#88 Top Strategies to Navigate the Sexual Marketplace with Susan Walsh
It's a smarter way of approaching the whole thing. We're going to be talking about hooking up, which is the difference between starting a relationship and then having sex (which is kind of the old way), and it's pretty much de facto standard today where people are hooking up first - so you hook up, you have sex, or you start sexual relationships before you get into a relationship. In a general manner, that's pretty much the de facto standard of what people do today.
We're focusing a bit more on hooking up, and also on college and university. So, if you're right now at college or university and you want to know how that works and how to approach it the best way, this is going to be a great episode for that. Also, if you didn't do so well in college or university, you may learn why and it may be pretty interesting for you from that perspective.
Today's guest is Susan Walsh. She's an ex strategy consultant and a Wharton MBA. If you don't know, Wharton is one of the best business schools in the world. Susan left that life in 2008 when she started a blog on dating, sex, and relationships, which has, over time, built up a very active community.
What I like about this is that she's very focused on the strategy perspective, which is different, and also has a lot of people who are very active on her blog. So she's really kind of in touch with demand (what people actually want, what their top concerns are on the problems they have). She's got perspective on that, which she’s going to bringing to this episode, which is really useful.
You can learn more about: what are the top concerns of women and other guys your age, for example. To give you an idea of what her blog is about, one of the first post she ever wrote was titled: Sex is Strategic. So Should You Be.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- Susan's background and how she started her blog (03:17)
- Top concerns from men and women related to hooking up, including its definition (09:45)
- Why men in college worry about being a virgin and the pressure to sleep with women, including societal pressures and changes that affect their sexual behavior (19:15)
- Top concerns for women in college when it comes to having sex, and what they are being told by men to get them to hook up (22:50)
- The dominant concept: the principle of least interest (whoever cares less has the most power) (28:00)
- The pressure to consume alcohol in order to be comfortable in sexually social environments (31:38)
- Important strategic decisions men currently make about their sex life and the impact, especially for men in college (32:54)
- The Red Pill (referring to the movie: The Matrix) and understanding the "true nature" of women (35:50)
- Strategic decisions women are making about sex, and maybe getting wrong (40:00)
- Win-win situations in college for men and women to meet and approach each other: focusing on the similarities (44:29)
- The best way to contact Susan and learn more about her work (50:24)
- History of the principle of least interest (whoever cares less has the most power) (51:52)
- Recommendations for high quality advice in the area of dating, sex, and relationships (54:10)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- Hooking Up Smart: Susan's blog for men and women devoted to navigating the contemporary SMP (sexual marketplace).
- Sex is Strategic. So Should You Be: Mentioned by Angel in the introduction, this is one of Susan's first blog post.
- What Do Women Want? (Daniel Bergner): This book is about adventures in the science of female desire. It was mentioned by Angel while discussing top concerns from men and women related to hooking up.
- The Definitive Survey of College Students' Sexual Behavior: This blog article by Susan was mentioned while discussing hookup concerns and the debate regarding what percentage of students in college are participating in the hookup culture (i.e. casual sex).
- The Game (Neil Strauss): Susan mentioned this book while discussing strategic decisions men currently make about their sex life, and looking like a 'player', even if they can't actually be one.
- Science of Relationships: Website addressing the importance of developing relationships from a scientific perspective (research and data). Recommended by Susan.
- The Science of Relationships: Answers to questions about dating, marriage, and family.
- Barking Up The Wrong Tree: Susan recommended reading Eric's blog articles about how to appeal to the opposite sex.
- Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do (Duana Welch): Susan recommended Duana for her analytical and data-driven perspective on attracting someone into your life.
- The Art of Manliness: This site, by Brett McKay, is highly recommended by Susan for a wealth of topics on masculinity, aspects of manliness, character development, etc.
- The Way of Men (Jack Donovan): Angel recommended Jack Donovan. His book addresses the question, "What is masculinity?" It aims to sort out the conflicting religious, cultural, and moral issues.
- David Deida: Angel recommended David for his background in addressing masculine / feminine polarity.
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: Susan, thank you so much for joining us today.
[Susan Walsh]: It’s my pleasure to be here, thanks for having me.
[Angel Donovan]: To get started, I’d like to just learn a little bit about you and where you are in life, at what stage, where you live, how old you are – these kinds of little details – to give us a bit of a background on where you are.
[Susan Walsh]: Okay, well I’m probably unusual in this industry in that I’m a senior citizen compared to a lot of dating coaches. I’m 58 years old.
[Angel Donovan]: You don’t look it, by the way. At all.
[Susan Walsh]: Thank you! [Chuckles] Well, that’s so nice to hear because some of my detractors like to talk about how ancient I am and how long ago I hit the wall. [Laughs]
It’s okay because as I said, I’ve been married 30 years. I met my husband when I was 25.
[Angel Donovan]: [Crosstalk 03:52] That’s so cool.
[Susan Walsh]: We’ve been together well over 30 years at this point. I live in the Boston area, I have two grown children. I have a son who’s 28 and a daughter who’s 25.
I started the blog seven and a half years ago and the way it started was my daughter and her friends were seniors in high school and they were starting to go out and hang out with guys. They kept coming back – well, she kept coming to me, my own daughter did, saying, “This guy, he asked me to this, he wants me to do this, but he’s telling me upfront, ‘I just want to hook up. I’m not interested. I don’t want a girlfriend.”
So she had a group of about eight or ten friends and it turned out that every one of these girls – at various levels of confidence and attractiveness, but they all were getting some play, some guys showing some interest.
Every one of these guys said, “I really just want to hook up; I’m not interested in a relationship” and they would say, “This sucks! This senior in high school – I want to go to a prom with my boyfriend, and there are no boyfriends!”
So I started talking to them and they felt like they were under a lot of pressure to put out, and it was that or stay home on a Friday night kind of a thing. I was really strategic with them as opposed to judgmental.
You and I talked briefly already about having both being strategy consultants, so I would say, “Well, let’s take a look at what the situation is and what is the marketplace, what’s the environment you’re dealing with and what are the rules of the marketplace.”
I began to encourage them rather than doing something that felt completely inauthentic and made them really upset afterwards. Okay, maybe this means you’re going to be on the sidelines, but here’s how you can live with yourself and here’s how you might identify the guy who’s just saying that but really would like a girlfriend, or maybe some guys who you’re not even talking to who would like a girlfriend.
So it became this kitchen table thing where I would have 12 of these girls coming over, really wanting to pick my brain, all of them saying, “I couldn’t possibly talk to my mom about this” because they were saying to me, “I hooked up with him. I did this for him, and then he didn’t call.” And they couldn’t say that to their moms.
The thing that really made it work is that I would tell them my own missteps, because I went to college in the late ‘70s, and we had relationships and we had casual things. But the casual thing didn’t lead to a relationship.
You might have a boyfriend, you broke up with him, then you might have a one-night stand, but it was highly unlikely that you would even know the person’s name, much less exchange numbers. So there was no question of “Is he going to call me?” It was like the Looking for Mr. Goodbar era and so that was all very anonymous.
[Angel Donovan]: Mr. Goodbar? Sorry?
[Susan Walsh]: Have you ever heard of that book? There was a book and then a movie made – I think Richard Gere starred in it, and it was called Looking for Mr. Goodbar. It was based on a true story of a woman who went into a bar and found a guy and went home with him and then he killed her.
