72 Comments
Dec 11, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

I grasped how accurate all this was when I read "plausible deniability that you’re leveraging your attractiveness" because I remember Miss Manners specifying that flirting is expressing interest but in a way "from which either party can retreat at any point with honor".

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Dec 10, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

A very very very easy hack I've found for making other women like (or at least diffuses dislike) you quickly is to give unprompted appearance bases compliments. Outfits and jewellery ideal. If you can't figure out what to say, just pick something you like about her outfit and say you like it.

I think it signals that you're paying attention to her (people like being seen but in the kind of stereotypically male dominated scenes that lots of us hang out in, women can often feel especially left out), and also it's something something recognition from a peer/ high status individual. I know I love compliments from girls who in my opinion are my own level of attractiveness or hotter - the signal is that she thinks of you as an equal in the attractiveness game, and that's very validating. It's especially good on something you have control over - outfits, makeup, hair - because to some extent these things are skill based. If you can pick out what seems to be the most effortful part of the outfit, compliment that. Nails are an underrated thing to compliment.

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Dec 13, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

This is an old trick used by the wives - usually - of people who traveled in diplomatic circles. What do you say to the wife of the Thai charge d'affaires at an embassy function, especially if you don't speak Thai and she doesn't speak English? You can gesture to indicate an article of clothing or, even better, jewelry, smile and compliment it in English. The tone will get the message across. Gesture for a better look. Watch for signs of a return compliment. If you share a bit of a common language, a few words here and there, and you have a friendly conversation. Don't sweat the grammar. That's for high school and formal joint statements which will probably be vetted by State anyway.

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Dec 31, 2022·edited Dec 31, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

I'll need to check with brother on that, I bet they still do it or something like it. Maybe, "oh I love that podcast you're listening to!"

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Dec 13, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

Your advice to learn from an older etiquette book is spot on. Some if it might seem ridiculous or dated, but the general idea of having good manners was to smooth interactions with others. There are generally two parts. There's using safe, recognizable language which helps avoid a broad variety of pitfalls when talking to someone as yet unknown, and there's showing consideration for their goals and feelings which is surprisingly rare and so appreciated. Maybe I'm an old timer, but I still call 800 numbers, and I've found that good manners can get me all sorts of good responses because I've given people a reason to want to help me.

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Dec 30, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

Yes, this is really insightful and correct. I'm a heterosexual nonaustistic man and this makes sense of a lot of things for me. I'll give you a couple of examples from my recent experience that illustrate this.

I recently met a very flirty woman who is doing the opposite of your ladylike strategy. She is very feminine, flirty, talks about sex, talks a lot, takes up a lot of social space. Although she's not very pretty I was immediately attracted to her and ended up talking to her quite a lot. However, I quickly decided she wasn't the right person for me to date - too chaotic (among other reasons). I thought I could still have her as a friend but the problem is she monopolises my attention too much. This is partly passive - by drawing me in - but also active - by talking a lot and taking over conversations I'm in. I also don't think she's specifically attracted to me - she just flirts with everyone - and that feels a bit manipulative. I've decided to withdraw more from her and keep her at a distance.

By contrast, someone else I met recently is utterly beautiful and I approached her for that reason. However, she quickly said she had a boyfriend (which was helpful she did that) and has never flirted with me. She dresses modestly and elegantly. Because of the way she acts I usually don't feel particularly attracted to her even though she is much more beautiful than the other woman and much more suitable for me in other ways. This makes it easier to be friends. And because she has other qualities I value, I want to keep being friends with her.

I think there is also a mirror of the strategies you laid out, but for men - by replacing "attractiveness" with "desire". For men, we can hide our desire - which is tempting because the desire seems embarrasing or risky. Or we can be really overt in our desire - which while authentic risks being creepy by forcing people to deal with our desire even when they don't want to. But better is to show desire in light, plausibly deniable ways that allow women to either engage with it or not as they please, and where it gradually escalates as she shows availability and interest, and de-escalates when she doesn't.

