Friday, October 09, 2009

The Debt of Civility (Again)

Every so often, Trumwill and I go a few rounds on a well-worn topic: what is the debt of social civility that women owe to men. While I hesitate to speak for him, I would describe Trumwill's position on this question as minimalist: that women have an inalienable right to deter unwanted interaction by any lawful means they choose, and that men have a corresponding obligation to suffer these means without limit, rancor, or retaliation.

In contrast, I would describe my own position as maximalist: that if a woman is approached politely, she is obligated to respond politely, and that social sanctions can and ought to attend violations. I will admit that my generality is not without limits, as perhaps Trumwill would allow exceptions to his rule, but that is my overall sense of where the discussion is.

As the XKCD comic above illustrates, one of the problems (though not the only one) that my "rule of politeness" seeks to address is in determining when an interaction has proceeded to an actual romantic overture. It is true that men rarely make such overtures cold; they are usually preceded by what my father calls "circling". But it is also true that not all interactions are actually circling behavior. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the interactions are platonic, but sometimes the guy on the train that strikes up a conversation about your netbook just wants to enjoy a conversation with a pretty girl. That's not the same thing as a romantic overture.

I was thinking about this in the context of a scene from the episode of Mad Men that aired 27 September. The setting was daughter Sally's class, which was outside observing a solar eclipse. Don was in attendance, and he got into conversation with Sally's teacher. But suddenly, in the course of Don's perfectly innocuous statement that his family would be staying in town for the summer, the teacher essentially accuses him of hitting on her!

Now, it is true that the teacher is quite pretty and that we, the semi-omniscient audience, know that Don has noticed this about her. But it is also true that Don doesn't pursue women. Women pursue Don. And this teacher is no exception, what with her late-night phone call to Don's house seeking consolation over something-or-other that didn't really make much sense. (Parenthetically, you never know when writers are being subtle and profound, or just yanking your chain.)

Be that as it may, I couldn't help thinking how gawd-awful rude that was. Accusing a married man of adulterous behavior, short of actual adultery, is unspeakably libelous. And furthermore, I can't imagine how a reasonable observer would strain from their prior conversation anything that sounded like something headed in that direction.

Don's response to this was, if anything, far more restrained than mine would have been: "If you don't like the subject of our conversation, then change it. We were just talking." (Or words to that effect; unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a script of the episode online.) He succeeds, I think, in halfway persuading the teacher of his innocence, or at least lack of aggression.

Of course, the series is fiction. The point was exaggerated, and I have no idea where the subplot is headed. But it perfectly captured the kind of unpleasantness that women inflict on the men around them by treating "hey, nice netbook" as a request for sex.

66 comments:

trumwill said...

I will have a more complete response tomorrow, but in the meantime I direct you to a Don Hertzfeldt masterpiece.

Trumwill said...

I think that I take the more minimalist position when discussing it with you simply. Sort of like how when I was younger liberals thought I was conservative and conservatives thought I was liberal simply because I was more likely to speak up when taking the opposing position.

Regarding the Mad Men scene you describe, I consider her actions to be out of line. I consider any sort of unprovoked active rudeness to be out of line. Passive rudeness, such as trying to minimize the conversation or simply terminating it before the guy would prefer, is more acceptable (in large part because the only alternatives are active rudeness, which is unfair to him, or indulging him as long as he wants, which is unfair to her).

What I consider important about the great XKCD strip is that the entirety of the conversation takes place in his mind. You could look at and say "Well that (or some less hyperbolic variation of that) could happen." Well yes, it could. It's happened to me and I'm sure it's happened to you. Of course, when that happens, it's pretty easy to dismiss her as a rude b*tch.

The gray area is simply when she chooses not to indulge him in his desire to talk to her. Guys take offense at this and I very much believe that they need not to. That a guy simply wants the pleasure of talking to an attractive female does not mean that she owes him her attention. Again, she shouldn't be actively rude if she can avoid it, but if she's reading a book at the book store she should be allowed to go back to reading her book. Some guys will get the hints that she wants to go back to reading. Some guys won't. Notably, it's the latter guys that are most likely to get on the Internet and complain about how frigid women are to non-alphas.

We can even segregate this from expectations of sex or expectations of expectations of sex. Think of it from the point of view of a celebrity or a recognizable person. A celebrity should refrain from being rude to fans that want to chat them up. But the longer they let the conversations with fans continue, the less of themselves they have to themselves. Attractive girls are less likely to be bothered as frequently as a star (even an unattractive one), but it accumulates.

So what's a guy to do? Never start a conversation with an attractive woman because he should assume that she is always being inundated with people that want the easy thrill of communicating with someone attractive? Well, no. But even without the expectation of sex, there is something untoward about starting conversations with attractive women that you wouldn't start with another guy unless you're feeling out for a date. If you're selecting who you talk to on the basis of sexual desirability, that she should be flattered should not prevent her from doing the same.

Treating an attractive girl as you would treat somebody else in a similar situation is a good place to start. If you wouldn't get huffy about a guy treating you a particular way (answering non-verbally to prevent further conversation for instance), then don't get huffy if a woman does the same. If you're the type of person that never starts idle chat in elevators with guys, you should probably refrain from making an exception for attractive women. A lot of this is caused by guys that feel a bit put upon by going out of their way to make conversation - which they are often uncomfortable doing - and feeling like their effort has not been rewarded. But if she's not interested in talking, he really hasn't done her any favors. At least, I don't consider someone who starts a conversation with me in an elevator as having done me a favor. -cntd-

Trumwill said...

I actually have a pretty thin-skin about being accused of "stalking" when I have done no such thing. I think that women should be careful about assuming very high interest from a guy that hasn't, you know, expressed even moderately high interest. And if she wants to broach the subject, better not to do it in an antagonistic way. If it's something with a naturally limited time-frame, like an elevator ride, she should probably indulge him. If it's something with no clear exit, like him walking up to her at a bookstore or even something like a subway ride if both take it at the same time most days, she may have to do things that he may consider rude like (in the subway example) changing seating patterns or (in the bookstore) exaggerating her movements to suggest that she's trying to read. There is no path for her out of that situation that some men won't find rude, though some are likely to achieve better results than others.

Of course, women sometimes have bad days. Sometimes they will be actively rude even when there was no cause to be. Or they are just not nice people. In this case, I do think guys should "just take it" not because we deserve mistreatment, but because, well, we all have bad days and there will be not nice people out there and there's no point in dwelling on that more than you have. Particularly when the result is missed opportunities on subways with girls facebooking about you.

trumwill said...

Late-day naps and late-night caffeine make for a bad combo. One more thought.

There is a missing link in my post between saying that guys shouldn't start conversations with attractive women (unless they do the same with guys) and then talking about missed opportunities for when you fail to. The gear-shifting was between assuming that you weren't looking for something to you were. I shouldn't have done that.

But it got me thinking about one of the things that I think would serve a lot of the guys that feel like the guy in the XKCD and Hertzfeldt cartoon, which is simply to not make it such a big deal to start conversations. Getting used to starting conversations with people you don't know very well is good practice both in what you say and how to interpret responses.

Plus, if a woman sees that you talk to guys more regularly, she will be more likely to be comfortable talking with you. Guys that maintain a sort of shell except to people that they have an overriding interest in talking to are setting themselves up for problems. I'm not saying that any guy that's been dealt an unfair reaction falls into this category, but it's something I notice.

As I've said before, one of the best ways to be more popular with girls is to find a way to be more popular with (quality) guys.

ironrailsironweights said...

