We all do it from time to time. Bat our eyes, purse our lips, twirl our hair around a finger or two. Flirt shamelessly when we are trying to attract someone. But, what if you communicated that way with, well, everyone? What if every time you went out, and everyone you spoke to, including the cashier at the convenience store, became another opportunity to flirt or communicate in a sexual way? What if you didn’t even realize you were doing it?
Well, you might be a sexual communicator. And while communicating sexually with someone you are intimately involved with (or trying to be intimately involved with) is acceptable and healthy; communicating sexually with your married neighbor, your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your friend’s boyfriend, or people you do not intend to have an intimate relationship with is, well, dangerous and unhealthy, even if you don’t mean to do it or have any intention of trying to win their affection.
Communicating sexually puts all conversations –even platonic ones– on a heightened sexual level and removes the possibility of knowing people on many different levels, thus narrowing the scope and experience of relating to the world. It also sends the wrong message and confuses people to the point of not knowing your true intentions. More importantly, it limits your own ability to communicate to others that you are much more than a sexual being.
So, are you a sexual communicator? Here are a few signs:
- Difficulty talking to men as “friends” or “acquaintances” on a non-sexual level (especially men you are not attracted to or who are unavailable)
- Not feeling comfortable in clothing unless it’s “sexy”
- No interest in going out with friends unless the potential for flirting or meeting and talking to mates is present
- No interest in people, places or activities that don’t have a sexual element to them
- Feeling most comfortable only when able to flirt or speak using sexual innuendos or behavior
- Averting eye contact with people, unless there is sexual communication
- Displaying sexual body language or leading the conversation in a sexual, flirtatious direction with almost anyone
- Consciously or unconsciously wondering if the person you are talking to finds you “attractive.”
- Conversations without the potential for flirtatiousness become boring and mundane and oftentimes avoided.
- An increase in partners who “only” want one thing or who only want to continue to relate to you on a sexual level.
I was a sexual communicator nearly all my life. Every guy I met I would only be able to relate to on a sexual level. That meant the hot guy at the bar, the plumber who showed up to fix my faucet and the police officer who pulled me over for a broken tail light. If I wasn’t attracted to him, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. I wouldn’t even give him the time of day unless I absolutely had to. I would only go out with friends with whom I knew would talk about sex or be interested in sharing their bedroom stories. And, I had great difficulty looking men in the eye if I wasn’t interested in them in a sexual way. It was all or nothing with me. This was so narrow and limiting. I excluded good people and good conversations from my life simply because I didn’t know how to relate to people other than through attraction and my own sexuality.
I was like this until about 10 years ago. I was in grad school and took a part-time job teaching Writing at a community college. As many of you know, male students can and will flirt with their teachers. And nearly all my life, I was very used to flirting and getting male attention. But, I knew it was my responsibility as a teacher to create clear boundaries between me and my students. I noticed, however, that any time I spoke to a male student I would wonder, as I always had, “Is he attracted to me?” Almost immediately, I felt this wasn’t a healthy way to relate to my students. I was in my 30’s, I was professional, and these students were here to learn, not to flirt with their teacher. It was at this point in my life that I realized I needed a new way of communicating. These “kids” needed a teacher that was kind, respectful, and knowledgeable, and had appropriate boundaries that enforced the teacher-student roles as our only relationship. When I set those goals for myself, my ideas about how to communicate changed and I was able to relate to them on a whole new level.
Now, I communicate with men as friends and am able to have a better understanding of who people are on a personal level, not a sexual one. I even removed my habit of communicating sexually while dating. This allowed me to get to know guys as a friend first, to see if we had more than just a sexual connection. Most importantly, people were able to get to know all the wonderful qualities within me that I was too shy to share. Sexual communication, I ultimately learned, was a defense mechanism. It kept the real me hidden and safe.