Why Women Don’t Ask Guys Out

date meGuys sometimes ask why women don’t ask men out. Some suppose they can’t take rejection.

I teach women’s studies so I asked my students to write down what they thought on the topic.

I asked:

Have you ever asked a guy out? If not, why not? If yes, why? Were you nervous? How did he respond? Should it be socially acceptable for women to ask men out? Would making a move make you feel more empowered? Or would you rather not have to face rejection?

This is an intro to women’s studies class in the Bay Area, so the women may be more liberal than most.

I got 26 responses. Interestingly, most had asked a guy out at some point. But over a third (9) had not. Why not?  Here’s what they said: 

About half (4) hadn’t because “men are supposed to.” As one explained,

In high school it was not cool to ask the guy out and people, I feel, would not really accept or understand it.

Another four feared rejection. Well, three did. One liked “the power of rejecting or making it happen because it’s my choice, not a man’s.”

But another young woman really wanted to make a move but couldn’t get up the nerve:

I wish I had more courage. I work part time and I like a guy I work with. If I asked him to hang out and he said no I would feel very nervous and awkward having to see him at work. But part of me just wants to blurt out, “I like you.”

Another worried that a guy might say no and then gossip to all his friends. It’s different for guys, she said, “Because they’re expected to ask girls out and they expect to get some rejection, so rumors won’t be spread about them.”

Since women are considered gatekeepers to sexuality, maybe she worried that “failing at” the initial job of gatekeeping could open the floodgates — or appear to — raising the fear of being called a slut?

In fact, one woman said she never wanted to give a guy a chance to degrade, hurt or use her. I suspect her point was fearing a guy would think she was a slut who only wanted sex. Use, abuse, toss away, and tell.

Another said,

I have just always wanted a guy to ask me out. It makes me feel like the guy actually likes me.

Is she worried she’d end up inviting sex from a guy who didn’t actually like her? The ho’ factor raising its ugly head once again?

It turns out that girls have a number of reasons, some simple and some complex, for not asking guys out.

And even though none of these women had asked a man out, they all thought it should be socially acceptable.

Next week I will look at young women who have asked men out.

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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 February 3, 2014, in feminism, gender, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. I’m 36 now and have liked lots of women over the years, but have never said anything to any of them. I’ve never gotten attention from women – from when I was in high school and college to grad school to the workplace, I’ve never seen a woman smile at me or had a woman say hi. With that [wholly negative] experience, I’m not about to tell someone who is almost certainly going to laugh in my face – or run away screaming – that I’d like to get to know her better. The fact is, I’m no worse than anyone else out there – I’m just chronically single and not stupid enough to expect that to change by opening myself to being humiliated.

    • I’m sorry to hear about this. Research has found that the more people get to know each other the more attractive they seem to see each other so maybe it would help to get to know people better.

      I’ve also noticed that people sometimes have a double standard. They are only interested in the most attractive people – conventionally attractive (Everyone is beautiful in their own way). But then they don’t look at people who aren’t considered conventionally attractive. Some of the happiest couples I know are people who are not especially attractive by society’s standards.

  2. I’ve never asked a woman out and no woman has ever asked me out – or shown interest in me. I do not show interest in any woman no matter how attracted to her I am – I’ve always kept my feelings to myself. I’d love to meet a woman and feel a mutual ‘spark’, but that won’t happen for me because in my case it’s not meant to.

  3. I used to think I’d like it if a woman asked me out … until it happened. It was very uncomfortable to decline, and I felt bad for her. So please, don’t ask me out!

  4. I just got off the phone with a friend and we were actually just exploring this exact subject. In a more recent post you mentioned something (I’m sorry for deeply paraphrasing) but it was about how women will be passive objects of beauty that will often hope their beauty will attract a man. Hopefully, from there a connection would be built and the rest is history. I think this ties into how from a young age in our society without it being explicitly said, but it is a more symbolic and subliminal message that women’s biggest and only value is beauty. Moreover, when these girls are not asking a guy because the man should do it I believe it does play into the fact that there is a validation in the act. The man finds the woman attractive and therefore she is allowed to pursue this relationship. In the act of a woman asking out a man there is a certain self-assurance correlated with this. I think this goes against a male dominant patriarchal society because woman are taught not to feel self-assured and confident in her beauty and furthermore herself. I find this to be such a shame. From many conversations with friends they feel less beautiful or less in general because a man does not pursue them. It is a shame that this is a feeling frequently felt by woman. I think woman should ask men out; I would never condone an act that promotes self-love, self-respect and a straightforward mentality.

