Violet, 1997-2011 »« Women Who Date Men: Do You Feel Expected to Let Men Make the First Move?

Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgendered People, and Alternatively Gendered People: Gender Expectations about Dating and Sex?

And one final (for now) question on this topic of gender role expectations in dating and sex.

Gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, and people with alternative gender identities who identify as neither male nor female or as both male and female: Can you talk about gender role expectations in dating and sex? Do you perceive an expectation that men make the first move in dating and sex, and/or that women wait for others to make the first move in dating and sex?

If you do: Can you say more about that? How has this affected you? How has it affected your dating life and your relationships? How has it affected other people in your life — men, women, or alternatively gendered? If you’re not actively dating now (because you’re partnered, have decided to be single, etc.) but have in the past — how has this affected you in the past?

And do you think you see these questions differently from traditionally gendered people in opposite-sex dating lives? If you think these expectations exist, have they had an affect on your identity as a gay man, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered person, or person with alternative gender identity? Do you think these expectations have an effect on the queer community and the queer dating scene?

And if you don’t feel this — if you either don’t think such an expectation exists, or you think it exists but don’t feel like it’s affected your life — please tell me about that as well.

You can answer in the comments — or, if you prefer more privacy than that, you can email me, greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. Again: This is for a piece I’m writing, so please let me know how you want your name cited if I quote you, or if you want to only be quoted anonymously, or what. (If you don’t say otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to quote you with handle or first name only.) Thanks!

Comments

  1. Essie says

    I’m bisexual. I’ve had two serious relationships – one with a man, one with a women. With the man I drove myself nuts waiting for him to make the first move. I was living in residence at a (reasonably liberal) Christian college at the time, and some girls did make the first move, but in hindsight there was always sort of a “tut-tut” attitude towards it. “Why did so-and-so ask such-and-such out? She should have just waited to see if he’d make the first move. Tut-tut, no wonder she got rejected.” My roomate made the first move in her relationship, but only because she was too falling-down drunk to care. (They just got engaged, so I’d say it worked out pretty well in the end.) Anyhow, in the end it took a solid six months of this guy and I dancing around the issue before we had our first date.

    With the women, it – took almost as long, actually, but for unrelated reasons. (Neither of us had ever dated a women before. She’s religious, I’m not. She was living in a different city. Etc.) There were lots of “first moves” for the various stages between being single and being properly a couple, and they were split about evenly between the two of us; maybe a few more from me than from her?

    With the man, there was this perception that I think we both had, that he was supposed to invite /me/ out places, he was supposed to take the lead, he was supposed to make the grand romantic gestures. I was always sort of afraid to be too pushy; I didn’t want to become clingy. With my girlfriend, the personality balance means I take the lead more often then not. I love making grand romantic gestures even more than I like receiving them, I think!

    Probably the man wouldn’t have minded if I’d taken the lead more or been the one to invite him out places. It certainly didn’t help that it was my first long-term relationship, so I was second-guessing all /kinds/ of things. But I even though I thought of myself as a pretty liberated lady, I still got caught up in this idea that yes, men are supposed to take the lead. Even now, I occasionally slip up and think of myself as the “man” of my current relationship, even though I know it’s beyond ridiculous.

    Don’t know if that’s helpful to you or not!

  2. Zelkwin says

    I have to admit that I giggled at the progression of guys? Ok women too? Alright EVERYONE, how is your dating experience?

