I don’t know if there was a time when dating was simple, and if it was I imagine a caveman with a cavewoman slung over his shoulder. This is obviously not an image to idealize. How to date after #metoo is one of the questions as a dating coach, that I get asked the most.
What is quite apparent though is that dating has changed. There is no longer a set trajectory for what sexuality we are, or what kind of relationship we’re destined to have. A recent study by Match.com suggests that 1/3 of people think monogamy is out of date; and when things become ‘official’ is a common bone of contention for singles.
Then enter stage left is the #metoo movement – a watershed moment in how we relate towards one another as people.
I get asked a lot about how dating has changed post the #metoo movement – and probably the first point to acknowledge here is that most of the people asking are men.
#Metoo drew a line in the sand that asked us to question ‘is this really okay?’ about a range of behaviours we had previously dismissed; whether that was sexual harassment in the workplace, consent or abuse of power.
I personally think it was an important push forwards that unearthed an uncomfortable but necessary discussion. We couldn’t keep living in the way that we had done, but as one system for doing things comes crashing down what is left in its place?
I meet a lot of heterosexual men particularly who honestly have no idea if speaking to a woman romantically full stop is a good idea.
It’s worth remembering that #Metoo is also polarizing and subjective: it has had its backlash with the Men’s Right’s Movement highlighting how the asymmetry of unconscious gender bias doesn’t just flow in one direction. We as people haven’t been treated equally, and how possible (or productive) total equality is, is an entirely different discussion.
For now here are what I think are just some really sensible guidelines for dating post #metoo. My goal here (in this tiny blog article) isn’t to wade super deeply into this debate but to provide some practical support and encouragement for the vast majority of people who are respectful, considerate individuals who want to express romantic interest in the modern age.
1. Dating after #metoo – in the workplace.
Tricky one because historically a lot of people have met through work, so to deny that it is a place where people romantically connect would fly in the face of statistics. That being said, if someone works with you closely, that is not an invitation for flirtation or any difference in treatment because you may find someone attractive.
I’ve never experienced sexual harassment in the workplace personally, however I have attended conferences as a business woman and been pretty horrified at the difference in treatment I received to male delegates. Things like neglecting to wish me goodbye as a delegate (as the event organizer did to all male speakers) then suggesting we ‘have a cuddle instead’. I could go on.
The facts are people are at work to work, and be respected for their personal achievements. If you really feel like you have a connection to someone (note: this has to be you are speaking to them and they are engaged with you too, not someone you think is attractive) then suggest you grab a coffee together. If there is interest the person will welcome spending one on one time with you (again though this is only step 1 and doesn’t implicitly mean they like you romantically) if they don’t they will decline. At which point you drop it.
There’s also a lot of places to meet someone, so the workplace might not be the best shout.
2. Dating after #metoo – Approaching someone in real life
Some people will think approaching someone in real life (i.e. neither using an app or at a dating event) is wrong; however I feel that this is generally a minority opinion and most people are OKAY for a stranger to talk to them provided it is done with respect. Here me and my team actively teach men and women of all orientations how to do this, and I think we do it well.
For me the key to respect isn’t WHERE you say hello to someone it is HOW.
(Although it is good to remember that not everyone sees the world in the same way, and I am just sharing my anecdotal opinion here as a dating coach, I am not Moses of love).
Here’s some good rules of thumb:
Keep your distance – around 1 meter personal space.
If you need to get someone’s attention sometimes a gesture like a wave, is good, you don’t want to startle someone.
Never approach someone when they can’t fully see you (i.e. from behind them)
Never say anything crass or crude, about their physicality. The compliments people like receiving from their chosen romantic partner(s) are not the same as they like receiving from a stranger. Making a nice observation about what they’re doing ‘I like how confident you seem’ or ‘I like your style it stands out’ or ‘I like how you’re both deep in conversation, you must be good friends,’ is nicer than anything involving legs.
If a person likes you, or if open to liking you, you won’t have to try too hard to not get caught in the ‘friendzone’ so don’t labour your efforts to come across as sexual. Sexuality is often implicit not explicit.
Give a little backstory so the other person understands the context of why you’re saying hello to them, ‘I was just on my way shopping and…; ‘I am just here doing some work out of the office…’
Be friendly, smile.
If they don’t reciprocate or look uncomfortable wish them a good day and leave.
Never be annoyed if a person doesn’t reciprocate – we all have our own lives and values.
