A Simple Guide for Looking at Women on the Street: Glancing Vs. Staring

woman walking

I don’t hold eye contact, I don’t look for more than a second and I don’t let my gaze linger. I do all these things out of respect for one simple fact.

 

I live in New York City where, when I walk down the street, I see literally thousands of women a month walking towards and past me. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes. The range of interactions has some variability, but 95% of the time, it works like this:

If they glance and notice I’m looking at them, they look away very quickly. What I see in that moment is someone being careful. Very very careful.

Many of the women I glance at are intentionally not looking at me. They are avoiding all eye contact, seemingly staring into some specific spot on the street that does not contain a man’s eyes. If they glance and notice I’m looking at them, they look away very quickly. What I see in that moment is someone being careful. Very very careful.

I glance at women. I don’t look at them for more than a second or two. I never stare at them. I glance at them because they are lovely, or interesting, or fashionable, or simply in my path. I glance at them for the same reasons I glance at men: to judge their intention as they approach me, to see if they’re texting or looking, or to insure I don’t get run over.

Because I have a solid sense of who I am and what my intention is, I glance at women without the feeling of guilt or nervousness I carried as a teenager. There is nothing wrong with a glance. But to look longer at a woman you do not know? Or worse, to stare? That is a different thing. For the very same reason I do not make and hold eye contact with men (or for that matter, dogs I don’t know) I do not look overly long at women, because it suggests an intrusion. Something for which I do not have permission.

When I see any women walking down the street, avoiding all eye contact, I feel a deep sense of empathy. Accordingly, I don’t look for more than a second and I don’t let my gaze linger. I do all these things out of respect for a simple fact—women don’t feel safe. No matter how “civilized” we insist western society has become, there is still a high degree of real and present danger for women from aggressive male strangers. And if a woman is from another part of the world, the likelihood that she has faced violent and aggressive male strangers is dramatically higher.

I track men much more carefully than I do women. And for exactly the same set of reasons that women do. Because men like to project power. And some men, a very few, but enough, like to project power by verbally or physically abusing strangers.

Whats more, many males understand how this fear of aggressive men feels.

As a child, I feared and avoided eye contact with bullying teenage boys. Junior high school was an exercise in avoiding being assaulted. My issue has never been with women. My issue is with men, who, to this day, are far more likely to be aggressive with me.  I track men much more carefully than I do women. And for exactly the same set of reasons that women do. Because men like to project power. And some men, a very few, but enough, like to project power by verbally or physically abusing strangers.

And before you take that deep breath and launch into a list of the ways that men are victims of rape and physical violence from their female partners, don’t bother. I have written about that fact numerous times. I’ll write about it again right here. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey | 2010 Summary Report. page 2 states that:

“More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

Yes, men face a range of risks and threats in the world. But as a man, I have never had to live in fear that if I hold eye contact for too long with a women I do not know, she will approach me and start an unwelcome conversation that could lead to abusive behavior. Why? Because on some level, I always felt I could stand my ground physically. If I had to, I could fight a woman and get away.

But being able to fend off an unwelcome advance is not a certainty for many women. The percentage of men who are abusive in their behavior on the street, in bars, at schools, or in other public places may be limited, but there are enough men out there who behave like this that there is a very real corresponding fear for women. Namely, a stranger who won’t take no for an answer. For women, it is as follows: Acknowledge a strange man in even the slightest way, get approached. Say “no thank you” and get shamed, verbally abused, or possibly physically assaulted.

As human beings, we all face a basic challenge. We have to go out into the world and communicate our availability as a potential partner, attract the attention of individuals we view as viable and not attract the attention of individuals we don’t find appealing. Doing this in the world is no easy task. It’s like trying to garden prize orchids in the middle of a rugby match.

As human beings, we all face a basic challenge. We have to go out into the world and communicate our availability as a potential partner, attract the attention of individuals we view as viable and not attract the attention of individuals we don’t find appealing. Doing this in the world is no easy task. It’s like trying to garden prize orchids in the middle of a rugby match. And the more you signal your assets as a potential partner, the more attention you attract from persons who’s attention you are not seeking.

But a women’s effort to appeal to a prospective mate, whether that be through style of dress (yoga pants or otherwise) or public behavior  is not, and should never be, an invitation for unwanted attention. If you are man in the market for a relationship, take note. The signals and the cues are simple. The rules are even simpler. Glance, do not stare. If you get a glance back. Look a bit more. If a women, says “no thanks” in any way, (and yes, that can be as simple as glancing away) move on with courtesy and respect.

The vast percentage of men are decent hearted and would never intentionally harm a soul. But some men (and women) are not. Any man who continues to approach a women who is indicating “no thank you” in stronger and stronger terms, is being abusive. And as long as there is widespread abusive behavior by a limited number of men in the world, the rest of us will all be forced to limit our social interactions with women in order to try and make the world feel a little safer. Which is a shame.

So, thanks to the jerks of the world for that. You’ve made the rest of us men have to prove on a daily basis that we are not you. (Like I wanted to spend my life undoing your abusive work.) But that’s the way it is. And men need to acknowledge that fact, both in their interactions and their political dialogues. Work for change, but acknowledge the ongoing facts of the world.

So, thanks to the jerks of the world for that. You’ve made the rest of us men have to prove on a daily basis that we are not you.

As a person who supports a robust and honest discussion of men’s issues, I acknowledge that men face many cultural inequities and challenges. I believe that we need to insure that men enjoy equal rights in the realms of family law, victim services and other areas. I fully realize that men fall victim to rape and abuse by women. But that does not change the simple math of upper body strength and social conditioning. It is not white knight behavior to advocate for a culture of civility and non-violence toward women. It is simple common decency.

Equally, in the public dance of finding a partner, women may have to become more assertive in indicating interest. Making the first move and communicating clearly when they would like to have a conversation would go a long way to alleviate the concern that man are expected to approach women who give only the slightest nod of interest. This subtle signaling sets men up to face an endless string of rejections, unable to differentiate between the lingering glance that signals interest and the passing glance that does not.

But ultimately, it is the inequity of physical strength that is at the root of our cultures’ relationship challenges. Most men can simply overpower women. And a small percentage of men often do with terrible consequences. It is what drives some women’s anger and fuels the distorted and angry battle between the sexes.  Until all of us men, every single one of us, take responsibility for our public and private behavior, all the inequities we face will remain as secondary issues, held hostage by the men among us who behave like animals instead of human beings.

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Remaking Manhood is a collection of Mark Greene’s most widely shared articles on American culture, relationships, family and parenting. It is a timely and balanced look at the issues at the heart of the modern masculinity movement. Mark’s articles on masculinity and manhood have received over 100,000 FB shares and 10 million page views. Get Remaking Manhood IN PRINT or on the free Kindle Reader app for any Mac, Windows or Android device here. 

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How America’s Culture of Shame is a Killer for Boys

The Culture of Shame: Men, Love, and Emotional Self-Amputation

The Man Box: Why Men Police and Punish Others

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Executive Editor Mark Greene’s articles for the Good Men Project have received over 250,000 Facebook shares and ten million page views.

Greene writes and speaks on culture, society, family and fatherhood. His work is a timely and balanced look at the life affirming changes emerging from the modern masculinity movement.

Greene writes and speaks on men’s issues for the Good Men Project, the Shriver Report, the New York Times, Salon, the BBC and the Huffington Post.

Comments

  1. *Excellent article!* Thanks, Mark!

  2. Barry Blust says:

    If you are receiving such negative energy it is because you are sending out negative energy. Might be you are being so ‘careful’ you are creating tension. People read energy all the time. I gaze at women a lot… follow them with a smile and energy that says ‘you are lovely’ and what I receive is a smile and often a smile with a nod. A man used to tip his hat in appreciation.

    Anyone else think this article is about women who need to find peace and one man who has problems?

    • Anonymous says:

      This advice is at odds with material on on the subject of body language that I read that states a man should not be the first to break eye contact wih a woman whom he finds attractive, this conveys submissiveness, which most women do not find attractive.

      • Dude, you’re reading the wrong advice. Really. Body language is important, yes, but most women I know, myself included, find it creepy and/or intimidating if a guy we don’t know doesn’t break eye contact, ie, stares. That is NOT attractive. Personally, if I have seen a guy staring I will glance back, not to see if he’s attracted, but to gauge intention – that is, decide if I will need to dissuade in more concrete methods in the near future, ie, measure threat. Is this someone I should be wary of? It is different if it’s a gentle, communal play, but starting to project non-submissiveness? NO.

    • Anonymous says:

      nailed it!

    • So, you’re essentially saying that women are causing their own harassment by the ‘vibes’ they’re sending out. Bro, take responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I get the energy thing, but tell me how that works for 13-year old me when a middle-aged guy yells from his car about how he wants to eat me out and I have to ask my friends what that means and NO ONE KNOWS…? He stared for ages first. Really? ‘Creating tension’? When I was 15 and got followed more than once to the point where I ran into random shops and/or houses to dissuade said follower? They stared. Have held keys between fists more times than I can count because of unwanted, uncomfortable stares…because *I* was creating that tension? No. Believe me, I am trying to find peace, but there are many women who have, and STILL get hassled on the street. This is not ‘one man who has problems’ as you would dearly like to believe. This man sees further than most. I really hope when you say ‘I follow them with a smile’ that you mean following the gaze. Really, the maaaaajor majority of women can do quite well without your particular brand of acknowledgement or validation. Believe it or not, we don’t need the, ha, appreciation of the Man On The Street to know that we are worthy human beings, which is what your ‘appreciation’ comes down to.

    • Anonymous and Barry Blust: You are receiving great feedback about what’s really creepy and what’s not. Men tell other men to hold a woman’s gaze and not look away because maybe it gets them a date 1 in 1,000 times; what they’re not willing to acknowledge is that the other 999 women hate you because you made them feel uncomfortable.

      Also, I’d like for you both to spend some time in prison and then come back and talk to me about how women need to “find peace” with the sexual aggression of male strangers. Did you even read the article? You clearly have no idea what it’s like to know that there’s a significant chance of being raped at some point in your life, to have friends raped by people who seemed friendly at first, and then to have men tell you that you’re being paranoid when you’re trying to be careful!

      You can choose to keep reading articles written by other men and live in a spin-vacuum of your own delusions, continuing to act brutish and impolite without being willing to acknowledge it, or you can choose to listen and reflect critically on your behavior.

  3. Personally, I like the idea of men becoming “Herbivores” like the phenomenon which is currently giving Japan grief. Herbivores are men who, while they aren’t uninterested in sex or romantic relationships, simply express indifference to the idea. They don’t approach women, or try to stay masculine or “man up” to impress them. They just decided to stay out of that minefield altogether. They don’t do anything to actively seek out sex, but rather develop themselves and remain independent, and if the women want relationships, they have to be the ones to say something, compliment, flirt, approach, whatever.

    You would think there would be a reversal: women trying to approach men. Instead, there is a staggering spike in single women and depression in said women, and the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and has to provide incentives for people to have kids due to the massive decline in birth rates.

    But honestly, it’s the most surefire way for women to feel safe, men to be independent of situations that make us feel like walking-abominations, and to solve overpopulation. Not to mention, it solves a lot of double-standards. Now guys can wear makeup and make themselves pretty if they wish. Or heck, just be themselves: quirks, emotions, being frugal, liking pink OR blue, whatever. If girls or society don’t like it, it’s not like they were out to impress them, anyway. Though last I checked, the Japanese free market is having a ball with this new demographic.

