Field of Science

Why growing up as an American female has left me wary of men

The author as a young American girl.

(Trigger warnings: assault, indecent exposure)

Have you grown up female in the United States*? I did. I think about my experiences and how much they might have informed my current views, my sense of who I am, my wariness about men combined in complex ways with how very much I like men. I think that many men who are perfectly good people who respect women feel targeted, named, included by association when women complain about how men treat them, accost them in elevators or on sidewalks, behave too persistently in bars, and otherwise make nuisances or worse out of themselves. When I complain about these things and heartily agree that yes, all I want to do is take a walk, I don't mean to encompass all men in these condemnations. Yet, I'd imagine that unless you grew up female, you may not have a complete understanding of why women--some women, at any rate--react this way to such behaviors.

The men currently in my life, the ones I include there volitionally and mutually, are all thoughtful people who'd never follow a woman on the street, catcall at her, or otherwise stress her out simply because she exists and is out in public. It's not these men who are the ones of whom I'm wary. It's the men I do not know. And there are reasons for that.

Here's what it was like for me to grow up as a female in the United States. I haven't taken an official poll, but among the women I know, these experiences are not unique. And I think cultural influences, from an emphasis on machismo to the ludicrousness of romantic comedies, has left some men thinking that they've got an upper hand or a way to manipulate women using these tactics that will, presumably, land them some sexy time. Of course, in some of these cases, darker impulses were at work.

In elementary school, in spite of my being generally ostracized by my own sex, I found a few boys professing an interest in me. One of them unceasingly pestered me with notes and calls to my home and weird allusions to breasts while we stood in the lunch line. To this day, I remember him and how frustrating it was that I couldn't get across how much I wanted him to Stop. Doing. That.

When I was about 10, an old man in a swimming pool approached me and offered to "tickle my fancy." He then turned to the other old man with him, and they leered and chuckled to each other. The very recollection of that episode still makes me want to vomit.

When I was 12, a man working around my grandmother's pool exposed himself to me behind my grandmother's back as she watched us (my brother and me) swim. My grandmother, who has multiple sclerosis, was in a wheelchair and essentially paraplegic. He continued this behavior, which included masturbation, and I was flummoxed about what to do, afraid to just leave to find some other adult in the nearby house while my younger brother and grandmother remained vulnerable. But it wasn't until my father arrived to collect us and the man got onto the roof of the poolhouse and continued to expose himself behind my father's head that I became internally frantic, willing my father to just TURN AROUND. He didn't. My first words when I got home were to my mother: "I've been indecently exposed to." The man was arrested, two of his friends came to our home to threaten us, and he was finally sent to prison for a certain number of years. My own feelings about that episode consisted of bewilderment and a certain amount of confusion centered on, "Was it something I did?" Intellectually, I know that the answer is, "No. It's something he did." But it lingers, and reading apologetics like this one doesn't help.

In high school, I went on a first date with a boy I'd known for three years and trusted. He was a very, very nice boy. But he also was, I think, longing longing longing for some kind of intimate interaction with a girl. We were at his house, his parents present in the home, and we went to his room, not for any hanky panky that I knew of, but just so I could see it and then we'd head out for dinner. Instead, I found myself subjected to an assault of persistent busy hands and mouth, one that he did not stop when I told him to. Eventually, I applied actual physical and loud vocal resistance, and that ended the episode. To this day, I'm still surprised that this mild-mannered, very nice boy became so overwhelmed by his urges that he couldn't stop himself when he knew he should have.

In college, I was on a trip to another city with friends when a friend of these friends began to attack me physically and sexually in the front seat of the car we were in; I was the passenger, he was the driver. A "friend" was sitting in the back seat, and as I became increasingly angry, frustrated, and vocal about this man's physical probings all over my person, the "friend" in the back seat, seemingly utterly clueless, just laughed. We arrived at a restaurant where I immediately shook them both off and reported the incident husband at the time, who was traveling with the group but was in another car. He and some other members of the group confronted the attacker, and his excuse was that once I'd put on mascara, the transformation was so complete and inflaming that he just couldn't help himself. I can't say if it's associated, but I rarely wear makeup any more.

