Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The Wrong Kind of Attention"

I grew up surrounded by families that warned their daughters against wearing clothes that attracted “the wrong kind of attention.” When I was young I accepted this at face value, and understood (rightly) that these parents were trying to protect their daughters against men only interested in getting laid. It made sense to me (and still does) that the way a woman presented herself directly affected the way she was perceived - and most women didn't want just sex.

After I left home, I realized that this wasn't just a phrase used by the people around me; it was widespread. Even now, sometimes I will ask girls why they don't wear tighter clothes, or large earrings, or heels, and while they will usually make some excuse about comfort, they almost always follow it up with "and anyway, that would just attract the wrong kind of attention" - the same phrase, almost verbatim*. In any case, as I've progressed through my twenties and have gradually come to understand what it is that attracts me to a woman, I've come to realize that the notion of "the wrong kind of attention" is bullshit, for two reasons.

1. It assumes that a woman's clothing is responsible for others' perception of her sexual mores.

While there is a small grain of truth to this, it resides only in the most extreme cases (think: cheap hookers). The kind of women that would actually need to be reminded about attracting the wrong kind of attention are not the ones concerned with avoiding it. Conversely, the women actually getting warned about attracting purely sexual attention are almost always those who are in no danger of it. While this is sometimes because the girl wanting to avoid sexual attention has not been taught how to make herself sexually attractive to men, it is more frequently function of the fact that adornment and presentation are low on the list of factors indicating a girl's promiscuity. Her behavior is what matters, and girls that don't want casual sex don't usually act like whores. Here is a list of things that actually do attract the wrong kind of attention:
  1. Going to bars and clubs known for casual hookups
  2. Initiating contact with men
  3. Fucking on the first date
  4. Sleeping around (reputation)
  5. Drinking too much
  6. Swearing, being vulgar, etc.
  7. Dressing like a cheap hooker (Note: expensive hookers dress well and should be emulated)
Dressing sexy does not tell a man you are easy. It shows a man you are beautiful, and nothing more - except maybe that you are smart and understand what men - all men - like (see below). I have seen far too many women with great bodies wearing baggy jeans or tops that don't show off their good proportions. And I have seen enough women simultaneously exude both sex appeal and class, that I have unshakable confidence in the possibility of that combination. Make it your goal.

Think of female sex appeal as the equivalent of male confidence: while arrogance (the excess) is a turn off, a healthy dose of confidence is not only acceptable, but necessary. Men who err on the cocky side get a shot with way more genuinely good girls than the men who humble themselves and demur.

2. It ignores the fact that men looking for easy sex and men looking for something more than sex are both equally attracted by appearance.

Those warning young girls to dress conservatively ignore the fact that by doing so, a girl not only avoids attention from "bad" men, but simultaneously destroys her chances with "good" men. The good men value appearance just a much as bad men; they simply have requirements above and beyond it. If all good girls were to dress conservatively, good men might eventually lower their requirements for physical attractiveness and presentation (though this is doubtful - I would put my money on them giving up getting a good girl). But as I mentioned above, this is not the case; all good girls do not dress conservatively. There are plenty of women who are conservative in their behavior, yet still dress to maximize their physical attractiveness; and these are the women that will be getting all of the attention from the good men.

When I have daughters I will raise them to respect themselves and behave in such a way that their self-respect is evident to the men around them. I will have their mother teach them how to dress so that they look both sexy and classy, and then I will finish their instruction by telling them how to filter out men who are only interested in impregnating them and giving them STDs. I will not tell them to dress like their grandmother (or probably even their mother - fashions change quickly) because this will leave them without options, and probably make them social outcasts.


* This is interesting, because this kind of viral popularity is frequently a feature of phrases that carry more emotional or psychological value than any compelling rational content. The mantras of nationalists (“Strength Through Joy”) or the rallying cries of political parties come to mind (“Country First” or “The Change We Need”). I am not surprised that this bears the same symptom.


Related Posts
1. Sexy Versus Cute
2. How to Get "The Right Kind of Attention"
3. The Most Important Time to Dress Well
4. There Is Nothing Modest About Loose Jeans

31 comments:

  1. I will say, when women say "the wrong kind of attn," they may also be talking about catcalling on the street. I do like to dress sexy, but I always feel very self conscious walking outside because of the intense amount of staring and comments I get from men. and let me preface this by saying, I don't dress trashy... So that might also be a possible motivation for not dressing your best.

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    1. Not in my experience. For more conservative girls (those I grew up with), they mean sexual attention in general.

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  2. Do you find it gross when women spit? Lol

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    1. I think everybody does. But men shouldn't spit in the street either. It's disgusting.

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  3. At my job, I got in trouble for wearing form-fitting clothes. I didn't wear low-cut tops or mini-skirts. I simply wore pants and tops with heels. My boss told me "Several people have been complaining about you." I said "What? It's not like certain body parts are showing." My boss justified that the shape of my body was distracting to male clients. She also said "If you weren't pretty, I wouldn't be telling you this."

