Flirting Is Easy*


Given the predictable trajectory of the ongoing discussions in the F&SF world, it seems a good time for a repost with a couple of tweaks. Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but obviously they do.

There are two basic things you need to know about flirting.

  1. Flirting is the creation of intimacy, which is only rarely a search for sex.
  2. Flirting cannot be done by one person. It takes two (or more).

We do have problems understanding flirting, as a culture, but most of those problems come from associating flirting with sex. They’re different things. Flirting may be used to get to know someone we might consider having sex with. Flirting may be used to increase the level of intimacy between to people to the point that it becomes socially acceptable to ask for sex. But flirting itself isn’t about seeking sex.

Chili’s gets flirting.

Flirting is about creating a more intimate connection between two people than usually happens in our daily meeting and greeting. For that reason, it involves behavior we don’t engage in with everyone. Touch and the signaling of sexual interest fall into that category, but so do much simpler behaviors. Maintaining eye contact longer than polite, sharing secrets, giving very personal compliments, monopolizing someone’s time, teasing someone–all these can be part of flirting.

As an aside, this is why salespeople can be so creepy and annoying. They are often taught to employ techniques for creating intimacy and rarely to never taught the downside of using them on people who don’t want them.

One thing you may have noticed about the behaviors I listed: We consider all of these (at least) rude outside the context of flirting. There are other flirting behaviors that aren’t otherwise rude, but there are plenty that are. Flirting changes the rules of what’s acceptable, which I’ll talk more on in a moment. However, first I want to take a moment to talk about awkwardness.

Feel awkward about flirting? It isn’t you. It’s flirting. Seriously, look at how rude all of that stuff would be in any other context. Look at how creepy it is when it comes from that salesperson. Gah! There’s no way to make this not potentially awkward. On the other hand, being willing to be a bit awkward around somebody is part of what makes flirting work. One of the intimacies you’re creating when you flirt is letting your guard down and opening yourself up to criticism. Scary? Yes, but there it is.

By now it should be obvious why one person can’t flirt unilaterally with someone else. If you force intimacy on someone, that is not flirting. It is, at best, creepy salesperson tactics. From there, it ranges up to assault, depending on the type of intimacy forced.

This is also why it isn’t difficult to tell whether someone is flirting with you. Flirting should be fun for both of you. Are they enjoying it when you create little intimacies? Are you enjoying it when they do something that would annoy you from most people? Then yay! You’re flirting.

If not, stop. If either of you stops having fun, stop or dial it back to something that was fun. If one of you still isn’t having fun after dialing it back, stop. If you don’t stop, you’re no longer flirting. You are forcing an intimacy on another human being. And it’s your responsibility to make sure yo’re not doing that. Not the target of your behavior. You. Anti-harassment policies are aimed at halting forced intimacy. There is no reason they should interfere with flirting.

If you really can’t tell, ask a question where “No” is the answer you’ll need to hear to know the flirting is wanted. “Is that too much information?” “I’m taking up a lot of your time. Should I let you get back to your friends?” “Should I stop teasing you?” Anything but a clear “No” in that situation should be taken as “Yes.”

However, wanting to flirt still doesn’t mean the person you’re flirting with wants to have sex with you. Most flirting isn’t about getting to sex. Emotional and social intimacy are enjoyable in their own rights. They are perfectly good reasons to take that potentially awkward path.

So how do you know whether someone wants to have sex with you? You can use flirting to create an ever-more-intimate atmosphere in which you can be more comfortably convinced, but that still doesn’t tell you for sure. At some point, one of you is going to have to ask. It may be a coded question. It may be (if you think you can be certain enough) handled nonverbally. But you’ll still have to ask.

That, of course, is the actual hard part and the part that people get confused over. Flirting itself, however, is easy.

* Flirting is about as easy as any other social transaction with multiple moving parts, which means the situation varies from person to person. We’re just more emotionally invested in firlting. There are some good comments frrom Pteryxx on the original post about handling these situations if you find social cues particularly difficult to decipher.

Comments

  1. says

    I would like to say that I stand by my previous comment, and would also like to add that in my experience the flirting that isn’t sex-directed is not only more friendly and fun for BOTH people, it can actually lead to more sex in the long run. It is that whole “hey, that person isn’t a totally pushy asshole” factor, plus when you’re trying to force things in a certain direction it feels manipulative to most people.

