What conversation topics put a man on the Friends Ladder with women?
September 5, 2008 8:13 AM   Subscribe

As a man, does talking to a woman about your adventures with other women put you on the friends ladder?

So there's the Ladder Theory, which, let's face it, applies to most women (they don't want to endanger the friendship with a man by sleeping with him).

A woman with whom I talked frequently (including about our past dates and partners) once told me "I can't have the hots for you because we talk more than we fuck".

My question is: which parts/topics of conversation between a man and a woman put the man on the Friends Ladder?
posted by harwons to Human Relations (62 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

I don't think there are any set topics of conversation which make women think "Hmm, I'll be friends with this guy but not sleep with him."

Revealing that you believe in the Ladder Theory, or any other weird how-to-get-laid pseudopsychology, might make women think "Hmm, I don't want to be friends with this guy or sleep with him."
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:22 AM on September 5, 2008 [52 favorites]

Strictly within Ladder Theory, no. But a lot of Ladder Theory is bunk, so, maybe.

"I can't have the hots for you because we talk more than we fuck"

From a Ladder Theory perspective, take that literally, not as some cue about the subject matter. From an actual "dealing with a human being" perspective, it might carry some other meaning.
posted by majick at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2008

I don't know about that, but I'm pretty sure that mentioning that you're operating on "the Ladder Theory" (a link which probably should be labeled NSFW, or at least NS with a full stomach) would probably put the man on the A**hole Ladder.

(I know, its a wisecrack, I'm sorry, but its not entirely unhelpful, is it?)
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:24 AM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

That whole ladder thing is a bunch of bullshit designed to sell books and t-shirts to insecure women.

Women aren't that formulaic.
posted by wfrgms at 8:28 AM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Ladder Theory is complete bunk.

I can't think of any general topic of conversation that would make me permanently uninterested in someone. The deciding factor is what you say in that conversation.

We can talk about abortion, but if you think it's a mortal sin I'm probably not going to sleep with you.
We can talk about personal hygiene, but if you confess yours is horrendous, I'm probably not going to sleep with you.
We can talk about other women and your adventures with them, but if it sounds like you don't respect them or you're more interested in them than in me, I'm definitely not going to sleep with you.
We can talk about the concept of the Friends Ladder, but if you think it applies to all women, I'm probably not going to sleep with you OR be friends with you.

on preview...yup.
posted by hippugeek at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2008 [19 favorites]

There's going to be no definitive answer to this, but rest assured that Ladder Theory is only remotely true through the eyes of the chronically rejected. Take it with a huge grain of salt. In fact, don't take it at all.

That said, yes there are a lot of things you can talk about with women that will mark you as ineligible for sexual approach:

- Talking about how your cat thinks it's people.
- Talking about your mother.
- Talking about your (or her) emotional instability.
- Talking about your wife.

Good grief, the list goes no and on.
posted by Willie0248 at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2008

There aren't so much "set" topics that make you a "friend". Because, honestly, most women will talk about most things with friends, partners, and potential partners equally - hence the concept "he's my partner but he's also one of my best friends".

This isn't really meant as snark, honestly, but maybe it's that the things you say when you open your mouth (especially if you're talking Ladder Theory - *rolls eyes*) help her to realize that she wouldn't want to consider you for a potential partner. As in you specifically and her specifically, not being a good idea. :)
posted by twiki at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2008

One thing I noticed over the years is that people tend to have certain experiences with dating and then apply those experiences globally, i.e. "everyone is like this or everyone is like that." People, male or female, will often ignore evidence that of other types of people, in order to make their theory fit, because, IMO, they need to define the role they're going to have when dating.

So no, "talking to a woman about your adventures with other women" doesn't put you on a friends ladder unless she's the sort of woman who fits the ladder theory, which is fine, just realize there are all different kinds women and it's best to know that individual woman as opposed to operating under a general rule.

which parts/topics of conversation between a man and a woman put the man on the Friends Ladder?

You should really ask this question of your friend as none of the people here are her and really, isn't it your friend you're trying to have sex with?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Confiding in someone can take you out of the push-pull flirtation game which can be hard to get back into, and anything that sounds like bragging or desperation will be a turn off, so it'd be a very fine line in the middle where it wouldn't hurt you if you were mostly interested in getting in her pants. But of course it's all dependent on the person in question so no one here can really say for sure.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Harwons, as long as you are of the opinion that "let's face it, the Ladder Theory applies to most women," you aren't going to get much sympathy here.

Anyway, there are situations where talking about past romantic exploits can help a guy woo a lady, and situations when it doesn't, and how you talk about those exploits is very important, too. If you say "Man, me and this chick were totally doing it in the park the other night . . ." some women will think you're a cad, and others will think that is exactly the kind of excitement they need in their life.

