A few months back, several bloggers commented about the difference between “asking” cultures and “guessing” cultures. As the name suggests, “asking” cultures are ones in which you can directly ask for what you want, and “guessing” cultures are ones in which you don’t ask unless you’re sure the answer will be yes. Jonathan Chait believes that “askers” are right, and “guessers” are wrong.
In the sexual realm, I think an “asking” culture beats a “guessing” culture hands down:
I’ve always thought that the maintenance of a “guessing” culture was motivated in part by snobbery and a desire to increase the level of social obscurity so as to create outsiders who could not be “in the know.”
And another reason I don’t like the “guessing” culture is that what is “obvious” to one person may be quite opaque to another. There was a study done, a few years ago, that demonstrated that, oftentimes, someone may think that what they are communicating is crystal clear, and easily “guessed,” when in fact it is not. (Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find this study online. Google is often useless when I’m searching for something specific.)
As I remember it, some of the participants in this study were asked to tap their fingers to the rhythm of a common song, (“Jingle Bells” for example). Other participants were asked to guess what song was being “tapped.” As it happens, the persons doing the tapping greatly overestimated how often the other person would be able to guess what song they were tapping with their fingers. So, what we think is “obvious” often isn’t.
In the sexual realm, what is and isn’t “obvious” often differs a great deal between men and women because of their different life experiences. For example, many women, by the time they reach their mid-twenties, have been approached by men thousands of times. For men, however, this is often not the case. I’m on the far side of thirty-five, and I’ve been approached two times. (If we define “approaching someone” as initiating a conversation and indicating a romantic interest.) And I definitely haven’t approached women thousands of times. So I think it’s fair to say that the average woman, even by being relatively passive, is probably going to gain much more experience than the average man in picking up the social cues that indicate sexual interest. And that’s why an “asking” culture, better for both men and women, is especially better for most men.