    Reminds me of a time right before I got married, I was out having drinks with a buddy from work and there was a group of young women who had obviously just come from work and were also having drinks. I guess I was being the good “wingman” because I went over and said hi and we all wound up at a table together. I was having fun, the women were having fun, my buddy was a bit stiff and slightly irritated that I was having more fun than he was. He got up to go pee, and as soon as he did one of the women asked me if I was seeing anybody. I told her that I was engaged and getting married in a couple of weeks. She grinned and said “I KNEW IT!” She told me she could tell because I was relaxed and friendly but not pushing at all, and my buddy was tense and trying way too hard… and that I had a much better chance of hooking up than he did because of that.

    We went to a couple of other places, and the pattern repeated itself. I was flirting in a relaxed, not goal-oriented way and the people I talked to had as much fun as I did. My buddy was mostly trying to have sex with someone, and was sort of a buzzkill for the women he talked to because of it. Nobody likes the hard sell, not in a bar, not from a salesperson, pretty much never.

  2. Pteryxx says

    I stand by my previous comments, too. In a relaxed NON-PROFESSIONAL peer situation – fandom conventions, bars, sports, gaming – I flirt a lot, with anyone of whatever gender, and it’s STILL my responsibility to give them plenty of invitations to tell me flat out if I should continue. Blunt as I am, I outright say so. “Sorry, I’m just being a flirt. Let me know if I should go on, okay?” and then STOP. If the person wants to flirt back, THEY will tell ME. This isn’t difficult, sheesh. It’s easier than splitting the bill for pizza.

    I used to flirt more in comments than I do now <_< after learning more about how harassment can silence women at a bystander level. Now I tone it down a lot, and almost entirely restrict it to guys. *cough* Hi Joe.

  3. tuibguy says

    Being relatively shy and unassuming I never realized that I was flirting with someone nor that she was flirting back. I just aways thought of it as enjoying someone’s company. Sometimes I would realize after parting company that she was flirting with me, and regretted missed opportunity.

    On the upside, I have made more friends with women this way than I probably would have had I been more overtly “hitting” on someone. On the downside, I have probably missed out on a lot of sexy time.

  4. Pteryxx says

    Sometimes I would realize after parting company that she was flirting with me, and regretted missed opportunity.

    I’ve so done this. I’m so dense that I never did realize, until a mutual friend (twice) or the person who flirted with me (once) actually TOLD me, on a later occasion, “I/he/she was trying to hook up with you and you missed a chance, didn’t you notice?” No idea how many potential partners I’ve left hanging in the absence of a clue that big.

    Please, world, stop shaming and threatening and silencing people over joyful, consensual sex already. Please.

  5. says

    Hey Pteryxx, what’s u– WAIT A MINUTE!!

    *grins*

    Tuibguy:

    On the upside, I have made more friends with women this way than I probably would have had I been more overtly “hitting” on someone. On the downside, I have probably missed out on a lot of sexy time.

    On the other upside, you avoided creeping people out. And if you are in a relatively small dating pool, any “sexy time” you missed out on by not catching clues would have been replaced by missing out because word got around that you were a creeper.

  6. stever says

    Flirting is easy if you’re good at it. So is playing the violin. At least if I wanted to learn to play the violin, my instructor wouldn’t assume that I could instinctively find the notes along that fretless fingerboard.

  7. says

    I flirt a lot. I flirt with most people I know much more deeply than those who ask me for the twenty I just put in my gas tank. I flirt with men and I flirt with women. I flirt with small children, because small children almost ALL, almost ALWAYS are flirtatious – they have virtually no boundaries. I don’t just randomly touch people without their permission – either very obviously implied, or explicitly stated if I’m not sure. Usually I mention when I meet people for the first time (you know, *not* in professional settings) that I am very touchy feelie, that I mean nothing sexual by it and would it bother you at all – because I don’t want to make you uncomfortable…

