Is It Wrong for a Man To Challenge a Woman?


Interesting article over at The Frisky about “negging.”

His teeny little profile picture was cute. He was the right age range and city. But when I opened the online dating message from this random dude, this is what he said:

Isn’t feminism a little obsolete? Men and women are equal nowadays. In fact, the balance is tipped in your favor.

Of all the things for a man to comment upon in my profile, he chose to kinda-insulted me by calling my belief system “obsolete”? I rolled my eyes. I hit delete. Another one bites the dust.

I’d been “negged.”


I have a different take on this. I actually think the guy was trying to make conversation by challenging her about something she mentions in her profile. The definition of “negging”, according to the Urban Dictionary, is:

Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.

Therefore, to me, this was not a case of negging. This was a case of a woman being askedabout something she included in her profile. The guy may have intentionally been trying to insult her. Or he was trying to engage her in a spirited back and forth. But I don’t think he was “negging” her. I think this has now become a go to explanation for why  a man might not immediately jump to effusive ass kissery when trying to woo a woman.

We see this all the time. We read statements in someone profile that pretty much BEG for a response. They are either blatantly inflammatory statements or they involve hot button issues like religion, sexuality or politics. My personal feeling is that people include these bytes because they want to be noticed or acknowledged for those particular thoughts or opinions.  What they don’t want to do is have to defend their stance. Which, to me, comes off as inauthentic.

If I mentioned in my profile that I believed in heaven, and someone emailed me and asked me (without being rude) why or suggested they didn’t believe the same, I’d reply. If it’s important enough for the person to include certain beliefs or ideologies in their profile, they should be prepared to defend them. Unless, of course, the person identifying themselves in a way that they know is provocative is doing so just to get attention. If they’re going to write anybody off who tries to debate their publicly stated opinions, then maybe they should take such points out of their profile. You won’t get as much attention, you say? Oh, alright. Someone can challenge a point and still respect whomever they are engaging. It isn’t always an attempt to be combative or insulting or degrading.

When looking through profiles, I tend to avoid the vocal self-identifiers. If a man said he was a Men’s Rights Activist, or that he didn’t want to hear from anybody that wasn’t Democrat or Republican, or brings up Occupy Wall Street, or talks about their spanking fetish, I’m clicking the back browser. I have no  desire to date a rabble rouser. They’re attention seekers. They want you to argue with them. They want you to ask them about their problems, fetishes and passions. They also want you to give them a reason to disqualify you because they don’t really want a relationship. They just think they do. They’re spinning their wheels on those sites trying to see how much attention they can get or so they can have all their negative opinions about women confirmed.

Now, of course, “negging” is a real technique. Like the author, I believe it’s a horrible way to try and get a woman’s attention and I think it works on a specific type of woman. I just don’t agree that this was an example of “negging.” I think the author brought something up in her profile with the intention of getting attention from it. She just didn’t get the attention she wanted. What if he had replied and mentioned spanking or something sexual?  How much should we bet that he’d still be labeled a wanker?

Look, there are many words that are immediate boner killers for men. “Feminist” is one of them. It’s not that they don’t respect a woman who identifies as a feminist. Nor does it mean they don’t believe in the fundamental principles that are the cornerstones of feminism. Where most men become super-cautious is when a woman announces – like in a dating profile – that she identifies as a feminist. To many men, dating such a woman will involve a series of ongoing arguments and ‘intellectual discussions.” They envision a frequent battle of wills. That’s unfortunate and inaccurate, of course. But that’s the typical internal reaction that a man has. A woman is better off showing how she’s a feminist than just stating she’s a feminist. It’s like when people talk about being into polyamorous relationships. They’ll probably have more luck simply stating that they’ve engaged in relationships where they had two partners that shared them rather than saying, “I’m a poly!” Show. Don’t tell. Showing makes certain things sound less intimidating, confusing or scary.

Personally, I think a lot of women like to identify as feminist because it’s a good defense. Use sex for attention? Oh, you’re a feminist, so that’s okay. Perpetually single? Oh, you’re a feminist, so that’s okay.

Let’s not get carried away and start assuming that any man who doesn’t automatically agree with us or who challenges us is somehow being disrespectful. This is one of those areas where I really feel like certain self-identifying feminists are being inconsistent. If you want to be respected and admired for your mind, then what is wrong with a man who tries to engage you in a debate?