Interestingly, I had an experience yesterday, which while not romantically related in any way involved the issue of speaking to women and the difficulties in knowing what to do. Here is it verbatim, from my blog entry:

The ride on a 2 from Park Place to Penn after work was a true cattle train experience, the car being packed with men and younger boys apparently traveling to some sort of Hasidic event. Thanks to some fast footwork I made it onto the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma a few minutes prior to departure. The car was fairly full, but I found an aisle seat next to a 40ish woman. I’ve noticed her on the 5:22 for years and in fact she took a seat next to me just a week or so ago. The reason I remembered her is because she looks a lot like a former co-worker. I was debating whether to try striking up a conversation with her, saying something like “Hey, I think we sat next to each other last week,” but decided that she might think it was creepy. Still, perhaps my silence is a sign of introversion or even anti-social attitudes, it’s hard to say for sure. Probably not. In our somewhat paranoid society being tagged as a creep or weirdo is something normal people try to avoid. I’ll point out that this woman didn’t say anything to me because she likely did not take any special note of me, it being improbable that I look like someone she knows. I mulled over these thoughts and eventually began playing Tetris. Some pretty decent games, too.

Peter

ironrailsironweights said...

Also, I didn't see the Mad Men episode you described (or any other episode, for that matter), but it sounds as if Don did the right thing in being restrained when he put the teacher back in her place. She wasn't some random woman in a nightclub but his daughter's teacher. Alienating her could lead to all sorts of trouble in the future.

Am I correct in assuming that Don is some sort of ultra-Alpha?

Peter

Φ said...

Peter: Yes, Don Draper is on his way to iconic status as the ultra-alpha.

Φ said...

Trumwill: as usual you make some excellent points, and I will allow that some latitude should be extended to the woman exhausted by that annoying guy monopolizing her, although we might disagree as to how much latitude, and what counts as "monopolize".

Your suggestion that guys gut-check their interactions with women by comparing them to their interactions with men is interesting on several levels. Roissy himself advises men approaching a mixed group to always address themselves to the guys first. And certainly introverts like me seeking to break out of their shells should get lots of practice on other guys (and girls they aren't attracted to) before applying themselves to women that interest them.

As a measure of the . . . plausible deniability of an interaction, a guy would do well to ask himself if he would initiate a similar conversation with another man. If the answer is no, that doesn't mean he shouldn't say anything, but it does mean that he should prepare himself for the possibility of getting shot down. Rules of the game. I think most guys understand this.

But I like your point that turnabout is fair play. If you would initiate the conversation with a man, then what would you think if he responded in the way the woman does? Would you think him rude, brusque, or cruel? Well, sauce for the goose and all that.

Similarly, the woman concerned about the polite way of deterring a man (and let's pretend, for the moment, that there is such a woman) should ask herself, if this were another woman, would I be doing this?

And . . . dude, you write more between 2 and 3 AM than I do all day! Get some sleep!

Φ said...

I have some anecdotes about dealing with annoying people. My business trip to Europe a decade or so ago was such a person. He started annoying me the moment we met. There was something disconcertingly effeminate about him. In fact, he was more effeminate that my actual gay acquaintances. And unfortunately, he was chatty. Very chatty. And we had a long, long plane ride together. I was about ready to smother him with one of those little airplane pillows.

But I didn't. Instead I engaged him as best I could for as long as I could stand. The flight was only half full, and I eventually said that I was going to catch some shut-eye across the empty seats in the back of the plane. Luckily, we took different flights on the way back.

And I have bad days, too. Just last weekend, while sitting in the bleachers watching my daughter ice skate, another Dad struck up a conversation. Nice enough guy, but I just wasn't in that place. I told him I was going to wander the facility to see if I could get WiFi. Hopefully, he doesn't think I'm an asshole.

Sheila Tone said...

Phi, I don't understand what sparked this post. The rude treatment is clearly a fantasy in the comic strip guy's head.

So, what is the takeaway supposed to be? Do you believe there's a serious social problem with women being pointlessly nasty about minor nonsexual communication?

As a married man, have you had recent problems with rudeness from women your age with whom you try to make casual conversation? And, if so, it may be because you never know who has a jealous partner. Many people think it's inappropriate to initiate contact with strangers of the opposite sex, period.

"As a measure of the . . . plausible deniability of an interaction, a guy would do well to ask himself if he would initiate a similar conversation with another man."

This is the best part of this post. Some years ago, my dad was complaining about a young (or comparatively) young woman on public transportation being unfriendly toward his casual conversation efforts. I asked if he made the same efforts toward men. He admitted, "Of course not. Who wants to spend the trip talking to another guy?"

Sometimes men simply don't acknowledge to themselves the enjoyment they get from spending time with an attractive young woman. They need to realize that the young woman isn't getting that same little thrill. His attention may even be burdensome to her. It may be she thinks if this unattractive or older guy went away, she could find a more exciting conversation partner. Or, she just finds her book more interesting than him.

P.S. Phi, sometime I'd like to see you -- a married, professional, intellectual, Christian, conservative father -- explain your groupielike attraction to Mr. Hissy. Does he make you feel like "one of the boys?" One of his basic premises is that men like you are chumps. And I don't picture you hitting the pickup joints to practice your "game."

Sheila Tone said...

"Similarly, the woman concerned about the polite way of deterring a man (and let's pretend, for the moment, that there is such a woman) should ask herself, if this were another woman, would I be doing this?"

I disagree. She may feel icked out by the man in a way she wouldn't with a woman. That's legitimate.

I've never observed women being aggressively rude as in the comic strip above. What women do is brush people off, sometimes with a brisk or snotty tone. That's something the casual public chatter (male or female) needs to be prepared for. Happens to me all the time.

And re my above comment: I think what the guy should ask himself is not: Would I initiate this conversation with another man? Rather: Would I initiate this conversation with an overweight, 60-year-old woman?

Sheila Tone said...

I almost feel like we shouldn't take young people's social time *unless* there's potentially some sex in it for them somehow. When you're young and single, that's your main priority. Other interactions are a waste of time. Older attached people often forget that.

ironrailsironweights said...

I've never observed women being aggressively rude as in the comic strip above. What women do is brush people off, sometimes with a brisk or snotty tone. That's something the casual public chatter (male or female) needs to be prepared for. Happens to me all the time.

My observations too. What is interesting is the way men and women react differently to a stranger's unwanted attention. Women will use the brush-off, while men are more likely to feign politeness and listen to the stranger even when it's clear they'd rather not. Perhaps it's because women are more likely to be the object of such unwanted attention, or because men are reluctant in general to act impolite.

--

P.S. Phi, sometime I'd like to see you -- a married, professional, intellectual, Christian, conservative father -- explain your groupielike attraction to Mr. Hissy. Does he make you feel like "one of the boys?" One of his basic premises is that men like you are chumps. And I don't picture you hitting the pickup joints to practice your "game."

I can't speak for Phi, but my reasons for reading a Well-Known Sex Blogger are more of a masochistic nature. For reasons I can't quite explain I somehow enjoy reflecting on all the boneheaded mistakes I made with women in my college days and early 20's. Most of these mistakes were in the acting too needy/being the Nice Guy categories, and those are topics that frequently get discussed.

Peter

Anonymous said...

"if a woman sees that you talk to guys more regularly, she will be more likely to be comfortable talking with you."

Just curious, what planet do you live on? I randomly talk to men all the time, whenever I feel like it, because I know they will take my interaction at face value. But no random women ever "see" that. I could be the most gregarious guy in the world to other men, and I will still be just another creep to a woman.

