The New Rules Of Sex And Dating In The Era Of The #MeToo Movement

How do you navigate the post #MeToo movement's new sexual landscape like a gentleman, without sacrificing your love life along the way?

Brigid Delaney |

The #MeToo fallout exposed the disturbing truth: most women you know have found themselves on the wrong end of some form of harassment, exploitation or worse. Needless to say this is Not. A. Good. Thing. So, how do you navigate the new sexual landscape like a gentleman, without sacrificing your love life along the way?

I was in my early twenties, and it was one of my first jobs. My boss and I were driving back from a conference. He stopped to buy beers. Then he pulled up at his house and invited me in.

We drank all the beers, and he was too drunk to drive me home. One thing led to another, and my day at the conference ended with my boss and I drunkenly making out on his couch.

It was consensual and everything. But by the time Monday rolled around and I had to not only see him at the office, but have my performance review the next week, I realised the whole incident was totally gross and inappropriate. WHAT WAS HE THINKING? WHAT WAS I THINKING?

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This was all before the #MeToo shitstorm. So I pushed on at work for a few long and awkward months before resigning, and consigning the episode to the rather large file marked ‘One of those things that happen when you’re young’.

Today, after hearing all about the sleazy exploits of Harvey Weinstein, Don Burke et al, I wonder if I might have reacted differently.

In short, this is a confusing time for both men and women. Look back at your sexual history, and you’re wondering if stolen kisses or drunken one-night stands are going to be dredged up by us and weaponised as accusations of criminal behaviour. Meanwhile, we’re wondering if bad dates we’ve endured were actually sexual assaults. Out of this chaos, new rules are emerging.

The #MeToo movement doesn’t mean flirting is over. Or that you can’t make hot moves anymore. That would be disastrous for everyone – and the future of humanity. But things are definitely changing between us. And how you should act online, at work, on a date and even on the train is part of  the shift.

These Are Just Some Of The (New) New Rules You Should Know In The Post-#MeToo Era:


We get it. After all the recent scandals associated with #MeToo, you’re understandably worried about saying anything more daring to a woman than “nice laptop case”. But we still love to get compliments. Being made to feel sexy and attractive isn’t the same as being objectified and demeaned.

The distinction is all in the way you phrase things. Be careful in the early days not to make your compliments too risqué and keep your appreciation directed above the neck-line. Think more “wow!” than “meow”.

Please say something lovely, rather than some line you picked up from RedTube. Once she’s in the bedroom and raring to go then you can pull out the more suggestive remarks about her fantastic tits.

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Asking Her Out

You like her? Go for it. But if she says no, leave it at that. Don’t pester. After all, you don’t want to model yourself on Pepé Le Pew.

But, I hear you say, “I grow on people! (like mould). And if I didn’t badger my employer for a promotion then I would never get ahead. So why can’t I do that with a woman I like?”

Because the workplace and romance are very different fields. Rejection from someone you fancy stings. We understand. But take it on the chin. Your enthusiasm can be like making a deposit in the bank: she knows it’s there and can – and may – draw on it at a later date. If you’re really lucky she’ll even pay it back with interest.

Making Your Move

Most of the moves I’ve made – or have had made on me – have involved getting drunk and sort of falling on someone and suddenly…  you’re kissing! Or sitting next to them on the couch and inching closer and closer until there’s nowhere left to go except under their clothes.

The drunken lurch is the time-honoured way of getting it on for the first time. OK, it’s not OMG romantic, but it still beats asking someone if it’s okay to kiss them. More on that later, tiger.

So how do you make your move in the age of #MeToo?  How do you find out if the lust that’s burning a hole in your chinos is reciprocated? What’s the difference between making a tipsy pass at someone and touching them inappropriately?

If you’re unsure of the technicalities in this grey area, help is at hand (almost) literally. Remember, there is one place where it’s fine to touch a woman in the early stages of flirting. The arm! The arm is your friend in the preliminary rounds. It’s just resting right there on the table. You can reach out and touch it. And if she doesn’t pull away, next time you can let it linger.

Related: Here’s How To Respond To Locker Room Talk

Chasing Colleagues

You couldn’t help noticing Jane from Accounts. Suffice to say this is less to do with the rigour of her monthly financial reports and more to do with her long brown hair and exquisitely tight sweaters. Can you ask her out? Well, it kinda depends…

If you want to date a colleague you’re managing, your decision becomes necessarily binary: either remove yourself from managing that person, or don’t date them. (Check with HR if you want to play it safe, but don’t expect a red-blooded endorsement).

Sure, the reality is that the workplace is where most of us will meet someone compatible. Chances are you will have the hots for a colleague at some point in your life: in fact, a 2017 UK study found that 1 in 3 people have hooked up with a workmate, and 1 in 5 became partners with one. Just be aware that things are less likely to get messy if you work in different departments – or at the very least if she doesn’t call you “boss”. Nowadays, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s really frowned upon to screw the crew.

