Ignite your fireplaces: there’s been a widespread chilling effect on romance in light of the #MeToo movement. Some men don’t know if it’s okay to pick up the check anymore. Some men don’t know if it’s even okay to give a woman a hug anymore. Some men, mired in state of mistrust, fear and unease, have sworn off women altogether. What next? Will men just have to stop hitting on women altogether!?
Here’s a question: would that really be so bad? If men took a sabbatical from making the first move, what’s the worst that could happen? Yes, it’s a radical notion. Why, men hitting on women is the natural order of things. The world as we know it was built on a man’s God-given right to scan a room, pick out the looker, and walk over to claim his prize. What’s more, we’ve long given men complete control over not just courtship but also locking it down by typically being the one to propose marriage.
Because of this there’s this fear that without men initiating, men and women would somehow never get together. The bar scene would come to a grinding halt. No one would stumble home together, hook up and stay too long. Which means they’d never shack up together. Which means they’d never get married or have kids. So aside from the earth-shattering impact it would have on jewelry sales, limo rentals, teddy bears and chocolate, it could really mean trouble: the birth rate would plunge — more than it already has — probably ending society as we know it in a matter of years.
But if the #MeToo movement has been any indication, men being the sexual aggressors hasn’t exactly been all great. And harassment aside, recent research shows that women significantly enjoy sexual encounters more with men when they — wait for it — initiate them. A new study interviewed hundreds of straight women under 30 and found that the more they initiated the sexual encounter, the more they enjoyed it. It was the negative emotions they experienced during hookups they didn’t initiate that worked against that enjoyment — among them, pressure to hook up.
Women already message first on dating app Bumble, and Tinder has announced they’re following suit by offering this feature. Some surveys suggest this works out better for everyone in the long run, too. According to a survey from dating app The League, one in three successful hetero couples (“successful” meaning they’ve dated more than a year and are in love) began with the woman messaging first. Maybe women are better at gauging compatibility, and so you should let them separate the wheat from the chaff.
And for what it’s worth, this is how things are going anyway. A recent Match.com survey found that more men are actually into women leading the courtship dance nowadays. While only 29 percent of women in the survey initiate getting a guy’s number or going in for a kiss, 95 percent of men surveyed said they wish they would. (This roundup of screenshots women shared online of what happened when they asked their crush out is telling: most of the men were flattered, and accepted.)
It’s not just a progressive anything-goes millennial thing, either. Another survey of older people found that out of some 4,000 men over 50 — arguably as rigidly set in their old ways and stale moves as a man can be — 90 percent thought a woman should make the first move. This means even Gramps can sit back and let the woman do the work.
The reason so many men are cool with letting women make the first move is not shocking: they know that because women aren’t just hitting on anything left and right, that when they’re asking them out, it’s a sign of genuine desire and affection.
All of which is why I would argue that if men everywhere just stopped hitting on women for six straight months even — not a sex strike, but more like a first move strike, if you will — that gender relations would improve vastly through greater understanding and empathy. I’m a cautious optimist when it comes to these things, but I still believe that if men and women knew more about what it was like for the other, we’d actually like and appreciate each other more, and dare I say it, tread more respectfully. It would be like the ultimate trust fall. Hear me out and consider a few benefits:
You’ll Have to Cultivate Approachability
If men have to wait to be asked out, they’ll have to do what women have forever so people will ask them out: cultivate an approachable, fun, attractive, sexy, welcoming vibe that makes people want to take a chance on sauntering over. Do that for more than a few hours, even once, and you will feel immediately sorry for women, because that shit is exhausting.
You’ll Experience Rejection In a Completely New Way
Instead of being rejected after you put yourself out there, you’ll feel something women know intimately: indirect rejection. Indirect rejection is a kind of informal understanding of your own appeal based on how much you’re approached at all, but especially how much you’re not approached. In other words, if a super attractive, fun tree never gets hit on in the forest, does that mean it’s secretly disgusting? Probably.
But So Will Women
Conversely, women will continue to experience rejection as they always have when they have to work up the nerve to come over and talk to you. But it will be more pronounced when it’s their only way to get laid, too: They will have to up their game, coming up with cornball lines about your eyes or pretending to care about watches, only to potentially have you laugh, walk away, throw a drink in their face, or even just say “No thanks!” Brutal — yet fair.
For Better or Worse, You’ll Start Thinking a Fuck Ton More About How You Look
I’m not saying men don’t care about how they look. Many of them do. But relying entirely on women to make the first move renders you completely passive and silent, meaning you have nothing else (read: personality, income, education, jokes, swagger) to telegraph desirability through except your looks, posture and overall vibe until you’re chosen. Gross, right?
You could be the smartest, funniest, most sensitive motherfucker up in this piece, but guess what? If you don’t get to talk first, no one gives a fuck! That means subjecting yourself to the brutal scrutiny women have navigated since birth. In other words, now you have to stand out from every other mouth breather in the bar also wearing an Old Navy jacket and denim from the early aughts. Unless you really cultivate some kind of specific attention-grabbers in your appearance — cool glasses, a great smile, an amazing leather satchel, a wonderful head of hair — you’ll barely be noticed. Sucks, huh? We know, you’ve got a lot of love to give!
And You’ll Realize Even That Won’t Guarantee Interest
Likewise, you’ll experience the opposite end of this phenomenon, too. You could do all those things and still no one will come up to you, and you’ll never know why. Did you seem too eager? Too nonchalant? Smell like a tuna sandwich? Who knows!
Sometimes, sure, with a lot of confidence and a great hair day, women will get reliably hit on as they mathematically predicted because they wore the pencil skirt that always turns heads. However, you’ll quickly learn that sometimes no matter how great you look, there’s no takers that night. Why? Beats us. Or, you’ll bafflingly get hit on all night when you’re rocking the male equivalent of menstruating in a hoodie with no makeup on. It’s confusing, yet eye-opening.
You’ll Realize It’s Also Terrifying
All it will take is a handful of women you find utterly repulsive to send you drinks all night and refuse to leave your side, relentlessly pestering you, seemingly entitled to attention all because they want it, to realize that getting hit on sucks. Add in the fact that for us there’s a physical fear built into this dynamic and you’ll see it’s untenable. If nothing else, you’ll be better at reading when women do or don’t like the attention you’re pushing.
Women Would Enjoy Casual Sex More
As mentioned above, women enjoy casual sex more when they initiate it. The other factor in the aforementioned study determining their enjoyment was whether they got off. This is for fairly obvious reasons: Women who initiate casual sex are not just more comfortable in their bodies and with their own desire, but they are also picking men they find really attractive. Both of these things combine to greater odds of a good sexual interaction.
This is, by the way, what women talk about when they advocate for enthusiastic consent. Getting men to walk away from gamifying sexual encounters by getting the most they can is important. If we can direct women to seek out the encounters they want, and men to also look for encounters where it’s mutually felt, it’s win-win for everyone.
And even if it isn’t, it’s not all that high risk for a short-term experiment. In other words, the worst thing that will happen if men just stop hitting on women is nothing. Like, literally nothing: you won’t get any numbers, and you won’t get laid. That seems shitty, but the upside is you’ll save money on drinks, and save face on rejection. And when you do get laid, you’ll know how desired you are. And in the process, you’ll be a little more attuned to how to approach a woman and actually appeal to her. That alone should be worth it.