I'm not trying to pick on women, either. If a fat/ugly chick tries to start a conversation with me, I'll brush it off the same way an attractive woman would. Better to nip it in the bud than build her up and let her down. Ultimately, given the odds, you have to completely ignore the feelings of the other person to justify engaging in any of these random intersex conversations.

Of course, it's irrational to care about otheer peoples' feelings. But it's the kind of irrationality that benefits society, and unfortunately especially benefits those who choose to ignore it.

Sheila Tone said...

"I can't speak for Phi, but my reasons for reading a Well-Known Sex Blogger are more of a masochistic nature. For reasons I can't quite explain I somehow enjoy reflecting on all the boneheaded mistakes I made with women in my college days and early 20's. Most of these mistakes were in the acting too needy/being the Nice Guy categories"

You think it's masochistic? I suspect it gives men a feeling of exoneration. As in, "Hey, it's OK you bombed out, it happened because of your *good* qualities. If you were a worse person you could have had everything your way."

There's never much actual *sex* on that blog, just complaining about sex and everything else.

Men need to stop thinking that little things they say or do make a huge difference in their desirability. It'll only drive a guy crazy to think there's some elaborate dance he's not getting quite right.

""if a woman sees that you talk to guys more regularly, she will be more likely to be comfortable talking with you." Just curious, what planet do you live on?"

It's true in that if a woman observes you in positive social interactions with others, she's more likely to feel comfortable interacting with you. It beats making a social "cold call" by zeroing in on her alone. And group conversations are less awkward then one-on-ones.

Sheila Tone said...

Oh my god, look at Phi's blogroll! I clicked around a bit. There are so many Mr. Hissy-esque blogs out there. The formula seems to be: kind of libertarian, claiming to have learned to use "game" to control women, yet still sounding really peevish and underdoggish. Why, Phi? Is it some sort of therapy?

Check out this "Prime" dude from "Beta Revolution". He complains about women "shaming" men by calling them bitter and fat and accusing them of needing to get laid more! All the same terms the Mr. Hissy types use all the time for women they disagree with! lol

People are too damned lonely. Modern society is isolating and the economy is brutal. Those are the real problems.

Anonymous said...

Will the laugh track stop? I've got to stop reading this stuff.

Truman says:
Treating an attractive girl as you would someone else in the same situation is a good place to start. If you wouldn't get huffy about a guy treating you in a particular way(answering non-verbally to prevent further conversation), then don't get huffy is a woman does the same.

Trying to control laughter:
Given that most women, ESPECIALLY 50+ year old women, behave in such a way to men that they would be punched in the face if they were men, are you suggesting mass violence against women?

I mean, that seems to be what you are saying. It's time to Rough Them Hoes Up.

Oh, Truman was in an imaginary world where men demand dozens of 'considerations' from their inferiors a day. Where as women dutifully give these 'considerations' with a smiling nod.

I doubt even a highly paid professional male would DARE demand that a bussboy 'wait till his better got on the elevator' and then demand the bussboy get out of the way while 'his better' got out of the elevator. It'd likely end in a fight.

ironrailsironweights said...

It's true in that if a woman observes you in positive social interactions with others, she's more likely to feel comfortable interacting with you. It beats making a social "cold call" by zeroing in on her alone. And group conversations are less awkward then one-on-ones.

Having a wide network of male friends also increases the chances that a man will find out about available women. One of his friends might have a single cousin about the man's age, that sort of thing. Not all men who are failures with women are introverted or antisocial, but I'll bet anything that a way disproportionate share are.

Peter

trumwill said...

Anon, I was referring to the specific dynamic of starting "friendly" conversations with strangers. I'm sorry about that chip on your shoulder regarding elevator entrance/exit etiquette, though. Seems like it would be heavy.

trumwill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trumwill said...

There's never much actual *sex* on that blog, just complaining about sex and everything else.

No joke. At least Tucker Max tells an interesting and salacious story.

I've never observed women being aggressively rude as in the comic strip above. What women do is brush people off, sometimes with a brisk or snotty tone.

I've gotten smacked down pretty harshly when I've asked a girl out out-of-turn, but never for idle chit-chat. I'm sure there are stories out there, but a lot more rare than they exist in our proper imagination.

I think the worst guys get is trying to read between the lines. Fear of the Post-Rejection Conference Call or just the private snicker when we leave the room. Not a whole lot that women can do about that, honestly.

sestamibi said...

The exact same situation was described in a Cathy comic strip circa mid-80s. Cathy and cute guy sitting at a lunch counter. She's thinking "Gee, that guy is really cute". He's thinking "That girl is adorable". Second and third panels find them coming up with reasons why the other person would rebuff them, and then picking out each other's flaws to rationalize pre-emptive rejection. Fourth panel has them paying at the cashier expressing disgust.

The lesson here is that even as late as the mid-80s, people missed out on possibilities because of their own insecurities and unwillingness to take risks. That is part of human nature and unfortunately will ALWAYS be with us.

The problem today is that we have adopted public policies to shame people (especially men) who simply want some companionship (or at least want to get laid--and there's NOTHING wrong with that!!) The stakes are higher for our young man on the train as he could be at the very least posted on Facebook as a masher, and possibly even prosecuted criminally.

And we wonder why so few white babies are born.

Φ said...

Sheila: welcome back.

I'm going to agree with Peter that there is an element of masochism, of wallowing in my past mistakes, that makes Roissy appealing. There is also Roissy's insights (not necessarily original) into psychology, as well as his diagnosis of our social decadence.

But, yeah, I understand your point about how horrifying he can be. And indeed I was horrified when I first read him. But I eventually learned to read him in the same spirit as I read The Screwtape Letters: this is how the devil will come after my daughters.

Would I initiate this conversation with an overweight, 60-year-old woman?

But the more relevant formulation is: what do we expect of young men when the 60-year-old initiates a conversation? I'll answer: we expect of them perfect manners and politeness. And any young man who doesn't deliver gets a dressing-down by his parents. Yet somehow young women are routinely given a pass for snottiness toward just about anyone.

Men need to stop thinking that little things they say or do make a huge difference in their desirability.

Do you mean little things like these? I am certainly open to hearing your alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Well, Trumwill, I appreciate your response, but if 'elevator courtsey' is so trivial perhaps we can forget about it then? Eh? What's the chance of that?

Ha.

Notice how I used the 'complement-insult' sequence that people like you, Trumwill, use mechanically. But really, you are SO DIFFERENT from the other robots. Really, you are.

For example, YOU employed the 'a woman should be treated like a man, except when she should be treated like a woman, except when she should be treated like a HUMAN BEING' technique.

It's very rare to see someone using that.

You should be proud.

ironrailsironweights said...

I think the worst guys get is trying to read between the lines. Fear of the Post-Rejection Conference Call or just the private snicker when we leave the room. Not a whole lot that women can do about that, honestly.

One nearly universal human mistake is believing that other people talk and think about us far more than they actually do. Except under unusual circumstances it's unlikely that the woman who turned down your approach last night has told all her friends about the Beta loser who asked her out. Chances are she's nearly forgotten about the whole encounter. We're just not as significant to other people as we fancy ourselves to be.

Peter

Trumwill said...

Do you mean little things like these? I am certainly open to hearing your alternatives.

I don't think that even in the case of those steps that we're talking about huge differences in desirability. Do those things and you will move up a couple rungs, but you will not go from being you or me to being Tucker Max. You may get some outliers, but by and large you do those things to be able to seal the deal with people of your own age within the particular range of social status and physical desirability.

