I’m 29M, from a European country. I’ve got a good career path (in training to be a doctor). I also have an introverted personality (more like crippling social anxiety when I was younger, but residency forced me out of this). I’ve never had luck with attracting women and have never had a girlfriend or a sexual partner.
A lot of the advice I come across seems either contradictory or platitudinous. For example, a lot of mainstream dating advice tells men to focus on their own lives and to stop caring about getting a girlfriend or having sex. This is how I lived my life for years while I was focusing on my studies and just doing things I liked. After years of not caring, suddenly at 29 I looked back and realized I still had no experience with women. I had a quarter life crisis because I didn’t want to end up dying alone never having experienced physical or emotional intimacy with a woman. I started paying more attention to how I dressed and going out more, holding eye contact longer with people, slowing down my speech and being more deliberate and calm with my choice of words. All things that I learned from “dating coaches” online. Truth to be told it made me feel more confident and at least it did more for me than any mainstream advice I had ever followed that told me to be myself, it’ll happen.
But it does seem like dating coaches for men are looked at with a tremendous amount of suspicion. Some of these guys might cross over slightly into PUA territory, but the terms are sufficiently vague that it gets confusing. In any case, PUAs and even dating coaches seem to be painted with the same broad brush as the worst among them (i.e. the guys who teach other guys how to “neg” a girl to lower her self-esteem). Approaching women in public is also vilified by many as borderline or actual sexual harassment.
I understand why since there are quite a few sleazeballs among them, but here’s the thing. In the mainstream, there is not a lot of advice out there to men who timid and who are not bold enough to express their interest in women. We are now in a phase of our culture where the dominant message to men is to encourage them to leave women alone, or at least to think before you speak. I’ve never had to internalize these messages, as I have always been too shy to act on any interest and I overthink everything.
So you can tell me “just treat women like human beings” all you want, I know for a fact that I have talked to women for 29 years in the same way I talk to men, with no underlying motives, with a genuine interest in who they are as a person, and that it has gotten me plenty of platonic friendships with women that I cherish, but never a date or sex. No mutual attraction that just organically manifested itself. (By the way, how insulting is it that the go-to assumption with guys who are not romantically successful is “he must treat women like subhumans”)
I’m not saying you coaches or worse, PUAs hold the answers, but it’s totally understandable why men would try out some of their advice when everything else fails. Obviously, as soon as I hear someone talk about childish and abusive shit like “negging” I switch off the video. But there do seem to be some actual some genuine people between the obvious charlatans.
This plays into my next gripe, which is really the number one thing that is giving me so much anxiety in this whole dating game. Which is my observation that male sexuality is demonized. I am well aware of the demonization of female sexuality, slut shaming and all the awful things that entails, and I am radically opposed to it. But at least those issues seem to be acknowledged through mainstream feminist discourse, while talking about the demonization of male sexuality gets you looked at askew like you must be a woman-hating MRA or incel. But it is everywhere, and it’s inescapable as a man. It seems that there is no agreed-upon way of showing your attraction to a woman that doesn’t carry a risk of labelling you as a creep or worse. Everything men do nowadays to try to act on their attraction to women is scrutinized to oblivion. Men who are just hoping to meet a partner (sexual or romantic) are met with some zinger like “Women are more than just potential dates or fucks, you know”, as if being interested in a woman automatically dehumanizes her. Attempts at getting better at flirting are met with suspicion and alarm and assuming the worst intentions. “OMG do you just want to manipulate women, women aren’t just a code to crack you know, we’re human beings.” (Again, this rings hollow when 29 years of treating women like normal human beings has yielded no results. Flirting is a different kind of interaction than normal social conversation, deal with it). It’s so tiring to walk on eggshells all the time, because trying to be more successful with women is now taken to mean that you think women are mindless sex objects with no worth beyond that. It’s not everyone obviously, but there is a sufficiently vocal minority spouting this stuff that seems to be growing.
It really fucking SUCKS to be told over and over again that your natural sexuality is disgusting and objectifying and creepy and unwanted and predatory and evil and dirty and sinful and harmful and dehumanizing and misogynistic. It’s like Catholicism without Jesus and Mary. But voicing your insecurities or sadness resulting from a lack of dating success just risks inviting scorn or assumptions about your moral character. I, for one, wouldn’t imagine in a million years telling a woman who is having dating troubles that she shouldn’t go out of her way to find men to date (a natural reaction if there ever was one) “because men are more than potential dates or fucks”. How twisted is that kind of thinking?
