Understanding Women


 Doctor NerdLove examines the notion that women are inherently so different from men that understanding them requires some sort of guidebook.

One of the attitudes I try to combat here at Paging Dr. NerdLove is the idea that women are strange and mysterious creatures, prone to machiavellian plotting and mercurial temperaments; beings of pure emotion that defy logic who exist on a level of primal chaos.

In short it’s one of the oldest Borscht-belt comedy cliches: women? Who can understand ‘em, right?

Well… I do.


In fact, it’s really not all that hard once you give up the idea that women are this mysterious “other” and accept that they’re folks, same as you and I, who may have different plumbing and hormonal development but are ultimately working from the same brain templates.

(Sure, there’s tens of thousands of years of enforced societal roles and training involved and the idea that women are equal to men on the social level is relatively recent – within less than 100 years, really – but that’s a horse of a different color)

Now I’m not claiming to have gone everywhere and done everything but I do know it’s a pretty amazing planet we live on here, and a man would have to be some kind of FOOL to think we’re alone in THIS universe. And it’s like I told my ex-wife, I never drive faster than I can see…

Wait, shit, that’s Jack Burton, not me.

…although I could see how you could confuse us.


I’m not claiming to be an expert in women, just that I’ve gotten to know a lot of them. I’ve known them socially and sexually, familialy and quite familiarly. And having grown up in an age and culture where women are still distinctly othered, I feel empowered to talk about some common male misperceptions of women  – and where they stem from –  with all of the authority that only a fake doctor can muster.


Women – Threat or Menace?

It’s not terribly hard to grasp why men are looking for guidance with regards to women, especially when it comes to sex and relationships; at times, it can feel as though you’re stumbling around in a pitch black room, cluttered with conflicting advice and if you don’t  find your way out soon you might be eaten by a grue. When you’re relatively socially inexperienced or even a little on the awkward side of things, you may not have had many opportunities to interact with women on a day-to-day basis. You may find them confusing or contradictory, saying one thing and then apparently doing another. You may end up committing faux-pas without realizing why or how you did it or just end up tripping over your own damn dick.

There’s a reason why the idea of needing a Female-To-English dictionary is a joke so old that it’s practically an antique.

“Fine (fīn) – adverb- informal: 1. A one-word warning indicating that you’ve fucked up and it is now up to you to figure out where and how to make amends.”

Fine (fīn) – adverb- informal: 1. A one-word warning indicating that you’ve fucked up and it is now up to you to figure out where and how to make amends.”

The problem is that, in looking for guidance on understanding women, we often look to sources that are… questionable, at best. It might seem natural to look to evolutionary psychology as a guide; after all, it makes sense to assume that the key to understanding women’s psyches might lie in the evolutionary mechanisms that brought us here in the first place. Unfortunately, more often than not, instead of getting guidance through the rocky roads of interpersonal relationships, we get a number of misleading—if not outright misogynistic—ideas about womenIn fact, more often than not, it’s frequently the case that evolutionary psychology is used as the fig-leaf to confirm a pre-existing belief instead.


“What Do Women Want?” Is The Wrong Question

The first common mistake is assuming that women are some sort of singular entity, an estrogen fueled hive-mind that moves in singular lock-step like a Lady Gaga video directed by Leni Reifenshtahl and guest-starring the Rockettes. Blanket statements – “all women want X”, for whatever arbitrary value of X you care to ascribe – misses not only the point but assumes that all women everywhere share the exact same values.

Take a woman from San Francisco, another from Macon, Georgia, another from Khartoum, a fourth from Abu Dhabi, a fifth from Bratislava and a sixth from Nerima-ward in Tokyo and you will have five women with spectacularly different views on what it means to be a woman and what women want.

Much as with men, the definition of what it means to be a woman is something that is under constant debate. Take any six women and you will have seven different definitions. Third-wave feminists will disagree with First Wave Feminists about whether embracing one’s sexuality is a positive for women or a tool of the patriarchy, while another subset of people will insist that gender is a social construct that should be abolished because it doesn’t allow for intersexed individuals and then everybody takes turns telling the S&M aficionados that they are glorifying sexual violence and clearly have something wrong with them.


You Need To Consider The Context

When trying to understand women1, it’s important not to fall prey to trying to ascribe to biology what can be better attributed to culture. In our rush to insist that women don’t approach men because they’re lazy or because they’re reveling in their power as the “chooser” while men are the “supplicant” trying to appease her by proving his genetic superiority, it’s easy to forget that we live in a culture with contradictory rules regarding sex and gender roles; women have had it drilled into their heads for hundreds of years that they are the “submissive” ones and that men are supposed to be the aggressors. As a result, women who flaunt gender roles often end up unnerving or intimidating men who then have to confront their own ingrained lessons regarding the role of the sexes and often react badly.


Similarly, the idea that men are supposed to spread their seed far and wide has less to do with evolutionary psychology—in fact, this is often a naturalistic fallacy, the belief that something that occurs in nature is automatically “correct”—and far more to do with how our culture defines male sexuality as rampant and unrestrainable. As fun as it is to assume that this is just how nature made us, the idea of men as the sexually voracious gender is relatively recent; up until the 19th century, women were considered to be the lustful ones, tempting men into weakness with their insatiable appetites. For every satyr, there was a siren, lamia, succubus or a Maenad.

Even the idea that women only go for the “alpha males”—or more colloquially, assholes—stems from trying to apply evolutionary psychology to what is cultural behavior. We’re apes, apes have alphas who get all the sex, ergo alpha males get all the women, quod erat demonstratum, no? Except… plenty of “betas” are having sex too. Not just amongst humans but amongst apes. Biology is, ultimately, fairly appealing in it’s simplicity; we’re animals following desires we barely understand that are dimly recognized by our hindbrains. Cultural upbringing, on the other hand is subtler to the point of being almost invisible, and more pernicious.