Except for really obvious topics like expressing a preference for scat play or concentration camp fetishes, what will turn a woman off of sleeping with you really depends on the woman. And hell, you may even find that, um, special girl who enjoys those things.
posted by Anonymous at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2008

I am not going to acknowledge any "theory" that has a website with ads for free screensavers.

But I can tell you that if you talk about having sex with women as conquests or "adventures" to other women, they may not want to be on that list...so they can avoid you talking about them to other women.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2008

I think hippugeek hit the nail on the head. I have no issue with guys talking about the women they've been with. Hell, I kind of expect it because at a certain point in your life a number of your good stories are going to involve a former significant other. That's fine. But if you are very derogatory, or disrespectful of exes and former hook-ups, that's a completely different thing. Because if you talk about them that way, you are going to be talking about me the same way to the next girl. And no one wants that.

posted by teleri025 at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, really, the ladder theory does NOT "apply to most women". If someone tells you they talk to you too much to have the hots for you, you can assume they, very simply put, do not have the hots for you. Period.

Wanting to preserve a friendship by not making it physical is a normal issue for both men and women. Please stop this ladder bullshit which is just a facile rationalization for "reasons I don't get laid more often". There are numerous reasons why you don't get laid more often, possibly one for each person that turns you down. People are like that, different, diverse, interesting. Maybe focusing on that more will help you.

(And by the way: guys who tell me about other women? Turnoff. Just so you know.)
posted by neblina_matinal at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2008

Oh sweet Jesus I hate the ladder theory.

As a woman, I would rather hear a really funny, incredibly embarrassing story about sexual hijinks from a suitor (concerning his previous bedmates), however, I would rather just not hear much about it at all. But, really, if I really really want to sleep with a guy, I'll do it anyway. Ladder Theory!!
posted by banannafish at 9:12 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is it really so difficult to believe that not all women (or men) think alike? For some women, this may put you in "friends" territory; for others, not so much. Don't waste your time thinking that the Ladder Theory is true. Sheesh.
posted by smich at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2008

I just looked at that ladder theory link.... please, please, please tell me it was written by a 14 year old....

women don't want to be friends but not sleep with you if (drumroll please...)
that's it.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

So there's the Ladder Theory, which, let's face it, applies to most women (they don't want to endanger the friendship with a man by sleeping with him).

I've been female for all 38 years of my existance and I've NEVER experienced this "Ladder Theory" pheonomenon. In fact, if the chemistry was there to begin with, getting to know the guy better makes me want him MORE.

A woman with whom I talked frequently (including about our past dates and partners) once told me "I can't have the hots for you because we talk more than we fuck".

Have you considered the possibility that she was lying to spare your feelings?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

This "theory" is gross, and I don't think it's going to be particularly helpful to you in your endeavors.

First, there's a major sense of entitlement: "Every single woman I meet should want to have sex with me by default, and they will if I correctly hack their malfunctioning female unit programming. "

Then there's the odd idea that normal human interaction with a woman requires an elaborate set of rules and schematics. "This woman wants to be friends with me instead of having sex. It must be because I violated rule 3A section C of conversation topics, rather than because she likes me but is not attracted to me." Or, alternately, "I told that woman about my wife/my mononucleosis/my Mitt Romney fan club/my theory that women are all robots who I am entitled to mate with and she didn't find that sexy! Damn these strange exotic creatures who require a handbook for conversation!"

Why not try relying on your own observations and feelings, rather than relying on a preset theory to determine how to act in a situation?
posted by lemuria at 9:26 AM on September 5, 2008 [21 favorites]

I have male friends that I put in the "friend" category (I guess you could say) based upon our conversations about their sex life. But this is because these conversations revealed them to treat women in a way that I did not want to be treated. I have plenty of guy friends who are great guys, except to the women they are dating. But I also have other guy friends that I would definitely date if the situation was right and I know all about their sex lives, but what I learned about them made me like them more, not less.

I also have never bought the "don't want to endanger the friendship with a man by sleeping with him." Many, if not most, serious relationships begin where the couple were friends at first. This excuse sounds more like a "nice rejection" than the truth.
posted by whoaali at 9:41 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a man, does talking to a woman about your adventures with other women put you on the friends ladder?

The friends ladder is like religion. As much as some people would like you to believe otherwise, the only way you can have a real conversation about it with any inherent meaning is if you are talking to other people who also believe what you do about the friends ladder. It's a metaphor that helps some people make sense of what they otherwise have a hard time understanding. As you can see, you're not likely to find that group of people on MetaFilter and you've sort of weighted your question with this "let's face it..." talk which is not getting your question off to a particularly good start.

So, eschewing the ladder talk for a second, it seems like what you are wondering is whether you should talk to female friends who you might be interested in about other women who you have gotten together with, is that about right?

My general feeling, similar to most of the people above is that this is fine. It's not so much what you say -- once you hit a certain age, not having been with a few other people at least is more suspect than damning -- but how you talk about what you say.

