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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Why I Never Play Hard To Get

Why I Never Play Hard To Get

| On 09, Nov 2012

“When he calls, tell him you’re busy even if you’re not. Make him work for it.”

By far, the most popular relationship advice I never take.

“Don’t say ‘I love you’ first. Keep him guessing or you’ll come on too strong.”

Yup. I’ve done this zero times in my life.

“If you sleep with him tonight, he might think you’re a slut. Always leave him wanting more.”

In other words, good girls, say “No” even when you want to say “Yes”. He’ll get the idea.

The Dating Game. The Chase. Playing Hard To Get. All my life, I’ve been told that the best way to win a man’s Yes is to tell him No. Popular wisdom warns that a woman who veers from these guidelines is sure to meet a lonely doom, remembered only as “that desperate, clingy psycho who has sex on the first date.” And I’ll admit, in my loneliest moments, I’ve often wondered if my failure to follow the fold–bat my eyelashes, bow my head, and beat around the bush–was responsible for my solitude. But aloof never looked good on me. And, more importantly, it felt wrong–dishonest, inauthentic, manipulative. So I kept answering calls, saying ‘I love you’ when I damn well felt like it, and sleeping with men when I wanted to, without the whole ‘Oh my goodness! I never do this!’ apology.

Despite my adherence to the honesty policy, the dudes I dated still had trouble discerning my Nos from my Come On, Convince Mes. And the lines they crossed in theirs quests for Yes were darker because of it. When I turned to my friends, they repeated back the same advice as before, only slightly scrambled: “Well, what did you do to make him think you wanted it?”

And here’s why The Dating Game, The Chase, and Playing Hard To Get are all candy-coated pills of the same toxic poison: rape.

In her article No Means No: A Lesson In Consent For All Ages, Jackie Klein calls for the conversation on rape prevention to include a deeper discussion on the issue of consent, starting with educating children at a young age that No really does mean No. A few weeks after Klein’s post, Rhiannon posted a follow-up on the Feminspire vlog, elaborating: “I don’t know means No. I’m drunk means No. Maybe means No. I don’t seem into it means No.” In short, “Don’t try to convince me to sleep with you.”

Reading and watching Jackie and Rhiannon, a big F-shaped lightbulb went on in my head.

As politicians and pundits bicker about what makes rape “legitimate” and feminists worldwide don short skirts for SlutWalks, a stronger current is pulling us all back towards violence and violation. You can call it “patriarchy” or “misogyny.” I call it the entire Saved By the Bell Series, beloved romcoms like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and The Notebook (sorry, Feminist Ryan Gosling) and the plot of Pride and Prejudice: popular culture is woven together with stories of women who said No when they meant Yes, or in some cases, eventually meant Yes, after a little creative coaxing. When a man fights (with a boombox above his head) to overcome a woman’s objections, love is in the air. Media makers spin science to validate this Dating Do—even self-proclaimed liberated women defend their position as hard sought objects of pursuit, arguing that women who are communicative and upfront about their desires are just secretly insecure about their ability to keep a mate.

But that’s not how we put it when we pass this pill to each other. We dress it up and paint it pink: “Guys like a little chase. Don’t make it too easy for him,” followed up with a feel-good, “You’re worth it, girl.”

The unfortunate side effect of this poison is the implication that consent can exist between two people even when one says otherwise. This idea is the fount of victim-blaming and the seed from which Todd Akin grows his thought crop. When we structure romantic relationships so that one party is considered a prize of conquest, won only by someone strong enough to fight past objections and overcome enough Nos to reach the Holy Grail of Yes, how can we expect that this blurred view of consent won’t bleed into our sexual relationships, as well? If No means Maybe, I don’t know, I mean… at a bar, in a text, or on a date, when does it starting meaning No again?

When I asked a male friend of mine what he thought about Hard To Get, he told me: “Well, you know, there is a right and a wrong way to play Hard To Get.”

“Enlighten me!”

“It’s fine if she’s all Oh, I don’t know…I’ve been hurt before…let’s take it slow. But I hate when she lays it on too thick. Not just ‘hard’ to get—impossible to get!”

“You mean, when she’s really saying No?”

“Yeah! It really pisses me off. I’m a nice guy, so why does she have to be such a bitch?”

My friend played by the rules, fought hard for a woman’s attention, and thus felt entitled to his “prize.” His reaction to being “cheated” was to label the woman who refused her consent a “bitch.” Were he to say this to her directly, it would be a verbal assault. Were he to forcefully push on to get what he felt he had “earned,” it would be rape.

When we send the message that resistance is a form of flirtation—a strategic move in the game of love—we romanticize the imposition of one human being’s will on another. The building block of violence. By looking at love and sex as a game, a chase, a fight, we give violence our social permission, cultivate a rape culture, and throw consent out with the bathwater. If, as Rhiannon says “I don’t know means No. I’m drunk means No. Maybe means No. I don’t seem into it means No,” then that should apply to every aspect of the dating experience. Hard To Get and No Means No don’t—can’t—exist together. One lives in a world of conquest and the other of communication. And if you say No when you mean Yes or infer Yes from another person’s No, I’d say you’re not really communicating.

This is why I’m building on Jackie and Rhiannon’s conclusions about the importance of discussing consent in rape prevention to necessarily include a critical approach to how consent is treated and talked about in romantic relationships. We must ask ourselves if conquest has a place in modern love. Are games like Hard To Get helping us find companionship or hurting us by creating socially-approved  spaces where No is treated as a green light instead of a stop sign?

No, I don’t play hard to get. If I like you, you’ll know it. If I don’t like you, you’ll really know it. And if you decide to cross a line despite my big, hand-painted “No Trespassing” sign, we’ve got a problem.

Written by Rachael Kay Albers
Check out her blog!

  • Abigail Lewis

    I love this article. My boyfriend and I were talking recently about how well the beginning of our relationship worked (and still works) because neither of us are interested in playing mind games – we are both very honest and strong communicators of our feelings. This article adds another angle to that, an extremely important one.

  • Ceri

    I like this article though I’ve found that lately I’m playing hard to get. I’m so tired of chasing after men or women who enjoy playing with my feelings and the attention I’m giving them only to have my heart broken after way too long. Now I’m in the mindset of “Eff you! If you like me, you will bloody well show me. Or else, I’m not wasting my time anymore.”

    • someStarstuff

      That’s a bumpy, lonely road you’re headed for. Don’t take your rejections or emotional situations personally. Look at your experiences objectively and see what you can learn from them. What can you do differently next time? You are, after all, the only person you have control over. Just get up and do it again! Think of it like this. Your last quote sounds exactly like what an crotchety old man would say, doesn’t it? Don’t become him.

    • Vree

      No reason to go to the other extreme because you’ve been burnt, though I agree it’s a crappy experience to have to go through. Just remember that people who like you will act like they like you (if they’re worth it, anyway), and to follow it in turn, e.g. if you like someone behave as if they’re a cool person worth spending time with, and I think it covers both ends well.

    • 65snake

      Actually, I think you have a valid point, I was thinking somewhat the same thing as I read this.
      One aspect of “hard to get” is creating a situation in which the other person can demonstrate that they think that you are worth the effort, and that can be quite flattering.
      The problem with this, of course, is that it ends up being rather one sided, usually with the woman being hard to get and the man expected to make all the effort. One, it’s not really fair, and two, it can easily turn into actual unwanted attention when “not interested” is seen as “hard to get”.
      I am back on the dating scene myself, and this is one of the things that I consider when meeting someone – do they expect me to do all the work, or are they willing to meet me partway? Am I the one always initiating contact, or do they reach out to me if they don’t hear from me for a bit? I think balance is very important, and I hope you find yours. You should have someone who thinks highly enough of you to make an effort, but hopefully you won’t let your expectations become too much because you’ve been hurt.

    • Liane Graham

      I actually have no problem with playing hard to get, as long as you’re careful about which parts of you are hardest to get at. It should be your heart.

    • igottasayL0L

      Believe me, you are not alone in preferring that mindset, but it may be slightly less than constructive when you understand that everyone is an individual. The people who may fancy you in the future are not the jerks that hurt you in the past, and they don’t deserve to be treated as such. You also may want to consider that romantic relationships require leaps of faith, trust, and bravery for everyone involved, and it’s not fair to expect the other person to do 100% of the heavy lifting. We ALL have baggage, and we all have to take control of it if we want to take advantage of future opportunities. Wouldn’t it be sad if you met a truly compatible guy or girl, but then you parted ways without ever knowing because you both said “eff you, if you like me, you’ll pursue me?” This isn’t romanticism, it’s just logic. Think about it.

  • Sully

    I remember when I first started dating my fiancé (four years ago now!), he told me that if a woman tells a man she likes him before he makes a move, he’ll stop liking her. I thought this was supremely stupid, so I told my dad about it in a can-you-believe-he-said-that-roll-eyes fashion, but my dad actually told me he thinks that’s true! I definitely want to break that train of thought in the next generation. It’s really stupid, like teaching women that speaking up makes them unattractive.
    And seriously, if I hadn’t been direct about my feelings when I started dating my fiancé, it would’ve taken forever for our relationship to become more serious, because who wants to risk rejection by asking out someone who has given no indication that they like you?

    • Basketcase

      Ha, My husband and I would still not be dating if I hadnt made ALL the moves to kick off our relationship. So this advice fails for me! Perhaps though, this is why people have this perception that “nice guys finish last”? My husband was far too nice and shy to ever have said anything unless he was certain.

    • Tom

      I have been in online discussions of this nature before, and some men have said they believe/will behave like this. Similarly, some men will say out loud that women who “put out” on a first date are fine to date, but aren’t real relationship material. This of course conveniently ignores that they, the men, were present for that sexual encounter too, so does that mean that the men aren’t relationship material either? Hypocrites.

      That said, I do think it is possible to come on too strong too soon with the whole “let’s take this to the next level” and that isn’t limited to one gender, either in doing it or reacting badly to it.

  • Anjasa

    It really is no wonder that people get so muddied and confused about when it’s consensual sex, and when people are really into it. There are all sorts of these little mixed messages, and I think it confuses everyone.

    Not to mention breeding antagonism between the genders can’t possibly be a positive thing.

  • Lauren

    It’s fascinating to me because I’m recently divorced and back in the dating game, and I am failing miserably because I refuse to do this. I’m an honest and open person. I don’t believe in playing games, and the games confuse me anyway. If I like someone, I tell them. And apparently this is now perceived as “coming on too strong” and is INTIMIDATING? My friends are convinced I push people away by being too forward. My gosh, I’m not saying, “Hello, nice to meet you, let’s screw.” I’m saying things like, “We’ve been talking for awhile and I think you’re interesting. Let’s get drinks sometimes.” How is this intimidating? I think you hit the nail on the head.

    • Miriam Mogilevsky

      You’re not failing. You’re just pushing away the people who’d make terrible partners.

      I know that’s probably not much of a consolation, but seriously, you’re better off for it.

      • vintermann

        I wish this were true, but I doubt it. Most well-adjusted people play this game, and most of us who don’t play it (me included!) – well, at best you could say we aren’t entirely at wavelength with society.

        I think that individually, we are better off from acting out or gender roles in the dating game, but collectively we are worse off.

        • Tim

          “I think that individually, we are better off from acting out or gender
          roles in the dating game, but collectively we are worse off.” — I think you have captured the absolute essence of the problem here. For a woman whose overriding concern is to avoid being stigmatised as “easy”, the best strategy is to always say “No” at first, even to guys she would like to say “Yes” to, and to hope that both sets of guys (those she likes and those she doesn’t) interpret her “No” the way she intends. For a man whose overriding concern is to have sex and/or a committed relationship with a particular woman, the best strategy is to keep pursuing the woman even if she says “No”, because who knows — she might really mean “Yes”.

          The end result for all women: they are left with no unambiguous way to say “No”, and the resulting threat of harassment or worse. The end result for all men: they don’t know how they are supposed to respond to “No”.

    • David

      Please keep it up! Honesty and clarity of this level are such rare traits in most people, that when I meet someone who is upfront, honest, and direct, I’m in awe, I’m touched, I’m inspired. I have also been accused of coming on too strongly (too romantically of all things!) and then later realized that the person making the accusation just wasn’t ready for full, open communication. In your case, it’s probably the same thing. Someone who deserves your attention will be confident and grounded enough to say, “Hey, I like you too, but here’s where I’m at – can we meet somewhere in the middle?” or something like it.

      • Sarah__B

        I have to say, this creeps me out a little. I have heard the same thing from someone who was stalking someone he dated for a week – 6 months later. (I am not saying this is you, though!) Sometimes people aren’t afraid of “full, open communication” especially when it is “too romantic” (why do you say, of all things?) they are just not interested. There’s a middle ground between playing hard to get and declaring your massive boner.

      • Kerrie B. Wrye

        There you go_ “then later realized that the person making the accusation just wasn’t ready for full, open communication” _ this is another trap. The double-speak, or the mind game_ listening to one another is an art that seems to take a lifetime to learn, isn’t it?

    • Happymess

      If someone’s turned off by your angle, the likelihood that you’d be able to see eye to eye sounds low to me. Screw that, no sense in wasting your time.

    • poorna banerjee

      Well, the truth is, you are doing the right thing, and trust me, the men who are getting intimidated by it are not the right kind for you. You will meet someone strong and open minded. I met my boyfriend on the net, dated him for a while, and told him yes very honestly. He and I are together for a long time now, and he has told me countless times that the first thing that attracted me to him was my honesty and sense of discrimination. I hope you meet someone nice too!

      • loebas

        “The men who are getting intimidaded by it are not the right kind”: That’s a mantra to hide your own flaws.

    • Jenn

      Dating after divorce is so different then when you were younger. You are more sure of yourself and the pool you get to date from has a much higher percentage of people with issues. There is some bit of truth to – the good ones get taken.

    • Mike

      It’s not intimidating. If you’re being forward, you’re essentially approaching dating like a man traditionally does, and men get shot down all the time.

      This feeling you have – that’s what most men have always had to deal with all the time.

  • Salvör Bergmann

    I’ve been out dancing many times and I notice a guy staring me down and trying to grind, and I literally avoid him, ignore him, look straight at him and shake my head with a I’m-not-playing face, push him away while mouthing “no” and move over way to the other side of the dance-floor… and he just gets more excited. What the *beep*? It’s sad really, he actually doesn’t understand. He really doesn’t.

    • marlatt’s lover

      If you’re just looking to dance, try a gay club. Much less of that goes on. I know a lot of straight women who go to gay clubs for that reason.

      • Meisha Virtue

        I do the same thing, but isn’t it just sad that women have to enter gay male spaces in order to not be sexually harassed or assaulted?

        It’s also worth pointing out that many straight men are now entering gay clubs in order to meet the straight women there. I have stopped dancing at queer bars just to get away from these dorks.

      • Happymess

        Clubgoers at gay clubs dance better, anyway :’D

      • Christa R Ansbergs

        Or a goth club. Us goths go to clubs to be alone together! I’ve never been inappropriately hit on at a goth club. I have occasionally been hit on (hell I met my spouse at one!) but always in a polite and not-pushy way. The ONE time I went to a regular dance club it was just like you’re talking about, the random dude grinding on the dance floor and not taking a hint.

  • Roberto

    There’s a great line from the book The Ethical Slut. I can’t be bothered to look it up, but it goes something like this: women have the idea that it’s not OK to be easy. But we see no virtue in being difficult.

    • Guest

      But some of them do see virtue in being difficult. That’s part of the whole point here.

  • Helena

    I am in my 50s and I absolutely hate the whole ‘playing hard to get game’. I’ve always avoided mind games and stupid lies preferring to be honest about my feelings. Sadly, in the end, nearly all my friends who played mind games and acted hard to get (and quite frankly were very controlling) are married or in long term successful relationships. I on the other hand am alone and have never been married. Honesty never got me anywhere with men, but I guess I’d rather be alone than be manipulative.

    • ali

      good for you. you say they’re in “successful” relationships, but if they’re essentially living a dishonest life (with themselves and their partners, if that’s how they’ve had to act to “get” them), it doesn’t seem that successful to me – I’d rather live life your way.

      • jonathon wisnoski

        Playing hard to get on the first date, which eventually leads to marriage is a far throw from living a lie.

        • Kerrie B. Wrye

          Please clarify what this means.

          • Jet Spygul

            It means if you learned to communicate effectively, though you may have messed around or whatever on the first few dates, is still living an honest life.

        • Dana

          What else are these women suppressing about themselves instead of letting their husbands see who they really are?

          Bet that never occurred to you, did it? One of the major lamentations I hear from men when relationships end is about how she “changed” at the end. No, she didn’t change. She got tired of lying.

    • Pat

      If they’re in successful relationships, then it’s not sad at all. As a man, I can tell you we’ve been conditioned to the “chase” game. I hate it myself, but it’s very clear that many women hide their true feelings by playing hard to get. So, both the men and women of the successful marriages you mentioned participating in this game, but this game, at least most of it, should have ended once they began dating long term. If it did not, then that’s a different story.

      As for why you’re unsuccessful, I am not sure. Honesty is important but a healthy relationship carries many other factors. Regardless, I admire your choice to be honest than manipulative. I wish more women were like you. As for men enjoying the chase, I can tell you I hate it and most of my male friends hate it, but I know there are some out there that to get a thrill from it, unfortunately. I just don’t think they’re anywhere near the majority.

      • Isa

        I agree, I think that’s where the chase game becomes unproductive – once you’ve nailed a relationship, you ease out of it for the long term. Whereas during the chase itself, if you are too up front and honest, you tend to scare guys away, or only attract guys that figure they only wanted a short-term thing anyways so they can put up with it for a little bit – it stands to reason that no one, when they first meet you, want to know all about all of your little flaws and craziness all at once – it’s better to ease them in.

        • Keti

          That’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s not saying no to turn them on, it’s saying no to see if they’ll stick around to ask again. Because there are few things worse than saying yes to someone you were hoping would stick around and having them bail the next morning (or 15 minutes later).

          • Isa

            Exactly! If you say no, and they never call again, then you thank your lucky stars & your wisdom for not having said yes!

          • Pickaname

            Maybe they never call again because they truly and completely respect your no and choose not to see it as a yes that just need a little convincing, not because they weren’t interested in pursuing a long term relationship.