    Before I figured out that I’m a lesbian, I had no interest with dating, and didn’t trust any male/masculine identified person enough to be in a room alone with them, much less date. I was only “asked out” once, so I accepted, because it was such a unique experience for me, but we didn’t even work as friends, much less as dates.
    I feel VERY threatened by male attention in any way because my parents took great pains to drill into my head that every man except your dad is a horrible rapist who will kidnap you and keep you as a sex slave if they get they slightest chance. That really cools one’s desire to date.
    When I came out, that changed dramatically. I present as butch-y, and because guys didn’t seem attacted to me, I assumed lesbians wouldn’t be either, so I figured I would need to do the asking. For the whole summer after I came out, I wanted to ask a particular woman who was drop dead sexy to me. I was VERY intimidated by the idea of asking her out. I never even found out her name, actually. I never got up the cajones to ask. However, I’m engaged now because I ended up asking a lesbian friend over sushi if I was in the friend box or not. :D

  3. says

    I’m a lesbian. Most of my friends are heterosexual, but have been in very long term relationships, so it had been a while since I heard any stories of boy-girl dating. But some of those relationships recently came to an end, and now I get to listen to their adventures again.

    I was… shocked at how much they still adhere to dating gender roles, partially because they’re not very concerned with gender roles outside of dating. But dating seems to be an exception where these things still apply and are relevant to them. I thought that surely online dating wouldn’t be the same, that the semi-anonymity made people feel more free to go outside those roles, but even online, apparently no girl sends the first message. It’s simply not done.

    I suppose I’ve always been oblivious to these things. When I did a round of online dating five years ago, I made all the first moves. When I did it a couple years ago, I decided to see if I could “succeed” at online dating without sending any first messages at all, and I talked to just as many women. It seemed to make no difference, since I suppose lesbians and bi women who are going after women have realized by necessity that adhering to the idea that the other person makes the first move means nobody talks to anybody ever.

    When I heard from my friends about their roles, I felt… free. Like, I’m behind on a lot of legal rights compared to them, but internally, in how I interact with others and how I see myself, I feel freer to do what I want.

  4. says

    Gender expectations in dating? They make me so glad I’m gay.

    One of my straight cousins complained about some guy she was interested in, but who would not make a move. She was sending him (what I thought were) ridiculously subtle hints in text message form. I said that this was a problem with the straight dating scene, that she should screw the system and be forthright. But she only saw it as the way things are supposed to be, and blamed other factors.

    It just wouldn’t work if I always had to initiate. It’s not that I lack confidence, just the motivation. I find that I just don’t develop interest in men unless I think they’re interested in me, and I’m not very good at detecting this. I don’t see the point of asking people out if I’m not at all interested in them. I did initiate with my current boyfriend though, because I thought (apparently not entirely accurately) that he was interested in me. Funny story. I’m happy that it can happen in either direction!

    On the other hand, the expectation that women don’t initiate has ironically helped me. No woman has ever clearly expressed any interest in me, so I’ve never had to turn them down.

  5. says

    I’m female, bisexual and polyamorous. I’m in two long-term relationships – one with a cis-man and one with a cis-woman. Because of the amount of time we’ve been together and because they don’t date outside of their own other long term partners, we have a pretty stable, egalitarian structure where gender roles are mostly an afterthought.

    I do date other people now and then, but when I do I tend to avoid men mostly because I hate the role I seem to immediately fall into when the interaction becomes remotely ‘date’-like. You’d think after all these years the script would be easier to resist, but no. It’s weird too, because I can *feel* myself slipping into it – the way I carry myself, my tone, how much I speak up ALL start to change. I can halt it, but then I end up in this weird internal tug-of-war and that can be a bit distracting in the middle of a conversation, you know?

    It’s much easier when the men in question are also already poly or bisexual or queer or trans or, failing that, feminists and secure in their own identities, and are generally unconcerned with gender roles, but put me in front of a (comparatively) conservative monogamous straight man and I’ll perform femininity like my life depends on it!

    …sometimes I feel it does. Which is also weird.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to assert myself a lot more, but I find that while that works wonderfully in a community that is generally supportive and respectful, in the wider world it can be a bit of handicap. ‘Regular’ men don’t know what to do with me and I consequently don’t really know what to do with them. I’ve gone the ‘state what you want and make the first move’ route, but that tends to get a tepid reaction. I think suggesting they feel emasculated is overstating it a bit, but yeah…it does feel like I’ve taken their special toy away or something.

