Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power. – Oscar Wilde

I’ve been in enough “is this a date?” situations. Before you think this is countless amounts, a couple is more than enough. I hope I never have to sit through it again, whether I’m sitting in a café or at my laptop, cringing away from a person or a Messenger screen. A (male) friend postulated that while girls will go for a coffee with anyone, guys will only go for coffee with a girl if they are long-established friends, at least one of them is in a relationship, or want to sleep with them. Let it be noted that the latter does not rule out either of the former.

Given that This Is Known, it apparently follows that girls should not agree to or invite a meet-up with guys unless they are long established friends, at least one of them is in a relationship, want to sleep with them, or are keen on creating an awkward situation. Conclusion: the natural state is that it must be assumed to be a date unless stated otherwise. Not that it should be made clear that it is, in fact, a date. Hold on a little bit while I think which gender carries the responsibility for clarity.

Female clarification at the ready, presenting Situation X. The girl wants to go for a friendly coffee, whether it’s at her request or his. He thinks something more is afoot. The more is not mentioned; they are hanging out, grabbing a drink, catching up. If he is mistaken then she has led him on, given off the wrong signals, misread the situation. And she is the one dealing with the fallout; not him, for assuming more, but her, for assuming less. Generalisation granted, but from my perspective it seems that guys’ start-point is more inclined to be sexual and girls’ start-point is more inclined to be “he’s not interested until concretely proven otherwise, and let me overthink it meantime.”

As someone with a friendly (read: flirty, read: I have been accused of being flirty often but I think it’s just friendliness) disposition, it sucks to have been told to be less this way, less myself, or guys will get the “wrong idea.” Or maybe, they could hold off thinking I’m interested in them just because I showed interest. And I can carry on asking questions about what they’re studying or where they’ve been on holiday without worrying about how I might have to extract myself from an “is this a date?” situation. Not that those words are actually uttered until it’s obviously much too late for them to help.

My fingers are hovering over the keys, trying to resist typing patriarchy amongst a cacophony of uncouth words. There is something very Adam-and-Eve about all of this. I’ve heard of female friends being told to dress more appropriately by church leaders because jeans and a t-shirt just weren’t enough to stem the sexuality oozing off them, and they wouldn’t want to distract the boys, would they.  The burden lying on the female for giving out her insatiable, irresistible womanly hormones, leading the male down a sinful path whether she meant to or not. Who can blame men for giving in or getting the “wrong idea?”

Not to mention women giving other women the right idea, or men absolutely never giving other men anything that could possibly be interpreted as the wrong idea; no, let us stick with good old traditional Christian heterosexual gender categories. An ex-boyfriend of mine used to be uncomfortable with me socialising with male friends, but not female friends, despite the fact I have an ex-girlfriend too. I thought that if he was going to be jealous and controlling, he could at least not be sexist about it. Alas. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so friendly with him on our first date.

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