Walking On The Guy Side And Other 21st Century Questions Of Chivalry

Knight and Bride

By Elizabeth Shore

I was walking down a city street recently with a male friend. He was on the interior side of the sidewalk, closest to the buildings, and I was on the outside, closest to the street. When I noticed how we were situated I asked, somewhat jokingly, whether we should switch so that he could be on the “guy side” of the sidewalk. His response was a puzzled stare before asking what I meant.

I’ve always assumed – naively, as it turns out – that everyone knows what the guy side of the sidewalk is. But when I explained to my friend that it’s the side closest to the street, theoretically so the man can protect his female companion from the danger of traffic, he confessed that he’d never before heard of it. Say what?!

Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago I was in a similar situation with a work colleague and he himself moved around me and said something about needing to be on the guy side. This at least reassures me that I’m not making the whole thing up.

These recent interactions about the guy side of the sidewalk bring to mind the age ol’ question about chivalry and whether or not it’s dead. But as I’m pondering the issue, I find myself wondering if the better question might be how we’re nowadays defining it.

I oftentimes find myself seeing blurred lines between chivalry and simple politeness. I’ll hold a door open for a guy just as he does for me. At the same time, because I’m in NYC and am on elevators all the time, I’m well aware that guys generally let women step into the elevator before they do. And to be honest, it would seem a little weird to me for that one to be reversed. So is that the distinction? If the gesture is reciprocated it’s polite; if not, it’s chivalrous? A guy holds a chair out for you at a restaurant. Would be weird to do that for him, no? So are chair holding and elevator etiquette chivalrous?

There are some women who feel that any gestures from men that were once considered chivalrous should now be shunned. We’ve made our way up in the world by hard work, courage, and a whole lotta determination. Financially, we’re still making less than the guys, but we’re doing OK so we can buy our own drinks, thank you very much. Well, yeah, I can. But …

There are some things that, frankly, I just like when guys do them. For example, being sensitive to the presence of women during social conversation. Hey, I write erotic romance so I’m no prude. Yet, I don’t want to be “one of the guys” and guffaw at their tit and pussy jokes like I’m standing in their locker room. I’m cool with having them tone it down when I’m around.

In the end, call it chivalry, call it politeness, or call it simple respect for our gender. I think it’s just really nice to be treated like a lady.

If you like that, too, be sure to follow us. After all, our first name is Lady.


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  • Madeline Iva
    June 25, 2014 at 8:05 am

    My friend said if you think you don’t like it when guys do stuff like that, just go visit Germany for awhile. She couldn’t help but think German men a little misogynist as they stormed into buildings and elevators ahead of her. Everything being equal sometimes can feel like men being dominating just the same way that we can feel dominated with the old rules of chivalry.

    Someone else I know said women STILL walk behind men in Korea.

    A very feminist friend of mine nevertheless enjoyed prolonged stays in Latin America where you almost forget how to carry something, open doors, etc, because the guys perform those tasks. In some ways these interactions are flavored with courtesy–and an oil of flirtation, a heightened with gendered awareness, sometimes arises, which feels nice. But it sucks if you’re not doing the standard gender thing, of course.

    Speaking of the ‘guy side’ — I remember a female friend of mine insisting I walk on the guy side of her because I was much taller and stronger. (!) I of course instantly felt like Paul Bunyon and walked along next to her aware of my big heavy arms swinging at my side. That is until we walked by a house where suddenly this nasty barking dog sprang at us. I used my friend as a human body shield, holding her in front of me at all times with my big heavy arms until we were away from the dog. That learned her.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      June 26, 2014 at 9:55 am

      Haha! I’m sure it did. And geez, talk about making you feel unfeminine. I would totally feel like Paul Bunyon if that had happened to me.

      I have to admit, I like the flirty mediterranean and latin guys. Maybe I shouldn’t, maybe I should bear in mind that women are not viewed equally in Latin American countries. But darn it if the attention isn’t nice.

      • Kel
        June 26, 2014 at 10:21 am

        *grin* You silly people. Women can still be feminine while being tall and strong… it’s just a slightly different flavour of femininity.

