Wayne Current is one of my closest confidants. He’s also a fantastic writer and keen observer of human relationships. Although he was unsure about tackling the subject of relationships in a blog post, I knew if he gave it a go he would nail it. True to form, Wayne came through with flying colours!

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I have to admit that writing a post for Nadine’s blog has been a really intimidating adventure. This all began with an email where she wrote to her guest bloggers saying,

“Thank you all SO much for agreeing to guest post on the blog while I’m away next week! Feel free to post about anything related to the subjects of sex, relationships, dating, body image, gender and the like. It can be any format you like – long, short, a list, an essay, whatever. It can definitely tie in to the stuff your writing on your blogs as well.”

Sex? Relationships? And dating? I was confused. These are all topics that are very far away from my area of expertise. When had I ever written about any of these themes? Certainly not on my little arts blog! Furthermore, I didn’t actually recall ever making a firm commitment to be a guest blogger at all. We did have a conversation at the Oak where I said I would consider it. At best I gave a definite maybe. I totally intended to bail on writing this post, but for those of you who know Nadine well, you will recognize that Ms. Thornhill has a way of getting what she wants so here is my first post on dating and romance:

Here’s something I’ve noticed as a single, heterosexual man, living in Ottawa: in most contemporary heterosexual courtships the expectation is still on the male to take the more active role in selecting mates, while many females wait passively with the desire to be chosen rather than be the one taking the initiative.

Now I have no scientific evidence to back up this observation (I warned you I wasn’t an expert!) but based on my own experiences, and those in my social circle, I think it’s fairly safe to say that this is a general trend. I became keenly aware of this phenomenon late last summer after I created an online profile at OKcupid (an online dating site.)

Most of my time on this site, was spent searching profiles, looking at photos, and then writing small well crafted messages to those who interested me (admittedly a small sample). At the time, I kind of assumed women were doing the same thing, but a week went by and I had yet to receive a message from someone I hadn’t contacted directly. In the meantime, I had acquired a pen pal (someone I contacted, who was seeing someone else, but who still wanted to chat). I asked her about this phenomena and she said this was totally normal. In her view, the online dating world mirrors society at large and this is the way that power is exchanged generally between men and women.

I conferred with a few friends, and while not true in all cases, this was again confirmed as a general behaviour particularly in the online world. Men would bombard women with messages and women would hope that one of them would be interesting enough to write back. To me this is a bit odd. In a world where a liberal society recommends women take control, over their career path, their reproductive choices, and well pretty much everything else, why are women not encouraged to take the initiative with their potential mates? Or are they encouraged to do so but just not acting on this recommendation?

After a few months I did receive a small handful of messages from women who obviously had decided to play a very different game. This was refreshing because it was such a rarity. I was much more likely to engage with these women in conversation because of this. If grades were awarded I would grant a half to full grade for those who weren’t afraid to reach out in a friendly fashion. In short, by going against the grain you stand out. It’s definitely more interesting and often more exciting (at least in the beginning).

Since I’m being honest, many of these conversations started by women went exactly the same way as those I initiated myself. I would lose interest or not be that attracted, they would lose interest or not be that attracted, or both of us would mutually lose interest. I’ve actually only ever met two women in person from this site and only dated one of those.

So why do you think this lack of initiative exists? Is it a problem? Do you have online or in person experiences of your own to share?

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Wayne Current blogs about arts, culture and livin’ the good life in Ottawa at his blog, The Many Faces of Wayne.

Comments

  1. Lady Rose says:

    In my experience most men aren’t interested in “aggressive” women. I was never one to sit back and wait for men to approach me and honestly the response I got when approaching most men was not very positive (and this was in my much younger, much slimmer days).

    I think men, as much as women, fall in line with societal expectations. I suspect that men find it emasculating to be the pursued rather than the pursuer. They want their women to be docile, they are trained to value passivity in women. I’m not saying all men of course, but perhaps the majority of men.

    Now that being said I bagged myself a pretty sweet life partner who would never have been the type of man to pursue. So in the big picture being aggressive paid off for me but I had to put up with a fair share of ego bruising.

