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April 11, 2006


Little Lion

"Feminist flirting," an oxymoron which brings to mind Samuel Beckett's phrase, "that desert of loneliness and recrimination...," is ill-advised in academia. In view of heightened sensitivities, prudence suggests acting with the presumption that space-like separated, non-interacting particles at opposite ends of the universe are sexually harassing each other.


Two things:

First, flirting is probably going to come more easily for you because, if I'm not mistaken, you're very extroverted. I think the real question is "how do people for whom the traditional modes of flirting don't work manage to 'hook up'?"

Second, I'm wondering what sort of "traditional flirting methods" you're referencing here. Are you just talking about the idea that men are supposed to "initiate" most stages of interaction? (If so, you're going to come across as blind to your own privilege if you say that there's no problem with that expectation.) Or did you have particular actions in mind? (I've heard a lot of pretty loathsome behavior defended as "traditional" courtship.)

I think the feminist question is not so much "how to flirt" but (a) when flirtation is appropriate and (b) how to take no for an answer (by which I mean not just backing off when a "no" is given, but eliminating the sense of entitlement that leads men to treat "no" as an insult or an obstacle to be overcome).


Jeff, your final paragraph is one with which I enthusiastically agree.

Again, I'm not uncomfortable initiating (or I wasn't in the single days), both due to male privilege and ENFP privilege. But "initiating" is not the same as "dominating" or "controlling", and indeed, when seen as a role that can be chosen by either sex rather than a compulsory obligation, it can be subversive and fun.

Random Lurker

Yes- I don't think that sensuality or sexual attraction are *necessarily* negative, degrading or in opposition to feminism. I wonder and wonder and wonder some more about why so many people seem to demand that sexuality be linked with negative, exploitive things. It's all very gaaaaaaah.

Maybe the nice feminist boys and girls just need a good dating service? I keep hearing advertisments for 'Democrat singles'. Feminism really does suggest a better, positive way to relate romantically/sexually. But I'm not seeing a lot of things around to facilitate it.

Amanda Marcotte

Weirdly, a lot of old school flirting techniques are just fine with feminists. After all, old school courtship was the only time in a woman's life she was really treated as a person, in order to get her into the marriage where she subsumed her personality into a man's. That's why romance is so damn appealing to "traditional" women--the courtship is when your individuality has value and when men actually pretend you're special.

That's a lot of it. Then there's the part where men pretend that you're superior. This part of the courtship is the trade-off for a lifetime of subservience. He goes on his knees to propose, you're on your knees for the rest of your life. This is not feminist--I don't trust it when men come on strong and act like this because I know that it's traditionally a way to put a woman off her guard to lure her into a relationship where she's dependent.

So what's a feminist man to do? Well, I would say go with noticing a woman's individual characteristics, be kind, be flattering, the whole bit. Don't put her on a pedestal, though--smart feminists know pedestals are things to be knocked off of.


Well, I love the subject of flirting, since I learned to do it late in the game, and it still tickles me to do it a little, even though I'm happily married. Ordinarily when the subject comes up, I crank out a fairly abstract little ditty about enjoying yourself, being seen enjoying yourself, inviting others to have fun with you, paying attention to the answer, yadda yadda yadda. But people look here for practical advice, so, here is how to flirt. There are other ways, but if you don't know them, start with this one. It works for everyone, with everyone. It does not ever fail. Do this:

Every time you see someone you want to flirt with unwrap a candy bar, just as they start to unwrap it, ask: "Are you going to eat the rest of that?" The response you get will fall into a two-by-two with the following axes: you either get a laugh, or not, and you either get a piece of the candy bar, or not.

If the response you get is "no laugh, no piece of candy bar," you've successfully flirted because you know there's nothing doing with this person. Smile and walk away. You are allowed to nicely shrug.

If the response is "no laugh, piece of candy bar," you've successfully flirted because you can continue talking while you eat the candy bar with the person who shared it. Start with, "I was joking, but thank you for the candy bar!"

