GOTN Avatar

On those pesky intimidating women

Do I scare you? Do I? Go on, you can tell me. I will never, literally, bite.

An email dropped into my inbox this week linking to an article entitled “Are women intimidating to men?” and I nearly fell off my chair. I would certainly have actually fallen off my chair if I hadn’t heard this question before. If I hadn’t, on numerous occasions, been told to my actual, scary face, that I am ‘an intimidating girl.’

What makes a woman intimidating?

I’ll admit it – I’m not your average quiet type. Despite getting quakingly anxious when I have to meet new groups of people, for the most part I’m loud, opinionated, and usually ready to down two pints then give you an angry list of exactly what can fuck off.

I’m also tall, which I know doesn’t help matters. My tallness, broad shoulders, face piercings and angry frown combine to form a physical GOTN that is just as likely to blend into the background as the verbal GOTN: i.e. not.

So when people tell me I’m intimidating, I usually take it on the chin. I do not scream at them, I do not punch them, I do not launch a fly-kick at their face in the way I might if my life were directed by Quentin Tarantino. What I do is ask them: “why?”

Because more often than not their statement is only half-formed. They don’t think this dude to my right (a UKIP supporter holding forth on why immigration is a real problem for this country) or this guy to my left (a gigantic rugby player three pints into a game of pub golf) is particularly intimidating. Or at least, if they do, they have not decided to say so.

If you can tell me – to my actual face – that I’m intimidating, I am clearly not. What you really mean is: “you’re intimidating, for a woman, yet because you are a woman you cannot possibly scare me enough to prevent me from telling you.”

Women: know your limits

When I clicked on the article in question (I am not going to link to it), I expected to see a discussion of why people find women intimidating when they happen to display the same behaviour as men, possibly with commentary along the lines of ‘hey guys, equality isn’t scary, just chill the fuck out.’ But I did not find that, as you can probably tell by the steaming rage emanating from every single dot and pixel of this page.

What I found was a guide for women on how to appear less intimidating in order to get chatted up by more men. It included such advice as

“It’s a great sign if you are single and view yourself as smart, independent, happy, successful and fun. However these very traits can make you seem too intimidating for a man to approach you if you are not consciously acting open toward meeting a great guy.”

Oh, shit, sorry dudes! Did my independence scare you away? Are you twitching like a frightened rabbit because I am too fun and successful? I’d better start ‘consciously acting open’ lest my happy behaviour leads you to think I am a terrible, shrewish bitch.

It’s OK to be scared

I’m not saying it’s easy to approach someone. Talking to new people is hard, especially in an environment where your “hello” may easily (and often correctly) be interpreted as “you look like the sort of person I might want to get naked and roll around with.” You’re not a bad person because you’re intimidated by chatting people up.

But holy Christ, do I really need to point out that changing women’s behaviour is the wrong way to go about solving this problem?

Most of us are intimidated by chatting people up. But the solution is not to make the people we are chatting up less intimidating – to knock down people who are successful, funny, loud, or whatever. Because then we’d end up with a world in which all of us were quiet and demure and politely responsive and there’d be no variation in personality at all. Women would be a homogenous mass of smiling geisha, easy-to-please and inscrutable, yet never fully present or interested because they’re so busy worrying that their laughter might be too loud, their jokes too witty, or their opinions too different to your own.

Intimidating women

Are you a straight guy who’s thought to yourself that you’d love, for once, if women took the upper hand and asked the guys out? It’s not as common as I’d like it to be (although I’ve chipped in for my cause by stamping up to guys I like a few times and saying ‘fancy a fuck?’ to less success than even I expected) and if you’re a straight guy I imagine you’d like something cool like that to happen to you. But it’s rare, and for that you can thank words like ‘intimidating’, ‘bossy’, and all those subtle ways you tell us to sit down, bite our tongues, and laugh along with your jokes. Those times when you interpret “smart, independent, happy, successful and fun” as “intimidating traits” and call us scary for having the gall to be all of these things without your permission.

“Oh, but GOTN, you’re being scary right now. You’re doing that angry rant thing you do where you rip something to shreds then stand cackling at the sky like an evil feminist supervillain.”

Sure. I am ripping this ridiculous notion to shreds. But is that actually intimidating to you? Are these words so terrifying that you have to look away? That you’ll cross the street to avoid them late at night or cry yourself to sleep as you remember them? Bollocks. I’m having an opinion. I’m not wielding a samurai sword, backed up by a motorcycle gang, and – despite the wish I made when I cut my birthday cake – nor do I have an army of dragons.