Different cultures have profoundly different social rules regarding sex and how men and women are “supposed” to interact. As a result, every interaction ends up viewed through this filter. In cultures with more rigidly defined gender roles, women will frequently be socialized to be much more deferential and passive and expect men to be much more aggressive. In cultures with more fluid or progressive views towards gender roles, you are more likely to find women who are more aggressive or assertive—and men who are less put-off by them.


Men Are From Mars, Women are From Some Other Cliche (Or: The Gender Socialization Blues)

Those social rules—the cultural background noise that so often lead to misunderstandings between men and women comes from the fact that, even in this day and age, socialization is hard to escape from. The way men and women have been raised is often in service to ideas that reinforce pre-existing ideas of gendered behavior, leading to a vicious circle of reinforcement. Boys are aggressive, therefore we teach boys to be aggressive. Girls are passive, therefore we teach girls that they’re supposed to be passive.  Let it go on long enough and it becomes self-perpetuating, a case of “It is thus because it has always been thus.”

Boys are aggressive, therefore we teach boys to be aggressive. Girls are passive, therefore we teach girls that they’re supposed to be passive.  Let it go on long enough and it becomes self-perpetuating, a case of “It is thus because it has always been thus.”

The idea that men and women have trouble communicating because we’re sooooo different has less to do with how our brains are wired and more to do with gender policing and the way that we’re taught to express ourselves. Traditional views on masculinity say that men are not allowed to express emotion except in certain prescribed ways and at appropriate times (watching “Brian’s Song”, for example); to do so otherwise is to be too feminine (with bonus points for an undercurrent of equating homosexuality with femininity). Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be the “gentler sex”, less burdened with logic but more in tune with their emotions and are able to express themselves more freely – if genteelly and in a less overtly assertive manner. A woman who is overly aggressive or assertive is a “ball-buster” or just a plain “bitch” (again, with undercurrents of “masculine = lesbian”).

The stereotype affects the way we are raised, which in turn affects the culture we grow into. The fact that there are few women scientists, for example, is supposedly proof that women are naturally bad at science; their brains are just “not wired that way”. This ignores the fact that women are taught that they’re just naturally “bad” at math,  there are fewer mentors for women in the hard sciences or that cultures of discrimination are prevalent and rarely addressed in the departments.

Similarly, men are discouraged from going into traditionally “girly” career paths, frequently ones involving a nurturing or care-giving aspect. A male nurse, for example, is still more likely to be an novelty at best or a step down; he’s not a nurse as much as he’s someone who couldn’t hack being a doctor like a real man could.

The idea that men and women can’t communicate isn’t because we’re so different that we’re practically from different worlds (which, side note, is a great way to “other” 50% of the species); it’s because we’re taught to speak different languages and take flack from others when we cross divide.

I’m Not Saying She’s A Gold-Digger…

Another common issue is what’s known as the “compositional fallacy”, the idea that something that’s true for an individual (or a small group) is true for the entire population. This was an especially common issue in the early days of pick-up culture; Mystery, Style et. al formulated most of their theories not around a careful study of female psychology or the interplay of human sexuality but on what they observed in the women they were trying to hook up with. And in this case, the women they were trying to pick up were club-going party girls, the “hottest of the hot” in a specialized environment that prized status, looks and money above everything else. In this arena, you were more likely to find women (and men) who were shallow, self-absorbed and stuck up… because they were in an environment that fostered and supported such attitudes.

The problem is that they then tried to apply the lessons learned in that specific environment to all women everywhere. Mix that with a tendency to misunderstand evolutionary psychology and we end up with ideas about being “alpha”, “bitch shields”2 and women giving men “shit tests” in order to measure their supposed social status. There are women are status-seeking bitches who pre-emptively reject men; however assuming that all women are like this only contributes to the antagonistic model of sex, where a woman’s only value is in her sexual desirability and the “price” she’s willing to accept for access to it.

There are women are status-seeking bitches who pre-emptively reject men; however assuming that all women are like this only contributes to the antagonistic model of sex, where a woman’s only value is in her sexual desirability and the “price” she’s willing to accept for access to it.

This issue comes up with frequency amongst Men’s Rights Advocates and other anti-feminist groups in the fear of the “hypergamous” woman: the idea that women only date or marry men of greater social or financial status than them. Again: it takes an idea in the singular—that there are women looking to “marry up”—and extrapolating it to all women out there. Of course, this requires ignoring many issues – women on average make less money than men, men in cultures with rigid gender roles are often intimidated by women who are more “successful” than them, the fact that women tend on the whole to marry sideways rather thanup and the studies pointing out that hypergamy is actually declining.

(Amusingly, this also gets caught up with the cliche of women falling in love with – and being used by – artists/writers/musicians who have no money and no job prospects)

But why let facts get in the way of a good reason as to why some men aren’t as successful at dating as they “should” be.

Protect Ya Neck 

One final issue is attributing certain undesirable behaviors or traits to women as a way of salving one’s ego. When you’ve been shot down by a hot girl or given the “Let’s Just Be Friends” speech, it hurts. Literally. You feel as though that rejection is a judgement on you specifically. Never mind that it could be because she’s having a bad day, she has a boyfriend, you remind her of her asshole ex or you just happened to hit an emotional landmine; you don’t know, and more importantly, you don’t care. You just feel hurt, and it’s part of human nature to want to avoid pain and rejection.

One of the common ways of doing this is to delegitimize the rejection. You’re not being rejected because you’re not her type or she didn’t find you funny, she’s rejecting you because women only like guys who are:

  • a) tall
  • b) ruggedly handsome
  • c) have a full head of hair
  • d) make more than $100,000/yr (after taxes)
  • e) all of the above.

The problem is that women are flawed or have unfair standards, not that you’ve done something wrong.