[Angel Donovan]: [Chuckles] Nice.
[Susan Walsh]: [Chuckles] So it’s kind of grim, but that was the time. We were taking big risks when we did that, because we would really meet people – well, people still do today, obviously.
[Angel Donovan]: Back then, it was very normal though, it seemed. I wasn’t around in the ‘70s but my understanding of that era was it was like the most free era in terms of people just first opening up to this kind of thing. So maybe being more naïve about it than – maybe people are free today but they’re less naïve about it.
[Susan Walsh]: I think that’s exactly right. The ‘70s was really the frontier and people were experimenting and one of the things that gets discussed so much on my blog is, well, what’s your number? How many people have you had sex with?
My kids’ generation – your generation – has mostly tracked this pretty carefully. Most guys and girls can tell you exactly how many people they’ve had sex with, and when people get together, maybe for something more serious or a relationship, they often have a conversation where they want to know this information from each other.
Well, we didn’t keep track. I don’t know my number; I don’t know my husband’s number. It’s not all that high, and I don’t think his is all that high, but I actually don’t know and to be honest, I don’t care that much.
I think that's really changed too. We were kind of doing this stuff; they did feel a little bit forbidden and so it wasn’t something you posted about. I’m sure guys posted about it, but it was just more on the down-low than it is now, and we were naïve. We were kind of figuring it out as we went along.
Anyway, so I got these girls and they really got into telling me all this stuff. I was fascinated by what I was hearing and what the dynamics were among these 18-year-olds. And they all went off to college ultimately, and I thought I could start a little blog so we [unclear 08:19] all over the place – all over the US.
I thought I would start a little blog so we can keep in touch, and then of course I realized after a couple of weeks, I saw on Google “Well you had 50 visitors to your blog today” and I thought, “50? There were only ten of us; how can that be?”
I was so naïve, I didn’t even understand how Google search would bring people to my little blog [chuckles]. Of course, then I began to look at the Google search tools and people were treating Google as a sentient being.
“He told me really liked me, he promised he would call me again if we had sex. We had sex, he didn’t call, what should I do?” This would be a search term that would bring someone to my blog, and I’m sure you’ve seen the same thing at your website, so [unclear 08:55] go from there.
And so I became kind of the auntie, this wiser, older woman, who wasn’t really a prude as a young person, who could sort of help these women how to navigate. And then in time, my readership is now actually half male, so a lot of guys online as you well know are looking for stuff about dating skills and some of them wind up in my blog as well.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, for sure. Your blog is hookingupsmart.com and you’ve got quite a lot of following – you could just see from the comments. You get a lot of activity on that blog, so I’m sure you have a lot of readers.
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: So it’s good that you can have both because there’s not all of the spheres on the Internet these days where you have both women and men talking together about this subject. It’s nice to give them a place where they can both talk about it.
We’re focused on men, of course, but because you’re looking at both sexes and you’ve been doing this for a long time. I was wondering what you feel are the top concerns from each party when it comes to hooking up. What are the most popular questions or the most intense questions that people come up with?
[Susan Walsh]: Alright, so top concerns of men and women. What I was going to say is my orientation tends to come at this from kids going off to college and that’s when most of them are really starting to think about having sex and wanting relationships and wanting to interact with the opposite sex.
Hookup culture, as you can tell by the name of my blog, is kind of my area of interest and what’s happening –.
[Angel Donovan]: I know you have a definition of that. It’s a word we use all the time – hookup – but what does it actually mean? I know you have definitions so could you briefly tell us what it means?
[Susan Walsh]: Hooking up – people often assume it just means having sex. It doesn’t. The term hooking up at least, as used in the US, can refer to a make out. And in fact, a lot of hookups are dance floor make outs or “We made out at the bar” and [unclear 10:43] mean less, maybe expectations are lower after something like that.
But when researchers try to figure out how much hooking up college students are doing, it’s important to understand that they’re including who did you kiss, how many different guys did you kiss this year and then some percentage of those will have ended in sexual intercourse, of course, but it’s a much wider net they’re casting.
And I think there’s a deliberate vagueness to it, so that the guy could say “We hooked up” and his friends may not be exactly – there’s a lot of implication that goes on.
A woman might say, “Well, we hooked up, but it was not a big deal.” I’ve heard kids say to each other, “Well did you HOOKUP hookup?” [Chuckling] To which kind of implies, “Did you have sex?” or “Did you get there?” “Did you HOOKUP hookup” is really, really hooking up. Hookup, usually, when I hear women say, “Oh, I heard you guys hooked up last night” it usually refers to making out. Usually not much more.
[Angel Donovan]: The first time.
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah. And then the other important thing I would say about hookup culture: people get really caught up in this vocabulary and it’s problematic. They’ll say, “There’s no such thing as hookup culture. We have studies and all reams of data that show that only 15% of college students hook up more than twice a year.”
Hookup culture is not, in my mind, how people are behaving. It’s the messages that we’re receiving and what we believe norm is.
One of the things that researchers talk about is pluralistic ignorance. If you go to a college campus and you ask the guys – the college guys – what percentage of the guys on this campus do you think had sex this past weekend, they generally answer 75-80%, on average.
The guys believe that 75-80% of the guys on campus had sex that weekend. The real number is somewhere between 5 and 15%.
[Angel Donovan]: It’d be interesting to see who’s answering the questions like that. Just because you pulled out quite a big term, pluralistic ignorance, what does that mean for people?
[Susan Walsh]: It means that we accept something as normal behavior because we believe the majority is doing it happily, and so if we’re not doing it, we feel like an outlier.
What I come to believe very strongly is that a large number of students who aren’t behaving this way, either because they don’t have the opportunity or they don’t want to, feel like total losers, especially the guys who are under a special kind of pressure to get that – to get the hookup.
So many guys feel like they’re not making the grade and then in reality, you could say misery loves company, but I think it would be helpful if they understood that most of us are in the same boat here – which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get that with women, that we shouldn’t try to learn how to interact socially in a way that feels more comfortable, but it saddens me that these college boys, these 18 to 21-year-old males, are saying “I’m behind.”
“I’m behind my age group; I haven’t lost my virginity.” And the truth is that even senior year of college in the US, 21 years old, about a quarter of men and women are virgins. The numbers track pretty similarly through all four years, so it’s not a disproportionate number of men are getting nothing and most women are having a lot of casual sex.
I believed that for a while and I really began to explore what are the dynamics to try and drill down or pick apart who’s doing what and where are these activities concentrated and the story is complex.
So we have a culture where people believe a certain thing, but the reality is really quite different.
[Angel Donovan]: I’m just interested in what you might think of – have you read the book What Do Women Want? by Daniel Bergner, which we use?
[Susan Walsh]: I have not read the book. I have read quite a bit about it. He talks about how we’re not a monogamous species, for example.
[Angel Donovan]: I think the main takeaway – I’m actually in the middle of reading; I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, but one of the things in this context which might be relevant is when women are answering surveys about their sexuality, they’re a lot more inhibited than men.
When they’re comparing it to physiological information where they’re doing these experiments with physiology, so measuring how wide the vagina is, measuring erections [unclear 14:52] so they can actually see the responses and things like this, they find that women are estimating their numbers about 70% lower than –.
