Dating in high school can sometimes seem like a game. Indeed, there are many aspects of teenage relationships that are entirely unique to our age group. There’s a heavy reliance on technology for communication, with texting and social media especially used to flirt. More often than not, a relationship these days begins with some form of virtual communication. With this constant stream of chatting, the line between friendship and romance is often blurred. Deciphering the true intention behind a message can get tricky without cues like facial expression, or tone, and often times, this can lead to something referred to as “leading on.” In this situation, one person is flirting with another without looking for a relationship, though the recipient of the flirting assumes that a relationship is being promised. In general, girls are considered to be reckless, irresponsible, or cruel if they lead a guy on. But is this fair judgement? Does “leading on” really deserve the negative connotation that it has received?
Picture this: a guy and a girl are close friends, talking frequently in and out of school. As their friendship grows, the guy develops feelings for the girl,who is a notorious flirt. He makes his affection clear, and although the girl is not interested in him, she continues to flirt for months. Is anyone in the wrong here? When a similar situation happened at my school, many people felt sympathy for the boy, saying he was mislead and made to think that this girl had a romantic interest in him, and the girl was criticized for treating him that way. I felt more conflicted when evaluating the situation.
There often seems to be a sense of entitlement in relationships like this, wherein a boy feels that a girl is obliged to date him if she demonstrates some interest. Not to get all feminist here (okay, I’m going to get all feminist), but there is a double standard at work. This feeling of entitlement certainly doesn’t exist for females. In this situation, with a boy pursuing a girl, he was viewed as sincere and mistreated. If the situation were reversed, however, with a girl eagerly pursuing a male, it would not be interpreted in the same way, with words like “desperate” and “obsessed” likely getting tossed around. Despite the unequal standards set for boys and girls in the romantic arena, many continue to accept these gender expectations.
Students have differing views on “leading on.” Carol, a high school senior, originally felt that it was a mean thing to do to another person. Upon further reflection, though, she concluded that the term was a bit unfair. “I almost feel like ‘leading on’ is a phrase reserved for when people don’t get what they want,” she says. “And it is associated with girls a lot, now that I think about it. People definitely claim that girls are leading a guy on, much more often than the other way around.”
Kelsey, a college freshman, expressed strong views from the start. “There’s no such thing as leading on,” she says. “A girl never has any obligation to date a guy. And vice versa, for that matter. Flirting is just a part of life.” In her opinion, it indicates nothing more than a slight interest.
When it comes down to it, much of this dilemma can be eliminated through simple communication. If you aren’t interested in dating someone, say so. It can only save both of you from confusion and misunderstanding in the long run. But if someone is flirting with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want a relationship; Some people can’t help but flirt, and others aren’t interested in dating at all. Whether or not “leading on” is a real thing, there’s no denying that being rejected hurts. Honesty really is the best policy, and the best way to ensure that you both make it out of the situation as friends.