Problems Facing Women Who Are Shy And Inexperienced With Men
I'm writing this article as a follow up to the one I did on what's going on in the mind of guys who are shy and inexperienced with women. I got some feedback from women on that piece. Some said that they were shy with men and several of the points in it applied to their own situation. Others pointed out how shy women have their own struggles as well.
This article will talk about that, with more focus put on the issues that are unique to shy women. This piece was a little different to write for me, since being a guy, I didn't have the benefit of being able to draw on my firsthand experiences to inform my points (though you'll still see me interjecting a male perspective in parts). Instead I had to rely on my observations and research on what shy women go through.
Shy women face many of the same problems as shy men when it comes to dating
Like with men, there's variation in how shy women can be toward the opposite sex and the idea of dating. There are lots of women who have good romantic lives, but who still consider themselves shy around guys at heart, and wish they weren't so inhibited by them. There are women who were pretty shy in high school and during the first year or two of college, and it delayed the start of their dating lives somewhat, but they worked through the worst of it by their early twenties. And then there are the women in their mid-twenties or later who are still very inexperienced (more on that later on).
Here's a quick summary of the basic shyness issues women can deal with when it comes to guys. The more shy someone is, and the further into life they struggle with these problems, the more severe and challenging-to-overcome the symptoms likely are:
Feeling really nervous and inhibited around men they might be interested in
And like with guys who are anxious about dating, the fear isn't something they can just easily 'get over'. They may be interested in a man, but feel too chicken to strike up a conversation with him. If he talks to her she may get totally flustered and tongue-tied, or be so anxious that she ends up babbling on when it's her turn to speak.
The nervousness inhibits their ability to take action in the direction they want to go. They want to talk to a particular guy, but they can't. They want to be able to wittily chat back to someone and make a good impression, but in the moment they just want to escape their nerves, and they do so by clamming up until the guy goes away. They might give someone their number, but be too scared to answer his text when he contacts them. Or they may really want to date someone, but wimp out and say no when they're asked out.
Naturally they can also be shy about other steps further along in the dating process. They're likely going to feel anxious about those first few kisses, or may be really inhibited, self-conscious, and insecure when they start to fool around with someone.
Being really hard on themselves
Keeping with the nature of shyness, once a woman has finished the above-mentioned type of nervous conversation with a guy, she'll probably start beating up on herself. "Ugh, I totally blew it. He came and talked to me and I barely said anything back. Now he'll think I'm not interested." or "I turned bright red like I always do and made absolutely sense when I opened my mouth to talk to him." or "I'll never meet anyone being shy like this. I get too terrified and shut down when a guy I like is around." They may also have more generally negative opinions of themselves, like that they're boring, or that no one will like them because of how quiet and awkward they are, or that they're not very good looking.
Being naive about what dating is like
Before we've had firsthand experience with the dating world women, and men, tend to have a naive, overly romantic view of what relationships and sex are like. It mainly comes from absorbing the skewed portrayals of dating from the media and society (sappy love songs, melodramatic romance movies, tales of princesses and brave knights, talk of meeting 'The One' and being happy and blissful forever, etc.)
A tendency to get preoccupied with guys who they see as possibly being the solution to all their problems
A reader told me this, in response the article I wrote on the issues shy guys go through. She said she did the same thing. In that other article I talked about how guys who are shy with women often spend a lot of time thinking about how they can get out of their rut and finally have some success with dating. Since their nerves prevent them from being proactive about solving the problem, they put a lot of stock in the women they come across through their day-to-day lives. If a girl smiles in their direction, or they have a pleasant conversation with someone, or they see a woman around who seems like she might be interested in him, his mind eagerly jumps to, "Oh man, she might be the person who finally becomes my first girlfriend!"
Since they're not proactive they can't just go ask her out or speak to her further. Instead they have to wait and see if she approaches them or seems interested. This naturally leads to a ton of over-analysis and mild obsession as they look for signs that things will work out with the target of their affection. "They looked at me in class for a tenth of a second today!" (Cue melodramatic fantasies about getting married to them) "On Facebook they posted a YouTube video from a band I don't like. We have nothing in common. I'll be alone forever!"
Issues that are unique to shy women
The points above are general shyness related obstacles that apply to both sexes in much the same way. Below are the problems that shy women alone have to deal with:
Being more likely to be seen as aloof and snobby
I put this one first to get it out of the way, since I think most people know about this concept. However, even if someone knows that shy people can mistakenly seem snobby in theory, it's still easy to get sucked into thinking it in practice. If a guy approaches a girl, and she doesn't talk back to him much, he's likely to conclude she's just cold and rude and uninterested, and not consider the idea that she was paralyzed with nerves and didn't know what to say, or she was so anxious that she kept checking her cellphone to make him go away. Similarly, if a girl is standing around a party and not talking to anyone, people will tend to assume she's unfriendly (unless she has a blatantly shy 'deer in the headlights' look on her face.)