Isn’t that what we want?


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33 Responses to “Is It Wrong for a Man To Challenge a Woman?”

  1. The Private Man Says:

    Moxie for the win.

    Lest I come across as a fawning sycophant, I will disagree with her on some points. For example, “negging” is remarkably effective and something I recommend that men do. Of course, negging requires artful diplomatic skills and keen situational awareness, things that most men seriously lack. Women have a huge self-esteem problem – it’s WAY too high.

    • Howard Says:

      I disagree, it’s the opposite of too high self esteem. Not just women, but men and women both have insecurity issues. All the grand statements, bluff and bluster are often defense mechanisms to hold these debilitating emotions at bay. Lord forbid someone should burst that bubble the wrong way. Look, you have to be actually humorous to go any part of that “neg” route, or you will be just another jerk

      • LostSailor Says:

        Private Man’s statement might need to be qualified.

        Extremely attractive women have too-high self-esteem that needs to be put off-kilter by playful teasing (aka “negging,” a term I dislike because it’s so often misinterpreted). It demonstrates confidence on the part of the man, which is attractive to women.

        Too much playful teasing with a woman who has self-esteem issues is usually counter-productive.

        • fuzzilla Says:

          Oh? And is the same true for extremely attractive men? Their self-esteem is “too high” and they need to get over themselves? Or should they enjoy it and embrace their “high Sexual Market Value”? Please.

          Look, I do get what you’re saying about teasing and being a little playful and having a bit of an edge rather than just fawning all over someone. Having a bit of give and take, a bit of mystery to keep them on their toes, not giving your power away so easily. But phrasing it in terms of “her self-esteem is too high and she needs me to fix that for her” is creepy and gross. And that’s why you’re single.

          • LostSailor Says:

            No, the same is not true for very attractive men. They will generally be open to chatting up or being chatted up by all different types of women. Very attractive women will generally ignore any man they don’t perceive to be of higher value.

            Let’s not make too much of this very sensible observation. It’s not a “bunch of hostile mind games,” as you say below. Any man who engages in such playful teasing with a hostile mindset will be nothing but an epic fail. Doing it right is quite the opposite. The operative word here is “playful.” If a guy doesn’t have an optimistic, fun attitude, he will indeed come off as “creepy and gross.”

            Finally, it’s in no way a matter of “fixing” a woman’s self-esteem and I never said it was. It’s a matter of temporarily “skipping the record” in her head playing the song “I’m Too Good For This Guy” to give a guy a chance.

            I know you get it. And I know it’s an uncomfortable truth.

            • fuzzilla Says:

              How would you know, are you attracted to very attractive men? Do you approach them? If I’m average looking and approached a very attractive man and he’s not so into me, would I conclude it’s because “his self-esteem is too high”? That the problem is him? Or that I’m just not what he wants and efforts to “neg” him and browbeat him into paying attention to me will just make me look pathetic? That’s the “uncomfortable truth” you don’t want to accept (I just did flipsy/flopsy with the genders so you could better hear how you come across).

              Of course it’s not impossible for an average person to land a very attractive mate, but the odds are against it. I wouldn’t be busting your balls about it if you had USED playful language in describing your approach (“hmm, I’ll just mess with Little Miss Attitude here and see what happens”). Saying “her self-esteem is too high” makes it sound to me like you’re resentful toward these women, not playful. It sounds manipulative, and it sounds like you just plain don’t respect women. Choose your words a little more carefully if that’s not how you feel or what you mean.

              • LostSailor Says:

                How do I know? I am a very attractive man, of course.

                This one concept seems to really rile the ladies, who don’t seem to get it. You, darlin’, did seem to get it in your post above.

                I do get what you’re saying about teasing and being a little playful and having a bit of an edge rather than just fawning all over someone. Having a bit of give and take, a bit of mystery to keep them on their toes, not giving your power away so easily.

                Yup. That encapsulated the concept. What you object to is the reason why it works and why it’s necessary. You can flipsy the genders all you want but the psychology of very attractive men and very attractive women are quite different. The man doesn’t really care one way or the other, he can get the women he wants, and you’re “negging” isn’t going to work on him at all. It won’t hurt your chances–unless inartfully done, where it comes off just being a little bitchy–but it’s not going to improve them much, either.

