As this is one of my favourite topics, my original answer was long enough for the lead article in a special issue of a magazine. Let's hope I can be more concise this morning.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I would be grateful for your insightful on crude humor in the realm of flirting. Admittedly, I have a bit of a low brow sense of humor. It can also be laden with sexual innuendos when I like a gentleman. I do not mind this type of humor directed at me from an interested male either, as long as it doesn't get too vulgar and crass.
However, I am beginning to wonder if this type of humor dripping with spicy innuendos is not the way to go. Do men respect women who think and talk like that? Does it intrigue them or make them think less of you? Would a man who genuinely likes and respects you never speak to you in this manner. When it is OK during the course of getting to know/date a man to introduce a little "cheek" into the conversation?
I have a hard time distinguishing sexual interest from genuinely interest when it comes to men. Be it over indoctrinated feminism and the sexual revelation or the fact I raised without a father. Whatever the cause, I am trying to learn the differences now to better judge how men behave when they truly truly like a woman.
I observe my male friends with their girlfriends and see how they act like completely different individuals around them as opposed to around myself and other men. It used to irritate men that they would behave one manner around their spouses and another with friends, like they were being fake and putting on a show.
For so long I thought I knew men because of my close friendships but in truth I know nothing about healthy relationships and am only learning now what they look like.
And what does that say about me that I actually ENJOY cheeky conversation and low brow humor sprinkled with a dash of dark? Does it mean that I am doomed to never be respected by men and only thought of as common? Should I do nothing and accept this is my sense of humor and hope one day some man with an equal delight for the devilish finds me endearing?
Oh, Auntie Seraphic. Help this hapless soul!
Dear Ribald Humor,
Listen, sexual innuendo is right out in Seraphicland. The one man in the universe who hears double-entendres come out of my mouth is my husband, who is no slouch himself, although if he says those things in public, I will slay him.
Before I married and moved away, I enjoyed saying awful things in front of my girlfriends, who screamed with laughter. But it was funny only because I do not have bona fide lesbian tendencies. If I did, the girls would have fled like deer before wolves.
So I have a double-standard. I'll say anything in front of my closest women friends and let them say anything as naughty as they like and shriek with laughter along with my fellow harpies. But put a man in the room, and I am vinegar and lemon juice when the bad words come out. I even go so far as to leave my dinner table with the ladies when the port arrives, creating a space in which men can be men, which awes my husband's friends, and whacks it into their heads that I am not the sort of woman they can curse before, etc.
This probably checks their conversations at other tables when I am present, but I don't care. I am a firm believer in Catholic women ennobling generally-decent Catholic men by good example, just so long as the men have their breathing space, far, far from sensitive, feminine me. Incidentally, you'll have noticed the great and awed love devout Catholic men have for the Blessed Mother.
Subtle flirting, at which many a woman is much better than I, is an art of which I approve. But over-the-top flirting is read by many men as sexual aggression and therefore is a bad old idea. I'm not sure what you mean by low-brow humour. In principle I can't see how loving Will Farrell movies will lessen your attraction in the eyes of men, but dirty jokes are right out.
There are many problems with spicy innuendo. For one thing, it's like writing a cheque you can't--and shouldn't--cash. When I say something positively volcanic to my husband, he should have a reasonable expectation that I mean what I say. If you say something spicy to a male friend, he should have a reasonable expectation that--it's a total joke, and that's not really fun or flirty. It's more like a college boy yelling "I cain't quit yuh" as his buddy puts him in a headlock and they scuffle on the kitchen floor.
If you can't put sex on the table--and you can't--you shouldn't pretend you can. How far can you go? I suggest the impression you might to create is that if X were to lose his head and kiss you under the mistletoe, you might not slap him.
Another problem with spicy innuendo is the "that kind of a girl" problem, which still exists in Catholic circles--and non-Catholic circles, don't kid yourself. Obviously you're not "that kind of a girl," so why pretend? And being an divorcee myself, I know perfectly well that the younger of Young Catholic Men do not think of divorced women as perfectly chaste pure snow angels, so it's all very dicey.
Do men think you are cheap or common or whatever for telling ribald jokes and doing a female impersonator impersonation? I doubt it--if you're their friend. If you're their friend they think you're a card, one of the guys, a great sport, but not necessarily wife material. Alas. Bette Midler is married, by the way, but her kind of brash, out-there-ness has won her more gay guy admirers than straight guy admirers.
Now, as for men sounding one way in front of their girlfriends and wives (mothers and sisters) and other around their friends, it's not a show. It's respect. Hopefully, we all tailor our conversation to our company. We're careful of what we say in front of children, for example. We strive not to use bad words before Mom.
I find British TV startling because the dirty words and curses just flow from the screen, and I rarely hear men use these words in real life. My father doesn't curse around me, my brothers don't curse around me, my husband doesn't curse around me, my husband's friends-under-65 don't curse around me. This stems from chivalry, and I do my best to keep up my end of the the bargain of chivalry, which is to look and sound like "a Lady."
One of my husband's friends opined that my husband treats me like fine porcelain china, and that is okay by me. Men take their cues from other men, and so men respect the women they see other men respecting. (This, by the way, is why you should never complain to dates of bad treatment at the hands of other men. "We had different priorities. Let's talk about you" answers the so-why-did-you-break-up question.)
To sum all this up, although a man might enjoy spicy humour from a woman when he knows that it, like she, is for him and him alone, a reputation as a ribald jokester may not foster your image as Wife Material.
I hope this is helpful.
Grace and peace,