The How and Why of Sex Differences

Sexually dimorphic psychological adaptations

Why Don't Women Ask Men Out on First Dates?

After decades of increasing gender equality, why are women still not making the first move by asking out men on first dates? Read More

lThe simple answer is.... want to be the chaser rather than the chased, and smart women, no matter how liberated, have learned to go with what works. When I was younger I often directly asked men out on dates. The answer was always, "No." My friends, both male and female, told me that this was an "aggressive" move and that I was "doing the man's job." I noticed more success when I simply flirted and left an encounter saying, "I hope we run into each other again." After a few dates, I found that the men were more open to me doing the inviting and offering to pay. Coming of age in the 1970's, I found this extremely annoying, but as the old saying goes, you have to go along to get along.

The exact same thing happened to me!

...women want to be the chaser rather than the chased, and smart men, no matter how liberated, have learned to go with what works. When I was younger I often directly asked women out on dates. The answer was always, "No." My friends, both male and female, told me that this was an "aggressive" move and that I was "doing the woman's job". "A woman will chase a man until she lets him catch her," I was told. I noticed more success when I simply flirted and left an encounter saying, "I hope we run into each other again." After a few dates, I found that the women were more open to me doing the inviting and offering to pay. Coming of age in the 1970's, I found this extremely annoying, but as the old saying goes, you have to go along to get along.

This is no longer true in the

This is no longer true in the younger generation, especially among the highly educated. If a woman below 30 today initiates with a man below 30, he is most likely to say "yes".

This is from a sample of 165 males at a prestigious university where I did this study as part of a class project two years ago. Only 22 males from the 165 said that they would reject the woman. Interestingly, all of those 22 were international students or students from rural US or conservative backgrounds.

Your mileage may vary, but it is actually very attractive to most educated men to see a self-confident secure woman asking him out.

I'll second this

Yeppers with you on this one - don't take my word for it, but I and a lot of my friends find a confident woman who can take care of herself very attractive, so ladies, make the first move if you have to!



What are the rates of "no" by gender?

Thanks for your comment.

It would be interesting to learn what the average rates of getting a "no" are for male and female "risky initiators." I am not familiar with any research on this, although, I would imagine some research on speed dating may have some data on this.

The Rates are Good for Both Genders

I have recently written about this topic on my own blog here at Psychology Today. According to research by Hald and Høgh-Olesen (2010), men who are "risky initiators" and ask a woman out have about a 43% acceptance rate among single women. Women who are "risky initiators" and ask men out, however, have a 68% acceptance rate among single men.

So, when women do ask, men appear to respond positively. Incidentally, the odds for men hearing a yes are pretty good as well. Clearly, being a risky initiator (of either gender) has a benefit. Food for thought for those following a more proceptive strategy and not finding the success they would like.

More information can be found here:
Blog: The Attraction Doctor
Article: Just Asking for It! Part I

Thanks for the info, Jeremy.

...much appreciated! I enjoy reading your posts.


You Are Very Welcome

I enjoy reading your posts as well. Such constructive sharing among bloggers is a potential benefit of being under the Psychology Today banner. I hope to participate in more of it. Perhaps, as time goes on, we can find further areas for collaboration.


I kind of agree with the

I kind of agree with the above comment. Women would probably ask more men out on dates if they didn't judge women as "easy" for asking in the first place. It follows the logic laid out in your article, if women show their lack of taking risky initiatives as proof that they won't take any in the future then asking a man out on a date would somehow imply her promiscuity.

Women actually do or don't do a lot of things because of our awareness of how harshly men will judge us for doing or not doing them.

However, I asked a guy out recently, and he said yes. Here's hoping he didn't say yes because he thought my asking was proof I was easy.

I wonder if there is

I wonder if there is significant variation on the rate of risky initiatives given or received between men and women among subjects of different age groups, educational level, income, religious affiliation, ethnicity/race/nationality, and etc. I'm sure personality traits like extroversion and introversion probably have some role to play in this dynamic as well.

All an all I completely agree that more research should be done on this topic.

Thank you for your article!

Why it is a bad idea to ask men out on a date

I'm a woman and I ask men out on dates simply because I want what I want when I want it and I dislike playing games. I have noticed 2 results.

1) If I have asked a man out and the date goes well, I find the men often put less effort into the relationship as in making me do more of the asking for future dates, spending as little money as possible and not hesitating to request I help them out with a bevy of their personal challenges such as computer issues, fixing their gadgets and conflicts with various billing agencies. In essence, these men are very interested in what I can do for them and not much on what they can do for me.

On a side note on this, I have discussed this dilemma with some male friends of mine and they say that when they ask a woman on a date the same issues crop up. So this may not be a gender problem, but more of a self-interest problem.