If the response is "laugh, no piece of candy bar," you've successfully flirted because you got a laugh. You can either smile and walk away, or try the "well, then, would you at least be willing to trade" gambit, using a fresh, wrapped candy bar that I forgot to tell you before to have with you when you try this.

If the response is, "laugh, piece of candy bar," you've successfully flirted because now you've got lots to talk about. Don't mention your ex-girlfriend! Don't mention that nobody knows what a nice guy you are!

N.B. do not do this to the same person over and over!


just a brief comment:

"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."

Does the "sexually attracted" means "attracted to physical appearance"?

I think, I might be wrong, but that one of the reasons so many young women suffer from eating disorder is due to overtly (at least in their eyes, men are not much aware of it) different behaviors of men toward physically attractive women from toward the others, and obsession about their own physical appearance due to this (though of course this is not the only reasion). Especially, whenever they see in numerous occasions men flirt with "beautiful" women, it reinforces in their mind the idea (which is I guess, well, correct) that straight men are attracted to physically attractive women.

Hugo said:
"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."

Indeed, this is true if I assume that "sexually attracted" is not synonymous with "attracted to physical appearance" (no, I am not a native English spearker, and so I am not sure if the connotation includes attraction toward her intelligence as well as other characters). It turns out that even if "sexually attracted" is synonymous with "attracted to physical appearance," actually I do still agree. However, occasionally men's behaviors toward physicallly attractive women are explicitly different to the effect that they reinforce in the psychology of women the importance of being physically attractive, and how important achieving that appearance is.

Maybe the society puts too much importance on physical appearances of women, and too many women are suffering from the pressure.

I am not a woman and I admit that I am just guessing these. Many of you might disagree and maybe I can learn from your thoughts.


And what did any of that have to do with flirting? Please save the "insightful" comments for when we are discussing the definiton of feminism.


Feminism and intergender relations are inherently contradictory

Damn. Do I have to get a divorce now?

akira, your English is excellent. :)


What, it's playground rules now? Anything goes when the teacher/blog owner's lot looking?


*not looking. Damn.


Antigone, as in ann-tig-ah-knee? Oedipus's daughter? But, then again, that presumes some level of basic reading comprehension and a passing acquaintanceship with Ancient Greek literature.

We are not discussing "feminism". We are discussing flirting, under the heading of feminism. The difference is we don't want this to digress in to another argument about the pros and cons of feminism, which is where your comment was leading to. This is talking about different flirting techniques, not if feminism equals bad.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I see we're getting a demonstration from David of how not to do feminist flirting.

I prefer spiritrover's technique. Especially if his fresh, wrapped candy bar is semi-sweet chocolate.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Time to try to restore the thread to some positive discussion of flirting:

I have a fond memory of a college friend singing "Do me with your hot monkey love" to me. But without all that had gone before, coming from some random guy I'd just met, that song would not have been a winner. A lot of it depends on timing, and what the other person's cues are.

Although modest quantities of really good chocolate are almost always well timed.


Lynn, I reminded of a Foxtrot strip where Paige is singing "Wild Thing" to herself in the library, looks up, and realizes that this totally awful guy is saying "I think I love you, too."

My boyfriend also seduced me once by singing "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" to me. It would not have worked coming from anyone else, but I had been giggling over the day before.


Yeah, I know what you mean about the song thing. My bf and I are doing the long distance thing, and one of my favorite flirting techniques of his is he'll call me up and leave a song on my voice messge. Semi-romantic stuff like "I want you to want me" or silly ones like: "Tequilla makes her clothes fall off" (the good version, not the new stupid one) or "Here's to you Mrs. Robinson" (I'm 2 years older than him).

It's cute, and absolutely adorable.

And David, I don't appreciate being refered to as a "ding-dong". It's rude.

The Happy Feminist

Gosh, I think feminism always makes relations between the sexes better for both men and women. But that's too general a comment.