Also in college, I was sitting in a bar at our student union talking with a friend when a total stranger rushed up to me, handed me a rose, and started gushing about how strikingly beautiful or lovely or something I was. Just for the record, this behavior is not romantic. It's creepy. Don't do it.

Throughout my time as an American female, I've had my ass and other parts pinched by total strangers in public places, I've been pelvic danced from behind by strange men when I was dancing purposely alone in bars. I've been catcalled, followed for blocks, harassed in bars. One assault in a bar went so far that I lost buttons on my shirt as three men tugged and pulled at me and I clearly resisted--and the people around just...watched. I filed charges in that case. One of my relatives, a feminist, nevertheless accused me of being at fault for being in the bar in the first place. I contended--and still do--that I should be able to be where I want to be without fear of being attacked or accused of asking for it somehow because of my mere presence in public.

These experiences were the physical ones, the ones that I can remember in an episodic sense. They don't include the innumerable instances of overt and subtle sexism, starting with "Hey! You don't throw like a girl!" and running all the way to, "Miss Emily, we feel that you'd bring a needed injection of estrogen to the biology department." There are big events that linger always and smaller ones that just accumulate, like the many many cars that have slowed down to keep pace with my walking down the street, while a strange man croons at me or whistles or calls out. In the aggregate, though, they lead to four-plus decades of experience as an American female.

You may think that after these experiences, I might not like men much. But throughout college, most of my roommates were male. I've always had men as my closest friends. I've married two of them (sequentially) and now parent three future men of our own. But when I find myself alone in close situations with a strange man--elevators, for example--I put on a thousand-yard stare and offer up zero interaction. I apply this method on the street, in restaurants, in hallways, anywhere that might entail an unwanted close encounter. If a man were to go so far as to make physical contact with me uninvited? I've got a bit of a hair trigger about that these days.

Does that mean that I think that all men are horny bastards loaded up on bullshit behaviors from romantic comedies and bent on interfering with my thoughts, personal enjoyment, alone time, or worse? No. In defense of men, whose company I enjoy mightily when it's of mutual choosing, I'll say that the vast majority of men I've encountered in my life have not targeted these behaviors at me. But a sufficient number have done so to leave enough shadow of PTSD to warrant some wariness--and a strong response when I witness personal violations of women, in real life or virtually.

*I'm using American here, as that's my cultural experience.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this.

    - A fellow Emily

  2. I could give you a list almost similar in length of the insults and assaults in my life...and so could almost any other woman I know. And I don't really even consider myself as having been a "victim" the way some women have been. It's sad. And scary, as I'm raising a 14-year-old woman/girl myself.

    In other words, thank you for this.

    (and it's TC...couldn't get it to take my comment under my Google account for some reason...)

  3. TC, I don't think of myself as a victim, either, and when I started thinking about all of this, I was surprised at how much it had just become a part of living. Yes, raising girls and being girls/women is a dangerous business.

  4. We shouldn't even have to say this anymore, but thank you for doing so. And while I'm sorry you had to experience them, thank you for not brushing off those earlier incidents. For complaining, for pressing charges, for calling those guys on their truly uncivilized and sometimes criminal behavior. I applaud your courage.

  5. Those are indeed a sad litany, and this comment is in no way intended to diminish your experiences. As a "nice guy" who tried to treat women well, I got thrown over by a lot of women in favor of your basic jerk. Not sure what that says.

  6. I know that's a common lament for nice men, and I understand it. All I can say is, just as there are men who aren't very nice, there also are women who aren't very nice. People differ in their priorities and what attracts them, and some people are just assholes, male or female. Perhaps it's a form of assortative mating.

