Playing Hard to Get

 

Casually used phrases like “playing hard to get” reduce women’s choices to a game.

We are a wasteful people when it comes to words. We throw away words without a thought, expect them to leave no trace upon the places we’ve been and move on to say them in other places because, really, what does it matter? Words to us are carbon footprint-free. They’re soon-to-dissipated puffs of dust to only settle later in a different arrangement. Say what you want and, gleefully, words can be deleted or forgotten or pretended to have never been spoken. If you disagree with how shifty words can be, I urge you to look no further than any recent presidential debate for further proof.

As Harry G. Frankfort astutely observed about our propensity to dispense words as if they grew on trees, he wrote, “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.”

Even when you say something unsavory, which is easy enough to do—be honest, I’ve done it and you’ve done it, too—we don’t always consider the meaning when it comes to the people those throw-away words might impact. Words are only words, and yet they’re not only words. Some of the words we say drag behind them a heavier meaning than we might not have ever intended.

Because of the unexpected gravity of words, we must think twice about what we say. Given the value of speech, and since these sophisticated sounds are primarily how we like to communicate, a man will likely use them to try to talk to a woman. For better or worse, you’ve likely even had occasion to hear a man say of a woman, “Oh, she’s just playing hard to get.”

Ugh.

In case we weren’t clear: every word you set loose from your lips should be respected like a bullet. It might be a blank, it might be hot with gunpowder; regardless, it will hit somebody nearby with some manner of impact whether you intend it or not.

According to various slang dictionaries, the phrase “play hard to get” seems to have appeared around the 1920s and typically refers to women who are coy or play around with the sexual flirtations of the opposite sex in the interest of holding out on their own carnal desires. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang places the phrase’s appearance in the American lexicon in the 1920s, whereas A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English narrows the phrase’s arrival to 1925. Variously, the phrase always connotes a woman who is not willing to immediately indulge the sexual whims of a man. While the phrase may have begun circulating around street urchin newsboy gangs nearly 80 years ago, it’s managed to survive to the present era where, nowadays, if you so much as stand downwind of a college bar you’ll likely hear some unseemly dude describe a woman as playing hard to get.

However, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase in question axed of the word “play.” She simply now is hard to get. Instead of the verbified use, she’s no longer doing this thing; rather, she is this thing.

Let’s start there then. Describing anything as hard to get, be it a person, food, or a job promotion, suggests an object difficult to obtain that only can become available after one—in this case, a heterosexual male pursuing a woman—has unlocked that achievement after completing certain tasks. If a woman is not receptive to his advances, she’s immediately perceived as difficult.

What is really meant by saying a woman is hard to get? That she didn’t respond the way you wanted her to? You suspect you didn’t say the right keyword so now you feel locked out of her interest until you can try a different combination? You think she’s merely couching away her attention only to spite you?

Rethink this choice of words before using them to describe a woman who isn’t receptive to your uninvited amorous advances. Peeling back that onion, saying she’s hard to get is less about her and, honestly, more about you. It’s more about your own security as a man. It’s about accepting the fact that, yes, you’re not omni-attractive.

Talking to women you don’t know can sometimes feel like a game, sure. Dating in general could, in some respects, be described as such. In the end, you’re essentially vying for a chance to get into the winner’s circle and come back tomorrow to see Pat Sajak again. I get that. (Well, not the going on dates with Sajak, but in general terms, I get date-as-game thing.)

Being able to make conversation with a woman is one thing, and going further to have agreeable chemistry is another. Regardless, eventually you’ll likely find yourself in a situation where a woman may not care for your company anymore, whether it’s later in the night or sometime next week. Sometimes, them’s the breaks. For what it’s worth, statistically, and this fact really won’t keep you warm at night, most of your dates won’t amount to anything. Sorry, but that’s the penalty for being alive and partner-searching.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor: accept the disagreeable conclusion of a woman perhaps not being interested in you. If you have to justify yourself to your friends or even to yourself when you go home alone at the end of the night or don’t hear back from a woman after a second date, please, do yourself a favor and do not defend yourself by saying that the woman you pursued was simply hard to get. For the love of all you hold dear, consider what you’re about to actually say when those word-bullets slide into the chamber of your throat. Think about your own quality before you dismiss the choice of another person.

Because, really, it has nothing to do with her. It’s more about how you deal with rejection.

