A prolific frustration among many twenty and thirtysomething women is their tendency to meet and date men who are ultimately untrustworthy, self-centered, and act in highly unflattering ways. In short? Assholes.
The most common explanations given range the gambit. Some draw on the psychology of flirtation and attraction. Others look to alpha-behavior. Yet others catalog the interactions as an indication of success or draw parallels to flashy mating displays such as those of male peacocks.
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While all of these factors are in play, and without question, the location where you meet someone plays a strong role in shaping the dynamic there’s another essential factor that’s largely overlooked.
Across most cultures women are taught to be relatively defensive and standoffish toward strangers. This is in part due to a constant onslaught of male attention, but also stems from a wide range of social norms, general supply and demand factors, and the typical complexities of dating.
From unwanted conversation in a cafe, to a deluge of unrequested dick pics on the internet, to painfully high levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault, most women are understandably resistant to being approached by strangers.
At the same time, many dates particularly those which originate via random interactions at cafes, bars, the super market, or on the city’s streets inherently require being approached by a stranger. This also extends to the world of online dating. In online dating you’re interfacing with people who are highly overt, proactive, and aggressive in their outreach alongside those that take a more measured approach or those that purely lurk. Some apps have tried to specifically disrupt elements of this process by forcing women to initiate, but adoption tends to be more limited even if the results are largely more positive.
For most singles in their twenties and thirties this social car wreck is how a large percentage of dates come into being. One individual is going about their business when another comes barreling into the midst of whatever that business might be, forcing an interaction. While that is, perhaps, a rather dire description of it. It does strike me that it is often a fitting depiction.
Unsurprisingly, this is also a period where women often face a daunting process of sorting through asshole after asshole, undermining their self-esteem while accompanied by a host of other dangers. The rise of self-described pickup artists or PUAs has only served to exacerbate the situation as they introduce added levels of manipulation, deception, and strategies for bypassing attempts at dismissal.