I grew up with two sisters who were Division I athletes. So I know girls can kick ass in sports. That being said, I see no reason not to put the pedal to the metal when I play girls in sports.
But there is a strange thing I do differently in competition with women that I don't do with men: I try to mentally break women down. Whether it's beer pong, tennis, or even synchronized swimming (yes, I told my friend who did synchronized swimming in college that I could beat her one time when we were in a pool — I lost), I will try to wriggle under a girl's skin and throw her off her game. It may be the very fact that I grew up with sisters, and when I smelled blood in the water (when one was slightly annoyed at something), I knew it was time to attack. And I learned how quickly their concentration was damaged when they were successfully annoyed.
Letting someone win is somewhat condescending. No one wants to have victory handed to them, and I'm way too competitive to just give away a victory even if I know I could have won. I know what I'm good at and I'm confident that I could win versus any gender in these activities. If I try my best and a girl beats me in anything, I tip my cap. But I'll try to get under her skin the entire way.
Men and women should play to their best potential when competing against each other, no matter what the sport. In most cases, a man will win when it comes to competitive sports based on strength alone. But when it comes to skill and finesse, it's anyone's game. I recently bowled with a group of friends including my boyfriend, Tim. He brashly boasted that he was going blow me out of the water with his skills. He claimed that, because he had grown up in the Midwest, all he did was bowl. I started the first frame with a strike — he chalked that up to "beginner's luck." Three games later, I had swept him (and the rest of the competition!). I thought about throwing the last game just to allow him some satisfaction, but in the end, I gave it my all.
Although he wasn't visibly upset, I could tell he was bummed — perhaps he couldn't believe he lost to a girl. Yes, this is an old-school thought that sets back women's liberation, but these social standards continue to permeate the mainstream, even if an unspoken thought between a couple. For women, it's common to want the "alpha" male that's good at everything — the breadwinner, the one who hails the cabs, opens doors, and treats you to dinner. The one who wins a bowling match. I was exalted I won the games in the face of Tim's boasting, but a small part of me was disappointed that he wasn't able to deliver in the end. I'd rather take home the victory any day of the week.