Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 03/30/2010
The Conundrum of The Flirt
I have a friend. Let’s call him Finneus. Finneus is a well known flirt at my school. The fact that he’s pretty much had a girlfriend consistently since the beginning of 6th grade does not disuade him in what can really only be called a flirtatious personality trait. He’s as consistent with his flirting as he is with dating – he will flirt with pretty much any female, and has been known at times to cross over and flirt with guys as well. Which is weirdly a way to show off his masculinity as long as it’s all in jest. This aspect of boy culture still eludes me.
Anyway, I used shrug off Finneus’s flirting, thinking, “Hey, he’s a teenage boy. It happens.” I couldn’t really get mad at him because, amazingly enough, his flirting was surprisingly varied and genuine. If he were only complimenting girls’ bodies (which, believe me, is not out of the question for him) I’d be pretty pissed off at his blatant objectification of women. But just as often as he compliments a girls boobs he compliments her on the grade she got on her last math test or her debate accomplishments. What?
Finally, I asked Finneus what the heck his deal was. I was truly fascinated by a boy who flirted so comprehensively. And his answer was pretty much as surprising as his behavior.
“I like making girls feel good about themselves,” he said simply. “And the things I tell them are true anyway, it’s just most guys don’t even think to say it. Or they’re stupid and they don’t care or don’t notice. Maybe it is flirting…I like flirting…but it’s all the truth.”
So what about complimenting girls bodies? You have been known to actually tell a girl she has a nice rack and feel that that exchange was sufficient, I remind him.
“I am a boy,” he reminded me. Oh right, I SUDDENLY remembered, rolling my eyes. “But the thing is,” he continued, “when I say ‘nice rack’ it does make girls feel good. They pretend like they’re offended, but they like the attention. It’s not my fault…blame the media.”
Now that last point is debatable. I’ve inherited some noticable boobs myself and when guys stare at them instead of my eyes while talking to me or go so far as to compliment them openly it really does make me feel uncomfortable and objectified. But at the same time, I think there’s some validity to what he’s saying. There are a lot of girls, when just parts of their body are complimented, act offended but secretly like it. It’s affirmation that they’re living up to some standard of beauty.
So where is the line between sincere compliment and objectification (and even sexual harassment) in the art of flirting? My friend Finneus really made me rethink this one. Where I had once written off any guys saying anything about girls’ bodies as objectification, I’m now reconsidering. Maybe a lot of these guys are just trying to make girls feel good. Or they’re trying to get ass. Tricky stuff.
All I know is that if more guys varied their game a little bit, and instead of saying “Great ass,” they tried, “Good job on that math test!” we’d all be just a little better off.
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