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Who has the upper hand in dating, men or women? It might depend on whom you ask but there’s one thing I’ve been thinking about lately — how gals generally don’t have as much experience with rejection when it comes to dating as men do, although it may feel like it if they’ve been dumped, played or cheated on.

At an first-meet date with a man I met online recently, he was dis-
appointed that women don’t message men first. I reminded him that I had, indeed, messaged him, not vice versa, but he said it was a rarity. To prove his point, he’d set up a pseudo online profile as a woman — and immediately got inundated with messages from men.

“But probably not the kind of men you’d be interested in dating,” I told him. “Quantity isn’t quality.”

True, he acknowledged, but we got around to talking about how rejection — or lack of rejection — impacts the way men and women approach dating. I think it matters.

Masters of romantic rejection

Men risk romantic rejection a lot more than women do. As Mark Rosenfeld, a self-described dog lover, male stripper and dating coach — interesting combo, that — writes:

If a woman is unwilling to make a move on a man, she can sub-communicate to him she wants him to make one, without risking a real rejection. If that doesn’t work, a different man will try his luck. She can meet and get chatting to a lot of men, without having to risk a direct rejection. … For many men, confidence does not come naturally. Unfortunately, in dating, where men must risk rejection regularly to have success, confidence is required. This can be a huge, sometimes insurmountable, obstacle for some men to overcome. tweet

The “sub-communicate” thing is exactly the advice many dating coaches tell women to get a man they’re interested in to make the first move — despite my online first-meet date’s desire to have women approach him first.

Dating coach Evan Marc Katz says if women ask men out first, it “can be taken as aggressive, desperate, and masculine. At the very least, it can signify a loss of power.” Instead he suggests women create an opportunity for a man to act on our interest and ask us out first — which, again creates a “huge, sometimes insurmountable, obstacle for some men to overcome.”

So some may not be able to do it and, guess what — a missed opportunity!

In explaining her BRUTAL (her emphasis) reasons why a women should never ask a man out, dating coach Ronnie Ann Ryan admonishes “strong, successful women (who) think gender equality means there’s no longer any reason NOT to ask a man out.” She questions a man’s inability to be confident in asking a woman out (which really doesn’t seem fair), and then advises that “letting the man pursue you works best. That’s the only way you’ll ever know if he’s really interested.”

And we’re right back to where we were. Missed opportunities.

Disadvantaging women

Ultimately, I think a lack of experience in rejection disadvantages women, who tend to react one of two ways if a date, or planned date, goes awry — either “he’s an asshole” or she takes it personally. (Of course, some men react violently to being rejected by women. That’s a form of entitlement that’s dangerous for everyone.) Some studies indicate that experience with rejection is keeping women from rising in their careers; could it also be keeping us from getting what we want romantically?

There’s got to be a healthier way to accept the fact that not everyone’s going to be into us and that’s OK. And that might take practice, some self-esteem and a healthy dose of humor while dating.

In exploring why women still rarely ask men out on dates — despite greater equality in many other things — associate professor of psychology Michael Mills found that both men and women are willing to have someone of the opposite sex ask them out, but much fewer women actually did it than men. In part, he explained it as “as an effort by women to protect their sexual reputation. By refraining from making first time relationship initiatives, women may be providing evidence to potential long-term mates that they would not make the first move with another man in the future, given their history of not doing so in the past.”

Still, as he notes, it’s tricky to rely on histories of what’s been done or not done “in the past” because men can claim that, too — right? If we want equality, shouldn’t women have to risk as much as men do?

We certainly don’t let men use the “but it is only natural” excuse to justify some of their more antisocial behaviors. Should we give women “a sexual inequality pass” because it is just one part of a natural courtship script? Or, should we encourage women to make more risky initiatives? Should men go on a “risky initiatives” strike? Should we ask women to “woman up” — put their fragile egos on the line, get some ovaries, get out there and start asking out men on first dates? tweet

Well, I have put my ovaries out there and asked men out; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m a woman of a certain age, as was my online meet date. Could it be that the older we get, the more likely we’re willing to shed restrictive dating rules on who “should” do what first? Maybe.

2 Responses to “Why women need more experience with rejection”

  1. Jono says:

    I really do appreciate a woman asking me out. In my case it is usually just as friends, but I find it comforting and it lets me know that they enjoy my company. They’re obviously not after my money or my hot bod at this point since I really don’t have either anymore. When I was a college student Sadie Hawkins Day made me a little nervous, but at that age a man hasn’t learned much. The closest I ever came to rejecting anyone would have been treating them with a bit of indifference, but I am a polite person generally, and will not intentionally be an ass to someone. I think that once we have reached a certain age or level of maturity men and women can more easily be on equal footing when it comes to dating.

  2. Rob says:

    Online rejection is nothing compared to in-person rejection like at a bar or other public venue. So if you have “put your ovaries out there” only by initiating online contact then that doesn’t count. Very few ladies risk live face-to-face rejection so hardly any women out there really know what it feels like. Until that changes women really do have it easier.

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