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Dec 12, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

I'm so glad I'm far out of my twenties and don't have to think about this shit anymore.

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Dec 10, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

"another aspect is that he might feel that he could never hijack attention in the same way, that he could look good but what you are doing to him is something he’s incapable of–so the easiest, most available go-to negative is resentment, which is very poisonous. "

i don't like that i do this but i've definitely noticed myself doing it. nice to see some else mention it explicitly.

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Dec 29, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

I found this essay refreshing and possibly even groundbreaking in its explicitness and honesty. But there’s one big question that’s conspicuous by its absence: namely, what are the autistic woman’s GOALS? What is she trying to achieve with all these strategies? We can infer that she wants certain unspecified benefits from being perceived as sexy, and that she wants them without other women resenting her, perceiving her as a defector, or colluding against her; and also without men feeling foolish or led on. Well OK, but is she actually looking for a date, a boyfriend, a husband, whatever, or does she only want non-sexual benefits from sexiness? One might feel differently about the ethics *or* the tactical effectiveness of these strategies depending on the answer! Or maybe the refusal to specify is *itself* part of the “ladylike” strategy? :-D

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Dec 31, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

Perhaps I'm projecting based on my adolescence, but I think the point here is, primarily, about survival, but also about social growth that can be used later for a more explicit goal. It's also about making people not regret their almost inevitable interest in you if you're attractive young woman.

If you're an attractive young woman, you get a LOT of attention and it must be hard to know a responsible way of dealing with that which doesn't make a lot of people feel angry, confused, helpless, ignored, or jealous.

I think she also probably wanted what a lot of other adolescents want--to be liked, to be respected, to not be hated, to have genuine companionship, to have good sex with good people. I think trying to figure out if it's all about getting a date, boyfriend, or husband is probably missing the point that this essay is primarily about managing social relationships within the context of discovering you're suddenly attractive, regardless of gender or romance.

Part of the point of this also seems to be that there's little attractive young women can do to *avoid* receiving "social benefits from being sexy". But they can do some work to defuse the sexual part of people's attention without making them and others actively dislike them. In other words, to thank people (without giving them sex) in a way that makes them feel like they didn't waste their time when they noticed you or were interested in you.

It's a fundamentally foreign idea for a man (which I am), and also, I imagine, to a lot of less naturally attractive women, to have to disperse and defuse attention as opposed to trying to get it. It requires an amazing and interesting set of skills that I haven't spent much time thinking through.

I really, really appreciated this essay for that insight. I'm a middle-aged man, and there's a good deal of it I'd never fully thought through before. Thank you, Sympathetic Opposition!

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author

ty for your reply! i thought i had replied to the comment above already but ig substack ate it. but yes. this is just about the accrual of general purpose social capital to be used however. & also about as it were investing social capital so you dont find yourself high & dry later

i will say about ethical issues--i see where you are coming from scott--but i think a lot of/most women are doing strategic stuff like this, semi-intentionally but wo consciously thinking about it, having picked up the strategies implicitly. for women who are bad at picking up social strategies implicitly & using them wo consciously thinking about it, maybe we're putting ourselves at some kind of additional moral risk/risk to our characters, by doing this stuff consciously........but idk....i just dont think this is describing anything that is not pretty common behavior

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Dec 9, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

Wish I could have read this when I was a teen. Wow. But now I appreciate the advice all the more

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Apr 25, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