Beliefs that delegitimize a woman’s decision to reject you are ways of not just protecting one’s ego but also insulating them from the need to address behavior or attitudes that are holding them back. By reframing a response to creepy behavior as “she’s really saying you’re not handsome/rich/famous enough“, it removes the onus from men to have to change. Instead of metaphorically shooting himself in the foot by stubbornly refusing to address issues that are holding him back from dating, the erstwhile creeper is now a rugged individualist, standing firm in the forces of an unfair and wicked world that demands he change everything about who he is.

Consider The Source

Human relations are complicated and confusing and the natural inclination is to want to believe in something simple and near-universal; the appeal of a one-size-fits-all definition of gender attributes is undeniable. While we do have certain commonalities – broad brush strokes that can be useful – men and women are not a homogenous group. More often than not, we find ourselves formulating these over-arching statements in order to justify what we want to be true rather than the reality on the ground.



  1. in as much as it’s the same as understanding men []
  2. It also ignored the fact that some women have their “bitch shields” up because they’ve been hit on by twenty-dozen Brosephs that night and they’d really like to be left alone, but that’s another issue entirely []

Lead photo courtesy of Flickr/Abode of Chaos
Image of dictionary courtesy of Flickr/alexbrn
About Harris O'Malley

Harris O'Malley provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove, as well as writing the occasional guest review for Spill.com and appearing on the podcast The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and Twitter (@DrNerdLove.)

Dr. NerdLove is not really a doctor.


  1. Bay Area Guy says:

    Most women are shallow about men social skills, like most men are shallow about women looks.


    If you’re an attractive female, you can get away with being shy, not having great social skills, etc. You can almost get away with bloody murder, LOL.

    If you’re one of those super confident, socially smooth alpha male types, you can get away with being a little less physically attractive.

    On the flip side, if you’re a guy with any kind of shyness or social awkwardness, it’s almost game over from the beginning. And if you’re an unattractive female, most men won’t even give you the time of day. At best, you’ll land in their friend zone.

    I guess shallowness is a human trait. It just takes different forms for different people.

  2. Random_Stranger says:

    …aside from that, you lost me on this statement:
    “the idea that women are equal to men on the social level is relatively recent – within less than 100 years, really”

    ….as though that is a self-evident fact that needs know qualifiers.

  3. Random_Stranger says:

    “the idea that men are supposed to spread their seed far and wide has less to do with evolutionary psychology—in fact, this is often a naturalistic fallacy, the belief that something that occurs in nature is automatically “correct”—and far more to do with how our culture defines male sexuality as rampant and unrestrainable”

    …just thought I’d point out the fallacy in this “fallacy”. Evo pysch is a useful tool for understanding the world as it is as a product of natural selection -it really offers nothing on the question of morality and yet, I would agree that there are those social darwinists that would erroneously draw moral conclusions from its thesis. That said, the error is to draw guidance on the rightness or wrongness of human behavior, it does not, by contrast, negate the conclusions of evo psych that certain fundamental human behaviors are a product of natural selection.

    To put your example in context: you mind as well of said:
    “”the idea that wolves are supposed to hunt and kill lambs has less to do with evolutionary psychology—in fact, this is often a naturalistic fallacy, the belief that something that occurs in nature is automatically “correct”—and far more to do with how our culture defines wolf predatory behavior as rampant and unrestrainable”

  4. I have never known a woman who didn’t shit test. It’s not a conscious thing, just their lizard brain testing whether or not this man is high status and high value enough to protect her and any babies she might make with him: is he suitable genetic material? The only real way to avoid them is to display high value at all times and walk through the first couple tests casually. Usually they take the form of some ridiculous and arbitrary attempt to control your behaviour. This lizard never wants you to comply, despite appearances. In fact you fail the test if you do.

    The other purpose of the test is that it enables her to find out if you’re suitable relationship material, given that most (not all) women, consciously or not, want a dominant male partner who can lead a relationship respectfully and with responsible authority, as well as rock her world in bed. You can’t do that if you put up with some entry level BS.

    • I’m giving you an A+ in PUA 101.

    • I actually did a test once…
      No, just kidding. It wasn’t a test. It was just a pattern of behaviour that I finally started to notice, and then actually started to observe.
      Whenever I’d give my GF my full attention, actually listen to her,she would talk about her job, what was happening to her co-workers, and her family, what needed to be done in and around the house, etc.
      Never an interest in “us”, what we wanted, where we wanted the relationship to head, and there was certainly no interest or attraction towards me. I was just an audience.

      But whenever I was doing “my thing” that didn’t involve her. Be it something interesting that I was passionate about, or some chores around the house, or just plain watching some stupid TV show or sports, she would apparently take an interest in me as a person, to the point of actually trying to initiate sex on occassion.

      So, I’m not really sure what leg to stand on regarding “the transactional model for sex”. And I admit I only have a small sample group. But it seems pretty clear to me that there’s at least some kind of “trading” going on, and the bargain value is fluctuating with the perceived interest in the relationship…

      • Hey, all the women’s magazines warn never to talk to your boyfriend about where the relationship is headed or he’ll bolt! 🙂

        Seriously, though, I think you misunderstand why women talk. If given a audience, most women will talk and talk and talk about work, friends, family, their day, what so and so said, what they said, yadda yadda. this is just what women do. They do it with their friends all the time. Most female relationships are based largely on talking. They don’t perceive it to be a special treat, it’s just what normal people do. We expect to,reciprocate by listening to you talk in a similar fashion. When your girlfriend is talking to you she probably feels a pleasant emotional,connection. But most men don’t talk that way, so there is no reciprocation in the man’s mind and he just feels irritated. However, she is expecting you to talk if you want to talk. This is a fundamental difference in male-female communication styles which can cause a lot of friction. I’m not very talkative, so I spend a lot of time just listening to my female friends.

