You Need Help: Can I Flirt With My Crushes Without Being Seen as Predatory?

Q:

Dating is so complicated. I try to be bold and flirt and make it know that I’m interested. But I’m so scared that I’m gonna read things wrong or go too far and become the predatory lesbian. If I decide I wanna tell my crush straight up that I like them, I always overthink, I come up with so many reasons why it’s not a good idea. And I’m young, I have time but I want the young love. Like, I see people getting to be carefree and do wild teenage stuff and I want that. I have very few regrets but, I feel like if let these years go by without doing anything I know I’ll regret it.

Sometimes, I get really lonely. Being a black lesbian from a west african country is such an isolating experience and sometimes even when I have experiences in common with people it doesn’t feel enough. And my friends try, they really do and I love them for it. But they see things the same way I do and I feel it in so many of our conversations where I say something and they don’t quite understand.

How do I find that line between flirting and overstepping? How do I get the confidence to do something about my crushes? I’m tired of pining.

A:

I wish I had the power to free every lesbian, but especially Black lesbians, from the fear of being seen as “predatory” when we are simply trying to flirt. I think this trope has held so many lesbians back from making moves and finding love with someone they’re interested in. There’s this belief that making any move on a woman can be perceived as creepy, and I think that comes from this belief that lesbians are aligned with straight men because we both pursue women. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m sure you know that on some level. The world of the lesbian person is so far removed from the world of the straight man, but I often hear young lesbians bemoan not wanting to come off like men when they hit on women.

Of course, lesbians can be toxic and predatory, but lesbian existence is not inherently those things. So when you go to flirt with a woman, keep in mind that the spirit of what you’re doing is trying to make a connection. You’re not going into it with the idea that you’re gonna manipulate someone into having sex with or falling in love with you. I wanted to address the predatory lesbian stuff upfront because I think it does so much harm, and it’s a trope we need to free ourselves of. You’re not gonna come off as predatory just by flirting with someone, trust me.

The next thing I want to talk about is flirting in general. When you’re interested in someone and want to date them, you’re taking a risk by approaching them. As many friends and acquaintances have told me, the worst thing that can happen (in some cases) is that the other person will say no. Of course, being a lesbian adds another level of risk to the task of flirting, because you may be in a situation where you aren’t sure if the person you’re flirting with is lesbian/bi/queer too. People can react poorly when hit on by someone who has perceived them as queer in some way, but that doesn’t always happen. I’ve been in gay bars and hit on straight women that I didn’t know were straight. You get turned down, it sucks, but it won’t end you. If you are sure you are flirting with another queer person and they turn you down, it also sucks, but it’s not something you can’t recover from.

You said that you want that young love experience, but you’re stuck talking yourself out of approaching crushes. A thing I want you to think about is how accurate of an assessment you have on the situation. Before you talk yourself out of it, think about how this person talks to you, how they respond to you, if they have even done things that would constitute flirting, have they asked you out for coffee, etc, etc. Another thing I’ve noticed in younger lesbians is how they often miss flirting cues and don’t really catch that the other person is interested until they are practically asking you to be their partner/girlfriend. There’s nothing wrong with needing a little reassurance that the other person is into you before you make a move, so look at the situation objectively. If you can’t tell or aren’t getting signs from the other person that they are into you, then that isn’t the end of it. You can still make a move, they may be in a similar mindset as you.

With this, you want to be delicate. I suggest approaching with something like:

“Hey, I know we have this friendship/relationship right now, but lately I’ve been feeling like there could be more than just friendship between us. If you don’t feel the same way that’s fine, but I just wanted to put that out there!”

It’s not overly formal and clinical and it gets to the point. Try something like that with your crush and see how it goes.

If you aren’t on the apps, I suggest maybe downloading one! It’s a great way to be sure the intention is clear for both people: you’ve come here to flirt, hook up, date, find love, whatever it is you’re looking for.