This is so insightful and resonates with me a lot. I was protected from female resentment by growing up in a skewed female environment where male attention was scarce and then immediately getting into a monogamous long term relationship in college. I actually was oblivious of how attractive I was and didn’t know how much I leaned on my sex appeal to make up for my social cognition shortcomings until I was much older because being married made it very clear I wasn’t available. I thought I was just talking about cool sex facts from my research and happened to get along better with guys— both of those things were true but they also let me play social interactions on easy mode. It wasn’t until I got into what I realized was basically an emotional affair that I started to suspect the extent of how I was using sexuality as a crutch. When I later got divorced (not bc of the inappropriate relationship, btw— I ended that when I realized what was happening), I saw that my normal behavior was, from a single woman, almost universally interpreted as an invitation. As you can imagine, this was already a hard time in my life, and it was pretty devastating to realize that I wasn’t just super witty and interesting all this time. It made me much more seriously consider that i might be autistic to really how much I relied on people being nice to me because of my ditziness and flirtation (mostly while i was married!!). I was genuinely naive about what was going on (which was great for the plausible deniability) but there were many things about my previous social dynamic that should have made me suspicious and I felt all-around shitty about not seeing it and hurting people or causing them to resent me. But I’m glad I came to see the truth and I’m happy that I interact with others in a way that’s more on-the-level now and less self-deceived.

I don’t think it’s wrong to shine with your beauty and sexuality but I feel much better now that I don’t lead with that and don’t *need* to lead with that. And I wish I had been more aware of what I was doing.

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Dec 10, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

You are wrong about one thing. You write "this strategy is bad for you, which isn’t true (yet)". No, that strategy is bad for you then too. You are so close, you will see it.

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Dec 29, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

I took that to mean "the negative consequences of this strategy won't show up for weeks/months/years"

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Feb 1, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

slay

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Feb 1, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

queen

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You're the first person ever who manages to explain this to me in a way that makes sense.

I work a job with a 10:1 male:female ratio, and I spent all of last year trying to figure out why some of the other women were horribly badmouthed while it virtually never happened to others. The differing variable wasn't promiscuity or lack thereof. The best hypothesis I eventually settled on was that the ones who got badmouthed were the ones who gave indication of being bothered by the horrible things said about them, and the unapologetic ones just never cared so people stopped bothering them.

Now, after you pointed it out, I realised that an important variable that was missing was signalled sexual availability. "Signals sexual availability but doesn't have sex"-> disdain by men, "signals sexual availability and has sex"-> disdain by women, "doesn't signal but does have sex"-> no one cares that much. Sample size relatively small, from n=1 to n=4. No 1:1 applicability for everyone due to confounding factors.

I probably didn't help that my social skills deficiency meant it took me a long time to catch on to get integrated into the gossip networks and realise who was actually behaving promiscuously and who wasn't.

Thank you. Your post has made my life better.

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Jan 15, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

One semi-alternative take, https://theredquest.wordpress.com/2023/01/13/learning-the-social-game-from-a-womans-perspective-and-what-men-can-learn-too/

Have you read the book Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent? You will probably like it. It is about learning explicit rules that most ppl absorb implicitly while growing up.

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Norah Vincent committed suicide. How close can you get to the truth before getting burnt?

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Apr 6Liked by sympathetic opposition

Legitimately a tragic death. She's someone I very much wish I had met before her passing.

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Jan 8, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

I liked this. I am a much older male who dated Aspie and autistic girls in the 1970s, though we didn't have the terminology then. I have tried to figure out why I was so easily attracted to them, but won't bore you with the answers. (Except to note that one of my sons is as well, even though he knew little about my GFs) I will note that when I transferred your suggestions to "I wish Anne/Mary/Jeanie had known this" I picked up very quickly that your observational advantage is that you notice reciprocity as an important value - whether tactically or generously - while they generally did not. I suppose your audience, if looking to you for some advice, may possess it as well or they would not be even asking the questions. Thank you and be of good cheer.

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Dec 30, 2022Liked by sympathetic opposition

This is a strategy for lots of non-autistic people, too, to wield good looks as a source of power and a store of value. It makes me sad, especially because you say at one point that you choose this as a behavioral strategy in order to *not* have to worry whether people like you because of your looks or because you are nice. Does strategically deploying your looks to get what you want from people protect you from the possibility that people might only like you because of your looks, or that they might not find you attractive?

What would be different about your strategy if you weren’t considered attractive?

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