Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

Women online

I posted a slightly tongue-in-cheek essay to my OKCupid journal recently, on the topic of men who whine that women on OKCupid are rude to them. I give several possible reasons why women might be rude in an online dating context like OKCupid:
  1. The major one: most women have the experience of being pestered and hassled by men who won't take no for an answer. Polite friendliness is taken as a definite come-on, mere polite refusal may be ignored or used as an excuse to try to persuade, so many women jump straight into blunt refusal, or simply ignoring unwanted overtures altogether.
  2. In person, women are afraid (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the person and the situation) of violence. Often, women try to turn men down as gently and politely as possible, not because they really care about hurting the guy's feelings, but because they are afraid things will turn ugly if they are too direct. It's a balance between making it unambiguously clear that you're not interested, and causing offence which might put you in danger. I personally hate having to judge this balance, but it is a fact of life.

    However, online the threat of violence is much less, and even verbal violence can be avoided by blocking messages from a harasser. Men who (without realizing it) are used to a certain degree of deference from women they approach in person, find it shocking when women online are free to say what they really think.
  3. In an online dating context, women have quite a significant advantage over men; simply being female means you are in demand to a certain extent. That means women can afford to be picky, and in fact probably need to be picky, if they don't want to spend their entire life managing their social network on dating sites.
  4. Some women are just rude, superficial, etc. The online context allows the worst of women to behave like the worst of men, whether it's rudeness, impossibly high standards, pursuing sex aggressively or whatever. It's dangerous for women to do this kind of thing in real life, so few do.
Basically, my suspicion is that men have the upper hand in in person dating contexts, because of their social position and to a minor extent greater physical strength. When they lose these advantages in online dating, they are distressed. Some of them are distressed because they are genuinely decent people who are utterly unaware how a certain proportion of jerks behave towards women, and don't understand how that benefits them in person (because they get let down gently when they approach a woman who isn't interested), but disadvantages them online (because women are on the defensive and expect to be hassled). Some of them are distressed because they are sad cases who enjoy having power over women and can't deal with any diminishing of that power.

The version I posted on OKCupid was a lot less harsh than this. I filled it with disclaimers about how I'm sure all the men doing the complaining are basically decent people, and how I understand that it's really upsetting if a woman is rude to you because of other men being jerks to her in the past. Even so, within minutes I got a comment from a guy whining that I was expecting men to be omniscient, and how unfair it is that women are so mean to him. (I suspect this is partly a ploy, he wants me to come back to him and try to prove that I'm not like those mean horrible women that he's complaining about.)

I'm also reminded of this long and tangled discussion on Making Light. There was a thread that was vaguely about feminism, and a commenter showed up with an anecdote about an incident of fairly standard harrassment of a woman by men. The reaction to it was kind of amazing. Many women started talking about how she might have been in physical danger, and ways to assess the probability of and hopefully avoid really extreme things like gang rape in that sort of situation. Many men started talking about how the guy sounded like he was a bit clueless but he didn't mean any harm, and there was no need for her to overreact so much, she should have been more polite. (Her supposed rudeness, by the way, consisted of: So I take off the headphones, look him dead in the eye, and say, "I would like to be left alone. I thought by now that would be obvious. Good night." And I put the headphones back on.)

Now, the discussion wasn't divided purely along gender lines, but the gulf was definitely significant. The thread unfortunately devolves into people yelling at eachother, with some trying to frame the whole discussion with standard feminist theory and others not understanding the asusmptions of said feminist theory, and I don't think any of that is helpful. But I think it's part of the same phenomenon I'm talking about in this post. Men just don't know what it's like to go through the world being female, and don't understand why a lot of women make an assumption of malice when an unknown man approaches them. Also, they don't see malice when it actually exists; the guy in Nicole's story wasn't just socially inept, he was getting off on having power over her, but he was keeping his threats deniable.

I've never been offended by a man chatting me up or expressing interest in me, if it's genuine. I am offended by men being sleazy and lechy because they can get away with it. I really don't like having to be wary of men; by nature I'm very friendly and will chat to pretty much anybody who approaches.
Tags: gender

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