Flirting

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A poster by Henri Gerbault depicting flirting between a man and a woman Das werdenSie ja nachher schon sehen.jpg
A poster by Henri Gerbault depicting flirting between a man and a woman

Flirting or coquetry is a social and sexual behavior involving verbal or written communication, as well as body language, by one person to another, either to suggest interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, or if done playfully, for amusement.

Social behavior Behavior among two or more organisms, typically of same species

Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an interaction among those members. Social behavior can be seen as similar to an exchange of goods, with the expectation that when you give, you will receive the same. This behavior can be effected by both the qualities of the individual and the environmental (situational) factors. Therefore, social behavior arises as a result of an interaction between the two—the organism and its environment. This means that, in regards to humans, social behavior can be determined by both the individual characteristics of the person, and the situation they are in.

Human sexual activity Human behaviour which is sexually motivated

Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone to acts with another person in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners, or personal interactions between individuals. Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Body language is a type of a nonverbal communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey the

Contents

In most cultures, it is socially disapproved for a person to make explicit sexual advances in public, or in private to someone not romantically acquainted, but indirect or suggestive advances may at times be considered acceptable.[ citation needed ]

Flirting usually involves speaking and behaving in a way that suggests a mildly greater intimacy than the actual relationship between the parties would justify, though within the rules of social etiquette, which generally disapproves of a direct expression of sexual interest in the given setting. This may be accomplished by communicating a sense of playfulness or irony. Double entendres (where one meaning is more formally appropriate, and another more suggestive) may be used. Body language can include flicking the hair, eye contact, brief touching, open stances, proximity, and other gestures. Flirting may be done in a under-exaggerated, shy or frivolous style. Vocal communication of interest can include, for example,

Etiquette customary code of polite behaviour

Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

Double entendre

A double entendre is a figure of speech or a particular way of wording that is devised to be understood in two ways, having a double meaning. Typically one of the meanings is obvious, given the context, whereas the other may require more thought. The innuendo may convey a message that would be too socially awkward, sexually suggestive, or offensive to state directly.

Fashion Popular style or practice in clothing, personal adornment, or decorative arts

Fashion is a popular aesthetic expression in a certain time and context, especially in clothing, footwear, lifestyle, accessories, makeup, hairstyle and body proportions. Whereas a trend often connotes a very specific aesthetic expression, and often lasting shorter than a season, fashion is a distinctive and industry-supported expression traditionally tied to the fashion season and collections. Style is an expression that lasts over many seasons, and is often connected to cultural movements and social markers, symbols, class and culture. According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, fashion connotes “the latest fashion, the latest difference.”

Flirting behavior varies across cultures due to different modes of social etiquette, such as how closely people should stand (proxemics), how long to hold eye contact, how much touching is appropriate and so forth. [1] Nonetheless, some behaviors may be more universal. For example, ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt found that in places as different as Africa and North America, women exhibit similar flirting behavior, such as a prolonged stare followed by a head tilt away with a little smile, as seen in the accompanying image associated with a Hollywood film.

Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication, and social interaction.

Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt Founder of the field of human ethology

Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt was an Austrian ethnologist in the field of human ethology. In authoring the book which bears that title, he applied ethology to humans by studying them in a perspective more common to volumes studying animal behavior.

Smile Conscious or subconscious facial muscular movement conveying mirth or pleasure

A smile is formed primarily by flexing the muscles at the sides of the mouth. Some smiles include a contraction of the muscles at the corner of the eyes, an action known as a Duchenne smile. Smiles performed without the eye contraction may be perceived as insincere.

Laurel (played by Marilyn Monroe) flirting with Dr. Fulton (played by Cary Grant) in the film Monkey Business Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant in Monkey Business trailer 3.JPG
Laurel (played by Marilyn Monroe) flirting with Dr. Fulton (played by Cary Grant) in the film Monkey Business

Etymology

The origin of the word flirt is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition) associates it with such onomatopoeic words as flit and flick, emphasizing a lack of seriousness; on the other hand, it has been attributed to the old French conter fleurette, which means "to (try to) seduce" by the dropping of flower petals, that is, "to speak sweet nothings". While old-fashioned, this expression is still used in French, often mockingly, but the English gallicism to flirt has made its way and has now become an anglicism. [2]

<i>Oxford English Dictionary</i> Premier historical dictionary of the English language

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.