Look up any thread on r/AskWomen about where and how women like to be approached, and you’ll find that every location or context you can think of has its detractors. “I don’t want to be approached in the street, I’m moving from point A to point B”. “I don’t want to be approached in the bookstore, I’m here to read.” “I don’t want to be approached in the club, I’m here to dance.” “I don’t want to be approached at a bar, I’m here to have a drink with my girlfriends.” “I don’t want to be approached by a guy in my salsa class, I’m here to dance salsa.” It’s not about the personal preference, but the implication that often accompanies it that any guy who would approach is a creep or is exhibiting predatory behavior, because any kind of potential romantic interest is somehow predatory. The only uncontroversial “location” remaining to “approach” women is Tinder. Hours and hours of aimless swiping with near zero matches and certainly zero dates, your self-esteem eroding with every swipe. Dating, flirting etc. should be fun, but it’s not fun when all you are told is that women never ever want to be bothered by your nonsense and that you have to keep all your interest to yourself and bottle it up until it fucking explodes (this last bit is obviously never said, but it’s the logical end result).
Then there’s the advice that is centered less around flirting techniques and more around becoming all around more attractive man so that women will start chasing you. Go to the gym, lift, advance ambitiously in your career, dress fashionably, etc. However, this kind of advice is always underlined with the caveat that you should never do this to attract women, but authentically for yourself. Well, try as I might, I can’t lie to myself. I have no interest in lifting weights and subjecting myself to strenuous, repetitive exercise for its own sake. Any benefits (being able to lift heavier boxes, having bigger forearms) would not be worth it for me outside of the confidence boost from being more attractive to women. I don’t like looking at other guys’ guns, why would I suddenly feel a need to admire my biceps in the mirror? No, I have no problem whatsoever with doing things outside of my comfort zone and changing things about myself, but I can’t pretend that there isn’t some kind of underlying motive there. Same goes for signing up for more “female-friendly” hobbies like yoga or salsa. I’m sure that I could enjoy those things if I put my heart to them, but I wouldn’t really consider doing those things if they didn’t help meeting more women. But with all those people saying you’re a predator for asking out a woman from your salsa class, why not stick with my nerdy hobbies that involve meeting zero women, but at least I get to do something I truly love with a bunch of sweaty dudes whom I don’t feel any need to impress?
Finally, the nail in the coffin for me: the male gender role. I grew up as a sensitive kid in a warm family that encouraged emotional expression. As a young kid I used to gravitate more towards socializing with girls. Consequently, I’ve never had a problem forming fulfilling platonic friendships with girls, but the older I became, the more I started to have nagging thoughts that something about my demeanor just wasn’t very attractive to women, like most of them saw me as an asexual being, a little brother or “one of the girls”.
I believe now there is a multitude of reasons why the “male gender role” persists, some of which is “men’s fault”. But I also believe there is no escaping the fact that a certain degree of male stoicism and “strength” is seen as more attractive by many women, maybe even most, and that deviating from this lowers attraction. It’s certainly not all women, but it happens often enough that I hear a lot about it from other men, and finding women who deviate from this seems like a needle in a haystack. I don’t blame anyone for what they are attracted to (men’s general preference for beauty, youth and fertility isn’t exactly morally superior), but as Brené Brown says:
“Most women pledge allegiance to this idea that women can explore their emotions, break down, fall apart—and it’s healthy,” Brown said. “But guys are not allowed to fall apart.” Ironically, she explained, men are often pressured to open up and talk about their feelings, and they are criticized for being emotionally walled-off; but if they get too real, they are met with revulsion. She recalled the first time she realized that she had been complicit in the shaming: “Holy Shit!” she said. “I am the patriarchy!”
Even when texting a girl from some app, I now notice I seem to get better/flirtier responses when acting vaguely emotionally unavailable rather than as my true emotionally supportive self who is interested in the girl’s hopes and dreams. So this makes me think that even if I do manage to attract someone, it’ll be a struggle to keep her attracted to me and eventually the cracks will show and it’ll be back to square one again. Cue Nice Guy accusations. But as much as I’d like to be physically intimate with a woman, what good would it do if it meant I needed to suppress myself?
So what do you reckon? Should I just give up?
On The Fence