When talking about past loves or conquests or whathave you, I'd suggest a tone of respect, admiration and some degree of tact. This is true wehther you're talking about co-workers, girlfriends or your parents. The easiest way for me to put a guy on a similar thing to what you call the friend ladder [I call it the "I wouldn't sleep with you if we were the last two people on earth" platform] is if he talks disparagingly of 1. other women in specific 2. other women in general 3. other PEOPLE in general 4. anything.

Seriously, I don't care if you're allergic to strawberries and you nearly died because your ex-wife tried to poison you with them, if you have this grudging "that bitch!" attitude towards her, I will assume you wil at some point take that attitude with me and who needs it.

So, I don't think its topics as much as tone. I don't care if you're divorced but I do care if you slag your ex-wife. I don't care if you have a terrible family, but I do care if you're angrily nursing grudges towards them. I don't care that you're allergic to cats but I do care if you kick them with your foot when I'm not looking. It's funny how far removed any of this is from talking about sex or sexy things or relationships, but I know for me [and I don't know about other women] its' these sort of small things that are really crucial when I'm making the "is this someone I'm likely to ever want to get together with or not?" assessment.

And again for me and I don't know about other people, that assessment is usually made in the first time or two that I make your aquaintance and rarely if ever revisted. I don't know what this has to do with the silly friends ladder but I hope it's a helpful answer to your larger question.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 AM on September 5, 2008 [9 favorites]

A woman with whom I talked frequently (including about our past dates and partners) once told me "I can't have the hots for you because we talk more than we fuck".

This strikes me as rather bizarre. I wouldn't sleep with someone I couldn't talk to endlessly and enjoyably.
posted by orange swan at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2008

Talking about the Ladder Theory puts you firmly on the Idiot Ladder in my book. The Ladder Theory is right up there with the Flat-Earth Theory as an instant vagina-clencher.

Moving on from that: a) what Jessamyn said, b) what The Pink Superhero said, and c) it's almost never what a guy TALKS ABOUT that turns me off. It's the guys who NEVER, EVER LISTEN who are forever barred.

I think that woman just didn't like you and was trying to mess with your head. Sadly, assholes come in all genders.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:06 AM on September 5, 2008

Never heard of this.

If you are good looking, women will want to sleep with you- no matter what you talk to them about. If you are not good looking, you concoct things like "friends ladders" to make up excuses as to why women won't sleep with you.
posted by Zambrano at 10:11 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm a woman.

If I'm attracted to a male friend, I want to sleep with him. There is no topic of conversation that would make me think "nope, now we are just friends." There are, of course, things he could say that would make him less attractive to me, but those things would also make him less attractive to me as a friend and a human being.

Ladder theory is something men use to comfort themselves when their female friends don't want to sleep with them simply because they do not find them attractive. And most of the time, women do not find men who lump all women together in a weird, condescending category attractive. Instead of focusing on how to avoid being on the "friend ladder" of your female friends, perhaps focus on how to be on it sincerely. Plenty of women wind up dating their friends. I assure you--women do not really think "but I don't want to ruin the friendship" if they are genuinely interested in a man as more than a friend. Otherwise, there would be a lot fewer relationships that began as friendships. It's a way to let someone down easy. Unfortunately, many people say this, and here we have ladder theory.
posted by millipede at 10:13 AM on September 5, 2008 [7 favorites]

millipede just said it better
posted by Zambrano at 10:23 AM on September 5, 2008

Wow, thanks for the ladder theory link. I'd more or less picked up what it was from references here on MeFi over time, but hadn't looked at it before.

What a sorry portrayal of how relationships works; it really reads like it was written by one of those guys who has real, real trouble relating to women as people rather than as ambulatory vaginas.

As a man, the ladder theory does not describe my experience at all, ever. Sure, I have female friends whom I would (if we were both single, if the planets were aligned, if if if) happily have sex with, and female friends with whom I wouldn't have sex if you paid me. There's nothing uniquely male or female about being attracted to some people, and not attracted to others. The myth that men will fuck anything that moves, while women are deceitful keepers of the keys to the vaginas of paradise, is a really sorry way to imagine the world, and just isn't accurate.

But to address the specifics of your question, it's like Jessamyn says: it's about tone, not content. Talking about an ex is fine if the context demands it (and gets very hard to avoid if you've lived a lot of your life in one relationship or another) and it is done in a tone of respect. Bragging on the babes you bagged last weekend in graphic detail, while calling them "bitches," probably not such a cool move.

