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Modern Dating Terms Explained | Image: iStockPhoto

A Guide to Modern Dating Terms

The modern dating landscape has changed and nowhere is this more evident than in the way we talk about relationships. Understanding modern dating terms and how to use them can ensure you are nurturing positive and healthy relationships with others. Here’s a glossary of terms and phrases you need to know.

Jack Harlow showing unmatched rizz with Saweetie at the 2021 BET Awards | Image: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET
Jack Harlow with Saweetie at the 2021 BET Awards | Image: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET

Modern Dating Term Glossary

Whether you are trying to up your ‘rizz’, starting to exhibit ‘beige flags’, or think your ‘situationship’ is getting a little out of hand, the modern dating world can be tough. Below, we’ve put together a guide to the phrases you need to be across.

  • Beige Flag: If you’ve been scrolling TikTok, you would have undoubtedly seen the phrase beige flag thrown around. Remarkably, this doesn’t necessarily refer to a positive or negative situation. According to Dr Zoe Shaw, licensed psychotherapist, “a beige flag is something that simply makes you go, ‘Huh. What is that person doing?’.” Beige flags are often seen as quirky, strange things that make a person unique, so in a way, they can be seen as endearing.
  • Cuffing: Despite having origins tied to the word ‘hand-cuffed’, cuffing is not always a bad thing – Come to think of it, neither is getting handcuffed). Put simply, cuffing is the act of getting tied down to one person or becoming exclusive. More often than not, we see this phrase used during the colder months (also known as cuffing season) and can be used to describe someone who is in the process of getting into an exclusive relationship.
  • Green Flag: All the positive personality traits that your partner exudes. A green flag might be that they are kind to their parents or that they tell you often how much they appreciate you.
  • Gaslighting: This is a common phrase that we see in aspects of life, however, it has taken new life in the dating world. It refers to the act of manipulating someone into making them doubt their ability to understand, recall, or perceive situations. Often, this comes out in the form of continuous lying, denial, projection and undermining activities, which can lead to unhealthy power dynamics.
  • Ghosting: Also known as smoke-bombing, ghosting is the act of disappearing without warning and cutting off all contact. In the relationship setting, this may come after a series of dates or simply after you’ve matched with them on Tinder. While often it’s something we do to avoid an awkward conversion, the lack of closure can be detrimental to a victim’s confidence.
  • Love-Bombing: Similar to gaslighting, love-bombing is a form of manipulation. It often involves lavishing someone with attention or affection in order to influence them.
  • Red Flag: A straightforward term, a red flag simply refers to the negative personality traits a prospective partner has. These are the warning signs that should stick out to you that this person does not have your best interests at heart.
  • Rizz: Probably the newest term to make this list, rizz is short for ‘charisma’ and refers to the ability to flirt and create connections quickly. A highly popular term on TikTok, rizz is commonly used among Gen Z members to describe those who have an attractive or engaging personality.
  • Situationship: A kind of relationship where neither party has defined the status. While ‘No Strings Attached’ relationships understand the nature of their connection, situationships may have a misalignment of values where one member wants to be exclusive while the other does not. It will remain a situationship until someone asks the question, at which point, it may not continue.
  • Soft-Launch: The act of posting a sly photo of a new partner on social media. This is often seen as a way to humble brag that you’re out with someone without revealing who they are. More often than not, this is because you don’t want to jump the gun too early and let everyone know if it doesn’t work out.
Tinder has released a modern dating dictionary | Image: Tinder
Tinder has released a modern dating dictionary | Image: Tinder

Dating Term Glossary – Consent Phrases

Created by the Australian arm of online dating app Tinder, in collaboration with consent advocate and author, Chanel Contos, the new Tinder Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition helps educate Aussies on key consent terms and phrases. A 2023 NSW Young Australian of the Year nominee, Contos is the founder of TeachUsConsent, an online platform that allows people to anonymously share their sexual assault experiences. She has inspired international activism on ending rape culture, and her work as Director of the Centre for Sex and Gender Equality at The Australia Institute has pushed the issue to the forefront. Now, Contos has teamed up with Tinder to share some important vocabulary around consent. Here is the new Tinder Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition glossary.

