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The article might be a little outdated, but Match Girl thinks it is worth getting in our psychology time machines and heading back to 1999 to learn more about the science of flirting. Yes, that’s right. Flirting is more than a coquettish and/or roguish set of behaviors exhibited in bars and at co-ed picnics to gauge attraction. It’s a psychological method used by people to connect. And it’s fascinating.
“Flirting Fascination” was published in the late 90′s but the author, Joann Ellison, makes some interesting and still applicable points. She opens with an early quote from Richard Burton on his initial attraction to the lovely and glamorous Elizabeth Taylor. But beneath the violet eyes, shiny black hair and killer bod, Ellison asserts that modern psychologists would be willing to bet that: “Liz tossed her hair, swayed her hips, arched her feet, giggled, gazed wide-eyed, flicked her tongue over her lips and extended that apocalyptic chest,” and that Burton returned the favor with his own set of male flirtations.
Sometimes we see a photo and think, “What an attractive, striking person!” but still wish we could see them in person to determine if our gut is correct. Of course, even poses can be flirtatious — remember Paris Hilton’s over-the-shoulder red carpet sex kitten stare that made her such an icon a few years ago? Or what about Tyra Banks’ fortune that’s been built on her famous “Smize-ing” or smiling with the eyes? Flirtation, plain and simple.
Ellison says of flirting, “Long trivialized and even demonized, flirtation is gaining new respectability thanks to a spate of provocative studies of animal and human behavior in many parts of the world. The capacity of men and women to flirt and to be receptive to flirting turns out to be a remarkable set of behaviors embedded deep in our psyches.” It’s true, isn’t it? Whether you have romantic intent or not, do you ladies ever find yourself tossing your hair around or batting your lashes? Men, please admit to having tossed a cute smirk at the cutie behind the coffee counter this very morning.
Turns out, flirting is natural and healthy. It is a mechanism designed to help get us what we want, and it can be a terribly rewarding tactic. But whatever your intent when getting your flirt on, it’s interesting to uncover the evolutionary roots at play here. Ellison explains that flirting came about as a safety mechanism in partner-seeking:
“Our animal and human ancestors needed a means of quickly and safely judging the value of potential mates without “going all the way” and risking pregnancy with every possible candidate they encountered. Flirting achieved that end, offering a relatively risk-free set of signals with which to sample the field, try out sexual wares and exchange vital information about candidates’ general health and reproductive fitness.” Rather than risk it all, humans would flirt with each other to feel out each others’ compatibility and if signals were off, move on.
Today, flirting is a widespread phenomenon that takes place in dive bars, on city streets, and if you’re lucky, at your very own kitchen sink while doing dishes with your trusted partner. Flirting is a fun and powerful way of recognizing your own powers of sexual attraction. So get out there and get your flirt on, you sassy scoundrel!