Traveling to the other end of this phrase, though, what is the opposite of being hard to get, of being difficult? Yeah, exactly: easy. If you’re reading the content on this website, I’m going to presume I don’t have to school you on why you should never describe a woman as easy. Yet by describing her as “hard to get,” the implication is made that she’s not easy. You put her in an either/or dilemma that, regardless of how she chooses, places her in an unenviable position. How can she win at this point?

Oh, women, that you put up with us. Scorned if you’re easy, treated like a tenth-level goal on a video game if you’re not easy. I can’t express my sympathies enough.

Ultimately, dismissing a woman as “hard to get” creates a situation that robs her of agency over her own body. She’s no longer a person at this point, but a toll booth that mediates the sexuality of men and must therefore decide whether to permit men access to her body or to redirect them. However, you have to understand that it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re George Clooney in a ferris wheel car, she’s  going to make her own choice whether or not you seem like a fun guy. More, if a woman is the only mitigating factor of men’s sexual pursuit, what’s that say about her? The suggestion basically time-shutes her to the Dark Age concept of being the gatekeeper of masculine sexuality. To say a woman is hard to get, you’re essentially saying that, without a her monitor to say go or no-go, you’d basically be fucking any woman that wasn’t hard to get. Do you men really want to accede to being that out of control of your sexual impulses?

As if saying a woman is “hard to get” wasn’t bad enough, there is an attempt to mollify the description into less aggressive terms, which goes back to the way in which the phrase had been historically documented in the English language (according to slang dictionaries, at least). So here comes the worst part, and by worst I mean my favorite part: the affixation of the verb “play.”

She is now playing hard to get. Again with the games.

What an insidious way to attack a woman’s choice. So you think she’s playing with, do you? Again, I’ll refer back to my previous point of women being the arbitrators of male sexuality but more than that I’d like you to think about yourself for the moment. Do you really think women have nothing better to do than play with your whimsical social hard-ons? Be she behind a register or next to you at a bar, she likely has a hundred different things on her mind before you approach her so if she doesn’t respond with even a shade of how you’d like for her to respond, don’t hold it against her. If she’s not interested in letting you play dick-tetris on her bod, that’s not her fault. She is her own person, after all.

Additionally, applying the verb “play” allows men to save face out of sexual rejection so that they don’t have to tell their friends—or, more dreadfully, accept the fact—that a woman doesn’t care for his attention. It’s always much easier to blame the other person when the other person isn’t in any capacity to defend herself. Upon rejection of whatever slobbering advances might have been made, a man can conclude a woman was playing hard to get as a pride-preserving mechanism, which leads to only more troubling behavior. By saying as such, you can either dismiss her as trivia or become emboldened by the so-called game and continue with your unwanted advances at the risk of crossing bothersome or even harassing territories.

In the end, don’t do any of it. Just go on with your life. In truth, she’s not really playing hard to get at all. She’s just not that into you.

Read more on Sex & Relationships.

Image credit: tpower1978/Flickr

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About Drew Bowling

Drew Bowling is a writer, erstwhile photographer, and highly decorated factotum living somewhere in the United States. His writing lingers on language, gender, mental health, and occasional raves about outer space. Keep up with his fancy musings over on Twitter.

Comments

  1. drew, i think i’m in love with you. :)

    thanks for understanding and educating. the world needs more men who understand the subtle ways women are undermined and are willing to examine their own behavior. love love love. <3

  2. AnonymousDog says:

    Frankly, I’m tired of constant attempts by people with various social/political agendas to police other people’s use of language. It does nothing to address the underlying issues, and just encourages a kind of pseudo-Soviet euphemism. Prohibiting the use of certain terms does not eliminate the things, actions, or concepts which they described any more than not mentioning the name of a now purged former comrade eliminates his historical existence.

    • The way we speak both influences and is influenced by the way we look at the world. It’s a strong part of our culture.

      Mild example of this feedback loop: we call pink a “girly” color, and companies market mostly-pink toys and clothes to little girls. This results in more girls liking pink. Because girls tend to like pink, its association with femininity is reinforced, and companies continue to market mostly-pink toys and clothes to little girls.