There's also an element of "shit or get off the pot," or "strike while the iron is hot," depending on which cliche you prefer. Meaning, there can be a moment where she is open to a relationship with you, but if you miss it because you aren't paying attention, or because you wussed out and didn't make your move, that moment may be gone forever never to return. That can be a really short moment (you just danced together, the pheromones are flying, but an hour later she's moved on) or a long one (where your flirtation drags out over months, even); either way, when the window of opportunity closes, it may never open again. I suspect that this phenomenon is part of what the Ladder Theory guy is describing — mistiming your advances will result in permanent rejection, and blaming it on being on the wrong "ladder" is better for the ego that admitting you were too chicken to kiss her when you had the chance.
posted by Forktine at 10:43 AM on September 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

I think that when a guy is interested in a girl, he wouldn't talk about past dates and partners.. he'd be focused on future dates with her. that seems like a friend topic to me. who cares about talking about past dates when there is potential to go on really good dates with someone you are interested in?
posted by aerinmin at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2008

I hope youre not bringing up ladder theory to any women. It screams 'simplistic condescending idea for simple minds.' Its the relationship equivalent of phrenology or race supremacy. Its an easy way to view the world, but wrong, and makes you look pretty silly if not a little dickish.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:50 AM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Also, tales of past conquests should be kept to a minimum. Humans have evolved many strategies to mate and one of them is avoiding the guy who may have VD or comes off as untrustworthy and gossipy.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:52 AM on September 5, 2008

Response by poster: It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?
posted by harwons at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2008

If you are good looking, women will want to sleep with you- no matter what you talk to them about. If you are not good looking, you concoct things like "friends ladders" to make up excuses as to why women won't sleep with you.

No. Attraction is more than just physical appearance. I am not attracted to men who generalize about women (and, essentially, assume women are all completely shallow and wouldn't want to have a good meaty conversation with the people they fuck), no matter what they look like. All the ladies on this thread have nailed it: it's tone and implication, rather than subject matter, that seals the deal for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:04 AM on September 5, 2008

It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?

Addressing 1., harwons, why are you asking MeFites if you didn't want to hear the opinions of MeFites?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

I feel like I should chime in with one more thing here [and also to second PhoBWanKenobi, why did you ask if you didn't want answers?] because some people are talking specifically about talking about past relationships, loves, sexcapades, etc. I feel that people can do this in a lot of ways, but a few of the reasons at least some of this talk is helpful might be because

- it indicates your sexual preference -- seriously I have had guys I was attracted to and literally had no idea if they were even straight, mentioning a past girlfriend is at least a nod in this direction
- it can indicate that you see yourself as a sexy person and maybe other people find you sexy too -- this may just be because in the past I've tended to fall for geeks and they don't always ooze hormones but talking about, oh I don't know, a romantic weekend or skinny-dipping with a past gf can indicate they're good-giving-game even if maybe their outward demeanor wouldn't show it.
- it can indicate that you're not horribly uptight talking about sex/other people who matter to you - again this may be my biased past but I'm a blahblahblah communicator and would have a hard time partnering [short or long term] with someone who wasn't. I know some people feel differently about this but I don't WANT to feel that I'm the only person you ever loved or ever wanted to sleep with, that shows a failure of imagination and/or veracity. There are ways to indicate that I'm the one you want to be with, without otherwise having to say that you and me were meant to be together since ever and everyone else was just a tryout for what we have right now. Ahem.

So yeah, clearly other people feel differently but that's my opinion on why you might want to be having that sort of talk with women you might be interested in.
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also--I just reread the ladder theory page for the first time in several years, to reacquaint myself with the ridiculousness--I think you should be aware that there are MANY women who, to use the ladder theory terminology--only have one ladder, a combination friend/lover ladder. Lots of women wouldn't even consider boning a guy who wasn't first a good friend. I'm one. Every single serious boyfriend I've ever had has been a good friend first. Further, any time I've been approached by a guy I either did not know at all, or did not consider a friend, even if I was physically attracted to him at first, it always got weird and awkward and ended right away.
posted by millipede at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

harwons, are you seriously suggesting that the idiots who came up with the "ladder theory" nonsense know more about women THAN ACTUAL WOMEN?

I mean, I know that people in the "seduction community" claim this all the time, but surely you must realize that this is part of their scam? Kevin Trudeau claims to know more about medicine than doctors, but that's because he wants to sell shit to idiots.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:42 AM on September 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

I think you need to change your paradigm. You're never going to succeed with a woman if there is some floating point at which you can give up your pursuit and assume you are on a "friend ladder." As some people have said, the friends ladder is just an excuse men make when they aren't able to succeed with the woman they're interested in. don't blame the topic of conversation, don't blame the girl, don't blame the ladder, it's your fault not hers. its time to cultivate your own personality and make yourself a more attractive mate.

So, if you want some mildly offensive psychobabble to help with this, I think The Art of Seduction is an INFINITELY more useful theory/method than the ladder theory. It says no person (man or woman) is ever doomed to a friend ladder, and that each person should have the skill to woo any target. It proactive, and I think some of it is effective. You know, some of it is gross and well-adjusted people shouldn't be relying on psychobabble for their entire modus operandi, but as the ladder website mentions no satire can be ALL false, and i think conversely, no serious theory can be completely WITHOUT wit.