Seduction process of enticing a person, to engage in sexual behaviour

Seduction is the process of deliberately enticing a person, to engage in a relationship, to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; to corrupt, to persuade or induce into engaging in sexual behaviour. Strategies of seduction include conversation and sexual scripts, paralingual features, non-verbal communication, and short-term behavioural strategies. The word seduction stems from Latin and means literally "leading astray." As a result, the term may have a positive or negative connotation. Famous seducers from history or legend include Lilith, Giacomo Casanova, and the fictional character Don Juan. The emergence of the Internet and technology has supported the availability and the existence of a seduction community, which is based on discourse about seduction. This is predominately by "pickup artists" (PUA). Seduction is also used within marketing to increase compliance and willingness.

A Gallicism can be:

The word fleurette was used in the 16th century in some sonnets, [3] and some other texts. [4] [5] [6] The French word fleurette (small flower), and the language of old south France word flouretas (from the Latin flora(for flower)), are related to some little says where flowers are both at the same time a pretext and the comparison terms. In southern France, some usage were yet used in 1484, [7] [8] In French, some other words more or less related are derived from the word fleur: for instance effleurer (English: lightly touch) from 13th century esflourée; déflorer (English: deflower) from 13th century desflorer or (fleuret (English Foil) 18th century).

Anyway, the association of flowers, spring, youth, and women is not modern and were yet considered in ancient culture, such as the Chloris in ancient Greece, or Flora (deity) in ancient Roman empire, including Floralia festival, and in other older poems, such as the Song of Solomon:

Older poem - Song of Solomon 2

“Arise, my darling,
  my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
  the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
  the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
  is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
  the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
  my beautiful one, come with me.” — NIV

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
  and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
  the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
  the time of singing[d] has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
  is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
  and the vines are in blossom;
  they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
  and come away. — ESV

Dodi (my beloved) spoke, and said unto me,
  Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
 For, hinei, the winter is past,
  the geshem (rain) is over and gone;
 The flowers appear on ha’aretz;
  the time of zemer (song, singing of birds) has come;
 and the voice of the turtle
  dove is heard in Artzeinu (our Land);
 The te’enah (fig tree) putteth forth her early figs,
  and the vines with the tender grape
  give forth fragrance.
 Arise, my love, my fair one,
  and come away.

OJB v2:10-13

History

During World War II, anthropologist Margaret Mead was working in Britain for the British Ministry of Information and later for the U.S. Office of War Information, [9] [10] delivering speeches and writing articles to help the American soldiers better understand the British civilians, [11] and vice versa. [12] She observed in the flirtations between the American soldiers and British women a pattern of misunderstandings regarding who is supposed to take which initiative. She wrote of the Americans, "The boy learns to make advances and rely upon the girl to repulse them whenever they are inappropriate to the state of feeling between the pair", as contrasted to the British, where "the girl is reared to depend upon a slight barrier of chilliness... which the boys learn to respect, and for the rest to rely upon the men to approach or advance, as warranted by the situation." This resulted, for example, in British women interpreting an American soldier's gregariousness as something more intimate or serious than he had intended. [9]

Communications theorist Paul Watzlawick used this situation, where "both American soldiers and British girls accused one another of being sexually brash", as an example of differences in "punctuation" in interpersonal communications. He wrote that courtship in both cultures used approximately 30 steps from "first eye contact to the ultimate consummation", but that the sequence of the steps was different. For example, kissing might be an early step in the American pattern but a relatively intimate act in the English pattern. [13]

Japanese courtesans had another form of flirting, emphasizing non-verbal relationships by hiding the lips and showing the eyes, as depicted in much Shunga art, the most popular print media at the time, until the late 19th century.

