Noreen is the lead of Rava's Editorial Team and has been associated with the world of journalism since 2012. She is quirky with an awkward sense of humour and an advocate for common sense. Her skill is to use sarcasm to survive on daily basis.
A declaration of sexual attraction. A hand that rests on one knee. A coquettish text message.
If it comes from the right person at the right time, it can make you feel very good.
But from a wrong person and at an inappropriate time, a message of flirtation and unwanted caress can cause discomfort, offend or embarrass.
The growing accusations of sexual harassment and even rape against the renowned Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted a worldwide debate in which thousands of women participated.
Under the hashtag #metoo (me too), they have spoken on social networks about the situations in which they have felt victims of sexual harassment.
Harvey Weinstein held great power and was able to push or end the career of his alleged victims, but harassment can be just as harmful outside of the work environment.
In a global debate, the question of what the frontiers of sexual harassment are does not have a clear answer.
Although the concept of sexual labor harassment is established by the International Labor Organization (ILO), giving meaning to other areas of life is complex, experts warn.
And that line between flirting and bullying can become thin and often blurred.
From flirting to harassment
If you are attracted and interested in someone, you have to flirt , the personal relations expert James Preece told the BBC.
But it’s about doing it in the right environment and not when people least expect it, he said.
Preece advises her clients, men and women between the ages of 23 and 72, to flirt in a playful but non-sexual way.
In an ideal situation, the person who does not consent to the flirtation they receive should express it and the other should stop in their intentions , says Chilean sociologist María José Guerrero, who chairs the Observatory Against Street Harassment in Chile (OCAC).
“The answer can be verbal, but it can also occur in a physical plane, like when someone rejects a kiss, ” he says.
The problem begins, according to experts, when the message is ignored.
“Harassment occurs when the man or woman does not respond to clear messages that their comments or behaviors are unwanted, unwelcome and even insulting,” sociologist Catherine Hakim, who researches women. at the Institute for the Study of Civil Society (Civitas) in England.
But the academic also notes that, in the case of some women, “unfortunately, they do not make their negative reaction obvious or clear”.
What are the reasons for this to happen?
Experts have different arguments and even faced when explaining the reasons that sometimes, the response of some women is not strong.
Catherine Hakim attributes it to the fact that western women “wait for another to protest for her, to take care of her, as if she were incapable of doing it by herself”.
This attitude is based, according to the author, on a ” victim mentality that weakens women and strengthens men”.
But others consider that social structures based on machismo make it difficult for a woman’s will to be heard.
Chilean sociologist María José Guerrero points out that Latin American women are instilled with the idea that when they say no, they really mean yes.
“It’s a message that gets in our heads since we were little girls and it spreads throughout the region,” he says.
Mexican lawyer and professor Nora Picasso agrees.
” They raise us to make us pray, they tell us: ‘do not say yes, make him suffer,‘” the academic tells BBC Mundo, who teaches at the University of Los Andes, in Colombia.
Picasso adds that there is also a social idea that, by rejecting flirting, the woman can be “rude, exaggerated or offensive or with the man”.
In this context, he says, it is difficult for a “no” to be understood as such, which can lead to a situation of sexual harassment.
But in the discussion also enters the question about whether the idiosyncrasies and countries of origin vary what is understood as sexual harassment.
Hakim gives an example with the Anglo-Saxon culture of northern Europe: “What is considered a compliment or a seduction routine on the (European) continent, in that region is more likely to be marked sexual harassment.”
Regarding Latin America, Guerrero recognizes that the way of interacting in the Caribbean is very different from the Chilean one , for example.
Although this proviso, he warns, should not serve as an excuse to annoy anyone.
And in the context of the same culture, he adds, there are social codes that, in general, dictate what is understood as inappropriate.
“In Chile, for example, people usually kiss each other on the face to say hello, but they do not put their lips on each other’s cheeks, so if someone does something different they can be uncomfortable in an unwanted environment and person,” he says. .
Beyond the cultural differences, experts agree that the important thing is to raise your voice when a situation of initial flirtation becomes uncomfortable and offensive.