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01 January 2012 @ 03:45 am
How to flirt on the bus without being creepy  
I've been reading a lot of very interesting articles about sexism this past week. Recommendations:

What strikes me the most is that, as soon as any problem that mostly women suffer (e.g. rape, sexual harassment, etc.) is being discussed, "What About The MEN?!"-comments will show up, like clockwork.

Don't know what those are? They are comments made by people who mean well, but are missing the point of the discussion by a mile.

An example:

This is an old article called Schrödinger's Rapist. Pretty inflammatory title, right? Well, it's about the way women make threat assessments about men who are strangers to them, because women are told from a very young age to watch out for rapists everywhere. Also, most women meet a lot of men who disrespect their personal space and boundaries, which teaches them that a lot of men aren't to be trusted.

These are facts, written down so that men can get an idea about what women go through on a daily basis, as well as a "how to not creep women out and behave like a potential rapist".

One guy - probably a very nice, sane guy - then posted a comment that pretty much boiled down to: "I don't feel comfortable with women thinking about me as a rapist. I'm not one! They shouldn't do that to me, I'm nice!"

….yeah, that guy completely misread the article. It's not about how all women think all men are rapists. It's about how a lot of women are raped, that there's no way to tell a nice person from a rapist at first glance and that all women are told how they must protect themselves from being raped (with the implication that these rapists will be men - young women rarely hear anything about how they should be suspicious of strange women...), which makes it necessary for all women to suspect every strange man of being a potential rapist.

The commenter clearly didn't realize that. Instead he entered the discussion with the attitude that this article was insulting to him. He wished to focus the discussion on how he felt uncomfortable knowing women he might approach in public will think he's a rapist (which isn't what the article said, btw) and how the article should be rewritten so that it'd be less offensive to nice guys.

I have no words.

Another example:

One suggestion in the article is that if a man is out in public and sees a woman he'd like to talk to, talking to her might not be such a great idea all of the time. If she doesn't answer him when he addresses her, that's not an invitation to keep asking her to listen to him. Yeah, she might not have heard him the first time, but she might also be ignoring him because he obviously is ignoring all her "go away"-signals (I will explain what I mean by that, further down).

In response to this, some men said: "But how will I get a date if I can't talk to women on public transportation?" and "You're really limiting the way for guys to meet girls! The human race will die out!"

My first thought when I saw this was: Wow, self-centered much? Also, way to miss the point there.

My second was: Someone really needs to tell these guys the difference between flirting with someone and being creepy as hell.

Now we get to the "How to flirt on the bus without being creepy"-part of this post! These instructions are addressed to men (the many of them who aren't rapists, obviously) who wish to approach a woman they're attracted to, but are unsure on how to do so. Why? Because these are the guys who usually complain that the dating advice of feminists are limiting their chances of getting a date and I'm looking to prove them wrong.

Let's see if I succeed.

Okay, men-looking-to-meet-women, we're on a bus. Or a train. Or waiting for the subway. Or in an elevator. Somewhere public, but still a place a woman can't just leave if she finds you to be creepy. Thus, avoiding being creepy is the main goal. Because you're not. You're a nice person.

You already have the setting working against you. Why? Well, in general (there are of course rare exceptions) women are very used to being bothered and harassed on public transportation. It's very common.

Ask the women close to you (doesn't matter how pretty/young/thin they are) if they've ever had a man bother them on a bus; the chance they'll say yes is about 99%. The chance they'll say it's happened more than once is 99%. The chance they'll say it happens often is also very, very high. And by bother I don't mean asking "What time is it?" or "Can I borrow some money?" - I mean harrass, as in saying and doing creepy things. I'll elaborate further down, when we get to descriptions of creepy behavior.

Thus, because some guys are douchebags, women are extra suspicious of men who address them in places where they can't get away. We're not paranoid or hysterical – we're rightfully suspicious, based on experience.

So, what do you do?

Well, act like a normal, decent human being and you should do fine. And if you are one, everything I say after this point might seem so obvious to you that I come off as talking down to you – which is a good thing! If you haven't considered doing the things I'm going to tell you not to do, you're already doing everything right. Go you!

