How can men flirt with or approach women on the street to whom they are attracted while minimising the chance that this will be intrusive, creepy, or threatening? Three articles by women offer sensible, thoughtful, feminist advice on how to approach a woman on the street whom you’d like to date.
Phaedra Starling points out that women, in considering sexual and intimate involvements with men and in being out in public, have to think about how to avoid being assaulted or killed. When approached by a stranger, they ask themselves: will this man rape me? She writes, “When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape.” She, and Melissa Fabello in the other article, note the various ways in which men may indicate that they ‘believe that their desires are a legitimate reason to override women’s rights’.
Both Starling and Fabello offer some very good advice on how to approach women in ways which respect their humanity and which are less likely to decrease their sense of personal safety. Starling, for example, states: Accept that women set their own risk tolerance. “Be aware of what signals you are sending by your appearance and the environment.” E.g., ask yourself, “If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?” “Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.” E.g., how they’re sitting, and how they respond to you.
1. Understand That She Might Not Appreciate Being Approached
“But that doesn’t mean that you can’t stop me to pay me a compliment or ask me how I’m doing. It just means that you should do so while making it clear that your intentions aren’t to frighten, bother, or disrespect me.
“You would be amazed at how helpful it can be just to start your sentence with “I don’t want to bother you, but...” or “I hope this isn’t offensive, but...”
It acknowledges my humanity from the get-go.”
2. Consider Your Surroundings
Some situations involve far more potential threat for women.
3. Open with an Honest Conversation Starter
(Rather than the common ‘openers’ some men learn.)
4. Use Compliments That Are Relatively Vague — And Never Sexual
5. Pay Close Attention to Her Body Language
Notice any signs of discomfort or lack of enthusiasm.
6. Let Her Initiate Further Correspondence
Give her your number.
7. Be On Your Way
“Learn to take your exit cue.”
A third article by Jarune Uwujaren, “The Feminist Guide To Non-Creepy Flirting” (2013), also has some good tips:
- Read Her Body Language
- Listen To What She Says
- Do Not Stare Or Follow – It’s Scary!
- Don’t Assume She’ll Like You Because You’re Being Respectful
- Don’t Assume That She Wants Your Attention Because She’s Attractive and In Public
- Don’t Take It Personally If She Gives You the Cold Shoulder
Dr Nerdlove also has some good tips:
- If you are approaching unknown women e.g. in bars and clubs, make sure you are approaching women who are interested, rather than pestering women who’d rather be left alone.
- Focus less on canned routines or pick-up “tricks” like negging and more on generating chemistry;
- Emphasize enthusiastic consent.
- Dr Nerdlove, Can You Be An Ethical Pickup Artist, Aug 17 2014;
- Fabello, Dear Men - This Is How You Should Be Approaching a Woman on the Street, May 26 2016;
- Starling, Schrödinger’s Rapist, or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women
- Uwujaren, The Feminist Guide To Non-Creepy Flirting, Jan 7 2013