Well, first of all I’ve had a lifetime of experience with this, starting even in the years before I was interested in dating, and continuing long after I was married because we have a somewhat open relationship. During those years I’ve talked with lots of other girls/women about this stuff. I’ve also given a fair amount of study to looking at how most women and most men are socialized. As far as we’ve come the past 20–30 years the fact remains that guys are still taught to be active and women are taught to be passive, particularly as relates to dating/sex. It’s a lot more subtle than say, 50 years ago, but it’s still there. (It was a huge factor in the Assiz Ansari case, for example.) I think the other part of this equation is that guys are taught to value confidence but often have fears and insecurities just like any human would. If you are with a confident woman who is acting on her confidence, there’s a chance she might discover that you aren’t as together as you are making yourself out to be and that feels vulnerable, which is another trait that most men have been taught to avoid.

Then there’s the 5,000 year history of men being literally afraid of female sexuality (vagina dentata, etc.). And even today, women are supposed to be sexy but not sexual. It’s why we still use references to a woman’s sexuality as primary insults (whore, slut, cunt).

I’ve been told more than once by men/boys that I’m intimidating, even though I’m easy going, kind and largely fit into hegemonic feminity. I’m tall though, and reasonably intelligent, as well as reasonably attractive. I’m forthright and at this point in my life, I own my sexuality — but even when I was younger and wasn’t doing that so fully, I was still intimidating — I think largely because I’ve always been pretty self-confident.

So, to answer your other question, I can’t really imagine what the filters you describe might look like. I was reading an article the other day about the fine line that female lawyers must walk. “In the practice of law, women experience a double bind in which they must carefully balance performing aggressively and assertively enough to be considered competent to handle demanding legal scenarios while maintaining an acceptable level of the softness and agreeability required of hegemonic femininity.” To some extent, most modern women walk this fine line and when men speak dismissively of women for not having enough “agency” they are undoubtedly failing to take that into account.

Fortunately, I’m married to a man who doesn’t find me intimidating at all, but it does still come up fairly regularly when we are in dating/sexual situations with other men. And, I do believe that there are men and women alike who want to live in a world where people get to be who they are, rather than trying to fit into some kind of socially enforced box, but as far as we’ve come on that, we’ve still got a long ways to go. At this juncture, if I’m “too much” for some guy (women don’t find me intimidating or too much), I consider that their issue and not mine.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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