    I flirt a lot and yet it has been several years now, since I would even be willing to entertain the idea of having sex with all but one very wonderful person whom I love very much. When she and I got together, monogamy was one of the very first things negotiated, because I am very open about being non-monogamous as a matter of preference. This is why when I meet people for the first time, and have even the slightest hint that they might be interested, I *also* make it clear in my little prelude to getting to know me, that I am happily “taken,” as it were. Or I engage the *super-subtle* – “Here’s a picture of my wonderful partner!” especially subtle when I add – “We’re totally monogamous!!” and REALLY subtle when I, somewhat hysterically add – “THAT MEANS WE DON’T HAVE SEX WITH OTHER PEOPLE!!!” (ok, the latter two only actually happened once – with someone who was being extremely disrespectful)

    The point is – I flirt and I LOVE to flirt, because I genuinely love and care about my friends. I love people – even people I don’t like. If you’re in need, I genuinely want to help and wish I could – doesn’t matter if I don’t know you. And I love to engage in expressions of intimacy – playful and silly, serious and compassionate. My flirting has nothing to do with my belief that someone is sexy*, it has to do with my genuinely caring…And screw cultural norms that suggest it might not be a good idea…

    * Except of course, in the case of tuibguy’s case – because he is just so hot that his animal magnetism can be felt even here, several hundred miles away!

  8. says

    —Flirting is easy if you’re good at it. So is playing the violin. At least if I wanted to learn to play the violin, my instructor wouldn’t assume that I could instinctively find the notes along that fretless fingerboard.—

    Are you capable of hitting it off and making a friend with a member of the gender you are not sexually interested in?

    Then you are capable of flirting. It’s 95% the same.

  9. Robert B. says

    I flirt with small children, because small children almost ALL, almost ALWAYS are flirtatious – they have virtually no boundaries.

    An eight year old boy once told me – his math instructor – “We’ll always have Paris.” Cracked me right up.

  10. says

    I’ve tried both, and I can attest that flirting is significantly easier than playing the violin.

    Sounds like Stever is mad about something.

  11. says

    So, I guess I’ll be the buzzkill — or flirtkill as it were.

    According to the research I looked at the last time this topic came up, men are much more likely to see flirting as having a sexual undercurrent than women.

    It’s that dichotomy, I think, that has the potential for bad feelings, pissed off people, and slaps in the face. Therefore, it’s something that I think both sexes should be aware of. Because it’s likely that a woman is thinking “harmless fun”, and a man is thinking “hubba hubba”.

    And in situations where people are already a little socially awkward (face it, there are a lot of nerds around – including at the computer where I’m sitting), that potential to be misconstrued is magnified.

    I also think there’s a difference between “flirting” and “being friendly”. I’m friendly to just about everyone; I very, very rarely “flirt” with someone. Because when I’m friendly with someone, that’s being friendly. But if I flirt with someone … hubba hubba. Even when there is obviously no intention on either side to do anything other than flirt — the sexual undercurrent is what separates “friendly” from “flirting”.

    Please don’t misconstrue what I say to mean that there’s no such thing as harmless flirting. Sure there is. I do it all the time…well, not all the time, but I do it. I know what it is and what it means. However, we should be more aware of the fact that the other party may have a completely different viewpoint about the interaction.

    Maybe there will be a few less “brave heroes” if men start to understand that when a woman flirts, it doesn’t always mean “hubba hubba”.

  12. says

    Kevin, last time this came up, you got yourself stuck in moderation for most of year.

    This post already talks about the difference between flirting and being friendly. It already talks about how to be sure if you’re not sure and why you need to be sure. It already points people to some good advice on the topic of being socially awkward. The comments here are already full of guys saying they flirt without sexual intent.

    If you’re just going to tell me we should be talking about things we’re already discussing, I would suggest you sit this one out.

  13. Ariel says

    SallyStrange #13:

    I’ve tried both, and I can attest that flirting is significantly easier than playing the violin.
    Sounds like Stever is mad about something.

    You are too harsh to Stever. Flirting may be easier than playing the violin, but still not easy for those who hardly feel at ease with anyone in RL (what should you do with your hands when flirting? Hmmm…) But for balance, the main advice – the one supposed to be hard – from Stephanie’s text, which is

    stop or dial it back

    is very easy to follow. I’ve always found backing off, letting it go, the easiest and the most natural thing to do. So … since I have it exactly the other way round, I guess I don’t belong to the intended audience here and I should sit this one out together with Kevin.

    [Dials it back and runs away]

  14. says

    Stephanie:

    We do have problems understanding flirting, as a culture, but most of those problems come from associating flirting with sex. They’re different things.