    So, I then threw out all of my clothes! (big mistake. I started to think that tight clothes and heels made me look provocative, even outside of work. The loose clothes that I bought for work won't work well with attracting the opposite sex.

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    1. She? I bet she was jealous.

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    2. ......and who has the problem, exactly?

      When I was in my twenties, I was advised to wear a jacket at all times year round at work. Could be 80 degrees F, beads of sweat on the forehead, etc. but noooooooo........

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  4. You say that if all good girls dress conservatively, the good guys might lower their standards for appearance. In some countries it is the law that people dress conservatively and so anyone who doesn't is labelled an outcast (opposite to how it works in the west) Does that mean the opposite situation applies and girls should dress conservatively to attract good men?

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    1. "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

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  5. I saw this and thought of your post:
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6q2sv87RS1qgupufo1_500.jpg

    I agree that women are more likely to be seen as sluts because of their behavior, not due to the way they are dressed. If you behave like a slag, you will be seen as one, regardless of your clothes. And I agree that a lot of women could behave more modest yet dress more sexy, with success.

    But I think your opinion here still varies from other men's. Maybe it's cultural - I'm European and I don't know or date any American men.
    But when I see the most eligible men (the confident, good background-guys most want to date) with a new girl (a woman they are serous about), she is dressed something like this:
    http://img.ezinemark.com/imagemanager2/files/2010_re/2010-08-28-18-59-06-1-OliviaPalermo.jpeg
    http://popbee.com/image/2009/08/miranda-kerr-style-070809-3.jpg

    Now they aren't "conservative" outfits, but they don't show breasts or too much skin. You can say that if a woman dresses like Kim Kardashian it will still work if she's attractive, but I know some men separate the wheat from the chaff this way and I don't think it is a coincidence that I see the best guys get serious about Charlize Theron or Diane Kruger type of girls much more often than the Kim K-looking girls.
    You can look like a slut and be good at heart, but most women express themselves through fashion and I suppose men pick up on that?
    Stage performers like Beyonce are naturally excused, but if you go out for drinks at a bar, I think most women would gain from looking elegant - men hardly see it anymore, so it makes you stand out.
    Again, maybe a cultural difference, but I know men who would never arrive at a cocktail party with a girl in a dress that shows Kim K-style cleavage.

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  6. What's your opinion on women wearing no bra? If you have a B/C cup and they are quite perky, that is. Even if their top/dress isn't see-through, do men consider it indecent?

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    1. If it's done right it looks hot.

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    2. What about this
      http://thegrumpiest.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/blake_boobs_01.jpg

      Reason I'm asking is that after a boob job (B to C cup) I can't wear a bra for a long time, I don't know if I should try to wear loose clothing. Is it only "hot" when girls' nipples are pointy? Because we cannot control that.

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    3. You definitely don't need to worry about whether or not it is attractive. It is - pointy nipples or not. I would say the bigger question (for most people) is whether or not it is appropriate. If you don't care too much about that, then it's a case of the tighter the better really.

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  7. Andrew, i'm curious to know your views on what Anon posted at July 20, 2012 9:42 AM. To a great extent, women in particular express themselves through fashion, afterall that's what personal style is about. I'm Asian and do not dress conversatively and in fact get positive attention (sometimes a bit too much in the work environment) for the way i dress since it is a bit "bolder" than the norm in terms of colours, style and context. I'd like to e-mail you with some questions but let's just say now that I've been getting attention and beyond that seem the "right" kind at the start but went "wrong" at a later stage - so i'm bit confused, not necessarily with dressing per se but rather it occurs to me it might be a case of attracting the right attention from the wrong guy (the ones who, in your words "err on the side of cocky" and in reality are actually quite cocky)?

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  8. These comments are interesting reads. I do understand why we have to talk about this --- "rules" about what people "should" wear / do / be have been around for a while --- but you must open your mind to where the rules really come from. They usually exist out of some necessity for people to be controlled into some kind of social structure (albeit benign), and they usually have some kind of dusted, archaic origins.

    People are crazy, people are fire, and sex deeply and truly enjoyed is one of the most powerful experiences available to us during our human tenures --- good sex is universe-bending shit. It feels amazing, it's fucking fun, and it literally: creates other people. That shit is magic, think about it. And it's no mystery to me that sex blinds both women and men into crazy places of nonsense, in both thought and in action.

    To any woman struggling to decide what to wear on a Saturday night at intimidation of the right or wrong judgement/attention she may or may not receive in the wearing of any particular outfit, my advice stands: spend a little more time figuring out who YOUR color of woman actually IS. Not what you want to be, or who you used to be, but who you really are, right now, today. And wear whateverthefuck that female diva lionness wants to wear (at the acknowledgement, even if it's a don't-give-a-damn, of society's "proper" views), and

    act like yourself. Speaks miles more than a sexy cocktail dress.

