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Negging

January 18, 2014

In a sweaty, crowded, noisy bar, a group of young women meander around, talking among themselves and drinking modest amounts of alcohol at a leisurely pace. Their mirror image, in male form, stands a few feet away. They get onto a discussion about the girls and establish that Joe likes The Blond One best, and he Saw Her First, so he gets to Try His Luck first. They form an imaginary queue behind The Blonde One.

Over in the women’s group, Jo (who isn’t The Blonde One) looks over at the group of men and notices The Athletic One. Her friends also notice him (though, it would seem, not The Blonde One herself) and they have a chuckle about and move on with their lives. There is no forming of imaginary queues, bargaining, or reminders of the many unwritten rules of The Girl Code, because such a thing doesn’t exist.

Joe walks up to The Blonde One and asks to buy her a drink. She looks at him like he’s poo on her shoe because he reminds her of a cross between her ex-boyfriend and the guy earlier who yelled something degrading her over at the petrol station while she was busy buying alcohol for the night’s pre-drinking session. She says: “No thanks,” icily and Joe runs off with his tail between his legs. He’s not too much of an alpha male though, so he doesn’t make too much of a fuss, only telling her that she’s ugly anyway a mere two times in one sentence before departing.

I don’t get why she couldn’t just be nice,” a wounded Joe says to his friends later.

Ah, mate,” says Generic Friend Number 1, “You should have tried negging her first.”

OK, so it’s come to my attention that “negging” has two definitions. One is the purposeful insulting of someone in the hope that, if you can lower their self-esteem, they’ll somehow magically want to sleep with you. Because, you know, causing your Intended to associate you with negative emotion is clearly the most efficient way of getting them to like you.

The second is closer to the idea that you make yourself seem non-threatening in order to lower the guard of the object of your affections and enable you to talk to them. I’m aware this tactic, whether known by this term or not, is favoured by men who consider themselves “nice”. I can see the logic and on the surface of it, the stealth-bomber approach sounds preferable to the all-out-full-frontal assault; but, you’re still dropping a bomb on someone’s head.

As a person who has been on the receiving end of this approach, I dislike it intensely. All it means is that you talk cross-purposes for a while, get your wires crossed, feel awkward, get annoyed at the situation, then put your guard up so that it will never happen again,so that when some other poor sap comes along who reaps the results of this tactic, you get insulted or called cold because you don’t want to be bothered with it any more.

It messes with your sense and safety and trust in humanity. You think you have found someone who is cool to chat to, the way you sometimes can when you’re drunk in a bar and feeling a bit philosophical. You aren’t sexually drawn to them in the slightest but the grape keeps flowing and you let yourself settle a bit. Then, when they’ve got you in your comfort zone, they think “I’m in there” and they pounce, and fuck everything up.

I strongly advise against this. Though I also think it’s arguably far more squirmy when someone comes up to you out of the blue and overtly starts trying to get into your pants, this isn’t a good alternative option because you run the risk of thinking that you are being respectful when actually you are just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As a rule I’m not fond of the idea of ever approaching someone with the specific intention of trying to “get with them” because I think when you do that, you have automatically paid them disrespect and reduced them to a person who has no use other than to be someone you could potentially sleep with, when actually everyone is more than that. If we took more time with each other rather than rushing to meet the end goal (i.e., sex) we would realise this.

I am all in favour of trying to make someone less on their guard – for their sake, not for your own – but only if you ask yourself why they are on their guard on the first place. It is because they know they are guaranteed, at some point in the night, to be on the receiving end of unwanted attention, be it explicit or sneaky. They know this from years worth of prior experience.

We need to re-examine what motivations men have for even talking to women in the first place. If you wouldn’t be happy with just a conversation or a friendship, don’t even go there. You might think you’re in with a chance for sure and that there’s no harm in trying, but that’s impossible to predict and you could be responsible for making them more on their guard. They should be able to go out and not fear being pounced and, in this case, tricked. Unless you know you can accept rejection as something neutral rather than bad, I wouldn’t bother.

Women do not seem to have the same way of operating. I do occasionally see blogs and tedious how-to articles about “getting your man” or “keeping your man interested” but by and large, attempting to ensnare attraction as if it were some kind of prize fish seems to be a largely male pursuit. Everything from the most vulgar chat up lines to tragically misconceived “nice” compliments (seriously, how many people in the world have “beautiful” [i.e., blue] eyes? You think that’s going to win anyone round?) come from men.

To some extent this will have something to do with our lingering ideas about how it’s a man’s job to do the little mating dance. It’s worth considering the possibility that it’s not a job that anyone should have to do, but rather a pursuit that could and should be enjoyable if it were respectful. The fact that women haven’t taken it upon themselves to take it up this pursuit as much as some of us might like may be because they are not socialized to see the value of it.

Male mating rituals are presented misleadingly as fail-safes for having anything of interest to say, or *shock* anything personal that might offer some insight as to who the speaker is, other than The Guy That Wants To Have Sex With Someone, Anyone, Oh God Please Have Sex With Me. Offering any genuine part of yourself bears your vulnerabilities, which can then be attacked.

The fear of this stops us being original but the lesson we don’t learn is that being unoriginal shows your insecurities just as much, and women who are sick and tired of being cornered by people they don’t know or don’t like are noticing this and biting back. This further heightens a man’s sense of insecurity and you’ll frequently hear comments like “I don’t get why she couldn’t just be nice.”

To be taught that bravado or posturing is the way to make people like you goes against everything we learn first hand from making friends and getting on well at work and in school. For some reason, basic common knowledge and sense goes out the window when faced with the frightening prospect of searching for sexual-emotional attachment, as if there’s something mystical about it that nullifies all prior experience of humanity and its operation.

I don’t believe for a moment there’s anything inherent in the nature of men which makes us incapable of accepting that a relationship with the opposite sex which is platonic is in some way a waste of time, but increasingly that line of thinking is what I hear implied from my peers. I’ve talked before about this seemingly crippling fear of LINK “the friend zone”, as if the worst thing a woman could be in relation to a man is a friend.

I’d argue that if you like someone, a friendship is better than nothing at all. If you brush people off because they aren’t willing to give you what you hoped for, then perhaps it is your hopes that are at fault. We should not allow ourselves to lose our ability to talk to the opposite sex as real people talk to real people and see where it takes us. These tactics for getting laid lower everyone involved. They are dishonest at best and at worst, aggressive. Whatever else movies may teach us, aggressive isn’t attractive.

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