  5. I am the type who does not care if I ask guys out because if I do not ask him out, and then he gets a girlfriend, I would regret more. However, I can totally understand that women feel fear because men might think that the women are slut or they might tell their friends because I always care when the men tell their friends about me when we fight.
    I totally agree with the last quote. Women don’t have to ask men out because it does not sound like asking them out is women’s role. However, I believe that if people have someone who is attractive and want to go out together, in spite of the role, they should ask without thinking other consequences because they might lose someone.

  6. I think some women have a weird misconception that if they just go about their lives looking pretty, some quality guy will swoop in and claim her. In my experience, that is not the way it works: most of the “swoopers” are the lowest-quality men out there.

  7. I think part of it comes down to the strange economics of heterosexual romance. Because of the prevailing social forces, most women can avoid the emotionally stressful act of asking a man out without enormously reducing their chances of finding love and companionship. If men choose to avoid asking women out, their odds of finding a partner are reduced much more than their female counterparts.

    Put another way, imagine you collected a thousand random heterosexual women who had never asked a man out and a thousand random hetero men who had never asked a woman out. The room would have a lot more men who had never been in a relationship than women.

    • That theory would make perfect sense if we lived in a world of equality where women and men both felt it was equally acceptable for both women and men to ask someone out.

      But you could tell from the answers that while the women and men in my class felt that it SHOULD BE equally acceptable, they also acknowledged that in reality, it wasn’t.

      The men felt surprised and lazy – like they weren’t doing “their job.”

      Even women who got up the nerve to ask men out sometimes responded with, “No, but yes” answers: They had asked, but they couldn’t admit it even to themselves–-because they experienced it as socially unacceptable, off-limits. Others who were rejected felt like the reason they had been rejected was because they had committed some sort of social crime. Some talked about the punishment they imagined would arise if they even tried to ask a guy out.

      When you live in a society like this, the notion that women don’t ask men out simply because they are lazy, or feel that they can get away with not making the effort, simply makes no sense.

      Most women simply don’t think they have the choice to ask men out on a regular basis. So how would it occur to them to feel like they don’t need to make the effort because guys will do it? If you don’t have the option? That’s something you would do either NEVER, or only in special circumstances. Sadie Hawkins. The prom. He’s just too shy but really likes me.

      In my own experience, before I got married, I occasionally got pissed off that I had to wait around for someone to ask me out. It just didn’t occur to me that asking a guy out was a real possibility.

      A number of men have already suggested the theory you posit here, on other posts. It’s the reason I decided to ask women about their experience. But it is a theory that comes out of the male experience. That’s how men experience dating and so they expect that’s how women would experience it, too. But women have so little experience with such things, even in their imagination, that they can’t jump to the conclusion that you reach. Something is missing in the middle: imagining the possibility of asking men out on a regular basis as a possible choice.

      • I completely agree with you on that on most places around the world – except in the more liberal cities were they do take more often a conscious call about it.

        Anyway the problem is the parents, they condition their boys into this and do the same to their daughters with statements such as “if he really likes you, he will ask you out” …

        Now we are not living in a perfect world but we can at least educate our children to not follow this kind of fucked up reality.

        Georgia, did you ever hear about “Herbivore men” in Japan ? men had started to turn back to their traditional rules because of how strict Japan was about the gender rules of her society.

      • Hmmm, my students live in the San Francisco Bay area. It doesn’t get any more liberal than that.

        The problem may be partly parents. But there is a whole lot more. Whenever you watch TV shows or movies men nearly always approach women. In music the men are always the leaders and women the passive followers. The whole notion permeates the culture. Women are also aware of men preferring to ask women out. That plays a big role too.

        Know I haven’t heard of “Herbivore men” in Japan.

