Debate This: Men, Why Is The Pressure To Pursue Women So Painful And Difficult For You?

Bye Felipe is an Instagram collection of Tinder creeps curated by Alexandra Tweten, an Los Angeles-based journalist inspired by her own bad experiences on Tinder. The difference between Bye Felipe (the name is inspired by the “Bye, Felicia” meme) and other blogs dedicated to exposing assholes on dating sites is the particular kind of asshole they expose: The guys who escalate and get angry reallllly fast if women reject them, don’t answer them, or simply exist, in some cases.

The Atlantic is calling this a “feminist” initiative. It pains me to think that asking men to be basically decent and polite is part of a non-mainstream political effort to erase the gender gap, because it seems like it should just be something that everyone does for the sake of doing it. But it’s women, not men, who are experiencing sexual harassment online — in dating apps less of the time and on social media more often. That gender difference means something about men’s attitudes toward sex and women, specifically that they feel entitled to sex and entitled to women. In that context, sexual rejection isn’t just a normal part of human interactions, it’s a denial of something they perceive to be rightfully theirs.

After writing about the school shooting outside Seattle on Friday, Frisky reader Jovan suggested that this sort of tragedy happens, in part, because of a dating culture that puts pressure on men to make all the first moves. My boyfriend said almost exactly the same thing on Saturday. This isn’t anything I had ever considered, because I ask for what I want: I asked boys out in high school, not the other way around, and if I was rejected I was disappointed but I lived with it. I approached men on OKCupid when I was dating, rarely the other way around (for the men who I actually wound up dating, anyway — I got plenty of the creepers, too). For that matter, I was the one who approached my boyfriend — he’d written about his sometimes-debilitating anxiety in a non-fiction workshop we were both attending, and after class I told him that it sounded like he was isolating himself and that we were going to hang out, and our fondness grew from there. I kissed him the first time.

So maybe I’m not the best woman to understand why that culture is so prevalent or so painful to men, because I’ve never had the expectation of being pursued. When it comes up in conversation, my immediate thought is something to the effect of Not all women expect to be pursued! and then And that being the case, why on Earth do you think that discomfort comes anywhere near the discomfort of being followed and harassed and gawked at and treated as a walking vaginal canal that’s the prize for being as persistent and reductive as possible by strange men every single time I leave my apartment by myself? Because ultimately, to a woman who wants more than anything for men to just leave her the hell alone while she lives her life, the idea that the men that bother me all the fucking time are doing it because of an oppressive dating culture that pressures them to make the first move sounds like a really weak fucking excuse.

But I know that if I say “Not all women!” I’m falling into a rhetorical fallacy that I despise when it’s employed by men. And I know that if I say “it sounds like you’re making excuses for bad behavior you basically do for sport,” I’m doing the same thing men do to women when we say that harassment is terrifying and tears away at our mental health and sense of safety, and they tell us that it’s in our heads and to buck up, or that it’s “just a compliment” or a guy “just trying to be nice” and we should give them slack.

So men, help me. I want to listen. I want to understand. I want to respect your experiences. I know that our culture pressures you to make the first move, to be the pursuer, to take initiative with dating in a way that it does not pressure me or other women – regardless of my own attitude. How does this make you feel? Why is this painful to you? What does it do to your self-perception? What does it do to your self-esteem? What does it make you expect of yourself and other men? What effect does it have on the way you interact with and relate to women? Do you feel like between the pressure to pursue women and the growing pressure from women to treat us as if we’re just like guys, you’re getting mixed messages? If so, which message are you more inclined to believe?

These aren’t rhetorical questions: I really want to know, because I feel like this is the impasse where men and women are stuck in terms of gender relations. I want to move forward. So let’s talk about it in the comments!

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Feel free to comment, to tweet me at @rebeccavbrink, or to shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] with your thoughts.