  7. Hi I am Canadian and male. I am a survivor of sexual abuse and as the abuser was my father I can resonate with what I read as your feelings of bewilderment and betrayal on occasion. Your wariness of males seems like a good plan to me.

  8. I think a lot of that "nice guy" problem of girls preferring jerks isn't so much that they genuinely do, it's more that they're socialized to believe that the treatment they receive from the jerks is what they deserve, that it's normal. Based on that belief, nice guys can seem sort of unflattering... "What, you don't like me enough to humiliate me in public?"

    I've written my own lament of this sort. It's a little more graphic, I'm afraid. But as somebody raising girls/women, I've had to come to grips with the idea that I need to own it, and to teach the lessons I want them to learn. Like, don't buy into the idea that if a guy treats you like meat it means he's flattering you in any way.

    ...that sort of thing.

    And of course, thank you.

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Emily. As a father of young girls, I constantly worry about the ways in which their lives are being circumscribed in our male-dominated cultures (we're also in the US now, but I've seen the same, and worse in India). Not sure what I can do, as a male parent, to help them deal with it in ways that don't leave them scarred for life. I'll be bookmarking this (like I have similar posts) to revisit, and share with my girls in time.

  10. This really resonated with me. Every woman I know can tell stories like this. It's incredibly, depressingly common. If there's one good thing about aging, it's that the harassment eases - much less of the leering, groping, catcalling, etc.

    The differential treatment never really goes away. How many women have had a complete stranger tell them to "smile, it looks prettier" or rail at you for failing to acknowledge them holding a door for you, like it's a great privilege when someone does something you are perfectly capable of doing yourself.

  11. @supermommy Good point. Negative conditioning tends to skew and warp expectations.

    @Madhusudan Katti I'm not sure I've got any advice. I've seen people urge women to be loud when in such situations, call attention to it. I have sons, so can't imagine the deeper concerns with having daughters. My goal is to raise sons who do not do any of the above.

    @unstable isotope It is depressingly common...these same experiences, or worse. I've had that damned "smile" thing, and it drives me nuts. I hold doors for people and like it when they thank me, and I thank people for holding doors for me, but I don't have any sex-based expectations about it either way.

  12. I think it's just politeness to not have the door slam into the face of the person behind you but I hate the attitude that you're supposed to give someone a medal for doing it or something like it's a great burden.

  13. Exactly, like its a huge pointed favor that requires some exchange for services.

  14. (Sorry if this repost- but i added some as well)

    Yet, I'd imagine that unless you grew up female, you may not have a complete understanding of why women--some women, at any rate--react this way to such behaviors.

    This reflects the one way street we find in the american female/feminist mind. Do you see the problem? You have no idea how hard is to be male- some males; (some) females try to draw the gender as the only source of life's hardships. And this is the unspoken part of your story: you had tough times, but you blame one gender.

    I hope you can break free of the feminist echo chamber and listen to others who explain the scientific aspects of gender social dynamic- R Baumeister's lecture, "Is there anything good about men?" is accessible and well worth the read if you get a chance.

    Finally, imagine being at risk of total social isolation- or even having no close connections- versus your experience with unwanted attention. Males face this reality far more often than women because their company is not sought after as nearly often as female attention --which is valued by both men and women. Its also why male vulnerability is such a scarcely addressed subject. Women are trained to be sensitive to being victimized by men, while men are told to, well, be a man about it.

  15. Not entirely sure what constitutes a feminist echo chamber, but I've been living among men for a long, long time. Probably feminist men, I'd assume, but anyway, men.

    I'm not sure why you posted. Are you defending the attacks? The indecent exposure to a preteen? What?

    You're free to educate people about what it's like to be a man or socially isolated or whatever it is you're asserting, but I can't do that as I'm a woman and grew up, as the post notes, as a girl in the US having these experiences directly as a result of the actions of *men*--not a gender, but a sex. Women weren't involved all. So, that's what I blogged.

