I was in a meeting the other day where two friendly members made a professional date. Alan then made comments to Barb that made me uncomfortable. Barb laughed them off, so I’m not sure if she felt the same way. To make sure, I’m going to ask her the next time we meet. If she was uncomfortable, then I’m going to ask permission to talk to Alan.
It got me thinking about more important things. Those things have to do with biology. Our very genes want us to make more of ourselves. Our genes also encourage us to have a partner. These are not necessarily the same thing, but they can be.
More importantly, the urge to reproduce is very ancient. That “phenotype” is one of the very first to be programmed into sexual animals. After all, if an animal didn’t have the urge to reproduce, their species wouldn’t be around very long.
The other phenotype is wanting to have a partner. That’s fairly unique among animals, but not unique to humans. Plenty of other organisms like to have long-term mates. It makes sense. They get to know you, you know them, you help each other out.
Alan and Barb also have these urges. Barb is young so that both urges are probably strong, despite her having a boyfriend. Alan is older and married, so his urge *should be* less.
This means that each wants to be alluring to the other. Yes, both already have others in their lives, but that doesn’t mean their basic urges turn off. So we end up with this:
- We want to be alluring.
- When we’re talking with someone we like, we let them know by flirting.
- If, and this is huge:
- Both people want the same thing (each other) then they are going to keep flirting, and talk, and touch, and before you know it they become intimate.
- Both people DON’T want intimacy, this is what happens.
- At a certain point, one person’s flirting becomes another person’s harassment.
- If the person who is harassing doesn’t stop, the harassment is assault.
And there’s the rub. Both people want to be liked. Both people want to enjoy each other’s company. But to the extent we must encourage allurement and flirting (in any form), then we must also encourage learning when to stop.
That’s part of what #MeToo is all about.
Societies that don’t want to deal with all of this tend to suppress their women in burlap and burkhas. Even in the most modern societies, you can find women who are being bundled up.
Is it bad? Is it good?
Neither. It only is. But the conversation is important.
So, as Jane Austen’s Elizabeth says to her Aunt Gardiner: “Where does discretion end and avarice begin?”