may be one reason why you find yourself needing to comment so much. Maybe you feel that there are a lot of sexist men on Metafilter who just don't get it and that's why you keep having these arguments.

But I think sometimes you make generalizations that you would call out in others, and then end up having to clarify when you are the one being called out.

Which, by the way, I will absolutely admit is a problem I have myself, and one I am working on.

The reason I am pointing you out here is not because I don't like you personally, because I often respect and favorite and agree with much of what you say (Empress? That goes for you, too).

No, I'm pointing you out because...well, look at these things you said:

"Keep your shorts on, man."
"I really don't want to be proselytized to in public, either about Jesus or your dick."
"especially if you don't act like your penis got bruised when they turn you down."

I hope you can see why this bothers me. Snarky gendered remarks like these, from someone who is known for calling out sexist behavior....it's just ugly and disturbing. It comes across as very demeaning to men in general.
posted by misha at 12:16 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


The reason I am pointing you out here is not because I don't like you personally, because I often respect and favorite and agree with much of what you say (Empress? That goes for you, too).

....Until I got to this line I thought I was the one you were calling out with this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on October 24, 2012


Who are you talking to? Stoneandstar?
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on October 24, 2012


The chatting-up-a-stranger thing can work but as someone else pointed out, the effectiveness rate is very low, and I'd imagine works mostly if you're really just that charismatic.

I was discussing this with someone... the only way I'd be willing to do this was if the person in question was so compelling that I couldn't stop myself and had to give it a try. But yet, the only way this "works" is if you acknowledge the low-to-non-existent success rate it has and are willing to "let it go" if you give her your card/email/number and she doesn't respond. Those are two contradictory instincts.

I hope you can see why this bothers me.

Actually, no, I can't see why it bothers you. The comments were fairly amusing.

You know, the world is not your meat market. People seem to have a lot of trouble with things like context-- when to wear a fedora, when the look or scowl on someone's face is relevant or not, when to chat up a woman with romantic interest, etc. There is a time and a place for everything.

Particularly in cities, since your own home is likely so small, the entire city is supposed to be considered your "personal space." Like your home, it may be that sometimes you might need to/want to answer a knock on your door, but it's generally acknowledged that you don't go barging into someone else's house making demands of their time and attention.
posted by deanc at 1:29 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm on board with so much of the message and takeaway in the FPP, in the insightful and reasonable comments from women in this thread and other threads we've had. But I'm wondering if my thought process is still flawed, because my mind just can't help but rage when he says stuff like this:

The point is that yes, maybe fucking isn’t your primary intention, but it’s certainly well in the mix. And they know that. And you going up to them and dancing around your boner, going, “No, this is about getting to know each other! It’s about conversation!” is the kind of sad tactic that makes women not trust you. Because yeah. You want other stuff, but all that is stuff you could get elsewhere. You could have many fine friends who you don’t fuck. Instead, you’re lying about the friendship, and what you really want is the sex.

To be clear, I don't hit on random strangers in public because I'm non-intrusive to a fault, though both men and feminist women have told me I should give it a try. Whatever, OKCupid seems alright. But this whole assertion that it just boils down to "sex + other things I guess", and I'm lying to myself if it's anything otherwise is just sad and it seems like it's actually borne out of some projection on the author's part. Maybe it's the case for him, and undoubtedly for lots of guys (maybe most or all of the guys who do this kind of intrusive approaching of women?) but I'm not lying to myself when I think this doesn't apply to me and lots of men. I mean, I've politely turned down sex from attractive women so I don't think it's a huge motivator for my actions. It sounds lame but I'm not in my 20's anymore and I'm into seeking companionship and connection. Mutual non-superficial connections that might lead to mutual good things. It's called being human and grown-up and not having self-interest dictate everything in your life anymore, or, to the extent that it is self-interest, the self-interest is less "gettin' the sex" and more "fuck loneliness and psychic badness and embrace the remote possibility of love." And I mean, there's a difference between the sort of companionship and bonding associated with a relationship, and hanging out with the guys and getting beers. That he dismisses that seems to speak volumes... basically I want to like this but I don't know why the Open Source Boob Project dude is slapping my face and saying "you're a guy and you just want to get in some pants, why can't you face the reality?"
posted by naju at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Also it weirdly parallels almost directly some of the stuff the PUA guys say, and that makes me uncomfortable.)
posted by naju at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


rebent: This whole discussion reminds me of, I think I saw it on Mefi, a woman's take on being hit on by other women. In the comment, she talked about how the other women were always polite, asked permission, and assumed nothing, making the whole experience much less stressful and fearful for the poster.

I actually have been hit on by women more than men (despite being straight! Go me!) and I can say the experience is extremely different, but that is more a function that all successful hitting-on occured in the context of friends of friends (even the man who I dated).

In one case, it was a woman who was mostly-straight, but had a sexual experience she felt was very fulfilling. We were already aquantances (met through a mutual friend) and hanging out at a concert. She said something to the effect of my being very pretty, and that she'd once had a relationship with another woman and it was the best pleasure she'd ever experienced. If I was ever interested, let her know. I said I was flattered, and thank you, but I really wasn't interested. She made it clear if I changed my mind she'd be up for it, then the conversation was dropped and we spent a lot more time with each other without any attempt on her side to bring it up again and we had a wonderful time hanging out together.

In another case it was a woman I knew was bisexual, who said flat out that she knew I was straight, so no dice, but that I was just her type. It was more an example, though she did say she never mentioned the men who were her type who weren't available because they got weird about it, but with women it was ok. Our relationship changed not at all, though I was hella flatered (she is an amazing person, and if I was bi I would hit that so fast everyone's heads would spin). Again, though, we'd been friends for a long while; it wasn't out of the blue.

On the mens side, the one time I was... kind of hit on and it worked (sort of) it was an older guy who was a friend of a friend, and we started talking. It became clear quickly that he was attracted to me. I was freaking terrified by that (he was older, an ex-drug addict, etc...) and said I wanted to be friends, that maybe we could date in the future but I needed to get to know him first. After about two months we ended up dating.

The one time I was hit on by a stranger that I'm aware of (in person), it was hugely awkward. He approached me with some line about being shocked because I looked just like his ex-girlfriend. Who had dumped him over some kind of messaging service. I was like, "Um.... huh." I said somethign noncommittal and tried to get away from him because he was CREEPING me the fuck out, so I did the "dive bomb your friend group" manouver and he followed and lurked nearby. His second approach was when I was with my friend and he overheard her calling me by my name to tell me it was the name of another ex of his, who had dumped him over email. Ugh, I did not want him knowing my name. My friend was significantly friendlier to him, at which point he began to follow her around the bar until she made out with her boyfriend in front of him to get rid of him. He turned back to me, and I got REALLY interested in dancing and moved away fast.

I get hit on in Second Life semi-often, often enough that I document it when it stands out. One of the most memorable ones was where someone was literally approaching every woman he saw. Another, when a guy was in the IMs of me and a female friend simultaneously with really pathetic pickup lines. Online interactions are slightly different because usually there's aprofile involved, so if you wanted you could find out a fair amount about someone before hitting on him/her, but I'm startled at how similar the approaches are in both media. I analysed an interaction with someone who normally I wouldn't have reproduced to try to tease out why I was annoyed after speaking to him, if people want some of the realtime-thought and after-analysis of an interaction.

Now chances are, someone will read those above and claim I can't have a conversation with anyone in SL, and maybe I'll reproduce a conversation where it works - where we click and things go along swimmingly - in my copeous free time. Usually those conversations are with other women, though, I think because they aren't trying to get anythign out of me but an interesting conversation. It's the seeking for unspoken secondary gains which drives me up a wall - mostly because it seems to make the discussion really, really boring.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:18 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, she is obviously talking to me. (She actually named me.) I'm kind of weirded out by it.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:19 PM on October 24, 2012


Well, the next time you (general you, not necessarily you in particular, naju) see a random person in a coffee shop/bus stop/etc. and you think about maybe approaching for a chat, ask yourself: if this person were my non-preferred gender, or had a physical characteristic I don't find attractive, or was obviously Catholic clergy, or are just not my type, would I approach them for a chat?

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong in non-skeevily approaching a stranger whom you find attractive because you hope to make a connection that could lead to something more (sex, dating, marriage, etc.), but it does pay to be honest with yourself about what you hope to get out of the chat and why you want to initiate it.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm down with that, rtha. Honesty and owning your motives is good. As long as people like the author are open to the possibility that some guys are not all about "that thing", to paraphrase Ms. Lauryn Hill. And the answer to "would I hit up a receptive clergyman for a nice chat and maybe get his digits" would probably be no, but that doesn't directly lead to this author's conclusions either. That's all I'm saying.
posted by naju at 2:40 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eventually, through practise, I started to figure it out a bit.

That's exactly it. You're gonna be bad at interacting with women (or men, or guitars, or basketballs, or horses...) until you have some practice at it, learn to read the body language and social cues, learn to empathize with their point of view, etc. And "bad" interactions could range from a simple "No, thanks" to getting belittled in front of your friends to seriously creeping a girl out or getting slapped. It's *possible* you get everything right the first time, but highly unlikely.

There's no school, that I know of, that explicitly teaches social interaction, and certainly not dating etiquette and techniques**-- you're just expected to learn it along the way, in the myriad of interactions we have every day.*** And there's no way to jump from FAIL to AWESOME without going through the bad interactions -- you can't learn to play a guitar without hitting a lot of sour notes. What I find really troublesome, but for which I've not found a solution, is that this strongly implies that you have to make a whole lot of people uncomfortable through ham-fisted interaction before you "get it", stop interacting ham-fistedly, and stop making people uncomfortable. I probably owe a thousand people a thousand apologies. Maybe a thousand more before I die.

And, BTW, when you finally are able to approach people *without* making them uncomfortable, then of course that's totally okay to approach people. It's a Catch-22 -- just as so many things are in dating, which is part of why so many people find the whole process utterly baffling.

** I assume that we're ruling out the various PUA sources, and I don't have the energy to mount a defense of them here..
*** And that's really a shame. I suspect it's way more valuable for most people, way more instrumental to their happiness, to know how to make friends, find a cool gf/bf, resolve conflicts, or even how to have great sex than to know, say, calculus. And yet the social stuff is almost never explicitly taught. So much emphasis on what will make you money; so little emphasis on what will make you happy.
posted by LordSludge at 3:08 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Folks, if you need to go to MetaTalk, go to MetaTalk, otherwise quit talking about flagging. Flag, move on. That is the drill. Be decent to each other.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2012


I really like the car sales talk above, but my one reservation is that the car sales people have a huge advantage. The customers are preselected in that they have all brought themselves to a car dealer. Being approached by a pushy car dealer is annoying, and evidently not a good sales technique, but expected. You're there to look at cars. And I'm certain a lot of bad car sales guys eventually learn by example or trial and error and learn and how to do it well. Meanwhile the customers they run into are just annoyed, not harassed.

I imagine, without knowing, that it would be a lot less threatening and annoying to be hit on at a place that you've gone to be hit on. Occasionally men want to look for women and women want to go out to be hit on, but we don't have a social space that is explicitly for that.* I think this would be great for men who are learning how to approach women in a not creepy way as there would be a variety of role models to see. Right now I think most men are either getting bad or no advice on how to do this and, worse, never see it happen in a decent way.

The two big problems I see with this idea are (a) I don't see how, outside the bar model, the revenue stream for a space like this and (b) how to stop a place like this becoming ground zero for unrepentant creeps and destroying the whole environment. I guess the closest I see is something like speed dating.

*well, perhaps the meat market bars, but those are informal and not everyone there is going to even know you're at a meat market.
posted by bswinburn at 3:43 PM on October 24, 2012


If this person were my non-preferred gender, or had a physical characteristic I don't find attractive, or was obviously Catholic clergy, or are just not my type, would I approach them for a chat?

I have no clue why this needs to be the standard. Suppose I have plenty of friends and the only reason I'd really want to meet someone new was for dating. Further suppose I only date people who are women that I'm attracted to. I'm supposed to chat up a lot of Catholic clergy so that I'm allowed to also speak with women that I'm attracted to? Why exactly?
posted by chrchr at 3:44 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honesty and owning your motives is good. As long as people like the author are open to the possibility that some guys are not all about "that thing", to paraphrase Ms. Lauryn Hill. And the answer to "would I hit up a receptive clergyman for a nice chat and maybe get his digits" would probably be no, but that doesn't directly lead to this author's conclusions either. That's all I'm saying.

I think the author's intent with that tangent was to pro-actively respond to an oft-heard claim on the part of many of the worst perpetrators of this kind of behavior -- wherein, if you try to tell them that they're hitting on a woman who just wanted to do her own thing and not have guys try to pick her up, they suddenly go into pearl-clutchy mode and say "what? I just wanted to say 'hi' and have a conversation, god! Don't people like to hear compliments and be friendly?"

It is to these men that the author was speaking, I believe -- he's asking THEM to own their own motives, and his tangent is more like "come on dude, no one's buying that." (He probably was one of them at one point, so his tone may be coming across with a little more zeal as a result.)

And at least this one woman knows that some guys are not all about "that thing". But y'all aren't the problem we're talking about here, it's just those few guys who are ruining it for the rest of you. Those are the guys to whom he's talking, and those are the guys who have us have our hackles up for a second because we're just going through the check to see if you're one of Those Guys or not.

But yeah, I know some guys - lots of guys - aren't all about that thing, and I'm glad you're there. Thing is, you already know when it seems like I need to be left alone, so I don't get the chance to tell you that. So I'm saying it now - thanks, you dudes rock on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mutual non-superficial connections that might lead to mutual good things.

I think that's awesome; I think it's the kind of thing the author is trying to encourage rather than discourage. I've been trying to talk about how, when you want this kind of thing, accosting a stranger is probably not the likeliest way to move in that direction, but if you have that sincere interest in and curiosity about the person, and have sussed out the whole situation and whether you think an approach is worth the risk and potential negative reaction, and all that, then please go ahead. Chances are if you're truly sincere and kind of open-minded about where it all might go and being considerate, your reception stands some chance of being a little better than if you weren't all those things, or did just want the ego hit or a short-term hookup.

My takeaway from his postings isn't never ever do this. It's learn to do it wisely and rarely and in as considerate a way as possible, if you must do it, but there are better ways to meet people that don't send up all these red flags or exhaust people who deal with too much of it, so proceed with caution.
posted by Miko at 3:49 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's exactly it. You're gonna be bad at interacting with women (or men, or guitars, or basketballs, or horses...) until you have some practice at it, learn to read the body language and social cues, learn to empathize with their point of view, etc. And "bad" interactions could range from a simple "No, thanks" to getting belittled in front of your friends to seriously creeping a girl out or getting slapped. It's *possible* you get everything right the first time, but highly unlikely.

So, here's the problem I'm having with that: You can interact with a woman without asking her on a date. In fact, I've been known to talk to a woman without wanting to date her or having sex as an end goal.