(and to regress, i think actually subscribing to sociological/psychological theories is a major turnoff)
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2008

odinsdream has it. The ladder theory comes from an audience of men who have had trouble 1) finding significant others, 2) being friends with their significant others, and 3) understanding and relating to women.

Do you really want to follow their advice about how to have a relationship? Maybe it gets them somewhere, but I doubt it's to a very good place. You're getting advice here from men and women who have experienced healthy and friendly relationships - so, yes, you're getting a biased sample of normal people.

Anyway, feel free to talk about past relationships - or at least, don't avoid the subject. But don't be that person who brings it up all the time and can't stop talking about how great previous girlfriend was.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:57 AM on September 5, 2008

It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?

Where's that link to "If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question" and other rules of engagement?

Okay, I'll rise to this challenge. Across the table from me is a female friend who has never heard of MeFi. We had a bit of a discussion and here's what it came down to:

- Women can and often do fuck their friends.

- The "ladder" (she thinks) comes from a guy's misconception about what she's thinking. She's put the guy in the "don't want" category a long time ago, he just takes a long time to figure it out and feels betrayed for some reason.

- Guys talk about whats on their mind. If a guy talks about his exes he's got someone else on his mind. No one wants to hear that (boy or girl). They'd much rather hear about themselves.

- "I can't have the hots for you because we talk more than we fuck" sounds pretty clearly to both of us as the "easy letdown". She's not saying "All of our talk has made me lose interest in you." She's saying "I like talking to you. [full stop, new paragraph, change of subject] I am not interested in having sex with you." One wasn't the cause of the other, she was never interested in having sex with you. But she attached it to a compliment to soften it. The compliment is unrelated to the reason.
posted by Ookseer at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?

Not everyone telling you that the ladder theory is hogwash is a woman.

But yes, it's a big world out there, and there are people to fit any description. There are plenty of people (men and women) who separate "friends" and "lovers," and who might get their emotional support from a different person than they are fucking. And there are people who will only fuck someone who is also their closest confidant and best friend.

Meaning, the generalizations don't work. Specifics matter: what are you looking for? What is the other person looking for?

There are plenty of women (and probably even more men) who do not want to hear one word about a prospective partner's romantic past. They don't want to hear why you used to love her, they don't want to think about where else your dick might have been, they want the past to remain a closed book for both people. If that is what this person is like, then yes, by talking about your sexual and romantic past you may have permanently removed yourself from the "might want to fuck" list.

But that's not some absolute rule, that applies to all women or all men in all situations. It is, however, an indication that you aren't picking up on the social cues that people give off that indicate whether they want to be a friend or a more-than-friend. Did talking about your romances make her more affectionate and intimate? Or did it give her something fun to talk with you about, while moving your relationship away from romance and towards something else? Her lack of interest in getting into your pants shouldn't come as some big surprise at this point — the writing should have been on the wall for a long time, and you need to learn how to read it (to stretch that metaphor).
posted by Forktine at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?

No. You can't have it both ways.

You initially said "let's face it, MOST WOMEN ascribe to this theory." You didn't say "most women who aren't also MeFites", you said "most WOMEN." Period. You can't take back that initial qualifier now that you're finding it's being proven wrong.

And also, why would you be ARGUING with the fact that the Ladder Theory is wrong? We're actually giving you good news -- that yes, women do sleep with friends -- but you're still sitting back and saying, "but no, you must be wrong about that.

Honestly? It's starting to sound as if you are so completely caught up in what this one single woman thinks of you, and the fact that this one single woman has turned you down for something, that rather than just moving on and finding a different woman who DOES fancy you, you are fabricating an entire mammoth Hive Vagina conspiracy out of it. Why is the rejection of this one single woman affecting you so much when there are 3 billion more of us walking around?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

harwons, The ladder theory just sells you your own repackaged bitterness. You won't find any wisdom about women there. There are many positive guides that are informed by psychology, evolutionary or otherwise, like say the data on flirting.

Also try reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, maybe the most influential book on biology of the 20th century, and Towards a Darwinian Left by Peter Singer. Neither will tell you jack about human women, but the first will provide some perspective on animal & human nature, and the second will show the pervasiveness of this biological influence. So hopefully that perspective will let you take this all less seriously.

Btw, your interest in the ladder theory suggests two things :
(1) you're taking stuff too seriously, which then prevents you from flirting well.
(2) you're getting hung up on specific girls, which then limits your social skill development.
You need to try making lots of female friends, but don't take any too seriously. You can try making out if it seems appropriate. Women don't mind you trying if you aren't creepy, serious, depressive, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you get to the point to where you are talking to a woman about exploits and have never done anything you are already stuck in the friend zone or the creep zone. If you start off with a woman by talking about exploits you will immediately be put in the creep zone. If you are deep in a sexual relationship and start talking about past exploits you will probably be put in the ex zone.
posted by JJ86 at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I suppose the ladder theory has one point down correctly : Don't just wish, mope, or wine for your female friends to sleep with you. You should drop any friendships that have developed such character.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

People who use pop-scientific books to explain why they are bitter/mean/whiney about failing manhood will always be that way. If challenged, they would just find other books! ;o)
posted by johannahdeschanel at 12:53 PM on September 5, 2008

Zambrano: If you are good looking, women will want to sleep with you- no matter what you talk to them about.

