Alright, gentlemen. If you’re here reading this, that’s one step in the right direction — many of the men who should be hearing this information won’t even bother to give it a click. So bravo to you for being willing to listen and learn, first and foremost.

Generally speaking, there is always something to be learned or reconsidered where someone else’s comfort is concerned. And it’s now more relevant than ever to be talking about it on public platforms and with one another, especially if the person you’re talking with or about is less privileged than you are. Think of it this way: cisgender heterosexual white males are at the top of the privilege pyramid, and everyone who isn’t a cisgender heterosexual white male falls lower and lower, depending on how their minority backgrounds intersect. For example, just underneath CHWMs live cisgender heterosexual white women––sure, CHWWs face their own issues with misogyny and such, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare those experiences to, say, that of a woman of color, a queer woman, or a queer woman of color. You get the idea.

That said, the higher you fall on the privilege pyramid, the more aware and considerate you should be when interacting with others, just as a general rule of thumb. But I cannot stress the importance of this enough when it comes to dating. There is absolutely nothing worse than sitting across a table from a man who just. doesn’t. get. it. And know that we can sense it from a mile away. Many women and female-identifying human beings face microaggressions all day long, and the last thing we want is for a promising date to turn out to be the same old shit. If you can foster an environment that feels safe and courteous at the very least, then trust that this will go a long way.

Now, all of this is not to say that chivalry is unwelcome — in fact, many of us do like to have the door held open for us once in a while. And little old-school details like walking on the side closest to the street are straight up cute. To be frank, sometimes it feels like those things are the very least that can be done to make up for all the shit we deal with on a daily basis, like mansplaining, gender wage gaps, catcalling, spatial disrespect. I could go on and on. It’s just about knowing what’s appropriate and what’s not, so without further ado, I give you seven key pointers for being a respectful date, gathered straight from the source.

1. Listen (To Understand, Not To Reply)

Guess what? It’s not about you, bro. Because of everything we deal with on a daily basis as women or female-identifying people, we deserve a mental break. You can offer that to us by being a good active listener, which should be standard, but it rarely happens. “I find that when speaking with men about subjects that aren’t necessarily the most comfortable or traditional date conversation that, rather than actively listen, they’re quietly deciding on their response. This often leads to repetition and personally, irritation,” says Julie, a bar manager and proprietor based in Oakland, CA. “Give us the stage to speak to you about something that could be incredibly hard and important to us to share and not with the intent of making it about you.” 

The moral of the story here is that if we say no to anything (either verbally or non-verbally), the only acceptable response is “OK.”

2. Expect Absolutely Nothing

To put it bluntly, women don’t owe you anything. Let’s be very clear about that. Just because you paid for a drink doesn’t mean we have to go home with you. Joanna, a New York City-based bar director and actress, suggests “pick[ing] a neighborhood to hang out in that is central to both of your apartments so it doesn’t seem as though you assume you’re going home together.”

Jordan, a liquor industry professional also based in New York, elaborates: “Do not assume we are extending our time together to an additional location. I’ll gladly accept your offer to pick up the tab for my car home, but please know that does not give you the right to share it.”

The moral of the story here is that if we say no to anything (either verbally or non-verbally), the only acceptable response is “OK.”

3. Consider Possible Triggers (TW)

“Be conscious of the fact that women view men as predators by default,” Joanna says. Your mere presence might be something a potential date will have to process internally before going out to meet you, or while sitting across from or next to you. We’re on edge these days for many obvious reasons, and it’s imperative that you be mindful of emotional triggers. Specific trigger examples include sexual assault (in the mainstream media or otherwise), gun violence, death, or trauma of any kind, among many others. Basically, just try avoiding dark subject matters unless they’re brought up specifically by your date.

4. Be Aware Of Your Intent And Avoid Performing

Are you being performative? Chances are very high that you are, even if you don’t realize it. To clarify, the word “performative” in this scenario refers to performative allyship or wokeness, which is defined by being outspoken about your opposition to oppression of any kind without actually doing anything about it.

It’s very easy for us to pick up on this, and it’s extremely off-putting, not to mention insulting. “I would love it if men (cis, straight since that is my dating preference, personal experience, and also because they are the worst culprits of nefarious dating behavior) didn’t playact [and] perform for me, and pretend to be 100 percent aligned with my political positions,” says Natasha*, a research and analytics professional in New York City. She finds that men often use this as a tactic to “get laid, only to show their true colors later.” So the moral here is this: You should be woke, but if you’re not, maybe take the energy you would use pretending to be socially aware and use it to actually better yourself.

5. Recognize And Lessen Emotional Labor

Natasha* describes her dream world: one in which “men, especially white men, understand the emotional strain and labor of having to explain to them why I, and especially people much more vulnerable than myself, are deserving of civil rights.”

Know that every single conversation we have about any sort of misogyny, microaggression, or experience of oppression requires emotional labor. This is labor that we are not paid for, of course, so try to minimize how much of it you demand in conversation with women. You can do this by not touching on subjects that might trigger us (see point #3), not putting your problems on us unless it’s super pertinent to conversation (or unless it’s asked specifically), and not being a misogynist, to name a few.

Natasha* sums it up: “What is mere debate to [men] is our actual lives, and tone policing in a dialog where one person is emotionally invested and the other is objectively haranguing is egregious.”

6. Pay Attention to Body Language

“Men tend not to pay attention to body language, [and] when I don’t want attention or physical touch I try and make that clear in my body language,” Julie says. These can be either subtle or obvious signs, like “turning my body’s general direction away, [or] closing my arms across my body,” she explains. “As women, I think we tend to make ourselves smaller when we feel uncomfortable in any given setting with a man, so look for those cues, maybe back off a bit, and try handing some power over to us. Check in with what we’d like to be doing or not doing, even giving us an option to end the night.”

These cues in no way replace the need for affirmative consent in any situation, but it’s useful to pay attention to them to help you be even more cognizant and respectful.

7. Just Don’t Be a Misogynist

To wrap this all up in a nice, gender-neutral colored bow, let’s quickly examine the overarching theme here: Be a better person in general, but particularly toward minorities (we’re focusing on those who identify as women in this case, but as mentioned earlier, it’s important to be better toward minorities as a whole). This requires looking inwardly and asking yourself if you harbor any feelings of sexism or bigotry. They might be buried deep, but take some time to reflect on that, and know that change doesn’t happen overnight. Educate yourself and explore your thoughts. In theory, the more aware you are of these feelings, the less likely you are to display microaggression.

*Name has been changed.