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The Missing Wink

I’m a 34-year-old woman, worried I’m giving 1950s dating advice to my teenage niece by telling her I wouldn’t ask a man out. When she wanted me to explain, the best I could come up with was that I want a guy who has the guts and initiative to do the asking. What’s your take?

--Single White Aunt

Men are most attracted to what’s slightly out of reach, not what’s throwing itself in their laps, crushing their yarbles. Sure, they’ll say they love it when women ask them out. They also love women who’ll have sex with them 20 minutes after meeting them in a bar, but they aren’t going to make them their girlfriends. In the unlikely event they ask for a second date, it probably won’t be “Can I take you to a movie?” but “Meet me in section P3 of the parking garage.”

The question is, do you want to be politically correct or romantically successful? There are those who insist men and women are exactly the same -- perhaps prompted by all the good ole boys they see breast-feeding babies at Denny’s, or by the proliferation of NFL logo-imprinted Kotex. Data does show that men and women are cognitively very similar. Additionally, notes evolutionary psychologist David Buss, both sexes get skin-protecting calluses, have taste preferences for fat, sugar, and salt, and developed sweat glands for bodily cooling. Where men and women diverge, writes Buss in a 1998 analysis of sex differences, is in domains in which they’ve faced “different adaptive problems over human evolutionary history.”

Few people truly understand how far we haven’t come. While it’s only a matter of time before you can nag your robo-vacuum via e-mail, psychologically, you’re still the cave girl next door. Back in the Pleistocene era, when birth control meant being a fast runner, having sex could yank a woman off the mating market for nine-plus months, then stick her with a hungry kid -- long before readily available frozen pizza replaced readily diggable crawly grubs. A man, on the other hand, merely gave up a few minutes of his time and a teaspoon or so of sperm.

Now, there are a lot of really bad places to be a single mother, but probably one of the worst ever was 1.8 million years ago on the savannah. The ancestral women who successfully passed their genes on to us were those who were choosy about who they went under a bush with, weeding out the dads from the cads. Men had a different genetic imperative -- to avoid bringing home the bison for kids who weren’t theirs -- and evolved to regard girls who give it up too easily as too high risk for anything beyond a roll on the rock pile.

Sure, these days, you can slap a medicated sticker on your back and run around having lots of pregnancy-free fun. Unfortunately, as evolutionary psychologist Don Symons writes in The Adapted Mind, “Natural selection takes hundreds or thousands of generations,” so don’t count on our genes getting the message to upgrade to Cave 2.0 anytime soon.

Forget worrying about what’s equal or unequal, and stick to what works: A woman targets the guy she wants and flirts to let him know he’s got a shot. If he doesn’t ask her out, he’s either a weenie or not interested. Either way, if she tries to force a relationship, it’s unlikely to end well. As for accusations that your “old-fashioned” approach is a form of “disempowerment” practiced by women who secretly hate women -- if anything, it’s the disempowerment of women who secretly hate women who have dates.

Posted by aalkon at May 23, 2006 11:48 PM

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If I ask you for a date, then my desire is assured but yours isn't. Because of this, the asker is always going to find themselves facing rejection with high frequency...regardless of the sex of the asker. This phenomenon is gender-neutral.

The evolutionary psychology comes into play with how the different sexes will reject you. Men are more likely to at least sleep with you. Women won't.

If a woman prefer to adopt the role of askee instead of asker, thats their choice. Don't think for a second that men don't face the same rejections at the same frequency that you would if you were the asker. And don't forget that the askee role comes with its own disadvantages.

With respect to flirting, just remember that between false advertising and incompetence (on both sexes part) it is a very flawed guide.

Posted by: Peter at May 24, 2006 7:16 PM

The moment a woman asks a man out is the moment she's devalued in his eyes. It isn't about "choice." I'm pretty fearless, but if I weren't with my boyfriend, I wouldn't ask men out. Why not? Because it's ineffective. I have no particular agenda for or against asking men out. I'm just reporting what does and doesn't work. And yes, there's the occasional exception. But, any woman who asks a man out is taking a stupid risk, and/or is likely to wind up with a guy who's as much of a pussy in the relationship as he was in getting into it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 25, 2006 12:05 AM

I dated a lot. Fathers with custody of small children generally do.

I asked and was asked (twice). No big deal. I see only sexism in some women's demand that asking men out doesn't work: Asking the WRONG man out doesn't work, just the same as asking the wrong woman out doesn't work.

Therein lies the problem. The guys have done enough asking to often tell the difference between right & wrong woman: The women, not having enough experience, make a mess. Women tend to ask the wrong guy out for the wrong reasons, just like the young men do ...

Ladies, you're unlikely to get the best guy if you don't date a lot of not-best guys. That means taking the risks.

Posted by: jw at May 25, 2006 1:30 AM

But, see, asking men out (rather than flirting to let them know you're interested and letting them ask you out) isn't a "risk." It's stupid. People who read my blog and my site know I'm pretty damn fearless, having chased a car thief and going in-your-face, head to head with assclowns on cell phones and the like. It isn't that I'm afraid to ask men out (also, I have a boyfriend); I just know better. Women who advocate this in the face of how poorly it usually works out are either impulsive and self-indulgent...or, well, stupid.

Men and women are different, and evolved to have different psychologies. It's silly to say it's sexist for women not to ask men out. It's ineffective. I so hate the branch of feminism that poisoned people's minds to think equality in some areas means sameness in all. Women, for the most part, shouldn't be firemen, nor should they ask men out on dates.

Again, women need to flirt and let men pick up on it. It's a dance, and it's worked for millions of years. Because a bunch of women decided to grow out their mustaches in 1972 doesn't mean it's stopped working.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 25, 2006 1:36 AM

Asking women out is a skill best developed through practice, like any. The guys best at asking girls out are the ones with the most experience sleeping around. The nice guys are left wondering why they can't get girls and the girls don't understand why their charming guys are treating them so badly.