      Less pleasant (and possibly triggering) example of this feedback loop: Openly-gay people are ostracized in society. This leads bullies to call Josh, an unpopular kid, a “fag” as an insult, whether Josh is actually gay or not. Continued homophobic bullying of this sort drives Josh into such a deep depression that he commits suicide. Because teens like Josh commit suicide due to being called “fags,” he becomes part of the statistic that teens who are gay or perceived as gay have a high suicide rate. Certain unsavory types of political conservative use this high suicide rate as “proof” that something is horribly wrong with gay people, which leads to openly-gay people being ostracized in society.

      • AnonymousDog says:

        My guess is that you believe that language policing is a fair social/political weapon to use against people with whom you disagree, but you would probably not like it used against you or people with whom you agree..

        • Not true. First of all, I don’t believe in language policing in the form of legal penalties AT ALL–because if you do this to others, they have every right to do it right back to you.

          However, I do believe in showing disapproval when people say things that hurt others or are generally offensive. “Politically incorrect” is synonymous with “rude.” We already show disapproval toward other forms of public rudeness, like chewing with your mouth open or slamming the door in someone’s face. Why should rudeness in speech be any different?

          Or, to put it in trigger-warning language: I believe in trigger warnings for things like rape, assault, and abuse, but not something like “Trigger Warning: Contains people using an angry tone” or “Trigger Warning: This post contains cisgendered people.”

          • AnonymousDog says:

            So you would have to approve of other groups expressing disapproval at the language and terminology you use? Or is that a privilege granted to some groups but not others?

  3. You say all that and it somehow completely ignores that the book “THE RULES” has sold millions of copies. The book is essentially saying “Play hard to get”

    • At the risk of Godwinning the comment thread, Mein Kampf sold millions of copies too. That doesn’t make Hitler right about the Jews.

      Millions of people have read wacko websites like Timecube or the Flat Earth Society. That doesn’t make those people right.

      Millions of African-Americans were kept as slaves for a good chunk of U.S. history, and slaveowners were highly-respected people. That doesn’t make slavery right either.

      Popularity of a concept does not make it correct. Nor does wide consumption of works portraying a given perspective automatically mean that that perspective is popular; a lot of people will buy books by people they strongly disagree with, just to mock them. (See also atheist collectors of Chick Tracts.)

      • The_L,

        Your comparisons don’t make sense.

        Aspire’s point is that “The Rules” have sold millions of copies, and this is evidence that there are some women who ACTUALLY play hard to get, even if it’s not “the right thing to do.”

        In your other comparisons, this is exactly the same. The “Flat Earth Society” may not be right, but the fact of the matter is that it exists, and there is some probability that you might run into them whenever you go out and interact with society.

        To read this piece, the author seems to be claiming that women do not actually “play hard to get” however, this is simply untrue.

        By extension, when men say that some women are “playing hard to get” this has nothing to do with men’s self perceptions and everything to do with the fact that “playing hard to get” is something that actually happens.

  4. TLDR: Women are right, men are wrong.

    • ….Please point out the place in this article where it says that all men are wrong. Because the strongest condemnation I’m seeing is, “this thing, that some men are doing, is a very Not-Nice Thing, and we should stop doing it.” That’s very different.

    • A more appropriate TLDR would be “Offensive phrases are offensive.”

  5. There’s an additional problem with the phrase “playing hard to get,” as well.

    I was not at all popular as a teenager. Because of that and my quiet personality, boys never seemed to even notice I was there. My dad’s advice to me when I complained about never being asked out was to “play hard to get.” With boys who didn’t really even talk to me. I still don’t have a good response to that one.

    The concept of “playing hard to get” is just as disgusting when it’s portrayed as a good thing.

    Also, “dick-tetris” is quite possibly the best sexual metaphor I’ve heard all week. :)

  6. Adam McPhee says:

    This article seems to imply to me that women never actually play/are hard to get, and by not including men as the objects of desire (yes, I just called men objects, it’s a phrase), it excludes men from the ability to “play” the game. If she’s playing hard to get, are we just being played? Are we just trying to obtain something we never can?

    A woman having 0 interest is a lot different from a woman showing some interest. Playing hard to get can be something as simple as “I’m going to wait at least 48 hours before I call him/her”. Are you going to tell me women never do this? Try to make themselves hard to get, i.e. not readily available. Women and men both have things going on in their lives other than carnal desires, so sometimes they may just be busy, but not always.