    You make a lot of assumptions about me, one-way minds, no understanding of what it's like to grow up as a man, needing to learn if there's anything good about men, etc. All I can say is, you're wrong, and I've got the track record to prove it.

    You may possibly also have missed this post:

  16. Okay, so you know more about male experience than men kmow about female experience?

    In the realm of "Attention from others" your life sou nds like a living hell. Well, until you consider other possible alternatives that correlate nothing with gender.

    Finally, did you google the lecture?

  17. And the whole calling the rose from a stranger thing creepy? Dont do that. It shows how much less you suffer relatively speaking, princess.

  18. Why put this in terms of American men? I wonder how your perspective would change if you were better travelled or better read

  19. Hope that spree was somehow cathartic for ya.

  20. Anonymous: Yes in fact women do understand more about the experience of men than the other way around. From infancy, we are immersed in the stories and perspectives of men. Women are absent from the books we read as children. Television shows dwell on every possible male perspective. Any film not derisively labeled a chick flick is about men (and even chick flicks are mostly about men). We go to university and we study great minds, Plato, Aristotle, and their modern counterparts, and learn their theories of how women are malformed men, and read the great literature by men about men. (Of course, it's possible to find the women's perspective, but only in the walled ghetto of the women's studies department.)

    Look at how difficult it is to find a film in which two named women talk to each other about something other than a man or a child (the Bechdel test) and tell me that women are not constantly immersed in male experience.

  21. I still remember being being 20, and applying for a much needed job requiring a battery of aptitude tests. When in my final interview my potential boss confessed to having had an affair with woman who previously held position. He then said despite the fact that my test scores were the highest of all applicants, I was "too good looking" for his wife to believe I got the job on merit. Thus, I remained unemployed. That is the catch 22 of being female.

  22. Thanks so much for being willing to share those painful experiences to illustrate a point (and risk the attacks you're inevitably going to get :\ ), and you're right this is hardly unique, and every woman I know, including myself, has experienced similar things (for me, I didn't grow up assigned female, but once I was taken in society as female, the harassment started and has not stopped... I still can't jog without at least a couple guys hooting at me, sometimes guys have tried to touch me, grab me.. I've been literally chased on the street... I've been assaulted, molested and stalked), and I think it's really unfair to act as if you're saying "men have it perfect". You aren't talking about men at all, no matter what happens to men, the experiences you're talking about DID happen, I think we can all agree they are wrong, and I don't understand what the problem is of saying "this happens and it is wrong, and we should be aware of this."

    If anonymous and like-minded people want to write a similar post about growing up as an American male and the painful isolation most men feel or etc etc their experiences, then they should do that :) And maybe it might be just as powerful and useful, but it wouldn't invalidate what you and other women here are saying, so I don't understand why anonymous is acting as if you are somehow saying "only women suffer harassment", you are just saying "women suffer harassment", it's not the same thing.

    Unless anonymous is implying that what happened to you is JUSTIFIED because of the suffering of American men, which I hope zie is not. Otherwise, it's something for it's own post, but I dunno what it has to do with yours.

    I suspect that anonymous may be projecting his own issues w/ feminists on you (which is interestingly, what he's accusing you of doing to men, which you're not, you're speaking about specific incidences, you haven't applied them to your husband, or to your friends or even to the male cashier at a store you met, or etc)

    Either way, great post, but I'm sorry you had to deal with any of that. Nobody should. :\

  23. @Nepenthe: it really is fucking depressiong to see such attitudes expressed as if the perspecitve had any grounding in reality. Movies? really? you're either a total liar or just completely ridiculous in your indoctrination about the gender bent of western universities-- which is decisively skewed feminist generally speaking.

    @all: no one else is going to speak up to the nonsense of the rose from the stranger? it is truly the clearest depiction of the victimhood mentality we've trained & modeled for females from childhood.

