When you're a woman, men perceive everything you do as "flirting."
Smiling politely instead of scowling = flirting.
Making eye contact instead of staring at his shoes = flirting.
Nervously playing with your hair because this dude is standing way too close = flirting.
Before an unfortunate ACL injury, I played tons of basketball, and could trash talk worse than Draymond Green.
Even when I was telling a guy that I was about to hurt and humiliate him in front of his friends, he'd still think I was flirting.
Bro. I don't have that kind of love for you.
As I wrote in We Tell Girls to "Look Out For Each Other" At Parties. Boys Should Be Looking Out For Each Other, Too, alcohol only makes the problem worse. (Which is why we should be telling boys to look out for each other at parties. When a guy's judgement is impaired, he should be able to count on his buddies to have his back.)
For this reason, a lot of women are "curt" or "unfriendly" in interactions with men. (Others treat men the way they'd treat any other human being... and occasionally end up having to scream NO in a guy's face because he won't stop trying to kiss her or warn a guy that if he ever touches her without her consent, she'll kill him. I think it's a good way to make your intentions clear while normalizing the idea of women defending themselves against male violence.)
Unless the guy seems to be in a solid, long-term relationship...
In which case we feel like we can smile and make eye contact without him getting the wrong idea and hitting on us.
But we're still just being friendly.
Hilariously, the TV trope or armchair psychology or whatever explanation of this straightforward behavior is that married men have been "vetted" and are... therefore worth stealing? Because of evolution?
The thing about armchair evolutionary psychology is, you've got to take it with a grain of salt. If you don't know why, read The Power by Naomi Alderman.
The much simpler explanation, here, is that we don't have to be curt with married men because we know they aren't going to misconstrue friendliness and try to hit on us.
I feel compelled to add, though, two quick notes:
Not everything women do is flirting. If you are flirting with a woman who is not flirting back with you, she is going to think (and tell all of her friends) that you are creepy. Remember: creepy isn't about attractiveness. It's about reciprocity.
Just because a woman is spending time with you, does not mean she is sexually or romantically interested. If that's your goal, it might make sense to be clear about your intention.
You're worth spending time with, even when sex and dating are off the table. I hate to think of all the incredible opportunities, from parties to concerts to musical collaborations to guys' weekends to surf trips to sailing excursions to mountain bike adventures to SO MUCH ELSE, that I would have missed if I were afraid to say yes because I didn't want to date the guy and I thought the only thing I had to offer was sex.
I have so much to offer. Probably the least interesting thing about me is how pretty I am. (Yes, I said it. I am pretty. Does that make me vain? No. It just means I'm not blind, and I hate the social expectation that women are supposed to either hate or pretend to hate the way they look. I love the way I look. Deal with it.)
I am sure you, too, have a lot to offer. So get it out of your head that if you spend time with a dude and you don't want to kiss him, he's going to be disappointed. Whether or not you kissed him, he still got to have dinner with you and benefit from your jokes, knowledge, and stories. He should consider himself lucky.
But it never hurts to be clear about your intentions.
See also: I'm Not "Using Feminine Wiles." I'm Just Worth Spending Time With.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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