In my time, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends with a number of awesome women who’ve been in the public eye. From cosplayers to fetish pin-ups, burlesque dancers to lingerie models and the occasional reality TV star, much of their careers involved a heavy online presence. At the same time, being friends with them gave me a front row seat to the horny dudes hitting on them.
Of course, this behavior isn’t restricted to women in the public eye. Almost every woman with a social media presence and pictures online has experienced thirsty guys wanting to talk about how she makes his penis feel. Or the guys who precede trying to talk to women by going through her entire social media presence. Or just sliding into a stranger’s DMs and expecting to get a date out of it.
I’ve taught a lot of guys about how to talk to women, online and in person. One of the most common questions I get from guys is “how do I get this woman on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to go out with me?” Now, if you’ve been reading my column for long enough, you know how I feel about using Facebook to try to pick up women. But as social media continues to become our main form of communication, it feels incumbent upon me to give some guidelines on how to thirst online responsibly. Here’s how you can talk to women online without being a creeper in the process.
Want to Talk To Women Online? Don’t Make It About Your Penis
First rule of trying to talk to women social media: leave your dick out of it.
There’s nothing more likely to get you shut down than mentioning how turned on you are by somebody’s pics. It’s not flattering, it’s not validating and it’s not wanted. If you’re not somebody who already has flirting privileges with her – and if you’re reading this column, you almost certainly don’t – then she doesn’t care how she makes your penis feel. Even when you leave out the online equivalent of catcalling, making sexual or even overly flirty comments to someone you don’t know is going to be uncomfortable and unwelcome at best.
This includes pictures that are clearly intended to be sexy – whether they were taken professionally or simply for fun.
Let me give you an illustration from life. My friend Arden Leigh is, among her many jobs, a dating coach and professional model. She takes pride in her sexuality and enjoys posting pics where she feels she looks hot. Case in point, she recently shared this picture on Facebook:
This isn’t a terribly sexy picture; it’s about a relaxing bath. As far as such pics go, this isn’t that racy. Even so, there are always people who are going to mistake
showing some skin existing for an invitation:
Now to be fair, this comment is actually fairly mild as such things go. However, the issue isn’t whether he asked her to fuck him or just implied it, it’s the entitlement. Comments like these carry a presumption of intimacy that doesn’t actually exist. You are making the assumption that you already have a relationship that allows for you to say things. That entitled attitude is unattractive at best and a warning-sign at worst. Even a mild comment like the one above is going to make people uncomfortable coming from a friend, never mind a stranger.
However, even when the pictures are overtly sexual, most people aren’t going to want to hear about your dick. A woman who posts a pin-up isn’t an inviting you to talk about how you’d destroy that ass, any more than someone posing with her pug isn’t inviting you to say “your dog’s cute, but I bet your pussy’s cuter.”
It doesn’t matter whether that cosplayer dressed like Harley Quinn or Ryuko Matoi looks like she’s a deep breath away from violating Facebook’s terms of conduct. Nor does it matter that this friend of a friend posted a picture of herself in a bikini or this person you follow on Instagram blogged her party outfit with the deep cleavage. They don’t want to hear about your boner. Period.
Is she showing off her body for attention? Maybe… but who cares. You’re the one giving them attention, so clearly it worked. Complaining that someone does something for “attention” – whether it’s a selfie, skimpy cosplay or wearing a swimsuit while streaming games on Twitch – is almost always about absolving yourself from getting caught looking. Let he with two free hands cast the first stone…
Want to talk to women and actually have them respond? Don’t show her your dick and don’t be one.
Of course, this inevitably leads to complaints about how “guys can’t compliment women any more.”
In fact, I’m glad you brought that up, convenient rhetorical device…
How to Compliment A Woman (About Something Other Than Her Boobs)
Paying someone a sincere compliment is a regular part of flirting. After all, who doesn’t like to hear that they’re enchanting or that they’re the only cactus in your garden? However, most men go straight for complimenting a woman’s looks. 9 times out of 10, this is a mistake. Under the best of circumstances, complimenting someone’s looks is both boring and unoriginal. You’re almost never the first person to suggest that maybe she could be a model or how great her legs look or her boobs. Even “you’re hot” is lame – unoffensive, relatively speaking, but lame. It shows absolutely no imagination, creativity or confidence.
Giving a compliment about women’s looks online also tends to carry the unspoken “…so be grateful” appended to the end. Many, many guys treat a woman’s attractiveness as something being done for – or at – them. Complimenting her becomes less about praise and more about giving their approval.
The other thing about complimenting a woman’s looks is that you’re signalling that you really don’t know anything about her that isn’t all surface. Most attractive people put a significant amount of work into looking good; complimenting someone’s looks is complimenting the end result but without noting the effort it took.
If you want to compliment someone on Instagram or Facebook and stand out from the horde of douchebags flinging their dicks at her? Compliment her on her choices, not her looks. Again, I’ll use my friend Arden (with her gracious permission) for an example.
Now, Arden’s clearly attractive and this picture is intended to be alluring. But telling someone that she’s sexy is at best, surface. It’s one thing for a woman to hear that she looks good from friends and intimates – people whose opinions she values. From a stranger however, it’s noise at best. What would make a good compliment though would be to bring up the things that make it an attractive photo. The composition, for example; the heavy leather furniture contrasted with the white robe and the red curtains convey a lush, even voluptuous sensuality. The way her pose directs the eye or the way the robe accentuates her figure or how her makeup brings out her eyes. Even how the light falls would make for a good compliment.