  4. *eloquently (ahh phone typing)

  5. Little late to the party here but I only just came across GMP (long overdue) and this article. Mark I wanted to thank you not only for its content but the painstakingly careful way it is phrased. This is what I think I have been hoping to read from a male author for a long time and I just wish more men echoed these sentiments.
    As your average 24 y/o girl with decent dress-sense and quite long hair (the hair’s the giveaway!) I seem to get looked at in the street almost constantly and it really does feel incredibly predatory. Sometimes it’s a harmless glance, sometimes a lingerer or double-take, but quite often it’s accompanied by a verbal appraisal of my ‘assets’ or an attempt to engage in unwanted conversation or otherwise (“why thank you mister van driver, I was totally unaware up until this point that I’m considered ‘orrright’. Yes, please do take me, here and now, in the cab of your truck.” thought no woman ever). Then when you ignore/stare ahead/walk faster/pretend to look at phone, the comments become derogatory (“right so I’m a ‘slut’ for not taking you up on that dusgusting offer?).
    To all the men who think it’s just harmless fun or that freaking a woman out, especially a stranger in the street is a ‘woman’s cross to bear’, you try being the physically-less-overpowering-should-it-come-to-that one in the scenario, who is often also alone and outnumbered and see how it feels. Not that all men would turn agressive, I have enough decent guy pals to know most of you deserve the benefit of the doubt, but what I’m saying is that for many women that possibility is always in the back of your mind. Call it survival instinct.
    Men you can glance and even play a little game of ‘glance ping-pong’ if you really need to be sure she looked back if she does like you and go from there. Any more than that, when you’re not absolutely sure it’s reciprocated, is intrusive and can feel incredibly threatening. Mark, thanks for putting this so eliquently from the male perspective.

    • Barnicals says:

      As a guy… yeah… sorry. Some of us are assholes. Just out of interest, because I like to strike up conversations with people and make eye contact/say hello to people I pass on the street (who, shockingly, are often pretty girls), how do you feel about a guy just saying hello while smiling as he walks past? Does that intimidate you at all?

      • When I walk down the street and a guy smiles and says hi or hello, which is rare, I feel comfortable. It gives me a sense of validation that he sees me and isn’t intimidated by me. I often feel, and this depends on the area, more conservative areas tend to have this more, that when I walk down the street, mostly alone without boyfriend or friends, I see men glance at me and then quickly look away. It makes me feel uncomfortable. This is amplified when I walk towards a couple and notice the women try to distract the man or the man obviously trying to appear for the woman that I didn’t notice me. It’d be nice if I felt flattered by that, but I really dont. I feel like my body, my walk, and natural calm confidence makes people uncomfortable. Then I feel isolated and objectified. I usually feel more objectified by the guys that try to hide their interest. It definitely makes me uncomfortable.

      • I think it depends on where you live. In NYC, where Mark lives, only people who are at least a little crazy in some way say hi to anyone on the sidewalk; however, in Kansas (where I lived before moving to NYC), it was rude *not* to say hi to people you pass on the sidewalk.

        As a rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t ever do or say something to a man on the street, then don’t do/say it to a woman.

        Audrey, where do you live? I think a lot of the disagreements about this article’s advice come from big cultural differences. Yes, in Kansas, I would have felt strange around a shifty person who glanced but did not say hi, but in New York, anyone who says hi to me is sort of a threat.

        At least in New York, the glance-not-stare is really the only way to show admiration of a woman’s beauty while remaining deeply respectful. Mark really hit the nail on the head.

  6. Sherlock says:
    • “Whatever you do, do not look away and then keep looking back. Do NOT try to look out the side of your eye without being noticed. You will look sleazy and creepy.”

      Are you kidding me? It’s WAY creepier when a guy holds eye contact and stares at me than when he looks at me and looks away. The latter behavior suggests he finds me attractive but doesn’t want to be intrusive. The former behavior implies entitlement to my attention and aggression.

      Some advice: Don’t take advice about what’s creepy or not from a blog that admits to “narcissistic musings.” Listen to women and to thoughtful men like Mark.

  7. The thing I’ve learned about looking at women is that when I reject my sexuality when looking at them, they get creeped out.

    But when I own it fully and appreciate a woman in her fullness from a deeply rooted place, including heart and balls in my attention, women open up like flowers to the morning sun.

    If a man has a lot of experience with women being uncomfortable with his attention, my experience suggests it is a sign he’s not fully owning his sexual attraction to the opposite sex. It’s an awkward place to be culturally when many men have been shamed to think their sexuality is dirty, turning them into men who women get creeped out by.

    It’s a strange paradox that women feel less sexually objectified the more we as men own our sexual attraction.

    Are you comfortable with being sexually attracted to women, Mark? Quite often, I’m not – shaming messages still run inside of me at times – and then I too am cautious with my attention. But when I’m free of that, the world looks nothing like the one you inhabit. The difference, normally, is in feeling tapped into my power and a sense abundance (e.g. I don’t need you, but I sure would enjoy you)

    • 🙂

    • Barnicals says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head there. Depending on a variety of things, it can be absolutely fine to GAZE at a woman. Stare has such an obviously negative connotation, it’s hard not to conjure the mental image of some drooling predator.
      I personally feel that if I’m in a good mood, feeling attractive, smiling, and happen to be looking at a woman, attractive or not, I’ll normally get a positive reaction. It doesn’t need to be an advance. It doesn’t need to be ogling. The fact that this isn’t normally well received really speaks volumes about the societies that it happens in. Some societies I don’t get positive reactions in include Italy, NZ, England, France, and maybe Germany. Nations I get more positive responses from: Bulgaria, Turkey, The Netherlands, USA (in my experience), and Portugal. Interesting when it’s looked at side by side like that, based on a very cursory knowledge of the cultures.

  8. Does anyone find it creepy to look at others whom do not know you are looking, to study their body language to better teach yourself how humans interact?

  9. Hi Mark Green

    Thank you for your patience and deep understanding of women.
    I think you know what is going on here……

  10. Priscilla M Koop says:

    I appreciated the thoughtful tone of this column. It showed remarkable insight into the vulnerabilities experienced by women in North American societies. I also found the comments interesting. For me, the bottom line is that non-verbal communication is a huge component of our interactions and that non-verbal communication can be interpreted in many ways. A smile may mean “I like your comment and it makes me feel good”, but it can also mean “If I smile at you, maybe you won’t get upset at me and won’t hurt me”. It can signal appreciation or appeasement – and likely many other responses. Knowing that non-verbal behaviour can be interpreted in multiple ways can help all of us – both men and women – to treat each other with respect and appreciation!

  11. Revo Luzione says:

    Great article overall, especially with respect to view on violence, etc. It is a mostly well-written piece.

    A few personal observations:

    If a woman in public (or anywhere else) makes eye contact with me, I will smile, and hold eye contact until she breaks it.

    Eye contact is a key human mating signal. Not reciprocating eye contact is definitely a social faux paus that telegraphs a lot of insecurity. Spend much time in sales, you’ll get this concept quickly.

    Also, women who are dressed provocatively are generally seeking some kind of visual attention, and I have no problem giving it to them in measured doses. I never lear or stare, but I have no problem with giving an appreciative look, a smile, and non-threatening eye contact. If she appears friendly I may chat with her. I never compliment women about a physical attribute that I don’t already have an intimate relationship with. I have found that giving women compliments causes adverse reactions on a number of levels. If I do make a compliment, it will be about something relatively neutral–her shoes or the color of her sweater, or some non-physical characteristic.

    Men can be vivacious, sexual beings with powerful presence and confidence, and at the same time respect others’ boundaries and generally be stellar human beings. It’s really a social skill that can be developed over time through observation and experimentation. It’s unfortunate that many men are cowed by PCism into being milquetoast social wallflowers. While I respect other’s boundaries and personal space to the utmotst, I also personally refuse to be less than who I am so that other people can be OK with themselves.

    • “It’s really a social skill that can be developed over time through observation and experimentation. It’s unfortunate that many men are cowed by PCism into being milquetoast social wallflowers. ”

      Good point, it’d be nice to see this shown in a damn doco or something and show it to highschool students lol. I didn’t learn enough of this and I’ve cowed to PCism and it leaves me quite nervous to even look at a woman incase she feels uncomfy. I definitely notice this amongst other guys I know too.

  12. Forgive me for bringing in a woman experience from a dangerous situation in a street in London. It is interesting .

    I have followed this debate with interest in a hope to understand men better.
    Some of the discussions themes has been if we can see others intent, read the body language of strangers on the street.
    Here is the
    interview in The Guardian with the woman that went up and spoke to killers in London yesterday. She trusted her ability to do exactly that. And she is still alive.

    Here is her words:
    “I was not scared because he was not drunk, he was not on drugs. He was normal. I could speak to him and he wanted to speak and that’s what we did”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/22/woolwich-first-person-account

  13. “Yes, men face a range of risks and threats in the world. But as a man, I have never had to live in fear that if I hold eye contact for too long with a women I do not know, she will approach me and start an unwelcome conversation that could lead to abusive behavior. Why? Because on some level, I always felt I could stand my ground physically. If I had to, I could fight a woman and get away.”

    Speak for yourself. I am 6’6, 300lbs and I fear it. If she starts up on you and others see you 2 fighting, chances are others will come in and BEAT YOU UP. Even if it’s just the 2 of us I fear fighting from anyone, I’d be nervous if a teenager started hitting me, probably even a kid because I have triggers from childhood that are hard to deal with. I freak out when people YELL. Then of course there is the issue that in defending yourself if you bruise her and the police see that you may end up with the biased police officers that just look at your size and arrest YOU.

    “But that does not change the simple math of upper body strength and social conditioning. It is not white knight behavior to advocate for a culture of civility and non-violence toward women. It is simple common decency.”

    This should be extended to men though. What are small men meant to think? I know plenty of guys who would not be able to overpower the average size woman. I have female cousins that have knocked men out before.

    “Until all of us men, every single one of us, take responsibility for our public and private behavior, all the inequities we face will remain as secondary issues, held hostage by the men among us who behave like animals instead of human beings.”

    Black people are disproportionately violent compared to others if you only look at police arrest reports right? There are ways to frame male violence to INCREASE the disparity and that is by ignoring the plethora of female violence around. It becomes an issue of seeing more violence from men, less from women to a point it’s disproportionate so society assumes men are more dangerous and women are less dangerous than they really are. Women are raised from birth to be fearful, rape hysteria is slammed into their heads so much whilst men are taught to ignore the violence against them, to take it “like a man” and I do believe that causes a major difference in fear. Most men simply do NOT know how vulnerable they are with women.

    • “But that does not change the simple math of upper body strength and social conditioning. It is not white knight behavior to advocate for a culture of civility and non-violence toward women. It is simple common decency.”

      I think that is the key point put nicely and succinctly. (Although I firmly believe chivalry is underrated as a virtue. And despite the screeching of some harridans I still support its practice.) An “old fashioned” concept that needs to be firmly supported – “common decency”. Respect for the integrity and welfare of others and the willingness to help in defense of those principles.

      “There are ways to frame male violence to INCREASE the disparity and that is by ignoring the plethora of female violence around. It becomes an issue of seeing more violence from men, less from women to a point it’s disproportionate so society assumes men are more dangerous and women are less dangerous than they really are. Women are raised from birth to be fearful, rape hysteria is slammed into their heads so much whilst men are taught to ignore the violence against them, to take it “like a man” and I do believe that causes a major difference in fear.”

      Also a valid point. I have read some of the numbers and the number of attacks on men by women is impressive. And unless it is a really sensational one that the media can’t resist, say “Jodi Arias”, it is filtered out of the news stream. However, women’s violence on men is usually in a domestic setting not on the street (unless you insist on hanging out in Biker Bars 🙂 ), just as most attacks on women are also NOT on the street during daylight hours or well lit avenues. Certainly a woman should have the right to go about her affairs without some cretin hitting on her or badgering her. The perception that it occurs at an alarming rate is, as you point out, a mixture of hysteria, fear engendered by media sensationalism, and propaganda from certain elements who harp on how “all men are potential rapists” (a viewpoint I reject and take extreme umbrage to).

