So over the past few days and the past few articles, I’ve seen a pair of issues come up over and over again: the idea that men somehow have it “harder” in dating and that women set the social agenda in order to make men leap through hoops for their amusement. It’s come up when we’ve talked about issues with men displaying “creepy” behavior. It’s come up in dealing with online dating and the different approaches that men and women take with regards to screening out potential undesirables. It’s come up when we’ve talked about using Pick-Up Artist material.
Frankly, it’s rather annoying how often it’s ended up being a topic of discussion, usually derailing the conversation in the comments threads… but it’s also extremely symptomatic of a deeper issue when it comes to men – especially men who aren’t the most socially adept or experienced – and dating.
It’s about fear mixed with a sense of entitlement when it comes to women, sex and romance. And it’s costing men potentially rewarding relationships because they simply cannot seem to look past this issue.
So I think it’s about time we actually sat down and talked about it.
You Aren’t Owed Anything
Somewhere along the lines, a lot of men have developed the idea that the world owes them a woman. Sometimes it’s a specific one – The One, in fact. Sometimes it’s less specific; a man may not think that he’s owed Kat Dennings, to pull a completely-random-and-not-at-all-because-she-won’t-take-my-calls example, but he is owed a woman of equivalent hotness, regardless of his own physical appearance or level success, talent or achievement.
There are plenty who will take umbrage at the idea that no, they can’t have a woman who’s a perfect 101 without some significant accomplishment of their own; they will rant and rage about how it’s unfair that in order to have a beautiful woman they have to be beautiful themselves, richer than dreams of avarice or more talented than a god.
And really, what could be more fair than being able to attract a woman of unparalleled beauty without having to put in any effort at all on your part? I mean, shit, I think it’s totally unfair that I have to work for a living instead of getting paid just for being awesome.
To quote one of my favorite movies: “You say [that it’s not fair] so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”
Newsflash: Life ain’t fair folks, and that goes doubly so for dating.
It’s not surprising that the idea that we are somehow owed a beautiful woman is so deeply entrenched in the male psyche – after all, it’s an integral part of popular culture. I’ve covered this before, but just about every form of consumable pop culture with a male protagonist has “hero gets awarded a princess” at the end of the story. If the story isn’t about the actual courtship – which will end with them overcoming whatever bullshit drama Hollywood decided to throw their way – then the hero doesn’t completely win the woman until after he achieves something. He blows up the aliens. He saves the Rec Center. He finally graduates from college. As soon as he does: he gets the girl of his choosing.
When you grow up on a steady diet of women as the prize in the CrackerJack box, you start to think that you too are owed a hot babe for… well for something. For being you. For being her “friend” and collecting enough Nice Guy coupons until you can trade them in for sex.
Unfortunately, real life isn’t the movies and women in the real world tend to take offense when you assume that they are somehow obligated to give you access to their person, regardless of their wishes.
It’s Just So Rude To Be Attractive But Unavailable.
On Monday, I wrote an article about why women might not be writing back on dating sites when the topic of screening came up. Some women will add qualifiers to their profile – that they’re not there to find dates, only friends, that you should only message her if you meet X, Y and Z or if you’re not looking for sex… A common complaint that men have – one that was echoed in the comments on the article – was that this is somehow a violation of the Dating Site Contract. That women who, say, create an OKCupid for the various quizzes and aren’t looking to meet men are somehow Using It Wrong. If you’re on a dating site – so the implied contract goes – you’re supposed to be willing to consider anyone who stops to email you.
To a woman, saying something along the lines of “I’m interested in meeting as friends, if something more develops, great” means “I want to take things slowly and make sure that the person I meet up with is willing to respect my pace and boundaries.” To a man with entitlement issues, it’s putting up a barrier between herself and any men who might want to get to know her; after all, who is she to set the terms of how to meet her? I’ve seen far too many people for whom the idea that a woman has decided that she is only open to certain types of relationships or why certain types of individuals shouldn’t bother trying to contact her is a personal insult. In fact, copping an attitude is one of the most common mistakes men make in online dating. Just about every woman I’ve known who has tried online dating has received a variation of “FUCK YOU, YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO NOT LIKE ME” when she didn’t respond immediately with a “YES, TAKE ME NOW IN A MANLY FASHION” to his unsolicited email – or worse, didn’t respond at all. It’s rather startling to watch “You’re really pretty I think we should go on a date” turn on a dime to “Fuck u, ur an ugly ho u crazy bitccccch” when the woman in question didn’t respond in the pre-approved manner quickly enough.
The perception that placing some sort of artificial restriction on the men who are “allowed” to communicate with her bothers these people because, frankly, they resent the fact that there’s a woman that they’re cut off from. Men already have a complex stew of entitlement issues and serious insecurities warring in their heads. On the one hand, any man who isn’t in the top 10th percentile of whatever metric you might want to use to gauge male sexual desirability is painfully aware of this fact. On the other hand – tying back into that “fairness” issue I mentioned before – they resent the fact that they might not get the hottest/sexiest/richest woman because of it. However, instead of turning their attention inward – dealing with their self-esteem issues, working on improving their lives, accepting that maybe they hold women to impossible standards- they decide to externalize their anger… and put the blame for their lack of dating success firmly on women because they’re rejecting the unwritten rule that men are owed their sexual attention.