    Conversely, when I let them make the first move, I feel a bit…cheap, I guess. Also dishonest. Because dammit I’m generally decisive and here I am playing the cutesy little girl because it’ll supposedly get me laid. That’s the point at which I think I don’t really want it all that much and walk away.

    This is getting ridiculously long, and I apologize. There’s just a little bit more.

    I’ve dated two genderqueer people in the past, one leaning towards masculine and one towards feminine. With the masculine leaning person, I ended up performing femininity in much the same way as I would with straight men, and feeling much the same resentment at being boxed into that role in our non-sexual interaction. However, when it came down to sex, all that seemed to fall away and it was perhaps some of the most honest sex I’ve ever had.

    With the feminine leaning person, I felt irritated at the more-feminine-than-thou attitude in daily life, and they felt irritated that I was making them feel more masculine than they wanted to in a sexual context. They’re both lovely people, but when it came down to it, the insistence that we had to ‘play’ our genders and that it mattered who got to ‘be the boy’ in all these different contexts was just not bearable for me.

    Oh and this is a gross overgeneralization from far too few data points and anecdotes, but I find – and am told – that women who generally date men tend to be helluva lot more passive in the sack than women who date primarily women. /overgeneralization.

  6. says

    On reading the comments under the other two posts, I should clarify that when I talk about dating, I mean (white?) American-style dating and roles both in the US and outside, but I’m not always talking about white American men or women. My most successful relationships have been those that have steered clear of that particular MO.

  7. says

    Lesbian who came out in her mid-twenties here.

    My history: In my “straight” life, I never really entered the dating scene, so there weren’t many first moves to speak of. I gradually got involved with my best friend from high school, and then six years later we ended up married. I spent many years ignoring all the signs of my queerness until it hit me like a brick wall: I fell for a woman friend of mine, and she for me. Our mutual and hidden crushes tortured us for half a year, and for it’s worth, she ended up making the first move, although that long hesitation had more to do with our current predicaments, as we were both involved with men at the time.

    When that relationship ended, I was entering the dating scene for the first time in my mid-twenties…as a lesbian. Talk about a double whammy. Even in Seattle, my job (book editor working at home) and extracurricular activities (mostly atheist activism) didn’t put me in the path of any gay folks, so that meant sticking to OKCupid (using a paid dating service seemed too depressing). For some odd reason I initially marked down “bisexual” as my orientation, and true to gender expectations, guys were pretty much the only people messaging me. I think I knew what was going to happen once I changed my orientation to its proper label — that the inbox would completely dry up. But it wasn’t doing me any good getting messages from guys, so I soon changed it to “lesbian.” As I had feared, I stopped receiving a lot of messages.

    What were my expectations initially? With a combination of still hurting from heartbreak and not knowing a damn thing about dating, I always just hoped for women to contact me. Messages trickled in, and I still went on a lot of dates, but mostly with the wrong people. My experience, unfortunately, was that women didn’t tend make a lot of first moves, and I fell into that trap, too. Hypocritical, but I just didn’t have the energy to be a pursuer.

    Some of this probably happens because of residual, internalized, subconscious gender expectations, even though they shouldn’t apply to us anymore. Part of it’s just being new to the scene and scared and intimidated. For me, even if I had a bold thought about a new pursuit that I wanted to act upon, I really wanted to respect her feelings and not come on too strong. Trouble is, I often over-analyzed my moves to the point of inaction, and I talked myself out of a lot of first moves. Typical green mistakes, I guess. In retrospect, I think I was also walking on eggshells from my previous relationship.

    All that being said, it improves with experience. You grow up, you shed the insecurities. Big “duh” here, but confidence does help, and after taking a break from dating for a year and getting myself together emotionally, I found that I was being pursued more often. It’s still not easy, but eventually you understand what every person, regardless of sex or orientation, must accept: it’s unreasonable to expect people to always approach you. It’s not even fair. That’s part of what I enjoy about the (more typically) gay dynamic–you destroy those old gender expectations and interact on a more mutual playing field. If you want a partner or a casual hookup or whatever, you have to be proactive about it, especially if your only option for even meeting a potential mate is through dating sites, which is unfortunately the case for a lot of us lesbians. I do resent dating sites, but I guess that’s another conversation.