      It is not that there is no danger but that the extent of the danger is greatly overstated. As long as a woman avoids, if at all possible, crime ridden neighborhoods, and dark streets at night she is reasonably secure. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a Bra Holster and a “hidden persuader” either. And the subject of break-ins is not within the boundaries of this discussion.

  14. Megalodon says:

    Mr. Greene,

    Do you think staring is bad in itself or is it only bad if the person you are staring at finds out about it?

  15. Mark, something about this article just feels spectacularly wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It feels like you are carrying every man’s guilt, and encouraging us to do the same. Personally, I don’t think that’s healthy. Somewhere between giving every pretty girl a visual undressing, and pretending to go through the world like a monk, is a reality we can live with.

  16. I never stare at, try to flirt with, or check out women.

    Its not because I have an obligation to make women feel safe. Women’s feeling of safety is a secondary concern to me, as a man. I am more concerned about my own self-respect.

    At a young age, I was quick and wise to realize that my attention was, for the most part, unwanted. One should get the point when they get sneers of disgust, cold indifference and condescending looks.

    But I also understand that its never an act that is wrong in itself. It’s who does it that matters. And this is specially true in this case. I believe, much to the dismay of the politically correct, that this is largely an issue of one’s attention being wanted or unwanted, rather than safety of women

    So I would like men to have some self-respect. We don’t have an obligation to make them feel safe. That’s not our problem because most of us don’t intend to do any harm.

  17. Where is God in all of this ? A women with a confident relationship with God can walk with her head up smiling cheerfully and without fear. Sure, bad things happen to God-fearing people, but only according to His purpose, so who can argue with the Creator ?
    As God-fearing men, we can be polite and warm with a smile or nod to a woman, without feeling like we’re stalking her. She may need help, or just may need to know that not all men are psycopaths, but some have found the love that all people secretly crave. This may inspire her to seek it out, and if so then good has been done – all perfectly innocently.

    • OirishM says:

      So if you get raped, it’s part of God’s plan and you shouldn’t argue with it?

      Sterling thinking there.

      • Oirish – what if that were true ? Could you handle it ? A LOT of people get treated like that and a lot worse whether they are engaging someone else’s attention or not. It happens everywhere (not saying it should) but by just imploring people to stop hasn’t worked for 6,000 years so far.
        What I’m saying is, better to trust in something strong and true, which fights off evil by it’s very nature, but also gives strength to deal with challenges.

        • wellokaythen says:

          My sacred book, the book of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, says that the Earth is more than 6000 years old. It’s the true word, because it says it is, and that’s totally airtight reasoning. Flying Spaghetti Monster Akbar.

  18. One thing I will say is that I’ve occasionally told women I’ve met on the street or in coffee shops or whatnot that they are beautiful. I’ve never had a less-than-appreciative reaction. I’ve also never used it as a pick-up line. A simple”I just want you to know you are incredibly beautiful,” always seems to make a woman smile. That’s just my experience.

    Ben

    • Why cant you be indifferent to them just as women are indifferent to men?

      • I suppose I am not by nature an indifferent person.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          They may also be smiling because it’s what a person has been taught to do when someone tells them that. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t uncomfortable. I can tell you that I most often smile if someone tells me that, as a stranger in a public place, but inside I”m thinking, “Please go away, I’m so uncomfortable right now.”

          • I re-read the article (for about the fifth time), this time scouring it for any guidelines on what might constitute a positive response by a looked-upon woman, a sign of that rare “permission” to keep looking. Nearly all of the reactions described, though, either in his experience or what he thinks men should expect from women, are about fear and threats, and wanting it to stop. He (Mark) doesn’t even mention the possibility of a smile, sincere or otherwise. The most positive response that gets any mention is:

            If you get a glance back. Look a bit more.

            Based on the rest of the guide, I presume that a returned glance without a smile would set “threatened woman” bells ringing, so the man who’s looking ought to cease immediately. Your addition to this discussion, that many (most?) smiles can’t be taken at face value (literally), and often mean “Go away, I’m uncomfortable” slams shut any remaining loopholes that Mark left open for looking being okay. His message boiled down to don’t look, but if you must, don’t look for more than a fraction of a second without reading permission in her non-verbal communication. You’re saying that what looks like permission, isn’t permission. Or even if it is, it so closely resembles non-permission that it should be treated as such to be safe.

            • Megalodon says:

              You’re saying that what looks like permission, isn’t permission. Or even if it is, it so closely resembles non-permission that it should be treated as such to be safe.

              Well, there’s the rub. Consent can never be definitely proven and non-consent can never be definitively disproven. Any ostensible affirmative signal or communication could possibly be false, invalid, or vitiated. This applies whether it is a smile, a nod, a verbal “yes” or a written “yes.” A man might take a woman’s smile as a signal that his interaction is welcome, but she might only be smiling because she is nervous and uncomfortable. A man might think a woman wants to go on a date with him if he asks her and she says “yes,” but she may have only said “yes” because she was intimidated and afraid he might stalk and harass her if she explicitly rejected his solicitation. One might think sex is consensual if a woman says “yes” and manifested enthusiasm, but she might have only pretended to consent because she was afraid the suitor would use physical violence if she refused. Or she might have only said “yes” because she suffers from depression or bipolar disorder and was under psychological duress which invalidated her consent.

              “No” is supposed to mean “No.” However, “Yes” does not necessarily mean “Yes.” “Yes” can still mean “No.” And the only way to be safe and avoid violation and transgression is to assume that “Yes” always mean “No.” Or better yet, never ask or approach to begin with, so that one does not intimidate or burden some person with the burden of saying “No.”

            • Nervous smiles look different. Genuine smiles have lil eye creases, nervous smiles I don’t believe do this and can be lopsided. The rest of their body language will also tell you a lot. Genuinely happy/smiling women will have a looser body and not as stiff as someone who is nervous, the pupils will also dilate (could also be attraction though so you need to be aware of the other body language).

              “You can differentiate real smiles from fake ones by the presence of characteristic wrinkles around the eyes. Lip corners are pulled up and the muscles around the eyes are contracted, which creates the wrinkles. Fake smiles, however, involve only lips. Another sign of a fake smile is that it appears on left side of the face stronger than on the right one.”

          • Revo Luzione says:

            More evidence that women hate compliments until long after you’ve consummated a relationship with them.

            Just don’t do it. It’s bad form for myriad reasons.

            • I suppose I’ll just rely on firsthand evidence from my own life. I love giving and receiving compliments, and I’ve yet to see any compelling reason I shouldn’t continue the practice.

          • I think we may be talking about different scenarios, Joanna, and that’s my fault for not being clear. I’m not exactly talking about approaching complete strangers I’ve never spoken to before, but rather people with whom I’ve already established a friendly rapport, even if that is as simple as me feeling a gaze, looking toward the gaze, and seeing a smiling face turned in my direction.

            That said, I generally trust the authenticity of strangers unless I have a reason not to, and I think most people say what they mean and mean what they say. Incidentally, a few weeks back I encountered a man while I was walking out of a big box store where I had purchased some toner. I was wearing a new fedora and a blazer. The man looked at me, nodded and smiled.

            “You are rockin’ it my brother. You got your strut on. You are carrying that s%^t. Hell yeah,” he said. And it made me feel good.

            “Thank you brother,” I said.

            “Ain’t no thang,” he said. “A man’s got to give props where props are due.” And that is how I feel about this life. Not everyone is honest. Not every reaction to me is genuine. I’m not naive. And still, I hope I am able to give props where props are due until the day I die.

          • I agree with you, Joanna. When men I don’t know give me compliments in the street I smile and say thank you… and then hurry away. It makes me uncomfortable and I keep things nice as I beat a hasty retreat. It also doesn’t really hold much weight, because I don’t know the person or their intentions. I find it creepy and superficial.

      • Why be indifferent? A man should cower from extending his appreciation on the off chance the woman will find it “uncomfortable” or even offensive? A woman is not such a fragile creature that a man should be concerned how she will accept a glance or compliment. Her reaction is her right or “cross to bear;.” not mine. I would not consciously make a woman uncomfortable, but I am entitled to assume that the beautiful clothes, well-manicured nails, perfect grooming and expensive cologne are applied for a reason. I agree with Ben; my experience is been overwhelmingly positive with sincere compliments. If they are sincere and well-intended, they are not “creepy.” If a woman interprets my attention that way, that is her dysfunction.

        • Well said, brother!

        • I agree with Marlin. I think being uncomfortable over a compliment is more an issue of self esteem on the female’s part, rather than anything to do with the male’s intentions. I hate this assumption that all women walk around in a heightened state of fear 24/7. Not all of us do. It’s possible to be aware of yourself and your surroundings without being afraid. If a man wants to come up to me and pay me a compliment, I will happily accept that compliment, whether I have any interest in getting to know him further or not.

        • It’s more than an ‘off chance’… and I’m pretty sure the entire article explained why a woman interpreting compliments a certain way is due to jerks ruining it for the rest of you, not ‘her dysfunction’. Did you even read it?

          As for the smiling thing for consent… i’d argue a prolonged smile and repeated glances is a pretty good indication. A perfunctory grimace that doesn’t reach the eyes is a bad indication. Hopefully the difference isn’t too subtle.

    • Megalodon says:

      Do you think smiling always indicates genuine positive emotions on the part of the smiling person? Have you never smiled or grinned when you were embarrassed or flustered?

    • And what do you get out of telling a stranger that she’s beautiful? A smile and thank you while she’s thinking, please don’t ask me out, please don’t stay, please don’t chat me up. A beautiful woman simply got lucky by birth, it has nothing to do with her as a person.
      My friend gets told she beautiful almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day. She smiles and says thank you then worries constantly about how she looks, it’s warped her mind and she has no self esteem. She spends hours each day on hair, make up and clothes always concerned about how she looks. She is a beautiful person inside and out but it’s driven her to distraction, it’s become a disorder (BDD).
      People put too much importance on beauty, when it’s just lucky genes.

      • I expect nothing. I usually get nothing except the satisfaction of knowing I have helped another person smile. I like helping people smile. When somebody–man or woman–compliments me on my appearance I smile, and I am genuinely flattered. I try and play it forward. Karma. I suppose I expect Karma.

        • I personally have always loved being told this by strangers. These aren’t surprise compliments from a back alleyway, they’ve almost always been in passing, at the end of a short exchange (excuse me! I didn’t see you!), or yes, even from across the street. I believe I have received these compliments not because I’m necessarily extremely beautiful- at least in the conventional aspect of the term- but because I’ve been conditioned to make eye contact with and smile at the strangers I meet. A social glance is not always a cue for a relationship: it may just be the practice of that wonderful gift human intimacy and interaction is.

          I have been told I am beautiful by very strange men, whom I was relieved to quickly leave behind, but that is largely based on the amount of over-eye contact which left me feeling targeted, objectified, and on my guard. However, Bens of this world, a quick glance, in my mind, may include even a verbal glance- a compliment which expects nothing in return by a man or woman content to carry quickly on their way.

          Conversely, I have often complimented both men and women on their tattoos in passing, beauty to which I am often drawn to and by which I often fascinated: I remember once complimenting a man on his excellent beard. I am sorry if I have left any person feeling awkward, but I am almost certain I did not leave anyone feeling targeted: likewise, I have been on the receiving end of out of the blue compliments- small touches in an over-compensating society walking on glass to avoid any risk of a misunderstanding. The key is knowledge and respect of the issue, not how to mind your own business and rid the world on interaction altogether.

          • Thank you, Anna, for this:

            “I personally have always loved being told this by strangers. These aren’t surprise compliments from a back alleyway, they’ve almost always been in passing, at the end of a short exchange (excuse me! I didn’t see you!), or yes, even from across the street. I believe I have received these compliments not because I’m necessarily extremely beautiful- at least in the conventional aspect of the term- but because I’ve been conditioned to make eye contact with and smile at the strangers I meet. A social glance is not always a cue for a relationship: it may just be the practice of that wonderful gift human intimacy and interaction is.”