    @OP: I saw your other article- but if you really had wanted to balance things, you'd have given examples of females behaving badly- social manipulation, denigration, dismisal & and derision. BUt you don't- and that should tell you something. But it won't because you only listen to those who agree with your base framework.

    What a horror this gender supremacy truly is.

  24. @Ami: I did no such thing: I do realize the acts perpetrated are not invalidated by real human suffering (experienced by most others around the globe to a greater degree of severity and frequency)

    So, slow down and try not to think so black and white.

  25. @Ami, Nepenthe, Bridget--thanks for posting.

    @Anon I'd say "thanks," but your comments are so off-topic at this point, I'm just bemused. All I can do is address the one thing you keep bringing up that's actually related to the post, the "rose incident."

    Regarding the "rose incident." Take out the rose, and what do you have? A guy in his 30s who approached a 17-year-old in a university student center bar at 4 pm while she sat talking to a friend, a man who mistakenly thought that enthusing persistently over looks would somehow land him...what? Add in the rose. That means that this person not only saw us at some point but *observed* us, got inspired somehow, trotted to the very opposite end of our very large student union, shelled out for a rose, and came back with it to mark us out. He was creepy, the move was creepy--not remotely romantic--he was persistent, and the woman I was with, who was 19, thought it was creepy, too. Nope, not earth-shattering. But I find it odd that of the incidents I've posted--two of which involved charges and one of which involved jail time for a felony--this is the one you fixate on.

  26. "You are a woman! My attention to you must be welcome and validating! How dare you find it anything less!" is the rose situation.

    Yes, it was creepy.

  27. Thank you for posting this. I am surprised by the fact that it is not so different in the west as it is in my country, India, though I guess I can safely say that it is worse in India.

    I remember a male friend actually defending a married man who made an indecent pass at me saying "you should take it as a compliment". He did not at all think it was insulting. Indian men feel insulted only when their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters are targeted- all other women are there to amuse them.

    Me and all my female friends (and I can say this with certainty) have faced very similar situations in India but the culture here (largely) makes it difficult for a young girl to even bring it up -especially if the assault is from a family member.

    One often hears remarks like "she asked for it" even in rape cases. I am single and am one of many such in my generation in India and I believe it is because the Indian woman has broken away from the shackles of society and the unfair power than men possess here. I will not be surprised if most women here are scared of men - and not just unfamiliar/unknown ones.

  28. Anon from India...thank you for posting that comment. You are not the first to make that observation about India. I'm sure that the US offers more recourse for prosecuting rape than does India (although only today has the gov't expanded its 80-year-old definition of rape to include women who have been drugged or didn't fight back at gunpoint and men who are raped), but much of what you describe is, at least on the surface, not socially or legally acceptable here. In actual practice, however, it varies. I am sorry for these experiences and hope that the world continues moving forward in its understanding of how unacceptable they are.


  29. What a horror this gender supremacy truly is.

    So, slow down and try not to think so black and white.


  30. Finally, did you google the lecture?

    i did. is this the one you're talking about? i stopped reading at:

    But that’s not what he said. He said there were more men at the top levels of ability. That could still be true despite the average being the same — if there are also more men at the bottom of the distribution, more really stupid men than women. During the controversy about his remarks, I didn’t see anybody raise this question, but the data are there, indeed abundant, and they are indisputable.

    actually it turns out that the previous data (or the interpretation thereof) are not just disputable, but shown to be WRONG. i'll leave it to you to do your own googling.

  31. @hipparchia I'd already seen that lecture--it's a few years old--but re-read it. While it's got some interesting observations in it, it doesn't really tie together a thread of support for not working for sexual equality on behalf of women. Also, some of it's just barefaced poor reasoning, such as citing the observation that a much larger percentage of men than women died in combat in the recent wars as evidence that men do riskier things and die more because of it, etc. Of course, the real reason is inequality of positions in which men and women serve in the US armed forces, specifically that woman are *not allowed* in combat roles. For example, Israeli women in the armed forces die at much higher rates for an obvious reason: serving in combat.