Make Her Feel Safe

Talking to my girlfriends about dating apps, the thing they’re most worried about nowadays is not, “Will this be true love?” but “Will I be safe?”

A promising flirtation with a man I met on a plane ended because he refused to meet me for a date anywhere except his own apartment. All I could imagine was worst-case scenarios, like being dismembered and stuffed in his freezer.

Blame Tinder for this shift in mindset. For women, it used to be that our friends set us up with guys they could vouch for; you’d been vetted before we laid eyes on you. Now, when we meet you for a first Tinder date we’re taking a leap of faith. We’re jittery. And we probably have an elaborate escape plan ready to activate.

So, what can you do to avoid triggering her figurative and actual alarms? It’s simple. Listen to her, respect her and don’t strong-arm her into doing anything she’s not keen on. You can put us at ease by letting us take the lead. In those early days, let us stay in areas and environments we’re familiar with. Go to our favourite bar on a first date. And if and when the time comes to raise the stakes, head back to our place rather than yours. You may find home-ground advantage does wonders for our performance.

Related: 6 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Successful A**holes

Settling The Bill

Rule of thumb: whoever asks the other out pays – otherwise go Dutch.

But if you do pay for dinner, drinks or the movies, this is not a licence to expect that women will go home with you, have sex with you or let you masturbate into the nearest pot plant (if it wasn’t clear by now, Weinstein was a colossal pervert).

Not wanting to feel the slightest bit in debt to you at the end of the night, women are increasingly paying for everything. But going halvies is probably the cleanest way of proceeding. Hold back Mr Generous till you’re an item.

Non-Verbal Cues

All women have had a kiss we just weren’t into. There we are with our mouths clamped shut while some guy laps at our face like an excited St Bernard.

But let’s say things are progressing, and she’s clearly into it. How do you take things to the next level?

In one of the least romantic encounters I’ve had, I was busy ‘getting busy’ with a guy in my hotel room when he suddenly stopped and sought my explicit permission to go further. He actually asked: “Do you consent to having sex with me?”

Honestly, I thought he was going to whip out a contract for me to sign. Which would have been a problem, because in that dim mood lighting I’d certainly have struggled to read the fine print.

It also made me wonder whether consent had been an issue for this finicky fellow in the past. Was he up on rape charges or some-thing? Did it kill the vibe? Let’s just say it was up there with use of the word ‘panties’.

There’s a better way to determine our inter-est. You can gauge it non-verbally, one piece of clothing at a time. Just keep going until we give you a subtle clue – like pushing your hand away, or kneeing you in the balls. Or you can ask casually, “Can I undress you?” Or even, “I’d really like to fuck you.” You’re communicating your desire – but also listening to ours.

Stop Signs

Trust us, if we want to be with you, we’ll be into making out with you. But there may be certain points where we’ll want to stop. Some girls may be into giving and receiving head on the first date, but want to wait a while before sleeping with you. This may not be how you usually do things – but she’ll have her own timetable. Respect it.

And although it might frustrate you, women are entitled to get into bed with you, take off all their clothes, start kissing you and then decide at the very last moment not to have sex. If that happens, just grab your phone and book a session of Cryotherapy.

What are the signs your date can’t properly give you the go-ahead? Being drunk or on drugs can – in a legal sense – negate consent. Slurring her words and not being able to stand up straight might also be interpreted by the reasonable man as sound reasons not to proceed. Booking her a taxi would be your smarter play.

Related: How To Slide Into Someone’s DMs Without Being A Creep

The Online Game

When we text, DM or IM, it’s a lot harder for you to gauge nuance and subtleties than if you’re IRL. I’ve been caught in this trap a few times, sending hundreds of messages back and forth to some guy and getting quite hot for him, only to find that face-to-face the banter evaporates and things are as awkward and stilted as an office birthday party. But courtship increasingly happens online these days, so get your head around a few guidelines for getting it right.

  1. Realise she may be a little more shy or reserved in real life than she is online, and that just because she sent you a flirty text it doesn’t mean she’ll be stampeding for your zip the instant you meet up. Give her time to warm up before making your signature move.
  2. Remember that whatever you say to someone online can be forwarded, screen-shot, published online or given to your boss or the police. So please don’t be a jerk.
  3. You may think your dick is amazing, the most beautiful thing in nature. Trust me: close-up dick pics without a face or context are about as sexy as an anatomy textbook. At the very least, ask before you send one. Better still… just let it go.
  4. Nude photos are private. Don’t show them to your friends, don’t post them on the Internet. If you do, you are breaking several laws. More importantly, it’s not very gentlemanly.

READ MORE ON: dating healthy relationship MeToo movement sexual harassment sexual assault

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