Flirting. It used to be so much fun, right? Once upon a time we could happily flirt in the office, tell a woman she “looked hot” make some ‘hilarious’ quip like “while you’re down there … ” to a colleague when they pick something up from the floor (cringe). ‘But it was harmless fun, I mean, she smiled about it?’ Thing is, her smile was probably a grimace because she’s uncomfortable, angry and a little bit humilitated by this sort of ladish banter but has learnt to let it go because that’s just how men behave…
Not anymore, thanks to Harvey Weinstein. The allegations, the debate, the millions of fed- up women who joined the #MeToo campaign. And these women weren’t just talking the physical sexual advances here either, the world realised those ‘harmless’ verbally suggestive quips were also not OK. The world began to point and wag a finger at man and man realised the ‘fun’ was no longer funny. Making anyone, male or female, feel belittled, uncomfortable or reduced to a sexual plaything is never OK.
Confused over what constitutes harassment, some guys have retreated into their shell rather than risk causing offence and being called out. It’s got confusing. So how do you flirt online or in public places now?
Here, for the flirt-starved male or female, is a list of rules to help navigate the choppy flirting waters post the Weinstein age.
- No means no: These days there’s never any question over whether no means no, no? Tip: When you’ve got to the sex stage, an enthusiastic “yes” is all you’re looking for here. Hear the word no, no matter how quietly, and someone is having second thoughts. They’re really not looking to be persuaded, convinced or coerced into sex. Their brain, for whatever reason, has red-flagged the sex scenario. You need to stop and have a chat. Some might feel all this verbal communication removes the mystery, but you could rapidly be heading for trouble if you add 1+1 and don’t get 2 consenting adults.
- Who’s got the power? Consider the power dynamics. If you’re in a position of authority, or you’re a fair bit older than the person you like, you need to be wary. Ask yourself, is the person really receptive to my advances or do they feel their job/career may be on the line if they don’t flirt back? Or do they feel a little intimidated by my role? Proceed with caution.
- Read the signs: Anyone making a sexual approach to another human being needs to get skilled in reading body language as well as a wise grasp of what is being said through texts or online messages. Research suggests that the young generation of digital natives, growing up with smartphones, are actually less skilled at reading facial signs and body language, something to consider if you’re older than they are. Digital flirting is much easier than doing it in ‘real life’ so be mindful that people can come across more sexually confident or explicit in messages than they actually really are. No matter what is said digitally, nothing can be better than face to face communcation for reading ‘dem signs properly.
- Touchy touchy: Groping, fondling, stroking etc without consent is actually illegal and post Weinstein, people who who commit these acts are now more likely to be called out and reported. Many are still getting away with it, but plenty more are being exposed.
- Wink wink? A recent YouGov survey on sexual harassment found a strong correlation between a woman’s age and whether or not she considered wolf whistling to be sexual harassment. 64 per cent of 18-24 year old women said it was, a figure and just 15 per cent among women aged 55 or over. A similar result is found with winking: 28 per cent of 18-24 year old women said it was harassment, compared to 6 per cent of the over-55s.
- Language, please: The Weinstein revelations have made us privy to examples of how so-called compliments npw sound incredible excruciating. J-Law revealed that she was once told by a director that she was “perfectly f**able”. Nice. She must be so proud. Compliments do not have to have explicit sexual content that push the boundaries of acceptability, especially when you think that being called stunning on her Linkedin profile caused barrister Charlotte Proudman to hit out at lawyer Alex Carter-Silk for sexism.
- Locker room banter is old news: Yes, somehow Donald Trump managed to ride-out his dreadful “p****-grabbing” comments of last year but it’s just not on. Noone can presume they’ll get away with this kind of talk without someone calling them out.
- Be better than lad culture. Pornography is ubiquitous and sadly, girls appear to be viewed as sexual objects as much as at any time in recent history. Increasing numbers of men too. But guys, you have mother’s, sisters and maybe one day you’ll have daughters. Put aside your own needs and treat other people as human beings rather than sexual objects. Read the signs. They are there. Flirt carefully and respectfully, people!
What are your thoughts of flirting post-Weinstein? Tell us @lovestruck