Should Women Play Hard To Get?

A best-selling book from a few years back advised women to follow “The Rules” (the book’s title) to catch a man.

The rules are all about playing hard to get. A sampling:

  • Don’t talk to a man first and don’t ask him to dance
  • Don’t call him and rarely return his calls
  • Always end the date first
  • Don’t see him more than once or twice a week
  • Don’t open up too fast

Guys in my classes have mixed feelings about this advice. A few seem to like the chase but most feel manipulated or say they would think the woman wasn’t interested.

A dating blogger asked some of her male friends to share their thoughts. One felt that playing hard to get is great:

The first rule of relationship fight club: Wait as long as he took to write before you reply to his email, and never write more than he wrote.”

But another guy felt differently:

That sounds like crap. Back in my early twenties, yes, “hard to get” was great. But now, I’m too tired after work, so “easy to get” is preferable, although I can handle “moderately challenging” on weekends.

Another said that playing hard to get definitely doesn’t make him more interested.

If she seems to be only reacting tit-for-tat, I quickly lose interest.

Three of the guys she talked to said they’d likely mistake “playing hard to get” for “not interested.”

On the other hand, “too easy” isn’t appealing, either. One guy put it this way:

It’s a real attraction-killer if a woman comes off like she’ll take whatever she can get — and you happen to be her current target.

So the men were all over the place. Research suggests the most common reaction is a bit more complicated.

Early experiments failed to find any evidence that “hard to get” works. Women who initially declined a date were no more — or less — desirable than women who eagerly accepted.

Eventually researchers realized there are two different ways to be hard-to-get: (1) how hard it is for me to get her and (2) how hard it is for other men to get her.

Turns out that women are most attractive when they are hard for other men to get, but easy for “me” to get.

A recent study on speed dating found that women had the best chance of landing a guy if they both, (1) desired a particular man more than other women did, and (2) were uninterested in the other men at the event.

Researcher, Eli Finkel opined, “People can tell lickety-split whether you have a special attraction for them, and this special attraction seems to inspire their attraction in return.” But he added:

Of course, it’s never good to be desperate, either. The key is to be selectively hard to get. If you’re interested in somebody, make sure he knows you like him, but do so in a way that doesn’t suggest that you’d take just anybody. It’s okay to be eager, as long as you do it with dignity.

For those who want to know.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 23, 2012, in men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. I think when women play hard to get, men lose interests faster because when you date someone, you want to get to know them. If you don’t keep in touch, end dates early, wait for him to call you, you’re playing a game rather than getting to know each other as friends first instead. Sometimes its ok to play hard to get, but I don’t encourage it all the time. Playing hard to get may lead the man to assuming you are not interested in them anymore but maybe you are! I think it depends on age too. When you’re young you want to go around dating different people and play hard to get but when you get older, you just want to settle down! You can never be loved if you play hard to get all the time!

  2. Oh my goodness that is confusing. men want this, men want that. well you know what men? what you see is what you get and if i seem “too easy,” well you can go off yourselves. All these “rules” are silly and demeaning. I don’t like waiting for you to return my text so I try not to make you wait. Dating and finding the right person is hard enough. You want me to make myself even more unavailable? That is just silly. “Don’t open up too quick” is wrong because do you want them to not like you once they get to know you? That book and it’s “rules” are just wrong.

  3. I think dating “rules” are very much still intact. I think desperation or aloofness can both be “red flags” when you are dating someone. I think most people do just fine if they act how they normally act because–lets face it–you cannot play games forever, and games can be tiring. I think as mentioned in class, the power goes to whomever cares less about the relationship, and these rules try to establish that power by giving the impression that you do not care as much. These rules might make it so that the guy/girl stays interested, but I think its mostly the thrill of the chase and not actual interest in the person. So, as some mentioned above, be yourself and don’t overanalyze it.

  4. I can really relate to this article. In my opinion i don’t think “Playing hard to get” is any good. If a guy is interested in you and wants to take time out of his daily life to get to know you, then you should just go for it if you are interested as well. If you play hard to get they are going to get the wrong idea. they’re going to think that either you’re not interested in them or they did something wrong. In my own experience it has happened to me, where a guy tries to get to know me but i acted like i wasn’t interested. When he called me i didn’t call back right away or when he texted me i never texted back until the next day. So what simply happened is that he gave up on me because he thought i wasnt interested. Even all my guy friends tell me that its not cool when girls play hard to get because its annoying to them. It makes them seem like they’re too good for anyone.