If I'm attracted to a male friend, I want to sleep with him.

Zambrano: millipede just said it better

Zambrano, no. Millipede did not say the same thing but better. Millipede made a statement about being attracted to someone without reference to their physical appearance. Your (incredibly offensive) statement is about nothing other than physical appearance. Good looking and attractive are not the same thing. Tom Cruise is good looking, but he's also a creep and I have zero desire to fuck him.

This kind of generalising about women - or men, for that matter - is really, really gross.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:19 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

It would be cool if you could blame some psychobabble website for why you strike out with women. If you want to figure out why people won't have sex with you, then ask yourself a few simple questions:

Am I a jerk?
Do I smell bad?
Am I unattractive?
Do I treat women as though they are as shallow as the ladder theory suggests? (Women, rewrite this to read: Do I treat men as though they are as shallow as The Rules book suggests?)
posted by 26.2 at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

It's refreshing to hear that women WOULD sleep with men they consider very good friends, but isn't this coming from a self-selected audience of women who 1) are on MeFi, 2) are against the theory and felt they wanted to voice this?

Find me a woman who is "for" this theory and I'll give you a million dollars. I can't imagine anyone thinking this way. Of course, if you find her, you win both this bet and the love of an equal, so I wish you the very best.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:32 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do I treat women as though they are as shallow as the ladder theory suggests? (Women, rewrite this to read: Do I treat men as though they are as shallow as The Rules book suggests?)

This. Oh, this.

One of my greatest dreams is to take all of the "Ladder Theory boys" and "Rules girls" and send them off into space together for a year or two.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:14 PM on September 5, 2008

Your first obstacle to getting laid is being the type of person who believes in Ladder Theory. I'm not trying to be snarky, but Ladder Theory is a load of bullshit and whenever a guy buys into it, I run far, far away.

Every person my entire life that I've ever been attracted to has been my friend for at least three years first. This doesn't apply to every person, but trying to box all women into a single group makes you sound like a grade A jerk.
posted by Nattie at 5:15 PM on September 5, 2008

harmows, please continue to read this thread and reply. Why do I post to tell you that? Because this should be your first assignment: listening to women. We are not puzzles to be solved. We are three billion different human beings with different needs, desires, likes and dislikes.

Maybe a woman will be charmed by your stories of past girlfriends. Maybe she won't. We don't know. We've never met her.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:19 PM on September 5, 2008

harwons, sorry -- misread it
posted by Countess Elena at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2008

To me, Sidhedevil, the ladder theory looks like mere commiseration, i.e. just men bitching about women. Rules girls are more like "Lair boys", i.e. members of the "seduction community".

The Rules and Art of Seduction are both elevating various materialistic goals, like presents, manipulation, sex, etc., over finding love, and claim that love follows from achieving those goals. I think this helps some people shake various bad habits, replacing those with obnoxious goals, which some then abandon once their bad habits are gone. Otoh, I suppose many girls have started raising kids with some Rules approved guy who didn't match her personality.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:53 PM on September 5, 2008

Clearly, you're not getting the answers you want, which is why you're so skeptical of the huge number of responses you've received (based on your followup comment). Which means you've already figured out the answer you do want, and plan to believe anyway -- that women are really this shallow, and (!) easy to figure out, based on a simple set of rules. Maybe it would be best to just go on about your life believing it, then? Because it seems to me that if you were genuinely on here wanting help or honest advice, you'd be more willing to listen to not just the majority but really, every response you'e received.
posted by twiki at 7:55 PM on September 5, 2008

A lot of people I know - male, female, and otherwise - only sleep with people after easing in with long friendships.

I keep my friends as friends. Generally. Unless they can really keep their mouth shut. Which people are not good at, generally.

This is all moot for days, however. DarlingBri has mentioned "Tom Cruise" and suggested sexual activity which is so gross I quit. If you want to get busy with the ladies, don't mention creepy toad people.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2008

She's either attracted to you at this moment in time, or she isn't. "I can't have the hots for you" is the giveaway here: it's extremely difficult to determine who you will and won't find attractive. There isn't a toggle-switch, but key events can certainly sway the pendulum in the other direction.

It's entirely possible for a girl to be very attracted to a friend, and to decide against pursuing an immediate relationship because the friendship is so important on its own merits, but I find this uncommon and am more prone to believe that she simply isn't attracted, or does treasure the friendship and the deeper relationship potential to the extent that she wants to test the waters, evaluate you carefully, and decide whether it's worth trading the so-far-so-good friendship for something much greater.