        On the other hand, when you are involved in something else, she’s not getting any sense of connection so she may take an interest in what you are doing.

        I think relationships are transactional in the sense that the reason people get into relationships is because they have needs: emotional, physical, social, lifestyle, whatever. That doesn’t mean that everyone is selfish and uncaring, but even a person who is pathologically “selfless” — I mean, to an unhealthy degree, co-dependent for example — that person is STILL acting out of their own emotional needs. Nevertheless, in an ideal relationship, everyone feels they are getting their needs met, including our needs to be generous and giving and altruistic at times (because it feels good).

        • They don’t perceive it to be a special treat, it’s just what normal people do.
          Well, if you are in a committed, and supposedly romantic, relationship with someone, I would expect that person to deserve some kind of special treat every now and then. 😉
          But obviuosly I’ve got it all wrong…

          We expect to,reciprocate by listening to you talk in a similar fashion. When your girlfriend is talking to you she probably feels a pleasant emotional,connection. But most men don’t talk that way, so there is no reciprocation in the man’s mind and he just feels irritated. However, she is expecting you to talk if you want to talk.
          That’s what I thought too.
          They never seemed to be interested in what I had to say, though.

        • @Sarah, again.

          What I’m saying is, basically, I don’t think you can build a functioning relationship on communication or “connection” that only goes one way at a time, no matter what way it is going. Am I stupid for thinking like that?

          I don’t think she expected me to reciprocate, because she would rarely stop talking long enough for me to get a word in edge-wise, and when she did, she would barely listen to me anyway..

          Or do you think it’s true what some people say about relationships, that “The less interested person wins”?

          • she may have just been a narcissistic and self-involved person. I’ve been in relationships with men who seemed very uninterested in my needs. In the end, you need to learn to avoid those kind of people.

    • I shit test. But that’s to make sure that the man respects me, finds me attractive, and is honest about his intentions. To see if we have chemistry and connect on a mental, emotional, and physical level. Babies and status and alphaness surely don’t come into play.

  5. Is there a reason why when dating/relationship discussions occur that it’s ok to lump men in as collective and make generalizations and assumptions about us, but women must be judged on a case by case basis and any assumptions or generalizations made are viewed as negative?
    I think this is my issue with 95% of these types of articles.

  6. AnonymousDog says:

    One sentence(anyway, part of one) jumped out at me : “……….it’s easy to forget that we live in a culture with contradictory rules regarding sex and gender roles,……….”

    Frankly, I don’t see how anyone could forget that, since it is the source of much frustration for a lot of people.

  7. Any discussion that attempts to demistify women a bit is a good discussion. Women aren’t as mysterious and in a related bit of news men aren’t as plain and predictable as each is often portrayed. I think men and women want just about the same things in life, but nature and nurture encourages different methods of pursuing our common wants, and those methods get too much attention and distract us away from what we share.

    Regarding the part of this discussion that drifted toward women’s standards, I wonder what that’s about. If bunches of men are approaching women who are similar to them in education and interestes and background and looks, and those men are all getting rebuffed, then I guess it could be said that those women are pricing themselves out of the social market. That’s not happening, but if it was it would be more unfortunate more than unfair and it would impact men and women both.

    If on the other hand an individual man is getting rejected consistently then the women who are rejecting him are simply choosing to decline his offer. If the man has a realistic idea of how attractive he is, has basic social skills, approaches women of similar attractiveness who may have some common interests (if you like books talk to women at the book store, unless they’re reading intently) he will have some success. This is how people get together and it happens all the time.

    If a man is getting rejected consistently or always, then some element above isn’t lining up. A rejection or two might be bad luck or timing, but a pattern over time has one common factor and that’s the guy doing the approaching. Either his approach is fatally flawed or his choice of who to approach is so unrealistic that he’s doomed to fail (or perhaps he’s unfair when deciding who to approach?). The third alternative where it’s just unfair to him (as opposed to unpleasant or no fun, which it is) is self defeating.

    If that’s the case then the man can change his approach, who he approaches, or both. Rejecting the idea that it’s unfair gives you something to work with and to work on, and it’s a lot more hopeful than despairing over inequities, real or imagined.

    And by the way, I think everything I’ve said applies to women who approach the wrong men or the right men in the wrong way, or who wait to be approached by men who aren’t coming because they have other options they prefer.

  8. Mr Supertypo says:

    women are people, and as such they can do wrong, and they can do right, just like men. Actual culture, still potray women as emotional angels who cant do anything wrong, unless a man interfere. And sorry to ruin your bubble, but its a crock. Its a way to dehumanizing women. Following the culture women are like pets, if they do something wrong its always the man fault or in the absence of a man, somebody else take the blame. Its never something wrong with her unless she is evidently crazy. On the flip side, a man is seen always with suspicius (see the shrodinger rapist) a latent villain just waithing to hurt other people, a vampyre, a zombie normal outside, maybe even charming but dead inside. Pleaseeeee. This bull…. is frustrating for both men and women.

    Women are just people, some are morons other are geniuses. Some may be picking other are happy for the attention they get. They are all different, we are all different. Men are just people, some are morons and other a geniuses. And thats it. Stop labelling people on their physical caracteristics.

  9. Bay Area Guy says:

    With regards to pickiness, I think both genders need to tone it down a bit, albeit in different ways.

    For men, they need to reduce their physical shallowness. Many guys are unsatisfied unless they are able to get at least an 8-10 (their words, not mine, lest someone accuse me of objectifying women).

    Women seem to be more shallow on almost everything else outside of the physical realm. They want their guy to have almost perfect confidence, he must be passionate, and if you’re a shy guy, you’re basically SOL.

    So guys, know that most women are not 9’s or 10’s, and be willing to open yourself to women who aren’t necessarily models, but decent looking and nice enough.