          • Isa

            That seems a little ridiculous. If they were truly interested in a long-term relationship, they would understand that the “no,” taking into account in this scenario you are already on a date and there is the possibility of sex, means that you do not want to have sex right now and not that no you do not want to ever see them again. There is convincing (proving themselves worthy for your yes) and there is pressuring (come on, don’t you mean yes? and otherwise verbally harassing you) – not the same thing.

          • Edd Macdonald

            I disagree, the topic is the non negotiable “no”, when you give one don’t expect a call back. “Not tonight”, or “not yet” are different stories, but when you get a “no” the best thing to do is respect that they are not interested and move on.
            The whole idea that someone has to prove themselves worthy belongs in a fairy tale somewhere, and is a crappy way to treat someone you are interested in. If you are interested, say so, it doesn’t mean you have to give consent right away, but it’s not that difficult to let someone know they are welcome to ask again later.

          • Isa

            But in that case I don’t think you would end up with the hazy scenario of delivering a non-negotiable “no” to someone that then doesn’t call again even though you want them to (or else you wouldn’t have delivered that sort of no). “Playing hard to get” doesn’t mean “showing zero interest”; it just means that if you’re really, really into a guy and you want it to work out as more than a fling, it’s better for you not to be making all the moves since ensuring a give-and-take at the beginning makes a give-and-take later seem more likely. Anyone who thinks “playing hard to get” means acting totally disinterested is clearly missing the point – it just means acting interested enough (but not throwing yourself at the guy even if you want to!) and waiting to see equal interest before showing more. If you make it clear that you’re willing to do all of the work/go all the way/are 100% blindly into this guy, there’s a much higher probability that you get taken advantage of.

          • Edd Macdonald

            No thanks, if you can’t start with honest communication, I don’t think it’s likely later either.
            I find people do their best to live up to expectations, I expect people to be honest and they generally are. Expect people to be douchebags, and that’s what you’ll generally find,

          • kristen inDallas

            Honesty is great. But your argument almost sound like you expect women to be honest about things they don’t know yet. I tried dating this guy who told me he didn’t like to play games and valued honesty in terms of whether someone liked him or not. That sounded great in the 1st conversation. By the 3rd conversation though, it was clear that he meant that he expected me to know enough about him to give him a flat “I don’t like you” or a flat “lets make out.” If a guy classifies anyone who wants to get to know him before making up her mind about him as a “game player,” he’s not gonna get very far with sane adult women.

          • zman7777

            Sure,throwing yourself 100% blindly into a guy would be dumb, but the problem with playing hard to get (women push it to far) is that the guy starts to feel like he is having to do 80% of the work to get something started and then he thinks–a good healthy relationship should this difficult !

          • purplehue

            Agreed Isa. A girl would not go on a second, third, etc date if she was not into a guy. Girls are investing their time and energy into the guy as well. Men are not the only ones who are ‘wasting their time’ if it doesn’t work out. Girls just want a man who is willing to commit instead of throwing themselves into bed with the first jerk who comes along. Why would a guy want to get married if he is already getting all the same benefits of a husband without the hassle? Not to mention, the more people you sleep with during dating, the more likely you are to bring a damaged psychie and disease into your future marriage with the one guy who actually was patient enough to wait for you. Sure shows your husband you were willing to wait for him and show him that same level of respect, doesn’t it? To be with numerous people in dating is just selfish. Takes the special moments away from future husbands/wives.

          • Isa

            And I think “proving yourself worthy” is something that belongs on both sides – if he (or she) doesn’t call now when he says he will, and you, instead of realizing that you might be wasting your time on someone who probably won’t end up being worth your while later, put up with it, then the douchebag will realize that he can treat you like crap and you’ll put up with it and voilà! You’re wasting your time, which isn’t really better than being alone.

          • tutto

            It sounds like we need to be more clear about what kind of “no” we mean – no, I don’t know you well enough yet to decide if I want to have a sexual relationship with you; no, I don’t want to have sex with you because I think it’s too early in the relationship; no, I don’t want to have sex with you because I don’t find you attractive (in which case, why am I out on a date with you in the first place?). But I think we need to stop seeing female sexuality as a prize that men work for, and start seeing both male and female sexuality as part of bond formation and maintenance. I think it takes time to form a healthy stable bond (if that’s what you want), and I don’t think having sex is the first step in that process.

          • purplehue

            The problem with what you said is that by saying, “Not tonight,” or “not yet”, you hear, “Ok, then sometime tomorrow or next week”. It still sounds ‘easy’ from the girl’s perspective. If the girl wants a good guy, she has to say ‘no’ straight up and see how long the guy is really willing to wait. The best guys are the ones who say, “It’s no problem. That’s not my priority right now. My priority is getting to know you, and you wait as long as you need until you feel comfortable enough and feel that this is right for you”. It’s a matter of respecting a woman enough to let her call the shots.

          • Tom

            Taking into account that you are already on a date means nothing in terms of prospects for the end of the evening, if “No Means No” is to have any meaning whatsoever. Indeed, going out on several dates and continuing to hear No sounds an awful lot like the other person gave you the benefit of the doubt for tonight, but that the evening is only solidifying their opinion that it’s not going to work out after all. In the more extreme cases, one might get the impression that one is being taken advantage of.

            All of the above can be prevented with a little honesty. If you find the person interesting, then say so. That doesn’t mean you have to fling yourself at them, to express love and devotion on a second date, nor to jump in the sack when you aren’t ready. It just means tell the truth, and don’t play head games. And yes, wanting a person to prove themselves “worthy” when you are already interested in them is a head game.

          • purplehue

            I can be interested in someone, but if they go digging into my pants the first time I make out with them, then they are not very ‘worthy’ in my book. That’s disrespectful. Men need to ask and not assume it’s their right to just take what is not theirs. And if a man is doing that to me and taking off my clothes on a first date, how many other women has he done this to? That has SLEEZEBAG written in big bold letters on it. That jerk has a LOT more worthiness to prove, especially after a bad move like that…

          • Dana

            If they were interested in a long-term relationship, they should be spending that time with you getting to know you as a person, not asking you for sex when they barely know who you are.

            The sex should be a bonus, not the main point of the relationship. What are you going to do if you have a freak accident, lose a certain body part, and she leaves you because she can’t do that with you anymore–or the more common and likely ED that men tend to suffer as they get older? What’ll she do if she gains weight after a pregnancy and you suddenly find her repulsive?

            If all you want is to get laid then by all means, you’re an adult and I am not going to tell you how to handle that one except for “don’t rape people.” But it isn’t good for women to have a baby a year *anyway* so you need to base a longer-term relationship on everything *else* you find awesome about her. So NO, there shouldn’t be any reason for her to be “convinced” about anything from you. You should have both established trust long before the sex question came up.

          • Tom

            Yeah, sure. So then what do you do with the ones you truly aren’t interested in ever seeing again, but who take your No to mean they need to prove they are willing to stick it out through your test period? Oh, right: you get mad at them and call them clueless douchebags for not taking your hints. Even though they are doing exactly the same thing as the ones that you are interested in and you’re hoping will stick around to pass your test.

            You are expecting some men to just know that for them, No means Go Away, while other men should just know that No means Keep Trying. And then you wonder why nobody takes your No to mean what it says.

            If you mean Not Tonight, then say Not Tonight. If you mean No, then say No — and expect not to get any more calls from that person as a result. But if you mean Not Tonight but say No, and then get all bent out of shape because he actually believed what you said and followed it, then you are an idiot who richly deserves the de-facto dumping you just told him to give you.

          • Kristen inDallas

            the difference is between “playing” hard to get and “being” hard to get. Being hard to get is saying no and meaning it, because you want a man who’s willing to stick around regardless of how much he’s getting, and only say yes after someone has proved his worth. Playing hard to get is saying no in order to appear to be the high-integrety woman described above as a kind of a con, saying yes after someone has sufficiently plyed your will.
            #1 = good, #2 = bad. As women we should be careful not to pretend that everyone wants to have sex with a guy they like right away. Pretending women who are hard to get are the same as women who play hard to get is just as toxic as playing hard to get.

          • Tom

            I disagree. Whether you are “being” hard to get or only playing at it, what you are doing is expecting the other person to go to great lengths to demonstrate interest in you, while withholding your own interest in them. That’s hypocritical and manipulative.

          • Piotr

            Not only that; it’s degrading to both parties. The man who may feel like he has to beg for affection and the woman who doesn’t respect her own feelings enough to pay attention to them.

          • Linda

            You, sir, and the rest of the group (to be fair) are missing a valuable point. What about the idea that one can want to have sex with someone, but enforces the “no” because he or she feels that uncommitted sex is inappropriate? How does this sort of no play into your notion of hard to get?

            I can be very interested in someone but will say no because no sort of commitment has been made. That is the true meaning of hard to get. A person should want someone who is hard to get because that generally means the person understands the value of this most sacred (not in a religious sense) act of sharing.

            The degrading of intimacy into a mere “good way of showing how interested” one is furthers our retreat into barbarity.

          • Tim

            For people like yourself who feel that uncommitted sex is inappropriate, I suggest saying something like “I’m the kind of person who is interested in a long-term relationship, not casual sex” instead of “No” if you want the man in question to keep trying. (If you just say “No”, how is the man supposed to discern your “No [but try again later!]” from other women’s “No [and don't come back!]“?)

            “A person should want someone who is hard to get” — A person *can* want that, but there is no obligation. For me, and for many people (especially men, but also many women), sex can be just an enjoyable activity between people who find each other attractive, without any long-term commitment. It only becomes damaging/disrespectful if one person knowingly misleads the other into believing that they intended something more, in order to persuade them to have sex.

        • BrittanyLouis

          I’ve never scared away a guy by being honest. If anything my relationships now are fuller and more fulfilling after leaving behind childish behavior. I meet men who are also not interested in playing the game and I get to be in a relationship with someone who is always honest and have significantly better relationships.

      • vintermann

        It’s not sad for people in successful relationships that started like this. It’s sad for society that a game with negative social implications continues to be played.

        It’s also sad for individuals who are being aggressively pursued against their will (stalked, harassed or worse), and individuals who get no affection because they can’t or won’t play the game.

    • Dana

      I’ve been married, and I certainly did not play hard to get with him, though I’m not sure why he wanted to be married and I suspect money had a lot to do with it. (We were both military at the time. You get an extra allowance in your pay for housing if you get married.) But I haven’t been able to get married again since we split. There are lots of reasons for that, some having nothing to do with men at all, and I might have had problems with relationships regardless. But it doesn’t help me in the slightest to know that while I am rewarded for chasing a guy by being written off as “too easy”, I have to listen to men complaining that they never know what a woman wants. Probably the same ones who reject “easy” women.

      They really create their own problems. Won’t even consider a woman who’s ready to be with them, then go and rape a woman and maybe get arrested (and therefore put on a sex offender registry) for their trouble. It makes me smile to hear them call feminists “man-haters.” They hate themselves worse than anyone else possibly could.

  • thisistheplace

    I would take this one step further – we are teaching our child that if he doesn’t want to be touched by ANYONE, he says no. That way, he understands that bodies are to be respected as each individual’s preference takes precedence over his own. We live in a culture where we force children to accept unwanted touch from friends, family members and strangers thus creating an idea that if someone you like tells you you SHOULD be touched in a way that’s uncomfortable for you, you should just go with it. That’s very wrong. Little girls AND little boys need to be truly taught by their parents that their bodies are theirs and they have rights. This is the first step in giving adult men and women acceptable tools to combat this awful standard of living where no means yes because we were taught that if someone we care about says yes, we should maybe follow through, regardless of the discomfort.

    • smartygirl

      We’re teaching our son that too, although sometimes I think he doesn’t want to learn (he’s 5). When we’re having a “tickle fight,” if he says “Stop,” I always stop and make a point of saying, “Ok, if you ask me to stop, I will. It’s important to listen and respect what people say.” Hoping he’ll return the favour soon!

      • Naomi

        Children have a hard time controlling their impulses – it gets better with age!

        • Reynard

          Not necessarily true at all. Lots of adults have serious problems with impulse control.

          • PapaBear

            I would suggest a lot of the impulse control issues in adults would stem from childhood learning ultimately also.

          • Dana

            That’s an issue with the individual person’s development, not a truism for all people overall. If no one were capable of developing into better impulse control, I doubt our species would have survived this long. Even wild animals learn impulse control as they mature.

            There are probably ways we can influence better self-control in kids without taking a dictatorial stance in our parenting, but clearly some of us are more interested in labeling human beings as inherently evil than in learning what works and what doesn’t. I guess being lazy is one method of self-control but in my experience, it doesn’t lead to much that is good.

      • Kerrie B. Wrye

        “Hoping he’ll return the favour soon!” Empower him with the tools to cope and apply the awareness you can help him to grow into understanding are always his choices to make responsibly, in the context of self-respect that does not leave out respect for others and the choices that they make for themselves.

      • hh

        My parents did that with my brother and me, not just for tickling, but for any physical play. Good for you!

    • Carly

      I really appreciate this sentiment. My parents taught my brother and myself the same thing.

    • loebas

      These rules are made up in your mind. People are animals at the end of the day.

      • Zeinah Zaki


      • BrittanyLouis

        That’s cool. If we’re all animals, does this mean I can bite you or maim you if you pass my comfort zone? I mean, I’m only protecting myself. What if I decide to violently kill you because you were trying to hump me like the animal you are? I mean, that’s what the animals do. What if my mother comes at you with a steak knife for violating me? She’s just responding to the motherly instinct to protect her young, a lioness protecting her cub?

        If that reaction seems, I dunno OVER THE TOP, it’s because we are not animals. We have higher reasoning, and brain capacity than our wild mammalian friends do not have. Do we have animal instincts? Sure, but we have the higher brain function to distinguish between our wanton impulses. Use your fucking brain and recognize that NO means NO.

        • Bryan Jeffries

          @ loebas: your relativistic cop-out serves no real purpose in this convo

          @ BrittanyLouis: your argument isnt all that useful either… there are FEW things that set us apart from other animals. a short list: self deception, bloodlust, hubris… i’ll spare you the rest. the point is that, yes, we are ABSOLUTELY animals. not with the negative connotation you attach to being an ‘animal’, of course. however, we are animals, and to assume otherwise is naive and perpetuates the long standing belief that humans are somehow more important than the myriad lifeforms on this planet.

          not trying to be a dick. just sayin’… i disagree with both of you.

          i do agree with one thing tho… no definitely means no. there’s no such thing as hard to get in my mind.

          • wiserd911

            Humans are capable of living according to laws. It’s part of why our communities are scalable into nations, while other large mammals are limited mostly to packs. We can communicate to an extent that is unparalleled in the animal world. Respecting common standards and honing our ability to communicate reduces the violence which would otherwise be required to maintain a stable social structure. It helps remove people’s egos from the equation. It makes our world better.

            Jane Goodall has described what amounts to chimp warfare/genocide, infantacide, cannibalism, etc. So Brittany is right that we share those negative qualities with animals.

            Humans may be animals in some ways. But we really do have a few positive gifts that animals simply don’t, at least not to the extent that humans do. We can do things that they can’t match. When people say that humans are not animals, typically they’re suggesting that we use those gifts that differentiate us to improve our situation.

          • wiserd911

            … this site is eating my posts… grr.

        • Dana

          We *are* animals. Unless you’re a quartz crystal or a pine tree or something and failed to warn the class. I know *I’m* not though. Cells without cell walls? Check. Multicellular? Check. Breathes in oxygen, breathes out carbon dioxide? Check. Bilateral symmetry? Yep. (Though some animals have radial symmetry.) It’s all here, hoss.

          Way to show off your bigotry against other-than-human animals, too. And I can’t help thinking that we wouldn’t have to argue about this stuff now if we’d been smart like the other animals and weeded the rapists out early, in exactly the manner you’re describing. I mean, you’re trying to tell us all that it is logic and higher reasoning for a social animal to allow one of its species that is behaving in an antisocial way to continue living, continue being part of the “troop”, and continue harming other members of that “troop.”

          And keep thinking like that and our great-granddaughters will keep having to have this conversation and wondering why nothing ever gets any better.

      • Dana

        All animals have rules about mating. Either they are hardwired through instinct or they are taught through culture–yes, we are not the only animal with culture. Rape exists in only a few animal species that I am aware of, and right now I’m only aware of two: us, and dolphins, which have almost if not as much capacity for “higher reasoning” as we have.

        And if that’s what we do with “higher reasoning” *looks meaningfully at Brittany* then I’ll take dumb instinct any day. Clearly many men are too stupid to understand when it’s OK to mate and when it isn’t, without Nature directing their every step.

        • Jessika R Fialho

          Actually, rape has been observed amongst bonobos as well. Sex is a very social aspect of the bonobos (not just for reproductive purposes) and is usually consensual. The rapist bonobos are usually dragged off and killed by the other males of the group.

        • Marzia Bì.
        • Ettina

          It depends how you define rape. A lot of arthropods have very dangerous sexual encounters, where the female tries to attack or even eat the male and he has to trick/force her to mate instead. Scorpions, for example, the male battles the female until he can grab and restrain her pincers. Then he drops a sperm packet and drags her until her genital opening is above his sperm packet, at which point she is impregnated. By human standards, that would be rape, but it’s normal for scorpions.

    • Wendy

      get the book called “its MY body”. that book reinforces everything you’re teaching your child.

  • brookswift

    It’s funny that men’s dating advice is also all about not appearing “desperate” or “needy” by also being aloof, sometimes going so far as to say that the definition of female attraction is the aloofness of the man.

  • Erynn Schwellinger

    I’ve always felt these games to be stupid. How does one conduct a relationship based on dishonesty? This adds layers that make a lot of worrying sense.

  • YahooSerious

    funny, today I was just thinking of a woman I had chased for two years, and if i saw her today I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have any interest in even saying hello because of the way she treated the situation.

