Capitalist Corner


« Prado Optimality | Main | Who is Alberto Gonzales? »

July 12, 2005

Dilemma of the Nice Guy

After seeing Lindsay, Matt, and Scott discuss the issue, I'm convinced that the central dilemma faced by nice guys has been missed.  This constitutes a blogospheric emergency of such importance that I must use my position as Ezra's guestblogger to make the problem clear. 

It's a necessary condition for being a nice guy that you apply high standards to your behavior with women.  You deny yourself recourse to strategies that don't meet these standards.  Minimally, you don't hit on girls impolitely or in inappropriate contexts, and you don't try to pressure girls into doing things that they might not want to do.  You make sure they have an easy way to say no if they're not really interested -- strategies that don't leave the other person an out are rejected.  Further, as Lindsay points out, "nice guys don't feel compelled to tell you how nice they are."  Genuine nice guys will be sensitized to the immodesty of boasting about their niceness, and to the subtle ickiness of many other behaviors, which they will then refuse to employ. 

This would be enough to put nice guys at a disadvantage -- the same disadvantage that nice people, generally, have in any endeavor.  Nice people avoid immoral or even slightly sketchy means for achieving their ends, and this is why they often fail in cases where immoral means are particularly helpful.  Good societies try to reward nice behavior and punish the users of immoral tactics, so as to rebalance the incentives.  Dating situations, however, are often subtle enough that it's hard to do this effectively.  And there's a further issue that makes the problem more severe.

One lesson that feminists crusading against sexual harrassment have successfully ingrained in some men -- and which I wish had been successfully ingrained in others -- is that it's very bad for men to express interest in women in ways that make them uncomfortable.  This fits quite well with the other principles generally accepted by nice guys.  But if nice guys are uncertain about what could make women uncomfortable, accepting this principle has the potential to  paralyze them.  They don't want to make women uncomfortable, and if they can't be sure that they won't do so by acting in a particular situation, they hold back and let opportunities pass them by.  Or if they act, they do so with the lack of confidence that nice guys have when they're worried that they might be doing something wrong.  This does not bode well for their chances of success. 

I'll risk immodesty and say that this is what it's like for me when I'm thinking about letting girls know that I'm interested in them.  When I think about doing things that subtly communicate to a girl that I like her, I'm more relieved than disappointed at the thought that her response might be nothing more than a slightly amused rejection.  What freaks me out is the possibility that she might feel uncomfortable, or far worse, threatened in some way.  This last possibility makes me want to hide and not go anywhere.  Really, the problem is a lack of knowledge on my part -- if I could be sure that I wasn't doing anything wrong, I'd be confident.  But since I'm unsure about what's right and wrong in these situations, confidence is impossible. 

I'm totally in the market for feminist dating advice.  This need not be advice on how to succeed in getting girls or anything like that -- I just want to know what I can do without the concern that I'm doing something wrong. 

--Neil the Ethical Werewolf

July 12, 2005 in Life | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2812307

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dilemma of the Nice Guy:

» In Defense of the Nice Guy from One and Four
Time for me to jump on the bandwagon and discuss the phenomena of "nice guys finish last". There seems to be a backlash brewing against the proverbial nice guy (as if we needed it). Lindsay Beyerstein, it seems, made the... [Read More]

Tracked on July 13, 2005 09:53 AM

» Broken biscuits from Battlepanda
It's natural to feel sympathy for those guys because because I was their female counterpart, yet it in a way it makes their insensitivity and self-pity at how badly treated they are by the females of the species doubly galling because they behave as ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 13, 2005 02:41 PM

Comments

Wow, you just described college for me.

Another point, one problem I had is that I'm generally not interested in people I've only just met, and only become interested in them after knowing them for a while. The trouble is, if it's someone I see on a regular basis, enough to get to know them, the potential pitfalls of rejection become much greater, because I know I can expect to run into them again, and if I've let it be known that I'm interested in them but they're not, I know it would be awkward to continue seeing them.

Posted by: Greg | July 12, 2005 07:39 PM

Ah...blame the feminists for your personal problems -- a pretty slick move.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | July 12, 2005 08:12 PM

Yeah, I was worried that the last half might come off that way. The thing is, I want them to keep doing what they're doing re: raising awareness about sexual harrassment. It's just, if we could get some advice about what kind of flirting behavior is clearly in bounds, that would be really nice.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 12, 2005 08:27 PM

No, he's pointing out an unfortunate side effect of feminism reaching mostly just those men predisposed to be open to it in the first place.

It's funny to me how much emotion has been raised against the idea that being "nice" might actually be a real liability, and not a cover for lack of confidence, self-esteem -- or worse, some technique of emotional manipulation.

Why can't we apply the same lack of sympathy to young women who freely choose to date abusive, sexist jerks, and complain about it later?

Posted by: scrutator | July 12, 2005 08:40 PM

women only feel uncomfortable with a man making a move on them if they aren't interested in the man. If a woman is interested in you physically then you pretty much have to say something totally fucking nuts to turn them off. Feminists are no different then any other women when it comes to being approached by men, they want men that they find attractive to approach them, the rest will just be friends and if they are too persistant then they are creepy.

As for "nice guys", I have found that the guys that claim to be nice are really just passive aggressive people who are insecure.

I always feel weird talking about this kind of stuff with people, because I only know my prespective and I have found that most women I approach like me physically so I don't run into too many problems with the approach, and I am a pretty smart fellow so I can carry on a conversation, the place where I run into trouble is my sarcastic sense of humor, the women I tend to have long term relationships with can put up with my sarcasm, the other ones are too sensitive, and they end up just not calling me anymore after a few dates, and tell my friends that I was mean.

Posted by: jbou | July 12, 2005 08:46 PM

You aren't going to offend us. The fact that you actually think to be concerned about offending us means that you are probably incapable of hitting on us in a way that we would perceive as harrassment. Nice guys who worry about offending women believe that 1) all men share their basic standard of decency with women, 2) some women get offended when they are hit on, thus 3) they need to worry that something they might do would offend a woman. The flaw in the logic is #1 -- most of the men who are offending women are the small segment of antisocial psychos out there. A "nice guy" can't even think on their level.

Posted by: Becks | July 12, 2005 09:21 PM

OK, here's some female perspective:

Any woman who is halfway good looking has been dealing with guys making various kinds of advances towards her pretty much since puberty. The odds that a nice guy will do something even halfway as offensive as some of what the other guys have tried is pretty slim.

So buck up your self confidence and go for it.

Posted by: fiat lux | July 12, 2005 09:23 PM

scrutator, I think that people who make mistakes are generally deserving of sympathy.

Becks, fiat lux -- I appreciate your comments.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 12, 2005 09:38 PM

Well it looks like you're going to be dateless for a while. jbou nailed it. If she likes you it pretty much doesn't matter what you say. If she doesn't like you, it doesn't matter what you say. Until you're ready to find out which it is, and ask her out, you're going to fly solo. Just to ease the blow a bit, I just described all of my high school experience and a large part of college. But eventually I stopped freaking myself out and started taking the plunge.

As far as flirting goes, don't. Talk to her like she's a human too. Chicks dig that. ;^) After all do you want to go out with someone who thinks you deliver a smooth line or someone you like talking to?