            Amen.

          • Shannon says:

            I wholeheartedly agree with Anna. Kudos to you for expressing this so much better than I could. I have never been upset by a compliment.

    • What the hell. Never tell strangers that they are beautiful or handsome. I dont care if you dont have any other motives, its super creepy.

      • You’ve seen too many movies.

    • Strike up a casual conversation. Body language will let you know immediately if she does not want to be bothered. If she says something self-deprecating then she is giving you an opening to pay her a complement. If you leap in before that you risk creeping her out.

    • We love men like Ben! No harm done. Win win 🙂

    • and my experience is that random men who would say that to me, especially with words close to or exactly like those, would make me feel insanely creeped out.

      just because they do not have a visible reaction does not mean there isn’t one

      furthermore, it is not as if women are toiling in public awaiting a man’s approval to validate their precarious sense of being beautiful or something.

      you can neither guarantee that that sort of untoward attention is not making women feel uncomfortable, so why get on the internet and talk like you can

  19. I’ve come to believe that the only difference between men and women is that women are a lot more selective and find very few men physically attractive than vice versa. That is the root of all the differences we observe in the behaviors of men and women.

    When a man is very attractive. Women “become just like men” in their responses and behaviors – They stare, check him out, tend to be overtly aware of his presence, smile at him, try to flirt with him and perhaps want to say hi or have a conversation going, get his number and so on. They do this without “knowing anything about him” ; w/o having anything in common, w/o any social context or some other pre-requisite they usually deem necessary before ‘engaging’ with a man.

    It takes for a very attractive man for women to do that. Meanwhile we men are a lot more egalitarian in our attention to women. We get a lot of bad rep for being egalitarian in our attention !

    If you talk to very good looking men, you realize they have lifelong history of experiences very similar to that of the average woman’s. Slowly it dawns upon you that women aren’t that different in sexuality. Its just that they find fewer men physically appealing.

    I don’t think this explanation…this theory is absurd I think there is some merit to it. I think it is good enough to warrant some serious thought

    • Hahaha… Once again you hit the nail on the head my friend. Every time I read an article like this I think, too borrow from TLP, “If you’re reading it, then it’s for you.” I ALWAYS try to look people in the eye while walking down the street or in some other public space, and have on more than one occasion had it lead to a flirty glance, a quick chat, a date, or even a couple of near instant make-outs with girls. I don’t know/think its intentional, but much of the advice advocated here seems destined to land men in a sexual/relational desert were they to follow it all the time.

      I do think we all have a responsibility to make others feel comfortable in our presence; but I only learned to be that way after spending years going through the sometimes painful, awkward process of approaching strangers in unusual situations. Now I occasionally experience the lifestyle that Tim describes, with women starting to take on more of the risk of approaching me. But that only happened after having made dozens (if not hundreds) of these approaches on my own. I suppose I should be thankful that no men following this advice will ever have the opportunity to get to the same place I am on their own.

  20. John Anderson says:

    I don’t think the rules are simple. Glancing at a woman doesn’t always give you an indication of her approachability. What if she’s not currently looking at you so doesn’t see your glance? What if you’re on the bus and a woman glances in your direction every 10 minutes or so? Is she just looking out the window on your side? Is she interested in you or is she nervous because she can hear Def Leppard’s Stagefright seeping from your headphones and your butt fits in the seat, but to get your upper body to they’d need to cut your shoulders off. I like Joanna’s take a little better. Offer a smile, but sometimes people will react to a smile with a smile then you’re talking to someone who didn’t intend to communicate that it was OK.
    When I’ve worn my taekwondo jacket, I could tell a lot of people were intimidated. Should I not have worn it? We tell men that it doesn’t matter what a woman wears or does there are certain actions or reactions that are not justified. How much am I required to curb my actions to mitigate someone’s irrational fear of me? What of the woman on the bus? Do her nerves somehow bestow a right to glance where someone’s admiration does not even when you’ve made no movement toward her?

    You suggest that a man can usually fight off a female attacker. That shows a very narrow view or a large misunderstanding of the nature of power. Sa Bam Nim taught us that if you step on the mat thinking you’ll lose, you’ve already lost. It doesn’t matter if you are physically incapable of mounting an effective defense or are prevented from mounting one because of chivalrous beliefs or the belief that in a mutually combative state, you will more than likely not be believed and will in fact go to prison. A man feeling unable to fight back is as vulnerable as a woman incapable of fighting back.

  21. wellokaythen says:

    I think of this in terms of amoral practicalities. Staring at a woman will never really give you what you want. In most cases it will be counterproductive. You will get a lot more of what you want by using more of your brain and less of your eyes. It’s incredibly useful to use your peripheral vision, your short-term memory, your long-term memory, and your imagination.

    I prefer to glance a few times, commit what I see to memory, and fantasize on my own time. You don’t have to be looking directly at someone to visualize her with her clothes off (or dressed differently or waterskiiing or roofing or whatever floats your boat). Staring will only drive her away faster, and that’s hardly useful when what you want to do is look at her. Staring at one person will make it harder to notice all the other women around you, and that seems an unnecessarily empty way to live your life. If you live in Manhattan, staring at one fashion model walking down the street means you may miss out on all the other fashion models walking down the street.

    Justified or not, a lot of women feel uncomfortable being stared at. For now, that feeling is part of a reality to be dealt with. It just makes good diplomatic sense to get what you need without resorting to something that’s not necessary or something that alarms the other person.

  22. Mark Greene

    I acknowledge that men face many cultural inequities and challenges
    In the public dance of finding a partner, women may have to become more assertive in indicating interest…..Making the first move and communicating clearly …

    But ultimately, it is the inequity of physical strength that is at the root of our cultures’ relationship challenges.

    I have a friend. He is the hot studly type. Tall, good looking and has an imposing physique. He can easily overpower any woman.

    He gets a lot of stares, smiles and clear signals of interest from strange women almost everywhere he goes. Meanwhile I’ve never had any of that and let me assure you that I’m not complaining about that. Let me describe myself physically : I’m only 5’5″ and really thin and perhaps the last guy, women would fear being physically overpowered by, among a group of 100. Even my female acquaintances joke about how tiny I am.

    I am not belittling the fact that women do face the risk of being physically overpowered by men. But when they do give attention to men, when they check them out, when they approach and pursue men; those decisions are based on how HOT the guy is, rather than how fcuking safe and harmless he is.

    Good looking men, hot men, men with good physiques are checked out, stared at, approached and pursued by women all the goddamn time, breaking the so called elusive cultural code of menzh being required to makesh teh firsht moov. Its just when a mediocre looking dork wonders why women never approach him and why he’s never had any female attention that he is told by women-appeasers like you that it’s because women are afraid of being physically overpowered by men. Yeah.. that’s a good explanation to calm down the poor idiot so he doesn’t become bitter. Afterall he presents the greatest physical danger to women…obviously more than the 6’2” hunk. Something doesn’t add up here.

    I agree with the rest of your piece, but your presumption that everything can be traced to men being physically stronger than women is overtly simplistic and misleading.

    • I think there is certainly validity in what you say Jay. There is no doubt that fear, for some women, is the most prominent, but as you also imply, a good portion could also be the “unwanted” attention. We can all safely agree that wanted attention is never an issue.

      Mark focuses on the emotion of fear, in a classically protective manner, bordering on mildly patriarchal 🙂

      I’m predicting Google Glass will turn these micro-aggressions into milli-aggressions – that’s bigger for those not familiar with scientific notation.

    • wellokaythen says:

      “but your presumption that everything can be traced to men being physically stronger than women is overtly simplistic and misleading.”

      Agreed. Even in terms of physical violence, greater size and strength is not always decisive. Bigger opponent also means bigger targets. Not sure how bigger muscles will help you when you’re struck in the throat, jabbed in the eyes, or kicked in the scrotum. Not to mention the equalizing power of weaponry….

  23. The fundamental premises underlying this guide are:

    * Women are afraid of men.
    * Men are threatening.
    * An individual man, regardless of his history or intentions, should always limit the duration of his glances to compensate for those truths. Anything else is a threatening intrusion.

    Rather than argue against that, I’ll share a couple of quotes that stick out in my memory from my early days at GMP, when I was struck by how different this site felt from most “men’s sites”:

    There was this one:

    Presuming guilt in males is not good for males and it is not good for females.

    1) On a micro level, take the example I started this post with. A guy threatened to rape me. The only thing I could have done to prevent that from happening would have been to not walk out of my house that morning. Being more suspicious, more guarded, more afraid, would have done nothing to change the situation.

    2) For most of my life, I have been afraid of men. In fact, terrified. Yes, you can say that I had every right to be. That does nothing to change the fact that being afraid of men sucked.

    That in fact, when I stopped being afraid of men, my life changed for the better. Not just a little better, but a thousand times, OMG better. In fact, it was only in retrospect that I could see how disconnected I was from the world before that point. Everything got better after I stopped being afraid of men, stopped presuming guilt, stopped seeing men as sexist, stopped being guarded with them, stopped worrying about them as anything other than people I could connect with – people who had a slightly different but just as valid worldview as I did. Everything. Got. Better.

    And also this one:

    The real change for me is — I’ve been scared of men my whole life. Sometimes terrified. And when I stopped being afraid, and just started connecting with men — as individuals, as humans — my whole life changed for the better. My life was fundamentally different and better. And if that’s ignorant of me, so be it.

    There are so many men doing so much good. And I could never have gotten as far as I did in my career without them. The fact that there’s any sort of united front that is “against men” in any way shape or form is just ridiculous.

    [Emphasis added in both quotes.]

    • That was up to Lisa to make those decisions, though. I don’t think she would say that men leering at her should continue simply because she’s learned not to walk around afraid all the time.

      I don’t walk around afraid all the time, but I have a very strong sense of my vulnerability. Certainly many men understand that, too, if they live in dangerous areas or are part of a group of people who suffer stranger violence. A gay man was just shot in killed in the Village of all places, for holding his partner’s hand. It’s not just women.

      But it’s something we can all understand. It’s not the job of the woman to stop being afraid, when evidence around her is contrary to that. She may choose to do that, as Lisa did above. But it is the job of people to do their best not to make us – or anyone else – feel afraid because of something they do.

      I know you’ll argue this and say that it could be extrapolated this way or that. I just don’t care. This is a simple message and almost everyone seems to understand it when it’s presented with compassion and clarity, as Mark has done here.

    • Thanks Marcus. That was a helpful summary of my intent. In the case of total strangers on the street, yes. In a bar? A little less so as the context is more intentionally social. In a party at a friends house? Maybe even less so. Because a woman can enter a bar or party or she can choose not to. But the street is unavoidable for all of us. There are degrees to this. But you knew that, right?

      • You’re welcome, though I don’t see how either of those quotes remotely summarizes your intent.

        In the case of total strangers on the street, yes. In a bar? A little less so as the context is more intentionally social.

        Yes what? A little less what? I didn’t ask a question and you haven’t said what you’re affirming here, so I’m lost.

        There are degrees to this. But you knew that, right?

        I’ll go with “yes” on this one, assuming by “this” you mean something about how and how long men look at women. It’s heartening to see you acknowledge that context matters and what constitutes too much looking in one context could be appropriate in another. I did not pick up on nuances like that in your article, which is why I take issue with it.

        If you made this a story about how you, a good man living in The City, have adapted your glancing and gazing habits to your environment as you perceive it, that would be interesting, and maybe even relatable for urban readers. Perhaps the title is not your fault – I know authors don’t always write their own – but instead of sharing one good man’s perspective, this piece is presented as “A Simple Guide” that not only speaks with an air of authority, but seems to assume that most men and women live and interact in something like New York City, where walking past hundreds of people a day “on the street” is something universal. (In suburban California where I live, I don’t walk the streets. I drive places, and then I’m there.) Into that scene, you cast men who are always physically intimidating by virtue of being men, and women who fear them. In short, you’ve described a world I’ve never lived in, so while your guidelines may be finely tuned for you, they aren’t remotely useful to me.

