Angels fly because they take themselves lightly. G. K. Chesterton.
Flirting adds spice to life and supports positive attitudes toward other people. It may involve flattery, but it is a subtle and enjoyable flattery that is closer to praise than to a lie. Flirting creates a relaxing, calm, and enjoyable atmosphere. It involves curiosity, humor, imagination, and empathy. Flirting is subtle: it is typically not an explicit sexual activity, but rather an enjoyable, gentle prelude or substitute for it. Flirting has elements of intellectual teasing flavored by emotional play. During flirting, each partner's soul is stirred, thereby enabling the two souls to respond to each other. Miss Etiquette indicates that the meaning of flirting is to be playfully romantic; something of little value or importance; to speak or act in a playful or flirting way; to toy with. Indeed, her colleague, Miss Manners, considers flirtation "a gentle amusement," an activity that should be harmless and not lead to anything. In a chat room entitled "Married and Flirting," people are advised to treat flirting as pure fun, as a good way to practice social skills and to make yourself and your targets feel good. This site, whose motto is "Married Not Dead," offers the following rules of flirting: F is for Flattery; L is for Listen; I is for Interest; R is for being Responsible; T is for Trusting yourself; S is for winning a Smile. (see Love Online)
Flirting encompasses seemingly contradictory aspects: honesty together with an element of innocence, as well as a mild level of deception (expressed in flattery); caring for others-by listening to and showing interest in them-while not taking them too seriously; being confident and feeling good about yourself while not attaching too much importance to yourself; intelligence flavored by emotional tone. All these characteristics are evident in online affairs.
Flirting is conducted within a tacit borderline; it is a kind of game in which participants move closer to the borderline-and sometimes even step across it-and then move back to a comfortable distance from it. Cyberflirting is a type of verbal dance in which the boundaries of sexuality are not clearly drawn. Flirting is like an inactive volcano that can become active any moment. In online affairs, crossing the line between innocent flirting and overt sexual interaction, and hence activating the sexual volcano, is greatly facilitated as the stimulation is high and the typical warning signals that alert people of infidelity-e.g., nonverbal signs of discomfort or shame-are not apparent in cyberspace.
A married woman having an affair with a married man illustrates the move from the playful nature of flirting to the more profound nature of a committed romantic relationship in the following description: "We flirted with and seeked each other constantly, until one day we realized we were not just playing anymore, the flirting had transformed into very deep feelings for both of us. He had reached deep inside my heart and touched where no other man has ever before." The gradual manner in which people become involved in overt sexual interaction online is also expressed in the following description: "I am a single woman who has formed a relationship with a much younger married man. In real life there is no way I would have formed this relationship. I do not go out with married men. I met him in a chat room and at first it was just a nice friendly chat. This of course progressed until we eventually went into a private room. I was intrigued by what would happen but could not believe the feelings this man evoked in me" (Cited in Love Online).
Flirting enables you to be yourself and express all types of personal characteristics. Typical flirting offers participants an enjoyable, frivolous form of sexual communication with no serious intent. Typical flirting is usually harmless. However, often flirting is not restricted to such harmless communication and leads to a sexual relationship.
Flirting may involve gentle physical contact, but often it does not involve sexual intercourse. Flirting may develop into sexual relationships, but then it stops being flirting in the sense used here. Sometimes sexual talk is considered more sexually offensive than are certain activities involving physical contact, such as kissing and hugging. In flirting, people do not force themselves on others; it is a kind of enjoyable play having the pleasant atmosphere that is typical of the promise of sexual activity. Flirting also involves the mystery and uncertainty associated with sex. Consider the following description of flirting: "Flirting is more than ‘Hi, ya wanna?' It's teasing, playing, innuendos-it's about making someone feel special, it's about being attentive, it's about walking on the edge of danger & getting caught. Flirting is nibbling on the forbidden fruit. It's not blunt straight-to-the point comments. It's playing cat & mouse with each other, and enjoying it." (Cited in Levine, The Joy of Cybersex)
Flirting does not have to be a preparatory activity aimed at an external goal, namely, sexual intercourse. Quite often, flirting is the best available alternative-rather than means-to actual sexual intercourse. When people enjoy flirting for its own sake, it may be commendable. Although flirting has its own intrinsic value, it also has certain personal and social benefits (as well as disadvantages). Thus, flirting may help to reduce loneliness and boost one's ego and self-confidence. One survey has found that most working-women believe that flirting is good for their health and confidence. Indeed, three out of four of them have flirted with a colleague, while 28 percent have had a sexual relationship with a fellow-worker. Some findings indicate that flirting at the workplace makes people more comfortable around each other.
Although explicit sexual activities and orgasms are secondary in flirting, an orgasm is always possible-sexual arousal is often part and parcel of flirting. Since online sex is essentially a type of conversation, which is also an essential part of flirting, the distinction between online sex and flirting is not clear-cut, and the two activities often overlap. Cyberspace is associated with flirting not only in the sense that many online affairs are similar to flirting, but also in the sense that the Internet considerably facilitates the process of flirting. Flirting is particularly prevalent in chat rooms as most of them promote flirting and "fooling around."
People are attractive when they are relaxed, feeling good, and enjoying themselves. It may also work the other way around: those who are attractive are more likely to be relaxed, feel good, and enjoy themselves. Since cyberspace offers new dimensions of attractiveness, in addition to that of external appearance, it may break the vicious cycle for those who, because they are considered externally unattractive, are not relaxed and hence are unable to attract people.