You tell women they need to be so worried that a guy will think they're easy. What about women who don't want a guy that's such a rake? A guy can be perfectly confident in an academic setting or in his work but not be good at asking women out. You have nothing to lose by asking if he'd like to go get some coffee.

Getting falling down drunk on a first date and confessing your undying love obviously isn't a good idea, but after a low-key getting to know each other date he asks you out on the 2nd (and eventually 3rd) date you might have something. You just don't let yourself get attached until you're sure the interest isn't only 1-way. And if he turns out to be not so great on closer examination, ask out another guy.

Tracy Cabot's advice on not waiting for a love accident (http://www.loveadvice.com/Columns/COL_2704.HTM) makes a lot of sense to me. Waiting to be swept off your feet is really more romantic than practical. Paris Hilton is proud of never asking guys out but I wouldn't want any of the cads she's hooked up with. And I personally know girls who could definitely be doing better, but they think their choices are restricted to the guys that have asked them out. I asked my boyfriend out on the first date and we've been together 3 years now. Why not aim to be one of the exceptions?

Also, getting to pick your own mate is a recent development. "for millions of years" marriages were mergers between families.

Posted by: R at May 25, 2006 8:57 AM

I would just like to say to the women out there that, while it is probably not always the best idea to ask a man out, there are some occassions where it would be foolish not to. I know that Amy thinks that a man who cannot get the nerve to talk to a woman is not a man worth having, but I think this is a very narrow-minded view (coming from a very open-minded person). There are plenty of men who fear nothing more than rejection. These are perfectly good men, nice men, and kind men, who would make excellent boyfriends/mates/providers, but who, for whatever reason, have trouble approaching strangers and being rejected. In particular, I think you may find that geeks/nerds (often considered the best mates, for various reasons) exhibit this behavior. If you can find a good geek to settle down with, make your intentions known. You'd be missing out otherwise.

Posted by: Silver_Fox at May 25, 2006 9:02 AM

Amy, right on. I agree 100%

For those saying that the guy may be shy, or whatever - flirting takes care of that, too. The amount of flirting a woman should do (vs. playing a little hard to get) is generally proportionate to how much ego he's got. Shy guys take a little more flirting, and a little more chiseling "HEY!!! I like you!" into a brick and beating them in the head with it - but eventually they catch on, too.

I hate that our modern world is trying to castrate men. IMO, we ought to celebrate our differences. Different, by the way, does NOT mean inequal.

Amy, this is your best column to date, IMO. Thanks for touching on a subject that's near and dear to my heart.

Posted by: Anne at May 25, 2006 2:05 PM

"The nice guys are left wondering why they can't get girls"

I've been asked out by plenty of nice guys, some of whom I've dated (and some guys I thought I was nice, some of whom I've dated, and some jerks, who I did not date). The nice guys I know have asked women out, successfully. Do they get quite the amount of tail that a drop-dead-gorgeous playa does? Probably not. But they're doing fine.

I think, in a lot of cases, guys who think of themselves as "nice" are, in reality, passive-aggressive men who take pride in the fact that they haven't robbed a bank, shot at someone's car, dumped a pregnant woman, etc. I have known a lot of genuinely nice guys, but if I asked them to describe themselves, "nice" is the last term that they'd use. Because "nice" is really a bland term that means very little, aside from the fact that you're not going to end up on one of the "online predators busted" segments on "Dateline."

The truly good guys - and women - out there have to have backbones. It takes a backbone to call the customer service number for your upset little sister and politely, but firmly, get them to take back her broken gadget. It takes a backbone to retort sharply to someone who's said something racist/nasty/whatever. It takes backbone to do the right thing when doing so is hard. Really nice guys and gals manage to do that. Along the way, the former do learn to ask women out. I'm not quite as absolute as Amy on the "women shouldn't ask men out" thing, for various reasons, but this whole "nice guys always finish last when it comes to women!" thing irritates me (as things that women do re: men irritate me at times as well). Nice guys can ask women out and nice guys DO ask women out. Do jerks get a lot of women? At times. Know why? Among other things, they ASK US OUT.

If you are a guy, and I ask you to describe yourself, and the first word you can think of is "nice," then you need to get out and DO something rather than just retreating into your passive "niceness." Go volunteer. Take boxing lessons. Skydive. Adopt an ugly dog from the SPCA and train him. SOMETHING. I bet that, after a while, there will be other words much more likely to spring to mind. Otherwise, priding yourself on being nice is sort of like being one of those guys who prides himself on paying child support for his kids - you're patting yourself on the back for displaying what is the minimum level of supposedly adult, acceptable human behavior. To quote Chris Rock, "What do you want? A cookie?"

Posted by: mg at May 25, 2006 9:32 PM

Very well said.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 25, 2006 10:31 PM

Tell her to use myspace and buy her a selection of condoms including Crown and Kimono. Otherwise shitcan the conversation she'll figure it out better without bad advice from a 34-year old (I'm 35 actually and I know I'm retarded). :)

Posted by: Tony at May 26, 2006 2:33 PM

I have to agree with you, except for one thing: If nobody's asking you out, your choices are to sit by the phone alone, go to bars and wink at drunks, or get up a little courage.

Also, if you're getting asked out but all that's asking is losers, and there's a guy who's caught your eye that hasn't asked out that you wouldn't mind sleeping with you'd be a fool not to ask. A fool or a coward. Or both.

You say "People who read my blog and my site know I'm pretty damn fearless, having chased a car thief and going in-your-face, head to head with assclowns on cell phones and the like."

That's a meaningless cop-out. Not fearing assault (imo not very smart) is a whole lot different than not fearing rejection. I've known guys who parachuted, boxed, taken all sorts of stupid risks, who were too scared to ask a woman out. Hell, one of them is a decorated Marine who's spent two stints in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Hardly a coward, but the guy afaik is afraid to ask a woman out.

"Again, women need to flirt and let men pick up on it."

The problem is some women just can't do the dance, just like some men can't. They're absolutely rotten at flirting. Again, if you're not getting any dates, you're a fool not to ask, whatever your sex.

