I’ve been staying out of the current debate over sexism/feminism because frankly it’s a bigger issue than I have time to address. It’s a big deal, though, so here’s at least a couple cents worth: I’d like to propose a modest baseline for inter-gender interactions, and I’d like to aim it particularly at guys.
The baseline is this: before interacting with a casual female acquaintance, I want you to imagine someone you find sexually unattractive. I think, for example, a lot of you might not be attracted to, say, the comic book guy from the Simpsons. Whatever attention you wish to pay to your casual female acquaintance, imagine yourself receiving the same kind of attention from the comic book guy, with exactly the same feelings and motivations. Would it bug you? Would it be unwelcome? If so, assume that you do not have a right to behave that way towards your female acquaintance. You may eventually earn the right, but don’t just assume you have it, or that you can quickly earn it with the right “techniques,” any more than the comic book guy could with you.
That’s a modest and inadequate baseline, but I hope it might have some use as an exercise in promoting a bit of understanding and sympathy. And above all restraint.