Posted by: hank | July 12, 2005 10:03 PM

Neil! Read closer! And read my post on it! I am shocked, I really am. I know you mean well, but you comment at Pandagon enough to know that anti-feminists will latch onto anything they can to make their stupid case. As you can see in this thread, those who are willing to go with the idea that feminism somehow hurts men's dating chances are hopping to express the commonly held misogynistic notion that women are masochists.

Why can't we apply the same lack of sympathy to young women who freely choose to date abusive, sexist jerks, and complain about it later?

This makes me want to cry on about one million levels. The #1 issue is that what our culture deems as "nice" behavior--what I call the Lloyd Dobler model--is exactly how men who beat and abuse women act in the beginning of relationships.

The thing I think a lot of guys don't get is that women complaining about "nice" guys is that we are specifically complaining about passive-aggressive jerks who express their frustrations in misogynistic terms by saying that they are entitled to sexual attention but because women are awful and make our choices for our own reasons, we are accountable for his undersexed misery. To boot, there is usually an element of judging women by a standard that the "nice" guy specifically disallows women to have--he complains that women he is physically attracted to are shallow for choosing men that they are physically attracted to.

Anyway, I addressed the issue at Pandagon by talking about how "nice" is structured differently for men and women in romantic comedies and how this hints at the underlying power structures that one should not ignore.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | July 12, 2005 10:33 PM

And I'm sick to fucking death of men whining about rejection and acting like women get our way whenever we want. Not if our bodies don't fit the exacting standards of the man we desire, we don't. Thin women generally get leverage, but despite this, I've gotten my fair share of being shot down for not having big breasts.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | July 12, 2005 10:34 PM

To be honest, even being a "genuine" nice guy shouldn't really be an impediment.

What I've learned from all of my female friends, and from my current girlfriend, is that what is really important, is how confident you are in yourself.

Because if you lack any sort of noticable confidence, well damn, you are kinda fucked.

Posted by: Jamelle | July 12, 2005 10:51 PM

First lesson:

Werewolves by definition aren't ethical.

Second lesson:

"I just want to know what I can do without the concern that I'm doing something wrong."

Worrying about doing things wrong is the antithesis of sexiness.

While keeping some basic attention to not harming the object of your attention, feel free to try things. You learn by making mistakes, and you can only make mistakes if you're willing to do things wrong.

Third lesson:

"Really, the problem is a lack of knowledge on my part -- if I could be sure that I wasn't doing anything wrong, I'd be confident."

Bingo.

Get yourself some life lessons. Find a woman who is not necessarily your ideal but who will have you, do you your best to love her, and get some experience.

Posted by: Petey | July 12, 2005 11:03 PM

Amanda, how many times have you gone up to a man and asked him out, or offered to buy a drink or any of the other standard social interactions that take place when one person shows interest in a romantic type of way? I'm not talking about sending your friend over to check and see how a guy feels about you, I'm talking about straight up asking a guy out to do something that is looked at as a pick up.

We guys have to do that, and it ain't easy. Sending your friend over to talk to a woman for you isn't cool, and it shows that you aren't manly enough to do it on your own. Well, i've seen it percieved that way, but I've also seen it work for a few guys too.

The Lloyd Dobler model? I'm confused, Lloyd was a bit stressed over asking Diane out, but he did, and he was cool once he got over the intial teenage awkwardness. What does he do that would lead you to believe that a guy that takes this approach will be abusive?

btw, nice is a curious thing, I've seen guys do extremly nice things for women but they get ignored, but if a guy they are interested in does something the least bit nice it is blown up in her mind, trust me, I've used this to my advantage in the past, but as I've gotten older I've become less manipulative. It also works in reverse, if an attractive female shows a guy her nice side he takes it the wrong way and thinks she likes him, and I've seen plenty of women take advantage of this, hell, strippers make a living doing this, it isn't the nudity that makes them the big bucks, it's the attention they show an average guy that rakes in the money. Power, sex, manipulation, reading too much into things, not picking up subtle signs, this shit ain't easy.

Posted by: jbou | July 12, 2005 11:05 PM

What does he do that would lead you to believe that a guy that takes this approach will be abusive?

She's not saying that all guys who take this approach will be abusive, just that guys who do turn out to be abusive take this approach too. Basically, abused women don't go looking for abusive guys; they find guys who start nice (or at least seem that way) and become abusive later.

Posted by: Matt F | July 12, 2005 11:25 PM

The problem with Loyd Dobler was that after Diane dumped him, he stalked her. That scene where he's outside her window at night, blasting music at her window? She'd dumped him. That was a creepy, even frightening, thing to do.

Neil, I'm sympathetic. Painfully so. But Amanda's got a point. In a polarized debate like this, you're handing ammunition to the sexists.

Being unethical may give you a slightly better chance of having really bad sex with someone who'll despise you forever afterwards. I'm guessing that's not what you want.

Posted by: Brian Vaughan | July 12, 2005 11:38 PM

Well, Diane only broke up with Lloyd because her father disapproved. She still loved him, and Lloyd knew this, hence the continued pursuit.

Posted by: Matt F | July 12, 2005 11:45 PM

The problem with Loyd Dobler was that after Diane dumped him, he stalked her. That scene where he's outside her window at night, blasting music at her window? She'd dumped him. That was a creepy, even frightening, thing to do.

You want to hear creepy and frightening? my friend tried the music outside of the window routine, but instead of Peter Gabriel he used Air Supply, scarey,frightening and sad.

Posted by: jbou | July 12, 2005 11:50 PM

I have no interest whatsoever in defending guys who use protestations of their own niceness in sexually manipulating women. The kinds of guys whom my post is about would be horrified at the thought of doing such a thing. My point above is that men who hold themselves to high standards of personal behavior sometimes thereby decrease their chances of success. I think this is an unfortunate thing, though not the end of the world, and I don't imagine that you disagree. It seems that you and Lindsay are talking about a completely different issue and a completely different kinds of people than I am. I suppose the term "nice guy" has two meanings, only one of which occurred to me when I read other people's posts.

anti-feminists will latch onto anything they can to make their stupid case
This is manifestly true. Seeing that this post has generated kvetching material for anti-feminists, I apologize for facilitating the entry of crap into the world. But I can't see anything I've written turning any marginally reasonable unconvinced person against feminism. The easy answer to the problem is to work out a set of general rules men ought to follow in their interactions with women. That's the answer I ask for at the end of the post. Giving up on feminism because of the problem I've cited above would be like ditching your car because the ashtrays are full.

Nothing great ever moves through the world without kicking up a few minor problems in its wake, and feminism is no exception. On the plus side, there's been an increase in the knowledge that some bad things (sexual harrassment) are in fact bad things. This is a great thing and we need to seek opportunities to expand it. On the minus side, there's now some uncertainty about what it's okay to do, and this needs to be addressed. (There have been myriad other benefits of feminism that I won't enumerate here.) Perhaps there's some compelling reason to leave it unaddressed, but I don't see what that could be. Until it is addressed, I'm going to be a little paranoid about doing something wrong, and this will have mild negative consequences for me.