    Yes, I do want that difficult achievement unlocked! I like to feel like I somehow earned what I’ve gotten, even if it is a relationship. Hell, I know I’ve played hard to get. I’ve held off on making moves in order to have a woman make the move on me. Sometimes I like being the achievement, even if I have to apparently objectify my self, as this authour asserts, by being hard to get

    • “This article seems to imply to me that women never actually play/are hard to get.”

      Obviously, being coy or otherwise playfully putting off sex does happen. But:

      1. It’s not fair to automatically attribute this motive to every woman who won’t go out with you, for all the reasons stated in the article.

      2. Love and sex are not video games. In Zelda, for instance, Small Keys always open every locked door in every game, with no exceptions. There is a universal cause-effect relationship. However, people have different turn-ons, different hobbies, and different personalities. The qualities that one person finds attractive are not the same qualities that another person finds attractive. There is no Magical Formula To Make Women Want You, any more than there is a Magical Formula To Make Men Want You.

      • Adam McPhee says:

        1. It’s not fair to automatically attribute to all men that all men attribute this to all women… Nor is it fair for this article to decide that all women(or men) who don’t initially drop their pants for men(or women) are showing 0 interest and men(or women) shouldn`t even attempt to pursue something/someone they desire.

        2. Zelda…. In Zelda you were the character named “Link”. Zelda was a princess who you had to find keys, unlock doors, fight beasts, huge monsters, overcome adversity…. Yeah, I should have just put it in and said “nevermind, not worth it” when I hit my first barrier

        Every key in Zelda is not the metaphor for a “hard to get” woman. Zelda is. That game is remembered and still has sequels because that woman was worth the trials and tribulations you had to go through to get her.

        • Obviously there are many ways to use words and phrases. I think the main point here though is that this phrase in many contexts dismisses someone’s rejection and assumes that the person is interested even though they may not have shown any interest whatsoever. Sure, courtships/relationships can be complicated/playful, but it’s important to respect someones right to not play in the first place. The phrase is often a more subtle “no means yes” and that line of thinking is very disrespectful and can be very dangerous.

          Also Link did not save Zelda so he could get laid, he did it out of the goodness of his heart because he is a hero.

        • I don’t remember any reference in the game to Link and Zelda getting together (in a romantic sense) at the end. The 80′s cartoon series, yes. The video games? No. (Before you use Ocarina of Time against me: Adult Zelda sends Link back to his childhood to grow up in the usual way, instead of pursuing a romance. In that last few seconds of the sequence, you have a repeat of the Link Meets Zelda For The First Time image, implying Link was sent back to a point early enough that he could warn the King in time to stop Ganondorf’s takeover–but not, necessarily, that Link and Zelda were ever anything other than friends after that. This idea is further backed up by the fact that Shigeru Myamoto himself says that TP takes place after the “child” timeline, and WW takes place after the “adult” timeline.) And let’s not forget–all of the Links are supposed to be part of the same bloodline, and likewise with all of the Zeldas. For any 2 Links to get it on with their respective Zeldas (with the exception of the TP/WW combo, because different timelines) would constitute incest.

          Link went to all that trouble to save the world. Princess Zelda was not only part of the world of Hyrule, she was also the princess of the kingdom. You can’t preserve a dynastic kingdom without keeping the royal family safe–because otherwise, you have a completely different dynasty.

        • ” Nor is it fair for this article to decide that all women(or men) who don’t initially drop their pants for men(or women) are showing 0 interest and men(or women) shouldn`t even attempt to pursue something/someone they desire. ”

          Woah. Woah woah woah. You have shifted the goalposts so far with that sentence, you aren’t even in the same state anymore.

          Here are possible forms of interest that Person A (of either sex) could show towards Person B (again, of either sex) at a given point in time:
          1. No interest at all.
          2. Friendly interest, but no romantic or sexual interest.
          3. Romantic interest, but no sexual interest.
          4. Sexual interest, but no romantic interest.
          5. A combination of both romantic and sexual interest.
          6. A combination of romantic interest, sexual interest, and the desire to begin or continue a marriage with Person B.

          There are a lot of things in that list that are neither “0 interest” nor “wants to have sex with you.” Also, bear in mind that someone who is sexually interested in you may still not want to have sex with you tonight. What if she has to be up early in the morning, and knows she’d lose too much sleep if she had sex with you? What if he promised to meet with his kid brother tonight for his birthday? Then they put the sex on hold and arrange an evening when there aren’t other things going on. Duh.