Of course, in many cases it goes well beyond the idea that somehow women aren’t keeping up their end of the social contract… it’s a full blown conspiracy! Y’see… women are in total control of every social interaction they have with men and men are forced, forced I say!, to accede to their wishes.
What? You didn’t know that? Oh well, then you just need to ask yourself this one question:
WHO RULES BARTERTOWN?
Women, or so the theory goes, have it easy in the dating world. Women are in the cat-bird seat; they control the social dynamic because they don’t need to take action to get laid. No, you see, women just have to sit back and let the sex come to them. Of course, when you have all the options in the world, one tends to get a little bored, so why not make sure that they have to fight to win the right to have access to your nethers? Make them jump through hoops just to see who wants it bad enough and who’s actually worthy of the sex!
Men have to be rich, handsome, talented or some combination of the three or no love for them! They have to make the first move because, c’mon, it’s not like women have to lift a finger to find sex! They have to know exactly how to demonstrate alpha behavior, monitor themselves for any behavior that might make a woman uncomfortable and submit themselves to the approval of others – via social proofing – before she even deigns to consider them as a sexual partner! And if they don’t… well, ve haff vays of makink you pay for hyour arroghance! Submit! SUBMIT TO THE WHIMS OF WOMEN!
Obviously, this is unfair of women; after all, how they’re not only denying men the sex that they’re owed, but they’re giving it away! To other people!
These increasingly elaborate theories of female behavior – which is alternately blamed on laziness, arrogance or cowardice, depending on who you talk to – are supposed to “prove” that it’s women who are at fault, not men who seem to assume that they’re oppressed by the fact that the woman they like may not want to fuck them. If you’ve ever spent time around a Nice Guy (or, used to be one, like I did) then you’ll hear a lot of whining and complaining about how cruel women are to taunt and abuse someone who just wants their love and is that so wrong?
The anger generated over the fact that women “get” to spurn men at will is based on the idea that not only do women control all the rules of social engagement but also that men have no choice in whom they might date. Men are forced – forced – to play a numbers game because women have all the power. Men simply cannot sit the game out because otherwise THEY ARE DOOMED TO SEXLESS, IMPOTENT LIVES!
Of course the idea that women have it easy and men have to fight for their right to paaaaaaaahrtay requires some willful blindness; yes, women can get laid with minimal effort… but so can men. It’s very simple: men just have to lower their standards… just as women would have to if they wanted sex on demand.
Women do get approached more often than men, true – it’s part of how both men and women have been socialized for generations, and that sort of deeply ingrained social programming is hard to toss off. However, the fact that a woman is being approached doesn’t mean that those men are automatically the ones that she wants to meet. The fact that sex is offered to them doesn’t mean that it’s the sex they would want to have.
Men, contrary to popular opinion get approached by women all the time too… by women that they have no interest in because those foolish females simply don’t measure up to the standard that the men think they deserve. They aren’t the hottest of the hot, therefore they get ignored in the calculus of “who has an easier time geting laid?” Sure, Dude X could’ve hooked up with the woman who approached him on OKCupid or at the bookstore, but that totally doesn’t count because she was too fat/thin/awkward/nerdy/dumb/crazy/poor/trashy/ugly/whatever. It’s not just that he’s owed a woman, he’s owed an incredibly hot woman, one that makes all of his friends jealous! The sort of woman that he’s been fantasizing about since he realized that women were more than just boys with long hair and weird toys. The fact that he has to compete for those women with people who outstrip him is a source of anger and resentment… toward the women who reject him. It’s her fault for making it harder for him to get what he wants!
Creep Shaming: Threat or Menace?
In principle, you wouldn’t think that the simple act of talking to women would be that difficult; you open your mouth, flap your lips, words come out. Hopefully you manage to string them together in a way that’s vaguely intelligible. And yet, going by the level of anxiety that a lot of men feel at the idea of approaching a woman, you would think that the mere act of indicating you were interested in someone meant that you were risking certain doom if it doesn’t go absolutely perfectly. In fact, according to some of the so-called Men’s Rights advocates, if you have the temerity to approach a woman and you are not her exact type… well, shit son, you’re about to get Creep Shamed.
The idea behind creep shaming is that women use “creep”, “creepy” and “creeper” as ways of keeping men in line and punishing them for having the nerve to approach a woman without actually having washboard abs and a six-figure balance in his bank account. It’s a way that women discriminate against the socially awkward and stick men in a double bind by demanding that men be the aggressors in a relationship and then smacking them down when they make their move, am I right, or am I right? Of course I am. Pound it.