Ironically, one of the things I find most intimidating is people who tell me that I’m scary in front of a large group of people, thus leaving me anxiously double-checking every statement, joke, and noise I make for the rest of the evening in case my scary self starts ruining everyone else’s fun. So, next time you meet me in a crowded bar, or even a dark alley, before you police my behaviour consider whether you are genuinely intimidated by me. Are you worried that I’ll punch you? That I’ll shout at you? That I’ll humiliate you in some way? Or, in telling me that I’m intimidating, are you actually just telling me to shut the fuck up?

20 Comments

  • Normally, I am attracted to the very traits that intimidate other men. Women who are loud, brash, and funny have a pretty good chance of getting in my pants.

    It’s important to remember that if you scare a man off by being yourself, they aren’t worth your time.

  • Me says:

    “I’ve chipped in for my cause by stamping up to guys I like a few times and saying ‘fancy a fuck?’ to less success than even I expected”

    ME TOO. I realise I might be quite direct about it, but there is such a disconnect between the guys who say they wish women would be more forward about wanting to fuck them and those who aren’t absolutely thrown when it actually happens. I’m completely fine with people not fancying a fuck, but it’s such a myth that women could have all the sex they wanted if we just were upfront about it.

    Yet another damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

  • Chaz says:

    I totally agree with “Me”. I’ve had more knock-backs than I care to mention. I firmly believe in going after what you want and I’ve never waited around for a guy to ask me out. It has paid off more as I’ve got older, but in my younger days I got laughed at more than I got laid(!)

    I have been told I’m intimidating. My response to that is, “If you find me intimidating, you must be a right wimp!” I’m strong-willed, loud and direct – “all the subtlety of a sledgehammer”, as one friend put it – but I’m not physically threatening, so I’m hardly scary.

    If men find your personality “intimidating”, or in any way threatening, they’re not worth your time and you should look for someone who appreciates you for who you are.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “All the subtlety of a sledgehammer” – I love this =)

      I was once told I was delicate, but not delicate like a flower: “delicate like a truckload of flowers.”

      I’m depressed to hear so many other people get the “you’re so intimidating” thing too – there must be so many people out there cowering in fear of one of us accidentally launching an opinion at them if they venture nearby.

    • Yes! I too did my bit for the cause by “stomping” up to guys offering them uncomplicated sex, to be looked at usually in puzzlement and disbelief. Let’s just say I had about a 50% success rate. I have also been told I am too loud-mouthed to be attractive to most men…yknow what? I would rather have a laugh and a beer and go home as “me” than demurely sip a bellini and giggle at the crap some guy is spouting so that I can later on be demurely fucked. Great post GotN!

  • seaside slut says:

    Completely empathise. I have been told I’m intimidating more than once, and made to feel bad for being direct, overtly sexual and brutally honest. I also find that when I fuck people who’ve read my sex blog, they are much more nervous than they might be otherwise. They want to hear my sordid tales, they tell me they love to know what a sex fiend I am, but when I suggest we meet they very frequently chicken out or when they do arrive, they can’t get hard, despite my friendly encouragement.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I think it’s interesting thus discussion has gone specifically towards sex partners. I think by default, I’ve had few sex partners tell me this (because if they did I’d be unlikely to fuck them). Generally I get it from male (and occasionally female) acquaintances. Although the worst is when it comes from borderline strangers. “Ooh, you’re intimidating, aren’t you love?” just because I happen to be standing next to them at the bar or some bollocks like that.

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve been called intimidating, a f”ucking huge bitch”, and have been told, by a male friend, that I’ve got bigger balls than most men….I took that as a compliment! Apparently because I speak my mind, argue my point – and concede if I’m wrong, and am honest, sometimes to the point of perceived rudeness, I’m intimidating – to males and females. Guess what? I’m not changing for anyone.

  • It doesn’t just come from guys, either – I’ve seen girls say it to each other (or more specifically, I’ve had other girls say it to me.)

  • Yaya says:

    I am not loud, or even that opinionated. But I have been called intimidating quite often because I am happy, intelligent, self-confident and do not appear to need a man in order to function (seriously. I am not kidding. WTF?)
    Lucky for me *coughs* there are men out there who like those qualities in a girl. It took me a while to figure that out. It helps when I take the initiative, because the men I actually like are usually, and ironically, indeed too shy to ask me out. Me playing shy too doesn’t help that situation.

  • M says:

    I asked my husband to marry me, well more specifically I initiated a conversation which led to us agreeing to get married (we’d had a power cut for three days so it was dark and flipping freezing, so nothing to do but have serious conversations and ‘keep each other warm’… anyway…). So many people have suggested that this is not a ‘valid’ way of getting engaged, and that I somehow snared him, or coerced him in some way, and that I should have waited, like the meek and mild lady I am supposed to be, to go all romantic and get down on one knee. Someone pass me the sick bucket.

