A male friend once told me that he never goes home with girls who hit on him at parties. When I asked why, I anticipated a slut-shaming answer. But instead his response was, “Because all the girls who hit on me are drunk — too drunk for me to be comfortable hooking up with them.”
This friend was very attractive, or at least attractive enough that these girls’ interest viably could be attributed to more than just beer goggles. So the questions are: Why do girls only hit on guys like him when they are drunk, and how can we change this phenomenon? Some of the concepts I have learned in Georgetown psychology courses may provide answers.
In my “Psychology of Gender” class, we discussed gender roles and how they translate into scripts for many different situations, including dating. Our common conception of heterosexual dating is dominated by the idea that a woman is passive and waits to be approached, while a man is active and makes the first move. This passive-active role typically applies to asking someone on a date, initiating a sexual encounter and even proposing marriage. But I would like to focus on the moment that prefaces any romantic and sexual relationship: the approach.
When expressing romantic interest, men typically make the first move and women do not. But, as exemplified by cases like my friend’s, we may all be better off if we change this norm. Attraction to the opposite sex, obviously, is not one-way. I have had countless experiences when a friend points out that cute guy from her economics class whom she’s been dying to talk to, or that blond on the dance floor whom she wants to hook up with that night. Yet whenever I suggest that she walk over and talk to him, the usual response is along the lines of, “No way, I’m too awkward” or, “Maybe after a few more drinks.”
Since it is not the norm or expectation for women to approach men, many women hesitate to do so. Hence, it takes several cups or more of liquid courage before most of my female friends are willing to approach their man of interest.
Another psychological principle that applies to the issue of romantic approach is pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance occurs when people in a group situation act like they believe one thing while they think another. As a result, they all go along with the group and hesitate to express what they are actually thinking because they incorrectly believe that everyone else feels differently. Pluralistic ignorance can occur in romantic situations, in which both individuals are interested in the other, but, since neither is expressing attraction, they both assume that the other person is not interested.
Because of pluralistic ignorance, many women believe that if the man they are eyeing has not approached them yet, he must not be interested. They often do not realize that he is thinking the same thing. It cannot be up to men alone to fight this phenomenon and make the first move in every romantic situation. Although breaking norms and getting past one’s own shyness can be difficult, the initial step to romantic success for many women may be making the first move and approaching men they are interested in.
The approach does not have to be overt. My friends used to tease me for being an “alpha female” because I would approach boys at parties. But this alleged power move merely consisted of my walking up to a boy I thought was cute and introducing myself, sometimes adding an unelaborate joke or a comment about something at the party. Without any explicit statement of intent, I opened up the possibility of conversation in a way that allowed me to save face relatively easily if I felt my interest was not being reciprocated. Such actions have led to scenarios ranging from a pleasant conversation to a longterm boyfriend.
There can be many obstacles for women making the first move. You might be shy around new people, unsure of your ability to start a conversation or afraid of being perceived as too forward. But if you can get past your initial doubts, know that there are advantages to approaching whomever you are interested in. Making the first move does not make you less desirable — in fact, it conveys a confidence and self-assuredness that can help you in any romantic interaction. So ladies, when you see that cute guy at a party, do not wait until you are drunk to start a conversation with him. Defy the gender-based heterosexual dating scripts, break the pluralistic ignorance and go get ’em.
Zoe Epstein is a senior in the college. Dating Nerd appears every other Wednesday.