          Further, because being naked and alone with another person makes you VERY vulnerable should they wish to harm you, people generally want to ensure that they can trust potential sex partners before actually engaging in sex. (Alcohol changes this, for the same reasons that alcohol changes all decision-making.)

      • The L,

        To her feminists state it the travails of being slut-shamed to women who just hop in the sack are tremendous. If the hell and damnation of being slut-shamed is not being over-stated by feminists, then the majority of women must play hard to get just to avoid this horrible cost.

        There is no valid reason to state that if an individual man believes she is playing hard to get is simply butt-hurt and frustrated. It may be that, or it may be right.

        To simply state that men are so weak minded and fragile, that it is far far more likely the man’s pride talking is a very sexist stereotype.

        Aren’t those bad? Or only when they are directed against women?

        • I’m going to break this down piece by piece and go over what’s right with it, and what’s wrong with it.

          “To her feminists state it the travails of being slut-shamed to women who just hop in the sack are tremendous.”

          Even if they’re not sexually active, women are also called “sluts” for having big boobs, having small boobs, having shapely hips, wearing clothing that reveals too much, or even just not Shutting-Up-And-Going-Back-To-The-Kitchen. See also: rape threats against female bloggers for the horrible crime of daring to…..have opinions that differ from other peoples’ opinions.

          “If the hell and damnation of being slut-shamed is not being over-stated by feminists, then the majority of women must play hard to get just to avoid this horrible cost.”

          How, exactly, are you defining “playing hard to get?” Because there are several possible definitions here, most of which rob a woman of agency. And again, some women are called sluts, or even receive threats of rape and murder, just for daring to have opinions. If there’s a way to not have any opinions about things at all, I’ve never heard of it.

          “There is no valid reason to state that if an individual man believes she is playing hard to get is simply butt-hurt and frustrated.”

          Unless he insists that the only reason she said no is because she’s “playing hard to get.” This is the only context in which I have ever heard the phrase outside of 1950′s media and my idiot father’s dating suggestions.

          “To simply state that men are so weak minded and fragile, that it is far far more likely the man’s pride talking is a very sexist stereotype.”

          The following are also sexist:
          1. Assuming every pretty girl you ask out is obligated to say yes, as long as she is single when you do so.
          2. Assuming that the girls you ask out don’t have their own sets of standards for potential mates, just as you do.
          3. Assuming that you will never, ever accidentally ask out a lesbian.
          4. Assuming that men are in some way entitled to be dating at any given time. Guess what? Most unmarried people are not dating at this particular moment in time! But a lot of them were in the past, or will be in the future. The fact that you are single this month is not a sign that anything is wrong with you, or with the people you’re asking.
          5. Assuming that women aren’t also subject to stupid, prideful assumptions exactly as much as men are.
          6. Assuming that “it’ll hurt my pride” is a legitimate reason to not do the decent thing.

          “Aren’t those bad? Or only when they are directed against women?”
          This is the one thing you got right. Bad Things are bad in both directions. However, right now, slut-shaming and objectification are generally directed towards women, so–surprise!!–most articles about stopping these wrongs focus on that direction.

          Similarly, if you ask me whether I support an end to domestic violence against women, my answer will be a hearty “yes.” But I’m also very strongly opposed to domestic violence against men. Using my “yes” as a way to pretend that I somehow think domestic violence against men is OK because “you didn’t say anything about violence against men, so clearly you don’t care about them!!!” is unfair.

          • The_L,

            In this very thread, a female poster going by the name “Aya” has stated that she will “play hard to get” in order to win the affections of men she has a crush on.

            Your continued denials of the very real experiences of men are nothing short of offensive. We have men telling you that some women actually do “play hard to get” and we have at least one woman saying that, yes, she does it. Yet you so fail to empathize with men that you continue to insist the behavior exists only in the minds of men who conform to your list of 6 sexist male stereotypes (I won’t even get into how offensive it is to bandy about stereotypes like that)

            Believe it or not, your experiences are not universal. There are people in this world very different from yourself, with very different experiences. You are free to plug your ears and pretend they aren’t telling you the truth about their lives, and go on living in ignorance. Or, you could maybe take a second and consider the possibility that your experience is too limited to allow you to draw the kinds of conclusions that you are trying to draw.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    If we’re going to parse language so closely, then let’s be open to multiple possibilities. The word “play” has multiple connotations. It can mean pretending, but it can also mean being playful, having fun, doing something for enjoyment.