To think of it the other way, a woman with perfect manners and grace

Trumwill said...

For example, YOU employed the 'a woman should be treated like a man, except when she should be treated like a woman, except when she should be treated like a HUMAN BEING' technique.

It it helps you wrap your mind around what is being said, go ahead and replace "another man" with "overweight, 60 year old woman" as Sheila suggested.

That way, we can avoid non-productive conversations about elevators, beating women, and robots. And there are no double standards for you to get hung up on.

Φ said...

To think of it the other way, a woman with perfect manners and grace . . . .

I'm afraid blogger ate the rest of your comment.

. . . seal the deal with people of your own age within the particular range of social status and physical desirability.

Roissy (for example) doesn't really claim a lot more than this. (Maybe a little more, but he understands that the power of "game" is not infinite.)

But more to the point, unless we are simply defining a man's "particular range of social status and physical desirability" as whatever women say it is (and arguably this is the only standard that matters, but hear me out), then we seem to be implying that a professionally employed, decent-shape man in his twenties would be unlikely to suffer the kinds of low-key nastiness we have been describing. I'm here to tell you that he did.

trumwill said...

Which sort of low-key nastiness are you referring to? Specifically.

It depends on the circumstances. I know some women with some pretty big horror stories, too. It's a tough world out there.

I'm all for making some the changes outlined in that previous post. Whether I am opposed to "Game" depends on how it's defined*. But there are limits to what it's going to do for you, both as they pertain to higher social strata and those within your own where you simply don't happen to match what it is that they're looking for.

* - Game sometimes seems to be defined similarly to feminism is that the definition is as broad or narrow as it needs to be. In one instance, I'm told that feminism is the belief that men and women should be treated equally, but then in another I'm told that to be a true feminist you have to support other things that I don't support. In one instance, if I tell people what I think they should do to improve their prospects, I'm told "That's Game!" but the term as I see it used seems to carry a lot more baggage than that regarding evo-psych, alpha-betaism, the moral degradation of women, feminism, and so on.

Φ said...

I'm against nastiness as a first-order principle. It can be deployed in self-defense; it should not be deployed as a female's routine go-to option for dealing with anybody.

I suppose we could build waveguides without the "baggage" of Maxwell's equations, too. After all, they only need to be solved once.

go ahead and replace "another man" with "overweight, 60 year old woman" as Sheila suggested.

Why?

trumwill said...

I'm against nastiness as a first-order principle. It can be deployed in self-defense; it should not be deployed as a female's routine go-to option for dealing with anybody.

To know whether I agree with this or not, I need to know precisely what you define as "nastiness". As I said in my original comment, I'm against what I would define as "active rudeness" (while I'll redefine as "hostile action"). But you refer to all of this nastiness without any sort of examples.

Part of me wants to agree with you, but another part of me suspects that you and I have very different definitions of "nasty". If I recall, in the past you described a woman bringing up your wife (unsolicited) as an aggressive act (or a potentially aggressive one). If you're talking about the scene from Mad Men, I'm with you. If you're talking about asking about the spouse, I'm not. If the nastiness is something she did, I'm with you. If it's something based primarily on interpretation, I'm not.

I think my main concern on the latter score is that there really isn't any good way to brush someone off that won't be interpreted by someone as a hostile act.

Why?

Because he was getting hung up on double standards in the way men relate to men and the way that they relate to women. So if it's easier for him to just consider both to be male-to-female relations but with the primary difference being degree of sexual attractiveness, then that's what he should do.

In general, I think that whether it's best to use a man as an example or an older, unattractive woman as an example depends on the specifics of the situation. If it's an age-similar encounter, I think that using a man is fine. But if we're talking about a man talking a woman significantly younger (and more attractive) than he is, using a member of the opposite sex outside the realm of attractiveness to you (someone that you might see the same way that hot young 20-something is looking at you) may actually be a better example.

ironrailsironweights said...

A nasty turndown in one in which the woman rejects the man's approach in a rude manner, and tells other people (most likely her friends) about what nerve he must have had to think that she'd be interested in him. If only the first part happens it's no huge deal from the man's part. He can just say the hell with her and scratch her off his list.

Peter

trumwill said...

Generally, though, the only time she's going to really bad-mouth a guy (that has done her no wrong other than putting her in the awkward position of having to decline his advance) to her friends is if (a) they don't know him or (b) they already don't like him. If you are her primary point-of-contact to them, you've already lost that group.

It's a disturbing thought to consider what negative things that others might be saying about you behind your back, but ultimately their opinions of you are their own and they have the right to share them.

By and large, though, when I think of the feelings that go through someone's mind as they're about to reject someone (and afterwards), contempt would be pretty far down the list. As you say, it's a common error to assume that everyone's world revolves around our own.

Sheila Tone said...

"But I eventually learned to read him in the same spirit as I read The Screwtape Letters: this is how the devil will come after my daughters."

No, Phi. He's not after your daughters. He's after *you*. And he's got you.

I never found one-night-dudes to be much of a problem. They disappear too quickly. The difficulty, humiliation, degradation, whatever you're worried about for your daughters comes from the resentful "beta" guys who stick around long enough for a bad relationship.

Φ said...

Trumwill: I'll happily accept your concession on active rudeness. And also remind you that my original post consisted of my own concession: that women can turn down a man without resorting to rudeness.

Bringing up a wife is a borderline case. To the extent that it carries with it an insinuation of adulterous intentions, I'd regard it as rude. But it might not, and obviously context and tone matter in interpreting it.

I'm not sure who the fat old person is supposed to represent here. The point of the thought experiment was to help evaluate whether a contemplated interaction carried sexual overtones of some kind. It doesn't make sense to compare it to an interaction with someone actively repellent (which I assume is your and Sheila's intent). Should I compare interactions with same-sex peers to those with fat old people to make sure that they are free from . . . well, what? Like I said, I don't understand your point.

Φ said...

He's after you.

As gratified as I suppose I should be that Sheila concedes the existence of the devil, I should also point out that someone who would write this sentence:

I almost feel like we shouldn't take young people's social time *unless* there's potentially some sex in it for them somehow.

is on the wrong side of fight.

trumwill said...

Bringing up a wife is a borderline case. To the extent that it carries with it an insinuation of adulterous intentions, I'd regard it as rude. But it might not, and obviously context and tone matter in interpreting it.

I agree that context and tone matter, but I think that the tone needs to noticeably tilt towards the hostile to be considered hostile. If a guy has to ask himself "What did she mean by that?" it doesn't apply.

I'm not sure who the fat old person is supposed to represent here.

It's supposed to represent someone that you do not find sexually attractive or particularly socially appealing. The same way that a hot young thing will look at a 40-something that lacks sex appeal (to 20 year olds). The problem (to the extent that it's a problem) with using guys is that guys can be socially appealing even if not sexually appealing. Sometimes when I strike up conversations with guys, I think to myself "Hey, this guy and I could be buddies"... I don't think that way about 60-something women. No offense to them meant, we just have less in common (than I would even with 60-something men). The overweight is to discount the possibility that the 60 year old woman is still pretty attractive.

I do disagree with Sheila regarding the taking up of any time of the young and attractive. I may refrain from doing so because I know other guys are probably doing so, but absent that their opportunity costs do not always necessitate boredom and silence on my part.

cleared in hot said...

But it perfectly captured the kind of unpleasantness that women inflict on the men around them by treating "hey, nice netbook" as a request for sex.

I'm with trumwill in that you should give some of your personal examples (cites, man!), because I can believe that this might occur in rare cases but on the whole I've never seen it myself. More likely, it's just the guy's imagined interpretation of what he expects might happen.

