Meanwhile, I happened to see a comment by Dw3t-Hthr at Letters from Gehenna, where she presented the only convincing argument I've yet come across for why geek should count as a gender. Now, a lot of people from minority cultural groups tend to be absolutely convinced that everybody in their group is far more respectful and sensible than mainstream cultural standards, but this description of negotiating attraction in geek mode brought tears to my eyes:
But the overwhelming majority of my relationships have started out with me delivering the geekflirt; generally the conversation then goes to implementation questions, and a couple of times to "Thank you, I'm flattered, but I'm not interested; are there comfort concerns that need to be taken into account now that we've had this exchange?"
It's not just that she's giving an example just asking directly rather than hinting or being embarrassed, but the way she describes the typical geek as dealing in a matter of fact way with "comfort concerns" that happen when the attraction turns out not to be mutual. Now, I don't actually believe that all geeks act exactly like this (just like I don't believe that all poly people are always excellent at communication and free from jealousy, and I don't believe that all kinky people are always completely and perfectly aware of every aspect of consent). But I really do wish that more people handled relationships like the idealized geek described in that comment thread.
The thing is, the mainstream way of getting compatible people together seems to be badly broken. I don't think it's only that it doesn't suit my personality. I mean, this kind of outcome is probably extreme, but I think there are a lot of ways that conventional modes for handling mutual attraction fail really horribly. I know far too many people who find it completely impossible to meet potential partners after university, and it's not because they are disgusting human beings. It's just that there are so few opportunities to meet compatible people and get to know them in an appropriate way. And people are reluctant to express an interest in friends because prevalent attitudes to attraction can lead to horrible awkwardness, whereas expressing an interest in strangers is a toxic combination of creepy and risky. The other way that embarrassment and deliberate miscommunication about attraction breaks is that it leads to a lot of situations which are in effect coercive, even when nobody involved actually intends to force someone else into a situation they're not comfortable with. Oh, and I'm really not a fan of the mode of getting together where you have semi-accidental and possibly drunken sex and only afterwards figure out if you have anything in common with the person. Because this is less embarrassing than actually approaching someone and talking about your feelings?!
Oh, and the obligatory xkcd link seems appropriate too. The issue of how a relationship is presented to the world seems to be tangled up in the issue of what the relationship actually is, and this can happen from a very early stage. (I don't think the internet where you literally tell the whole world your "status", or else actively lie to everyone you know, caused this situation, but it does throw the problem into relief, where social expectations entangle with what the incipient couple actually want.)
I don't have a solution, mind you. I understand that there are disadvantages to the extremely blunt approach that I prefer; "make everyone in the world more like me" is extremely unlikely to be a successful approach to any perceived social problem. But anyway. Tell me, what do you think is a good (preferably in the sense of morally good as well as in the sense of effective) way of meeting interesting people? Of getting to know them well enough to have a clear idea whether a relationship would have a good chance? Of letting them know about your feelings to find out if theirs are congruent?
(Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, I'm not particularly distressed about this on a personal level; I'm quite content in my single status and therefore not having to deal directly with most of this stuff.)