Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Why women don't ask men on first dates

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A lot of women believe making the first move may make them look sexually aggressive to their love interest. Photo / Thinkstock
A lot of women believe making the first move may make them look sexually aggressive to their love interest. Photo / Thinkstock

Last night, a friend told me about the ONE disastrous time she'd asked a boy out. She met him at a social function, then afterwards found his email address and messaged him to suggest a date. He never bothered to reply, but he must have been amused enough to tell a mutual friend of theirs about her HILARIOUS advances - because the next thing she knew, that mutual friend (male) was asking her "why on earth" she'd "done that". As though it were some kind of horrific faux pas.

She's braver than most (despite the fact she'll probably never ask a man out again) - a survey of my girlfriends showed barely any had ever requested a first date. But why? Isn't it pretty weird we still follow this age-old courtship script, despite our culture of sexual equality? I think it is. But my own research clearly showed women don't tend to ask men out because they fear they'll appear sexually aggressive, and therefore less 'feminine'. And because they're told men love the 'chase', so eliminating that aspect of the 'game' would be counterintuitive.

Personally, I've never asked a boy out. Except once when I was six, and got my mum to ask his mum if he'd like to come swimming with me. (He did. It was fun. But I was six). Perhaps, on a subconscious level, wanting to maintain the 'feminine' role of the 'pursued' has stopped me. Probably though, I was simply too shy to consider it. Or it worked out that I never had to, because men seem to intrinsically know and accept that - rightly or wrongly - it's their job. (And actually, to be totally transparent, I'm fine with that. Ladies got tasked with periods and watermelons through pinholes, and that's enough for me.)

Women's tendency to avoid asking men out on first dates, preferring instead to flip their hair about and do the "limp wrist", etc, is simply called "female indirect nonverbal proceptive signalling and male direct verbal initiation". One study based on 87 straight university-age men and women showed 93 per cent of women preferred to be asked out, but only six per cent preferred to do the asking. Meanwhile, 83 per cent of men preferred to do the asking, and only 16 per cent preferred to be asked out. So, it turns out women aren't actually getting the fear for nothing - guys do overwhelmingly prefer to do the asking. Like at the old-fashioned dances, where girls sat around the room on chairs, and waited to be chosen by a boy. CAN YOU ACTUALLY IMAGINE HOW HORRIBLE?

Still, some men wish it weren't so, according to the author of the study, Dr Michael Mills: "Men of my generation, who went to college in the 70s and 80s, mostly embraced the goals of the feminist movement. And, from a male perspective, [we saw] there might be some benefits for us as well - including the anticipation that women would begin asking us out on first dates. So we waited. And waited ... and ... we are still waiting!"

Why did this social convention cling on for dear life, while others crumbled under feminists' antsy fists? There are psycho-biological reasons, apparently, which you're welcome to try and interpret here. As far as I can tell, it's to do with men's "genetic paternity insecurity"; i.e. the need to ensure your lady hasn't been rolling around with all men, everywhere - and that those babies are really your own. Choosing women who aren't too 'out there' is a way to help guarantee this, so ladies are instinctually driven to act all passive and demure to prove they're the faithful type, in the hope they'll be CHOSEN LIKE AT THE DANCE.

So basically, the reason women don't ask men out on first dates is because of procreation. As per usual. In fact, I'm sure even your reading this story is somehow linked to the survival of the species. Maybe you (mistakenly) thought it'd make you more intelligent, so you could offer smart genes to a handsome man? Or you thought it might entertain you for five minutes, thereby keeping your mind alert, all the better for noticing passing men? I don't know. Just ask a boy out, I say. (Not that I can give you any tips. Try this illustrated Wiki guide?) After all, if he doesn't reply to your email - and runs off to tell people how weird you were for asking - he's clearly just suffering from deep-seated genetic paternity insecurity. Lame.

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Have you ever asked a man out? Would you like a woman to ask you out? Why is the first move usually left to men?

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