Men: "Nice shoes!" (trans: let's fuck!) Women: "Nice shoes!" (trans: let's be friends!)
October 13, 2009 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Previously dated men, now wants to date women. Problem: I can't tell when women are interested in me or if they just want to be friends.

I seem to be pretty good in picking up on clues that a man is sexually interested in me, women not so much.

I've had scenerios show up over and over with men and women:

-Being stared at in a bar/party/club
-Being told that I'm attractive/sexy
-Being messaged on online dating sites
-Having a friend of their's introduce me ("Hey are you single? If yes, my friend would like to meet you!)
-Someone inviting me over their house to fix dinner for me
-Being grinded on the dance floor

Whenever men show the above behaviors, it almost always leads up to them wanting to pursue a relationship and/or have sex with me. I've always reject those advances, because I'm not sexually attracted to men, eventhough I pretended to be for a while. I was in a few relationships with men, but they were sexless.

Whenever women show the above behaviors I get a different result. Unlike with the guys, I don't show coolness when women act like that around me, I actually turn up the heat. Once I show my attraction, I'm told that they are looking for friendship and not anything more. That's if I'm lucky, there were a few occasions where women just walked away from me.

This has caused me a lot of frustration and confusion, the fact that the very same behaviors has led to very different outcomes, depending on the gender involved. To add to the confusion, whenever I show those above behaviors, I am definately sexually attracted to a woman. I mean, I would never invite a woman over to my house (knowing that we are both lesbians) to cook for her, if I wasn't trying to have sex with her or wanted her to be my girlfriend. It would just be awkward.

I've been told that I think a lot like a guy, so I think this is messing up my perception a bit. For those who date women, regardless of your gender, how do I tell the difference between friendly interest and sexual interest? Please help a woman who's new to this scene.
posted by Eleutherios to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

As someone who went in the opposite direction (used to date women, now date men), I think you're underestimating the usefulness and importance of the "friends first" dynamic. Relationships between women have, in my experience, been much more likely to grow out of friendship and a basis of existing trust. Now, I haven't started a relationship with a woman in about 10 years, so there may be some cultural shift that has happened in that time. Also, I'm not talking about one night stands here, but actual long term relationships.

Also remember that some of those behaviors you mentioned (being stared at, being told of your attractiveness, being grinded on a dance floor) are behaviors that have been co-opted: truly heterosexual women will use those maneuvers on other women in public in order to to amp up their attractiveness to men. They may not be genuine. Alternatively, you may just be trying too hard when you "turn up the heat".

In general, telling the difference between friendly interest and sexual interest during an initial encounter remains the same regardless of the gender: prolonged eye contact, lots of touching during conversation, et cetera. However, my recollections of my relationships with women are that they started on the basis of a lot of common ground. We'd flirt, then decide to be friends, develop a solid friendship, and then that flirtation would come back to the surface and develop into something more based on the common ground we'd found.
posted by amelioration at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever women show the above behaviors I get a different result. Unlike with the guys, I don't show coolness when women act like that around me, I actually turn up the heat. Once I show my attraction, I'm told that they are looking for friendship and not anything more. That's if I'm lucky, there were a few occasions where women just walked away from me.

Ok, I am getting from your question that you are a lesbian. So that might be a part of it--there are fewer lesbians and the hetero women are looking at you as a potential friend and have the whole attraction thing turned off.

But keep prolonged eye contact, smile and compliment. No need to reveal your interest immediately, because at the beginning, it is only sexual and you might not be compatible. Take time to learn who these people are and don't bet on the horse immediately with your hopes.

Also, I don't know that much about lesbian relationships except from what my lesbian friends tell me and I haven't really asked about these things, but from a straight guy's point of view, you don't need to wait to find out if they like you, when you feel like you want to let them know, let them know. You'll get shot down a lot, but if you are a volume dealer, you'll meet someone soon enough.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, like Ironmouth said definitely the way with women is to play the odds, don't get hung up on any of the attempts since you really don't know each other yet anyway, just keep trying and not getting too hung up on any one potential partner and then re-evaluate after getting to know someone better if things do go a little further.

The flip side of this is that most of the guys who seemed so into you despite your lack of interest were probably doing this exact thing and probably would not have stuck around long if you had reciprocated interest anyway.

