My The New I Do coauthor Susan Pease Gadoua and I gave a workshop on dating at the Marin Teen Girls conference this past Saturday, and the room was packed. Fifty high school girls had gathered and they had questions. Lots of questions, smart questions, about sex and friendships and boundaries and cheating.
I haven’t been a teen girl in more decades than I’d like to admit, but I sure remember those confusing days. My heart ached for them a little.
It was clear that they were looking for black-and-white answers so they’d know, but of course the world is many shades of gray (beyond 50, if you ask me), especially when it comes to love and relationships. And that became evident when one girl asked if it was OK for girls to ask a boy out.
Susan said nope; she believes men like to pursue women, and in her experience whenever she made the move it failed miserably.
I disagreed, sorta kinda. I have often approached a man who seemed attractive, whether in person or online, and flirted in the hopes that there would be mutual attraction and some sort of indication that we’d talk more and/or meet. (Granted, I was so shy as a teenager I doubt I would have been able to have pulled that off well, if at all.) If I have to wait around for attractive men to somehow find me, I feel that I’m losing potential opportunities to get to know men I might be interested in and who might be interested in me. It limits my mating pool, so to speak.
That said, I have not nor would I directly ask a man out; all I do is create the opportunity for a man to take the initiative. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, and that’s OK. I haven’t lost much by trying.
But it did get me thinking — do men still want to be the ones who pursue women or would they be relieved to have an attractive woman make the first move?
Dating coach Evan Marc Katz says absolutely not:
Women asking men on first dates can be taken as aggressive, desperate, and masculine. At the very least, it can signify a loss of power. So I wouldn’t recommend that you ever utter the words, “Would you like to go out with me?” to any men.
He suggests women do exactly what I have done — create an opportunity for the man to act on your obvious interest.
At Psychology Today, Jen Kim says you should feel free to what feels comfortable for you:
If your gut tells you that a guy is interested, but really shy, then follow your intuition. Each potential date is different—so while you may feel comfortable about asking Jim out, you may not feel the same way for Mike. What does comfortable mean, exactly? Typically, it means you are relatively certain his answer is going to be “yes”.
eHarmony suggests that there are times when a woman should make the first move:
It is actually good practice to step up and take the initiative, which can translate to different aspects of your life. Keep in mind that asking a man out on a date does not imply that you are an insolent tart. In fact, it sends a confident message that you know what you want and are able to ask for it.
And that — the ability to take initiative — is something women can be pretty bad at, mostly because we have been raised to be pleasers. Men say they like confident women, but I guess we can’t be too confident! Yet, I think women would benefit by experiencing some of the rejection men face all the time when it comes to dates. And it’s nice to have a little more power in our mate choices.
If seems somewhat ironic to me that a conference that was “empowering” girls (sorry, I just hate that word) to be all they can be with all sorts of positive messages — Go for it! You can do it! You are awesome! — also lets them know that there actually are limits to that empowerment, sorry. Telling girls they shouldn’t be bold with a guy they like perpetuates old gendered stereotypes that will keep all of us trapped. No wonder why girls — as well as boys, women and men — are confused.
So, where does that leave us?
I don’t know. You tell me …
- Men, do you want women to ask you out? Why/why not?
- Women, do you ask men out? Why/why not?
- Are we perpetuating gendered stereotypes with the messages we tell our sons and daughters?