[Previous posts: one and two. Increasingly loosely a response to the arguments here. I realize I am asking for this, but IF YOU PEOPLE REHASH ELEVATORGATE IN MY COMMENT SECTION I WILL DELETE YOU ALL.]
One of the questions I’m trying to explore with this series is what would be some logical ways in which to organize the dating world.
There aren’t any.
Well, there are ethical rules. “Don’t do things to people’s bodies without their consent” is always a good rule. So is “don’t lie to people.” And “if you can tell a person is distressed by you hitting on them, don’t hit on them.”
But in terms of effectiveness? Fuck no. There aren’t any rules. There are heuristics.
For instance! Many people believe that you shouldn’t hit on women in an enclosed space like an elevator. To be perfectly honest, despite my female conditioning, I would not be more freaked out by a stranger expressing sexual interest in me in an elevator than I would by a stranger expressing sexual interest in me in any other circumstance. (To be completely fair, my general reaction to a stranger expressing sexual interest in me is sheer terror, so it is possible I just didn’t notice the elevator-induced additional terror.) Many people believe that sending a message through a friend that you want to have sex with someone is middle-school-ish, while I consider it a perfectly reasonable way to get in contact with me, given my aversion to phones, Facebook, and the outdoors. Et cetera.
I don’t mean to suggest that everyone else has all these preferences and I am all Liberated and Free Of Your Constraints. I have weird aversions too. Like I said, I tend to respond to strangers who want to have sex with me with panic, and yet somehow cruising places and one-night-stands and people who get drunk at clubs and hook up still exist.
The same sort of diversity applies all throughout relationships, but fortunately after the asking out stage you can just ask people what they like and then organize the relationship that way. But, Oz and Willow aside, you can’t ask people how they’d like to be asked out before you ask them out. So basically if you ask people out, there is a certain risk of people disliking the way you ask them out, complaining to their friends about it, etc. And there’s no real way I can see around it, except not asking people out, and even then you’ll probably get people complaining that you’re lurking around and they can tell you have a crush on them but they don’t like you back and you won’t make a move and aaaaaah this is so awkward.
So yeah. If you ask people out, sometimes you’ll upset people. There’s not a lot you can do besides being sensitive about signals that mean someone doesn’t want to talk to you or is uncomfortable with continued flirting (hint: they are basically the same as the signals that a platonic friend Does Not Want To Talk To You) and avoiding methods of asking people out that will freak out most people, such as yelling at random ladies about how nice their asses are. Also, convincing people not to throw a giant fit when a lady blogger mentions offhandedly that she wishes dudes wouldn’t hit on her in elevators? That would be nice.
I do, however, have an idea about how we can ameliorate this nonsense, at least for heterosexuals! And that is to end this stupid idea that women can’t ask men out.
Let’s assume that there’s group X, which is more-or-less comfortable with asking people out and the attendant risks. And group Y, which is more-or-less uncomfortable with this idea. Under the system that most of the dating world currently operates on, if a dude is X, it works out great. But if the dude is Y, either his partner is also Y, in which case they’ll just sort of stare awkwardly at each other in between writing torrents of impassioned poetry, or she’s X, in which case she is getting increasingly frustrated at him staring awkwardly and writing impassioned poetry and wishing that she lived in a sensibly-run universe in which she could fucking ask him out.
If we take away that stupid restriction, however, any couple with at least one X in it leads to happy funmaking romance times, which is a significant increase. The two-Y couples are still stuck, but I guess someone needs to write all the grief-stricken poetry.
Photo– Ken and Nyetta/Flickr.