FLIRTING – A DYING ART OF COMMUNICATION
If you find them sexist, it’s just because you are not interested.
Once upon a time in a beautiful town called Verona, there was a boy who fell head over heels in love with this girl he met at a party. They were from rivalling families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The families despised each other, so an introduction was highly flammable. But he did not care. He just walked right over to her, and in a flood of exuberantly flirtatious phrases told her how hot she was. Oddly enough, this brash, inappropriate declaration of attraction did not offend her. She was intimated yet charmed. Of course, she did not respond immediately to his bold move, as he delivered it in such an out-of-context, weird and unexpected manner. He continued to stalk her day and night, lurking around her yard at odd hours. Even hiding under her balcony. When she noticed his stalky behaviour, she was, surprisingly enough, not appalled. Quite the contrary. She took well to it and invited him to continue his stalky behaviour, which so many others should have been disgusted by and maybe even compelled to report to proper authorities, so they could have thrown the insolent youngster into a correctional facility befitting of his disgusting behaviour. The reason for her completely unreasonable acceptance of his behaviour was very simple. She was interested.
Sexism is a scorching hot topic in recent years. Since the launch of the #Metoo movement by Tarana Burke back in 2006, with the goal of providing a chance for healing to victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment by enabling victims to speak up, it exploded in 2017 with the exposure of a certain American film-producer. Since then, the fight against sexism has blazed on, but in my personal opinion the healing part has got somewhat lost in the short-term, superficially gratifying achievement of judgement and eternal punishment. I am all for the #Metoo movement in Tarana Burke’s original form, but much to my sadness, we are seeing accidental, innocent casualties in the war against sexism. One of the soldiers lying wounded and dying by the wayside is the flirt.
If you have not figured out where I am going with this somewhat random opening, it is not to state an opinion about either sexism or sexual harassment, but to offer comment on the communicative power of flirting, and what we stand to lose if it is killed off as a casualty against the war on sexism. It is about our ability to speak competently into various contexts of communication to see, how our choice of communication affects us now, as opposed to how we have dealt with the implications of communication in the past. You see, I do not think we are moving forward with our choices for communication. So, let me just make a bold statement about flirting, which I hope will incite discussion:
Flirting is only viewed as inappropriate,
if the person at the receiving end is not interested.
Then it is called sexism.
If you, by any chance, should feel yourself getting angry at the above, know this: You may be getting angry because you assume I endorse sexual harassment. I don’t. Flirting and sexual harassment are not the same. Flirting has become frowned upon as a casualty in the rightful fight against sexual harassment, which is something I could easily disregard as a triviality of no major consequence to my overall topic of our purpose for communication. I think it is more important than that, though.
To advocate the argument that it should always be healthy and acceptable to flirt in any situation, we must first identify very clearly what flirting is, but more importantly, what flirting is definitely not. Flirting is not sex. Flirting is not an invitation to sex. Flirting is not dating. Flirting is not an invitation to dating. Using or abusing a higher position of power in a hierarchy, being a film producer, a boss, a director, a teacher, etc., to persuade your way to sex, by way of attraction to power, is not flirting. It is a morally degrading act. Abusing a higher position of power in a hierarchy, being a film producer, a boss, a director, a teacher, etc., to force your way to sex, or being anybody simply forcing your way to sex is not flirting. It is rape and is punishable by law. Flirting and sexual harassment are not the same. Sexual harassment is an act of sexual attraction imposed upon others in a workplace, professional, or social situation. It is what you do. I am not talking about how you should act or behave. So, I’m not talking about the hand on the back, or the slap on the ass, or the caressing of hair, or the stealing of a kiss. Or worse. I’m just talking about what we should be able to say to each other. You can see flirting as the freedom of speech aspect of political correctness.
Flirting, in itself, is simply a compliment and the purest display of attraction. Something that any man should not only be allowed but called to do with any woman he finds attractive in any kind of way and vice versa; any woman should be free to flirt with a man anywhere, without being assumed a sexist predator. The dictionary definition of flirting is: To behave as if sexually attracted to someone, although not seriously. NOT seriously. Sexual harassment is with intent. Flirting is without. This definition of flirting causes for such wonderful uses of the word as “On the other, however, the opera and its surrounding texts carefully evade the consequences of such flirting." - Cambridge English Corpus. Language can be so beautiful.
The power-struggle in dating.
Let us go back to how my experience suggests most people define flirting as being an invitation to dating or sex. Where does the balance of power lie in a dating situation? With the woman. The woman owns the power of choice in dating. She is the selector for that simple reason that she, evolution wise, is the baby bearing side of the equation. She gets to choose whose baby she will bear.
Yes, women, you have the power.
I know many women will struggle to believe this, but it is the truth. Women own dating. It is the man’s obligation to make his attraction known to the woman and give her the choice and thus the power. But dating and flirting is not the same, and we should never expect flirting to lead to dating. Dating has no relevance to this article, but flirting does, so, let me keep dating out.
I dare the proposition that no woman will prefer never to be flirted with. They will recline being flirted with in the wrong situation, but what is the wrong situation, and who gets to decide the parameters for the wrong or the right situation. Here comes the bold side-question. How often is the wrong situation defined wrong because the one at the receiving end of the flirting is simply not interested? If they WERE interested, would they then judge it as the wrong situation? If the doctor, who flirted with the nurse at the hospital ends up marrying that nurse, and they fall madly in love, will they then tell their grandchildren a story of the wrong situation?
In an ideal world, men should make it a virtue to always flirt under the assumption that women will not be judgmental about their agenda or purpose for flirting. Unfortunately, that is not the state of the world now, and often they will. We have made a virtue out of judgement. Men and women alike. The assumption of motivation behind flirting should never be anything other than a compliment. Flirting is not an invitation for sex. It is not even an invitation for dating. It is simply a statement of unserious attraction, and if you find someone attractive, man, woman or anywhere on the non-binary scale, for that matter, you should make your attraction known, because the world would be a much more pleasant place, with a lot less skepticism and cynicism, if everyone was told every once in a while that someone else found them attractive, without feeling required to view the person stating their attraction with immediate contempt. Of course, the problem is that the possibility for women being able to view flirting as the honest compliment it is, is that there are too many creepy men providing too many good excuses for women to set their barre of skepticism a lot higher than what is constructive for communication.
To tie this back into communication, if you think about a speaker really having a connection with an audience; the buzz of excitement is palpable in the room. What is happening is the speaker flirting with the audience, and they like it. They are interested. It is not flirting in the sexual sense, but the speaker is making sweet love to the audience, in the same way as a movie-actor on fire is making sweet love to the camera, or a jazz-singer is making sweet love to the pianist. If flirting is taken down by a stray bullet in the war against sexism, then we lose our ability to connect. We have to be allowed to flirt.
Thank you for reading. Have a lovely day.