There’s an interesting point to be made about why many men can mistake kindness for romantic interest. This only pertains to the non-predatory/insulting/demeaning portion of this story, though.
I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way men and women are socialized here in the US with regards to emotional support, compliments, and general kindness. I find that men are less likely and less encouraged to have close friends with whom we can be emotionally vulnerable. It’s still an accepted societal pressure for men to be ‘tough’ and not show ‘weakness’, to “be a man”/“to man up”. This leads to less regular emotional communication among male friends and it wears. Women are generally more likely and more encouraged to be more open about their emotional needs to their friends and the stigma is much lesser.
This becomes a base for two very different experiences between the two. What most don’t realize is the sheer dearth of compliments men receive *about just being themselves* throughout their lives. I read a post once, a while back that said something along the lines of, “Ask your guy friends what the last compliment they received was and you’ll be surprised that he remembers all of them, how they were said, when they were said, and by who.”
There’s real truth in that. Oftentimes, on the male side, you’ll get compliments on your achievements but not on yourself, not on some intrinsic part of You. So those compliments and…tokens? of validation, being rare, can be weighed too highly, not taking into account the difference in experiences. What seems like a general kindness/innocent expression of platonic interest that any of your friends (male or female) might give, could be the only *personal* compliment the guy has received in a long time.
It’s an interesting effect when it’s not used by entitled jackholes as an excuse.
TL;DR Men in the US are less encouraged to have deep, open, emotional vulnerabilities with their friends and generally have less of an emotional support system, causing them to value — all the more highly — markers of emotional support and validation. Basically…sometimes it feels good to hear you have a nice face or smile or laugh or whatever when you only very rarely hear it and some people latch on too hard or read too much into it.