Bringing Up Flirty

It is a modern progressive cliché that prostitutes were all sexually abused at a tender age by their fathers, uncles, or some other adult. This may well be true of many prostitutes working at the lower end of the market and displaying self-destructive behaviour, but speaks neither to the women who are entirely together in the head and do sex work to finance their studies or amass capital for a second career, nor to the millions of migrant sex workers, whose only trauma is family and national poverty.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that future call-girls and escorts are those women who were always unusually oriented towards the sexual manipulation of men; and that this orientation was laid down in childhood in the form of paternal rewarding of infantile coquetry. In other words, they were typical Daddy’s Girls. This is by no means the same thing as sexual abuse, unless we consider it a form of sexual abuse to teach a young girl that she may best attain her objectives by means of behaviour that, when she is older, will be called outrageous flirting. And perhaps a case can be made that teaching girls this particular behavioural suite, at the expense of other ways of getting what they want, is in fact a form of abuse, even if no “inappropriate touching” is involved.

The uncomfortable truth is that a girl-child does learn much of her subsequent sexual behaviour from her father or other male caregivers, because there is no one else to learn it from; how to interact with males as an equal she will learn from her brothers. From her father or stepfather she will learn adult interactions only if his disposition is scientific, scholarly or simply cool-headed enough to reward sachlich behaviour instead of feminine wiles. It is when this balance is upset – when one of the two behavioural suites is not taught at all – that we get either the tomboy or bluestocking who has no idea how to romance men, or the flirt who has no idea how to do anything else.

Automatic response to such button-pressing by little flirts is a seriously bad idea, and of course, most of us have a rational being in the loop. Even so, it does not take very much in the way of entirely “innocent” response to reinforce the flirt-conditioning of the child in question. The other day I came across a reference to small girl-children being quote, irresistible, unquote. Insofar as this word is not merely advertising-speak hyperbole, I find it rather disturbing. All ages prior to our own considered that it pertained to a proper human being to resist certain things. And on the flip side, insofar as girl-children set out to be “irresistible”, should we not be disturbed by this, and unsurprised when they grow up to sell themselves? In short, allowing a girl-child to “get round us” by behaviour that would in an older individual be called coquetry risks producing an adult for whom this is her first or even only strategy.

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