I’m a woman in my early 20s. The guy I’m dating brought me to meet his friends. His male friends were warm and friendly. The women were awful. One deliberately kept saying my name wrong (it’s not exactly exotic), and two others glared at my miniskirt. Another said something about how low-cut my top was. She made it sound like a compliment, but it was a mean dig. How can these women be so nasty when they don’t even know me? How do I diffuse situations like these?
Nothing like women celebrating other women: “Way to go, girl! Showing everything but your areolas.”
When a man has a beef with another man, he’ll be direct about it: hurl insults at the guy’s face and maybe try to renovate his jaw with a barstool. Women fight sneaky-dirty with other women, using covert tactics, explains psychologist Anne Campbell. These include mobilizing a group of women to ostracize a woman, talking trash to men about her looks and how “loose” she is, and offering “compliments” that are actually nasty digs. Give a woman’s confidence a beatdown and she might dim her shine (cover her miniskirt with a shawl and wipe that sexy red lipstick off on her sleeve).
Psychologist Tracy Vaillancourt separated female research participants into random groups. She compared one group’s reactions to a 20-something woman walking into a classroom dressed “conservatively” (in a loosely-fitting shirt and khaki slacks) with the other group’s reactions to the same woman dressed “provocatively” (in a very short skirt and a tight, low-cut shirt). Dressed conservatively, she was “barely noticed by the participants.” When she entered in skin-baring sexywear, almost all the women “aggressed against her.” They rolled their eyes at her, gave her “once-overs” and shot her “death stares.” After she left, many laughed at her, ridiculed her appearance, and/or suggested she was a man-hopping sleaze.
You’re a target for the she-hyenas whenever you wear sexy clothing and makeup (like an intense smoky eye with winged eyeliner). Decide whether you have the emotional strength and social capital to bear the glares and backbiting, or whether you need to, say, stock up on some floor-length prairie dresses. This isn’t to say you should immediately assume the worst of all women. However, understanding what you can expect from some might help you stand tall in the face of an attack – remembering that it’s about them, not about you, when they imply that your bedroom’s visitors log rivals Ellis Island’s.
I’m a guy in my 30s. Before COVID, I used Tinder to hook up with different women a few times a week. I don’t recognize myself anymore. Yesterday, I was on a date, and the girl was really hot and wanted to go back to my place to have sex. I was weirdly turned off by the idea and called her an Uber home. This isn’t like me, but it keeps happening. Why am I suddenly like this?
If we hadn’t gotten vaccines, we might’ve seen a whole new category of lingerie, a la Victoria’s Crotchless Hazmat Suit.
Our body’s immune system protects us by mobilizing warrior cells to fight off invaders like bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause infectious diseases. However, war is costly – whether between nations or inside us. Psychologist Mark Schaller notes that our body’s effort to surround and kill “pathogenic intruders” sucks up calories needed for important bodily functions. It can also be “temporarily debilitating” due to “fever, fatigue and other physiological consequences of an aggressive immunological response.” (You sometimes have to boil the village alive to save the village.)
To avoid these costs, we need to avoid being exposed to disease in the first place. Helping us do that is the job of our “behavioral immune system.” This is Schaller’s term for a suite of psychological mechanisms that function as our early warning system, helping us identify signs of pathogens in our social environment and motivating us to feel, think and behave in ways that keep us from getting invaded by the buggers.
For example, social psychology grad student James B. Moran and his adviser, social psychologist Damian Murray, find that reminding research participants of the looming threat of infectious disease puts a damper on the appeal of casual sex and their inclination to have it down the road.
Chances are this response explains your own psychological and behavioral shift: stud-turned-monk of COVID-19. There’s no clock on exactly when you’ll be back to your sexual-Wild West self. Should you get nostalgic, keep in mind that you can still dip into some elements of the hookuppy old days, such as “the walk of shame” – though, these days, that’s what we call it when you get yelled at by the old lady down the street for taking out the trash unmasked.