The “Women have it so easy in dating” trope

It’s a common trope, on screen and off, this myth that women just have to sit around and wait to be asked out, therefore in the dating arena they have it “so easy” compared to men, who must do the asking.

First, I have to express a general objection to “you have it easier than I have it” arguments.   On those rare occasions when they’re not cringe-worthy examples of self-pity, they’re still churlish and pointless.

Next, I’d have to point out that women do a lot of the asking nowadays.   And if you think asking a woman out takes nerve, try asking a man out.   Frequently, they’re so stunned or offended (yes; apparently being put in a traditionally female gender role makes some guys feel so “gay” that even the realization that “hey, this woman finds me attractive” can’t redeem their fragile heterosexual ego identification) that they respond quite rudely.   They don’t have that lifelong schooling women get on how to say no in a nice way.

When a man asks out a woman, his worst fear is that she’ll turn out to be a gold-digger or fatter than she looked at first.   A woman’s worst fear in accepting a date is that he’ll turn out to be a rapist or serial killer.

And even back when it was unthinkable for women to do the asking, women did not have it easier in dating.   First of all, not every woman gets asked.   That’s where terms like “spinster” and “old maid” came from – punishing terms for women who “failed” to attract men who would take care of them.   And what if you find yourself getting asked out only by married men and creeps?   Why, you had a choice: suffer the stigma of being an “old maid” or make do with whatever cretins were available to you.   How lovely!   How easy!   All you had to do was feel shame until your self-worth fell into shambles ’round your feet, and subject yourself to Harry, the guy who hangs around the school playground a little bit too much. (And don’t forget: if you have kids with Harry and Harry molests them, we’re blaming you!)

I could go on and talk about how rare it is that men actually make the first move (guys, we’re taught from very early on how to rope you in subtly so you think you made the first move).   I could list the time, energy and money women who get asked out a lot often invest in cosmetics, clothing, accessories, learning coy body language and those subtle techniques I just talked about,   and learning to appeal to the male ego before “just sitting around waiting to get asked”.   But it’s been done.   And of course, you can just open your eyes.


  1. sbg says

    99% of the time, I’m convinced that no guy finds me attractive in the least. That alone is not “easy.”

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I know that feeling. And you know, I’ve never understood how guys coped with never knowing if women found them attractive. I mean, if one gender is made dependent on the other, you never know if she really loves YOU or just thinks she’d better make you feel that way or you’ll dump her and she’ll be an “old maid”.

    Now that women aren’t so dependent, men have the chance to actually learn who really loves them and who’s just willing to put up with them in order to “have a man”.

    But most of them aren’t on that page yet. I think right now, most guys want to date that sliver of girls who are still dependent on men. Not financially or socially, but because of an individual quirk, like seeking a daddy replacement or just a matter of being raised to think she can’t function without a man. Women who are comfortable being independent from men (but who are still interested in being with one from a position of equality) are getting shafted because the world is still full of guys who grew up interpreting that attitude as hostile when it comes from a woman.

    They don’t even realize what they’re missing out on. Then they complain about “all women being neurotic”. Not quite, my friend: you just mistake stability for hostility. That’s your problem.

  3. sbg says

    You’re right, it’s not as simple as getting a yes from a woman. I’ve said yes to dates, sadly, when I have no real interest because I really suck at saying no and have this horrible inability to think on my feet. I don’t have stock “saying no nicely” answers in my repertoire, because I have no repertoire.

    Women who are comfortable being independent from men (but who are still interested in being with one from a position of equality) are getting shafted because the world is still full of guys who grew up interpreting that attitude as hostile when it comes from a woman.

    Hmmm, I never really thought about it much, but the breaking point in several almost-relationships was the guy’s tendency to want to take care of me all the time. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, really, it’s that I don’t NEED it and I’ve never been one to grin and bear things for the sake of sparing anyone’s feelings or egos. (Also why I might not get offers for dates often, hee.)

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Ditto. I was just raised that you take care of yourself, and make sure you don’t become dependent on anyone. My mom didn’t raise me that way because I was a girl and she hated men; she raised me that way because it’s how she would’ve raised a boy. It’s just what she believes.

