She Is Physically Vulnerable, and She Knows It
Picture this example:
You are a young, relatively inexperienced gay man. You’re single, it’s Friday night after a long week, and you’ve decided to go out and have some fun. You and some friends decide to check out a new gay bar that you’ve heard has a lot of hot guys.
When you walk in, you encounter an overwhelming sea of men. These guys are all as tall as NBA players, as muscular as NFL linebackers, and as sexually aggressive as a felon on his first night out of jail.
They are all bigger, stronger, faster, and hornier than you. Their heads all swivel toward you, and their eyes look you up and down like sexual Terminators.
You haven’t even met them, but you can see the gears turning behind their eyes. Any one of them could grab you, carry you out of the bar, and put who knows what god knows where, and there is little you could do to stop them. You’re just a piece of meat to them.
But there’s strength in numbers, so you and your friends gather whatever sober courage you can muster and head to the bar. Soon enough, you’ve had a couple drinks, and some of these huge guys approach you and begin talking to you.
Some of them are really lame and unattractive and make crude, ham-fisted passes at you. Some are awkward and annoying. Some are even kind of angry and mean. All of these guys are very unappealing. You don’t want to talk to them.
But lo and behold, some of them are actually pretty intriguing. Yes, they are still big and intimidating, but they want to buy you drinks and pay you compliments. Some of them are really interesting and fun; they do amazing things with their lives and seem to really be into you. They’re cocky and funny. They have that sublime masculine energy that is very appealing.
How would you feel in this situation? Nervous, worried, scared, guarded, self-conscious, and vulnerable? But also flattered, desirable, and excited (remember, you’re gay in this exercise).
Some of the same male traits that frighten you the most also seem to be the most attractive to you. The guys who pose the greatest physical threat are also the same guys you can envision making you feel the safest. The guy who seems like the most egotistical player in the bar is also the one making you laugh so hard that your ribs hurt. It’s all a giant, swirling, pulsating contradiction.
This is the world of sex and dating for women.
And this is what it is like for women every day, in every social situation, with straight guys just like you.
Women are surrounded by bigger, stronger, faster men who probably want to have sex with them and could take it by force. This is their experience not just at bars and clubs, but at school and work, on the street, and the subway. Men stare at them, leer at them, make crude passes at them, and interact with them all day every day, with sex clearly the subtext of every interaction—even the briefest, most innocuous non-mating exchanges.
Her: “I would also like fries with that.”
Him: “Yeah, you would!”
While this is just a thought experiment, the facts that underpin it are very real. For Americans over age twenty, the average man is five inches taller than the average woman (5’9″ vs. 5’4″). He’s thirty pounds heavier (196 pounds vs. 166 pounds), and he carries less body fat (18 percent vs. 24 percent), so he’s got about twice the upper-body strength (what he’d use to pick her up) and twice the grip strength (what he’d use to hold her down). An average woman is as physically vulnerable to an average guy as a big guy (6’0″, 190 pounds) would be to the average NFL lineman (6’5″, 310 pounds)—which is to say, very vulnerable.
Most dating advice to guys fails at this first hurdle. It’s built around the assumption that men and women think alike about sex, romance, and dating without even acknowledging the basic physical differences between male and female bodies and the resulting male vs. female vulnerabilities. This is totally wrong. If you can understand women’s sexual and physical vulnerability, dating should make a lot more sense.
For instance, if a woman seems like she’s sending “mixed messages,” or acting “hot and cold,” or there’s a mysterious push-me/pull-you erotic dance going on, it’s not that she’s being weird or manipulative (at least, typically). It’s that she’s trying to express interest from a defensive posture, and she’s got a hair-trigger threat-detection system that makes her withdraw into her shell when you start pushing too hard. Maybe you really are the good guy who won’t take advantage of her, but she has no way of knowing that when she first meets you. She has to evaluate you herself.
Think about how weird that whole situation is: to be sexually attracted to beings that could so easily do irreparable physical harm to you. Think about the anxiety that internal contradiction could create on a daily basis. For women who are on the more anxious and delicate side, think about the raw physical courage it must take just to go out and meet men. If she pushes when you pull, your question shouldn’t be, “Why won’t she have sex with me?” It should be, “Why would she ever put herself in a situation of sexual vulnerability with any guy?”
The best (and funniest) explanation of this dynamic we’ve ever heard comes from the famous comedian Louis C.K.:
The courage it takes for a woman to say yes [to a date with a man] is beyond anything I can imagine. A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane, and ill advised. How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number-one threat! To women! Globally and historically, we’re the number-one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them!
And yet, here we are. Women have evolved this ambivalent arousal/fear, love/hate response to male size, strength, and power. If you want to be successful in modern mating, the more you understand this, the better you can deliver what women love while eliminating what they fear.