  5. in my opinion, women that play hard to get are such a tease. i am a straight man that had been married at one time, but my wife cheated on me. we were together for almost fifteen years, and she had the nerve to say to me, lets have an open marriage. i told her to get out of my life, and i went for the divorce. i loved her very much at the time, and i was very committed to her as well. i had no reason to cheat on her because at the time, i was very happy being with her, and did not have to go out looking for it anymore. now divorced and alone again, it sure sucks for me. i thought that i was going to spend the rest of my life with her, and have a family that i always wanted to have. since i am in my late fifties, it certainly is so much harder for me to meet a good woman again. i just do not want to be alone the rest of whatever of my life is left, that certainly would SUCK for me. since GOD created men and women, i certainly would want another woman in my life to share with. it just seems that us good men can’t connect with the good women nowadays. the men and women out there now, that were very lucky to have met each other and have a family, should go to church to pray and thank GOD very much for having each other. it is the men like us that are hurting now and have no one. this is the reason why i go out every single night, since i have no one to stay home too. now i just go out, and hope to be at the right place at the right time to meet a GOOD WOMAN for me this time around.

  6. One of the things I don’t like about men playing hard to get is that it seems they are trying to create a situation where I am wondering if he likes me. Indeed that is the game. While they are taking attention, which feeds their ego, and controlling the budding relationship by indicating that he’s trying to decide if I’m worth it to him, (and naturally we all want to be wanted) I am wondering if “I’m good enough”. Playing hard to get is also changing the subject, which really is and should be “Do I like him?” I think there is a big difference between taking your time before you reveal your feelings and playing games with each other. I like the mystery and the time to enjoy my attractions for someone before moving into starting a relationship. I like the dance, and I like getting the chance to observe the guy so my decision to get involved can be about more than simply being attracted to him. As someone observed in an earlier post, there is already a kind of knowing that the attraction exists on some level for both people. This is the first stage of relationship, where infatuation, flirting, daydreaming and longing live. It’s full of mystery and wonder. It may come to fruition and it may not. I think making it into a game shows a lack of confidence. It keeps people safe and protected, and does not let the natural mystery exist. Playing games is too manufactured and manipulative. That being said, I don’t advocate spilling everything right away. There’s so much to enjoy in the process of getting to know someone, why make it a game – that’s playing with another persons feelings and emotions for one’s own selfish gain. Not my personal ideal.

  7. Like many other people said the key is to be yourself. Someone will like you for who you are. “It’s better to be disliked for who you are than to be loved for what you’re not”.

  8. 1. Should women play hard to get? Yes.
    Iv’e thought about the answer to this question a few times over the course my life even before I started dating. I’ve thought of it the opposite well as well. I suppose the answer changes with age. Like some of the men said, “the chase” was fun in their twenties. However, once in their thirties people are too exhausted to play games. My answer to this question would be yes as well. I don’t think women should “play” [around with emotions] but they also should not be easy to get. One must have standards and if you are so eager as to accept any man that approaches you its hard to say that you have any morals and standards. For women’s own self respect, they should be a bit challenging but the challenge ought to be natural…if that makes any sense. For example, I don’t agree that women need to create a challenge, just the person they are (what they will and will not accept) should make the man have to work a bit to understand what she is about. And if he doesnt get a clue its probably because he doesn’t care and the reason why he wouldn’t care is because the woman never showed enough self respect to give the impression that she cared about.Why would he care if she doesn’t love herself in the first place. He probably has the understanding [most likely his first thought is sex)and that he is going to get it especially if he picks you up at a bar or club and you are dressed permiscuously. I’d the man can have fun and no commitment he’ll take it, and that’s not someone he wants as a wide anyway.
    …How stereotypical is this answer?…