So I'll say this. Maybe we need to define our terms better. What is flirting exactly? I think of flirting as playfully or subtly romantic conversation and body language. To me, saying "You're ass look great in those pants" isn't a flirtatious comment, it's an overtly sexual comment. And there are very few people to whom it's safe to make an overtly sexual comment without causing dire offense, claims of sexual harassment etc. Frankly, I wouldn't advise saying something like that to someone unless you're already sleeping with him or her.


Flirting does not require sexual content. It might require sexual chemistry to work, but that's mostly a matter of charisma and personality anyway, not pheremones or something.

Any interaction that reveals interest and an attractive personality could be flirting. Complimenting a woman's ass or commenting on her vaginal discharge are not likely to interest many women or make you seem attractive, so in most cases neither would be flirting.

"Sexual harrassment" is one person pushing their sexual desires onto another person in a professional situation. Sometimes it is used to describe any unwanted sexual approaches (because of the insensitivity and discomfort involved: "harrassment") but in most non-professional cases it isn't legally actionable. It's just rude.

The Happy Feminist

Exactly, Vacula. I meant to clarify claims of sexual harassment in the workplace. You should never discuss anyone's ass or the attractiveness thereof in the workplace!


It seems like the only time "Your ass looks nice in those pants" would count as flirting is when you're already sexually involved with the owner of said ass; otherwise it IS harassment. And eye-fondling does not count as sexual involvement.

And where's the sexual content or amorous intent in spiritrover's fantastic example? Flirting is a game played with attraction, but that attraction's neither the attraction to an like-minded professional nor "give me your hot monkey love, oot oot".

Damn, and I swore I wan't going to feed the troll .... Just where did you come from, anyways, David?


I guess I do have some sympathy for guys who are pro-feminist and wish to flirt appropriately. I mean, flirting isn't some that comes easy for many people: you mimic it from those around you before you come up with something for yourself. If all you see is the "Hey baby" rude kind of flirting, and all you see on tv is guys who ask over and over again until the girl gives in out of pity (and then realizes that he's her TWU WUV), you're going to think it's nice and effective. IF you then get a bunch of feminists running in and saying (I think, rightfully) that those types of approaches are disrespectful (and the second one kinda stalker-ish), the guy's going to be kinda confused on how to proceed. I suppose there should be better role models for flirting, I guess I just don't know how to go about doing that.


Pro-feminist flirting is easier to do in certain situations. Do you know the person you're flirting with, or not? Does the context tell you something about the person, or not? Do you have time, or not?

The typical flirting scenario is often the least-conducive to pro-feminist flirting. I'm thinking of a bar setting, trying to flirt with a stranger that you'd like to take home that night. It's going to be tough to flirt in a pro-feminist way there. You don't know the person, you don't know anything about them from the setting, and your time is limited. I stopped fooling with that kind of setting, and felt a lot better about my flirting options in other settings. I'm not saying any of you should stop, but think of other situations where flirting nicely is easier.

Any situation where you know at least something about the person, even if he or she is a stranger, is going to be more conducive to pro-feminist flirting. Groups of people from work or school going to games or other events give you lots of things to talk about, and that's what you really want: that opening that gets you talking.

It's even better if you can get rid of that time element. Flirting over a couple of days or weeks makes the whole thing more comfortable. Pro-feminist flirting can be sexy, but it's easier if it builds in response to the understanding the two of you come to as the flirting progresses. Trying to get that done before closing time, you're likely to make the other person uncomfortable. That's really the essence of pro-feminist flirting to me. Everybody's feeling comfortable.

Patriarch Verlch

Seems like at feminist potlucks i've been too, nobody could cook. Why is it that only feminist lesbians can oogle and find women attactive.

I think to be a male with a feminist perspective, a man needs to be willing to have said female change her mind a million times!


I think Twisty would argue about the "No feminist could cook" thing.

Where and when did it become okay for feminist lesbians to oogle? (And when was never okay to admire pretty people, feminist or other?).

Females change their mind a lot! Zounds!

How many other false stereotypes can you squeeze in there?


And here I was thinking semi-literate + complete lack of communication skills= HAWT, BABEEE

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