I think this view arises from a general belief that women are just more socially competent in general. It's not that no one realizes women can be shy. Just that sometimes the default assumption is that women are naturally more comfortable in social situations, and so if they seem distant or untalkative it's because they're choosing to be that way.
Attractive shy women face this bias the most, since people sometimes have trouble conceiving that a physically good looking person could have any problems with their confidence. People may also be projecting their own fears and prejudices onto the behavior of shy good looking women ("She's hot, she'd never like a guy like me. She's not laughing at my jokes because she's stuck up like all pretty girls", "She'd never want to be friends with me. I'm just an average looking bookish girl. She's like all those catty popular girls from high school."). If a woman isn't considered that physically attractive, her shyness will be reinterpreted as well, but this time in light of a different of unflattering stereotypes ("She's not talking because she's weird and anti-social and mad at the world")
The common idea that shy women have it easier than their male counterparts
This isn't so much a practical issue as an attitude that can make a shy woman feel their concerns are dismissed or misunderstood. The belief is that since men are expected to initiate romantic relationships, and to do the work of easing any of the woman's initial hesitation or anxiety, shy women don't have to work as hard to overcome their issues. They can just sit back and wait for men to come to them, then let him do everything to move the relationship forward. They get to be the choosers, sorting through the platter of men that are presented to them, and rejecting the ones that don't meet their standards. Even if a woman is really awkward, enough guys will still attempt to get with her, and will persist in the face of her shyness that she'll end up in a relationship before long. Also, there's a belief that shyness is seen as a major flaw in men, but endearing, even desirable, in women.
Maybe this is true, and women on the whole technically have it easier. However, when you're a lonely shy woman who's never had a boyfriend and hasn't had any romantic prospects for the last two years, the fact that you have it easier in theory isn't very comforting. Shyness towards dating can be a real problem for some women, and some aggregate advantages don't automatically cancel that out for them.
The belief that any woman can get a boyfriend or sex whenever they want
This is a sub-belief of the general idea that women have it easier. Often you'll hear this statement made by men, many times ones who are struggling with dating themselves and are a bit resentful at the seemingly better hand women have been dealt. My personal opinion is that this belief reflects men projecting their own attitudes towards sex and dating onto the other gender, and failing to realize that some women may not have the same priorities as them.
You've probably heard it before, "Even guys with a lot going for them often have to put in the work and face a lot of rejection to get a girlfriend or get laid. But even for an unattractive girl all she has to do is go to a bar any night of the week and stand around and be approachable and she'll be guaranteed to be able to hook up with someone."
The idea that shy women can solve their inexperience issues by just sitting back and letting the guys come to them doesn't always pan out in reality, for all kinds of reasons:
- As I mentioned, if a woman is really shy or inexperienced, then even if interesting guys approach her, her shyness is going to get in the way of the interaction going anywhere.
- There are women who get approached by men quite often, but this doesn't happen to everyone. Some women hardly ever have guys come talk to them. They feel chronically overlooked and like a sexual non-entity in the eyes of men.
- Women often complain that they only get approached by men they would never be interested in, like pervy older guys at the grocery store, or cocky meatheads at the bar who are obviously just looking for sex. This is a particular problem for shy women who are into guys who are more quirky or sensitive or intellectual, since those types of men typically tend not to be as aggressive about approaching people.
- A woman's lifestyle will have a big impact on how often she gets approached. A sorority member who works as a waitress and who goes clubbing a lot will likely get a lot of attention, since she's always out around people. A woman who's more of a homebody and who hates bars isn't going to get nearly as many opportunities for people to chat to her.
- Rightly or wrongly, many women dismiss the idea of meeting someone at a bar, or through a stranger approaching them, out of hand. They want to meet people under different circumstances, like through friends.
- Many women aren't interested in just sleeping with anybody for the sake of having sex, or are not into one-night stands with strangers. So the idea that they can technically get laid at will doesn't appeal to them. They're looking for a more serious relationship with someone who likes them as a person, and want to get to know someone before they get physical. In particular I find some guys have trouble accepting this point. Because they personally are fine with casual sex, or are feeling desperate to hook up with anyone half-decent just to get rid of their nagging inexperience, they can't imagine how someone else wouldn't value these things.
- A lot of women have understandable safety concerns. They're not willing to go home with someone they just met, because they don't know if the guy will be dangerous or not once they're not in public. This is another thing I find some guys have trouble fully comprehending, since they take a lot of their safety for granted.
- For some women, if they get approached a lot, but the attention is unwanted and aggressive and harassing, it may make them even more nervous and guarded around men than before.
A bigger issue with the 'let people come to you and choose from the applicants' approach is that it takes away a lot of a woman's ability to choose who she ends up with. What if she's really interested in a particular guy, but he hasn't noticed her and isn't likely to? If she doesn't have the ability to engage him then she'll miss out on that chance. A problem some shy women report having is that they're able to find boyfriends, but the guys who typically take the initiative to try to date them aren't the ones they're really into. A shy woman's self-confidence may not be great and she feels she has to take whatever comes to her.