In this context, what I’m saying is potentially the number of virgins in a year is lower than 25%, but maybe that’s about right for guys – I don’t know – based on that work.
[Susan Walsh]: Well that’s interesting because – and again, keeping in mind that I have focused pretty much on the college age group in my research, there was so much debate about this on my site and it got to be such a huge issue.
I wrote this post, The Definitive Survey of College Students’ Sexual Behavior, and it really refers to about 20 different studies. It’s really kind of a survey of everything we know that’s out there.
I do address the question of people fudging the numbers, and there’s no question that women minimize their sexual experience and men exaggerate their sexual experience.
One study found that men actually exaggerate a little bit more than women play theirs down, but it’s not very clear-cut. I’m sure you’ve heard of the study, the lie detector study, where women gave a certain number of sexual partners they’ve had and they said a certain thing, and then they were asked again and told that they were now attached to a lie detector and the number went up.
However, what’s never mentioned by people who were really interested in sort of [unclear 16:06] that study is that the number went up by less than one partner and was found to be statistically insignificant. So the woman said, “I had three partners” when in reality on average she had 3.6 partners, or 3.7 partners.
I think 70% I would question that, certainly when young people impart [check 16:26] because they’re less sexually experienced, and they’re not talking about having had 20 partners at the age of 19 no matter what they’re view of sexuality is.
So I think that both sexes are not entirely honest in those situations even when anonymity is guaranteed, but I do find that the responses, the kinds of responses, the numbers, the percentages, are about the same for girls and guys across dozens and dozens of studies.
You get about the same percentage of guys and girls saying, “I think casual sex is great, I enjoy it, I don’t regret it, that’s what I’m looking for” versus “I would really like to be in a relationship.”
They’ve asked guys in college, “Do you want to be in a relationship?” 75% would prefer it. Now I know that from a lot of the conversations I’ve had, you’d say, “Well maybe some of those guys know ‘I’m never going to be a player so maybe my best strategy is to get a girlfriend, have a girlfriend in college.”
And there’s no question, again, this sexual access is one incentive to making a commitment, right? So that goes on too.
The other thing I would say about blood flow to the vagina and all of that during these studies, I think there’s no question it’s been really clearly demonstrated that female sexuality is more fluid. We are much more able to, more likely, to be bisexual, for example. Really bisexual – I dig women and I dig men.
When I hear that a male is bisexual, I often think “Well he’s probably gay.” I think female sexuality is more fluid. Women get turned on watching animals mate; we can get turned on by a lot of different things, and female arousal is different that way. I think Bergner does go into that in his book.
The other thing that I’ve read and I actually don’t know if this is true – I’ve read that women become lubricated in response to sexual stimuli and it’s a protective mechanism, because if they anticipate that they’re going to be penetrated, injury is minimized by that.
[Angel Donovan]: It’s so funny – I was talking to one of my partners today about this study and saying that it was probably due to that also.
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah, so I think that that makes sense to me; it’s no question that women have rape fantasies and women get into 50 Shades of Grey and whatever, but then it’s important to keep in mind that these are not fantasies that most women want to enact in real life. The whole idea of the fantasy is that it’s safe.
I don’t know if men would be more inclined to actually act out their fantasies if they have the opportunity; I suspect they would. But the fact that a woman is fantasizing about a very sexually dominant, perhaps even violent man, taking her, ravishing her for sex, in my view, does not translate into that’s how a woman wants to be approached or even seduced by a man in real life, because there’s a safety issue for women always.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, absolutely. So we’re skipping around – there’s a couple of concerns you’ve brought up there. Guys, obviously, they feel pressure to have slept with women, not be virgins when they’re in college – is that one of the main issues that’s coming up?
[Susan Walsh]: Yes. The other thing is that guys really feel like they don’t have the social skills to be comfortable and confident with women. I’ve done a lot of reading and research about this, too – there’s no question. I’m sure you’re aware that 60% of college students in the US are female; only 40% are male. That number is going down.
The number of men in college, the percentage, continues to –.
[Angel Donovan]: [Crosstalk] It’s getting worse, the imbalance.
[Susan Walsh]: We are at a period where young males are not thriving, or certainly not thriving as much as they used to. I do believe this has to do with the women’s movement and a man’s role in society has been really tumbled; it’s been very uncertain.
The recession has hit male dominated professions harder; any kind of labor-oriented job or manufacturing – those jobs are going away as technology becomes a larger, larger part of the economy.
There are a lot of reasons why males are not thriving. By the way, there’s also a lot of bias against boys in school – in elementary school. Teachers are much more likely to appreciate girl energy than boy energy, if you know what I mean.
So I think this was of separating boys from girls when they’re young, and as they get older it just feels like there’s less opportunity for boys and I think they get stymied and they feel confused about what their role is.
I’ve witnessed and hosted on my blog many, many debates about what the definition of masculinity is.
[Angel Donovan]: It’s in flux, for sure.
[Angel Donovan]: For sure! We have the greatest generation of World War II; they had a very certain notion of what masculinity was, and that clearly does not apply today.
So I do think that men are trying to figure that out, and that takes a long time. One of the consequences of all of these developments to young men is that they have become less comfortable with women; they had to become more competitive with women in a different way than they ever were before, and as women have gained traction, they’re in no way obligated to search for a provider. It gives women more options in the sense that they don’t have to have a child, they don’t have to get married.
Most women do of course want to fall in love and have a life partner and have that experience, but it’s not a necessity. 200 years ago, a woman would have to marry or – I don’t know – be a governess or something to make her way. She just absolutely couldn’t do anything else, and now of course the fact that you have women having a lot more choices then we see this new book by Kate Bolick called Spinster.
You hear women saying, “I celebrate the single life and this is what I want to do.” And some percentage of women, not the majority, but even if it’s 10%, that’s a pretty big shift in female incentives and female choices. So that’s another thing that’s happening, and that makes it harder for guys to get access.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely, there are some interesting trends there. In terms of the girls and what their top concerns are with men, so we’re talking primarily about college. Your readership is primarily focused on college?
[Susan Walsh]: Well, I would say that the readership probably goes through the twenties, but every so often I’ll have a woman in her thirties come by, but that’s a whole different marketplace as I’m sure you know. Women in their thirties are having a very different kind of experience than women who are 18-28. I would say that’s my readership – 18-28.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, yeah, it’s good to be targeted. What do you think their top concerns are, the women in that age range?
[Susan Walsh]: I think that it has to do mostly around sex. One of the things I hear about the most and I get emailed about the most is they want to have this talk – “the talk” – where they define the relationship before they have sex.
They don’t want to have sex without having any idea of “Does this guy like me? Is this guy having sex with other people?” so they want to know “I’m headed toward boyfriend/girlfriend territory.”
I think most of them know that if they say “I only have sex with boyfriends” most guys are going to disappear. It ties into the whole pluralistic ignorance thing too because then the guy thinks, “She’s really an outlier. I don’t have to deal with that because women are not going to feel that way.”
[Angel Donovan]: I have to admit I was a bit surprised when you were talking about your daughter and her friends that a lot of them were getting told by the guys that the guys only wanted hookups, versus some subtle communication.
