"How do I talk to a woman wearing headphones (in order to flirt)?"
You've probably seen a certain garbage article going viral (which I refuse to link here) in which this question is addressed and a man gives advice to his fellow bros on negotiating such a situation.
So, quick review on all this:
You don't flirt with a woman in public wearing headphones. Or a woman working out at the gym (or outside a gym). Or one working in a cafe. Or one who's working a service job at an establishment you frequent. Or a woman in your workplace. Or at your kid's school. In fact, when it's clear the **primary** objective of the environment is NOT being sociable, let alone romantically sociable, you just don't do it.
Women who are perfect strangers going about their day (their work, their lives) are not there for your entertainment.
Are there situations when you talk to a woman you don't know in public? Of course, but I feel like having to flesh these out is a pretty good derailing of the main point: Women who are perfect strangers going about their day (their work, their lives) are not there for your entertainment.
(Very basic) rule of thumb in the above situations: "If I wasn't attracted to this person, regardless of gender or sexuality, would I be talking to them?"
If the answer is "no," don't talk to them.
Next level: "Regardless of my attraction to this person, do I NEED to talk to them concerning something that directly impacts my safety, their **IMMEDIATE** safety, or our awareness of something like a dropped item?"
If the answer is "no," don't talk to them.
"What if I like a book they're reading and want to discuss it with them?"
Join a book club. Leave her alone.
"What if they're listening to a song I like?"
They like it, too. Don't interrupt their enjoyment. Leave her alone.
"But I'm not a predator/rapist."
Congratulations! Neither of those things is required to feel like you're entitled to a woman's time and attention. Not assaulting women does not give you a license to be an inconsiderate asshole.
"But some women like it!"
I have no doubt. I would even be willing to believe that MANY women want perfect strangers to flirt with them in public. Human sexuality is a complex thing, and I do not judge whatever consenting adults choose to do with each other. But here's the problem: They have to consent first, you can't read their minds, and assuming a woman *may* want you to hit on her in a public space is like going around slapping random people because statistically, at least a few of them have that particular fetish. It makes no goddamn sense.
"But women flirt with men they don't know in public spaces!"
I agree, but kudos on derailing the conversation again. I have no doubt there are inconsiderate women (in fact, quite a few) in our global population of 8 billion. A few weeks ago, I got a random e-mail from a college professor -- a complete stranger -- asking me out on a date. I replied asking if we know each other because I was righty put off by such a direct message. She rightly responded with an apology because based on her life experience, she knows this was inappropriate. I commend her on the honesty and willingness to put herself in my shoes.
Not assaulting women does not give you a license to be an inconsiderate asshole.
I've also (on rare occasions) been flirted with by a woman I don't know in public. One woman slapped my ass in a bar. I was not happy. I told her off, and she apologized. Again, she put herself in my shoes and realized the choice to invade my personal space like that was a very poor decision.
Ain't that something? On the rare occasion when a strange woman in public (or online) inappropriately hits on me, and I question her approach, she immediately apologizes and goes about her day.
Male privilege is a fucking hoot, eh?
"But how else am I going to meet women?"
If harassing women in public is the only way you can get your groove on, it's time to seek out therapy because you've got bigger fish to fry. I mean that sincerely. Really. Honest. Work on you. Trust me.
"But men are expected to initiate with women. It's in our nature."
This is a very poor excuse for shitty behavior. I love folks who identify as men and have high standards for them. I believe they have what it takes -- just as much as women -- to be decent people. If you think that lowly of men, that they're animals with no self control, I really don't want to know you.
"But she's REALLY hot, and I may never see her again."
You're not fucking listening. She's a human being, not a public commodity. She doesn't owe you shit. And guess what? You don't owe her anything. You're also a human being who has a right to go about your day free of harassment. You should do it.
Summary: you are NOT entitled to the time or attention of women you don't know or women you do know. Thank you.
Charles Clymer is an Army Veteran and writer based out of Washington, D.C., where they live with their girlfriend and two cats. They have been published in several places and quoted by Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, and numerous other publications. You can follow them on Twitter here and on Facebook here.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.