I recently read an interesting thesis on the topic of flirting among young urban people (study was conducted in Copenhagen). The objective of the study was to gain an understanding of how flirting works in terms social interaction and how language is used as socially negotiating tool in the seductive conversation. The study was based on several taperecordings from real dates (only one party was aware that the conversation was being taped)
The study had some pretty interesting findings, some obvious, and some more surprising. I have summed up a few here:
- Atypical gender roles People in heterosexual flirt construct themselves in roles, which both play along and against the traditional expectations of their sex.
- Young women in particular reject feminism and the feminist virtues by dressing more ‘bimbo-like’ as a way to highlight their feminine sides. At the same time they also move away from the traditional gender role of women as they express their right to be and act the same way as men, such as the right to speak and act masculine. The typical feminine behavior and language is simultaneously replaced with a more raw and direct tone. i.e. more direct and sexually agressive.
- Studie also shows how a helper at times enters the flirt and serves hints and negotiates romantic interests on behalf of one of the main interlocutors.
- The analysis suggests that “teasing” in particular is used as a tool to come closer together and give a sense of community. Paradoxically teasing at the same time degrades and maintains the conversations and the status quo in the interaction. Conversation parties primarily used a sexually suggestive teasing when flirting. In other words, the sexual teasing, was often used as a tool to suggest romantic and sexual interests. When the messages are formulated through teasing, it softens the message and makes it less direct. Which provides the opportunity for the sender to save face should the message not be received positively.
- The seduction process itself is premised and conducted through probing and sensing the reactions of the opposition. Conversation parties were constantly scanning the intimate boundaries, taking chances and challenging each other, while balancing and fine tuning their language.