    Aren’t there ways in which dating and approaching other people IS a kind of play? Yes, it’s sort of like a job interview, but it can also be like a game. Part of the fun for many people is the playfulness aspect of it, and that’s not inherently a bad thing.

    Just because dating has elements of a game doesn’t mean that’s a terrible thing. “Playing” doesn’t mean adding up winners and losers, though some people behave that way. I don’t think it’s necessarily dehumanizing or hateful to look at people as having dating strategies, because just about everyone does. That doesn’t automatically make you a conniving predator.

    • This is my take on dating too. It’s a process and should be fun and playful.

      • wellokaythen says:

        And, dating doesn’t have to be so ruthless or winner-take-all. It doesn’t have to be strategy vs. strategy in a simple war to the death. There can also be layers and subtlety and playing with the expectations themselves. There can be the thrill of the dance.

        It can be very charming, very disarming, very attractive, really, when a woman actually makes a joke about whether or not she’s “playing hard to get.” It could be a defining moment in your long-term relationship when you have an early, playful conversation about the whole idea of playing hard to get. Let’s not just toss the whole phrase out the window as a taboo.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    Hot damn, I love that photograph….

  9. Glad someone was able to write about this. It puts a lot of social interaction and entitlement behavior into context.

  10. Pieces like this are simply veiled attempts to deny the actual experiences of men.

    I have been sitting at dinner with two of my female friends while they calmly discuss how they want to deal with the amorous advances of a man. Then one of my friends will suddenly say to the other something along the lines of “Yeah, but you should at least make him pay for dinner and drinks out before you agree to watch a movie at his apartment.”

    This conversation was not about me. My perception of that statement as “playing hard to get” has NOTHING at all to do with my self perception and EVERYTHING with how these two women actually interact with men. The man’s personality wasn’t even considered, only his willingness to jump an arbitrarily defined hurdle in order to win my friend’s affection.

    Despite the protests of feminists, women like this EXIST, and the arguments in this piece deny this reality.

    I am tired of having my very real experiences denied. Men use the phrase “playing hard to get,” because there are some women WHO ACTUALLY DO THAT.

    Does this describe all women? Of course not, that would be silly. It probably doesn’t even describe 10% of the entire single female population. But there is no question that it does describe some percentage of the single female population, however small. As long as this is the case, then the statement “she’s playing hard to get” is NOT a reflection back on the man speaking it, but rather simply an observation of a type of behavior that exists. Telling men otherwise serves only to deny their experiences.

    • The problem is….sometimes playing hard to get WORKS. It’s frustrating, because I’m a pretty open and honest person. Despite being attractive, I’ve noticed that I have better luck long term with guys when I *do* make them jump through hurdles and when I let them be the initiators. I don’t like it, to be honest. Even with the same guy. It was an instant change. When I was buying him things, telling him I cared, changing my plans around him, he was crushing over another girl. The minute I stopped really caring, suddenly I was the love of his life. I didn’t get any hotter or more interesting. I just became more of a challenge. It works wonders. And it’s annoying.

      • According to the author you never actually played hard to get–it was all in your suitors imagination because they were butt-hurt at your delaying of their advances.

        This article is not only terribly sexist, it besmirches both sexes.

      • Aya,

        I appreciate your response. Honestly, I’m not trying to pass judgment on anyone who decides to “play hard to get,” and I’m sorry if I gave off that impression, it was not my intention.

        I am just frustrated because the author of the above piece seems to be claiming that women do not actually “play hard to get,” and that this statement is something men say to soothe their supposedly fragile egos. This is outright insulting to men, and it ignores my very real experience that women often do really “play hard to get.” It also seems to ignore your experience of actually being a woman who “plays hard to get.”

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “playing hard to get,” and I don’t begrudge anyone who decides to. I do, however, begrudge the author of this piece for claiming that it doesn’t actually happen.

        • Sometimes women do play hard to get and sometimes they don’t. I guess what’s scary is when a man assumes immediately that a woman is just playing and teasing and not listening to her ‘nos.’ And sure there’s nothing *wrong* with playing hard to get, I just wish it wasn’t so well received. I don’t often do it. I don’t have a great amount of patience for it. When I like a guy I’d much rather make my intentions clear as soon as possible and know his intentions as soon as possible. Of course, sometimes we don’t know what we want immediately, but when we do, why not just say it? Why does it make you less desirable to be really clear about being into someone? I guess we all love the chase.

