​Ask Dr. Nerdlove: Do Women Have It Easier In Dating?

Hello, Internet! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that can calculate the exact Twinkie value of the psychokinetic energy of romantically frustrated geeks.

And that's one big Twinkie.

Today's column takes on one of the most frequently recurring issues I hear about from my readers: The eternal question of "Who has it easier in dating: men or women?" Is there greater temptation for women to upgrade when the next hot guy comes along? Is it possible to trust your girlfriend with her guy friends knowing that some of 'em are hoping to get in her pants?

Let's do this.

Hey doc,

You've done articles where you answered the question about girls having guy friends but I'm still having a hard time with this topic. In my experience and from what you seem to also speak on, girls give signals and or hints when they like a guy. From that point he has to catch these hints that it's game on and she digs him right? However, guys when they like a girl are supposed to be more forward and aggressive. So then is it right to believe that girls have far more temptation to trade up than a guy does?

For instance being faithful to any girl I've dated (including my current one), has been pretty simple. I don't really seek out new women to be around, and when girls are sweet to me i'm nice back and move on with my life. If any of my female friends wanted to date me, I usually had NO idea they were into me and they never made confessions or asked me out over and over or tried to get me wasted etc etc. Bottom line, I believe that a guy has to make a serious meditated effort to cheat or find a new girl or whatever. If he behaves he probably wouldn't run into a ton of new possible girlfriends.

With girls it's different right? They usually have more male friends than female friends these days and usually a handful of these guys have crushes on them. Plus, wherever they go to party, hang out, work etc there are guys who want to date them who have to make the first move. So, it's really frightening this kind of dating scene. I'm not saying that all girls are just cheating on their men. I'm saying its really tough being in love with someone who is surrounded by your competition. With all these different types of guys from all walks of life trying to impress her, when is finally someone with enough credentials going to blow you out of the water?

Women don't have to cheat, they can just dump you if the right guy comes along. I'm not saying guys don't or can't do it. It just seems like a fucked up scene man. A woman can do everything right and mind her life and her own business and still have guys very clearly and obviously try to get with her.

For instance what's bugging me is that my gf found out a little while ago that one of her friends has been trying to hook up with her for awhile. And she still wants to hang out with him (which I don't understand, she now knows that he wants her and she still thinks they should hang out?). She did nothing, she didn't go looking for men and now there's someone in her life is like hey yo, let me do everything I can to impress you and etc and win you over. Whereas I would have to actively work and bring women to my situation.

Is it bad that I think she should at least have some kinds of reservations about hanging with this friend, instead of them pretending that the information isn't out there? And do you think what I'm saying is wrong about women having way more temptation?

Frustrated And Confused

Hoo boy, there's a lot to unpack here. This is a layered question, FaC, because it's getting fairly deep into gender roles and their effects on communication styles and socialization and compounds the issue by dealing with questions of jealousy, insecurity, hypergamy and making a turn into the age-old issue of "who has an easier time in dating".

So let's detangle things a little here, starting with the question of signals or indicators of interest. As I've mentioned before: women are socialized to be indirect, especially when it comes to interacting with men and giving indications that they're attracted to somebody. While men are taught to be forward - even aggressive - in displaying their interest, women are taught to be more subtle and rely much more on body language and eye-contact to communicate intent. Part of the reason for this - and why women on average don't take a more proactive approach to dating - is because a lot of guys tend to respond badly to women who are aggressive or overt, and because women are more likely to be harassed even for baseline friendliness.

You see, the social narrative says that men are supposed to be the sexual aggressors while women are supposed to be submissive and receptive. The more macho or hyper-masculine the culture, the more rigid the gender roles. As a result, there's a wide swath of men who are profoundly uncomfortable when gender roles are reversed. Often they vastly overestimate a woman's interest and turn her friendliness into an invitation for aggression—"Hi, you seem nice," becomes "Take me now in a manly fashion"—and there's really no way for a woman to tell how a guy's going to react before she's had a chance to get to know him. So most women tend to err to the side of caution and flirt more subtly at first.

And honestly? Guys tend to miss those signs either because they're not looking, or because they're misinterpreting them. It's a fucked up situation that makes it hard for anyone to tell who's flirting with whom. Womp womp.

In all likelihood there've been women flirting with you that you didn't notice, either because you missed the signals or because they're women you weren't attracted to. Remember that, I'll be coming back around to it in a second.

Which brings us to the next part of your letter: whether a straight guy has to work harder than a straight woman to find someone to cheat with or to date after being dumped. And the answer is… sort of. But not in the ways you think.

See, to start with, the idea itself is misleading. You're starting off with a bad case of confirmation bias; you're only paying attention to women who have an easy time finding dates or meeting guys they're attracted to. Then you're ignoring the effort that women put into making themselves attractive and approachable - all those hours in the gym, all the time getting dressed and made up in order to look the way they're "supposed" to (without looking like they put in any effort). And even then, you're basically erasing every woman - and there are a lot of them - who isn't effortlessly finding a relationship.