  • audren says:

    The ironic thing about intimidating is that it rather feels like a compliment when a girl says that about a boy. And the even more ironic thing is that it’s how the girl who later became my wife came to me in the first place: she came to me saying “I find you intimidating”. I must say I was intimidated all right!

  • Elle Belle says:

    I’ve been told I’m intimidating because I’m a girly engineer! Apparently if you have a vagina AND you know about Navier-Stokes equations people you’re trying to chat up/ make friends with become frightened and run away :-( happyily the chat up line “fancy a fuck” has had a 100% success rate with my fellow engineers :-)

  • Marie. says:

    This reminds me perfectly of this beautiful quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun is a beautiful book if you’ve not read it) “Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”

    I love this especially because I have always been an ‘intimidating’ girl. Physically, I am slight and wear lots of pink flowers. But I play violent sports and can fuck like a hand grenade and was president of our uni’s debating society so I am very good at passionately arguing (about everything).
    But it is not that which intimidates my male colleagues – it is because i smile sweetly and say no to making the coffee, because I don’t text the man who is crushing on me for days at a time, because I tell potential relationships at the start that my career will come first. I wonder which is more intimidating, the words themselves or that I am challenging the unspoken expection. No man I have been with has had the same conversations to me as I have had with them, but is that because they don’t feel the need, or haven’t thought about it?

    • Girl on the net says:

      That is a fantastic quote, and I’ve read Half of a yellow sun – totally stunning. I think it’s a shame, although deeply unsurprising, that you’ve had to have these conversations, and that it’s assumed you’ll do certain things/be a certain way. I strongly suspect it’s the unspoken expectation that’s intimidating rather than the words themselves – were you to ask any of these upstanding gentlemen what was so shocking about the conversation, I doubt they could pick out any actual words. I think it’s more the fact that the conversation happens in the first place. Still, the fact that you’re having it means you’re paving the way for the future – maybe next time they’ll expect a conversation like that =)

  • Quin says:

    I’ve not been told I’m intimidating, as such – it’s difficult to be intimidating when you’re 5’4″ and built like a pixie, to my eternal disappointment – but I do get told I’m “too angry” a lot and I feel like it’s the same silencing tactic. People don’t want to debate with me because I won’t back down or mince my words, but I’d bet actual money that this wouldn’t bother them if they read me as male.

    It bothers me in so far as it interacts with my social anxiety. As specific to men, I don’t give a single shit what men think about me, so it could be worse.

  • ValeryNorth says:

    “Because then we’d end up with a world in which all of us were quiet and demure and politely responsive and there’d be no variation in personality at all. Women would be a homogenous mass of smiling geisha, easy-to-please and inscrutable, yet never fully present or interested because they’re so busy worrying that their laughter might be too loud, their jokes too witty, or their opinions too different to your own.”

    But when you read certain MRA/PUA types – and a lot of others as well – that’s actually a desired outcome for them. Which is very sad, especially for those who don’t conform to their version of masculinity (of whatever gender).

    “I’ve chipped in for my cause by stamping up to guys I like a few times and saying ‘fancy a fuck?’ to less success than even I expected”

    It’s worth noting that that doesn’t work for guys either, and probably for reasons more similar than different. Although with guys there’s the added point of, “What’s the catch? What does she *really* want?” – for which, again, we can blame other men for punishing women for wanting to fuck. It’s one thing to take the initiative and lead the dating game instead of following – it’s another to just charge in.

    Of course, it depends in part on what you’re looking for, and in what venue. I’m just not a “casual sex” kind of person, so the thought of someone doing that to me just fills me with “eww”.

    “Ironically, one of the things I find most intimidating is people who tell me that I’m scary in front of a large group of people, thus leaving me anxiously double-checking every statement, joke, and noise I make for the rest of the evening in case my scary self starts ruining everyone else’s fun.”

    This resonates very strongly. It was, in fact, one of the most effective tactics my abusers used against me to keep me from responding or calling out their abusiveness.

  • LadyLucifer says:

    I’m a part-time pro-domme, although that’s information I tend to leave off my dating profile, I do prefer honesty with potential dates so it’s ultimately a conversation that comes up inevitably. Fortunately my dickhead rader is well honed so only a select few know about my career choices but there’s always that moment of anxiety where I think ‘oh fuck I’ve blown this’. Being intimidating for a living means I scare off most guys, and the ones who do stick around either bore the fuck out of me as they resemble clients or they just get a kick out of the idea that I’m a kinky bitch. Despite the job, I can be pretty terrifying (apparently) when not on the clock. I’ve put this down to my no nonsense attitude and my inability to keep my mouth shut when someone is behaving like a dick. Despite all of these ‘flaws’ I’ve met countless people who accept me for the gobby opinionated little bitch I am. Screw changing yourself to fit with society’s ideals, find your own niche and revel in the liberation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *