Dear Emily, The “#MeToo” movement has me confused. How do I indicate interest in a woman without offending her? I don’t know what to do or say.
What a challenge you’ve given me! I can think of hundreds of things I can tell you not to do, like: comment on the size of a woman’s breasts, tell her you like a little meat on a woman, tell her in great detail about your fantasies (on the first date). You get the idea–there are rules of decorum — learn them. But affectionate words, sexy words, physical gestures, public displays of affection, or even “sweet nothing’s” occur in the context of some kind of relationship.
So what do you do? Get to know the person, and learn what she likes and doesn’t like. Go slow if you’re unsure. Sex is not urgent, ever. Ask questions. Speak up about what you like (in stages if your tastes are a little unconventional) and also about what you don’t like. Gestures can be tricky. An affectionate pat on the shoulder or stroke of the hair will thrill one woman and send another running. And for those who seek what we used to call “casual sex”, the same general rules apply, except the risk is greater.
Pay attention to anything that seems off, upsets you, scares you. (Women especially talk of a deeply-ingrained tendency to ignore, dismiss, or blame themselves when something seems odd. Don’t do this; pay attention to what you are noticing.) A very healthy dose of good judgment, and an ability to be friendly but cautious is critical. And if you do offend someone and don’t understand why it was offensive, ask her. She may respond well or not, but you will learn something about her or at least about decorum. Last option: If you decide you were offensive, apologize and let the chips fall where they may.
The bottom line–there’s no way to avoid risk. You can learn the basic don’ts, and even if you are young or socially awkward, you can find a person or group to help you learn. Many of us are confused or disturbed about sexuality these days, but we can learn together.
Good luck! Emily
Are chocolates and flowers still right for Valentine’s Day? Are they hokey?
— Planning for Valentine’s Day
Neither flowers nor chocolate are hokey…unless you send the wrong thing to the wrong person.The best way to give a good gift, for whatever occasion, is to get to know your friend. (Or, ask her sister or mother.) Does she have allergies to flower pollen? No flowers. Does he only eat seven percent dark chocolate but only the best brand. No Hershey’s or Whitman Samplers. And if your friend’s idea of a great Valentine’s Day is a fantastic dinner, neither are necessary. One other thing to think about is what you like on Valentine’s Day, because perhaps both you and your new friend would just love to go on a 15 mile hike. Excuse my repetition but if you are spending Valentine’s Day with another human being that you like, you’ll work it out.