A feminist ethic for men dating women

What does a feminist ethic for dating look like for heterosexual men? Here are some tentative notes. They are intended for men dating women, and focused on initial dating rather than ongoing relationships.

There are some basic principles that should guide men’s involvement in dating:

  • Treat women as human beings
  • Strive for gender equality and gender justice in every aspect of the interaction and relationship


  • Make consent the bedrock of your interactions.
  • Be aware of how your own desires and practices are structured by wider gender inequalities 
  • Show interest in and appreciation for women’s lives, experiences, and achievements. Take turns in talking and listening. Be curious about her life and interests. Practice effective listening and attention.
  • Recognise women’s concerns about their safety, about meeting unknown men, as legitimate and understandable. Choose places that are public and safe. Accept women’s strategies of safety management.
  • Take responsibility for protection from unwanted pregnancy and STIs. Assume that you will be using condoms, and bring them.
  • Think critically about the messages you received growing up about sex and dating and relationships. Work to undo traditional gender socialisation.
  • Work on your EQ – your emotional intelligence.
  • Support your partner’s friendships with women and other men. Affirm the value of her friendship and family networks.

Things to avoid

  • Excessive attention to and policing of women’s bodies. Narrow standards of feminine beauty
  • Overlapping with these, ageist standards of gender and sexuality.
  • Male sexual entitlement. Assumptions of the right of access to women’s bodies. Quickly turning to hostility when rejected or ignored.
  • Slut shaming: criticising women for apparent sexual promiscuity. Using sexual terms as terms of abuse.
  • Contributing to the sexual objectification of women, e.g. by asking repeatedly for sexual images
  • Normative gender asymmetries in dating and relationships, regarding power, education, income, height.

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