It empowers women, and men love to do it. Why isn’t it happening more often?

By Saskia Leonard

It is commonplace to observe women in movies and T.V shows linger impatiently near a phone, waiting for their man to call. Waiting for him to make the first move. Waiting to play by his terms.

The idea of waiting for a man to initiate when he feels inclined or has the time has been an expectation since the dawn of damn time. And in doing so, women inadvertently play into institutionalized sexism, in particular to the idea that we are tame, pure creatures that mustn’t portray ourselves as overly ambitious.

That is why, upon questioning a variety of UCLA students (male and female alike), it was evident that when women make the first move in any interaction, they feel empowered and in control. In turn,the men I spoke to expressed gratitude and admiration for  woman who make a move because it serves as assurance that the other is interested.

“I love it,” said Nico, a second-year political science student. “When thinking of crossing the line, I think of the stereotypical guy that comes on too strong and doesn’t get the message that the girl isn’t interested. Being perceived this way scares me so if the girl is making the move, I know I’m not being too much.”

But no matter the gender, making the first move is intimidating: everyone fears rejection. However, it’s clear that generally the man is expected to initiate while the woman is forced to covert hints and subtle suggestions of curiosity. Therefore, it’s incredibly pressing that as a society we normalize these expectations for both genders, and that we elucidate how inconsequential making the first move truly is; a healthy self-esteem should be able to help combat the initial embarrassment of a rejection. In aims to illuminate and debunk these standards, I interviewed several UCLA students and found common threads.


Many Women Feel Empowered After Making The First Move


Almost all the women I interviewed mentioned how empowered and vitalized they felt after they made the first move, no matter the result:

“I do remember feeling very empowered because in a way, by making the first move, I was setting my own rules for how I wanted the night to go and how I wanted the relationship to go. It made me feel more in control.”

“It was pretty empowering, I liked how [the dynamic] was turned around.”

“This is a two-way street, and if he always makes the first move, then the ball will always be in his court. It’s always waiting for when he has time, or when he wants to . . . you know he wants to hang out with you but you’re too scared to ask.”

Many Women Unwittingly Resort To Complacency

Many women expressed frustration with this unspoken expectation, yet still remain passive observers. They recognize that in doing so, they reinforce patriarchy on some level, and that this is a barrier that must be overcome to feel like they’re on an equal standing ground in in relationships.  

“It’s just frustrating because this societal expectation that girls should wait around for guys is just another barrier that girls have to overcome to get to this place where they feel confident and comfortable in their relationships.”

“Even though I’ve had conversations with guys multiple times where they’ve told me they really appreciate and admire girls who make the first move, when it comes down to it I assume the guy will make the first move and so I usually let it happen that way.”

“Ultimately, I think it’s a question of making yourself vulnerable and being okay with the possibility of rejection. That mentality takes time to develop and it’s especially difficult for girls because we’ve grown up with the idea that we should wait for guys to make the first move.”

“[If I really liked the guy] I would definitely think [about making the first move]more but at the end of the day I still would not do it.”

“A lot of times girls situate themselves in a position to make a passive move, but at the end of it all, the guys make the active moves. Women will set it up. I say things so the guy knows I’m interested, but I let them make the last move.”


Many Women Rely On First Moves In Order To Be Reassured Of Others’ Interest


It appears that many women justify playing the waiting game by making the point that if a guy was interested they would be proactive about making a move. But despite this expectation, men find it equally sexy when a woman approaches them first; they too fear rejection and admire confidence.

“[I have not made the first move] probably because I feel like if the guy liked me enough, he’d come up to me.”

“I think it says something about the guy- it shows confidence and boldness if he makes the first move.”

“I encourage [women] to make the first move because I myself am very insecure about making it. I don’t know where the line is and I don’t want to play with it.”


Women Are Afraid To Receive A Yes Out Of Pity Or To Be Perceived As Overbearing


Because the man is so deeply tied with the act of manliness and dominance, many women communicated fear of success on the foundation of pity. Moreover, several women indicate that if they used the same approach as men to make an advance, they’d be perceived as imperious and “crazy.”

“I feel like if I made the first move and he said yes, it was just because he felt bad and not because he was down for me.”

“A lot of the time, girls will make the first move the same way a guy would make the first move, but it comes off as crazy just because it’s coming from a girl.”


In essence,  conversations with the just a few young and single UCLA students showed me that making the first move is daunting for everyone -- surprise, surprise! --  but this burden tends to fall on men in a patriarchal society. Women find it empowering once they overcome the barrier of fear of rejection and negative perceptions. Men find it sexy and encouraging. Therefore, this standard needs to be changed to include the other half of society. The worst that can happen is the person is uninterested – so give him your number, lean in for that first kiss, and show the world how in control you truly are.