Some guys look at women (as a group) and see things to date\have sex with, rather than people to interact with, some of which may want to interact by dating and\or having sex with them. The whole idea that women require some sort of special strategy to successfully interact with is bunk. Actually strike that, the Prime Mover in that universe of bunk is the idea that successfully interacting with a woman means dating\sex\flirting.

In other words; if the problem with finding dates is that the guy's not good at talking to women, talking with women is the solution. Hitting on more women is not.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


The customers are preselected in that they have all brought themselves to a car dealer.

I think it could be argued that there are some parties and bars that are similar to the car lot in this analogy. However, car salespeople are always ready to sell a car in any setting. The difference is that they'd wait for it to come up rather than try to force the issue on random strangers. I suppose that if I was still in the business and I heard people I didn't know talking about buying a car and were interested in something I sold, I might interject myself into that conversation. Otherwise, it would have to come up in conversation somehow.

Also, the easiest customers to sell to are always people that you already know.

I'm dead-on-my-feet tired now so I don't know if I'm saying what I want to say but the more I think about it, the better the analogy works. It only gets creepy because most salespeople aren't genuine, they just fake it well and still mostly see customers as objects. I think that strengthens my case.
posted by VTX at 5:19 PM on October 24, 2012


I don't really have a problem with being sold a car of the kind I want when I want a car. I have a problem with bullshit.

We all know that a car salesman's "make the numbers work" is a deceptive way of saying "talk about your low-low monthly payment to keep you focused on your acquisitive hopes and the short term rather than the total cost of the massive interest and long-term loan and extras I'm about to sock you with, which is where I make my profit" just as "hey, I'm just trying to be friendly" can be a deceptive way to cover up a more predatory intent on the part of someone chatting you up.

I'm not saying all car salespeople are doing that. But it's a completely standard thing, and it's also one that, once you know what's going on, you want to avoid, as a buyer. Not unlike being hit on for shallow, impersonal and selfish reasons.
posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on October 24, 2012


"liking the book a woman likes is probably a better indication of a relationship potential than liking her tits"
"This is a really common mistake."


Surely it isn't the other way around. Heck just seeing that someone reads recreationally would indicate they aren't in that huge swath of people I wouldn't consider for personal relationships.

KathrynT writes "Well, but I feel like at a certain point if you're THAT clueless, it's on you to get a clue? I mean many of these people have mastered such complex interactions as getting their driver's license or beating a video game, it seems like "When you look at her, does she look back and smile or look away and pretend she didn't see you?" is well within the bounds of learnability. Learning to be receptive to other people's subtle overtures is a far more sorcerous art than learning how not to be a boor."

Most people will acknowledge that some people have specific talent: Wayne Gretzky, Micheal Jackson, Mozart, James Dean, Stephen Hawking, Jimi Hendrix, Einstein, Bobby Fischer, John Nash, Turing, and Évariste Galois to name a few extra ordinary examples. It's not that much of a stretch to posit that just as many people would have anti-talents. I've got something like Prosopagnosia; I have trouble recognizing people out of context and have trouble when I do recognize people remembering their names. Weirdly back when I was doing tech support I could often remember a person's password even though I didn't know their name. Different types of information stored in the brain differently.

klangklangston writes ""If it was Jesus himself who was proselytizing, you'd be happy to hear him preach!""

Probably true in a look at the weirdo kind of way though the primary literature makes him sound like a genuinely nice guy to be around (his Dad is kind of a Jerk though). And the water to wine; loaves and fishes thing would make him a hit at parties.

KathrynT writes "I always wonder if these guys who are helpless to understand when a woman is approachable and when she is doing something else and thus not available to the public, or the guys who can't understand why a crass sexual innuendo is unwelcome as an opening line of conversation, also walk up to the urinal right next another guy and start talking about blowjobs or politics while they're peeing. If you can understand the Code of the Public Restroom, then the rest of this stuff is well within your grasp."

These are obviously two different things. The first requires reading of subtle and not so subtle clues/body language/words (the innuendo thing is straight up crass though) the second just requires doing things that don't make oneself uncomfortable. Urinal ediquitte is for the comfort of the yourself not the other person.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surely it isn't the other way around. Heck just seeing that someone reads recreationally would indicate they aren't in that huge swath of people I wouldn't consider for personal relationships.

Maybe my standards are unrealistically high, but just "reads" is not a qualifier for me wanting to pursue a closer relationship. If you were being more honest instead of just trying to provoke, I think you could come up very quickly with a list of 10 things that a person might be reading that would more rapidly disqualify them from being attractive to you than not reading at all. I hardly know you and I feel like I could do it.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on October 24, 2012


There's no "supposed to" in my comment, chrchr, except the "Be honest with yourself." You can talk to anyone you like for any reason you like, just be honest with yourself about why.
posted by rtha at 7:22 PM on October 24, 2012


Most people will acknowledge that some people have specific talent: Wayne Gretzky, Micheal Jackson, Mozart, James Dean, Stephen Hawking, Jimi Hendrix, Einstein, Bobby Fischer, John Nash, Turing, and Évariste Galois to name a few extra ordinary examples.

I'm just a bit amused that the the laundry list of random geniuses and savants is all dudes.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:25 PM on October 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


just "reads" is not a qualifier for me wanting to pursue a closer relationship.

For me, it would depend what level of magnification we're using to define "closer." In trial law our first question in reviewing evidence is whether it's relevant, and we typically assess relevance this way: "Imagine the trial is a football game. Nevermind whether this evidence is a touchdown pass. The question is, does this piece of evidence move the ball even one inch in either direction?"

I'd use the same analogy here to define "closer relationship" in the context of this discussion (approaching strangers). I see that Jane is reading a book. Does this fact alone make me want to date Jane? No. But does it move me even one inch closer to wanting to date her? It might. Is she reading intently or does she look entertained? Is it fiction or nonfiction? If it's a subject I am familiar with, I might feel kindred. If it's not then I might be even more curious. Et cetera.

That's how a conversation between strangers can blossom into a connection, and maybe a date. Incrementally. And that's the scenario that makes me take with a big ol' grain of salt all those comments earlier in this thread saying, "THAT NEVER HAPPENS." Well, sure it does. People all over the world are getting to know each other that way right now, at weddings and concerts and in classrooms and coffee shops. Dating your friends can be really awesome, but dating strangers is perfectly common too.
posted by cribcage at 7:42 PM on October 24, 2012


does this piece of evidence move the ball even one inch in either direction?"

For me this is a definite no. Seeing someone read doesn't, in itself, move the ball down the field as opposed to seeing them not read. There are tons of other activities that would do that equally as well or poorly as reading, as well.

I think it's a very a common mistake to think that a book is a great common shared interest that provides an entree. Especially when it's just that you see a book, and have no idea what the book is ("whatcha reading?"). I was fairly definite about this point, because some of the worst stranger interactions of my life have started because someone wanted to bond over a book (happened a lot because I was always reading all the time; less now because I have my phone and read more stuff for work that's more boring than a book, but I still like to go to bars or out to meals and read alone). Poorly read people, for instance, sometimes think it's truly amazing when they read the same book you're reading! - even if it's Slaughterhouse Five or A Separate Peace. Yeah, not an enormous coincidence. No, I'm not reading it for the first time, I'm teaching it. Yeah, it's OK. Yeah, a lot of people have read this, it's kind of a classic. It's assigned in high school a lot. Mmmhmmm. More often than not you can tell pretty quickly that the book isn't really the reason you're being talked to, it's a convenience.

I just witnessed a pestery event on the bus in Boston where a woman was reading a book in French. Any book, it didn't matter, just that the title was French. A guy saw the book, got excited to make an approach, and started in in his high school French, "You read French? You speak French? I speak French as well. I studied French in my school. I don't speak French very well. Are you from France? Why are you in the UNited States? etc. He got around to asking for her number. She said no. He said "You are breaking my heart." She said "You'll get over it."

It's possible for someone to be reading something sufficiently unusual as to be able to spot a genuine common base of knowledge and use that to strike up a genuine conversation. As you say, it's been known to happen. It can happen. However, I feel like this is like the other things in that a good 98% of the time, it's done very badly and doesn't really work the way the attempting person expects. It's usually a fumble and the book is usually a thin excuse. Other times the book is a different experience for the enthusiast and the current reader - "OMG I loved that!" "Really? I can't get into it, I'm only reading it for class."

Only rarely is this a striking coincidence of a genuinely surprising kind that warrants a lengthy discussion. Sometimes. But again, if you just love books and love talking to people about their books, it happens all the time. Presumably if it's not a thin excuse to hit on someone, you'd ask people of all ages, shapes, sizes about their books too, because of all the great conversations you'll get into with fellow readers.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It does happen, sometimes. I wouldn't contest that-- one of my best college friends met her current boyfriend at a wedding, and they were coupled by the end of the night. I would also argue that chatting up a stranger at a wedding is rarely a problem, because most people are there to celebrate and meet people and cheer on the couple, no one's there to make spreadsheets or read for class, usually people aren't touchy about talking to new folks.

But situations where people talk to a perfect stranger and end up making a date are relatively rare-- I think Miko(?) posted some stats about that above. It's not a very effective tactic. I don't think most women would say it never happens, shouldn't happen, or isn't cool when it happens. I think the problem is just that some people seem to think they're doing something very romantic by interrupting a woman-- when the problem is that a lot of other guys feel the same way, plus there are some guys who will objectify and bother a woman for no reason at all, and altogether it means a lot of distracting, unwanted attention that makes women feel on guard in public. I think it's pretty easy to avoid this by treating a woman politely and, as someone else said, following her lead. I would do the same if I felt like meeting a male stranger in public.

Only rarely is this a striking coincidence of a genuinely surprising kind that warrants a lengthy discussion. Sometimes. But again, if you just love books and love talking to people about their books, it happens all the time. Presumably if it's not a thin excuse to hit on someone, you'd ask people of all ages, shapes, sizes about their books too, because of all the great conversations you'll get into with fellow readers.

This is how I feel too. People who are good at chatting probably do meet dates on occasion while out and about. But people who aren't particularly good at it and who've internalized myths about romance from our movies and culture can also be quite bothersome.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:12 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


*at weddings and concerts and in classrooms and coffee shops.

Note: As I said I think there's a lot more going for the first three, where you're not strangers, and a lot of people do meet in those places. I'm not arguing against those situations where there is actually a shared social setting that mediates between the people. It's the cold call in the coffee shop/on the bus etc. that I believe is hardly ever productive and personally is usually an intrusion.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lou Stuells writes "
I'm just a bit amused that the the laundry list of random geniuses and savants is all dudes.
"

Sorry about that. Talent's nothing without opportunity; men historically have had more opportunity. Here are some female examples: Judit Polgar, Michelle Wie, Manon Rhéaume, Danica Patrick, Grace Hopper, and Emily Dickinson.

Miko writes "There are tons of other activities that would do that equally as well or poorly as reading, as well. "

Sure. My point was that event that poorness is going to do better than a pure visual attraction to a body part as predictor of compatibility. And in agreement with cribcage that it is a jumping off point not the be all end all of the metric.

TL;DR: Not saying it's a great metric, just saying it's better than liking the woman's tits which I can't imagine being enough to sustain a relationship.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 PM on October 24, 2012


But situations where people talk to a perfect stranger and end up making a date are relatively rare-- I think Miko(?) posted some stats about that above.

Miko can correct me if I'm wrong, because I only skimmed those links and did not read them in depth. But my understanding from skimming was that they focused on where people met "partners" and spouses. Those terms are not equivalent to "dates." So while those studies might persuade someone out of searching for his/her spouse in random coffee shops, sometimes people just want to date and this data doesn't speak to that.

To the other point, I think that people often meet as strangers at weddings and concerts, and that many people see coffee shops as "social settings" in a way not portrayed in the majority of this thread. (Neither perception of them is right or wrong, of course.)
posted by cribcage at 8:29 PM on October 24, 2012


To the other point, I think that people often meet as strangers at weddings and concerts, and that many people see coffee shops as "social settings" in a way not portrayed in the majority of this thread.

Checking back in to say: Yeah, it probably really depends on the coffee shop, but many are fairly convivial places with light atmospheres and casual-to-actual friendships between regular customers and workers. This is the sort of environment I envision when I think of approaching someone in a coffee shop. I don't envision a grab-your-coffee-and-go Starbucks sort of coffee efficiency, nor do I envision the coffee cavern of a Barnes & Noble, which to me tends to be a fairly antisocial scene where people either don't talk or talk only to the people who accompanied them to the store. I personally would be about as likely to try and chat someone up at one of those places as I would standing in line at the post office or waiting to see a dentist. They're not places that are conducive to making friends at all, really.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:45 PM on October 24, 2012


"I really don't want to be proselytized to in public, either about Jesus or your dick."

C'mon, this is the best sentence in the whole thread!
posted by octobersurprise at 8:47 PM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


it's better than liking the woman's tits which I can't imagine being enough to sustain a relationship

I really don't think it's better. Both are poor indicators. I think a lot of guys think it's better, being more high-minded or noble than they somehow imagine simple attraction to be, but I think both are pretty superficial starting points. And the question, to me, is whether seeing a stranger reading alone in a public place is a sufficient reason to bother the stranger. I'm thinking probably not, and I'm thinking that the fact that a person is reading a book is not actually why the approach is being made.

But my understanding from skimming was that they focused on where people met "partners" and spouses. Those terms are not equivalent to "dates."

There was some differentiation of how long the couples had been together, but the shortest category was 1-3 months, which is pretty short. I think that rules out one-night hookups and extremely short dating experiments, but ultimately seems to support the idea that when it comes to LTRs, chance meetings in public places produce very few of those. Sometimes people do want to date and, in those cases, I imagine they'd more often be going to places that are good places to look for dates in - the kinds of events, parties, and social settings where meeting and talking to strangers is a more normalized activity. Taking the chance that someone alone in a coffee shop or on public transportation is, at that moment, looking for dates is presuming on slim to no evidence.

people often meet as strangers at weddings and concerts

I don't think of people who are at the same wedding I'm at as total "strangers" in the sense that this article is dealing with. First, everyone is at a wedding because someone invited them. They have some sort of social thread binding them into the group (even if they're a random just-friends date for someone else who is closer to the couple). That makes a huge difference for me as a female. I always feel a lot more comfortable and interested when there is some social context for someone I've just met: people who know them, an indication of a life history of some kind, ability to maintain the friendships/relationships that brought them here, etc. Also, you both have a reason for being at the event, and weddings are full of people who do not necessarily know each other yet, but are only a few degrees of separation away, so introductions, small talk, and conversation amongst others are natural parts of the event. Most people don't go to weddings to have a quiet moment alone.

many people see coffee shops as "social settings" in a way not portrayed in the majority of this thread. (Neither perception of them is right or wrong, of course.)

