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Thursday, July 20, 2017 12:12 am

Lewd Skywalker

Amy Alkon
A guy friend of 20 years and I once fooled around years ago. Though he has a girlfriend, he keeps throwing sexual remarks into our conversations, sending inappropriate texts and asking me to send naked photos. I wouldn’t be interested even if he were single, and I’ve been giving subtle hints, like “ha-ha … gotta go,” right after he says something provocative, but it isn’t working. How do I politely get him to stop without ruining a very long friendship? – Upset

Men aren’t dumb. They just aren’t emotional cryptographers. Social psychologist Judith A. Hall finds that women are generally far better at spotting and interpreting nonverbal messages (from, say, facial expressions and body language, including that female specialty, the pout).

Women tend to use their own ability for decoding unspoken stuff as the standard for what they expect from men. So, for example, the longer a man takes to notice that his girlfriend is pouting (perhaps about what was initially some minor to-do) the darker things get – with hate glares and maybe some cabinet-slamming … and then, the grand finale: “Hey, heartless! Time for a month-long reunion with your first sex partner, aka your right hand.”

There’s also a major sex difference in how males and females speak. A body of research finds that from childhood on, males tend to be direct: “Gimme my truck, butthead.” Females tend to be indirect (couching what they want in hints and polite and even apologetic language): “Um, sorry, but I think that’s my Barbie.”

Psychologist Joyce Benenson points out that these conversational sex differences line right up with evolved sex differences in our, uh, job descriptions. Men evolved to be the warrior-protectors of the species. This is not done with coy hints: “Oh, Genghis, you look so much more tan and handsome while invading our neighbors to the north.”

Women’s mealy-mouthing, on the other hand, dovetails with a need to avoid physical confrontation, which could leave them unable to have children or to care for the ones they’ve already had. However, by women self-protectively not quite saying what they mean, they trade off being understood – especially by men.

Making matters worse, research by evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss on the “sexual overperception bias” in men suggests that the male mind evolved to be a bit dense to a woman’s signals that she isn’t interested. Basically, men seem evolutionarily predisposed to make errors in judgment in whether to pursue or keep pursuing a woman – erring in whichever way would be least costly to their mating interests. So, for example, you might eventually forgive this guy for all the tacky come-ons, but his genes won’t if they miss that vagina-shaped bus into future generations.

In other words, in giving this guy “subtle hints,” you aren’t being polite; you’re being wildly ineffective. Yank off the marshmallow fluff and tell him: “I need you to kill all the sex talk. Immediately. And yes, this includes requests for naked selfies.” (Be prepared to need to repeat yourself.) If he really is a friend, he’ll continue being one.

© 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show:


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