I don't trust the entertainment media to properly address the uncertainty. I certainly don't trust Dr. Laura or that Men's News Daily kissing guy. I trust you, Amanda, and Lindsay Beyerstein and Professor Bitch. There probably are plenty of guys out there who would be very happy to learn from you how they should act. Occasionally I've seen stuff on this topic from you and others, and I feel like I'm being let in on the secrets of the universe whenever I read it. My post above is more or less a bleg for information, and it's a bleg to you.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 13, 2005 12:46 AM

"The "compelling reason to leave it unaddressed" is mostly that there is no real answer. I mean, I could tell you to be respectful, be confident, ask if you are unsure, take rejection as gracefully as possible, etc. In the end, though, the best anyone can tell you is to be yourself and remember that women are individuals. Some women like a little irreverent playfulness right off the bat, some women find shy guys cute, yada yada yada...there is no one size fits all. So, really, just be yourself and treat women as individuals, and you'll be doing the best you can - the best anyone can.

Posted by: Jenny K | July 13, 2005 01:07 AM

I should probably be clearer about the kinds of issues that I think need more detailed coverage. I'm not looking for advice on how to succeed here, though that's of course a useful thing -- I'm just looking for advice on how not to give offense, generate a hostile environment, or do anything unethical.

--When a guy sees an attractive girl in a bar / in a coffee shop / at a show / while dancing / on a bus, what general rules should he follow in trying to get to know her? I'm guessing that he's just got to let it pass on a bus. In the other contexts, though, is there anything offensive if an obvious, unspoken subtext of the interaction is that he's physically interested in her? The Becks-lux position expressed in comments above might suggest that there's nothing automatically offensive about this, which is heartening. And what determines when it's okay to bring it out into the open?

--What norms govern dating between professors and graduate students? (and more generally, relationships between people of different seniority/power levels?) My current view is that professors shouldn't date students in their own departments, while grad students from other departments are okay.

Obviously, nobody's going to have the time or the knowledge to answer all possible questions of these kinds. But when opportunities arise, working to build common knowledge on them is a very valuable thing to do.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 13, 2005 02:17 AM

I do think different rules apply for guys if they are looking for a long-term relationship, or are just looking to hook up. If it's the former, then yes you will have to be conscious about establishing a connection and maintaining yourself decently. If it's the latter, then the slightly less offensive version of the Boomhauer approach should suffice.

Posted by: ItAintEazy | July 13, 2005 05:30 AM

be yourself and remember that women are individuals.

Kenny nailed it. All of this worrying about how women will react is overthinking. Most communication is not verbal. Just be yourself, let your pupils dialate with interest when you look at her, touch her hand at punch lines of jokes, etc. Above all, be confident.
It is a "sell". You must appear to be someone that someone else would want.
Here is the best advice I can give you. If you wish to get next to a particular girl, meet all her friends in a social way. Be sure to interact with them all. Referral is the most powerful tool in selling, and if all her friends think you are great, closing will be easy. Remember, the key is a "decent boldness". If we left it up to the women, no one would be here!

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 06:23 AM

When a guy sees an attractive girl in a bar / in a coffee shop / at a show / while dancing / on a bus, what general rules should he follow in trying to get to know her? I'm guessing that he's just got to let it pass on a bus. In the other contexts, though, is there anything offensive if When a guy sees an attractive girl in a bar / in a coffee shop / at a show / while dancing / on a bus, what general rules should he follow in trying to get to know her? I'm guessing that he's just got to let it pass on a bus. In the other contexts, though, is there anything offensive if an obvious, unspoken subtext of the interaction is that he's physically interested in her?

I'm always surprised by this qestion, but I've seen it often enough that I guess there's real confusion.

No, there's absolutely nothing offensive about getting to know someone under circumstances where "an obvious, unspoken subtext of the interaction is that" you're physically interested in the person you're talking to. In social settings, this is fine. There's nothing about feminism that makes making a pass at someone on someone an offensive act in and of itself.

You get into offensiveness when you are: (1) obtruding the fact that you find someone sexually desirable (or undesirable) on their notice when you have no social connection. Cat-calls? Offensive. Ostentatious ogling? Offensive. (2) Making sexual or romantic advances, and you don't back off when you get a negative response. Pestering? Stalking? Behaving like Lloyd Dobbler in the belief that insane persistence is charmingly romantic? All bad.

Politely exhibiting sexual or romantic interest? Go right ahead -- that shouldn't offend anyone.

Posted by: LizardBreath | July 13, 2005 06:43 AM

I think you've hit on something here. Inasmuch as lying and arrogance are essential arrows in the typical man's romantic quiver, a man reluctant to use those particular weapons against a potential wooee is hampered, no matter who the woman is.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | July 13, 2005 07:07 AM

The biggest piece of advice I can give you (as someone who recovered from this syndrome and is now getting married) is that you have to be happy with yourself.

One of the most annoying things people used to say to me was that "you'll only find someone when you're not looking". It is, sadly, true. Now, people usually mean it as some statement about the irony of the universe, but it's not. The reason it works that way is that when you're worrying about being single, you often come off as a little creepily needy and that chases women away.

As a bonus, when you're not worrying about dating, you're most likely to be yourself when talking to someone which means that you'll attract women who are actually interested in a guy like you.

Seriously, it makes a huge difference. I'm overweight and have a bit of a speech impediment (but on the flip side, nice guy, decent job). When I desperately wanted a date, I couldn't get one to save my life. When I stopped worrying about it, I had no trouble at all finding dates. Basically, you have to be confident that there's someone out there that will want what you have to offer and it's your job to give yourself chances to meet her.

The second piece of advice I'd give is that it's not that hard to figure out when one person finds another person attractive. Go to any social gathering and learn to spot how women act when they like a guy. Then if you relax a bit, you'll be able to notice when a woman behaves like that with you. Most people aren't all that subtle when it comes to attraction--we just don't notice the signals when they're directed at us, because we're letting our own ideas get in the way of seeing what's going on.

Posted by: Kevin Brennan | July 13, 2005 08:48 AM

The differing definitions of what "nice guy" means makes this discussion very difficult, no? Maybe it means polite, maybe moral, maybe insecure, maybe PA. And there's the ontological problem of "are we talking about guys who say they are nice, or guys who SAY they are nice and not getting play?" Loudly stating one's problems and moral worth is not considered good behavior... but then how else can this problem be communicated?

Anyway, I am a fervent believer in human behavior as often driven by "wanting what you can't have". In sexual relations, I think it's particularly applicable. So there's going to be some benefit to members-of-opposite-sex who act aloof/jerky/whatever and need to be chased. Seeming too available or desperate is always a drawback. Men who are too available sometimes get labelled with "nice". Women who are too available sometimes get labelled as "slutty". To be honest, seems like it sucks for woman yet again.

Posted by: Tony Vila | July 13, 2005 09:11 AM

Couple of points:

1) Amanda and Neil are talking past each other b/c they are talking about different things. We need an analytic distinction between nice guys and "nice guys." Amanda, and most of this conversation around the blogosphere, is focused on the latter. These are highly objectionable creatures, clearly deserving of all the aprobation heaped on them.

Neil is talking about nice guys with no quotation marks. For the purposes of analytic clarity, let's call them nice people. This is more accurate, becuase their niceness is no longer tied to their gender and doesn't modify their gendered identity, which is involved in the sort of dating related program activities under consideration. I can only that Neil is a nice person--he's nice to most people most of the time regardless of gender. His status as a feminist makes him a bit more attuned to the importance of not making women uncomfortable, but in general he probably doesn't want to make anyone uncomfortable, because he's a nice person.