        I don’t think you’ve succeeded in describing how to “just look” and do so respectfully, because your guidelines are so restrictive and so dismissive of the man’s intent that what you’re really saying is not to look. Even a fractional glance is too much if a woman catches you, and if she does, you should look away so as not to frighten her more. That isn’t looking – it’s not looking. As wello suggested, it’s like suggesting burkas in reverse, where you’re talking about a self-imposed optical burka (don’t look) instead of putting the burden on women to be less enticing to look at. Whether you call for women to wear burkas or men to avert or cut short their gaze before dirtysexythoughts ruin things for everyone, it’s roughly the same fear at work — that male sexuality is dangerous, and just looking is a sexual act.

        I don’t know whether to feel insulted or saddened at how bad this advice would have been for me in my late teens or early 20’s. In one of my first articles published at GMP, I wrote about being sexually abused, and how I attributed much of my shyness and fear with women to that incident. My abuser was a man, and I never harbored any deep resentment or fear of women, but I was deathly afraid of violating boundaries because I had a taste of what it felt like to be violated. That meant I was afraid to ask women out on dates, hold a hand, touch, kiss, or make a sexual move, *even when* most signs pointed to a mutual interest and desire, because I had to be sure. Let me tell you that this mindset did not make me a better man. It made me scared, timid, and inclined to feel guilty for expressing interest in women. I’m sad to have been like that, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but this article, as far as I can tell, would see that young man as a fine role model of an enlightened, respectful man. Don’t look, because you might scare them. If they’re that scared just from being looked at, one can only imagine how scared they are of actual expressed sexuality, those poor defenseless creatures.

        I still carry some of that damage with me and still fret about unwanted advances even with my wife, for example, but I never got anywhere in dating and relationships until I got over that enough to take some risks. I never achieved a Lisa-level “stop being afraid” epiphany, but those were the kinds of changes I had to make. That meant taking risks as simple as eye contact, and relying on the non-verbal cues that go with flirting and dating. I was always willing to stop if asked or the vibe changed, but I didn’t ask permission at every step or wait on an affirmative declaration about how enthused she was. From the first look, to having sex (which was not a big number), every move entailed some risk of discomfort: my discomfort if rejected, and hers for having to reject me. What made me a good man wasn’t avoiding the risk, it was always being prepared to back off, and being determined not to force myself on anyone. If a woman was ever afraid that I’d force myself on her (which as far as I know, none ever has been), that would be based on her fear, not on me being a threat.

        If there are any young men out there feeling how I described myself above, I’d suggest: 1) Ignore this guide, and 2) Look with consideration. That means being willing to stop looking if you cause discomfort, but also to consider the possibility that it will be pleasantly received (or even completely unnoticed). Until you look and pay attention to the results, you don’t know which will happen.

        • Hi Marcus
          This is the best comment on this article . Well said Marcus.

          And one more thing. How about age?
          Same rules for any age? No.
          Men and women sometimes feel invisible when they are 50+ 60+ 70+ 80+ 90+…….
          And it can feel nice to be noticed ,whether the man is in bicycling shorts or the woman simply out shopping.

          In my country the culture is for everyone to sit in cafees on the pavement when the spring and summer comes. And we ALL look. Men and women look at the busy life in the street, how we look when all heavy winter parkas are gone and we can see human beings and their bodies and naked skin. It is pleasant and normal.

          But then we are not truly urban. My American friend tell me how strange we are:” you bump into each other in the street. Your bodies touch…”
          Yes. Why not?

          We have ballades about it. It means it is summer! Sweet,and we come alive again after our long dark winter.

          The Danish philosopher Søren Kiregaard describes how he daily took a ” menneske bad” every day.
          It means a ” human bath”. To walk in the city and enjoy being surrounded by others and their closeness in the city.
          And how can you enjoy this closeness to others if closeness is so dangerous?

          You comments are wise Marcus.

          • anon021 says:

            Men and women sometimes feel invisible when they are 50+ 60+ 70+ 80+ 90+…….
            it can feel nice to be noticed ,

            Most men are also invisible in their youth…atleast where I live.

            Imagine what a woman begins to experience after she is 55 years old – the cold indifference of and the invisibility to the opposite sex in public – is what a man goes through all his life even when he is young.

            Its good that there are women like you who acknowledge that being looked at, stared at, checked out etc is validating despite being bothersome sometimes. Unlike some bigoted feministas who have commented above.

  24. Tom Matlack says:

    Good piece Mark. Again, stuff that so many men know and so few are willing to say outloud. A couple of things to add. When walking with your girlfriend/wife all the same rules apply but the one imperative is not to turn your head. In fact even alone turning your head will indicate you are more than glancing. And that is not cool. The other thing that cuts completely against all these rules: my best friend met his wife on the street (and then in a coffee store he followed her into). What do we make of that? And my roommate in NYC use to routinely pick up girls on the subway. I was way too much of a scaredy cat to even try but he had great success. I found it amazing but these girls were apparently more than willing to talk to him. All of which is to say I don’t think we can be so black and white about the onus being on guys to prove they aren’t jerks. Maybe if you are single be careful to read signals of the other person. But that doesn’t mean no woman is ever going to want to talk to you. In one case a buddy found several girlfriends and in the other the love of his life literally on the street.

  25. My method is to look where I want, and generally offer a friendly demeanor to those I happen to make contact with. I don’t worry about offending others, I have far too much on my mind at any given time to run scenarios in my head for every girl I lay eyes on, and frankly I wouldn’t care enough even if I did.

    If I look at you, smile and nod, it is a friendly gesture. You don’t have to return it, but don’t make an issue of it either.

  26. One thing that really sticks out in the article and the comments is that I can’t help noticing just how poorly we read each other’s body language and other nonverbal communications. Is this a predictable byproduct of our addiction to technology?

  27. Bay Area Guy says:

    And another thing.

    It drives me crazy the way women insist on wearing whatever they want, however revealing (which is entirely their right), only to then complain about being checked out too much.

    Yes, your outfit does not give a random guy a right to randomly harass or hit on you, but don’t complain about looking. If you don’t want them to stare, don’t bare.

    • Burka !

    • Charming. Very Taliban of you. Next thing you’ll be recommending is a burka. Because men just can’t be expected to control their behavior. Really, aren’t we better than this?

      • Bay Area Guy says:

        And this applies to all people, not just women. Men who wear provocative or unusual outfits also attract staring, in my experience.

        • From gay men.

          Women are indifferent to men for the most part. You can even take off your shirt in public and it will have no effect on women.

          • Clare, I disagree. My wife and I just ate lunch across the street from a yoga studio. A man walked out wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. He relaxed on the bench out front in the breeze for probably 10 minutes. During that time every woman who walked by looked at him with a head on a swivel. No glancing, no quickly looking away- straight up staring at the guy who was dressed VERY unusually for the location (bench on a city street).

            • John Anderson says:

              @ cw123

              Or maybe they liked how he looked. Many women trick themselves into denying that they have sexual urges. They may have been caught off guard and so you see their true thoughts.

            • cw123

              So how come men never complain about being ogled by women? Whats the difference then?

              • Probably because most men feel complimented if one of the divine graces him with her glance. I say that from experience. I was verrrrry heavy (useful as a Defensive Lineman) as a teen and then between 19 and 20 I hit the gym, reduced to a near starvation diet, and slimmed down to a very good build. Being smiled at by girls was a new experience and I did not feel threatened all. (It did take some getting used to though.) 😉

          • A preposterous notion, in my personal experience.

          • Not true Clare. A friend of mine wore women’s leggings for a couple of years, like when women wear leggings – they showed his shape … and he was ogled and sexually assaulted by women many times. He was also stopped and questioned by the police.

      • wellokaythen says:

        That wouldn’t work anyway. I find burkas quite sexy — the imagination has to do everything the eyes can’t. Who knows what could be under there?

        Perhaps it’s the men who need to wear eye burkas such as dark glasses. If a man’s looking intrudes on other people, then his looking must be removed from public view. Forcing yourself not to look too long sounds awfully similar to calling for burkas in reverse.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I would recommend to young women wearing skintight leggings to use a full-length mirror before leaving the house. Check the various angles of vision. Only show your intimate contours if you really mean to. Same with men and bicycle shorts. If you’re going to display everything between your legs, make sure you do so consciously and not accidentally.

  28. Bay Area Guy says:

    Equally, in the public dance of finding a partner, women may have to become more assertive in indicating interest. Making the first move and communicating clearly when they would like to have a conversation would go a long way to alleviate the concern that man are expected to approach women who give only the slightest nod of interest. This subtle signaling sets men up to face an endless string of rejections, unable to differentiate between the lingering glance that signals interest and the passing glance that does not.

    Thank you!

    It’s about time women learned how to flirt better and not just give off these coy, confusing signals.

    • They already do that when the guy is hot. The “women don’t flirt with or approach men because they are afraid of being physically overpowered” explanation is only for less attractive men to internalize so they don’t become bitter. That is how Mark Greene has rationalized why women never approach or flirt with him and see how happy he is !

  29. PursuitAce says:

    You really think these half measures are going to work in this hyper-sexual society we live in?
    Glance but don’t look?
    Unfortunately I have to look at women all of the time in my job. I really don’t know what they think about that. It’s out of my control.

    • You can look. But I think we all know the difference between looking and LOOKING, as in ogling.

      • Joanna

        I don’t understand why cant men simply be indifferent to women in public. Just like we are indifferent to men. For the most part men are just invisible to us in public or at least invisible as sexual beings. We only see people..not men and women. Why can’t men be the same? Women would be so much happier in a world where they get zero attention from the opposite sex in public. Why cant there be equality?

        • PursuitAce says:

          That’s what I’m talking about. Well I would be if my posts weren’t being deleted. Keep up the conversation Clare. Maybe they will start to listen to you.

        • John Anderson says:

          @ Clare

          But women aren’t indifferent to men. They may be indifferent to the way a man looks just like a man might be indifferent to the type of job a woman has, how much she makes, or what level of education she has. Would you also call on women to be indifferent to these things? What about whether a person has a good sense of humor, is outgoing, or likes to dance or dances well?

          Too often people feel they should be able to dictate what should be important or what someone else should find valuable or what someone else should find pleasurable. Could that be the definition of privilege?

        • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

          Clare I wholeheartedly disagree. I’m a woman and men aren’t invisible to me on any level… and I’m sure many women agree with me. It’s not fair to categorize all women with your experiences/attitudes about the opposite sex. I may not go around engaging men on the street nor does their gender ultimately trump their being, but I certainly do see them.
          Secondly, are you sure that ALL women would want to be in a world “where they get zero attention from the opposite sex”? I’m sorry, again you don’t speak for all women. I know women who thrive on positive male attention (read: positive). I also know women who like to actively pursue men on the street (or in bars, church, etc.), and again, as long as they’re respectful and within limit, it’s a-ok.
          Desexualizing men (or women) doesn’t solve the issue of harassment.

  30. Thank you for this piece. You are very right and I am so happy to find a man here that notices this.

    It has become a problem for me in an unexpected way now. I am a tango dancer and at a dance it is the custom for men to invite women to dance by looking in their direction and when she looks back to signal in some way, by a nod, or to approach her. She can decline the invitation by looking away.
    Because I am used to always avert my eyes in the street I have a real difficulty signaling to partners that I am intrested in a dance. So far it didn’t work. I have seen men trying to catch my eye but I can’t overcome the reaction to look away.