  11. Several considerations: playing can be fun and exciting (well said wellokaythen)

    If we’re discussing the kind that is perceived as crossing the border to willful manipulation, then three possible scenarios exist.

    False Positive: misperception on the part of the labeler (harm to the labeled)
    False Negative: misperception on the part of the labeler (harm to labeler)
    Correct: minimized harm to labeler and learning opportunity for labeled.

    There is a fourth: the gray stuff that hovers all around us, all of the time

    Word descriptions are not prescriptions of behavior.

    • False negative is misleading and confusing. It should be: true positive. The situation in which the labeler correctly identifies the behavior in the labeled.

      I think calling it a false negative is a misnomer.

  12. I agree with Liz…This is brilliant!

  13. As soon as a man makes an observation about some woman that isn’t positive, out come the defenders to tell him that he’s wrong and how the observation is somehow his fault.

    This goes back to what i said when people here were discussing why men don’t open up, it’s because if what we say doesn’t jive with the listener we’re dismissed as being wrong.

    Some woman dangle themselves like a carrot in front of men.
    If he does what she wants ? he get’s her, if he doesn’t do what she wants ? he doesn’t get her.
    With society telling a man that he’s the pursuer and the woman is to be pursued (from approaching her for the first time to asking for her hand in marriage), it’s makes it easier for some woman to play hard to get.

  14. Playing in some sort of game or competition are often used as metaphors about life. “Play like you mean it”. “Play for keeps”. “Winners do the things that losers don’t do”. People sometimes refer to their exes “the one that got away”. We’re their exes imprisoned? Or so-and-so is a great “catch”. They must be objectifying those people because they are talking about them like they are fish! (sarcasm) Don’t think so hard. People are not oppressed by sport metaphors.

  15. PursuitAce says:

    I don’t play hard to get. I’m actually hard to get. In fact, I’m impossible…

  16. I never interested on women who are not interested on me. So if a woman seems not interested on me, i never assumed shes playing hard to get, i just assumed i’m not attractive to her, and shes became unattractive too , and i just find another woman. Afterall, there are many fishes in the sea, who are really interested on you. Assuming a woman is interested on you and shes playing hard to get, well, its her fault shes playing hard to get if shes really interested on you. I will pick up another girl who is not playing a game and really interested on me.

    I think so many men underestimate their own values. I don’t understand many men who are keep flirting on women who are showing signs of uninterested. Why waste your time? Shes not deserve to be with you!! There are so many fun loving girl who are really into you if you approach them. don’t waste your time!!!

    • That’s my stance and experience as well. And it has been more than one time that my mind have been boggled when the lady in question perhaps even years after have asked me why I didn’t pursue her harder and more or less directly accusing me of failing to secure what we had going.

      When the question about making out/sex was on the table a woman told me that we shouldn’t do it. I stopped and we didn’t do it and that really didn’t affect my respect for her. Not getting any further with her did lead to a reduced contact as I then focused my romantic interest elsewhere (no point in crushing on a woman who wouldn’t reciprocate my level of interest).
      However, when she a few years later asked me why I didn’t disregard her “we shouldn’t do it” then I did respect her less because she were not willing to take her part of the responsibility for the actions she apparently wanted to do (unbeknownst to me since she told me we shouldn’t do it). She wanted me to take on her responsibility in addition to my own, she wanted me to disregard her voiced non-consent and violate my ethical standard.

      That was an example of behavior I think about when I hear the expression “playing hard to get”. Implying that no women does things like that as the article seem to do is ridiculous. Louis CK has a joke ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4hNaFkbZYU ) about the same behavior and that illustrates perfectly the WTF feeling I had when I first encountered this.

      • Tamen, just keep slut-shaming in mind. It’s in the minds of a lot of women in these situations. Or that you might think they’re too ‘easy’ to be a real dating prospect. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t make a move, then hated myself for it afterwards. There have also been times where I had to lead up with “I don’t usually do this kind of thing” for better long term prospects. I *have* had better luck playing coy, and it sucks because despite being shy, it’s not really in my nature to be dishonest or play in that way.

        • @ Aya

          Or he can keep in mind that there are woman who aren’t scared of being labeled a slut.
          If a woman has hangups about sex let her deal with it on her own.

