Pity the poor woman who tries unsuccessfully to seduce a nice Catholic boy she knows. Actually, pity the both of them. The woman has been told since she first flicked on a television that men are easy, and the NCB had a vague understanding that nice girls don't make such suggestions. He says "No," and no matter how politely he says it, the poor woman feels terribly, terribly humiliated. She covers her humiliation with anger, sarcasm and rejection and the NCB feels absolutely horrible.
Or so NCBs tell me.
It's almost a cliche that men can just trundle about making advances and being shot down and then brushing themselves off to try someone else. As a neighbour of mine cheerfully told me, "It's a numbers game." But I know there are men who act utterly outraged when they hear "No" and respond with anger and sarcasm. Such men are scary.
But I suspect their pyrotechnics are rather different and much more blameworthy than the feelings of humiliation suffered by a woman who has hit on a man and been turned down. The angry man has a sense of entitlement, the unhappy woman has a sense of personal failure.
How nice if everyone would base their thoughts, actions and beliefs on charity and reality instead of believing what pop culture tells us. Despite Friends and Cosmopolitan magazine, not all men are easy. Despite porn, nobody deserves sex on demand.
But determining reality can be difficult. So difficult. Large numbers of people wander about with no real clue as to who they are and how people respond to them, so it is no wonder that we don't really know who they are and how they tick either. The best we can do is observe them, consult older, more knowledgeable people, and test what they say against our own carefully examined experience.
And this is why, with some reservations, I think The Rules so helpful. (Scroll down the Wiki article for the actual Rules.) The rules of The Rules are not based in any politically correct ideology, so they make many people seethe. Many men--in fact every man I have discussed them with--loathe them, apparently because they fear their power to mess with their minds.
Boiled down to one rule, The Rules are "Don't chase men or you will regret it." And although the book claims to be time-tested secrets for winning the heart of Mr Right, I would say that these are more usually time-tested secrets for avoiding Mr Wrong. And far from being disrespectful of men, I would say that the Rules are very respectful of men, for they try to approach men as they really are--at very least in the USA and Canada--and not how pop culture tells us they should be.
"They're about not creating hurt for yourselves," says a Rules-loving friend of mine. She believes it was suppressing her desire to call up her boyfriend all the time that led to their swift engagement. His ex-girlfriend had been crazily needy, and he found my friend's ability to be friendly, beautiful and slightly reserved all at the same time very attractive.
And being turned down certainly hurts, especially if you do not get the message and keep on trying with the same wrong guy. Do this enough and you will get the idea that there is something seriously wrong and unattractive about you. However, this might not be it at all. It is very likely have something to do with the guys in question: their wants, their needs, where they are right now.
And I think this is particularly true in religious circles, where sex and marriage are still mentioned in the same breath. Quite a lot of men are in no position to get married--either because they are in school, or because they make barely enough to live on, or because they are at (or stuck at) the "fancy-free bachelor" stage--and if they change their mind on that, it is because they have fallen for some girl of their own choosing.
And, really, thank heaven, because then at least a woman knows where she stands, and does not land herself in some concubinage-type relationship which will never go anywhere else because, although the man is grateful for the sex, company and cooking, he is just not that into her. (Incidentally, I also recommend, again with reservations, He's Just Not That Into You.)
Once upon a time women were protected from making fools of ourselves by very strict codes of conduct. These codes of conduct are often looked upon today as nasty ways of policing women's sexuality. But I think they also had a lot to do with male psychology in a world where women needed marriage even more than we do now. Take upper class Georgian society, as readers know it from the novels of Georgette Heyer. British men frequented prostitutes of all sorts, but they still enjoyed the company of polite, educated women, and they still got married. (Georgette never mentions, however, the hideous diseases Georgian men passed to their innocent wives. I'm not presenting the Georgian period as any kind of Golden Age.)
One of the rules of conduct for women, besides never being allowed to ask a man to dance, was never to dance with a man more than twice at the same gathering. A man might ask, but a woman must say no. If she said yes, all the spectators would assume she was after the man in a most unseemly way. So she would say "No" and the man would have to wait until the next dance to dance with her. Of course, he might choose not to ask her the next time, for whatever reason of his own, and she might be disappointed, but at least she would not feel humiliated.
In our day, the people around us, if we belong to close-knit circles, are just as interested in how we comport ourselves, although they might be nicer about it than your average Georgian society matron. We have our own internal rules and our own unspoken social contracts. So--when tempted to pursue a young man who has shown only a mild, friendly interest in you--it is wise to ponder both The Rules and those local rules. If in doubt, consult a trustworthy woman.