Still, just to make sure we're on the same page with what constitutes as "decent human behavior", we'll go through the does and don'ts, starting with the very first thing you see about a person, in terms of communication: Body language.

You can obviously see the woman you want to talk to, ergo you can see her body language. Most people can understand body language just as well as spoken language, but to be on the safe side I'll go through the basics with you – because a lot of the creepy vs flirty problems stem from the fact that some people are unable (or unwilling) to read body language.

How does a woman who's looking for someone to talk to (maybe even flirt with) act? That's very important: it's not simply about the fact that you want to talk to a woman, she has to want to talk to you too. This is important.

See, when a man is staring out through a window/listening to music/reading a book/not looking at you/has his eyes closed, that means he's not interested in interacting socially with anyone at the moment. And you know what? It means the same thing when a woman does it.

If the person (woman or man) wants to talk to people, there's signals for that too: looking around, smiling at people, making eye contact repeatedly. Some may be listening to music or reading, but they will have the music turned down low enough to hear someone address them and they'll be looking up from the book occasionally, to see if anyone is interested in talking to them.

In other words, it's rather obvious who'd welcome a conversation and who wouldn't.

The bad thing you can do in this situation, if you're not getting "I want to talk"-signals, is to go talk to her. If you talk to someone when they're signaling "I want to read in peace" or "I'm not interested in a conversation right now", you signal that you couldn't give a fuck about what they want. You signal that your desire to talk to them, trumps their desire to be left alone.

The worst thing you can do is grab her book or pull her headphones out of her ears. Grabbing a stranger's personal affects is never a good idea and a very stupid thing to do, if you're trying to get a date.

In short, ignoring body language is a very douchey thing to do. You will annoy the other person. You will come off as creepy, especially to a woman being addressed by a man.

What do I mean by that last part? Isn't being roped into conversations with, for example, a little old lady just as annoying?

No. The chance that a little old lady will do more than tell you about her grandchildren or medical problems is close to zero. The chance that a random man will want more than just a talk is much higher. Therefore, when you as a man address a woman despite getting "go away"-signals, you get 'possible rapist'-points, because you're acting like a douchebag who doesn't respect boundaries.

Overreaction? No. Because while little old laides more often than not respect the "go away"-signals, most women have to put up with men approaching them against their will, all the time. No matter what we do when we're out in public, there are a lot of (mostly) men who think we want someone to come up and talk with us, despite the fact that we're sending every signal  known to human kind that we're not interesting in a conversation right now!

It's annoying and creepy and it won't get you a consensual date. If you do that, please stop it.

"But!" I hear some of you say, "what about the women (and men) who like speaking to strangers on the train/bus/plane, who don't know how to communicate that?! And the shy ones?! They exist too! How can I be sure I'm not missing out on a date, just because some women don't want to talk?"

Oh boy.

It's true there are some people who are shy, yet still wish to talk. Most of them still signal that they wish to talk, just not as loudly. You can still be pretty sure that someone not looking at you means "leave me alone". A few people don't signal "come talk to me" even though they wish to, but they are very few.

If you want to risk annoying someone who wishes to be left alone, on the small chance that they're actually sending the "go away"-signals without meaning to, fine. You're not a rapist just because you talk to someone against their will. But if the other person gets annoyed with you and gives your "Hi!" a very curt, verbal "Go away" or a glare, don't blame that person or call them a "frigid bitch" – you're the one ignoring their signals, so you're the one doing something rude. They don't have to be polite to you.

Also, the chance that you'll get a rude reply, even if you're the one being rude in the first place, is very low. In general women are raised into the belief that they have to be polite to everyone, all the time. Sad, but true.

In summary: If you don't get "come talk to me"-signals, don't go talk to that person. Unless you don't mind annoying people and getting turned down.

But what do you do if there are "come talk to me"-signals? Or if you're just not quite sure (there's of course a continuum from "go away" to "come talk to me")?

That's when you say hi.