Wiggly hand - yes, sure, some coffee shops are more of a "social setting" than others and some people behave more socially with strangers in coffee shops than others, but, but, but. I still don't think the fact that someone is in the same coffee shop as me - however social and chatty the coffee shop - is enough that they should feel I'm required to speak with them for more than a few polite seconds. SOmetimes it might happen, mood, atmosphere, individuals permitting, but again, I think that the blanket presumption "we're all out at the coffee shop! I can talk to any woman here!" is more likely to create bad interactions than great ones.

People have pretty consistently been saying 'never say never, but be realistic, and be respectful, because more often than not the assumptions are mistaken and the access is abused.' I think that's the take-home here, though of course we can talk about the exceptions until we're blue in the face. The exceptions can happen; but the rule is that mostly, they don't.

I also realized that some of the puzzled disconnect could be that men may have a very skewed sense of how often this behavior 'works,' (as in, yields a few minutes' positive conversation or perhaps a number, fake or not, or agreement to a date) because they aren't on the receiving end of all the advances, just the delivering end (usually). So a guy might think "oh, I'm going for it, I've done this maybe 10 times in my life and a couple times it went really well," while the woman across from them might be like "Oh man, this is the 10th time this week in this same place and they've all been pricks." Women have a chance to see this behavior in the aggregate, whereas men may only see it in the particular of their own personal case. So the perceptions of how successful it is probably differ quite a bit.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, yes. I guess in my head I'm thinking about dates I've gone on with strangers who asked me out on our first meeting, and they were rarely successful, and often not as fun as those with some context, unfortunately. So I guess I'm bringing that to the discussion. I tend to think of being asked out by a stranger as an unsuccessful enterprise in general, due to the number of men I turn down, and the number of spontaneous dates that I haven't particularly enjoyed. I can see how to a guy who'd only asked out three women in his life and gone on one or two nice or okay dates, it would seem like hey, why not.

(Aww, octobersurprise. ;) You wouldn't happen to want to get a cup of coffee after this thread... ?)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:53 PM on October 24, 2012


(And I should clarify that I have gone out with a few guys I've met at concerts and galleries where I was in an outgoing mood; I wasn't considering that on the same level as the "cafe" encounter.)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2012


Sigh. I used to be such a friendly person who enjoyed talking to new people I met out in public. Then, I started realizing these guys weren't that interested, but felt sorry for them when they approached me, so I would treat them in a friendly matter. Now, I feel like snapping at strangers who approach me and when I see a man approaching, I tend to avert my eyes and pretend I didn't notice him. Sometimes, these guys might just be asking for directions, but I don't want to deal with strangers of any type anymore. It makes me sad that I am so cynical and distrustful now. I just never want to be in a situation again where a strange man approaches me in a parking lot because I had been friendly to him earlier.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not that much of a stretch to posit that just as many people would have anti-talents.

Yes, I suppose it's possible that the guy who opined about my ability to kill a man during sex while I was working out is just basically the John Nash of assholes. However, "being the John Nash of Assholes" is not exactly a trait that's going to make me want to go out with you MORE.
posted by KathrynT at 9:18 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


So a guy might think "oh, I'm going for it, I've done this maybe 10 times in my life and a couple times it went really well," while the woman across from them might be like "Oh man, this is the 10th time this week in this same place and they've all been pricks." Women have a chance to see this behavior in the aggregate, whereas men may only see it in the particular of their own personal case.

Which, of course, was the point the author of the article was attempting to make - guys should consider the idea that this happens to women a LOT more than you think it does and how annoying or disturbing it can be as a cumulative effect.

(Kudos, Miko, for your patience in being willing to restate & rephrase rather than just go, "RTMFA, MF!!")

Also, "it would be interesting to create a demonstration - Mythbusters style! Where women are miked and camera'd and hang out in a high-traffic public place." - I swear to Buddha someone did something like this not too long ago. You got to see how really obvious it is when guys are talking to the boobies, or turning their whole bodies around to check out the butt after the woman has passed them.

I honestly can't remember who did it, and I can't really think of how to Google it - "hidden camera women" probably won't get the results I'm looking for . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 11:03 PM on October 24, 2012


it was a European woman who ended up being accused of racism because most of the men harassing her weren't white.

Femme de la rue
posted by Tarumba at 11:24 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


If a woman is reading a book in public, it doesn't matter if it could be a point of connection between you. She's busy reading. Your desire to talk about the book doesn't trump her desire to read it. Go find a bookclub or something.
posted by harriet vane at 11:34 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


In other words; if the problem with finding dates is that the guy's not good at talking to women, talking with women is the solution. Hitting on more women is not.

That'd be best, sure. (But hitting on women is better for a guy's social skills than avoiding them completely. Whether that's an assholish thing or not, well I'll leave that to your judgement.) Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming. So meeting a new, attractive woman is more valued for the potential for sex than the potential to make a new friend.

This doesn't make awkwardly or rudely approaching women okay -- this thread (and common sense) makes it pretty obvious that its not. And it's pretty clear that your interaction will be, um, unpleasant if you awkwardly approach most any woman in this thread, as per Real Life. I'm just trying to explain part of what's going on here, as I see it, why a lot of guys behave like this. Certainly not excusing the behavior.

Also, not having sex can be hard on a guy's self-esteem. And to be blunt, I've found that, in general, the lower a person's self-esteem, the more of an asshole they are. So now you have a horny asshole that's hell-bent on getting laid. Not really a great frame of mind for meeting women.

Again, not excusing the behavior, just trying to explain it. Who knows, maybe telling these types of guys to re-examine their behavior will work. I'm skeptical, as I feel like there's some pretty deep-level emotional stuff going on here, but hey worth a shot.

And sure, there are women out there that do the same thing, it's just not as common and the power dynamics are different. But damn some of you women are sketch-y! We're all just people, after all, not so terribly different when it comes down to it. It's sad that we tend to focus on what makes us different rather than what makes us the same.

Aw, now I has a sad. Wait, here's kittens. Okay all better! =)
posted by LordSludge at 12:19 AM on October 25, 2012


If a woman is reading a book in public, it doesn't matter if it could be a point of connection between you.

If she looks up, makes eye contact, smiles genuinely, then I think that's a decent invitation. (Nobody says the guy needs to accept said invitation, however.) At that point the book is just a conversation piece, something for two people to talk about while they sorta evaluate each other. Hopefully everybody is clued into body language and respectful of it. And yeah, often this really, really not the case... That's where it seems things really start to go south.

Somebody in a previous thread made the point that its difficult-to-impossible for a woman to tell whether a guy is disregarding her negative body language because he's socially ignorant or because he's an asshole... so she really doesn't have much choice but to go with "asshole". Just thought that was a great comment, seems relevant here.

I don't really have a point. It has something to do with books...
posted by LordSludge at 1:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe telling these types of guys to re-examine their behavior will work. I'm skeptical, as I feel like there's some pretty deep-level emotional stuff going on here

I think it's a process; people collectively learn how to act over time until eventually most people are simply raised in an environment in which they don't expect to be entitled to do things that are no longer socially acceptable. Most male bosses probably don't spend a lot of time feeling that it's all so confusing and difficult that they cannot slap their women employees on the ass or any of the other similar actions that they might have done without censure 40 years ago. There may be some old guys who are bewildered and heartbroken over this, but young guys mostly don't waste a lot of time worrying that they will never be able to have sex because they must refrain from molesting their employees.

I suspect that in time it will not be such a confusing notion that being female in public is not an open invitation for solicitation, and men and women who are so inclined will nevertheless continue to find ways to get together.
posted by taz at 1:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


I feel like it's worthwhile to be firm on the idea that sketchy women are just as frustrating (and sometimes intimidating) as sketchy men, but it is also important to remember that women are overwhelmingly the ones who deal with unwanted attention and sexual advances on a daily basis. Street harassment is pretty scary stuff and understanding why some women feel scared or angry about being approached is important to human understanding, too. You can still feel hurt or rejected by a woman who scowls or doesn't want to chat or tells you to "fuck off," but I actually find that understanding where someone is coming from helps me not to take it personally, and results in greater empathy for others. So it's a win-win. I find that there's not much point in getting angry or resentful because someone who is used to putting up with really bad shit from people who look like me doesn't trust me right away. I feel like for at least some men, reading the article in the FPP here would help them at least understand women's motivations and actually save them much grief in the long run, while saving women some grief too.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:21 AM on October 25, 2012


Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air

I think this is basically a myth. Even if it's not, it's a red herring, since a basic human responsibility is exercising conscious control over our subconscious or semi-conscious motivations.

Also, not having sex can be hard on a guy's self-esteem.

This is probably a real problem, but again, it is a problem that belongs to the guy in question, not to the people around him.
posted by kengraham at 7:00 AM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, not having sex can be hard on a guy's self-esteem.

Oh, come on. This is the sort of thing that teenage boys say to their girlfriends to pressure them into putting out. I learned long ago before I even was sexually active that "blue balls" was a myth, and this is just a variant of that argument.

Please have more respect for me, and yourself, to avoid using this trite argument. It does neither of us any favors.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


We all know that a car salesman's "make the numbers work" is a deceptive way of saying "talk about your low-low monthly payment to keep you focused on your acquisitive hopes and the short term rather than the total cost of the massive interest and long-term loan and extras I'm about to sock you with, which is where I make my profit"

Actually no. The specific closing question, "If we can make the numbers work, will you take this car home right now?" Is really saying, "Other than the price (or the monthly payment, or your trade value, or whatever other price related issue), are there any other objections you have that would keep you from buying a car." Said another way its, "Look, we all know that we'll have to spend some time talking about the price, rates, payments, and whatever, that's a given. But, other than that aspect, are you ready to buy a car?"

The price is the last thing I, as the salesperson, want to worry about. It's the easiest objection to overcome (analogous to the date and time of the actual date just to keep this from being a total derail).

If I already know there is some other objection (I need my mechanic to look at it, I want my spouse to see it and she's at work, etc) I'd mention that too.

At least on new cars, I made most of my money on the number of units so I didn't care much what the sale price or the payment ended up being as long as a car got sold.
posted by VTX at 7:24 AM on October 25, 2012


Sorry, let me say this a bit more calmly now.

You're right that not having sex can be hard on someone's self esteem. Not having had sex for the past two years has been hard on mine, I'll admit.

But I would never, in the slightest, dream of using that as an excuse for a lapse in common social courtesy - because I am a grown adult, and as such I am capable of balancing my own sexual appetite with respect for the wishes of others, and respect for their boundaries. And that is not an unusual thing - being able to do that is part of what being a socialized responsible adult in this society is.

By writing off a given man's transgressions of social courtesy by saying that "not having sex can be hard on his self esteem", so it makes him goof up, you're just shoaling up the old perception that "men only think with their dicks" or "men only have one thing on their minds" or the like. And that simply isn't true.

Of course there are cases where someone doesn't have as good control of themselves as they should - but their celibacy or sexual appetite should never, never be used as an excuse, or accepted as an excuse, because it just demeans all of us to do so.

So please don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming.

Those bolded words are doing a lot of work in this sentence. If a person's focus on getting sex is all-consuming, that's his problem, not everyone else's. We would be grossed out by the vulgarity of making a similar claim about having a nice car or nice apartment.

Maybe having lived in "young cities" for my entire adult life has skewed my perceptions, but there are plenty of social outlets where it is considered "acceptable" to meet strangers: parties, weddings, organized happy hours, the public lounge in a youth hostel, professional society and alumni gatherings, etc. If anything, things like adult-enrichment classes and volunteering that people participate in to expand their social circles are heavily female dominated. Going up to people randomly on the street or in coffee shops just doesn't even sound like something necessary.* Plus, being in a dense city means, inherently, that you can't talk to everyone you come across. We are supposed to be respectful of our personal space.

* now an exception might be if you and the other person are both very long term regulars who are familiar faces to each other. But once again, this requires an understanding of context which I now realize that lots of people don't have. And you're not going to get that person's phone number when you first see each other. Weeks or months down the road, possibly.
posted by deanc at 7:35 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

As another relatively shy guy, and one who has thought about a lot of these issues for many years, I have to say that working hard to be more comfortable with purely casual interactions (that is, interactions you don't have any expectations for or agenda behind -- sexual, work-related, or otherwise) is the best thing you can do. Get used to it, get competent at it. Learn how to talk to people for the sake of talking to them, not because you want something from them. I know it's difficult for some of us. I've been there. Make yourself do it anyway until it's not such a big hairy deal.

Because when you indulge that "shyness" or social passivity habit for a long time, and let every soul-wringing attempt to start a conversation with someone take on hugely freighted significance -- because of course if you can only get up the nerve to talk to a real live woman at a bar or party like once a year, then the one you do talk to must be the one you're gonna want to have sex with, right? -- then you are almost certainly doomed to alienate the woman from the very get-go with a forced manner of desperation and creepiness. And only a jackass or a hopeless passive-aggressive would blame the other person for that happening.
posted by aught at 8:18 AM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


"I learned long ago before I even was sexually active that "blue balls" was a myth, and this is just a variant of that argument."

I used to think that too, until I got them. But they don't usually come from not having sex; they come from interrupting sex before climax. They shouldn't be a manipulative thing, but they very much do goddamn ache.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trouble is, for many, perhaps most, guys sex is kinda like air: If you're getting it regularly, it's no big deal. If you're not, it can become all-consuming.

I am not a man, but I know well adjusted/socially healthy men who don't function this way (or at least they aren't showing it to me).

No one NEEDS sex. The sentiment that men NEED sex bothers me and is used an excuse for men to behave poorly. It's insulting to men. I don't think men are just animals who will try to take what they want by any means possible.

I wish society would get over the notion that men need sex. The message that men need sex is everywhere and it disturbing.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:21 AM on October 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


The price is the last thing I, as the salesperson, want to worry about. It's the easiest objection to overcome (analogous to the date and time of the actual date just to keep this from being a total derail).

I see what you're saying. I don't really think all car salesmen are as sanguine about the ultimate price as you are, though! I won't torture this analogy any more. You're pointing out that you need to determine real seriousness of intent before moving to particulars, and that is true. That's how you avoid the interactions that go like: "So, wanna go out Friday?" - "I'm busy." - "Saturday?" - "No, I'm out of town." - "Next weekend?" - "I'll see. Give me a call sometime and we can figure it out [scribbles fake number]" .

Talking about men as if their desire for, interest in, "need" for sex, etc., is somehow more significant, less controllable, more essential or more urgent than women's is something I thought we'd done with a long, long time ago.

There's nothing special about the experience of sexuality that makes not having sexual partners harder for a guy than for a woman, basing this on gender alone. It can be really difficult, sadness-inducing, anxiety-inducing, out-of-control, in control, thrilling, and any number of other things for anyone. That includes women. This isn't some essential difference.

We all have sexual urges to greater or lesser degrees as individuals; we all have to learn to handle these in socially appropriate ways. Everybody does.