European hand fans

The fan was extensively used as a means of communication and therefore a way of flirting from the 16th century onwards in some European societies, especially England and Spain. A whole sign language was developed with the use of the fan, and even etiquette books and magazines were published. Charles Francis Badini created the Original Fanology or Ladies' Conversation Fan which was published by William Cock in London in 1797. The use of the fan was not limited to women, as men also carried fans and learned how to convey messages with them. For instance, placing the fan near the heart meant "I love you", while opening a fan wide meant "Wait for me". [14]

In Spain, where the use of fans (called "abanicos") is still very popular today,[ when? ] ladies used them to communicate with suitors or prospective suitors without attracting the notice of their families or chaperons. This use was highly popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries. [15]


Purpose

People flirt for a variety of reasons. According to social anthropologist Kate Fox, there are two main types of flirting: flirting just for fun and flirting with further intent. [16]

In a 2014 review, Henningsen made a further distinction and identified six main motivations for flirting: sex, relational development, exploration, fun, self-esteem and instrumental. [17] Henningsen found that often, many flirting interactions involve more than one of these motives. There also appears to be gender differences in flirting motivations.

Courtship

Many people flirt as a courtship initiation method, with the aim of engaging in a sexual relationship with another person. In this sense, flirting plays a role in the mate-selection process. The person flirting will send out signals of sexual availability to another, and expects to see the interest returned in order to continue flirting. Flirting can involve non-verbal signs, such as an exchange of glances, hand-touching, and hair-touching; or verbal signs, such as chatting, giving flattering comments, and exchanging telephone numbers in order to initiate further contact.

Many studies have confirmed that sex is a driving motivation for flirting behaviours. [18] Additionally, Messman and colleagues’ study provided support for this hypothesis; it demonstrated that, the more one was physically attracted to a person, the higher the chances one would flirt with them. [19]

Flirting in the goal of signalling interest appears as a puzzling phenomenon when considering that flirting is often performed very subtly. In fact, evidence shows that people are often mistaken in how they interpret flirting behaviours. [20] Thus, if a main purpose of flirting is to signal interest to the other person, why isn't this signalling done more clearly and explicitly?

A possible explanation, for the ambiguous nature of human flirting lies in the costs associated with courtship signals. Indeed, according to Gersick and colleauges, signalling interest can be costly as it can lead to the disturbance of the nature of a relationship. [21] For instance, signalling sexual interest to a friend bears the risk of introducing uncertainty into the friendship, especially if the romantic advance is rejected by the recipient For this reason, individuals prefer engaging in a flirting interaction that is more subtle to limit the risks associated with the expression of sexual interest.

More generally, human relationships are governed by social norms and whenever these are broken, one can suffer significant costs that can range from social, economic and even legal nature. As an illustration, a manager flirting with his subordinate can lead to strong costs such as being accused of sexual harassment, which can potentially lead to job loss.

Additionally, third parties can impose costs on someone expressing sexual interest. [22] Expressing sexual interest to somebody else’s romantic partner is a highly punishable act. This often leads to jealousy from the person’s partner which can trigger anger and (possible) physical punishment, especially in men. [23] Third parties can also impose costs through the act of eavesdropping. These can lead to damage to one’s reputation leading to possible social, economic and legal costs.

A last point to consider is that the costs associated with interest signalling are magnified in the case of humans, when compared to the animal world. Indeed, the existence of language means that information can circulate much faster. For instance, in the case of eavesdropping, the information overhead by the eavesdropper can be spread to very large social networks, thereby magnifying the social costs. [24]

Other motivations for flirting

Another reason people engage in flirting is to consolidate or maintain a romantic relationship with their partner. They will engage in flirting behaviours to promote the flourishing of their relationship with their partner. People will also flirt in the goal of 'exploring’. In this sense, the aim is not necessarily to express sexual or romantic interest but simply to assess whether the other might be interested in them before making any decision about what they would want from that individual.