(And, it should go without saying, all of this is without getting into LGBT dating issues.)

Now, remember what I said about men being the aggressors and women being passive? Another reason why men are able to be more aggressive is that women bear a disproportionate level of risk to their personal safety when it comes to sex and relationships. First and most obviously, there's the fact that the average woman faces greater physical risk from a strange man than the average man does from a strange women. Then there's the social aspect: men are lionized for having sex while women are vilified for it - including by the same guy she just slept with. And there are the obvious biological risks: pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the latter of which present a greater risk to women than to men. And then there's the question of whether the sex will actually be worth all of that risk.

Men don't have to deal with most of that, so they're freer to be the aggressors. As a result, women are more likely to find men approaching them regularly - regardless of relationship status - while men who want to cheat on their girlfriends or wives are going to have to put more effort in to find someone receptive.

In terms of numbers, however… it actually probably evens out. Guys just tend to not notice because they're focusing on a small number of women and not noticing others who very well might be up for hooking up with them. Remember those women I said you didn't notice because you didn't find them attractive? There'll be plenty who are interested in you if you'd just stopped to give them the time of day...

Now before everyone jumps in on "so guys are stuck banging chicks they don't like," let me point out that this goes both ways. Women aren't just being hit on by gym-sculpted Adonises with perfect teeth and smoldering Ian Somerhalder eyes; they're being hit on by all kinds of guys - thin, fat, handsome, ugly, smooth, hairy… all kinds. Just because a woman has tons of people hitting on her doesn't mean that she's attracted to all of them or even any of them. And don't forget that a lot of those advances may be entirely unwanted and can (and often do) devolve into harassment, which further belies the notion that women somehow have it easier than men.

And that is what brings us to the last part of your question: what're you supposed to do when your girlfriend is surrounded by "your competition"? Isn't it just a matter of time before Studly Good Night sweeps her off of her feet and out of her panties and leaves you alone in the dust with your dick in your hand?

Let me ask you a simple question: do you trust your girlfriend? If the answer is no… well, you really shouldn't be dating her in the first place. Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship.

But if the answer is yes… well, then you really need to quit calling your girlfriend a whore. Which I realize seems harsh, but that's the unfortunate subtext of this question.

You see, you seem to be working under the assumption that women are dating checklists instead of people, and that's not how people work. Your girlfriend isn't dating you until she gets a better offer - she's dating you because there's something uniquely attractive about you as an individual. You're not a placeholder or a list of qualifications, you're an individual and it's those individual qualities that attract her to you. There are people out there who're handsomer than you. Who are richer than you. Who are more $QUALITY than you.

And yet your girlfriend is with you, not out trying to get any of those guys. She picked you out of all the potential boyfriends for a reason, not because she needed a warm body until she could upgrade to Boyfriend 10.1.

(Although yes, there are people who do this. We call these people "assholes." People who break up with someone to trade up have done their ex a favor because holy hopping sheep shit, why would you want to date someone like that?)

That friend of hers who's been trying to get in her pants since time immemorial? He's not your competition because this isn't a contest. Just because he's into her doesn't mean that she's suddenly lost all free will and it's just a matter of time until he's racked up enough XP to level up to Booty Call. Attraction isn't destiny. The fact that he wants her doesn't call your relationship into question. She's dating you specifically and either you trust her or you don't.

Is it OK that she's hanging out with this guy, knowing that he wants to get in her pants? Well, a lot depends on how she's feeling about the situation. Perhaps he's able to separate his attraction from their friendship enough to make it tolerable for her to continue being his friend. Perhaps she's ignoring his crush because she's really hoping he'll get over it and they can go back to being just friends. But unless she's actually giving you reasons to mistrust her - behavior that is objectively sketchy, not stuff that actually has a logical and reasonable explanation - then what you need to do is just trust her.

If you're seriously worried about it, then the best thing you can do is use your words. Let your girlfriend know how you feel without putting blame on her for your discomfort or making demands about who she can and can't be friends with. Just say "Listen, the fact that he's trying to get in your pants makes me uncomfortable. It's not that I don't trust you, it's about how I'm feeling about his behavior and not about anything you're doing. It's just an awkward situation that leaves me feeling a little jealous."

Just remember: Having more people hitting on you is not the same as having more temptation. The fact that more people are up in somebody's face doesn't mean that they're having an easier time than everyone else. Don't get hung up on "who has more options" or "who has it easier"; focus on yourself and your relationship.


Have you ever had to deal with somebody's crush on your significant other? Have you had someone try to snake your girlfriend or boyfriend out from under you? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section, and we'll see you in two weeks with more of your questions!


Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Write doc@doctornerdlove.com and put "Kotaku" in the subject line.

Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new book Simplified Dating is available exclusively through Amazon. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.