    This is where the disconnect is. The research suggests that men are much less likely to agree with your contention that flirting is or can be disassociated with sex. To men — again not according to me, but according to the sociological research — flirting is more-strongly associated with a sexual undercurrent than it is to women.

    And of such perceptual disconnects, slapped faces (or worse) are created. Which is why it should be acknowledged.

    I’ll stop now.

  15. says

    No, sexual harassment and the like are not built on perceptual disconnects. They’re built on the fact that some people don’t consider the perceptions of the people they’re interacting with to be independent and as important as their own.

    And yes, you will stop now.

  16. says

    We do have problems understanding flirting, as a culture, but most of those problems come from associating flirting with sex. They’re different things.

    This is where the disconnect is. The research suggests that men are much less likely to agree with your contention that flirting is or can be disassociated with sex.

    how do you manage to read a sentence that points out that people associate flirting with sex, and then claim that sociological research confirming that unfortunate fact is contradicting the sentence? And that the sentence doesn’t acknowledge the very thing that’s blatantly in it?

  17. Pteryxx says

    Because when I’m friendly with someone, that’s [me] being friendly. But if I flirt with someone … [that’s me implying] hubba hubba.

    Fixed that for you. YOU deciding you’re flirting, unilaterally, does not make “that” interaction with the other person become flirting, any more than sticking out your open hand becomes a handshake.

    tl:dr explanation for the socially dense like myself:

    That is in fact the conceptual metaphor I use to help me recognize the other person’s response – a handshake. If they respond with a gesture closely matching the one I offered, that probably, and provisionally, means acceptance of my initial gesture. For instance, see Joe’s response in #7 to me calling him out by name in #3. However, that does NOT constitute an invitation for me to continue. At this point, I wait for the other person to make a separate handshake-offer of their own: a gesture or personal comment or question directed specifically to me. Until and unless that happens, my turn is OVER.

    No, not everyone flirts like I do – people are different, and I’m particularly bad at reading social cues, especially nonverbal ones. I hope explaining how I do it may help enlighten folks with similar concerns.

  18. smhll says

    I don’t like the gender-essentialism in thinking the only people in a large roomful of people who are thinking “I really want to get laid tonight” are men. Women could also be thinking that.

    At the risk of sounding too much like Kevin, I’m interested if anyone wants to attempt to delineate the difference between “being friendly”, “enjoying someone’s company”, “flirting” and “coming on to someone”. (But if it’s better if the discussion here doesn’t go down that definitionary rathole, I can take it over to A+ boards and kick it around. Feel free to quash me.)

    I have a lovely, truthful, recently-divorced friend who is also geeky and in grad school getting a STEM degree (far more men than women). About all she has to do to get some of the loneliest guys she meets to bond with her like baby ducks (sorry, not meaning to be mean), is to notice their existence, be not cruel to them, exchange a few sentences, laugh at one of their jokes or tell a clever one of her own. I think we can understand that guys who have been ignored a lot by women (intentionally or unintentionally) have their tuning forks calibrated differently than other people who get more positive attention in an average week. For a person who finds himself swimming in a steady-state of indifference or hatred, just a small amount of kindness can read like a passionate declaration of love, IMO.

    I think my example can work with both genders reversed or just one gender changed.

    And, personally, I have a deep and abiding hatred for the phrase “leading him on”.

  19. says

    smhll, transgression is really the part that differentiates friendly from flirting. It’s completely possible to follow all the rules and maintain “standard” social boundaries while being friendly. I live in a state that is famous for people doing that. Everyone is friendly, but people who move here from elsewhere find that getting close to people can be very difficult.

  20. Pteryxx says

    smhll, I’ll defer to Stephanie as to whether this particular discussion should go elsewhere. To make a provisional start on it, look at this statement:

    For a person who finds himself swimming in a steady-state of indifference or hatred, just a small amount of kindness can read like a passionate declaration of love friendship, IMO.

    A couple of questions for your consideration. Why should kindness to a lonely person – not a man, a person – be presumed to indicate romantic interest specifically? And, if the population of the group is mostly male (as in your friend’s STEM field) why are these lonely people focusing on her and any social interactions she may offer, instead of each other?

    If those questions don’t make sense, try reframing the situation as if it were grade-school bullying. A bullied kid can also assume that a peer who simply refrains from bullying and is neutrally polite must therefore be the best friend ever – but not that the polite person would have sex with them. Why not?