                And it has nothing to do with not respecting women. It has to do with not pedestal-izing women. There’s a world of difference. Very attractive women have been told all their lives that they are very attractive, they are well aware of their high SMV because of all the guys who have fawned all over them. For guys at or slightly below that value to have a chance with her, those accumulated years of jacking up her “self-esteem” (or perhaps better expressed as her self-regard) need to be temporarily put in check. Just putting the AbFab on hold for a while. I can hear the lament “those guys are trying to punch above their weight-class and shouldn’t being trying for a hot woman anyway.” Why not? If done correctly, it works. How he carries it from there is another story.

                So yes, her overly-high self-esteem needs to be taken down a notch for an interaction to begin. I chose the words because they are accurate. And it’s a lot less manipulative than the things I’ve seen many, many women do to guys. Sorry if your feelings were hurt, but it’s still true.

                • fuzzilla Says:

                  >So yes, her overly-high self-esteem needs to be taken down a notch for an interaction to begin.<

                  Again – why not just approach women who don't require all this work and drama? I'm not gonna whine at you about giving chubby or older women a chance (what you're attracted to is your business) – just, why go out of your way to seek out women you find exhausting?

                  My feelings are not hurt, "take down her self-esteem" just sounded like a prick thing to say, sorry (she needs lower self-esteem to date you..? You mean, she needs to start feeling bad about herself to date you? Why? What's up with you?).

                  I will agree that "self-regard" is a better choice of words. You mean "give someone a reality check" and not so much "lower their self-esteem/make them start feeling bad about themselves," then? OK. Yes, some people do have an inflated sense of self-regard, people who've always been told everything they did was great just because they did it. They can be insufferable and delusional. Agreed. But again – WHY SEEK OUT people like that? It's a recipe for annoyance and frustration and yet there you are, dumping in the ingredients and stirring and whatnot (I realize I have no clue what your dating status is, if you're bitterly single or have five girlfriends or are happily married. Your feelings are coming from somewhere, though, so I'm guessing it's not the last one).

                  • LostSailor Says:

                    Fuzzilla, darlin’, I’ll take one last stab at this. You’re consistently either misunderstanding or misrepresenting my words. When I (and Private Man) use “self-esteem” we mean just that. If you prefer “self-regard” to understand, fine, but it’s really just quibbling over words.

                    I never said that very attractive women are a lot of work or are “exhausting.” I also never said such women need start feeling bad about themselves in order to date me or any other man. Why seek out such women? Easy. They’re attractive. And, when you get to know them, often quite delightful (if they’re not, then like with any other woman–or in your case man–with whom there isn’t any chemistry, you cut your losses and move on).

                    So, one last time, when a man is first meeting or approaching a very attractive woman, her self-esteem is automatically poised to find indications that he is not worthy of her sense of exalted AbFabness. To counteract that, playful teasing or even ambiguous comments temporarily short-circuits that high self-esteem in a way that displays his confidence. It flips the script where she expects guys to fawn over her.

                    It is *not* being insulting (though for guys who aren’t used to doing it and can’t calibrate it right, it can come across that way). It’s *not* about “tearing down” her self-esteem. It’s *not* about making her feel bad about herself. All of those things are attraction-killers. Indeed, when done correctly, she won’t even notice. The idea is, instead, her subconscious will be thinking “this guy isn’t feeding my ego like the others, I want to find out why.”

                    And, not that it matters, I am three years happily divorced, still friends with my ex. My dating experience is pretty much like most people here. I’ve been dating pretty regularly and have had a couple of multi-month dating relationships, though none at the moment. A couple of months ago, I was having several dates a week. Recently I’ve pulled back a bit because I’ve been busy with several work and personal projects.

                    I’m definitely not bitter; pretty happy actually. And my “feelings” have nothing to do with the subject of these comments. I suspect what ticks off a lot of women about this concept is that it’s actually pretty coldly analytical, no feelings involved. But guys are wired like that, we see a problem and want to analytically find a solution.

                    Problem: very attractive women don’t respond well to the usual “just be yourself,” “be nice,” “be respectful” approach. Analysis: their high self-esteem will always see those characteristics qualifying a guy as being beneath them. Solution: temporarily short-circuit the high self-esteem to provide an opening to develop rapport and attraction.

