If there’s one truth in this world, it is this: The majority of teenagers are really really horny, and most are more than happy to engage their urges and mess around with someone else. Flirting is, for the most part, pretty natural and usually harmless. But at what point is flirting seen as harassment? (and, conversely, when can harassment be seen as flirting?) There are plenty of girls I know who feel powerful due to the boys who make stupid passes at them—and other girls who just feel like shit because members of the opposite sex won’t leave them alone.
Teenagers, especially teenage boys, are idiots, and I don’t think there are really many people who’d disagree. But in the boys’ defense, maybe their idiocy serves an evolutionary purpose. I pose to the public a question, which I ask completely unironically and in all seriousness: Without the catcalls and the stunts and the clumsy flirting, how would anybody know when it’s time to bone?
There’s no shortage of conversations going on in the blogosphere about rape culture and catcalling and harassment. But what these conversations rarely seem to mention is the fact that this heteroagressive* male attention toward girls isn’t always unwanted, and can sometimes be well-recieved. Like plenty of girls my age, I get flirted with relatively often. And maybe I should just shrug it off (or just straight-up slap the guy) but instead I play right along with it. I flip my hair and smile and giggle and feel damn good that someone decided that I should be that day’s target for their clumsy, adolescent sexuality. I go about my day secure in the knowledge that I could hook up with some random, ridiculous boy if I felt so inclined. I know full well that some girls would rather the boys just leave them alone, but that doesn’t mean I have to want that, too (right?).
Maybe it’s wrong for these fuckboys to assume that all of female humanity are (a) hererosexual and (b) into them. We do live in a heteronormative society, after all. But wouldn’t it be equally wrong for me to assume that all girls are gay and into me, and act accordingly?
I’m not denying the fact that any girl—any person, for that matter—should have the basic right to openly reject romantic or sexual advances, and to feel safe in knowing that the unwanted advances won’t continue. But sometimes I wonder if it’s just a little bit ridiculous for a girl to immediately get angry with any guy that tries to flirt with them. I feel like I’m an awful feminist, and probably an awful human being, for thinking this. But most of the time you really can’t tell much about a person’s romantic and sexual preferences just by looking at them; if you’re communicating with a stranger in a public setting, you often have little way of knowing if your flirting will be unwanted until it’s actually happened. Should dudes really be blamed for thinking with their boners?
(((Now, I’m not buying into that rape culture bullshit that the only acceptable version of “no” is if somebody says the word out loud. If you try to flirt with someone and they tell you to back off, or give you a dirty look, or just outright ignore you entirely, it’s not an invitation to try to win them over. At that point, it’s undeniable that further flirting is actually harassment. Having a dick doesn’t give you license to be one.)))
Now it’s time to play a little game that I’m going to call Harassment or not harassment??!. *cue flashing lights and game show music* I’m going to present you with three scenarios that happened to me within the past few months (ranging from least to most invasive) and it’s up to YOU to decide whether it was flirting or harassment !!!
Every single day after school, without fail, the rich white private school jock boys hang out at the 7-11 Cassie’s house, hoping that someone overage will buy them cigarettes and beer. The other day, I took the bus home with Cassie and we stopped to buy drinks and snacks. I was talking to her (very loudly, I may add) about how all of the jock boys think they’re really hot but are very much not, when one of them tapped me on the shoulder and said “Do you know that guy out there?” He pointed to the window. “I think he’s trying to get your attention.”
I turned and, sure enough, there was one of the fuckboys, raising his eyebrows at me and sticking his right index finger in and out of a hole he created with his left index finger and thumb. Ya know, like with the emojis?
Anyways, I sort of nodded at him and acted like it didn’t faze me, when in reality it totally did. I knew that my hair looked damn good that day and that I deserved some attention for it, but it didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable. It was obvious from the look on his face that he’d never even seen a real life vagina, let alone been inside one. The thought that he was implying he wanted to have sex with me was, quite frankly, horrifying. But because I acted nonchalant about it, that fuckboy will go his entire life never knowing that the last thing I wanted to do was bone him.
Who knows. Maybe he was actually an overgrown two-year-old who was doing a biological version of putting the round peg into the hole, and he was grinning because he was just so excited about figuring it out.