  21. smhll says

    I take my hat off to social scientists, because all this human interaction stuff is so complicated.

    I painted a sympathetic picture of my friend’s accidental “conquests” because I do have sympathy for them. From her discussion of the situation he/they followed her around emitting attitudes like “please be my girlfriend”, but did not make sudden, startling attempts to get in her pants. Thus, I am thinking of them as sad, rather than as intimidating. If this had been someone above her in the academic hierarchy, then the situation would be more difficult. (And it’s still difficult, even as it is. It’s embarassing. And unlike some of the harsh stereotypes of women, she actually finds it painful to reject them. (It’s also easy for me to minimize the difficulty, because it didn’t happen to me.)

    I guess a point that I find critical is that she is not responsible for how people react to her.

    I’ve seen the links to the research that shows that people intent on committing sexual assault actually notice the “get off of me and never cross my path again” words and body language when they get them and just pretend they don’t. I believe that. However, I also believe that there may exist guys and gals who don’t know the difference in signals that suggest “I find you entertaining”, “I find you mildly appealing” ,and “I want you, please say you want me and let’s make a plan to DO it ASAP.”

    I, myself, am terrible at noticing “unwritten rules” because I don’t copy the behavior and clothing styles of people around me much. I was raised by two Northern California eccentrics in a culturally diverse area and we didn’t spend much time with extended family or live in the same village very long. If Minnesota is more culturally homogenous, and Stephanie picks up cues faster than I do, then it’s possible that, compared to her, I stumble through life committing lots more social faux pas. It may be that I am inept where she is “ept”.

    Coming at this from a different direction, I think the whole thing where female people are encouraged to be nice and tell polite lies can be confusing. I have an example from TV! (This is what happens when you commit a lot of faux pas and run out of friends…). There’s used to be a TV show called Trading Places (based on the British show Changing Rooms), where two rooms are secretly remodeled by two teams of neighbors. At the end of the show, they reveal the extreme changes that have been made in the rooms and push the cameras in the faces of the owners and ask if they like the results. When Oprah was starting her network, her network bought old episodes of the show and aired them with about five minutes of updated footage at the end, where they went back to the owners and showed whether they kept the rooms as done or changed them. One of the first extended episodes I saw, the female homeowner original said stuff like “It’s lovely. It looks great. Blah blah.” She sounded sincere. She said enough to convince me. I didn’t think it was just faint praise. But then I got to see the three years later follow-up. And she said “We started tearing it out the next day.” I was surprised! (Now, I assume that she told polite lies the first time, but perhaps she lied the second time because “reality” shows aren’t very real and maybe she was told what to say. IDK.) Anyway, I couldn’t tell false enthusiasm from real enthusiasm in a situation where I didn’t even have wishful thinking distorting my perceptions. So this one woman was really good at telling polite lies when she thought that was what would make the situation pleasant. I think it is part of “people pleasing”, and women are more encouraged to act this way than men are in our culture.

    Back to over-simplified heterosexual dating and hook-ups. The fact that John is attracted to Jane, from across a crowded room, is not a good reason to deduce that Jane feels attracted to John. He hopes that it may be true. If either of them tries to start up a conversation, I think the non-verbal and verbal ways to communicate “I don’t want to talk” are pretty clear, especially if they both have the freedom to walk away. After the first “may I talk to you” part of the dance, my understanding of the later stages of getting acquainted are hazy. (I’m the cliche of the person who hates small talk and wants to start telling deeply personal or highly political or philosophical stuff right away.)

    My husband is a shy guy who thinks he missed some signs of interests from women he knew in college. I scooped him up by being direct and forward with him. This works. The human race won’t die out, those of you who are worried about it. So, since I’m monogamous, if I’m bubbly and enthusiastic and telling dirty jokes and touching someone’s arm at a conference, it never means that I want to drag them up to my room for sex. From me, it just means, I am really enjoying this conversation. But I can imagine that it might be difficult to tell a passionate enthusiasm for the topic from a passionate enthusiasm for the person one is conversing with.

    (Someone made a dumb crack about PZ being surrounded by enthusiastic young women in Australia, I think. My best guess is that they wanted to talk to him!!! Conferences can be great venues for meeting new people and talking, or seeing old friends and talking, or finding someone new (or old) to keep warm with at night. Whatever. Different strokes. Be excellent to one another and keep it consensual.)

