Letting Men Down Easy

There is an awesome post up over at The Private Man here.. It also links to a AVfM forum where the original conversation/dialogue is taking place. I highly recommend reading both, as many of the comments are just as insightful as what PM has to say.

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, it’s basically a different take on the idea of men being “too afraid of rejection” to ask women out. Namely, that most men are *not* afraid of getting rejected per se, but are instead afraid of the various social “punishments” that could be brought down on them for requesting a date the “incorrect” way. As I’ve never really dated, and have certainly never been in a social dating scene like a club or bar, I found this fascinating…and upon further reflection, entirely true. Most of these “punishments” were mentioned by my friends in high school as reasons for not asking X or Y woman out.

But there’s already good opportunities for discussion on that topic over at Private Man’s blog. What I want to do is show that women do not have to make men afraid of “punishment”, even when they’re still getting rejected. Original text is in regular font, mine is italicized.

The Fears/Punishments and How to Relieve Them

1. The fear that she will express disgust or shaming or laughing towards me.
Ladies, I know that you aren’t the ones who typically do the asking, so try to be more lenient towards those who are expected to. If a man you don’t find attractive asks for your number, or offers to buy you a drink, just politely decline. (Yes, this means don’t accept the free drink.) There is no reason whatsoever to laugh at or shame a man who is essentially saying “hey, you look like an attractive woman and I’d enjoy being in your company if you’d let me.” To do so is cruel and incredibly immature, so please…be an adult in these situations.

2. The fear that she might tell her friends that I am a “creep,” and that the women will start spreading the word amongst themselves.
What exactly is a creep? To me, a creep is a man or woman who engages in constant stalking behavior (always right next to you, butting into every conversation, attempting to follow your every move to the point they’ll wait outside the restroom for you) even after being politely but firmly told you aren’t interested. In some ways, it’s as though they are friendzoning themselves since you’ve already told them that your sexual interest is nil…yet they insist on forcing themselves into everything you do or say.

A creep is *not* a man or woman who stumbles over their words, accidentally touches you more than you’re comfortable with, is nervous, or is just generally bad at initiating conversation. Should someone like this attempt to ask you out, don’t go around to all your friends and inform them that “So-and-so is totally a creeper” without further explanation.

3. The fear that my advance will be felt to be dangerous, or that my interactions with women will be felt as potentially dangerous, because I did not observe some cautionary signal that women are looking for but I don’t happen to know.
Women have a secret code of subtle signals and body language, of this I’m certain. I can’t begin to talk about how many times I’ve had my mother, sisters, female classmates, or (prior to 8th grade when I finally said “no” to friendships with most other girls/women) female friends get pissed at me for something I said to them that was obviously *not* what they wanted to hear.

So yes, ladies…sometimes it’s extremely difficult to know what could set off alarms with you. I’m not talking about guys who are forceful or arrogant, or ones who persist in touching your hair, shoulders, arms, etc even after being unequivocally informed you do *not* want them to do that. No, I mean the type I spoke about in #2, the people like myself who aren’t wise to the subtleties of small, cautionary signals. If a guy such as this is making you uncomfortable, say something rather than letting it escalate. Don’t freak out, slap them, call the bouncer, or throw your drink on them…simply stay calm, take a step back to create a clear sign of physical distance, and look them in the eyes as you let them know “Hey, I’m enjoying our conversation, but I don’t like being touched that much. Can we keep more personal space between us?” If they get angry or insulting at this point, then yes…call security over. But I’m willing to bet that 90% of men will realize they were in the wrong, and change their behavior accordingly.

4. The fear that I will show up on the radar of white knights, who will then signal that I am “under watch,” warn women of my approach, interrupt future approaches, what have you.
I don’t have any experience with this at all, but I’m willing to accept that it happens: a man/group of men who are better at reading women’s cues decide to “come to the damsel’s rescue” and save her from Mr. Awkward. Not only does this create a sexist environment of “You’re too fragile/delicate to have a grown up conversation, so we’re stepping in”, but also makes a tense or potentially hostile situation out of a simple misunderstanding. Granted, masculine help may be appreciated if some louse is purposefully sticking his hands down your shirt or trying to physically corner you…actual jerks who don’t respect women *do* exist, and it’s up to everyone to inform them they aren’t welcome.

But if you have a guy who’s on the autism scale, has social anxiety, stutters, or is bad at taking the hint that you’re not interested, the answer is *not* to flutter your eyelashes at some random strong male and ask him to “take care of” the guy who is “bothering you”. (I’ve personally seen this happen in my college dining area, twice.) Using others as proxies is another immature quality that needs to be firmly squashed. Instead, just be direct, honest, and rational when you state that you aren’t wanting to be with them. This may require you to use more concise wording than you’re used to, but if it defuses an uncomfortable situation without involving others, isn’t it worth it?

5. The fear that I will lose social status, be laughed at, or shamed before the local community.
Not much more to say on this point that hasn’t been at least somewhat covered in the previous 4, other than to say don’t shame people unnecessarily. If you had a terrible date, it could be for any number of reasons; lack of chemistry, no sexual/physical attraction, no interests in common, severely different political/religious beliefs, he uses a PC/you use a Mac…the list goes on. But that doesn’t mean your friend Clarisa or cousin Diane wouldn’t be a good match with Mr. Failed Date Guy. Unless something horrible about him came up in conversation (he kicks small animals for fun, is a member of the KKK, or is in favor of FGM, for example) why tell every woman you know that he’s “terrible for them” when *you* are not them? In other words, don’t kill a possible relationship for someone else just because it didn’t work out with you.

