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How to Tell If A Woman Or Girl is Leading You On - Part II

Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 10th Nov 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Tsara's Column Publications

Summary: Revisited and Revised by a Woman who was a Girl.


Leading On or Being Led On

A person or group who encourages another person or group to do something by persuading them something is true when it isn't is leading them on. In the case of romance, it is generally referring to someone encouraging another someone to pursue them, and be available for them, by coaxing them into believe in the possibility of an exclusive relationship without actually intending to have one. An example might be a married man leading on his mistress by promising to leave his wife for her even though he does not plan to.

Main Document

I stumbled across an article here on the Sexual Diversity site titled "How To Tell If A Woman Or Girl is Leading You On". It's an older article, clearly written by someone who is angry and has likely been hurt. This article serves as my conversation with the other article.

I stumbled across an article here on the Sexual Diversity site titled "How To Tell If A Woman Or Girl is Leading You On". It's an older article (2018), clearly written by someone who is angry and has likely been hurt. It was written by someone who identifies as a man, although I admit to knowing that only because of the the opening line: I'd rather be punched in the nose, kicked in the balls, and have my head repeatedly slammed in the car door before having my heart broken again by some careless woman who only wanted an ego boost. The article itself does not name the author.

When reading the article initially, I wanted to ask for it to be deleted from the site. My knee-jerk reaction was, "Yikes! This is yucky!" Then I figured instead, I could edit it. Then I realized, after a cooling-off period, what I really wanted to do was interact with it.

The article is painfully superficial, biased, and biting. But it is not entirely wrong. And the anger in the piece made me realize it is not an unworthy topic.

It is the anger in the piece, a type of anger often seen when people are hurting, that is the article's most relevant and necessary point.

So, I would like to share my thoughts and offer my additions, while also caring about the validity of the author's anger. This article serves as my conversation with the other article.

NOTE: I will try to write my article in a way that doesn't necessitate a reading of the one I'm responding to, but please visit the other article if you are interested: How To Tell If A Woman Or Girl is Leading You On


When I was a single young woman, I found it challenging to be around men. If I behaved comfortably and was my usual self, friendly and interested in people's lives and feelings, they might think I was flirting, and then they might think I was leading them on. But if I was not friendly, I was a b-word, or pretentious, or boring (and bored), or rude. If a man offered to help me lift something heavy, I was grateful but had to be careful with how I told them so. Be appreciative, but be careful. You don't want to hurt someone's feelings by making them think it's more than gratitude and you don't want to be mean to someone by not showing gratitude. Additionally, when I was single, I was somewhat open to a relationship which added to the confusion. When is the right time to show interest in return? If I am interested but then discover the relationship is not for me, was that mean? Was I leading him on? It's exhausting to care so much about how you might be perceived in the name of being kind. I noticed, though, that once I was married, I started being more comfortable just being me. "I'm married" helped me know I had already said I'm not trying to fan any flames of interest. I'm not open to a relationship. And if they didn't care about that, I had an easy true response to any attempts at a date: I am married, no thank you.

Funny, I notice my friendliness with women never shifted one way or the other. I am comfortably friendly and interested in their lives, and when they ask me out I am appropriately complimented and then easily say no thank you. I'm not worried that I will make them angry somehow or that I did something wrong. Admittedly, women seem to take my "no thank you" more easily in stride, so it is more their behavior helping me here than my own.

My point is we women don't usually want to lead men on. And in fact, most of us shift our behavior and deny ourselves comfort in order not to do so. (A woman who is cold will often say no thank you when a gentleman offers his coat because we are afraid accepting will mean to him something we don't mean.)

Being pursued by someone you don't want to be with is exhausting and uncomfortable. There is a constant worry about hurting his feelings, having him say mean things about us to other people, and reflecting on our own behaviors to be sure we aren't to blame. (In fact, if you are a man and a woman you know seems not to care about you, seems never to ask about your feelings or offer affection when you are clearly sad, it is quite likely she has been yelled at for leading someone on before and now is just scared to ever reach out to a man with much kindness at all. Additionally, turning our kindness way down is something so many women have learned to do that when a woman is freely friendly, it is more easily mistaken as flirting or trying to lead a guy on. After getting yelled at for being a flirt, she turns her kindness down and the cycle continues. Heck, sometimes in a misguided effort not to lead a guy on or be considered a tease, a girl will have a relationship with the person who misunderstood the kindness. The point is, women are more often working at not leading men on than actually leading men on.)