I find it less likely that a girl would be able to control her "ability to be attracted to" anyone in particular and in this case your best bet is to change your expectations and decide whether you want to continue to pursue a friendship with someone if you desire more and she does not.

All you can control is your own behavior: when I'm friends with a girl, but have greater desires for a future relationship (I never pursued flings / one-night-stands / conquests), I can't resist telling her right away.

"I'm attracted to you...FYI." I immediately put the friendship at risk, as I'm not interested in having long, drawn-out heartache "friendships" that are really detrimental to my emotional well-being. This might be an overreaction to a past event in which a long-term friendship blossomed into a relationship, and then it turned out she was pregnant with a previous boyfriend's kid, and I realized that I didn't seize the opportunity years before.

Many months after this experience, I met someone in college. I found myself immediately attracted to her, got to know her for a couple of weeks, and let her know how I felt. She told me "I'm attracted to you, but in a platonic way." To me this was code for "keep at it." In your case, "I can't be attracted to you" seems pretty absolute.

I made my intentions clear, without being awkward. I behaved like a friend, studying with her, walking between classes, never got a date, but I asked her almost every Friday. Finally, the semester closed, and suddenly she was interested, and we began dating over the winter break. It paid off, but this is merely one case, one experience.

We lived together for quite some time, and eventually parted ways. I found myself attracted to a woman at work, and basically followed the same approach: got to know her for a little while, stated my intentions, and hit a wall: "I don't date co-workers." Pretty reasonable policy, sure, but I assured myself that she probably wasn't really interested in me, and maintained the friendship anyway.

I realized she had an entourage of years-long male friends at her beck and call, and she always ended up dating the random jerk at the bar who came outta nowhere and treated her like crap. Fortunately she had a bunch of male friends pining for her who were all-too-happy to hear her sob stories about the latest screwup and console her in the desperate hope that she'd finally see the light. I heard some pretty bad shit myself and gave her friendly advice, at this point pretty turned off by her insistence on self-abuse, and was relieved to realize that I didn't want to be with the "nice guys finish last" girl, and was fully aware that her behavior did not model the behavior of all women (this is key).

I have two friends who are very bitter about women because of their own singular experiences and I think this is absurd, considering how desperately they seem to be yearning for female contact. You've got to keep on moving. Ladder theory seems to consist of misogynistic sour grapes to me, and is a self-fulfilling prophecy that threatens to "bring down" anyone who buys into it, like my friends, with their singular bad experiences, who seek to convince other friends that all women suck, but man, would they like to get laid at least...while lacking the confidence and motivation to transform themselves into cynical pickup artists, because they secretly want something more, and are vulnerable and wounded and need to simply pick up the pieces and work on themselves.

Every person is different, the sum total of their previous experiences. If you need psychological theories to justify your experiences, consider that everyone has a different upbringing and is profoundly affected by their role models and peers. You can try to observe patterns across the population, but if your goal is to establish a one-to-one relationship with a unique individual, yourself being another unique individual, you must acknowledge that there is no unified theory for succeeding with women.

I know how you feel; I've always had a tendency to obsess over a single girl at a time, and found myself devastated by the rejection, like the penguin couple in that flippin' penguin movie, desperately clinging to one chance at reproducing, and losing it all after all of that effort. Do not fall into a tunnel-vision scenario where she "has to be the one" even when she disagrees.

All you can do is take care of yourself, make yourself a desirable mate ("just friends" may be able to help you here, especially if they want to see you happy with someone else), and "show up for work every day." When rejected, you may have move on quickly in order to stay sane.

Evaluate the severity of the rejection.

My college friend gave me just enough bait to keep me interested, and I certainly did have my fair share of heartache as I wondered why she'd concoct such a phrase..."attracted in a platonic way?"

As it turns out, she was still dating her high school sweetheart and wasn't ready to let go. She needed some time to handle that appropriately, and to feel good about herself for handling things the way she did.

We eventually got married, and as of this month we've known each other for 10 years, together for 8, married for 2 of those 8. I don't say this to toot my own horn, but to say that sometimes persistence pays off, and sometimes you've got to parse their words and know when to quit.
posted by aydeejones at 10:16 PM on September 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

Mod note: pls stop derail, you can go to metatalk, thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2008

My girlfriend and I were close buddies who discussed each other's past sexual histories as "just friends" before eventually deciding that we had the hots for each other. My single data-point refutation of the Ladder Theory.
posted by the cydonian at 9:20 AM on September 7, 2008

So there's the Ladder Theory, which, let's face it, applies to most women (they don't want to endanger the friendship with a man by sleeping with him).