  • LM Lockhart

    I absolutely agree that mind games and playing hard to get are stupid and worthless; however, in defense of some breed of RomComs, I DO think there are situations where someone might not be interested in a relationship with someone and might very well be later.
    My husband and I were friends long before we ever dated. In many ways, it played out like a lot of RomComs. I was the artsy, elusive girl with self-esteem issues that led her to pick guys who were awful to her, he was the kind/gentle guy she should have always been with. And eventually, we did end up together when I loved myself enough to pick the right guy, and we both ended up unbelievably happy and fulfilled by it. I told him in my wedding vows: “You’re everything I didn’t know I needed.”
    So, personally, I think the RomCom, “hang around while someone messes up a few times with other people, because maybe they’ll realize you’re actually who they need” storyline is completely plausible. However, there is a big difference between “Woman saying no when she actually means yes,” and “Woman saying no but one day she’ll realize she was an idiot after a lot of personal growth” mean yes. I also personally never advise that my male friends hang around until that artsy finally figures her shit out, because life is too short for that. ;)

    • Jason

      yeah, i was thinking the same thing. if a woman says “no” to me for romance or sex (which, of course, i totally respect), but we seem to get along well, i find it odd that they usually then think that we can’t be friends. if, after some time of friendship and maybe my genuine support during a crisis or two, she and i both think that maybe there’s something more there, i don’t think that qualifies as a conquest on my part…rather it qualifies as her learning more about me and slowly changing her mind. thanks for bringing that up!

    • Lana

      There’s also a huge difference between “stick around because you think the person’s cool and want them as a purely platonic friend, too, even without any hopes of involvement,” and “stick around because you’re hoping to wear them down until they give up and sleep with you but you’d never actually stick around if you didn’t want to stick it in them and you’re desperate for whatever drips of contact you can get until then.”

      I have never ever seen a romantic comedy make the distinction, however. In my experience they’ve always cast the unrequited piner in a romantic-noble-suffering light, and somehow the piner is never creepy, like they usually are in real life. Relationships for sure change over time, and I won’t blame anyone for harboring feelings they can’t control (though one can still control one’s actions), but that one-sided depiction gets tiresome after a while.


  • GG

    I have the same results as Lauren and Helena. I express interest, and the man runs away. I’ve given up.

    • zpct04

      Do you really need a man who runs away after this? Think about this as a natural filtering :)

  • Pingback: WHY I NEVER PLAY HARD TO GET-by Rachael Kay Albers | aafteota

  • Debbi

    I believe there should be country-wide lessons starting in elementary school for children on how dating is not about conquest. About what consent means. Teaching the meaning of sex as having value as communication and love between two people, not something a girl “gives up” to a guy who “gets it”… and such other sex-imbalanced stereotypes i could name more language derived assumptions. The language around sex, and dating, needs to change. The assumptions around no meaning maybe and then eventually changing to yes and such need to change.

    • starbuck

      Although I agree with you that yes, education is an important key, I do not agree with dumping more responsibilities on our teachers. Why is it that every time a social issue is found, people scream for our teachers to educate our children on it? They have enough on their plate as it is. Teachers do not exist purely to pick up the slack where the village is failing.

      • marlatt’s lover

        I know a number of people who go into schools to run workshops on such topics… Teachers can’t specialize in everything… get those versed in sex politics and working with youth in the community to do it. That would still qualify as “in school” and I think sex ed is important. This should be a mandatory aspect of it.

        • Kerrie B. Wrye

          There’s the Planned Parenthood debate again_ what KIND of sex ed. Don’t get this reponse wrong, I agree with sex ed., just as much as education is also missing out by not providing driver’s ed., and civics classes! Not to mention all of the arts! :)

          • marlatt’s lover

            I said to get someone versed in “sex politics” because they should be most equipped to teach a more complete version of sex ed than I got in H.S.: one that talks about consent in depth, one that talks about sexual boundaries and the psychological safety of all parties in a sexual incounter and not just physical safety, and one that acknowledges LGBT experiences and the different needs of LGBT people when it comes to safe(r) sex… with some special attention paid to trans* experience as transphobia is even more rampant than homophobia and biphobia (even in the queer community). That’s not to say that knowing some about STDs, protecting yourself from STDs, contraceptive options, and the details of conception aren’t important: they are just not enough. Is my vision of sex ed idealistic? Yes, but I think it could be done.

      • Kerrie B. Wrye

        I really hear Debbi’s suggestion as one that starts in the home. Yes, she is using the words ‘teaching’ and ‘education’ yet parents also are quite capable of these acts within their own families.

      • igottasayL0L

        I would argue that Debbi’s comment is actually one that calls for a culture-wide shift, not just an educational reform. Yes, teachers would need to be a part of it, but so would parents, politicians, religious groups, and most importantly of all, the media. The discourse we’re stuck in as a culture that surrounds dating and sex is fundamentally patriarchal and flawed, and no, it’s not the fault of any one influence.

  • D

    It is not humanly possible for me to agree with you more.

  • G

    And here I thought it’s all part of the Darwinian process of sexual selection, a test to weed out the ‘bad’ from the highly ‘exceptional’. If not this then is there a better method? Don’t want our species to devolve into dumb losers now.

  • dancingdoggy

    What if you’re naturally introverted about your feelings? I’m shy and it’s really hard to get me to talk about myself, or to express what I want in a relationship. I never lie, and if guys ask specific questions, like “do you want X?” I can be honest about it. But so often, they ask, “what are you looking for? What do you want?” And I’ve known him for a day, so I’m just like… a deer in the headlights. It’s hard for me to express myself to my family and close friends, much less a guy I’m interested in. What does this mean about me?

    • Liane Graham

      That’s totally and completely OKAY. That’s who you are. There’s something to be said before taking your time before opening up, as long as it’s based on mutual respect and patience on both sides. As long as it comes from a genuine place of doing what’s right for you because that’s how you want it, and it’s not some stupid, outdated form of game playing, there’s nothing wrong with taking your time.

    • igottasayL0L

      There’s definitely something to be said for the ability to articulate what you’re looking for in a relationship, in a general sense, without waiting for someone to ask you 50 yes-or-no questions. That said, if you’re not sure what you want, it’s probably better to say so instead of making things up (not that you do, but just saying).

      I think communication is very important, even with someone you’ve only known a day. You can always say “well, I’d eventually like to find a long-term relationship, but is it alright if we wait until we’ve been friends for a little while before we have this discussion?” Or something similar.

  • anonymous

    Seems like you need some new friends. If your friend were more thoughtful, experienced or both, he might have replied with something like this:

    “There are a couple problems with ‘playing hard to get.” First, acting something other than what you feel is not a good way to go about the beginning (or middle, or end) of a romance. That said, availability is at core of the nature of value. Actually being hard to get is attractive: we all want what we cannot have. And this applies both ways – men to women, women to men, hir to hir, etc. It’s complicated.”

    So is it a game? Yes, of course it is. Flirtation, a back and forth – these are part of the complex mating rituals of the human species. And let’s face it, they’re fun.

    We can resolve this in two ways. First, instead of defining all the things that mean “No,” let’s define yes: only Yes means yes. Second, let’s acknowledge that a give and take are not going to go away, but let’s teach our children that it needs to stop before things get sexual. Yes, this is more complex than a simple “Just say yes or just say no” policy, but love, sex, relationships: these are complicated things. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

    • Kate

      re: wanting what you can’t have. If you can’t have it, then you can’t have it. When it comes to dating, the only true “can’t have” scenario is one where the other person DOES NOT WANT YOU. As in NO. As in they will never, ever say YES. Seeing this as a challenge to obtain it anyway is a core principle to this article – it is a fundamental building block to rape, and completely ignores the wishes of the other person. If we are to define only yes as yes, then everything else is no because yes and no are unilaterally opposed. So you must have no, along with yes. no means no and yes means yes.

      • fakefighter

        I’ll say that the ‘wanting what you can’t have’ attitude applies to both genders. I’ve seen both women and men being drawn to it. It’s gendered differently for men, as it’s more about men being emotionally unavailable than being hard to get sexually (ie ‘wanting the bad boy’ and so on.)

  • John C. Randolph

    I’ve always had a policy of being very easy to get rid of. There have been several occasions where a girl got really bent out of shape because she stalled me and I opted out of the game.

  • tree

    “the plot of Pride and Prejudice”

    Pardon? In what universe does the plot of Pride and Prejudice involve playing hard to get?

    • Hello?

      Is that all you got from the article?

      • tree

        What I got from the article was nothing I didn’t already know and, frankly, it wasn’t presented in a compelling enough way for me to have anything to say about it. However, I saw a factual error and commented on it because factual errors bug me.

        • Lemur


        • Ian Williamson

          Ok dork

  • anon


  • Zinda

    …Author clearly has never read the book Pride & Prejudice, but only saw the Keira Knightley movie.

  • Miles Standoffish

    Aside: Why the hell do you have this male ‘friend’ as a friend? He’s definitely not a ‘nice guy’ especially if he calls himself one. Might I suggest calling him on his bullshit, and booting his ass out of your social circle?

    • RedDevil00

      I second this. I did that to a longtime male ‘friend’/guy I almost dated and it’s been quite liberating not to listen to his misogynistic whining anymore.

      • Reverse Solipsist

        “it’s been quite liberating not to listen to his misogynistic whining anymore”

        While his opinions are certainly offensive, you should remember that he is constrained by traditional gender roles. He might be a little behind the times, but he has become that way because of messages he’s picked up from society at large.

        Men haven’t had a liberation movement, remember, so acknowledge your privilege and have some sympathy for him.

    • Medusa

      I agree, I was quite disturbed by the fact that in this (otherwise superb) article, the author is friends with someone who will call a woman a bitch just for saying “no”.

    • Tom

      Just to play devil’s advocate, perhaps he is expressing that in a society where “No” means “I’m playing hard to get, but keep trying,” the No That Really Means No must be delivered with something approaching actual venom or scorn to get the point across.

      • Dan

        I’ve had conversations related to the above with multiple female friends when they ask why a guy they’ve been talking with doesn’t seem to “get the hint.” I’ll let them know that at least in my experience, many males have basically been trained and have trained themselves to look for any amount of “hope” anywhere they can find it. Thus, responses of, “I’m just not ready for a relationship right now,” and the like suddenly get translated to, “keep trying and eventually I’ll be ready to sleep with/date/see you.” Thus, I think Tom’s right in that many males have come to expect that a true “No” contains some degree of scorn/venom, which is unfortunate.

        I also pass this information along to male friends who feel like they just need to try a liiiiiittle bit harder to get her interested. Take “No” (in whatever form) to mean No, and even if it doesn’t, you’re better off finding someone who won’t expect you to decipher some sort of Hard to Get code.

        As for me personally, I dislike games, and don’t date people who play them. If someone tells me they aren’t interested, I’m taking that at face value. If they’re very frequently too busy to hang out, I’ll quickly lose interest myself.

        • Linda

          So, please help me understand. Saying no, and not knowing if you mean if forever, is playing a game? How about if your unsure, worried about making the wrong choice, worried about feeling guilty, worried about umpteen other things?

          Or, you have been burned by men who profess more affection than they feel –

          I think you are pretty much subscribing to the old view – if I’ve put time/money into someone I deserve my payoff. Seems there’s a profession that might suit the need better.

  • Heartache Into Beauty

    Yes. So much this, yes. I am sharing this everywhere.

  • megan

    I like this article and agree with most of it. I am a little bothered by the inclusion of Pride and Prejudice as an example of the issue. The main barriers to Darcy and Lizzie’a relationship were mostly his actions – his intereference in the relationship of Bingley and her sister, as well as his initial unfriendly behavior and pridefulness, and her easy belief in rumors about his past. After her initial rejection of him, he strives to convince her of his innocence and rectify his misdeeds, and her opinion of him changes. There is no “hard to get” plotline in p&p and Lizzie even challenges one potential suitors insistence that her rejection of his proposal was an attempt to “increase (his) love through suspense”. Just a nitpick..

    • Stephen

      You’re not nitpicking. The inclusion of P&P was simply wrong. It’s either because the author was a little lazy when she added it, doesn’t really understand what happens in P&P, or has a tendency to filter everything through the same prism. As I know nothing about her, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, but Pride and Prejudice if anything supports her views by revealing how often social conventions get in the way of clear expression.

      • Sibel

        I agree. All through the Mr. Collins proposal chapter Lizzie is basically repeating “No means no” and getting more and more upset that what she says is being ignored.

        • Lemur

          As a Pride and Prejudice fan myself, I have to say that I agree with the article about the message the novel …supports? Lizzy expresses her disgust for Mr Darcy who becomes reluctantly besotted with her but denies it because of her background and such and she goes on to deny her attraction for him because he is arrogant and prejudiced against her family etc. He pursues her (albeit not physically/sexually) and then strives to prove himself in her eyes. The impression I got when I read this at 14, was that I should be sarcastic, challenging and wait a guy out until he changes his attitude (something which, despite what parents might expect when you’re being obstinate, is very difficult) and proves that he loves me beyond all doubt, THEN I’m free to run into his arms kissing and crying. Absolutely no kissing before that! Though you might be allowed to meet his gaze across the ballroom for a tad longer than is platonic but only if you don’t smile when you semi-reluctantly dance together later. I Still love the story though and I wouldn’t mind my own Mr Darcy romance.

          • Elizabeth

            Huh? When Elizabeth rejects Darcy, he tells her he won’t bother her again and leaves with his best wishes; he goes to the work of improving himself because he respects her opinion enough to set aside the things she misjudged him about, and what Elizabeth calls the acrimony of her manner (aka the tone argument), and accept that yeah, he was a douche, and he’s better than that and should act like it to everyone, not just the people he has direct power over. Elizabeth isn’t even around when he decides to change his behaviour, and he never does pursue her – the only reason they ever meet again is running into each other on accident, and he makes a point of not being pushy or making her feel uncomfortable. (He hides his rescue of Lydia for the same reason.)

            ‘Pursue her until you change her mind’ is condemned harshly in all Austen’s novels. I know I’m soapboxing, but I hate that she’s invoked as some romantic icon when her fiction is actually deeply concerned with consent and power dynamics and how patriarchal society limits women’s choices. In her next book, she DOES write about a man who is basically in Darcy’s position, but instead of going away and improving himself, he pursues the heroine (Fanny Price), makes extravagant gestures to ‘win her heart,’ ingratiates himself with her family, etc etc, and it’s presented as horribly wrong, and also horrible that no one but Fanny (shy, submissive, and compliant, btw) can tell how wrong it is.

    • BillyBudd

      While I take your point and think your close-reading is correct, I still think that the inclusion makes sense. You are correct that there is no hard-to-get plotline in Pride and Prejudice. Nonetheless, the arc of the novel is clearly from “no” to “yes.” And despite the fact that there is no coercion or explicit attempt to change minds, the novel makes emphatically clear that minds DO change. Structurally, it seems to be about this very thing: getting a “no” to a “yes.”

      • Rockup

        But in real life, minds/opinions DO (and should) change when presented with new information.

        There is a huge difference between someone changing their opinion based on new data and someone changing their mind because of coercion!

        • Kath

          I found that the point of view of people who are not able to make a quick decision about dating are left out of this article . They ends up being lumped with people who play hard to get, because the only options presented are actor our reject – ‘I need to get to know you bet’ is cast a response only given to tear, when people can legitimately need to get to know you better, and minds can legitimately change. I think three idea of playing hard to get also hurts these people, because their honest unsure answer is also taken as an eventual yes, but they are no less likely to be hurt by the game playing – and the point of being honest is true whether your able to say yes our no rnot.

          Forgive t typos, I can’t see what I’m topping on my phone!

  • françois

    i am in my 30s and i must admit that the over-sweetness of my female colleagues and friends is not really different from my past and present dates. obviously, there is confusion, ok fine…but, when it deals with women who act as if interested because they wanna know if after all these years in couple are still atractive is stupid and disrespectful… why play hard to get and/or seductive with a man? be respectful and sincere… this message is also for men of course!

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  • James

    Man here, just wanted to say some of us are sick of these games too. The average guy is not known for being able to pick up on subtle queues (something pop culture and I agree on). I, for one, never had any idea whether someone had interest in me until I made the first move. These Pride-&-Prejudice-type stories lead to the idea that being relentless may change things. Turns out if you actually try that, it just creeps women out. But if you never try… well it’s supposedly the man’s job to make the first move, so they’re never going to come to you. So yeah, hopefully honesty will be the best policy for the next generation.

  • Muffy Barkocy

    I agree very much with your points about mind games and honesty and force. However, I’m afraid you have misunderstood the plot of Pride and Prejudice completely. In that novel, in fact, the “no” is 100% sincere, not a game (the heroine assures another man that she does not play such games when he assumes she is doing so with him) the her does take “no” to mean “no”, and immediately promises not to bother her further on the subject, and he does not. Later when the heroine, after a period of time and with supporting evidence, learns that she was mistaken in her appraisal of his character and because of this changes her feelings about him, he still does not approach her again on the subject of a romantic relationship until after he receives very strong indications from her that her feelings have changed, and he first asks her if her feelings have changed. So, in fact, I would say that their behavior is an excellent example of how people ought to behave, other than judging people too quickly in the first place.

  • lauraflora

    One of the reasons women may not want to say yes immediately is the continuing social stigma attached to confident, self-assured women. I have always rejected the hard-to-get routine, and been clear in my requests for friendship or sex. Some men have been frightened by my assertiveness, but many have been relieved by it. Thankfully I have no lack of self-esteem and live in a large urban West Coast city – if I was living in a small town in the Midwest that was more conservative, I’d be branded a slut and possibly be targeted for assault because I was “easy”. Remember – much of rape is not about sex: it’s about power over. If a women exercising power is seen as dangerous, then we will have continuing gamesmanship as women try to get what they want without appearing too “forceful”.
    Perhaps the assumption that the act of rape is about sex, and not actually about POWER, is an unseen aspect of the “culture of rape”.

    • marlatt’s lover

      Conquest already implies power. Just sayin’.

  • Mark E

    The onus should be on the man to switch his mentality from “someone strong enough to fight past objections and overcome enough Nos” to someone strong enough to walk away at the sign of firm resistance, to give the girl time and inclination to perhaps reinitiate her interest in him when/if she feels more comfortable, and to afford the guy new opportunities to meet other girls and perhaps find a better match.

    • Tom

      In the interest not only of fairness, but of rescuing potentially good relationships from the jaws of playing hard to get: open and honest communication is a two-way street. If a man is going to walk away from a situation because he feels there is no interest from the woman, he really ought to tell her that’s why he is bailing out. It’s possible the woman needs to know that she has just badly overplayed her hand at being hard to get — done so convincing a job that he believes her disinterest to be real — and both of them could benefit from the opportunity for her to admit her mistake.