Now, having said that, girls sometimes purposely lead men on. They are still young and haven't yet had enough experience with love and romance to have the self-love necessary to know they don't need to be actively receiving affection to be worthy of it. Some girls will seek the feeling of being desired in order to believe themselves desirable. This is a sad and dangerous loop. If anyone reading this finds themselves doing this, please stop. You are hurting yourself and others, and I promise you will be more desirable when you love who you are without needing others to respond or agree. You are enough, and you will be even more so when you learn who you are without performing for the affection of others.

Women rarely want to lead men on. This is true. We are generally exhausted from working hard at not leading men on, actually. But we know it happens (which is why we are trying not to do it), so I think it is a valuable topic to explore.

(Article continues below image.)

Confused man and a red broken heart symbol.Confused man and a red broken heart symbol.


Reasons Women Lead Men On:

*I'm using reasons from the original article and adding my own take. Italicized passages are from the other article.

Remember when you were new to social media? Remember seeking responses to posts, engagement with pictures, putting your ideas out there and waiting to see if they were being appreciated? If they were, maybe even, impressive? Did your joke land? Did you look happy in that pic? Did they see how cute your kid was? Did you say something uniquely interesting? Remember looking at numbers of likes, shares, comments, followers, just to get an idea of how liked you were in this new virtual world? And when people were engaging, were sharing, were impressed, it felt exciting. You wanted to do it again. (If you didn't go through that phase, neat! But most of us did. So I guess you're a weirdo. Giggle!)

For girls, it's sort of like that. They are new in this social network, becoming women and being expected to find relationships. Adults ask them, "Do you have a boyfriend? Or a crush?" with an attitude of being in a club you're about to join, but first they want to know how you're getting along with the whole being wanted by boys part. And the you wanting boys part. (This isn't why they ask, of course, but girls are not women yet and they are extremely self-conscious and presume it. Plus, it is partly why they ask.)

There are a lot of young girls I love who are growing up amid dangerous ways to get free stuff online. Via trying to string people along, trying to be desired by people, especially in a visual and sexual way, in order to get free stuff or money. This scares the bejesus out of me. It is a lot of work, getting this "free stuff or money" and if they choose it, they are left with little time for other work. Like becoming desirable for themselves without measuring responses, likes, messages, and reactions of others. There are healthy ways to do this sort of content work, including sex work, but falling into the industry at a young age, before you have filled in your own personality without the pushing and suggestions of others, is deeply dangerous. This is the sort of thing that keeps a girl leading people on, purposely, even into womanhood.

I'm adding one more reason of my own.

The fact is, everyone is hurt when a girl or woman intentionally leads people on. The girl, certainly. She is in a cycle of abuse with herself - self-loathing, then seeking the high of attention to feel better, then her own knowledge of cruelty trips her into deeper self-loathing, creating more need for attention and validation, leaving no room for growth or maturing. (Which is why I was saying girls lead people on more than women because the cycle leaves not enough room for maturing.)

The person being led on is hurt as well. They are hoping for love, or another sort of romantic connection, and they are unsure if it is available to them because they're being given mixed signals. It seems possible, then likely, then it is pulled away again. Do you just walk away? No, because people often say fight for the person you want, don't be a quitter. They say love is hard, so you think maybe this is what they mean. And you try again. And she confuses you again. You are stuck in your own cycle: the high of the affection and possibility, the fear of it being pulled away, the hurt of not knowing, being unwilling to admit maybe you're being swindled. And if you have been hurt in this way before, you might be so afraid of it that you presume it too soon and miss out on real romance.

Signs a Girl or Woman is Leading You On

*The original article I am responding to includes a list of ways to tell if a girl is leading you on. I'll share them here with my tiny additions. Again, the phrases in italics are from the original article.

