The confusing "Grey" messages that women send

Dear Toni-

I'm a single guy in my early thirties--attractive, physically fit, and successful in my career. I have an online profile and have met several women that way. I also meet women through friends, at bars--and sometimes just randomly in my neighborhood. I do date, but not a lot. This is due to the fact that it's hard for me to attract the women I am really interested in dating. If I do get a date with someone I am excited about it usually seems to go fairly well--and she often expresses an interest in seeing me again. Then, when I follow-up, she may be hard to connect with or just unavailable. I think it's safe to say that I am a nice guy, a gentleman, definitely not geeky or nerdy--yet women don't seem to be into nice.

What is very confusing to me is trying to figure out what women are thinking and what they want. I think I just have trouble getting them. They say they want equality, to be independent--and even enjoy taking the lead in relationships. Yet, when I or other guys I know relate to women this way--they seem less interested in us than in the "bad boys." I know this sounds like sour grapes, but I really don't get it.

A recent example that has me completely floored is the popularity of the book, Shades of Grey. I confess that I haven?t read it and don't know any guys who have--which might be part of the problem. What I know about the story is that Mr. Grey is a controlling, dominant and even abusive guy who seeks out women for an S&M relationship. I probably need to read up on those too, because I'm not completely sure what they entail. Women friends say it's painful pleasure. OK--if they say so.

What I take from all this is that women are saying one thing, but want something else--at least my logical, thinking self sees it this way. Maybe it's just about the apparently great sex and the fact that he is wealthy, good-looking, blah, blah, blah. I would really like to get your thoughts/take on what the attraction to Mr. Grey is--and what women REALLY want from men

--Too Nice to be Attractive

Dear Too Nice to be Attractive-

I don't know if it helps--but I feel your pain. You are confused because women are sending out mixed messages like missiles--and they can be very destructive to any good intentions a man might have in asking a woman out and getting to know her.

I am going to answer your questions in two parts. First, this attraction to Mr. Grey and what he represents is a symptom of a larger issue. Since the rise of feminism, women have been taking on new roles, asserting themselves much more in school, at work and in their relationships. Younger women especially have been raised to believe that being equal to a man involves being able to compete and take on the same goals, attitudes and behaviors as their male counterparts. So, being successful, well educated, tough, aggressive, open and free about their sexuality--and even taking the lead sexually is what women believe is expected by men and by others around them. Failure to do so would make them weak, passive, out of touch, less desirable--and they believe they couldn't compete in any arena with their female counterparts. Everyone else is doing it--so it must be the right thing to do, right?

While several of the above have no real down side, like being well educated, smart and assertive--some of the others do. Like in the way women deal with sexuality in dating. They are hooking up with multiple partners and sending out the message that they are only interested in having a good time, and having it with a number of men. These hook-ups can also lead to confusion, mixed messages and even accusations of sexual abuse if a woman starts out communicating yes to a guy, changes her mind mid-stream--and the guy either misses the message, misinterprets her meaning, or discards her objections.

Take it from a dating coach--there are a lot of unhappy, liberated women out there. Some hook-ups are a desire for attention and validation--which casual sex offers for the length of the encounter. They want more but even the thought of stepping back, saying no, looking for men to actually date as opposed to hook-up with--is something that they believe they can't do. If she says no to a guy she is interested in--some other woman will happily say yes. How can she compete with that? If she expresses vulnerability and the desire for a relationship, she may fear being labelled as someone looking for a man to take care of her or someone who will never be the equal of men. As long as women continue to act against their instincts and deeper wishes, they will continue to experience this disappointment--and men will continue to be confused.

How does Christian Grey fit into all this? He is the successful, sexy, aggressive, strong guy who will sweep in and take charge--letting her know she is the only one and he wants her, body and soul. A bit dramatic I know--but read the book, it's all in there. It's really NOT nearly as much about the sex as all the hype would suggest. After all, hooking up leads to many first time, steamy sexual encounters--that leave women and men feeling unfulfilled and looking for the next fix. With Christian and Ana, every time is like the first time, and it's all about how he makes her feel. With Christian, Ana is weak, vulnerable, dominated, and even dependent. No wonder the feminists want to burn this book and boycott the movie.


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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