Don’t Buy Me a Drink: Girls and the Guys Who Buy Them Stuff

I'm good. Thanks though, T Pain!

We all know I’m kind of a feminist, even though I’m as reluctant to admit that as I am to admit that I kind of love ABC’s latest well-produced skim-latte froth of rhinestone twangin’ television, GCB. So it’s hardly a surprise that Kat and I have had an ongoing discussion about a classic topic of feminist whinging for about a month now: the eternal conundrum of men buying you stuff.

The discussion pivots on two particular conversations. The first occurred when I mentioned that I’d met a guy I was, in the parlance of our times, hollerin’ at. “Make sure you get him to buy you dinner first!” Kat warned. The second occurred when I mentioned I was looking forward to getting drunk that night, because it was a day ending in y. “What you need to do is get guys to buy you drinks,” Kat said. I know Kat means well, and she was only trying to help me have fun and drink cheap. But in the pursuit of making girls and guys treat each other with a little less awfulness, I’m curious about the effect of these default assumptions.

Our first conversation negotiated the assumption that a guy should buy a girl dinner before trying to get her out of her sparkly tissue of a dress. Kat probably meant that a girl should get to know a guy better — by eating a meal with him, perhaps — before taking him home with her.  The idea that a dude should plonk down some cash before leaning in and puckering up is hardly uncommon. It’s present in the second situation that triggered our debate: implying that I should use a man’s generosity to chase a buzz when I can very well buy my own drinks reinforces the assumption that guys should buy pretty girls things, basically for no reason.

By implying a guy should buy you dinner before going in for a kiss frames a really backward kind of transaction in regards to women and their ability to want sex and choose it rationally. You are never obligated to sleep with anyone in any situation you don’t clearly, distinctly want. And okay, maybe a guy is trying to get you to like him by being nice and buying you a drink. But by subscribing to the idea that he is obligated to buy you something before you can be expected to kiss him back is kind of like him thinking he shouldn’t have to marry you unless you have a dowry of silver spoons and blanket chests to bring with you into the marriage.

That's nice of you, but I can buy my own drinks.

The problem here is not magnanimous guys who buy a round for the table, or non-sexual or non-romantic relationships. Buying drinks for each other is awesome! But a woman should be able to want sex, say it, and get it without the man buying her anything — or her friends telling her she’s easy because she didn’t get a $12 salad in addition to the main course (if you know what I mean). If you are interested in the guy, you shouldn’t manipulate him into buying you things just because it’s in your arsenal of feminine whiles. If you aren’t interested in a guy and you let him buy you a drink, you are reinforcing the idea that women are conniving, unkind, and only want sex if it’s about something else.

The assumption goes that girls can only want sex if it will make a guy date them, or if it will make a guy tell them they are pretty, or if it will make a guy buy them shit. One of the most important tasks of feminism is to challenge the idea that sex for women is always about something other than sex. It’s a pervasive assumption — one that is, stated frankly, demeaning and backward and wrong. A man does not need to buy you a drink before you can want him. In addition to making sex a capitalist transaction, it also robs a woman of her ability to want sex without everyone thinking she really wants love/validation/a free salad.


7 thoughts on “Don’t Buy Me a Drink: Girls and the Guys Who Buy Them Stuff

  1. Anna, I appreciate you broaching this topic in <> terms. This has been my view of the male/female mating ritual from the word “go.” My mother always taught me to leave the house with enough cash to pay for my dinner and a cab ride home. When being harassed at a bar by a well-intending cretin who just doesn’t get the hint that I want nothing to do with his free beers, I refuse to accept his persistent offer until he verbalizes that I am in no way obligated to dance with or even speak to him after the transaction. When I go on a first date, when I see that hand dart for the little black book, I say “Shall we split?”

    But there is something that happens after the dude realizes I’m not that typical girl, influenced by a free ride, but before he realizes I merely don’t by into “There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so I might as well … give him a ride” mentality. Said dude thinks he may have stumbled across a gold mine – the Sugar Mama. At some point, I resent always splitting or paying more than my share.

    And therein lies the problem with this whole pay-system. Guys are incapable (for the most part, in my experience) of processing a split check for its intended meaning – I like you and I may even want to kiss you at the end of the night, but I don’t want to feel like you paid for that kiss (which could make me feel like a realllllly classy hooker).

    That paid-for dinner becomes insurance that the guy you’re dating isn’t someone who is going to keep dating you because hey, he doesn’t have to pay for dinner and you’ll still do him! As backwards as it seems, I think I may have finally come back around to the outdated argument: “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?”

  2. I think it gives the wrong impression so buy a woman something before you are dating. Its saying “I am not good enough for you so i am hoping that if i buy you something ie a drink then that in some way goes about making up for what i dont have as a man”.

    Bad start i would say.

    I agree with you!

  3. Usually when a guy offers to buy me a drink I tell him he can’t, but that I’m interested in joining him for conversation while we drink (I mean if I find him worthy of course). I feel like accepting a drink doesn’t mean a promise of sex, but it does seem like the promise of some sort of attention paid to the purchaser. I’d rather not “owe” anyone anything and choose to talk to someone because I’m interested.

    I also really like to send drinks to men. I don’t do it very often, but guys get really excited/surprised if you send them a drink. I guess I like this because it reverses the gender norms, and I obviously don’t expect anything in return.

  4. Let’s say you’re independent like Anna and want to grab the tab! Here’s a tip: Go to the bathroom right before the check comes-he starts to think-“Great, now I have to pay AND I know this girl’s not gonna put out.” Bring your purse with you, hand the waiter your card and ask if (s)he can just run your card before the check even comes out. Throw in that the guy deserves to be spoiled tonight for whatever reason. The guy will be shocked and you’ll get extra points.—If he’s mad because he really wanted to pay, tell him he can cover the tip and can pay next time. That way, there’s a next time, you are surprised and not guilty when he pays, and you seem independent and together! It’s a win win.

    (Once, this not only got me another date, but it also got me recognized by the hot waiter. A couple weeks later, I went in with some girlfriends, he asked about my date, and he gave me his number! Extra win!)

  5. Anna, you are probably right.

    But is it cheeky of me to suggest, that women should keep this *fact* top secret. Women have been telling us for year they want sex as badly as men…just no one seems to listen (or want to). Perhaps its because these little situations mean women are holding all the power in the battle of the sexes. You know what you want…you know what men want. However men, have no idea what women want and will do everything in their power to impress:

    Open car doors, pay for dinner, earn that first kiss, shelter you from the rain…and all the things you feel are going against the fundamental feminist beliefs…are in fact you holding all the power. FYI: More often than not, I am not sure this is a matter of “the man should…”, it’s more “the man wants…” to look after his lovely lady.

    Don’t get me wrong, by keeping the secret does not mean either party should be obliged to carry the night forward. Enjoy the company for what it is, but the next step is a truly personal matter and certainly not an implied situation.

    My advice…don’t let the cat out of the bag. Continue to embrace the secret women have been keeping for years. The you are in fact “Queens of the World”. Enjoy it!

    That said, if you want to pull out the purse every so often. Just do it. What’s the worst that can happen, he accepts and you go dutch?


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