    And ladies, know that most guys are not going to be like some character from a romance novel, and be less picky with regards to the emotional and social standards that guys have to meet.

    Fair enough?

    • I think you need to put down the pipe, you’re hallucinating 

      You also have far too many categories of shallowness. Many people fall in love in the same way they stub their toe in the dark. It’s not shallow, it’s more stupid and blissful.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        I think she’s right.

        But I think you’re right, too, Bay Area Guy. I think both sexes have a way of standing in their own way, and that looks a lot like pickiness and maybe is the same thing.

    • @Bay Area Guy…

      “Women seem to be more shallow on almost everything else outside of the physical realm. They want their guy to have almost perfect confidence, he must be passionate, and if you’re a shy guy, you’re basically SOL.”


      When they do find “Mr. Perfect”, they will still find something wrong with him too. If they, God forbid, end up marrying he can kiss a healthy sex life goodbye.

      If a woman is seeking a guy just for casual sex….physical attractiveness is all that matters. Only when a woman desires a long term partner does all of these other absurd requirements come into play.

      Stay a lover my friends! Avoid becoming a husband at all costs.

      • I’ve had FWB relationships with guys who were completely average looking. The important thing is feeling an emotional connection with someone.

        • Same here, Sarah. I had sexual relationships (serious or not) with men who are far below my level of conventional attractiveness but the emotional connection was important. Even for sex that wasn’t intended to end with a long term relationship, he simply being ‘hot’ did not really interest me. I will admit that confidence to some extent is a turn on, although I tend to go for shy guys. There are times when I don’t want to have to initiate and where I’m too tired to take the lead–and it seems that with the guys I like, I have to do that more often than not.

          • I guess what you and Sarah said are what Bay Area Guy trying to say. Yes women do not get picky about physical appearance on both romantic and sexual relationship, but most of them get picky about everything else beside looks. Like : confidence, and sense of humour. Basically social skills. Being attractive guy ( I’m an ex model ) but shy , I know some women who like shy guys ( like my gf ). But women who like shy guys are so few compared to those who go crazy over confident guys. Most women are shallow about men social skills, like most men are shallow about women looks.

            • I like shy guys (my boyfriend is shy), and I’ve also suffered from shyness myself. All I can say is that it is hard interacting with a shy person because they don’t give a lot back emotionally. Women crave emotional connection, and trying to get a sense of emotional connection from someone who won’t talk, won’t express themselves, won’t offer opinions, won’t make eye contact, etc., is just really really hard. I’m not saying this to be mean to shy people but it is just a universal truth, people will react better to those who are more open and expressive than to those who are closed off. When I first started dating my boyfriend, we had some truly terrible dates, we had dinner dates where he barely said a word to me, answered in monosyllables and wouldn’t look at me. He almost seemed angry at me. (He wasnt but that’s how he came across.) The only reason I continued to date him is that we were already friends so I knew what kind of person he was already. Otherwise I probably would have stopped seeing him after the 2nd date.

              • I think you are operating with a very poor definition of shy. I’m very shy — I don’t make a habit of going up and starting a conversation with people — but I’m very friendly and open and talkative when someone tries talking with me. It isn’t that shy folks don’t enjoy conversation but we don’t like starting conversations with strangers and are uncomfortable in situations where we are surrounded by people we don’t know and are required to initiate.

              • I see your boyfriend as more of a person with social anxiety than shy person. Its different, because i know some of guy/girl with social anxiety. I’m shy, and its more like I’m afraid to talk to a new person i don’t really know ( especially a girl, and especially if the girl is with her friends ). Approaching a girl and asking her out is the most scary and difficult thing for me. But when I’m already in a relationship and comfortable with a woman, I’m not shy to her ( but still shy to other people ).

                When i had my first date with my girlfriend, even though its difficult for me to engage in conversation with new person i barely know, I tried to initiate a conversation with her, and smiled at her , and laughed with her. Because I really like her, and I want to be in relationship with her. And when I’m already comfortable with a girl, its not really hard for me to give her emotional connection she need, also because as a man, I also need emotional connection ( Its not only women who crave emotional connection ).

                And because I’m shy guy, and in my opinion, almost no women like shy guys, I became so thankful and attached to my girlfriend. Its like, shes choosing me over million guys out there who are far more confident and more funny than me, and it really matter to me. That’s why I treat my relationship with my girlfriend as something really valuable.

                And I think majority of men who shy with women are like me. We actually want to have emotional connection with women, and if we got the chance to have that, we will try anything we could to not lost her. But to get those chance for us is really hard, because we are shy, and women tend to overlook shy guys. But I dont said its their fault, maybe its biological women attracted to confident guys. I have no problem with other women don’t find me attractive, because I have one woman who do, and I love her very much.

              • @Sarah..

                “Women crave emotional connection”

                But only from some men. Otherwise how do you explain casual sex or one night stands? Clearly there is little in the way of emotional connection.

                Women want this only from men who they desire a relationship with. I am not saying it is wrong. But, lets be clear that women do not always “crave emotional connection.”

                • @Jules, women don’t even have one night stands unless they feel an emotional connection. That’s how they choose the guy they decide to go home with. Physical attraction is wrapped up with the emotion. This is one thing that PUAs teach that I agree with.

                  • not true, Sarah. For some women yes, but I know many women who can feel aroused without emotional connection. Simply seeing hot men with handsome faces and ripped bodies do it for many women, including my girlfriend. Women have different sexualities. If all women need emotional connection, women wont feel aroused watching porn. But some women do, and some women don’t. My girlfriend told me she used to masturbate fantasizing about hot men with muscular bodies. Sometimes those guys are faceless and imaginary character, clearly she doesnt have emotional connection with men shes fantasized about. And she likes to watch gay porn. Why? According to her, shes aroused seeing two hot men having sex. Shes wont watch porn without hot men. Clearly she doesn’t have emotional connection with those male porn stars. And I can tell you women who like to watch porn and gay porn is not few, its many.

