Let’s not sugar coat it. When there’s a bunch of geeky people, all with varying levels of age and experience, and whole lot of hormones running rampant around a hotel or convention center for a weekend–things are gonna get steamy. Suddenly, instead a small group of people that interact in an IRL setting with a handful of things in common, there’s thousands of people to interact with, check out, and be interested in. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. So let’s do it right.
I love the place we’ve gotten to within fandom. We’ve focused on this sex positive aspect, discovering how our own sexualities work, mostly through dirty Harry Potter fan fiction, and NSFW tumblrs, let’s be real. We embrace one’s own sexuality. Key words here– one’s own sexuality . It is yours, and yours alone.
We’ve had conversations about consent , and what true consent really means. Videos have been created by YouTubers explaining consent , or what human sexuality really is and means. We’ve got safe sex videos, and teen websites devoting weeks of conversation to correcting the horrible sexual education systems in schools.
However, there’s a chunk of the conversation missing. The part before the naked stuff, the sex stuff. Before all that, there is meeting someone for the first time. There’s talking, texting, interest. There’s the warm flare up of weird feelings in your chest, your head, and/or your pants.
We’re missing the part of the conversation that involves the initial point of contact. The initial interest–the flirting. Now that we’re closer to understanding how our own sexualities work–it’s time we understand how OTHER people’s sexuality may differ from ours. You can never assume that someone’s sexuality, comfort level, and boundaries match your own.
Understanding how to flirt appropriately, especially at conventions, is crucial so everyone can have a safe and fun time while at a con. What happens when you’ve been flirting outrageously with someone’s online persona, but they feel completely differently when you are face to face? How do you know if it’s ok to touch someone–even if it’s just a shoulder or an arm? How do you know where someone stands on talking about their sex life, or sharing these pieces of information about themselves in a public manner? How do you know if you’ve gone too far with your flirting?
Fantastic Fandoms is here to help.
This is the good stuff
Especially in a fandom setting, you already know you have a ton in common. Simple questions like, “What do you think about tabletop games,” or “What Harry Potter house are you in?” can lead down a path of insta-nerd-friend-bonding. If the conversation is going well, it’s a good gauge that this person feels comfortable talking to you and wants to do more of it. A sure fire way to make a new friend, and if it leads to something more–great! Try asking for their number so you can meet up at the evening programming! If they say yes, you’ve made a new friend. Whoohoo! If they say no, you best respect that.
Ask permission to touch someone:
If you are unsure you have permission to touch someone, then don’t touch them. If they are touching you (hugs, light touches on the arm or elbow), and it’s okay with you, then it’s probably a mutual agreement that it is okay to be appropriately touchy with someone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for permission either. A simple, “is it okay if I touch you right now,” can be helpful. Ask if it’s okay to untwist someone’s badge or lanyard–this would be a good and totally not awkward way to test the waters. However, just because they say yes once, doesn’t mean the answer will be yes all the time. You are not entitled to someone’s personal space or body because they said yes one time in one circumstance. Consent is not all-encompassing. True consent can be revoked at any time.
Not everyone likes to talk about sex, not everyone likes to know what you are into behind closed doors. Not everyone feels comfortable with public displays of affection. Not everyone wants to be in the same hotel room while you and your sexual partner are foolin’ around in the bed next to them. Respecting these boundaries are crucial. While you may feel comfortable talking about your bedroom behavior, that definitely does not mean that other people around you do. Don’t ever assume someone is okay with being exposed to graphic or explicit sexual discussions or behavior.
And if you make a mistake, which can happen when surrounded by new people at a convention–apologize, understand why it happened, and move on. And most importantly, don’t let it happen again.
Make sure you understand the Code of Conduct:
Every con you plan on attending should have a Code of Conduct easily visible on their website, or even printed on badges or in the programming book. (If a con you are going to a con that does not have a code of conduct–I wouldn’t recommend going.) VidCon’s Code of Conduct spells it out very clearly:
If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, don’t keep talking to them. If you do not have permission to touch someone, do not touch them. VidCon loves surprising and interesting unplanned activities, but sometimes things you think are cool might make other people extremely uncomfortable or be very dangerous.
Any behavior that goes against the Code of Conduct of the conference you are attending will most likely result in you being escorted off the premises. Familiarizing yourself with the Code of Conduct is a sure way of understanding the mutual boundaries which every single person at the conference has agreed to for the weekend. Be proactive. Know the code.
This type of behavior will result in unwanted results
Never do this without asking for explicit permission first. Never bombard someone with graphic imagery of what you’d like to do to their body without for sure knowing that you have permission to say those types of things. If you are bold enough to ask someone for a picture, and they say “no,” it is OFF THE TABLE. Do not ever ask again, or shame them into feeling like they’ve made the wrong choice, or manipulating them to send a picture regardless of their initial response.
And if someone does want to get consensually textually active with you–never ever ever share those text or pictures with someone else.
Just don’t do it.
Don’t Get into someone’s personal space:
We discussed this in the Dos section. But, I’ll say it again. If someone constantly keeps their distance from you, best to keep that distance. That’s the way they like it, uh huh, uh huh.
Having preconceived expectations can be dangerous. And laying out those expectations to your interest, or even their friends, can lead everyone down a path of misunderstanding and discomfort. Even if you believe you’ve been 100% respectful of someone’s boundaries, super polite, and you’ve done “everything right,” this still does not mean you have permission to flirt or be sexual with that person.
Don’t Take “No” as a “Maybe Later.”
No means no, and I can’t believe it’s 2015 and we are still talking about this. “No” is never a “maybe later.” THIS IS SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. If someone says, “no,” or uses other words and/or body language to try and dissuade you from continuing to pursue them, do NOT respond with, “I can wait until you are ready.”
Again, understand boundaries and listen to what someone is telling you. If they are uninterested, then leave them alone. If they have an interest in pursuing a friendship and only a friendship, let them come to you when they are ready set boundaries they feel comfortable with.
Everything laid out above applies to ALL KINDS of relationships: friendships, romantic relationships, friends with benefits, people you just met, people you’ve known for a decade. It applies when you’re staring at your laptop, and it applies when you’re interacting with people face to face. It applies to sexual situations, and it applies to platonic ones. If you are ever unsure if your behavior is appropriate or not, probably best to stop what you’re doing, and reevaluate. Showing respect of someone’s boundaries is honestly, in my opinion, the sexiest way to flirt.