I look at the comic from the girl's POV...she doesn't necessarily know that the poor boy is working all this hype up in his head, and wonders why he won't say hello.

But even without the expectation of sex, there is something untoward about starting conversations with attractive women that you wouldn't start with another guy unless you're feeling out for a date.

I disagree. I think in these beta self-talk head games there might be a little "Christian" -induced guilt involved, where a guy (married or not) is attracted to a cute girl (100% natural) but feels guilty about talking to her because that means he has to acknowledge that attraction.

It doesn't mean he wants more than a pleasant conversation with a pretty girl.

I often find that some normal conversation has a way of "humanizing" the other person such that you see less of the strictly physical "hottie" (but still largely fantasy) first impression, and more of the real person behind it.

Φ said...

If I were arguing that attractive women have some kind of affirmative duty to initiate social interactions with "undesireable men", then drawing some kind of moral symmetry to men initiating interaction with fat 60-year-old women might have some merit. But I am not so arguing. I mean, it might be a charitable thing to do, but I hardly blame anyone for not doing it. As I explained before, the relevant comparison is, what would I expect of myself if the fat grandma started a conversation with me? I would consider myself to have behaved very badly if I brushed her off, and so would you.

My original point was very different: how should we expect a person to interpret (and react to) the interactions we initiate? Casually friendly? or a pick-up?

trumwill said...

There are a couple of differences, here. The main one is that it's easier to be indulgent when something happens only rarely. It's asking something different when asking for grace in a situation where someone is constantly being confronted with it.

It used to be that I was really nice to homeless guys that asked me for money. I may or may not give them money, but I'd try to be nice about it. Then I moved to a place where homeless or homeless-looking people were everywhere and I couldn't go into or out of a convenience store without being approached by one. I stopped being so nice. I started being rude. I didn't even wait for them to ask for money. In some cases, they wouldn't have. Didn't care, didn't have time, don't feel guilty about it.

An attractive woman who is constantly approached by strangers who want to engage in conversation (and, ahem, maybe more) gets more leeway than does a guy in the same situation. Not so much leeway that they can be actively hostile, but enough so that they can brush them off.

In any event, do you honestly feel bad about that guy when you ditched him to "look for WiFi"? I wouldn't. Perhaps because as a smoker it's something that I have to do from time to time. Sometimes I'm out smoking because I need a break and chatting is a wonderful way to spend that time. Sometimes I need to think and thus chatting is a distraction. In case of the latter, I don't feel bad about it. Heck, sometimes I am open to talking but some dude (or female-type) just... unsettles me somehow. Or I know he has an accent that I have a difficult time hearing through and conversation is too much a pain in the rear. I guess it's one of those things that became common enough that I don't even think about it.

Second, the line between casual-friendly and pick-up is much more likely to be blurred when it's a 40 year old guy and a 20 year old girl (or 33 and 18 or whatever) than it is between a 30-something guy (which I am) and a 50-something woman. I'm not saying he's going to ask her out, but he is more likely to become... uncomfortably familiar... and to flirt and to make her uncomfortable in ways that I wouldn't expect a 50-something woman to do with me.

In other words, you asking them to assume a level of discomfort that we would not be asked to assume in a similar situation.

And on a last note, it wouldn't even occur to me that asking a 50-something woman about her husband was some veiled insult. And of course it wouldn't be. Because the circumstances are, as I've said, different.

(Nothing in this comment should be construed as a defense of overt hostility. I'm talking about more casual brush-offs).

trumwill said...

It doesn't mean he wants more than a pleasant conversation with a pretty girl.

Oh, agreed. But he wants a conversation with a pretty young girl. That's wanting to trade off of a trait that they have to benefit yourself. And if they don't play along, considering them rude.

I often find that some normal conversation has a way of "humanizing" the other person such that you see less of the strictly physical "hottie" (but still largely fantasy) first impression, and more of the real person behind it.

I agree, but I don't think that this attitude should be limited to hot girls.

Φ said...

Yeah, my college was an urban campus that back in the Golden Age of Homelessness (the eighties) seemed to attract a number of beggars on its periphery. Usually these guys had a story (which never took long as it was usually well-practiced) about how their car broke down and they needed X amount to do whatever. I patiently heard them out, before telling them no, I needed all the money I had (never a lot). Sometimes they had difficulty taking no for an answer, but I don't recall them being much interested in conversation for its own sake; after all, if I wasn't giving them money, what's the point?

Come to think of it, homeless guys get more respect that betas.

I am frankly puzzled by this obsession with "older" guys pursuing (or whatever) "younger" women. The kind of things that motivate this post happened to me when I was in my 20s. If anything, now that I'm 41, younger women are more likely to think I'm pretty harmless. (Which, alas, is true.)

cleared in hot said...

That's wanting to trade off of a trait that they have to benefit yourself.

You mean we have to assess our relative "value" before we engage in an attempted conversation just to make sure the disparity isn't above some limit? Not sure I follow you here, but sounds a little over-the-top...

Interesting parallel with the homeless folks, btw. But you know in advance, with near certainty, where all those "conversations" are headed. To me, this context matters. If the attractive woman is at a club and getting constant "conversations", then maybe she gets a temporary "B*tch License" (or maybe not, since she could easily leave, and if the "right" guy approaches, well then...) but if she is just sitting on a train, maybe not.

ironrailsironweights said...

It's sort of funny ... this whole discussion started with a cartoon of a man and a woman on a train, and train encounters have come up in the comment thread, yet in 15 years of daily train commuting I have seen very, very few episodes of men approaching women. In fact I cannot recall the last time I saw anything like that.

Peter

trumwill said...

Come to think of it, homeless guys get more respect that betas.

I really don't believe that to be true. Particularly among the demographic that we're talking about.

but I don't recall them being much interested in conversation for its own sake; after all, if I wasn't giving them money, what's the point?

Sometimes it's actually an attempt to hit you up again at the end of the conversation, which doesn't count. But sometimes they just want to talk. Like, they continue to talk after you've given them money and they don't ask again or, if they do, it's in such a half-hearted way as to suggest that they really weren't expecting it.

If you're not hanging out at the convenience store, which if you're not a smoker I suppose you have no reason to, I'd imagine that rarely happens.

I am frankly puzzled by this obsession with "older" guys pursuing (or whatever) "younger" women. The kind of things that motivate this post happened to me when I was in my 20s.

When the other person is age-appropriate, I think using the same-gender comparison ("Would I say this to a guy") is a better representation than the older-woman. I mentioned that above, but that sort of got lost after my comment to Anon.

On the other hand, from the woman's point of view, an age-appropriate guy, I do think that a woman should kind of sniff out for herself how long a conversation with a guy that she would never be interested in should go on. If she's really uncomfortable with the guy, even in a way that she can't articulate, I think I agree with Sheila's comment.

To avoid misunderstanding, I'm not talking about active rudeness. But some of the subtler ways you allude to to terminate the conversation and get back to whatever she was doing. If you want to know what I mean, feel free to give me some examples and I'll let you know where I would put them on the cold-shoulder/active-rudeness divide.

trumwill said...

You mean we have to assess our relative "value" before we engage in an attempted conversation just to make sure the disparity isn't above some limit?

Am I the only one that does this? I mean, when I'm out at the smoker's circle or waiting in an elevator or something, at the very least I try to make sure I have something interesting to say (beyond "nice netbook") to say. The higher status* the person I'm talking to, the more interesting what I need to say should be in order to speak up.

