Flirting as an Ethical Game

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 3:57 PM

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For some people, myself included, flirting is a fun mental exercise. I don't always flirt, though when I am comfortable, I tend to engage the people around me in that way. For me, flirting is a balancing act: I'm watching the other person's body language, learning about the way they think, and to a degree (because I am competitive and aggressive) it's a measuring process. I want to see what they're made of, as I am aggressive enough to make dating someone who is not a problem. Because I could offend or stifle someone, despite my best efforts, I actively seek out people who like to flirt, if they understand boundaries. JT has a great post up about this, which inspired this blog post.

Off the top, the hard news is that women have different opinions on what the boundaries are. There are a few things which I'd say were highly likely to show up on lists of things which make women want to run into the night, many of which are covered by Dr. NerdLove, Schrondinger's Rapist and the commentariat on JT's blog. The rest is going to involve flexibility, observation and a willingness to apologize and back off when mistaken.

For the record, this happens to women as well. I've been too forward with men and had them be freaked out, at which point, it's time to apologize and retreat.

I'd like to talk a little bit about romance, at this point, because gender role violations often cross what is romantic/desirable for the general public and/or in this society. I'm very resistant, in general, to the idea of romance. I think it puts a fuzzy, out-of-focus filter on some fucked-up shite.

Fucked-up shite #1: In a 'real' romantic relationship, the man should know, by instinct or fucking witchcraft, what pleases a woman and what she 'needs', as opposed to what she wants/expresses a desire to do/etc.

Why it's fucked-up shite: Holy unreasonable presumtions, Batman! Assuming I don't have to cover why using instinct in this way is just stupid, let's talk about what that does to communication. This model for 'romance' insures that neither party knows what the hell is going on, and the odds for something hurtful or even dangerous (if you're kinky) go up exponentially. It shames men for communication by insinuating that if they were 'real' men, they'd just know, and prevents women from saying what they want by outright declaring them incapable of understanding their own needs.

As a side note, this is why some women may not be able to express what gives them pleasure in the bedroom. Does ANYONE want that relationship?

Fucked-up shite #2: Wuv, tru wuv, happens in an instant, for all eternity. (Out, out, damned Princess Bride.)

Why it's fucked-up shite: Hey, you know how to put together a functional relationship? Work, work and more work. I should know, I've been married three times. I may want to bone the shit out of you when I meet you, but actual, relationship-building love requires dedication, work and the willingness to change. None of these are instantaneous; they take years. The desire to fuck you silly is not love, it's just horniness. There is a difference.

Fucked-up shite #3: You should do anything for your tru wuv, to keep them in your life. (The Stephanie Meyer corollary.)

Why it's fucked-up shite: You know what the best thing in the world is (okay, for me)? Being able to leave someone. Those three divorces were the best thing for those situations. Staying in those relationships would probably have killed me by now. No one who loves me wants me to endanger my life, well-being and mental health for their amusement, so they won't leave me.

As a side note, nothing peeves me more than watching women compete for the attention of a man because he's their tru wuv, and they just want to prove it. Ugh. UGH.


Fucked-up shite #4: If you have tru wuv, you'll never have eyes for anyone else.

Why it's fucked-up shite: Really? For the rest of eternity, you will only ever desire one person? Never to enjoy the body and/or mind of anyone else? Never to even look at anyone else? Not only is this unrealistic, the insecurity it represents is relationship wrecking. Even if you are not poly, I would be highly surprised if, at some point in your life, you did not appreciate the sight of someone else (like a movie star, a co-worker, etc.) Being constantly afraid that your significant other will leave you, or that no one will love you if you get old or unconventionally attractive is no good, and it's part and parcel with the whole romance package. Insecurity happens (hell, I have a lover and a boyfriend, and am mystified by their attraction to me), but building a relationship of casual paranoia is not a good path to long-term relationships. It's better to deal with that shit.

What this has to do with flirting: At its heart, flirting is an act of communication. Some people are more adept communicators than others, and learning to flirt is a part of the process (I recommend cybering with people who are able to respect boundaries. For me, this was a part of the kinky community.) The various things I outlined above are flirting killers. They undermine communication and penalize taking flirting lightly, freighting it with expectations which range from toxic to dangerous (after all, a failure of romance can be taken as a character failing which merits threats and/or actions designed to 'punish' the other person.)

They take all the fun out of flirting and make it less ethical. I won't flirt with people who have those expectations; it's too risky. The only ethical thing to do is withdraw.

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