The Scriptures illustrate flirting (in the sense of showing an interest) is seen as being a blessing or a curse. Deuteronomy 6 tells us anything can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how it is utilised.
In the case of flirting, the story of Boaz and Ruth is an example where flirting proved to be a blessing, whereas in the situation of David and Bathsheba it proved to be a curse. In some sense flirting is a wonderful creative gift whereby young men and young women have exercised successfully down through the centuries.
Now the New York magazine have expressed concern in this heightened era of sexual openness that what men may construe to be a gentle flirt is nothing more than a friendly smile, a conversation ….
Catherine Reilly writing for Daily Life deconstructing all of this, says: polite human behaviour such as smiling, laughing or even being interested in a conversation are enough for a man to think, "Yeah. She wants it."
Reilly notes that this makes sense, that if one gender (females) are raised to be overly courteous all the time (and be overly courteous when they are attracted to someone) … well. Things are going to get a little "blurred", shall we say.”
It's called 'sexual over-perception' explains Reilly. Everything and everything, even being ignored, as adjudged as “she wants it”. "Sexual perception" is at the core of this difference and why social media sites such as tumbler have become well utilised where none of that is necessary – two people of different sexes meet for one thing. Sexual perception is simply not on the agenda.
Reilly comments that the "gender inequality" theory is essentially the story of men's misplaced entitlement to women and their bodies, from which we have our social norms, which dictate that men do the chasing while women cross their legs and look away hoping like hell it doesn't register to him as non-interest.
One of the psychology courses I undertook at seminary, almost 40 years ago, still applies today in Western democracies from what Reilly's research has found, that women are taught to doubt, first themselves and then the love of anyone else. This a truly important statement as even the most beautiful young women in appearance tend to have huge hang-ups relating to low self esteem and a lack of perception as to how gifted and accomplished they really are.
Our Press Service International (PSI) young writer program illustrates this in the personal communications I have as an older gentleman, a grand father mind you, with many of the young women writers. They are in my view wonderfully gifted, bright, smart but as Catherine Reilly points out through the research, lack of self esteem and recognition as to how very talented they really are.
Fathers are supposed to continually compliment their daughters as I do my own three adult daughters and the outcomes are the same outcomes as to whomever - you're in trouble if you don't compliment your daughters, you're compliments are treated as non-real compliments because that's what father's do. In my case, I compliment young women writers as part and parcel of my role and there is no fine line from where I stand, but there is a fine line from where many of them sit between being professionally complimented to a perception of flirting.
I now often pre-cursor a comment with “do I need my lawyer here when I compliment you on …... “ Then I'm in trouble as I am not acknowledging how truly beautiful they are …. as I need a lawyer to say the obvious! Can't win!
Society has the pendulum at one end of the swing according to Susan Patton – who is all over this like a rash calling it double standards and out of touch, as detailed in a previous article of mine: “We’re now talking about or identifying as rape what really is a clumsy hook-up melodrama or a fumbled attempt at a kiss or a caress. In many cases this is what it is”
“Any young man on any college campus who is accused of having sexually assaulted a woman starts from the position of being guilty until they can prove their own innocence.”
Where do we go from here with flirting?
Is there such a thing as Christian flirting? I wonder? I doubt it. The act of flirting itself is an expression of one person expressing an initial interest in another. The classic television examples of this are the Miss Marple series set between WWI and WWII in Britain (as just one of many examples) where a look, a smile, a turn of the head, is all that is required.
Such an initial expression of interest is then tested by both parties as to whether there might be a possibility of an ongoing courting relationship and then on towards a longer term future, or, on the other hand, a simple meeting of two people that goes nowhere.
More modern cinematic and television expressions of flirting tend to be a countdown from the time they make that first acknowledgement to the time they end up with their gear off and “at it” like rabbits. That's not flirting in the classic sense of the word, rather it's a make believe excursion into soft porn dressed us as family entertainment. Women offering the ‘glad eye’ is something different again.
Is flirting fun? Yes.
Is flirting safe? Yes.
Is flirting in our human natures? Yes.
But, can what one person reflects as flirting be misconstrued? Yes.
Is flirting tricky? It can be.
But as Susan Patton says, be sensible.
Where then is the fine line drawn? Wasn't it Paul the Apostle who said whatsoever things are lovely and pure …. think on these things. Is flirting in this category? I would like to think so for those who follow Jesus.
In a sense flirting is the start of a professional relationship in courting which then has two possibilities – mutual respect in friendship or to the next level of regular dating. This is where the ‘Me Too’ movement loses the plot.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html