Let’s All Stop Trying To ‘Win’ A Mate

I say it’s time we do away with the “thrill of the chase” narrative. Men go out on the town “hunting” for women to win over, while we women are taught to play coy and hard-to-get for fear of coming off as “easy.”

It seems like every day there’s a new app, site, or trend designed to meet our human need for connection and intimacy.

While Tinder and Snapchat might not immediately bring to mind “intimacy,” technologies like these are fundamentally about connection and creating space for strangers to meet.

Yet even with all these new mediums, men and women today seem to be talking right past each other. Look no further than the “Straight White Boys Texting” Tumblr for evidence of a generation of men struggling to connect with women.

This conversation exploded lately with how-to guides like how to hit on women without being a creep, how to respect women’s space in public, and how men need to realize they aren’t entitled to women’s time or attention.

Last week a man who called himself Mark emailed me in desperation, telling me how he was met with a slap across the face after trying to hit on a woman he had just met at a gallery opening by saying he liked her curvaceous figure. Like so many men before him, he lamented not knowing how to hit on a woman without coming across as offensive.

Following the UC Santa Barbara shooting in particular, we had to acknowledge that these feelings of helplessness, rejection, and isolation can turn into deadly rage. And while I don’t believe we’re witnessing “The End of Men,” men are facing a series of catch-22’s in how to approach women without offending them.

Hitting on today’s modern woman can be a daunting task.

I am shy of having sympathy for their situation only because I see women struggle every day with a very similar problem with monetary consequences during salary negotiation. How to “flex without offending” is equally challenging for women negotiating, since gender roles pin us not as assertive self-promoters, but rather the ideal woman is quiet, nice, and caring.

How do we collectively escape the trappings of these gender roles and actually find the deep, meaningful connection we humans are wired for?

I say it’s time we do away with the “thrill of the chase” narrative. Men go out on the town “hunting” for women to win over, while we women are taught to play coy and hard-to-get for fear of coming off as “easy.”

Let’s consider the repercussions of this senseless mating ritual: We reinforce men’s belief that “no” means “yes,” and shame women who are honest about what they’re looking for.

Gah! What?! Why?!

Whether or not these habits are some kind of primal instincts leftover from our caveman days, who wants to spend their time persuading women into liking them anyway?

After working with countless sociologists, researchers, and therapists who study love and intimacy, I’ve come to understand that healthy romantic relationships can only stem from a place of self-worth and self-acceptance.

Someone who’s confident in their own sense of self doesn’t need external validation from others to feel good about themselves. So when faced with rejection, there’s no need for continued pursuit, persuasion, and a “wear her down until she just has to say ‘yes’” kind of mentality.

I once dated a guy named Chris for about a month before realizing we weren’t on the same page and I tried to cut things off. Every time I tried to end things, he peppered me with follow-up questions about still being friends or still hanging out. Maybe we could still have sex and not date? Or even if we don’t sleep together, could we still be good friends and see each other every week? He’s in the neighborhood—could he swing by? Did I want to grab drinks? Coffee?

One month of dating him turned into three months of trying to end things until I finally had to get crystal clear in an email to him: “I don’t like being constantly asked out (on what are essentially dates) by you. No swinging by here in the morning for coffee. No showing up at my apartment uninvited. No lunch. No drinks. Please.”

He told me to “get over myself,” and that I was being “seriously passive-aggressive.” Then he ended that very same email by saying he hoped to see me tomorrow at the party he was throwing. What??

This is the “thrill of the chase” narrative at work. She really means yes, she’s just playing hard to get. I know what’s best for her.

Someone who truly values themselves and recognizes their own self-worth would never tolerate—much less desire—being in a relationship with anyone who was less than enthusiastic about being with them in return.

Unfortunately, inertia and fear are powerful forces. The more “sunk costs” of time and energy we put into any endeavor, relationships included, the less likely we are to change course.

So let’s change this from the very start.

If we begin by hitting on each other with a strong sense of self-worth (not one that is easily called into question by rejection), we can be more honest about our intentions with one another, and accepting of the other person’s true feelings.

Much easier to say than do, I realize, but here’s a simple way to put it into practice: If you are interested in a pursuing someone beyond a friendship—how about you come out and say it: “Hey, I’d like to take you out on a date, are you free Friday?” If they say “no” then or any time down the road, let’s take people on their word, and acknowledge that you didn’t do anything wrong.

Instead of writing in to “Ask Amy” with “Oh no! What did I say to offend this woman and how can I avoid offending anyone ever in the future?” how about we accept that she didn’t want to date you? She wasn’t feeling you. And that’s OK. Because your worth can’t be shaken by one person saying otherwise.

And hey, I’m pretty sure that Tinder, OkCupid, and a million other places online and off are full of people just waiting for you to give it another try.

Emilie Aries is a digital strategist and organizer who recently launched Bossed Up, a women’s empowerment startup focused on providing hands-on training for women entering the workforce with a holistic approach centered on health, happiness, and assertive communication.

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