Flirting your way to the corner office


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The way we flirt has caused long-term harm lớn relationships và emotional health. It's time to lớn drop the bullshit.

11 minute readRelationships
In my previous article about Vulnerability và Manipulative Women, I bashed using teasing/banter as a basis for demonstrating sexual interest. I referred to it as “a horrible mindset” & implied it was dishonest.

As usual, whenever I turn my nose up khổng lồ this type of flirting someone always chimes in & says, “Aw, come on Mark, it’s harmless flirting. Why are you being so hard on it?” Some people even get upset, saying they “love” the verbal sparring that comes with this type of sexual interaction. They even get angry sometimes, lượt thích I just pissed on their dog or something.

But the reason I’m hard on derogatory flirting is because it’s a shitty way lớn instigate a sexual relationship. Fact.

Some people love the teasing và the innuendo & the “hard to get” stuff and the verbal sparring and the never-ending competition for dominance. These are usually the same people that are complaining that they can’t find a high quality man/woman & will bore you with calamitous break-up story after calamitous break-up story at the drop of a hat. Cry me a river.

Derogatory flirting sucks because it muddies the waters of intention & emotion, possibly the two most crucial components of a healthy sexual relationship (both short-term & long-term).

In derogatory flirting, you’re never quite sure of what the other one is feeling or meaning, and often you thua trận track what you feel or mean yourself. It’s designed that way. It distorts sexual interest, undermines consent, needles the other person into being insecure around you, & not to lớn mention is absolutely exhausting to keep up.

Pretending you lượt thích her less than you vị so that she’ll like you more than she says she does so you can then lượt thích her more than you say you vị so she feels comfortable liking you back more than she says she does — I’m exhausted just writing about it.

But it also tees you up for future headaches. A number of people asked in regards to the previous article, “What if she’s manipulative but you just don’t find out until much later?”

That’s the problem. With derogatory flirting you don’t really see what the other person is made of until way down the road, often after it’s too late to get away without getting your face scratched. You could be going lớn bed with the most psychologically fucked person and have no idea. And for those of you just looking for a good time, this khung of flirting is what creates that gnawing sense of having to lớn constantly convince or even trick someone into sleeping with you. It’s not fun.

When you attract through honesty & vulnerability, you find out who you’re dealing with early on: their values, their intentions, their comfort màn chơi with their own sexuality, their beliefs about men/women & sex. You can screen these manipulative people out within the first couple minutes. You can also judge basic sexual compatibility within a couple hours. You never have to lớn feel lượt thích you’re coercing anyone into sleeping with you. Since you’ve already been so mở cửa about your beliefs và intentions, a simple, “Let’s go to my place,” doesn’t seem out of line or inappropriate at all. It seems like a reasonable question và a logical next step in the interaction.

1. Sexual Rejection is Shameful

English-speaking culture is quality in that rejected displays of sexual intention are seen as shameful. I believe this is the root of our bizarre flirting behaviors. A failed sexual pass at someone is grounds khổng lồ be shamed and humiliated by our peers & society at large. This has been inculcated in us from a very early age.

(Note: By English-speaking cultures, I mean former English colonies và to a lesser extent Scandanavian countries.)

It’s important lớn understand the difference between shame & embarrassment or shame và guilt. Embarrassment is a temporary negative state due khổng lồ an external situation. Guilt is the judgment of an kích hoạt or external situation as bad or wrong.

But shame is an actual judgment of character. If you feel guilty about doing something, it’s the kích hoạt that is deemed wrong or incorrect, not you. But if you’re shamed about doing something, it’s you that is deemed wrong or incorrect.


In our culture, we socially reinforce shame in each other for our failed sexual intentions. You see it in movies & TV shows, where the bumbling idiot with the girl is always the loser character, where the sexually expressive character is almost always the bad guy. You see it in high school and colleges where kids make fun of each other for their unrequited sexual intentions. Many families in our culture refuse to lớn openly talk about sex khổng lồ their children. Kids are discouraged to lớn “experiment” when they’re young. Nudity is something to lớn be ashamed of và hidden. Public displays of affection are ridiculed and people are told to lớn “get a room!” so others don’t have lớn be exposed to their sexual interest in one another.

There’s just a general discomfort with sexual intentions that you vì chưng not find as prevalent in other parts of the world.

Sure, in other cultures, there’s some embarrassment và discomfort around some of these things, but their societies don’t actively shame people the way we do. Ask an Italian guy the last time he felt ashamed of telling a woman she was beautiful. Chances are he’ll look at you lượt thích you just crapped on his lawn.

The paranoia và fear, particularly in American culture, doesn’t help either. Girls cockblock each other out of some deranged honor code, as if every guy in every bar is America’s next serial rapist. Women are slut-shamed by both men & other women. Men are ridiculed for their lack of sexual conquests & then ridiculed even more for trying.

There’s shame everywhere. It’s a sickness. It causes epidemics of emotional/sexual dysfunction. & it inspires weird và inefficient strategies of displaying affection. There’s a reason dating advice is a nine-figure industry in the English-speaking world và not elsewhere.

2. Showing Affection Through Implication or Exaggeration

Since people in the English-speaking world are shamed into not showing affection or sexual interest overtly, we learn to bởi vì it covertly. We imply our interest & our feelings instead of expressing them openly. We’re taught that dating is a series of “signals” transmitted khổng lồ one another in innocuous, mundane ways such as playing with one’s hair or “accidentally” brushing up against their leg or conveniently mentioning that one will be hanging out at the skating rink at 7:30 or whatever.

