Have We Forgotten 'Eyes of Seduction' Techniques?
One chilly Friday evening, after a stressful week of writing articles and researching story ideas, I took up a friend's offer to visit a cocktail bar. It was the first time I mingled with a crowd after a long period of lockdown and staying indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I queued to pay for my drinks, I noticed that the guy across the way was throwing occasional not-so-subtle stares.
It was only after he left that I realized what he had been trying to do. The mysterious stranger who I would probably never see again had made an attempt to use "eyes of seduction" techniques.
The digital era might be to blame
Like myself, many people have become preoccupied with digital devices and habituated to conducting interactions online. As a result, eye flirting, once a great way of gauging whether a potential love interest was remotely interested in you, has become a lost art.
While eye contact plays a significant role in enabling two people to acquire a sense of each other's emotional state, according to a 2019 study published in the journal eNeuro, most adults don't make enough eye contact. In order to create a sense of emotional connection with someone, a person should make eye contact during 60 percent to 70 percent of a conversation, based on 2013 numbers by the Texas communications analytics company Quantified Impressions. However, adults typically spend only 30 percent to 60 percent of an average conversation making eye contact.
"Spending a great amount of time online is bound to impact the ways we communicate, such as eye contact," explained Jessica Alderson, a relationship expert based in London and co-founder of the dating app So Syncd. "The fact that we now spend less time communicating in person as compared to 10 years ago means that in-person communication might not come as naturally as it once did."
This shortcoming has been spurred by the boom of online dating. Where once we sent signals of interest through expressions in the eyes, now all we need to do is swipe right.
Changes in cultural perceptions about eye contact
The rise of social movements like #MeToo has also led to cultural shifts in the way we perceive suggestive eye contact. For some people, an unwanted gaze may be considered just as affronting as unwanted touch. But this viewpoint certainly isn't ubiquitous.
"While it may be a relief to be ogled less by a stranger, there is a definite loss to the mating dance as it has existed throughout human interest," said Indigo Stray Conger, a certified sex therapist for Mile High Psychotherapy in Denver. "Without sexual gaze, sexual tension is decreased and signals indicating desire become more ambiguous."
Seductive eye contact: The setting matters
With the notion of sexual harassment looming overhead, it's important to consider the context in which you're sending out eye-flirting signals. This is especially true if you don't have any level of implicit consent, for example, if you want to flirt with a stranger.
If you're in a bar or club where the main purpose is to seek sexual partners, Conger noted that there may be some form of implicit consent for flirtation. Similarly, if you're on a date with someone, some kind of flirtation through nonphysical means is expected.
"If you are walking down the street or in a yoga class, however, flirtatious gaze is intrusive and unwarranted," Conger said. "People have the right to carry on with their daily lives without being concerned that unsolicited sexual energy is going to be thrown in their direction."
The benefits of erotic eye contact
Done in the right context, eye flirtation can aid in feeling out the vibe between two people and catalyze natural chemistry. Plus, the titillating effect created by being seen can make the target feel attractive. Eye contact is one of the most intimate ways to connect with someone. After all, it's harder to fake feelings in the eyes. Think of how many movies and even cartoons illustrate desire through pointed gazes.
With a romantic partner, eye flirting can be a great form of foreplay and help turn up the heat in your daily routine. Not only does it cause sexual arousal, it also makes you feel connected to your partner on an emotional level.
"Holding each other's gaze for an extra beat or taking in their body with your eyes are quick techniques to spark sensual energy and build sexual anticipation," Conger said.
Tips on getting eye flirting right
Like any other form of flirting, it takes a bit of practice to get eye flirting right. The correct amount of eye contact should be enough to be noticeable but not enough to be a sheer staredown. Any time you flirt with a stranger or someone else in a nonsexual context, Conger advised keeping your gaze above the neck.
"There's plenty of sensual energy to be transmitted without possibly violating someone's personal space," she said.
If someone meets your gaze and looks into your eyes for a longer period of time than expected, they're likely on the same wavelength. However, if you are trying to maintain eye contact for a few seconds but they keep looking away, they are probably not comfortable with it.
"The best way to avoid coming across as creepy is to read their reactions to see if they are engaging with your gaze," Alderson said.
Once you have established that the other party is comfortable engaging in eye seduction techniques, Alderson recommended making semi-regular eye contact for two to three seconds at a time.
"After you have made eye contact with them, refocus on whatever you are doing, such as talking to someone or scanning the room," she said. "Glance back in their direction after a short period of time until you catch their eye again, hold their gaze and then repeat the process."
Add a smile now and again while maintaining eye contact to keep it playful and show them that you are having a good time, then see where your gaze takes you.