                    So yes, some women need emotional connection to have even one night stand, but some women don’t. They can feel aroused even have an orgasm with having sex with hot men they don’t have emotional connection with.

                    You maybe never feel that, but, every women have different sexualities. Sometimes I see some women ( like you and Erin ) often assumed every women have same sexualities, like women cannot feel aroused seeing naked male, women cannot feel aroused watching porn, women are not visual, women need emotional connection to feel aroused. Some women, including you, yes, but for some women ( many many women) , its not. I see some of you like afraid of idea that some women can have same sexual interest like men ( like can feel aroused watch porn, can feel aroused watching male stripper, like casual sex ). Why? Do you think men sexualities are so disgusting so you don’t want some women can have same sexual interest like men? Sometimes I feel that way.

    • Bay Area Guy:
      “With regards to pickiness, I think both genders need to tone it down a bit, albeit in different ways.”
      What do you mean by “need”? Don’t you expect adults to know best themselves what they need?

  10. PursuitAce says:

    I meant to type accept, but on second thought except works just as well.

  11. PursuitAce says:

    The answer is out there, but this culture can’t except it. So, good luck with that…

  12. “….it removes the onus from men to have to change…”

    This observation is so true…if something is not working, maybe you need to try something different…

    I was watching a youtube video on Nick Krauser (PUA) [ London Real interview] and I thought I would find his comments to be really offensive…instead his observations came across as very thoughtful and articulate….regardless of what you may feel about PUAs, he did make a very interesting observation that for a man to build confidence he really needs to look deep within himself and examine what makes him tick….to grow and change was a long and difficult process…

    @Archy: I don’t know if you have seen this and what you think of it…

    • Haven’t watched any yet. It’s on my to do list though.

    • Mr Supertypo says:


    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I don’t think PUA community is all evil. I think there’s a LOT of good that happens in that community and a lot to be learned. However, there’s a disposability about women to it that is ultimately pretty damaging.

      • Hit the nail on the head about women being disposable as the problem. That and the deception. Otherwise, it’s not really a bad community. Some guys just need a little help in talking to women.

        • Listening to Nick Krauser (PUA) on London Real (youtube), I was waiting for him to say something really sleazy….and he totally disarmed me with his sad sack looks and bald head and his honest assessment of himself after his gorgeous model wife left him….he had to look at himself hard inside and outside and build his confidence from level zero….

          He said something interesting about confidence: that you reach it when you don’t care what the other person thinks of you…then you can relax and meet people and enjoy them without being invested in the outcome….

          Interesting stuff…totally unexpected words from a PUA!

          • Not really. Outcome independence is PUA 101. Only if at some basic level you can be indifferent to individual women can you be successful with women as a whole.

            • I don’t think that’s the issue, the issue is viewing women as essentially dehumanizex, interchangeable collections of body parts. That’s the attitude that I find grating about many PUA’s, not that they have a zen like ability to transcend their desire for any particular women, but that women have no value to them as fellow human beings, they are just mobile masturbation aids, basically.

              • You can understand how they wind up that way though. The levers of human desire are never very pretty: tits and ass on the one hand, power and high status on the the other. Spend too much time playing with those levers and yes, it probably is going to scar you unless you can get very philosophical about it, and realize that while her desires may be nakedly animalistic, so are yours.

          • Peter von Maidenberg says:

            Confidence is not just not caring what other people think about you. That’s the easy part. Confidence is not caring what you think about yourself – and sometimes it requires not even caring what you KNOW about yourself. Most everyone fails here.

      • If you don’t learn that all women are replaceable it’s hard to avoid the oneitis poison.

  13. Bay Area Guy says:

    If gender roles exist in many cultures, wouldn’t the majority of them being similar indicate a possible evolutionary psychology link?

    That’s a very good question.

    I remember on an old thread Sarah brought up how women in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden often do the initiating and asking out, because men there are so passive in this regard.

    I think a good way to resolve this whole biology vs. culture debate would be to burst out of our anglospheric bubble and have articles on how courtship works in other parts of the world.

    • I initiate a lot, but it’s always with friends and people I know. It’s not because I’m afraid to initiate. I’ts just–I have never in my life seen a guy in a bar or a cafe or a classroom and wanted to date him. I absolutely need context. I need to know *something* about him. I need a situation. It’s not about having some crazy standards (I’ve been attracted to guys of all types of looks, levels of success, popularity, etc), but I NEED connection and chemistry and to know that a guy will make me feel good and not be an asshole. I’m simply not attracted at first site. It just doesn’t happen. And I’m high libido. I wonder how many other women are like this.

      • I’m definitely this way. I never feel attracted to some random guy based on his physical appearance, or anything else. I mean, never. I can’t think of a single time where I’ve seen a strange guy in a coffee shop or club or at the grocery store and thought “wow I’d like to do him!” I might notice a guy who is well dressed or in great shape but it’s more of an aesthetic appreciation, not any kind of intense attraction or lust. And I’m high libido too. I fall for guys I know.

        • For me I have regularly seen women I want to sleep with and find out if they would be a good date. Physical looks plays an important role but once I learn of their personality that is when I start falling for them.

      • @Aya…

        What if the guy in the bar, cafe, or classroom approached you? Do you still reject him because there is no context, chemistry, or you don’t know him?

