PROOF IT’S WOMEN WHO MAKE THE FIRST MOVE (even if the men they woo disagree!)
A biologist who’s devoted her life to studying love and sex reveals . . .
You’ve been sitting for a while at a bar, idly gazing at all the other people enjoying a night out. Then suddenly it strikes you: that pretty woman, the one who was chatting to her girlfriends in the corner, is no longer with them.
Instead, she’s talking to a man near the door. And from the way she is looking at him, you just know it is the start of something . . .
It’s a common enough scenario, replicated every weekend all over the world. But have you ever asked yourself: who made the first move? Was it the man or the woman? The answer may surprise you.
Because it is women, not men, who usually initiate the courting sequence, starting with a slight shift in body weight, a smile or a gaze. To find out exactly what happens when a man and a woman catch each other’s eye, anthro- pologist David Givens, director of the Centre of Nonverbal Studies in Washington state, and biologist and sexologist Timothy Perper, author of the influential book Sex Signals, spent hundreds of hours in bars and clubs observing couples meeting for the first time.
one of Perper’s most astonishing discoveries was that in two thirds of cases it was women who had actually begun the pick-ups. They were fully aware of what they were doing, too. Interviewed afterwards, they admitted having coaxed a potential lover into conversation, touched him and enticed him with coquettish looks, questions, compliments and jokes.
My studies back this up. I’m a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana university in the u.S. I am also the chief scientific adviser for the dating website
match.com and part of my remit is to conduct regular surveys of single men and women.
My studies (which have entailed speaking to more than 25,000 singles) have been done annually since 2010 with a representative sample (not match.com members).
They clearly illustrate that women of every age, ethnicity and background initiate most pick-ups and, in truth, women have become blatant. In 2012, 65 per cent of more than 5,000 men reported they had been asked out by a woman. Interestingly, 92 per cent of the men were comfortable with this.
Internet and smartphone use has added even more come-hither moves to a woman’s repertoire. In my 2013 survey of singles, 40 per
The only one who can tell you “you can’t win”, is you. And you don’t have to listen.
cent of women said they had sent a sexually explicit text or email. More than 35 per cent admitted they had sent a sexy photo.
Meanwhile, 62 per cent of men said that they had received a ‘sexually vivid’ written message from a woman.
So what happens after the man has responded to the woman’s overtures? Well, as one woman told researcher Timothy Perper: ‘At some point, the man should get the hint and take it from there.’
Men seem to sense this shift in leadership, a shift that Perper calls ‘initiative transfer’. It normally happens just after they have left the bar, club or party . Now the man must make his move; putting his arm around her, kissing her and doing everything he can to make her feel good.
By now, he has almost certainly forgotten that she was the one who took the first step.
When asked to describe a pick-up sequence, men will almost always skip over the initial parts — the ones directed by the woman.
Out of 31 men interviewed by Perper and Givens, only one could recall the details of who spoke first, who touched whom and when, or how either partner began to express interest in the other . However, all of them spoke at length about their actions.
Who, then, is hunter and who is prey? The answer is that both man and woman play essential roles — and, if one misses an important cue, the game is over.
THeritual begins with five distinct steps. First comes the ‘attentiongetting’ phase. Men, like baboons, inject a swagger into their walk . Then they tend to pitch and roll their shoulders, stretch, stand tall and shift from foot to foot in a swaying motion.
Their body movements become exagger - ated: instead of using the wrist to stir a drink, they will often employ the entire arm.
If they are with friends, they laugh heartily; loud enough to attract the attention of the woman. And, like males of many species, they pat their hair, tug their chins or clasp other parts of their bodies.
All of these signals can be reduced to one basic message: ‘I’m here, I’m important and I’m harmless.’ Women begin the attentiongetting phase by smiling , gazing , shifting , swaying, preening , stretching and perhaps moving into the man’s territory.
They will often incorporate feminine moves — they twist their curls, tilt their heads, look up coyly, giggle, raise their brows, flick their tongues, lick their upper lips and, occasionally, hide their faces.
Some women also have a walk when courting; they arch their backs, thrust out their breasts, sway their hips and strut (high heels exaggerate this pose). With all this, they are signalling: ‘ I’m here and I’m approachable.’
Stage two is ‘recognition ’, when eyes meet. One of the pair will acknowledge the other with a smile or slight body shift, and he or she will move within talking range. That is nowhere near as risky as the next major escalation point, stage three: talking.
