Why do men find me intimidating?

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hz77 asks: 

It’s happened to me three times where a guy will tell me that I’m pretty intimidating about a month or so into talking/dating. Why is that?? I just try to be myself. I’m friendly and outgoing, short and small so it’s not my height that’s intimidating, good sense of humor, I read books, work out, have a close circle of friends, cook great food, even pretty spectacular in bed I’ve been told. So why am I intimidating? 

What makes guys start to retreat once we’ve gotten to know each other better? I always think things are going well and then bam, nothing. Starting to think something’s wrong with me.


Demetrius says:

I’ve actually been thinking about intimidation, women, and dating for a while. A lot of people conflate success to being an “Alpha”, which in turn they equate with being “Intimidating” and thus think that their status as an “Alpha” makes them intimidating in some ways. Just try doing an internet search on “Why are men intimidated by…” and you’ll see what I mean. A lot of the advice people give on how women can be less intimidating basically comes down to softening your look, being more feminine, acting deferentially, and generally mollycoddling weak men. I think a lot of people confuse being “intimidated” with a whole mix of feelings, foremost of those I’ll get to in a bit. Before we do, let’s just take a look at what it means to Intimidate. (not in the legal sense you pedant!).

Intimidate

1.to make timid; fill with fear.
2.to overawe or cow, as through the force of personality or by superior display of wealth, talent, etc.
3.to force into or deter from some action by inducing fear

Now, let’s consider a hypothetical situation. A straight man and a straight woman are dating. The man, having been told how much income the woman earns, decides that he cannot date a woman who makes more than him and stops dating her.  Some would say that he was intimidated, but what if he was just sticking to conventional dating norms and he just prefers being the high earner in a relationship because that’s what he thinks a man’s role should be? What if her earning power didn’t make him feel fear, or overawed, rather that it was a decision based on wanting to stick to his preferred dating norms.

The wisdom of choosing to date or not date someone based on their income aside, we sometimes confuse preference with intimidation. A lot of men prefer to date women who are shorter than them, and make less money than them. Are these men intimidated by tall women, or women who are higher earners? A lot of women prefer to date men who will pay for a first date. Are they intimidated by men who insist on going dutch on a first date? No, it’s just a preference. Maybe some people can be intimidated by these things, but a lot of the time, people just want things the way they want them. People will choose to date or not date you because of your income, body type, career, political views, religious beliefs, and a countless number of other factors. It might feel good to say “He’s intimidated by women with curves” or “She’s intimidated by my vast knowledge of comic book nerd stuff” but most of the time it’s just that these people are filtering by preference, and you just didn’t make the cut.

I say all this to say that maybe when we think of people being intimidating/intimidated we’re just referring to  that person’s specific deal breakers. That’s not always the case because yes, some people are just very intimidating, but a lot of time “intimidation” comes down to “I don’t want to date a person who does/is/has X”. I tend to avoid dating people who work very long hours. Not because I’m intimidated by their work ethic, but because I like dating people who have free time to spend with me. In your specific case, you might be intimidating some of the men you date, but honestly the reason why doesn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with you based on what you’ve said, and you don’t need to figure out why you’re intimidating guys unless there’s some very strange specific reason why that might be that you really should change. Unless you’re walking around wearing the flayed skin of your enemy like some modern-day priestess of Xipe Totec,  why you intimidate men really doesn’t matter. You describe yourself in a way that makes you sound like a catch and if we’re being honest that intimidates some people. Would you want to change the fact that you’re a fully functioning adult? Because that’s the only real way to insure that you aren’t intimidating to any man ever. If you don’t have your life together and you start dating someone who does, their success might intimidate you. You sound like a pretty solid catch, and that will intimidate some men. It’s really as simple as that. A lot of men are looking for a damsel in distress, so anyone who might be a peer intimidates them.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being intimidating, if you are actually intimidating. If you’re a woman who lifts weights, if you’re tall, if you’re more educated, have agency, etc., you might intimidate some men. That’s a good thing, because your status immediately helps you filter out undesirable people. Think of your potential to intimidate as an imaginary dating bouncer that doesn’t let the riff-raff into your dating life. Appreciate your ability to intimidate these men, because the guy who isn’t intimidated by you when he meets you is probably a matter match for you than those last few bozos.

Good Luck Out There.

Demetrius Figueroa

Demetrius is a sex, dating, and relationship writer based in Brooklyn.

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