        Maybe it’s part of that flavour, but I find the flirty Mediterranean guys a little offputting. Of course, much of the time, they’re trying to force me to be less strong and are over-compensating for being shorter than me (or are eye-level with my chest, which is just… creepy in the extreme when they’re making eyes at it instead of me) or something. Give me someone who looks me in the eyes, lets me hold the door when I get there first, and knows how to offer an arm when I’m in formal wear and I’m in heaven.

        The difference for me is that Chivalry is formality extended to people based on social position (yours or theirs – most people forget or never knew that the offering person’s position is potentially more important). Politeness is formality extended to people because they are people. Each has its place; Chivalry does not belong at work, for example.

  • C. Margery Kempe
    June 25, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Chivalry was a fiction invented for the glorious tales of knights told in rich people’s homes. Real knights were bloody mercenaries fighting for whoever paid them the most and ruthlessly slaughtering anyone who got in the way.

    • Kel
      June 26, 2014 at 10:23 am


      I do find it amusing that it somewhat evolved into a code of public display of manners, though, and like the adaptations that the SCA has taken.

  • C. Margery Kempe
    June 25, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Politeness, however, is appreciated by everyone.

  • Liz Everly
    June 25, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I think general politeness is a good way to move about in the world. Holding doors walking into elevators, all of that, whether you’re a man or a woman, dictates a certain decorum. About a the “man ” side…Well, my husband always insists on sleeping on the outside of the bed where ever we are, the side closets to the door. Which make me secretly chuckle because I am a much lighter sleeper. I think we both know there’s a chance he could sleep through any attack or emergency. 😉

  • slapshot
    June 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    I don’t think I was ever told whether certain actions were “chivalrous” or not but simply learned to do the same thing that my father did for my mother and sisters. I just assumed that this was the way things were done. Politeness to all, but especially to women was simply expected, so that’s what I did and over the years it became a habit.

    • Madeline Iva
      June 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Good for you! Politeness to all — I like that motto, and I think that greases the wheels of society in a positive way as well.

      • Elizabeth Shore
        June 26, 2014 at 9:56 am

        Hear hear! Imagine how different things would be if everyone was polite. People get killed over slights.

  • Author Charmaine Gordon
    June 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Politeness is a turn on. Now if guys could just pay attention once in a while. . .
    Good topic, Elizabeth. Please hold the door while I shuffle through.

  • elfahearn
    June 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    One time I was walking at around midnight in Riverside Park (in NYC) with a guy I was dating. Two scary looking dudes came in the opposite direction and this guy, this turd, put his bike between me and him–like saying, “Criminal types, if you want someone, take her.” I was so pissed! After that incident you can see what esteem I had for that boyfriend–and that’s the place he holds in my mind–the creep who would have peddled away.

    Politeness counts for a lot and chivalry wins extra points.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      June 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      Turd indeed! Geez, he’s like George Kostanza from Seinfeld, shoving women and children away to get out of a burning building. Glad you “dumped” the turd. Ha!!

  • Kiersten Hallie Krum
    July 11, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I prefer to think as it as “deference” rather than “politeness” as in the man defers to the woman to go first, be it through the door or in the elevator, etc., out of respect and perhaps even honor. I never saw it as a guy thinking I *couldnt* do it for myself so much that I *shouldnt* have to perform such menial tasks as holding my own door. (Admittedly, that could be my queenly, Leo mentality.) If I’m going through the door first, I’ll hold it for whomever is behind me, man or woman, and if the person is disabled or elderly, I’ll go ahead and hold it open for them in advance. It’s a matter of respect. So I’ve never found those male mannerisms to be threatening my feminist fervor, but rather appreciating the value I intrinsically have as a woman. More, they make me feel powerful in my femininity because it’s being openly recognized by the man and everyone around him who sees his actions. I dig it.

    As for walking on the outside, I’ve never identified it as “the guy side” because my first and lasting experience with someone moving me to walk on the inside was as a child with my mother who would switch our places to put herself between me and any approaching dangers on the street. So to me, that’s the protector’s side, the first line of defense so that the person on the street side might better protect the one on the inside. Most of the time, I’m the one on the street side.


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