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**This article is written with an assumption of heteronormativity, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t keen on hearing about other sexualities also!**
You know the rules – when it comes to dating, men do the asking, and women do the coy game-playing until they eventually cave and agree to go on a date with the gentleman of their choice. Right?
(Hopefully) some of you are rolling your eyes and saying ‘God, that’s so outdated!’ Unfortunately, though, the idea that women can’t make the first move in dating still persists to this day, and frankly, it’s holding a lot of us back.
In clubs and bars everywhere, women continue to dance in the centre of the floor, casting their gaze around for likely men without ever actually introducing themselves, instead waiting for said gentlemen to come over, buy them a drink, and maintain the dating norms.
Think of how many missed opportunities this results in – all those guys who might be a little shy, or might not be sure of your interest, or might just be waiting for you to make it clear that you’re keen. Why should it be considered untoward for a woman to make the first move? There’s an implication that it’s unseemly, or a bit brazen for a girl to ask a guy out, and this just reinforces various other sexist notions about women (like that they’re property, and their sexual lives are to be determined by their father and potential suitors, not themselves).
I know that there are girls out there who break this trend, and head into dating with their best foot forward, but these bold women are often met with confusion, and are branded as sexually ‘aggressive’ by their peers (trust me on this, I’ve heard the term bandied about many a time to describe a girl who just knows what she wants, and is happy to go after it).
The same traits that are encouraged in men, are reviled in women – confidence, poise, and the ability to spin a good pick-up line.
With the growing popularity of online dating, however, this dating norm might begin to see some change. I spoke to several women who regularly date online, and it seemed that (despite mixed experiences), the whole ‘making the first move thing’ is often flipped on its head online.
One girl, let’s call her Sarah*, said that although when she first started dating online she would usually wait for guys to contact her, she soon found herself being more bold, and now often starts the conversation first when she sees a likely fella.
‘I used to feel kind of awkward, but then I realised that guys could see if I was lurking their profiles anyway, so I might as well,’ she said.
Had her attempts at asking guys out been successful?
‘Sometimes – sometimes I feel like the guy feels a bit emasculated, like I’ve stolen his thunder. But I’ve had a couple of good dates. I guess it depends on the guy.’
This just echoes my own common sense approach to this issue – of course some guys might be put off by a girl asking them out, but if they’re that sexist, they’re probably jerks anyway. Isn’t it worth the risk, when you might end up with an awesome relationship?
On the flip side, another girl who we’ll call Mary*, said that she never started the conversation online.
‘There is this sense in online dating that women ought to guard themselves,’ she said.
That said, she admitted that her attitude was a bit ‘juvenile’ in terms of gender stereotypes. She did say that generally, guys were so good at messaging her it was almost like she didn’t need to put herself forward.
And there is still a persisting idea, both online and in regular life, that women who are open in their desires regarding dating are probably ‘easy’, or ‘looking for it’. It’s easy to be put off when making the first move might colour the way someone sees you, regardless of how misplaced those views are.
Ultimately, I think that stereotypes like this one will only be broken down when the alternative is normalised – if more women asked men out, and girls grew up feeling like that was totally normal behavior, then surely this wouldn’t be an issue.
So next time you’re in a club, or at your local café, or lurking that cute guy’s profile on eHarmony, maybe just make the move – the worst thing that can happen is rejection, and you run that risk anyway, right?
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