Not just referring to female-looks department. The same would apply to someone higher up at a company I work for. Or someone else in the smoker's circle that I know gets all manner of people talking to them. If it's one of those things that's likely to be a repeated encounter (again, the smoker's deck comes to mind, but riding the train on a regular basis at the same time or working in proximity to one another or something like that), I'll usually just try to think of something more interesting to say. If it's a one-off (say on an airplane), I'll likely just stick to my book.

If the attractive woman is at a club and getting constant "conversations", then maybe she gets a temporary "B*tch License" (or maybe not, since she could easily leave, and if the "right" guy approaches, well then...) but if she is just sitting on a train, maybe not.

Perhaps it's the contrarian in me, but I would almost say the opposite. If a woman goes to a singles bar, she's in an atmosphere where she should expect guys to take their shot (less so for homeless guys, as people don't go to the convenience store to give out money to strangers). On the other hand, on a train, she's there to get somewhere. If she wants to just read her book and be left alone, that doesn't strike me as particularly unreasonable.

Perhaps one thing coloring my perspective here is that I very much value my personal space and am thus more sympathetic to the desire to be left alone. I am generally pretty nice to people that strike up conversations with me. Even in the above case at the smoker's deck at work, if I try to lay down hints that I'm not feeling conversation and they just don't get it, I'll usually just go ahead and engage. At worst, I'll put out my cigarette, go back inside, and then go to another smoking area if I really want to be alone.

One of the reasons I try extra hard to be accommodating, though, relates to the rarity (or the feeling of rarity) that people try to engage me as a stranger in conversation. I'm a tall, kinda big guy. And when I'm not careful, my facial expressions can put off a "Do Not Disturb" sign (though I try not to). If I were in the position where a lot of people were wanting to strike up conversations with me, I could very much see my responses being different.

Φ said...

Not just referring to female-looks department. The same would apply to someone higher up at a company I work for.

This is an interesting comparison. You are correct in that initiating idle chit-chat with the president of the company is probably inappropriate. But he has higher status for at least two very specific reasons: (1) the board of directors has seen fit to place him in authority over you; and (2) he presumably has accomplishments that you don't yet.

But if you were on an elevator together, I would bet you at least two things. First, he would probably initiate idle chit-chat, especially if he recognized you. It's good for morale and the regard his workers have for him. And second, if you initiated it, he would be gracious, even if thought you overly familiar.

Now let's compare this to the women we've been talking about.

They have achieved nothing. They have earned the trust and respect of nobody. Yet they feel themselves entitled to membership in the Aristocracy of Beauty, and they believe that this membership entitles them to social isolation from all but men of the highest status, and they believe that they may punish transgressors by whatever means they wish.

And . . . everyone's okay with this?

Φ said...

A quick word on the club scene question. I've never been. I never wanted to go, and I doubt that I would find suitable women there anyway. But since ignorance is no obstacle to opinion, I will say that the rules are pretty obvious going in. Women will get hit on. Men will get brutally shot down many times for every success. I'm not sure why I should have sympathy for anyone who goes there and then complains about what happens.

There is a whiff of sexual anarchy about many of the views on this question expressed on this thread, to the effect that "I should be unconstrained by any rules on my behavior toward men. As I sleep with whom I want, I can be nasty to whom I want." But if do that, you lose any moral standing to criticize Roissy when he says to guys, "Make life uncomfortable for [attractive women], not yourself."

Φ said...

I do think that a woman should kind of sniff out for herself how long a conversation with a guy that she would never be interested in should go on. If she's really uncomfortable with the guy, even in a way that she can't articulate, I think I agree with Sheila's comment.

This is exactly the confounding that I have complained about! It is one thing to "never be interested" in a guy. It is a different thing to be "unfortable" with him. Yet women find it easy to impute bad qualities to men they aren't attracted to, and overlook the evil in the men they are.

ironrailsironweights said...

I am generally pretty nice to people that strike up conversations with me. Even in the above case at the smoker's deck at work, if I try to lay down hints that I'm not feeling conversation and they just don't get it, I'll usually just go ahead and engage.

Could it be that smokers are especially talkative among themselves, due to their sharing of an unpopular habit?

Peter

trumwill said...

They have achieved nothing. They have earned the trust and respect of nobody. Yet they feel themselves entitled to membership in the Aristocracy of Beauty, and they believe that this membership entitles them to social isolation from all but men of the highest status, and they believe that they may punish transgressors by whatever means they wish.

All sorts of people have entitlements. As repeated ad infinitum. I will repeat again again again below, they have the (moral) right to "punish transgressors by whatever means they wish."

But by virtue of having in their possession what a lot of people want, they assume a certain power whether it's presumed or not. If you don't want to give them that power, ignore them. They have the power that we give them.

"I should be unconstrained by any rules on my behavior toward men. As I sleep with whom I want, I can be nasty to whom I want."

I'm. Not. Defending. Nastiness. Do I need to put that disclaimer at the end of every post? I don't think they have an affirmative obligation to be polite and accommodating, and to the extent that any brush-off is considered impolite they have the right to be impolite (as do you or I). We have the right not to talk to people that we would prefer not talk to.

I'm really not sure the source of this misunderstanding. If I suggest that men should be prepared for a rude response and should behave accordingly does not mean that I believe her response is justified. It just means that you should be prepared for the fact that there are some people out there who behave poorly and there are people that have had bad days.

As far as Roissy is concerned, I don't actually think he's entirely wrong there. You are free to make your move. Just be honest with yourself about why you're talking to her. Make your play and when you're turned down go away. Repeat as often as you like until the futility sits in or you get tired of rejection. Do be prepared for some rotten reactions becuase there are some women out there who behave poorly and there are people that have had bad days.

This is exactly the confounding that I have complained about! It is one thing to "never be interested" in a guy. It is a different thing to be "unfortable" with him. Yet women find it easy to impute bad qualities to men they aren't attracted to, and overlook the evil in the men they are.

For a woman that keeps getting drawn to bad dudes, I would suggest that she re-evaluate her instincts. But not all women have the terrible instincts that you describe. Wrong sometimes in favor of rationalizing their attractions, but not wrong always. Some icky betas are really just icky people. Maybe some nice betas are false positives for ickiness, but if they're not socially or romantically interested in getting to know them, not all that much is lost on his part by a blow-off.

To repeat, I am not endorsing nastiness. Active hostility, or what I would define as nastiness, is inappropriate except when the guy has demonstrated hostility or unreasonableness to which hostility is the only reasonable response. I am not saying that women can do whatever they want.

Φ said...

Trumwill: I think it would be fair to say that you have a higher threshold for what constitutes "nasty" than I do. To your credit, you apply that standard equally to your own behavior and the behavior of others. You don't treat people one way and then expect them to treat you a different way.

Φ said...

But by virtue of having in their possession what a lot of people want, they assume a certain power whether it's presumed or not. If you don't want to give them that power, ignore them.

Outstanding! Let's explore the implications:

The president of your company also has something a lot of people want: jobs and promotions. He could say to the beautiful female job applicant, "I have something you want, and you have something I want. Let's exchange! If you don't want to grant me any power, then ignore my job offer."

Except . . . he can't. It's illegal, as well it should be. But our discussion has now come full circle, and we are back to the incongruity by feminists happily pass laws constraining the resources of men. But as to their own resources? Enforceable marriage contracts? No. Monogamy? No. Chastity? Hell no! Talking about netbooks on the train? Well, only if he's sufficiently hot.

cleared in hot said...