      Of course, she has to be prepared for the possibility that he will react poorly — she is admitting that she is a game player, after all — and bail anyway. But at least it’s an opportunity to correct the situation that would otherwise be unavailable, in the situation where he simply gives up and stops calling.

  • CHB

    “Really, Mr. Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one.”

    … This scene from Pride and Prejudice perfectly exemplifies the message of this article. Lizzy’s no means no.

  • Adrian

    In the following paragraph “My friend played by the rules… …get what he felt he had “earned”…” I think the author is putting words into the mouth of “his friend” whom he is interviewing. Although the man did use the word “bitch” to refer to a woman that he wanted to pursue, it does not seem fair to use quotations for the words ‘prize’, ‘cheated’, and ‘earned’. Maybe the author is implying that this self-proclaimed nice guy feels like he is being nice in order to attract women, thereby his nice-ness ought to guarantee his romantic success with a woman and hence why the author can imply a feeling of ‘cheated’-ness. But from my reading, I do not, in any way, get a sense that women are ‘prizes’ to this man. The talk about ‘prizes’ refers to playing games, where the idea is that at the goal of a game is to attain a prize by the winner. However, this is not the goal of a game, the goal of a game is to be a playful diversion. Romance is healthy, positive distraction from everyday mediocrity, but the fact that it is referred to as a game, need not be spun in a competitive light.

    To give a charitable reading to this moronic sounding guy (no offense dude, or author whose apparently friends with this dude…), he is calling the hypothetical women who is not giving consent to his advancements a bitch in relation to him being a nice-guy, not a bitch because she won’t sleep with him.

  • Geoffrey Chappell

    Great article. Too bad the man used to be representatie is an idiot though.

  • Stephan

    While I cannot disagree with anything that was said, I believe the truth may lie deeper. More specifically, I think it’s also important to ask where the idea that men like women who play hard to get comes from? Why DO men tend to like that?

    I may be a man but I’ve always felt like I live in a different world, and I’ve always tried to understand what makes me so different, the different point of views, what makes other people the way they are and how that compares etc…

    I think that a worthy hypothesis is to consider that men who like girls that play hard to get, receive this “joy” from their own sense of competitiveness. A vast majority of men enjoy competitions much much more than the majority of women; and although I can’t be 100% certain of this, in my experience, this is not something that is taught… regardless of a childs upbringing I think that sense of competitiveness is simply a part of who they are.

    Now I could have a whole discussion on why this could be so and so on but I do have a point I am trying to get to so lets just say that it makes a lot of sense when you think of natural selection and the thousands of years that mankind has been on earth before the sudden changes in the modern era.

    The point is quite simply this:
    In bringing change to the world, it’s important to aknowledge the things that simply won’t change or perhaps even shouldn’t change. It is only after finding the source of a problem and defining the constants that you can then best formulate a solution.

    in this case, the problem is Rape; the source is in the nature of men and how it affects their perspective on the world around them. The constant is the nature of men -> because even though it technically might be possible to change that through DNA manipulation and such, I strongly believe that would be overstepping bounds especially since there is no telling how much more it would change. So that leaves Perspective, perspective, unlike nature, can be taught and is definitely part of our upbringing and while some of you may now be thinking that I went through all that just to say the same thing as what was said above about our society’s media; I respectfully disagree.

    Rather than teaching that “No means no” as feminists have been doing for so many years now and rather than trying to stop teaching that “No sometimes means yes” as Miss Albers was suggesting above and which would still conflict with the perspective that most men have that love is some kind of competition where the man must conquer the heart of the woman… I think it would rather be better to teach children that love isn’t some kind of competition! There is no win or lose, there is no “making someone love you” nor is there any “Starting” or “Stopping” to love someone. Love simply is or isn’t and what we perceive as falling in love is about discovering more about the other person and realizing that we love them; falling out of love can be because the love was never there and we finally realize our mistake, or it could be because we wish to lie to ourselves; convincing ourselves that the love is gone because we were hurt and are afraid to be hurt again.

    The bottom line is that love is not something to be conquered and I believe that if we teach that to our children then they will grow-up to be better men and women; people who believe in honesty in a relationship and are able to build lasting futures with other people.

  • Stephen

    Human beings are complicated. Or simple. Whatever. But while I agree with the core principle that dating rituals tend to reflect anachronistic, patriarchal and chauvinist ideas about how both men and women should behave, they also reflect the fact that courting is a highly charged, complex interaction between personal desires driven by biological imperatives, socially accepted norms, individual personalities and situational characteristics. The truth is, sometimes “I don’t know…” or “Maybe…” actually reflects a combination of both desire and trepidation, which can be borne out of a clash between any number of factors. There is no “tabula rasa” when it comes to sexual dynamics, and this is true for all orientations.

    The real issue is not that flirtatious comment must always be black and white (although if it works for you, that’s great), but that rape is rape, even if a woman says “Yes” but without actually assenting. As a middle-aged man I can assure you that I have rarely been in doubt about what was being communicated; and on those few occasions where I was unsure, I waited until there was no doubt, or I walked away. I don’t like mind games, and if someone is unsure whether they want me, I see no reason to pursue things. For me, sex has always been about intimacy and connections–everything else seems to me a variety of masturbation. I see rape as not only violence perpetrated against the victim, but also against our notions of love, respect, sexual health and personal responsibility. And, much as I’d love to agree wholeheartedly with the notion that “pillow talk” should always be simple and clear, I don’t think it is, nor is it the key to solving our problems with rape.

  • Chinook665

    This is a great article but it’s based on the assumption that people know what they want from the very beginning. In terms of sex this is a bit more black and white, it should never be expected for putting in ‘x’ amount of work. I don’t think like this, a lot of guys don’t think like this. Perhaps your friend is not the exception but he certainly is a conveniently idiotic dolt. But in dealing with a relationship, sometimes people need to figure out what they want or get to know someone first. Sometimes people change their opinions of others as they get to know them. If guys give up on the first rejection, then what? You’re also not taking into account the fact that men tend to jump in head first (it might not be right but it’s a cultural thing, we show our interest first a lot of the time: much of this is linked to emotional infatuation and butterflies) but sometimes we need a bit of time before we’re really really sure. If a girl comes back 110% it’s a bit off-putting because we’re morons in the first place and actually need to get to know her better before we can make more long-term (longer than fling-length) decisions.

  • Beki

    What actually brought my husband (of 9 years) and I together was that we both HATED the “hard to get” routine. If we wanted to call each other we did. When we felt we were in love with one another, we said so. When we were ready to take the next steps (of all different kinds), we did! I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and where we are at. Because of the honest and true communication we had from the get go, we’ve been able to continue to be honest and open about everything. And we’re teaching our children the same thing. Communication of any sort is one of the hardest things to learn to do as well as interpret. I am so very thankful that I found a partner with whom felt (and feels) the same way. Even though we’ve taken the leaps of marriage and a family, we’re still coming across new boundaries and challenges on a regular basis – especially with parenting. However, because we’ve been communicating openly and honestly from the get go, and continue to work with that mandate in our own relationship and the ones with our kids, it has made our lives (and relationships) so much more easier and fulfilling.
    Kudos for writing this article! Thanks for sharing!

  • Martin Gak

    Total and utmost trash. THe usual feminist dribble. What is your plan, to legislate flirtation and innuendo? Or is it just going to be invective form the pulpit of moralizing stupidity?

  • Dzany Naty

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a well-articulated, thought-provoking and brilliant article. As a woman who has never played hard to get (and will never play that game), I agree with you on each and every point. Bravo and thank you for sharing.

  • Rowan

    Great article. I think it’s important to point out that just because you don’t play Hard to Get, doesn’t mean you have to be easy. It means being honest about what you want. So if you want to move things forward, do it, but if you want to take your time, take your time, because you want to get to know each other before having sex, or getting serious, or whatever reason. And there are ways to show the other person that there’s a valid reason for taking your time, and that you are genuinely interested in them, not playing games.

  • Liane Graham

    THIS. I just do what I want when it comes to dating, and move at the pace that pleases me. Sometimes that means engaging in sexual behavior early, and sometimes it means waiting, but either way it always comes from my own mind. If I decide to take it slow, it’s because I DECIDE TO TAKE IT SLOW and not because I think that by holding my vagina out of reach like a treat from a cat is going to make a guy like me more. Sure, in the short term it might, but once he wins the *prize*, there’s nothing else for him to chase, because I’ve made clear that the part of me that’s most worth chasing is my body. No thanks.

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  • Happymess

    Yes, yes, yes, I love everything about this post. I felt conflicted about being as blunt and up-front as I am about dating because it was contradictory to all the advice I’d always been given, but to do otherwise feels dishonest. However, everything paid off when I found my boyfriend. He’s totally clueless when it comes to “playing the dating game” so he didn’t push me, or try to read into what I said. He took my honesty at face value, and every “no” as a “no.” Our relationship is founded on honesty, and it remains an integral part of it. But somehow, I still have guys [coworkers!] who have approached me and very aggressively pursued me, despite my telling them that I am in a relationship with someone I live with, and it takes me being “bitchy” to get them to lay off. I figure it’s better that than informing them how good of a shot my boyfriend is, but isn’t it funny that if they knew he could potentially pose a threat they might respect him more and therefore treat me with more respect?

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  • Larkor

    Your male friend is an idiot, a chauvinist, and an asshole, and he’s not a good example of the millions of men with two or more brain cells to rub together.

  • Lemur

    I tend to shy away from people who “come on strong” even if its not
    very strong at all, and that is me being unsure of my level of attraction to them. I want to be SURE of who they are and how I feel about them before I initiate anything so I don’t end up rudely backing out.

    I like this article a lot. It really helps explain a lot of things I’ve been trying to analyse for my little brother when he asks me why girls are so rude to him when he’s just looking for conversation at the pub. I’ve theorised with him that sometimes it’s probably a safeguard to not get called “a bitch” when the guy realises that the girl really just wants to TALK. Don’t know how many times I’ve been ditched as a conversation partner when the other person finds out I’m “not on the market” or vice versa. THAT really hurts my self-esteem.

    Anyway, I like to take my time figuring out if I like a person. Usually in really non-pressuring environments like at gatherings with more people. I want to be certain that I’m not influenced by what they’re feeling. It’s easy to like someone because they like you. At least in the beginning.

    Maybe this can be seen as playing a “hard to get” to someone who’s sure of their attraction?

    Sometimes the person “being kept waiting” have got down right pushy and this
    usually convinces me that they’re the same as the person in the bar who leaves when they find out I’m not interested physically attracted, that they think my eyes are beautiful but I’m not worthy of being a friend.
    And being friends as well as lovers is really important in my view, or you’ll be thoroughly bored when you’re not making out.

    Perhaps a guy who unconsciously knows the “rules” and is used to following
    them, feels stressed when a girl reverses them and he is all of a sudden on the receiving end of that emotional pressure that comes from someone openly declaring their interest in you, and since he’s following the “rules” the impression he is left with is that the girl is coming on too strong.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

  • Stacey Moonshadow Wilson

    I tend to agree with this article. I was raised this way and I raised my daughter that no means no. I’m in my 40′s and started dating again about 6 months ago. I’m stuck somewhere in between right now. I haven’t played hard to get, only to have been used a few times, leaving me to feel not so good about myself. So decided the next guy will have to prove he’s around for keeps before I give my body and heart, only to be told that I’m now the one playing games.” I am saying NO tonight, it’s too soon and don’t feel we know each other well enough, but once we get to know each other better and we still like each other”…How is this encouraging rape? How is this playing hard to get?

  • mytwocent

    My boyfriend and I met,made out, and had sex within the span of about two days. It’s been a few months and we are talking about moving in together. He’s a gentlemen and affectionate, has his sh*t together. Basically anything I could have asked for and more. My point is, playing will get you no where and wont give you better results. He’s not going to not respect you or respect you more if you wait or don’t wait. It all depends on the kind of person they are and if the two of you can communicate with each other.

  • Isa

    I have to say I disagree with this completely. It seems as if you’ve made the whole argument based on the assumption that “playing hard to get” and “making him wait” mean “being wishy-washy,” and not just “taking it slow” like any savvy girl would know. I have a close friend that uses your up-front-and-honest strategy, and goes for it when she feels like it, and is constantly falling for total assholes that put on a good show at the beginning and then wasting months with them before she realizes they were a total waste of time. Making him wait, if done right and done CLEARLY, can be a very effective way of weeding out the guys that aren’t worth your time – you can set limits that the guy is made to understand he HAS to follow – just because you felt like setting them! – if he wants your attention, and a guy who is willing to wait and/or work harder for your attention now is just that much more likely to be patient and/or work harder to please you or for your happiness in a relationship later. Any decent guy understands that “no” means “no” – and as for any guy who doesn’t seem to get that, it isn’t because you said no even if you kind of wanted to say yes and were restraining yourself, it’s because he is a totally worthless piece of shit that doesn’t respect your wishes or your words and not worth your time (and you’ll be happier afterwards that you didn’t go for it!).

  • Donna Griffin

    I ask my son each night if he wants to be tucked in and then again if he wants a hug and a kiss. A few times a week I remind him that it is up to him if he has hugs and kisses and if he gives him because he has total rights over his body. He knows to ask for hugs and kisses and I’ve never said no but sometimes I’ve asked him to wait. Reminding children again and again that no one, not their parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, school teachers…no one has the right to touch them without their consent is critical and this lesson needs to be on going.

    We also seem to have this messed up idea about rape prevention in this country. We have a group of college students being taught about rape prevention and it is all women when such a small percentage of women rape. Why isn’t this a mandatory class for all male college freshmen? This is a subject about which I talk to my boys with age appropriate words but as they get older the discussions advance. We need to teach all children about rape and consent but preventing rape is not just up to women. It takes two folks so let’s get both people involved.

  • Snagabott

    As a man, yes, this is 100% true. I don’t chase; not really because I’m so damn noble, but because I don’t want the girl I want to view me as disrespectful and/or imposing myself on her. As stated; there is probably a right and a wrong way of playing hard to get (ie. there are subtle hints present when she’s acting her “no” part but actually would like to give it a chance), but I sure as hell can’t tell them apart. In stead, I assume the default position of “accepting the words as they stand”. Which would be a given thing in almost any other setting. But not, apparently, in The Date Game. I probably count as “shy”. Sheesh…

    Needless to say, I’m single, and I’ve never been in a relationship. I could ofc be that I’m really so repulsive that nobody has ever wanted me, but statistically I’m old enough for that to be exceedingly unlikely, and (female) friends generally tell me that I’m an attractive enough guy. I can’t help but wonder, then, if I’ve missed out on opportunities that could have been if I’d only been a better playah. But I how can I know? How stupid are we; to write the rules so that you have to be a douche to win?

  • snowyinsweden

    I think it’s very sad that Rachel is friends with any man who thinks of the women he dates as a ‘prize’ he deserves to have. Perhaps he should try thinking of them as human beings with free will instead? It also makes no sense that a man like this, who has presumably been prepared to ask the same woman again and again for a date, would find it difficult to ask her just once if it is ok to have sex.

  • Feminist

    If you say No, but mean Yes, then you ought to end up without sex that night. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, I’d say.

  • meeshak

    Even as I was reading and agreeing with the article, I had to
    note that being less than fully available to spend time with a guy, and
    protecting your heart by keeping your feelings private until it’s clear
    that the feelings are mutual are very different things than saying no to
    sex even though you want it. which is also not a bad idea if you want something to last. I am a classic come-on-too-strong type and I’ve suffered greatly for it. I know there
    are tons of books out there about the rules of dating but I think the most helpful thing would be to have a guy friend (who’s not a player and is relatively
    emotionally mature) coach me through my dating experiences since I just can’t get the hang of playing playing it cool without feeling manipulative like the author or going overboard and being totally standoffish and missing out.

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  • Ty

    I very much agree with this article. And there is a lot of cases where playing hard to get is done entirely wrong. It reminds me of a Louise CK bit where he talks about picking up a girl in a bar who comes back to his place.
    He makes several advances which she rejects, and eventually nothing happens and he brings her home. The next night he runs into the same girl, who asks why nothing happened. He says “I tried, but you didn’t want to.” she replies “yeah, but i was hoping you’d just go for it anyway.”
    “Well I’m not going to rape you in the off chance you’re into it.” he says.

  • Reticulated Writer

    Wow. This is so powerful. From the concept that women are not really saying no when they say no, to the idea that a man just has to be nice enough and he’ll get what he wants ….. this is great. I did teach this to my son, and as far as I know, the seed grew. I believe if a woman tells him no, he hears no — whether she likes it or not. And my daughter has no problem saying no and no problem saying yes.

    We are going against such deeply ingrained centuries of culturalization though. Thank you for saying this so well.

  • William

    I am so grateful for writing this. This subject has annoyed me for years, and i wondered if there were any women who actually understood that men don’t like playing games. If a girl is vague with me, or says no when she means yes, then i’m going to walk away and more on; i’m not going to chase her, it’s a waste of my time.

  • NovemberPines

    I found this to be a very interesting article. As a man, I’ve always refused to play along when a woman played hard to get. If she acted disinterested, I walked away. I’ve always felt that, while there are many grey areas in life, romantic interest is not one of them. Either you want to be with me or you don’t, and if the answer is anything but “yes”, I’m not interested. Sometimes the women came running after me when I walked away. Other times they didn’t. I think that you’ve really hit the nail on the head; this “hard-to-get” mentality is a symptom of a larger disease, our “rape-culture”, and it’s something that needs to change if we’re going to change our culture. Men need to know where they stand, but they also need to know that ONLY “Yes” means “Yes”. Anything short of that is not enough.

  • NovemberPines

    In discussing this article with another male friend, it was pointed out that men bear a large part of the blame for this hard-to-get mentality. We positively reinforce the behavior, in that when a woman plays hard to get, we try harder, often through attention, flattery, presents, drinks, grand romantic gestures, songs, poetry, etc. Sometimes the woman isn’t interested in us, just the attention we provide. And THEN we negatively reinforce women like this author, by NOT trying hard, by labeling her as “easy” “pushy” “psycho” etc. We need to stop playing the game, and not accept anything other than straightforward. We’re not in middle school anymore, we can walk up to each other and say, “I’m interested in you.” And if you are in middle school, do yourself a favor and learn that lesson early. ;)

  • Becky Boniface

    “But aloof never looked good on me.”
    Love it. Awesome turn o’phrase. :)

  • Jordyn Carnell

    In my opinion “No” will never mean “No” until “nice girls” are also allowed to say “Yes” without being labeled. Until our society gets more comfortable with sex and less glorifying of power we’ll be stuck in a rape culture.