This idle conversation, known as ‘grooming talk’, is distinctive, because voices often become higher, softer and more sing - songy; the same tones used to express affection to children or concern for those in need of care.
Grooming talk starts with such benign statements as ‘how do you like this bar?’ or ‘how’s the food?’ The best l eads are ei t her compliments or questions, since both require a response.
What you say matters far less than how you say it. A highpitched, gentle, mellifluous ‘hello’ is often a sign of sexual interest, whereas a clipped, low, matter-offact ‘hi’ will rarely lead to love.
Talking is dangerous for an i mportant reason — you are instantly revealing a great deal about your background, educa - tion and self - confidence; all of which can either attract or repel a potential mate within moments.
You are also exposing your teeth, which will betray much about your age and state of health. Many potential romances end right then and there. The couples who weather those first verbal encounters, however, move on to stage four: touch.
This starts with what we call ‘intention cues’ — leaning forward, resting an arm near the other person’s on the table, moving your foot closer if you’re standing.
Then comes the climax: one person touches the other on the shoulder, the forearm, the wrist or some other relatively unsexual part of the body.
Normally, it ’s the woman who touches first, grazing her hand along her suitor’s body in a faux - casual manner. This may look insignificant, but she could well be lighting a fire because skin is like a field of grass, with each blade a nerve ending so sensitive the slightest graze etches a memory of that moment into the brain.
If he flinches, it’s over. If he withdraws, even slightly , the woman may never try to touch him again. But if he leans towards her, smiles or returns the gesture with a deliberate touch, they have surmounted a major barrier.
Now they will continue to talk and touch — tilting , gazing , smiling, swaying, flirting — until they achieve the last stage of the courtship ritual: body synchrony.
As they become more comfortable with each other , they swivel until their shoulders become aligned and their bodies are face - to-face. After a while, they will begin to move in tandem — when he lifts his drink , she lifts hers; when he crosses his legs, she crosses hers; when he smoothes his hair, she smoothes hers.
They are now moving in perfect rhythm as they gaze deeply into each other’s eyes.
They may not know it, but they have just replicated the behaviour
of animals all over the globe. From bears to beetles, courting couples perform rhythmic rituals to express their intentions.
and in the case of humans who reach total body synchrony, they often leave the bar together.
IF HE LETS YOU PAY, HE’S NOT INTO YOU
PROBABLY no single ritual is more significant to Western would-be couples than eating together. Rules are changing: indeed, most of us are confused about who should pay, but if the man is courting, he still generally foots the bill; if he does, a woman instinctively knows her companion is wooing her.
in fact, there is no more frequent worldwide courtship ploy than offering food in the hope of wooing a lover.
nor is it exclusive to humans. Black-tipped flies allow passing females to share their juicy prey and then copulate with them as they eat.
‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ we are told. Perhaps. a few female mammals do feed their lovers; women are among them.
But courting women feed men with nowhere near the regularity that men feed women.
male birds feed potential lovers, too. the common tern often brings a little fish to his beloved; the roadrunner will present her with a lizard. and male chimps offer females a morsel of baby gazelle or hare which she pays for afterwards with sex.
LITTLE LIES WE TELL TO FIND LOVE
NORMALLY people take it slowly. if you get too close, touch too soon or talk too much, you will probably be repelled.
the human courtship runs on messages. Have you ever discovered a man or woman told you little fibs at the start of a relationship? this is quite normal.
courtship is not about honesty; it’s about winning. after all, no courting moose will try to make his antlers look smaller.
take men’s height. around the world, women are more attracted to tall men. So men lie about their height, particularly on internet dating sites.
they hope this will be overlooked when they meet their dates and have the chance to captivate them with more appealing qualities. as for women, they fib about their weight; another instinctive mating strategy.
Scientists have long known men are most attracted to women whose waist circumference is about 70 per cent of their hip measurement.
this suggests they have the right balance of oestrogen, testosterone and other hormones to produce healthy babies.
that’s why lying about your weight on an online dating form can help to widen the field of online potential suitors. as mae West said: ‘it’s better to be looked over than overlooked.’
When you meet, there are other qualities that can be more seductive than height or perfect proportions — intelligence, playfulness, creativity and humour.
in the end, hardly anyone is excluded from the human mating dance — it is nature’s way of continuing the human race.