The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - > BY LUCY LAU

When we’re not bitch­ing about the rain and snow, you can count on Van­cou­verites’ shared dis­dain for the city’s ap­par­ently cold, de­bil­i­tat­ing dat­ing scene to bring us to­gether. Few places is this more ob­vi­ous than in the Ge­or­gia Straight’s on­line Con­fes­sions col­umn, where, on any given day, you can find men and women—typ­i­cally of the cis, het­ero­sex­ual va­ri­ety—vent­ing anony­mously about their love and re­la­tion­ship co­nun­drums. In the lead-up to Valen­tine’s Day, how­ever, we’ve no­ticed an uptick in posts and com­ments ad­dress­ing the act—or lack thereof—of women ap­proach­ing men around town.

“There’s been some talk of women need­ing to ask out men more of­ten,” wrote one name­less user. “Does this only work if a girl is drop dead gor­geous?”

“I have been so used by guys,” shared an­other. “There is no fuck­ing way I’m ask­ing one out.”

“You will never know if he ac­tu­ally likes you if you ask him out ’cause he has done noth­ing in the be­gin­ning to show his in­ter­est in you,” some­one else lamented.

All of the above com­ments were pre­sum­ably writ­ten by women; mean­while, users who ap­pear to be men have penned posts and re­sponses en­cour­ag­ing women to speak to them and, in one in­stance, to “take con­trol”. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing in­con­gruity: al­though, to­day, women are more ed­u­cated and oc­cupy more lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the pro­fes­sional sphere than ever be­fore—“lean­ing in”, de­mand­ing seats at the ta­ble, and, hell, even bring­ing fold­ing chairs de­spite still be­ing vastly out­num­bered by men in some in­dus­tries—it seems that they con­tinue to take on more submissive roles in the world of het­ero­sex­ual dat­ing. In­deed, there are many strong, go-get­ting, and ca­pa­ble women out there who, even when sin­gle and ready to min­gle, refuse to text a guy first.

The ques­tion here, then, isn’t whether women should be mak­ing the first move (it’s 2018: go for what you want!), but why they aren’t. Oh, and why they sure as hell should be. “I don’t think that women are nec­es­sar­ily pas­sive,” Deanna Cob­den, founder of lo­cal dat­ing-con­sul­ta­tion ser­vice Date­works, says by phone. “Re­gard­less of work, most peo­ple re­ally want to have a re­la­tion­ship with that mas­cu­line-fem­i­nine en­ergy and bal­ance.”

A dat­ing-and-re­la­tion­ship coach with over 15 years of experience in the in­dus­try, Cob­den sees women’s re­luc­tance to ap­proach men as re­lated to the com­plex­i­ties of mat­ing in a per­plex­ing, swipe-right era. “I think a lot of peo­ple are just re­ally con­fused by mod­ern dat­ing,” she says. “They’re kind of par­a­lyzed by their fears right now. ‘Oh, he only wants sex. Oh, I’m not good-look­ing enough.’ ”

Yue Qian, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in UBC’S depart­ment of so­ci­ol­ogy who has con­ducted re­search on the evo­lu­tion of gen­der roles, ex­plains this “un­even gen­der revo­lu­tion” in more the­o­ret­i­cal terms. While women have trans­gressed tra­di­tional gen­der norms and will­ingly faced ad­ver­si­ties to en­ter male-dom­i­nated fields of ed­u­ca­tion and work, they’re less in­clined to do so in the arena of het­ero­sex­ual dat­ing be­cause the eco­nomic in­cen­tive here is not ev­i­dent enough to off­set the judg­ment that per­sists. “In the per­sonal realm, men and women are still so­cially pe­nal­ized for vi­o­lat­ing dif­fer­ent norms,” Qian re­lays by phone.

The perks of de­fy­ing these stereo­types, how­ever, abound for both women and men. Mak­ing the first move can not only be em­pow­er­ing for women, but also help to dis­man­tle per­for­ma­tive gen­der roles—like men be­ing the pri­mary bread­win­ner— that may put strain on re­la­tion­ships in the long run. By vo­cal­iz­ing their in­tent and de­sires, women may also experience more free­dom and sex­ual lib­erty, es­pe­cially at a time when the pub­lic dia­logue sur­round­ing con­sent is at an all-time high. (Plus, the hand­ful of men we talked to de­scribed be­ing asked out by the op­po­site sex as “hot”, “flat­ter­ing”, and “sexy”.)

“If so­ci­ety is more ac­cept­ing of dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ship ar­range­ments,” says Qian, “then those men and women can have less pres­sure to or­ga­nize their re­la­tion­ships in a cer­tain way.”

For Cob­den, it’s sim­ple: have con­fi­dence in your badass self, leave fears and in­se­cu­ri­ties at the door, and, if you’re get­ting good vibes af­ter strik­ing up a con­ver­sa­tion—whether IRL or on­line—ask him out. Smil­ing, mak­ing eye con­tact, and flirt­ing are all ways to ex­press in­ter­est with­out out­right propos­ing a date, too. “You don’t have to go up and say, ‘Hey, I re­ally like you, let’s go for din­ner.’ You wanna throw him a few crumbs, drop the hand­ker­chief,” she sug­gests. “You can be flir­ta­tious in a very nonag­gres­sive, non­sex­ual way and let that per­son know ‘Hey, it’s okay to talk to me. I like you.’ ”

Above all, it’s about know­ing what you want—and that you’re more than wor­thy of love and a ful­fill­ing re­la­tion­ship—and go­ing for it. (Af­ter all, the worst that can hap­pen is they say no.) If any­thing, hav­ing both sexes be­hav­ing and in­ter­act­ing proac­tively could help to warm up Van­cou­ver’s al­legedly frosty dat­ing cli­mate. Not that Cob­den sub­scribes to that nar­row-minded view. “You can go out and meet peo­ple any­where,” she states. “You have to be open; you have to be the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in that sit­u­a­tion.”

In 2018, it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able for a woman to ask a man out on a date. Or at least it damn well ought to be. Slpho­tog­ra­phy/getty Im­ages photo.

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