We men have the problem these days of the other type of women who can't do the homo sapiens mating dance - they flirt with every creature with a Y chromosome, even ones they'd rather be dead than go out with. I chased one of these damned women for two months earlier this year. Maddening.

You speak of evolution, but our species changed drastically in the last century. We've dumped toxins that affect the sexuality of many species, not only our own. We eat hormone laden beef. I'm 54, when I was in the 6th grade there was one girl with breasts. When my daughters were in the sixth grade, all of them had breasts. We are not the same as our anscestors were.

On top of this, as you said, for thousands of years the only form of birth control was abstinence, and there were a myriad of fatal STDs like ghonorrea and syphilis. By the middle of the last century antibiotics conquered STDs and women had all kinds of methods of birth control. It was very liberating for both sexes. I really REALLY miss the seventies, when sex was as casual as eating a burger and women weren't afraid to come up to a guy and ask "wanna fuck?"

Yes, you young guys, eat your hearts out! That stopped, of course, in the '80s with AIDS. I'm reconsidering this particular risk and ask you ladies to too. I've personally known more than one murder victim, several accident victims, folks who died of heart disease, stroke (my uncle was only 28), cancer, suicide - but I've only known one person who died od AIDS, and he was a homosexual man (AIDS is a blood-borne disease, it's hard to catch without sodomy or other cause of bleeding). At 54, I'm far more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke DURING sex than to catch AIDS.

I wouldn't have asked my ex-wife out. Not out of fear (it was the 70s) but because I wasn't interested, she wasn't my type. She called me and invited me to a party, and we wound up married for 27 years with two beautiful daughters.

Ladies, if guys who look like Fabio are hitting on you nightly then you're a fool to ask any man out. But if you drink alone in a crowd, or if only greepy, ugly jerks are asking you out, you'd be a fool NOT to ask a man you like out. If he catches your eye but he doesn't seem to notice you, ask. You never know what will turn up. The worst that will happen is he will say "no thanks."

I've had a woman laugh at me, but men generally aren't such hard hearted assholes. Fortu8nately, most women aren't either. It was a long time before I asked another woman out after that happened!

The last woman I dated I had been in a bar, unsucessfully trying to get a date, when a not very attractive woman (toothless and flat chested) who I had considered "just friends" (she really WAS unattractive) came up and laid the best pickup line on me I'd ever heard: "Oh God, If I'd known you were here I would have douched!"

Too bad she wasn't better looking (and so annoying).

Posted by: Steve at May 27, 2006 7:39 AM

If nobody's asking you out, you need to go to the gym, work on your self-esteem or personality, or put on a dress instead of dirty sweats. Or work at flirting. (How unAmerican of me to not suggest that everything should be accessible to every one instantly.) Or be more realistic about your options. Which means not being a "5" and expecting to get a guy (or girl) who's a "9."

My quadriplegic cartoonist friend John Callahan gets dates. If somebody wants a date enough and is willing to take the necessary steps, they can get one. Note the "take the necessary steps" part. Some people are lazy and/or unwilling to be honest with themselves. They just thing the world owes them something. And they can rue that it won't pay up for the rest of their life, but it won't get them a date.

Steve, you hang out at bars where the women are missing teeth? And then there's that line...perhaps save the canned jokes for other Web sites?

You also don't understand evolution. Symons is talking about genetic change happening -- intra-gene. Whether we live in an "evolutionarily novel" time, which we do, has nothing to do with it. This means we have innovations our adaptations don't know how to deal with.

Steve, your comment bespeaks a guy who knows everything, yet pays very little attention to anything but the inside of his head.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 27, 2006 8:08 AM

Amy Alkon:

I've long had a problem with the gender-absolutism you posit for this topic.

For me, the best way of seeing it comes out of Jungian thought:

- somewhere between 50% & 70% of men think & act like the classic view of men
- somewhere between 20% and 40% of men think & act like the classic view of women
- the rest do not think or act like the classic view of either men or women

( the same applies, the other way, for women )

Absolutism means missing out on the percentage of the other sex who do not act/think like the classic view for their sex. Absolutism means playing the odds -- that is true. As long as one realizes that it is an odds game.

With the marriage market as it is (and getting worse as more young men refuse to engage with women due to the political issues) it seems to me to be silly to play the odds. Rather, it seems to me to be better to look at the person and act accordingly.

I tend to be a pragmatist. Pragmatic dating just seems to be a better approach. Idealism sounds great ... it doesn't always fill an empty heart.

I could not have attracted my (now) wife without using the Jungian concepts: I am of the neither thought type.

My step-daughter is now using these ideas and has made a major increase in her number of dates and the quality of those dates: Her flirting skills were great, she just needed that bit of a push to use both the traditional flirt and the (dominant) direct-ask. (My step-daughter is of the neither thought type.)

My son, who is if the "woman" thought type, used classic female-flirting skills (adopted for a male) to attract his partner.

Posted by: jw at May 28, 2006 3:28 AM

"Gender absolutism"? Oh, please. Sure, there are exceptions. But, like men who want to wear thongs, and women who sleep with men on the first date, if you're looking to be successful with the opposite sex, you're taking a major risk, and not a smart one. Chances are, if you're a woman who asks men out, you're going to set up the wrong power balance in the relationship. PS Where do you get those percentages? Your step daughter is not smart in taking this approach, as she's likely to draw in men who aren't interested enough in her to risk asking her out, and who are going to act as pussyish in the relationship as they did in passively getting into it. In other words, you're encouraging her to get involved with men who aren't really men and who aren't very interested in her. I can't understand what you're saying about your son, but it sounds like you're encouraging your kids to use methods that aren't very successful, except in helping you think you're doing right by the women's studies class you took in college.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 28, 2006 7:09 AM

I'm 54, of course I hang out in bars where there are women with missing teeth, you think I'm going to get laid bt some 21 year old? Or that I'd want to?