There are unique and different social pressures that men and women may put on each other or internalize themselves about sexual behavior, but men are not in some unique category where all of this stuff is just a thousand times harder for them to navigate. It's challenging for everyone.

This thread itself is good evidence that it's not easy for women to navigate their interest in sex comfortably, either.
posted by Miko at 8:48 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


they don't usually come from not having sex; they come from interrupting sex before climax.

This happens to women too, though the anatomy is a little different, there is an ache.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


"I learned long ago before I even was sexually active that "blue balls" was a myth, and this is just a variant of that argument."

I used to think that too, until I got them. But they don't usually come from not having sex; they come from interrupting sex before climax.


...You agree with my larger point, though, yes?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on October 25, 2012



There's nothing special about the experience of sexuality that makes not having sexual partners harder for a guy than for a woman, basing this on gender alone. It can be really difficult, sadness-inducing, anxiety-inducing, out-of-control, in control, thrilling, and any number of other things for anyone. That includes women. This isn't some essential difference.


Thank you. I know a lot of women who have really internalized this misinformation as well, "I know men think about sex ALL the time, sigh, so I guess it's understandable if he cheats/this is why I have to work out more to stay alluring/give him sex whenever he wants/etc." They just think it about so much MORE, poor things. It's just biology.

However I think it's really unclear how much of this is really socially cultivated. I mean, if women are told they're not supposed to like sex, and men are told they're supposed to be thinking about it all the time, how can you not internalize that to a large degree?

I remember reading about studies that show that parts of the brain shut down after orgasm for both men and women, and that there was no difference in the reaction. So everyone is a little dumb about sex.

Yet at the same time that women are supposed to not want sex, we also have a strong cultural assumption that women are more "knowing" about sex than men, at a younger age. See most coming-of-age type stories written by men. The boys are shown as awkward, needy, vulnerable boys just coming into their bodies, where the girls are confident, cocky, with shiny hair and subtle flirty ways. Like girls aren't just as bewildered by the onset of puberty as young men are. There are very, very few perspectives from the female side of puberty, and they mostly just deal with periods.
posted by sweetkid at 9:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Blue balls is not a myth. Easily solved via masturbation, but not a myth. They don't actually turn blue, that I've noticed, but they'll ache so bad I can't sleep sometimes.

Shouldn't be used for pressuring somebody into sex, of course, but definitely not a myth, any more than menstrual cramps are. (And somewhat offensive to tell men how their bodies feel...)
posted by LordSludge at 9:49 AM on October 25, 2012


Ah nevermind, I see its been addressed.

typo window... still open... so... tempting...
posted by LordSludge at 9:50 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hereby admit that I was given misinformation about the truth about blue balls.

I am admitting this in the hopes that we can rerail back into the rest of my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on October 25, 2012


I am admitting this in the hopes that we can rerail back into the rest of my point.

This is me in my mod hat but without the small text: This is a long and complex thread that appears to be frustrating you. At the risk of being overly obvious, the best way to rerail things is to restart the conversation or join the conversation currently in progress. The intense one-on-one questioning thing is not so great for having a large scale conversation and can be seen as overly personal and overly aggressive, particularly with touchy topics. If you have questions about this, please feel free to hit us up on the contact form.
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


"This happens to women too, though the anatomy is a little different, there is an ache."

I have heard this, specifically after the phrase, "Who let the goddamn dog in here? Get off the bed! Fuck! Get off! Stupid fucking dog!"
posted by klangklangston at 10:15 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Which part did you want to discuss? Guessing this:

Of course there are cases where someone doesn't have as good control of themselves as they should - but their celibacy or sexual appetite should never, never be used as an excuse, or accepted as an excuse, because it just demeans all of us to do so.

I was pretty clear that it's not an excuse, but perhaps at least a partial explanation,** just as recognizing certain circumstances that may lead somebody to be a bully or criminal does not excuse the behavior.

With that in mind, I think we're in agreement here that horniness and low self-esteem does not make it okay to harass people.

** I thought I was a little over the top in stating and restating this!
posted by LordSludge at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2012


However I think it's really unclear how much of this is really socially cultivated.

I'd be willing to bet "damn near all of it" is the correct answer.


and men are told they're supposed to be thinking about it all the time

Mmmmmm . . . . . maybe not quite that we're told we're supposed to think about it all the time, but that adolescents of both genders DO think about it all the time (pretty naturally), and guys are given the message that it's OK and totally normal to feel this way and OK to express it pretty publicly.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:20 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


totally normal to feel this way and OK to express it pretty publicly

That's a good distinction. However I do feel like there have been discussions where men have felt like they have to admit they think about sex "all the time" because they're "supposed to." And sometimes women have felt hurt when a man doesn't want to have sex with them on some occasion, because men are supposed to be ready to go at all times.
posted by sweetkid at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


However I do feel like there have been discussions where men have felt like they have to admit they think about sex "all the time" because they're "supposed to."

I'm only speaking for myself here, but that's been my experience. And worse, girls are taught that boys are thinking about this all the time, perpetuating this idea in both genders about what I'm supposed to be thinking and feeling all the time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:58 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


men have felt like they have to admit they think about sex "all the time" because they're "supposed to."

I'm genuinely not trying to nit-pick here, but when I've heard/read that kind of thing from other men I've seen the word "claim" used more than "admit."

Which does change the tone of that kind of statement - then the idea is that cultural pressures are influencing them to pretend to be interested in sex even when they're not. Which is undoubtedly true for some people in some cultural situations (I think Rustic Etruscan gave a personal example somewhere above), but it's never really felt that way for me. It's been, I think, a more subtle influence; not so much that older male role models were actively saying, "Hey, check out THAT hottie," but that when I was a 17-year-old-perpetually-horny moron, blatantly staring googly-eyed at a hot girl got an indulgent chuckle and a "Boys will be boys . . . "

Not to make this All About Teh Menz, but maybe to add a little perspective to the question of "How the hell do so many guys wind up this way?"

girls are taught that boys are thinking about this all the time

No doubt, but I'd certainly raise the question of whether or not girls are also thinking about sex just as much as the guys, only their cultural pressures are about repressing those desires, both publicly and internally.

we also have a strong cultural assumption that women are more "knowing" about sex than men, at a younger age.

It feels like this may be connected with flex's really excellent analyses of how boys are often raised to view girls as "Other", both in this thread above and in the "Friendzone is Real" thread here.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:44 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


adolescents of both genders DO think about it all the time (pretty naturally), and guys are given the message that it's OK and totally normal to feel this way and OK to express it pretty publicly

Throughout puberty and really, to the current day, sex was always, always on my mind. Anytime I was bored in class I was thinking about 1) sex or 2) food. No exceptions. (Okay, maybe sometimes exceptions.)

I think a lot of young guys would be surprised to find out how much women think about sex. In high school I was warned many times by "nice guys" about how much men thought about sex, and how horrified I, as a girl, would be by it. I remember a church acquaintance telling me all about how women should be careful how they dress because men "can't look away," as if I had no idea what it was like to feel my eyes glued to someone. The weird thing was that even among my kind of alternative, burn-out female friends, talking about having sex or being attracted to a guy was fine, but admitting to the real magnitude of your sexual desire was seen as kind of creepy or perverted. I don't mean giving TMI, but just if you were attracted to "too many" guys, or expressed it in language that was too aggressive. Stuff that I was assured men did in the locker room all the time. It was assumed even among a lot of those girls that admiring someone for their personality was the noble thing to do and women were naturally more noble on that score.

I think that flex is right that that is also partially explained by women finding more common ground with "male" culture than men with female culture-- all of the guys I've dated have been friends with a lot of women, and to a man they were the kind of guys who got crushes on smart girls and otherwise admired strong personalities (while finding a nice body attractive as well, I'm sure). They were as likely as my girl friends to be more engaged with people as people than as sexual objects, they just had more latitude in admitting to their sex drive.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:40 PM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think a lot of young guys would be surprised to find out how much women think about sex.

Completely true, and it always baffled me why there was ever this sense in pop culture that we didn't. On the inside, it was totally evident to me that whatever anyone said about guys thinking about it all the time certainly applied to me as well, though I didn't have the same social milieu in which I could show it. Some of that is a little better now.

But there's just this awful tension when you're female. Yeah, you do think about sex all the time and how great it would be to enjoying it. But at the same time, you are also often aware that the worlds of your fantasy and your reality really have to be different so that you don't screw yourself up. You want to be rushing randily into wild encounters, but you know that, at a minimum, you have to worry about (a) your safety and (b) pregnancy, which both cool your actual behavioral jets pretty fast. So what goes on in your head, you pretty much know, can't translate to reality without a lot of managing conditions so that you don't have to fear two really negative outcomes that could easily result from indulging in your desire for sex.

Throw in the cultural punishments for sexualized women - the slut-shaming, the ostracism from the society of other girls, the derision from guys if you're too 'easy,' jumping into lousy interactions where your curiosity and interest get taken advantage of, the potential horror of your guardians and teachers at your activities, for some people religious stigmas...and it's tough because, while you're as sexual at heart as any guy, you have a lot more complexities of acting on that that you just have to deal with. If you don't deal with them they come back to slap you in the face in a way guys mostly just don't face.
posted by Miko at 6:57 PM on October 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


However I do feel like there have been discussions where men have felt like they have to admit they think about sex "all the time" because they're "supposed to."

Dissenting opinion here: I would love to be interested in sex *less*. Life would be way, WAY easier that way. I tend to blame nature rather than nurture on this. I certainly feel no social obligation to pop unsolicited boners at awkward times or go to bed with aching balls. I think it's pretty well established that testosterone has a lot to do with it.

Certainly recognize that women can have strong sex drives too -- but I really don't think my own comes from societal peer pressure. YMMV.
posted by LordSludge at 7:10 PM on October 25, 2012


Well, and even if it accounted for it fully which it doesn't, testosterone varies in individuals and between individuals and women have it too, after all, and in general it's complex and interacts with other hormones and endorphins and it's too reductive to say that accounts for the entire phenomenon of arousal though it certainly plays a part.

In any case, I don't think my sex drive derives from societal peer pressure either, but the way it is expressed certainly has responded to that pressure, and I'm sure that's also true for many men.

And don't worry, over time you'll probably get your wish.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]



I'm genuinely not trying to nit-pick here, but when I've heard/read that kind of thing from other men I've seen the word "claim" used more than "admit."


You're absolutely right, "claim" is a better word for what I was going for than "admit" -- there have been discussions where men have felt like they have to claim they think about sex "all the time" because they're "supposed to." That is to say, maybe they don't think about it allthetimeohgoshallthetime but feel like they are supposed to say that they do.

I think a great example of what we've been discussing here is represented in this highly favorited comment from Pastabagel, which is honestly one of my least favorite things that ever happened on this site, that this comment was so popular, and yet it has all the ingredients - men are thinking about sex all the time, not thinking about the agency or personal preferences of the women who are the objects of their sexual interest, and the imagined female interlocutor is horrified at what the man, who is intended to represent ALL men, is thinking.
posted by sweetkid at 8:35 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think a great example of what we've been discussing here is represented in this highly favorited comment from Pastabagel, which is honestly one of my least favorite things that ever happened on this site, that this comment was so popular, and yet it has all the ingredients - men are thinking about sex all the time, not thinking about the agency or personal preferences of the women who are the objects of their sexual interest, and the imagined female interlocutor is horrified at what the man, who is intended to represent ALL men, is thinking.

I never saw that comment before. I don't even get why it was favorited so much. It's disgusting. Seriously, seriously disgusting and weird.

Men need better PR.
posted by discopolo at 9:23 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have heard this, specifically after the phrase, "Who let the goddamn dog in here? Get off the bed! Fuck! Get off! Stupid fucking dog!"

Cats are easier; they just lie there on the other side of the bed, occasionally shifting, mostlly trying to sleep.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh, for real, that comment. Like women don't fantasize about having sex with four guys at once, or having their boyfriend watch while they bang another guy. The only things I found offensive about that comment were the condom thing and the weird fetishism of special forces execution styles (I mean, I get angry enough to imagine violence, though it usually makes me pretty sick afterward.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:49 PM on October 25, 2012


our cat forcefully interrupts overly long hugs. he meows when my husband touches my boobs. we have to lock him out of the room when we have sex. he sits at the door and squeaks like he's been abandoned.
posted by nadawi at 12:25 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"But these women would never want to have the conversation that would ensue if men simply said what was on their minds."

The only good thing I can say about this comment is that it doesn't speak for all women. However, it does attempt to speak for all men. And it sets them up as these lurking, sex-crazed, violent voyeurs with a touch of ADD. As the opposite of boring I suppose. The truth uncovered because these women asked for it (which would make it a bit passive-aggressive to respond that way, but whatever). And now these women are a bit sorry they did (*sobs*), for what was revealed was so shocking to actually be uttered to the opposite sex (hello, binary world!).

I'll go with "boring", even if in this scenario all boring men are actually repressed, silenced ones. But seriously, these can't be the only two identity options for men?

Disclosure: I used to have a favorite for that comment (which I removed about a year or so ago), because I thought it was over-the-top satire, based on the level of insanity of the article FPP and my earlier satirical comment in that thread. Then I realized that it probably wasn't. Or if it was, people didn't seem to take it that way (based on the follow-up comments and the favorites).
posted by iamkimiam at 1:46 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a relatively shy guy, I have to say that reading things like this set me back at least a few years from ever talking to stranger in public.

Then you badly need some therapy. You also need to revise your definition of 'relatively shy', because if you can't read an article saying, 'Hey, don't get all martyred if a woman doesn't react well to you hitting on her in public,' without having a reaction that extreme, that's not relatively shy, it's emotionally incapacitated.

You need help, it's on you to sort that out, and until you've got your head straight, you almost certainly aren't ready for a relationship.
posted by Kit W at 3:37 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


About the whole physical need for sex thing, I have something to say. Even if it were true (is it?), saying it's OK to harass women because of it is like saying poor people are entitled to harass you for money, hungry people are entitled to harass you for food, and I, who have a borderline obsession for shoes I can't afford, am entitled to go telling people to give me their lovely shoes.

And besides, using the same logic, I can tell you that my biological imperative is to keep myself safe. So with that reasoning, I could go around attacking men who make me feel threatened. Yet I don't. Because I realize we live in a civilized society where instinct is expected to be policed by reason.
posted by Tarumba at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'll go with "boring", even if in this scenario all boring men are actually repressed, silenced ones. But seriously, these can't be the only two identity options for men?

I'm betting your question is at least semi-satirical, but to the extent that it's not, the answer is "no."



I'd go so far as to say that the kind of thinking in Pastabagel's comment is actually a power fantasy, that gives the guy an internal ego boost and plasters over any insecurities they have about their sexual capabilities and desirability. If a guy can talk himself into believing that women would be horrified at the range and depth of his unbridled virility, then, you know, he must actually be virile and sexually powerful, and he can dismiss any internal doubts.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh, for real, that comment. Like women don't fantasize about having sex with four guys at once, or having their boyfriend watch while they bang another guy.

