To the chagrin of many men (and even some women, too), it seems to be widely accepted that it’s a man’s job to make the first move in a romantic context. From everything from approaching women in bars through to proposing date ideas, it seems like we overwhelmingly expect men to do the leg work.
Why is that, though? It’s the 21st century, and old gender norms are fading out in plenty of other spheres, so do we really have to stick to these old cultural scripts in the dating world? Why don’t women ask guys out more often? Well, the answer is that it’s hard to overstate the grip that tradition has on most people, especially when it comes to dating.
It’s not always just tradition holding women back from making the first move, though. There are a variety of reasons women may be reluctant to approach men, from concerns about rejection through to simple market-based concepts of supply and demand.
With that in mind, here are eight possible reasons women aren’t making the first move – as well as some suggestions for what you can do about it:
1. Society Considers It Unfeminine And Aggressive
The first major factor holding women back from making the first move is traditional gender roles. Like it or not, we have an existing social script that says that men should be the pursuers of dates and sex and women should be the pursued. Many women are put off the idea of veering away from that script because they feel as though it will make them seem unfeminine or too aggressive.
To counter this one, start by examining your own beliefs first. It might help for you to widen your own ideas of what constitutes acceptable feminine behaviour, if you haven’t already. For example, if you’d like women to be more forward in the dating world, are you also encouraging them to be more forward in the office and in your social circles? If you’d warmly encourage women to walk up to you and hit on you, would you also encourage them to speak their mind in other contexts?
A lot of these ideas need a society-wide social shift, and you won’t be able to bring this about on your own, no matter how progressive you are in your thinking here. But you can help promote an expanded idea of femininity by talking to the people around you about why you think outdated gender roles need to shift.
2. Women Don’t Need To Make The First Move
It’s crude to talk about human relationships in market terms, but in a lot of ways the dating world is similar to a market where the normal rules of supply and demand apply. In most situations, there’s a bigger supply of men who are happy to make the first move than there are women, so women might avoid doing it simply because it’s not a ‘must’ for them. If you don’t come up and say “hi”, someone else probably will, so why would she bother making the first move?
This can be a pretty frustrating roadblock and there’s not a huge amount you can do about it, but it may be useful to hold back a little. If you’re always making the first move yourself, you’re not opening up any space for women to approach you, even if they were so inclined. Take a pause from being the one who initiates things, and you might notice small signs here and there that women are trying to get the ball rolling instead.
3. Women Fear Rejection, Too
Even for women who are open to making the first move in principle, the actual act of walking up to an attractive man and starting a conversation with him takes guts. Fear of rejection is a completely human impulse that affects women just the same way it does men, so perhaps the reason she isn’t being bold is because she’s scared she’ll be rebuffed.
To help alleviate her fears, it’s helpful for you to adopt positive, open body language. Consider sending a smile across the room to signal that it’s okay for her to approach you, too.
4. Some Men Feel Emasculated By Forward Women
It’s not always women’s fault that they don’t make the first move – sometimes men actively discourage it, because they feel as though a woman doing “their job” emasculates them. In response, some women don’t approach men because they’re trying to spare the feelings of men who are wedded to traditional ideas about masculinity.
If you want women to be more likely to make the first move, make sure you aren’t perpetuating these attitudes in your own life (we’re sure you aren’t), and talk to your male friends when they make comments that suggest women “shouldn’t” be the first to approach. Again, it takes a while to shift traditional ideas about gender roles, but you can help by sparking more progressive discussions in your peer groups.
5. Making The First Move Requires Creativity, Which Is Time-Consuming
Particularly in the context of online dating and hookup apps like Tinder, making the first move almost always means coming up with a witty opening line to stand out – and sometimes women simply can’t be bothered making the effort. Lazy? Sure, but who amongst us isn’t a bit lazy on occasion, especially when someone else will gladly pick up the slack and make the first move instead?
To get around this one, you could help by suggesting a few opening topics in your Tinder bio or online profile. For example, listing out your interests means she’ll have more of an idea what she can talk to you about. You could even be more explicit by saying something like “let’s talk about our favourite Wes Anderson movies” or “looking forward to comparing our top 5 Drake songs”.
6. They Don’t Want To Appear Desperate
Women are perhaps even more concerned than men that being the pursuer will make them seem desperate. Given that it’s not normally “a woman’s job”, the sight of a woman approaching a man will be considered unusual – even though it shouldn’t be – and this can promote insecurity amongst women that they’re coming across as especially desperate.
To help minimise this concern amongst women, make sure that you never shame or laugh at women who approach you, even if they’re not 100% your type. If you reject women kindly and encourage your friends to do the same, they’ll be less likely to feel like desperate freaks for trying. They’ll also be more likely to do it again, and encourage their friends to do the same.
7. They Forget That Being The Pursuer Is Even A Possibility
Women may simply be forgetting that it’s open to them to make the first move. Almost all pop culture portrayals of heterosexual relationships – from movies to songs to TV shows – show the man making the first move, so it’s not so strange to consider that women may simply be neglecting to consider it as an option. In other words, it’s not a deliberate omission, it’s just not crossing their minds at all.
Once again, you could jump-start a woman’s memory here by sending out subtle signals that you’re open to being approached through positive body language, smiles and physical positioning. As every woman knows, there’s a lot you can do to set up an approach by making yourself seem as inviting as possible.
8. They’re Not Totally Sure About You
Perhaps there’s a woman out there who has her sights set on you, and wouldn’t be averse to making the first move, but she’s not 100% sure you’re right for her. In this case, she’s probably biding her time and getting to know you better (from a distance, of course!) before she decides it’s worth making the first move. Women are often especially concerned about safeguarding other people’s feelings and not giving off the wrong impression, so she may just be taking a little more time than a man might to make absolutely sure you’re the right candidate.
How do you get around this one? Well, you’re just going to have to do your best to be an attractive, likable person, which you no doubt already are! Be yourself and be honest and kind in your dealings with people, and she’ll no doubt feel more inclined to head your way.
So, there you have it: eight of the myriad reasons women might be reluctant to make the first move. Remember that there’s no way of knowing for sure any woman’s particular reasons for not wanting to approach you – maybe she’s not even single or she just got out of an awful relationship, or perhaps she’s simply not that into you.
However, if it’s for any of the above common reasons that women are holding back, there are some concrete things you can do in response, as we’ve discussed above. Some of them are easy, instant fixes like making yourself physically more inviting, and others involve more slow-burning, long-term cultural shifts such as changing our ideas about men and women and what it’s “proper” for each of them to do.
Either way, it’s worth getting started today: start making some of the above changes to maximise the chance of the woman of your dreams walking right on up to you!