Because in the guys we’re coaching, and in our experience, they find it quite difficult to bring these topics up. The guys are very nervous about bringing up the fact that they’re not going to be into relationships for a variety of reasons, which we were actually talking about last night. Stuff like “I don’t want to hurt her feelings,” also some things are going on in their heads.
It’s an element of anxiety for them and when most people feel anxious, they avoid it from both sides. That’s what I’ve seen a lot, so I was just wondering if you continue to see that – the guys are telling the girls that they want to hookup or they’re being a lot more indirect, and like you’re currently saying now, is the girls are confused because they don’t know what they’re getting into and they’re not being told and they’re like, “I want a relationship but I really can’t tell if this guy is relationship material or not.”
[Susan Walsh]: Well that’s a really good question. First, I would say, the context of what my daughter was experiencing – and this was still in high school – keep in mind: the guys were coming forward and saying, “I just want to hook up; I don’t want a relationship.” This is not all guys.
This is a self-selected group of guys who are comfortable approaching high school girls and saying “This is what I want. Do you want to hang out? Do you want to hookup?”
Most of the guys in high school wouldn’t dream of saying that, or making that demand, because they actually would like to be in a relationship. The guys who are going to go forward and in-your-face about “This is what I want and I’m not willing to settle for commitment to get it” – those guys, you would call them alpha males, right?
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I was going to say those are probably the guys at the top of the pyramid, because they have more choice, so they feel like they can communicate, they’re more confident about communicating it because they think there’s going to be another girl around the corner.
[Susan Walsh]: And these are the guys who by the way compete successfully intrasexually. These are the guys who feel like they’re at the top of the food chain in their all-boys school or whatever. These are the guys who may be athletes or they may have developed early physically, they’re shaving, they have a 5 o’clock shadow as opposed to the guy who still got a baby face at age 18, and they probably have a higher sex drive because they have had more exposure to testosterone at that age than some other guys do.
But then what happens in college though is very similar. You’re probably familiar with our system of fraternities and sororities, and athletes are very coddled creatures on campus, and the social life of schools in the US is probably very different than England.
The social life here is actually hosted by these organizations – the fraternities have a party and all freshmen girls are invited. Now all freshmen guys can’t get in because the fraternity wants to keep the number of guys quite low, and with all the girls that are invited.
And so these guys now have a very favorable sex ratio. They feel like the big men on campus. They’re the ones who have kegs; no one else can get beer at age 18, so they have this advantage and they dictate that the norm is “come up to my room on the third floor and then we’ll have some time to be quiet together.”
Now, research shows very clearly that the most people who go for these hookups are freshmen girls, and the numbers dwindle very significantly after freshman year and drop off to almost zero after sophomore year. So women are sort of getting wise to having these hookups that go nowhere and they feel crappy about it.
A lot of times, these guys actually put on the beta male act – I’m a really good guy, their friends may say to the girl “He really likes you. I haven’t heard him talk about a girl this way in a long time” so even if he has a history of being a player or he’s a wannabe player, his friends will be vouching for him. He may wait quite a while before he puts the moves on really hard and aggressively – and by quite a while I mean maybe two or three weeks of hanging out – but then once the girl has sex, the next day he sees her on campus, he doesn’t know her.
This happens a lot to girls; they’re naïve. In college, the naïve, inexperienced girls get seduced by these guys; they naïve, inexperienced males have no idea what to do and they’re anxious and they would never dream of saying to a girl “Let’s hook up or nothing.” They’d love to meet a girl in their English class and have coffee with her and get into a relationship.
So again, it’s a pretty small percentage of people dictating what the norm is perceived to be.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, thank you for that. Are there any other top concerns we’d missed that often come up on your blog between men and women that you really feel defines the times, or their top concerns right now?
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah, the other thing that I would say in both sexes really feel this is there’s sort of a dominant concept. The principle of least interest – whoever cares less has the most power.
Both guys and girls work pretty hard to come across as the person who cares the least, so they are struggling. The real problem with this is, who’s going to blink first? It becomes very adversarial.
There’s a natural competition between men and women in mating anyway, so men would rather have more quantity and variety, but they are willing to commit under some conditions. Women would rather have commitment overall, in general, on average, but they will have short-term mating experiences under certain conditions.
There’s always a balancing act that has to go on between men and women to meet each other halfway or meet in the middle. With the principle of least interest, it’s like two boxers teeming in a ring and one will come off the ropes.
There’s no question that more women regret casual sex than men do, but a pretty significant percentage of men – a third of men – who have a one night stand say the next day, “I wish I hadn’t actually; it actually felt kind of crummy.
[Angel Donovan]: Right. I can imagine a lot of that’s related to alcohol as well. Would that be the case?
[Susan Walsh]: Yes. Alcohol obviously plays a huge role as I’m sure you know from all the stuff that’s being talked about in the US about sexual assault. Alcohol plays a huge role in sexual assault.
They’ve also found studies about alcohol use on campus and binge drinking. Both men and women cite the primary reason for getting drunk with friends or pre-gaming before they go to a co-ed social event, is to have the balls to get a hookup!
So guys are getting inebriated so that they can be more uninhibited and more sexually assertive than they would be if they were sober, and women are getting drunk so that they would be less inhibited and more inclined to be like, “I can do that and I think it might be enjoyable if I’m drunk.”
There’s a pretty high percentage of American college students who have never had sex sober.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing, the current alcohol trend basically. How important that’s become to hooking up; it’s like this excuse that I need to do this.
It’s interesting – we sometimes advise people to just quit alcohol and they’re kind of like, “Oh my god! Quit alcohol?” because then you start getting what you want rather than mistakes when you’re inebriated. You’re not making the same decisions, the right decisions.
Also, you’re not putting out the best part of yourself, the best version of yourself either, so it’s a shame that people need this for confidence, that they feel like they need it for confidence because they’re actually dumbing down their personalities and –.
[Susan Walsh]: And the sex isn’t that great, right?
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely.
[Susan Walsh]: Two drunk people! I mean, I remember reading something like – a really low percentage, like 19% of women have orgasms in attempted sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse hookups. The percentage of men that do is 48%.
I was flabbergasted! 48% - why is it not 100%? Well it’s because what women here call whiskey dick, right? They can’t function when they’re that inebriated. These are not sexually rewarding experiences, even for the guys, in many cases.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, and then some guys get a problem about it. They get whiskey dick a couple of times and then it becomes a thing for them, it becomes this concern, especially combined with porn usage these days, which is kind of off-the-charts. We’ve talked about that before as well.
Yeah, they kind of work well together to not create the great environment. But I understand there’s a lot of pressure to drink as well.
[Susan Walsh]: It’s really hard. I mean, these freshman girls arrive and like I said, the fraternities are hosting these gatherings and alcohol is a key part of that. The girls want to be popular; they want to be cool. A lot of them want to find their first boyfriend and they think, “Great!”
The American college experience has really become, “These are four years where I’m going to get away from my parents and go crazy.”
Now not all kids feel that way, but that’s become a pretty important part of the American college experience, and I think this bubble is going to burst. It has to, because now we’re having this whole Title IX legislation around sexual assault has come to a head and people are basically going through college for four years drunk, and then graduating with some kind of degree where they didn’t do all that well and they’ve got a quarter million dollars of student debt.