    There's much more in that lecture that one could parse bit by bit and challenge effectively, including the interpretation that you cite. But... it was not on point with the post topic, regardless.

  32. Poor testosterone driven men - what can they do? Their hormones dictate their moves. The saying "men will be men" excuses all their activities...

  33. A few weeks ago while on the train going home from work, I sat next to someone who happened to be a man. When the conductor came to take our tickets, it appeared as if we both had inside MTA access (my parents are MTA employees and therefore I have a special train pass and he was an actual MTA employee). Seeing that we both had something in common, we looked at each other and began what was to be a very long conversation.

    The conversation was very interesting - we spoke about politics, science, the plans for the new LIRR station, and the ins and outs of Grand Central. He told me about his youth growing up in communist Poland and about his family. I spoke about my science communications endeavors, including that nifty evolution video on which I appeared. Overall, it was quite pleasant.

    As we neared his stop, he asked if we could perhaps continue our conversation, so I gave him a business card, which had on it my email address and blog website.

    A few days later, I received an email from him asking me if I wanted to meet up for lunch some time. While I found him to be most pleasant while we were on the train, I honestly didn't feel comfortable going out of my way to meet up with him - a random guy about whom I knew very little - to continue our conversation. I thought to myself - is it appropriate for me to have a "lunch date" with a man I hardly know? what exactly are his motives - does he genuinely want to chat more about religion and politics or is he interested in...something else? Then I came across your post.

    Chances are that this guy is harmless; however, like you, growing up as an American female has left me wary. Between the "bad apples" that happened to have cross my paths and the stories I have heard from other friends, I have almost no trust in random male strangers like the man from the train. Maybe I am passing up on what could have been the beginning of a nice friendship. Or maybe not. I guess I'll never know because I just don't want to take that chance, regardless of how small it might be.

    The email will never get a response.

  34. It isn't just women growing up in America who have these experiences. I grew up in both the U.S. and Europe, and have travelled most of my life; the attitudes are much the same wherever I've been.

  35. @Anon I don't doubt that. As I noted, I can only speak to my experience growing up in the US, although some of the men involved in the incidents described above were not from the US.

  36. Yeah, life sucks. I've been both alpha and beta male and know which I prefer. Just be thankful you're not in the latter category.

  37. (I am a former nice-guy) "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes."

    I really agree with the previous anonymous commenter that this article needs to acknowledge that there is another side to this story. Whilst I think it IS *inexcusable* to physically attack a person or abuse a child, I would like to defend the men who you criticised for being persistent and asshole-y.

    Women reward persistent men with sex. Really, they do. You may not, but a man doesn't know that. And (most) men really, really like sex. Sex is great - I would say one of the best things about being alive; casual sex, sex within a relationship, or something in between.

    So women reward persistent men with sex, and then complain that men are persistent.

    Although you personally can't change this, women as a whole could change it. Just start rewarding shy men with sex, and never give it to persistent men. You could write a blog post asking other women to try to seek sexual relationships (committed or otherwise) with shy, unconfident, unpersistent men. I know that you won't, but I am just pointing out that from my point of view, you and other women who talk this kind of talk aren't behaving consistently.

    Personally, I WISH that men didn't have to be persistent and confident to get what they wanted from women.

    Wouldn't it be great if you could just walk up to someone you like, and say "Hi, I like you. Do you like me?"...

    Wouldn't it be great if women approached men as much as men approach women?

    ... but it just doesn't work that way. Almost all women who want to have sex with a man also want him to be persistent so that they can reject him a few times first (it makes them feel that they are more valuable and boosts their ego, it also makes them feel that it's "his responsibility" when sex happens).

    And let me just reiterate that there is no excuse for assault and child abuse. I am completely with you on that, and I would like to express my sympathies to you for those incidents.