Don’t assume that someone’s dress or mannerisms is an invitation to anything sexual.
If they are with other people or focused on something else do something to acknowledge that, ‘I know you’re busy working however I wanted to quickly say..’
I also think if someone approaches you and you do not feel comfortable it is okay to say ‘thank you, I’d like to go back to what I’m doing now’ and that should be that.
Avoid approaching in the workplace, at conferences, flat shares, or anywhere where someone might feel physically exposed. I had some AWFUL pick up attempts at a sauna in Geneva once – that made me feel pretty yuk.
If you are open to being approached do your bit and learn how to send stronger signals to help the other person feel comfortable coming up to you.
Maybe reading through this list you think ‘OMG no one wants to be spoken to in person’ however I meet A LOT of people who are still open to meeting someone in real life, so I stand by staying focused on respect rather than the physical space you’re in.
3. Dating after #metoo – Meeting someone online
Now just because someone is on a dating app or puts pictures you find attractive on Instagram doesn’t mean that you can assume anything.
Again rules of thumb.
If someone doesn’t respond, don’t chase. Look if someone can’t be bothered to reply do not write ‘hi’ another 10 times, have some self esteem and take the hint.
Likewise if someone is endlessly too busy to hang out, or feels uncomfortable giving you their contact details, I would assume they’re just generally not that comfortable and redirect your energy towards someone who is.
Don’t send dick pics – seriously everyone receives this with the same enthusiasm as when the cat has bought in a half eaten mouse. It’s harassing and lame – a double threat of ‘just stop’.
Don’t immediately invite someone to a sexual act or assume they’re up for that because of how you think they’re dressed.
If someone doesn’t respond or doesn’t want to date you do not get annoyed, they don’t owe you their time or a date.
If they don’t match with you on Tinder don’t bother trying to find them on Instagram. Fun fact I have a lot of phantom profiles due to my work on dating sites and I have had numerous people sending me endless messages across endless platforms. One even taking it so far as to do a Google image search and appear in the FROW of a talk I was doing.
Keep it clean, and stay engaged with who they are as an individual. This doesn’t mean you can never make a compliment – but compliments how someone has a cute smile are likely to go a lot better than saying they have a cute butt.
The minimum you need from the other person is a willingness to chat and an openness to meet in person, without these things you could be lost in an endless and unfulfilling chase. No one needs that.
Also this isn’t all a ‘don’t do this’ list – the most important point you can remember is that you should be looking out for people who RECIPROCATE. This is actually a big positive and asks you to raise your standards.
4. Dating after #metoo – Consent
If you haven’t already watch this fabulous video documenting consent – it is more of a must watch than live action Lion King.
A big snag with sexual relationships that the #metoo movement questioned are issues around consent. Put simply if someone feels pressured towards an outcome that can impact their ability to clearly communicate a no. Also if there’s no verbal communication, then that would be a no. If they’ve come back to your house that doesn’t mean that they want to have any physical contact at all.
How do you navigate this? You communicate.
The big upside to this is that dating doesn’t have to be a guessing game anymore, it is pretty okay to say, ‘can I kiss you now?’
If someone is coming back to your house, don’t lead them into an unapologetic sex den, say, ‘Look I’d like to spend more time with you so you’re welcome back to mine, we can just hang out, or more, it’s always your choice.’ Or you can say, ‘if you’d like to you can come back to mine but to be clear I know my own mind and I just want to hang out right now, nothing more.’
If the person you’re dating is a good egg they will GET IT and understand. If someone is a boundary pusher – avoid.
Because #metoo or no #metoo dating is supposed to be co-created. Not someone ‘turning someone on’ or ‘getting past their resistance’ – yuk!
Newsflash – a lot of people want the same things. If your proposition as a person is good, your life is in order, and you pursue people who are also invested in getting to know you – then great experiences can and will be CO-CREATED.
This shouldn’t be about man versus woman or that all men are evil etc. That’s just silly. Instead its use comes in us learning how to ditch the expectations and assumptions around dating; and instead communicate with one another.
So let’s all take responsibility here to communicate what we want (and don’t want) and to really listen to what the other person wants in return. Let’s not relinquish to the divisive dark side of thinking relationships are ruined forever. We are always in this together.
(Also have a feeling I’ll be re-editing this article as this is COMPLEX and I am open to feedback on all the bits I might have missed. Also I am a dating coach, not a dating demi-God so these opinions are just my own, not all of humanities opinions….)