Simple, right? Just don't say "hi beautiful", "you look stunning" or something similar to that. Even if you honestly mean it as a compliment, almost no woman will take it as a compliment..

Women get comments about their appearance all the time, positive and negative. All that tells her about you, is that the only reason you're talking to her is because you want to have sex with her. That's not flattering, that's "I don't think of you as a person, but as an ornament for me to look at and possibly have sex with".

Compliments given by strangers mean nothing. Save them for your friends, partners and family, or at least people you've actually interacted with.

When introductions are over, strike up a normal conversation, like with any other person. That's exactly what this woman you're attracted to is – a person, not a subspecies or a mysterious creature of wonder. The moment you forget that, is the moment you turn into a creep.

Now we get more body language, as well as verbal speech to look out for. A person who is comfortable talking to you looks happy and relaxed (you know what that looks like, right?). A person who's uncomfortable doesn't.

But why should she be uncomfortable? She said hi, right? She told you the title of the book she was reading. She acknowledged your existence!

Well, maybe that was all she wanted to do and then go back to being left in peace. Maybe she's just making polite small talk. To find out if she is, all you have to do is listen.

What should you listen for? What she's saying, of course! Is she contributing to the dialogue or is she just nodding and ah-hahing? Is she completely silent? If she's not trying to keep the conversation alive with at least a "Tell me more!", it's not a conversation. It's a monologue.

And if she says "This has been really nice, but I really should get back to reading/need more sleep/have to make a phone call," that's your cue to leave (just like in any other conversation).

When it comes to body language, smiling can actually be a mixed clue. A lot of people smile or laugh when they're nervous or uncomfortable. But telling a nervous smile from a genuine smile isn't all that hard, so don't lie to yourself, even if it hurts to acknowledging the fact that you're making someone uncomfortable.

But let's say the conversation flows effortlessly. Don't take this as a signal that you're on a date. Until you ask her out (or she asks you out), you're not on a date. You're just two people being friendly towards one another and having a good time. She doesn't know you're attracted to her and she hasn't signaled that she's attracted to you either – women can't read minds anymore than you can.

If you feel the conversation is going well enough, you take the big leap. You ask her out. She might even beat you to it!

Be prepared to be turned down. All women will not wish to go on a date with you, no matter how nice and not-creepy you are. Just like you don't want to go on a date with all women in the world, women don't want to go on a date with all men in the world. And not just because some women are lesbians or asexual. The trick is finding someone you're attracted to, who finds you attractive in return. This is not easy.

Yes, that means there's no "one thing you have to do" to make all women fall for you. You can't make yourself attractive to all women. Yes, media lied to you. It's sad, but true. Keep this in mind while you talk to a woman who seems to enjoy your company – just because she's having fun doesn't mean she thinks you're potential dating material.

Take the chance, ask ("I really like you. Do you want to have coffee sometime?" "Would you like to meet again sometime?", etc.) and if she says yes, yay (but make sure she knows it's a date-date, not a let's-be-friends-date)! If she says no, too bad, but there are other fish in the sea. Don't take it as a loss. After all, you got to talk to a fun person and if you accepted the rejection gracefully, she still thinks you're a nice person.

Accepting rejection is actually a key point to not being a creepy douchebag. Sadly, most men grow up learning that if they just try hard enough, they can have any woman they want. Also, that a woman who says "no" really just is testing how persistent you'll be and wants you to ask again until you've proven your devotion to her.

This attitude is all kinds of unhealthy and horrible.

Yes, asking over and over and over again if a woman wants to go out with you might get someone to date you. But it's not a consensual date. She's not decided to date you because she's attracted to you, quite the contrary. She's agreed to date you because your constant badgering annoys or even scares her and she's chosen what she thinks is the lesser of two evils.

So, don't nag! That's a red flag for everyone. If someone turns you down and you keep asking that person for a date, you're moving down from douchebag to stalker, approaching rapist territory. Do the adult, not-creepy thing and accept that that person doesn't like you back. Anything else is very, very wrong.

