EVERYDAY FEMINISM

How to Compliment Women Without Objectifying Them

Ah, the stereotypical heterosexual come-on attempt.

Boy sees girl. Boy finds girl attractive.

Boy approaches girl and attempts to get into her pants by telling her how sexy she looks in her lime green halter top and skinny jeans, and how if she sleeps with him, he’ll treat her to a breakfast in bed consisting of homemade Eggs Benedict with a side of Cajun sausage and juice made from freshly-squeezed oranges.

Girl finds boy creepy and tells him to f*ck off. Boy, feeling rejected and hurt, becomes angry and lashes out at girl, calling her a bitch and a stupid slut.

“You weren’t that cute anyway!”

The scenario described above, although slightly (slightly) embellished, is a common one.

A heterosexual man, while out at the bar or in a coffee shop or anywhere else in public, finds a woman attractive and attempts to (get to know, date, sleep with) her by giving her what he views as a compliment.

But in the process, something goes wrong. The possibly well-intentioned compliment has an undesirable effect, and both parties end up frustrated and angry.

This same situation also can occur if a man already knows a woman, but wants to take things to the next level. The woman may feel put off by the man’s advances that suddenly strain a good friendship.

So, what exactly goes wrong in these situations?

Because the thing is: Straight men and women are going to find people of the opposite gender attractive and want to let them know that. And that’s fine. In fact, a lot of us love getting compliments.

But it’s the intent behind the compliment that can be problematic.

And I’m not saying that male sexuality and male sexual desires are wrong, even though people tend to think that feminists believe that.

Feminists aren’t saying that at all. I’m not saying that at all.

We’re saying that sexual entitlement is wrong.

It’s when the person feels entitled to that sexual desire being reciprocated, or has other motives, that it infringes on the other person’s boundaries and turns creepy – or at least uncomfortable.

Men, we think it’s great if you find a woman attractive and want to let her know that, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

That being said, here are some tips on doing it the right way.

Check Your Expectations

If you think a woman is hot, great. Go ahead and tell her.

Just don’t expect it to lead anywhere else.

If it does, awesome. If not, better luck next time.

The thing is, you should be nice to a woman just to be nice to her. If you’re only talking to her or being nice to her to have sex with her, that’s manipulation, pure and simple.

It may help to preface your statement with your intentions, like a male friend of mine once did: “I’m not trying to hit on you or anything, but you have the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen.”

Have a Conversation (or Several) with Her First

Despite your best intentions, some women will simply be turned off by a stranger giving them a compliment. It can sometimes make women feel like their bodies exist for your judgment and entertainment – and that’s not a good feeling.

It always helps to get to know a person a little first – even if just for a few minutes.

Starting up a conversation about the tough exam you have in Chemistry class next week or the cool band that’s coming to town could have the positive effect of breaking the ice and discovering what you may have in common with each other.

Having conversations with people has multiple benefits: it helps others get to know you, it builds trust, and makes you come across as a much more genuine person and not just as The Desperate Guy Who Needs To Get Laid.

Compliment Her on Something Other than Her Appearance

Regardless of their age, accomplishments, or social status, women are evaluated overwhelmingly on their physical appearance.

Even Hillary Clinton, with all her major political accomplishments, is still the subject of articles that focus on her hair or fashion choices.

Some women appreciate being recognized for what they do or who they are more so than for what they look like.

So if you know something about a woman – such as that she gave a great speech in a class you took together or that she makes a great latte at the Starbucks where she works – compliment her on that instead of on her physical characteristics.

Not only does it show that you’re interested in getting to know her personality and accomplishments, but it will likely be a refreshing change for her.

Avoid Sexually-Charged “Compliments”

If you do decide to say something nice about her appearance – which is entirely your choice – avoid using sexual overtones or telling her what you’d like to do to her.

This is called sexual objectification, which means reducing the person to nothing but the sum of their parts to be used for another’s pleasure, and there’s nothing empowering about it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain the difference between commenting on someone’s body and making an explicitly sexual comment.

Considering this, I would recommend finding a feature that you find interesting or striking, rather than focusing on body parts that are considered explicitly sexual.

Because complimenting someone’s shiny hair or glowing skin is a lot different than saying she has a hot ass, which carries a sexual overtone and veers into the zone of objectification.

Above all, remember that people’s bodies belong to them, and trespassing into that personal space can make some people really uncomfortable.

Be Sincere

Above all else, be honest.

Don’t make something up just to get the chance to talk to her, or as an attempt to get laid.

Pro tip: If it seems like a cheesy pick-up line, it probably is.

There’s a difference between yelling “hey baby, you must be from Tennessee ‘cause you’re the only ten I see!” and asking me how my day’s going, respectfully asking if you can speak to me about something, or paying me a genuine compliment.

Once, a guy told me I had really nice teeth, which may sound unusual but was also something I knew to be true, and therefore I appreciated it. (Hey, braces and whitening gel are expensive!)

So guys, remember this: Women like being complimented, but they also treasure their personal space. Keep it honest and respectful, and women will be more likely to appreciate your efforts.

Does you have a suggestion on how to respectfully compliment a woman? Share in the comments below!

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Shannon Ridgway is a Contributing Writer to Everyday Feminism from the great flyover state of South Dakota (the one with the monument of presidential heads). In her free time, Shannon enjoys reading, writing, jamming out to ’80s music and Zumba, and she will go to great lengths to find the perfect enchilada. Follow her on Twitter@sridgway1980. Read her articles here.

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