I can't tell if you're kidding. I never would find that kind of scenario anything but scary and awful and the stuff of nightmares(even as a fantasy), and i would never be able to get off on fantasizing that my boyfriend is being cuckolded by me or watching me be with someone else (I would hope that he wouldnt want to watch me with anyone else as i would not to see him do that) but I think the important point is that men shouldn't assume all women are alike.

We are definitely really really different and better off being treated as individuals.
posted by discopolo at 7:48 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


. If a guy can talk himself into believing that women would be horrified at the range and depth of his unbridled virility, then, you know, he must actually be virile and sexually powerful, and he can dismiss any internal doubts.

Why is something like that considered virile instead of psychopathic?
posted by discopolo at 7:57 AM on October 26, 2012


I can't tell if you're kidding.

Obviously not a joke, how is that even a question? Different people like different things, a point which you yourself made later in your comment. You may not like it, others may like it exclusively, others may like pretending to like it, others may like dressing up like J Edgar Hoover oppressing sexy communists. Not liking any of those things is okay too.
posted by elizardbits at 8:01 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


nadawi, that's so funny about your cat, because I have the same issue! I have two cats, a female and a male. The male, Cheddar, is territorial; he feels like I am His Person. He is definitely irked when I am ignoring him to pay attention to my husband.

Cheddar will jump up on the bed and try to wedge between us when we're snuggling, and if he can't fit, he will climb up on top of me and lie down on my chest with his tail practically in my husband's face and preen, like, Ha, I win! And then we put him out of the bedroom and he gets miffed.

I favorited Pastabagel's comment, by the way, and kept it, because it completely works in context as over-the- top satire, as iamkimiam mentioned. If you go back and read the FPP he is responding to, it's an article about Why Men Are Boring, and it is loaded with nasty gender stereotyping and Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus rhetoric. So he just responded in kind, beginning with the dismmissive, "Obviously these women are all hens" sweeping generalization, and took off from there, geting more and more outrageous. I thought it was hilarious (and obviously I wasn't alone) because it was so fitting.
posted by misha at 8:08 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously not a joke, how is that even a question? Different people like different things, a point which you yourself made later in your comment. You may not like it, others may like it exclusively, others may like pretending to like it, others may like dressing up like J Edgar Hoover oppressing sexy communists. Not liking any of those things is okay too.

Thanks for the lecture. Super enlightening.
posted by discopolo at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2012


Well, I didn't think it was satire, because the rest of that thread is full of people, men mostly, being like, "ah, so true. that's exactly what it's like in a man's head."
posted by sweetkid at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


About the whole physical need for sex thing, I have something to say. Even if it were true (is it?), saying it's OK to harass women because of it is like saying poor people are entitled to harass you for money

Is anybody saying this? If you're referring to my comments, I explicitly say, at least three times, that harassing women due to sex drive is NOT OK. (This is the fourth, by my count.)

Where are you getting this? I really want to know. Either I'm missing something (totally possible - the thread is long and this coffee sucks) or you're making things up. And if so... Why? Why would you make this up? To what end? Or if you're just speaking in hypotheticals, I'll be glad to help you kick that strawman around some more if you want. But the phrasing sounds like you're responding to somebody here. And you're not the first to do that.

As to this "is it?" (whether or not sex is a physical need for men), it sorta depends on what you mean by "need". Guys won't die from no sex, so it's not a life-sustaining "need". Is sex a psychological need, necessary for a person's emotional well-being? I think one could argue that it is. I'm guessing the emotional need is similar for men as for women -- so you can look to yourself as to whether this is a real need or not -- but "emotional need" is damn difficult to quantify. I do think there's more societal pressure for men to have sex than for women, so that affects the psychology too. As for the need to ejaculate, well, yeah that's a very real thing, but porn and a little privacy can solve that problem quite nicely.

Again, though, harassing women to fulfill one's own needs is NOT OK. (Fifth time.) Just trying to help explain what I think drives men to this sort of problematic behavior.
posted by LordSludge at 8:17 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


sweetkid: Well, I didn't think it was satire, because the rest of that thread is full of people, men mostly, being like, "ah, so true. that's exactly what it's like in a man's head."

Well, to be fair, that's been a lot of women's reaction to the piece this FPP is based on, and it is full of over-the-top satire, too.
posted by misha at 8:27 AM on October 26, 2012


"If a guy can talk himself into believing that women would be horrified at the range and depth of his unbridled virility, then, you know, he must actually be virile and sexually powerful, and he can dismiss any internal doubts."

Why is something like that considered virile instead of psychopathic?


Because, as we've been discussing, there's a certain level of cultural background radiation that says "Men need or want sex a lot more than women, and women have to at least pretend they're less interested in sex than they really are." So a lot of men internalize this in a way that makes them think that a core component of masculinity is an almost overwhelming sex drive, kept only in check by women's biological and/or cultural reluctance to engage in and publicly discuss sex.

Note that I'm not saying this is a particularly healthy thought process - I'm explaining why (some) guys would want to think this way about themselves. If they believe that an overwhelming sex drive is part of the very definition of "maleness", there's an internal motivation to claim an overwhelming sex drive (even if it means attempting to "fake it until they make it") in order to consider themselves genuinely masculine.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just trying to help explain what I think drives men to this sort of problematic behavior.

I get that you're trying very hard not to excuse the behavior of men, but I think most people involved in this conversation know what the rationalization of these men is. The problem isn't that nobody understands lonely guys. The problem isn't that we don't ever consider the point of view of the guy with low self-esteem. The problem is the assumption that women exist ONLY as side characters in stories about guys. It must be frustrating as hell not to get to tell your story and have it be about you.

The road of "let's talk about the guys" is pretty tempting in this situation, I went down it. What gets lost when we get stuck in that rut is the idea that the story of a woman who just wants to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a book is just as important to her as the story of a guy who just wants a friendly conversation (that turns into something more) is to him.

I think that right now, in this discussion, we should maybe focus on the stories that keep getting interrupted. That's what the exercise of the article was all about in the first place, telling the story from another point of view. So I think I'm going to stop talking about the narrative that we all know, and maybe get to hear a new one.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:13 AM on October 26, 2012 [45 favorites]


That's an amazing comment Gygesringtone. I really appreciate that perspective.
posted by sweetkid at 9:14 AM on October 26, 2012


Yeah, it is a great comment. Thanks.

It must be frustrating as hell not to get to tell your story and have it be about you.

One of the biggest obstacles to ending sexism. It's gotta be really hard to learn how to not be the protagonist, if by default you always have been.
posted by Miko at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


(additional thought) that's something I think I can relate to to a degree in that I find I need to remind myself that in discussions about race, sexuality, etc from members of those groups that I'm not in. It's tempting to rush in and talk about how you see the problem and why. Some amount of that is helpful, but not nearly the amount that it feels like you should be saying if you're used to being in the privileged party. The very feeling "I need to explain this further and float some theories to everyone because they don't understand white experience enough to help themselves solve this problem" is in fact part of the problem.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you, Gygesringtone. That was a really thoughtful comment.

Also, if that Pastabagel comment was satire I will eat my hat.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dr. Nerdlove covers this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:43 PM on October 26, 2012


stoneandstar: Thank you, Gygesringtone. That was a really thoughtful comment.

Also, if that Pastabagel comment was satire I will eat my hat.



Well, all of these people would like to see you eat your hat, then, because they disagree with you. Jessamyn's comment is the very first one in the thread.

I think maybe you just have to have been around for a while to appreciate that this was Pastabagel's regular caustic sense of humor, and people loved him for it (at one point he had the highest favorites ratio of anyone on the site, but he hasn't posted any comments recently that I've seen).

If you'd like to see another great example of parody, taking it a different way, you might enjoy Astrozombie's comment more, from that same thread I just linked. (or maybe not. Humor is hella subjective).
posted by misha at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2012


I feel like that is in the wrong thread jenfullmoon.
posted by sweetkid at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2012


Yes, yes it is. I so need to leave a computer for awhile.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2012


misha, I've had plenty experience on this site, and I think there's plenty problematic about Pastabagel's comment, even though it is of course meant to be somewhat humorous. That a lot of people laughed at it doesn't make it less problematic.
I don't want to derail though (even though I admit I brought up the comment).
posted by sweetkid at 2:16 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile in Brazil:

Man Busts in Brazilian "Slutwalk" Marchers

A foolish man enrages a crowd of feminists by exposing himself and
making a big show out of it. He gets pelted with garbage, slapped around
and chased before being arrested by the police.

posted by futz at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gygesringtone:

The issue at hand is that women suffer from problematic male behavior, yes? We have the negative female experience, upon which I'm not terribly qualified to comment, and we have the problematic male behavior, upon which I am. Please don't insinuate that I'm trying to make this all about men. I'm not. I'm simply contributing understanding to the conversation, to the problematic phenomenon, as best I can, where I can. And I think it's valuable to discuss *why* people -- men, in this case -- act the way they do. You're free to ignore or disengage from this sub-thread at any time. Dunno that there's a lot more here to be explored anyhow.

Would you prefer that I attempt to comment on the female experience? I can give it a shot, as I'm reasonably empathic, but that seems like pretty cut n dry "mansplaining" to me.
posted by LordSludge at 3:08 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm simply contributing understanding to the conversation,...I think it's valuable to discuss *why* people -- men, in this case -- act the way they do.

I should know better than to take this point up, but: There's an inherent presumption here that what you're contributing is "understanding" and that your knowledge explains "why" this phenomenon occurs - and that you have this information because of your maleness.

I think it could be valuable to offer about your experience about why this occurs. But it's not always and universally valuable.

For one, you could be wrong, an outlier. You might not speak for all men. Your perceptions might be skewed by bad experiences and emotional reactions to them. You might have had an unusual upbringing. You might not be especially critical in this area and might accept toward more facile explanations that don't probe deeply into motivations or examine contexts. You might be selective about the knowledge about maleness you accept and the knowledge you reject. For instance, you offered a couple of theories of male behavior that people can legitimately reject as not sufficiently explanatory.

Also, your the understanding you construct isn't necessarily better than someone else's understanding or a woman's understanding. Just being male doesn't give you all these powers of understanding all males (just as just being female doesn't give me powers of understanding everything female or the ability to extrapolate my experience to all women).

And, though I don't think you're wrong to participate here, and want to be fully clear about that, it is a tendency of some men to want to participate a lot in "explaining" men's behavior to women talking about an experience they have with men. That can be great, where it's been asked for and is responsive to the level of discussion that's going on. But it can sometimes feel intrusive, especially when it starts to become the center of the conversation that was ostensibly at some point about female experience, and we're talking more about the male perspective than about the female experience. That's why it sometimes gets people's goat.

Again, that doesn't mean stop talking, it means that this is why you'll sometimes see those comments about "Why are we talking about how a man sees this issue again?" and it can be helpful to understand that this dynamic exists when you have that urge to explain.
posted by Miko at 5:17 PM on October 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


misha, I fail to see how any of those comments confirm it is satire. In fact, they seem to be enjoying it as an exaggerated confirmation of truths about the male mind. Astrozombie's comment makes me want to puke less but the humor still hinges on using the woman as the straight man(?) to the man's zany, colorful inner life.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:43 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and if it's just purely exaggeration for exaggeration's sake-- performance art-- then yeah I'm just not clued into the culture here, and I'm still grossed out by a humorous "performance" of rape culture where the fragile woman is the butt of the joke? Sorry!)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:15 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Like women don't fantasize about having sex with four guys at once, or having their boyfriend watch while they bang another guy."

I can't tell if you're kidding. I never would find that kind of scenario anything but scary and awful and the stuff of nightmares(even as a fantasy), and i would never be able to get off on fantasizing that my boyfriend is being cuckolded by me or watching me be with someone else


The trick is that all four of the guys are bi and are into each other, too (guys kissing is so hot!). It's more logistically plausible with two guys, though, and even then pretty hard to work out for a variety of reasons, including the sad dearth of bi guys. 8( And the whole "mistaking your fantasy for reality = bad idea". I tend toward only thinking about it with fictional people, though, because I find fantasizing about actual people kinda creepy even in my own head. Fictional people are much less ethically fraught.

One of the things I was thinking about recently was the tendency for women to be actors in mens stories, and how deeply we can internalize that. Women grew up reading this - I wanted to be male characters when I was a child, not female ones - and the over-emphasis on "women's tools are pink" really reinforces this idea that women are auxiliary instead of central, even in their own stories.

One of the things which began highlighting this for me was my brother's reaction to reading a book using female pronouns, and how othering and off-putting he found it. It didn't occur to me until then that a book COULD be written in female pronouns (I've since switched to using female pronouns when the gender is unknown) so it was an eyeopener that he would find something I found normal (having to cross-gender transpose oneself to identify with characters in a story) as unusual and disturbing.

Something I took away from that (though mostly applied in terms of race, and am now working on in terms of disability) was the power of taking someone and doing a switch on some built-in characteristic of theirs - like imagining a character as Latino - and seeing how that changed my perceptions of them as a person (also a handy way to highlight ones' own prejudices). It feels really, really weird at first (I had no idea how much I assumed people were white; omg) but I've found it so enlightening that I do it semi-regularly, now. I'm also seeking out the stories of those who don't normally get stories (written by people who share the characteristics; "Memoirs of a Geisha" is shit next to "Geisha, a Life") and broadening what shows up in my head when I read stories.

I'm actually really heartened by the response of men to things like "My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic" because that is normalizing men doing exactly what I did as a child - identifying with characters who were interesting, exciting, did fun things, and weren't the same gender as me. I think this normalizes the idea that everyone has stories, and everyone is the protagonist of their story.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


Sorry discopolo, totally missed your comment. I wasn't kidding, I used to fantasize about such things much of the time. The cuckolding fantasy was on par with most threesome fantasies; it was the idea that my boyfriend (at the time) would enjoy watching me have sex with another man and even be aroused by it, and his arousal would increase mine. (Strictly the stuff of fantasy, however.) Since there was just a thread about Emmanuelle on the blue, I was recalling a certain scene (from maybe one of the sequels?) where a woman is fantasizing about having sex with four men while she sleeps with a lover, which when I was just a preteen was quite piquant for me.

But yeah, I think treating individuals as individuals is wise. And also that this:

If a guy can talk himself into believing that women would be horrified at the range and depth of his unbridled virility, then, you know, he must actually be virile and sexually powerful, and he can dismiss any internal doubts

... rings true to me. I think many bawdy jokes (penned by men and women alike) perform a similar purpose, either to confirm one's virility or one's purity (by displacing rage or sexuality onto the opposite gender, or others in general). I've tried to view the joke as satire, but if it is satire, it mirrors too closely the typical aggressions of human beings generally, and it seems to me the "satire" rides on the disavowal of perfectly normal (but socially repressed) feelings of sexuality and violence. The joke-work is to depict these normal but obviously socially unacceptable urges as the cold truth while also disavowing them. Depicting them as the cold truth is a form of hostility against that which would repress them; in this case it's imagined that "the female" is the repressive authority, since it's assumed broadly that women feel no such feelings and have the right or responsibility to mock and deride them in men. (See Freud & the tendentious joke.) It's one of those "good sexism" things that women are seen as the higher moral authority when it comes to sex and violence. I think that while there may be a physiological difference at play, women are also influenced by greater pressures of repression, since I have my share of aberrant sexual and violent thoughts which are summarily unacceptable in our society.

