You are a young, relatively inexperienced gay man. Youre single, its Friday night after a long week, and youve decided to go out and have some fun. You and some friends decide to check out a new gay bar that youve heard has a lot of hot guys.
When you walk in, you encounter an overwhelming sea of men. These guys are all as tall as NBA players, as muscular as NFL linebackers, and as sexually aggressive as a felon on his first night out of jail.
They are all bigger, stronger, faster, and hornier than you. Their heads all swivel toward you, and their eyes look you up and down like sexual Terminators.
You havent even met them, but you can see the gears turning behind their eyes. Any one of them could grab you, carry you out of the bar, and put who knows what god knows where, and there is little you could do to stop them. Youre just a piece of meat to them.
But theres strength in numbers, so you and your friends gather whatever sober courage you can muster and head to the bar. Soon enough, youve had a couple drinks, and some of these huge guys approach you and begin talking to you.
Some of them are really lame and unattractive and make crude, ham-fisted passes at you. Some are awkward and annoying. Some are even kind of angry and mean. All of these guys are very unappealing. You dont want to talk to them.
But lo and behold, some of them are actually pretty intriguing. Yes, they are still big and intimidating, but they want to buy you drinks and pay you compliments. Some of them are really interesting and fun; they do amazing things with their lives and seem to really be into you. Theyre cocky and funny. They have that sublime masculine energy that is very appealing.
How would you feel in this situation? Nervous, worried, scared, guarded, self-conscious, and vulnerable? But also flattered, desirable, and excited (remember, youre gay in this exercise).
Some of the same male traits that frighten you the most also seem to be the most attractive to you. The guys who pose the greatest physical threat are also the same guys you can envision making you feel the safest. The guy who seems like the most egotistical player in the bar is also the one making you laugh so hard that your ribs hurt. Its all a giant, swirling, pulsating contradiction.
This is the world of sex and dating for women.
And this is what it is like for women every day, in every social situation, with straight guys just like you.
Women are surrounded by bigger, stronger, faster men who probably want to have sex with them and could take it by force. This is their experience not just at bars and clubs, but at school and work, on the street, and the subway. Men stare at them, leer at them, make crude passes at them, and interact with them all day every day, with sex clearly the subtext of every interactioneven the briefest, most innocuous non-mating exchanges.
Her: I would also like fries with that.
While this is just a thought experiment, the facts that underpin it are very real. For Americans over age twenty, the average man is five inches taller than the average woman (59 vs. 54). Hes thirty pounds heavier (196 pounds vs. 166 pounds), and he carries less body fat (18 percent vs. 24 percent), so hes got about twice the upper-body strength (what hed use to pick her up) and twice the grip strength (what hed use to hold her down). An average woman is as physically vulnerable to an average guy as a big guy (60, 190 pounds) would be to the average NFL lineman (65, 310 pounds)which is to say, very vulnerable.
Most dating advice to guys fails at this first hurdle. Its built around the assumption that men and women think alike about sex, romance, and dating without even acknowledging the basic physical differences between male and female bodies and the resulting male vs. female vulnerabilities. This is totally wrong. If you can understand womens sexual and physical vulnerability, dating should make a lot more sense.
For instance, if a woman seems like shes sending mixed messages, or acting hot and cold, or theres a mysterious push-me/pull-you erotic dance going on, its not that shes being weird or manipulative (at least, typically). Its that shes trying to express interest from a defensive posture, and shes got a hair-trigger threat-detection system that makes her withdraw into her shell when you start pushing too hard. Maybe you really are the good guy who wont take advantage of her, but she has no way of knowing that when she first meets you. She has to evaluate you herself.
Think about how weird that whole situation is: to be sexually attracted to beings that could so easily do irreparable physical harm to you. Think about the anxiety that internal contradiction could create on a daily basis. For women who are on the more anxious and delicate side, think about the raw physical courage it must take just to go out and meet men. If she pushes when you pull, your question shouldnt be, Why wont she have sex with me? It should be, Why would she ever put herself in a situation of sexual vulnerability with any guy?
The best (and funniest) explanation of this dynamic weve ever heard comes from the famous comedian Louis C.K.:
And yet, here we are. Women have evolved this ambivalent arousal/fear, love/hate response to male size, strength, and power. If you want to be successful in modern mating, the more you understand this, the better you can deliver what women love while eliminating what they fear.
A woman can tell how well your life is going from how you look, in about two seconds. Your face and body are leaking all kinds of cues about your sexual experience, self-confidence, and personalityand she can see it all in one glance. Before you approach her, shes already decided whether she wants you to talk to her, and shes already judged your mate value and your status before you toss the first lame, derpy pickup line at her. She can smell your over-practiced pick-up artists tricks from a mile away. Its like her superpower.
By the time youve met her, a normal American woman has spent years honing that superpower. She had to develop it after putting up with so much shit from lame guys hitting on her, catcalling, sexually harassing, and potentially even stalking her. Since puberty, when she started developing hips and breasts and pretty facial features, shes had to deal with creepers and sketchballs to some degree or another, and shes probably pretty sick of it.
Its hard for guys to appreciate what it would be like to grow up being stared at and sexually harassed every day of your life from age twelve onward. So instead, what you need to realize is that all this sexual attention a woman gets sows in her a fear of raw physical violencereactive assaultthat could be sparked if she ignores your come-ons, rejects you in a way you find demeaning, or dates you for six months before finding out youre a paranoid, jealous control freak.
Thats the female reality of living in sexual fear. Shes afraid of creeps, weirdos, crazies, losers, and stalkers. And believe us when we say that, from her perspective, they make up a high proportion of menespecially the ones likely to hit on her in inappropriate ways, places, and times. Psychological and environmental factors explain much of this perspective.
The psychological research, for instance, shows that, from a womans point of view, most guys she meets will be less kind, less agreeable, less empathic, less conscientious, less reliable, less cleanless everything reallythan she and her friends are. Even if she accepts those sex differences, she still has to wrangle with the fact that many mental illnesses and personality disorders are more common among men (the more dangerous ones no less). These male-dominated disorders include alcoholism, drug addiction, autism, schizophrenia, narcissism, white-collar sociopathy, and criminal psychopathy. All of which make each random encounter with a man less likely to end in love and more likely to end with a fight-or-flight response.
Most guys reading this right now are probably sitting there thinking, WTF, Ive never done any of that creepy shit. Dont lump me in with those assholes. And we agree. Most of you guys are solid dudes. Youre just suffering for the actions of the highly nonrandom sample of guys who hit on every woman in sight. Thats why its so important to understand the world from a womans perspective.
Think about womens experiences with guys like a city cops experience with people in general. Cops spend 90 percent of their time dealing with the scummiest 5 percent of humanity. The ones whove been around a while often develop a cynical, negative, and fatalist view of humans, based on the totality of their bitter experiences. Its not that humans are all bad. Its that cops see only the worst.
Likewise, women spend a big proportion of their time in the mating market avoiding the small percentage of guys who are the most intrusive, obnoxious, or insane. Psychopaths are sexually predatory, uninhibited, and confident, so although theyre only 4 percent of the American male population, they might account for 40 percent of the men who have hit on any given woman. Guys with Aspergers are another factor; although theyre often introverted (and so less likely to approach a woman), if they do approach, theyre bad at reading nonverbal cues of disinterest or rejection, so theyre more likely to persist beyond a womans comfort zone. There are almost too many other types of men who do things women find repulsive to name them all.
Simply put, her experience is that the worst guys come straight at her while the best guys are nowhere to be seen.