Humor accomplishes this well too. If you joke about liking the person, then you can display your true feelings without anyone being able to lớn shame you for them. After all, it was just a joke, right? This then forces the other person lớn decipher what you actually mean or if you actually feel a certain way. So they might joke back to see what your reaction is.

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Another more subtle size of implication is through exaggeration. Everything is “The best thing ever!” Even minor, annoying acquaintances are “best friends,” and mildly exciting occurrences are described as “awesome” or “totally insane.” These expressions get cheapened in our culture because it’s seen as inappropriate to express these emotions in a situation unless there’s been some sort of monumental occurrence. Therefore people pretend that everything is a monumental occurrence.

3. Affection Through Teasing and Insults

In the process of implying affection through other actions & words, it seems we agreed as a society to perceive teasing and insults as a socially acceptable khung of affection & attention. This is most common in the UK, but exists everywhere in the English-speaking world. You bond with your friends by trashing them & embarrassing them. You flirt with girls by insulting them. It’s lượt thích a playground: boys are smelly, girls are icky.

When everybody decides that insulting someone in a humorous way is an indirect way khổng lồ show affection, then it becomes the new norm. Guys make fun of each other. Girls challenge guys và are “sassy” when they actually like them. Men tease women và attempt lớn make them insecure và vice-versa. All of these behaviors aren’t just avoiding the actual emotions và intentions, but they become the socially acceptable way of demonstrating sexual interest.

Aww, look. They’re flirting.

A society that agrees that sexual interest should be demonstrated through dehumanizing & insulting another person is a screwed up society.

The problem here is two-fold. First, one is never 100% sure of other’s intentions, again leading khổng lồ that murky area which leads khổng lồ poor relationship choices. The second problem is that while we may consciously know someone is joking, our unconscious still internalizes it. For instance, if your friends always teased you by calling you “Shorty” growing up, even though they did it out of affection, it’s likely you internalized it & ended up insecure about your height.

While this may be good-natured ribbing, this derogatory flirting reinforces the already-dominant precedents of shame between men and women. If a girl blows you off & doesn’t sleep with you, not only bởi vì you face the shame of the rejection, but she spent half the night joking about your car and acted unimpressed by your job. This is the new norm.

The two best-selling dating advice books for men & women are The Rules (for women) and The trò chơi (for men). In The Rules, women are advised to pretend they don’t lượt thích men that they’re actually interested in. They’re told to lớn make him hotline her multiple times and to pretend to lớn be unimpressed with him at all times. In The Game, men are advised to lớn “neg” women into being insecure about themselves, usually about their appearance.

This is honestly what we’re taught in our culture. Lượt thích somebody? Then treat them like shit!

4. Overcompensation

The social stigma surrounding sexual rejection, the poor expression of emotion, the derogatory flirting — these things give sex a weight in our culture that you don’t find in many parts of the world. In the English-speaking world sex is a really big deal. In most other cultures, sex is an enjoyable side-effect of an otherwise normal existence. In the English-speaking world, sex is something khổng lồ be worked for, fought for, & achieved. It’s talked about ad nauseam, & dominates our pop culture.

Because it’s taboo and requires so much social risk, people lash out và overcompensate. The English-speaking world has the highest levels of casual sex and one-night stands in the world. We also have some of the highest rates of alcohol consumption & binge drinking. The habit of getting really, really drunk & then finding someone to fuck is a cornerstone of our buổi tiệc nhỏ culture (see: any movie about college) và few others.

You see this in pop culture: entire movies và TV shows built entirely around sex and the obsessions associated with it. Sure, sex sells the world over, but rarely vị I see it glorified/stigmatized as much as I vì in English-speaking culture. Sex is a large part of machismo culture for Latin men, but there’s no social shame for being rejected by the women and there’s no confusion about their emotions. Sex appeal is glorified in women in Eastern Europe, but you don’t see the slut shaming that goes on in the West. Prostitution is accepted as a normal part of life throughout much of Asia và men and women are not judged for participating in it.

To put it bluntly, most English-speakers are still on that same playground, calling boys smelly & girls icky, while sneaking behind a tree to kiss each other, still hoping nobody else finds out. We’re stuck in place, và largely because our society shames us for going any further than that.


Now, before I get 500 emails telling me that I’m a reverse-bigoted asshole và that I generalize and that I don’t know anything & blah, blah, blah, let me pull this all together và throw a big floppy bow on top.

First off, teasing & some natural jibing between friends or two people who trust each other, there’s nothing wrong with it. It can be good, honest fun. The problem is when it becomes a basis of showing affection and appreciation to one another.

I recognize that no culture is perfect và other regions have problems that are just as apparent as ours. Let me take a step back và explain my little theory.

Historically, lớn thrive, all societies needed to lớn figure out a way to enforce cultural cohesion và create social order. As Freud pointed out decades ago, historically, for a civilization lớn thrive, it had lớn have a way to lớn cull & organize its people’s sexual impulses into a neat system. A civilization can vì this in two ways: through formal institutions and laws, as well as through cultural norms và societal beliefs. Different cultures developed different cultural norms to lớn enforce this social order.

Latin cultures have an intense fixation on romance, jealousy và possessiveness (it’s no coincidence that they have more infidelity than anywhere else). Islamic cultures bởi vì it through pure fear và retribution. Hindu culture does it by arranging marriages. Japanese culture does it through codes of honor và integrity.

And the English-speaking cultures bởi it through shame.

There is no “good” solution in any of these. All of them are repressive in their own way. Ours is repressive in that it inhibits mở cửa communication. It’s no surprise that the English-speaking countries have the highest divorce rates in the world (and it’s not even that close).

I suppose you could have the argument that our way is better/worse than the ways other cultures vày it. But that’s a discussion for another day.