    • igottasayL0L

      I think that’s an incredibly defeatist approach to a complex issue that will require everyone’s conscious participation before it improves. If you want to do your part, don’t wait for other people to reverse rape culture. Don’t pursue anyone who tells you “no,” even if you suspect it may actually mean “yes.” Explore your own comfort with sex, think long and hard about how YOU glorify power, and surround yourself with other socially conscious people. Society might be a little slow to change, but you can change whenever you want.

      • Jordyn Carnell

        Agree with the idea that culture shift begins inside yourself. That changing ones own attitudes and behavior in response to understanding how they are expressions of you values is where all change begins. From a personal perspective I allow those I pursue to say “yes” or “no” as they feel so inclined. I do not second guess them but instead expect them to own the expressions of their behavior. Similarly when I say I’m interested in pursuing a sexual relationship I own that feeling and am transparent in that desire. I give the respect I expect from others. (Or at least try to.)

  • Viaje Sostenibilidad

    why maybe should mean no? maybe should mean maybe, yes should mean yes and no should mean no. I think on that men are better than women expressing why they want.

    • Anon

      I wonder if men are more likely to express what they want in certain terms because they are not labeled as “bitches” or “feminists” for doing so, especially when those feelings involve a “No.” Men claim to want women to express themselves freely, but then punish, label, and even disregard us when we express what we want and it happens to differ from what you all want. There was recently a study that found that women are less likely to ask for raises in the workplace outright because women actually don’t get the raise as often as men do when they ask for it. It’s not a question of women needing to speak up more often or more clearly – it’s a matter of men needing to put their money where their mouth is and actually LISTEN to women when they demand women speak up.

  • Greg

    This is interesting and on the surface seems to be making a good point. But when you really think about it deeper, the argument is a bit of a stretch and also doesn’t either men OR women much credit in their decision making abilities. It assumes that men and women can’t make a distinction between things that occur in flirting and pursuit and things that occur during, well, flat-out rape. That’s a pretty huge gap.

    Basically, you *might* say the “playing hard to get” create a somewhat similar mindset in men that *could* be a precursor to how they view a women if end up raping someone. But again, that’s such a jump on causality that we’d need to see some data or something. A simple analogy is violent video games and violence. We can’t just argue that playing grand theft auto causes people to become serial killers. We need data because there are so many more factors that are involved along the way. And this doesn’t give video gamers much credit, I mean after all most of them can enjoy GTA but have no desire to kill people in real life.

  • octaveisblue

    My first thought after reading this was, ‘Isn’t that a bit extreme… and simplistic?’ After a couple moments, my next thought is, “isn’t this writer BLAMING THE VICTIM?? A woman who suffers violence or rape is somehow to blame if she fostered any type of ‘hard-to-get’ attitude somewhere along the way?? Or, even worse, is this to say that women in general are to blame for domestic violence and rape due to a culture-wide and generations-long allowance and sometimes encouragement of this ‘make-him-work-for-it’ attitude?” That’s a pretty horsesh*t and unacceptable line of reason. It’s actually disgusting. But what do I know… I’m a guy.

  • Anon

    It’s all well and good to want women to say No when they mean No, and say Yes when they mean Yes, but unfortunately our society is in a state right now where women can’t freely say what they really want, or even freely WANT what they really want. We have to progress a little further before things can be that simple and straightforward.

    Right now, when we say No, some men, but not enough men, will respect us and we will feel good about them and ourselves. Some men will respect us more for saying No than for saying Yes, making us feel unnecessarily guilty about our sexuality. Most men will never talk to us again because they couldn’t get sex out of us. Some men will ignore our No and take advantage of us.

    Men, fix this. It’s not enough to be the men who respect us. You need to stand up to your fellow men who don’t.

  • SeanHartly

    As a guy, I can pretty well recognise that I’m not welcome on sites like this, so I tend to stay away. Got linked to this article by my fiance, actually.

    I’ve never understood the “playing hard to get” thing, so let me illustrate this point with a story:

    My fiance and I were friends at university, there’d occasionally been some fairly obvious chemistry there but neither of us had acted on it – we didn’t see each other that often which may have had something to do with it. When we’d known each other maybe a year we ended up going on a night out together, and after a few drinks that chemistry turned into romance which a few hours later turned into sex. Not so much “sex on the first date” as “sex before the first date”.

    Later, I found out that she was worried I’d think she was “easy” or something like that, and wouldn’t want anything serious with her as a result. I imagine you can guess by the fact that we’re getting married next year that this wasn’t the case. We had hit it off, and in the moment we’d wound up having sex – as they say, it takes two to tango, so why on earth would I (or any other guy) look down on her for that?

    Ultimately, the point is that if you’re going to play hard to get, you’re going to attract guys who treat the whole thing as a game with the aim being some shagging and not a lot more.

    So don’t turn it into a game.

    If you want to go out with someone who’s honest, you need to be honest yourself.

    Now I’ll take my leave before someone accuses me of rape on the basis that we were both drunk first time around.
    Love and P

    • Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman

      Your message sounds good. But I wish you wouldn’t be passive-aggressive about commenting on a feminist website. Both with the “I’m not welcome” and the “before someone accuses me…” you’re setting up negative expectations and that’s not helpful, not even if you’ve got such responses before.

      An accusation by a stranger on the Internet isn’t something to worry about unless there’s truth to it. If you’re worried there is you should talk to your fiancée, and if there isn’t, don’t worry about it.

  • Alexander Delapenha

    As a man, for a long time I’ve had a strange lurking fear of rape. Not of being raped, but of being accused of it. As a heterosexual man, you live in a world where a woman’s “no” is almost never meant to be taken at face value. These same women often enjoy being forced upon, their wills resisted, held down etc. etc. situations that sound a lot like rape, if you will.

    So in all this, the line between consensual sex and rape can seem rather murky.
    I abhor violence and rape, but I can imagine how in an environment like that, the difference can be confused.

    And it is what you wrote about, Ms Albers, that creates this environment.
    I thank you for articulating something I’ve thought but did not know how to say.

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  • Elizabeth Grabowski

    This is a really insightful article on the implications of what “playing hard to get” really means. However, I think that a woman can still practice and foster a “no means no” mentality and allow herself to be pursued by men in relationships. How? By allowing men to make the first move, but not playing mind games. For example, a woman may only want to date men who demonstrate interest in her by making the first move such as asking for her number, telling her they like her, or asking her on a date. She can still do this without “playing hard to get,” or making it into a mind game. All she has to do, is when said guy asks her out, to give a straight answer. E.g. “Yes, I would love to go to dinner on Saturday,” or “I’m flattered but no thank you.” There are no mind games or manipulative tactics involved in this approach; allowing men to make the first move is a simple screening mechanism to see if they are interested and assertive enough to pursue her, and she gives a clear yes or no answer. Of course, if she doesn’t feel like waiting for men to make the first move, she is also free to pursue a relationship with them, and should over course also respect that their no means no. I just wanted to point out that ‘traditional’ dating relationships and/or allowing a guy to make the first move is not necessarily synonymous with “playing hard to get,” or manipulative behavior.

  • Aditya Laijawala

    I’m a guy and when a girl does this it really turns me off! Life’s too short, I don’t have time to waste on someone who wants to play games or play with my emotions! Well I wouldn’t mind if I am dating a girl and she makes it hard for me to have sex with her.. She might have some trust issues or some insecurities. I can deal with that! But playing hard to get like she doesn’t return your calls even though she might be interested is just confusing for me! You want a relationship, you’ll have to make an equal effort! Well, I am a guy and traditionally I’m supposed to make the first move, but after that it shouldn’t be one sided.. I used to try to chase after girls, never been successful, I just give up when this happens.. Or maybe I am just too honest and straightforward for most people out there and thats why even though I am a good looking and a nice guy (I’m not being vain, I have referrals from many people :P ) and I am still single!

  • Adi

    I’m a guy and when a girl plays hard to get it really turns me off! Life’s too short, I don’t have time to waste on someone who wants to play games or play with my emotions! Well I wouldn’t mind if I am dating a girl and she makes it hard for me to have sex with her.. She might have some trust issues or whatever, and its not a big deal for me, I respect that. I’m a straightforward guy and I understand a NO or a maybe or whatever else (except a yes) as a NO! But playing hard to get like she doesn’t return your calls even though she might be interested is just confusing for me! How do I know you want me to keep calling you or you are just not interested and I am wasting my times and yours? You want a relationship, you’ll have to make an equal effort! Well, I am a guy and traditionally I’m supposed to make the first move, but after that it shouldn’t be one sided.. I used to chase after girls, never been successful, I would just give up when she starts playing the game or rejecting me.. Its really hard for a guy like me to differentiate between the two! So I have decided not to waste my time thinking about this and stop chasing after girls, playing the game etc.. I am a good looking and a nice guy (I’m not just being vain, I have referrals from many people :P ) and I am young, single but frustrated. Still I am confident that there is at least one girl out there for me who’s not into this bull!

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  • John Farrell

    If there has to be a chase, the relationship’s already a failure. Partners should be running towards each other, not one running away. Great article Rachael.

  • K G

    Awesome article on how to blame the victim. Because we don’t have enough of that in our society.

    Seriously, no means no. If a woman says no, I don’t care if she’s thinking maybe or yes. I care about what comes out of her mouth. What she has clearly said to me. If she says no when she means yes, and I stop, what’s the harm? She is sexually unfulfilled, and will think about being more free in her expression next time. If she says no, and I THINK she’s thinking yes and I proceed, then I’ve committed a rape/assault. It doesn’t matter what she was thinking, see, because she said no.

    Saying mere flirting is asking for it is terrible. But you’re putting the blame on the wrong people. If you were assaulted, the blame for that lies SOLELY with your assailants, not other women.

  • K G

    And for the record – I agree that playing hard to get….but we can make that statement without blaming rape victims, can’t we?

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  • Kerrie B. Wrye

    I remember this very confusing, hormonal period of life. Now on the other side of menopause_ and really taking a look at why I am not enjoying a single woman’s choice of life, (i.e.; where are the other single women friends?), I am really beginning to think that we can continue and continue to do our work as women how are human beings first and empowered to make our own choices until the cows come home. Men are not doing their work. I honestly think this is also why men die before we do. As men age, statistically they become more conservative. If a man’s identity for life is fixed in the material then when he is no longer in his physical prime and ultimately forced to retire… it may sense that he sees himself as finite; unable to grow any more power on many levels. It seems brooding violence is never far from the surface of this limited notion of maleness. What if men found their long-lost playful inner boy-self, healed him, re-parented him, discovered himself in authentic ways before life is all over? What if in this wisdom of self-discovery, he began to mentor men at younger and younger ages, valuing the long journey of being/defining maleness throughout conventional conditioning, and not calling this life for a change? Could we see war, resolution of differences without violence, hierarchy really examined_ in ways that would meet women in the work our lives are about, and make a better world together? I mean what is really so masculine about brooding male frustration about female social gains? Sex in its healthiest possibilities, also just being part of a much bigger picture of collective and gendered potential!?!

  • A Brother of Three Sisters.

    We should teach men when they are young boys not to rape, and that unless someone explicitly states “yes”, you don’t have sex. You don’t try to convince or coerce. No one ever needs to be coerced. Coersion is crossing the line.

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  • Micky

    Advising against playing hard to get I think is a move in the wrong direction. As long as we’re striving for an egalitarian society, women should be entitled to say No whether they mean it or not and have their decision respected by the guy. Any solution, I believe, lies in inculcating dudes from a very young age.

    P.S May Jane Austen forgive you for citing Pride and Prejudice in that context.

    May her beutiful mind RIP

  • James

    I’m a man who takes what women say at face value. If she says no I accept that and leave her be. More than one woman has been disappointed that I haven’t pursued her after an initial rebuff. Whatever. There are more than enough women in the wold who know how to speak honestly and those are the women for me.

  • papercutexit

    I would like to introduce the “dating traffic light”:

    - RED means “no way, not interested, not gonna happen, kthxbye”

    - AMBER means “hmm maybe, give it some more time, let’s hang out some more and we’ll see!”

    - GREEN means “yeah, I like you!”

    Candidates in “the dating game” are free to pull whichever card they like at any point in the game, regardless of the colour they’ve selected before. It’s possible to go from green to amber, from amber to red, or any other sequence.

    The other candidate simply has to accept the choice. Asking for confirmation (or reasons) is ok, but no attempts to convince someone will be allowed.

    Problem solved. I don’t ever want to say “NO. Seriously, NO. Absolutely NO.” again and get “oh come on…” as reply because the other side assumes that “ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NO” might still means “yes”.

  • Susanna Iris Astarte

    I was very much in love with a woman (yes I’m a lesbian) and I told her so. She freaked out and ran away as fast as possible, Then proceeded to play head games – lots of hot and cold- so many mixed messages. I finally just gave up and left her alone. I am the one who usually takes the lead- but I will never force anything and it’s NOT a turn -on if she ‘s not interested!

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  • Michelle Cahill

    This is an excellent piece. As a survivor and advocate one of the main issues that we face is the issue of consent, what it is and what it isn’t. From the caveman days of dragging a woman back to your cave by the hair and the resultant culture, women have been fighting an uphill battle in which we are our own enemy. I will take it a step further (and make myself the topic of anger, I’m sure) but I think the Slutwalk culture actually hurts us. Dressing in pasties is your right, by it makes us as a gender look reactive and emotional. We don’t look empowered, we look ridiculous. Speaking up, with intelligence and strength and most of all with logic earns us a seat at the table, the table at which our seat has always been entitled if not honored. Stopping the rape culture means stopping rape, we need to look at how the culture was created. This blog goes a good way towards explaining a part. Nice job!

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  • GetsPickedUpAtGothClubs

    Good article and fair ( as it seems to try to include the feeling of BOTH sides of the gender line). Only one glaring issue :” If I like you, you’ll know it. If I don’t like you, you’ll really know it.” This attitude still assumes the man will ‘get the hint when you DO want him’. Not to knit pick semantics, but this is a an article about communication after all, a better way to have put it, if the author really meant what she seems to have been proposing , might have been : “I don’t play hard to get. If I like you, I will SAY it. If I don’t like you, I will ALSO SAY it”. Remember the opposite side of the coin too. When the guy decides he will go for another girl who said ‘yes’, and not you, because you did the “chased thing”. Then of course the OTHER girl is ‘slutty’, ‘all guys are pigs with only one thing or n their minds’ , this is ‘another case of men not recognizing a good thing’ , or ‘a tragic example of unrequited love’. Sigh.

  • how very true

    women that play hard to get, will always lose at the end. and today there are so many women that certainly need to educate themselves much better, just like the women years ago were.

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  • Chris Cherry

    I get really annoyed when the conversation about sex is framed around the fallacy of “consent”.

    Consent doesn’t really exist. We could think about it this way–the default assumption is consent, and a woman has to prove that she is not consenting, not that she *is* consenting. Imagine if sexual encounters required that we go through elaborate behavioral rituals to *prove* that we wanted to have sex, the inverse of the current frame.

    The idea of “consent” comes from old property laws, point of fact. A property owner, once they give “consent” to someone to come onto their property, must prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that consent was withdrawn should this person return to the property and enter it. The obvious sexual innuendos of “entering” and “taking” are there in our cultural consciousness precisely because of this framing that women were property up until the last 100 years or so, under law. Women didn’t get to own property because they literally were property.

    Because humans are such an adaptive species, our social and cultural constructs change rapidly over a short period, and we lose the reasons for why those constructs exist in the first place. Women are socially conditioned to compete for male “affection” because women are conditioned to believe that they are incomplete without a male mate, that their primary reason for existing on planet earth is to make babies. Additionally, because women have only fairly recently gained some access to private ownership and resources (though only 11% of global resources are owned by women) women have had to adapt to this by developing complex strategies for securing a male mate, who is himself the gateway to resources that women are pretty much denied, taking stats into account.

    Articles like this one infuriate me because they frame rape as female responsibility, instead of naming the perpetrator–males and male violence. She’s in effect saying that a woman who plays “hard to get” is making the men rape her. Which is pretty effing disgusting.

    And there is social programming to condition males to think that “no” means flirting which actually means “yes”. Also why males are acculturated to use verbal “hooks” to engage women in conversation, because women are conditioned to be accommodating and interested to males. It is in effect subservient behavior, deference to the male.

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  • Elias Howe

    I’m a mature male who enjoyed reading Rachael Kay Albers’s article. If women were to communicate honestly about interest, to Say “yes” when they wanted to and “No” when they meant it, The “game” would change, and men would have to learn new rules. Reading about the frequency of rape charges on college campuses, I’ve wondered if I could institute educational programs there that influenced the “game” to include definitive “no’s” and “stop!” The Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone moment in Demolition Man where she stands and announces her desire to have sex impressed me as a good start to ending equivocation and uncertainty. Can the “game” be changed to include language of candid interest without promises of sex? A couple of years ago a woman was willing to come to my apartment to check me out, talk with me, and assured me that this was not a promise of sex. I’d never experienced that kind of approach. We had a nice talk, and she left after satisying both our curiosities, and nothing happended, and we didn’t pursue it further. But it was an interesting approach. If

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  • Sarah B


  • Cameron

    As a male I really think you’ve picked an excellent tone here. We are not excusing plain unethical actions but our behaviour stems from a cultural context, which is created by men and women, and we as men are often actively encouraged to be predators. I’ll never forget one particularly pretty, intelligent, dark skinned Indian girl I pursued when I was younger actually said to me word for word “No doesn’t mean no” to which I replied “Well when you say it to me it does”. I didn’t sleep with her for exactly the political reasons you outline in this article, and I kind of still partly regret it.

    I absolutely love the feminine form, I really wish I’d been able to share intimacy with more women, it’s one of the great sadnesses in my life. Alas I’m unwilling to trade my ethics for it, play dishonest games (honest ones are fine ;) , act like a predator, sleep with women in relationships (who seem to be much more forward than other women), or go to prostitutes. There is a higher political point and I’ll try very hard to console myself as I get older that I do the right thing, even though it feels quite hollow sometimes.