  8. Erin says

    I’m a bisexual woman in a long-term monogamous relationship with a woman. My dating history is pretty much nonexistent, but I did make the first move with guys a few times because traditional gender roles in dating seem sexist and unfair to me. Luckily, the few guys in question didn’t seem disturbed or put off by it.
    I like that gender roles have no place in my relationship with my partner, and would consider that an upside of being with a woman (which is not to say that they would necessarily be an issue in a relationship with someone of another gender).

  9. says

    I feel fairly obligated to let other people make the first official move, though I’m very overt about my interest. For one, I’m already a fairly dominant personality and feel like that might frighten away guys; there is definitely still an expectation that men do the asking. For two, I don’t date many women and I feel like I should give “real” lesbians the right to reject me easily since I am not “one of them”, and I don’t feel like I am nearly intuitive enough with signals from women to take the lead. I should clarify that that is how lesbian culture makes me feel, it’s not what I actually think, I guess it’s just that strong dislike gay culture often has for bisexuals. I don’t label myself bisexual, though, I’m just intellectuasexual.

  10. CG says

    Bisexual woman in a long-term relationship with a man. When I was dating, I made the first move about 80% of the time, with both men and women, including my current partner. When I asked him how he felt about me making the first move, he said he was relieved. He hadn’t dated much in the past because all the women he met expected the man to make the first move, and he wasn’t comfortable playing that role. So my disregard for other people’s definitions of gender roles was a good thing for him. :)
    (Hope that helps!)

  11. Matrim says

    I am a bisexual male who is involved in a poly-amourous relationship with two bisexual women (although one of them prefers the label heterosexual because, in general, she prefers men even though she is also attracted to women). One of those women is also involved with a straight male who isn’t part of the poly-amoury. In addition our relationship is open, so there are other various occasional liaisons involved. As such my dating life is not what most people consider normal. I honestly don’t know how we conform or do not conform to gender roles. I’m a student whose primary income is the GI Bill, one of my girlfriends is a full-time employee of a major company and a mother of a 3 year-old, and the other is unemployed. I’ve known the unemployed one (for simplicity’s sake we’ll call her Sam, the other will be Lily) for over a decade now after I randomly grabbed her at a social center and told her to date my sister. Sam didn’t date her long, but we became friends and eventually started dating (which was on and off for years). Lily used to date a friend, I ran into her again long after they broke up and we became involved. I honestly have no idea where the two of them met, they’ve known eachother for years as well. So, the question as to who makes the first move is a difficult one to answer. I suppose I made the first move with Sam, Lily and me sort of came to a consensus together, and Lily made the first move with Sam. In our domestic situation I take care of myself, Lily takes care of herself, and we both kind of take care of Sam. I suppose I would be considered more “masculine” in the relationship, but it’s not by conscious effort. Lily also fills what might be considered masculine by some people (she’s the primary earner, she owns the house, she makes the rules in the house [being hers and all], and she prefers to do the fucking rather than be fucked although she does like both). For us it seems less about gender roles and more about what we’re comfortable with and what we are capable of. I guess they both have traditionally feminine traits as well. Both like makeup, skirts, and shoes; both like “girly” things like the color pink, glitter, and My Little Pony. However they also both like car engines, guns, and football. They also have traits that significantly differ. One is a beer drinker, one isn’t. One is scared of bugs, the other thinks they’re cool. One likes RomCon films, the other wants to watch “A Serbian Film” for Valentine’s Day. Both love giving head, but only one likes getting it; and only the other one likes anal sex. So, while they both have traits that would generally be called masculine, they also have traits that are generally feminine. They don’t conform to any particular set in their part of the relationship. As for me, it’s harder to analyze myself in this way as I’m not objective. I can say I don’t particularly care about what’s masculine or feminine, it’s not really an issue to me. What I care about is if the dynamic of the relationship works. If it does, I’m good with whatever role we happen to be in.