2) To Matt and Amanda, I think it's worth distinguishing between "Feminism is to blame for my problems" and "My feminism mixes with other aspects of my identity (perhaps less laudable ones) to create mildly difficult situations for me." If stupid people read the latter as the former to generate stupid conclusions, I don't think the speaker can be blamed. If they weren't stupidly misinterpreting what Neil says, they'd be stupidly misinterpreting something else.

3) As someone who could easily have written Neil's post if I were more articulate, the particular way my identity cocktail (feminism+general niceness+various neuroses) causes problems has little to do with approaching women I've never met (I'm not interested in those people; I'm not interested in people until I've heard them speak a few hundred words at a minimum), but expressing interest in women I've met socially a few times and had some interesting converations with. My trepidation at expressing interest isn't connected with any concerns about doing so in a boorish or threatening manner; I'm reasonably confident I can avoid that. My conern is instead that by expressing interest, I'll be sending the message that that was the only reason I was interested in talking to her and getting to know her in the first place, which is both not true and rather rude.

I know this fear is generally misplaced, and I've had experiences that confirm this. But I've also had experiences where the woman in question interpreted an advance precisely as I feared. While this is the minority outcome, it sticks in my memory much more prominently because I don't like offending people or making them uncomfortable.

Posted by: djw | July 13, 2005 09:31 AM

"can only assume that Neil..."

Posted by: djw | July 13, 2005 09:38 AM

The only way to avoid possibly offending anyone is to sit in your room and never do or say anything.

Humans are all different and sometimes you're going to connect badly. No list of rules for behavior is going to fix that. If you're a djw "nice person" you're going to have a very small percentage of interactions where the other person feels uncomfortable or offended, but even then, it can happen. The best you can do is to try to learn from it and move on.

And if it gives you hope: I'm married to a guy who was too insecure to ask for my phone number when we met at a party. Luckily for both of us it was a party of people who knew each other online, so I had a way of getting in touch with him after the event.

Posted by: fiat lux | July 13, 2005 10:21 AM


djw put very nicely what I was being too cryptic about (and without the gratuitous bitterness I fully admit is loaded into my parting question).

Amanda, in your own blog I think you let your zeal to point out gender inequity get in the way of acknowledging some realities:
1) lots of young women really do gravitate toward jerks
2) this is to the real disadvantage and unhappiness of non-jerks.

Now admittedly, this is not a problem comparable to pervasive sexism. But it does cause some men some pain.

But now, it seems, if any guy should now mention this in an on-line forum, we are now free to dismiss him without reflection as blaming his personal problems on feminists.

Perhaps, if a man is unhappy sexually, our first impulse should be to hold him accountable for it. But it seems like there should room for a criticism of the choices women make, too. They're *not* a negligible factor.

As for me, I am so glad I'm out of the dating scene. Glad that my wife -- an proudly feminist academic who knows her French poststructuralist theory inside and out -- was the one who asked me out, because I seemed nice to her, if a little shy.

Posted by: scrutator | July 13, 2005 10:22 AM

Scrutator, your second numbered point appears to take a situation (too many women dating jerks) that should naturally cause us concern for the women, and then turn it around and make it about men (the real victims being the woman-starved non-jerks).

It's a matter of perspective. While Neil is fretting about whether he's going to piss off a girl he's noticed at a party, she is making sure he doesn't slip anything into his drink.

Posted by: tps12 | July 13, 2005 10:39 AM

Here's a related issue.

Any woman that makes it well known that she is a 'feminist' and/or introduces herself with a hyphenated sirname is putting a sign up saying, "I'M A BITCH"!!
There is no other reason to make these attributes known to casual acquaintances.
Stay away from them. There are tons and tons of really nice women out there that don't have these types of issues.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 10:41 AM

Thoughts on reading this post:

Leaving the problems of "women who date jerks" and "nice or insecure? paradox" aside, I'd like to address the question of: what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate attention, and why?

In my opinion, there are two different types of discomfort associated with "getting hit on" in an unwelcome way.

The first, which you shouldn't worry about so much, Neil, is the natural discomfort of rejecting someone in whom you're not interested. Rejecting someone might not only cause the person making advances feel uncomfortable or upset, but there's also a guilt factor in disappointing that person. I think our society tends to influence women, more than men, to be "yes people" and attaches a greater penalty to disappointing or rejecting others. However, there are mature ways to handle these situations, and hopefully, if you pick wisely, the women you approach will find a delicate way of letting you down if they're not interested.

The second type of discomfort happens by making women feel as though they don't belong in that public space. All of the places mentioned above: buses, streets, cafes, bars, are places where women should feel free to go about and feel that they're equally entitled to their share of that public space. When women are made to feel as though they're reduced to sexual objects, that's definitely NOT treating them equally, or respecting their right to be there (wherever you happen to be). The Street Harrassment Project http://www.streetharassmentproject.org/, is a good example of a reasonable feminist/activist reaction to this problem.

So, Neil, as long as you're respectful about approaching women, I don't think you should worry about making women feel uncomfortable. If you do happen to make women uneasy when you approach them "nicely", it could just be her inner reaction to having to be the "bad guy"* by rejecting you.

*I know, I know, it's a gendered expression. I don't mean to villainize men in any way, it's simply that the expression "bad girl" has an entirely different connotation.

Posted by: Katie | July 13, 2005 11:09 AM

I think if I hung around with guys like Robert, I'd probably stop worrying that my own conduct might be troubling. It's all a matter of perspective.

Posted by: djw | July 13, 2005 11:09 AM

I think if I hung around with guys like Robert, I'd probably stop worrying that my own conduct might be troubling. It's all a matter of perspective.

That's probably true. You would go home alone to "Rosie"" knowing that your behavior is 'superior'.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 11:39 AM

Well, geez...what a surprising topic.

Some thoughts for you -

I suggest that you think of an attractive woman (attractive to you) as a person first. How would you approach any 'person' who interests you? Try thinking of it that way. How would you wish a stranger to approach YOU? Basic human friendliness and respectfulness are often keys to striking up ANY relationship, be it platonic, sexual, romantic, between any sex, short or long, for any purpose. I am heartily sick of prevailing and historical habits of seeing others as male or female first, and human second...and have never had that mindset.

Frankly, guys who wonder how to approach women seem, to me, rather dweeby and loser-ish - not because it seems they lack confidence, but by being so apparently clueless that it seems they think of women as some alien, inexplicable life form that they must, with delicacy and guard and apropos approaches and correctness, 'learn how to communicate with' in order to have dates or whatnot...not as fellow human beings that are interested in life, ideas, laughter, and enjoying others, the same as they.

Our social tendency to avoid interacting with strangers and to avoid 'real' topics with others is absurd, and makes getting to know others SEEM very difficult. I have made a life habit of ignoring those 'rules', and have met/formed friendships with many fascinating people, male and female, by so doing.

I am one of those women who is considered attractive enough that most men don't approach me, except the occasional cretin who hits on every female using the numbers theory - probably thinking that if he makes an overt pass at every woman on the planet, sooner or later someone will be tasteless and stupid enough to accept his overtures. Alternatively, the other guys who strike up a conversation with me are always those who would be thought exceptionally comely and/or highly confident.

