How to Ask Someone Out: A Primer for People Who Pretend Not to Know

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, March 29, 2013 17:03 EDT
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Claiming this is impossible to justify your assholery just makes you look like a stupid asshole.

I don’t like people encouraging a young man whose guilt-tripping video extracted attention from a celebrity even though he and everyone knows she did not want to provide him with it. I find it deplorable to have adults reinforce the message to young men that they “deserve” attention from women just because ask for it, and point out the reason so many men are violent towards women is they learned the lesson that women “owe” them all too well. If we want our young men to grow up into men who respect women, we need to teach them to do that from a young age, and not reward them for being disrespectful and demanding.

Naturally, this was interpreted by many men as me telling them they’re not allowed to hit on women. Some told this to me in mansplaining, condescending ways and some with the sort of invective that gets you blocked on Twitter. So, while I don’t think a single person who offers this criticism is offering it in good faith, I’m going to pretend briefly that they are, and that they really are this confused about how exactly to go about talking to women you find attractive and would like dates with.

1) Use your common fucking sense. How you act in class or at work is different than in a club. Someone who is sitting there reading a book with headphones on is unlikely to be as open to your approach as someone who put a profile on a dating website. If someone is trying really hard not to meet your eyes when you look at them, leave them alone. You claim not to understand these subtle nuances, but you’re pretty good at reading men’s non-verbal cues when, say, they subtly move possessively towards their girlfriends when they spot you eyeballing them. Just assume women’s non-verbal cues are as valid, and already it’s easier.

2) Introduce yourself and try to establish some kind of repertoire before asking someone out. As in every other social situation under the fucking sun, in the dating world we modulate the size of our “ask” to the level of intimacy. Asking someone out is not a big ask, but it is bigger than asking someone if they know what the weather is supposed to be like tomorrow. I realize that you think your target is pretty and that’s enough for you, but respect that it’s not going to be enough for her. Try to get to know someone a little bit through a process called “talking”.

3) You’re looking for a sincere, enthusiastic “yes”, and will settle for nothing less. Do not try to improve your chances by employing social pressure or guilt. Try to ask her out of earshot of others. Don’t try the “woe is me” act to get a yes out of her. And for fuck’s sake, don’t try to use fear to get compliance. That means no cornering people in enclosed spaces or trying to make her worry in the slightest about how you’ll react if she says no. Your vibe should be, “I’d like to get this date, but if I don’t, I will keep my disappointment to myself.” For what it’s worth, that attitude reads as confident, and confident is sexy. On the other hand, if she only kisses/goes out with you/gives you her number because you made it socially awkward for her to say no, you may get her time, but you’ve probably lost any chance she’ll ever really like you.

4) Don’t force someone to be forceful with you. Research shows that men are just as capable as women—which is to say very capable—of understanding a “no” even when it’s phrased as “not now” or “I’m busy”. Don’t pretend otherwise. The only purpose in making her get more explicit with you is to make the situation more uncomfortable. Why are you doing that, if not to punish her for turning you down?

5) You don’t get to judge her reasons for saying no. Women will mostly offer reasons for why they turned you down, such as “I’m not really dating right now” or “let’s be friends” or “I don’t have the time”.  All these reasons are polite bullshit. Do not make her explain. Do not try to argue with her. Even if her reason for rejecting you is that she doesn’t like your shoes, that’s her god-given right. No good will come out of trying to argue her out of her reason. All that will do is make her more certain turning you down was the right idea. Why make things more unpleasant than they already are, if not to punish her for turning you down?

6) Have a nice, concrete plan for said date in case she says yes. If you start chilling the fuck out, you might actually start getting yeses sometimes. In those cases, it’s wise to actually have a place and a time you’d like to meet, though be flexible so that she can fit it into her schedule. A lot of men who violate some of the rules above claim to do so because women supposedly like a man who’s “forceful”. Besides some of the wackier specimens out there, that’s largely untrue, but women do like a man who knows his own mind and makes decisions with dithering. That’s because women are people, and people as a rule don’t like dithering.  So don’t do that.

Of course, you already knew all these rules,* and are just claiming otherwise to rationalize your belief that women owe you their attention, even if they don’t want to give it.

*Except #6, which a lot of people legitimately don’t know. That’s okay, because unlike “don’t bother people”, it’s not entirely obvious. For real advice like that and other things, I always like to recommend Doctor Nerdlove. Hey, his top post is about getting a real, instead of a reluctant, yes.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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