    And I believe it, too. I see nothing healthy in dependence. Cooperation, trust, support – all great stuff. Dependence is where you really aren’t prepared to somehow muddle through alone, if need be. That’s the one that makes you put up with stuff you shouldn’t, or manipulate in order to keep someone around.

    Guys still often find dependence flattering. They’re somehow oblivious to how unhealthy it is. And for me, it’s that obliviousness that puts me off and makes me say, “Er, never mind, you’re not right for me.” People tell me that’s mean, but it’s like… if he doesn’t get what a healthy relationship is, why on earth am I going to try to start one with him? I don’t believe you “train” a man to be a good boyfriend/husband. Again with the unhealthy relationship stuff!

    I dunno. I think our whole concept of relationships is so effed-up – even without factoring in the power dynamics of inequality – it’s really hard to find people you’d want to get involved with.

  5. Maartje says

    Somehow I always (heh. always. Does two times count as always?) end up with the guys who want to be taken care of. Not in the practical sense of feeding and putting a roof over their head but in the emotional sense. The ‘I want to spend every waking moment with you’ type. Which totally freaks me out because I’m a commitmentfobe
    And commitmentfobia is also one of those things often described as a male thing. When I call myself that there’s suddenly a whole slew of other things people start thinking of me. Like Ice queen of Butch or whatever.

    Of course my culture is different from the American culture. When I was in Italy on a school trip all the girls got judged by their looks. The blondes got cat-called in the streets and the girls who didn’t look like anorexics were actually served less food. But that was Italy, in my experience the Dutch guys are way more reserved. They don’t ask people they don’t know out easily and certainly not from a club. It’s usually through mutual friends or they know each other from work or other activity. I think, but I can’t be sure of course, that this way it is less about looks and more about matching personalities. Of course I’m only speaking from my own experience and that’s middle and upperclass.
    So, to get back to the point of this thread, if anything, it is equally hard getting a good date for women as it is for men over here.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    Of course, my original post was coming from an American perspective. I didn’t even think to remark that it may vary from culture to culture.

    Americans are pretty reserved, too, preferring to meet someone and get to know them before asking them out. But even in this situation, when it comes time to do the asking, a lot of men just can’t bring themselves to. I’ve read a lot of American woman saying, “You know, it’s like asking you on a date is too much commitment. They want to say ‘let’s hang out’ and you have no idea if they mean play X-box as buddies or have sex all afternoon.”

    The antiquated dating system we had – boy does the asking and the paying – is gone, but it’s been replaced with chaos. The problem is that now NO ONE is being taught basic social graces, and that’s the fault of parents.

  7. Maartje says

    At this point I prefer chaos because if a new dating system was put in place now the patriarchal influences would be too great for me to stomach.

    I do know a lot of guys who worry about their appearance. They don’t think they’re very attractive. They’re all above average smart so I suppose this is a problem found most often among the boys who always got praised for their brains in stead of their physique. They can talk to girls like human beings, but asking someone out on a date is scary.

  8. scarlett says

    Well in my experience asking guys out is considered incredibly progressive (to the point it’s almost revolutionary) – I know loads of women who have strong feminist values but would still balk at the idea of asking a guy out. The main thing is being terrified of rejection. What, and they reckon men aren’t? You get over it.

    On a semi-related note, I spent the better half of a year trying to explain to a male friend that perhaps the reason he could never get women he asked out in pubs and clubs to go ou with him was because they’re generally places women are very gaurded. I read at except from a book about a woman who went undercober undercover as a man for a few months, and one of the things she said was that women were incredibly hostile towards her in a club/pub, then immediately opened up when she came clean that she was a woman undercover. It was kind of sad, but I thought it was a realistic result of the pub/club scene being viewed by some guys as a cattle-call.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Maartje, the patriarchy deludes itself that only girls in American have self-esteem problems. Boys and men also have them. Bigtime. And this is not a post-feminist sob story for men; I know plenty of pre-feminist men who lacked self-esteem.

    Hell, why do you suppose a man beats on women and children? Maybe because he’s not sure he can hold his own against other men? I think the whole patriarchy came about because men are insecure.