        • Mr Supertypo says:

          This bring me back some memories, once I was in the club were I work, as a DJ, having a break, and drinking some water at the bar (I dont do alcohol when Im working) when a pretty woman show up from nowhere, asking me for a dance. Instinctively I said no, she left with a humiliated expression on her face. Now I enjoy dancing, and I enjoy ladies. So I dont know what went wrong. My instinctive response was exactly the one I give when somebody stop me on street asking me if I want to buy something or sign something else. Or when Jehovah witness steps out of my door. I didn’t even see her clearly, and I didn’t even payed attention on what she wanted. I just reacted instinctively.
          So after this episode, I was wondering if the same thing happens for women, a guy show up, asking you something, and you just answer negatively, without thinking? ever happen?

          • yes that has happened to me. A while back, a guy at Starbucks walked up asked and me if he could buy me a cup of coffee. I immediately said “no thanks”, almost from an automatic reflex. I barely looked at him. Later I thought, why did I react so quickly? I think I was a little startled and I felt like I do when someone asks me for money or wants to sell me something.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              @sarah yes, I think it happens more often than we imagine, if a girl is shy or busy with something else and somebody try to contact her. She or he may react as a reflex. And this can lead to malcontent and frustration. Maybe, just perhaps this can be one sourche of frustration by lot of lonely guys and girls. They are shy and when they meet the belle or the cutie, they speak fast and perhaps nervousely (I dunno) and in a club with loud music its not always easy to understand what they are saying: Hi blabla do you..blablabla and bla bla drink bla bla? the confused listener may react like this : ??????? no thanks….????

              • Jules–chances are that yeah, I would reject them. I wouldn’t be mean or cruel about it, just disinterested. That could easily change if I saw the person on a regular basis or if he were persistent, and it has. That way I get to know the person and it makes him sexier. Looks, wealth or popularity do nada for me, sexually.

              • Yes it would have been way better if he started with some casual small talk, instead of just “can I buy you coffee?” As I recall, he didn’t even say hello first. I’m in a relationship so I wouldn’t have given him my phone number or anything, but we might have had a pleasant conversation and he wouldn’t have walked away feeling rejected.

  14. Do you ever give women responsibility in being too picky, or is it always the man’s fault? Men being aware of what they do wrong is good n all but i get this feeling from your articles Dr that men are to blame, women are innocent.

    If gender roles exist in many cultures, wouldn’t the majority of them being similar indicate a possible evolutionary psychology link? Or did some culture way back when become the birth of all modern culture? Surely culture would vary wildly place to place n not have similarities, eg wouldn’t there be as many female soldiers as male?

    • I think you raise an interesting question about women’s pickiness. Assuming women are “too picky”, what can be done about it? There was an author who wrote a book advising women who are unhappy with their romantic prospects to “settle” (I think it was called “Marry Him”). Many men found that extremely sexist. Similarly, when it’s suggested that men might have more luck if they considered dating less attractive women, they object to that idea (“but I’m not attracted to those women…”) Should women, or men, be encouraged to be less picky or is that intruding on peoples’ rights to their preferences?

      I think in the end, there isn’t much you can do to change what other people want. You have to work with the system and do the best you can with what you’ve got. It’s not fair but there’s very little that’s fair in life, unfortunately. You can improve your chances by being positive and working on your own issues.

      • PUAs, like Mystery and Nick Krauser, reserve the right to pick as many attractive women as they please….

        So it’s okay for them to be choosy, but not women?

        • Leia, by picky I mean having very high standards well above the average member of the sex you desire. I am a bit picky myself, is it ok? I dunno if it can be said to be ok or not, it’s gonna make it more difficult for me to date. What you describe doesn’t sound that picky, unless they only have sex with women well above the average attractiveness of females? I am picky about personality more than anything.

        • It’s a case of damned if we do damned if we don’t. I’m not particularly picky at all, but every time I say something along the lines of “I’ll take what I can get” (read: not picky) women here start yelling at me and telling me that I’ll never find anyone because I won’t make the woman feel special, how I don’t care at all about women, how I’m just looking for someone, anyone to fill a void, etc.

          • I think that’s why men were offended by the book “Marry Him” – it doesn’t feel good to think that a woman is choosing you only because she needs to snag a man, fast, and you’ll do well enough. It feels a little impersonal. Everyone wants to feel special and important. That said, most people also kind of take what they can get a lot of the time. Very few people actually have the ability to choose just anyone and a lot of those people still end up chasing something else. Beautiful people have bad relationships, affairs, get cheated on, get divorced, just like regular people.

            So, most people are desperate at times. Nevertheless,if you work on yourself and on developing your own passions in life, you will appear to have options simply in the sense that you are complete in yourself and and don’t need anyone to fill a void. This is a quality that attracts other people like bees to honey. (You may still feel that void. I’m not saying you won’t. But it will be lessened, and it won’t be obvious to others.)

            • @Sarah….

              I loved the book. I though it was fair to both men and women. I think it was more critical of women and their unrealistic requirements for men.

          • First step in dating women – Don’t take what women have to say about dating women too much to heart, men often know how to date women better simply because men are the ones who ARE dating them. Women can at best give you a guide of what they themselves like n dislike but even that it differs person to person, if you wanna know how to get a date then you ask men who are successfully getting dates. Hell ask the PUA’s even. It’s also pretty hard to describe n give advice for things like chemistry, those butterflies that popup in your tummy tum tums, etc.

            But be cautious with dating advice, quite a lot is contradictory. Some will want you to be the 1950’s style man, opening car doors for her, treating her like a lady (which is basically treating her like a misogynist), others want you to treat em as equals. Some women love bad boys n others hate them, some want a high paced n fun life whilst others want a steady n relaxing pace, some live for drama, others HATE drama. Try to be yourself is probably the only advice worth sticking to though adding some confidence is always helpful.

            • How on earth do you work this one out:

              “treating her like a lady (which is basically treating her like a misogynist), ”


              • Ladies were treated as inferior, men walked on the outside closest to the road which is more dangerous to protect her (which both makes his life worth less and shows she needs protecting). Opening doors for her can be seen as nice but it can also be seen as sexist. Ladies also don’t wear revealing clothing and a bunch of other body policing stuff which is misogynist, is she seen as less than a lady for enjoy sex for instance?

