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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.  shoud women ask men 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. tweet

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”. tweet

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. tweet

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?



23 Responses to “Should women ask men out?”

  1. Berick says:

    I think your decision, as a woman, depends on what kind of man you hope to find. If you always wait for the man to ask, you’re more likely to end up with a man who wants to be in charge. If you’re willing to ask, you’ll have chances to be with men who are more willing to share power in the relationship, as well as men who want you to be in charge.

    • Fiona says:

      Or if you’re willing to ask, you’ll end up with a guy who is passive and dependent, not necessarily a guys who “shares” power.

  2. sonface says:

    Yes, women should ask men out. Why should they have all the fun inherent in rejecting the unsuitable? It’s long past time for equality in social rejection to emerge in dating.

  3. dave says:

    I guess that I would NEVER directly ask a woman out, but I would certainly create a situation where she could ask me out, if she were interested enough.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Do you really want women to ask you out, Dave?

      • dave says:

        Ms. “Chronicles”(?) – Yes, I have enjoyed a number of dates where I paid for the dinner and the concert (or whatever) after the young lady asked me out.I would not even have known that they were interested.

  4. Justin says:

    Yes, women should start asking men out. I have had girls ask me out, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes I turn them down, and I have a feeling that they think I turned them down because I think it’s my job to ask them out. However, what they don’t realize is that I just turned them down, because I’m not interested in them. It really had nothing to do with her asking me out. At the same time, I have sat down and talked to a woman, and I thought she was cool, interesting and attractive. Then she starts flirting with me, hoping that I will warm up to asking her out. I am totally confident that she would say yes, however I am no longer attracted to her, because she’s either being cowardly, or sticking to a conservative and annoying male/female stereotype. Therefore, she missed out on a great relationship, because she can’t get past old values.

    • Ben says:

      This exactly. Often a woman will ask one man out, once, get rejected, and then never do it again, on the basis that it “never works.” Often they’ll justify it with excuses like “men like the chase” or “men don’t like it when women ask,” instead of accepting the fact that this particular man simply wasn’t attracted to them and moving on.

      That, or they will send a number of “obvious” signals and, when the man does not make a move, assume that they were rejected. Both of these scenarios are incredibly frustrating to men. I have done the same as Justin; it becomes obvious that a woman is trying to get me to ask her out, and I do not because this behavior is a major turn-off. Cowardice and/or rigid adherence to traditional gender roles are not attractive to me.

      Women: there is nothing wrong with being direct and asking a man out in obvious terms. If he says no, it means he is not attracted to you. And if he WAS attracted to you, and suddenly is not because you did the asking, he’s not worth your time in the first place.

      • OMGchronicles
        Twitter: OMGchronicles

        So then why does every dating “expert” tell us not to?

        • Ben says:

          Any couple of ideas:
          – If the expert is female, it’s possible that she personally does not want to ask men out (as most women don’t, and why would they? It’s not easy to do and gender roles give them an automatic out,) and her advice reflects this.

          – It may be that you, unconsciously, seek out the experts who believe in traditional roles. I.E., the ones who are going to tell you what you want to hear (that men should ask.) Personally, I’ve been looking into this topic for years, and I’ve come across plenty of “love-doctors” who say that women should be much more proactive in the dating scene. If the only advice you’re hearing is that men should ask, then frankly that says more about you and where you’re looking for advice.

          Google “Should women ask men out?” The first page alone is stuffed with articles saying that they should, to any number of degrees. The Debate.org one is one of my favorites.

          All over the place I see people, particularly men, saying that women should ask. And all over, I see women rationalizing, trivializing, and excusing their way out of it, with things like “Men are the hunters, they like to chase,” and “It never works,” and on and on. We tell you, straight up, that we are ok with you asking, and you refuse to accept it. Not because it’s not true, but because you don’t want it to be true. Because asking people out is hard, for either gender, and if society gave me a traditional excuse out of having to do it I’d want to hold on to that too.

          So I get it. I do. But I also know that women are strong, intelligent, and brave enough to break out of this. It’s not easy. But nothing in this life worth doing is. If my mother hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be here right now.

          Best of luck to you, ma’am. For whatever path you choose.

        • dave says:

          Maybe your “expert” is not really an “expert”!

  5. Scotty Sells says:

    I think it can, and should, go either or. Women are human just like men, therefore they should do the same equal opportunities. After all, doesn’t the US Constitution say, “Everybody is created equal?

  6. Zap says:

    If i ask you better be damn well this ain’t gonna be an “equal” relationships, i will call the shots and you’ll follow orders!

    If you want equality get up and ask MEN, really , get up, and go walk to them and start talking.

    None of this “oportunity” bullshit.

  7. Perry says:

    If a man does not like it when a woman asks him out, what does that tell you about him?

    So do you really want a little boy like that?

    Think about it.

    Most, if not practically all guys like it.

  8. Jamie-SAN says:

    I feel women should ask more. According to many women, they don’t because they are scared of rejection. Yet if a man says the same thing (this has been proven true from a number of women in real life and many articles/forums) then that man is a punk and shouldn’t be asked out anyway. So it’s ok for a women to be a scaredycat and is used as an acceptable excuse but it’s not ok for a man to use his fear as an excuse? In a generation where fenimism is prominant and quickly taking charge, what kind of double standard are you setting here? Let you become CEO but still ask me out, take me out, smother me with gifts and MAYBE we’ll get serious? That’s a lot of money and time wasted for a MAYBE! At this point, why not just make prostitution legal. At least with legalization, the women would be less disgusting and more prone to look good for your money.

    I heard that for every 50 women you ask, your guaranteed to get a date from at least ONE of them (but just a date, after that it’s all up to the man to make it a relationship or it’s back to 50:1). Never heard a ratio for women because more than likely it’s a 1:2 chance when asking boys. If one doesn’t like you, another one SURELY will no questions. And being that there are many single men looking for romance, women’s two biggest concerns is 1: choosing who looks the best in their eyes and 2: just tucking in their ovaries and moving on when a guy rejects them (isn’t that what they tell us guys to do for women?). Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you? Or does that mean you won’t ask so they shouldn’t either?

  9. Oh Gosh, this question is still on debate after 40 years or so??? Please! Of course women should ask men out! If some men can’t deal with that, then they are little boys who always want to be in charge! Do women of this century still need that???

  10. allen says:

    time to move on…. female reputational defense theory is a scapegoat process to not accept the adult risk associated with relationship efforts.  its all in The Relationship Pamflet. time for everyone to make equal effort and take equal risk.

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