With that in mind:  You can't bully someone into having consensual sex with you either! Yes, many women (and men) will give in if you ask them for sex enough times – especially if you're in a relationship with that person – or if you say some variation of: "have sex with me or you're a frigid bitch", but this is not because she (or he) wants to have sex with you. No. Just, no.

Then why do people "give in" and have sex when they don't want to?

Because they're being forced to. That's it. That's all there is. Most don't even actually "give in" – the rapist simply ignores the victim's "I don't want to"s. Maybe they're not explicitly saying "no", but that isn't permission!

If someone robs you, do you have to say "No please don't rob me!" for it to count as robbery? Of course you don't have to. As long as you're not giving your money away of your own free will, you're being robbed. It doesn't matter if the robber is some stranger on the street with a gun or your significant other who manipulates you – either way you feel like shit and you've lost money.

Now, apply this to rape.

See, rapists aren't just crazy people who jump people in dark allies. Those are actually rare. Most rapists are neighbors, coworkers, friends and even significant others. Rape is when someone ignores the fact that the other person doesn't want to have sex.

Bottom line is, unless the person you're with gives an enthusiastic yes in reply to the question "do you want to have sex?", everything else means no and you have to respect this. This goes for all people. If your partner doesn't say yes to sex and you still have sex with them, that is rape.

I repeat: rape! It doesn't matter if they've had consensual sex with you prior to this or if they were okay with "just making out". These are excuses rapists tell themselves to not have to think of themselves as rapists.

It's not about saying no, it's about saying yes. Unless you get an enthusiastic "Yes, I want to have sex with you!" or a synonym thereof, your partner is not consenting, they're being raped by you. These two are not the same thing.

Yes, some women still think they have to play "hard to get" to not be labeled a slut (and slut-shaming is a topic for another post I think). They'll say no when they mean yes. But they are very few and far between. So is the chance that this is the sort of woman you've run across really worth taking the risk of molesting and raping someone?

If you think it's a risk worth taking, you should not be let out among people.

Whew, this got long and I'm not sure it's anywhere near complete. But I hope it helps explaining why some ways of talking to others are creepy and some aren't.

I'll end this post on a happy, hopeful note.

A couple of my acquaintance (a man and a woman) met at a club. The man approached the woman and she rebuffed him right away even though she thought he was cute, because she's been raised to expect a man to badger her into a date and because she didn't want to look like a slut. But the man, being a nice, sane person, took the no as a no and left her alone.

Too bad, right? They were obviously interested in each other. Now they'll never see each other again! What a waste.

Wrong. See, since the woman was interested in the man, when he didn't come back she went to talk to him. And now they live together.

So even with failed communication and way too much cultural baggage for both men and women, people still find love – or casual sex, if that's your thing. Either way, good luck and remember: yes means yes.
Current Mood: complacentcomplacent
Listening to: The silence after fireworks
lady_drace on January 1st, 2012 11:03 am (UTC)
This. All of this.

I have to say, though, that some women do go all out with their "don't act like a creeper" advice, to a point where the poor guys feel they can't even say hi without running the risk of being maced. Seeing a nice, logical guide for once is a refreshing change.
Nonesane: Secrets and Liesnonesane on January 2nd, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Glad this entry came across as sane and helpful, not condemning!

I wrote it mostly because I got the impression that there are a lot of men out there (judging from the comments I've seen on a number of blogs I've read) who really don't get the difference between "Some men act like creeps and bother people who don't want to talk to them, and they should stop" and "NO MAN SHOULD TALK TO A WOMAN EVAH!"

Seriously, some men (perfectly nice, sane men as I've already mentioned) really overreact as soon as someone mentions that some men act like idiots.

It's quite disheartening to see them be so egocentric that they can read an article that basically says: "Society tells women to prevent being raped, that it's all the woman's fault if it does happen and that most rapists are male, so women tend to be extra vigilant around strange men rather than strange women + some men are assholes because they insist on talking to women who don't want to talk to them." and then comment: "I AM OFFENDED THAT WOMEN ARE VIGILANT AROUND ME THEY MUST STOP THAT AND WHY CAN'T I TALK TO THEM?! YOU'RE OPPRESSING ME!"