2) I have witnessed some men immediately reject the idea of a date with me simply because I am a woman and they are a man, and they are woefully uncomfortable with a woman asking them out even if it is to do something they want to do on a day they are available to do it.

RE: #1

There's a simple explanation for this... Consider the watch paradox: Let's say you spend $500 on a really nice watch. It's a super-discount closeout, so no returns are possible.

A month later (Case A) something comes up, you're in a jam and short of cash, so you decide to try and liquidate the watch. In many parts of the world people have stored value in jewelry they can hold rather than trust it to banks, but you know the cash-for-jewelry places will only give you $100, which isn't enough. So you decide to try and take your chances on the street corner, hassling people walking by trying to sell it. Obviously you have to take a steep discount when finally someone stops and shows some interest. You take $200.

The alternative reality version (Case B) is the opposite situation. You're passing thru that same street corner NOT needing to sell anything, when someone spots you wearing the watch and starts wanting to try and buy it off you after you tell him they were likely not still available any more. He's really taken by the watch, so he starts bidding you up above where the supposed retail price was (which you knew had to be inflated to begin with). It is a nice watch, but you decide $1250 would be nicer, so you sell the watch.

The moral? The person who initiates the transaction is in the inferior position.

That's what women require of men by employing a passive strategy. They never really wanted "equality", they thought they were superior to begin with and are only interested in men who will validate this. (More and more "proof" is manufactured for them everyday.) It's essentially a power play, with woman only willing to take the one-up side of the script.

Sex roles and power plays are two of "the three most destructive forces militating against the achievement of satisfactory loving relationships between men and women" (Claude Steiner) because the two people agree from the start they are unequal. Obviously there's little room in such a framework for the man who considers himself an equal of, or superior to, a given woman. Thus women get the inferior knuckle-dragging subservient they want.

This used to work way back when courting meant trying to appeal to the woman's father (and other kin), but is now almost entirely dysfunctional.

One more observation: women often engage in what's called "initiative transfer", where they will make only the first move -- such as saying "Hi" -- and then expect everything else to proceed according to the script as if the man had been the initiator. Such attempted manipulation, which men almost always get at some level, suggests the state of "girl game" is still really lame.

I'm a woman and I've been

I'm a woman and I've been through both types of situations quite a few times - being asked out and asking a guy out. Both of them were sometimes enjoyable experiences, sometimes awkward or painful (both being rejected and being the one who rejects are uncomfortable for me).

What I've learned until now is that if a guy rejects me simply because he is not comfortable with this non-typical dating script, I'm probably not losing much of an opportunity for a good relationship - the kind of partner I want is one who doesn't stumble in gender stereotypes like this. Also, if he says yes and then enters the predominantly passive role, I'll lose interest after a while; but then again the same thing happens if he's exaggeratedly active and doesn't leave me any space to take some initiative.

I don't see that I'm at disadvantage if I ask a guy out; on the contrary, I feel good about myself when I act spontaneously instead of simply following cultural scripts; and sometimes the guys to whom I made the first step explicitly told me that they see this as a sign of inner strength. Some of them will be attracted to this, some will not; this is beyond my control. Sure, I could try to manipulate my way into a man's heart, but then I would lose the authenticity I'm looking for in my close relationships - be they romantic or not.

Also, when a guy makes the first step towards me, I don't see him as being 'one-down'. I just sometimes see them as putting themselves 'one-down' through their attitude (for example, saying that he agrees with me on some points he actually doesn't, just to impress me, is actually a sign that he doesn't trust himself enough to think that I would like him for who he really is; and this message is sent in subtle and unconscious ways, but has quite an impact on the relationship).

So I don't see this whole 'one-up' - 'one-down' as inherent to relationships. Sadly, I agree with Steiner's observation that most of us are raised to see this inequality as natural and even look for it. I recognize the same tendency in myself sometimes, so I'm not asking from anybody else to be completely "cured" of it. I just very much appreciate those who strive for genuine equality in their relationships, be they men or women :)

As a man, I think this is so

As a man, I think this is so well said. Who needs power? You are above the mean. The fact that you ask men out, I think, clearly makes you sensitive the the rejection experience. Many women are not, and are pretty ungraceful.

Women would have to pay for the date if they asked a man out.

Women know this and use it to their advantage.

Modern American women want equality from 9-5 and traditional gender roles from 5-9.

I'm starting to realize that women will always be able to have their cake and eat it, too. I left the dating scene due to this unfair imbalance.

Mark you sound like an

Mark you sound like an unattractive person, probably wearing a fedora.


Unattractive AND wearing a fedora? I could understand an unattractive implication; but the fedora remark was very random. A little humorous, being so out of left field and all.

Look, I see this happen to men all the time. They speak the truth and are met with ad hominem and/or shaming language. I'm too mature to say anything negative without having met you yet. Call me mature, but that's how I operate.