No, I'm not 'complaining' about being attractive, or bragging, but trying to illustrate a point. People still make way too many assumptions based on looks; and it costs potential friendships and relationships across the board. I usually have to initiate interactions with men, or make my interest so obvious that it's hilarious. This really irritates me. And many women, with no cause whatsoever, seem to be afraid you will compete with them for their guy, so they freeze you out or treat you badly. There you are, just being friendly and a human being, and yet you have to wade through all this social preconception shit. (sob!;)


One big problem is that men seem to have old biological reasons for thinking that any eye contact, a simple smile, or small willingness to chat means a woman is 'sexually' or otherwise interested - when you think about it, this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

Cues that eons ago probably made it easier for men to spot possibly willing partners are now social norms of regular behavior...but the instinct survives. This is the only possible reason why so many men are seemingly still confused by socially neutral behavior - otherwise we must conclude that they are all simply moronic egomaniacs who think every woman wants their body. ;)

Thus, many men mistake normal eye contact or a polite social smile/conversation for interest, make an approach as if she feels the same, and are then mystified or angry at being refused by a woman who is actually clueless as to why they thought her interested in the first place.

This very propensity of so many men causes many women, especially attractive ones, to be less open socially, less friendly, as they fear being misinterpreted and hit on - because it happens to them so often...a prime reason why many women avoid going out for an evening alone.

At any rate - my advice...interested in someone? ACT interested, in a respectful manner. The best way to approach others is with an open attitude and a sense of humor. Walk up and say hello. Even, (gasp) be open about being nervous - many will find it quite charming, not off-putting. If your interest is purely sexual, give the person an obviously comical leer when you say hello, and see how they react. Odds are that a person sexually interested or potentially sexually interested in you will make it known by their reaction; even if they themselves don't realize it at the time...and one who isn't will likely simply laugh and find it funny, and a compliment - not freak out, or be offended...and you may still enjoy a date with them - who knows?

Posted by: Cynthia | July 13, 2005 11:53 AM

> When a guy sees an attractive girl in a bar / in a coffee shop / at a show / while dancing / on a bus, what general rules should he follow in trying to get to know her? I'm guessing that he's just got to let it pass on a bus. In the other contexts, though, is there anything offensive if When a guy sees an attractive girl in a bar / in a coffee shop / at a show / while dancing / on a bus, what general rules should he follow in trying to get to know her? I'm guessing that he's just got to let it pass on a bus. In the other contexts, though, is there anything offensive if an obvious, unspoken subtext of the interaction is that he's physically interested in her?

I think lizardbreath is right in her responce. Another point is that interactions that aren't offensive can still lead to rejection. And, If she isn't interested in you there is no particular reason that she would be happy to be hit on.

Posted by: Joe O | July 13, 2005 11:58 AM

So, thoughts:

(1) I'm a big fan of the nice person/"nice guy" dichotomy, and a bigger one of recognizing that "nice guy" is merely one of the several tacks non-nice people can use to get play.

(2) The most underappreciated point in this whole discussion is the one about the trouble a undesirable (in whatever way) nice person comes upon when they find a desirable (in whatever way) person dating/sleeping with/what-have-you a person just as undesirable as themselves and a jerk to boot. Being wary of the obvious confirmation bias, this does seem to provide a disincentive to good behavior.

(3) Until you personally have been helplessly head-over-heels for someone you know in your bones is treating you badly, I think it's difficult to appreciate how little the "niceness" factor affects anything romantic at all. The phenomenon of (2) is really about width of net, which is inversely correlated with niceness but not coupled to it.

(4) While "nice guys" deserve all the stuff about feelings of desert/standards/27 virgins/etc., in my experience nice people would simply enjoy getting a date once in a while, and in view of (2) despair at the apparent paradox good behavior affords. It may be objectifying to frame the argument in these terms (to me it seems to be a complaint about the universe, since it's not so much about anyone's preferences as everyone's), but I think it's no more problematically so than noticing an attractive person on the street so I don't care that much. I'd just like to take official notice of the fact that this position is neither strange nor improper, just slightly misguided (see (3)).

(5) The two best guidelines for not giving offense I can think of are these: keep it subtextual and leave gracefully when rejected. Most women are plenty clever enough to detect your attraction however well you think you have it disguised, but as long as you don't do anything overt there's nothing offensive about it *provided* that you make yourself scarce at the first hint of trouble. If you don't pick up on the "go away" hints, that's an issue. I think this is pretty much the consensus advice from the Katie/fiat lux/Becks position.

Posted by: Dennis | July 13, 2005 12:20 PM


tps12:

Yes, of course we should be concerned for the women who date jerks, but ask yourself: Is anyone actually FORCING them to date jerks?

At what point do we hold women accountable for the effects of their choices? Even if those effects are unintended, accidental, or admit of no remedy (after all, anyone should be free to date whomever they desire, even if that person happens to be a schmuck, or worse, Robert Zimmerman).

Feminism often takes men to task for the body and personality types they profess to find attractive. And it damn well should.

But it should also -- and, I think, with equal energy -- compel women to question their own choices.

Both (straight) men and women would be better off they did.

Posted by: scrutator | July 13, 2005 12:31 PM

What a wonderful conversation. I especially like the distinction between nice guys (as in nice people) and "nice guys".

To me, it seems that the internal conflict between the feminist desire to not treat women as objects and the sexual focus on the object of affection isn't as simple as a matter of conflicting interests. This is because the two interests don't really conflict. However, without the (albeit difficult) experience of really just talking to the lady you're interested in, you don't really know that, and it just becomes a growing worry.

Something else that seems like another stumbling block here is that women have offered great advice: "talk to women as individuals, and as people." However, this is something that nice guys and "nice guys" alike likely have trouble doing (and for that, I would like to apologize to the female population: we do the best that we can.) I imagine that the reason this is a confusing direction to so many guys is that nice guys and "nice guys" alike are more likely to have had some experience in the past (adolescence, generally) where they romantically liked a friend who liked them platonically. This experience in particular is almost assuredly the cause of "nice guy" syndrome, and the cause of continued concern for nice guys (and again, this is a societal issue; usually male pursues female, so guys who fail at establishing a sexual relationship with a female friend feel particular shame/anxiety.) The delineation between potential friend and potential lover (poor terms in my opinion, but they'll have to do) really does affect relations and conversations - after all, you react physiologically and psychologically differently to both. This is probably what makes it difficult to follow some absolutely valid advice.

This is all just my theory, though. I guess my short form of advice would be: watch their body language, don't think about yours.

Posted by: Jon Ozaksut | July 13, 2005 12:40 PM

> Frankly, guys who wonder how to approach women seem, to me, rather dweeby and loser-ish - not because it seems they lack confidence, but by being so apparently clueless that it seems they think of women as some alien, inexplicable life form that they must, with delicacy and guard and apropos approaches and correctness, 'learn how to communicate with' in order to have dates or whatnot...not as fellow human beings that are interested in life, ideas, laughter, and enjoying others, the same as they.

Ummm, that seems to confuse the problem. Many geeks are fine at relating to people as only people, members of opposite sex included. It's the "when you want to date them". Dating and regular socialness are different things, and one can know how to/be comfortable with one and not the other (for plenty of people out there, it's the reverse of the geek's problem!). It's not that "girls" are an inexplicable lifeform, it's that a romantic interaction is a different interaction.