I, as a woman, am also annoyed that I have to be (not want to, have to) vigilant around strange men who most likely are very nice people, because I know that if one of them turns out to be a rapist, society will see it as having been my fault because I didn't fight back enough/lead him on/wasn't careful enough/wore the wrong thing/started the conversation/let him walk me to my car, etc.

You know who I blame for that? Rapists. And so should everyone.

The sad truth is that no one can tell a rapist from a nice person at first glance. Or third. Or ever, until he (or she) rapes you. Just like you can't tell a racist, or a homophobe, or a regular asshole from a nice person until those topics are addressed and they reveal their true colors.

I am white or Caucasian or whatever you wish to call it. This means that ever person that I meet who isn't will (consciously or subconsciously) evaluate if I'm a racist or not. And while I think it's horrible they have to do that, I don't blame them. I blame racists. Because if racists didn't exist, other people wouldn't have to worry that I might hate them just because I look like I do.

Also, how many people actually get dates (or one-night-stands) when they hit on people on the bus/subway/plane?

I'm honestly curious, because I've never met a couple that got together that way (I've just seen it happen in movies). All I've ever heard of (or experience myself) are annoying people who bug you and won't go away while you're just trying to get from point A to point B via a bus/subway/train/plane etc.

Most couples I know met through friends, at work, at university, at school, at a club or at some sort of activity they had in common - like a theater group, a LAN, a soccer game, etc. So say you never flirt with anyone on the bus again (and I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just asking a hypothetical question), how many people would actually miss out on a date or a one-night-stand?

Someone should do a study :)

Edited at 2012-01-02 12:43 am (UTC)
lady_drace on January 2nd, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
No kidding. A study would help everybody.

In some guys' defense I can add, that I personally know at least two guys who regularly hook up with dates "on the fly", as they would say. But I'm also happy to report that they're the kind of guys who merely smile and shrug when they get a no. So far, so good.

But otherwise, I can nod along with pretty much all of this. My ex was sadly one of the guys who would often peep up when there were feminists on TV, and he would start going on about how all they wanted was to change the world into a female dominated society. While I don't doubt there are a few extremists, sometimes I really wanted to smack him.

I can't offer much personal experience on the subject of being propositioned on the bus (or similar) because quite frankly, it never happened to me. Negative comments about my looks/weight? Plenty. But I'm afraid I might take even the advances of a total creeper as something of a compliment. Which in turn only encourages creepers. *sigh* We can't win. Seriously.

But yes. Let's blame the fuckers who actually make this a problem. Those bastards.
Nonesane: Ciaononesane on January 18th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
It's nice to hear there are people the flirting works out for, on the fly or not. I really don't think there's anything wrong with flirting with people, no matter where you are, no matter if you're a man or a woman - it's just the whole "flirting with people who don't want you to bother them"-thing that should stop (and women do that too - it's just a social standard that "women can't rape" - which is a damn lie - that makes it easier for some men to say "take it as a compliment, I would if a woman did that to me", because a situation like that isn't threatening in their minds.)

(I'm going off on a bit of a rant here - just so there won't be a misunderstanding, I'm not directing it at you, just people who don't get what feminism is and who don't get that sexism is hell for men too).

I get why some people don't like feminists, since feminism does tend to focus on women's issues and some people who like to think they're for equality instead spread lies like "there's no such thing as misandry and sexism favors men". Sexism favors no one. Just because the men are shoved into a different box, doesn't mean they're not in boxes.

That said, I think feminism is necessary, because women's issues need their champions. Also, I think that men's issues need their champions, through masculism or whatever other groups wish to claim that field. It's just that the issues of sexism for men and women are so different that they really can't be "translated" from one side to the other - but that doesn't mean one side has it worse or better than the other, just a different kind of hell.