“You’ve got great legs,” on the other hand, while true, isn’t.
Compliment a cosplayer on how she put her costume together. Tell someone her outfit looks great. Ask a good question about something in the photo, so she has something to respond to. Spend even five minutes learning enough about women’s clothing to say something intelligent about it. If you can put in the time to breed a shiny Pokemon or grind your MMO character to the level cap, you can put in even a little effort towards learning how to recognize kitten heels. It will pay off far more than any comment about her tits.
If you wouldn’t like your mom, your grade school teacher and your little sister to see your compliment, then keep it to yourself.
The other thing to keep in mind: save the snark and sarcasm for people you know extremely well – the people who know you well enough to read your tone in text. Snark is the devalued coin of the Internet and sarcasm is a shitty substitute for wit most of the time. 99.999% of the population isn’t going to appreciate it, even when they recognize it at all.
And while I’m at it: the “gentlemanly” compliment of “you have such a lovely face, you shouldn’t have to show off your body” isn’t going to win you any favors. It just says “Yes, I stared at your boobs, but you should know I didn’t like it because I’m a Nice Guy.” If your compliment can be followed up with “m’lady…” then you need to rethink it.
Don’t “Um… Actually” Her
Speaking of social media sins…
There are few things that women find more infuriating than the guy who assumes she’s an idiot. Whether it’s the guy who believes that he knows better and needs to prove it or the dude who assumes that she has but a dilettante’s experience, no woman has ever appreciated a guy who leaps uninvited into her comments or DMs to “um…actually” her. Especially when she knows more than him.
Or he’s trying to explain her own work back to her.
Or trying to educate her on her own lived experiences…
Now to be fair: not everyone who dives headfirst into a woman’s mentions like Vultan’s Hawkmen to correct her is coming at it from a place of “silly female, allow me to educate you.” There’re plenty of times where it’s a sincere, if awkward, attempt to be helpful. Guys are socialized to believe that fixing things is a sign of our value. Hell, I’ve ended up offering unsolicited – and ultimately unwanted – advice more times than I care to think about. We don’t mean to come off as condescending. However, the fact that you don’t mean to be insulting doesn’t mean that you weren’t.
The other problem is that, much like #notallmen, leaping into a stranger’s conversations because you can’t stand to let a perceived error go uncorrected tends to be less about fixing things and more making it about you. You’re busting through the wall like someone yelled “Hey Fact-Check!” to save the day and impress the ladies with your brain’s big swinging dick. Nobody wanted you, nobody asked for you and just leaping in just increases the odds that you’re going to trip over your wang in the process. Most people couldn’t care less about the rando who thinks that people owe him a debate or argument or his belief that she shouldn’t have done $THING that he disapproves of – whether it’s her tattoos, her clothes, her hair or her lifestyle.
Do yourself a favor; reign in your knee-jerk “Someone on the Internet Is WRONG!” reaction. If she specifically asks for help or advice, then by all means, contribute. Until then however, you’ll earn far more points to assume that she knows what she’s talking about.
Stop Social Media Stalking Her
One of the biggest mistakes that dudes make when trying to talk to women on Instagram or other social media: going through entire media timeline and making your presence known. When I asked women on Twitter what social media sins guys commit that turns them off, the one that came up more often than anything else? Liking or commenting on every picture, post or comment she’s made. It’s the social media equivalent of stealing the TARDIS and trying to insert yourself into everything she’s done since the early Ordovician epoch.1
Your behavior on social media sends a message and the message in this case is “I have studied every inch of you, every moment of your life and now I know you better than you know yourself.” Even the most benign of readings doesn’t come off as “I worship the ground you walk on”, it says “My love for you means I have no concept of boundaries.” The further back you go (or start), the creepier it gets. There’s nothing wrong with looking – that is, after all, part of the point of Instagram – but looking is passive and anonymous. The comments and likes, however, get her attention; it imposes yourself upon her and makes her uncomfortable. If you’re going to like her photos, stick to the most recent. Everyone understands that the newest pics get the most attention. By sticking to these you won’t be foisting yourself on her.
And while we’re on the subject: the fact that you can observe her conversations isn’t an invitation to join them. People frequently have conversations with friends on Twitter or Facebook and don’t appreciate folks who suddenly need to throw their two cents in. Despite what many people would have you believe, the fact that you’re having a conversation in a “public” space doesn’t give everyone in earshot the right to chime in. You may overhear conversations at restaurants or on the street too; trying to leap in tends to be incredibly rude. Existence isn’t permission after all, and violating social contracts is frequently a sign of low-emotional intelligence – an unattractive trait.
Treat Her Like A Person
Honestly, you wouldn’t think that this would need to be said, but it clearly does: treat her like a person. It doesn’t matter if she’s an Internet celebrity or just some cutie that you’ve had your eye on: she’s a person above everything else. Not an object for you to drool over. She’s not a Goddess to be put on a pedestal or your dancing monkey who needs your approval.
You build relationships – whether friendships or something more – through trust and comfort. Most of the men she’s going to encounter online are going to be pushy, obnoxious assholes. If you can be someone who has something to contribute, and show her respect? That’s going to make you stand out from the crowd. Showing her that she can trust you? That’s going to make her more likely to talk to you out of the other people clamoring for her attention. Those conversations can become the foundation for something amazing together.
So when you want to talk to women on social media, put your best self forward. Be clever. Be insightful. Be respectful. Put yourself out there, and then wait. When she starts to pick up those conversational threads… who knows? This could be the start of something amazing.
- Tip of the hat to Val Trullinger for letting me steal that. [↩]