  31. A couple of random thoughts.

    My father, who had his faults, taught me early on (early teens) that:

    1. a GENTLEMAN NEVER forces his attentions upon a woman i.e., “no” means NO! Period, and only scumbag or rabid dog violates that.

    2. And he is a fool if he turns her advances down. (Not that I have always followed rule 2.)

    That said, in our culture it has always been the woman’s initiative on one level or another (not that some dogs don’t violate that). However, how women are permitted, socially, to express their interest has evolved considerably since the 1960’s when I was a young boy. Still, if one pretends to gentlemanly behavior, however lascivious one’s thoughts, staring at a woman is still rude (no matter how much of a knock-out she is or however provocatively she is dressed). Now discreet glances out of the corner of your eye are a gray area … hmm?

    At the time my father gave his sage advice female signalling was generally more subtle as women were supposed to be verrry discreet or even pretend, at least in public, that they did not wish more intimate contact even if they did, and all gentlemen in the vicinity were expected, as a matter of decency, to come to her aid if someone “didn’t get the message”. And “nice girls” never signaled in any public venue. Then with the rise of “Playboy”, Hollywood, and the Feminist Movement beginning in the mid to late ’50’s sexual mores began to shift from a more Puritan social ethic toward greater license (disclaimer – I was a young boy but boys grow into men, at least some, and they do remember). By the 70’s when I was coming into manhood it was becoming much more acceptable, although still a bit avant-garde, for women to be more openly aggressive.

    The signals became confused though because the misandrists of the Feminist Movement (who are still present – thank you Naomi Wolfe for pointing that out) who wanted to penalize men and strike out at them in most any way they could. Thus what was once considered gentlemanly behavior was suddenly “sexist” (((hissssssssssssssss!))). One can find contemporary in Feminist writing the characterization of any and all heterosexual activity as some sort of foulness and all heterosexual sex as tantamount to rape. Of course to talk about that hatred of men by some feminists is very un-pc to talk about and so, even now, men who mention that reality are often attacked immediately as being misogynistic for pointing out that there are misandric women (e.g., Andrea Dworkin and the authoress of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, Valerie Solano – who, fittingly, committed suicide). The charge of misogyny (like false charges for a variety of -isms) is one of those double standards initiated by some women as a mechanism to silence debate and deflect legitimate criticism. Of course normal men who were raised to treat women with respect are particularly vulnerable to that particular tactic. Their very sensitivity to women’s feelings is turned against them to prevent the stating of the obvious i.e., that there are women who hate men merely for being men. However, I digress – my point being that the standards of polite behavior have become confused by the external effect of social changes in our culture. The rejection, in the late ’60’s, of traditional values of politeness and gentlemanly behavior by radicals of both genders was no small contributor as well. Although a man is still considered cheap if he goes “Dutch” with a date. NO FAIR! 😉

    So, retuning from my digression, regardless of changes in mores it is still rude to stare at anyone. However, that some men seem to feel license to do so is, at least in part, a product of the Feminist Movement. That is not approval of it by me, but merely an acknowledgment of reality.

    • You assume (see particularly your last paragraph) that men only started staring at women in the 60s because before then they were gentlemen. I wasn’t around to see for myself, but I bet that that is not true.

    • “One can find contemporary in Feminist writing the characterization of any and all heterosexual activity as some sort of foulness and all heterosexual sex as tantamount to rape.”

      Well of course you can find in contemporary anti-racist work, “kill whitey” sorts of things or in the contemporary popular conservative movements you can find some pretty dark (and sometimes down right gruesome) rhetoric concerning what should happen to “illegals” and the like or the gays and so on.

      But none of this means more than it suggests: That all movements have their bad sides

      That doesn’t mean (as I think you may be getting at) that feminism inherently supports misogyny, only that some strands of it *might*.

      “Of course to talk about that hatred of men by some feminists is very un-pc to talk about and so, even now, men who mention that reality are often attacked immediately as being misogynistic for pointing out that there are misandric women (e.g., Andrea Dworkin and the authoress of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, Valerie Solano – who, fittingly, committed suicide).”

      Some feminists do, I have no doubt.

      Though on Dworkin I think that the case on that one is up on the air (I won’t contest SCUM :P):

      http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/10/andrea_dworkin/

      “The charge of misogyny (like false charges for a variety of -isms) is one of those double standards initiated by some women as a mechanism to silence debate and deflect legitimate criticism. Of course normal men who were raised to treat women with respect are particularly vulnerable to that particular tactic. Their very sensitivity to women’s feelings is turned against them to prevent the stating of the obvious i.e., that there are women who hate men merely for being men. ”

      Again, be careful in using generalities like this. It can go both ways and plenty of feminists can be friendly to constructive critiques.

  32. Even when I am out at the shopping mall, tourist site, or at a hotel with my husband and son just a few feet away, I still get those low whistle or kiss-y noises by strange men or young guys…so rude! I have to stand and hold onto one of their arms and engage in loud conversation as a preventative measure (to keep them from initiating contact or escalating)….so irritating that they think some random woman is available to them and not someone’s wife, mother, or someone on her way to work…Don’t whistle at me like a dog…so infuriating!

    • You certainly have every right to be annoyed as the sort of behavior you describe is an exhibition of extremely poor manners that reflects poorly upon the clowns who exhibit the behavior. However, without defending the behavior of louts, be aware that men are always aware of any attractive woman in the vicinity (and let’s be honest, women are often scanning the horizon, or so I am told, as well). The difference is that a gentleman doesn’t stare if only because it is rude and can be misinterpreted as interest when it is merely appreciation.

      • Women are aware of attractive men in the same way. But the behavior described above is something else (looking, hissing, making kiss-sounds etc). The men/boys who do that are begging for attention and often it starts by following you with their eyes. If they get a glance back (if only because as a woman you are alarmed and check to see whether there is danger) they are encouraged and react.
        You have to understand that women encounter this behavior VERY OFTEN (depending on the neighborhood), they are not just occasional ‘clowns’ or ‘louts’.

        Men who simply are aware of attractive women do not bother us. Being aware of someone is not intrusive, it is the begging for attention, staring you down, or ‘checking out’ that is intrusive. .

        • Oh, you’ll get no argument from me. The described behavior is as unacceptable to me as it is to you. However, I can also understand the intimidation factor (which is also why I “instructed” a couple of young “gentlemen” as to correct behavior regarding my younger sisters – I can be very persuasive).

          It may be that we live in different neighborhoods, or cities, as I do not see that much in the open (and I do ride public transit a lot). However, now that you have me thinking about it I’ll make it a point to be more attentive. I do recall intervening once, but that was in a rough neighborhood years ago.

          It may also be that since I try to live up to my own standards that I do not look for the behavior.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Leia

      The guys who “wolf whistle” are a different subset of men in this whole objectification / dating discussion. I think their intention is to harass and intimidate rather than to determine your interest level or appreciate. I was kind of surprised when I read your comment the first time until I realized that your husband was a few feet away. They probably didn’t think he was your husband.

      I think guys like that are just bullies who pick on women because they view them as vulnerable or weaker. It makes them feel tough when someone is afraid of them.

      • KC Krupp says:

        The problem is while you and I both think of them as separate a lot of the time when I see people talking about the evils of “male gaze” they lump things like wolf whistling, cat calling, copping a feel, and calling a girl a bitch when she rejects a guy as all inclusive under the banner of “male gaze.”

        When people like you and I hear someone say “male gaze” we think of looking or checking out a girl, we see that activity as separate from the whistling.

        Rereading the article it’s very clear to me where the break occurs: It’s the unwelcome advance not the looking that’s really the problem. It’s where the looking turns into a feeling of “sizing you up,” which is a common result of having someone stare at us. It is well known that staring at someone is deeply rooted in us as threatening regardless of who is staring at you (usually staring is associated with stalking and predatory behavior, think of a cat or a snake preparing to pounce.) Looking is different then staring; granted, it is a thin line, and you don’t always know when you’ve crossed it.

      • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

        I’m not sure it mattered to them if her husband WAS there. I was in a grocery store a few years ago and this man tried to get my attention. I said no, I shook my head and looked away, he persisted by waving at me from 10 feet away. I wrapped my arm around my boy-buddy’s waist and nuzzled into his neck to make it look like we were together. We paid our bill and left, taking separate cars as we had met up at the store. As I was reversing, this man jumped behind my car. I was not about to get out, so I rolled my window down and told him to go away in the most unpleasant of terms. He tried to approach my open window. I rolled it up and attempted to drive around him and get away. He caught up to me at the parking lot lights and was blowing kisses at me. The man started to follow me home, and when I changed directions just before my group of apartment buildings, so did he. Finally I got onto a busy road with him behind me, flicked on my hazards, started honking and yelling for help out the window…that’s what it took to finally drive this man away. It shouldn’t have come to that, and it’s an awful shame that it’s not the only time I was ever harassed by a passerby (in and out of male company).

        I don’t walk around suspicious of men and their behaviour because I am lucky to know many amazing men, but it is unfortunately a reality for a lot of women and I thank you, Mark, for writing about it. I The arguments presented above are also a part of this reality and unfortunately without experiential framework (that is fairly gender-distinct in this article), it’s hard to see the other side of this issue.

        • KC Krupp says:

          And I completely agree that what you just described was harassment and what sounds like a terrifying (and criminal) experience.

          The problem is that Mark’s article, and maybe I misread the article, doesn’t distinguish between looking and the behavior you just described, in fact he says that because of the risk of assault, just looking at a woman is threatening. The article suggests no grays (even though Mark asserts there are gray ares in the comments that isn’t convey in the original text) and does not distinction between looking and truly threatening behavior like you experienced.

          “Looking” and “Checking out” are not the same as wolf whistling, cat calling, chasing a woman around, calling her rude names, etc, and whenever I see articles that bring up “Male gaze” they always go back to quoting assault statistics, say it’s “threatening,” and then they give examples of rude behavior like wolf whistling as examples. And while they’re right that behavior like that needs to be corrected it is not the same as looking.

          • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

            It doesn’t, and perhaps it’s meant to be a blanket article to cover off a number of behaviours. I do understand that it offends most, ad maybe there’s a better way to put it, but I cannot underline enough that I personally feel it was important to write. Perhaps it’s just a reminder to be mindful of the lines between looking and staring, or engaging and harassing. There are grey areas and varying lines and limits and it’s not easy to navigate nor to bear in mind always.
            I don’t personally mind a look or glance, but staring makes me feel uncomfortable and appears thoughtless of my person. I don’t always assume the starer wants to hurt me (you get a sense of these situations after a while), but it does not feel good.

      • @John Anderson: It was an incident when we were on a steamship museum in San Diego….I was only a few feet away from my son and husband looking at exhibits of model boats and artifacts encased in glass….these two foreign tourists (I couldn’t understand their language) looked right at me through a doorway from the next room (I was wearing baggy dark tennis shorts) and started making those disgusting kiss-y and low whistling sounds (because they assume I am an animal or a prostitute ???)…I moved closer to my husband and son and started talking really loud to my family members and then they quieted down and stopped….On the next vessel ( a submarine), we were behind them and I read out loud in a scholarly voice in English the exhibit labels and they turned away from me and seemed maybe somewhat intimidated….

        Do you think quiet, submissive and shy looking Asian flower = something to be whistled at?

        vs.

        Loud, college professorial voice lecturing in clear English = scary harridan to be avoided?

  33. ” If a women, says “no thanks” in any way, (and yes, that can be as simple as glancing away) move on with courtesy and respect.”
    Because every person is self-assured and only the feeble are still shy.
    Quick show of hands- how many in our dating experience have heard the “I thought you didn’t notice me, I didn’t want to seem too aggressive routine, etc ????
    If a woman does anything short of that suggestive tongue thing or throw that thumb & pinkie call me sign- cut over to the next block immediately…

  34. On the highway to mating relationships…stop and squeeze the melons. If a woman chooses to look like a piece of art…at great time and expense…I will take in the sights just as long as I like. In advertising, the seller does not choose who offers.