Feminism doesn't mean you think men have is sweet - it means you talk about and focus on fixing what's wrong with the world's view of what a "real woman" is and how women are treated. That said, it also means you fully support that men's issues need fixing too.

And I'm not saying you can't be both a feminist and a masculist (or however that word is supposed to be spelled - I blame it on my Swedish) - I'm just saying each discussion needs its own space where it won't be derailed, since they all need different solutions. We can work on them simultaneously and should work "across boarders" and on a lot of issues we have to work together all the time - the biological parents' rights when it comes to a child, for example. But women don't know what it's like to be men, any more than men know what it's like to be women, so we'll all just have to admit that until we figure out telepathy, we can't really discuss everything at the same time, for fear of leaving someone's views ignored. We still need safe spaces for everyone to talk about their own box and why it sucks.
Nonesane: Ciaononesane on January 18th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
Which brings me to trangendred and intersex people, who have yet other boxes. Where do they fit in the feminist/masculist camps? I'd say in both and they should have their own as well - how many they now please, to feel that their boxes are getting the attention they should.

As for personal experience with comments on appearance, I should have made that "negative or positive", because when unwelcome, they're both as bad after a while. It's sad that we as people should have to put up with any unwanted comments from complete strangers, be it on our looks, intelligence or anything else, positive or negative. Giving someone a compliment is not the same thing as bothering someone with unwanted attention, but we've sort of been brainwashed (women and men) to take any positive sounding words from strangers as a compliment - at least the first five times.

Not everyone is offended by comments on their appearance when out in public. I personally just pity the poor guys - because it's mostly men who feel they have the right to my time - but I also know a lot of others who experience the same thing feel horribly uncomfortable and unsafe when it happens. And who am I to say they're "overreacting"?

I know the difference between a compliment and someone who's just bothering me because they think they deserve my attention. When you give someone a compliment, you do so because you think what you say is true and you think the other person will benefit or be happy about hearing what you have noticed about them. When you just want someone's attention or to bother someone, you say something you think sounds like a compliment and then you expect payment, in the form of a compliment back, their undivided attention, all the way up to sex.

Sometimes, "false compliments" are given by someone because that person wants to "show off" to his/her friends, by yelling "nice tits" or "love your ass" to a complete stranger - and that's just stupid.

Compliments = awesome. False compliments = just stop it.

And of course, if you give out negative comments to people you don't know and didn't ask for it, you're an idiot.

In short, I agree with you - the people who are the problem are the problem and the rest of us shouldn't have to put up with them.
lady_drace on January 19th, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm going off on a bit of a rant here Please, feel free!

Feminism doesn't mean you think men have is sweet This bit might spawn just a little bit of a rant from my end as well. It screams the word "privilege" at me. I hate that term. As far as I can see it's a word that makes it okay for people who have it bad to assume that because other people don't have their problems that they have it easy. Which is so fucking wrong I don't even know where to start.

Feminism should be about fixing what's wrong with being women. Masculism (or whatever the term) can easily share the same flavor text, but the problems are vastly different.

Example: Power. Because so many women are powerless about their own lives in the world, this is something feminism will inevitably focus on. This is generally (I know, I'm generalizing for the purpose of this debate) not a problem for men, so for Masculism focusing on that same thing would be stupid.

This does NOT mean that all men are power crazy fuckheads. Often it is in fact women oppressing other women. And to say that men are privileged seems incredibly dumb to me. Yes, in certain fields they have advantages - AS DO WOMEN! There is lack of equality everywhere, and not only in favor of men at all.

Yes, we've lived in a male dominated world for a long time, and the shadows of that still loom. But I think (just my very personal opinion) that if you want to be a modern feminist you have to accept the fact that men have their own struggles. And all too often I see outspoken so-called-feminists forget that entirely. And that saddens me.

Sexism favors no one Amen.

The only point I can see making feminism just a tiny bit more relevant than masculism is the annoying fact that women are simply built with less muscle mass than men by way of nature, so when push comes to shove, women do have a disadvantage. But since we do in fact NOT live in a caveman society, this really shouldn't matter. And the fact that it does is just fucking depressing.