Feminism 101: What’s Dating As a Feminist Actually Like?

11 Feminists share what dating is like for them
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 02/03/2017 at 12:30 PM EDT

Dating in general is unpredictable and filled with potential minefields. But what about dating while feminist? Is there a difference? What is it like wading through the dating world as a feminist? Is it harder to meet people? Are there more expectations? Of course, we had to ask our favorite feminists:

What does “dating while feminist” mean to you?

Hani Yousuf:Disclaimer: This is from the perspective of a heterosexual woman. Dating as a feminist means I can ask a guy out and that I don’t have expectations of what social norms dictate are best dating practices, such as he needs to call and not text when asking me out, pay for the first date, etc. It means I have full autonomy in choosing when, where and who I date. It means I don’t wait for the guy at any point to initiate anything, sexual or otherwise, and I am an equal decision-maker every step of the way.

It also means I don’t expect him to foot the bill and, in the event that we ‘go dutch’ or I buy drinks/dinner, I don’t find him less attractive for ‘letting me pay.’ And, if he foots the bill, there’s no strings or expectations attached.

Dating as a woman and feminist means the guy in question has the freedom and autonomy to do the same.”

Katie Klabuisch:Dating while feminist has been a hard, but rewarding process of unlearning societal expectations/restrictions and facing just how deeply I had internalized hetero/mono-normative culture. I didn’t come out as queer until last year — or find polyamory until four years ago — because I had never interrogated my own sexuality. Dating women and poly folx has been validating and freeing in ways I couldn’t have expected and has played a part in creating a community full of love and support.”

Carrie Cutforth:I have yet to date a cis male self-subscribed ‘feminist’ without discovering an unsavory predatory personality carefully hidden behind the employ of hashtags #yesallwomen or #everydaysexism, selfies of themselves marching in parades for women’s rights, and loud tears shed at the news of a female friend’s frightening dealings with (other) men. In ALL my experiences in dating male feminists, consent boundaries have been crossed or I have been gaslit by their toxic but well-concealed misogyny.

My current boyfriend, although feminist, didn’t make loud proclamations of being a feminist and wasn’t looking for cookies before we started dating, and I think that put me at ease after recent experiences. We reconnected and fell in love two weeks after the American elections, and have been in lalaland since: which has fed into my feelings of guilt of being a bad feminist, particularly during such dire times. Our toes are just touching the ground again, and now I’m trying to design a workable life that includes both rabble-rousing and getting shit done for the cause AND laying in his arms, stargazing into his eyes while ignoring the world burning around us. (SELF-CARE!)”

Wagatwe Wanjuki:‘Dating while feminist’ means that I have high standards for a partner. I expect the best from my partner because we respect each other; we treat each other well. It makes it harder to find someone who deserves me as a partner, but the payoff is much more sweeter when I do find someone good because it is a satisfying relationship between equals.”

Therese Shechter:I’ve been creating feminist media for 16 years, and for most of my online dating life, I avoided identifying as a feminist. This despite the fact that I was working on a documentary called ‘I Was A Teenage Feminist,’ about why so many women didn’t want to identify as feminists. Irony.

But remember, the early 2000s was another time, before feminist social media and Beyoncé dancing in front of a giant ‘Feminist’ sign. I had a lot of first dates with jerks who more or less checked out when they heard the F-word. Eventually, I realized that publicly proclaiming myself a feminist would be a great filter for those same jerks, so I made it prominent in my online dating profile. The end of the story is that my now-husband, a feminist in his own right, became interested in me precisely because I was a feminist… and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Jennifer Pozner:Dating while feminist historically for me meant dating less often than many of my friends, because I prioritized quality (mutual respect and support, shared progressive worldview, intelligence, wit) over trying for second dates with a steady stream of ‘meh’ guys who bored me (at best) with their lack of humor, descriptions of me as ‘intimidating,’ and their barely-veiled preferences for women who are not their intellectual equals. It meant deep, fulfilling, challenging relationships… and in between those, a lot of time alone. My current partner values my feminist political work, never mansplains anything to me, is committed to open communication, does his share of the emotional labor, and after twelve months, still has never said even one thing to piss me off about women, feminism, or gender issues. Oh, and I fall in love with him a little more every time he screams ‘WRECKED!!!’ and laughs uncontrollably while watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

Danielle Corcione:Dating while feminist means understanding your boundaries, practicing consent and maintaining open communication. I recommend Sex From Scratch by Sarah Mirk for further reading!”

Seranine Elliot:‘Dating while feminist,’ to me, means not really dating, so much as being open to dating. I find that often when I seek out one thing, I miss a great many others. I am not looking for this person. I am available to them. In the meantime, I will continue to practice what will always naturally result in the kindest possible outcomes for me and those nearest to me: to be where I am; to know what is; to do what is kindest. When we meet, that is how and where they shall find me. Whether they ever do means nothing. Our love is a natural and pleasant by-product of life centered in presence and love. We are already together. But we may not have met yet.

Awanthi Vardaraj:I only date men who identify as feminists, but don’t think that it’s a big deal, and don’t make a fuss about it because men who are feminists are compassionate men who own their privileges and believe in equal rights. Nobody *expects* a cookie for being a decent human being, and nobody will be *given* a cookie for being a decent human being. If you want my lovin’, that’s the bare minimum.”

Dakota Kim: “This video by St. Vincent expresses how difficult it can be to have a heterosexual relationship with a man in today’s patriarchal climate. Though it was not my intention, I have in the past found myself spending more time supporting boyfriends’ interests than they do mine. I don’t want to be anyone’s cheerleader who’s not also equally my cheerleader, but I’ve spent my whole life watching football games — and Brooklyn’s equivalent, bands — where women spend their time rooting on men. It’s not possible that that hasn’t soaked into my brain. Finding equality and mutual support is the goal.”

Mayim Bialik:Dating while feminist means taking him to a physician for the purpose of assessing the quality of his tear ducts so as to best identify if he has sufficient tears for me to bathe in. LOL.”


Have a question for our ragtag group of raging feminists? Send it to Avital Norman Nathman at and it might just be answered in a future Feminism 101!

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