I also just want to say, there’s a possibility that you may find love for the first time at a later age. That desire for young love is totally normal, we are saturated with images of it in TV shows and movies and music, and it’s okay to want that, but you might not get it. This reality can be very lonely, but love at any age is beautiful and can be just as carefree and fun as love at a young age. When you fall in love, at what age, doesn’t really matter. Love is all about quality. Young love can be fun but it can also be incredibly difficult as both people may be immature and engage in behaviors that are not healthy. This can happen in relationships with older people too, but I think it’s more common amongst young people, especially because they may not believe they have the power to ask for better treatment.

To get past the pining stage, you just have to go for it. Really ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you make a move on the person you want. It’s easier said than done, but you have to believe in the things that you want and your ability to achieve them. If you want love, you have to be willing to go through a couple of rejections, a couple of dud dates, etc, to find that person you really connect with. It may take time, but if it’s what you want, it will be worth it.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.


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danijanae

Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 116 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. I struggle with this a LOT, that fear that I’ll make someone uncomfortable by flirting with them. Even with people I met on a dating app and am literally on a date with. I think a lot of people do.

    One important thing I’ve learned about this is that I think a lot of us have difficulty imagining the possibility that women want us. Like, we’re culturally inundated with the information that men desire women; representation of women desiring women (or anything with nonbinary people) are extremely lacking. Women’s desire is always undervalued and underrepresented. So even when you feel desire for someone, it can be really easy not to realize that it’s possible they’ll feel the same.

    Can you read/watch more media where queer women want each other, and go for what they want? Can you practice imagining women’s desire? Not even just for you, but can you pay attention to queer friends when they express desire? And over time, maybe you can build up a sense of the possibility that queer women want you.

    That’s what I’m working on, anyway.

    (Working on your belief in your own desirability is definitely also a good idea, just less my problem so I’ll leave someone else to talk about it.)

  2. Young love can be fun but it can also be incredibly difficult as both people may be immature and engage in behaviors that are not healthy. This can happen in relationships with older people too, but I think it’s more common amongst young people, especially because they may not believe they have the power to ask for better treatment.

    This! This is so, so true.

  3. I remember talking with my gf at the time about this. She was afraid to even acknowledge another woman was attractive bc she worried that she would come off as a creepy predator.

    My general belief is as long as you remain friendly and lighthearted, and move on if they’re not interested, if the other person reacts badly that’s on their (internalized) homophobia, not you.

  4. I also think that it helps to remember that flirting is something you do with someone, not at them or to them. You make a lighthearted and friendly move and see what they do – if they flirt back, you two create something together.

    And if they don’t respond or aren’t interested, you move on (after you die of embarrassment / melt into the floor / have to move countries ;) )

    • This perspective really resonated with my experience, Cleo. Such a good reminder.

      And to the point of the letter-writer being worried about seeming/being predatory: if flirting is something you’re doing with someone, the dynamic isn’t predatory – and as other commenters have mentioned,

      I also see consent as being a big piece of this; If someone turns you down or puts up a wall or whatever, you accept the no and move on. It only becomes predatory if you aggressively keep trying, despite their clear boundaries or “no” – or perhaps sometimes even a lack of an enthusiastic yes or rapport (back to Cleo’s comment about flirting with one another as a reciprocal, give-and-take interaction).

  5. This advice is so good! The question is so good! I wish I had been thinking intentionally about this sort of thing at a younger age.

    I totally think part of the fear of flirting is, yes, 100% just initiating it, but then also fear about not being sure how to read the response. So, while I agree with the comments about flirting being a back and forth, and it not being creepy as long as you back off at the right time, etc etc…easier said than done, right?
    I’m afraid of everything, tbh, not just the first move.

    But I’m so glad other people are struggling with this and that a young queer person knows how to articulate their fears and is talking it out and getting some feedback from knowledgeable/ legit sources (:

  6. Maybe she/ they also has to be extra careful being from an west african country,as homosexuality is being punished? Or at least not tolerated because of religion?

    Maybe that fear she/ they has too , that her harmless flirting gets seen as predatory by the possible straight woman , and when its a small community , she gets reported? To the police or the pastor or the elders of the town where she/ they live(s).

  7. I feel this a lot! As a fellow West African (in the US) I definitely feel reserved about it all in a way that sometimes feels like self-sabotage and keeping distance due to the pandemic doesn’t exactly motivate me either! You got this :)

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