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Women have so many don'ts. What's a guy to do?

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From the Times Online "Modern man is an impossible position when it comes to seduction". Read the full article here: Protected content

"by Sathnam Sanghera

The single most perplexing phrase in the English language, I've always thought, is “one thing led to another”. Hooking up with someone is rarely that straightforward. One thing, in my experience, usually leads to a misunderstanding, which leads to awkwardness, disappointment and, eventually, howling despair.

And the other day, Jezebel.com, a website aimed at women, provided a reminder of just how tortuous the process can be, with an article about the moronic remarks that guys churn out in an effort to impress girls. “Unfortunately, far too many men in the world, through a combination of egotism, stupidity and utter immaturity, screw it up long before they manage to get it in,” railed the writer, before proffering some basic tips for blokes, all evidently born from bitter personal experience.

“Don't tell me that you and your wife have an arrangement'”; “Don't hit on my friend(s) first. Yeah, I saw that”; “Don't ever say to me, 'Your breasts don't look like the ones in my magazines'”; “Don't lick my face - I get flashbacks from Silence of the Lambs”; “Don't ask me if my friend might be interested in a threesome”; “Don't try to guilt me into something - you are not my mother, and you don't have her skills.”

The piece clearly struck a chord with Jezebel's readers, and by yesterday morning it had more than Protected content appended to it, all bearing witness to the idiocy of the male sex and proffering similar sarcastic advice. They are worth reading in full, if you're not easily offended - Protected content - but the highlights include: “Don't ask my friend with an artificial eye 'What the hell is wrong with your eye?'”; “Don't say, 'I kind of hate feminists'”; “Don't say, 'You would be stunning if you toned that body up'”; “Don't tell me if you can't figure out whether I am really goodlooking or really ugly”; “Don't say, 'What's wrong with your face? Is it permanent?'”; “Don't ask me whether I weightlift”; “Don't ask what kind of Asian I am”; “Don't tell me that you own only one pair of shoes and that they are white Reeboks”; “Don't tell me that your ex has a restraining order against you.”

Excruciating stuff, I think you'll agree. At least my initial response was “ouch”. But by the time I got to comment No 259, something strange happened: I began feeling as sorry for these blokes as I did for the women. There were three main reasons why, the first being simply that some of the allegedly moronic comments didn't seem particularly moronic. One reader, for instance, posted a comment saying that no man should ever ask a woman “Why are you single?” But what on earth is wrong with that? Another said that she loathed being asked “Can I kiss you?” on a first date. But ploughing ahead without permission would surely be much worse.

Secondly, women can be just as hopeless as men. There is something about the codified ritual of dating that makes everyone inclined to gibber, and I'm sure that many blokes could reciprocate with similar sarcastic tips for the opposite sex, such as: do not, on a first date, mention that you are planning to get cats; do not, on a first date, mention that you're planning to visit a sperm bank if you do not find a man in the next ten months; do not go on about how much you miss your ex-boyfriend; do not utter the phrase “I love you” when we've only just met; do not utter the phrase “I love my friends” (shut up: of course you do); do not say “I'm planning to write a book about all my bad dating experiences”; do not agree to meet me in a bar and then announce that drinking is against your religion, etc.

But the main reason I felt sympathy for these bumbling blokes is that modern man is an impossible position when it comes to seduction. And the point is perhaps best illustrated by the results of a two-year psychological study on the subject of attraction recently published in Evolutionary Psychology.

This concluded that the key to success, for men, is a certain type of wit: self-deprecation. Gil Greengross, the anthropologist behind the research, was quoted in The Observer, explaining: “The frequent use of self-deprecating humour in sexual context - with potential mates, established mates or sexual rivals - was astonishing ... people who used this humour were considered to be more desirable as mates.”

So far, so encouraging, you might think. There's hope for us all. But Greengross ruined it all by adding the following caveat: “If you are a low-status individual, using self-deprecating humour can be disastrous to you. Think about the secondary school child whom nobody liked, who makes fun of his shortcomings in sports. His peers mocked him and he was considered more pathetic than he was previously.”

In other words, to impress, men need to be hugely successful, but pretend that they are not. And this is only one aspect of the almost impossible balance that needs to be struck. Men need to convey sexual desire without sexualising the person in front of them, need to be authoritative, opening doors, paying bills, deciding where to go and so on (recent research found that 60 per cent of women would consider it a bad first date if they paid), yet treat women as absolute equals. They need to flatter without seeming overly impressed, they need to care about their appearance (but not too much), and when it comes to chatting up, they need to take the initiative, and absorb any humiliation that comes their way, without seeming at all arrogant or pushy.

In short, the early stages of hooking up are more fraught with potential disaster than a stroll through the streets of Kandahar, more political than an episode of Question Time, more unpredictable than Gordon Ramsay on ketamine. It's no surprise that so many men are rendered incoherent and imbecilic by the pressure of it all - and truly some kind of miracle that any relationship manages to begin at all.
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My questions:
1- Do you agree with the author? Why?
2- With globalization, is this issue spreading west to east?
3- How did you navigate the treacherous first date? =P