Skip to content

10 reasons why chivalry is a bad idea

December 16, 2016

Chivalry is dead! they say. We have feminism to blame! If only those feminists could accept that when a man wants to open a door for you, you’ll walk through it and you’ll darn well like it.

No matter if maybe, you actually don’t like going first, squeezing past people, or giving some sleazy dude an opportunity to stare at / brush up against your butt as you walk by.

Good riddance to chivalry, say I. Any observer of how it actually pans out can see that it was never a good tactic. In fact, the whole problem with it is that it’s a “tactic” in the first place, like you can trick women into liking you. Attraction isn’t like a game of laser hockey, where you can say “Look over there!” and sneak in under the radar.

Although men often act as though anti-chivalry sentiment is denying men some kind of right or treat, there are ten very good reasons why chivalry is bad for men – or at least, men who are hoping to hit it off with women who they like.

1) Chivalry is a fantasy.

When women say they like chivalry, what they really mean is that they like the idea of it. It appeals to the romantic nature of some individuals, male and female. They imagine candlelit dinners where men pull chairs out for women, or else a scene in a field where a man with rippling muscles chops wood while a Lady fans herself.

In reality, women are rarely fanning, men are rarely lumberjacks and pulling a chair out for someone more often than not involves a carpet snagging or an unpleasant squeaking sound. People use chivalry as a way of manufacturing romance or charm because they have no better ideas. These people are less inventive in their approach, so come off worse. They are also not themselves, they are a cardboard cut-out. Who wants that?

Chivalrous acts are too often impractical, inconvenient and irritating the more they are repeated. It doesn’t take much thinking to see that your average woman probably doesn’t want a man lurching forwards into an overly enthusiastic barrel roll for the door in order to open it for her. He’s just going to get in her way. And that jacket you keep offering just doesn’t go with her evening dress at all.

2) Lots of women find chivalry patronising.

If in doubt, leave it out. Not being chivalrous rarely hurts a man’s chances in this day and age, but being chivalrous certainly can. Not understanding that many women hate the paternalism of chivalry, with its protective, suffocating arms flailing around everywhere, can seriously damage a man’s standing with potential lovers. If it’s all right once or twice, it quickly gets old.

3) Chivalry is inappropriate.

Chivalry works best between two people who are already involved, either in a casual or more serious way. The contract is: the woman says, “You’re my bitch. You’ll hold shit for me, if I want you too, and in exchange I will be nice to you.” It’s a bit old fashioned, but a lot of couples still operate that way. Man does a thing for a woman because it makes them both feel good. They have established a contract.

No such contract exists between people who are not dating. Therefore, acting as though the contract exists is presumptuous. In the back of her mind, the woman says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I haven’t decided to make you my bitch yet. Simmer down.” The privilege of being her bitch is something she has to agree to, so when a man skips this agreement he’s being too forward.

Put another way, we except help from people with whom we have a special relationship, as we don’t mind putting them out so much. When others start muscling in on that role, it’s like they want to shoulder barge their way into our intimate circle.

Such men send up a red flag that says: “I’m interested, notice me, acknowledge my attraction.” Once the flag is waved, it is impossible for the intended to ignore their suitor’s feelings. This lacks social awareness. It is the prerogative of the liked, if they don’t like the other person back, to deny all knowledge of that person’s feelings. It avoids an awkward conversation no one wants to have – provided, of course, that the liker can take the hint.

Worse, if you spread your chivalry around too much, it looks like you don’t care who you end up with; you’re casting your net wide in the hope of ensnaring whatever sucker thinks chivalry is a nice trait. Most people don’t respond well to those who seem like they aren’t fussed about the individual, as long as it’s someone, anyone, anyone who’ll have them.

4) Chivalry puts pressure on women.

If you wave a big red flag of attraction that is impossible to ignore, you establish firmly that any acceptance of a gesture of chivalry is a green light for asking the benefactor out on a date. The unfortunate “benefactor” might not want to go out on a date and wants to avoid harshly rejecting her suitor. She might be reserving judgement on him, waiting for him to stop being chivalrous because she doesn’t like it and it doesn’t tell her anything about his character.

When we neglect to be considerate for the sake of showing that we’re available, we lose our opportunity to show that we’re likeable. Relationships require you to show more than just how much you want it. Why should she care? She has to like you first.

5) Women get blamed when chivalry doesn’t work out for men.

Many a time I’ve heard a man complain because someone didn’t respond well to his chivalry. How cold and rude she is that she didn’t see how nice he is. Of course, he wasn’t being anything of the sort. He was being decidedly unkind, because by waving his big red flag too early, he backed her into a corner which made her feel uncomfortable. He thought about his own feelings, not hers; but because he was play-acting at being nice, he thought she should should appreciate the gesture.

Well, unfortunately, it’s difficult to act glad when you know you’re at the point when the slightest smile might be taken as a come-on, which is what happens once the big red flag goes up. Being dismissive and scornful are defence mechanisms which hide awkwardness and serve the function of getting men to go away when they are being too pushy, suffocating, presumptuous, creepy or just plain weird.

After all, chivalry is a conspicuous attempt to get into someone’s knickers. No one’s fooled otherwise.

6) Chivalry looks obsequious.

You know the expression “Nice guys finish last”? That expression is made up by “nice” guys who don’t realise that they haven’t been behaving nicely at all, they’ve been self-interested, overbearing and just a bit eww. These “nice” guys have been clingy and sycophantic in their approach. No one likes that. In the fog of attraction, we often come on strong, but we believe our strong positive feelings and good intentions will shine through. They don’t.

