It’s Not Fear Of Rejection, It’s Fear Of Punishment
I read many different Internet forums that deal with men’s issues as they relate to attraction and dating. I was over at the A Voice for Men forum and found a devastatingly perceptive observation regarding why so many men don’t approach women. Here’s the post, in italics, that started the thread (in the Relations & Dating section of the forum). My inline comments are in bold. I have some additional comments are under it.
I have a theory that the notion that “men fear rejection” is horribly misguided.
I was exploring my fears almost a year ago, and I realized: “Wait! I don’t fear rejection. I fear punishment!”
Fear of Rejection:
- The fear that she might say “no,” and not be interested in having a sexual relationship with me.
Fear of Punishment:
- The fear that she will express disgust or shaming or laughing towards me. That’s right girls, punish his ego.
- The fear that she might tell her friends that I am a “creep,” and that the women will start spreading the word amongst themselves. This is good motivation to learn better social skills.
- The fear that my advance will be felt to be dangerous, or that my interactions with women will be felt as potentially dangerous, because I did not observe some cautionary signal that women are looking for but I don’t happen to know. More motivation to learn better social skills.
- The fear that I will show up on the radar of white knights, who will then signal that I am “under watch,” warn women of my approach, interrupt future approaches, what have you. I loathe white knights.
- The fear that I will lose social status, be laughed at, or shamed before the local community. This is huge and I have more comments on this below.
- The fear that she will make up in her mind that not only is she not interested now, but that she will decide that she will NEVER be interested. The writer of this thread post doesn’t yet understand that there are few, if any, second chances.
When I inventoried my fears, I realized that by far, the fear of punishment dramatically dwarfs the fear of rejection. Yet, we’re always hearing talk about how men “fear rejection,” and how it’s viewed as almost an insult to women: “You can’t handle that she might say no. You feel entitled to a yes, basically.” But that’s ridiculous.
Imagine that you had telepathic powers, and you could read a woman’s mind, to see if she would say “yes” or “no.” There would be no punishments issued, because she wouldn’t even know that you asked. Would you check to see her interest? I can’t speak for you, but for myself, I’d do it in a heartbeat! I’d be constantly scanning most every woman around me, in order to find out, “Are you interested?” (..!) If I were afraid of the rejection itself, my answer should be “no.” But it’s NOT the rejection I’m afraid of. It’s the punishment.
I don’t hear anybody really talking about this, but I think that we should be talking about this more loudly.
I think we should be talking about all the ways that men are punished for doing the task that is assigned to men ANYWAYS. I am meaning how men are forced to be the ones to initiate, or else nothing’s ever happening for you. What sense does it make to force a person do a job, refuse to tell them how to do it “right,” and then dole out powerful punishments for doing it “wrong” ..? This is the most important paragraph in the thread post. Women won’t correctly tell a man how to approach a woman, that’s the Manosphere’s job.
I want us to be vigilant about making it safe for men to make sexual requests of women. And I want to get the word out that we need to be compassionate for boys and men who are making sexual requests. There’s this whole thing about shaming socially awkward men, especially socially awkward men who are making sexual requests. Yet these are the people who MOST need to make awkward sexual requests, so that they can develop to the point where they can make skilled sexual requests. I somewhat disagree. A man must learn better general social skills before he starts trying to be more assertive with his relationship goals.
My experience from talking with women is that they have simply NO CONCEPT of what the punishments are like for men. Norah Vincent wrote about this in “Self-Made Man,” and trying to explain to women what the situation was. I know a feminist woman who goes to bars in order to compete to make men cry with her friends. I want men to go out there, and talk about the punishments. (I told several feminist women about this, and they said, “That’s not feminist! That’s not what a feminist would do!”, but… …they were all friends with the feminist who does this. They just weren’t aware that it was her.)
At the very least, whenever you hear the phrase “fear of rejection,” consider replacing the phrase with: “Fear of Punishment,” and think about what exactly are the things you are fearing having happened.
I think men are being made to take on too much crap from women, and I think men are too often serving as the servants of women in dishing out punishment and shame. I want us to push for more sensitive women. Me, too.
Us gents in the world of masculine self-improvement are continually extolling guys to have incredibly thick skins when it comes to approaching women. That makes sense when it’s only a simple rejection. Frankly, I had never considered these various punishments that might accompany a simple, polite rejection. Women – and girls, especially – do judge ferociously should the “wrong” guy approach. The thermonuclear rejection, “ewwww, as if!” is a form of emotional punishment meant to belittle a man’s ego.
For a guy established in the community and re-entering dating without adequate social skills and charisma is running a huge risk when he approaches a woman to see if there is a mutual attraction. She will likely be nice about the rejection but if she’s also part of the community and is social, she very well might assassinate his character to her friends, male and female. To me, this is the biggest punishment because it greatly reduces the man’s future chances to successfully approach other women. Likely, he won’t know why he is presumptively rejected without even a chance.
Fear of punishment is a huge reason for the popularity of online dating. If the approach can be made from the relative safety of the computer, the rejection can have far fewer punishments for the man. There’s a big caveat here. In smaller communities, there is a still the risk of punishment because women will communicate with each other. This applies to small geographical communities and/or online dating niche communities, like JDate (trust me, I know this from personal experience).
The next time a woman mocks men for the fear of rejection, I’ll be the first to speak up so I can say, “It’s not fear of rejection, it’s fear of punishment”. I urge other guys to do the same.