TW: The higher status* the person I'm talking to, the more interesting what I need to say should be in order to speak up.

You're suggesting this is as it should be, or just describing your own Beta-introvert behavior? Okay that sounds harsh, but it's not meant to be. It just sounds like you're describing typical lacks-social-self-confidence behavior. (Trust me, I'm more than well acquainted with this.)

If she wants to just read her book and be left alone, that doesn't strike me as particularly unreasonable.

Agreed. Sounds like a good time to use a smile and a "I'm sorry, I'm really trying to finish this book." If the guy keeps on, then she's done her civility "duty" and all bets are off.

One of the reasons I try extra hard to be accommodating, though, relates to the rarity (or the feeling of rarity) that people try to engage me as a stranger in conversation.

They can probably pick up on the vibe. Unfortunately, us computer-geek introverted type guys often have our "in our own heads" behavior misinterpreted as arrogance or @ssholery.


Φ: You are correct in that initiating idle chit-chat with the president of the company is probably inappropriate.

Seriously? You guys feel this is somehow wrong? I guess if you always see yourselves as at the bottom of the ladder then maybe this makes sense, but what a downer place to be.

A quick word on the club scene [...] I will say that the rules are pretty obvious going in.

My point exactly. Context matters, and the girl giving a "F__ off" look to some drunk-@ss dude is playing by the rules of the context that she's in. If she's doing the same thing on the train to some guy who simply commented on her laptop, then she probably has an opinion of herself that is much, much too high. On the positive side, the guy finds that out real fast.

Trumwill said...

I think it would be fair to say that you have a higher threshold for what constitutes "nasty" than I do.

I still don't know precisely what your definition is.

It's illegal, as well it should be. But our discussion has now come full circle, and we are back to the incongruity by feminists happily pass laws constraining the resources of men. But as to their own resources?

Prostitution, for example is illegal. Anyway, sort of beside the point. What I meant is that the hot woman has power over you because you give it to her. Not because society gives it to her. You gave her the power when you decided that you wanted to talk to her. It's one of those things that, unlike sexual harassment or a plethora of other issues, completely goes away as long as you don't think about it. The same is not true of a case where you have to, for instance, walk away from your job if you don't submit to a man's sexual world.

Trumwill said...

You're suggesting this is as it should be, or just describing your own Beta-introvert behavior? Okay that sounds harsh, but it's not meant to be. It just sounds like you're describing typical lacks-social-self-confidence behavior.

A little bit of both, I think.

Sounds like a good time to use a smile and a "I'm sorry, I'm really trying to finish this book." If the guy keeps on, then she's done her civility "duty" and all bets are off.

The problem is that we haven't really found a polite social mechanism to do this. Saying, in effect, that "I would rather read a book than talk to you" could be taken as nastiness by some. Especially when he figures, if a cuter guy were talking to her, she would not be quite as concerned with her darn book.

That's one of the sources of my disagreements with Phi. I don't know what is an acceptable way to blow somebody off that isn't "low-level nasty". It seems that (and I could be wrong about this) talking to him for at least a little bit is required.

Φ said...

Sounds like a good time to use a smile and a "I'm sorry, I'm really trying to finish this book."

That sounds reasonable to me if it was delivered politely and only after it looked like the conversation wasn't going to be brief. Perhaps I betray my side of the debate, but personally I am prepared to concede the girl a little latitude here. I don't think it really passes the would-you-say-it-to-a-grandmother test, so yeah, it might seem a bit abrupt. But compared to what's actually out there, it would be a huge improvement.

walk away from your job

No, no, this won't do at all. We may speak of "my job" and "your job" as figures of speech, but these should not be confused with a property interest. The CEO might think of the employment relationship as his job, not yours, and not "society's". It exists because he created it, and it only has power to the extent that a woman wants it.

trumwill said...

That sounds reasonable to me if it was delivered politely and only after it looked like the conversation wasn't going to be brief.

How, precisely, is she supposed to know the duration of the conversation? That's something that can also be retroactively changed in a guy's mind. She shuts it down and he can say to himself, "Gosh, I was only going to talk for a couple minutes..." when in actuality if she was enjoying the conversation he (understandably) would have kept it going and might have tried to get her number. Our intentions are sometimes defined by the feedback we get. For that to work, negative feedback has to be a reality.

In a world where saying that she wanted to read her book or listen to her music or check her email in peace were acceptable if said a certain way, I would grand less latitude in the other means of brushing one off. But everybody's standards are different. Some people would prefer that she not come out and say "I would rather sit here with my thoughts rather than chat it up with you" (which I consider to be acceptable, though you may not), but a lot of guys, because such a comment really does sting, would take offense.

Given the "no win" situation that they're in, I'm somewhat reluctant to judge.

But compared to what's actually out there, it would be a huge improvement.

Examples? So far I can think of more examples from my own life than I've heard from yours...

We may speak of "my job" and "your job" as figures of speech, but these should not be confused with a property interest. The CEO might think of the employment relationship as his job, not yours, and not "society's".

He might think that and some libertarians would agree, but society has already dictated otherwise. Even apart from sexual harassment, there are anti-discrimination laws, legal residency and work-eligibility requirements, disability-access laws, required pay and benefits, and so on. Society has already declared a stake in who he hires and how he treats them when they are hired.

Φ said...

society has already dictated otherwise

Indeed! And many of these are (in my admittedly non-libertarian opinion) justified in the context of a network of reciprocal duties we have to each other. Many others are an exercise of raw political power.

Feminists have successfully created a world where "what's mine is mine; what's yours is mine". But this political success should not be confused with a coherent ethic. At some level, women know this, which is why they argue as they do. But then, I've said this before.

Examples?

What for? I appreciate your willingness to concede some limits on female behavior, but no actual female has made any concessions. There is no example I could give which a woman couldn't justify.

cleared in hot said...

Saying, in effect, that "I would rather read a book than talk to you" could be taken as nastiness by some.

I suppose so, but if it's delivered in a polite wrapper then I think it qualifies (for 99% of people) as the "polite social mechanism". To me, a guy simply owed a polite response, not acquiescence to what amounts to a request for conversation.

Especially when he figures, if a cuter guy were talking to her, she would not be quite as concerned with her darn book.

I guess I see this as a completely different issue. Sure, I might feel rejected if she then began conversing with a guy that she thought was cuter, but that's her prerogative. Again, all she owes me is a polite response, even if that response is, in effect, I'm not interested in you.

It seems that (and I could be wrong about this) talking to him for at least a little bit is required.

Then I should expect him to always reply (nicely) to all my comments... ;)

only after it looked like the conversation wasn't going to be brief

This is where I think we part ways. Why does she owe a brief conversation?

I just don't think the intent of either the guy's conversation attempt, or the girl's rejection, matters a whit. Just a polite ask, and a polite decline.

In a world where saying that she wanted to read her book or listen to her music or check her email in peace were acceptable if said a certain way

Well, I think they are acceptable to most. Just maybe not those who may be more socially awkward. For example, I will not usually try to initiate a conversation with someone who is listening to headphones (without some other "open" indication or body language, like a direct look & smile, etc) because that is a pretty universal 'do not disturb' signal. Reading a book, similar but to a lesser extent. But I guess there are always those who just don't pick up on these types of social cues. And those who don't take a more direct rebuff either.

trumwill said...

What for? I appreciate your willingness to concede some limits on female behavior, but no actual female has made any concessions. There is no example I could give which a woman couldn't justify.

There are no examples in which some women wouldn't justify the behavior. But in my experience women are not nearly as permissive as they seem to be in yours. When I tell women my horror stories, I get sympathy.