      • You seem to have projected a bit more aggression into my post that I intended. Allow me to clarify. A was positing that “a part” of the issue was the penalties for not asking anyone out at all. I was not claiming it was the only reason, or that there wasn’t social pressure for women to take a more passive gender role in dating.

        I also didn’t use “lazy” or say women were averse to making an effort. Sloth is not the issue here. I was saying that one factor might be that men (in aggregate) face a larger penalty for not asking someone out than women. That women face a unique pressure to not ask someone out is certainly also a factor, but I don’t think it is the only one. Nor do I think that it makes no sense to suggest that people’s behavior might be governed in part by avoiding emotional pain when feasible.

      • I didn’t think you were aggressive.(The suggestion about being lazy is a reference to things others have said.) I just think that you have a male perspective and has no idea what it’s like to live inside a female perspective. Because you have no experience living inside that perspective. I’m trying to help fill in the blanks.

        Like I said, I think the theory makes perfect sense if you live in a world where asking men out seems normal, so that you could wait around to be asked because you know that if you don’t do it a guy will. We just don’t live in a world like that right now. Like I said, a piece is missing so that you can’t make that jump. It simply doesn’t make sense from a female perspective.

    • The responses you cite from your students seem to contradict your assumption about the inconceivable nature of a woman asking a man out. Agree to disagree, I suppose. Interesting article all the same, though.

      • I think the confusion comes from my answer to– I think it was John Claude. He had said something like, “so women will ask men out, but they don’t do it routinely the way men do.”

        I agreed and explained why they didn’t ask men out routinely.

        Even when they had asked a man out, some said that they hadn’t — but they had — asked a guy to prom or to something casual. Or they’d asked a guy out only because he seemed to like her but was too shy to ask. Or they had asked a guy out, found it traumatic, and would never do it again.

        Of course, it’s possible that A few do ask men out routinely, but none of them said they did, and given our culture I find it hard to imagine that they would. So I was trying to explain why that was.

  8. I can’t take rejection from a man, so I try not to be in situations where a man can say “No” to me. I have never asked men out because I do not want to give them the chance to look down on me, degrade, hurt or use me in any ways. However, I am also conscious of the fact that I might have missed on someone special just because I did not ask him out or went talk to him first. For example, I have some girl friends who found their soul-mate by making the first step (call the man, ask him out, tell him how they feel…). So, I think it depends on the personality, whether or not someone can stand rejection or gossip. Further, I do not think that “men are supposed to” ask girls out. In fact, I think it is socially acceptable that a woman asks a man out. Men also want to feel special or loved; therefore, some of them actually also think like women. In other words, they are also waiting for women to ask them out because they do not want to be rejected or underestimated by a woman.

    • Lolita, yes it is more acceptable but yet the problem lies by the fact that men are being taught from childhood to approach the ones they like even if they are afraid of rejection, even if they feel dis empowered by the action, even if the women can shot them down without a blink.

      If men weren’t being condition to this behavior from childhood, then equality will be in place, but most importantly – those that will never take a risk might pass a life time of loneliness unless they will learn to take a risk. At the moment it is only the guys who can get into this situation that if they give up they will stay lonely.

      “some of them actually also think like women”, no men think like men … or maybe just think as a human… being afraid of rejection, being afraid to be objectified for what you do or what your age is, being shut down is not a female trait – its a human trait.

    • Ms. Lolita – You do not want to be in situations where a man can say “NO!” to you, but you are OK WITH GUYS GOING THROUGH IT? I would laugh out loud, but so many women apply this double standard every day of the week, and throw anger and ridicule
      at any man who esposes the hypocrisy. Well, I guess that you are NOT alone!

  9. Another quick male perspective :
    Over the years I had been exposed to a large number of average looking guys who gave up. By giving up I mean they just don’t do it, the fear from rejection is to high and even the ones that got a lot of rejections still fear it and feel pain by it.

    This is not the 10% of society but actually the main chunk of the guys, some try to turn to other solutions such as dating sites instead and most don’t even use the websites because of its stigma. Those guys fear the same things those girls said…

    If one wants equality he should do it on all levels … yes – saying yes or no to an offer has a power behind it and while most don’t think about it they feel it and they won’t want to give it up. Equality means to kill all social norms that hurt only one side – same task, same treatment … it shows mutuality which is the most important thing.

