Over at Bitch Ph.D. there's a post on feminist men and flirting. It's attracted lots of interesting comments. Here's from the original post:
In general, it seems to me that while flirting is difficult for everyone, that feminist women--made confident in part because of feminism--have it better, right now, than sensitive-to-feminism men. (We are not discussing jerky guys, or jerky girls, although I have theories about them too, but no time to elaborate. Perhaps later in comments.) There are lots of accessible models for sex-positive feminism; but I see fewer (none?) for sex-positive masculinity. I think that men who like women, and who don't want to buy into the all-too-prevalent role of the fratty guy or the "nice guy" don't really know how to proceed, especially given that we still, unfortunately, tend to assume that it's the male's resposibility to initiate. And even for a woman who is willing to initiate, the diffidence of men who aren't sure what their role is can be offputting. So how do genuinely nice men and feminist women hook up?
Well, gosh. I don't really flirt these days with anyone other than my wife. But it hasn't been that long since I was "out there", as it were, so I'll offer some quick thoughts on the topic. At the risk of getting my pro-feminist Christian credentials pulled yet again,let me say that when single, I never had any qualms about flirting in at least some fairly traditional ways. Good flirtation always struck me as being about finding clever ways to say to someone "I notice you". I remember having an argument about this with a male feminist friend of mine. He argued that the kind of "noticing" I was talking about (a subtle response to mutual attraction) was really just about reinforcing old gender roles. "I've seen you flirt", he told me, and "it's hard to tell you're a feminist when you do it."
Yes, he really said that. And I really burst out laughing. I'm sorry, there's a feminist way to flirt? Or better yet, a pro-feminist way not to flirt? Now I'm not "sex-positive" in the usual use of the term (I hold fairly conservative views on sexual behavior, am virulently anti-porn, etc). But I was always very "flirt-positive", even though I now generally direct that flirtation towards one person! What I told my friend -- and what I tell the young men I work with -- is that there is nothing shameful about being sexually attracted to women. Furthermore, there isn't anything inherently wrong with using traditional flirting methods to express that attraction; where feminism kicks in is in reminding young men that a clear signal to cease and desist needs to be respected at once. But the idea that a pro-feminist man will only be attracted to a woman's mind without some appreciation of physical attraction is entirely absurd.
So how do genuinely nice men and feminist women hook up? One of Bitch's commenters said she'd never found it to be a problem, and was now wondering why. And I suppose I'll have to agree, and say it was never a problem for me either. (Some who know me and love me anyway would point out that I haven't always been that nice a man). But I know it is a problem for some of the young pro-feminist men I work with. Flirting, like so many other things, is a difficult art to describe in words. In my life, so much of it seemed based on tone, inflection, eye contact, and physical chemistry. But one thing is clear -- good flirting always involves confidence and fun; feminism always involves mutual respect and good listening. I'm quite confident all of that can go together nicely!