What comes across instead is our painfully obvious interest in a person who isn’t responding, which only gets worse the more unsuccessful we are. When people get negative feedback, instead of backing off and changing tack, they emphasise the trait that put them in a bad light in the first place, thinking they must have shown a deficit of this wonderful, remarkable characteristic. Chivalry is a top contender for the misconceived “nice” behaviour that makes people dislike you.

7) Chivalry is narcissistic.

Chivalry is not about women, it’s about men. It’s male posturing to oneself, men reminding themselves what good guys they are. Everyone likes to have a handbook that tells them how to behave, and will live by a bad handbook to the bitter end just because it makes things simpler.

When you follow a handbook, you aren’t paying attention to anyone but yourself. You’re much too focused on whether you’re achieving your goals to notice that these benchmarks you’ve reached aren’t having the desired effect; a man waits all night for the weather to get cold enough for him to offer his jacket to a woman, and when she doesn’t want it, he practically forces it on her (making an ass of himself) because he just doesn’t know what else to do.

He hasn’t been paying attention to her needs, he just wants to follow his own agenda because he thinks he must. He’s walking around with his nose in a script when he should be looking at her. Her body language, facial expressions and the words she uses. How many times does she have to directly say she doesn’t want your damn coat before you accept that she’s not being polite or stubborn for no reason, she just doesn’t want your damn coat.

8) Chivalry shows lack of confidence.

Confidence is sexy,” goes the old cliché. It isn’t just a cop-out for ugly people. There’s a reason why people who are confident are sexy; they are more outwardly focussed. Awkward people focus too much on themselves, from their appearance to their behaviour.

When they do this, they forget to focus on other people – to really look at them, listen and read their body language. Confidence is attentiveness and attentiveness is charm. Charm is undoubtedly sexy. Someone with no charm has to boast a much higher level of physical attractiveness to get any luck. Such an attractive person doesn’t have to use chivalry to attract people.

9) Chivalry exposes lack of experience.

When you use a one-size fits all approach to attraction, you show that you a) don’t know relationships b) don’t know the opposite sex. It reeks of desperation when someone tries to get their (old fashioned) ideas about the world to fit into situations where it just doesn’t. There’s no quick fix for attraction that gets you in with whomever you want. Compatibility finding requires you to be yourself – the best version of yourself, but yourself nonetheless, not a character from a 50s movie.

Trying to get it “right” is the surest way to show that you don’t know shit about trying to get on with people with whom you have sexual interest. Women aren’t from Venus. They aren’t a single concept. “They” aren’t hard to understand because they’re so different and stuff. The more you try to find a formula for how “they” work, the more foreign they’re going to seem.

10) Chivalry gives men the wrong impression about female sexual selection.

It seems that there are some people who think you can fix a situation that’s gone the wrong way with a slapdash bit of chivalry. I’m talking about “the friend zone”. There’s good news and there’s bad news about the friend zone; the good news is, it’s not a fixed address. It has been documented that you can get out of it. It isn’t even that uncommon.

The bad news is, you are not in control of when you leave the friend zone. “Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen,” doesn’t work – in fact, it’s ludicrous. Delete all the things about you that your beloved likes, and replace them with nothing? Nonsense. You will just look like an arsehole, probably with a mood and / or identity disorder. That expression refers to how aloof strangers seem enigmatic and appealing. That doesn’t work when someone already knows you.

Similarly, chivalry can’t get you out of the friend zone because it’s too obviously just a clumsy attempt to break free. Anything that basic and obvious won’t do the trick. It’s only going to make things awkward. The only thing you can really do is act as you would normally and either stick it out or move on. You are in the friend zone because she is not attracted to you. That isn’t going to suddenly change just because you know how to take off a coat.

It’s important to remember that, if there was ever attraction, you wouldn’t be in the friend zone in the first place. She’ll lift you out of there if that changes, which will come as much as a surprise to her as anybody. It can’t be forced. This idea that attraction can be forced is toxic.

Chivalry, and any other “formula” for attraction encourage men to think that they are completely and utterly in control of who is attracted to them and who is not, and when we fail, it is our fault as men. We are not in control, and it is not our fault. It’s just life. Not being able to accept that is a great contributor in the aggressive way that men pursue women.

Chivalry is aggressive too; it’s a passive aggression reserved for men who pride themselves on not being “that guy”. They are mistaken. Every chivalrous man most certainly is “that guy” and would do well to knock it on the head. This action might not increase his chances with anyone, but it probably will; not coming off like a slimeball will usually improve your relationship with someone, not worsen it.

So, given all the negative points about chivalry, how have so many people ended up falling for it? It’s about emulation. When you see it, and it seems to work, you may not consider that you are missing context. The relationship between the two is different to your situation, or the individual himself is just better at pulling it off.

He has more experience, charm, and knows when to reign it back – or maybe, he’s just more manipulative. Copying someone involves thinking that you can make yourself into that person, when in reality, trying too hard to be someone different is unappealing.

The sad reality is, if it works for the most charming person you know, it probably won’t work for you. A bit like how if a martial arts technique works for Mr Miyagi, you’ll probably just hurt yourself trying to copy it. You have to learn to wax on and wax off first. The equivalent in relationship terms is learning confidence.

If all you want to do is be a nice, nice man, try holding the door for a brother when he’s juggling a rucksack and an oyster card and his gloves are tumbling to the ground. Courtesy and consideration should always trump chivalry, which involves charging in when you’re barely needed.

But you should have seen the look I got when I offered to help a lone father carry a heavy, awkward push chair up the stairs, bumping a terrified kid up step by step. He couldn’t have been more taken aback if I’d offered to shine his shoes for free.

Let’s be honest, no one wanted chivalry as an excuse to be nice to people, because you don’t need an excuse for that. Men do it for an excuse to play boyfriend. And that makes it creepy.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: