What’s a shy, geeky, nice guy to do?: The case of Rebecca Watson

July 9, 2011 in Blog

I don’t mean to critique on your seduction technique But…sick of all your lines, so cheesy.” —Ke$ha

The Datum: Skepchick Rebecca Watson gave a talk in Ireland on being sexualized as a feminist skeptic. After the talk, she drank and chatted with her fellow conference attendees. It hits 4am and she announced she’s tired and is heading to bed. She gets on the elevator, and a nervous, presumably geeky, socially awkward guy gets on with her. The guy, heart probably beating fast and palms sweety as heck, utters the following (according to Watson):

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?

Rebecca declines the offer, and later, once she’s returned to the safety of her home country, recounts the story in a vlog (a video blog) where she calmly advises guys “don’t do that“, because:

I was a single women in a foreign country in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and I—don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

This sparks debate. No less than Richard Dawkins jumps into the fray, mocking those who are blowing it all out of proportion. Dawkins gets in hot water, angering lots of his fans. Watson announces she will no longer buy his books or attend his lectures.

Whatever you think of Watson’s original comment, or even her latest response to Dawkins, it’s hard to disagree with her fundamental point: the guy’s approach was lame. Keep in mind though, Watson didn’t call for a national castration day. She merely noted a specific instance of poor mating intelligence. Many a shy, geeky, nice guy may look at this incident and stop approaching women, perhaps even retreating back into their laptops. I think this would be most unfortunate. Here are 10 things they can learn from this incident:

Don’t be creepy. Asking a woman to your hotel room in an elevator at four in the morning, when the woman has already announced she is tired and gave a talk earlier on being sexualized at conferences, is not smooth. In fact, stay away from confined places altogether when chatting up a woman. Not generally a good idea. And avoid language that conjures up images of potential danger, such as a hotel room. Instead, invite her to chat at your hotel lobby. Then, see where it goes. Baby steps.

Look for indicators of interest. Any dating coach will tell you how important it is to look for signals of interest. Pay attention to her state. Does she look exhausted? Does she cringe when you start talking? That’s probably not the right time to put your arm around her. Interest has to be earned— it’s not something you can automatically assume you deserve. To start, here are 5 signs she wants to date you.

Women are less likely to hop in the sack with strangers. A recent study focusing on college students found many similarities between men and women in willingness to engage in a short-term sexual encounter– but only under certain conditions. Looking just at the likelihood of accepting casual sex proposals from the participants own life experiences, men accepted casual sex offers 73% of the time whereas women did so only 40% of the time. Males who approached women for a sexual encounter were uniformly perceived as less desirable than females who approached men, being perceived by women as more physically dangerous, less likely to provide them sexual satisfaction, lower status, and less warm, than women were perceived by men. Also, using stories of famous people, the participant’s best opposite-sex friend, and strangers, women (but not men) perceived less risk from the familiar individual making the sexual proposal than from a stranger. When women considered the familiar– and thus less risky– proposer, they were just as likely to agree to casual sex as men were.

Build some sort of rapport first. The guy in the elevator was a complete stranger. There was zero connection. What could the guy have done to increase his chances of receptivity in this particular situation, when she clearly was not in the mood? It’s hard to imagine he could have done anything, but at the very least he could have tried to make some sort of connection.

Stay relaxed. Watson noted how nervous the guy seemed. This, no doubt, made her feel more uncomfortable, regardless of his intentions. Best approach to make a stranger feel comfortable, especially in an enclosed space? Stay calm, cool, and collected.

Be honest about your intentions. Women: Would you rather (a) have a sexually interested guy tell you right away that he is interested in you sexually and ask you if you want to chat further (with no obligation for sex at any point), or (b) have him show sexual disinterest up until the point he seduces you, only to find out that was his plan all along?

I posed this question to the women on my Facebook page, and they almost unanimously chose option A. One woman replied to me: “It may be confronting but at least the guy respects you as a person to be honest and upfront, whereas Option B he probably sees you as game, a chase, ergo not a person with feelings.” This suggests women not only prefer the direct approach but may in fact view the direct approach as more respectful!

Figure out what exactly you want and be honest with yourself and others. IMost women already have a bias to expect sexual intentions from men (see Error Management Theory), so you can’t fool them by calling it something other than it really is. However, if you really are just looking for a short-term fling, be more honest in your approach. If the woman likes you and is also interested in a short-term encounter, she will be more receptive to your bold, direct approach. Women appreciate assertiveness and even find it sexy. If she isn’t receptive, then at least you know you can move on. There are as many different kinds of women, with different personalities, mating strategies and phases in their lives as there are different kinds of men.

Perhaps you just caught her at the wrong time of the month. Consider a recent study in the city of Vannes in France, in which 506 women were approached by a good-looking guy and asked for a date. They found an ovulatory cycle effect: young women in their most fertile phase agreed more favorably to the request than women in the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle. Main point: There could be many reasons beyond your control why she isn’t receptive to your sexual advances. Don’t take any single rejection as an indication of your personal worth or sexual attractiveness.

It’s OK to cut your losses. Even if your conversation took place at 3 o’clock in the afternoon outside the elevator, she still might not be attracted to you in the least, no matter how funny and charming you are. In one study, researchers found that both males and females reported initiating humor and laughing at someone’s jokes, but only if they were already attracted to the person. If she isn’t responding at all to your brilliant jokes, she’s probably just not interested. Move on.

Don’t stop trying. The only way you will overcome your social awkwardness is through practice engaging with lots of women and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. Only then will you learn how to make women feel comfortable. Take risks and applaud your courage no matter the outcome. Learn from rejection. Take note of what went wrong and keep on. Pay attention to context. Look for signals of interest. Smile. Make her feel comfortable. Just stay away from elevators!

Now, this doesn’t mean women are in the clear. It’s important for men to listen to what women want, but it’s equally important for women to be patient and kind to men– especially the shy, geeky, nice ones with the best of intentions. We’re all humans– sexual humans– living together on the same planet. Entitlement can work both ways. Sure, males can act entitled by getting mad if the women doesn’t swoon for their attempted charms, but a women can act equally as entitled by assuming the shy, geeky guy is only interested in sex and nothing more. Of course he’s interested in sex, but it may be possible he is also interested in more.

© 2011 by Scott Barry Kaufman

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