I wish I did know everything, life would be easy. But look, for hundreds of thousands of years, like you say, fatherhood cost nothing, while motherhood was very expensive. Very often it cost a mother her life. If a child was born, it was considered her fault and she raised the child herself.

It is completely opposite now - sex carries negligible risk for a women. If she refrains for anal sex and sex with homosexual needle junkies there's little if any possibility of catching anything that can't be cured with pennicillin. She has all kinds of options for birth control, up and including abortion.

And if she decides to have a child, the child's father will pay 99% of the time. whether he wants a child or not. Sometimes the poor bastard has to pay and doesn't even get to see the kid!

It has gone from women carrying 100% of the risks of sex to men having 100% of the risk. You're going to have a lot more picky men these days then you would have in my father's time.

Posted by: steve at May 28, 2006 9:24 AM

My boyfriend's 55, and I met him in the Apple computer store. I flirted my ass off so he'd know he could ask me out and not be accused of rape or something. He did -- immediately -- because he's a man, which is part of what's really great about him (and I don't mean man in the simple Y chromo sense). We walked from Apple to the Farmer's Market next door and had Orange Crush and talked for three hours. Then he walked me to my car, grabbed me and kissed me, ran and bought an iPod to replace the one he'd lost on a plane, and hopped on another plane. Turns out, somebody found his iPod so, a week later, he gave me the one he bought the day we met. Three and a half years later, he continues to act like a man. And I can always count on him to do the admirable, right thing in any situation. I found him, though, because I didn't NEEEED a man to have a happy life. I needed a Gregg. The fact that a guy behaves like a man from the start -- overcoming fear of rejection, etc. to go for what he wants (and by the way, Gregg is shy and antisocial, as far as making chitchat goes, although he likes real conversation) is a major test of what the guy will be like when/if he's with you down the road. Let's just say, before Gregg, I had hundreds of one-date-onlies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 28, 2006 10:12 AM

Not to sound like a smart-aleck, but...
(1) Why is an aunt giving dating advice to a niece?
(2) Why is a 34-year-old giving dating advice to a 16-year-old?
(3) Where are her parents in all of this?
The best thing for the aunt to do is to NOT get involved in these types of discussions. What happens if the aunt says or does something that is completely the opposite of the parents' wishes or opinions? Like it or not, aunts and uncles are authority figures (not siblings) to nephews and nieces.

Posted by: rick at May 28, 2006 4:55 PM

Maybe an introduction is in order here ...

I raised my boys alone after their mother took off on a cross Canada drunk. I spoke as a pro for fathers with custody and fought hard for basic human rights for fathers with custody. I worked my way through college while the single mothers were supported through college by massive government programs. I am men's movement to the core.

I speak of Jungian psychology because Jung type thought works and works well. It is also the only psychology which does not trash men with abundant sexism. The statistics are the Jungian view.

So, let's start over.

My son is gay: He needed to attract a man with the right qualities as he shares my repugnance for gay promiscuity.

My other son will never get involved with a female (or a male as he is straight) : He watched the horror I went through during the fight to get the right to collect child support & other "women's" rights.

After I was attacked --I nearly died--, (for daring to try to get basic rights for males), he watched me lie on the floor in my own vomit & urine for two days, while he --too small to do anything sensible-- tried to keep his baby brother alive. He blames women for chearing for the violence against his father and other men who were only trying to get some help for their kids. He is wrong to blame all women, but I cannot change his mind. His childhood was full to the brim with very evil women and no one as of yet has found a way to breach that pain. We have not even found a willingness to deal with evil females ...

My step-daughter is an interesting woman. She will probably be the youngest area manager her company ever had. Her ex is almost the definition of the bad-man. She needs to make a change in the type of male she finds attractive: The best way to do that is to take charge of the dating situation. Thus, the Jungian way.

You will notice there is nothing pro-feminist in what I say. Rather, there is pragmatism and care and concern for others and ...

We will not arrive at a situation in which all people are treated fairly with attitudes based on absolutes. Absolutes are what harmed my older son and nearly killed me. Abolutes see no problem in starving small children because they are in their father's custody. Absolutes are what feminism gives, as poison, to our young.

People are what they are. Some good, some bad, most in the middle. People think the way they do, some like the classic male, some like the classic female, some like neither classic view.

I could hate all women: I have abundant cause; few men have more cause. I do not hate: That would wrong. The way out of our gender mess is to see what is, not the absolute, not the political, not the stereotype ... no, we must simply see what is.

Thus, I disagree with your absolutist point of view.

Posted by: jw at May 29, 2006 3:11 AM

"It is also the only psychology which does not trash men with abundant sexism."

Oh, come on. You're wrong from the get-go. Read any Albert Ellis? "Change the way you think and you'll change the way you feel"? And you're disturbed because you're thinking irrationally? He's one of the founders of cognitive behavioral therapy, and his REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) is based on the ideas of the stoic philosopher Epictetus, not the work of Andrea Dworkin. My own work is based in reason and data.

Men like you, poisoning your boys against women, are as bad as the nuttiest of feminists. Take responsibility for your bad choices. Don't blame them on all womenkind. I went out on one date with a hell of a lot of men in my thirties. Why? Because finding somebody ethical (among other things) was of primary importance to me. I didn't just hope people would turn out to be good men. Taking care to look at what particular men I went out with were really made of, I seriously searched for a good man. When I was 39, I finally met him.

It's unlikely the woman you were with went suddenly psycho, or suddenly became some horrible person. She was that from the start, right? But, you got involved with her anyway, and then, idiocy of all idiocies, produced not one but two children with her. Your children had a bad life because daddy was a naive idiot. I had bad boyfriends, too. I saw them as learning experiences, and sometimes expensive lessons, but not people you marry and have kids with. How barbaric of you.

You'll find there's nothing "pro-feminist" in what I say either. It's all rational and pretty objective. Then again, I blame myself for being naive or whatever the case may be when I get involved with shitty people, I don't blame peoplekind.