    Good luck, ladies ~ luv n' light

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  9. I used to be friendly and tomboy kinda girl.Used to treat men like pals.Dressed conservatively and have a good reputation

    Alot I mean alot of guys used to give me facial/eye/physical cues trying to make me ask them for sex.This went on for a decade thro' my teens and twenties

    Although I've changed my behaviour around men now but can't still understand how could they think of something so trashy about me

    I understand if they propositioned me for sex but that was never the case.Could anyone pls explain

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  10. http://thevaultofbeauty.tumblr.com/post/40396147094/judgments

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    1. Haha that is pretty clever. I prefer girls who wear their skirts/dresses (when they are tight) somewhere between "cheeky and "slut" - depends on the dress and the occasion.

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  11. I work at a small tech company, and they are all men except for me. Most are around 30 in age but I am not interested in any of them, we are more friends. I usually wear jeans and a hoody, maybe a skirt and a t-shirt in the summer, very casual. I have a "sexy" curvy body, and I usually hate to show it off and get attention. I wore heels and a dress that was just a little above my knees once (not that sexy really), because I had a date after work and walking from the parking lot to the office building I had 2 men yell out at me (cat calls, or "flirting") from their cars on the street. I wanted to hide. I felt embarrassed and I think this is the "negative attention" that comes with dressing a little more sexy. Sometimes dressing nicely really gives me a big confidence boost but mostly I just want to hide and not have attention on me at all.

    I am not saying I agree or disagree with your post. I am just saying it feels hard to really enhance your feminine features when you get these unwanted comments. Should we take them as compliments if they feel so cringe-worthy?

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  12. "Expensive hookers dress well". Yes that is probably true, but how would one emulate this? And without causing controversy? I'd like to hear more on this subject.

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    1. "Hooker" is so generic that it's like calling a professor a supply teacher.

      Courtesans are the queens of the $1,000 dress.

      I am not a courtesan, but I would rather have one Armani and run it into the ground than a "bargain". Men dwell on details, and the investment will be noticed.

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  13. This post doesn't explain why I get differing amounts of attention on the street depending on what I wear.

    Going to visit a friend. Jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup, little attention. No one bothers me and life is peaceful.

    Job interview. Structured top, tight skirt, lots of makeup. Guys are pulling up to the curb and asking if I want a ride. Guys are yelling "hey sexy!" out their car windows. No one will shut up and life is stressful.

    I don't particularly enjoy that kind of attention. I do enjoy attention in general, but that kind gets really irritating, really quick.

    I fully disagree that "attracting the wrong kind of attention" is an invalid reason to avoid dressing sexy. It happens with the reliability of turning on a switch.

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    1. I agree. Irritating and scary.

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  14. Agree. Men just don't understand how this can be intimidating, threatening and an invasion of personal space to women. Andrew, women have a reason to have radar for sexually threatening thing.

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  15. While you excel at what you teach; the use of profanity contradicts and diminishes the impact of your message. Maybe tolerable for uncouth, crass female -fatales of today. But totally repulsive to highly sophisticated and extinct feminine pedigree! Cool down!

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    1. @ Beulah O
      “While you excel at what you teach; the use of profanity contradicts and diminishes the impact of your message.”

      Your argument that profanity contradicts his message is a non-sequitur, as his message makes no appeal to linguistic decorum (i.e. how can it contradict that which it does not promote).


      Your argument that profanity diminishes the impact of his message is just your subjective opinion. When used skilfully and selectively I find profanity can add a certain piquancy to prose, thereby actually heightening the impact of the message.

      “Maybe tolerable for uncouth, crass female -fatales of today. But totally repulsive to highly sophisticated and extinct feminine pedigree!”

      Extinct feminine pedigree? Um…what’s that exactly?

      Delete
  16. TBH I disagree about initiating contact. A lot of guys I know become more interested in a girl when she initiates contact, and I don't mean just for sex. I think it is negative in that a lot of good looking guys I know don't take the risk of approaching girls because they have plenty of girls approach them. They don't need to put in the work.

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  17. I like confident men. I do not want a shy guy, even if he is a good person. Also, if you are working or studying together, it is normally obvious who likes whom and it should not be difficult for a man to ask you out.

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  18. It annoys me that people assume that honking and cat calling only happens to women who dress inappropriately or slutty and that a woman should just show less skin in order to avoid getting that kind of attention. I wear minimal make-up and don´t show too much skin and yet this happens to me quite often. In fact, I´ve been catcalled and honked at in winter when the only "skin" I was showing was my face and my hands Dressing slutty will get you attention for sure but not dressing slutty won´t necessarily stop that kind of attention.

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