Disclaimer: This article is about heterosexual relationships because it is written from my own experience, but I’m sure there are similarly interesting things to say about same-sex relationships, and I hope we can talk about them too.
Don’t want. Don’t act. Sit there and look pretty so that a man will make the first move. “You’ve got to get him to say hello.”
Field advances; don’t make them. Be the gatekeeper, not the one walking through the door.
Play “hard to get;” give him the thrill of the chase; be the prey to his predations.
Any woman who has grown up in this society is accustomed to these messages.
What if all this time, instead of preparing women for a lifelong waiting game while men take the reins, we taught men (and everyone else) about waiting for and giving the reins to women (or anyone else)?
Our society’s unwillingness to hear a woman say “yes” contributes to the lack of respect for a “no.” If men believe they are wired to want and women are wired to be wanted, there leaves no room to consider what women want – or don’t want.
In our current cultural climate, women’s desires are silenced to the point that men believe their only options are exerting pressure, manipulation, or worse.
These beliefs about our innate wiring are especially insidious because they get passed off as descriptive – merely stating a fact about diverging desires. Yet they quickly become prescriptive by suggesting that those unsatisfied with their roles are not in touch with their supposed instincts, and that rather than changing the status quo, “all they have to do is surrender to their nature.”
So here’s the advice that I wish everyone who has pursued me would read:
Give me the chance to pursue you. Don’t wait for me to say no. Give me the chance to say yes, or even better, to pose the question myself. I may not have been taught to pursue, but if I am “that into you,” I won’t let you slip away for this reason. And if I don’t take you up on it? That may be painful or uncomfortable, but not as much as sexual harassment or assault!
And in case this advice leaves any ambiguity, here’s a handy “She’s Just Not That Into You” guide.
If she doesn’t give you her number, she’s just not that into you.
If she ignores your texts, she’s just not that into you.
If she moves to the other side of the dance floor, she’s just not that into you.
She’s not playing “hard to get;” she’s just not that into you.
If she maintains a secure distance between you, she’s just not that into you.
If she sits there stiffly while you try to put your arm around her, she’s just not that into you.
If she doesn’t kiss you back, she’s just not that into you.
She’s not being coy; she’s just not that into you.
If she says no, she’s not into it.
If she tells you to stop, she’s not into it.
If she just lies there, she’s not into it.
If she’s not into it, that’s not being coy or playing hard to get; that’s sexual assault.
Instead of writing and reading books and articles about what men are or aren’t into or how men can pursue what they’re into, I envision a world where people took what women were into seriously.
Better yet, I envision a world where people take seriously what each individual is and isn’t into, without gender-based assumptions.
This world, where the absence of a “yes” is a “no,” is a world where everyone has the chance to say yes. It’s a world without a hunter-hunted, active-passive, or receiver-received duality.
In this future, there wouldn’t need to be a book called “He’s Just Not That Into You” or “She’s Just Not That Into You.” People would read something more along the lines of “Phe/Ze/They May Or May Not Be Into You Depending On What Signals You’re Receiving.”
I’ve seen glimpses of this future. It’s that moment when the bill comes and you’re not sure who is going to pay. It’s that moment when you’re not sure if your partner is in the mood (for whatever, really) and must get up the courage to ask.
It’s also that moment where you decide to treat someone who has paid for your first few dates. And that moment when you both lean in for the first kiss. It’s terribly awkward and terribly romantic.
And terribly exciting. After all, these moments are forging new territory – territory far preferable to a world where women wait for men to be “into them” and men must be taught to care what women are into.