I mean, it’s crazy! And so now technology is going to allow education to be delivered in different ways. I think it’s going to take a while to shake out, but I do think we’re in the kind of Rome-is-burning phase of American college kids acting insane and irresponsible to this degree.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah. Guys listening to this, please take school seriously [chuckles] and try to get over the drinking habit, because it doesn’t help in many ways.
What would you say are the most important strategic decisions guys make today about their sex life? What are the impacts of these decisions? When in college, what kinds of decisions are they making?
[Susan Walsh]: I’m a big proponent of inner game; I’m not so big on what I call behavioral correlates. I think there’s some value in fake-until-you-make-it and there’s some value in approaching a lot of people and getting into conversations.
But I think authenticity is key. If you want to come across as an interesting guy to women, an intelligent guy, a funny guy, a guys with broad interests, you have to become a guy who pursues interest – preferably shareable interest.
If your interest is video games, it’s going to be very hard to maybe monetize that in the sexual marketplace in a way that’s beneficial.
So I really think it takes time. If they want to sort of get up and running today, “My goal is to get better with women right now” personally I think this is a realistic goal for the next six months, and maybe that’s how to have a girlfriend or go on a series of first dates. For a lot of these guys, it’s going to be a better goal than “I’m going to start hitting clubs or hitting parties and I’m hopefully going to get laid in the next couple of weeks.”
And a lot of those guys, that’s not authentic even to who they are or what they want. If that’s what you want – if you want to learn to be good at casual and you can go get casual, do it. There are women who want that, too. I have no problem with that; I’m sort of about people getting –.
But the people who come to me want relationships – the guys and the girls. It’s like, “I want a girlfriend. I want to be in love. I want to have the kind of sex that’s like we can’t get enough of each other for 72 hours.”
But you have to be able to be authentic and comfortable with who you are; you can’t keep up a front for too long. The relationship isn’t going to work.
So if your goal is a real relationship, a long-term relationship, you’re going to have to do the hard work of self-development, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of guys. They want results soon, and I understand that, and I think there are some short-term things that can happen that are good in that sense, but I think it’s a longer timeline. I think people need to get realistic about that, so that’s a really important choice.
[Angel Donovan]: So you’re basically saying, “Don’t look for the shortcut, the magic bullet, because it’s going to take time. Especially if you’re looking for a relationship.”
[Susan Walsh]: Yes!
[Angel Donovan]: Is that a good summary?
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah, I read The Game and Mystery Method – there’s no question that you could have some good successful short-term mating by doing certain things in certain places with certain kinds of people. But the problem is that a lot of the guys who are looking for this kind of advice – that isn’t their ultimate goal.
They really don’t want to be a player; they just want to look like a player long enough to get the girl of their dreams, and that’s the reality. That’s what a lot of guys really want. At least, those are the guys that are coming to me.
A lot of them have sort of tried more direct or a more overt seduction style, or hung around The Red Pill subreddit – stuff like that.
[Angel Donovan]: Could you just highlight what Red Pill subreddit is, just in case – I’m sure some people don’t know. We’d referenced Red pill maybe a couple of times, or the Manosphere, on the show, but we hadn’t looked at it properly.
[Susan Walsh]: Okay. So The Red Pill is something that basically refers to the movie The Matrix where you can take the blue pill and live in a world of self-delusion, or you could take the red pill and understand, in this case, the true nature of women.
What is the true nature of women? You can imagine this gets pretty negative pretty quickly because the men who are discussing this – what is the true nature of women – are men who are also saying “I really need to feel more comfortable with women” or “I want to get better with women.” And if it’s not working, well then it’s very easy to say, “This is because women are hypergamous” or “Women only want 10% of the men” or whatever it might be and it becomes very adversarial.
Someone just did a statistical analysis of all the reddit/subreddit communities, and this algorithm called Sentiment Analysis searched all of the comments and all of the upvotes and downvotes for traces of bigotry and hatred, and The Red Pill of 250 subreddits came in number one. Most bigoted and hateful.
People have told me that I’ve been threatened with rape at my age! [Chuckles]
[Angel Donovan]: Did you feel flattered? [Chuckles]
[Susan Walsh]: [Laughs] No, I thought it was ridiculous! People get very upset, and it’s online, and it gets away from them and what have you.
A lot of guys come to me after having sort of found that world and say, “That is too toxic for me, but it seems to me like you’re talking about some of the same stuff. You’re honest about what women want, you’re willing to say women like dominant men or whatever.” I don’t have a feminist perspective; I think I seem more approachable to guys a lot of times for that reason, but this whole Red Pill thing has been problematic on my site.
And it’s really hard, because their guys show up and they could say some really, really terrible things to the women who are commenting there. It’s not personal; it’s anonymous, but it still makes for a for bad experience at the blog, for the readers.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah. I think a lot of those guys are in a bit of a dark place. They’ve probably been trying for a while and I think those are the worst ones. They’ve been trying for a while and they haven’t been getting anywhere. After a while, they basically give up and then they make it someone else’s responsibility because they haven’t been able to do it or figure it out, then it becomes someone else’s responsibility – the women, in this case.
I’ve seen those communities rise up like The Manosphere or The Red Pill. I kind of look at them interchangeably but I haven’t looked at them in detail enough to understand if there’s big differences between them.
But I do see that there’s definitely a lot of dissatisfaction in those communities, so I’m not sure why guys would want to be a part of that dissatisfaction. It’s obvious, the people in those communities are not happy, so why go there? Whereas in many other communities, guys are really happy and they’re really satisfied, and I think that’s the message on this topic is, if you want to be satisfied with your life, go somewhere where other people are satisfied. You’re more likely to get it rather than going somewhere where there’s a lot of people who aren’t satisfied and they’re bitching about it because those are typically the people who have given up.
[Susan Walsh]: Exactly. The most popular blogs in this sphere – The Manosphere, the Red Pill sphere – are these men who are in a pretty dark place all the time, and that's where they decided to reside.
But they’re very popular because there’s a sense of community. “You are not alone,” “I’m not the only one feeling this way.” Some people at my blog, they say “Susie, you can’t resist a bird with a broken wing.”
Really, I have a [unclear 39:16] struggle with some of this stuff, and I’m a mom! I feel very emphatic towards boys and I think hopefully that was clear in some of the stuff I said earlier about the way that boys are treated in society from a young age. And I’m concerned, but I really think that it’s possible – I think a lot of women and men want the same thing, and no matter what you want, there’s someone of the opposite sex who wants the same thing.
Regardless of how good-looking you are, there’s someone who you will probably find attractive enough who wants the same thing, and who would find you attractive. So I think it’s a very solvable puzzle, but it’s that problem where people are in the corners in the ring and not venturing toward each other and risking rejection.
[Angel Donovan]: Moving to the women side of the equation, because I think it really helps guys to understand better women as well, and we talk about female psychology and stuff like that because a lot of the assumptions guys make about women are often wrong.
What kind of decisions do you feel like the women – the strategic decisions they’re making and maybe getting wrong today? Give some insights to the guys about that, how it affects them.
[Susan Walsh]: Certainly for the young guys, they’re probably really, really frustrated by, say, on their college campus or when they get out of school. The guys who seem to be teaming up are these douchebags and they’ve never seen to be lacking for women.
