Permission to Flirt?

“Would you be comfortable with me flirting with you?”

I’ve become fond of asking this question lately. I’m not all that good at telling when people are interested in me, and I find it’s a good way to make sure I’m not going to make anyone uncomfortable. I’m sure it also helps that the few times I’ve asked it, people have enthusiastically consented.

A while ago, a friend of mine mentioned my use of this question in conversation, and someone responded by saying they thought that asking a question like that would kill the mood.

And I felt insecure.

Let’s take a moment to review the context in which this insecurity happened: off the top of my head, I can remember three times I’ve asked someone some variation of this question. Each time, the response was an enthusiastic “yes”, and each time I got the feeling that the person I asked was more comfortable and interested in flirting because I had asked.

It doesn’t kill the mood.

So why, in spite of that evidence, did I feel insecure when someone suggested it would?

I like this as an example of cultural norms overpowering reason and evidence because it’s one of the most clear-cut examples I have from my own life. Asking if people want to flirt has never killed the mood in my experience. That’s not to say it’s impossible that it might some time, but it is certainly to say that it’s a lot less likely than some people seem to think. I have direct, uniform evidence of it not killing the mood, and yet it is still possible for me to feel insecure about it when people suggest that it would.

What is it about brains that makes them so prone to this type of mistake? Why not spend your time feeling insecure about things you have some rational basis to feel insecure about, brain?

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2 comments on “Permission to Flirt?

  1. Hmm. Speaking only for myself, I think I would find this question unsettling (if not necessarily “mood-killing”) because it would effectively force me to make a choice: do I want this conversation to be About Friendship or do I want it to be About More Than Just Friendship? I am rarely able to make that decision, because I rarely know what I want at such an early stage of interacting with someone. I would feel very put-on-the-spot. Normally, I find that the best interactions exist right on the border of flirting and not-flirting, and forcing them into one category or the other feels too limiting.

    On the other hand, if you want to flirt more “obviously,” it’s totally reasonable to ask for consent: “Are you comfortable with me complimenting how you look?” “Is it okay if I joke about sex stuff with you?” Getting into specifics makes more sense to me.

    But otherwise, I’m not sure enough what flirting even IS to be able to answer the question of “Is it okay if I flirt with you?”

    • That makes sense. I like the specifics thing. I’m not always sure what is flirting either, but I know the point at which I’m sure flirting is happening tends to also be the point at which the flirting from my side is ridiculously obvious.

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