    Attractive women are a commodity to men, I may not value money or power, but when I see someone with a beautiful (to me) woman I do envy them. Unfortunately I’ve found a pretty direct correlation between guys I know who’ve slept with lots of women, and misogyny, it’s the JFK or the Dominique Strass Kahn type who sleeps with all the girls, not the Noam Chomsky type. It’s often the guy you know who is a bit “sleazy” who you see with the really hot girl you had your eye on. I envy them in one respect, having had that intimacy with beautiful women, but I also can’t bring myself to treat women without respect, even if a woman is complicit in it, I just like women/people/beauty/truth too much to do so. I guess I sort of console myself by saying “well a lot of women probably aren’t nice people either, and do you really want them?”. Sadly, probably for evolutionary reasons, that consolation doesn’t work very well…

    I’ve had women approach me and ask me to buy them a drink, just start/try to start kissing me without a word, I’ve had girls who’s names I didn’t know throw themselves at me so that the bouncers at the club had to take them away, women grab my bottom as I walk past and many variations of unsought direct physical contact, female bosses touching me inappropriately at work functions…I could go on, I’m just saying it’s both genders that can behave in a predatory way. What I never get is “Hi, my name is X, do you mind if we have a chat”, a meeting of the minds. Hopefully as a culture we can move beyond mindlessly following evolutionary urges, and move towards a more philosophical discussion of love, loneliness, friendship, lust etc. OK I’ve rambled a lot here, kudos to your blog for initiating this discussion!

    Oh I think the whole plausible deniability might come into it btw, watch this Steven Pinker talk for more info

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  • A happy boyfriend

    I would be much more interrested in a girl that shows me that she wants me than one that says she doesn’t.
    I always know when my girlfriend is playing hard to get, because she makes it obvious so it’s just a game that we both know we’re playing, and in that case I think it’s OK. But to make someone believe they have to be convinced to want that someone is just plain stupid.

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  • frankop

    women that play hard to get are such a LOW LIFE to begin with, and certainly not worth meeting at all. it is bad enough that i had been married at one time, and she turned out to be a FILTHY WHORE since she cheated on me. i was a very caring and loving husband that was very committed to her as well, but it was not good enough for her. it seems that the average woman out there today need at least seven different boyfriends, that is one for each day of the week. GOD forbid, if they knew how to settle for just one. i am a straight man that is very down to earth, good looking, keep in shape, would know how to treat a woman real well, but i seem to meet the women that are not interested in me. and yet they usually go for the ugly men instead, especially if he has a very large bank account. so this is what i mean by very nasty DYSFUNCTIONAL WOMEN that seem to be out there nowadays, and now much more women these days are into other women lately. GOD really did create so much GARBAGE today, and i wish that he would get rid of it.

  • lucky

    My personal opinion is that playing hard to get is perfectly acceptable and the wise thing to do for a woman, to make sure that the man she lets her guard down for is truly deserving of it. The idea of playing hard to get has been completely mistrued. Playing hard to get does not mean say “no” when you mean “yes”. It means, show me you’re worth it and have the qualities I would want to be in my life long term, before I let you take it to the next level with me. It means, until I feel that comfort, I won’t allow you to move forward. Keep boundaries, and make sure the guy is worth it, completely serious about you, and willing to fight to win your MIND over (this is completely different from a guy forcing himself on you) before you allow yourself to open up to him completely. It means, have some self-worth and know you won’t compromise it just because you’re carried away by a guy, in love with him, and blinded to his faults. I see so many women ( I myself included) settle for actions from men that they shouldn’t be taking from anyone. They’re carried away by physical attraction, and accepting the kind of behavior that they normally would not accept, because they are already in so-called love. You should love the man for how he TREATS YOU, not just love the man himself, which is the mistake most of us women make, especially after we’ve let him close to us physically.

    A good and decent man also wants to be able to win over the woman, and know that she chose him for his qualities, and not just desperate to be with anyone. Playing hard to get, being true to your emotions, boundaries, and what you want from a person, and making a man win you over emotionally and through his actions of love, chivalry, care, respect, before giving him the green light, are VERY different from acting cold-hearted and disinterested for the sake of playing games.

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  • boo

    For me if a woman plays hard she’s no go. If a relationship developed it would never go anywhere because I’m working with a woman who’s default is unhappy till you do something for me. It also gives me a very hard time working out what she does or does not like which further erodes the relationship. I’m glad there are still a few women who are just happy to be with the person they like. Personally I find this inspires me to do nice things and creates and creates a very intoxicating relationship one that’s very romantic and fun.

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  • Humanist

    Correlation =/= causation. Just because her friend was annoyed by a woman who said No directly doesn’t mean he felt he followed the rules and therefore was entitled to a prize. Most likely, he was hurt at being rejected, and turned that into anger. (In fact, I highly doubt her friendship with this guy will outlast this article and the words she put into his mouth.)

    And you know what – I’m glad the author can decide on the drop of a hat if a relationship is a good one, but most people take time to get to know someone and decide if its worth it. And often when you’re unsure but convincable, you do end up saying No, because saying Yes and then backing out is way more trouble. And YES< seeing if a guy will work for it is not just a 'dating game' but a good way for both parties to realise if they're really into each other.

    To me, this article just stinks of faux-feminism – and yet another way to take a sensible normal thing that women do and use it to deflect the blame of rape onto women YET AGAIN. Wearing miniskirts? You asked for it. Played hard-to-get? You asked for it, too.

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  • Mother Thing

    I absolutely love this article, except for one thing. I must stand up for Jane Austen! The plot of Pride and Prejudice is very much the opposite of this dynamic, and indeed, one of the funniest scenes pokes fun at the expectation by illustrating that the man who thinks that “no” means “yes” is a blithering idiot– see the text of that scene here:

    Whereas Mr. Darcy doesn’t press his suit in the slightest after the first rejection, and winds up (spoiler alert!) engaged to Elizabeth– because she changed her mind of her own accord. I’d say that P&P, more than any other classic novel and most contemporary ones, is a complete REVERSAL of the “hard to get” dynamic described in this excellent article. Viva Jane!

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    “No, I don’t play hard to get. If I like you, you’ll know it. If I don’t like you, you’ll really know it.”

    Why the distinction with “really”? Why isn’t it: “If I like you, you’ll know it, *just as strongly and undoubtedly clearly* as you’ll know it if I don’t like you.” With the subtle addition of “really” it seems like you make your dislikes more explicit than your likes.

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    It is just evolution. Women who don’t play hard to get are not interesting for the male because there is no competition. There must be something wrong when other men dont want her.

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  • Alek Novy

    Thank you for writing this article, you are brave to do so.

    And men who bring up the same point are often labelled “whiny” or said to be mainsplaining, so I am glad a woman wrote this.

    The truth is, you’ve touched on a major part of the problem few others dare mention. On the one hand we teach boys to take women’s messages at face value, but then we don’t mind that this same boy will go into a world where he finds women don’t say what they mean or mean what they say.

    Both boys and girls need to be taught at the same time, otherwise the boy dismisses the message as having been lied to, if his experiences don’t match the lessons.

  • Piotr

    So far I’ve found “hard to get” confusing and emotionally draining. I can deal with yes and no; yes means yes and “no, I’m not interested” should mean “no, I’m not interested”. Who cares what they do and when they’ve done it?

    What really gets me is this idea that sometimes vague maybes and “no, I’m not interested”s apparently mean “I secretly do like you and want you to chase me but I’m not telling you”, which are virtually indistinguishable from real lack of interest. Since this ambiguity is not something I’m willing to deal with anymore, I find it somewhat frustrating that there are women who like me and get angry at me for not chasing them in this manner.

    I feel horrible with the notion of pestering a woman and increasing her misery if she really isn’t interested. And I also feel horrible knowing that apparently according to some sources, that’s what I’m supposed to do. What happens when you get into this kind of mindset is confusion, hurt, wasted time and energy and irritation for all parties involved. So I’ve decided not to go there.

    I’ve recently met women who are a little more open and honest, and I find that refreshing. It lets me know where they stand, and it just feels better emotionally. It’s good that this chasing idea isn’t as pervasive as I thought.

  • Arasu

    A very sensible article written by a lady. The message is very clear – Women are not objects of sexual conquest. There is only one way you can have sex with a woman – if she wants it. Conquering her heart with persistence is in the same league as buying sex from her or forcing sex on her because these approaches place little emphasis on treating a women as human being. They instead reduce women to trophies.

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  • Miriam Axel-Lute

    I’ve been referring back to this piece constantly since I read it. Thank you. I thought you and your readers might be interested in this related column I wrote for my local paper this week that references it:

  • buffonomics

    Some people literally walk around with the idea that their love life must play out exactly like that last romantic chic-flick they saw. Say bye bye to this person, because they might one day watch porn and start expecting things that most people who aren’t gymnasts or gene-spliced horses can’t do, and consider that a “deal breaker” (even though they themselves are less than impressive given the subject).

    These are people who have trouble differentiating between real-life and hollywoodism.

    Anyone who knows real-life understands this fact….PEOPLE ARE BUSY. All mature relationships are built upon this understanding. To then take it upon yourself to feel that you should be the alpha and omega of someone else’s time in terms of them “proving themselves to you” is something beyond childish. What have you in-turn done to prove yourself to them?

    So you like them and they like you, You expect them to disrespect themselves to cater to your whims just because they happened to take an interest in you? My response to this attitude has persistently been to divert my attention to other things or other people. I find it a better use of my manly persistence than willingly succumbing to manipulation.

    If anything would happen between us, it would not start with you thinking you have something over me. My self-esteem and confidence simply will not allow that. This, of course, is met with them eventually getting lonely enough to start sending those “Hey you’ve forgotten about me!” text messages that you see when you already have a more sensible woman on your arm! :P

    My views on sex differ with the societal norm, but a lot of misguided girls apply the same “hard to get” nonsense when just asked out, to dinner, something the guy is also likely paying for… and you want to act like you are doing HIM a favor?

    These people generally get what they seek. They get either beta wimps, or people who actually love games, in which case none of them should ever one day feel the need to say things like “I don’t like games” because that itself was the foundation of their relationship. Why not peaceful honesty and let he/she that is not of the same spirit go their way?

    Back in my school days yes I played the game unapologetically and got laid like butter on bread, but there comes a time where you want more than games and will not settle for anything else or anyone who still feels playing games are an acceptable substitute for clear cut communication.

  • VeryRight

    there are many women that do play hard to get which many of them need to grow up already.

  • liondart

    We men should talk among ourselves about that. We share and impose a common moral standart when doing ‘men talk’ about gals, and when another bloke says something like your male friend said, the other men should disapprove him instantly.

    That said, I think in your article you are assuming that by and large most men like to ‘chase’ because they feel some kind of empowerment. I don’t know about the statistics, but if I have to guess, I would say half of us feel uncomfortable, awkward and even kind of subservient when having to play our role in the “hard to get” game; and I take my word for it, I met a lot of women who happen to ask for it, and to like it, a LOT. So in terms of this ‘empowerment’, the ball is not always on the same court.

    These men -and, I like to think, like myself- that prefer to be the gentlemen, would celebrate to stop feeling the social pressure to play this cruel and infantile game.

    And I’ll be totally honest, perhaps even politically incorrect: I cannot help feeling that when telling the story about your male friend, you are implying we all men do that. And that generalization, is a trend feminism should try to stop to foment, otherwise it will end up being sexist… against men. :)

  • Brutus

    How would you propose that two people who both want to play the game communicate their mutual consent to do so? Or even simply communicate “I don’t want to have sex with you right now, but I want to be romantically involved with you and I don’t have a problem with you being sexually motivated”?

  • John Williams

    WHOA!!! This just blew my mind. I’m the furthest thing from a feminist, but what you are saying makes so much sense. You’ve given me my own light-bulb moment here.

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  • Fred Smith

    I would love to think that the reason I’m so single is that I think no means no and actually all the girls are playing hard to get!

    I hate it when people try to play gender roles, I have better things to do.

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  • tuba.terry

    The thing that bugs me most about so much of the popular idea of dating/relationships is that it turns them into power games. Sexual violence is *also* about power. I don’t think I’ve seen a single detailed dating/relationship advice perspective that was discernibly different from a rapist’s perspective because of that.

    When one’s concept of dating is only separate from a rapist’s by only a matter of degrees – when, if by following the rules in a set of advice, the only thing separating one from a rapist is whether or not the partner *happened* to consent without the use of pressure or force – I can’t accept it as a moral position.

  • maximilian

    Well written article but so little based in the real life where the women likes to be “overcome”. Heck – most of women erotic novels have the theme – that she is overcome by a strong men. Yeah-but who cares about realety if we have pc thinking. It´s also my own experience. Nice Guys finsish last. If you accept the first “no” you loose big in the dating game. If you don´t you have a rich sex life.

    It´s easy if you get it. A sensitive men can see if a womens no is a real no or just some act or play.

    Heck a lot of women get turned on by the whole “no” game. I had one affair with a girl that was all like ” Oh No- stop. We are not allowed to do it”

    But when i stopped-….. well you can guess the rest….

  • k taylor

    As a guy “hard to get ” culture is the most confusing thing to deal with. I can’t count how many girls have taken me up on drinks, dinners, gifts, money and countless other favors when it has been quite obvious what I was after. To make things even more confused they have dressed all sexy and made me answer whether I think that they look hot. Yet rebuffing advances while continuing to suggest more dates.

    The hard part is to determine if she is using me or playing hard to get, perhaps the yes is around the corner?

    I’ve since learned to ignore women who play hard to get. If i dont get laid by the third date I don’t care how much I like her I keep looking. In fact until I get laid i keep looking, because it’s so hard to tell whether a girl is using you or playing hard to get – and until you copulate there’s no way to really know if she is interested in you. It might seem a bit cynical but if I followed this advice since my teens I would be thousands of dollars richer

    I’m a romantic at heart and I’d love to play the game the old way but these days it seems women have no qualms nor honor when it comes to bilking men who are interested in them quite obviously and prolonging the game as long as possible with no other intent other than to move to the next guy when he gives up and moves on.

    Maybe feminism should take a hard look at that instead of organizing slutwalks because that kind of behavior is the flip side of the coin when it comes to date rape.

  • Berecca

    Females of many species test their mates by running away at first. Ostriches run away to test the endurance and intent of the male. Horses run away until they are at their optimum stage of ovulation; fertilization is more probable that way. Also, if the male horse can’t keep up with her, his genes are inferior. Many primates wait until they are in estrus to mate. Mating dances and courtship rituals almost always involve a bit of initial rejection by the female, but it’s an encouraging kind of rejection. Biting and kicking are clear signs that courtship is not happening, regardless of the species.

    Human females playing hard to get are answering to a primal instinct whereby they secure the male’s investment in the offspring. Love is a device which motivates the male to stay and help while the female is physically encumbered by an infant. (In many humans, love fades away after a few years, typically the amount of time for an infant to start walking and depending less on the mother.)

    The rape side of the argument is a bit far-reaching because surely a man can tell when he’s raping someone. I think it would take a very feeble-minded man to accidentally rape a woman. In the same way, a woman knows when she’s just using a man for a free dinner and help setting up her stereo system.

    If she says “I want to be married before I have sex,” then she’s not playing hard to get by any means, she’s preparing the nest for her offspring (and, by the way, taking a HUGE gamble on his sexual prowess, if you ask me.)

  • Dana Harper

    I think I agree with the thrust of this article–although it seemed to struggle nailing down consistent definitions of its own terms. But, what exactly is the difference between convincing someone to go out with you/sleep with you/etc, and of trying to convince someone that you are on the right side of a controversial issue, or perhaps, that one album you are in love with is really worth giving another chance?

    Also, her male friend, was also (however crudely) describing frustration at women who play hard to get (which if you haven’t noticed IS WHAT SHE IS ARGUEING AGAISNT). not frustration with women who won’t except his advances categorically.

  • villansneedfacesnotgenders

    I would like to speak my mind that this article can in some ways have the genders removed and send the same message. I’m writing as a male victim, of the very same misconception of the word no. Sorry to rock the boat but this isn’t a MAN v WOMAN dilemma, yes the percentages are skewed but the real issue is between victims and their attackers.

  • Elise Fleming

    How do we make this sexy?

    I find myself absolutely agreeing with this article, but when I think about what really turns me on and gets me going, it is not upfront communication. Sexy to me is the chase, the verbal game, the element of mystery that comes from not knowing exactly what the other is thinking. Does upfront, honest communication ruin that? And if it does, how do we change that? How does honesty become sexy?

    I think the answer would have something to do with changing accepted gender roles, but I’m not sure. Thoughts?

    • Travis Hughes

      I think upfront, honest communication can be damn sexy. Tell me what you want. Play verbal word games to imply what you want, to creatively infer what it is you’re thinking about, but don’t pretend you’re uninterested when really you’re wanting it just as much as I am for the sake of ‘the chase.’

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  • ande

    This is one of the silliest things I’ve read in a while. Some of us actually are ‘hard to get’ and don’t enjoy casual sex with people we barely know. Your friend cited in the article sounds like an idiot — she’s a bitch because she didn’t like him? Yeah I’ve heard that one before too. It’s just a defense mechanism for his fragile ego. The girl didn’t like him — sometimes that’s all there is to it.

    • Travis Hughes

      But you’re not *playing* hard to get. That’s the difference.

  • Maureen O’Danu

    To be fair to Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett actually did mean no, and backed it up by dumping his ass. Darcy had to convince her he had changed through some pretty upstanding behavior, after acting like a presumptuous ass when he first met her. She was *not* husband hunting, and not being coy.

    Also, and. The women who wrote “The Rules” set feminism back thirty years.

  • Heron

    loved and value this, thanks. the list of things that mean ‘no’ is helpful clarification as a teaching tool, I think: for years I have named that category of responses as “non-yes” es … the only thing that does mean and lead to ‘yes’ is indeed “yes”. thanks.