  • Affirmative/Enthusiastic Consent: Contos describes this as an explicit, informed, and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual act. It looks for the presence of a ‘yes’ rather than an absence of a ‘no’.
  • Aftercare: A vital element in any sexual relationship, aftercare is another term for a post-intimacy check-in. In a general sense, it’s the basic act of seeing how a partner is feeling.
  • Body language: This is described as the way someone physically reacts to your actions in their presence. Positive body language will feel warm and inviting, while negative body language will include movement such as averting eye contact, retreating and avoiding touch. Body language, in addition to verbal cues, is a good indicator of how someone might feel about a particular circumstance.
  • Boundary: A common phrase relating to the limit that you impose on an interaction. While it can be physical, in a number of cases, it refers to the emotional boundaries we set up to protect ourselves from harm. It is critical as an active and attentive partner that we respect boundaries at all times.
  • Cat-Calling: A form of sexual harassment, cat-calling is a no-go in the modern age. This term refers to the often rude, derogatory or unwelcome comments made towards someone in passing.
  • Check-In: A straightforward term, a check-in simply refers to the act of seeing how a partner is doing. In an intimate setting, it may be a case of simply asking them if they are still into whatever you are doing.
  • Coercion: The act of being forced, tricked, threatened or pressured in a non-physical way into an activity.
  • Consent: The important one, consent refers to the act of gaining permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. This must be given freely and willingly.
  • Fawning: This is a common trauma response that may see a person who feels threatened be overly nice to their abuser in order to survive an ordeal.
  • Image-Based Abuse: This refers to the criminal act of recording, capturing and distributing (or even threatening to distribute) intimate images without permission of the person pictured. In this case, it does not matter if the person pictured consented to the image being taken or not.
  • Leading On: A common phrase you are likely to hear, leading someone on may not be what you think it is. According to Contos and Tinder, leading on is a myth stemming from the false feeling that people are owed something from someone who has not communicated this.
  • Safe Word: A term that has been common in the BDSM community for years, safe words have become important fixtures in the world of consent. This term refers to a previously agreed word or phrase to be used with a partner in a sexual situation. When used, this signifies immediate withdrawal of consent and means that an activity should stop.
  • Spiking: This is the dangerous act of putting alcohol or drugs into another person’s drink or body without their knowledge and/or consent.
  • Stalking: Constos and Tinder describe stalking as “the act or crime of wilfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable sense of fear”.
  • Stealthing: A much-discussion issue that arisen in recent years, stealthing is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, or the failure to put a condom on when someone has been asked to.
  • Victim Blaming: Putting the blame of sexual assault on the victim rather than the perpetrator.
  • Withdrawing Consent: This refers to a situation where someone no longer consents to the act or actions being performed. Importantly, consent can be withdrawn at any time and must be respected.
Tinder has released a modern dating dictionary | Image: Tinder
Tinder has released a modern dating dictionary | Image: Tinder

Tinder Dating Dictionary

A landmark initiative, the Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition is a straightforward manual designed for those young daters looking to take the next step in their intimacy journeys. It follows the successful launch of the original Dating Dictionary earlier this year, however, this time around, the focus is firmly on consent, and for good reason.

A recent study by Tinder and YouGov found that only 55% of Gen Z and Millennial dating app users are confident that they’re very knowledgeable about consent. Perhaps even more shockingly, only one in three (28%) say they know something and 17% admit they know little to nothing about consent.

According to Tinder Australia spokesperson, Kirsty Dunn, the Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition is a prelude to a much bigger dating guide coming to Australia later this month called School of Swipe.

“So many of today’s dating interactions start with a SwipeTM, but we want these to be safe and consensual, above all,” Dunn said. “Respect has always been at Tinder’s core, starting with mutual matching, which requires both users to express interest before chatting, as well as our suite of trust and safety features.”

The latest iteration of the dictionary sheds new light on consent in the modern age, which has become a major talking point in recent years. A change in legislative measures alongside a troubling rise in stealthing and or sexual-based incidents has seen more emphasis rightly placed on gaining consent in an intimate setting. That isn’t to say it’s made consent less confusing, which is where the new dictionary comes in handy.

As Contos points out in the release, making asking for consent sound sexy or natural can be difficult, so it’s worth having a few phrases prepared if the time does come. The resource goes on to explain that body language as well as verbal responses help to make up an overall level of consent.

“Body language that indicates discomfort, fear or disengagement is also a sign that no consent has been provided. Silence, turning away, moving away, averting eyes and being still are all examples of not giving consent. Remember that unless it is enthusiastic both verbally AND physically, it’s not consent.”

Tinder Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition

Importantly, while the new Dating Dictionary: Consent Edition does outline some of the key consent-related terms, it also acts as a resource for implementation. Throughout the dictionary, Contos has added examples of ways to incorporate consent checks into your dating routine, with helpful tips on phrases to help ask for, give and revoke consent throughout the different stages of dating.

“I’m incredibly passionate about advancing consent education here in Australia, and it applies to all adults,” Contos said. “I am proud to be part of creating this new consent guide with Tinder for adults exploring the possibilities of dating. I believe that language is one of our most important tools. You can’t understand something, you can’t practise it properly, and you can’t prevent something if you can’t name it. The Consent Edition of Tinder’s Dating Dictionary is a great step in improving the way we talk about consent in Australia, especially for young daters.”

School of Swipe

According to Dunn, the new School of Swipe initiative marks Tinder’s first foray into the world of online dating courses Designed to improve communication, enhance safety and ensure modern daters get the most out of their experiences, School of Swipe is an all-encompassing crash course for the 21st century. Already boasting a successful launch in Singapore last year, the online resource covers everything from profile-building pointers and advice to safety, consent and respectful behaviours with dating. 

“We know that safety is complex and personal and consent is much more than permission and rules, so we hope this guide helps daters navigate dating and foster healthy relationships,” Dunn said.

Dating Terms FAQs

What is stealthing?

Stealthing is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, or the failure to put a condom on when someone has been asked to.

What is consent?

Consent is permission for something to happen or agreement to do something which must be given freely and willingly. Commonly used in reference to sexual experiences.