Henningsen and Fox also demonstrated that flirting can sometimes be employed just for fun. For instance, studies have shown that flirting in the workplace was used mostly for fun purposes. [25]

Another motive that drives flirting is developing one’s own self esteem. People often feel highly valued when someone flirts with them. Therefore, often people flirt to encourage reciprocation and thereby increase their self esteem. As a last point, people might flirt for instrumental purposes. For instance, they will flirt to get something out of the other person such as drink in a nightclub or a promotion at work.

Gender differences in flirting motivations

Certain types of flirting seem to be more common amongst males compared to females and vice versa.

To start with, Henningsen and colleagues’ study demonstrated that flirting with sexual intent was found to be more prominent amongst men. On the other hand, flirting for relationship development purposes was more often employed by women. [26]

These findings are not surprising when we take into account the Parental Investment theory. First, it states that females are more choosy and men more competitive, therefore predicting that flirting as courtship initiation will be more commonly used amongst men. The theory also predicts that females invest more in their offspring, which makes them more prone to invest in their relationship as this can provide resources that can contribute to their offspring’s survival. On the other hand, men have no guarantee that their mates’ offspring is theirs, so have less incentives to seek long-term relationships; thereby explaining why men care less about flirting for relationship development. [27]

Additionally, Henningsen found that flirting for fun was more common in females than males. A possible explanation for this could lie in the fact that women engage in what he calls “practice flirting”. As women are more selective and want to attract the best partner to take care of their offspring, they might flirt for fun to practice and evaluate what flirting behaviours work the best. [28]

Examples

A study in body language: Haynes King's Jealousy and Flirtation Jealousy and Flirtation.jpg
A study in body language: Haynes King's Jealousy and Flirtation

Flirting may consist of stylized gestures, language, body language, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to another person. Among these, at least in Western society, are:

The effectiveness of many of these interactions has been subjected to detailed analysis by behavioral psychologists, and advice on their use is available from dating coaches. [30]

Cultural variations

Flirting varies a great deal from culture to culture. For example, for many western cultures one very common flirting strategy includes eye contact. However, eye contact can have a very different meaning in some Asian countries, where women might get in trouble if they return a glance to men who stare at them. Furthermore, Chinese and Japanese women are sometimes not expected to initiate eye contact as it could be considered rude and disrespectful. [31]

The Flirtation by Eugene de Blaas. A study of body language: a man flirting Eugen de Blaas The Flirtation.jpg
The Flirtation by Eugene de Blaas. A study of body language: a man flirting

The distance between two people is also important when flirting. People from the "contact cultures", such as those in the Mediterranean or Latin America, may feel comfortable with closer proximity, whereas a British or Northern European person may typically need more space. Although touching, especially of the hand or arm, can constitute flirting, touching is also often done without intentions of flirting, particularly in the contact cultures where it forms a natural part of communication. [32]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sexual attraction attraction on the basis of sexual desire

Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interests of other people, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context where they appear. The attraction may be to a person's aesthetics or movements or to their voice or smell, besides other factors. The attraction may be enhanced by a person's adornments, clothing, perfume or style. It can be influenced by individual genetic, psychological, or cultural factors, or to other, more amorphous qualities. Sexual attraction is also a response to another person that depends on a combination of the person possessing the traits and on the criteria of the person who is attracted.

Sexual desire is a motivational state and an interest in “sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities”. Synonyms for sexual desire are libido, sexual attraction and lust. Sexual desire is an aspect of a person's sexuality, which varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time. Not every person experiences sexual desire; those who do not experience it may be labelled asexual.

Infidelity is a violation of a couple's assumed or stated contract regarding emotional and/or sexual exclusivity. Other scholars define infidelity as a violation according to the subjective feeling that one's partner has violated a set of rules or relationship norms; this violation results in feelings of jealousy, sexual jealousy, and rivalry.

Wink eye movement

A wink is a facial expression made by briefly closing one eye. A wink is an informal mode of non-verbal communication usually signaling shared hidden knowledge or intent. However, it is ambiguous by itself and highly dependent upon additional context, without which a wink could become misinterpreted or even nonsensical. For example in some regions of the world, a wink may be considered rude or offensive. And depending on the relationship of the people involved, a wink could possibly constitute a sexual gesture.