This past summer, I was at the waterpark with a few of my friends. It was early in the summer, and my new swimsuit hadn’t come in the mail yet. I couldn’t find any of my swimsuits from the last several years, so I was wearing a bikini top from when I was eleven (aka the pre-boob era) and a pair of my mom’s black, stringy bikini bottoms. My boobs looked like a couple of very perky, poorly-restrained melons and my ass looked. . . well, about as good as a white girl ass can look. Anyways, I felt kind of confident.
The line for the ride we were getting on had two parts: the sidewalk while you were waiting to get your tube, and the stairs after you’d gotten it. The first flight of stairs is within sight of the sidewalk, whereas the second one is not. As we were climbing up onto the second flight of stairs with our tube, this boy yelled “AY! Girl! Lemme get your number!”
Seeing as the term “girl” applies to me, I turned around automatically. I was mostly just curious to see who he was talking to, and it turned out to be us—specifically, me. My friends looked around in astonishment, but I just smiled and giggled and acted as if I always wear an ill-fitting bikini for the enjoyment of the straight white boys.
(((Once we were on the second flight of stairs and he was out of sight, one of my friends (I won’t say who because it’d be mean of me) started dragging her hands down her cheeks and laughing and saying “A boy talked to us! A boy talked to us!” She could really use some lovin, apparently. It actually made me a little bit upset and concerned that she was this excited about receiving male validation, but that’s a topic for a different, much less flippant post.)))
Anyways, we didn’t see the guy until we got back into line for the same ride a bit later in the day. Well, we didn’t see him, we saw his friends. As we were getting our tube, we heard his friends ask this group of (incredibly gorgeous) black girls if they had seen the “scrawny little white boy” who’d been flirting with them. Just as one of the girls was about to answer, the boy came down out of the ride on an inner tube with yet another group of girls, whom he’d apparently just met.
I was all at once disappointed that I wasn’t special, then mad at myself for being disappointed about something so stupid and non-feministy, and also in awe of this boy’s flirting abilities. I mean, really, he wasn’t that cute.
This past summer, me and Cassie’s favorite radio station hosted a music festival, with one of our absolute favorite bands as the headliner. It was 80+ degrees out at a general admission concert, and we wanted to be as close to the stage as possible—it got pretty hot and sweaty, and everyone was wearing the bare minimum of clothing. The festival was like seven hours long, and at first we weren’t at all interested in having any bodily contact with anyone because it was so damn hot outside. We just danced and went about our business.
Then, toward the end of the night, while our favorite band was playing, these two college boys ended up dancing behind us. Even though we didn’t really get to know them at all, I say they were college boys because they didn’t look THAT old, but they were both wearing those “I’m old enough to drink” wristbands. And trust me, nobody underage is going to get a fake ID just so they can buy overpriced concert alcohol.
Anyways, I was wearing my shortest (and, on an unrelated note, most uncomfortable) high waisted denim short-shorts. It was late at night, I probably had a secondhand high from all the concert pot smoke I’d been inhaling for seven straight hours, and I was feeling calm and confident and not at all like myself. Because I have the subtlety of, well, a teenager, I kept
“accidentally” hitting the guy with my butt while I danced. My hair was up in this really ratty bun and I kept fixing it as we danced. The guy told me it looked good and to stop worrying about it, and I know my braces flashed into full view when I smiled at him. I was very obviously a teenager. I don’t know if he was just into girls over half a decade younger than him or if he was just too drunk to care, but when he started grinding on me I just sort of went with it.
It was late. He was hot. I was feeling ambitious. We only danced together for like one song (I had never actually grinded on anyone before so I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right) and after that Cassie said that her mom had texted her that it was time to leave. I didn’t say goodbye to the guy or anything, and I’m probably never going to know his name.
I was really, really torn between thinking wow how could I do that and wow isn’t that like lowkey illegal and wow the guy behind Cassie just spilled his beer on her so I think I won the night
To conclude, I pose a few questions—first off, where does the distinction between flirting and harassment lie? If the flirting is unwanted, does it automatically become harassment? What experiences with innocent flirting have you had that maybe crossed a line you didn’t want to cross? What are your opinions on my stupid “Is it Harassment” game? Am I a bad feminist for thinking people should have the right to flirt? Is it illegal to be with someone overaged if there’s no actual sex or, like, emotions involved? These are all very important life questions! Let me know in the comments!!!
*Heteroagressive? I think I just made up a word, and I don’t think it even made sense, and I don’t care.
Also, I feel like I should apologize for this post. I’m pretty sure I swore a lot more than usual and didn’t actually make much sense. And I also didn’t really proofread. So…sorry.