    • Wayne C. says:

      Hi Lady Rose,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply and for sharing your experiences! I think it’s great that you took the initiative and “bagged” your partner. Recognizing what you want and going after it, which you did here, I think is always good policy. That being said, we can’t always get what we want. Ego bruising is just par for the course for those that put themselves out there regardless of gender.

      Of course by being passive, you are still not ultimately free of rejection either. People can always lose interest or like someone else more etc.

      I’ve only experienced the process as a male, but I think ultimately the women who have rejected me didn’t do so because of my approach. They did so for various reasons but all can be categorized as simply “not interested.” I doubt if I changed my approach, it would have changed the results. Rejection still sucks, and Ego bruises were still incurred.

      On the positive side, if a person is “into you” there is very little you can do wrong (in terms of your approach). What is “aggressive” to one person is “confident” to another.

      Given that, if you’re interested why not make a friendly approach rather than waiting? Online this translates into sending someone a friendly message. You might get rejected (that’s always a risk) or maybe they will eventually lose interest.

      Like you and Mr. Rose, it might also work out in turn into great relationship.
      Other thing I’ve learned. Rejection is way easier to deal with in text!

  2. The year I met my current partner, I was on a self-induced online dating bender for an entire season. I’d spend up to hours perusing the pages of males in my general vicinity, sending a quick hi to those who looked remotely interesting. To sum it up, I was desperate. I’d not been on the dating scene for a while, and was just looking for some summer fun. I even signed up – and paid for – a Lavalife account. And interestingly enough, the guy I ultimately fell for was a complete Hail Mary; I didn’t think I stood a shot with him. But I sent him a message anyway, and he later admitted to me that he had very few women message him – and rarely, if ever, initiated any conversations himself. Three and a bit years later, we’re still going strong…so who knows! Maybe you just stand a greater chance of meeting Mr./Ms. Right if you just put yourself out there and hope for the best. :-)

    • Wayne C. says:

      That’s a great story! I agree that finding a good relationship is often like a lottery, but you have a better chance of winning with more tickets. Like you say, putting yourself out there . My experience, and those of my male friends, is that very few women message us on these sites. A friendly message seems a fairly safe way to put a feeler out there and get noticed. If they’re not interested there is always another ticket. Right?

  3. DeeGee says:

    Interesting observations. I happen to be of the mindset that unless I go out and get it for myself I am probably not going to get what I want. Thus I am probably in the minority, if your observations are correct, of women. When I tried online dating I did not want to pay to talk to some jerk, and thus went about choosing the people I contacted carefully. Back in 2003, on Lavalife, you were allowed to send a smile for free. I chose only men that had been on the site for less than three days. Newbies. I did not want a serial online dater. I know that when someone is confronted with too much choice, they get the “kid in a candy store” syndrome, and cannot choose at all. Then they keep searching for this golden door, this “the one”, when in fact there are a multiplicity of options for any human. You just have to be able to look ahead and see, and know what you want. I am the kind of woman who knows what she wants. I ended up marrying a man I met online. Not because I couldn’t meet someone out and about in the real world, but because it allowed me the chance to pick the people with whom I interacted. Whereas, say, in a bar, or other real world situation, you can’t be sure if someone is “looking”, online, you know they are. It takes the wondering out of the equation. The “should I approach that handsome man fondling the melons in the produces aisle” conundrum becomes, this guy is on a dating site, and must be interested in meeting someone.

    I didn’t realize I had so much to say on the issue, Wayne. Thanks for stirring it up. If only Nadine had asked me to write a blog post. :) Though I am really enjoying reading the inside thoughts of her closest confidantes. I think she picked pretty well.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Danielle, I would love to have you write a guest post. The more of your thoughts and ideas that proliferate the blogosphere, the better the world will be!

    • Wayne C. says:

      Hi DeeGee! This is really insightful. Definitely knowing someone is looking makes it way easier to approach them. They might not be interested but they won’t mind being messaged. That is a definite advantage to online dating.
      I’m not sure how I feel about your 3 day policy. Mainly because I have now had an active profile for months; however, it totally worked out for you and that’s awesome!
      By the way, I would love to read a guest post that you’ve written. I’m glad you enjoyed the ones we wrote!

