“I was in central Amsterdam and a friend of mine was in the supermarket. I was waiting and wearing a dress, a man walked by and we made eye contact. It was a handsome man and he turned to me and said , that I looked nice. ,” says Gwyneth Sleutel, the creator of the documentary, in NOS with an eye on tomorrow. “I was very flattered. Then he started talking about the dress. He said: I think you’re wearing a very nice dress and it looks sexy on you. Then the switch turned on for me. I thought: oh no, have you another one of them, a pervert. This man wants something else. That one comment turned a button and I didn’t want any more of it.”
That was the reason why Sleutel made the documentary and to investigate how to flirt now in 2023. Mathijs Dingjan understands that well. He became a relationship coach because he himself struggled with how to best flirt with someone. “I had no idea, and I was quite afraid of that, and it’s something that almost all men struggle with. There’s only a small part that thinks: I feel confident enough to approach a woman on the street and chat.”
To get rid of that fear, he has followed training courses. “I learned there to be honest about the fear that was going through me, so okay, I think it’s exciting to talk to somebody. So say that. Something like: I think it’s pretty exciting, but I would have you” let me know I think you’re good looking. Expressing that eliminates the conflict within yourself: should I do this? Or not? It also removes the crazy mask of men. That they pretend to be a little tougher than they really feel.” He found this method worked well for him.
“We notice that Dutch men are quite afraid to approach women and that there is a very large group of cautious men, the ‘nice guy’ type, who are badly affected by MeToo. They are like: I dare not do anything, ” says Dingjan. “It helps them a lot by saying, hey, it’s okay to let someone know you’re interested, but you don’t have to go from 0 to 100 talking about someone’s body. You can just say: you have a nice appearance , I want to meet you. Then you are not yet on the way to the sexual, and then the other person can indicate whether they are open to it. This kind of 0 to 10 steps helps, we note, it is very important in times of MeToo.”
Sleutel also noted throughout his documentary that men have become more cautious. “I was talking to a man and he said: I notice in myself that I find flirting suspicious today and that I hardly do it anymore.” It reminded her of a column she read about Japan. There, young men no longer dared to approach women, and according to Sleutel, Japanese women are generally more shy. “It just doesn’t happen there anymore, that was the end of the flirtation there. I thought: it can’t be right that we’re heading towards that too, right?” In her interviews, she therefore began to ask whether men consider flirting suspicious and whether there is still a future in it.
The new flirt
“The first step in the new flirtation is to start a conversation with each other. Then discuss how you experience a flirtation and what the boundaries are,” says Sleutel. “What really struck me is that we see flirting as something spontaneous, something fun, something that should happen by itself. That’s why it’s almost a bit taboo to discuss it.”
So how do you ensure that flirting remains something spontaneous and fun when you also have to discuss boundaries? “What matters most is that you dare to take risks,” says relationship coach Dingjan. “Once that’s taken away, there’s no flirting or excitement.” He feels that people are more aware of how far they can go and think more about it. “I think it’s very important that those conversations are held, and I see men changing among themselves.”