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Your dating guide in the #MeToo era

There's a huge difference between flirting and sexually intimidating someone. Read on to find out more

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The #MeToo movement has given a voice to victims of sexual harassment holding their perpetrators accountable for their transgressions. It has also helped to create a supportive network that deters sexual predators from acting. However, at the same time, one can’t help but wonder if it has also inadvertently fostered a culture of fear in the dating scene? Here’s your guide to understanding consent, what constitutes as harassment and how it’s different from flirting.

Flirting v/s harassment

One of the main reasons the dating scene is in upheaval is because misogynistic attitudes had crept into everyday interactions and were becoming an accepted way of flirting. The #MeToo movement has turned this trend of thought on its head. Spelling things out and drawing clear lines between what constitutes as flirting and harassment, and this is especially important to understand when it comes to office romances.

Flirting is about testing waters to understand if your romantic feelings are reciprocated. Generally, one tries to do this by being coy and charming without actually imposing themselves on that person. Sexual harassment on the other hand, does not take the person’s feelings or reservations into account. It’s about imposing yourself or your attentions on someone irrespective of whether they reciprocate the same. There in lies this clear distinction between flirting and harassment. Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany further breaks it down for you. She says, “It’s imperative to respect people’s boundaries before approaching anyone especially in the work environment. If the person, has given a cue that they are not interested then it’s better to back off and not keep pursuing them because one holds power and feels that they have ownership on others.” Consent is the key, and that fine line that distinguishes flirting from sexual harassment.

‘Don’t misuse the position you hold’

Psychiatrist Dr Hemant Mittal feels that being cautious about occasionally flirting is a side-effect of this movement. He advises caution at all times. It’s best to gauge if a person is interested outside the workplace so as to draw lines between professional and personal lives. He adds, “If you are in a position of power, it’s important to gauge a situation before getting into it.” Flirtatious advances are obviously labelled inappropriate given the power dynamics at the workplace. However, if you still do intend to pursue a relationship with a colleague who is subordinate to you make sure they consent to it without any pressure of a fallout. You may have to consider switching jobs if things become serious.

Guide to navigating an office romance 

Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues 
If someone is moving away from you, they are clearly not interested. Respect that. Don’t pursue things, misconstruing it as they “playing hard to get” as that would clearly be entering into sexual harassment zone. 

Don’t make rash judgments

Don’t use the way someone dresses as an excuse to approach them. No matter how they are dressed, it’s not an invitation to touch them. Respect the individual for the work they bring to the table. Don’t use the office as a matchmaking space. It could very well be looked at as unnecessary attention and harassment.

Know your boundaries

If you are approaching someone outside office, offering to buy them a drink or a meal don’t use that as an excuse to get intimate as they may view that as harassment. It’s important to know your boundaries and to back off when faced with any resistance. Take no as a no.

Respect someone’s personal space

Always keep a safe distance while talking to a colleague. Don’t get too tactile as that kind of proximity may not be appreciated. In fact, it may be looked at as inappropriate advances.

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