Recently, a woman accused a celebrity of sexually assaulting her. Her account has been widely criticised as not describing sexual harassment, but simply describing a bad date.

One of the articles commentating on her account links to a YouGov poll asking what actions constitute sexual harassment.

The key statistics that worry me are that 34% of women consider a comment on their looks to be always or usually sexual harassment, and that 5% consider consider a man asking them out for a drink to be sexual harassment.

I was under the impression that these were standard flirting techniques, and that asking someone out for a drink was a common date suggestion.

As Vox says, “Perhaps what is especially threatening about Grace’s story is that it involves a situation in which many men can imagine themselves.”

What can I do to avoid false sexual harassment accusations when flirting?

  • I edited "protect myself" to "avoid sexual harassment accusations", please feel free to revert the edit if it is not what was intended
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 7:30
  • 5
    This is a really interesting topic and one more reason to be already married, but it might be a bad fit here. What do you expect to hear here that you don't already know? Be nice, treat her with respect, don't date co-workers/people that an take advantage? This one might be best if you discuss it with a lawyer you know or on some legal advice board. Unless you are a celebrity, in that case you have a problem, you should know what is punishable by law in your country and so on - this is where it becomes non-trivial
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 8:02
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    @Raditz_35 yes, the being married solves the “bad sex” bring equated to sexual assault but first I need to find someone to marry! The concern I have is not what is punishable by law, but what is punishable by society. A woman publicly accusing me in front of my current friends could be just as damaging as any criminal charges...
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 8:05
  • 2
    Could you clarify what specifically you're unsure about? What more than @Raditz_35 's "Be nice, treat her with respect, don't date coworkers" do you need? Right now the question only conveys a vague fear that the evil feminists are out to get you. I think it should be more concrete, e.g. asking about a specific situation. Are you a celebrity? Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 11:48
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    @EmC I’m not concerned about sexual assault happening (I’m not going to sexually assault someone). I’m concerned about false accusations. Unless the marriage has gone very wrong somewhere, hopefully that won’t happen.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


As with a lot of things, context is everything. If you are doing these things out of the blue, jumping past any boundaries that were set, and so on - people aren't going to give you a positive enthusiastic response. Be okay with hearing the word no, or being told your advance isn't wanted or isn't welcomed.

Also, don't assume that everyone ever is going to report everything ever as sexual assault. If you go into it with that idea that it is going to backfire so badly that that might be a potential response to your actions...maybe you should reconsider the actions, no?

I get there is always that element of risk when you're with someone new or someone you don't know how to read, or in a situation that's not familiar. I know there is always that risk that you think things are going well and they're really not.

Check in. Ask your date/potential date/flirtation target how they feel about things. Ask them if they're okay with a thing. Give them options and ways out and if they choose to make an exit/turn you down/tell you something's not appropriate, stop whatever it is. Respect their choices, even if you don't like them (because yeah, rejection sucks, unfortunately).

Basically, don't go into it second guessing yourself and effectively also demonizing people - don't treat it as a battle you have to arm yourself for or protect yourself from - that's a surefire way for terribleness to happen.

This tweet thread has some good advice on basically, treating it like you're having guests over to your house for a party. Be on your best behaviour, check if people need anything, make sure people know where the bathroom is, etc. (The whole thread is very much worth reading).

  • I really like that last paragraph. Additionally... if you feel uneasy about how your date is responding to doing something with you (they seem uncomfortable or in some way "off"), stop doing it. There's way too much "she said, he said" in this media stuff lately, but it really just boils down to "wait and have sex with someone who is as enthralled about it as you are... don't settle for people who seem unsure or uncomfortable" because those are the people who aren't sure of what they're doing with you, and are likely to have a bad experience.
    – Jess K.
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 20:21

As Ash says, the reports of sexual assaults are in the minority. You can reasonably assume that if you're not an overbearing jerk on your date, then your partner won't report you.

It's reasonable to assume that if someone dates a celebrity and it doesn't turn out well, then there's a chance of a quick buck in selling their story (again, this is probably a minority of cases, but I'm sure it happens).

The poll you've quoted is of course a response to people answering these questions while being questioned by a pollster. The figures here

34% of women consider a comment on their looks to be always or usually sexual harassment

Are out of context in a dating scenario. The confines of the questions state:

YouGov asked respondents about 12 actions and asked whether they would consider each to constitute sexual harassment if done by a man to a woman who was not his friend or romantic/sexual partner. Many of the actions are very obviously sexual harassment, but some could be considered grey areas

Of course, when you're starting out dating, you can't be classes as a "sexual partner", but dating someone puts you in the "friend" segment.

Clearly, as part of your date, you should compliment your partner on their looks/clothing choice.

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