'I'm a pansexual woman. Dating men is so much harder than women.'

If you've kept an eye on the headlines over the past few weeks you've probably heard about, or at least seen, references to a piece published in Psychology Today titled The Rise of Lonely, Single Men by Dr. Greg Matos.

In his (admittedly rather brief) article, Matos discussed the challenges men face in the modern dating landscape and how women have come to hold prospective male partners to a higher standard than they may once have. 

In particular, he described what he called a "skills deficit" among young men and boys today in the areas of communication, establishing genuine connections with members of the opposite sex, and in particular, introspection and emotional vulnerability. The reactions were swift and have been rather... varied, to say the least. 

Mamamia published a piece several weeks ago addressing some of these points. Greg's article may have stoked a lot of fires but as a woman who's dated both men and women (and a few people who fall somewhere in the middle) for the better part of a decade, I find it hard to imagine anyone who read his work in any way surprised. As far as I'm concerned Greg was just saying what I and thousands, if not millions of other young women in Australia and abroad have known for a long time.

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Dating men and dating women, as a woman, are fundamentally different experiences, they can't help but be. Even in 2022 the vestiges of a bygone era constrained the culture around dating between a man and a woman. The idea of chivalry, the litany of "rules" to follow, and of course the inevitable sexual tension that comes from a culture where sex is treated differently depending on which gender you are all play a part in this. 

We've made a lot of progress but "slut" and "stud" are still, sadly, as much a part of our vernacular today as they have ever been. Yes, the sex positivity movement is booming but not everyone's got the memo and, if I may be so bold, some people seem to take the idea of "sex positivity" either a bridge too far, or in entirely the wrong direction.

 An unsolicited picture of a man's genitals (more than half of Australian women have received at least one of these) is not an exercise in celebrating the beauty and diversity of human sexuality, it's flashing strangers on a street corner for your own gratification brought into the digital age. And don't even get me started on what's wrong with a man asking if my LESBIAN girlfriend is up for a threesome.

Don't get me wrong, I love sex, when you get down to it, most people do, but even in an age as ostensibly enlightened and progressive as ours the dynamics that underpin sex in heterosexual versus queer relationships are fundamentally different. So when we talk about what it's like to date men versus what it's like to date women as a woman, sex is probably the best place to start.


We live in a progressive time. But even now when I go on a date with a man, or when I've been in a relationship with a man, there's tension, right from the get-go, around sex. From the very first message to the first date to the first kiss and so on. Men still "get some" and women "give it up" or "give it away". Sex in heterosexual relationships is still more often than not, especially early on, a kind of commodity, a sort of prize. And when a woman doesn't "give" her body to a man, all too often a man feels entitled to "take it". When I’m dating men, sex is always in the relationship's foreground.

Compare that to dating a woman. Sex is (usually) brought up further on in the relationship when we've gotten to know one another as fully formed, three-dimensional human beings. It comes up organically, and it feels like a natural progression of the relationship as opposed to a kind of prize that one party gets to win and the other agrees to surrender.

There's a lot more discussion of boundaries, of consent, of mutual kinks, and interests from both parties, and when sex does happen there's usually a lot more communication before, during, and after making sure both parties are having a good time and feeling safe and comfortable. It's less about getting off and more about connection, about intimacy, about getting to know someone and their body.

At this point, I should reiterate that nothing I say in this piece is a universal truth. I know the phrase "not all men" leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths but it's true. I have had some truly beautiful sexual experiences with men who were tender and caring and gave me at least as much pleasure as I gave them, if not significantly more.


As an aside, I think it's worth noting that the only truly abusive partner I ever had was female. And it would be a disgraceful omission on my part if I didn't acknowledge that there are millions of mutually respectful, emotionally healthy opposite-sex relationships in Australia. I won't pretend that sexual coercion or assault is not a problem in the LGBT community but on the whole, the women I've dated have been significantly more sexually literate than the men. I should also point out the blame doesn't rest solely on today's young men, society has dropped the ball since... well... ever... when it comes to sex education, something that only now changing.

I should note that there is a caveat to everything I've said thus far. Everything I've said about dating is true until the man in question hits 30. Indeed, some women I spoke to about this topic have avoided dating younger men for this very reason. Where younger men I've dated struggled with communication, vulnerability, and especially with mutually satisfying sex, with older men (and women for that matter), the inverse is true.

The conversations are significantly more stimulating, there's a real sense of emotional intimacy and the sex doesn't feel like a haphazard recreation of a clip from Pornhub. To my continued bewilderment, despite coming from an ostensibly less enlightened time vis-à-vis sex positivity, gender equality, and consent, most of the men in their 30s and 40s whose company I've enjoyed at one time or another have been deeply respectful of me and my body.


Again, these are not universal constants, merely generalizations. But based on many conversations with friends, partners, and even casual hook-ups, I can safely say that many other women have come to the same conclusions I have and pick their dates accordingly.

It's easy to fall into the trap of speaking about today's young men with a sense of derision. A lot of women and non-binary people I spoke with about their experiences dating men vs women in 2022 continue to make that mistake. I get it, really I do. I'm guilty of it myself, it's easy to do when you don't have to date men if you don't want to, or if you're not attracted to men at all.

