How is Black Flirting Culture Different from White Flirting Culture?

I find this question to be a little more personal than I was expecting so early into Obsidian but here goes. As a young Black person, I think it’s important to keep in mind that I grew up in two different cultures. One was White culture and the other was Black Culture. Which one I spent more time in often depended on what part of my life I was in. Currently, I reside in White culture. There is a chance that some of my information may be outdated. I’ll also be using some ideas that I got from Black and White: Styles in Conflict, a book from the 80s, as reference.

There’s one chapter in Black and White: Styles in Conflict that started my interest in comparing the cultures, ultimately causing me to create Obsidian: the chapter on female and male relationships. I can get into gender expression another time but for now we’re going to focus on heterosexual relationships.

When it comes to flirting, there a few really obvious and major differences that contribute to a lot of the miscommunication between cultures about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in terms of flirting and/ or dating.

Those things are:

  • Passive vs Forward expression of sexual interest
  • The allowance of women to be empowered and express sexual interest
  • Verbal vs situational negotiations
  • Refusals

White people are weird. I know you’re so worried about reputations that it’s almost always incredibly difficult to know what is going on at any given point of the courting process. Everything is unclear, and often, I don’t feel like I know what’s happening until it’s much too late. Things that are clearly flirting or a sign of interest means nothing in this culture. Let’s just build a picture with the couple things we know are strong differences between flirting cultures. Passive versus forward expression of sexual interest. Guess which one is which? You got it, White culture is passive. In White American culture, traditionally, the man is the pursuer and the woman is not. By “pursuer” I mean that if the woman is a “good” woman the male takes his time; slowly getting to know her and asking her into more intimate and intimate environments. Then once he feels like they’re close enough, he might ask her out or try to break the touch barrier. Trying to do this smoothly overtime.

As someone who is more used to a blunt type of communication, this has confused me for most of my life now. I have read the wikihow article on how to touch a girl more times than I care to admit, trying to figure out if a white man was trying to make a move on me or not. How do you know? They don’t tell you. When I pursue women, I don’t use these moves. Maybe other Black people do, but I still prefer just to use my words.

Using Your Words v.s. Slowly Increasing Intimacy

Here’s our first difference between using your words and slowly escalating the intimacy level. I have to admit, I’m a little confused and have been for a long time about the concept of street harassment. I understand other points of view, but my experience with it is different. See, Black men tend to be more overt with their interest. Instead of slowly escalating the intimacy level they make it extremely clear where their interest lies. This may mean they talk to someone on the street, at the club, at church, wherever. It’s not not meant to be disrespectful, but more acknowledging that he could meet someone he’s interested in anywhere and may never see them again. So begins the game. The book called it “rapping” (I think that’s a little dated so I’ll just discuss it as “being hit on”). When a man hits on a woman, it’s meant to do a few things rather quickly: gauge her sexual interest in him and, see if he can impress her with his command of language. My assumption will be that this stems from our African roots, but I don’t know.

So, depending on the ability of the man, he may try to woo his woman of interest with anything from very blunt statements to poetry. With imagery and similes and metaphors, he usually will give his case of why he believes that he and this woman should “be together”. During that time, she makes it clear what level of interest she has whether that be just sexual in nature or getting a phone number or actually dating, etc. You can see this type of flirting clearly in blues, swing, and most Black music. In my experience, Black men may begin telling you of their interest while in a group but, assuming the woman gets the go-ahead, he will have y’all moved to a more private space to continue talking. Although he may tell his friends about it afterwards, and may even exaggerate the bit, that’s how you know it’s no longer just for show. (EDIT: that’s not to say that street harassment isn’t a thing.)

This brings us to the next difference. Are women capable of deciding and expressing is their own sexual interest? Additionally do they have to worry about a reputation? It wasn’t until I started dating white men that I really gained an understanding of why white women stressed out the way they do. Suddenly, men wearing encroaching in my personal space, staring too hard, and I found myself in an embarrassingly large number of situations where I was unsure where the interaction was going. So I’d ask, and then things would get messy. I always felt that by allowing white men to do nice things for me, I was also making a space that could lead to confusion as to whether or not they were interested in me. It felt like my duty was to sit back and allow men to come to me. Weird.

