How to Talk to Girls on the Street

Wow, I accidentally came across articles which are each called some variation of “How to Talk to Girls on the Street.”  I’m going on the assumption that these are real articles… From one of them:

“…One of the most challenging things for men in the dating scene is approaching women on the street. Like any learned skill the more you practice approaching women the better you will get. So the easy solution in learning how to talk to women on the street is to simply approach more of them. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes you might be walking in one direction and she is walking opposite and toward you. It can be very awkward because she’s going one way and you’re going the other way so it’s not very natural to just walk up and say something. Or is it? The reality is that you can approach anyone, anywhere, and virtually at any time…”

A friendly smile or hello from a stranger of any sex can often lift someone’s spirits. I also recognize that strangers can and do meet in public and form relationships, be they one night stands or lifetime commitments. What bothers me about these articles is the assumption that any girl/woman (preferably attractive, right?) on the street who is not already with a man is publicly available for a man’s attention and he is free to approach any and all of them if he just gets up the courage and learns how to do it well.

I’m reading Sue Wise & Liz Stanley’s book Georgie Porgie: Sexual Harassment in Everyday Life (published in 1987) and something I read today relates exactly to these articles.

“As marriage is taken to indicate a woman’s perpetual sexual consent to the desires of her husband [when this was written rape was still legal within marriage in many places], so womanhood is taken to indicate a woman’s perpetual consent to the attentions of whatever man: unless a particular man owns the property in question it’s taken to be public property” (Stanley and Wise, 176).

Let me try to explain further why I see these articles as being misguided.

Raise your hand if you mostly are harassed when you are alone or with female friends! In my informal, anonymous survey I conducted last fall, female respondents said they were harassed the most when they were #1 alone and #2 when they were with female friends. The absence of men seems to imply women are sexually available and just dying to be approached on the street. I’ve learned from several women’s stories that wearing a wedding ring or being with one’s children doesn’t always prevent harassment either because the men who “own” the women and/or children aren’t actually present.

Side but related note:  I’ve  found that when men do harass women who are with other men, it’s often directed at the man about how lucky he is to be with a hot woman, or something along those lines. This even happened to me two years ago when I was out with my boyfriend and a man started talking to him about me like I was a car he was admiring. We were both stunned.

The men writing and reading the articles don’t seem to care to take into account that – depending on the time of day – most women are out in public because they are traveling to/from work or school or stores or out getting exercise or walking a dog and they have no interest whatsoever in being detained by men testing out pick-up lines or trying to improve their game or improve their confidence at approaching women by “hitting” on them. No matter what their reason for being in public, many women who are not looking for a new romantic or sexual relationship are not going to be interested in having men approach them this way. These articles also assume that all women are heterosexual; what about women who only date women? They really don’t want to be approached by men in a sexual way. And the articles don’t adequately address how unnerving, scary, or annoying it can be to be approached by unknown men in public, particularly in isolated areas or at night.

So these men would be better off following advice like this on how to talk to girls/women on the street:

1. Don’t assume a girl or woman is single, heterosexual, and/or interested in being “hit on” or picked up just because she’s in public.

2. Instead of whistling, honking, touching, or saying something about the way she looks as a way of saying hi, treat her like a normal human being and actually say hello and smile or nod.

3. If you want to engage her in conversation, see #2. If she says hello back and doesn’t hurry away or look away, then you can try to politely and respectfully start a conversation about something inoffensive and preferably not about her body parts. Take cues from her whether to continue the conversation. If she looks busy, distracted, or nervous, leave her alone! She may not have the time or inclination to talk. Or you may be the third or fourth man to approach her that day – even if it’s done politely this is wearisome and annoying. Don’t be rude if she doesn’t talk to you. You don’t know her personal history or what’s on her mind or her schedule. Be respectful of her as a human. Don’t force her to be rude to you in order to get you to leave her alone.

4. Never approach her in an isolated area or at night because that makes most women nervous or scared.

What’s your advice to men who want to talk to girls/women on the street?

5 Responses to How to Talk to Girls on the Street

  1. Golden Silence says:

    I think the best thing for a guy on the street to do is to leave a woman alone. I don’t want to even hear “hi” from half these men, benign as that is. I’ve often said that these men usually only try to talk to women on the streets—they rarely approach other men with a simple “hello.” They usually have more of a motive than simply saying “hello” to women.

  2. Beckie says:

    I agree with golden silence. Stopping someone on the street is not a good way to start a relationship. Very shallow. Like shopping for a piece of clothing. Oh this one looks cute. Great article. I get so mad at this whole idea. Thanks for posting!

  3. I actually don’t mind men approaching me in the streets, but that may have to do with me being from the South. I grew up in the city, but both of my parents were from rural areas, so it was normal and expected to say “hi” to folks on the street and converse a bit, even if you didn’t know them. They passed that tendency on to my brother and I. I do, however, have an issue with the way in which I’ve been approached in the past. I especially agree with #2 re: not honking/whistling/touching etc. That’s just rude. What happened to a good old fashion “Hello. How are you?”

  4. My grown daughters have a very different experience of street life than I did in the 60’s and than my clients did in the 80’s and 90’s (I’ve always worked in academic environments on women’s issues founding several women’s centers, writing policies, giving testimony, etc.). Their high school experiences were less harassment and more inclusion. Neither has been approached on the street but they exude their power and independence so don’t seem approachable. (Not blaming the victim here but it’s always been up to ‘us’ to send the message, even if the guys don’t receive it.) So far so good for them. I would like to think we’ve made improvements but who knows. Any recent research on the subject of street harassment?

  5. Amy says:

    I don’t like it when men talk to me on the street. I live in San Francisco and half of them are drunk and will ask you for money or follow you around if you even give them the time of day. I just want to be left alone.

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