YOU WRITE: "He is wrong to blame all women, but I cannot change his mind. His childhood was full to the brim with very evil women and no one as of yet has found a way to breach that pain. We have not even found a willingness to deal with evil females ..."

You've probably ruined your child's life. It's unlikely he can dial back from this. How tragic. It's a pity you need a license to cut hair, and all you need are a working dick and working ovaries to have a child.

Again, there are a lot of people out there. You chose to get involved with the woman you did. I suggest you read "The Art Of Living Consciously" by Nathaniel Branden and start taking responsibility for your own actions. Sadly, your son will probably have to be alone all his life, thanks to you. Think about that. Think where the blame lies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 29, 2006 6:37 AM

I don't know why I am even bothering to write this, because clearly nothing will convince you. And that's not even really a problem - except for the fact that you are advising others to want exactly what you want instead of acting according to what they want.

The girl should ask him out if she wants a man who's man enough to know he's a man even if a woman asks him out. She shouldn't if she wants a man who's man enough to do the asking. She should ask him out if she thinks he is a good, trustworthy and loyal person who has his head up his ass and hasn't received the signals she thinks she's been sending. She shouldn't if she doesn't.

I met the love of my life at 22 and knew that he was the right guy (or what I knew of him so far was the right guy) because he didn't get scared off when I said I would never change my name, mentioned that I played rugby, and that I consider myself to be a feminist in my own way. And you know what, when I later asked him out he asked to think about it (he was quite drunk at the time). And his response shortly thereafter was that he had realised that he had a crush on my for a while. We have been together two years, and we are very happy.

My point isn't that my tactics would work or should be undertaken by someone else necessarily. The point is that I acted in a way that reflected who I was, just as you acted in a way that reflected who you are. And we both ended up with people who like us. Big surprise.

And for anyone who worries that asking a guy out kills the thrill of the chase - don't. It doesn't necessarily. People's brains work in weird ways. I later asked my boyfriend why he didn't kiss me on our first date, and he responded that he thought it would have been presumptuous. When I teased him that I had given him a giant green light by asking him out, he said that it didn't matter and he didn't think of that - he was just really nervous. He did shyly and respectfully hold my hand. And he turned out to be everything I ever could have wanted in a man. Someone else might think differently, but then, they shouldn't date him.

Posted by: Cate at May 30, 2006 9:52 AM

Well, I slept with my boyfriend before the first date. Then again, I knew it was a risk -- as is asking a man out...and it tends to be one that doesn't work out. Asking a guy out generally does kill the thrill of the chase, whether you like to believe otherwise or not. You lucked out unexpectedly, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a risk (and not a smart one) for women to take to ask men out rather than choosing a man, flirting with him, and letting him respond. It's a dance that makes a whole lot of sense, but for impatient, indulgent women and pussified men, who will do just about anything to call motivation by fear and impulse a sensible choice.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 30, 2006 4:15 PM

I think your advice is spot on. The girl should flirt or otherwise give a hint that the guy won't be rejected, and the guy should take it from there.

I have no problem doing the phone calling and setting up of dates, provided I feel the advances are welcome. If I sense at any point that I'm "pushing on a rope," I simply drop the pursuit.

Posted by: Tennis Guy at May 31, 2006 8:13 PM

STEVE does the math with: "
It has gone from women carrying 100% of the risks of sex to men having 100% of the risk."

ADS: Well, okay then...better watch your back...or front...or whatever area might be most exposed.

Amy, nice work and provocative. I'm a dude who has only 'dated' a half dozen women in past 22 years (46 and happily with 10yrs of current wife). I sometimes ponder if I'll ever find a need to either Ask or Be Asked on another date with a lady and then conclude with High Optimisim...No way, man...We die in a twin lightning strike in our 90s while playing sports on a beach somewhere.

Thus, I'll have to rely on others to both testify and to advise on the World's Oldest Dance. Thanks for the most recent chapter.

Posted by: ADifferentSteve at May 31, 2006 10:31 PM

I see your point about personal responsibility, Amy, but a man just wrote that he was nearly murdered and his children endangered, and you put the blame on him? *He* ruined his son's life, and not the violent psycho who did that to him?! So then, for the sake of personal responsibility, do you also blame a woman who is beaten nearly to death in front of her children? If she tries to leave the relationship and is subsequently murdered, is it still her fault for having the bad judgement to be with the loser in the first place? Is it her fault if her daughters grow up to be terrified of men? I ask because that is the impossible standard you are holding a man to. Yes people do make mistakes in relationships especially when they are young and naive, but you don't know the exact circumstances of the relationship. Some people have a Jekel and Hyde personality and may not show their true colors until it's too late. Or maybe he was a victim of psychological abuse/brainwashing, ie. "Battered (Man) Syndrome." Whatever happened, I think it is very cold-hearted to blame him after he and his children suffered so much. It's like telling a rape victim that she was "asking for it."

Posted by: myce at June 2, 2006 6:17 PM

I realize the canon says "don't blame the victim," and it's a pity, because it allows people like this guy to feel like something "happened" to them -- something over which they had no control... rather than accepting responsibility for their choices -- if there was even that much "agency" in their actions. People rarely go suddenly psycho. If you're involved with some sick and horrible person, chances are it isn't because Little Red Riding Hood turned into the wolf overnight.

Idiots involved with idiots should have themselves sterilized.

And to wrap up that part before, maybe if more people "blamed the victim," there'd be far fewer victims. Camille Paglia had a great bit about this in one of her books, asking that girls start behaving like they're responsible for their own behavior. No, nobody should be raped, but going up to a frat boy's bedroom with 12 guys is kind of like driving to NYC and parking your car and leaving your keys on the hood. I believe that was Paglia's example if I'm remembering correctly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 3, 2006 12:44 AM

Hate to interrupt but is anyone else picking up on the queer bashing here? Homosexual needle junkies? Gay promiscuity? Hate to break it to you, but gay men have a reputation for being slutty cause they're MEN, not cause they're gay. And your idea that there is little risk of catching something lasting unless you do anal or drugs? Where the f have you been? Have you ever heard of genital warts, aka hpv? That little std that one in two people will get over their lifetime? Oh, and also herpes, syphillis and hepatitis? I hope to god you're not passing that inaccurate dangerous 'info' to your kids. There's enough ignorance in my age group without you adding to it. And if you care for your kid who you say will never have a relationship because he witnessed YOUR bad choices, get him to therapy, because that's a hell of a way to go through life.

Posted by: christina at June 3, 2006 2:53 PM

Thanks, Christina, that's exactly right. There was so much shit here to shovel, I missed that. As I've written before, all men are promiscuous...because they're men. Gay men happen to be the only ones with opportunity. If straight men could do what gay guys do -- fuck somebody they meet at a bar, then leave -- they'd do it in half a hot second.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 3, 2006 10:47 PM

I'd say your strategy of flirt and retreat is selecting not so much for "manly" men or "brave" men so much as extrovert men.

Introverts take longer to get to know and overcome their natural quietness and loner natures. As an intro myself I find it much easier to relate to intro women, precisely because they understand this need to talk and get to be on warm friendly terms before you move on to anything closer.

I don't expect the lady to ask, but the whole pace is much slower with introverts. Flirting is less important; being warm/friendly/encouraging and just plain talkative is much more important.

Quick pickups are generally out of the question for introverts.

Posted by: Dan Dare at June 4, 2006 12:49 PM

No, it's men before they got touched by a magic wand and turned into big pussies by the feminists. A guy today was driving by me in my neighborhood and made a U-turn and asked me out. I told him I have a boyfriend, but I thanked him for having the guts to come ask me. It's so rare these days.

I have to laugh when I think about my dad behaving the way some of today's weenie boys do. If my dad liked a girl, he'd ask her out, not sit around imagining what it would be like to date her for five years. Albert Ellis is a tiny, scrawny man with diabetes, and has been small and sickly his entire life -- nobody's idea of Mr. Brawny, unless you're comparing him to a piece of lint. Girls all rejected him, so he forced himself to go to the Bronx Botannical Garden and asked 100 out to learn how to deal with rejection. And every single one said no. And he still kept asking girls out.

Introversion isn't like being born with one leg. Most people would rather complain about it, though, than do what my extremely shy ex-assistant Lydia did -- take Toastmasters and other steps to learn to be more confident in public. I respect the hell out of her or anyone who admits to a problem and seeks to solve it.

In my own life, I actively look for where I've been an asshole, and/or an idiot, and/or simply behaving counterproductively. One day in early March, I found myself writing one line one Saturday -- all day Saturday -- and never finishing it or fixing it. And this was typical. I was overly perfectionistic, have been for a long time, and it was making me terribly unproductive. While I can deal with most of my problems using Ellis' REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), this was somehow an itch I just couldn't reach to scratch.

I read about an NYC and Arkansas-based therapist in a friend's book, who helped her overcome her own writing issues. I don't respect a whole lot of therapists, but I found his advice to her very wise. I convinced her to give me his number and a recommendation (she recommends NO ONE to him -- except me and a rabbi), then I convinced him to see me, and flew to New York for a double session when he was in town. And I'm not rich.

Well, it changed my life. I just got lost in my work for 9 hours today, and 9 hours yesterday, too. I continue to see the therapist once a month via phone and iChat video (because he's in NYC and Arkansas), and he's astonished by my progress.

In the two months since I saw him (April and May -- saw him at the end of March), after being avoidant of all the pain that's inherent in writing humor, along with just writing, I cranked out most of a book proposal (and it's good), and two substantial articles, plus my column, plus I've pitched a bunch of stuff to magazines, and I'm going to be doing radio very soon.

So don't tell me problems can't be solved. You just have to bemore into solving them than into complaining about them.

And PS While we're still on me, I had no friends as a child and spent my first 20-some years as a human doormat. Have I solved that problem? Well, clearly, I don't work too hard to be liked these days!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 4, 2006 8:14 PM

From your answer I draw the conclusion that you are probably an extravert.

Incidently I don't think I would complain about being an introvert - it has its advantages. I think I remember reading somewhere it's about one third of the population and the trait is quite highly heritable.

I don't agree that shyness = introversion either. Shyness is more like social anxiety. That's something different. Well adjusted introverts aren't shy. What they are is quiet and inwardly focused.

Here's what it says on a 5-factor personality test I took recently:

Introverts lack the exuberance, energy, and activity levels of extraverts. They tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and disengaged from the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression; the introvert simply needs less stimulation than an extravert and prefers to be alone. The independence and reserve of the introvert is sometimes mistaken as unfriendliness or arrogance. In reality, an introvert who scores high on the agreeableness dimension will not seek others out but will be quite pleasant when approached.

I scored at the 21st percentile on the population normed I-E scale. That sounds about right to me.

Posted by: Dan Dare at June 5, 2006 12:22 AM

Re men asking women out: watch some early films. Charlie Chaplin sees a woman he likes the look of, and immediately starts to woo her, doing anything to make her laugh. It's dangerous to use Hollywood as accurate source material, but it's interesting nonetheless, because it's so different to what happens nowadays. Other old sources such as the cartoonist Winsor McCay (aka Silas) occasionally give corroborating stories. Even Mickey Mouse in his early days was not backward in being forward.

So what happened to change this? I don't know precisely, but the mood is different. An example in the UK press a few months ago - not men approaching women, but I think related - is rather horrifying. A little girl had gone missing. A man driving by saw her at the side of the road, but did not stop to pick her up and take her to her home, because if he had done so, he would have placed himself at great risk of being persecuted (sic) as a child molestor. He had his own family to think of, so I can't really fault his decision, but it makes me world-weary. Men have been demonised.

Posted by: Norman at June 5, 2006 1:42 AM

I do think men have been demonized, but I think the child molestation panic isn't part of that. I think divisive victim feminists, who want special treatment and special rights, not equal rights, and who try to turn all women into victims, are responsible for the change.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 5, 2006 6:15 AM

My boyfriend's an introvert -- but an introvert with balls. He asked me out right after he met me.

He's also anti-social. Borrowing from something Vingh Rhames said on the set of "Out Of Sight," he likes to say, "I don't want to meet anyone I don't already know."

Again, he asked me out, we had coffee for three hours, then he walked me to my car and grabbed me and kissed me. Why? Because he's a man. The real kind, not the kind that's been pussified by feminists. And that's why we're together. The "he's a man" thing is reflected daily in his behavior. Women who get together with guys who are such big pussies that they can't even ask the girls out get the same in the relationship.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 5, 2006 6:20 AM

From your description of your bf's behaviour, I'd suggest that he is unlikely to be an introvert. If he is "anti-social", it's more likely that he is low-scoring on the "Agreeableness" scale.

I didn't say introverts don't ask girls out. I said that they pace their relationships very differently.

Here's your advice to introverts:
Rule 1: Behave like an extrovert.
(Or I'll reject you and insult your manliness)

Here's my advice to introverts:
Rule 1: Seek out other introverts.
(You'll understand each other much better)

Posted by: Dan Dare at June 5, 2006 4:38 PM

I don't care whether you're an introvert or an extrovert or how you rate on anybody's scale. If you want a girlfriend, you're going to have to grow some balls and ask women out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 5, 2006 8:01 PM

I think the lesson here is pretty basic: sometimes in life you have to do things you don't enjoy to get what you want. Whining 'but I don't wanna!' And 'it's not fair!' is pretty pointless.

Posted by: christina at June 6, 2006 8:25 AM

This is a prett sweet debate, and I can't help myself, so I will jump into the fray.

I suppose the only arguement I feel I can make is one based on personal experience because I have never studied this empirically. I will make guessess and assumptions about anything that does not directly involve me, because to try and say with a definitive voice about what one "should" do for the majority is not really my field.

I am a nineteen year old man in colleg and I found this website after a debate with a small group of friends about this very issue. not being satisfied fully by the conversation I merely "googled" the question. I consider myself to be, at this point sexually succesful. In my life, I have asked out roughly 23 women, I have dated 6 women, two of which I have entered into serious relationships with, both ending succesfully. Of all 6 there was one who I actually ended up having sex with. I am outgoing but not really charismatic, I'm skinny and short but have some nice "facial features", or so I've been told. Never took any of it into consideration anyhow. I asked out all of the aforementioned women and have never been asked out myself.

Personally, I do not believe that if I a girl asked me out, that I would immediately devalue her. I also don't believe many of my friends would "devalue" a woman who ask them out either. I would at first find it strange, because it has never happpened to me before, but I would not let that blind my decision. I would most likely make the decision on A.) Do I like that person and to what degree? B.) Is she attractive? and C.) Do I have time for the relationship and what at that point do I want out of one? (That is not necessarily always the order of importance or consideration). I could personally tell you that asking me out on a date would not be a bad idea unless you're incredibly afraid of getting rejected, cause that might happen.

I will, however, agree with you in saying that flirting the daylights out of the man in front of you is not a bad way of doing things, and when you don't really know someone but want to initiate more intimate stages of relation its a pretty surefire way of doing things. I can tell if girl wants my attention by the attitude, but I can say that I have had to work at it. If you're one who asks out peopleat bars or the like, I would guess that at first sight it would be best if the girl flirted and the guy asked, because we have established this as a society as a way of communication. I personally do not ask anyone out who I have not known for a decent length of time, and Ihave never tried picking somebody up so I don't know that I could comment on such an endeavor.

However, I disagree strongly with two thigns you have said.

"any woman who asks a man out is taking a stupid risk, and/or is likely to wind up with a guy who's as much of a pussy in the relationship as he was in getting into it."

I find this statement slightly insulting. You know what? I takes me far more in the ways of courage to ask a girl than it does to things such as jump off a bridge or get into a fist fight with some one bigger than me (both of which I have done.) I find that memories heal at a slower pace than cuts or bruises. Its mostly because by asking someone else out, I'm saying that I feel for them physically and to some degree emotionally, and the rejection can be very painful. I have some good friends who are, as you described, pussies about this thing called asking a girl out. They are both very odd, nerdy, and not mainstream in tastes or thought. They are not sought after guys and most women dont pay attention to them.

Thats just too bad for women, though. If they took any time to really get to know these two, they would find incredibly creative, caring, and bright indivudals, who have integrity far beyond that of the normal human being. To complicate the matters, I see a select amount of girls flirt with them but they dont pick up because they're too inexperienced to see it. If some of these women saw it fit to ask them out, they would have been very happy with the results, because these are not ordinary people and, I believe, care more than most. I find you're statement putting too much emphasis on their self esteem. Self esteem is good a trait to have, but both "dads and cads" can have it and I don't believe that one should be judged by their self esteem in this arena.

Ironically, I give my friends the same advice you would give them. "Stop being a coward and ask them." However, this is not because they are men, its advice I would give to anyone, because it really is the only good way I have found to getting results.

"As I've written before, all men are promiscuous...because they're men. Gay men happen to be the only ones with opportunity. If straight men could do what gay guys do -- fuck somebody they meet at a bar, then leave -- they'd do it in half a hot second."

This is a generalization that irritates me. Yeah, there are men who I know who would like a loose gal. But grouping all of us as being under the whims of our base instincts is again slightly insulting. You dont give the conscious mind enough credit. There are alot fo women I won't have sex with regardless of the chance of pregnancy because they're just not worth my time. Same goes fo rmany of the guys I hang otu with. Even some that would like a girl they could get in "half a hot second", wouldn't choose just anyone. There are some of us guys who want relationships. We do exist. And not just because women force us to have one, thank you very much. Dare I also suggest that girls like getting laid too?

