Defining the morals of us fickle human beings is a near impossible feat that slides between slippery and subjective. It seems that we quickly confuse wrong and right until we are the ones bearing the emotional bruises. Does hurt only qualify when a clear line has been crossed? And should morals be placed in question by behaviour, even if they lack the intent or complete outcome of them being broken?
In an era where transparency is rare, sexual innuendo is the norm and boundaries evaporate rapidly is it possible to find a definition for flirting? And does flirtation always carry a negative connotation? Perhaps not, but with every blurred line lies the opportunity to explore and understand a concept that’s usually relegated to the ‘too hard basket’.
behave as though sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions.
The definition of flirt uncovers the very ambiguity of the verb. Notably the dictionary definition of flirt places no malicious or ill-intent on the behaviour. However, the seduction of flirtation lies in the fact that it lacks clarity, and with secrecy of intent acting as a loyal shield it remains mysteriously sumptuous, and ill-defined. For the most part definitions of flirt do place a focus on intentions; flirting is to act as if sexually interested in another person but not necessarily mean anything by it. However, if the outcome is altered by the action along the way, then the intention, regardless of its innocence or malice is at risk of being perceived negatively. Generally speaking, the contemporary definition (as defined by us) of flirtation has a sexual energy embedded in it, and being accused (playfully or seriously) of flirting means that you may want something from another person. So, is flirting without due intent i.e.. to express an attraction, or to pursue a romantic connection still classified as rude, dishonest or misleading?
Of course the answer depends on a multitude of sins and acceptance.
The difficulty, as always is taking responsibility for the way your actions (intentional or not) make other people feel. To clarify, in practice, flirting is dependent on your wavering intent and the way your actions are both perceived by another person, and, how they make them feel. If you are part of a couple then the subjectivities of your other half also slips its way into the equation.
As always, I have questions.
If someone misunderstands your intent and thinks you are flirting with them (to show romantic interest) is the other person absolved of responsibility because they didn’t mean it/were only being playful?
No. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your actions and if you’ve engaged someone (via flirtation) to the point of being actively attracted to you and you have no desire to reciprocate those feelings it’s a bit of a shit move. It can also still be classified as leading someone on.
Lots of people use their charisma inadvertently as a way to influence others. This is still possible without engaging flirtation as a tactic.
But what if this flirtation is natural?
Fair question. However, with everything considered there’s still a line (albeit a blurry one) that you cross which sees a shift in dynamic between 2 people. It’s like a friction point in a car and you have to engage it to change gears. Here, that friction point predominately indicates a deepening of flirtation. The biggest indicator of this can be seen through body language and eye contact. When that begins there’s your defining moment. Lots of people use their charisma inadvertently as a way to influence others. This is still possible without engaging flirtation as a tactic. Unfortunately when your actions are subject to classification by another person’s feelings you need to tread carefully.
Is it still classified as flirting if you are in a relationship?
Yes of course, but most of the time the success of this is driven by our favourite skill, communication. By success I mean, nobody loses an eye.
Where shit generally hits to fan is when the party in a relationship conveniently forgets to enlighten the other about their relationship status. This lack of transparency can happen for a myriad of reasons but is usually perceived as fairly disrespectful to everyone else involved. It’s genuinely heartbreaking when you realise that the guy you’ve been flirting with for 5 months has a girlfriend and just failed to enlighten you. Even worse is perpetuating the illusion that he/she may leave their partner for you.
What happens when 2 people already in relationships flirt? 2 relationship statuses cancel out flirting don’t they?
Our relationship status doesn’t hinder our social fluidity, in fact, for some it greatly helps it. Instead of acting as a barrier, being in a relationship can open the opportunity to explore the personality of a member of the opposite sex because your relationship status acts as a natural boundary. The complexity surrounding the integrity of a female/male relationships is dense and relative but an existing relationship status seems to grant instant clarity, and, perceived safety. This means that a connection can be forged without the apprehension that the interest will be wrongly assumed as romantic. Inevitably, complications can arise when a level of closeness grows and an openness and intimacy develops, which may then threaten the relationships of each person.
Flirting becomes even more subjective when it’s subject to interpretation by a partner. As a general rule, considering whether your partner would appreciate your (flirtatious) behaviour if they were privy to it sets a pretty good benchmark. With all that said, touching another girls ass isn’t excusable because your wife is in the room!