  12. says

    I’m an intersexed lesbian woman, so my identity and sexual history is a little more complicated.

    The brief on intersex (and my case, not the entire umbrella of conditions that fall under), since I imagine not everyone will be aware: I was born with a condition called Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS) which means I have XY chromosomes but my body can not process androgens (the term is the collection of different types of testosterone) correctly. Therefore I developed a female phenotype for the most part, with no uterus or ovaries (therefore no menstruation) and undescended testes in my abdomen. Testes were removed as an infant, I was lucky enough to go to a hospital that did not alter my genitalia (mostly standard vagina that has a blind ending pouch instead of cervix, but with an enlarged clitoris that developed as a teen) and told me the truth (many intersexed people are lied to about their condition).

    Anyway, knowing I was different from everyone was terrifying and isolating and I stayed away from all relationships when they started to get intimate for a long time. Even when I realized I was attracted to women, I didn’t ever act on it because of the fear of being found out to be so different. Finally driven to the point of suicide from depression and loneliness I luckily stumbled on to a support group which changed my life. I came out as intersexed and as a lesbian and I was in my 30s when I finally allowed myself some intimacy. A little more than 10 years later I find myself in a stable long term relationship with a wonderful woman and things are good.

    Sorry for all the history (and that was brief!) but I felt it necessary to answer the question here. While in many parts of my life I am probably seen as an aggressive and direct woman, when it comes to sex and initiating things in relationships, I was usually very passive. Years of shame made me hesitant to believe someone was interested in me and I would practically need to be hit over the head before I took a clue.

    Because of the physical component of my condition, it is very obvious when I am intimate with anyone – they would quickly know something was different, so I have always felt a need to disclose before I am with anyone. I read with jealousy Greta’s description of casual sex – that has always been denied me because of the need to disclose first – such revelations take a lot out of spontaneity and casualness. It is possible that all this disclosure and revealing was unnecessary and just in my head, but it always got in the way. Revealing something so personal with someone creates quite a bit of intimacy before you actually get intimate. I suppose that is great in some ways, but it is burdensome in others.

    Anyway, because of it, I have always let the other person initiate at the beginning of a relationship. It was sometimes very frustrating to wait but that’s how it usually went. Within a relationship, I am not quite so passive. Although I like to be seduced and be the “bottom”, sometimes I like to take charge. In my best relationships, things have always been equal and variable, where partners take turns in being in charge, directing things, etc., but then sharing that responsibility too and switching it up. I talk a lot about parity in my relationships – I find it very important.

    To look at me most people would not guess at me being intersexed. While not the most feminine of women, I’m not usually mistaken for a guy either. My partner tells me that sometimes I approach things in life very much like a guy (at those times I might hear her say “Your Y is showing, dear.”) but that in other ways I am very “girly”. I guess that’s why I embrace the term intersex because I really do often feel in between, but really I see that same free-flow mix of femininity and masculinity, at least in the more “real” people that I know.

    To sum up, being intersexed has certainly had an effect on me. I find myself attracted to aggressive women who like to take charge at the beginning of a relationship, but who can share that control within an established relationship. Gender roles are fluid in my own life and I tend to get with people who are similarly fluid, able and wanting to switch it up and have fun. The shame and secrecy surrounding my condition made dating a double edged sword of excitement and trepidation – I enjoyed getting to know someone and going out and learning about them, but somewhat terrified when it came to sex and intimacy. I think I do a lot better with that now, but I’m saying that from inside a committed relationship where I know I am safe and loved.

    Hope that helps!

    Kimberly.