                Every-time I saw the word lady when growing up it was used in a way to shame women into acting a certain way, I thought it was misogynist but others may disagree. Treating someone nicely is good but treating them as a lady is a whole different kettle of fish.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              Archy, agree on everything with the exception of the last one. Bein yourself. That is the most used but also the most useless and meaningless advice ever. What does that mean bein yourself? how do you know you are bein yourself? lot of people, especially the ones who try hard, find that advice insulting. If you have zero confidence, and zero self worth, is like a spit in the face.

              I try and I try, but im not good enough. And suddently somebody out of the blue, tells you, be yourself? DUH! and i was thinking I mickey mouse 😉

              Nah, IMO the be yourself is lazy thinking, there are tons of better advices, but that one…suck. Excuse me if I sound harsh, nothing personal, but I keep reading this advice everywhere, and I honestly cant understand how people can follow it. Some people go the entire life withouth knowing who they are…..this adivice to me sound more like a prank 😀

              • I take it to mean don’t become an asshole if you aren’t naturally an asshole, not be nice just to get laid, be who you are. Don’t act like a christian n fake it if you are agnostic. Although maybe it should be “be almost yourself, but add confidence n positivity to yourself”. Faking it will eventually get you caught and you’ll probably feel crappier because they like something you aren’t.

  15. Or we can just ask women how they feel…

  16. Well, Dr. Nerdlove, for not being a “real doctor” you do have a good understanding of scientifically-based concepts about human behavior. This is a rare thing in dating and relationship advice. Evolutionary psychology is a field that is often over-quoted and misunderstood. I’ve heard other scientists call it “pseudoscience” – mostly because one cannot test most evolutionary psych ideas empirically. And I tire of people (male and female) using it to buttress their arguments for learned (bad) behaviors.

    Bay Area Guy: “Well, couldn’t it actually be the case that many women are flawed or do have unfair standards?” No. People like Dr. Nerdlove and I deal with far more single people than anyone else does, and they come in all different varieties in terms of standards. Yeah, some women do have unfair standards – but so do some men. Shallow people don’t find happiness in love.

    • Christie Hartman:
      “I’ve heard other scientists call it “pseudoscience” – mostly because one cannot test most evolutionary psych ideas empirically.”
      That is an aspect it has in common with ideas like “male privilege” and other dubious theories people like Nerdlove use.
      “Bay Area Guy: “Well, couldn’t it actually be the case that many women are flawed or do have unfair standards?” No.”
      Do you have any evidence for your claim?
      “People like Dr. Nerdlove and I deal with far more single people than anyone else does,…”
      Oh, n argument from authority, nice and so convincing.
      “and they come in all different varieties in terms of standards.”
      This doesn’t actually contradict Bay Area Guy’s hypothesis.
      “Yeah, some women do have unfair standards…”
      What makes standard “unfair”? If you don’t like a standard, you don’t have to try to meet it.
      ” …– but so do some men.
      You realise, that this is irrelevant to the topic?
      “Shallow people don’t find happiness in love.”
      How could you possibly know that?

  17. Bay Area Guy says:

    The problem is that women are flawed or have unfair standards, not that you’ve done something wrong.

    Well, couldn’t it actually be the case that many women are flawed or do have unfair standards?

    I think this sentence, in a nutshell, sums up the frustration that many male commenters on this site have with Dr. Nerdlove.

    (I eagerly await the intense debates in the comments section that are always bound to accompany a Nerdlove article)

    Women are never wrong, their shallowness is merely a figment of the male imagination, and if men ever fail with women, they only have themselves to blame. They’re either unfunny, insecure, or passionless losers who aren’t willing to take responsibility.

    • So what if some women do have unfair standards? Not all of them do.

      And at the end of the day, you can’t do much about other peoples flaws, but you can work to address your own. Taking responsibility also allows you to take control.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Women are certainly not more flawed or have unfair standards than men. I think it’d be fair to say, “Some women are flawed and have unfair standards,” and of course we know the same is true for men. I know a great guy who wouldn’t date women who didn’t have fake tits. Does that mean all guys require fake tits?


      It’s not universal.

      • “Women are certainly not more flawed or have unfair standards than men.”
        How do you know that?

      • Just to throw in an argument, it’s said that we have 2x more female ancestors as we do males, so I’m guessing half as many guys were doubling up on women. If that’s true would that mean women’s standards were much higher than men’s since more women got to procreate than men?

        Of course this is probably changing quickly with hypergamy levels dropping since we have everyone able to work, social security, etc.

        • PastorofMuppets says:

          ” If that’s true would that mean women’s standards were much higher than men’s since more women got to procreate than men?”

          That may true to an extent, but there likely also were several other factors at play that explain those figures.
          For one, men were more likely to be killed/grievously harmed in warfare, hunting and the other risky ventures that fell to them. Hence, there were fewer men than women available for procreation.

          Also, the manner in which these figures frequently are used to prop up of the theory of the Alpha man and his harem of choosy women (while the lonely Beta stands aside not getting any) assume, falsely, women always have had a choice of whom they procreate with. In reality, there often was no choice.
          Genghis Khan and his armies have had a lasting impact on Asian genetics not because women flocked to their Alpha-ness, but because the Mongols killed the men of the cultures they conquered and raped/enslaved the women.
          And, historically, young women often didn’t choose their mates. It was arranged by parents (fathers) to increase familial wealth and status.

        • Human societies have engaged in constant warfare over territory since time immemorial, and when one tribe takes over, they usually kill the men and keep the women, so this could go a long way to explaining why genetic studies indicate that more women who lived in the past have living descendants today than their male contemporaries.

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