Sexism and Assertive Courtship Styles

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No big surprise here: A study published in Sex Roles found that when a man uses assertive tactics to get a woman into bed, he’s more likely to succeed if both he and the women hold sexist views about women and are generally open to casual sex. I come across lots of social science research for my book Unrequited (out from HarperCollins in Feb. 2015, just in time for Valentine’s Day!). I probably won’t use this study, because it’s about casual sex and my book is about women who want love. But I am interested in how we essentialize the male pursuer role in courtship — and this may hint at one reason why. If we believe men are better than women and should take care of women because they’re helpless, of course we’re going to want men to take the reins when it comes to initiating relationships, whether short term sex or something more serious. The researchers point out that there may be some scary implications to all this — male authority in sex and relationships can lead to rape culture thinking (“No means yes”) and other controlling and aggressive behavior.

I often come across arguments (usually in advice books) that men should take the lead in sex and relationships because it turns them off to be courted by a woman. Anecdotally, I’m sure most of us know of stories that disprove this. But it’s never been studied. Jeffrey A. Hall and Melanie Canterberry suggest that we might want to take a look at women’s assertive courtship strategies, men’s receptivity to them, and how these things relate to attitudes about men and women. A very good idea.