People are selective and fickle, and finding a partner is all about working with that mutual selectiveness and fickleness.
posted by idiopath at 8:35 PM on October 13, 2009

I can't offer any strategic advice, but I can offer solidarity and a bit of "you're not alone"ness.
Don't feel bad if you can't tell every time, or even some of the time. Plenty of guys will tell you they have had experiences similar to yours, regardless of whether they are "new to the scene" as you call it. It can frustrating to be invited over to a girl's apartment where she cooks for you, and then during *dessert* have her casually mention her boyfriend. After you've been flirting (or so you thought) with her long enough to be invited to her place. Of course, I'm sure some women find it equally frustrating that we would interpret such behavior as anything more than just wanting to be friends.

The only solution I know is to not let it get you down, and keep trying.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 8:44 PM on October 13, 2009

It's the nature of the beast. If you're a woman who dates women, that ambiguity goes with the territory. My solution is to ask, if the signals are confused: "Hey, are you seeing this as a just friends thing or is there something between us?" I must say that grinding on the dance floor strikes me as not very "just friends." But being invited over for dinner? Sure, friends can do that, and there's no magic way of knowing what's intended. (Or maybe there is and I've been clueless about it for the last 15 years. I'll be watching this thread with interest.) Oh, and women just walking away from you after you've shown interest is just weird and rude -- that is, if they're lesbian (or bi). If you're expressing interest in straight women, that reaction is still weird and rude but also perhaps not unexpected.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:50 PM on October 13, 2009

I mean, I would never invite a woman over to my house (knowing that we are both lesbians) to cook for her, if I wasn't trying to have sex with her or wanted her to be my girlfriend.

See, this doesn't really work, because people can be friends regardless of orientation. Should straight women not invite their straight guy friends over for dinner?

I understand where you're coming from -- I like women too, and I know how frustrating it can be -- but I think partly this is how things are supposed to unfold. You have to play it by ear, and unfortunate "oh wait, you were interested in me as a friend" realizations are part of that. To make your intentions clearer, you can amp up the flirtiness -- the eye contact, the light touches -- if that's something you're comfortable with.

You can also change the ponds where you fish to increase your odds. Online dating sites should be good for this; I'm surprised you have women messaging you who only want to be friends but don't explicitly say so, because in my experience the assumption is definitely that you're there to date. Or you could go hang out with real-life lesbians -- whatever your scene is, you should be able to find an appropriate bar/party or local dyke anarchist knitting circle or relevant group. At least you'll broaden your social circle and you'll know the women there won't be offended by your interest.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:22 PM on October 13, 2009

Maybe they're chickening out because they're still figuring out their shit. All of those things in my experience lead to dating, not necessarily to hot lady sex (well...the grinding does) so see if you can just get a number. If not, move on.
posted by kathrineg at 9:30 PM on October 13, 2009

-Being grinded on the dance floor […] Whenever women show the above behaviors […]

…there's usually alcohol involved, their inhibitions are lower and thus more likely to experiment. Once the alcohol wears off, the ugly light of truth is revealed. You need to find places that specifically cater to lesbians, because the odds are simply not in your favor.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:37 PM on October 13, 2009

Yeah, I just assumed this was at gay bars, but go to some bars that are LESBIAN because the straight women and curious maybe-bis sometimes swarm the gay bars until your chances, they are not good.
posted by kathrineg at 10:38 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

what kathrineg said. You'll have a much better rate of success in these matters if you are hanging out with more declared lesbians. Plenty of lesbian groups hold non-club events too. Check your local gay street press for more info.
posted by Jilder at 4:20 AM on October 14, 2009

Response by poster: All of these experiences I had with women were lesbians. I'm a regular at a lesbian bar, I go there several times a week usually. I'm also on an online dating site that lists my preference on my profile, and their preference is listed too. I rarely hit on straight women, even when I do, I don't expect much in return.
posted by Eleutherios at 5:31 AM on October 14, 2009

Perhaps it's time to take this to your friends. Ask them "What is it that I'm doing (or not doing) that's not working?" Have them accompany you to the lesbian bar so they can see you in action, if they don't know.
posted by 6550 at 7:28 AM on October 14, 2009

I have experience with hitting on/being hit on/dating lesbians & straight men.

Don't follow the lead of what straight men do when they hit on women, if you're trying to hit on a woman. It's a much more subtle dance between two women than between a man and a woman.

