Mirroring Flirtatious Behaviour

We may find ourselves continuously getting into uncomfortable situations where others think it is okay to flirt inappropriately or make unwanted sexual advances.

I have often been so confused as to why this keeps happening when I have not given any sign of wanting to engage in that way.

Examples of this may be:

  • Being asked sexual questions or someone saying sexual things that make you feel uncomfortable. 
  • Randomly being sent inappropriate pictures.
  • Having someone make sexual advances on you when you thought the relationship was just friendly.
  • Sexual advances being made all of a sudden without having engaged in other intimate activities, such as hugging, kissing, or gentle touching.

Having these things happen to you more frequently than others around you can make you feel confused, and figuring out why can take years. We may destroy good relationships because of it or get ourselves into dangerous situations or assaults.

We know we had no attraction to the person making us uncomfortable and did not give off any flirtatious signals. So why is this happening?

We may be mirroring flirtatious behaviour:

  • With difficulty reading other people and understanding their intentions, we may not take notice of flirtatious behaviour towards us.
  • Someone who masks a lot is also likely to mimic and mirror other people’s behaviour. We can start flirting with someone not because we feel attracted to them, but because we are copying their flirtatious behaviour towards us without realising it.
  • In these scenarios, we may find ourselves flirting in a way that is unnatural to us. That is because we are not actually flirting. We are mirroring the other person, using their flirting style, to flirt back at them as a way to communicate.

As we often prefer to spend time alone, we may not have many close friends to talk to, so are unlikely to tell others about these interactions. Talking to friends about these scenarios allow us to discuss it out loud, and get advice. Without discussing inappropriate interactions with others, we may think this is normal behaviour, allowing those with bad intentions to continue mistreating us and making us feel uncomfortable.

We may also not be asserting ourselves:

  • We may not know that we are allowed to say NO and refuse sexual advances. 
  • We may not know how to say NO and assert ourselves to stop the flirtatious behaviour that is making us feel uncomfortable.
  • We may fear their reaction of saying NO, as past experiences may have told us we wrongly predict social responses. 
  • We may also worry that they will not want to be friends with us anymore if we say NO – especially if we struggle to make friends.

Being autistic can also be very lonely, and we can feel like no-one wants to be around us. With past experiences of peer rejection, we can often feel desperate for acceptance and social interaction. So when someone wants to be around us we jump at the chance to have a friend even if we do not like them, or, something does not feel right about them – They are someone who wants to be around us, so we ignore any red flags.

Without fully understanding why this keeps happening, we will continue to get into dangerous and troubling situations. By understanding how these scenarios play out, we allow ourselves to be much more assertive and more aware of our mimicking behaviours. So we can have more control over our social interactions in the way we desire, and not be lead by other peoples desires and bad intentions.