If I interpret Neil's question properly (and stop me if I'm wrong) it's not "what is good" or "what gets girls", but rather "can someone tell me some rock-certain guidelines, so I at least have one less thing to worry about when I interact". It's possible the guidelines could be wrong, or unnecessarily strict, but like Miranda Right would just make things clearer and remove uncertainty that leads to lack of confidence. In which case "use your best judgement, you're a good guy" seems inadequate.

Dennis seems closest to an answer here. I'd mostly say, "pay attention to personal space and do not move closer first if that person doesn't."

Posted by: Tony Vila | July 13, 2005 12:47 PM

This is going to be one of those comments where an author tries to address every thread of discussion.

Thanks to David Watkins for clarifying the "nice guy" / nice person issue, and also for expressing some of my points in a clearer way than I did. I just want to add that there is a way in which the gender of a nice person is relevant to the issue. In uncertain situations, nice people will be less confident, since they're worried about doing something wrong. This is a bigger problem for men than women, since confidence is seen as a particularly attractive trait in men.

Katie's post on appropriate and inappropriate attention is very useful, and will play a role in guiding my future actions. This, as LizardBreath suggests, is an issue where there is plenty of confusion, and making clear what's okay and what's not would be useful to anyone.

Cynthia, one thing that complicates the issue is that very different things make men and women uncomfortable. If I were walking down the street, and I passed some moderately attractive women who started offering me loud, crude physical compliments, I would be smiling for quite a long time. I imagine that most women would be very uncomfortable in such a situation, however. I really don't know how far these differences between men and women extend, so I'm often nervous that I'm doing something wrong.

Scrutator, I don't understand the intensity of your interest in "holding people accountable for their own choices." It's not like their mistakes cost you anything. If people of either gender make dumb mistakes and screw up their lives, we as good people should feel bad for them. We might feel exasperated if they keep screwing up again and again, but that's about it.

Dennis, the "keep it subtextual" advice seems good. Of course, implementing this can be pretty tough, as there's often very little space between making things explicit and dropping the subtext entirely.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 13, 2005 02:26 PM

Thanks Neil. I think:

In uncertain situations, nice people will be less confident, since they're worried about doing something wrong.

Is exactly right. Even as an aspiring "nice person," I recognize that I'm going to make some people uncomfortable some of the time, and that's fine, in large part because some people are unreasonable. But my confidence about what constitutes reasonability varies immensely depending on the situation. I make a careful point, for example, of keeping my critical comments on my students work constructive and polite. When students (as a small percentage of them invariably will) get offended by my comments, it doesn't really bother me because I'm reasonably confident I've got this social interaction more or less down.

An important feminist lesson, though, is that as a man there is a great deal I can never understand about the subjective experience of being a woman, and I think that's correct. In light of that, in those rare cases when my expressing interest has been interpreted as an inappropriate trangressing of existing social boundaries, I've been loathe to assume that that's an unreasonable response, whereas I do so with a fair amount of confidence in other social situations.

This is a bigger problem for men than women, since confidence is seen as a particularly attractive trait in men.

I think this needs to be qualified. It's a bigger problem for male with respect to getting dates and/or attracting romantic attention perhaps, but not necessarily overall. For women, being a nice person comes with a different set of challenges and dangers men simply don't face.

Posted by: djw | July 13, 2005 03:19 PM

Neil, I hope I wasn't offensive. I was poking at you, but I mostly thought it was funny. Thus the exclamation marks.

I agree that the standard model of men hitting on women is one of aggression and entitlement and someone who genuinely doesn't like that stuff can therefore be role model-less. But the truth is that women don't like assholes who get in our faces and immediately start making demands. When women complain about being hit on, it's not that men talk to us--who doesn't like being flattered? It's that more often than not, it's a guy who makes demands and insults you and acts entitled to fuck you, or a guy who immediately starts with the manipulative shit, or a guy who won't take no for an answer.

The last one I think is the most important. If you really can take no for an answer without getting pissed off, then you're probably already approaching women in a way that won't make them afraid or pissy with you.
That's no guarantee that they'll like you, of course--sexual attraction is a weird beast, that's for sure. Just be nice, genuinely nice.

The problem I have with these discussions is they invariably attract men who think they have a "foolproof" method, the implication being that a woman's willingness to go out with you depends solely on your ability to manipulate her. Which is what women hate, that our right to have our subjective desires isn't respected by so many men. Chris Rock's humor is often too sexist for my taste but one joke he does strikes me as perfect for this when he tells guys that a woman decides right away if she's going to sleep with you and that it's just a matter of not fucking it up. In other words, he's saying that women think exactly like men.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | July 13, 2005 04:06 PM

I mostly thought it was funny. Thus the exclamation marks.

Oh! I'm really bad at picking up on that kind of stuff. I thought you were mad at me.

I'll come away from this with the knowledge that hitting on girls in a respectful and friendly way is acceptable behavior. I'm not sure how long it'll take for this knowledge to seep down into my habits and dispositions, but when it does, that'll be a good thing.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 13, 2005 04:33 PM

If you're just looking to have sex with someone, it shouldn't matter if they're nice. Conversely if you're looking for someone to develop an intimate relationship with, it shouldn't matter what they look like. The problem is that people seem to want to develop intimate relationships with people they've selected for sex. It makes more sense to select for people you want to have a relationship with, because it's easier to develop physical attraction with someone you like and feel close to as a person than it is to generate personal compatibility and intimacy with someone with whom your only common ground is physical attraction. The key is to stop thinking with your genitals, because they have a different agenda than your brain (that is, of course, if you want something more than sex. If not, then your genitals are a perfectly serviceable guide).

Posted by: Greg | July 13, 2005 05:10 PM

Niel,
You have your own problems if you are taking advice about how to get women from those who frequent this board.
Relax and stop worrying. Everyone, eventually, learns how the game is played. That is why we are all here.
God has his ways.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 05:18 PM

No worries. My humor is notoriously dry, and that's why I went back and littered it with the exclamation marks, but that apparently wasn't enough to get my point across.

Of course, everything after the italicized quote was pissed off, but not at you, at the standard issue victim-blaming of women who suffer at the hands of violent misogynists.

Posted by: Amanda | July 13, 2005 06:13 PM

And Greg, I think I know what you're getting at, but it sounds like you're arguing that one can't get a partner is both sexually exciting and personally interesting. Or that the latter precedes the former. I assure you that it's entirely possible to go for someone for sex and then over pillow talk find that you are falling in love with their personality.

Posted by: Amanda | July 13, 2005 06:14 PM

Robert? That's Jenny K not Kenny.

And, for the record, I generally make it quite well known that I am a feminist - it tends to weed out the sexist jerks.

Posted by: Jenny K | July 13, 2005 06:15 PM

Sorry for the rapid fire posts but this deserves a "snort":

"Kenny nailed it."
Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 06:23 AM

"You have your own problems if you are taking advice about how to get women from those who frequent this board."
Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 13, 2005 05:18 PM

Now, I know I haven't been frequenting this board, but I do frequent Pandagon, so......should Neil take my advice or not?

Speaking of which, I'm sure you don't need to be told this Neil, but it might be best to lay off on the whole"touch her hand thing" that Zimmerman advocates until you've gotten spoken confirmation that she's interested in you too. I think unwarranted touching counts as creepy for a lot of women, and while women are individuals, I suspect that most women that you would want to get involved with would find it creepy too.

