What is flirting? Can you flirt without intending to? Can you flirt by dressing a certain way, by walking a certain way? Is flirtatious behavior culturally relative? Could you flirt with a robot?
posted by Carrie Jenkins
Hi all - and thanks Ken and John for the invitation to be on the show today and to write for this blog.
I liked Ken's Gricean point about the flirter requiring the intention that his/her intention be recognized by the flirtee, and I just wanted to follow up on that a bit. One case I at first thought this promised to help with is the case of the "hypno-flirt" (which was first suggested to me by David Wall at the Australian National University). The hypno-flirt is a mad scientist who playfully and knowingly inserts electrodes into your brain with the intention of stimulating those parts of the brain which will cause you to think about having sex with her. There's some reason to doubt she's flirting, but if all she needs is the playfulness, the knowingness, and the intentions I talk about in my paper (plus the belief that the subject can respond, e.g. with the appropriate beliefs and perhaps emotions), then she ought to count as flirting.
However, one thing lacking from this case is the intention that her intentions be recognized by the subject. So I though maybe introducing your requirement would deal with the case. But then I thought, one could complicate the case so that the hypno-flirt now also stimulates the required parts of the subject's brain to make him believe that she has the intention to make him think about sex with her. It's still a bit uncomfortable to say she is flirting.
So I'm not really sure yet how to solve the hypno-flirt, though I suspect some complication of my account might be needed here. And this case, I think, raises some of the same issues as your dangerous bridge case, to do with the deviancy or non-standardness of the method used to raise romance/sex to salience. But I'm not yet convinced that, in general, a flirter need have the intention that her intention to raise romance/sex to salience be recognized. I think I could flirt with someone by doing certain things I know will make him think about how cute I am, even if I know (and intend) that he doesn't realize what I'm up to.
Suppose I decide to bat my eyelids at Clueless Clive, knowing that he will as a result think of me in a slightly more sexualized way than before, but that because he's so clueless he will have no idea why his attitude to me has changed. If my partner then accuses me of flirting with Clueless Clive, he's got a point. But I certainly agree that in typical cases of flirtation this intention that one's intention be recognized is present.
(Incidentally, I don't know who told you I was an "expert flirter", but personally I'd put myself more at the Pepe Le Pew end of the spectrum than the Brigitte Bardot end ... )