I'm not trying to generalize and I'm not saying that straight men can't pick up on subtle cues. But there's a huge difference in the nonverbal communication between men/women flirting and women/women flirting. Women still give off the same nonverbal cues, but what might fly over the head of a straight man is plenty visible to another woman, and can come off as too strong.

I would be much more direct with a man than with a woman. If I used the same strategies on both, I might come off as desperate to the woman while barely register as flirting with the man.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:09 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

As others have said, sometimes alcohol lowers inhibitions and what is fun in the context of the bar isn't necessarily something to be pursued outside of it. I've danced with a lot of women I wouldn't go home with, and occasionally grind with just friends or women I wouldn't leave the bar with (it's fun!).

Some suggestions:

- If there's grinding in the dance floor, go for a kiss. It's entirely appropriate in context and likely to give you an answer a lot quicker about whether she might be interested in more. If she doesn't want to kiss, she doesn't want more (or will tell you, "I don't kiss on first dates" or similar), and if the kiss is lousy, you don't want more.

- If you're on a first date (or think you are) or at someone's home for dinner, touch her. Not aggressively or intimately (unless that's already been established as a good thing), but on her shoulder, mid-back, forearm. If she's into you, she should maintain contact, touch you back, smile, or otherwise give positive feedback. If she stiffens up, pulls back, moves your hand, frowns or looks confused, she's probably into you as a friend.

- If you're being stared at, make eye contact and smile. If she holds eye contact for more than a blink and smiles, winks, nods, or moves closer, ask her to dance or offer to buy her a drink. Just staring doesn't necessarily mean anything. It could be she's staring because she thinks you're attractive but she's attached, could be you remind her of someone or she's trying to figure out if she knows you or she's angry at or interested in the person next to you, could be she's wondering where you bought that great shirt, could be she's heard a rumor about you and she's wondering if it's true, any number of things.

- Learn to read body language well. It will be more useful with most people than just listening to what they say.

- A lot of women prefer the "friends first" thing as someone else said. It might not matter how fabulous you are, they won't date you until they've hung around and gotten to know you.

- Lesbians tend to give whole-body hugs, unlike straight women, even with friends, so don't take the fact that there's contact below the boobs as necessarily indicative of anything more than a friendly hug.

- If you don't know, ask. Better to find out quickly than to muddle along murkily, and it's a good start on open communication when you do get into a relationship.

- If you're getting mixed signals when you're on what you think may be a date, ask for a second date and use that word specifically. "I hear [insert girl with guitar] will be playing at Foxy's next Friday night. I love her music. Be my date for the night?"
posted by notashroom at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2009

Another thought occurred to me. I don't know how old you are, or how recently out you are, but I think those two things may be playing a role here. Again, back in my day, there was a huge amount of... stigma? caution? around being someone's first. First woman they slept with, first woman they dated, et cetera. There was considered to be a heavy responsibility that came with being the first woman someone dated (think of Dan Savage's "campfire rule"), and a lot of women who had been out longer shied away from the women who were just coming out of the closet. If you're new to the scene, this *might* be playing a role in your interactions: the ladies may think you're hot, find you delightful, but just not want to take on the responsibility. Which, again, the friends-first thing will help you overcome. People are willing to take that kind of risk and responsibility with someone they have an emotional connection with, but not for some random cute girl across the bar.
posted by amelioration at 8:53 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you go to gay/queer/lesbian clubs or bars to meet people? If not, this would definitely tip the odds in your favor. If so, I'm with everyone else on developing friendships with the women who say this is what they're looking for. Attraction is very likely to grow organically if it's not being forced, and at worst you'll have made a friend. You might also bring friends out with you as a sort of safety net, and they might be able to give you more insight into how you use body language and whether you're being too flirtatious or not flirtatious enough.

Be confident and be yourself and I think with enough practice and a little more time "in the scene" you will develop the ability to interpret these clues more easily.
posted by a.steele at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2009

Response by poster: I was recently involved in my first threesome, I met them online. I guess online dating, is where I should be these days, I get hit on more there and have more follow-through. Also, through friends, but I have turned down every advance, because I want to avoid drama. I give up on trying to meet women in other ways, its not for me.

posted by Eleutherios at 7:26 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

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