The Difference Between Rape and Flirting

Recently, Superman actor Henry Cavill expressed his dissatisfaction with the #MeToo movement claiming, “There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman … I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that. It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something.’”

Design by Perri Tomkiewicz

Look, first of all, you won’t be called a rapist. Do you know how hard it is to be seen as a rapist? You probably won’t be called a rapist even if you rape a woman. You’ll have to rape about 60 women before society decides that you, a famous man, are a rapist.

I know that there’s a lot of talk about how this is a scary time for men. But all of history must have been a scary time for women if men were wandering around until right now unsure of the difference between flirting and rape.

This isn’t something women appear to be unsure about. Indeed, even when we talk about men who do seem sexually coercive, members of the #MeToo movement are really clear about the fact that they’re not calling those men rapists. As Samantha Bee quipped, “We know the difference between a rapist, a workplace harasser, and an Aziz Ansari. That doesn’t mean we have to be happy about any of them.”

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If Henry Cavill thinks that going up to a woman and saying, “Hey, can I give you a call sometime?” is going to get him branded as a rapist than he either 1) is woefully ill-informed about what constitutes rape or 2) thinks women frequently lie about rape for attention, a theory that is disproved over and over.

Still, Cavill, who, to his credit has apologized for his statements, remarked, “Now? Now you really can’t pursue someone further than, ‘No’. It’s like, ‘OK, cool’. But then there’s the, ‘Oh why’d you give up?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, because I didn’t want to go to jail?’”

Um, yes. Good. Learning that “no means no” is good practice. I feel like the number of women who will appreciate having their words heard and respected will outweigh the number of women who are playing a coy, hard-to-get game with Henry Cavill (though it is also my suspicion that a lot of women are very willing to get into a relationship with Henry Cavill, a man famous for closely resembling Superman). There may well be some women who enjoy being chased. However, a great many more of us can tell stories about guys who chased us and it provoked only discomfort or, in some cases, genuine fear. Want to hear some of those stories? Check out the “Worst Nice Guy Experiences” thread on Reddit. It’s pretty much all guys who believed that women should be chased as if they were Pokemon.

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You know who felt women should be chased? The guy in Cat Person.

Now, to be fair, everyone has their own ideas about how romance works. We all have preconceived notions about what seems romantic to us. Maybe one woman’s idea of romance is a partner who will happily do laundry for her. However, it would be weird if she introduced herself to men by hurling a bag of her dirty laundry at them.

Men unilaterally deciding “I will chase a woman who has given no indication she wants to be chased” is similarly weird.

A good way to avoid weirdness is to actually talk honestly with people you’re thinking of engaging in romantically. You want to say you find traditional gender roles kind of sexy? Cool, you can say that. You will find a ton of people who agree with you. If they don’t share your views, then maybe they’re not a great fit for you, personally.

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Hopefully, we’re in a century where men and women can see each other as humans. In doing so, they might recognize that the point of romance is not to blindly grope around in the hopes of anticipating what another person likes or dislikes. It’s to form a connection with another person, which you can do a lot better if you just talk to them about what they like and dislike and then believe them when they tell you (and if they lie, in that case, it’s just pretty self-defeating).

Talk to members of the opposite sex as though they are human beings with inner lives you’d like to get to know. It’s not really that complicated.

Because, if you feel like you can’t talk to women without being called a rapist? Maybe the simplest explanation is that you are talking to women wrong.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US