In closing, I must say that in general, I disagree with the idea that women should ONLY flirt. Flirting is not a bad way of doing things and I don't think one should discard that. However, one should evaluate on an individual basis as to what tactic they wish to use, and not stick to a single one for either social or evolutionary reasons.

Posted by: Scott at June 7, 2006 11:00 PM

It's about power. Until men start forcing women to ask them out by not asking them out, the women will have the power in this equation. And the article is just a bunch of hoopla to try and hide the fact that the person who gets asked has the power. Same deal when they use the "it's tradition" bs line. But men have to get smart and recognize that equality is a two way street and they will now have to fight to rectify the overpowering that women have been given in our western society.

Posted by: nummy at August 27, 2006 2:56 PM

Silly, it's not about power. I'm afraid of very little, and in my 20s, I asked men out right and left until I figured out it didn't work, and then started seriously studying anthropology and evolutionary psychology and figured out why. You toss around "equality" and it's clear you mean "sameness." Men and women are biologically different and their psychological differences correspond perfectly to those biological differences. Again, I have no fear of marching up to any man and asking him out. I don't (first because I have a boyfriend) and because it doesn't work. What does work is when a woman flirts her ass off to indicate interest, and to let the guy know it's unlikely he'll be rejected if he makes a move. Then it's his turn. It's a dance. Somebody has to lead, somebody has to follow.

And if you'll read "Evolution of Desire," by David Buss, you'll have an understanding of why men devalue women who pursue them, and seem too forward.

Again, I don't care about anything but what works, and why.

I'm guessing you're a guy who hasn't had a date in a while nummy. Best to stop complaining and grow some balls and ask somebody out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 27, 2006 5:22 PM

Hi Amy,

Many of your assumptions in the arguments are based on Buss' interpretation of Evolutionary Psychology in "Evolution of Desire". There are some problems with that view. He assumes that differences in behavior for males and females that are consistent across most cultures have been selected for by evolution. It assumes that people are not cognitive beings that select the same behavior cognitively for similar circumstances. Thus he finds that 'males spread their genes, women select carefully', i.e. the double standard is from evolution. The theory has been around for a very long time. It is used then backwards to formulate structure of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA), that is, what EEA would give this result. That men gathered in groups to go off hunting and women stayed at home to care for offspring and gather food. When men were back home, they were with a monogamous mate. That EEA explains the current social structures in many cultures. While widely accepted for a long time, its flaws have battered it greatly in evolutionary biology. The EEA was likely not like that. I suggest reading "The Woman That Never Evolved" by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.
Buss does find common behavior that is worth understanding, but it is not reflective of base evolutionary desires from our genes.

It may be that a woman asking a man out is not a good idea from the woman's long term stake, but Evolutionary Psychology should not be used to support that. Good relationships are based on respect, affection, empathy, attention, and being emotionally connected (from Gottman). Don't see 'no initiative in woman' there.


Posted by: Mark Riggle at September 3, 2006 11:44 AM

Sorry, but I don't just read David Buss, but hundreds and hundreds of studies, and many books, and I go to evolutionary psych conferences and hear work presented - and questioned. The information I present in my column is based on a variety of sources.

It's the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, and your point is murky, so I can't really respond to it.

I stand behind what I wrote.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 3, 2006 12:10 PM


Posted by: Dave at November 3, 2006 6:24 PM

I'm entirely flawless.

Oh, please. What I do is try to do the best with what I have to attract what I want: hetero men. That's why I don't, for example, say "I can wear whatever I want!" and stamp my feet, and throw on some big smock and ugly man-boots. I dress to attract heterosexual men, which means I look feminine and wear clothes that reveal a waist. (See Dev Singh's waist-to-hip ratio research for more on that.)

Now, back to reality: This is not about me, and not about you (as personally as you manage to take it -- probably because the buttfloss is one size or two too small)...this is simply about what will give a heterosexual man on the make the optimal chances with heterosexual women.

I have to say, my experience with the buttfloss crowd posting here does not reflect well on men in thongs: Huffy, easily insulted, irrational, and not intelligent enough to make sense of simple, logical statements.

Personally, I don't give a shit whether your balls are stuffed up in a pouch or swinging free. I'm simply telling guys who do want to know that a sizeable number of hetero women tend to not look kindly on men who do.

If you're yet another guy in buttfloss who's too dim to get this, please keep it to yourself. It's a waste of time for me to keep restating the same argument in simpler and simpler terms, hoping, with great futility, that it will pierce the brains of those who use their gray matter for propping up the couch where the leg is missing instead of for thinking.

Over and out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 4, 2006 8:42 AM

I asked a man out once, when I was in college. We were married four years later, and divorced four and a half years after that. I'm a nitwit for staying with him as long as I did, but that's another issue entirely. I know I'll never ask a man out again. My ex-husband was a pussy from beginning 'til end. I won't say this is "how it is," but it's how it is for me.

Posted by: Monica at December 18, 2006 4:52 PM

Been reading the archives since yesterday, and have to say that I finally seriously disagree with you. Why? Because I've been happily married for over 12 years to a guy I asked out 18 years ago.

Yes, yes, I know that most guys don't like aggressive women. Doesn't (or didn't) matter. Bottom line is, I'm aggressive. Constitutionally, genetically, bred-in-the-bone aggressive. What possible good would it have done me to pretend I wasn't as aggressive as I am so I could attract a man who didn't like aggressive women? If there was one man in a thousand who liked aggressive women, that was the one I was looking for. And I found him. And all these years later we're still crazy about each other, and still have some seriously scorching sex.

I'm not saying that being aggressive and asking men out will work with most men. I'm saying that it's stupid to pretend you're someone you're not to attract someone who won't like you when they figure out who you really are. So it took me to age 36 to get married. Who gives a damn? I had fun looking, and I ended up married to the right guy.

Posted by: Dana at November 15, 2007 1:34 PM

Yes, sometimes women ask men out and it works out well, but it's usually a strategy that...well, see above. But, thanks for dropping in!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 15, 2007 1:44 PM

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