There’s no question that immaturity or being really young – whether it’s in high-school or starting out in college – both guys and girls are kind of lusting often, lusting after the wrong people. People they really probably don’t have a chance of getting with for what they want, whether it’s something casual in the guys’ case or something more committed in the girls’ case, and they may be too trusting or naïve, so get taken advantage of by someone. They’re providing some benefit with nothing in return.
So in the case of women, a lot of times they will have – I would say most women get burned by a cad once or twice. Very few women who are out there, you’re trying to interact with men, don’t get deceived in some way, somewhere along the line and put out more than they meant to, based on what they thought they were getting in return.
So, yes. When guys say, “Well why should I take sloppy seconds when I’m 25 and now I’m attractive and I’ve got an established career?” Well you can’t look at it way. I think guys are making stupid mistakes too; we’re all just stumbling along, trying to figure it out and so I think focusing on “Why didn’t you like me before I was attractive” is not necessarily a really good question to be asking. Because some people, both guys and girls, are late bloomers and they have more currency in the sexual marketplaces; they get older and more established.
And the other thing – I think the girls mostly, their problems arise when they are deluding themselves about how much the guys likes them. They don’t want to be forward and ask him.
I always say, if you have to say “Susan, does he like me?” if you’re even writing that in an email to me, my answer is “not enough.” He might like having sex with you, he might like you but don’t want a relationship, but if you’re wondering, “I don’t know if he likes me,” you’re hoping for something that he’s not delivering.
So the answer’s no. Move on! I’ve never or rarely heard of good relationships that came out of situations where the woman felt insecure. Relationships come out of them, but they don’t end very well; they don’t progress very well.
I think for the guys, I would say, it’s important to demonstrate interest and to do so confidently. You see those guys where “We should hang out. Put your number in my phone.” So there’s a little bit of a cockiness kind of confidence thing going on there.
Women respond well to that, but they still want to know that the guy is a good guy, because they don’t want to be in a situation that’s dangerous to them physically or emotionally. Does that make sense?
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it does. Some guys, when they learn about the power of confidence, that women are attracted to that – your example – “Your number in my phone,” I think they go to the extreme where they put everything in that box and they’re just like “Everything I do has to be confident” and it comes off as cold sometimes as well. So then you’re avoiding the other side of the equation which you’re talking about, is come across as someone she can relate to and talk to.
[Susan Walsh]: Right. Well I think that’s why it is really important to practice. It’s important to practice and get a sense of yourself and work on that self-development piece so that you do feel good about who you are; you do feel good about having a conversation about an esoteric topic that might interest you, or you feel comfortable asking a woman to hang out as friends and not necessarily saying it’s going to be sex on the third date or she’s history, sort of letting things happen more organically.
People can’t let things happen organically if they don’t feel comfortable with who they are, because that requires a certain amount of trust that if I’m conducting myself with good character and good intentions and I appear to be receiving the same from the other person, good things will happen.
Anxiety destroys that. How is this going? How am I being perceived? What is she going to say? That’s why I said instead of thinking “I want to get laid three times this semester” or “I want to lose my virginity this winter,” it’s a lot more useful though it requires sort of a delay of gratification to do the kind of work where maybe you can have a comfortable conversation that feels natural to the girls sitting next to you in class at the end of the school year. But then that could be a big first for a guy.
[Angel Donovan]: What would be some win-win situations in college at the moment for the guys and women? I can think of a couple off the top of my head which might be ways of taking the environment you’ve described and making the most of it.
For example, if I’m a guy who’s a senior but he hasn’t been doing as well in his freshman year and so on – he wasn’t hooking up with girls – then if he now pursues some girls that have just come in, then he could potentially have a relationship with one of those girls, because she’s in a position where you were saying she just came in, she’s a little bit naïve, she’s open to the possibilities.
I think it’s also like when you travel, you’re more open to experience, right? You just arrived on campus, you’re in a new place, everything’s new. I’m free, I’m going to enjoy myself, and so you can take advantage of that to find someone interesting and potentially start a relationship with that dynamic.
[Susan Walsh]: Absolutely. I think that’s a really good point, actually. Freshman guys have it the worst, senior guys have it the best, so there’s some - definitely - but for that senior guy, this requires effort. You can’t just be senior college and you look across the cafeteria. The guys need to approach.
The thing about these parties where everybody’s drinking is that that approach, all you have to do is turn to your right or turn to your left and people are drunk. So for the guy who is frustrated because he isn’t doing as well, and now he’s a senior and there are freshman girls who have come in, he’s not in fraternity so he’s not even going to be invited to those parties, so he has to have inserted himself into some activities or some cause or some campus life where he is going to be coming into.
And classes are one thing; studying groups work. Being in the library – I can remember meeting guys in the library who would sit next to me and you wind up saying, “You want a piece of gum?” or whatever it might be.
I think guys have to be comfortable putting it out there and making the approach, because with everything that’s happening in our society, the vast majority of women still want the guys to take the initiative.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely. I just wanted to re-assert the point you’ve made there is that guys, if you don’t have access to the fraternity, it’s not everything. You can step out and you can make things work outside of it.
We’ve actually come across that quite a few times before where they’re like, “Well, I’m not in a fraternity; I can’t do anything about it. I don’t have access to the parties and all that stuff” and it can be for a different reason. Sometimes it’s because of money reasons, they can’t afford to get involved in all that stuff as well, so it can be for a variety of reasons.
There’s plenty of other approaches, like you said, for activities, for just talking to people around the campus as you meet them in the coffee shops. The library is a great place; I’ve met lots of people in libraries when I was at school. There are other options and you just have to realize that before you can go out and start taking those opportunities.
[Susan Walsh]: And the other thing I would say, Angel, what I think is really important – that guy, that senior guy who says, “I’m not in a fraternity and I’m not going to –.” He has to realize that aside from the women who have just come in and want to explore the campus, there are a lot of regulars – women who are regulars at these fraternity parties – and they aren’t going to gravitate toward the familiar fraternity faces they see at these parties, not look for the new guy who has just come in from his engineering program or whatever.
But there are plenty of women, like him, who say “I’m not in a sorority, I don’t really feel comfortable at these parties where everyone is getting blind drunk, I don’t like alcohol, I don’t like to drink.” A lot of women don’t enjoy the sensation, and they feel like outliers and like they have nowhere to socialize.
All of these campuses, at literally hundreds of organizations, whether it be political, arts – there’s all kinds of things that people can do and meet people. I think your odds of getting a good relationship are not that great even if you do have access to the fraternities. You’re much better focusing on women who appear to be similar to you in your orientation, because not all women are equally oriented towards casual stuff.
Women have very different kinds of relationship goals, even intrasexually. Look for someone similar to yourself. There’s a lot of evidence that people pair off that way for dating, for marriage, even for sex.
Most people having a lot of casual sex are having sex with other people having a fair amount of casual sex. You don’t see a lot of players deflowering virgins, despite what you might hear, despite that element of the freshman girls coming in being naïve. It does happen.
But mostly, people are gravitating towards those similar to themselves, so I think I would say to the guys, “Who are your people? Who are your women that you not only feel you have something in common?” Yes, you find them attractive, but you also are going to be attractive to them.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, and you brought this up earlier for the women, that they’re often – basically after these top 10% guys or whatever who aren’t, in the most cases, interested in relationships and the girls can’t figure out, I think the same thing often happens to the guys.