                    I didn’t come up with the concept. But I recognized the truth it contains. And I’ve both seen it work in the real world and have successfully used it myself. I really don’t even thing about it anymore. It really doesn’t matter if you agree with it or understand it. It works.

                    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

                      I really like your comments. But the ‘darlin” thing is really wearing thin. It’s not cute. It’s condescending.

                    • LostSailor Says:

                      It was meant as a gentle counter-balance to the insinuations about my motivations and character.

                      But point taken.

                    • fuzzilla Says:

                      Why not simply say “I challenged her and chose a different approach than the rest of the herd; I was relaxed and wasn’t desperate for her approval; this made me stand out; she took notice; we dated; hooray”? Yeah, I’m sure there are communication techniques that are better at getting dates than others. Why not focus on those – i.e., on YOU and the things that are under your control – rather than make condescending assumptions about how a woman does or should feel about herself? You seem like an easy-going dude and you’re using gentle words, yet you’re still basically saying you see high self-esteem as an obstacle to be stripped from a woman in order for you to get what you want. Ick.

                      Agree to disagree *closes file*.

                    • DrivingMeNutes Says:

                      I think the problem is that repetition is being used as a subtitute for evidence. People are taking something that everyone acknowledges works (teasing) but the disagreement is over WHY it works. Of course there is no way to prove why it works so we are taking stabs in the dark.

                      Peronsally, I don’t agree at all that “teasing” works because it lowers a woman’s self-esteem, even momentarily. In my opinion, teasing does the opposite because a woman getting teased is still getting the very attention from men to which she is accustomed.

                      Here’s the answer. Women like men who tease them because those men are funny, interesting, display confidence and seem less available. Women tend to dislike men who “fawn over them” because those men are simply too available, and their value is lowered. The law of supply and demand is a LAW. Teasing women and appearing less available doesn’t require any special diplomatic skills or situational awareness. Those skills are useful for selecting the right target and not offending them.

        • fuzzilla Says:

          Like Moxie said, if you anticipate wooing women to be that much work and to require a bunch of hostile mind games, you either go for women way out of your league or simply enjoy drama.

  2. Selena Says:

    I wouldn’t consider the guy’s statements negging, more like baiting her. She didn’t take the bait – she didn’t bother to reply to him. If one is on a dating site to actually get dates, ‘challenging’ people in this way seems counterproductive.

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      He wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work at least some of the time.

      • Selena Says:

        I wondered about that too CR. Also, for some people, negative attention is better than no attention at all, so maybe he was hoping for some kind of *fight* from her?

  3. Dark Sarcasm Says:

    I agree, that particular example wasn’t a neg, it was a way to provoke a response and get a conversation going.
    Last night I came across a woman’s profile who mentioned she’d never saw any of the Godfather movies. I emailed her and told her she should remove that line, because not seeing any of the Godfather films made her undateable. I didn’t say that to ‘neg’ her or insult her, it was a way to hopefully start a convo besides “Hi. How are you? I like your profile.”….because we all know that kind of email is as interesting as plain oatmeal.

    • DrivingMeNutes Says:

      Yeah, I must be clueless because I don’t see a difference between “negging” and good old fashioned teasing, other than maybe the intent. Making fun of a woman for not seeing Godfather is playful teasing. (In fact, she put it in her profile in order to draw such playful teasing. That’s what self-deprication is for.)

      Teasing works fine. Always has. Chicks love it.

  4. Badger Says:

    That’s not negging, it’s just high-intesity flirting, or teasing.

    Moxie is correct in spades; these women need to get over themselves. Wakeman and the rest of them are up in arms to declare a man disapproving of some facet of her life as “negging” and thus as some terrible horrible misogynistic pickup technique that only losers use, instead of as an actual good flirty question a man might ask a woman to get a conversation started.

    “Of all the things for a man to comment upon in my profile, he chose to kinda-insulted me by calling my belief system “obsolete”? I rolled my eyes. I hit delete. Another one bites the dust.”

    Another one bites the dust, aaaaand you’re still single. Let me know how all that getting butthurt on OkCupid works out for you, Jessica. (BTW what’s with calling feminism a “belief system?”)

    The Frisky is so pathetic – a lipstick-feminist ezine mixing pearl-clutching diatribes of woman power with voluminous girlytalk about celebrities and clothes. And Wakeman is pathetic, the unfortunately typical illustration of a “modern” woman who can’t really decide if she’s on top of the world or a victim of the patriarchy. A while back she had an article about how she’s all feminist but it’s really important for her man to make more money than her, and another one about how much it hurt her inside that even though she’s all feminist she liked to be spanked.