  9. I agree that if a woman plays hard to get it may show the man that she just doesn’t have any interest in him. If she really likes a man she needs to be upfront and let him know. A mature woman doesn’t need to play games. If she plays hard to get knowing that she really wants him, she could end up losing him.
    At the same time you don’t want to look like you are desperate because that could scare him off. Nobody whether it is a man or woman wants someone who’s desperate or needy. There is a saying, “It’s better to be wanted than needed”. I personally believe this because I would rather be with someone who wants me to be in their life than to be with someone who feels they need me to be in their life.
    I agree with Nicole, you should really get to know someone and show your true colors before you get into a relationship. I think that too many people make this mistake by rushing into a relationship to fast just to find out later this is not the same person that they met.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this post and some of the replies as well! Like most of the other readers, I agree that you should definitely be somewhere in the middle. When I talked to some of my guy friends about this same subject, they mostly said that when a woman plays hard to get it seems as if they are not interested so they wont try to pursue them. However they all said that when women are too “easy” it is a even bigger turnoff because ANYONE could have (and probably has had) them. The saying “you always want what you can’t have” is very relevant to this topic. I believe that it is human nature to desire the unattainable, however if someone is too hard to get the pursuer is likely to give up!

  11. “It’s okay to be eager, just do it with dignity” (Eli Finkel). I feel like this last line from the blog post sums everything up because playing hard to get is a common misconception among women. If not done correctly it could lead the male that you like to believe that you are genuinely not interested. I’ve seen it happen many times among my peers. Females act hard to get in order to make the male feel more interested. It is definitely a common occurrence with the younger crowd because it is considered “the thing to do”. It also works to some extent because males have learned to expect this sort of behavior from females. One of the many stereotypes involving women are that they are often “needy’, this leads the women to play hard to get because they don’t want to come off as “needy” right off the bat.

  12. I recently was cleaning and was sorting through books I wanted to donate. I had a pile of books and magazines with titles similar to, “The Rules”. I was taught how to, “Catch Him and Keep Him”, “How to Act Like a Lady and Think Like a Man” and I discovered how “Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus.” Cosmo, Seventeen and Glamor all agree that wearing the right outfit, saying and even not saying the right thing, how to use or withhold sex will lead women in the arms of Mr.Right. While looking at this pile of books and magazines, I realized what I really wanted to know is how can I have healthier relationships?

    I do agree that dating and relationships can be difficult and can leave one feeling vulnerable. But these books and magazines give people the wrong message. They are telling women to shut up and be sexy. We are taught that what we have is not good enough. I think if people practiced having healthy relationships with friends, colleagues and family members we would learn the importance of human connection.

    When looking for a life partner I want someone that showed me interest and transparency. Playing my the “rules” would lead to a lack of trust and would distract people from getting to know each other.

  13. I don’t think women should play hard to get because that’s how you miss opportunities, to love or to be loved. I know i have been in situations where i’m playing hard to get and not really showing a girl no attention and the girl is doing the same but neither of us can tell if we liked each other. By us both playing hard to get we never hooked up, but a few months later I ran into her and we were talking about how we felt about each other and we both were in relationships so we couldn’t pursue each other.

  14. Jessica Garriga

    I’m honestly way too dense to realize when someone is flirting with me, so when I realize what’s going on it’s far too late to shut down the guy quickly. Because I don’t want to tell them of my sexual orientation, I often try to avoid their flirting or make a joke out of it. Sadly, these guys take it as me ‘playing hard to get’. It’s a really bothersome situation and gets me nervous since I have no real idea of what to do or how to deal with them. I’ve tried so hard to show how uninterested I am with dating boys, but instead I get persistence and even more flirting. I don’t like the concept of playing hard to get, because it makes my life harder…Then again I have played that game with past girls a little bit. I guess it just makes it more fun? I have no idea. I am way too inexperienced on this subject to really make an evaluation. But If it’s fun and it makes asking out easier, maybe ‘playing hard to get’ isn’t such a bad thing?

  15. Wu Cheuk Yin (Cherry)

    Interesting post! Personally, I think that the idea from “The Rules” could only attract people a decade ago. I don’t know if the idea of pretending cool can still attract people nowadays. Besides, I agree with people saying that “The more effort a couple made to build up their relationship makes them harder to break it off.” There are actually no tactics and techniques to pursue or attract someone. Being confident in yourself is already the greatest charm. “Playing hard to get” is like playing games – ‘You play to win a girl’. Women are invaluable; no one can buy them as a good.

  16. I do not think women should “play hard to get” but just be themselves. Playing hard to get sometimes fools the mind and you give the person mixed signals. If you are interested in the guy let them know but don’t tell them too fast..take your time and get to know the person little by little and flirting here and there so they know you are interested. Some of my male friends have told me that they do it like it better when some females approach first because it shows that they have confidence and that a little game doesn’t hurt. So all in all be you, confident, and proud. “Playing hard to get” is not game its just a factor of life.