  4. I would certainly echo what Lady Rose said. Even if a guy is totally awesome and all for personal autonomy, he may be less likely to view you as a “romantic” partner if you act like an equal in the initial hook up.

  5. Sterling Lynch says:

    It think it’s pretty much incontestable that people who show initiative tend to do better in the long run, whatever aspect of life we’re talking about.

    The question that stands out for me: why do many women think they should play a passive role when it comes to romance? Presumably, they think it leads to a better outcome or, at minimum, that it’s required of them. In either case, why do they think that?

    The other question: is this passive approach relevant only for a certain cultural class of women and a certain time in our history?

    It’s also worth pointing out that a passive approach to all aspects of living is pretty pervasive for most people regardless of gender. The passivity you identify in romance may be an extension of a generally all too human passivity in all aspects of living. The real test I suppose is whether or not women who are assertive in other aspects of their life nevertheless choose to be passive when it comes to romance.

    If it is the case that most women think they need (or prefer) to be passive to snag a mate, I’m pretty much screwed (or not screwed, depending on whether or not you can resist the double entendre — I’m looking in your direction, Ms. Thornhill). Even in platonic or professional relationships, if a person isn’t willing to carry their end of the tennis game that is starting a relationship, I will tire of the game pretty quickly. My fear is that the very behavior I interpret as a lack of interest may in fact be what some women think they are meant to do to hold my interest. And that’s just kind of depressing for both of us.

    Here’s the nub of it, I guess. Male or female, if you want to be passive, be passive. If you want to be assertive, be assertive, but, please, don’t act contrary to how you would like to act because you think that’s what you suppose to do.

    • Wayne C. says:

      Thanks for commenting Sterling. You raise a lot of interesting questions.

      I found this bit particularly compelling: “The passivity you identify in romance may be an extension of a generally all too human passivity in all aspects of living. The real test I suppose is whether or not women who are assertive in other aspects of their life nevertheless choose to be passive when it comes to romance.”

      I kind of think this is the case, but I would be interested in hearing the opinions of others. You’re also correct to point out that this general trend exists within a particular place in history/culture. That’s interesting. If this is happening in western civilization than what determining factors are the cause?

      Huge question of course with no quick answer.

  6. bluelotus13 says:

    I just joined OKcupid this week. I sent a few smiles to guys whose profiles interested me, but no messages. Why? You might ask? I find that online dating makes me really anxious, and so this time round, I’ve decided to think of it as “a way to meet interesting single men.” So I’m more interested in seeing which men on the site think that I am interesting. I’ve aggressively contacted men before, but this time I just want to sit back and see what happens. So far, I’ve been really fascinated by which guys contact me, and what they decide to say when they message.

    I find the whole experience nervewracking, even though I’m not shy and have no problem talking to people in real life. It’s just the dating aspect that I find overwhelming, so I’m just going to sit back and see which guys approach me.

    • Wayne C. says:

      Thanks for commenting bluelotus13! When it comes to dating and meeting new people, I think it’s important to only do what you feel comfortable with. If you feel more at ease with waiting for men to contact you, then that is exactly what you should do.

      Sending a smile is taking some degree of initiative. I’m curious, how would you feel if a man just sent you a smile rather than a message? Why is that less threatening than a friendly hello? Which would you prefer?

      I’m also curious what people mean by “aggressively pursuing?” Would we use the same term to describe males taking a similar approach?

      • bluelotus13 says:

        One guy just sent me a note that said “Happy weekend.” I am unsure what to do about this.

        I still think that there is a fair amount of sexism in dating. I know many situations where women asked a man out, but in general, it seems that we are still pretty old fashioned and stereotypical and men are expected to be the initiator.
        I shouldn’t have really used the word “aggressively” in my statements. I definitely think that there’s a double standard, and if a woman pursues a man, this is often seen as “aggressive”. This isn’t necessarily true when a man pursues a woman.

        In past online dating, I’ve been more of an initiator, but I’m not doing that as much this time.