So perhaps it was satire, but the premise that the vocalizations in question were a send-up of human aggression and sexuality was pretty borderline false to me. They are real desires which are entertained to various degrees in individuals. Most decent people refuse to entertain them much of the time, since to do so would be antisocial.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:15 PM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Deoridhe: "One of the things which began highlighting this for me was my brother's reaction to reading a book using female pronouns, and how othering and off-putting he found it. It didn't occur to me until then that a book COULD be written in female pronouns (I've since switched to using female pronouns when the gender is unknown) so it was an eyeopener that he would find something I found normal (having to cross-gender transpose oneself to identify with characters in a story) as unusual and disturbing."

I've got this nifty thing called "Jailbreak the Patriarchy" on chrome. It switches male and female pronouns on web pages. (it runs into a bit of trouble trying to decide if Her -> him as in "give it to her/him" or his as in "it's her/his car".

Hm, I wonder if I could somehow run my e-books through this. I'd love to see some diskworld with the genders swapped.
posted by rebent at 9:27 AM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I once rewrote the story of Gawain and the Green Knight into Gawax and the Verdant Knight (and other puns to be had - my fav to this day is still Lancelittle) with an accompanying gender change (but very little else besides the puns). I can remember how odd it was to write some of the transposions, especially those having to do with strength and honor. Those are highly masculine-identified in our culture.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it could be valuable to offer about your experience about why this occurs. But it's not always and universally valuable.

For one, you could be wrong, an outlier. You might not speak for all men. Your perceptions might be skewed by bad experiences and emotional reactions to them. You might have had an unusual upbringing. You might not be especially critical in this area and might accept toward more facile explanations that don't probe deeply into motivations or examine contexts. You might be selective about the knowledge about maleness you accept and the knowledge you reject.


Just wow. You're "maybe" rejecting my opinions and experiences, prima facie, as, "unreliable", "skewed by bad experiences and emotional reactions", "not especially critical", prone to accepting "facile explanations that don't probe deeply into motivations or examine contexts"**...

Essentially, my experiences and opinions are "anecdata", easily dismissed for any number of invented reasons, while yours and others who agree with you represent the opinions and experiences of of real women, to be accepted without question... which I did.

This is not an intellectually honest conversation. I'm done.

** Funny: This is EXACTLY what I'm trying to do and EXACTLY that conversation that you are, for whatever reason, trying to quash. It would not be appropriate for me to for me to speculate why, but I humbly suggest you do some self-examination.
posted by LordSludge at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2012


The issue at hand is that women suffer from problematic male behavior, yes? We have the negative female experience, upon which I'm not terribly qualified to comment, and we have the problematic male behavior, upon which I am. Please don't insinuate that I'm trying to make this all about men. I'm not. I'm simply contributing understanding to the conversation, to the problematic phenomenon, as best I can, where I can. And I think it's valuable to discuss *why* people -- men, in this case -- act the way they do. You're free to ignore or disengage from this sub-thread at any time. Dunno that there's a lot more here to be explored anyhow.

LordSludge, this reads to me as a misstatement or misinterpretation of Gygesringtone's point.

Gygesringtone makes the very good point that the emphasis on the male experience in these discussions as a potential gateway to a solution is actually compounding the problem and often redundant. The tendency is to "explain" (or rationalize) male behavior to women, despite the fact that they are often well aware of the widely culturally disseminated impulses that lead men to do things like this. Discussing male motivations yet again is perhaps less useful than discussing other, less-discussed issues.

For instance, the fact that men who are hitting on women in a way which subtly changes women's experiences of being in public seems to hinge possibly on the fact that men are not considering the frequency with which women deal with being hit on in public. Men tend not to realize how many flirtatious interruptions women put up with on a daily basis, and women tend to feel that they're being rude or that it's wrong to disappoint or end an interaction with a male stranger, so the situation is already imbalanced in favor of sympathizing with the male POV. (Sometimes women are assertive, and that is healthy, but the problem of being interrupted often remains). If we want to reduce the frequency with which men hit on women, it would seem a much better solution would be to widely discuss and disseminate the message that women would like to be treated with more respect in public places, and that not to treat them with respect is actually a social blunder which does not serve the offender well. This would help both men and women. The conversation that's not being had is about the degree to which women deal with these interruptions, when it is inappropriate, and how that message can be spread in a comprehensible way which could change the cultural attitude. There's been a lot of disagreement about that in this thread, but it's a new-ish conversation, and there are a lot of bumps to work out.

I'm not sure this example will help, but I've discussed being bisexual with religious friends in the past. When I've asked them what they feel is morally wrong with homosexuality, they express their visceral disgust with certain homosexual acts and sometimes how they've gotten over it and come to accept homosexuality. While their relating of that point of view is real and it would be foolish to ignore it, 1) I already understand it, as it's an extremely popular cultural meme that straight people find homosexuality disgusting, and 2) always discussing the issues from that point of view would become tedious and still sound like a minimizing of my lifestyle to my ear, no matter how true it is. If I want to discuss bisexuality and stereotypes in depth, I often have to do so with people who have already thought and spoken about the topic a great deal, and have no need to return to the fundamentals. Similarly, in conversations like this one, just because the conversation doesn't recurrently return to male experience does not mean that it's not understood, it's only perhaps that that conversation is dominant to many people who would like to move beyond it.

Personally, I've heard and discussed the male POV on these issues many many times, but discussing the female POV out loud is actually still a novel and useful experience for me (despite having been a feminist for ten years, and depite it being in part my own!), because I don't think our culture indulges that message as often. And because I do think this is a newer cultural conversation. Men's frustration with picking up women in public and how to "be a man" is a real issue, but it almost seems like an age-old discussion, because it's been depicted in books and movies and everyday conversations about men and women from time immemorial. I don't deny that men are in a difficult position too, but the conversation is much much less often about the position that women are in, trying to have a sense of integrity and space in public while also not wanting to "squash" men or "romance."
posted by stoneandstar at 4:24 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really have trouble interpreting Pastabagel's comment as anything other than satire. The disjunct between what actually goes through my head and the caricature of what men's interior monologues are supposed to be like assuming the stereotypes about men are actually true makes it funny.

I think the disagreements we're having about how to take the comment, both here and in the other thread that misha linked to, are interesting. We're disagreeing about whether the stereotypes are true or not, and I think, reading between the lines a bit, where these stereotypes come from. An assumption I think some commenters are making here is that all stereotypes about men are created by men, presumably for their own benefit. I don't actually think this is true.
posted by nangar at 5:50 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wow. You're "maybe" rejecting my opinions and experiences, prima facie, as, "unreliable"...

No, you misread. I'm listing a range of reasons why any one person's view of why an entire gender would be have a certain way, based only on their being a member of that gender, could be unreliable. I took pains to give a range and show that these are just some of many reasons why one individual perspective might not speak accurately for all members of a gender.

my experiences and opinions are "anecdata", easily dismissed for any number of invented reasons

If you'd shared your experiences, they'd be just like anyone else's experiences. Personal. I don't think I'd have dismissed them; if you're saying something like "This is the way I experience desire, let me describe it," that's your experience and you're certainly the right person to be talking about that. That's not what you did, though. You attempted to do some explaining about "men" in general. That's not your experience. That's a generalization, and it might not be a good one. You aren't all men, just as I am not every woman (sorry, Whitney). You said things like:

...There's more societal pressure for men to have sex than for women, so that affects the psychology... As for the need to ejaculate, well, yeah that's a very real thing...The issue at hand is that women suffer from problematic male behavior, yes? We have the negative female experience, upon which I'm not terribly qualified to comment, and we have the problematic male behavior, upon which I am. Please don't insinuate that I'm trying to make this all about men. I'm not. I'm simply contributing understanding to the conversation, to the problematic phenomenon, as best I can, where I can. And I think it's valuable to discuss *why* people -- men, in this case -- act the way they do.

Even though you said you weren't trying to "make this about all men," which you seemed to know wouldn't go over that well, you went ahead and did it anyway - "I think it's valuable do discuss why...men...act the way they do." And you said "why men act the way they do," not "why I act the way I do." That's where we left your personal experience behind and you tried to claim an authority that comes from what we're supposed to presume is a greater understanding of your entire gender. THe thing is that we know that you can't speak for your entire gender, and your understanding may not be a valid understanding for everyone. It might be, but there's no reason to assume that just because of your maleness your understanding is good. Plenty of men have a terrible understanding of male behavior - their maleness, by itself, doesn't give them complete insight into male behavior.

This is entirely intellectually honest. I did a good job writing that comment and I did not personally insult you or even direc the reasons an understanding might not be valid to you specifically It was constructed to show a common error in reasoning about why anyone should consider a given person an authority on what "men" are really doing and why when they bother women, based only on their maleness. My comment isn't about you - it's an attempt, as someone with a few decades' observational data on exchange on this topic, to show one reason that the kinds of contributions people in a privileged majority make when they're seeking to "help" others "understand" something about the majority as a group often get a negative reaction.

It's a dynamic you seemed unaware of and confused by, but it's a common one and an easy pitfall to avoid, and my comment was meant to illustrate that though you might be able to explain why you show a behavior, at least according to your own conscious intentions, you aren't necessarily in possession of the full array of reasons why men in general show a behavior, based only on your own maleness.
posted by Miko at 6:22 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Personally, I've heard and discussed the male POV on these issues many many times, but discussing the female POV out loud is actually still a novel and useful experience for me (despite having been a feminist for ten years, and depite it being in part my own!), because I don't think our culture indulges that message as often. And because I do think this is a newer cultural conversation.

Totally. You make a really good point - it's a newer discussion. Just feeling the true freedom to reject an advance without apology or excuse is fairly new for me. As is, probably, the general freedom for women to engage in an advance if they want to, without drawing social opprobrium for being "too easy" or "a flirt/tease"or talking to the "wrong crowd." And there's really a lot to say about the varying attitudes, strategies, degrees of tolerance women have for this, and about what sorts of general statements women could make, if any, about preferences around this.
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, Miko, you lost me - what does "this" in your last sentence refer to?
posted by soundguy99 at 7:27 PM on October 27, 2012


Sorry, so many words. Unclear, you're right.

By "this" I meant: the topic of being the target of advances in public places.

So the discussion (prompted by stoneandstar's comment) around that would be - What kinds of varying attitudes, strategies, degrees of tolerance, and preferences do different women have for it, and whether there are any general statements about that experience that could reach consensus.
posted by Miko at 7:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, gotcha. Thanks much for the clarification.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:47 PM on October 27, 2012


stoneandstar: (and if it's just purely exaggeration for exaggeration's sake-- performance art-- then yeah I'm just not clued into the culture here, and I'm still grossed out by a humorous "performance" of rape culture where the fragile woman is the butt of the joke? Sorry!)

stoneandstar, I think maybe you aren't familiar with the genre of satire? I can't believe you really see the woman as the butt of a joke in the comment. Have you never realized it is intended as a criticism of the sexist tropes you also deplore?

From Wikipedia: "Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon."

No one could seriously see that comment as a "performance" of rape culture. Unless they are predisposed to see everything in that light, I guess?

You know, I feel like we can't actually have an intellectually honest discussion here. I'm getting the feeling that you have made up your mind not to agree with me on anything, period. I've agreed with you before, and, more importantly, when I haven't, I have at least tried to see things from your perspective. But I don't feel you give me that same respect.

What do you have, a list of people with little black marks by their names or something?

I think I'm done with this thread.
posted by misha at 10:53 PM on October 27, 2012


I don't think people can argue each other into thinking that a joke is/isn't funny, and maybe this is not something we should be basing our interactions on. To some degree a joke is like art, right? It may mean different things to different people, and something else entirely to the artist.
posted by taz at 11:14 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It does not at all come off as a satire to me, and the thread you cited has multiple examples of people saying it's "required reading" and other such things that seem to imply that it really is some kind of rarefied insight into the male mind. I typed a pretty fricking long explanation of why it fails as satire for me above; I'm willing to accept that other people found it hilarious, but it doesn't work for me. I'm even willing to extend the benefit of the doubt and say maybe it's a great joke and I just don't get it. But I still don't get it, and from here it seems naive.

I have not made up my mind about anything. I'm assuming we disagree nearly all of the time because we are very different people with very different priorities. I didn't realize you were paying so much attention to my posts until the other day; I've never thought of you as a personal rival of any sort, or paid attention to your overall breadth of views on this site. I can say that about probably 98% of the people I argue with on MeFi or MeTa. If you asked me right now who I'd debated with in the past I would have a very spotty memory about it. I don't come into arguments here with "all my friends" or blacklisting my "enemies," as much as a few commenters here seem to think the feminist posters on Metafilter are interested in forming rival gangs.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:36 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And seriously, this has nothing to do with personalities-- I don't know who Pastabagel is, and it has nothing to do with you, misha. To me it seemed like sitcom humor mixed with a measure of exaggeration to give it off-the-cuff wackiness and plausible deniability. If saying there's no way I could have "seriously" interpreted the joke the way I-- seriously-- did is treating my point of view with respect, I don't see how I've failed to at least clear that bar in my interactions with you here.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Miko, yes, I agree. I know I haven't parsed the discussion as finely as I should have much of the time, and maybe the adversarial nature of the "battle of the sexes" type topic is a difficult obstacle to a better conversation. But it's very true that there's a lot to be said, a cultural temperature to be taken, and that women's voices are often given a secondary importance, making it a discussion of "why men do this," rather than how it can change, or how women feel about it (besides "annoyed," and having to justify that to pieces).

Which is why I actually quite liked the FPP-- it's rare that you hear anyone trying to explain why having one's public space encroached on can be truly disruptive (rather than, well, flattering), and giving that subject primacy in the discussion. But there's still a lot more to talk about.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:01 AM on October 28, 2012


There's now a Metatalk post identifying the various Metatalk and Reddit threads where people (some of whom are unmale notguy persons) have missed extremely explicit social or sexual invitations. The anecdotes are not only funny, but also educational, like watching someone jam their fingers in a door.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:39 AM on October 28, 2012


wait, what?

we were discussing the familiar (to me) uncomfortable situation most women experience while being in public without being focussed on the other gender. A kind of DWB experience, because there are similarlities in the power dynamic. I wonder can we find a short acronym because from my experience it is a very prevalent, oftentimes creepy, sometimes distressing, distrurbing, demeaning but common. This is a thing that restricts how I behave in public, alters where I go, closes off several social scenarios that I would like to enagage in. That's a personal choice and it fels like giving in but there's only so many hills I can die on. over and over again.

