Elusive Wapiti writes:
Young women now think nothing of asking young men out, of coming on to them, perhaps even initiating sexual activity
I will concede that as an early Gen-X'er, I may not be of the generation EW has in mind here, or perhaps we differ on the meaning of "initiate". But at my level of attractiveness (YMMV), I would not characterize even the few women who expressed romantic or sexual interest in me as having "initiated" anything physical.*
My own experience has been that women still expect the guys to make the moves and run the risk. Their IOI's tend to be subtle: during a lull in the conversation, an expectant smile that says, "Do something". I invariably panicked at that point and shuffled away, so I can't actually swear that the "something" desired wasn't to go annoy someone else. But even if those were IOI's, it still put the burden on me to, I dunno, keep entertaining her or whatever.
I remember once, in my early 20s, while standing next to a young woman at a party, becoming conscious of the gentle pressure of her breast on the back of my arm. She was from out-of-town, in my city on a business trip, and I had met her that day in the company of a group of mutual friends. Several things conspired to perhaps give her the impression that my in-group status was higher than it actually was, and we wound up in a fair amount of one-on-one interaction at a City Fair, in a telephone conversation afterwards, and then at the party that evening. Anyway, the breast pressure . . . I dunno, do women ever accidentally press their breasts against guys? It doesn't sound to me like it's very likely, but again, I don't actually know. Because panic. And shuffle away. Still, though, that wasn't even as direct as "Take me back to your place," let alone further instructions once we got there.
More recently, now in my 40s, I was sharing a temporary office with a bunch of recent hires among whom I was the oldest. The next oldest was a woman, 10 years my junior, with whom we had talked about how disconnected we were from the obsessions of today's twenty-somethings. At one point, in a rare moment alone, she turned herself to me and asked deliberately, "So, what's fun to do in this town?" I decided to take her question at face value. I didn't actually know much -- I go home to my family at the end of the day -- but I gamely tried to list all the interesting things I had done or had heard about, while her expression said, "Wow. When this guy claimed to be a nerd, maybe he wasn't being ironic." Was that an IOI? Again, I don't actually know. I would have had to have followed up on a lot of perceived IOIs to know the difference. But even if it was an IOI, it still wasn't anything more than an invitation to . . . make the moves and run the risks.
Even that girl in Japan (have I blogged about her? She remains the most objectively beautiful girl whose company I ever kept in anything approaching a romantic context), whose intentions were not ambiguous only because she spelled them out later in no uncertain terms, still expected me to actually initiate physical contact.
Arguably, the future Mrs. Φ came the closest to initiating, in that she was the one who brought up the matter of kissing directly. But even then, she didn't just lean in.
Perhaps I haven't been keeping up (as well I shouldn't, having officially retired from the game for 17 years), and young women today are initiating in the way that men initiate. But it would be news to me.
* I should say, if it needs being said, that none of this applies once a relationship is firmly in place. In that context, women initiate whatever they're in the mood for.