Much like virtual reality headsets, 3D cinema, face-recognition phones and self-driving cars, the dating norm has transgressed linearly to technology. Dating has never been easier, which has made flirting just as accessible. We are a generation of chronic swipers as opposed to old-fashioned romantics. This in itself is not an issue, it is simply the product of an ever-changing dating landscape in which you either learn to accept or drag your feet behind in the wilderness. But the issue lies far deeper, in the depths of the blurred lines between flirting and consent, caused by a newfound dating culture.
With dating being so common now, we have seen a far less clear-cut definition of what the general population understand by consent, epitomised quite incredibly by a recent report published by the End Violence Against Women Coalition. The study found a third of males and 21% of females said it would not usually be considered rape if a woman had flirted on a date. Further statistics published by YouGov recently revealed 6% of people did not believe it is rape if a woman is very drunk or asleep; 11% said the more sexual partners a woman has, the less harm she will experience from a rape; and 42% of over-65s believed if sexual activity continues after a woman changes her mind then it is not an offence. I feel like washing my hands just writing these atrocious and disgusting statements out.
Not rape if the victim is unconscious? Have we lost our minds?
How have we landed ourselves a dating culture in which flirting is considered to be an invitation to the bedroom? It is quite astonishing. I would hate to think a man thinks he has the right to a sexual relationship on the back of some innocent flirting on a first date. There are plenty of people who are naturally flirtatious, extending it as an act of compassion and friendliness. Are we saying that they consent to everyone they speak with?
Flirting is defined as a playful act which can often carry very little serious intention, yet with such a large proportion of people seemingly losing sight of what differentiates this and consent, we clearly need reminding.
At a time when the news is plagued with cases of #MeToo and sexual assault, how can we tackle the issue if we can’t even establish what constitutes rape? No means no, it’s a simple as that.
But what’s more alarming is the fact that nearly a quarter of women in this study are also unsure of whether flirting is equal to consent. It is the same grey area that leads to tragic discrepancies in the criminal justice system and sees a woeful amount of cases slip through the net.
If both parties do not agree, then one person is committing a crime. A boxing match cannot take place if one of the participants refuses to fight or it becomes assault. Sex is no different.