  17. I personally feel that if you like a guy, you should go for him. When I first met my boyfriend (we’ve been dating 3 years now), I let him know I was interested. We started talking and I remember my friends saying, “You shouldn’t text him back so fast, he’s going to get bored talking to you!” That’s when I thought to myself…”Not as long as what I have to say is interesting!” I think people tend to think too much when they first meet someone; trying to be the best of themselves to prove how great they are, when in reality you should just show the guy who you really are…if they like you, good! If not, too bad! At least you find out before you get into a relationship with someone and end up breaking up.

  18. Personally, I feel it’s true that all women do compare themselves to celebrity’s in their youthful days. Always having to “dress to impress” males and keeping up with the latest fashions, while growing up. Learn how to be comfortable with “Natural Beauty”. To become well educated and earn respect from your colleagues depends on how you were brought up. If you are comfortable in your own skin, you are more than likely to achieve your goals to your best ability. Women shouldn’t have to feel that they need to be the next Angelina Jolie. That is absurd! Be different & be yourself. You are the best you that only you can imitate well. Confidence in your own skin will take you a long way.

  19. Although I found this post interesting, I do not believe in “playing hard to get” when it comes to relationships. I can see how some guys find this to be manipulative because the word “playing” does not seem like you are being yourself or even genuine. It seems to me that if you are “playing hard to get” then you are worrying too much about if the other person is interested in you. Why not just enjoy the date, be yourself, and get to know someone else? It seems like it would be pretty hard getting to know someone else if you are always pushing them away. If so, how do you know if this person is even worth putting all of this effort into getting him to chase you? As for opening up and trusting a guy, I think that just comes with time and trust is another difficult topic that is different for everyone. You should probably just get to know him first and if he is interested, great. Then you should consider the information you are willing to confide in him with. If he is not interested, move forward to someone who is interested in you for who you are.

  20. Personally, I feel that if a woman has interest in a man, she should “play hard to get.” If she doesn’t, then she should make it clear that she has no interest in him. Women shouldn’t waste their time so-called applying “The Rules” if she doesn’t like him. I wouldn’t want a woman to give it up that easy. However, a little chase wouldn’t hurt, just don’t diss me if I’m acknowledging the fact that I’m interested. Men don’t care for “stuck up” attitudes because we lose interest easily.

  21. Jocelyn Marin Gutierrez

    I feel that women shouldn’t play hard to get because it shows immaturity. If you’re interested in somebody why not just be straight forward with one another. It’s nothing to be shamed off. It can be a little intimidating if you don’t know how the person feels about you, but it’s better to find out before your feelings get too involved.
    However, some women play hard to get without knowing it. It just happens to look like they are but most of the time women do find the male attractive. In fact she may like him a lot to the point where she doesn’t want to mess anything up between them so she doesn’t know what to say nor do. Which suck, because so men take it as she is not interested when she really is.

  22. It’s always best to be moderate and not too much on one side of the argument. It’s always best to try as much as the guy does, if he doesn’t try then there’s no point for you to do so, but never be too easy, that doesn’t give a good sign. Most of the time the guy doesn’t try to attempt the girl because he thinks he is going to get shut down, men feel scared to face a real woman. Ever man is different, but if he is nice he won’t take advantage if you show a little more interest than you should. But playing hard to get isn’t the best option when it comes to approaching a guy because he doesn’t want to feel inferior to you and it shows them you have no interest in them, which makes them move on to the next girl he sees.

  23. After reading some of these rules my first thoughts were “ If I was a guy I would be so annoyed by this” these rules seem rather ridiculous to me and I cant help but think that they will have the opposite effect that is intended. Guys are not going to want to wait around forever to hear back and figure out if a girl is interested. I can understand playing a little hard to get and not coming on too strongly but to take something as unique as dating and apply it to a formula seems a bit odd. Dating is so different for so many people and is constantly changing depending on the couple so why interfere with that. I think it is about just finding a happy medium and doing what works for your relationships without stringing each other on.