Suddenly, I had to worry about getting a reputation for being easy. White men don’t really like being asked out in my experience, and it makes them uncomfortable. Or they don’t think I’m actually asking them out. There’s a strange dynamic between being a person that is only being pursued for sexual interest and a good girl who you might bring home. Unfortunately, at least in my understanding, the only one who might know the difference is the man in that situation. It’s never clear what is being worked out in the courting process.

Back to Black Flirting

Let’s go back to Black flirting. The man has verbally expressed interest, now what? Now the ball is in the woman’s court. She has options. If she finds him attractive, she can keep talking to him, listening to him spit game. Then she has the option to decide if she’s interested. If she is, they talk more, they exchange numbers, go on with their lives. If he’s not attractive, doesn’t speak well, is rude, or doesn’t measure up she can make snarky dismissive jokes back.

If he’s harmless but just not worth noting; a simple thank you, nod, or acknowledgement of being spoken to is the polite thing to do, and keep walking. It’s very disrespectful, not even acknowledging his words, and shows he’s beneath you. It’s offensive, but it’s her right. As an anxious young kid I often ignored folks and didn’t understand why they were upset. Now, I get it. I was saying something I didn’t mean through my lack of acknowledgement. I was just too nervous to talk (Black culture isn’t easy on shy people). In Black Culture, women are as expected to say no to something they aren’t interested in as much as they are to express when they are interested in something.

“Sexual outcomes are transacted among Blacks as initial sexual interest is indicated, namely, through open and direct verbal expression and negotiation.” – Thomas Kochman, Black and White Styles in Conflict

Consent?

As the flirting goes on, we find ourselves in two different types of consent. In Black dynamics, things have been discussed, and both parties accepted. Sometimes that means you might be “talking” (When two people are trying to get to know one another, so they can hook up/ become boyfriend-girlfriend) for forever but that’s another discussion. It’s understood that the woman is available, but just may not be available to any man. Hitting on someone is a question, not a demand. Respectable Black men ask and get rejected more often and let it go (as long as they were rejected respectfully). At the same time, because of the assumption that women will let you know if they are interested, it’s easy to move on and not take the rejection personally. In White culture there, is more room for confusion; women are trying not to move too fast, men aren’t saying what they want, women aren’t being taught to express disinterest, and men assume “bad” women will have relations with anyone; things get messy fast.

Now let’s dig in even deeper. These VERY different expectations around flirting coming in contact. I’m not a white woman so I don’t know what that is like. Reading and thinking about this, really makes me question some of the interactions not that long ago between Black men and white women and how poorly they went. Since I can only speak on my personal interactions I find that the barrier is a strange but important thing to note. In my experience, White women are a little easier to handle than White men. White women, although passive, sometimes appreciate a clear verbal interest. Although they do seem to struggle with how to get involved when I won’t do the “sneaky-creep-up” in intimacy.

White men are another matter. I don’t get them. On one hand, I feel like most white men are simply not interested. If they are, they are either intimidated or unclear and so I never truly feel like I know who’s interested and who isn’t. White men also typically don’t care for my asserting my own interest. I get categorized as a “easy”. It’s impossible to tell the difference between moments of interest and moments of friendship. What I seem to think is clear (because I’m playing by the rules), still ends up being unclear because I’m not supposed to be the one initiating things. They assume I’m being friendly when I ask them out for drinks, or to grab dinner. And yet hesitate before kissing me after a first date, after spending all day together for fear of being “inappropriate”. It’s… confusing and annoying.

To summarize…

Black men will sweet talk your pants off (and southern men). White men will flirt more often by being helpful, chatting you up, and generally just being around. Black women will make direct jokes and make statements about your looks, sense of humor and invite you out (ain’t no woman gets a mans phone number in a club, to get drinks, and wants to be just friends). White women. I’m honestly still lost. Hover, waiting? Sometimes I get a feeling, and they blush so bad but I never know if they are flirting.

The last area of difference is this. One I’d never thought of but can’t unsee now. I think it’s a powerful place to end in terms of attempting to start relationships and some of the difference between cultures.

(We aren’t even to interracial dating or differences IN the relationship yet).