The belief that no women are romantically inexperienced after a certain age
This belief follows from the two above about how supposedly easy it is for women to have success with relationships. It isn't so much articulated out loud by people as it is something they just assume. There are women in their mid-twenties and older who are totally dateable and attractive to an outside eye. However they've only had a couple of very short-term go-nowhere relationships, or they've never had a boyfriend, or they're still virgins. In particular people can not believe that older female virgins do exist, but they are out there, and they feel especially invisible and alone and hopeless.
I already mentioned the issues physically attractive women have in getting their shyness taken seriously. Another group that may have their dating shyness discounted is women who seem confident and adjusted around everyone else in their lives. People will think, "Well they're so fun and outgoing around their friends, why would they ever have a problem meeting men?!?"
Worry about their sexual inexperience being a liability
Shy, sexually inexperienced guys also spend a ton of time worrying about how their inexperience makes them unattractive to the opposite sex. They get good at keeping it a secret and dodging conversations where personal sex stories might come up. They fret about how they'll turn off their partner the first time they hook up by not knowing how to perform in bed. Ironically, their fear of their inexperience getting in the way often puts up one more barrier to them getting that experience they're looking for. I didn't put this point up with the other shyness problems that both genders face because I think women's experience of this issue is somewhat different compared to what guys go through.
First, there are different negative stereotypes in society associated with female inexperience. One is that since women supposedly have it easier in the getting sex department, if a woman is older and still hasn't done a lot physically that must mean she's really messed up and broken somehow. A man might assume she's had a really rough childhood, or has a ton of personal baggage around dating and sex.
A second harmful belief is that women tend to become clingy and emotionally attached to whoever they first gain experience with, which is an off-putting possibility for some men. They don't want to be a woman's first, and then have her become obsessed and want to marry him. Stereotype number three is that inexperienced women are bad in bed and not worth the effort of sticking around to teach.
A fourth counterproductive concept works a bit differently. It's the opposite stereotype that some men like inexperience in a woman. Some men see it as an indication that she's more virtuous, or emotionally healthy, or has better character. A male who's shy may feel much less intimidated by a woman who's as inexperienced as he is. However, this has the same effect as the other 'women have it easier' beliefs; It sure stings when these supposed advantages don't play out for you in real life. A shy, inexperienced woman may have been harshly rejected many times when men have found out she hasn't fooled around a lot, or she's still a virgin, or never had a boyfriend. The fact that some men are drawn to women in her situation is cold comfort.
If someone feels their inexperience is a problem, then they're not likely to listen to reassuring messages about how things aren't that bad. Guys do the same thing. A shy, inexperienced woman may be told that her virginity is no big deal, and some people see that as a plus, but she won't be able to emotionally accept it. Instead she'll go back to, for example, her frequent experience of hearing guys tell her they want to date a sweet, innocent girl, and who then proceed to Friend Zone her and go home with yet another skanky girl from a party.
Facing rejection is really difficult for women too
When shy men complain about how their female counterparts have it easy, they're referring to how societal gender role expectations don't force women to go through the difficult, emotionally draining process of getting over their fear of approaching people they're attracted to, putting themselves on the line, and risking rejection. I'll be the first to tell anyone this is very, very hard to do for a guy who's shy about dating.
Women have to face rejection as well, and they find it just as hard to deal with. Again, when a woman is turned down by a guy she's interested in, it's not like she just thinks, "Well technically I have it easier and could go to a club tonight and sleep with some random guy if I wanted to". It hurts her as it would anyone else.
Women do get rejected. When a man's been rejected himself several times he may feel like women can get any guy they want and never have to worry about getting turned down themselves. That's hardly true. Women often show their interest in a guy in some way and get nothing in return:
- They may outright ask a guy if he wants to hang out, and get shot down. Some guys daydream about how great it would be if women took the initiative instead of them having to do it all the time, however what they really mean is that they only want this behavior to come from someone they'd be interested in. If just any girl does it, they may turn her away.
- They may hint to a guy that they'd say yes if he asked her out, only to have him obviously understand the message but then choose not to act on it. Some guys are well aware that many women are hesitant to put themselves on the line too much, and know they can get away with pretending not to have received her hints that she's interested in him. It allows him to avoid having to reject her more directly.
- They may start talking to a guy at a party, only to have him walk away after two minutes.
- They may make "Come approach me" eye contact with a cute guy at a lounge, to which he sniggers and turns away.
- They could be rejected in the sense that they thought a guy was interested in dating them, but he just wanted to use her for sex.
As to why some women don't work as much as they could to overcome their fear of rejection and rely on letting men approach them even if the system isn't perfect, can you totally blame them? I said earlier how hard I think it is, and how many men only learn to overcome this fear because they have no choice. Some women may also buy into the idea that it's not lady like to pursue men, and that it's the male's job to go after them. I think if the roles were reversed and men could let women come to them, a lot of guys would be just as hesitant to take many romantic risks.