  38. You do know that exposing yourself to a minor and inviting them to masturbate you is actually a felony, right? It's not just "persistence." And that physically attacking someone, for sex or otherwise, is called "assault" and is also illegal. It's not just "persistence." A persistent man who's been told to fuck off needs to fuck off. There is no magical alchemy here in which a certain number of tries eventually will "reward" him with sex. "Sex" isn't a dog treat, and women aren't just "things" for you to get something from, either.

    Hilariously, you sound just like a modern, deluded version of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice, insisting that you know that the rule is that all women turn a man down at least a few times because essentially, we're just a bunch of power-mad cockteasers looking for an ego boost.

  39. (former nice-guy) Emily: I did in fact say:

    "And let me just reiterate that there is no excuse for assault and child abuse. I am completely with you on that, and I would like to express my sympathies to you for those incidents"

  40. You're right; you did. But your comment was so largely devoted to your topic of greater interest that I felt it needed to be reiterated. Also, given your emphasis on "persistence," it's a bit hard to tell where you might draw the line between "persistence" and "assault," as none of what I related above, in my mind, fits a definition of just "persistence."

    Also, consider trying the nice guy thing again. If you've learned your rules about women from women themselves, you might consider a different milieu. I honestly don't know any women who operate the way you describe.

  41. (former nice-guy):

    "I honestly don't know any women who operate the way you describe."

    How would you know if they did or not? They may not say that that is what they do. But it has been my experience, from REAL LIFE interactions that, on average, women reward with sex:

    - persistence
    - confidence
    - cockiness/arrogance

    This is just my experience in life. Your particular circle of friends may be different. Or they may *think* that they are different... See this article reporting on a scientific study which *seems* to show that women are not consciously aware of what actually turns them on (or perhaps that they lie about it):

  42. I would know because I talk to them, go out with them, have observed them "on the dating scene" and through marriage. That's how. These are thoughtful people who don't fuck with others just to get their jollies. If someone is an asshole, I don't associate with that person, so that's probably another reason I don't know any people who behave as you describe. I probably have *met* people who act like that, but cruelty to others is not my bag.

    I've been married twice, and in neither case has the man in question been the kind of man you describe.

  43. Another possibility is that male behaviour is most strongly incentivized by the women who are more open to sex without a lot of commitment. It may be the case that you and your social group are mostly not interested in casual sex or short term dating.

    So the kind of women who most incentivize male behaviour are the "party girl" types who don't mind having a fling with no strings attached; many men like that kind of sex a lot, because generally men want less commitment and women want more. (Let me disclaim that I am not judging anyone here)

    So if women who are most open to casual sex respond well to:

    - persistence
    - confidence
    - cockiness/arrogance
    - sexual aggressiveness (I want him to "take me")

    that would explain why many men express these behaviours.

    It is very easy, as a man, to move from "having sex with a woman" to "being in a relationship with her". Not so easy to go the other way. So the incentives stack up for men to hit on women who will have sex quickly, or failing to be able to discriminate, just to hit on all women as if they will have sex quickly, and play a numbers game of getting rejected 9 times out of 10.

    It is also easier for a man to move from being a player who has 5 casual partners to having a monogamous relationship than the other way around. Women incentivize this behaviour by finding preselected men more attractive (there are studies to prove this).

    Male behaviours that you find annoying and creepy are annoying and creepy. BUT the "system", the set of incentives which the _totality_ of women imposes on men punishes men who don't do these things.

    And as I said before, I in no way cheer for the fact that you have had bad experiences with men, I am sorry for the suffering which you have undergone. I have had bad experiences with women. Being rejected all the time, constantly being put in the "friend zone" with girls who I really wanted to have a relationship with, not being able to have sex or a relationship for years at a time. Imagine that! Years.

  44. I sympathize with what you describe, and I'm sorry. I don't know you, so I can't be more specific than maybe there's just a more appropriate group of people for you to be around and an overall perspective shift would help.