  24. It is interesting, when reading this article I was thinking to myself – most all guys do this too. I think there are two types of guys (1) who want you to be easy – just to get laid and (2) some like the chase and are looking for something long term. I would have thought that a little “hard to get” is always a good thing. It shows that you have standards and morals and are “not easy for every guy.” I always had a no kissing rule for dating; although I never really dated. My dates always ended up in relationships and I’ve had 4 major relationships that average 3 years long. However from my experience – guys liked to be approached, it shows you have a genuine interest. I wouldn’t think a guy wants to get 2 calls a day or more, so not calling him off the bat and waiting for his call first is always a safe bet (some girls are too clingy off the bat so learning how to be the opposit is probably a good thing!). I agree with one of the male students, earlier playing “hard to get” might have flown, but I am in a time in my life where I don’t want to “beat around the bush,” as the saying goes and want to get down to business, if I am interested – I’ll tell you – if you’re not interested in me – tell me, simple as that.

  25. Those “rules” are very interesting. The article pointed out that most males will feel manipulated. I know it is definitely true. Guys always want women to respect them and react fast. I agree with the above comment that guys will think girls are not interested with them if they follow those “rules”. It will be much simpler if women act as themselves and I think it is more effective than playing hard to get. The most important point is that more communication lets guys and girls know more about each other, thus they more easily build a good relationship.

  26. I agree with most of the post that women have to act somewhere in the middle. They can’t act desperate because that is not attractive but they can’t play hard to get or at least to long because men will either become tired with the chase and bored or they think that women are uninterested. This is a complicated and tricky situation and I think that women should just be themselves. If a woman gets along with a man then that is great and they can see where that goes. But if not then they should move on and find someone else that they get along with. I don’t think that women have to wait for a man to make the first move because men might me shy or notice a woman at first and if they don’t make a move they might miss out on their true love.

  27. Alexandra Dangerfield

    I feel woman that play hard to get sometimes intimidate certain men. He feels the discomfort of knowing that she’s playing hard to get, so his pride is somewhat taken away; A man is known to run the relationship and be masculine, and sometimes when a female is playing the “man’s role”, that lets the man know she is powerful, strong and independent and also may not need him in the long run. Although, a man who likes a woman who plays hard to get, I feel is a man of integrity because he is letting the female know he is ok with her “running” the relationship, or he is ok that she is strong, powerful, and independent. There is nothing wrong with a woman playing hard to get, it’s simply implying she may not want to come off too strong and scare him away. It does not mean that she is not interested, but everybody takes it in their own way.

    -Alexandra Dangerfield

  28. ‘Playing hard to get’ sounds way too complicated, definitely more work than its worth. I wouldn’t want to be with a man who needed me to act this way to be passionate. Being unable to communicate with someone I like would be frustrating. I was raised to believe the man was suppose to make the first move, but this wasn’t successful for me at all. About a year ago I made the bold step and asked my current boyfriend out, we’ve been happy ever since. He is a pretty shy guy, and If I hadn’t made the move, we probably wouldn’t be together.

  29. Novel idea:
    Why don’t people just be themselves? And if things click, awesome.

  30. I found this blog post to be quite interesting. I know, from being a female in college, that the whole idea of “playing hard to get” is a common occurrence. Just like the blog mentioned, I have found that there are “rules” to who contacts whom, how long the emails or texts are, or even how quickly you respond to emails or texts. I will be sitting with my girl friends, having lunch or something, when one of the girls will say something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I should text him yet, it hasn’t been long enough. He is going to think that I am desperate.” It does make sense though that guys would like it if girls were hard to get to other guys, but easy to get to them. It would make him feel as though he has something to offer that the other guys do not have.

  31. Kimberly Morrison

    I agree with Delila about how you have to be somewhere in the middle. You can’t be too much because to a lot of men that is unattractive and if you don’t pay attention to them at all they think you are not interested. Every man is different though because some like to chase and some want their women to be obsessed with them. When you start to date a man you have to feel him out and see what he likes. I feel that every man has their own opinion on this topic, just like all the examples above.

  32. It seems like you have to be somewhere in the middle. I thought guys preferred doing the chasing. But if the girl does not react they seem to think she isn’t interested. Nowadays women feel like some guys are dragging their feet so they ask the men out. I was watching Love and Hip Hop, and one of the women, Chrissy, proposed to her fiance. She even gave him a ring. He finally decided that he was ready to commit to her on his own time. He knew that she was the one for him because she was always there for him. It depends on the person because some people do not like when people play hard to get. They feel like the person is playing mind games with them and will not give them a chance. Others like to play hard to get though not for too long because the person who is chasing may end up losing interest. Like what was said in the post being eager to be with someone is okay as long as your dignity remains in tact.

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