They’re looking at some of what they see as the hottest girls, the coolest girls, and they’re hoping for a relationship and they didn’t realize that those girls are basically off the market for relationships; they’re not maybe interested in that. Or it’s not so much they’re not interested in it, but maybe it’s just a dynamic of the fraternity and everything that’s going on in the campus. They’re not going to be really open to that kind of relationship easily.
In a way, you’re looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place.
[Susan Walsh]: That’s why I said, when people are immature – both guys and girls – they spend some time stumbling along and making some bad choices.
I’ve talked to so many young guys who really are lusting after the hottest girl on campus, who’s in the best sorority, and how can I meet her? Well, even if you meet her, no. It’s not going to happen because she’s hooking up on and off with this guy who’s in a very similar social situation to her. She’s mad because he cheated with her, but then she got back and she had a one night stand with someone else to get back at him.
These people are behaving in a way that’s similar with one another, and she would be a terrible girlfriend to this nice kid who wants something real.
[Angel Donovan]: Right. He’s looking for something very different. He might want a much calmer lifestyle, maybe he’s serious about studying or whatever – he’s not interested in all the parties and everything. You’ve got to realize that you can’t take a girl from the party environment and expect her to change, just as in every other area of life, you look at what’s going on.
To round off, what are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn more about you and your work?
[Susan Walsh]: Well, my main presence is my blog – hookingupsmart.com. I write a couple of posts/week.
People should realize though, I’m not a traditional dating coach. I do give advice and people often ask for advice, and not only I but other readers will chime in. As you’ve mentioned, we do have a pretty active comments section.
It’s not unusual for a young guy to come and say, “Hey, to the women here: how should I interpret this signal I got?” or “She wanted to cuddle and kiss but then she said she didn’t want anything more than that. What is that? Why would a girl even do that?”
And then sometimes they wind up advising each other, which is nice because they’re in an age group with one another and that I don’t see that firsthand day-to-day.
The thing I was going to say is, aside from giving advice, because of my own background and my own interest, I do a lot of writing about research, about sex mating. I do a lot of sociology, a lot of psychology, evolutionary psychology – I get into evolutionary stuff a lot. I’m very interested in sort of the academic or intellectual questions about why people choose each other and how they choose each other, and so a lot of my posts are not so much “Do this” but it’s like what we were talking about – pluralistic ignorance or the principle of least interest.
It’s like, “Here’s how you need to understand the marketplace you’re operating in. People think most people are hooking up, but in fact, most people are not hooking up. Or people think I just need to pretend to care at least, but maybe you want to consider being the person who says “I like you.”
[Angel Donovan]: On the principle of least interest, because you brought that up earlier, is that a term that’s being outlined in scientific papers a lot? From which pool of research? Is it evolutionary psychology? Where is it coming from?
[Susan Walsh]: Well actually the principle of least interest goes way back. I want to say that the phrase was coined sometime in the ‘40s. It’s a principle in psychology that goes back a ways; it doesn’t necessarily apply – it just applies to anything in a negotiation. If the car salesman really needs to make the quota this month, you’re in the driver’s seat, literally.
But it applies to mating, and it has been – I have all kinds of searches I do for the academic research. But yes, it’s usually coming out of the field of sociology, psychology or evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology. Those are the big areas where a lot of the stuff gets done, and usually the research subjects are college students because they have access to – the academics have easy access to them. And that happens to just suit my purposes very well because that’s the group that I often write about.
There is a lot of research on that, the pluralistic ignorance; sociosexuality, which is the idea that some people are just wired to prefer short term things [unclear 52:54] looking ever for a monogamous lifetime partner. Other people say “Oh my god, I just want one person to be in love with.”
While there’s a big difference between men and women, there’s actually a much bigger difference within each sex, so there’s a huge difference between women who really like casual and women who would never have casual sex, and there’s a pretty big difference on the male side as well. And so that’s why I said I think it’s really great for people to try to identify those who have similar outlooks, similar values.
The guy who wants a girlfriend is not going to be happy with the girl who hooks up on the regular – and vice versa. She’s not going to be happy with him.
So those kinds of values and the way people feel about relationships and when they’re comfortable having sex and whether they'd be willing to cheat on someone, or poach a friend’s girlfriend – these kinds of attitudinal things, they’re measuring attitudes, so it’s not like you could say, “Yes, I did this and I did that” but I think it is some value in these surveys. It at least captures through the Zeitgeist of what a generation is thinking and how most people within that generation express their interests and desires.
[Angel Donovan]: Right. It’s capturing the culture of the moment. Like what’s seen as the correct way to view things right now, which is an important input to understand.
Who besides yourself would you recommend for high-quality advice in this area? Has anyone you’ve come across – maybe it’s books or presentations – is there anyone you respect and you’ve followed their research or their work?
[Susan Walsh]: That’s a really good question. There are some sites that I tend to like a lot, but again, they’re not so much in the dating advice category.
For example, there’s a site called the science of relationships that does a lot of work about relationship and talks about a lot of the research. There are people like Eric Barker who now has an article on Time Magazine as well, he sums up a lot of “How can you be more appealing to the opposite sex” and the ten studies and ten bullet points that go with them. He’s kind of a science-based guy as well.
There’s another woman named Duana Welch who has a website that's very good. She has guest posted for me a few times, and she also tends to be analytical and data-driven.
I’m really not about the anecdotal evidence; I really hesitate to give advice to people based on “I’ve heard girls say this or guys say that.” Especially since I’m not living in there at that culture with them day-to-day, I’m more data-oriented.
[Angel Donovan]: That’s very strange of a strategy consultant. I’ve never heard of that before [chuckling].
[Susan Walsh]: There are some great sites for guys. The Art of Manliness is a great site. It’s about all kinds of things. It might be about all kinds of things, but it’s talking about masculinity and I think it’s a hugely popular site.
He started around the same time I did and now he’s getting five million people a month, so he’s really, really successful – Brett McKay is his name – and he talks about all the different kinds of aspects of manliness throughout history and today, the way to break up with someone, doing things in a way that you feel good about your character. I think I really like his website and he’s clearly struck a nerve with the male populace, because his readership is about almost entirely male.
[Angel Donovan]: As you said earlier, masculinity’s in flux, so I think we need to redefine it and guys are searching for what that’s going to be. We don’t have a culture of it; I think we have guys who are defining it for themselves. There’s no clear culture whereas in the past, we had a clear culture of what the expectations were for men and how to be masculine and so on. It’s going to be interesting how it works out; hopefully it’ll steer in a really positive direction [chuckles]. We’ll see.
[Susan Walsh]: Yes. Good luck with that, because I do think men – women need support too, but I think men really need support and they need role models. Fathers should and I think often do that, but like I said, my generation was the pioneer in this realm of casual, no strings sex. This is really not a very old development, and people are still trying to figure out how it works and how to make it work, and learning that it doesn’t work.
[Angel Donovan]: On the subject of masculinity, there’s a couple of guys I’ve kind of learned some stuff from that I thought is really interesting is Jack Donovan – he wrote some books. Some of it’s a bit hard to read and stuff that you might have heard of it, for some people. It’s a bit more extreme, but I think he’s got some great material.