    Also, having flings and noncommittal relationships isn't just a "party girl" thing, but it does require a mutual understanding to that effect.

  45. I am grateful for all the healthy, well adjusted women in the world, and sorry for the rest.

  46. Reading this post and following comments has been fascinating, if a little sad for the realization that misunderstanding and just plain wrong-headedness is so persistent among some people. Since I am now a middle-aged woman, I have to say the incidents described in this column appear to be consigned to the past. I do not miss them. Among those I remember, though: a small-town police chief telling me (a young newspaper reporter) that he was only commenting for my story because "you have a great ass." It was literally my first assignment out of college, and I was left speechless. I was 22, and he was in his 40s. Before that, I went to a bar with a girlfriend when we were home on holiday break in college. We happened to meet a couple of guys we recognized from high school but whom we didn't know well. We had a great conversation, enjoying ourselves until they suggested we go somewhere else for more "private entertainment." When we explained we were both in committed relationships with guys from school, and not interested in casual sex, one of the guys got seriously affronted. He gave us a stern, SERIOUS lecture about how we had SOME NERVE BEING OUT IN PUBLIC when we had NO INTENTION of possibly having sex with some random stranger -- let alone someone whose name we happened to already know because we'd been at the same high school a few years earlier. Needless to say, my friend and I were astonished. We said we had just as much right to go out and have a few drinks and socialize in a public place as he did. The guys went off in search of other women. Interestingly, I ran into the same fellow at a different bar a few years later, when I was with my husband. It was as if he were a different person. I guess it was OK for me to be out in public since my husband was with me.

  47. @Anonymous (angry man): Spontaneously offering a flower to another person may often be a sign of communal love, but this is NOT the way that the scenario was described. Beyond the simple offer (which is nice for/from anyone), gushing to the recipient about how their physical attributes create overwhelming feelings of attraction to them is WAY beyond creepy. I would do my best to distance myself from anyone mounting such an approach. The age differences involved in Emily's experience make it borderline criminal behaviour.

    I wish I had the time and energy to debate the finer points of your anger laced responses. This posting by Emily was explicitly stated to represent HER opinion of HER OWN experiences.

    The sad truth is that it doesn't matter much which gender, or variety in between, that one self-identifies best with. The reality is that it is dangerous to be perceived as being physically weaker, meeker, or diminutive to others in the current sociological environment. This is true globally (with a few isolated exceptions), not just in one or another of the Western countries. Women tend to have the additional atrocities of sexually based harassment and violence foisted upon them more often than men. Reality.

    @Jeannegarb: Good call! Steer clear of anyone who wishes to jump quickly to such personally close affiliation. If he had the ability to email and blog with you, he would surely engage you more to discover any true affinity well before inviting you to such a private rendezvous. This is true even if any interests were purely friendly and not romantic in nature.

    @Anonymous (formerly nice guy[now angry man]): Please see my previous response to Anonymous (angry man)!!! I find it completely disgusting that you begin your tirade with statements strictly associating sexual desire, dominance, and aggression with men. Women do not ‘reward’ persistently aggressive men with sex. That is a twisted perception that has been created (or simply perpetuated) within your own mind. The number of false biases you express in your theorisation is almost laughable. I suggest that you examine the following CLOSELY You seem to also be stuck on the idea that there needs to be ANY form of dominance/submission or ego-play in mutually beneficial relationships.

    @AnonymousJan 13, 2012 02:45 PM: You have obviously had a very twisted and stunted experience of life and sexual interactions. You falsely equate your experiences with shallow intentions during ‘casual’ relations with a deeper understanding of the motivations behind such behaviours on the parts of others. I feel sorry for you, because you have such a limited experience of the vast array of relationships and encounters that can occur. I doubt that you have had many call-backs from those ladies you pleased so greatly.

    @Emily that was a great post. It brought out a lot of interesting responses. I enjoy the way you presented your experiences. I especially enjoyed reading your responses to other peoples’ comments.


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