  35. I find sunglasses and a set of headphones usually fend off any misunderstandings in either direction.

    • Except when assholes badger you even though you’re wearing headphones. That’s always fun…standing at a bus stop with my headphones in, turned in the other direction…and some guy thinks that’s somehow an invitation to chat me up or stare at me.

      • Yeah. Bus stops. Let me just throw this out there: The bus stop is a vortex for lack-of-boundary behaviors. It’s also a place where people might have a legitimate question whose answer or lack of could be the difference between getting on the bus to work or the bus to nowhere. I’d keep those headphones turned toward your ears if you don’t want conversation.

        • I think you misunderstand; my headphones were in and I was turned in the other direction (as in away from the person), and still I’ve been pestered.

      • I had woman do that to me

      • Heather N

        Is it because you fear he is going to overpower you with his superior manly strength or are you just uninterested and don’t want to be bothered?

    • Rule number one –

      Do not bother people wearing headphones.

      If they want to talk to you, they will take their headphones out.

    • Megalodon says:

      Funny that you should suggest sunglasses as way to protect oneself from social transgression. Sunglasses are a favored instrument among starers and voyeurs so as to conceal their viewing.

  36. I was going to say that verbatim, aundrea.

  37. aundrea says:

    you don’t get it, dave.

  38. I found this such a Nice Guy article, letting men remain in fear for looking at a woman for more than a second or two longer.

    If you see a woman you like, then go up and say ‘hi’ to her. If she THEN shows no interest, then sure, leave and respect her space.

    But don’t be afraid while you walk down the street.

    And while the woman walking down the street is not looking at you, who knows, maybe she has had a bad day and a nice interaction is what she might like. We just don’t know.

    All interactions are different. If you speak to women, you’ll see which ones are interested in having something with you, and which are not. It’s quite possible that many will not be interested, but if you speak to them in an honest way, then you’ll both leave having respected each other.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      No, don’t go up to me and say hi to me unless you know me. If you’re passing, maybe a “hi” or a nod that I can just keep walking, but don’t come up and talk to me unless you have a reason to do so. It’s not likely to make a woman’s day to have a stranger come up to her and say hi.

      A quick eye-contact and smile can do a lot. And, as Mark says, then you look away and go about your business.

      Mark’s not saying to be afraid. Mark’s saying, “Understand that women are being careful for a very good reason.”

      But I agree with the last paragraph, all interactions are different. But in general, walking up to someone and saying hi out of nowhere is going to make someone uncomfortable more times than not. Again, read the signals before you walk over. Is she making – and keeping – eye contact with you? Is she smiling when she makes eye contact with you? Then maybe walk over, but be ready to walk away.

      Same thing goes for women approaching men. Don’t just pounce on them. I watched a woman pounce on my husband (not literally, but approaching him and talking very directly to him) not long ago when I was about 100 yards behind him on a walk, catching up from an errand. It was bizarre and he was uncomfortable.

      Please, don’t put women in a position to have to say, “I’m not interested” when you could have gauged that by watching her eye contact. For many of us, saying “I’m not interested” in one way or another – no matter how nicely – has turned dangerous. PLEASE understand that.

      • Ok, fair enough, but the same goes for you as well. Don’t ogle me when I’m wearing a shirt that shows off my chest and shoulders. Don’t make chit chat with me in the check out line or on the bus. Don’t ask me to reach something on a high shelf or lift something heavy. Don’t ask me to give up my seat for you.

        Frame your interactions with men from now on to not take advantage of their use to you or their sexual appeal. Generally, just quit annoying us.

      • “It’s not likely to make a woman’s day to have a stranger come up to her and say hi. ”

        Go tell that to the plethora of women that feel invisible. If I said hello to you in a non-hitting on you way, would that bother you? I’ve had people strike up a mini convo from 1st to 4th floor at the hospital, I’ve done it myself with the doctors n nurses too and found it better than a few people staring at a spot on the wall like a damn prison.

        “Please, don’t put women in a position to have to say, “I’m not interested” when you could have gauged that by watching her eye contact. For many of us, saying “I’m not interested” in one way or another – no matter how nicely – has turned dangerous. PLEASE understand that.”

        Ever think that maybe they did see your eye contact but got a different understanding from your overall body language? I’d like to think body language is universal but it isn’t 100%. Then you have those whom have trouble understanding body language, shy people for instance have a tougher time if they didn’t get enough KEY experiences in childhood to accurately gauge body language. I myself from about 18-21 had trouble with body language in the comfort sense as I had conflicting experiences in highschool where people would fake being a friend to mess with me, it took a lil while to relearn body langauge. I didn’t approach anyone though in this time but I can definitely see someone approaching another without truly realizing. People with some forms of aspergers I believe have incredible difficulty with this.

        Some have said women do a nervous smile, if the guy saw a woman smile at him it could mean she likes him or she’s nervously smiling. If he approaches after that then he may very well cause the sitaution you describe. There’s also the possibility of being unaware of your own signals, I use to walk around thinking I was looking fairly happy and I was told by a friend that I looked pretty intimidating because I get a neutral face that I don’t realize is there, a poker face (which does come in handy in poker as I can throw people off bigtime with my facial expressions). My internal emotions and my external body langauge are not always linked. Some folk walk around with a fake smile, whilst inside they are feeling terrible, I have friends do this and I’ve done it occasionally myself. That’s another opportunity for someone to misread the signs. Some people blush because they are into someone and look away, some do it because they’re just nervous…if you aren’t skilled at reading this then that’s another opportunity to mess up. Basically relying on body language alone is a bbbadddddddddd idea.

        I hope women realize the way to alleviate the men always approacing, is to pickup the slack n start approaching so that it’s not solely up to men to approach for dating to happen. Until then you’re going to have mostly men doing the approaching and mostly men being rejected, mostly men causing discomfort by misreading her signs, or just not caring.

        Now would you prefer a society where men did not approach strangers or are you simply asking for them to be mindful that some men are evil and make it more difficult to seperate who’s who? My trouble with this is that if men cannot approach, or women cannot approach then society really has become shit. The default in society should be that people are friendly, say hello, care for each other, protect each other. That is what makes a great society…but if we get too cautious then we end up with a disconnected society that is unfriendly. There was a time where I wanted to be left alone because I thought everyone was a potential bully, potential violent person, I’ve been punched, groped, slapped, had mean words that actually hurt at the time more than the punch did, and a variety of other shit by kids my age, adult teachers hit me from age 6 – 12, even as an adult I’ve been hit by men and women, even a complete total stranger because I NICELY declined to buying him a drink. But still I wouldn’t want people to stop approaching me as long as they approach politely, ensure that I have escape routes (don’t block a person in a room for instance), do so with a calm body language and just be friendly.

        I do fear danger, even as big as I am because I know I am more likely to have violence against me as a man in the street and I know I freeze with fear so my strength becomes quite useless. Even still I just don’t like the idea of people not approaching others respectfully, I want people to be more about stopping the bad folk being bad than restricting the good folk because it’s the good folk that makes our society great. A society in which people just keep to themselves and remain afraid is not a good society at all.

        • Hi Archy
          “I hope women realize the way to alleviate the men always approacing, is to pickup the slack n start approaching so that it’s not solely up to men to approach for dating to happen. Until then you’re going to have mostly men doing the approaching and mostly men being rejected, mostly men causing discomfort by misreading her signs, or just not caring.”

          But here we are talking about women walking in the STREET.
          It may be that most or a large percentage of women simply do not like the street to the place where they are approached for a date.
          I am not afraid when I walk in the city,but if a man want to date me the he has to approach we on another arena. An arena where we have talked a bit.
          It does not mean it would scare me,but I would feel this man is weird. He does not know the culture code for conduct.

          • That’s the thing though, a single man won’t always have other places to find a woman. Where I live the main time I see new people is on the street, my hobbies are largely male or solo, there’s no nightlife and very few events I am interested in on. The place I’ve seen the most women is either the bistro (think sports bar + resturant for 100+ people) or at the supermarket, the street, sometimes an event that’s on or whenever I head to the city which is once every few months. I’ve seen oooodles of women I have liked at their workplace, walking on the street, but I don’t hit on them. Hitting on a woman at her workplace might work but it’s also probably very annoying for them.

            I can definitely see why other guys do though because life get’s fucking lonely and with society pushing the expectation for men to do the approaching then some men are going to use whatever time is available to approach because it can actually be a choice of chatting to someone at the supermarket, street, or being single. They can also try new hobbies but that’s not always available, and he may not be interested at all in the local activities so his only reason for attending would be to find a date which is seen as pretty bad by many.

            Maybe online dating would help those in smaller areas but I do know around this town that many of my guy friends don’t go out at night and I am sure a lot of girls don’t either, everyone staying at home on friday n saturday night means they’re missing out on opportunities but there isn’t really anywhere to go where I live except a club which is too fucking loud to converse in and last time I was there some asshole kept hitting me because I wouldn’t buy him a drink…not to mention the men n women there are often so plastered that it’s immoral to hit on them + they’re probably annoying + many women are on edge at clubs from what I hear.

            Most of my friends got gf’s from either mutual friends (the women I meet via that are already married mostly or dating) or school (the women I knew from school mostly moved away, are married, or were really fucking horrible). I joined a photography club, and it has plenty of women (2-3x more women than men, about 15-20 women, 5-10 men) and I shit you not but they’re all married with kids!, infact it’s me and 1 other guy who are the only single people and only ones without kids.

            Where do people meet their partners mostly?

    • Indeed, yes, If I’ve had bad day, some random stranger coming up to me, invading my personal space and demanding my attention is EXACTLY what I want.

      That was sarcasm, by the way. And it’s fairly obvious when you think about…if you’ve had a bad day chances are you either want to be alone or among family/friends. You don’t want to have to expend the energy to interact with a stranger, because interacting with strangers is always more work.

      Also, though I appreciate this article, I honestly do not understand this assumed sort of constant scanning of people for potential mates. Like, I understand sometimes being taken back by a particularly beautiful person. I also understand engaging with and talking to strangers in random public spaces, cuz hey sometimes you meet really cool people. I DON’T understand treating every interaction with a woman as a potential get laid/have relationship sort of situation.

      So yeah, perhaps the big advice is think of the women you come across as people first, individuals who are going about their lives which have absolutely nothing to do with you and your sexual/romantic intentions.

      • I think it’s a matter of not having authentic relationships and feeling the need to act a particular way that a person has seen modeled on t.v. or whatever–this goes for men and women by the way, straight and gay, trans, etc, etc. I generally smile at anyone I pass on the sidewalk if I’m in a decent mood. But I think all our lives are connected, and when I get that smile back, from a 65-y-o man, a 20-y-o woman, the guy playing guitar on the park bench, the homeless lady that mutters to herself, or any of the youngish and hip baristas at my coffee shop, that thought is always confirmed.

      • Also, though I appreciate this article, I honestly do not understand this assumed sort of constant scanning of people for potential mates. Like, I understand sometimes being taken back by a particularly beautiful person. I also understand engaging with and talking to strangers in random public spaces, cuz hey sometimes you meet really cool people. I DON’T understand treating every interaction with a woman as a potential get laid/have relationship sort of situation.

        Then the question begs itself: Is this how most/all men view any interaction with women or is it something women think they know about men? It is pretty tiring this presumption that every interaction I initiate with a woman is a signal of sexual/romantic interest. The funny thing is that many become insulted if you pre-emptively takes that off the table.

        It is slightly ironic that by advising men to “never” talk to women on the street lest they be afraid/uncomfortable one pretty much assures that the only people talking to women on the streets are those who doesn’t give a crap about women being afraid/uncomfortable. Is it really preferable that women are treated as non-entities (ignored)? We all have days when that’s what we’d prefer, but every day? How is it perceived if I don’t ask the woman next to me at the bus stop when the next bus is due, but walks over and ask the man standing 10 feet away?