  22. says

    I don’t like the gender-essentialism in thinking the only people in a large roomful of people who are thinking “I really want to get laid tonight” are men. Women could also be thinking that.

    I don’t know where you see anything like that being said. Stephanie’s OP doesn’t mention genders at all, and the comment section is a group of various genders recounting their experiences with non-sexual flirting. The only person to whom that accusation might apply is Kevin, but even Kevin was talking about statistical probability.

    Aside from that, given current gender-socialization, even women who are ready to jump your bones aren’t likely to assume that all flirting is meant as a sexual come on.

    I’m interested if anyone wants to attempt to delineate the difference between “being friendly”, “enjoying someone’s company”, “flirting” and “coming on to someone”.

    “delineate” implies some clear lines; no such thing in nature, and certainly not in social interaction. As a general rule, friendliness is, well, amicable contact with zero attempts at pushing into the next level of intimacy from where the conversation starts out; flirting is playful movement towards greater intimacy; coming on to someone is unilateral pushing into people’s boundaries (I’m guessing that’s not what you meant; English absolutely lacks a word for mutually establishing an atmosphere for sexual interest; it always frames it as something one person does to another rather than as a two(or more) way interaction. The difference between that establishing of sexual intimacy and just flirting is similar to that between friendliness and flirting: the latter tries to move an interaction into a different dimension of interpersonal space, than where the former exists.)

    I think we can understand that guys who have been ignored a lot by women (intentionally or unintentionally) have their tuning forks calibrated differently than other people who get more positive attention in an average week. For a person who finds himself swimming in a steady-state of indifference or hatred, just a small amount of kindness can read like a passionate declaration of love, IMO.

    I don’t know that this follows at all. You see, as a teen I sucked at social interaction and had no real friends from 7th grade until dropping out in 11th grade. And yet, I didn’t experience the rare dude interacting with me on a friendly basis as a “passionate declaration of love”; I suspect the problem is not the loneliness, but the social scripts taught to me (and other girls like me) and to those geeky guys, respectively.

  23. says

    if I’m bubbly and enthusiastic and telling dirty jokes and touching someone’s arm at a conference

    this phenomenon needs to die. Touching w/o permission needs to just not happen :-/

  24. DeepThought says

    And here we have the mostly heretofore unexamined phenomenon of female privilege, but since this is a skeptic website, it’s fair game. Basically, while formerly society gave men unearned privilege in terms of power and influence over wide groups of people (e.g. congressmen, CEOs, etc.) society also gave women unearned privilege in terms of personal, intimate relationships. It’s against the latter that many men including myself are rightly rebelling. Equality means equal. And females need to respect boundaries every bit as much as men do.

    Now, the OP of course is not a paean to female privilege, and maybe Stephanie will vigorously disagree personally with everything that follows. However how something works in theory is often quite different from how it actually plays out in society as it is. Because society has its biases.

    When it comes to sexual harassment, it doesn’t matter what the man thought, right? It’s all about how it was perceived by the woman, and in cases of doubt he “should have known” better and should have been able to see that what he did would be taken as a sexual come-on. However, here, the rules change. If he takes it (flirting) as a sexual come-on when it wasn’t meant as such, now it’s his fault also, and there is no responsibility placed upon the woman that she “should have known” better. This is a direct result of the societal biases that male sexuality is basically vile and disgusting, that males are willing to do anything on two legs at the drop of a hat, and should be grateful for even the chance to, and therefore should tolerate any sort of humiliations and impositions on the part of women.

    Therefore, in current society in my experience women seldom follow the sound advice that

    If not, stop. If either of you stops having fun, stop or dial it back to something that was fun. If one of you still isn’t having fun after dialing it back, stop. If you don’t stop, you’re no longer flirting. You are forcing an intimacy on another human being. And it’s your responsibility to make sure yo’re not doing that. Not the target of your behavior. You. Anti-harassment policies are aimed at halting forced intimacy. There is no reason they should interfere with flirting.

    If you really can’t tell, ask a question where “No” is the answer you’ll need to hear to know the flirting is wanted. “Is that too much information?” “I’m taking up a lot of your time. Should I let you get back to your friends?” “Should I stop teasing you?” Anything but a clear “No” in that situation should be taken as “Yes.”