    I really believe in a more equal world, we would ALL be happier. Because really, in a system like this, it’s not the men who benefit. It’s the few people at the top. The men are just being manipulated to support the system.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    Scarlett, if guys who complain about rejection are ONLY asking women out in clubs and pubs, then what they need is some serious education on how to meet women. It’s understandable why women are hostile at clubs. Don’t these guys have sisters or friends’ sisters or friends’ girlfriends they can talk to about what women have to put up with at those places?

    Meeting people is, of course, a problem for most of us nowadays, as we move around more and work longer hours. The only half-sensible option for most people to meet decent humans is at work, and I think we all know how messy that can get.

    It’s a very screwy scene for everybody.

  11. says

    Sad thing is, I started to ask why a woman would go to a club if she didn’t want to be hit on, before having a serious *headdesk* moment and realizing, you know, to have fun. I blame not having had my coffee yet.

    I’ve asked out the guy in two of the three serious relationships I’ve been in — and even when 99.99999% certain he’d say yes, it’s still terrifying. I can’t imagine how much it would suck to be expected to do that for every relationship. But, lucky me, both guys were flattered and excited that they didn’t have to do it. (One confessed he hadn’t asked me out due to crippling shyness, which I expected; the other had actually asked me out previously and I’d turned him down, which was why he was hesitant to do it again even though it was pretty clear I’d come to like him quite a bit. Understandable, I think.)

    But no – girls don’t have it easier. I could write a whole rant here about dependence and how my current boyfriend accepts me having my own interests and hobbies, *and* is excited for me because I’ve gotten a professional-type job (which he doesn’t) — but also makes jokes about how I’m goign to leave him now, how I’m slumming it, and how he’s still very uncomfortable when I offer to pay. He’s very supportive but still so insecure because I’m *not* dependent. Hopefully he’ll eventually figure out that, duh, I’m independent — which means I’m with him because I want to be. You’d think that would be an exciting idea.

  12. scarlett says

    Sad thing is, I started to ask why a woman would go to a club if she didn’t want to be hit on, before having a serious *headdesk* moment and realizing, you know, to have fun. I blame not having had my coffee yet.

    Amen! I don’t actually know that many women who go clubbing and pubbing to meet men – that’s just an unforunate downside of having fun with mates. I know I’m a lot more hostile towards men at those kinds of places then I am if I were to meet them in a supermarket aisle.

    I was thinking today, a friend of mine I used to work with commented he thought I was hitting on him at one point. Now, I’m naturally a bit flirtatious, but I’d broken up with my boyfriend/fiancee of 4.5 years a few weeks before, which he knew, so why that didn’t factor into the equation to equal ‘Scarlett’s just being pally’, I don’t know. I shudder to think how many men have thought I was hitting on them if that’s the standard they consider ‘hitting on’.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I only go clubbing to see bands I like, hang out with friends, have fun. I don’t consider it a place to meet men of quality, so that’s not where my head is.

    I’ve gotten the rude turn-downs from men. I blame this on the fact that I’m Generation X and so are the men I’ve asked out. We’re sort of right between the generation in which women never did the asking, and the one in which anything goes. I just deleted two paragraphs about my generation – if you want to understand how screwed up we are, just watch Fight Club – but the bottom line is we tend to be relationship-cynical. I know I am.

  14. Gategrrl says

    I’m the girl who asked TWO guys out to pizza on the same night, in some sort of weird audition for a boyfriend – of course, one of them was more the contender than the other one, and he’s the one I ended up marrying and sticking with for over twenty years…

    But at least to me, asking a guy out was the only way I’d get a date – either that, or just get to know the guy, which was the only way I *would* ask him out, since I’m nervous about other people and “shy” (or socially incompetent, whatever).

    I honestly don’t know what the huge deal is. You ask, you get a “no thanks, maybe another time” and go on from there. Or you only ask when you can tell there’s a zing there.

    I’m at the tail end of the Baby Boomer Generation (b 1965), so I don’t know the relevance of what generation you are means; it’s always been chaotic, since I was in high school.

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, actually the start dates for Generation X are listed as 1958 or 1965, depending what source you use. Not that I’m trying to make a capital case of the generation argument; I just know when my mom was dating age, girls did not ask – that would’ve been around the time you were born. I get the impression things were crappy, but less chaotic then. But who knows.

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