Posted by: Jenny K | July 13, 2005 06:28 PM

"it sounds like you're arguing that one can't get a partner is both sexually exciting and personally interesting. Or that the latter precedes the former. I assure you that it's entirely possible to go for someone for sex and then over pillow talk find that you are falling in love with their personality."


I don't deny that it's possible. It's about playing the odds. Think of it this way: if a guy is hiring a secretary based on how hot she is, the chances are he's not going to find a particularly good one. Same thing with boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives.

The problem with the "looking for sex, hoping for love" approach is that most people are adept at lying to themselves, and succeed in convincing themselves they're in love when it's just lust or attachment. The downside of the approach I described is that it requires a great deal of awareness about yourself and your motives.

Posted by: Greg | July 13, 2005 07:10 PM

Greg, my problem is that I find it unlikely that people can really be happy in relationships with people they don't sexually connect with.

And anyway, your example doesn't make sense to me, since you're employing that false dichotomy again. While it's morally bankrupt to seek women to work for you based on their looks, it probably isn't going to result in a bad secretary. Most women that are even remotely attractive will tell you it results in bad treatment from people who unfairly think you're dumb, and this feeds into it.

Also, the notion that one is either hot or has a good personality obscures the fact that different people have different tastes in physical beauty, tastes that are often influenced by personality factors. There's a very good reason different subcultures employ cues in the way they dress, which is to signal belonging to other people in that culture. Take someone like me and change all my vintage/mod clothes, banged haircut and even my choice of plain underwear that conforms to my body shape and replace all that with skimpy mall fashions, blonde fluffed up hair, and a push-up bra and entirely different men will be attracted to me than now.

It's not as shallow as it sounds, since people do maintain their appearance to send exactly those signals. So how someone looks can have bearing on their personality.

Posted by: Amanda | July 13, 2005 08:40 PM

Neil: I was trying to go for sufficient conditions for non-offensivity, and it seemed like keeping it subtextual was about all I could say that would always be reasonable assurance. Obviously, eventually subtext will have to give way to text, but at that point you have to quit with the rules and figure it out for yourself.

Posted by: Dennis Clark | July 13, 2005 08:49 PM

Give her your phone number, don't ask for hers. I don't give my number to men I don't know. But I might call one to have coffee in a public place if he gave his number to me. (Hypothetically; I'm attached...)

Oh, and djw, thanks for the "nice guy" vs. nice person distinction- there's a big difference!

Posted by: syfr | July 13, 2005 09:12 PM

Ah, couldn't resist jumping in with my two cents.

Neil, I fear you've been scared off by discussions of women being annoyingly hit on. The only time I get annoyed is when a) the guy is like 20 years older than me or obviously trying way too hard with the cheesy lines and b)when I give obvious signals that I don't want to talk to them (see http://sueandnotu.blogspot.com some post in june about this guy who wouldn't stop talking to her.)

But mostly, certain situations are more "socially lubricated" than others. Like going to a bar when your group of friends and x girl's group of friends are mingling (though not necessarily walking up to her sitting at the bar-- that can be awkward) Parties are good, even coffeeshops. Just don't be cheesy about it. The only way you'll really offend someone is if you blatantly flatter her looks over and over or don't stop staring at her chest.

And as far as confidence goes, just don't seem like you have no will power/ambition in life. Be sure to ask her questions about herself. Just don't seem like the kind of guy who just stands around in life waiting for things to happen to him, as opposed to going out and doing things. You can be perfectly nice but still exhibit confidence by having a sense of self/and/or direction.

Good luck! Stop worrying about hitting on girls in an offensive way. I doubt you're capable of it (and that's a compliment)

Posted by: Kate | July 13, 2005 09:55 PM

Here is the excellent Sue And Not U post referenced by Kate. It's one of those posts that stays with you -- someone was bugging me the other day and I couldn't help but think "[You are] insouciant and mannerless! And persistent!"

Posted by: Becks | July 13, 2005 10:49 PM

thanks becks ;) I was too lazy to look it up

Posted by: Kate | July 13, 2005 10:57 PM

...at the standard issue victim-blaming of women who suffer at the hands of violent misogynists.

Perhaps this poster also uses the terms "Dude" and "Far Out, Man".
This person is living in the sixties when there actually *was* a relevant feminist movement. Well, Sunshine, the heavy lifting has already been done and you missed it. It used to be in all of the newspapers, mentioned daily and was an integral part of politics. Well, no more. Today it is simply a way for stoics, like herself, to deal with personality problems and is only self-serving. Today, all it conveys to to others is "I'M A BITCH".

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 14, 2005 06:56 AM

Just like this one tells us that RZ is a PRICK!

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 14, 2005 07:50 AM

Just like this one tells us that RZ is a PRICK!

If you wish to discuss feminism - its merits and pitfalls and how people perceive self-proclaimed feminists, then do so.
This is what happens when one has no argument.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 14, 2005 08:36 AM

Amanda,

I didn't mean to imply that sexual connection wasn't important, but it is important to distinguish between two different types of sexual connection. There's superficial sexual connection, where you just see someone and say, "that looks like someone I want to have sex with," whether it be from their clothes or their body or face or whatever. It's the kind of sexual connection you can have for someone you don't know or even someone you hate. For instance, I'm not proud of it, but I find Paris Hilton pretty hot in exactly this way. Then there's the deep sexual connection you have when you fall in love with someone. It's not based on how they look or dress or smell or anything like that, but rather who they are. It's the sexual connection you get when you love someone so much you want to show them as much affection as you can and be as physically close to them as possible.

I'm not saying the latter and the former can't coexist, or that a relationship based on a superficial (this word has pejorative connotations that I don't really intend; I just mean the stuff on the surface) connection can't or won't deepen. And I definitely agree that an emotional and a sexual connection are is essential for a healthy relationship. I just think that a more reliable method for getting the combination is to focus on finding someone with whom you share the emotional connection, because the emotional connection tends to evolve more readily into an emotional and sexual connection than a sexual connection (which will necessarily be a superficial connection at first) becomes an emotional one. This is because an emotional and deep sexual connection are causally linked, while finding a superficial sexual connection and an emotional connection with the same person is essentially a coincidence.

That's the point of the secretary example. If you're choosing them based on hotness, you may get a good secretary, you may not, but it's all luck if you do. Even if you don't end up with a bad secretary, you're not going to get the best secretary you can. It's morally wrong for the reason you describe, but my point is that it's a suboptimal way of finding someone with high secretarial skills.

Posted by: Greg | July 14, 2005 08:39 AM

And, for the record, I generally make it quite well known that I am a feminist...

Well, that's nice that you give everyone full disclosure right up front, 'Kenny'. Saves the men that might come in contact with you time and self-esteem.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 14, 2005 09:51 AM

Robert, don't you know any other tunes? If not, isn't there some nearby rock that needs crawling under or something?

Posted by: Thad | July 14, 2005 02:02 PM

Who does *THIS* remind you of?

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 14, 2005 03:19 PM

Your mother after she took off to Sweden?

