I followed a post here with some interest. It was on the topic of flirting. A few different sides chimed in.
One of the things that emerged was that there were a variety of differences in whether or not flirting was o.k. One of the differences was that there were a variety of different definitions of just what flirting is. But some of the other differences were around who should make assumptions, and why.
Perhaps somebody says “I like your shirt.” Some people felt that the person who says that bares the burden for not coming off as sounding innaprorpriately sexual. Others felt that the shirt-wearer has an obligation to question, confront, or get out of the situation.
I don’t think anybody in that series of comments would deny that some responsibility lies with both parties. But there were differences in emphasis.
I had two observations I wanted to make. Both of them are philosophical points and might apply to this in a variety of ways.
The first is that we tend to avoid occasional big problems in the name of daily little successes. I don’t know if this is always wise.
Let’s suppose I had a happiness meter. We score a positive number every time a happy event happens. We score a negative number every time a sad event happens. The size of the number corresponds to how happy or sad the event is.
Perhaps confronting somebody is -15. Wondering if somebody is saying something inaprorpiate is -30. Dealing with people making untrue assumptions about us is -25. All these are results of allowing people to engage in certain behaviors which might be classified as flirtatious. Ending up in court charging somebody with sexual harassment is -1000. Ending a marriage is -100,000.
Feeling good because somebody noticed you have a nice shirt on is +3. Having people notice that you don’t segregate yourself like a junior high kid at a dance is a +1. Making a connection with somebody is a +2. These are smaller but they pop up much more often.
If we were rational, we’d look at all the minuses that are likely to occur. And we’d look at all the plusses that are likely to occur. It would be worth it if the plusses outwiegh the minuses. But I think that some times we’re not rational. I think that some times, we see that there are big minuses and just don’t do things, regardless of the benefits. I think that behaviors which some consider “flirtatious” are this sort of thing: we don’t do it to avoid the costs, even though the benefits make it worth it.
I’m not saying we should flirt in every sense of the word to our hearts content. The more flirtatious we become the greater chance we have of venturing into the territority of really unfortunate things (court, divorce) The more likely these things are to occur the less rational it is to engage in the activitity.
My second observation is this:
It was interesting that most of the discussion was really focused on rights. Our society is founded on rights. I’m allowed to do this. You’re allowed to do that.
One of the problems that I think happens is the concepts of rights isn’t very biblical. That’s a huge statement. It’s a vast oversimplification. I’m sure there are dozens of verses to prove me wrong.
But on the whole, Jesus doesn’t talk as much as what we have a right to as he does what we have a duty to do.
A perfectally good ethical scheme could pop up from either approach. In fact, you could create two nearly identical societies from rights-based ethics and duty-based ethics.
For example, I could write a consitution that says “You have a right to free speech.” Or I could write a constitution that says “You have a duty to allow people to allow people to say what they wish to say.”
You couldn’t tell, by looking from the outside, which way they expressed this, if both ideas were perfectally followed.
So the thing I noticed is that the discussion about flirtation focused a lot on the rights of the person speaking, and of the person listening.
I don’t know exactly how it all plays it, but I think things start to look different if we shift gears. If we focus on the duties of the person speaking, and the duties of the person listening, some of this disagreement just fades away, I think.
What do you think?