She tells you she loves you

She may tell you that she loves you and needs you, and yet, she doesn't behave like your girlfriend. She blows hot and cold, and she just expects you to cater to her whims and fancies as and when she needs your attention. Someone telling you they love you and then not behaving like your girlfriend could be a communication issue. But if someone is stringing you along, they may also fan your flames and then pull away. However, it is also true that if someone likes you but is nervous about having a relationship, or unsure their family will accept you, or for any myriad of other reasons, they may pull away for a bit and then come back when they realize their joy with you is worth finding the courage to overcome the problems. My suggestion: if it's hurting you a lot, walk away. One perk of a romantic relationship is you get to choose it. It should be because it brings you more joy than hurt.

She makes herself appear helpless

She convinces you that you're very important to her and that she needs you. This might just be the sign of someone who reads or watches cheap romance stories. She might actually think it's romantic and want it to be true. Those stories romanticize co-dependency.

Flirty phone conversations

There's more intimacy over the phone than in person. That is a good one. Like the internet, phones are a place people often feel okay being fake. It is cruel but somehow feels less like it is. If someone is doing this to you, or if you are doing this to someone, bring it into the light. Figure out why. If the answer is inadequate or unhealthy, stop. Stop the behavior or stop the relationship.

The relationship with no name

She flirts with you, goes out on dates with you, but doesn't give the relationship a name. This is another possible sign of someone trying to lead you on. It can be solved by saying something. A lot of people have valid reasons for disliking labels, and if you are comfortable with that and she explains it in a way that you are comfortable with, cool. If not, well, be willing to walk away. The better you get at communicating, the better you'll be at all your relationships. So, communicate. Set boundaries. Walk away if walking away is right for you.

She wants you completely

She hates it when you give another girl any attention. Yes, this is a possible sign. Of course, she could be possessive or jealous and not leading you on, but presuming it is a girl who refuses to define the relationship between you yet still act out when you are interested in another, it's a sign. If she doesn't want to have a mutually defined relationship with you but doesn't want you to have one with another girl either, she is not healthy for you. Most likely, she needs your attention because of her own lack of self-confidence. She's using you as proof of her own value. Don't let her. Don't let her do that to you or to herself.

It's a secret relationship

It's a secret relationship and she wants to keep it that way. Confession: I recently had a secret relationship and wanted to keep it that way; we both did. But a few months in, when we knew there was no stopping us and we were most certainly in love, we shared our secret. Our lives blew up and the fallout was messy, and though we are sorry to those we hurt, we do not regret. We are living our bliss, as my aunt called it. I finally feel seen, as my sister said. So, a secret is okay if it is communicated and agreed upon and temporary. But if it is not, if it is not clearly explained and understood and agreed on by all parties involved, nope. Don't do it. You should be seen.

When you don't hear from a girl for a while she's telling you to F' off

This one, I think, is not necessarily about being led on. It's more about someone being too scared to hurt your feelings and so they are hoping you'll stop asking them out, which, of course, is cruel. I wish we were better at teaching our children the kindness of "no." However, how long is "... a while"? I don't talk to people I love often for days or months, is that a while? In a romantic relationship, I do think at least once a day is better. But some people might not think so. And others might think it's not enough. So, be sure you have communicated how long feels too long before assuming you are being told to f' off. That being said, if you are not comfortable, if you are not happy and don't agree, move on.

You're fun to be around

(I admit, I don't quite understand a few of these.) I think maybe the author means she leads with "You're fun to be around" so often that it feels like friend-zoning? Because I actually think truly romantic, wonderful relationships include people who enjoy being around each other. But maybe if she doesn't want to be in a clearly defined relationship with you, but you have told her you do want that, and she still tries to be with you because you're fun to be around, it might be because she wants that feeling of you wanting her. So, ya. Watch for that. Again, it's not good for either of you. If you want to be with someone and she prefers to stay friends but it's too hard for you, walk away.

And then she wants to be closer

When you give her the space because she's being distant, she immediately changes her behavior and starts craving for your attention when you back away. This is quite a clear sign. When a girl is leading you on, she needs you to want her. She is not confident enough of herself on her own; she is addicted to your attention and afraid of you not liking her, not saying nice things about her. Of course, if it only happens once it could be perfectly reasonable. She likes you, she misses you, she wants you back. But if it happens more than once, my suggestion is probably to walk away. Again, for both of your sakes.