There are probably cases where women would assume that if a woman behave in a really hostile manner that there was something the guy did that justified it. I see the same sort of rationalization and assumptions when women talk about bad betas. That the girl assigned these negative attributes because she was unattracted, for instance, or that her standards must be too high, or that he was likely harmless but just a little ill-socialized.

In general, it's easier for us to put ourselves in the position that we're closest to. To assume, if we're male, that the male (particularly if we see a bit of ourselves in him) was coming at things with values similar to ours. That guys are extremely unlikely to behave in ways that we wouldn't behave. And so on. We've never or rarely been in the position they are and we've definitely been in the position of that guy. Women do the same. It's a natural inclination.

But in the abstract, the notion that women can act as cruelly as they desire... that's the province of a select number of them. Such women have far more in common with Roissyites (albeit from a different perspective) than they do with women at large. Women that believe that women can do no wrong (except in the very abstract, if there) are not substantively different than those guys that believe that guys can do no wrong. Both believe that they are largely put-upon, that the deck is stacked against them, that what seems disproportionate is a justified response to the unfairness of it all, and so on.

The reason I want examples (and I recognize that it was presumptuous of me to ask from your personal/private experiences, that may have been out of line) is that there are some behaviors in which I believe that there would be some consensus unacceptable. Of course, that's kind of hard to do when there are no women around except Sheila, who perhaps does fall more on the minimalist side of things.

The other reason is that behavior that is truly objectionable, as opposed to objectionable largely on the basis that the guy decides it's objectionable, is pretty rare and is committed by comparatively few women. And often the guy, while not at all to blame for it, nonetheless played his role.

I would give the usual schpeil about how my experiences are atypical, but I don't think that they are. I've been fat. I've been socially awkward. I've been presumptuous. And over the course of my life, I have five or fewer cases of women being clearly out of line.

If what you define as being out of line is what I would consider an awkward-but-effective (or maybe ineffective) way to prevent wasted time talking to someone they don't want to talk to. But even accepting that we likely have two different standards of acceptability, the degree to which I disagree with what you're saying depends largely on where you draw that line.

trumwill said...

I suppose so, but if it's delivered in a polite wrapper then I think it qualifies (for 99% of people) as the "polite social mechanism". To me, a guy simply owed a polite response, not acquiescence to what amounts to a request for conversation.

It would certainly be preferable if a guy got a polite response in the process of being rejection. I'm not as sanguine as you that guys will respond to any form of rejection gracefully. I draw from my own experience where I have, in the past, felt slighted when in retrospect I'm not sure what she would have done differently.

Well, I think they are acceptable to most. Just maybe not those who may be more socially awkward.

I think that's true. It's possible that there have been more extremely unfavorable or hostile smackdowns than I can recall at the moment back from when I was completely unable to pick up on the clues that you refer to. I think that one advantage the popular have over the unpopular is that, having more social experience, they have a better idea of when, where, and how to engage and how to read responses.

I think that one of the reasons that nerds get so irate at being rejected (even somewhat softly) is because it takes a whole lot for them to muster up the courage to talk to a girl. To muster up that courage and then be shot down hurts. The more you do it, the less it affects you. I wouldn't recommend smoking to anyone, but I can say that it did help a lot with the reading of signs simply because you're put in an atmosphere where idle chatter is really commonplace.

Regarding headphones, books, and so on... the problem there for guys is that it's often really hard to find any sort of opening. Even on a plane, people are often switching straight from one thing to another. I remember a while back when I was sitting next to a guy that I felt sort of conversationally drawn to I had to wait a good deal of time for him to be "open". It's some pretty tricky business. Seems like you have to interrupt them doing something. I'm certainly sympathetic to guys in this regard.

Φ said...

I have five or fewer cases

Well, okay, now that I try to count them I only have a half-dozen or so cases myself. But they loom large in my imagination anyways, perhaps because I don't expose myself to that kind of risk very often.

Such women have far more in common with Roissyites

This comparison had occured to me as well.

trumwill said...

Well, okay, now that I try to count them I only have a half-dozen or so cases myself. But they loom large in my imagination anyways, perhaps because I don't expose myself to that kind of risk very often.

I think that's part of the problem. See my comment to CIH. Guys that don't expose themselves often can overreact to rude behavior and use it as a reason not to expose oneself in the future. That doesn't make the rude behavior "his problem" because she shouldn't behave that way (assuming she can avoid it, and I'm referring to situations where she could).

But I think that's one of the reasons I may be too dismissive of the complaints of guys. When I was younger, I used to whine a lot about "How come people are so mean to me?" There was a tectonic shift in my thinking to "Okay, what can I do about it?" I found that honing my social skills (learning to read signs) went a long way. But I also found that taking responsibility over it (even in cases of disproportionately hostile responses) helped, too. Realizing that some people are just mean*. Some people are so socially insulated that they can be as mean as they want (not because they're female but because they're hot and/or popular and people don't want to dislike them). The best response is not to complain about it, but to take your lumps, look for signs of meanness, and proceed from there. One of my responses was also "if she doesn't seem like the type of person that wouldn't have room on her social plate, don't bother"... not because of harassment so much as an effort to avoid wasting my time and effort.

* - Actually, a disproportionate number of the "mean" ones that come to mind are not the attractive ones. They're the fat girls and the quiet girls that sit in the back of the class. I think they tend to take a defensive posture. If I were to include the times I've had exceptionally unwarranted hostile reactions from unattractive women, it would up my count considerably. But since such conversations were not romantic in intent and certainly weren't for the cheap thrill of a conversation with an attractive person, I don't tend to count them.

I tend to view them more in the context that I view guys. The worst guys to me in high school tended to be not the most popular or even the good jocks, but the second-tier jocks and the loser bullies (that was more junior high than high school). The worst guys to start a conversation with, in retrospect, were often the quiet and unpopular kids. They were often unpopular for a reason. Unfortunately, some of the best guys to start conversations with fit into the same demographic. It was always so hard to tell.

Φ said...

Actually, a disproportionate number of the "mean" ones that come to mind are not the attractive ones. They're the fat girls and the quiet girls that sit in the back of the class.

This hasn't been my post-JHS experience, but I may have my own perceptual biases at work, for at least two reasons (both of which you articulated). First, if I'm genuinely not attracted to her, then my interaction is genuinely free of that scared, desperate neediness that girls seem to hate. And second, because I'm not needy, her power to touch me emotionally is diminished. If she acts badly, my primary reaction is pity, not shame or hurt. So it's not something I'm likely to remember.

But having said that . . . no, most of my pre-marriage female friends were the fat ugly girls. But now that I think of it, above some status threshold, most of the beautiful girls, while not friends, were usually kind and gracious. It was the girls in between, the ones that I would consider eligible, that I had the most problem with.

There's probably a psychological generality at work here. Something along the lines that the social/economic friction is greatest with those closest to us. They are most likely our keenest competition.

trumwill said...

What I said with regards to guys also applies to women. They can be the most mean and the most anti-social (and sometimes the most obnoxious)... but those that aren't are often great friends that you get along with. And it's hard to tell which they're going to be. The good news is, though, that a fat girl telling you to take a hike doesn't sting as much.

One niche that I've always done particularly well with, in regards to female friends (though never more, they seemed to all have high-school dropout boyfriends) are hot outcast girls. I had a couple friends in high school who were positively stunning, but for whatever reason, were disliked and ignored. That doesn't have any bearing on the main subject matter of the post, but it's one of those things that I found interesting.