All in all not the kind of social interaction that puts a sping in your step outside of a tiny minority of situations when you realise the guy was being friendly without expectation. And you know that because they listened and respected the interactive cues. and you could feel the genuine interest and lack of expectation.

So those tiny number of positive interactions are the way some men would like us to filter the vast majority of pretty shitty ones, just in case one of the shy, introverted ones who needs the practice (Lord help us) gets a negative, disturbing, intimidating experience which might, what....frighten him off women 4ever?

Where a male author is trying to give guys a hint that women being exquisitely nuanced Put Down Artists is not some thing dreamed up to give you blue balls deliberately, even those of you who have higher testosterone/virility/enforced and unwanted celibacy + or - refractive blue ball syndrome (where by refractive I mean not amenable to self-care)

and yet we end up discussing the exceptional men, giving advice to men, pointing out pretty patiently some techniques, readings, website, etc. to help show that the Original Article has some merit in making human interaction potentially better if we just watch out for certain clues,

we create several Metas again aimed it seems at showing us women that the clueless male(TM) is a thing, sweet, well-meaning, well-intentioned, cute in that I CAN HAZ CHEESBURGERS, no, wait you had a sex drive all along......ferreals???

or even when people on this site male & female feminists engage and give further time, effort, testimony, individuals flounce off in some "you're calling men sexist, that means you're calling me sexist and when I try to tell you that my best friend is a woman, and I find the term mansplaining offensive (no wait that was a different thread right?, forgive me, they appeared to have merged in my head) you say I might be an exception and therefore can't speak for all men, but LOOOK AT YOU! You're saying all women experience this, CHA-CHA-CHAN so I'm taking my ball and going home now until you start being nicer to me."

and a few lone voices try to bring things back and there some really interesting discussion begins about protagonism and transposing in order to elucidate hidden privilage and I get all excited again and love Metafilter for that interesting development but then it changes into "hey guys look at this Meta about clueless guys who didn't know women wanted to shag them" because that's what's importnat.


did I miss any highlights?



so to carry on being the change I want to see, Deoirdhe's comment was really interesting. I recall the thread about finding out that one of the characters in the Hunger Games being black spoiled it for some people, it's a pity the Femme de La Rue experiment happened in a culture riven with anti-immigrant feeling but it would be almost impossible for that experiment to happen where there isn't intersectionality with some other ism. Class, Race, Ability. (Surely there is some random city in the USA where someone has done this?)

Even the EveryDay Sexism project has come in for a lot of comment on national news media because of a preception that this stuff was largely over, these battles were largley won, women didn't have the victim status of past years to fall back on (yes that was one comment).

I thank Miko for again doing a large amount of the heavy lifting. It gets better but only with this kind of effort.
posted by Wilder at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


A friend just posted a graphic on FB of an older woman opining:

" Men always say Women should come with instructions.
But what's the point?

They never read them"

BOOM-BOOM right?

I looked to flag is as sexist but of course I was on FB not the Blue.....and then I started thinking about these last few threads where it really does look like some men ask for instructions but don't actually like or want to use them.
posted by Wilder at 11:33 AM on October 28, 2012


misha: No one could seriously see that comment as a "performance" of rape culture. Unless they are predisposed to see everything in that light, I guess?

I could, and I'll explain why.

Satire can undermine the social order, as your definition indicated, but it can also reinforce it. One of the ways to tell which way a joke is going is to see if it is so extreme that it cannot be read seriously - to take the seminal (heh) example, no one would ever seriously suggest cooking and consuming the babies of the poor.

People do, however, seriously suggest that women have no libido, and men have such an extreme libido that if they are denied sex they will rape. Google "uncovered meat" for some examples of that being said where it is clear the person in question is serious. The basis of slutwalk (If women don't want to be raped, don't dress like sluts) is another example of this sort of extreme, seriously believed thing in our culture. Objectification of women (google "sex sells" and see how many of the models are male if you want examples of this) as the embodiment of sex is also common - the embodiment of sex, but neither wanting noe thinking about it.

This dialogue between Man and Woman is about a Man reciting all of the many ways he was thinking about sex with the women around him. His recitation is pretty clearly not meant to be something she enjoys - and he knows it when he warns her not to ask - so the recitation is also a social punishment for Woman pressuring Man to communicate. This is also a major sexist trope - women talk too much and men talk to little (the battle of the studies on this is really fascinating; a study came out saying men use words in the thousands and women in the ten thousands per day, and everyone ignored the major flaws in the study; a follow-up study actually recording people and counting their words found men and women speak roughly the same amount of words, but you will still see the first study cited because it reinforces Common Sense that men grunt and women chatter).

So this satirical dialogue, while extreme, also reinforces two sexist tropes. 1) Men only think of sex and women are horrified by sexual thoughts. 2) Women want to communicate and men don't. If the satire was meant to undermine any of these assumptions, it failed pretty majorly and should be rethought.

" Men always say Women should come with instructions.
But what's the point?

They never read them"


Ugh. Sexism going both ways. I get the broader point, by my gods that "joke" is pathetic.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:57 PM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I recall the thread about finding out that one of the characters in the Hunger Games being black spoiled it for some people

There was a really interesting event in the Fruits Basket fandom (Fruits Basket is a Japanese manga with a short anime series that led to it being popularized in US fandom) which really opened my eyes to some of the gender dynamics.

The series begins as a fairly standard Reversed Harem (one female, multiple males focused on her) with Tohru as the main female character, two romantic rivals Yuki and Kyo, and the adult Shigure who makes the occasional semi-sexual humorous comment. It ends up not being a reverse harem at all, since the genders end up fairly balanced which never happens in either harem type, but the mangaka is clearly playing with the tropes of the harem genre (and gender in general - one of her other characters is either trans gendered or a transvestite, depending on how you read him).

There is a main antagonist in the series, Akito, who in Japanese was presented as gender neutral but masculine (gender neutral pronouns, the name Akito is usually used by men, and a yukata that more men wore though women could wear it) and in English was presented as male. In a standard harem, he would also be interested in Tohru, and he had the sort of possessive/jealousy setup which seemed to imply this was coming. The mangaka is a twistedly lovely sort, though, and so halfway through the series it's revealed that the male antagonist is actually female, which alters all of the gender dynamics in play up until then because she is tied to everyone even as Tohru is tied to everyone. And then things get fun. (I adore this series so much! Highly recommend it.)

The interesting thing re: Akito's reveal, though. There is a very strong thread of misogyny in US Anime/Manga fandom, so Akito's gender reveal hit particularly hard there (though I heard it made a splash in Japan as well). There were huge, long threads about how people who had loved and adored Akito hated that "bitch" and people who had hated Akito were giving her a second look as a "strong woman" and a huge contingent who decided to pretend the gender reveal never happened. A lot of people maintain Akito was better as a man, even though she never was one.

*ahem* Sorry, I spend a lot of time thinking about gender in Japanese and Korean manga/manhwa because it's just off enough from English for me to see some of the oddnesses I can't see in my own culture, and I can get a little carried away.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:12 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have a hard time with these discussions because while I really want to talk about it more from the woman's perspective instead of the focus on the feelings of the men, it's hard to do. It's much harder for me to do it in these conversations about sexism than it is for me to do it with white people in conversations about race. One of the big problems I'm having is trying to look at this phenomenon (women harassed in public places) from a romantic perspective.

The romance narrative seems pretty dominant in the way this is being discussed and understood. That's the narrative that says these are clueless or awkward fellas trying to connect with women and find romance but not knowing how to do it correctly and harassing women in the process. And of course, they shouldn't harass and should learn better techniques, but romance is a good thing right? Then if romance is sexist, surely it's benign so we should focus more on improving their romantic overtures.

But that narrative really doesn't work for me. I look at this as a power imbalance and I see male harassment of women in public spaces as acting out dominance. Certainly that's how I experience it when I am approached in public. The many older men who make comments or try to force me into long conversations aren't really looking for romance. Nor are they at all awkward and shy! If anything, they take advantage of my awkwardness and shyness to manipulate me into giving them attention. Sometimes it feels like I am a dog and they have snapped their fingers for my trick.

No I'm not usually feeling waves of malevolence coming from them or anything. But I do get the strong feeling that it's not really about trying to woo me so much as acting out some male power play. This is obvious with groups of catcallers who are doing it for their buddies way more than for the woman's attention (they're not stupid, they know it doesn't work just like we know). But it's also applicable to many of the guys who approach you for "conversation" (wink wink) when you're going about your business. I had an experience in a grocery store. The butcher wouldn't give me my items without first engaging in a shallow "conversation" that eventually led to him asking me for my phone number. I knew where it was going from the start and so did he and yet we had to play his silly game. And no of course he did not just want to take "no" for an answer. It got so bad that when I finally got my chicken and got away from him I had to call a friend. I did not feel wooed, I felt dominated and like I had just had a battle.

I'm capable of having nice, pleasant conversations with shopkeepers, or people on the bus, or in a coffee shop. In real discourse people know how to go with the ebb and flow of the conversation and it gracefully tails off as its time to go about whatever you were doing. I've had awkward conversations with other shy people. Or maybe you do make a connection and find a friend or something more, but no matter what there isn't that feeling of constraint or of being stuck on a well-worn track that you can't get off.
posted by Danila at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Danila, I'm afraid I would have had to tell him what he could do with that chicken.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:24 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


At one point I tried sharing a Bible verse with him but would you know that did not put him off at all. I mean, it was a relevant verse and I also know the Bible can be a good repellant, but not for pushy dudes.
posted by Danila at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just realized the bit below kind of leaps over "gods he sucks, it's not your fault some people were just raised in barns, and man that sounds uncomfortable" and edges a little disturbingly into what could be perceived as victim blaming. I hope you do not feel I cross that line; I do not mean to, but I'm not sure how to remove what could imply it. My apologies in advance if I overstep.

I did not feel wooed, I felt dominated and like I had just had a battle.

Part of me wonders if this is part of the romance dynamic. It certainly shows up a lot in romances, so much so that I always read a bit to see if this will be one of those "the woman is so stupid and willful, but the man brings her to heel" ones before spending any money. I have a couple that are positively abusive - I remember one where he would constantly insult and nitpick at her, even when she was deliriously ill, and refused her the right to leave the house all because he "loved" her but though she'd killed his younger brother, so he "hated" her too! By the time I reached the end, I felt sincerely nauseous, but it's clear that there is a population of women for whom this somehow rings true enough to write and to read!

And personally... I have my own fantasies around the "overwhelmed and cherished" side, though mine tend to be less rapey and abusive they are still along the same track. I am a huge fan of a lot of vampire fiction, and what's that other than a fantasy of being overwhelmed and mesmerized by someone not only much older, but also with Supah Sekrit Magickal Powah! I try to be realistic about the origins of my own erotic imagination, so I can't deny a lot of it hinges in power dynamics with the guy on top.

And it's clear on the men's side that there is a long history of women as slave and helpmeet without thoughts or will of their own - something which can only be accomplished through the rigorous breaking of a woman's spirit. There's a huge slew of men's fantasy which is all about breaking down and dominating women (check out the mind control fantasy archive some time for some really pretty disturbing examples). I'm not saying all men, or even most, but you can find milder examples all over the place - one particularly disturbing one being Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.

And think about the number of storylines that go along the, "In the beginning they hated each other, and then they fell in love, and then she did everything he wanted and they were happy." Much as I love Philadelphia Story, there are shades of "break the woman's spirit for her own good" to it (along with "I drink because my daughter disapproves of me), and that's true for a lot of romantic dramas. Even Pride and Prejudice gets recast this way, with Elizabeth doing most of the changing to accept Darcy's ways and Darcy staying unchanged (though in the book it is Darcy who does most of the actual changing). That was one of my complaints with one of the Pride and Prejudice remakes, where the not-Elizabeth main protagonist admits to loving Darcy without Darcy going through the very needed change to make him a moral human being; part of the social undermining Austen did in that book was having Elizabeth be the rational, logical agent and redeem Darcy through intellectual means and without any desire to redeem him.

Hel, there's that whole narrative of "Why do women pass up nice guys to date assholes," as well, which I think ties into this whole dynamic.

It's complicated, especially since it's part of the narratives of romance, and so both men and women can buy into it and reinforce it. Romance without coercion I think is a whole new area we haven't even gotten into yet in most of the narratives of romance, and I haven't a clue how to get there.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:27 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Romance without coercion I think is a whole new area we haven't even gotten into yet in most of the narratives of romance, and I haven't a clue how to get there.

Oddly enough though, a whole lot (majority?) of real-life romances are noncoercive.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on October 28, 2012


Re: Romance and coercion.

I think it's important to tease out romantic fantasy from sexual fantasy, despite the heavy overlap that exists. The sex is such a primitive (in terms of how old it is, evolutionary speaking) desire that it predates morality. Romance is much more sophisticated. I have sexual fantasies which, frankly, are horrible morally speaking and which I would never want to actually do. I can't even think of a romantic fantasy that I have that is like that.

Even though they might be shelved under the title "Romance" in the bookstore, I doubt a lot of the books Deoridhe that play with insanely unbalanced power dynamics, are what I'd consider romances at all. They're primarily about sex, they're written porn. And that's fine. I have no problem with people sharing or enjoying sexual fantasies.

But there's little more annoying than someone bringing sexual content in a non-sexual situation.

Reading Danila's comment in light of Deoridhe's follow-up was enlightening for me. Now I'm thinking of the off putting comeon's like when someone hands you a book promising it's a romance, just to open it up and find out it's porn all the way down. A horrible bait and switch.
posted by bswinburn at 9:22 PM on October 28, 2012


I have sexual fantasies which, frankly, are horrible morally speaking and which I would never want to actually do. I can't even think of a romantic fantasy that I have that is like that.

That is a ...really interesting distinction I'm going to have to think about for a while. It is entirely possible that the conflation of "romance" and "erotica/pornography" in the romance section (and romance movies) might be part of what is twisting things up in my brain.

Off the top of my head, though, I would say I have romantic sexual fantasies and non-romantic, purely sexual fantasies, and they are qualitatively different (and the latter are decidedly less moral). I'm not sure we can entirely separate romance and sex, though; perhaps it's closer to one being layered on the other, the way the brain has developed in layers over older structures but the influence of the older structure can be seen?

The term romance has been rather rarefied over the years as well, from something referring to the emotional relationships young women had with young men the same age as them while married to much older men in the middle ages. And then there's the whole RomCom genre, which I almost universally loathe but which are very popular and so should be taken into account.

We're going to need some better operational definitions if we want to seriously tease this out, though, I think, with more nuances than our current language accounts for. We're hampered by the fact that since women are socialized to be less sexual, woman's sexuality tends to be more sublimated via other expressions (like romance), so I'm not sure there's a clear divide between sex and romance in the way you indicate.