        • It wasn’t the lack of a move which got me in a tiffy, neither was it the move away (“no, we shouldn’t do it”), but it was the audacity of blaming me for not reading her mind and knowing that she in fact wanted the opposite of what she said.

          I can see the relation between the behavior of saying no when one really want to and slut-shaming, however, blaming the person one said no to for not experiencing what one really wanted to is not justified.

          After a few dates I asked a woman (during a hot make-out session at a club) to come home with me after the club closed. She answered that she would like that, but she considered me a serious prospect and that she wanted to wait a while longer. That answer which told me to wait while still conveying clearly that my feelings, attraction and lust was reciprocal is an answer which earned her a lot of respect from me and that honesty is a big part of why I love her and why I married her.

          • Easier said than done, William, coming from someone who’s dealt with a lot of slut-shaming. It’s easy to say “just don’t care.” But women have feelings and pride too.

          • Upon re-reading my comment I think I should make it clear that it was her ability to communicate what really she wanted without bullshitting me that earned my respect – not the waiting part. Had she jumped my bones right there I’d certainly still marry her given half the chance.

  17. What I’m gathering is that language, when spoken in absolutes, is sure to marginalize, demean or offend some party or other. And it’s tricky, because the author writes about language that shames and objectifies women and, in doing so, has shamed and generalized men. Shit.

    As long as it’s the Other’s responsibility to change things, then I get to stay nice and cozy in my dis-empowered Victim, where I have no power and the Other is keeping me down. Talk about pidgeon-holing. It’s become very PC for both women and men to put the onus on guys to change things, often in ways and with messages that are shaming and/or abusive themselves.

    I’ll use Liz’s comment with a twist: “the world needs more [women] who understand the subtle ways [men] are undermined and are willing to examine their own behavior.” The world needs both.

    • Peter von Maidenberg says:

      That, along with many other things the world needs, is a very big ask. If most people understood how subtle and self-examining we ought to be, for each other’s and our own sakes, we’d never risk meeting anybody.

      I think this vast, creaking, byzantine superstructure of mythic bullshit we’ve built around interpersonal relationships makes them harder than they need to be, but it also makes them seem like a realistic and worthwhile goal in life. Honesty is lonely, and until you achieve that ultimate, total lack of attachment, the more honest you are (with yourself and others) the more lonely you’ll be.

  18. I think media is responsible for this kind of game for both gender. Look at movies and tv shows. Most of the love stories on movies and television are the story of men who fell in love with a women at a first sight/ first meeting/ first talking. He pursued her, but shes not interested on him at all ( Most of the stories even told the woman hated the guy first ). But after hundred of hundred times attempts, she developed feeling for the guy. She realised the guy have many good qualities she didn’t noticed first, good qualities she really like. In the end the girl fall in love with the guy too, and they became a lover.

    Isn’t stories like that beautiful? The stories like that told men that women are hard to get ( not playing ). To get her love ( not sex ) , you have to keep pursuing her, show her good qualities you have, your kindness, your confidence, your sense of humour. Men who can do that and get the girl to love him are real men. That makes some men believe that if girl not interested on you first, you just have to keep pursuing her until she likes you. Those kind of views are not healthy. If a woman not interested on you, doesn’t mean she will later, maybe she wont like you forever. Instead of wasting your times you can find another woman who are really into you. Mutual attraction from both sides are more beautiful to me. I do think that woman can have an attraction ( even love ) to a guy she don;t even know personally. Or just from one meeting, one conversation. If you can find a woman that you like and she like you from the beginning, isn’t it more beautiful love story?

    The one thing i noticed from comments by some women here is like guys only approach women because they want to have sex, lol. Some guys do that, but i know most of my guy friends pursuing and pursuing attempt on “hard to get” girl is just because they like her, they want to have a girlfriend, a lover, someone to talk, to share their feelings, emotions, romances. For lonely single guys, sex is not a priority at all, love is. Because men are emotional creatures too, we don;t just want sex ( FYI, if you dont know that )

    That doesn’t mean i agree with those kind of behavior, not noticing signs for women that they are really not interested on you, i do think that’s dangerous.

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  1. [...] their sexuality, and tells men that sex is some sort of game (as Drew Bowling talks about in his article at The Good Men Project), but it’s time to move away from these tired old stereotypes of gender roles in regards to our [...]

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