3 Ways to Deal With Toxic Masculinity on a First Date

Unfortunately, finding yourself on a date with an Andrew Tate-loving misogynist is not totally out of the question in 2022. The mere fact that Andrew Tate is influential at all right now is a testament to how far behind we still are when it comes to toxic masculinity.

But there is some hope.

Bumble’s 2022 Dating Trends report, found that almost 3 in 4 (74 percent) of men say they have examined their behaviour more than ever and have a clearer understanding of ‘toxic masculinity’. A further 1 in 3 (38 percent) men now speak more openly about their emotions with their male friends, and almost half (49 percent) agree that breaking gender roles in dating and relationships is beneficial for them.

These stats are a relief, and slightly overdue. However, what about the men that still believe that toxic masculinity is real masculinity?

Historically “masculine” traits within dating, such as being confident, paying for things, approaching someone you’re into etc, are attractive regardless of gender, says Scientist and Bumble collaborator, Dr Matt Agnew.

“In order to get rid of toxic masculinity in modern dating, we need to re-frame how we perceive gendered roles in the dating process. Expectations (that still exist today) such as the man needing to make the first move, pay for dinner, buy the first drink, be reeking of confidence, wit and charm when they approach you… these are universally attractive qualities, not just within men.

“Women and non-binary people can be masculine, too. We all have different elements of masculinity and femininity, there should be no societal pressure for our gender to impact how we date.”

And, while Agnew acknowledges that toxic masculinity is still very much a thing in the modern dating world, he stresses that it isn’t up to anyone but men to recognise and make changes within themselves.

“There’s existing discourse that men can engage with. They can read and educate themselves; we’re all individually responsible for the way we approach dating. It’s not up to anyone else to take on that responsibility for us.”

Below, Agnew provides us with 3 suggestions on how to manage your date if they are displaying signs of toxic masculinity.

It’s Not Your Job to Re-Educate

“As you’re getting to know someone and feeling out where they stand on toxic masculinity, some of these negative traits may present themselves but it’s important for women to know that they don’t need to call it out,” says Agnew.

“Historically, this ‘duty’ has fallen on women — which has undoubtedly been great for change — but the onus is on men.”

You’re not going to be able to — depending on how entrenched these values are — change someone’s position on a first date, Agnew reasons. Of course, in an ideal world, men are open to understanding their behaviours, open to introspection and therefore open to someone pointing out toxic traits of masculinity. However, that’s sadly not often what they’re met with.

Also, as far as a comfortable safe space goes, dates are usually pretty high-intensity. Especially on a first day, when you feel nervous, maybe a little on guard, insecure and wanting to present your best self, it’s pretty natural to trip over your words.

“The most powerful learning tool we have is the mistake,” Agnew says. “Mistakes give us learning opportunities for sure. But there’s definitely a distinction between when you’re getting along with someone and they may have misspoken, but are open to hearing your perspective, and someone who you instantly feel is misaligned with you and your values.”

“One is worth calling out gently and having a conversation, and one is not.”

Leave the Date

“Sometimes, leaving is more powerful than calling them out” says Agnew.

“‘No’ is considered one of the most powerful words, and by exercising complete and utter agency, especially in the age of dating now, where most of our dates are essentially blind dates, taking yourself out of a date sends a powerful message.

“You don’t ever need a reason to say thanks, but no thanks. You could make up an excuse, or you could be honest with them but, either way, cutting short something that isn’t bringing you what you need is absolutely okay.”

And, if dates ending abruptly becomes a normality for someone, hopefully, it will force them to look inwards, Agnew says.

“They might be encouraged to have a conversation with friends and be called out for their bad behaviour, it could be an opportunity for real change.”

Be Open About Your Intentions

“Discussing your intentions at the top of the date might be one way to alleviate the risk of finding out that they have some unexpected toxic traits,” Agnew suggests. “Plus, I think it’s always a good idea to get on the same page and communicate what you’re looking for upfront.”

“Whether that be casual sex, a casual relationship or something more serious, establishing your intentions at the start of the date prevents people getting hurt; which is often where some of that toxic stuff can emerge.”

You can follow Dr Matt Agnew on Instagram here. And maybe you could suggest that your toxic date follow him too — they could learn a thing or two.

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