“Both Black and white cultures acknowledge that it is ultimately the woman who chooses the man. But in white culture, the man hopes to win the woman by restricting the number of men who have access to her, thus limiting her choice and thereby increasing his own chances of being selected….Within Black culture, the rules of rapping maintain that a woman can be approached and hit on at any time and place. Theoretically this places no restrictions on access to women, and in practice it is not unusual for a woman to be approached by different, men during the course of a day, especially if she is attractive. And Black men recognize and expect that this will happen. As one man put it with regard to his woman friend, “I can’t keep her in a cage, and I know I’m not going to be with her all the time.” Thus it is not unusual for a Black man to leave the woman he is with for a moment to go to the washroom or to the bar to buy drinks and return to see another man talking to her. This is not to say that some Black men might not try to restrict access to their women in some way. However, without the cooperation of other men, this is difficult to accomplish, and the cultural rule that makes women generally accessible works against this possibility. In effect, Black culture recognizes that the appropriate person to restrict access to a woman is thewoman herself.” – Thomas Kochman, Black and White Styles

6 Comments

  1. Emilia
    January 2nd, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you so much, I’ve been looking for a long time for an article like this. Bless you!

    • Obsidian Tea
      January 2nd, 2020
      Reply

      Aw. I’m glad you liked it!

  2. Esse
    October 12th, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you! I was recently asked “Do you not date Black guys?” I usually found Black guys to be too forwards, very open with their desire to undress me, and usually leaning on me. I felt flustered, annoyed, and guilty, at the advances, but was confused why it was consistently each guy. I never knew it was just openly speaking their minds.

    With white women I’d say it’s like a multitude of mini tests, you approach, if your good looking I’ll accept a date, and I make my decision on how well he acts/similar interests. If I don’t like you I either say no, or most women will ghost them. By the second date, I’m looking for “red flags” I missed, this is more a date to decide if I actually wanna fuck you. By this date, we either get physical, or ask you out. A third date is usually 1st date as couple.

    If the girl approaches the guy, she may be open with her interests, or shyly ask, then expect the man to take over in courting, or she may pretend she wants to be friends instantly get your contacts, and in a group of friends, decide yes or no without the pressure of having to reject you at all. The 3rd I’d say is the most common way. But it also means you might be friends for awhile till she makes her move.

  3. Esther Roberts
    October 12th, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you! I was recently asked “Do you not date Black guys?” I usually found Black guys to be too forwards, very open with their desire to undress me, and usually leaning on me. I felt flustered, annoyed, and guilty, at the advances, but was confused why it was consistently each guy. I never knew it was just openly speaking their minds.

    With white women I’d say it’s like a multitude of mini tests, you approach, if your good looking I’ll accept a date, and I make my decision on how well he acts/similar interests. If I don’t like you I either say no, or most women will ghost them. By the second date, I’m looking for “red flags” I missed, this is more a date to decide if I actually wanna fuck you. By this date, we either get physical, or ask you out. A third date is usually 1st date as couple.

    If the girl approaches the guy, she may be open with her interests, or shyly ask, then expect the man to take over in courting, or she may pretend she wants to be friends instantly get your contacts, and in a group of friends, decide yes or no without the pressure of having to reject you at all. The 3rd I’d say is the most common way. But it also means you might be friends for awhile till she makes her move.

