“With the climate as it is, and with the page turned as it should be in Hollywood now, one has to be vigilant,” shares Jeff Goldblum.
The campaign gained momentum and attracted international attention after actress Alyssa Milano shared the hashtag (along with her own #MeToo story) on Twitter, although it was first coined by black activist Tarana Burke as a rallying cry for survivors of sexual violence 10 years ago.
Of course, people of all genders have shared stories under #MeToo, and it’s important not to erase male survivors of sexual abuse. However, women are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment and violence, particularly in the workplace and public spaces – and as a result, the vast majority of those contributing to the hashtag have been women.
This has, though, caused far too many men to lament the end of flirting, with many hurling around variations of the line: “I’m afraid to even compliment people in case they decide a few years down the line that it was harassment.”
Jeff Goldblum, however, has pointed out that there is a difference between being a flirt and being a creep.
The Jurassic Park star, who is famed for his off-beat approach both on and off-screen, told the July edition of GQ magazine: “Yes, I am a flirt probably. But I hope not in a way that would violate my otherwise deep devotion to my sweet wife (Olympic gymnast Emilie Livingston).”
He added: “With the climate as it is, and with the page turned as it should be in Hollywood now, one has to be vigilant. Never would I want to do anything that is disrespectful or diminishing and I am more aware of that now than ever.
“I hope I have always amplified people’s enjoyment rather than abuse it. It was never creepy and I hope my ways have been gracious and full of good will. And so far, it still feels like I can be me.”
Of course, it is worth noting that Goldblum pours his trademark charm and wit into pretty much every conversation, with anyone, and of any gender – no discrimination.
“Flirting can mean a lot of things,” he previously shared. “In some ways it means that you’re just interested in somebody and compelled to make some form of connection.
“Flirting I think of as a life force… it’s an enjoyable connection between all sorts of people. People are endlessly, mysteriously, wildly, provocatively and excitingly interesting.”
As fellow actor Paul Rudd once said: “There’s a twinkle in Jeff’s eye and something in the way that he just delivers whatever it is that he’s saying that makes you want to enjoy the joke as much as he seems to be enjoying it himself. He’s so engaged and alive in the moment.”
Laura Bates, the founder of the @EverydaySexism project, agrees that there is an overwhelming difference between flirting and sexual harassment.
“Strange though it seems to have to keep reiterating it, the difference between sexual harassment and flirting is really fairly clear,” she wrote in an essay on the subject for The Guardian.
“It’s actually quite insulting to the vast majority of men to suggest that they aren’t perfectly capable of knowing the difference between complimenting someone, starting a flirty conversation, and harassing them.
“The clue is in the name: harassment. And if you’re hoping to end up in bed with someone, of whatever gender, it’s really in your interests to steer clear of harassing them, as it’s likely to be fairly unhelpful to proceedings.”
Bates went on to reveal that ‘flirting’ should never make women feel scared to walk down the street, involve intimidating and aggressive sexual shouts from cars and vans, see them treated as dehumanised sex objects, or “made to feel that men have an inherent entitlement to their bodies in public spaces”.
To be clear: sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome sexual behaviour that’s offensive, humiliating or intimidating. Sexual assault includes forced, unwanted, sexual acts.
Respectfully complimenting someone you know in an appropriate setting is not sexual harassment. Respectfully asking someone out on a date, in the appropriate setting (and taking “no” for an answer, if that’s the response) is not sexual harassment. And being engaged and interested in a conversation, in listening to what someone else has to say, is not sexual harassment.
As Caroline Cranshaw, relationship coach and hypnotherapist, told the NZ Herald: “Humans were born to flirt. Babies flirt. Flirting is just a way of showing approval, that you kind of like somebody or you feel safe with them. Flirting is just enthusiastic self-love that kind of radiates from you, and if you’re in the company of people you approve of, you allow that to overflow to others.”
However, she adds that flirting becomes inappropriate when you objectify a person, or when there is innuendo without mutual attraction.
“If a woman is not responding to you, she doesn’t like you,” said Cranshaw. “It’s very simple. It’s not that we’re playing hard to get, or that we need to be convinced.
“Women are really clear about whether they like someone or not. And if she’s saying she’s not interested, she’s turning away — get the hint.”