Captain Capitalism, a single man, blogs about The One That Got Away. And in his comments section, Jacqueline Passey explains his fatal error:
You need to ask HER for HER NUMBER and then YOU CALL HER. … [Y]ou may not realize how competitive the situation is. Good women - the attractive, smart, and witty ones - have many men pursuing them. Why should they waste their time on a guy who doesn't like them enough to take the initiative to call them?Jacqueline is relying on a kind of market power argument here: because there are more men looking for women than the reverse, women get their pick of the litter. They can demand both higher price and higher quality. To be specific, they can demand that men expend greater effort and assume the risk of embarrassment by making the first call.
For example: I'm above average in attractiveness, but I'm no supermodel. I'm above [average] in intelligence, but with nothing to show for it yet (no degree or career). I am not the hottest thing on the dating market. Yet when I post a personal ad I get 50+ (sometimes 100+) responses. Men walk up to me and ask me out in stores and on the street. Over a dozen of my male friends have expressed interest in more than friendship, and dozens more email me via my blog.
Unless you are getting a similar level of attention from women, when you meet a hot woman you need to remember that you are competing to date her, not vice versa. [emphasis added] [Jacqueline continues on her own blog here.]
But why do women (appear to) have this kind of market power? Men and women exist in about equal numbers, after all, so as a first approximation we might expect men and women to have about equal market power.
One intuitive response: the mating market is segmented according to the depth of relationship sought. Men significantly outnumber women in the one-night-stand market, thus giving women in that market the power to pick and choose. But the flip-side of this argument is that women outnumber men in the long-term-relationship market, so men should have the upper hand there. Yet Jacqueline’s claim above is not (solely) about transient encounters – it’s about dating and long-term relationships as well, and she’s saying women still hold most of the cards.
At least with respect to phone calls, I attribute the expectation that men will call women, and not the reverse, to the fuzzy boundary between the short- and long-term mating markets. The phoning stage sits smack in the middle of the fuzzy zone. In the circumstances where people meet and phone numbers are exchanged, such as bars, a disproportionate number of people – especially men – are shopping for a one-night-stand. Some phone numbers are given (and taken) out of sheer politeness, with no intent to use them. Yet the hope, for some at least, is that a phone number could lead to something more long-term. Now, say you’re a woman who’s been given a man’s number; think of that man as a random draw from the nightclub population. Given what we know about that population, there’s a pretty good chance he was merely seeking a one-night-stand. Call him, and he might be willing to pursue you just long enough to get what he was looking for, albeit somewhat later than he’d hoped. But if he calls you, there’s a greater probability (though still not 100%) that he’s shopping for something more long-term. In short, waiting for men to call is a kind of screening device designed to separate the short-term from the longer-term market.
An additional, and complementary, explanation is that phoning signals the possession of masculine attributes that many women value – courage or something like it. As Jacqueline says elsewhere in CC’s comments section, “If a guy doesn't have the balls to ask me for my number and call me, I don't want to date him. I'm not attracted to passive men.” (If men also value "ballsiness" in women, they presumably don’t value it as much.) What this explanation shares with the one above is that phoning is not simply the higher “price” required of men because of their low market power. Rather, it is a conveyor of information in a market where discovering the attributes of the other people – what they have and what they’re looking for – is the very essence of the endeavor.
What remains to be explained is why, even ignoring the who-calls-first issue, women appear to have greater market power than men in the long-term relationship market. I hope to tackle that one in a future post.