Other Fears:

6. The fear that she will make up in her mind that not only is she not interested now, but that she will decide that she will NEVER be interested.
Sadly guys, I don’t believe there’s anything to do about this one. While stories do exist where people grow to love one another by simply hanging out or working together, I think that there still needs to be an initial attraction there. It can be something small, like a good haircut, nice smile, strong hands, and so on…but it has to be present. For example, even when I had suppressed my libido into nothing and couldn’t stand physical contact from any humans, I *still* found my (not-even-a-friend-at-that-point) FwB’s scent to be amazing. Eight years later it’s still amazing, but I find many other things about him to be sexy as well. My point is that a spark has to be there to create a flame, and it could just be bad luck that a date partner just doesn’t see one.
Men can greatly increase their chances by presenting well though. Clean, non-threadbare clothes are a good start as well as showering on a daily basis. Try using a non-scented deodorant and don’t wear cologne, since they inhibit a woman’s ability to pick up your natural pheromones. Brush your teeth right before going out, and gargle with a mouthwash to prevent bacteria from getting out of control. If you have problems with actual bad breath or plaque build up, there are inexpensive toothpastes that do wonders at preventing these symptoms. Get a nice haircut that flatters your natural features…an actual barbershop helps greatly with this. Once again, the Private Man has many good tips on how to become better at speaking, grooming, and just improving your social charisma.

To recap:
Women, don’t be doormats in actual dangerous or uncomfortable situations, but also remember to be understanding, respectful, and kind to the guys you are rejecting. They are people with feelings just like yourself.
Men, be understanding if a woman says she’s not interested, and make sure you are presentable when attempting to score a date.

Oh, and before anyone asks; Yes, I do get asked out at my job a lot. Being a good-looking, friendly woman in a comic shop will do that. However, as I am not looking to get my sexual partner # above 1 anytime soon, and have a good casual thing going with my FwB, I do reject all advances I’m offered. How? By smiling a real smile, thanking the guy for such a nice compliment, giving them a quick hug or holding their hand as we talk (if I can stand physical contact that day), and a short explanation that I’m not in the market right now. I’m 29 currently, and started getting asked out at work when I was 17. In all those years, I’ve never had a man get angry, overly upset, or threatening due to my rejection…probably because most men don’t act that way. Anyway, that’s what I do, but everyone should come up with their own method of declining, so long as it’s not spiteful or mean.

Comments welcome, as usual!

Comments welcome, as usual!

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8 thoughts on “Letting Men Down Easy

  1. Awesome to have a feminine perspective on it! I struggle with turning guys down, but to the contrary– I err on the more friendly side to avoid hurt feelings, and then end up being told I led them on. I used to just say “I’m taken” no matter what (which has had the most understanding results!) but I’ve since grown to dislike lying when I’m single.
    A calm, direct “thank you, but I’m just not interested” hasn’t worked as well on some occasions. I blame romantic plots and subplots that storify love and perpetuate the concept that the person you fell in love with at first sight will come to love you back… eventually.

  2. Hello Marissa, thanks for commenting.

    I’m not sure I’d call my perspective a feminine one, but I’ll leave that alone for now. 😉

    I understand what you mean about being told you’re leading guys on. A number of the men I’ve turned down were upset, because they mistook my friendly personality and good customer service as actual interest in them as a potential mate. It’s difficult to find a balance in being a nice, pleasant, fun sales rep to a demographic that is well known for having less than stellar social skills…and even moreso when my body language is read as being “flirty” rather than just relaxed and non-feminine.

    I don’t like telling guys I’m happily single (even though I am) because it does seem to hurt them more. Once I had a customer who asked me out, I told him thanks but I wasn’t looking to be in any real relationship, and he said “oh, so you’d rather be alone than with me?” When it’s phrased like this, it does sound bad, but just like you I hate lying about “being taken”. Saying that you aren’t in the market has worked well for me.

    The best anyone can do is try to spare the asker’s feelings in a direct but empathic manner, in my opinion. Just because we’re rejecting someone’s offer doesn’t mean we can’t be nice about it.

  3. I’m gonna go all Evo-Psych on you as per usual:
    There’s a good reason why men are irrationally fearful of approaching attractive women. That reason is other men. An attractive woman is very likely to already have the attention of at least one other man, probably more, and men tend to be violently protective of their woman (especially if she’s a catch).
    You see a similar thing in other primates like gorilla’s and baboons. Where a male will very cautiously approach a female, if he even approaches at all. The male isn’t being cautious because he’s afraid of the female, or being laughed at or called a creep, it’s the dominant/alpha male that he’s wary off.
    Now, we humans don’t have the same male dominance hierarchy that baboons and gorilla’s have. However, there’s a plethora of evidence that we have evolved from ancestors who had such a system (like Chimps do), and we clearly have some left overs from such a time.
    I think all you’re seeing here, is people (men) have an innate, entirely irrational, fear of attractive women. And people are trying to make up reasons for it, when there is no reason for it. I mean it’s fear, we don’t choose what to be afraid of based on an analysis of the risks involved, we just get scared of shit and run away. Sometimes really dumb shit, like harmless little spiders.
    That said, the point that it’s not rejection that men are afraid of is true. It’s not.
    And if past experience is anything to go by I know what you’re going to say:
    “But shouldn’t rational human beings, as these awesome beings of logic and reason that we like to tell ourselves we are, be able to overcome these innate fears?”
    The answer is, of course, people can and people do. But try explaining that to someone who loses their shit when they see a little harmless spider.

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