    “They envision a frequent battle of wills. That’s unfortunate and inaccurate, of course.”

    O rly? How many (self-identified) feminist women have you dated?

    Look, I’ve been with women of feminist inclination and they’ve mostly been pleasant enough people. But self-identified feminists, who insist on waving the flag, are as you describe. I think the label gives them cover to be irascible and combative.

    • Phoenix Ember Says:

      But self-identified feminists, who insist on waving the flag, are as you describe.

      Yes, exactly. And this is why it really is such a huge turnoff. Who wants to invite all that stress and conflict into his life?

      Apart from that, great post, Moxie.

    • Charlie Says:

      I’ve found that, in general, when someone makes a single thing their central defining trait, whether it be allegiance to a political cause, participation in a fandom, religion, or just about anything really, that those people tend to be unbearably obnoxious at best.

      As for The Frisky, it’s kind of sad what it has become. I read it regularly about 3 years ago, back when the advice mostly centered around being the best ‘you’ you can be and searching for a partner that actually respects you and cares about you. Sure there was some gossip stuff here and there, but I just stuck to the relationships part of the site. Now a good chunk of it is just authors looking for internet sympathy, and a large chunk of the members that wouldn’t put up with it have left. At least Jessica has finally shut up about those damned pots though.

  5. WO7 Says:

    The kind of woman who needs to define herself as a feminist in her dating profile is the kind of woman who is constantly combative and overly sensitive.

    She did this guy a favor.

  6. Eliza Says:

    Who wants to bother with someone so argumentative. You haven’t even met each other–and already you have here a man thatis argumentative and challenging. Work is stressful and challenging enough.

  7. Joey Giraud Says:

    Look, there are many words that are immediate boner killers for men

    “Lady-boner” does it for me.

  8. Gorbachev Says:

    By saying this in her profile, this is what she’s doing:

    “Yeah, go ahead! I dare you to disagree with me!”

    And the guy’s response was actually pretty engaging and in no way disrespectful.

    She was looking for excuses, has a thin skin and is sensitive.

    Honestly, this is another case of utter narcissism. She did the guy a huge favor.

  9. Brian Says:

    I agree 100% Moxie. If you demand to be treated like an intelligent equal then the time to behave like one is when someone opens up to an honest debate. I like this guy’s approach. He wanted to know where she really stood on an important issue. Guess he got his answer, insecurely wishing she was actually a strong empowered woman.

  10. Sarah Says:

    I would categorize what this guy did as mansplaining (“I know you’re brain is smaller than mine, so I’ll take the time to patiently explain — Sweetie, don’t interrupt. A man is talking — why one of your sincerest convictions is wrong. You’re welcome.”) more than negging. But whatever you want to call it, it’s: a) pointless, and b) not how you get a date. I think we would all agree on those two points if a woman did this to a man and then wrote in asking, “I routinely play devil’s advocate and challenge men on their most deeply-held beliefs. Why can’t I get dates?”

    Doing this right off the bat is hostile, immature (“I have opinions! They’re important! I’m a snowflake!”), and makes the offending party look unstable. Really — who gets to know someone by starting an argument? Keep your opinions to yourself until you know someone will care to hear them. This woman didn’t open the door for debate, she just identified something important to her.

    Challenge someone on the nuances of his or her beliefs — AFTER you know each other well enough to be discussing sensitive topics at all. But if two people can’t get on board with each other’s most essential beliefs, it’s not going to work. Ever.

    It’s pointless to try to change this woman’s mind or to try to undercut the importance of the issue to her. She’s a grown-ass woman; she’s obviously given the issue some thought already. It’s a waste of her time to defend herself to a stranger trolling her profile. She probably put this word in her profile to weed men out. Mission accomplished.

  11. Crotch Rocket Says:

    Someone can challenge a point and still respect whomever they are engaging.
    Being able to have a rational debate and/or agree to disagree seems to be sadly lacking in most people these days.

    • Sarah Says:

      Sure, but this guy didn’t challenge a point. He challenged a fundamental belief — which no one is going to budge on, unless he or she stands to gain from it in a political career.

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