        It all reminds me of the moronic advice I’ve heard that one should hold back, cross the street and preferably stay out of sight when finding oneself walking the same way home as some woman late at night. I say moronic because once a friend and I were able to stop what I am certain was a rape about to happen (when we rounded a corner we saw two guys dragging the very drunk girl who had been walking a few yards ahead of us between them into an alley while she said “no no no”) because we weren’t heeding this advice. If we had heeded the advice the chances were that these two guys would’ve managed to drag this woman into the alley without us noticing.

        • “Then the question begs itself: Is this how most/all men view any interaction with women or is it something women think they know about men? It is pretty tiring this presumption that every interaction I initiate with a woman is a signal of sexual/romantic interest. ”

          OH YES YES YES YES YES!!!
          OH YES YES YES YES YES!!!
          OH YES YES YES YES YES!!!

          This is what inside my head all the time!!!!

          Women think they know what men think. The reality is they dont know anything about men. Thats why all nice guys article in GMP ( written by women ) always said how nice guys only want sex.

          Big news to you women, we are human too!!! We experience love, sadness, empathy, fear. We can talk with women without want any sex or relationship!!

          SURPRISE!!!!

          • You know, I think I’m getting good at figuring out what men want when they talk to me… Most of the time it is benign, but there’s an extra special yuckiness sometimes when it’s not.

            It’s hard to describe, but it makes me feel yucky. Bad word, I know, but it’s the most descriptive I can come up with.

            • You are aware that your self-assessment here is very prone to confirmation bias?

              Just as my experience that many women in fact fail at figuring out what I want when I talk to them.

              Whenever I am met with a pre-emptive response from women assuming that my interaction with them are based on a sexual/romantic interest from my side I simple end the interaction as soon as I can (being stereotyped significantly lowers the chance of us connecting on a personal level). The pre-emptive response can happen even when I’m not the one initiating the interaction. I consider that their loss. The exception are in professional settings where I “ignore” the pre-emptive response and continue the conversation on strictly professional terms – because it’s my job. Trying to correct their misconception of my motives are futile at best. Me disengaging from women who suspect I am making an unwanted advance on them will probably strengthen their belief that they guessed my intention correctly – that I was only interested in them as a sexual/romantic prospect.

              A funny anecdote: Once I worked very late I stopped at a local restaurant to get a pizza to go. While I was waiting for the pizza a very young and somewhat drunk woman started to talk to me. After a short while she asked whether I was going to eat the pizza at the restaurant or if I planned to go eat it there and go to a nearby bar afterwards. Without giving it much thought I replied as the truth was that I came from work and was taking the pizza home to catch some time with my wife before she went to bed. Oh my god did I get an earful from her for presuming that she was hitting on an old pig like me.

            • My guess is that you have instinct + triggers from the past popping up. The Amgydala (that pain in the ass in ze brain) and your brain process all of your life experience + built in instincts (like staring causing anxiety, most animals have this) and before you can consciously process the situation your amgydala has already told the brain it’s response. For me my amgydala is overactive so I have social anxiety disorder as a result, my fears of people are way overblown to the point it is very detrimental to my life but for most people they’re at a decent level so they don’t lose out on a good life. The past abuses, experiences imprint and teach the amgydala, etc to trigger based on some attribute. For me one of the triggers is someone yelling because I had childhood experiences of adult teachers screaming at me, poking me in the chest hard, hitting me with canes, throwing me back in the chair by pushing my desk and hitting my head on a cupboard (I was 6-10 for all of that). When I hear an adult yell, especially a male with a similar vocal tone I tend to freeze up, straight away my body rushes with adrenaline and my fight or flight response has got me ready before I can actually consciously process what happened.

              That yucky feeling you have I would bet is a small thing like their vocal tone, their body language, something in your brain has recongized and triggered the response. When I was quite young I met my cousins husband for the first time and within a small amount of time I told my mum “I don’t like him”, that man abused the hell out of her which I didn’t know at the time but I picked up on something from his body language and probably her body language around him. I’ve always been told I am a good judge of character, my guess is that my overactive anxiety has me hyperaware of body language and I pickup tiny things that indicate a problem. Gotta be careful here because some people do them unknowingly, a lot of abused people probably have some abusiveness without realizing, their reactions can appear similar to other abusive people even though they may never truly go on to be a habitual abuser. I think the same is probably true for some men n women you’d meet, for instance that guy that hit on you and even your kids were bugged out by him picked up on something as you did as well (possibly your reaction influenced how your kids recieved his behaviour though). There is a chance however he was unaware of his behaviour was bad. I know in highschool I had some people feel intimidated by me due to my size alone and I didn’t realize until I was told later on that my size was an issue, I had to learn to stand further away and not “tower” over people to avoid projecting dominance.

              “Most of the time it is benign, but there’s an extra special yuckiness sometimes when it’s not.”

              That “gut feeling” is what keeps us safe but we can get it wrong, they can appear very similar to others who are bad. But as Tamen says confirmation bias does influence this so if you grew up hearing men want sex, men want this, some men are rapists AND combine that with past history of violence n danger from men then your brain’s gonna subconsciously protect you by triggering that fear but it can go wrong and get false positives. False-positives will happen more so in the stranger – stranger based communications that only last a few seconds or minutes since you haven’t got enough time to gauge their behaviour more. I have friends that appeared creepy at first until I got to know them and learn why they behave how they do. Take me for instance, in highschool I was severely depressed and at times blankly stared off with the thousand yard stare, that probably looked creepy but if you know WHY I am doing it you’ll realize it’s not threatening but just means I’m depressed.

              Again, just my guesses, it’s stuff I’ve been told by my psychologist and has helped me learn a lot about human behaviour and has helped me lower my social anxiety issues. I am far less afraid than I use to be because of it, and feel far more powerful in being able to spot the differences better and able to make friends easier.

              “It’s hard to describe, but it makes me feel yucky. Bad word, I know, but it’s the most descriptive I can come up with.”
              And the real fun (sarcasm) fact of all of this is because it’s subjective, internal, based on your own specific fears n experience it becomes damn near impossible to explain to someone else! Hence why it’s so hard to describe because it’s hard to describe what your subconscious has determined and what triggers it. Hell I’ve had a lot of therapy and still don’t know the full extent of my triggers, there’s one involving a certain type, shape of face that I can’t fully workout!

          • KCKrupp says:

            I talk to people I meet in public all the time, men and women, mainly because I love people and find them interesting, and most of the time it’s not because I’m looking for a hook up, it’s because there is something about them I genuinely find interesting whether it’s something they’re wearing, a book they’re reading, or something they’re carrying with them. I have dated a large number of women I met at bus and train stations, including my wife,but I never started the conversation with the intent for it to go there.

            So, while I agree with you that I would argue most men don’t just go around hunting for prey, there are a number that do and they are obnoxious. I see it all the time, a girl gets onto the subway and a guy gets up from where he is sitting and sits down in the seat next to hear and begins talking to her. She’s trapped against the window, trying to lean as far away as possible and the guy just keeps leaning in closer and closer to her. If she keeps ignoring him and staring out the window eventually he either gives up and sulks away or starts calling her a bitch.

            And John, I guarantee almost every woman you know has at one time had someone pull something like this in public.

            If you’re going to look at a girl and give her a once over, fine, but don’t walk up to her afterwards. If you see a girl you want to talk to her, you’ve got three seconds to go over and say something, do it from a distance, and if she warms up to you, then you can join her, otherwise,leave well enough alone.

      • John Anderson says:

        “Equally, in the public dance of finding a partner, women may have to become more assertive in indicating interest. Making the first move and communicating clearly when they would like to have a conversation”

        But what if the man is uninterested in her? Wouldn’t that just be giving women license to harass men who are uninterested? Why would that be OK?

      • “Also, though I appreciate this article, I honestly do not understand this assumed sort of constant scanning of people for potential mates. Like, I understand sometimes being taken back by a particularly beautiful person. I also understand engaging with and talking to strangers in random public spaces, cuz hey sometimes you meet really cool people. I DON’T understand treating every interaction with a woman as a potential get laid/have relationship sort of situation.”

        Who says it’s every interaction? This is largely on men because men have to do the approaching. When women do not approach men then they increase the amount of times they have to face accepting/rejecting someone because they’re forcing one gender to approach if anyone wants to continue having humans around on the planet.

        I think we need to stop seeing the FIRST time as harassment. If someone takes the chance to say hi to me even if I am pissed off and not in the mood, that is not harassment. It is up to me to say yay or nay to the convo. Sure it sucks if they can’t read my body language but body language is pretty fucking vague and some cannot read it effectively. When you are in public, assume that someone will talk to you because we’re a social species and yes that is how it should be. Wanna be left alone? Wear a sign around your head or stay at home. If someone approachs, you say no, they keep at it THEN they are harassing you.

        I seriously don’t understand this entitled expectation that other humans should be mind-readers and have perfect understanding of body language and should leave you alone always in public. Yes we deserve to feel safe, but not bubble wrapped safety. I don’t feel safe when people say hi to me first but I am in public, I expect someone may say hello. It may make me uncomfortable but what is the alternative? The best someone can do is to try gauge the other person’s feelings, and approach respectfully. Take this away and you create a fucking terrible society where people are too damn afraid to talk to each other? Hell no. DO not want. I am all for telling people to stop HARASSING though. If they say no, move on, be respectful, don’t get angry, don’t be a jerk. Approach with respect, lower your stance and presence so you don’t intimidate them, try your very best to understand their body language or practice with friends, ensure you don’t block off their exit, do not stand too close as dictated by the local customs (look up personal space boundary size, it usually differs city vs rural people). No one has the right to never feel uncomfortable because it’s impossible to feel comfortable always for everyone. I get uncomfy with strangers around me, I can’t dictate to them that they should never say hi to anyone because of that because that’d be stupid. Humans are social species, the default position is that we talk to each other!

        If I followed the advice of not approaching someone that doesn’t give eye contact then I would not have learned about planes at an airshow by the mechanic, a young boy would not have learned more about photography from me when he asked questions (I had a pro-level camera on me, he made a judgement that I knew my shit, he was right), the woman a while ago wouldn’t have known where such n such an item was when she asked me, the other woman wouldn’t have reached the top-shelf item because she asked me nicely if I could grab it for her, the asian tourists wouldn’t have gotten their photo taken together when they asked me to use their camera to take a pic, and a lot of people probably wouldn’t be friends, or even dating. Approaching people is a risk but the rewards can outweigh the negatives, a person who isn’t interested will quickly make it known if you’ve approached them and the default position should be to respectfully decline. This fantasy of people always knowing your mind is just wrong. Culture n customs exist for this very reason!

    • Danielle Paradis says:

      “We just don’t know”
      No, we don’t. I have had men talk to me randomly and we became friends. I’ve also had men try to assault me when they came up to me to say hi. That’s what I think of for when I think of living in fear. I don’t know if I’m going to get groped, grabbed, or just a friendly hi. I really don’t want to feel this cautious, it would be nice to be open and unconcerned but it’s not like I assaulted myself. It stays with you, not always loud, but often at the back of your mind in a little whisper.

      • I have that same fear, though not related to being hit on but bullied, punched, groped, etc. I have a bad social anxiety disorder from it and it leaves me on edge but there is a time where you just gotta say fuckit because living in fear is horrible, the stress, the lack of friendships because you’re afraid to meet new people, and for men the lack of approaching women because you’re afraid of them + afraid to make them uncomfy. There needs to be a healthy medium of caution but also taking some risk in order to have a decent life. I hope education helps in reducing some people being violent, etc because none of us deserve to live in fear, but there is a point we need to face fear and kick it’s ass. I hope no one gets the extremes of an anxiety disorder, etc because it’s very debilitating to your life.

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