  10. Well , Yeah to be frank I had a crush on few but never approached them first! I din’t fear but I always wanted a guy to approach me 😛 Reason may be I wanted to feel special . There’s nothing wrong If a girl asks a guy out. I feel they should but it depends from liking of person to person.

  11. I’m a man so I do not understand what is it like to ask a “guy” out but talking about myself, I have been asked out from girls several times and I felt so happy and proud. Even if I was not really “into” that girl who had asked me out, the fact that she actually worked up her courage and told me is an amazing and pleasing thing. Since it seems to be so hard for them to ask a guy out, it indicates that they climbed over such a high wall and it even enhances the value of doing it. Talking about men, since it is considered to be our role to commence the relationship, it may be arduous for some guys as well. Even if they were brave enough to do this, they would not be praised or anything. So from that point of view, I would say girls should take advantage of that if they can.

  12. This was always something I wondered too. Many of my girlfriends (all in their 30s) still refuse to ask a guy out. I think it’s ridiculous! I asked them why and they all said that it’s the guy’s responsibility. Meanwhile, they just wait around until it happens.

  13. Interesting. I’ve never asked a guy out, but I’ve also had a fairly limited range of dating experiences so I’d skew the data in all sorts of ways. I have no issue with the concept of a role reversal and think it should probably be more common because women shouldn’t be waiting around or feeling that they aren’t entitled to being assertive. BUT I’m a total hypocrite because I like being pursued, ha.

  14. Sometimes wating for a guy to ask you out will weed out the one’s not really interested, other times its simply a guy interested but nervous to ask a girl out. So it’s not good to always assume that. Plus a woman being proactive is more likely to meet a guy she is interested in rather than waiting to be asked out and the “mixed bag” of guys she has no interest in coming up to her and asking her out. I don’t think it’s so much women asking men out, but women showing more interest in guys. It’s tough for guy’s being out at bars or clubs, concerts, etc where they don’t know the women, but hoping to meet some. But the women there not seeming interested, or the ones who might, are so discrete or look at the guy when he’s looking away, so he has know idea she might be interested. So it can be tough for guys meeting women, especially when out of school. Whereas, not that hard for women or girls to get a date from a decent or good looking guy if they want one.

  15. Why Women Don’t ask guys Out

    I can honestly say that I have never asked a guy out. I agree with the majority of the people asked in the class when they said that it was really for the man to do that. Some feared rejection, which I can understand. If I found a guy cute and wanted to date him, I would still wait for him to make the move. I would definitely send out feelers and signals I was interested, but I do believe it’s the man’s place to ask a girl out on a date. There is a risk factor the guy will think you are too easy or that you are only out for one thing, which is what one person mentioned in the article. Even though I would never ask a guy out, I don’t think it’s a problem if some women choose to do so.

  16. Yes, taking the initiative can easily get one seen as generally sexually available and an acceptable target for harassment, in my generation, which is older than that of most of your readers. I hope this is changing.

  17. Interesting that asking guys out still is rife with trepidation for this younger generation. I definitely think it should go either way in terms of who gets to ask who out- but I personally have discovered that I like to be asked out… and it can sometimes weed out the ones who aren’t that interested or not open to more than just fun at the moment.

  18. Interesting stuff. I had a crush on a guy for a long time in high school, and I wouldn’t have considered myself that confident then, but I finally got tired of waiting and called and nervously left him a message on his answering machine (the old days!). We ended up dating for 2 1/2 years. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked anyone out in person since then, though. It doesn’t sound like the trends have shifted that much 18 years later.

    I’d be curious to see how it plays out in online dating, since it seems that the threshold is a lot lower and the fear of rejection is dulled by not having to see the person’s reaction or interact with them again at work or school.

  19. As a professor of women’s studies, is there an ‘intro’ textbook that you would recommend for those who want to explore the topic more fully?

  20. All I can really say here is that I think women should be able to ask a man out. If he treats you like crap afterwards or acts like you took something that should have been his, then he was never worth your time in the first place.

