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Wedding Ring Defense

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"When Christine was a hostess at Sushi Roku, she wore a big engagement ring to keep guys from hitting on her. Think it worked? Fuck no. How do you think I met her?"
Jack Lopate, Sideways

To many people, random sex with a married person note  is a line they don't want to cross. Even The Casanova may back down if he realizes his current target is married.

This trope is when an unmarried person (often female) invokes that reaction by wearing a gold ring on his or her left (or right, if that's the custom of their culture) ring finger. While technically a lie, this trope doesn't automatically include these characters being generally dishonest. Their desire to not have to put up with others assuming they're sexually available normally gets sympathy, or at least understanding.

Related to Seduction-Proof Marriage, as the decoy ring is meant to tell observers that the character is in this type of relationship. The observer may also see the ring as a sign that she is "taken" by another male, and must be left alone unless he wants to challenge that male. Of course, it doesn't always work — some see a person with a wedding/engagement ring as a "challenge".

A common, usually-male, inversion is wearing a wedding ring to attract interest. It's part of the phenomenon known as "preselection" or "social proof," in which some women, upon observing evidence that another woman or women are attracted to a man (and a wedding ring certainly counts as evidence), will subconsciously find him more attractive as well. Compare Magnetic Girlfriend.

If a married person takes off their wedding ring because they're intending to have an affair with someone, that falls under Wedding Ring Removal.

Very much Truth in Television, in fact a common recommendation for single women in the work force is to buy a plain gold band if they don't already have one.

A False Widow probably has the ring, but may or may not be using it to dodge male interest. (There's a reason we have Romancing the Widow as a trope, after all.) Compare and contrast Smithical Marriage.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Chief Aramaki meets up with an old friend in London, and notices she has a wedding ring on. He assumes that she is married, but she points out that she only wears it to keep the men at bay.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in an early Silver Age Hawkman story. To draw attention away from the similarities between Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and their Earthling disguises of Carter and Shiera Hall, Carter points out to a nosy co-worker that Hawkgirl doesn't wear a wedding ring. What he doesn't tell the co-worker is that on Thanagar, married women wear large earrings (which Hawkgirl does) instead of finger rings.
  • Marvel vs DC: Ben Reilly asks Lois Lane on a date. She holds up her ring and mentions she's engaged, since this was before she and Supes had gotten married.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in Sideways. Miles is reluctant to talk to Maya because last time they spoke she was wearing a ring. Jack says that his current fiancee did, too, but it was just to ward off unwanted suitors and he wasn't fooled. He later informs Miles that Maya doesn't have the ring on anymore.
  • Not fully invoked, but somewhat in effect in Third Finger, Left Hand. Myrna Loy's character invents a husband for herself, partly to avoid romantic entanglements and partly so her magazine publisher's wife won't be jealous.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Glades: When Jim's former Chicago partner and Old Flame, CPD detective Samantha Harper comes to Florida in the "Old Ghosts" episode, he is dismayed to see that she is wearing a wedding ring until she clarifies why she is wearing it.
    Jim: So how was it?
    Sam: How was what?
    Jim: The wedding.
    Sam: It wasn't. I-I mean, I — it — it didn't — didn't happen.
    Jim: Oh.
    Sam: (looks at hand) They're my grandmother's. Um, I always loved them, and, well, it tends to keep the wolves at bay.
    Jim: Yeah, well, got to keep those wolves at bay.
  • Carrie Mathison from Homeland wears a ring to keep away the men who would want an actual relationship.
  • M*A*S*H.
    • In one episode Hawkeye starts to come on to a nurse but backs off when he sees her wedding ring. Technically it's hers, but she's not married — she inherited it.
      Hawkeye: (ending kiss with Erika) What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I - what am I doing?!
      Erika: Whatever it is, I approve.
      Hawkeye: You're married, madam. You're a married madam! Why don't I go away?
      Erika: Hawkeye, I am not married!
      Hawkeye: What, do you mean your finger's just turning gold?
      Erika: It's my grandmother's. It cuts down on wrestling matches.
      Hawkeye: You're not married?
      Erika: Never have been.
    • "Payday", the one episode where we see Frank Burns wearing his wedding ring, plays with this trope. A Korean peddler tries to sell Frank a strand of pearls for any woman he may be seeing. Frank flashes his ring to show the peddler he's a "happily married man", and would have no use for such things. The peddler sells the strand to him to send home to his wife, then sells him another strand (of fake pearls).
      The Major must have something going on on the side, otherwise, he would not be so 'Happily married.'
  • In Scrubs Kim Briggs wore her wedding ring after her divorce in order to ward off unwanted advances by other doctors. J.D. wonders why he hasn't noticed her over the years, and Turk explains that he doesn't see women who wear wedding rings. When J.D. denies this, Turk asks all women in the room who wearing wedding rings to take them off momentarily. A few seconds later the room suddenly has a lot more women in it.
  • Inverted in Seinfeld episode "The Apartment," when (unmarried) George wears a wedding ring to a party in the belief that it will attract women. It backfires spectacularly when he meets several women who are otherwise attracted, but turned off by his "married" status.
  • Leverage. Invoked in an episode which recounts the hijacking by D.B. Cooper and the stewardess he spoke to. She had gotten so many love notes from smitten passengers that she'd taken to wearing a fake wedding band to ward some of them off.
  • Inverted twice in How I Met Your Mother:
    • An early episode has Lily remove her engagement ring after missing the attention of random men hitting on her.
    • Similarly, Robin begins to resent her engagement ring after realizing men don't treat her as well since she's clearly taken.
  • In New Girl, Daisy is introduced as taken, and helps Winston with his crippling inability to speak to women because as a married woman, there's no pressure. At the end of the episode, she reveals that she wears it to keep creeps from hitting on her.
  • Dave's World: Inverted in one episode. Dave lends his wedding ring to his single friend Kenny to settle the matter of whether married men get hit on more often. It works.
  • One invention featured on World's Dumbest... is a phony engagement ring that serves this purpose.
  • An early episode of Roseanne has the widowed Crystal refusing to take off her wedding ring to discourage men from asking her out and to keep her late husband close to her heart.
  • Frasier: Charlotte Connor, Frasier's love interest in the final season, admits to him that she's been divorced for some time. She kept wearing her wedding ring as she runs a matchmaking service and she believes clients won't trust her to set them up if they know her own relationship failed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A variation in Ravenloft: The women of two ethnic groups wear headscarves to show their marital status. The problem is that one group wears them to show they're married, the other that they're single. To make things worse, both ethnicities are hostile to each other, leading to a great many brawls.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, when then-traveling performer Agatha gets summoned to dine with the local ruling family, she's given a ring to wear to help discourage any romantic advances, with the ring's owner claiming that it's gotten him out of trouble often enough. Unfortunately, it turns out that the family's interest in her involves something much worse: sticking her in a machine so she can possessed by a mental copy of the comic's resident Big Bad. Fortunately, the ring turns out to be a disguised lockpick.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Technically, the rings worn nuns and some other people who have taken vows of celibacy, are not this trope, as the nuns are symbolically married to Christ.
  • Another use may be for travelers looking to dispel the attention of locals, or to pass as a married couple in countries where an unrelated man and woman together would be frowned upon (or worse.)
  • "Ms. Taken" sells special rings that look like engagement rings for women to invoke this trope. However, in order to avoid scaring off "Mr. Right", it also comes with a special keychain that has a groove specifically made to fit the ring. That way, the girl can snap the fake ring into the keychain with no one the wiser.