Since my initial comment, I have entered a relationship. But unlike the past, I was very selective. I chose a woman that isn't typical of her gender. She truly is unique in that she doesn't expect to have her cake and eat it, too. It's been over a year now and her attitude hasn't changed.

Best of luck.

Ad hominems

You can usually tell you're on the right path when the only things your opposition can do is resort to insults, which is very typical among the traditionalists when someone simply disagrees with them. I've received these insults myself, but I usually just ignore them.

Actually I would like to ask where the moderation is when it comes to posts like that, since the people on the other side of this issue are starting to show their fangs. The pick up artist community are even worse with the insults when criticizing them.

women not asking men out

Great post, Mark! Women want it both ways. We have to "work for it", "earn it" and "make the first move" or we should be punished. If
we fail other tests, we must be punished. If the approach is flawed,
then we must be punished. I gave up long ago. They are not worth it!

I too gave up on dating a

I too gave up on dating a long time ago, due to women never asking me out on a date. However, technology will compensate for this in the somewhat near future, in the way of robots with AI. I would sooner use something like that than put up with the garbage of dating.

Strict Gender Roles

First of all, you men and other people view women as maneaters, female cads, tools, slags, etc. if they make the first move and snap. Second of all, you people think it's okay for a man to be needy, desperate, clingy, and possessive while a woman should be indifferent, cold, aloof, disinterested, helpless, less intelligent, less assertive, passive-aggressive, quiet, and distant while the man makes the first move and helps the woman. And this is why women never ask men out on dates in every culture because of these attitudes. And yes, we condemn man-eating women more often than men in the same manner with women. Another thing, we allow men to ask married, engaged, or committed women out on dates and/or have relationships with them as well and we glorify men fighting other men over women, not the other way around.

Men hate being objectified by women

Men hate being objectified by women because it hurts their egos. They want to be the boss. And you should never show interest in a man at first if you're a woman nor smile. You look slutty. Be a cold, aloof, mysterious, uninterested, unattainable, emotionally unavailable woman. Men like that a lot and will stalk you for it.


I hope this is sarcasm.

Because No means Yes.

Because No means Yes.


Does it just vary by biological sex? Will gay men ask more than gay women do, or does sexual orientation play a part as well?

I pay!

I pay for meals/food and some men are amazed. So far I haven't asked but I'm thinking of it to someone who is shy.

Re: homosexuals

Very good question.

The behavior of homosexuals can sometimes be particularly enlightening in that they do not have to compromise with the different reproductive strategies of the opposite sex. Thus, with the exception of sexual orientation itself, it can provide a window into each sexes preferences in "pure form."

Gay males tend to have far more sexual partners than do lesbians. Part of the reason may be that men are more willing to take risky initiatives to proposition someone.

Lesbians sometimes complain that no one is making the first move. There is also the term "lesbian bed death" in which sex becomes more infrequent in long term lesbian relationships -- again, perhaps in part because both are giving proceptive signals but are not making risky initiatives.

dating - women making first move

The simple fact is that in our screwed up patriarchal society a woman taking the initiative is a threat as women are meant to be mere vehicles for male line inheritance rather than sexual beings in their own right - so much blah blah we know but it still affects us. Remember it's not so long ago that women had no rights at all and weren't even supposed to enjoy sex. We live in the aftermath of this vast injustice where 'good girls' are still passive creatures waiting for men to make a move and bad girls ie transgressive of the staus quo, are deemed whores so asking a man out equals 'she's going to have sex on the first date' Every woman I know feels this and nobody wants to give that signal especially given the level of sexual violence out there - as in it's so easy to get a rape conviction. Add to that the whole power thing of being the asker not the askee - men would not want to give up that advantage.
But really the whole set up is ridiculous and simply means that interaction is prevented from being spontaneous. Anyone should be able to ask anyone else out, the end. I just wonder how many times a more outgoing woman has waited in vain for a shy guy to find the courage to ask whereas she could've broken the ice easily were it not for this crippling nonsense. What a bore....

I find it ironic that despite

I find it ironic that despite the feminist movement's outright hatred of woman being objectified, the majority of women who identify themselves as 'feminists' still prefer men to pursue them. The irony here is that the paradigm of men pursuing women is the one thing which initially puts women in the position of being objectified to begin with. I still place the majority of this blame on men though who seem to have a sexist attitude towards women who do make a first move on them (when that actually happens that is). I can tell you one thing however, this is an issue that more 'feminists' should take seriously, since most of their gender inequality concerns are initially fueled by this topic. Personally I'm shocked that this is still even an issue at all in the year 2012, let alone a major issue like it is.

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Michael Mills, Ph.D. is an associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


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