Public display of affection

Public displays of affection (PDA) are acts of physical intimacy in the view of others. What is an acceptable display of affection varies with respect to culture and context.

Nonverbal communication Process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) cues between people

Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the nonlinguistic transmission of information through visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic (physical) channels.

Haptic communication Branch of nonverbal communication that refers to the ways in which people and animals communicate, and interact via the sense of touch

Haptic communication is a branch of nonverbal communication that refers to the ways in which people and animals communicate and interact via the sense of touch. Touch or haptics, from the ancient Greek word haptikos is extremely important for communication; it is vital for survival. The sense of touch allows one to experience different sensations such as: pleasure, pain, heat, or cold. One of the most significant aspects of touch is the ability to convey and enhance physical intimacy. The sense of touch is the fundamental component of haptic communication for interpersonal relationships. Touch can be categorized in many terms such as positive, playful, control, ritualistic, task-related or unintentional. It can be both sexual, and platonic.

Casual sex is sexual activity that takes places outside a romantic relationship and implies an absence of commitment, emotional attachment, or familiarity between sexual partners. Examples are sexual activity while casually dating, one-night stands, extramarital sex, prostitution, or swinging.

Sexual tension is a social phenomenon that occurs when two individuals interact and one or both feel sexual desire, but the consummation is postponed or never happens. A common scenario is where the two individuals function in close proximity, such as co-workers or in a group of friends, but do not have sex to avoid awkwardness or for other reasons. Sexual tension doesn't have anything to do with the actual act of sex but is everything that leads up to it.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to interpersonal relationships.

Non-penetrative sex sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration

Non-penetrative sex or outercourse is sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration. It generally excludes the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal, or oral sexual activity, but includes various forms of sexual and non-sexual activity, such as frottage, mutual masturbation, kissing, or cuddling. Some forms of non-penetrative sex, particularly when termed outercourse, include penetrative aspects, such as penetration that may result from forms of fingering or oral sex.

Lesbian sexual practices

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Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors. Because it is a broad term, which has varied over time, it lacks a precise definition. The biological and physical aspects of sexuality largely concern the human reproductive functions, including the human sexual response cycle. Someone's sexual orientation is their pattern of sexual interest in the opposite and/or same sex. Physical and emotional aspects of sexuality include bonds between individuals that are expressed through profound feelings or physical manifestations of love, trust, and care. Social aspects deal with the effects of human society on one's sexuality, while spirituality concerns an individual's spiritual connection with others. Sexuality also affects and is affected by cultural, political, legal, philosophical, moral, ethical, and religious aspects of life.

A first date is a type of initial meeting between two individuals, whether or not previously acquainted, where an effort is made to ask about each other and know if they can be together in a relationship, plan, and organize some sort of social activity, with the goals ranging from forming a friendship, finding a romantic or sexual partner for a short period, to finding a long-term spouse. Dating can vary between cultures, lifestyles, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

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Sexual suggestiveness

Sexual suggestiveness is visual, verbal, written or behavioral material or action with sexual undertones implying sexual intent in order to provoke sexual arousal.

Human mating strategies

In evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology, human mating strategies are a set of behaviors used by individuals to attract, select, and retain mates. Mating strategies overlap with reproductive strategies, which encompass a broader set of behaviors involving the timing of reproduction and the trade-off between quantity and quality of offspring.

Tie signs Clues pointing to a relationship

Tie signs are signs, signals, and symbols, that are revealed through people's actions as well as objects such as engagement rings, wedding bands, and photographs of a personal nature that suggest a relationship exists between two people. For romantic couples, public displays of affection (PDA) including things like holding hands, an arm around a partner’s shoulders or waist, extended periods of physical contact, greater-than-normal levels of physical proximity, grooming one’s partner, and “sweet talk” are all examples of common tie signs. Tie signs inform the participants, as well as outsiders, about the nature of a relationship, its condition, and even what stage a relationship is in.

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