Has the #MeToo move­ment led to a change in the way we date and flirt?

Has the #metoo move­ment led to a change in the way we date and flirt?

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight re­ports.

Men who ask women on din­ner dates de­serve to fail.

“It’s just so cliche,” says Ru­pert. “It puts so much pres­sure on things, hav­ing to sit there and try to talk to some­body you don’t know, stuff­ing your face, with your best table man­ners, and then it’s ‘who pays’ and it’s awk­ward. It’s the worst game.”

Ru­pert has game. Ru­pert has two girl­friends, but only one knows about the other. On a slow week, Ru­pert (no, that is not his real name) has sex with an ad­di­tional two or three women.

He used to be jeal­ous of his gay friends who scored on the hook-up app Grindr. Then along came Tin­der. At first, he says, Kiwi women thought Tin­der was a dat­ing app, a dig­i­tal path to True Love and The One.

Now: “No shit, you can chat to a girl on Tin­der and she will come over, prob­a­bly within two days, with­out ever hav­ing met you, she’ll come over to your apart­ment and bring a good bot­tle of pinot and stay that night. It has be­come even bet­ter than Grindr be­cause they pro­vide the wine. If you want to, you can ac­tu­ally do that. And I could prob­a­bly do that five nights a week.”

Ru­pert, a 41-year-old com­pany di­rec­tor, has just got up to shut his of­fice door.

On the other end of the phone, I am pro­cess­ing what he has just said.

Me: “How can you say that out loud and not re­alise you sound like a com­plete pig?”

Him: “There are a whole lot of peo­ple out there go­ing ‘that’s what I want to do’. They’re not be­ing ma­nip­u­lated into that sit­u­a­tion. It’s just free will. It’s fe­males mak­ing their own choices in life. It’s not al­ways about guys be­ing bad. A lot of the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion that’s go­ing on is about fe­male em­pow­er­ment and lib­er­a­tion and them do­ing what the hell they want, and why the f*** not? Gays can do it, we can do it, any­one can do it. It’s great.”

It is just five months since Amer­i­can film pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein was pub­licly ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing dozens of women over a pe­riod of at least three decades. The story, bro­ken by the New York Times and The New

Yorker, drove the cre­ation of the #MeToo so­cial me­dia cam­paign and the Time’s Up move­ment. Since then, thou­sands of women world­wide have shared sto­ries about the sex­ual mis­con­duct of men.

The story you are read­ing started life as a look at flirt­ing in this post-We­in­stein world. To­day, phrases like “toxic mas­culin­ity” and “con­sent is sexy” dom­i­nate the life­style sec­tion of any given news cy­cle. Lisa Bonos, writ­ing for the

Washington Post, re­cently gave a typ­i­cal anal­y­sis: “This is what it is like to date in 2018. Plenty of het­ero­sex­ual men are confused about how to make the first move in a way that is con­fi­dent and mind­ful of a woman’s bound­aries.”

So, when I ap­proached women to talk about con­tem­po­rary flirt­ing, I ex­pected them to say yes, they felt more em­pow­ered. And I ex­pected men to say yes, they were think­ing harder about their be­hav­iour. What I didn’t ex­pect was this: “This one guy, I thought I’d have some ca­sual sex with him. I thought, I’ll just go over and we’ll have a week­end and see how it goes, and he just be­came . . . well, he was in LOVE. He thought it was all on. He be­came HOR­RI­BLE,” says Ca­role, 49.

Or this: “I’m just friendly. I like women. But I haven’t got a clue. A woman could be stand­ing in front of me naked . . . and I would be like [adopts tone of dawn­ing recognition], ‘oh — you want to f***?’” says John, 45.

When I asked for sto­ries about flirt­ing, what I didn’t ex­pect was the frank-funny-hor­ri­fy­ingter­ri­fy­ing-sweet-sad spectrum of ex­pe­ri­ences that de­fine dat­ing in the mod­ern world.

Only one sub­ject let me use his real name. James Mustapic is a 22-year-old stand-up co­me­dian who popped up in my Twit­ter feed when he wrote this: “When ur flirt­ing with a boy on Snapchat and re­alise their bit­moji looks the ex­act same as u . . .”

And there they were. Two clean-cut, white boys who could have been twins if they weren’t

car­toon avatars (or “bit­mo­jis”) who might, or might not, have real-life sex some time.

“I don’t think I’m that good at flirt­ing in real life,” con­fesses Mustapic.

“Maybe be­cause I’ve never re­ally had to that much. I try my best, but I don’t have as many set meth­ods, whereas I guess when I’m on­line some­times I have a few more.”

The in­ter­net was con­ceived in the early 1980s. By 1990, the World Wide Web had be­come a thing. Mustapic, born six years later, has never lived in a time when hu­mans weren’t on­line. Once upon a time, hu­mans wore their Satur­day best and signed each other’s dance cards in coun­try halls. To­day they just need a smart­phone.

The Ox­ford Dic­tionary has de­scribed emoji — the small dig­i­tal icons you stick on a text mes­sage for emo­tive em­pha­sis — as a “nu­anced form of ex­pres­sion” that tran­scends lan­guage barriers.

You’ve prob­a­bly signed a text with a heart or a smi­ley face. But if you’re new to dig­i­tal flirt­ing, be­ware — an aubergine does not mean mous­saka for din­ner and not ev­ery­one who sends spurt­ing teardrops is sad.

“I read this thing that said peo­ple who use emo­jis have more sex,” says Mustapic. And? “I think there’s some­thing in it. I like ones that aren’t too overt. The kissy face, and the kind of cheeky ones. I’ve had some­one use the dragon to rep­re­sent their pe­nis.” That seems . . . con­fi­dent? “It’s one step fur­ther than the egg­plant!” Mustapic says he’s had some creepy ex­pe­ri­ences (“they’re usu­ally older men”) but, he says, noth­ing like he has seen re­ported in the het­ero­sex­ual world.

“I don’t want to be like ‘oh, a gay man has the same struggle as a woman’. Women of­ten have a lot less power than men . . . I guess in the gay world, it is a wee bit dif­fer­ent be­cause with two guys, or two women — that sort of stuff still hap­pens ev­ery­where, but I think it is maybe a wee bit less.”

And, says the man whose Auck­land Com­edy Fes­ti­val show will be called Mildly Wild, “I haven’t no­ticed a de­crease in flirt­ing!”

WHAT, EX­ACTLY, is flirt­ing? And why do we do it? Psy­chol­o­gists draw com­par­isons with the an­i­mal world, where be­havioural dis­plays are used to at­tract potential mates. But what do you do when you don’t have a pea­cock’s plumage?

I ask Ru­pert for his best lines, and he just laughs.

“You just start a con­ver­sa­tion. But you start con­ver­sa­tions as though they’ve been go­ing for ages. It’s called the use of threads. You cre­ate a thread and then you start con­vers­ing on that thread and when you meet in per­son, you can im­me­di­ately pick up on those threads and build com­fort.”

That shift to on­line flirt­ing, he says, is partly about safety — you can as­sess, be­fore you meet, whether an at­trac­tion is mu­tual.

“The days of go­ing out and hop­ing for the best are long gone. There is more of a risk. I’ve never wanted to get any­where close to that line. I’m not in those sit­u­a­tions where peo­ple are drunk, for ex­am­ple, be­cause I stay away from Pon­sonby Rd on a Satur­day at 2am. I would be very, very cau­tious of that. But I’ve been in

If you’re new to dig­i­tal flirt­ing, be­ware — an aubergine does not mean mous­saka for din­ner and not ev­ery­one who sends spurt­ing teardrops is sad.

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