  4. Jason Blantn
    December 30th, 2020
    Reply

    Man, you hit it on the nail. There was a point in my life where I was soo confused with white women (I’m a white man) that I went black and personally didn’t want to come back..Lol All through my life white women of my own race confused me to the point I felt disgusted with them. I understand their tests but not how they portray their feelings toward you. In fact.. usually, I would hit on them and then the walls came up and I would take it personal and either totally ignore them or worst treat them like a [email protected]#$&* and thinking this would reveal even more how they didn’t like me it did the complete opposite.. they then would chase me not literally but make it extremely obvious they were interested in me but by that point I had already moved on to my next interest and lost any and all attraction I had for them in the beginning. What white women don’t understand about men in general is any man worth dating or more will and does make his interest known in the very beginning of the interaction with her. My honest opinion is most white women are not sure in themselves to begin with and are afraid of what might happen or not happen with the man so this spills over to their sex life. Their way tooo much in their heads and not in their hearts and so they usually end up with someone safe and predictable but in the end find they are unsatisfied with their choice. Now obviously this differs with age and like a fine wine age makes a lot of difference in interactions especially if their is any kind of age difference between the man and the women. Usually if your good looking like me and fit age means less to many women white or black and if you’re the older one it can be an advantage as long as you have success in your life. Now I like how you mentioned the southern man because they unlike men of northern climes know how to not only flirt with women but sweet talk which to me is a lost art of by gone era. Back to my first comment about black women. For the most part strong eye contact is the key when a white man has interest in a woman of color and of course confidence. White women may automatically judge you as stalker if you stare to hard or even a little at her and are too forward that is if your of the same color but if it’s a black man they usually assume it’s just part of their forward ness of their race. Labeling and stereo types have become increasingly popular these days whether you are or are not. To me it’s judging someone on how they show attraction towards you without even knowing or let alone talking to them in the first place. I find the best policy is to be friendly with everyone man or woman and don’t treat anyone different for who they are or how they look love them all not literally but do not judge. If a woman is interested she will peruses you in some cases that is if you if enamored by how you handle yourself. Although white women have a really hard time pursuing a man for some reason than a black woman. A black woman will say hi often and stare at you making her interest obvious and letting you know it’s your turn to move things forward she may even touch you to which I like a lot because I’m a touchy feely type a person! A white woman is and will be much more reserved unless she feels another woman has your interest or is then pursuing you them she will be more forward with you because she doesn’t want to lose you over someone else thus hurting her dignity and view she has about her self. It’s really a game unfortunately with women so men buckle up and let me share a few secrets. One, the more women you have around you the better I’m not talking about family but make friends and be friendly with attractive not un attractive women just like friends would. When a women sees you have good looking lady friends even though you have nothing sexually going on and she has detrimental your not gay then she’ll be intrigued by this and usually let down her guard more often than not. Women are like hens (chickens) if one has something of value the others want that same thing too and will even fight over it. I know this because I have six hen chickens all female and they run around chasing each other for what is in their mouths. Two, eye contact is obviously key but don’t stare or look at her too much. Usually one good hard look at her is all it takes but it works even better if she is not looking directly at you then look away and go on about your business being friendly to everyone man or women and sociable. It’s weird I know but she will know you was looking at her even if you didn’t see her look directly back at you it’s almost like she has eyes in the back of her head or something. If she’s interested she’ll either hang around you meaning in the area your in or put herself directly in your path. By this time you should begin to talk to her or introduce yourself and either make a move and ask her out or just introduce yourself so she knows your name and knows you might be interested. If she doesn’t show interest after this move on and if she is still interested she will pursue you and make it easy for you to ask her out or get her number. It’s really easy but men and women make it way too hard especially the younger ones which I understand from a lack of confidence and experience. Three, be yourself is the best way to go about this. If your not most mature women will pick up on this right away and become flakey. They want you to be real but still leave room to be unpredictable meaning if you say hi to her one day or look at her then the next be disinterested meaning go on about your busy his show her you knowledge her but your not going to let her dictate your life and this my guy friends speaks volumes about your character and strength. I boulder even go as far as talking and acknowledging other women to show her that if she really wants you she needs to carry her burden and step up her game. This show her to that you can meet any women at any time and their is plenty of fish so why should you settle and lower yourself for any one particular women.. players know this most men don’t unfortunately. So their are a few hints white, red yellow or black they work on them all but let’s get back to black women. I feel more like a man when I’m around a black women that I find attractive than I do a white one and hers why. They are not afraid to let you know their sexual interest and if they want you they are not afraid to kiss or touch you. This to me is the way it should be for all women but unfortunately is not. So men your best bet is this. If your in a relationship with woman act like your not. And if your single act like your in a relationship with the most attractive beautiful women you have ever seen and don’t short change yourself. Your your own man and deserve the best women you can find and let all women know that because that is an attractive quality to have and few don’t have. Don’t settle for something you don’t want or just to hook up play the game, go fishing and have patience and if you do you will find the one worth your time and attention.

    • March 12th, 2021
      Reply

      Oh dear. I sat on this comment for a while. If you really love Black women I’d look at not dehumanizing women (chickens) and also how you fetishize Black women. If you NEED a woman to pursue you and be more upfront with sexual interest, I worry about your ability to not need all these… I struggle to call them tactics and tips, to be able to attract a partner.

      My man, I think you need to really listen to your female friends and not just use them as ways to get the attention of other women. Unfortunately, you seem to have a lot of beliefs that are more aligned with what men *think* women are into rather than what they are. It’s ok to not have game and need to be pursued to date, but don’t act like there is anything wrong with anyone uninterested in that.

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