Are You a Creep or a Flirt?
(Some small thoughts inspired by this post by Hannah Waters and by so many other stories we’re all sadly familiar with.)
There is something very wrong with a lot of men.
I say that with pain and complete mystification. Those of you who know me know that I’m fascinated by sexuality, completely sex positive, and very happy with men in general. Just look through this Tumblr. Take your time. :-) But all that said…there are so many men who have a damaging and violating idea of what flirtation is.
Flirtation is not aggression. It is not acting out and pushing until you find the woman who gives in to it. Flirtation is an interaction. It is delicate and fun and beautiful. It happens with work colleagues or with strangers, when you’re both single or when you’re married. It may or may not have anything to do with sex. You’re two adults. Enjoy it.
Flirtation starts out small and slow. A look. A laugh. A shared smile. And then you wait and see what the response is to that smallest of overtures. You wait for a second look or laugh. A tiny nudge that says, “We are in this together, isn’t this fun?” You wait for that tiny nudge…maybe she leans closer, maybe she tips her head toward you. And then you mirror that. Once you are both comfortable with that tiny intimacy, once you’ve settled into it, either of you might take it to the next level. A small, non-sexual touch. Hand on hand. Hand on arm. Shoulder against shoulder. You watch her. She watches you. You wait. You err on the side of patience and care.
Maybe no one has ever told you this. Maybe you were not correctly socialized. Maybe you were taught by other creepers. If you honestly don’t know, let me help you.
In flirting, you don’t plow ahead. You don’t skip steps. You don’t go from a shared smile to touching her on the hip. You don’t follow a friendly introduction with talk of sex. You wait. You watch. You respond to signals. You see if she reciprocates. You might even back up and start from the beginning again, just to be sure. Why not? It’s supposed to fun. It’s supposed to be happy.
This is a conversation. Two people are involved. Two completely different people. If she is pulling away, if her smile is strained, if she quickly excuses herself, if she seems alarmed, then you are no longer flirting. It’s been done for a while. She’s telling you that. It is really not that hard to read. I know. I’ve flirted. Other people don’t respond. The end. It isn’t subtle. You know she is pulling away. Everyone around you can see that she is retreating.
So…maybe that’s what you like?
Fine. But don’t call it flirting anymore. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t pretend there’s something wrong with her because she isn’t flattered. You are pursuing. You are wearing down. You are not taking her signal as the final answer. If your theory is that you might bother/offend/alarm 99 women, but it’s all worth that one who gives you a chance, then say that, but do not say you are flirting. When you skip steps of flirting, when you pursue, it is a warning to women. A warning that you don’t see or acknowledge resistance. A warning that we’re probably not safe with you, in private or public, because you don’t care what we feel or want. It is actually fucking scary.
It’s harassment. It’s gross. It’s inappropriate. It’s predatory. You are not cute. You are a creeper. Accept that. Try to fix it. Or at least keep it away from your job. At a bar, we can move away and roll our eyes and tell our friends you are a creep and never interact with you again. But at work? Your shittiness affects women’s careers and it damages us in ways you don’t understand and we do not deserve that.
Have some goddamn pride and decency. Stop being disgusting.
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