  21. I’ve never been asked out by a woman. Spoken to….yes 😉

  22. I think the general attitude about a woman asking a man out has been slowly changing over the last few decades, but I can understand why some women would be reluctant to relinquish the power of being able to choose. It’s a power that, historically, they haven’t always had (and in many places around the world still do not have), and women have always struggled to get and keep power in the prevailing male-dominated societies.

    Women ‘taking the reins’ and asking out men is a proactive approach that is both a source of power (they get to choose who they ask) and a form of submission in the asking. But women who might otherwise ask out men may be reluctant to do so because of the social stigmas against it. The pro-male influence always manifest itself in ways that impede or prevent women from assuming power or control.

    I have no problem with a woman being direct and asking out a man. There is certainly enough game-playing in the dating arena, so it’s nice to have that open honesty. It seems to me that men who are put-off by it are likely insecure and have a need to dominate women. That macho stance might appeal to some women, but not the kind of woman I find interesting and attractive. I prefer my relationships to be more well-balanced.

    • Well, the power to choose can actally feel disempowering. Interesting that only one of these women said she felt powerful in choosing.

      But you make a lot of good points. Like if a guy doesn’t like it, he may not be the best guy to be in a relationship with.

      • Some day we may progress to the point where these fine points no longer matter, though part of me kind of hopes we never do.

      • “part of me hope we never do”

        Interesting. How so?

      • Because it might mean we’ve lost part of what makes men and women different… to quote the great romantic philosopher Pepé Le Pew, “Viva le difference!”

      • Hate to keep bugging you, but why’s that important? Being different.

      • While they’re not always fair and balanced, many of our social norms are a reflection of the differences between men and women, rather than the similarities. But those differences are part of what makes the opposite-sex attractive and interesting.

        Sharing common interests and similar opinions are great for getting along with each other, but it’s the differences that challenge us and help us to grow as individuals. In other words, we compliment each other. And those kinds of differences are good.

        But obviously not all the differences in our social norms are beneficial. There are silly ones like ‘blue is for boys and pink is for girls’, but then there are grossly-unfair ones like disparity of wages. Things like that need to change, but not all our differences are bad.

      • Makes some sense. Change the norms that disempower, harm. Okay to keep those that are benign.

      • Right. We want change for unity, not loss of identity.

  23. I went on 2 dates in high school, one guy lasted 1 date, the other lasted 3. Both times they asked me out, and I really only said yes from sheer surprise. Both times I dropped them, because they were too masculine…too over protective, wanted to pay for everything, expected to immediately hold my hand and were constantly touching my back and shoulders. I couldn’t take it, such things *still* freak me out.

    My FwB and I didn’t ever actually ask each other out. Not officially, and not with those particular words. We kinda just…fell into it due to mutual attraction. But if we ever decided to become “just friends” again, I’d be sure to be the one doing the asking of my next partner. I see no reason not to and I’d rather be the one to risk rejection than the man.

    • Wonder how the first move came about with you two?

      A lot of guys think women won’t ask men out. Thanks for shaing.

      • It was literally just a sudden thing. He always knew that I’d been through some traumatic stuff, but one night we were just hanging out after work and he asked about the details. I told him nearly everything that hour…and at the end of it, he took my hand, said he was so sorry for what I went through, brushed my hair back, and gave me the softest kiss I’ve ever had.

        When it finished, I realized that for the first time I was being touched without experiencing flashbacks, or crying, or feeling like I was suffocating. So, it went from there, and a year later we had piv sex 2 weeks before my 22nd birthday. He was so incredibly patient…I don’t know how many other men would wait that long, and willingly get frustrated, but I’m guessing not a lot of them. Now we’ve been FwB for nearly 8 years, and I’m content and happy.

        Sorry if that was tmi…

      • I’m so sorry you had to go thru something so traumatic. But I’m so glad you’re better now. And that you found such a great guy to support you.

      • He is full of awesome. 😀
        Thanks for the condolences.

  24. I they ask men out, there were few girls who asked me out during my college but I think I was a soft target because I was always polite with them…they are the once whom I can still talk to. I think this could be another topic, the people of opposite sex you can stay friends with 😉 🙂

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