    Instead, rather often, women feel entitled to this intimacy. How many women feel they need a man’s permission before touching him on the arm, hugging, demanding intimate details about his life, etc.? Very, very few. And if you corner them they will tell you the man should be grateful for this, because, after all, he might, just might (although the odds are very slim) “get lucky” in the end! This is the flip side of rape culture, where women are presumed in a continual state of consent to physical intimacy and the rapists will tell you the women should be “grateful” for their attention. And on this very thread we have the pejorative “getting into a woman’s pants” but the converse “getting into a man’s heart” is just fine, apparently.

    So, in short, when it comes to this, men need to be able to say, NO means NO, just as women. If we want your emotional intimacy, we’ll let you know.

  25. says

    However, here, the rules change.

    nope. the rules are the same: when in doubt, act in such a way as to not cross someones boundaries. that goes both for flirting and harassment: when you overstep, you’ve fucked up. goes for people of all genders equally.

    Or to put it differently: thoughts are not the point here: behaviors that cross the line do. And if a woman “flirts” so aggressively that her behavior is experienced by the person she’s interacting with as harassment because now she is the one who is overstepping personal boundaries? she’s sexually harassing that person; again, the gender of either of the people involved is not actually relevant.

    This is a direct result of the societal biases that male sexuality is basically vile and disgusting

    male sexuality? nope. entitlement to sexual gratification by the people they’re aroused by/attracted to? yup. if you can’t tell the difference, that’s a problem; that’s in fact the whole problem.

    that males are willing to do anything on two legs at the drop of a hat

    yup; that’s a patriarchal “manly man” stereotype that does a lot of damage to men and boys.

    should be grateful for even the chance to, and therefore should tolerate any sort of humiliations and impositions on the part of women.

    not quite. not “should” but “does”; toxic masculinity is the idea of masculinity as always wanting more sex and therefore never wanting to say no. if you say no, you become emasculated. That’s once again a way in which toxic masculinity is harming men, because men who are harassed by women feel they can’t say no, and can’t come forward with harassment accusations. And women in return are taught that it’s not possible for them to sexually harass or sexually assault a man because men always want it. And so they break boundaries and toxic narratives of masculinity make it so that it’s not treated as harassment even when it was.
    That’s why the OP was written without reference to genders.

    Instead, rather often, women feel entitled to this intimacy.

    not usually “entitled”; remember, society posits women as gatekeepers, and so sexual intimacy is seen as “letting” a man, not as a woman getting something. That’s a toxic narrative that needs to be fought, but that can’t happen if you don’t identify it correctly. Still, yes, it’s important to repeat the message that “yes means yes” applies to all genders.

    This is the flip side of rape culture

    no, not the flipside of it. another aspect of it.

    but the converse “getting into a man’s heart” is just fine, apparently

    wut?

    So, in short, when it comes to this, men need to be able to say, NO means NO, just as women. If we want your emotional intimacy, we’ll let you know.

    and sexual intimacy, too. And actually… why are you creating this dichotomy in which women don’t want sexual intimacy, while men don’t want emotional intimacy? All genders at different times and to different degrees do or do not want either of these two things. Flirting must be mutual, the same way exploring sexual interest must be mutual. No one should be unilaterally pushing past boundaries, regardless of gender, regardless of whether it’s about sex or personal intimacy.

  26. says

    “getting into a man’s heart”

    I keep on coming back to this, and it keeps on not making sense in context. what’s love (romantic or otherwise) got to do with flirting?

  27. carlie says

    It is very good to stop and think about such things. Although I’m naturally very shy, I’m also a shameless flirt with people I’m comfortable with, mainly from not realizing I was doing it. That is, until the time I made a friend, we were getting along what I thought was great, and then he told me a story that was obviously designed to convey somewhere within that he was gay, totally gay, no doubt about it, gay. I was all “cool story!” and it wasn’t until hours later that it hit me why he told me that story, and I started thinking about how I’d been acting, and realized oh crap, that stuff I’ve been doing was flirting. So I thought about what I’d done, dialed it way back, and suddenly some tension I hadn’t realized was there was gone, and it got a lot better. And the moral of that story is that you do need to stop and self-analyze sometimes, and think about what you do looks like to other people , and pay more attention to their reactions.

    How many women feel they need a man’s permission before touching him on the arm, hugging,

    Ugh, really? Even after spilling that I’m an inadvertent flirter, I don’t touch people. I never touch people. I think you’re generalizing based on a few obvious examples; you’re thinking about the one woman in the office who touches everyone and not even registering the dozens who don’t.

  28. DeepThought says

    @23/24:

    the rules are the same: when in doubt, act in such a way as to not cross someones boundaries. that goes both for flirting and harassment: when you overstep, you’ve fucked up. goes for people of all genders equally.

    Yes, I agree that’s how it should be. The reality however is that the man will be blamed whether he does something misinterpreted as a sexual come-on or whether he misinterprets something a woman does as a sexual come-on. Because of course “he’s just got only one thing on his mind” and that “thing” is bad.

    And if a woman “flirts” so aggressively that her behavior is experienced by the person she’s interacting with as harassment because now she is the one who is overstepping personal boundaries? she’s sexually harassing that person; again, the gender of either of the people involved is not actually relevant.

    And what if the flirting isn’t sexual, or the woman says it isn’t? She can still overstep personal boundaries even in that case.

    male sexuality? nope. entitlement to sexual gratification by the people they’re aroused by/attracted to? yup. if you can’t tell the difference, that’s a problem; that’s in fact the whole problem.

    See, I can tell the difference just fine. It is society (and apparently you also) that think that I can’t. There’s the problem.

    toxic masculinity is the idea of masculinity as always wanting more sex and therefore never wanting to say no. if you say no, you become emasculated. That’s once again a way in which toxic masculinity is harming men, because men who are harassed by women feel they can’t say no, and can’t come forward with harassment accusations. And women in return are taught that it’s not possible for them to sexually harass or sexually assault a man because men always want it. And so they break boundaries and toxic narratives of masculinity make it so that it’s not treated as harassment even when it was.

    No argument here, but harassment doesn’t have to be sexual, it can also be emotional. And again toxic masculinity says that men don’t really have emotions anyway, so women don’t really need to worry about them; “real men don’t cry”.

    ..not usually “entitled”; remember, society posits women as gatekeepers, and so sexual intimacy is seen as “letting” a man, not as a woman getting something. That’s a toxic narrative that needs to be fought, but that can’t happen if you don’t identify it correctly. Still, yes, it’s important to repeat the message that “yes means yes” applies to all genders.

    Right, and society also posits women as the tender-hearted sensitive ones that tame the “brutish” men, so even emotionally men are held to be “getting” something from women.

    And actually… why are you creating this dichotomy in which women don’t want sexual intimacy, while men don’t want emotional intimacy? All genders at different times and to different degrees do or do not want either of these two things.

    I didn’t create it. It’s part of the patriarchal narrative.

    “getting into a man’s heart”

    I keep on coming back to this, and it keeps on not making sense in context. what’s love (romantic or otherwise) got to do with flirting?

    Because of the definition in the OP… “Flirting is about creating a more intimate connection between two people than usually happens in our daily meeting and greeting.”

  29. says

    “DeepThought”, you’re doing a lot of aggressive agreeing with people here, to all appearances because you’re assuming what the post and comments must be saying instead of taking in what they are. It’s a pattern for you in your comments on this blog. Consider giving some thought to why that might be.

  30. says

    The reality however is that the man will be blamed whether he does something misinterpreted as a sexual come-on or whether he misinterprets something a woman does as a sexual come-on.

    no. again: he will be “blamed” if either of those situations result in boundary breaking. you’re right that there should be more attention to making sure the same applies to women, but there’s no actual “it’s always the guys fault” thing here.

    And what if the flirting isn’t sexual, or the woman says it isn’t? She can still overstep personal boundaries even in that case.

    if she’s breaking personal boundaries, it’s still harassment. i don’t understand your point.

    See, I can tell the difference just fine. It is society (and apparently you also) that think that I can’t.

    ORLY. I can’t? LOL

    Because of the definition in the OP… “Flirting is about creating a more intimate connection between two people than usually happens in our daily meeting and greeting.”

    that in no way actually answers my question, since “intimate connection” is not synonymous with “love”

  31. says

    I didn’t create it. It’s part of the patriarchal narrative.

    well then stop perpetuating it as you’ve done in the bit i replied to.

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