Dudes the world over (I feel like until people stop saying “but I’m not like that!” I have to keep amending statements like this by saying OK GUYS #NOTALLMEN, WE GET IT, MOVING ON) claim that no, they’re not harassing women, they’re just flirting! Can’t they flirt? Is flirting illegal now? Why can’t we flirt anymore? FEMINAZIS, AMIRITE?
Yes, guys, you can flirt. But you might want to consider the fact that some women feel actively threatened by what you call “flirting” constructive feedback and improve your technique so that when you’re expressing romantic or possibly sexual interest in someone, you don’t end up making them feel hounded, harassed and/or worried for their safety.
Here’s some tips for not being predatory while you’re flirting.
- If she says no or in any other way expresses that she isn’t interested, stop. If she changes her mind, she can come and approach you later. Saying that we aren’t interested isn’t a coy game — it means we’re not interested. Trying to persist and talk at us until we change our minds is the equivalent of trying to force us to give you access to our bodies in order to get you to leave us alone. Is that really the kind of relationships you want to be having?
- Don’t talk about your dick straightaway. And when I say “talk about your dick,” I also mean “talk about what you want from us sexually” even if you phrase it as “what you can offer us sexually.” By doing that, you’re basically saying “You mean nothing more to me than what you can do for my sexual pleasure.” That is not in any way charming or attractive, because most people like to be respected as individual human beings. Thinking and autonomy are the basis of consent. Even if you’re just looking for sex and she’s just looking for sex, you should respect the fact that she is a thinking, autonomous human being first, before you move on to the fact that you might be sexually compatible.
- If you’re flirting in person, don’t use your body or anything else to bar our movement. For example, cornering us, leaning up against a wall in front of us, grabbing us, refusing to move out from in front of us — your body language counts. If we want to leave, we should be able to do so with ease.
- Consider the possibility that we’re already aware that you find us physically attractive and talk about something else instead. If you’re flirting with us, it’s fair for us to assume that you find us attractive, right? It can feel really, really reductive when guys only want to comment on how we look, as if that’s what really matters about us or makes us worthy subjects of your attention. And I’m not saying don’t give (genuine, real) compliments about our looks, I’m just saying don’t lead with it. Example: The first time I hooked up with someone after I left a long relationship, I met up with a guy from Reddit (yep, shut up). We spent about an hour at a café talking about ourselves — our jobs, what was going on with our love lives that we ended up there, what we did in our free time, what our lives were like, what our friends were like — before he said, “You really don’t know how beautiful you are, do you?” Fuck yeah I loved that compliment! That hour of talking was well worth it for both of us. (I’m not saying that you have to spend an hour talking to someone every single time you flirt — don’t be so friggin’ literal!)
- If you get rejected, move on instead of fixating on it or getting angry. Getting angry in response to someone telling you “no” generally demonstrates that you believe you were denied something you were owed. No one ever owes you their attention or their body, period. The only circumstance in which it would be reasonable to get angry is if you were perfectly polite and the person rejecting you did it in a really asshole way. But that’s when you get angry about the way they are talking to you, not the fact itself that they deigned to reject you.
- If she’s busy doing something else — including work, reading, talking on the phone, running errands, commuting — she’s not there to flirt. I’ve had A BUNCH of people tell me that they “compliment” women on the street because what if they compliment us and we fall deeply in love and live happily ever after? How realistic is that scenario? Save it for social settings — settings in which you can judge who the person is as a human being before approaching them instead of basing your approach solely on their looks.
- Just in general: Be polite. What I have always failed to understand is this: Why is it that we act like it’s important to be polite and considerate to other people when we’re at stores, in restaurants, meeting up with friends, spending time with our families, but not when we’re talking about performing intimate acts with our bodies? Why is THAT the time that it’s OK to be rude, crass, and inconsiderate? If you want to have a fun, healthy, happy, consensual good time with someone else in bed, why would you start that off by breaking the rules of decorum you already know and apply elsewhere?
I bother writing this because I envision a world in which we can all feel free to express our sexual interest, but do it in a way that dignifies the other human being instead of frightening and reducing them. It’ll be a better time for everyone when we start changing the way we talk about and go about flirting. I mean, come on, I love sex! I just never wanted to have it with people who disrespected me in order to express their interest.