  • Tea

    I’m kind of surprised how many people miss the key, emphasized word in the phrase “playing hard to get.” It’s not about a person that may or may not be hard to get; it’s about the danger in “playing”, when you act in a particular way that isn’t a genuine representation of what you want. It dilutes trust and communication, in that people are second guessing each other a lot more. I think people of all sexes and genders are part of a complex, flawed system of romantic communication that should be re-evaluated. The problem with a lot of guides, both the misguided tomes that encourage women to play coy & unattainable, as well as just as dangerous PUA manuals on how to net a bunch of babes, is that human interaction is reduced to a trophy, a conquest. It’s not so much WHO you want to get to know (date, sleep with, etc) but that they are a means to the end, somehow. It’s really dehumanizing. Let’s all NOT fall into those traps.

  • Christine X.

    HELL yeah.

  • Reasonable male

    Your “friend” sounds like an asshole

  • Mickey

    No means no, and playing hard to get is just a game. Why can’t the two exist together?

  • Sean Danger Curran

    I agree with your argument, but I do have to take issue with one of the fictional examples you cite. The boombox scene in “Say Anything” is not one in which the character Lloyd Dobler is attempting to overcome the reluctance of Diane Court after she has told him “no.” She had willingly and quite enthusiastically consented to sex with him already, but then blew him off at the behest of her controlling father. Far from looking to just get into Diane’s pants, Lloyd wanted to continue their relationship.

    The scene has been imitated many times (notably in the television show “Lost”) by men attempting to impress a girl and even to manipulate her into sex through promises of long-term romance (which the Peter Gabriel song on the boombox is about–”the resolution to all my fruitless searches”), but in the original scene was a genuine and honest communication, which is what you are advocating here. I just wanted to address your misrepresentation.

    Once again, though, I do agree with and appreciate your argument.

  • Alexander Addams

    I’m not sure which way to put this, but, the teasing bs from women everywhere… that b.s. has got to stop. Tempting and turning on guys then telling them to f-off is grounds for a permanent kick out of the club, take it how you like. Lying about a biological function of desire is about the single most evil thing girls do. So much of this b.s. now a days about no means no crap all directed to the men without so much as a, “hey women, stop the tease, you’re making a culture of psychologically pathological and psychotic men roaming about on the edge of destruction” issue. Victim blaming is wrong. Period, although, who is the victim? The guy who just blew $300+ dollars on a tease whose roaming the streets pissed off because he was taken (by the way, in any other form of human contact, that’s called theft via deception (,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.49405654%2Cd.eWU%2Cpv.xjs.s.en_US.QXiTEk6XjhM.O&fp=1717b67836da6a6d&biw=1366&bih=604)), or the girl who put on the mini with the entire object of getting free shit tonight?

    Now here’s the funny thing, I have never been on either side of the coin and don’t care what whose excuse is, both the guy or the girl, you don’t want to get kidnapped, you don’t go to southern mexico. You don’t want to get screwed, don’t put your ass out the window with a “free for all” sign. We often also use porn as an excuse for “bad behavior modification” without so much as remembering that there are women in porn… women, lot’s of whom run the porn industry as well as the fact that it’s women performing in porn, these same women are just regular women like all of you! So, saying that women are giving women a bad rep, so as a woman you should go out and and screw with men’s heads even more to the point that guys don’t know what they are supposed to do is acceptable and we should bend the entire culture towards loosing all physical contact like in demolition man is the way is best?

    Yup, no means no. So an entire evening of yes’s then mean?… Honestly, if you want to “fix” the issue of rape culture, you need to progress both sides of the spectrum, yeah, you don’t play hard to get, good! About frikin’ time. That make’s you a lady! But, man, does every other girl either play the game or tip over the board. We men are stuck with 49.9% play harders, 49.9% teases and probably a measly .2% ladies. Reminds me of the meme about how women bitch that there are no gentlemen without so much a thought as to the fact that gentlemen are only attracted to ladies, so if you don’t see any gentlemen around you… ahem… yeah. Sorry if I ranted, just this one sided topic is one of pet peeves and whenever I mention it to women it’s always the same, “I can do what I want, men cannot”… hmm… K

    • Alexander Addams

      If I recall correctly, this same conversation happened 100 years ago and
      about half the population had a problem with this. Now, it’s on the
      other side and acceptable?

    • t

      Oh look, another rapist defending his “right” to rape women because he feels they owe him their bodies. I really hope something happens to you before another woman has the misfortune to become your next victim.

  • teddynovakdp

    Anyone else concerned that we’re focused a lot on how bad sexuality and nudity are as a culture. This is how we survive as a species people.. get naked and stop being such prudes.

  • Nick Lambros

    Education on both sides of the gender wall is completely shot. Parents on the female side should teach open sexuality to their daughters in a more fluid manner, and explain to the older children [when they're being sexually active] that having sex right away isn’t shameful. Be open in your relationship, and communicate when something comes up. If you’re in love, say it. If you’re horny, say it. No means no, and yes means yes, say it.

    Males need to be taught that everything regarding individual body rights has consent attached to it. I don’t just assume someone wants to be punched, and hit them in the face. The same goes with sex. You can just use your dick like a fist and go around hitting people with it [or, well, you get it].

  • Mockingbirdflyaway

    I find that “playing hard to get” is sort of the wrong way to label things. I am extremely blunt and honest about my feelings. I also make it very obvious to potential suitors that if he wants my attention, emotionally, sexually or otherwise, he will have to commit and make himself worthwhile enough for me to turn my attention away from other partners, my hobbies and my work. It’s an “OK Buddy, you gotta prove you’re worth my time.” Except you say it pleasantly, then you turn back to what you’re doing. It’s giving men a mental challenge without getting into the whole “does she mean no?” “is that a maybe?” questions.

    A lot of guys (and girls) misinterpret it at first as playing hard to get. It’s not. It’s just showing that you think of yourself as worthwhile and that you value your time and you’re not going to give it to someone unless they show you that they’re willing to put the effort in. It also leaves a graceful way to back out if you find it isn’t going to work.

    Since you’ve already established that your interests/life/job are the priority, when you want to back away, you just say “Sorry, I’m prioritizing this in my life and I don’t have time for you”. And then if the matter gets pushed, you can follow it up with a solid no, which usually sticks because it hasn’t been preceded by the emotional resistance back-and-forth model that is a cultural/expected script for a lot of people.

  • Greg Rubino

    A lot of what popular culture tells us to do involves acting in a way that is contrary to our desire. I’m no hedonist, but I think that this self-contradiction causes friction. This may be part of the reason it’s popular. Friction is exciting and dramatic, which is appealing to a lot of people. I think people should do whatever they have to do to get what they need.

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  • Dave

    My basic assumption whenever a woman sends signals that she’s not interested is that, well, she’s not interested. I think most normal guys respond in the same way. The sort of guy that “hard to get” dating advice can get a woman is stalker/creeper guys.

  • Leo

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article. What the author calls a ‘game’ also happens to be the natural laws of attraction, as my friends (both male and female), say the same thing; we are attracted to what is moving away rather than what is coming towards us. I don’t think it’s a game at all; it’s an art, just like the rest of life. Before you put me in a category, I’m not one of those mean who think ‘no’ means ‘yes’. ‘No’ always means ‘no’.

    • Cpt_Justice

      IOW, people are friends with others who share their values & beliefs. You & your friends all disagree with the article. Wonderful. That doesn’t make it wrong. For example, I & my friends are irritated by people who are dishonest with themselves, and thus to others. We are not attracted to people who hold themselves distant from us. But the point of the article is that people should be honest. If you are turned on by people who play games, fabulous! Hopefully, you & those people will gravitate to each other & leave the rest of us alone, and then you & your friends, & I & my friends will all be happy.

    • Bastet

      The idea that ‘men hunt and women are the hunted’ comes from a solely male perspective. The man is active, has likes and dislikes, desires and wants. The woman is passive, the sex object, the wanted. She doesn’t have likes or dislikes, wants or desires. The half of the picture that is missing here is the female perspective where the woman is active, has desires and wants, likes and dislikes and the man is the wanted. He is not just an interchangeable ‘thing’. This half understanding of male reality only is not “the natural laws of attraction”. It is misguided at best and ignorant of half the heterosexual population and all of the homosexual populatoon at worst. And, it is so deeply entrenched in society that it feels ‘natural’ to those whose experience has not challenged the status quo.

  • asdf

    Wow, great article. I don’t know what makes me happier, the article itself, or all the comments for women and men who seem to really get it.

    The thinking in this article is very important because it represents a move away from casting one gender as the antagonists and the other as the victims, and suggests that we need to grow up together.

    Women tend to play games because they need hold their power and avoid being hurt, while men can be overly aggressive because they need to fight through the resistance. The thicker women build their walls, the stronger men build their cannons.

    Here’s something to keep in mind. The author and several commenters told tales of intimidating men, or being labeled as “easy” by being direct. Here’s my experience- when a women comes on strong, I’m not intimidated, nor am I judgmental but I am startled because it doesn’t happen a lot. And more importantly, I get defensive because from my experience, often when a women comes on strong it is because she wants to manipulate me for money, or embarrass me in front of her friends. It’s sad but there it is.

  • tutto

    1. “When he calls, tell him you’re busy even if you’re not. Make him work for it.”

    2. “Don’t say ‘I love you’ first. Keep him guessing or you’ll come on too strong.”

    3. “If you sleep with him tonight, he might think you’re a slut. Always leave him wanting more.”

    Thanks to the feminist movement, we women no longer have to use our sexuality as currency to “buy” ourselves the best (wealthiest, highest status) husband we can “afford”. We can therefore re-write these “rules” thus:

    1. Have A Life. That way, when he calls, you will often be busy. As an added bonus, you will meet people, have various different relationships with some of them, develop yourself, and have fun.

    2. Don’t say ‘I love you’ until and unless you actually love him. Look deep inside yourself, read books, go to counselling if necessary, to figure out the difference between love and . . . all those other things. Depending on childhood baggage and other emotional trauma, this might take years.

    3. If you are a slut, say so. Perhaps wear a tee shirt. That way, if he’s also a slut, then you can have fun together. If, on the other hand, you want a long term relationship, say so. Look deep inside yourself, read books, go to counselling if necessary, to figure out what kind of relationship you want. Depending on childhood baggage and other emotional trauma, this might take years.

  • Laura Ann

    “I call it the entire Saved By the Bell Series, beloved romcoms like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and The Notebook (sorry, Feminist Ryan Gosling) and the plot of Pride and Prejudice:
    popular culture is woven together with stories of women who said No
    when they meant Yes, or in some cases, eventually meant Yes, after a
    little creative coaxing.”

    Are you trying to say that love stories that romanticize pursuit are apart of rape culture? Because Pride and Prejudice is not about pursuit; it’s about human ego and societal expectations about class expectations of marriage. Consent in Pride and Prejudice is also abundantly clear. Lizzie only considered the arrogant Darcy when he stopped seeing her poor family as an obstacle. I would argue that she turned him down when his pursuit was the “hottest.” He basically says to her, “I love you in spite of your family!” And her polite refusal is her century’s equivalent of “Hell no.” And he gets it and walks away. Later in the story, Darcy only returns when his rich aunt tries to make Lizzie promise that she will not marry her nephew. Of course, Lizzie is an independent agent and refuses outside persuasion from everyone including Darcy himself. She does fall in love with him–only when she can see his character in action and she can see that he is compassionate, honorable person. For all end-all purposes, Darcy proposes to her and she does say yes. But Lizzie never meant “No” when she said “yes” or vice versa.

    “When a man fights (with a boombox above his head) to overcome a woman’s objections, love is in the air. Media makers spin science to validate this Dating Do—even self-proclaimed liberated women defend their position as hard sought objects of pursuit, arguing that women who are communicative and upfront about their desires are just secretly insecure about their ability to keep a mate.”

    Romantic comedies do bank on women’s insecurities, but many of those insecurities are relevant but they fall flat and feel like stereotypes because women are always portrayed as the worriers. We see it so often that we become desensitized to it. What is missing from romantic-comedies is the double-sided exploration of insecurity. And you won’t see that in stories about pursuit because only one person ever changes–usually a woman for a man.

  • so tired of feminism

    Question 1) a woman/ girl gets drunk and drives and ends up killing someone; a woman/girl gets drunk at a party and takes her shirt off; a woman/girl gets drunk and decides to kiss someone. If someone is drunk they are still responsible for their own choices. If someone chooses to sleep with someone while they’re drunk and regrets it later, how are they suddenly not responsible for the fact they choose to get drunk and chose to have sex? If they are passed out, obviously totally different. A) just cause you’re drunk doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for your choices (and the choice to drink) – if we’re going to argue that drinking mitigates responsibility of one’s choices/ actions (i.e. it’s not possible to give consent, because one isn’t in control of the choices one is making) then that would have to apply to they guy that’s been drinking too. 2) I agree entirely that the idea of entitlement can be dangerous. That being said, there are millions of men that operate within the “Chase” culture that do not end up as rapists – rape requires a certain kind of mentality. 3) Calling someone a bitch isn’t verbal assault. Nice? No. Assault? No. If someone called someone a bitch in the context of a threat (like maybe if they screamed it at the top of their lungs in a drunken rage), then yeah that would be verbal assault. Verbal assault has to include an element of threat. Just being as asshole is not a threat. 4) To me personally, in order for someone be a rapist, they have to know the other person doesn’t want it, or knowingly removes the other person’s ability to express that they don’t want it (which innately implies that they suspect or already know the other person would refuse). I think the definition of rape is very generous to “survivors,” granting them practical infallibility, completely mitigating any choices they made in the sequence of events, and pretty much granting them any point in time to decide they didn’t want to have sex (and they don’t even have to express it to the person pursuing them). All a woman has to do is claim she was intimidated, or didn’t know what to do, and all of a sudden the guy that thought he had consent is suddenly a rapist even if alcohol or force wasn’t involved. I think there is a difference between someone being forcibly violated, drunken indiscretion, and even sober poor judgment. If someone is too shy to say no or indicate that they don’t want to have sex, there’s no way for a well-meaning man to stop because he doesn’t have that information (maybe he would have stopped, if he’d been told). If someone doesn’t realize that they don’t have permission to do something (and more so, believe they do have permission because of permissive behavior) and they do it, how can they possibly be held responsible for not being given that information? 80% of communication is non-verbal, a universal language that something is okay is to be permissive. Withholding information, verbal or otherwise mitigates responsibility much more effectively than alcohol. 5) As far as the chase goes – women that make a lifestyle out of The Chase do it for ego just as much as men that try to conquer. Being chased stimulates the ego (libido?) and being the one to receive the permission (“conquer”) likewise stimulates the ego (libido). While it’s true that predators are lured in by The Chase, jumping through hoops as part of courtship to assess fitness of a potential mate can be found practically in every species on earth, and The Chase, I think is all about boundaries and commitment (in a healthy dynamic). It is entirely possible to engage in a Chase lifestyle safely as long the erroneous conclusion of entitlement is weeded out. It is the idea of entitlement that should be targeted specifically – while The Chase lays a fertile ground for bad seeds to sprout, it can also be a fertile ground for many other positive seeds as well. It’s better to remove the weeds than dig up the farm to the bedrock.

    • t

      All I got from your silly diatribe is that you feel justified in raping drunk women and can’t understand why feminists won’t agree with you on that. Do the world a favor and please go jump off a bridge.

    • Shockna

      “a woman/ girl gets drunk and drives and ends up killing someone; a
      woman/girl gets drunk at a party and takes her shirt off; a woman/girl
      gets drunk and decides to kiss someone.”

      None of these are necessarily sexual (and the first is overtly non-sexual).

      “If someone chooses to sleep with someone while they’re drunk and regrets
      it later, how are they suddenly not responsible for the fact they
      choose to get drunk and chose to have sex?”

      There’s a difference in informed consent. When drunk, you don’t have the faculties to make that choice with complete information. If a choice you make while drunk has horrific consequences for another person (death, rape, etc.), that changes the equation, and you retain responsibility.

    • Bastet

      Lets take heteronormative assumptions out and male, female roles out of this and break it down for a bit of clarity.

      Two equally drunk people have drunk consensual sex and one person regrets it afterward. No crime has been committed here. Poor judgement on both people’s part has occured.

      One person has had a couple of drinks and is slightly feeling the effects. The other person is so drunk they can hardly speak or walk. The near sober person initiates sex with the very drunk person. This is rape. It doesn’t make any difference if the near sober person is male, female or trans, if the completely drunk person is male, female or trans, if its a man and a woman, two men or two women. It is rape to garner ‘consent’ from an impeded person from the absence of a ‘no’.
      We used to have the understanding, ‘It’s wrong to take advantage of a drunk person’. Somewhere, somehow this extremely important code of conduct got lost.

  • camilla

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’ve experienced the exact things described in this article. Date rape, coercion, being chased and begged for a relationship or sex. Being expected to have sex, expected to say “yes, I will be your girlfriend”, just because a man is attracted to me. So many men feel ENTITLED to pussy, ENTITLED to women…men who feel women are inferior of course. Ugh, it’s all unacceptable, and I’m fed up. NO MEANS NO!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cpt_Justice

      Or, even better still: “ONLY ‘YES’ MEANS ‘YES’!”

      We are so
      wrapped up in male privilege/entitlement that we actually pat ourselves
      on the back for creating the standard for men that “The default is
      actually “yes”, so you have to be told “no” in order to stop what you
      are doing.” Thank about it. If a man actually realized that he should
      get permission for whatever it is he wants to do, making a woman have to
      tell him “no” in order to get him stop WOULDN’T EVEN COME UP!


    Thank you for this wonderful if not saddening article.

  • Alison

    10,000% agree with you, with one slight caveat: Don’t include Pride & Prejudice in the list of romantic comedies that portray “no means yes if you try hard enough”. Mr Darcy proposed to Elizabeth, she tells him No in very firm terms, he takes that as the answer, only giving her a letter the next day to explain the truth of some things she has misconstrued, then he’s gone for good. SHE goes to visit his property, she is friendly to him, and then she refuses to give his horrible aunt a guarantee that she won’t marry him. Only then does he come back into her neighbourhood to see what the state of affairs is…

    Sorry, my lifelong Janeite status made me have to correct the slander on Miss Austen’s book.

    Otherwise, as I said, hell yes. Down with the coy, game-playing bullshit. I’m all for enthusiastic, spoken out loud, ongoing consent. It’s sexy as hell.

  • blankk23

    Too many people don’t recognize the difference between “playing” hard to get and *being* hard to get, and it’s an important distinction.