But a lot of women, most women, don't have that choice. Upon recounting the ins and outs of one of my more Sapphic relationships to a straight cis female friend several months ago she buried her face in her hands and exclaimed "Ugh! I wish I was a lesbian! It would be so much easier!". 

When I read Matos' article, I sent it to a straight male friend for his take on the issue. He said, with no hesitation and with a tinge of despair in his voice that Matos was right. To his credit, he freely admitted that the problem largely lies with people of his gender and his age group. I asked him what he thought the causes were, and he brought up several points but the one I'd really like to dig into is porn.

I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not an expert in sex and relationships but if I were to take a wild shot in the dark, why young men today struggle to connect emotionally to women I would hazard a guess that porn is a huge reason. 


If I were to make another guess, I would hazard that this is the reason so many older men, despite coming from a time less progressive than the one in which I was raised, seem to treat their partners far more respectfully in the bedroom. Yes, they had porn 20 or 30 years ago but it was nothing like what we have today. The research backs me up on this hypothesis. Porn has a devastating effect on relationship satisfaction for both sexes but the consequences can be catastrophic for men. It warps expectations of what sex and relationships should look like and has been shown to lead to higher rates of sexist beliefs and behaviours in young men.

My friend opined that with pornography so easy to access in this day and age many young men simply didn't feel the need to connect emotionally with women because the accessibility of online porn or to a lesser extent casual sex has severed the historical link between physical and emotional intimacy. He also pointed out the fundamentally asymmetrical nature of dating apps vis-à-vis gender and while yes, it can be downright awful to be a woman on Tinder, men don’t have it much easier.

A study from the Queensland University of Technology led by behavioural economist Stephen Whyte in 2021 found that young men still look for physical attractiveness above all else in a female partner and that this doesn't change until men reach their early 50s. Meanwhile, women are drawn to education, intelligence, and trustworthiness, which are difficult qualities to convey in a system based on swiping left or right on profile pics.


Women and non-binary people who date men are equally frustrated."F**k men" was the response of one pansexual non-binary person with whom I discussed Matos' piece over lunch this week. "A gym membership isn't a personality". They spoke at length about a fourteen-year-old boy working at the restaurant they manage who worships Andrew Tate. A boy only just old enough to dip his toe in the dating scene, who is headed down the same path too many of today's men in their late teens and twenties have followed.

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Another person I spoke to, a heterosexual woman, said she had simply given up on dating for the foreseeable future because she couldn't find a single man her age looking for a genuine emotional connection. With everyone else I spoke to it was the same, stories of dick pics, of one-word answers, of crude (and not creative) innuendo, and of being repeatedly ghosted by men for no discernible reason repeatedly. 

We shouldn't forget that the stakes in this fight aren't just lonely men and frustrated women. The consequences of a world that raises boys incapable of expressing vulnerability or experiencing emotional intimacy, who are more prone to jealousy or rage than they are to love or introspection can be deadly.

Just look at the rates of family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. Look at  Elliot Rodger and the modern Incel movement young men like him have built in the dark recesses of the internet in the years since. And lest we forget, the litany of cultural missteps that brought us to this moment don't just lead men to hurt women, but also themselves. Seventy-five percent of victims of suicide are male. The mental health implications of continuing down the road on which we currently find ourselves as a society could be catastrophic.


I look at young men in 2022, and I see them being sold a fantasy. I see them being force-fed traditional gender roles that just don't apply anymore. If there is a single word to describe the experience of dating other women (and other non-cis-male genders) in 2022, for me, it would be "liberating". When you already exist outside the confines of what society deems "normal", when you break through the chains of tradition, of your preconceived notions of what love, sex, and dating should be, there's no set path to follow, so you're left to chart your own.

Heterosexual men and women might read this and feel slighted, but I would point out that there is no reason heterosexual relationships have to be any more conventional or new to antiquated traditions than their queer counterparts. Plenty of straight men and women are already redefining what love means to them, whether it's ethical non-monogamy, throuples, platonic life partners or even choosing to remain single in perpetuity. 

Dating across the gender spectrum opened my eyes to a world of possibilities I might never have even conceived of otherwise but it shouldn't have had to take being pansexual to see that love in the 21st Century doesn't have to look the way it did in the past.


I would urge everyone, straight or otherwise to see that love doesn't have to fit neatly into the box society gave you. I would urge women not to give up on cis men or to treat them with contempt, it may feel good but sure as hell solves nothing. There are plenty of good men out there who are worth loving and who are emotionally mature enough to love you back.

To men struggling in the modern dating world, I would urge them to listen to us, to understand that just because the world is changing doesn't mean they have to be left behind, that there's still a place for them at the table. Most women want to date men, most women are attracted primarily or exclusively to men. I want to date men; I love men. Every once in a while I meet a young man who has his sh*t together and when he opens up and lets you in and it is incredible. We just need more young men to follow their lead and do the same.

All ships rise with the tide, a more equitable society free of gendered expectations and constraints where emotional vulnerability and open communication is encouraged regardless of who you are or who you might want to date benefits everyone, men, women, and all other genders alike. And we all have a part to play in building that society, every single one of us.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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