I'll have to think more, though. Thanks!
posted by Deoridhe at 1:50 AM on October 29, 2012


It is entirely possible that the conflation of "romance" and "erotica/pornography" in the romance section (and romance movies) might be part of what is twisting things up in my brain.

I think it says a lot about how gender is constructed in our society that with very few and mostly very recent exceptions, pornography/erotica for women needed to be packaged as "romance," not just as a marketing trick but in terms of actual content as well. Whereas much of, if not most, pornography/erotica aimed at straight men is neither marketed as romance nor does it have much romantic content.

I mean, if we name two potential story lines, we easily know which category they fall into. Ding dong! "Pizza delivery, ma'am" will never be confused with Anastasia meeting Christian Grey, no matter how many equally bad sex scenes are included.
posted by Forktine at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


so I'm not sure there's a clear divide between sex and romance in the way you indicate

I don't think there's a clear line, otherwise it wouldn't need to be teased out. Also most forms of entertainment are selling multiple, but I think distinguishable, fantasies in the same work. I.e. a Bond may be primarily action, but it's got fantasies of status, sex, money, insane competence, and others bound up in there.

I think of these things like junk food in that it's really easy to get to the point of pure ridiculousness, but it can taste so good even if you hate yourself later. Just sugar gets old quick. So while it's nice to pack sugar into some food it's even better if you can get some fat in there too. And while we're at it how about poor quality protein for a nice meaty flavor blast. Why yes, I will have that cheese burger with a donut for a bun thank you. Don't worry, it's just cause you're in a hurry for work and don't have time for something healthy; this is a sometimes food. (wink, wink) Sure, an extra packet of salt would be great!

In the entertainment world sex is nice, but it gets old quick. So how about layering on some action. And some romance. And some neat sci-fi sensawonder. Oh, and some pop historical knowledge too. Don't forget a dollop of humor. Why, yes, I will take the time-traveling wise-cracking vampire viking detective fighting to save his sexy not-quite-underage true love from the robot dinosaurs. Don't worry, this isn't a guilty pleasure: she'll discovery her inner hero and agency along the way! (wink, wink) Sure, a side of handcuffs and orgazo-whips would be great!
posted by bswinburn at 8:58 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It makes me think about ideas of courtship (I talked a little about structured interactions upthread when I mentioned how fascinating and liberating and comfortable I found swing-dance culture). Societies in the past developed a lot of careful structures for men and women to get to know each other, stage out their time together, negotiate number and kind of suitors, and so on. But at the same time there was all this structure, and things did go down that way for a lot of people, the restrained/rule-bound behavior of courtships of the past also coexisted with plenty of social structures that legitimized rape and the legal possession of women, created a double standard (many men courted 'nice' girls as potential marriage partners, but also patronized prostitutes and/or had sexual relationships with women of 'low' status), and limited the options and range of choices women had.

There's probably something to be said about the rise of the "partnering" romance (as opposed to the medieval romance, a relationship of idealsand not physical consummation if we're to believe that),Jane Austen on thru rom-coms, being a corollary to the decline of prescriptive courtship.

And yet it's so inadequate and unrealistic. We've talked about how rare the rom-com "meet cute" strangers-knocking-your-books down kind of partnership beginning is in real life, so what we do have in pop culture ends up being a poor guide to how to court someone's interest. However, it's really popular; we can't get enough of it. There's no readily available cultural roadmap to actual productive courtship, and the roadmap we do have doesn't describe the territory. No wonder people get messed up by this.

What's going on in that space where this discrepancy lies?
posted by Miko at 10:10 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've found the transition from Mills & Boon (a la Barbara Cartland) to 50 Shades of Grey (with the slight probably important detour via Shapeshifters and vampires) a fascinating insight into that whole space between romance and fantasy. Numerically more women consume written romance & porn than visual so it seem to fulfil some of the lost space between prescriptive courtship and freedom of agency that we are told we should want.

But I think women are trying to find out what we really want and experimenting en route, some of it will work for us, others won't. I'm particularly taken with the meme during 50 shades that "nice" married women were basically tearing the clothes off their husbands as they walked through the door. For some reason I had fooled myself into believing that when people are a long time together it's because for one thing they continued to explore their sexuality and try whatever worked. The success of that book showed me a lot of women were actually putting up with meh sex and sublimating in a variety of ways.

And I like the word sublimating because for a long time the only truly acceptable way of expressing desire was through romantic "notions". I recall an old unmarried Aunt who was gripped by M&B romances and would outline the plot in loving detail, as addicted as someone today to soap operas. It was an acceptable way in Catholic Ireland for an unmarried women to express desire, in the most innocuous way possible. Responses to her addiction were infantilising in the extreme, her Father (whom she cared for all his life) would joke about 'getting Lizzie her monthly fix or she'd throw a tantrum'. She was also addicted to her cats and eating tinned pineapple for tea.

Desite my personal feelings for the book I would be the first to buy it for Lizzie. I'd like to think of Aunty Lizzie nowadays in a BDSM club getting it on. Female desire is something Pedro Almodovar exposed exquisitly on screen BTW
posted by Wilder at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2012


See also leftycartoons.com
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we were taught we couldn't actively want it so we had to settle for "romance" where what we wanted was imposed on us. It's romantic because it's what we want, but really it's sexual because we're not supposed to pursue what we want. As long as it pursues us, we've got that plausible deniability.
posted by flex at 10:28 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think there's a lot of truth to that, flex. Then you get the "awakening" or "giving in to" or "opening up entirely new parts of the self" rhetoric about what the man does to the woman - as though she was asleep, or did not have those 'parts' before. The man has done whatever the 'unlocking' action is, so the woman can never be accused of having the motivation to have done so. So she can safely enjoy the consequences of the result without losing her innocence and goodness.

Looked at that way it's an odd reversal of the Adam and Eve tale...same themes, opposite actors.
posted by Miko at 10:41 PM on October 29, 2012


I think we were taught we couldn't actively want it so we had to settle for "romance" where what we wanted was imposed on us. It's romantic because it's what we want, but really it's sexual because we're not supposed to pursue what we want. As long as it pursues us, we've got that plausible deniability.

This rings very true for me. I think it's telling that even in very "feminist" works with authors who are explicitly interested in writing about women in protagonist, powerful, world changing roles, sex often seems to be the final frontier.

For example, one of the Mercedes Lackey books I'm devouring these days... Brief background: in her 500 Kingdoms series, Fairy Tale traditions are real and try to realize themselves with a sort of systematic sentience. The protagonists almost universally combat the tradition in addition to evil - the tradition can be a very easy stand in for patriarchy (not kyriarchy, race and subtler gender stuff - not to mention homosexuality! - simply don't show up; when other races show up, equality is assumed and there is no racism because every protagonist is a born enlightened liberal) because popular fairy tales almost universally enforce man-active, woman-passive roles (ignoring the exceptions, which I know exist and I love them, but Disney ain't making them into movies!).

Ok, so with the background - the plot of the first of the series is a derivation of Cinderella. Horribly treated girl at the hands of other women while she's abandoned by her father. Unfortunately, her prince is eleven, so no kingdom for her. Instead she ends up being a Godmother, facing off against the Tradition, etc... etc... ends up redeeming a prince, they fall in love, etc... standard romance. While she is 100% active in all other spheres, though - up to and including handling the prince - the second it becomes about sex it's all "things she heard the servants do but was too embarrassed to watch" and "secret places" getting tight and wet, and all that. She has books about everything in the world except her own body; not one Our Bodies Ourselves in the bunch!

I wonder sometimes if this might not be a specific point of weakness for women in particular - that is we can go out and be successful in the world, but body-shame is so deeply entrenched into how women are societally controlled that it simply isn't going away. In modern Jungian thought, women are associated with Matter/Mother/theBody while men are associated with Soul/Mind/theBrain in our weird split view of humanity. I've always struggled with that conceptually, but it has some legs in the language at least (which is where we Jungians got it; language obsessed, we are!).

Also, there's the whole aspect of women being easily attacked through the body. I can't count the number of times I've seen rejected men refer to women they approached with complements on their body shift abruptly to characterizing the women as ugly (along with sluts). Insulting a woman's appearance is the go-to insult for any woman, no matter how stereotypically lovely she may or may not be (I'm reminded of the poster comparing Republican and Democratic women, where the former were mostly young pundants and the latter included major governmental officials like the Speaker of the house! The languages was all about how Republican women are more attractive, so obviously Republicans win.).

And right after ugly, the next go to insult is slut (particularly ironic when applied to a woman who simply said, "No, I will not have sex with you), which brings us back to the complicated relationship between women, sex, and romance - and the issue of having plausible deniability in order to fully experience one's sexuality. I think it's also telling that "sex sells" refers solely to women's bodies next to things marketers want men to buy (including the Republican party) while women are supposed to not be sexual in of themselves.

It's a bit of an oroboros, though, because the insults hinge on how important being pretty and chaste (to use an older term for it), and the importance of being pretty and chaste hinge on the insults. Part of why I identify as a sex-positive feminist, though, is that I think for a subset of women, reclaiming the right to be sexual is really important. I am deeply uncomfortable with how the media responds to it, though. For example, for Slutwalk the women in revealing clothing tended to be focused on, while the ones wearing what they were where when raped (in several cases, all covering nightwear, and usually fully clothed and not at all "slutty") were ignored.

One thing I've started consciously doing, though, is trying really hard to not critique other women's appearance. Even if I think they look horrible, or 'low class' or... any sort of insult. There are so many my brain supplies seemingly automatically whenever I look at any woman. I still give complements, even though they're the other coin side; I'm still internally debating that one, since it does reinforce the whole mess, but I've decided the individual gain of 'make someone feel better' is more important than 'Deo has a really important ethical dilemma about this!' I also take a lot of effort to complement what people do - especially women - because that does combat the idea that the most important thing about women are their appearance.

Wow... I really rambled. o.o Teal deer, I agree with you! Now here are my thoughts on Yaoi.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:15 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, and I find "reclaiming the right to be sexual" problematic not in that women shouldn't do it - (because yes, as you say, I don't want to critique other women's appearance or what they do to make themselves feel good, since we all gotta get by in the paradigm we exist in) - but that "sexual" is almost always "what is defined by our society as a sexual woman", i.e. again it's through the lens of "what men like to see in a woman, what men define as sexy for a woman, what men are told to like". So it doesn't ever get to be about you and how you feel and what makes you feel powerful and/or sexual but it's about using the tropes you've been given to change how other people react to you and then that validates you as "sexy" if you do it right. The whole thing is a passive construct even when you're actively performing it.

Like, my problem with makeover shows - I have a love/hate thing going on there - because the idea of transforming yourself and your image is powerful and it's intriguing to watch and imagine - but overwhelmingly it seems to me it's more about teaching you to make sure you do the girlie-drag right (don't wear your comfy clothes and your comfy shoes - being comfortable is not sexy! wear clothes that are more form-fitting and define your waist and put on heels!) and then once you nail the girlie-drag you're so much more confident and feel better about yourself - not because of anything inside you, your inner resources, but superficially - because people are treating you differently now that you've learned how to perform your femininity in an approved way.

Everything is defined as happening *to* us - so I think it all becomes about engineering what we want to happen *to* us - we can only ever imagine it that way because that's what the scripts are that surround us; sex and love and romance all bound up together in this performance, so it's how we perform because it's what we're taught to expect and it's how we perform because that's how we're treated when we perform that way. I think sex is the "final frontier" as you put it, Deo, because we just don't have a model for it being any other way, and I find it so hard to imagine a model where it isn't this way - as Miko implied, we have a lot to lose if we can't maintain that plausible "innocence/goodness" - things will happen *to* us if we don't have the protection of a good reputation.

I wonder if the "romantic meet cute" isn't another example of this? - exactly what you want to happen *to* you, just happens! With very little effort on your part! You don't have to worry about looking like you're pursuing it in any way, with all the baggage that entails. The problem is, of course, that in fantasy, in a story, you ensure it happens just the way you want it with just the person you'd want - and IRL, you can't control those factors.
posted by flex at 7:56 AM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I wonder if the "romantic meet cute" isn't another example of this? - exactly what you want to happen *to* you, just happens! With very little effort on your part! You don't have to worry about looking like you're pursuing it in any way, with all the baggage that entails"

Felx, I think that's very much influencing women's lives in a real way still. And as Miko points out above, the male unlocking female sexuality trope is pretty constant, uncovering a part of us that didn't exist until that Deus ex Machina moment (just change God for Man).

It helps me sometimes to see it a little bit like evolution, so many things slowly lead to the development of an advantageous structure. The eye for example, once the obvious advantage to the organism even gets a toe-hold, other structures that allow it to function better or protect it are selected for at all costs, (the muscles that underpin the movement of the eyeball are some of the most complex structures, truly fascinating).

Social sciences are far less well understood for obvious reasons but there will be things that advantage any dominant social model. Romance has the ability to simplify some very complex changes women's lives are undergoing, just when we took control of our fertility and were more overt in exploring our sexuality, parts of the dominant system kicks-back in a variety of ways to check those developments

[small digression -or try to, sometimes the genie is just plain out of the bottle! When my neighbour Frank Casey found his wife Chrissey's birth-control pills he beat her senseless in front of their 7 kids. Male neighbours explained that it went to the heart of his manhood to explain his extreme reaction, while us women explained it as his Friday night alcoholic bender. But so many examples do suggest that the male ego is a fragile construct, developed to shore up a system. The backlash to Feminism further illustrares how fragile and in need of strong protections. Worrying levels of protection that includes violence.]

The developments of the strong male Other like vamps or shapeshifters in women's romance writing over the last few decades inadvertently shores up a model of masculinity. It is easy for women to identify, be turned on by and consume because it's just new packaging of a familiar interaction.

Its transgressive nature allows us to feel like we are pushing the envelope but in reality it's the same old pink envelope. The line in the intro song to True Blood "I want to do bad things to you!" fools us into thinking we're liberated sexually in responding to the bad things, but they're still being done to us.

For me, as someone who reads and enjoys this type of alt.romance occasionally (although I do note that strong female kick-ass characters dominate my choices, often having multiple partners) it is the equivalent of getting a TV dinner when I'm in a hurry, I will look at all the ingredients to try to ensure it's as healthy as possible but at the end of the day I know it's just a TV dinner and if my whole diet were based on it I would be unhealthy in the extreme. I also grok that by buying it I'm contributing to it's continuation, demand and supply, but them's the internal contradictions I live with but am mindful of.

it hasn't surprised me to see the large number of response in the Clueless Male thread because this is Metafilter and our userbase is not a very representative sample of either male or female in our dominant culture. But having said that the nerdy geek sweet romantic male is rapidly becoming a phenomenon while the strong autonomous female is still continually crashing up on the rocks the Patriarchy. To the extent that men feel much more comfortable in a short space of time inhabiting the space NERD while women have moved back from the space FEMINIST.
posted by Wilder at 3:57 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


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