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 14, 2005 04:22 PM

HAH!
I was thinking of you, sweetie pie! And maybe some of the other so-called feminists that skulk around this board. After all, feminism today is what we used to call penis envy of yesteryear. Same psychological condition....different name.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 14, 2005 06:00 PM

"It's the kind of sexual connection you can have for someone you don't know or even someone you hate"

Jerry: She's a Nazi, George. A Nazi!

George: I know, I know. Kind of a cute Nazi though.


Posted by: Donald O' Brien | July 14, 2005 06:44 PM

How can you get a lock on not offending anyone ? Maybe by realizing the question has no answer and isn't the right question anyway. Putting yourself forward means getting rebuffed. Not doing it means you don't give anyone the chance. Well ; that's no answer. You can't be all tender about the reception you may get and project the most important social attribute a person can have ; ease and comfort with their own self. I'm often taken as arrogant. If you can get past that bad first impression people may well decide you're O.K. That's because you're not so busy stroking your insecurities that you can't try to react to people on their own terms. A good listener is forgiven many sins.

Posted by: opit | July 14, 2005 07:52 PM

Back again. Every sales trainer faces questions similar to yours. Andrew Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" should never be allowed to go out of print.

Posted by: opit | July 14, 2005 08:27 PM

If you did have a penis, RZ, I'm sure it would be nothing to envy.

Do you have a wife or girlfriend who knows how obsessed you are with Amanda?

Or is your relationship strictly with Rosie and her 5 sisters?

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 14, 2005 09:49 PM

Back again. Every sales trainer faces questions similar to yours. Andrew Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" should never be allowed to go out of print.

Opit is correct. Life is a "sell". I have always done well with women. They like me and I like them. Most of my work life has had to do with promotion or selling in one form or another. People pick other people in much the same way they pick houses or jobs....emotionally.

So what's new?

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 15, 2005 04:12 AM

It would appear by her inability to disengage that "Laura Bush" has a thing for me. I have this effect on a lot of women so don't be embarrassed, sweetie pie.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 15, 2005 04:20 AM

Thanks, Kate! And I do appreciate the compliment.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | July 15, 2005 04:49 AM

Neil, I had your dilemmas before the words "male chauvinist pig" were uttered anywhere on the planet.

On the rare occasions I mysteriously quantum-tunnelled through my trepidation, the reaction was usually "about bloody time".

And I'm still ashamed to admit that once or twice my would-be needed a girlfriend of hers to clue me in.

For all that, oddly enough, my wife of 30+ years and mother of my 5 daughters needed a girlfriend of hers to clue her in.

There's just no explaining.

Posted by: AlanDownunder | July 15, 2005 05:23 AM

Heya Neil. Just a couple points that probably have been made, but really, you have nothing to worry about. Feminism hasn't destroyed flirting or made all women think that any one who hits on them is a troll. I'm pretty sure women complained about creeps well before women's lib.

For me the best way to think of it as get to know the woman as a person first, and a woman second; you're not interested in her just because she's female and might have sex with you if you perform the right magic incantations, but because you find her intelligent, or attractive, or engaging, etc.

It seems that feminism only got half the job done; convinced all these nice boys that they shouldn't regard women as sex objects but still left them wondering, well, okay, now what do we do!! How do we get these women? And that's just the wrong way to go about looking at it; it's not a game of Magic Incantation to get the Sex.

So, just go up and talk to her!

(Did anyone else have the urge to point out to Robert Zimmerman that the reason the women with the self-described hyphenated last names aren't going to be his thing is because... people only hyphenate their names once they've married? ;-) )

Posted by: Cala | July 15, 2005 10:59 AM

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5359395/site/newsweek/

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 15, 2005 03:21 PM

So you're saying you'd go after her if she's married, but only as long as she took her husband's last name?

Odd choice of moral value emphasis, methinks.

Posted by: Cala | July 15, 2005 05:56 PM

I'm saying that there are cheating wives as well as divorced women that use hyphenated names. Hell there are some that just make shit up to be bitchy.

...methinks.
Man, that is Soooo......Gay.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 15, 2005 07:07 PM

Coming from the site expert on such matters, that means a lot!

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 16, 2005 01:09 AM

Still hanging on to hope, eh, sweet cheeks?
Attempting to engage me in this manner will get you nowhere. I have a steady. I am a white man with a Mexican beauty 2/3 my age.

You will have to do better than that to get next to me!

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 16, 2005 11:19 AM

Sorry, RZ, the only use for you would be for biological fluids before your sorry ass gets put in the grease dumpster in back of Denny's.

I am a white man with a Mexican beauty 2/3 my age.

So she's 12 years old?

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 16, 2005 11:08 PM

Your lack of engagement tells the story. It's amazing that you can smell the testosterone over the internet and keep coming back for more.

So she's 12 years old?
Actually 22, a student and part time clothes model. The hispanic culture is different than most of the bitchy New York or L.A. types here on this board. She is sweet and wishes to please me. Most of my friends are jealous, especially the married ones. Yes, I know I've got it good and that's what keeps me on the straight and narrow.
So, for the last time....you don't measure up and have no chance, sweetie pie sugar plum.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | July 17, 2005 01:50 AM

So you're 33 and stupid?

amazing that you can smell the testosterone over the internet

No, it's amazing that you haven't told her about your little obsession with Amanda, isn't it?

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 17, 2005 10:40 PM

RZ: You must know that it is extremely offensive to say that people only disagree with you because they are secretly attracted to you. By doing so, you're denying that they are capable of having rational opinions that differ from yours. I expect you would not like it for another person to suggest that about you, so you should not do it in return.

Also, calling someone "sweetie pie" in order to demean her arguments is at least as offensive as callling someone a "bitch" because of her political views. As Laura_Bush is not your younger relative, your affectionate friend, or your significant other, it's inappropriate for you to be using terms of familiarity and endearment, sarcastically or otherwise.

Men and women of all political stripes dislike rudeness. Please extend to others the same courtesy that you would wish to receive.

Posted by: RKM | July 18, 2005 03:26 PM

Hate to break it to you, but a lot of these self-proclaimed nice guys are guilty of the same thing--mooning after women who treat them like garbage, and not giving the nice women in front of them the time of day. And frankly, I'm getting kinda sick of hearing it framed as a specifically female problem.

But the thin blonde woman who was ten years younger--well, she was a real bitch for rejecting him. Who did she think she was? OR she was obviously hung up on an asshole, and if only the nice guy would stick around and do favors for her she neither wanted nor asked for, she'd see the light. . .really. Or maybe he'd just stick around, and offer his shoulder to her, and proclaim her neurotic for trading friendship for a relationship/sex.

Maybe, just maybe, some of these guys have the very problem they accuse women of having.

Posted by: Sheelzebub | July 20, 2005 08:49 AM

Haven't read all the comments (I'm too tired.) But I will say that while I might be momentarily uncomfortable if a guy offers to buy me a cup of coffee sometime (even though I don't drink it) or asks if I'd like to see a movie together, what really matters is how he reacts when I say "I'll think about it," or "no, thank you, not today." A guy who takes "no" for an answer without sulking, pushing, or whining is far more likely to get a "yes" from me later on.

It's not whether or not you make me uncomfortable by indicating that you're interested, really. Honesty is a pretty good thing all around. It's whether or not you accept my level of comfort or discomfort as a genuine reality that tells me whether or not you are a "nice" guy.

Posted by: Cindy | August 3, 2005 02:34 PM

Post a comment