This is big hairy bollocks. If they fancy you, they'll sleep with you. If they don't, they won't. I've slept with friends who remained friends afterwards, and I've known men who have done the same with their female friends, so I find the idea of this Ladder Theory rather bunkum.
posted by mippy at 9:31 AM on September 7, 2008

I had a "friend" I thought was hot. As I found out more about his past (sketchy, lots of infidelity & drama) he became increasingly less attractive to me. That's not just one "topic," but it certainly made a difference.
posted by timoni at 6:31 PM on September 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for their answers. I feel that some background information about me will clarify my posts.

Let me assure you that I don't pigeonhole women, and I treat them very respectfully, to the point that each decries the lack of chivalry of American men by comparison to how I treat them. However, statistically they are not attracted to me, and I found that out from most of them after the relationship was over.

This gives Zambrano's (modified) comment a lot more weight than women would like to admit:
If you are attractive, women will want to sleep with you- no matter what you talk to them about.

Let me now bring in exhibit #2, a blog post from a lady friend of mine, a very attractive petite Harvard graduate who owns her own business and comes from an awesome family and so on:

After three dates I'm still very interested in this guy A., but I'm nervous. It's not simply that he hasn't finished college, which I already knew. Yesterday I came to understand that he went to four or five colleges over the course of seven years and still doesn't have a degree. Nor a career in its place. I'm really drawn to him, but this seems...unwise.

So there we have this strong, independent, attractive, smart, rich woman, owning her own company, driving a brand new Prius, stylish, and she's no special snowflake!

This is... textbook. I could not possibly find a better example to show what the majority (of course, not all, and sincerely, apparently not MeFi) women REALLY care about. It's why seduction programs like Double Your Dating work. Also, check what women want. Nowhere does it say "career" or "education". Does anyone still deny that on a gut level, the (same) majority of women doesn't love jerks? See this and this.

Back to my ladyfriend who claimed not having the hots for me anymore after we talked a lot about each other's relationships: we did have sex, twice, but living in different cities, we just kept talking. In the first months she was really interested in me. Then she met another man in her city and we started talking less, and about him. Then about women I met and so on. Thus, she did find me attractive (we slept together on the 2nd date), and later she rated me 7.5 on a 10 scale. So in the case I'm talking about, my physical attractiveness has remained the same (we haven't seen each other since we slept together), but I must've talked about something, X, which placed me in the "friends" category. That's my question: what is X? (I suspect X="my own relationships"). Note that she didn't say "I got involved with another man and can't think of you in a sexual way" (which would've been a very easy way out).

Again, this person is college educated, very intelligent, well-read and traveled, an Education Director, not a bimbo that might be said to employ the Ladder.
posted by harwons at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2008

harwons: you found one example of a woman saying something that coincides with your bizarre "Ladder Theory," plus some nonscientific polls on random websites. This is not proof of anything (especially because the blog post doesn't actually confirm your point).

I suspect that the reason you're not having the luck with the ladies is that you don't view women as people. You don't seem to think that women are individuals, each one with her own personality. You're searching for the sexual equivalent of "open sesame," and that's just pathetic.

Perhaps your "ladyfriend" picked up on this and, being a rational person, found it unattractive.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:29 AM on October 13, 2008

Your ladyfriend rated you? What did you do, give her a questionnaire with the post-coitus smoke? Nthing Jessamyn and others that it's not the subject of the conversation that's the problem, generally, it's the tone and approach and whether or not you spend any time listening. If someone asked me how they rated on a 10-point scale, I'd back away slowly and file under WTF Insecure.

Trying very hard to put aside this whole "Ladder Theory" mope-fest for a moment, I will offer anecdata of my own.

I do tend to know whether or not I'm sexually attracted to someone very shortly after meeting them. It has nothing to do with a list of qualifications, who they are, what we talk about, etc., and everything to do with sexual chemistry. Boom. It's there or it's not. Obviously, there are many, many instances where this chemistry is essentially irrelevant (and now that I'm not single, it just puts a little spring in my step, since we're not sleeping with other people.)

However, when i was single, there were certainly men with whom I had had immediate intellectual chemistry, but who were not sexually very attractive to me. (Yes, based largely on appearance, though I wouldn't say that "good looking" is a very useful label, since it implies some sort of agreed-upon standard.) However, contrary to the "ladder theory," the better I got to know such a person, the more I could envision changing my tune on whether or not I'd be interested in having sex with him.

You also seem to be perhaps conflating whether you want a relationship or sex or both or what and from whom. Maybe your ladyfriend thought you were nice enough for a roll in the hay, but wasn't interested in a romantic relationship.

You may have not understood why she didn't go for the easy way out of "I met New Relationship Person and therefore don't want to date you," but I can understand this. Me, personally, I never liked citing New Relationship Person as the reason, because I never liked the idea of setting up the idea of a rivalry, or that someone "won," plus, I didn't want to perpetuate false hope that when I break up with New Relationship Person, I was necessarily interested enough to pick up with Previous Person. (Because if I were that interested, I wouldn't have been so intrigued by New Relationship Person.)
posted by desuetude at 11:24 AM on October 13, 2008

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