Why Aren’t Men Asking Women Questions on Dates Anymore?

Hoards of young women are finding themselves on dates with men who just keep talking and talking and talking: think narcissistic monologues instead of an equal back and forth. Juno Kelly explores a very modern romantic phenomenon.

“I just got home from a date. Two hours of my life… no questions about myself,” vents a disillusioned TikToker, her voice tinged with the jadedness of someone who’s been in this situation before. “Can I tell you anything about the guy? Oh yeah. I can tell you a lot. Maybe more than his therapist.”

She is not alone. Social media is awash with videos like this – the question on everybody’s lips right now seems to be: “Why do men have so few on theirs?” Men on dates don’t seem to be asking questions of the women they’re (apparently) interested in, instead launching into unrelenting monologues.

When I asked my own acquaintances if they’d encountered similar date dynamics, it became clear that the internet’s latest gripe is more than just viral fodder. “I once went on a date with a man who didn’t ask me a single question until 11pm when, at last orders, he said through a mouthful of crisps ‘So what do you do?’”, says Rosie Stewart, who works in tech sales in London. “I knew how his grandparents met by that point.” I, too, recall nodding graciously on dates, my garrulous nature no match for a man’s unabashed self-interest. So how did this particular romantic faux pas become so pervasive?

Let’s start with the apps, which have seismically altered the romantic landscape. Dating once relied on ineffable chemistry and natural conversation, but it’s become gamified, the unwanted love child of online shopping and the job application process. It’s as though in a capitalist, hyper-individualistic society, men are approaching dating as they would a job interview, an opportunity to prove themselves rather than to foster genuine connection. It’s long been apparent that dating and corporate culture have merged: Bumble has a professional networking off-shoot called Bumble Bizz, while other singletons have admitted using LinkedIn to find love rather than jobs. In other words, men are so busy trying to sell themselves that they forget to ask about you.

“We are not giving one another time to make a few mistakes and engage in a true dialogue of back and forth,” says Dr Sandra L Faulkner, a professor specializing in relationships and communication.

Writer Grace Flynn, however, suspects that men’s lack of curiosity might be symptomatic of something darker. “I went on a few dates with a man of many words but few questions,” she tells me. “He was the classic Tarantino-loving, dart-smoking, tattooed type, so unfortunately I couldn’t help but match with him on Hinge.” At first, Flynn didn’t notice that he wasn’t asking her much about herself, as she was naturally volunteering information as it pertained to his (many) stories. But by the third date, she began to suspect that he wasn’t interested in getting to know her, but rather was driven by the fact that she “met his standards visually” and intently listened to him talk: the optimal canvas on which to project a fantasy. “Why would a man ask you questions if the answers jeopardize the version of you he wants you to be?” Flynn asks.

Women and men are socialized into different communication patterns. Women are valued for being nice and agreeable, which often means not being assertive. Men, on the other hand, are taught to be aggressive and to take the lead

Dr Sandra L Faulkner, professor specializing in relationships and communication TikTok has become a hotbed of these kinds of dating stories and cautionary tales, with numerous videos going viral in which women describe men who’ve claimed to be in love with them without really knowing them. Of course, idealizing a romantic partner isn’t a male-exclusive phenomenon. According to research, when we meet someone we’re attracted to, we’re drawn in by the hope that the relationship will be a fix-all solution to our problems. The dissolution of this ideal as we get to know them is why so many relationships don’t survive beyond the first few dates. It’s a quandary that’s undoubtedly been exacerbated by online dating: it’s easier to conjure up an image of someone from a smattering of flattering photos and agonizingly mulled-over prompts, than it is from a real-life interaction.

It’s a cynical theory, but one that chimes with Faulkner, who adds that such a unilateral approach will inevitably elicit problems. “If you see a relationship as one where you don’t have to collaborate and you are the center of the universe rather than ‘we’ are the center of our relationship, it could cause a warped view of what a romantic relationship entails,” she says.

Of course, men taking on a dominant role in conversation predates technology. We can trace all of this to patriarchal gender norms, which are, consciously or unconsciously, still being propagated. “Women and men are socialized into different communication patterns,” Faulkner says. “I don’t think there are innate differences, but we sometimes teach children in different ways. For instance, women are valued for being nice and agreeable, which often means not being assertive… Men, on the other hand, are taught to be aggressive and to take the lead.” This is particularly evident in romantic interactions, which serve as a kind of microcosm of broader gender dynamics.

Even in hindsight, many men fail to identify anything amiss with their behavior: two of the women I spoke to reported the men attempting to kiss them at the end of what were markedly one-sided dates. “He actually followed up several times with pictures of his plants, so clearly he never even realized he was off the mark,” laughs Stewart.

Faulkner maintains that the problem was compounded by lockdown-wrought isolation: “I think Covid decreased some of our skills, and online and text conversations are different from face-to-face conversation. We need to be interested in one another’s stories and develop skills to listen and ask good questions. In the absence of this, I think that we fall back into outdated gender roles where women should be silent and accommodating and men should be in charge of everything. This is not the way for real understanding.” Indeed, Stewart’s date was shortly after lockdown (he kissed her over her mask.)

On a more optimistic note, it’s possible that, post-#MeToo, men are talking more out of a (misguided) attempt to take the pressure off women when it comes to dating. Men can also be disinclined to talk to each other about personal matters, so perhaps they’re relying too heavily on women lending an ear during romantic encounters. “A few young men told me this semester that they actually crave conversation face to face,” Faulkner says.

But, although narcissism is marginally more common in men, all genders can be prone to talking about themselves all night. Men’s dominant role in society simply gives them more latitude to do so. Meanwhile, women are more likely to take to social media to call men out on bad dates online than the other way around, aggravating the perception that it’s an issue exclusive to men.

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