Now, in fairness, there are plenty of guys out there who are socially awkward and may inadvertently trigger a woman’s spider-sense without intending to cause offense. The problem is that when it’s pointed out to them that the way that they’re behaving is creeping people out, a lot of guys will automatically default to “well, it’s not fair, I shouldn’t have to change who I am/my behavior.” They don’t want to take the time to learn how to read social cues or moderate the way they act. Why? Because, once again, they feel that they’re entitled to what they want and it’s the woman’s fault for keeping them from what they want. Why take responsibility for your actions when you can put the onus on women by shouting “Creep shaming!” as a way to shut her up?
The truly insidious thing about creep shaming and how it relates to misplaced senses of entitlement is the fact that creep shaming goes beyond a man’s right of access to any woman he desires; it also means that he is entitled to his comfort above hers. Creep shaming is all about telling a woman that not only does she not have a right to decide who she talks to, but she doesn’t have a right to how she feels. This isn’t about discriminating against those who need to work on their social calibration, this is about telling women that their desire to be safe is less important than a man’s right to hit on her.
How Entitlement Ruins Your Dating Life
The attitude that one is owed anything in a dating context is a potentially toxic one, and it ends up poisoning every aspect of your life. Believing you’re entitled to women is lovely as a fantasy, but when it meets the hobnailed boot of reality, it tends to leave men bitter and resentful. They direct their anger towards women because this is what we tend to do when we’re upset and angry: we lash out at the thing we think hurt us.
These fantasies of persecution are just that – fantasies. They’re ways of justifying failure without accepting responsibility or even involvement; you’re not getting rejected because women don’t like a guy who thinks that they should immediately fall in lust with him just because he deigned to show up, you’re getting rejected because OMG WOMMMINZ ARE CRAZY BITCHEZ who graduated from playing with Barbies to playing with real people. You’re not avoiding approaching women because you are dealing with approach anxiety – something that everybody feels – you’re striking a blow against the unjust system that allows women to be lazy and requires men to do all the work!
After a while, holding on to this belief leaves you unable to talk to women like a goddamned person. Instead, every interaction with women is seen as de facto adversarial; you’re resentful of the fact that these women are refusing to give you what you deserve and keep putting up barriers that you have to overcome. You’re no longer interacting with them on a personal level, you’re treating every conversation and meeting as a struggle for social value and frame control, trying to dominate every moment and demanding compliance.
Or you may go the other way and end up as The Nice Guy, trying to get your way by appealing to a woman’s sense of obligation; instead of looking for easy answers and trying to reduce human interaction to a flow-chart of social pressure and mind games, you try the passive-aggressive approach. You attempt to back-door your way into a woman’s heart and panties by lying to her and pretending to be her friend, all the while trying to buy her affection, collecting “good guy” tokens by doing favors and buying her gifts in the hope that you can eventually trade them in for the hot, hot sexing that you really want.
The end result is the same: you cripple yourself emotionally. You make it next to impossible to have a “real” relationship with a woman as your equal and partner. You may achieve a certain amount of success with one-night stands and short, shallow relationships but in the end, you’re letting your belief that you are somehow owed a woman to cut yourself off from them.
Entitlement Vs. Deservedness
I’ve talked about the difference between entitlement and deservedness before, but it’s worth bringing up again: there’s a difference between believing that you deserve love, happiness, a satisfying sex life and a relationship that fulfills you emotionally and believing that you’re entitled to it.
Deservedness is a matter of self-esteem; many men of the nerdy and geeky persuasion convince themselves that they are undeserving of love because they don’t measure up in some way. They’re not as outgoing as other guys. They’re not as popular or as socially gifted. They aren’t into all the “cool” hobbies or sports. They are – in their estimation – pathetic; no woman could possibly love them because they just aren’t good enough the way other guys are. The reality of their situation doesn’t matter – despite the fact that a lot of women love geeky guys, these men can’t see it because they have built up in their heads that they are unworthy of affection. They can’t get past the idea that they have nothing to offer and there’s no way that someone could find them attractive.
It can take a lot of work to build yourself up to a place where you can actually believe that yes, you aren’t worthless and you have the same right to seek out a happy, healthy relationship as everybody else is.
But you aren’t owed one.
There’s a reason why the Declaration of Independence says that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right. You can and should pursue a relationship.
But you have to earn it.
You need to put the time in to get yourself to the point where you can attract the woman you want. This means putting aside the idea that you are somehow entitled to her and taking responsibility for your own actions and your own mistakes. It means that, as tempting as the “Call Me, Maybe” scenario is, you need to be willing to accept that you can’t just wait for opportunities to come to you because you’re afraid of rejection. You need to be willing to accept that getting good with women takes time and practice. You need to accept that you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to blow approaches. You’re going to say the wrong things. You’re going to get frustrated and wonder why the fuck you’re doing this.
It can and will be rough, especially when you’re trying to overcome habits and beliefs that have been ingrained in you over a lifetime.
But when you can honestly relate to women as people rather than an antagonistic Other, when you realize that you’ve surpassed what you thought were your limitations and you can achieve so much more than you ever believed you could…
… well, it’s fucking worth it.
- I hate rating women on a numerical scale, but sometimes it’s a necessary shorthand for the conversation [↩]