Women, dating, and choices

There seems to be a common misconception among many men that women are the ones who hold all the power when it comes to sexuality and romance. A recent post at Look me In The Eye on Autism and Sexuality touches briefly on this issue.

When I have written about that issue in the past, I suggested that females are the principal choosers in our society, so a male who acts strange (due to autism or anything else) does not get chosen and has a zero result.

 MissMM in the comments relays her own experiences as a female who does not hold the kind of power that we are often all perceived as having.

The fact is though that not all of us have our pick. This is a common male misconception.

When it comes to women and sexuality in feminist thought, women are often portrayed as gatekeepers. We are positioned as being the ones to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to male advances (which can turn really bad when a male who feels ‘deserving’ gets a ‘nay’ response, but that’s another issue). That is a much better analogy for own position than ‘choosers’, which implies a more active role than we are expected to take.

The fact is that the male-pursuer/female-pursued dynamic automatically gives women fewer options than men. I can see why men feel differently–they pursue, get shot down, and conclude that the woman holds the real power in the dynamic. Despite this, however, since men are expected to make the first move they have their pick of which women to hit on. Women, on the other hand, only get to pick from the men who show interest. Cultural constructs of desirability tend to push men towards certain types of women, which means that the majority of men will compete (to the extent that the analogy holds) for a minority of women. Meanwhile, there are a lot of women who have few to no choices at all, because they fall outside the mold of what our culture considers ‘desirable’.* Many women have framed this as a sort of invisibility, and even for women who are not looking for male attention that invisibility can be a blow to ones self-esteem, thanks to how much a woman’s value is tied to her desirability as a mate.

In the dominant dating dynamic, women only have power as ‘choosers’ to the extent that men give them choices. For some women, that translates into no power at all.

 

*Often this is framed as attractiveness. I avoided the word here because that tends to imply purely physical aspects. Certainly that can play a large part, but it’s not the only piece to the puzzle and a woman who is physically conventionally attractive may have other traits that push her outside of the mold of desirability that our culture tries so hard to shove us into.

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