  13. Lessa says

    I am a lesbian dating a bisexual women. Our relationship has proven to not really conform to any gender stereotypes. The way I look at it, whoever asks for the date is the one who pays. We are both tomboyish, although she is much more feminine than me. She instigated the first kiss. The only expectation that has been put to me is to make the first move in bed, which was a long time coming since I am her first female relationship and I wanted her to be sure.

  14. says

    I’m a bisexual trans woman in a long term relationship with a cisgender woman. I have no experience with dating on this side of my transition because, well, I haven’t dated at all, even though my partner and I are not deliberately monogamous. Pre-transition, it was very uncomfortable for me, in the role of a man, to make the first move. This is partially because I was terrified of my own gender identity, but it was also because, even though my exterior was “male,” I still felt that societal pressure that women feel to wait for my intended partner (i.e. “the man”) to initiate things. Even now, I generally prefer to let my partner initiate sex, which is kind of a problem, too, because she feels the same way. It’s all very awkward.

  15. joanna says

    I am a bisexual female, and I’ve dated both men and women. I haven’t been in the whole singles/dating/club scene since my late teens/early twenties (long-term monogamous relationship with a woman since then). I remember complaining a lot about how much easier it was with men. When I would go to the lesbian bar, we would pussyfoot around each other and nothing ever happened. I felt like all the women were socialized not to make the first move so the bolder ones got their pick (I was not bolder). Plus, their seemed to be a weird kind of social cachet in getting laid a lot without ever initiating that I completely bought into, but did not succeed at.
    With men, everything was much simpler. In the club scene, I just had to wear revealing clothes to find some guy dancing with me. In dating, if I flirted with a guy a little and nothing happened, I could reasonably assume he wasn’t interested and move on. (With a woman, there was a higher likelihood of her being too shy or having some random complicated personal reasons for hesitancy.)
    This just refers to my experience with men and women in their late teens and early twenties in a single specific medium-sized town. When I moved to a new place and wanted to date women, I used the internet and all those first move problems were somewhat avoided.

  16. says

    I am a genderqueer female-assigned pansexual in a polyamorous relationship with a boyfriend, a girlfriend, two male fuckbuddies and one female fuckbuddy. (Yes, I have too many partners.)

    I have made the first move with every one of my male partners throughout my dating career. Actually, I credit making the first move for all of my sexual experiences with men. I got my ass kicked by some sex-positive feminist bloggers who pointed out that “the telepathy-based flirting mechanism does not work.” It was hard, at first, to ask people out, but I think it’s like jumping in a pool of cold water. The first time you do it, you wait around for half an hour dithering; the twelfth, you just cannonball. :)

    I think that my tendency to date geek boys affects this: I have slept with seven virgins over the course of my sex life, which is 77% of my actual partner count. Virginal geek boys, for whatever reason, are less likely to make the first move in a timely manner: my ex said that if I’d waited for him to ask me out, he STILL wouldn’t have by now.

    I have never had a negative reaction from asking a dude out.

    As for dating women, I’ve had three female partners: one from Craigslist, one who hit on me by bringing home her male sex partner and proposing a threesome that became a triad (then the boyfriend left the triad and we became just us) and one who the aforementioned male sex partner picked up while his girlfriends were winging for him. All I can conclude from this is that poly weirds dating. :)

  17. says

    All the responses about women waiting for other women to make the first move remind of the poem ‘The Problem of Lesbian Sheep’. It’s a bit long, so I’ll just paste a snippet here. If you want to read the rest, it’s at http://www.polyamory.org/~howard/Poetry/lesbian_sheep.html
    (not my site or my work)

    And so, to sum up, there’s a system in place
    to ensure that the sheep can continue their race,
    and it works like a charm. So, no cause to lose sleep.
    … but consider the problem of lesbian sheep …

    Yes, a lesbian sheep hopes and prays she can find
    a lesbian ewe who’s of similar mind
    but she doesn’t know how! She was brought up to think
    that to find a good mate, you just stand there and stink.

