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Sunday 11 December 2016

Should a woman ever ask a man out?

While it's not quite a taboo, a woman asking a man out is still controversial. Tanya Sweeney asks the experts

Danny O'Donoghue
Danny O'Donoghue
Sinead O'Connor
Rena Maycock
Judy May Murphy
Rick O'Shea
Sinead O'Connor
Claudia Carroll
Gillian Anderson

Picture, if you will, the following scenario. There you are, scrolling away on the dating app Tinder, when amid the 'I'm with BOD' dudes, the hipsters and the Fitspo bores, you spot a familiar face. Why, it's Danny O'Donoghue, he of The Script fame. So what do you do?

Do you swipe right in the hopes that you both might make a connection, or do you swipe left and reject him… because what are the chances he'll even fancy you anyway? Turns out that most women take the latter option.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that poor Danny can't catch a break on Tinder. Ryan Tubridy then waded into the fray, observing that most women might not have the courage to make an approach the Script frontman. Tubs then urged women to initiate contact, to level the dating playing field. Tubs went on to argue that actress Gillian Anderson approached a man in the cinema and ended up dating him for several months.

Oh, if only it were that easy. Other men aren't quite so chuffed when you break with convention. Sinead O'Connor, for instance, has never been one for being backward in coming forward. So it stands to reason that once she had comedian David McSavage in her crosshairs, she'd have no problem letting him know about her attraction.

After Sinead described him publicly as 'a ride and a half', McSavage's reaction was circumspect. "It's a weird way of getting a date but I am single and want to remain that way as I have so much work to do," he responded.

His loss, some might say… but this sort of non-committal response still stings.

A few months ago, I met a man at an industry shindig and thought we were getting along famously. When Himself handed over a business card, my wing girl announced the encounter as an 'unmitigated success'. I emailed him, telling him I'd like to take him for a coffee. Ten days later, a non-committal, 'I'm-way-too-busy' email pinged back.

Now, I felt rather proud that I had taken the reins in this scenario, being a 'modrin' woman of the world and that. If you don't ask, you don't get and so on.

A few days later, I mentioned the whole episode to a friend. "Oh, you messed up there," she said firmly. "Sorry, but men don't like to be pursued like that. They want to have to do the chasing. They want to feel as though they have earned you."

It all sounded a bit old-fashioned and Rules-y to me (and as we know, The Rules went out with Juicy Couture tracksuits).

So, I put the question to the experts. Do men feel flattered or freaked out when a woman breaks with tradition and takes charge?

Hunter-gatherers

Rena Maycock of the Intro matchmaking/dating agency (www.intro.ie, pictured) asserts that, from an evolutionary perspective, men are hard-wired to do the chasing in romance.

"It's a throw back to Neanderthals where men were hunter-gatherers and they chose, and chased, their mate," she says. "Unfortunately, even though we should have evolved in the thousands of years since cavemen, some things just haven't changed.

"I know very few men that respond well, if they are honest, to women chatting them up," she adds. "For the small percentage of men that genuinely don't mind it, they are generally extremely confident men that are very comfortable in their manliness. For the majority, however, they need to feel they have been victorious in their conquest of a fair lady, after some effort.

"At Intro, we ask what qualities you would like and wouldn't like in a partner. Generally men don't want women that are loud, brash or high maintenance. These qualities can roughly be translated to over-confidence, and so, a forthright woman who goes and gets what she wants can often be a repellent to a man."

So far, so depressing… and bad news indeed for confident women who have no problem going after the things they want in life.

"Unfair as it may sound - in a world where no matter what sex you are, you feel you should be allowed to go and get what you set your sights on, this hangover from the Ice Age means that strong women need to play a silly game of letting men think they've done the chasing and won the prize," she responds. "Tedious, but necessary I'm sorry to say."

Lasting love

Life coach Judymay Murphy contends that it's perfectly fine for women to ask a guy out, but not necessarily if you're hoping for a lasting love."Ask yourself what result you want long-term," she advises. "If a woman asks a man out, they get the short-term result of him agreeing, but for most women with feminine energy, they prefer men to take the lead. It's better to hold out and have him work for you.

"If he has to keep earning you, he'll ask himself, 'what do I have to do to make this woman agree to go out with me?' If he's thinking that way, he'll feel more present in the relationship.

A quick rundown of my own romantic past, and I began to think that they might well have been right. Any successful match I've ever made started with a chase… with me doing the running. Any time I've been brave enough to ask a man out has ended with an awkward rebuff.

Much like Rena, Judymay advises that, to get what they want, women should use the 'power of manipulation'.

"If you say something to a guy like, 'so and so was talking about how good that movie was', or 'I've heard that new Japanese place is amazing', you're effectively letting the man 'have' the idea to ask you out," she says. "If he's keen, he will make it happen.

But here's the thing. It's becoming patently clear that many men aren't all that happy that the onus has been left squarely to them to make the first move. Certainly with online dating, plenty of people assume that it's up to men to get things moving. But when women don't play along and respond with courtesy, men's frustration is palpable.

If a man (or woman) is putting their ego on the line by making the first move, the very least that the other party can do is be civil and receptive.

But men don't like to be rejected any more than we women do. The Bye Felipe Instagram account (instagram.com/byefelipe) highlights abusive or sexist responses by rejected men on dating sites like OKCupid or Tinder (for example, one woman responds to a man's request to meet up with, 'let's not'. His response: 'You're a passive aggressive crackerass bitch').

Bye Felipe is funny to read, certainly, but it's more telling than anything else. It proves that some men are tiring of having to do all the running. They've had enough of pursuing women, and become hypersensitive when the women they pursue don't keep up their supposed end of the bargain.

I certainly do believe that if a man is keen enough, he will do away with game-playing and the risk of ego-bruising to make it happen. Only a fool would leave things to chance. But if we're honest, most of us women would prefer someone who is man enough to let us wear the trousers from time to time.

David McSavage, Danny O'Donoghue and co… consider yourselves duly warned.

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