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  • OakTray

    Women prefer non-needy guys, it’s natural that women would assume that men prefer non-needy women – but men don’t have any built-in attraction mechanism based on whether a woman is needy at all – and if we say we care about it that’s probably just pretending to have high standards so women will think we aren’t needy.

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  • anonymous

    I think that a lot of this is correct, but in general, I’m more of a passive person in a relationship. I do like being chased. I have never said no and not meant it, but a little chase is fun, I think. I’ve learned from experience that’s something I like, and I’ve been told over and over again that that’s just rape culture working its way into my subconscious. I want to broaden the conversation to teach children about consent, but that different things that people like are okay. ALSO, fact check, because in pride and prejudice, one of the men trying to get the heroine’s attention tells her that he knows women say no the first time to marriage so they will be asked again, and the heroine is so appalled she can’t even speak. Jane Austen is a fantastic feminist.

  • rando

    Technically it is bunk for dogs. A good trainer (owner or professional) can teach a dog of any age a trick. Same goes for people it is just a lot harder and best done by professionals.

  • DL

    I disagree. Anyone can learn how to do anything if they actually care to want to learn it. Sometimes it requires them to seek help, sometimes it just requires them to work on being the person they want to be. It is often dealing with deep shadow work, entering into the place of core beliefs and changing them. I find it is important to never hold the idea that “this is how I am.” For that statement is surrender of the only control we actually have in this world. It is giving away our power. We can only control ourselves and that has no age stigma on it, its only requirement it awareness and that can happen at any age. So lets spread some awareness and hopefully cause some growth.

  • JJ

    Not a bad article. Pretty much valid all the way through, but it doesn’t matter how hard to get someone is playing: when it comes to sex, and somebody definitively says no, you have to be a f*cking nut job to keep going. Society definitely has a role to play in encouraging rape culture, but no normal person rapes another person no matter what societal pressure or atmosphere they’re faced with.

  • mkd

    Someone finally gets it, thank you! I have been fighting awkward experiences for years. I am very blunt, I say no and they still try and push with all of their manly might. It puts a girl some scary situations, fuck the being seen as a prize well earned shit. I have never been quite able to grasp why it was so hard to understand “no” until I read this and remembered hard to get. However, there are still ways to play hard to get without breaking to no, it is called holding off on sex to really get to know the person and not the lust. However, sit down and talk about what you want and so on. Just because you are blunt doesn’t mean you should or have to fuck on the first date.

  • Sarah

    You seem to have misread Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth isn’t “convinced” to say yes to Darcy. He makes his feelings known and when she doesn’t reciprocate he drops it completely. She becomes aware that her objections to him are unfounded and begins to appreciate him more. She decides to say yes and it is only after he notices the change that he pursues her again. When Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins she makes it clear that her no means no. As for the other characters, they never say no when they mean yes and vice versa. Please, before you attack a particular work, look deeply into the matter of whether or not it supports your point.

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  • Nanci Armstrong-Temple

    I think there are two separate points being conflated in the article. Obviously it is important to teach all people, adults and children of every gender, that it is their job to stop whenever someone says no (or anytime the yes isn’t explicit). I cringe when I hear parents playing the ‘funny no game’ with their children, where they tickle or chase or whatever other thing and their child pretends to say no and they ignore it and keep doing the thing. I have specifically asked people not to play those games with my children, and there are adults in our lives who still do and it is crazy making. However we also tell our children that they have the right to take their time, and that intimacy is a process. I hope we will never shame them for experimental sex, but there is nothing casual about sexual contact and even occasional or one-time partners should be treated with love and respect. We do not have to be ‘easy’ in order to not play hard to get.

  • Anonymoo

    One big issue with women and ‘playing hard to get’ is this ingrained notion in society that women are not sexual. It’s the idea that women are sexual objects, but not sexual people. They are there to look at and fuck, but but do not themselves have sexual desires. Women don’t masturbate, don’t get off on certain things, don’t randomly get horny halfway through a meeting at work, don’t have sex dreams, and so on. It’s the idea that a woman must withhold any hint of desire and not “put out” too soon or people will just think she’s an overly-sexual slut. There doesn’t seem to be the freedom for women to just want sex and want orgasms in some way without being seen as super kinky or slutty (as if either of those should even be a problem, and yet they are seen as that!).
    Some women living in this crappy, oppressed world, and in particular those with Catholic backgrounds such as myself, just don’t want to admit to their sexuality because it’s been hammered in so hard that they mustn’t let on that it exists. So then they will hide it and will ‘play hard to get’ and resist the man’s attempts to chase her until it’s an apparently appropriate time for the woman to say she’s turned on or to basically give in to the chase, thus rewarding the man with the prize he was striving for.

    The circle perpetuates in this way. I know I used to think I couldn’t admit to having any sexual drive and in intimate moments I genuinely had anxiety and it turned me right off, because I’d think “ok, we’re getting sexual and I might enjoy this, but am I meant to? I probably shouldn’t seem too into this, and if I do this then I’ll be seen as a slut…” and so I was constantly worried about how I would seem, as if I was the only one who would be accountable for any of it no matter how pushy the boy was.
    As a teenager at school, it was ok for the girls to talk about giving the boys handjobs or blowjobs, or even having sex with guys, but god forbid if any of them mentioned masturbation or admitting that they themselves felt horny. The the only time a girl could do anything sexual, it had to pleasure the man. If she’s pleasuring herself, it’s gross and weird and turns into a joke the girls will be bullied about for years. Boys masturbating is both normal and occasionally a shared joke for them. Such an imbalance…

  • thisistheplace

    this isn’t about sexuality, though. at least not for us. this is about empowering him to know that unwanted touch by anyone is never ok. wanted touch is just fine. although, i could do with less non-stop penis grabbing, but he’s a toddler, so what do i want?

  • Zelda

    This made me think of the phenomena of “friend zone.” Where guys are led to believe that all girls that are friendly with them must have sex with them, otherwise they’ve been “friend zoned.” Such a nebulous thing to do to put a negative stamp on the idea of friends. Like it somehow emasculates a man if a woman just wants to be platonic! Women are shamed and guilted if she doesn’t want to have sex with a man. Men are shamed and guilted by their buddies if they a woman hasn’t put out for him. What the heck?!

  • Deebubbles

    I completely agree with this article. I hope my friends will read it and learn from it too!! I’ve made it my facebook status!

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  • Jess

    I’d disagree with your citing of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as an example of no meaning yes. The whole function of Mr Collins’ character is to demonstrate that when Lizzy says no, she means it. When she initially says no to Darcy, she means that too. As her feelings towards him change, based on the evidence about his character that accumulates, she’s honest about it. When he asks the second time, she says yes straight away. She never pretends to dislike him or plays hard to get.

    • Clay Dowling

      I have to agree here. Pride and Prejudice isn’t a story of playing hard to get at all. It’s quite clear she doesn’t care for Darcy at the start. Nor does he especially pursue her. It is only as they grow to know more of each other that they realize their initial mutual dislike was based on a false impression.

  • Chloe Cannon

    Okay, I agree with the majority of this, but don’t bring ‘Say Anything’ into this article unless you’ve actually seen the movie. The female protagonist of the film is a brilliant, strong woman who has to make a difficult decision based on her father’s illegal behaviors. Lloyd Dobler is a respectful, equal-minded man who does not represent any of the cultural mores you have addressed here.

  • Sasha

    Oh I love this. Was thinking the other day about how women only have sex one the man has taken her to dinner or something like that, and that I would get into bed as and when I want to, because I don’t want a guy to treat my body like a prize he has earned. Don’t know if this is entirely related to your article but just wanted to share.

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  • Melisa

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    • Bastet

      Spam again

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  • Mysterion

    Very insightful,I wish there was more honesty when love is on the line. Life doesn’t have to be complicated with endless bullshit taught to us by pop culture. /thumbs up.

  • Noes

    This article makes a good point, however, I am forced to disagree on some points. I understand how the author sees a connection between women playing hard to get and men thinking that when a woman says no, she’s actually just playing around. Still, as a woman, you do have your own dignity and this is different for everyone. If you feel it is right to play hard to get then why the hell shouldn’t you? I mean I am not afraid of coming on too strong, being the first to say I love you etc. but I will not sleep with a guy on the first date and I will not willingly jump into his arms even if I really want to. I feel like it’s just part of my personally constructed dignity. But if you’re alright with said instant jumping into arms, then hey, no judgement here.

    • Bastet

      I didn’t read, ‘not playing hard to get’ as being about how soon a woman has sex with a man she likes. I read it as concealing interest so as not to ‘come on too strong’ such as sending a text saying something to the effect of, ‘I enjoyed our date last week. There’s a show on friday night I’d really like to see. Would you like to accompany me?’ Our western culture reads this kind of thing as the woman being ‘desperate and clingy’ at best and ‘easy’ at worst. The idea is that if she openly shows interest in this specific man then she must be chasing every man in this way. Is it any wonder, women are afraid to take the slightest initiative when something so innocent can skewed into slut shaming?

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  • Dan

    I agree with this 100%. I think people that play hard to get are just manipulative jerks. Love should be about caring for each other, not a malicious game. It certainly means I’m single and lonely all the time, but I’d rather be single and lonely than treat women the same malicious way they treat me.

    • Bastet

      Hi Dan,
      Kudos for not treating people badly.

      Just want to point out that there are two parties playing the game. Men are taught that if a woman openly and honestly likes them that she must be a slut who openly likes every man and thus she’s of no value. Wonem are taught that if they want to be percieved as valuable they must be careful to show only enough interest to create the chase. Too much, and they’ve just becone a ‘worthless whore’.

      This ‘game’ is damaging and hurting everyone and the price for refusing to play can be quite steep. It can mean making it harder to find a genuine honest man or woman. And for women it can also mean being on the end of slut shaming, nasty and cruel rumours snd being treated without any basic human dignity. No-one is ‘winning’ at this game.

  • Garen

    As a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, I’d like to add that girls playing hard to get is confusing as fuck, and really annoying.

  • purplehue

    It sounds to me like this chick is saying, “Give yourself to everyone so that nobody rapes you”. Basically, have consensual sex with hundreds of dudes so you don’t get raped by one do#chebag…sounds like great advice to me…idiot.

    • Lizzy

      I don’t think that’s what this author is saying at all. Rather, she is pointing out that “playing” hard to get (or acting as though you don’t want it when you do), and following other absurd dating rules, perpetuates the rape culture we have. She is drawing a link between this mentality to the male mentality of “you know you want it” or “no means yes”. All she is saying concerning the dating rules is don’t follow them. If you want to have sex with someone, go ahead and have sex with them. If you don’t, then don’t. Maybe if we’re all honest about what we want then there will be no need for some men to ‘guess’ what we want (even when we give a clear ‘no’). I don’t think that is so bad, do you?

  • New K

    They are all teaching their kids to be “nice guys,” and when the (male) kids all grow up, they will face years of rejection and loneliness. Why? because they will always stop as soon as a woman says stop and they will never get anywhere with women while all the jerks and “bad boys” continue to win because they know how to play the game properly. But then again, some kids grow up and learn… like I did. I used to be the nice guy who couldn’t get anyone. I used to be the big wussy who would always be nice, stop and apologize as soon as I thought I did something wrong. Now I’ve changed and DAMN! I’m no longer the nice guy who’s always in the friendzone watching the bad boys and jerks get every woman I wanted to date. I actually have a girlfriend now, and I sure as hell didn’t get her by stopping every single time she said stop…

    Anyway, good luck to the future men out there!
    Truth is: Nice Guys Finish LAST. Many people deny it or like to pretend it’s not true, but it is what it is.

    • Lauren G

      Truth? You’re just spouting your personal anecdote. Well here’s mine:

      From my personal experience, my male friends who have genuinely nice personalities and are respectful are all in long-term relationships. It’s the guys who behaved like you describe who are lonely and alone.

      I’m an attractive, educated young woman who has always strived to date genuinely nice men who respect me. Like the author, I am a straight shooter. I don’t play games. And I expect to be with someone who is also forthright and honest. That is the mature way to approach a relationship.

      If someone is too aggressive or pushy, he’s not going to hear from me again. The behaviors that people like you use to play “the game” turns me off. I don’t want a bad boy/jerk. That type of guy is not sexy to me and would not make me happy. I’ve certainly had the choice between the two, and I definitely don’t go for the jerk.

      In my opinion, there is a difference between picking up confidence/social skills and becoming a bad boy/jerk. What you described is the latter.

      To me, that is not a man. My mature, nice, and caring boyfriend is way more of a man than anyone who plays by your rules. That goes for females as well as males.

      • Ettina

        “From my personal experience, my male friends who have genuinely nice
        personalities and are respectful are all in long-term relationships.
        It’s the guys who behaved like you describe who are lonely and alone.”

        Science backs you up there.

        Men who score high on the personality trait of Agreeableness (essentially, ‘nice guys’) tend to have more trouble getting into a relationship, but once they do, they have longer-term, better quality relationships than men who are low in Agreeableness.

        • johnstoner


          ‘having more trouble getting into a relationship’ might be ‘not tricking women into getting involved with guys they shouldn’t’ in disguise. I mean, if you want to screw lots of women, maybe pushy works. You know, find women you can push around and then get them to have sex with you. Maybe that’s a consent gray area, but hey, if you don’t have morals, that’s not a problem, right?

          It might be interesting to do some research on those relationships that non-nice guys get into.

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    • Bastet

      Another spam from the same person as above.

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  • Sarah dW

    This is a really interesting and thought provoking article. I always thought ‘play hard to get’ was a bit silly and frankly have no sympathy for men who fall for it and then complain when it all goes wrong that women are bitches (well dah and guess what, the one that didn’t play ‘hard to get’ isn’t). But the fact that it could link to rape through sending messages that no doesn’t mean no is something that I never thought of but is definitely something to think about.

  • Cpt_Justice

    The plot of “Pride & Prejudice” is not, & never has been “saying “no” when you mean “yes”.” The central character MEANT it said “no”, *because of a misunderstanding*. Which misunderstanding *is* the entire point of the novel! I’m stunned you got that so wrong. Otherwise, a pretty good article.

    • Lizzy

      Totally agree. I think that was reaching a bit, and I think she wanted to capture that particular story because it has been around for the entirety of the 19th century as one of the greatest love stories. But Elizabeth Bennet starts out genuinely LOATHING Mr Darcy. And when Mr Darcy tries to persuade her, she hates him even more (and tells him so!!). It isn’t until he begins to hear the truth of his character (by *other* sources – Mr Darcy is way too proud to gravel at anyone’s feet, or to set right the ‘truth of his character’ to someone in Miss Bennet’s social status) that she begins, slowly, to change her mind about him.

      I like a lot of what this article is saying, because I think there is truth to the whole “play hard to get, don’t do something you want in case you come off as clingy/psycho/desperate” playing into our current issues with consent. I just think that there so many good, convincing, and genuine examples of this out there that there should be no need to try and make out something as an example when it is not.

  • Cpt_Justice

    And if more men reacted the way you do – giving up – rather than pestering the living daylights out of them, the world would be an infinitely nicer place.

    • Weaver2

      Just give up. Life lessons.

  • Cpt_Justice

    Have you seen a counselor?

  • Cpt_Justice

    We want the man who sees us an individuals, & not as a collective who must all behave the same way. If a woman plays hard to get & gets discarded by someone, then that is the consequences she should have to live with. All human beings, male or female, should always respect “no” – &, in fact, should not force someone to say “no”, but, rather, ask permission & wait for “yes” first. Anyone who plays games & is left alone because of them should learn a valuable lesson from it.

  • Cpt_Justice

    YES!! This will not only reward everyone with hassle-free interactions, it will necessarily teach those who are playing hard to get a good, sharp lesson!

  • Cpt_Justice

    Fabulous! Yes, I totally suggest that you definitely stop pursuing women altogether.

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  • james

    i fully back everything you have said, boys are generally very direct about their intentions when it comes to a potential sexual encounter. It is the ‘hard to get’ teasing culture rife in female culture the creates the miscommunication.

  • 365kingston

    when i first started reading this article, i never dawned on me that it would lead to the issue of rape… my initial thought was that the whole hard-to-get game, was based on a pack of lies; what a great way to begin a relationship. men have a sense of this, but with articles written like the above, it brings the truth to light.

    it’s no wonder a bunch of young men stand around the garter as it lays on the dance floor at a wedding.

  • anonymous

    I really wish women tried as hard to understand men as men do women. I agree with this article completely. Mean what you say and have no apologies or courtesies afterwards. Be brutally honest (but still polite). Telling me I’m a nice guy, but not your type…I get that. Telling me “Maybe some other time” …I get confused… I tell any woman I think may have potential of “going there” clearly “stop means: later” and “No” means “Not interested, we’re done”….because I want our communication clear. Sometimes a woman means slow down, sometimes she means “No.”
    Speaking of which: Whatabout when a guy says “No”?

  • Caitlin

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    • Bastet

      This is spam advertising!

  • savedbythebellvs.patriarchy

    I’m so happy to read an article like this that puts “patriarchy’ and “misogyny” in quotes (revealing how abstract and diluted these terms can be), uses actual references and facts, and has a concise, arguable thesis. After reading so much blogosphere bullshit it’s a real relief. Thanks!

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  • Josh Villa

    In this generation i don’t think there’s hard to get specially on other country much more liberated compare to others in general.

  • TheEloquentEye

    Very Insightful stuff, feel like this should have been more obvious to me somehow. I think its a shame that some men are so primitive that they extend this kind of game playing to mean a girl might actually want sex even when saying no but there is every verity of man out there, good, bad and everything in between.

  • cc

    I hate playing hard to get, should I answer his call, do I say I am (pretend busy)? The dishonest way makes him happy, but it makes me miserable. Either way I lose.

  • ben

    “Guys like a little chase”

    actualy, nobody i know of, does. the all take it as the way it is. those are the rules of the game, you have to persue in order to get her. if you ask them what they would prefer, they tell you something different. most dont tell the truth to others guys because they feel good when they are effectiv in “playing by the rules”. they can show that “they’ve got it down”
    i never like those games. if iam interestet in a person, its legit, direct and open. if they want to put up a game i refuse. there is no game to master. if iam meeting a women in bar, start a chat with her and she replies, the chats goes on. if she doenst, its over by that point. same goes for the other way around. and it goes on from there.

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