Also David Deida who’s got the masculine/feminine polarity out which has some really interesting stuff. And they interestingly come from very different worlds – that’s what I love about this whole thing is that there’s so much information out there on dating, sex and relationships that's coming from academia, or it’s coming from spirituality. It’s coming from all the sides at the moment, and it’s kind of trying to find a common consensus, and that’s what we do here.
I just find it interesting that sometimes their ideas fit perfectly – they come from complete different extremes of society as where they originated, but they’re actually based on the same ideas. It gives us some comfort that all does make sense eventually, that there’s a truth.
[Susan Walsh]: Yeah, and I think for me, one thing that I really like finding is writers who acknowledge the biological sex difference or maybe even the cultural sex differences. I think it’s really important to be honest that women do – we may want egalitarian relationships, but we still do want a man who feels comfortable dominating; we want that confidence.
Even though we’re not actually seeking a provider, we still want a man who we know can access resources as needed. These traits have evolved and I don’t believe that we can say that men or women have evolved badly – I mean, it is what it is. It’s the best homo sapiens have survived so far and I think what we need to do is accept the traits of the opposite sex and learn to work with the man and do that meeting in the middle that used to be easier and isn’t as easy anymore.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely. That’s a really good takeaway. Face reality and work with it rather than trying to ignore it, which is what a lot of people do.
[Susan Walsh]: Yes.
[Angel Donovan]: Or that you just avoid it.
This is a question we ask everyone: what are your top three recommendations to guys who are starting from scratch? They’ve got no previous knowledge or anything and they just want to improve their dating life as fast as possible.
[Susan Walsh]: I think, get out there, have some – you got to build a thick skin. So many guys come to my site and they want women to change. They want women to indicate interest more, or “Why won’t women ask me out? I want women to ask me out.”
Don’t spend your time that way. You’re going to have to do it, you’re going to have to make it happen. If you’re not good at it, do it a thousand times until you feel better at it.
I’m a big believer in eye contact, and I’m also like a friendly person. I meet a lot of people as I go about my daily business – at my age, I don’t want anything from them. I’m not invested, but I could easily strike up a conversation with a handsome guy at the dry cleaners or a young mom at Starbucks or whatever.
Young people need to learn, they need to hone their skills, and one of the first things is eye contact. Just go through your daily life and make eye contact with as many people as you can, and then add a smile to that eye contact.
Three seconds is the threshold for sexual attraction in eye contact. If someone holds eye contact with you for three seconds, it’s a signal of sexual attraction.
So start with eye contact, add a smile, then you see someone you think is really attractive – hold eye contact for three seconds. Maybe they wink or smile back, and then they leave and you never see them again. This is not going to lead to you getting what you want today, but these are the kinds of skills – basically what I’m describing, Angel, is cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s like self-development.
It’s like, “I have some anxiety, how do I overcome it? By doing this many, many times.” “I don’t have the skills, how do I get better at it?” How do people get to be piano prodigies? They practice for 10,000 hours. It’s not that different in dating.
It can feel false, it can feel forced, but you do learn, and you learn from your mistakes and you get more comfortable with who you are. When someone’s starting a business, they have to have an elevator pitch, “Here’s what my company is.”
If they don’t have that, they’re not going to get funded. If a guys doesn’t have an elevator pitch that’s genuine about who he is and what he enjoys, he’s not going to get anywhere. So that’s why I think inner game is key. It’s a lot more work, it takes a lot longer.
Some of these guys are undoing a lifetime of misdirection in terms of what they’ve believed or what they’ve taught or what have you; they can’t just read a book and get it and go out and be a lady killer. They’re going to have to experiment with what works and practice those kinds of activities and skills.
I say the same thing to women, by the way. Go out there. Just walk up to a guy in a bookstore and say, “Did you read that book? I love that book!” or whatever it might be!
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, that’s a really good point and it really fits well with – I think one of the biggest problems is people just don’t take action. They’ll listen to these podcasts – thanks guys – but they won’t take anything away and do anything about it, so that’s the really most important thing I would say. Like you said, to get out there, just start doing something and fail a whole bunch of times. But don’t take it seriously.
That practice will just build up. Like Susan was saying, it’s hyper important; you’re not going to get anywhere without any experience.
[Susan Walsh]: And you know what, I’ll close up with one anecdote which is that, before I got together with my husband, we started out casually, and so then I really liked him. I liked him before we were hooking up. I approached him and I said, “I really like you, and I would really like to spend more time with you.” And he kind of kicked his toe in the dirt and cleared his throat and said, “I don’t think so.”
[Angel Donovan]: [Laughs] That’s nice. That’s a really nice intro story. Thirty years of marriage – congratulations! It’s an achievement.
[Susan Walsh]: Yes. He came around within the next few months, but I was devastated. I was really disappointed. I was basically head over heels for him already.
Well here’s what I want to share: that happened, and I was devastated. I sort of ran back to my apartment and cried, but there was a part of me that felt really good – a little bit relieved – but even a little bit successful.
I was proud of myself for putting it out there, and I thought, “Now I know the truth, he doesn’t feel the same way, I’m going to move on with my life but I’m not going to sit around and mope and wonder why isn’t he talking to me at this party.”
It felt empowering – that's an overused word, but I felt so much better taking action and failing than remaining passive.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely, that’s really a die-hard rule. But it’s very prevalent not just in – we’re giving dating advice here – but it’s prevalent in society. If you listen to the top startup guys, the VCs and everyone, they say “You’re going to fail 100 times.” In business, you just got to get in there and you’re going to start and you’re going to start learning.
So everyone’s saying it’s not just in this dating sphere; the point I want to get across is this is everywhere in life, so it’s nothing different, nothing weird, nothing abnormal. This is just how life is – you have to get out there, you have to start trying, you have to fail a lot and learn from those experiences.
[Susan Walsh]: And the failure is often not personal. You don’t know what is going on in that person’s life.
A lot of times women shoot guys down or they don’t want to be approached – they haven’t even gone to the point where they’re evaluating the guy as some kind of candidate. It’s like, “I’m not here for that today. My head’s in another place today; I’m not looking to chit-chat with a single guy – even if I’m single and I’m looking for a guy, or even if he’s a cute guy.”
So I think guys really need to understand that these rejections – the woman who offers the nuclear rejection, obviously there are some bad people out there, both sexes, but a perfectly nice woman might say, “Thank you, but I’m not interested” – that does not say anything about who he is or even how attractive he is.
Guys really need to disassociate the personal experience, feeling of rejection when they’re approaching women they don’t even really know very well, because it’s so often not about them.
[Angel Donovan]: Great. Thank you, Susan, so much for your time today. All of the information’s been really helpful.
[Susan Walsh]: Thank you, Angel. I really enjoyed talking with you. Best of luck!
[Angel Donovan]: Thank you!
[Susan Walsh]: Thank you!
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DSR Podcast is a weekly podcast where Angel Donovan seeks out and interviews the best experts he can find from bestselling authors, to the most experienced people with extreme dating lifestyles. The interviews were created by Angel Donovan to help you improve yourself as men - by mastering dating, sex and relationships skills and get the dating life you aspire to.
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