  18. Aimee says

    I am a lesbian-leaning bisexual woman and I am currently in a relationship with a man but he is open to me dating women. I have had many casual flings with generally other bisexual-but-married-to-men women. I tend to initiate, at least as far as I bring up my sexuality and my attraction to them. I then usually wait for them to reciprocate to continue with kissing and whatnot. I also wait for them to discuss with their husbands if they hadn’t already.

    My only problems have been about the way men often view bisexual women. I honestly have 0 interest in any man other than my husband. I went out with a woman I was very attracted who was recently divorced and moving back to the states. We had a nice dinner, went to karaoke then went to a club. The attention we got was rather ridiculous. And a male friend of hers started hanging out with us and tried to get between us because he was interested in her. It was just like… no. We are not doing all this for your benefit. He was very angry when we left later and she was staying with me instead of going with him…

    Anyway, its definitely complicated especially within the generally conservative culture of the military and the particular country we are currently living in. So far my only issue with approaching/ being approached by other women is making sure we both are on the same page in what we want. Just clean safe fun, sexual relationship or is it more serious feelings? I’ve had the best luck with just fun/ friends with benefits type relationships with women.

  19. Musical Atheist says

    I’m bisexual, in a long-term monogamish relationship with a man.
    In my experience of relationships with men and women, it’s in sex rather than dating where I feel the weight of gender expectations. I think I come across as very ‘feminine’ in my looks and social demeanour. But when with male lovers, I’ve found that my natural ‘femininity’ is rarely enough – I need to perform even more femininity than I actually possess in order to keep them feeling safe, and this can become very boring.

    I’ve always tended to attract men who like to feel dominant, and I (mildly kinky) enjoy submission too, but I wish it hadn’t been so consistently one-sided. (I’m talking both about mild S&M and about general sexual demeanour.) I know there are many, many men who like feisty women, but they are rarely attracted to me! With women I’ve generally felt more free from performance in the bedroom, and consequently, the feisty, occasionally dominant side of my character comes out more – there’s the possibility for more balance.

    In dating, I like there to be equality in who pays etc, and I have encountered confusion about this from men. Fortunately I’m English, where I think dating culture is less rigid than in the USA. In fact, I’ve hardly ‘dated’ – I just fall into bed with someone and take it from there. No one necessarily ‘makes the first move’, you just both by tacit consent mutually manipulate the situations you meet in till as if by accident, you end up in a room alone 3 inches from each other and go ‘gosh, how did that happen? let’s kiss’! When dating an American man on-and-off for a couple of years, I was shocked at the number of stereotypes about the dating process he had to struggle with, and how many assumptions he had about male and female behaviour.

  20. says

    Genderqueer here! I kinda gave my answers in the other posts about how I approach women vs. men, (that is, I can take more liberties with men but feel the need not to rush with women).

    How does my own gender affect things? [Note that while I use a lot of stereotypes, that's to convey the impact of my emotions, not to reduce actual 3D people into flat stereotypes.] Lesbians tend to avoid me as I guess I act far too into dudes for them to maintain that gold star. Straight women seem to be looking for someone who goes through life acting like he has a giant cock he’s eager to cram into holes, something I physically can’t do. Bi women are very happy to have fun with me, though, and some of my sexiest memories are with them. It’s as if they can let go of being concerned how my gender identity will affect their sexual orientation identity. Gay men don’t even notice me. Straight men either are turned on by my assertive nature or get very confused by all the masculine signals it’s getting from me and thus I get mistaken for a butch lesbian (as a good friend said, “you confuse my penis”). I confess I only have a sample size of 1 each as far as bi men and other non-binary genders are concerned, so I can’t count that as enough experience to form an opinion.

    My current partner is a straight man. Well, on the straight end of the spectrum anyway. He’s actually very supportive of my gender expression, helps me do my hair and pick out my clothes, laughs when people mistake us for two gay men and then kisses me in front of them to make them squirm. I don’t know that he would have realized I was available to him at all if I hadn’t pursued him relentlessly, and in the end he was like “you forced me into it, so fine, I’ll be with you!”