She doesn't want to acknowledge that you like her

Every time you tell her that you love her or want to date her exclusively, she'd just smile or change the subject. Or in the worst case, she may tell you she can't think of you as anything more than a friend. But she'd still lean in, wrap her arms around you and kiss you to make you feel better! Ya, that's a thing. I think it's a fairly likely sign of being led on. She doesn't want you to go away, she wants to be liked to feel likable, but she doesn't want to get locked in. If it is a new relationship, it could be because it's new, and she's not sure she wants to take the next step, even if you are sure you want to. Or maybe your certainty is causing nervousness in her because, man, break-ups are hard and she's not as certain as you. But if it continues on for months, I think you should walk away. It seems she isn't confident enough to stand on her own and she won't be if she has you to lean on. And you deserve to find someone who is certain, and who is confident, and who helps you be the same.

She blows hot and cold

You see this happening pretty frequently, where she ignores you when she's getting a lot of attention from other guys. That is not a good sign. If she is into you only when you are the best one being into her at the time, she's not ready for a healthy relationship. If a healthy relationship is what you want, find someone who doesn't ignore you. (But be sure you communicate what it is that makes you feel ignored.)

She's distant

When you give her a lot of attention, she tries to keep her distance from you. If it is a new relationship, she may just be being careful. Also, be sure you're not crowding her. Communicate. But, yes, if you find she pulls away from your attention it can be a sign she's leading you on. Or a sign she's trying not to lead you on by not responding affectionately to too much attention. So, yes, maybe let it go. If you don't want to be friends, if you only want more than that, walk away.

She may fall for another guy

When a girl is leading you on, she knows you'd behave like a lost puppy and trail her even if she likes another guy. This might be a sign? To be honest, it sounds to me like the sign of a girl who is either just telling you she likes another guy because she thinks you and she are friends, or if she has been behaving like you are together romantically but then telling you she likes someone else, and you have told her you are into monogamous relationships, she might just be being mean. Or she reads crappy romance stories and thinks it's sexy when you're jealous? I'm not sure. This sounds like, no matter what, you are probably better off not trying to date her.

She needs you when she's lonely

She comes to you only when she's lonely. She doesn't remember you or care about you when she's having fun. This is certainly an unhealthy sign. It is also a common sign of being led on. You should find someone who wants to share her good times with you, and you want to share your good times with her.

She makes out with you

She may make out with you, or she may cuddle and cozy up with you now and then. But how far things go in bed or whether both of you would even make out on a date completely depends on her mood and her plans. Well, "she makes out with you" could be the sign of someone who loves you and loves making out with you. But I get what the author means here. She'll make out with you when and how it suits her, regardless of you and your feelings. Be careful with this one. Too often, it's more a matter of not communicating, thinking she knows how you feel when she doesn't. But at the same time, this can be a sign of someone stringing you along. They want to feel desired by you, and they want you to desire them, but they aren't actually caring about you. You deserve to be cared about, so if this is happening and you feel like you've communicated but you are still not welcome to take the lead sexually, you feel denied agency, it might be time to walk away.

She hooks up

She may date another guy and still give you her attention, which makes you feel special, and confused at the same time. A lot of people are comfortable with dating several people at once. A lot of people are not comfortable with that. I don't like it, personally. I wanted to like it because I loved Archie Comics as a kid and thought the idea of going on dates was cool. There weren't a lot of exclusive relationships in those comics, but there was a lot of dating and smooching and jealousy. I though it looked like fun but when I was old enough to date, I quickly discovered it isn't for me. This needs to be communicated. So, if you have communicated to the girl that you like her and don't want either of you to date others (don't you dare say you can but she can't) and she has either said okay, but then dated others, or disagreed and is dating others, this is the wrong relationship for you.

