It’s 2019, yet when it comes to asking someone out on a date, there’s still a lot of pressure for women who are interested in men to wait to be asked. Whether you’re a high school student considering asking your crush to prom, or an adult woman debating whether to send that first Tinder message, you might feel pressure to follow traditional gender roles. And hey, that makes sense — those gender roles have been in place for hundreds of years, after all. But keep in mind that just because something is traditional, that doesn't mean it has to continue.
Let's Talk About Gender Roles
"The ways that courtship and dating practices are shared in our families and in media all put young women and girls in a passive role, where we are told that to be really desired someone would come after us," says Bianca Laureano, sexologist and founder of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN). “This is an old and warped way of understanding relationships.”
This way of thinking — that men need to take an active role and women need to take a passive role when it comes to sex and relationships — ties into larger conversations about consent, Laureano says. “This approach can and does lead to rape culture, where women believe men are the ones who are to do the asking, the decision-making, and know more than them,” she explains. “It’s not true. We are the ones who know our bodies and desires better than anyone else.”
And if you believe that traditional gender role stereotypes shouldn’t affect women’s career options, paychecks, or anything else, that approach should apply to dating as well, Laureano says. “[The idea that] 'young women can do whatever they set their mind to' includes choosing partners to date and spend time with.”
And although there are some straight men out there who don’t think women should ask men out, there’s data that suggests that the majority of straight men would be into a woman asking them out — it just doesn't happen that often. A 2015 OKCupid report found that straight women were 3.5x less likely than straight men to send a first message — but when they did send the first message, they were 2.5x more likely to get a response.
Make A Plan
So you’ve decided that you’re going to ask your crush out — now what? First, keep in mind that asking someone out isn’t that unusual. Apart from straight men asking women out, LGBTQ people ask each other out all the time. “Rarely do we hear stories of women asking men out, and if we do, that woman is often seen in a particular way — courageous in her life all the time, someone who takes risks, etc.” Laureano says. “However, if we take these ideas out of a heterosexual context, women have been asking other women on dates for decades!”
Still, there’s some good asking-someone-out advice to keep in mind for people of all genders and sexualities. First, think about what you want, and make sure that it makes sense practically. For example, dinner at an expensive restaurant might sound romantic, but does it fit in your budget? “I would encourage a young person to be clear about what their expectations are: Do they know what kind of experience they want to share with this person? Do they have an idea of a budget or who they would ask for help, or other companionship if group dates are required [by your parents]?” Laureano says.
Ask Him Out
Next, consider how you want to ask your crush out. “With technology, there is a lot that can happen — send a text, a snap, etc. However, I often think it’s most useful to say this in-person and face-to-face,” Laureano says. “Think of a time when you may be comfortable to ask — in front of your friends, at a bus stop, at lunch, after school, etc. Find the time that works best for you, and it is okay to practice in the mirror what you want to say. It can be as easy as, ‘Would you want to go see that new Marvel film together on Sunday?’”
Keep in mind that planning a specific activity for a specific day is the best way to make sure you actually go on the date — "Would you like to go with me to see Captain Marvel this weekend? How about the 3 p.m. showing on Sunday?" is much better than "Let's hang out sometime."
What Happens Next
If your crush says yes, then yay! Make sure you actually plan the date and follow through — that means deciding on a date, time, place, and activity. But keep in mind that if your crush says no, you need to respect that. “Part of asking someone on a date is about consent,” Laureano explains. “Often, conversations about rejection are very difficult for young people, because people feel that they are being rejected as a person," but in fact, someone saying "no" to an experience they don't want to have "is a part of life." She adds, "We will all hear it from time to time, some more than others. Yet, ‘no’ is a vital part of consent just as ‘yes’ is.”
If you do hear a no, it’s okay to be sad or disappointed — but don't try to argue your crush out of his decision. And remember, next time you’re into someone, you’ll know what to do — asking someone out gets easier with practice.