    It’s a lot more work dating as a genderqueer person, simply because I have to navigate everyone’s preconceived notions of what makes someone a gender, and what that makes them in return for having an attraction. I hope that I don’t ever have to go on the dating market again, not just because I really like this guy, but also because it’s almost too difficult to even put out the effort.

  21. NatalieB says

    I see some familiar faces here… :)

    Um… I’m a straight trans woman. “Straight” meaning into guys, in case that’s not clear.

    How do gender expectations effect dating and relationships?

    I guess the biggest one is that I’m usually just too scared to even bother. My “target audience”, so to speak, is pretty much straight cis guys, and out of anyone, they have the least direct motivation to have a critical or open-minded perspective on gender (in that they’re on the privileged side of all the variables). There’s the issue of violence… always the risk that upon disclosure of my status, I’m going to be beaten or worse. And when do I disclose? Before any sexual intimacy, in which case he may never give me a chance at all? After, in which case he may feel “deceived”, I feel slightly dishonest, and the chance of violence or reprimand for my “dishonesty” becomes much higher?

    How do I negotiate the fetishization issue? If most guys are going to be disgusted by the concept of what I am, and very, very, very few are going to have a totally accepting attitude, am I willing to make a compromise and date guys who think of me as a kinky, “exotic” adventure-f**k? Guys who keep degrading “chicks-with-dicks” porn lying around their hard-drives? Who are only interested in me for the same reason that other guys are disgusted? Who are attracted to aspects of my body that I’m not comfortable with?

    And then there’s the problems of expectations about gender roles and behaviour… if I act too assertive or “masculine” then it’s a sign that I’m “not a real woman” or “really a man”. If I act too passive or “feminine” then I’m being “fake” or “shallow” or “buying into binaries” or whatever. No matter how I behave, everyone seems to treat it as some kind of larger statement about the nature of gender, rather than just…you know… me being me.

    First moves… yeah, it effects things, in that its one of the many ways our culture says “women, do this” and “men, do that” (and also reinforces the notion of women as sexual objects / men as sexual agents). But I don’t know…. some aspects of it are a relief. I don’t LIKE making a “first move” and its nice to no longer be expected to. But it also means having to deal with inappropriate or awkward sexual harassment, older men making propositions, that kind of thing. I don’t know?

    I guess really I’d just say that the strictness of gender expectations in relation to sex/dating makes it VERY tough for a trans person… perhaps particularly for a straight trans person who is doing their dating outside the relatively safe harbour of the queer community (but certainly trans lesbians, gay trans men, etc. have to deal with a bunch of challenges of their own, too). On the one hand you’re trying to participate in the conventions of gender while also your identity depends on not treating those conventions as absolute. You may want to be treated “like a lady” but your existence ends up tugging at the loose threads of what, exactly, a “lady” or “man” really IS.

    Its complicated, and scary, and there’s actual real safety risks involved. So I end up avoiding it most of the time. And yeah, that sucks, and I feel like I’m missing out, and a lot of the time I get lonely, but… it is what it is.

  22. Musical Atheist says

    I reread my post and realised I had been slightly inaccurate – I said that I felt I needed to perform femininity in the bedroom in order to make sure the man felt safe. I think this has been definitely true on enough occasions to justify mentioning it here. But considering this again, I think that there’s also a significant element of me feeling the need to perform femininity because of fearing rejection if I don’t. That’s not necessarily caused by the preferences of my male lovers at all – it’s something I’ve internalised. So the trend I think I observe in my own life is the feeling of pressure to present as very feminine in bed with a man, even if that sensation isn’t coming from the man I’m with at a given time.

    I’m also trying to clarify more to myself what I mean by ‘preforming femininity’. It’s not only tending more towards submission, but also something to do with speaking, posing, presenting myself in a non-threatening way, even if I feel much stronger and more extrovert in that moment. And this sense of pressure to be feminine definitely arises more during sex than during other aspects of dating.

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