She hasn't been in too many relationships

She claims to have dated very few guys. But that's probably because she leads on most guys she dates and doesn't like calling them her ex-boyfriends. If you know she's dated a particular guy before and she claims she never dated that guy, but they were just friends, she's definitely leading you on too! This is one I'd never heard of before but found on a few lists like this one. It's an interesting one, right? I mean, if she says she hasn't been in a lot of relationships, that could easily be because she hasn't. My sister is a drop-dead gorgeous woman with a brilliant mind and fabulous wit, and she's only had a few relationships. So she'd be saying it because it's true. However, I get the gist of this one. Maybe she considers it a relationship only when she's been exclusive, and dating isn't really "relationships" to her. Again, communication. When you are chatting about previous relationships, be clear about what you mean. If you happen to know she's lying, say so. Talk about it. If you are unhappy after this, you're in the wrong relationship.

The original article is, as I said, angry and superficial. But it also has value. It reminds us of a few things. One thing worth noticing is: leading people on hurts them and creates a rift. It creates problems much bigger than a short time between one boy and one girl. Mental health is hurt, maturing is retarded, and the risk of prejudice between genders is made greater.

Girls and Women who purposely lead men on are, usually, unaware that they can hurt them so much. Remember, they are not mature; they lack legitimate self-esteem. Therefore, they know they are being cruel but think they are not meaningful enough to cause long-lasting hurt. They are self-focused and seeking validation. They are not mature enough to recognize the farther-reaching consequences.

The original article also reminds us that people share their experiences from where they are. Hence, a list or article can be misleading. The article I am responding to was limited but not exactly wrong. It wasn't lying. It was, though, incomplete. It was misleading in its spin. It was angry or hurting or both, and hence it painted women who lead men on as black hat villains. They are not. Leading men on is cruel, some girls have learned to do it well and often and are unlikely to grow out of it, but for most it is a phase, an honest accident that happened, or a misunderstanding. (And this article I am writing comes from my place now, with research based on the world now, written from where I am in my life, and in response to an article that triggered a desire to respond; hence it has a spin that comes from me.)

It is good to have an idea of why it happens, leading people on. It is good to talk about this real thing in a real way, and it is good to admit to the hurt it causes.

The conclusion of the original article offers advice under the label of "What to Do About a Teasing Girl" and includes phrases like Being led on by a female is a game that many girls play and By not communicating with her, it shows that you can live without her and you get your self respect back. Girls hate that and Date other girls and don't put all your eggs in one basket. This is what I meant by biased and hurting. It is not a game for many girls, girls don't hate it when you get your self-respect back, and you shouldn't date other girls and not put your eggs in one basket but then hate girls who don't put all their eggs in one basket. Again, relationships are challenging to navigate and filled with the need for communication and setting boundaries and agreeing on those boundaries. Still, they are beautiful and, when done well, should bring mostly joy to your life. Like so many things we love doing (gardening, hiking, sports, building, creating art) there is work involved, learning involved, it will hurt sometimes and even feel overwhelming sometimes, but if you are choosing it, choose it because it brings mostly joy.

If you feel you are being strung along by someone, communicate. With yourself and the someone. Make sure they know how you feel before you decide they don't care. It could be that you are right. But it might be something else. Also, communicate with yourself. Why are you sticking around if you feel like you're not being properly cared about? Do you not love yourself enough to expect it in return? Were you told you were not good enough? Or were you treated that way in your youth, and now you seek the less than love of another? Is it familiar? Maybe you were easily given love as a child, and navigating love in the adult world confuses you. Have you enjoyed a lot of rocky romance stories and romanticised heartache? Do you think of love as tumultuous? As fighting and making up? Or are you obsessed with this one person and can't seem to let go? Why? If you can't quite figure it out on your own, reach out.

Please, don't choose bigotry. I see how small an unreasonable attachment to a belief about a group of people makes the lives of those I love. (My stepdaughter is prejudiced agains men and it hurts me to see her dig her heels in on this issue.)

Choose growth. Choose communication. Choose walking away.

Don't be led on by a girl, a woman, an article, a conviction, misrepresentation, or a lack of self-esteem.

Choose finding a healthy love of yourself and for yourself.

Author Credentials:

Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to

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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2022, November 10). How to Tell If A Woman Or Girl is Leading You On - Part II. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

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