Not sure why I’m writing this, other than to give my own opinion. A few things were said today regarding sexism and sexual harassment in the conference arena, and while I agree with most of the items mentioned one of the links provided in the stream stated that telling someone that they are attractive (or not attractive) was offensive. While I can see the assault, rude comments, unwelcome advances, and the like as something that should be dealt with, I felt this went too far.
Regardless of where you are, be it work, school, the mall, the bar, a conference, or walking down the street, you are in public. If someone finds you attractive, and pays you a polite compliment (for example: “You are very attractive and I’d like to get to know you”), you can politely thank them and say you’re either interested or not. At that point they know where they stand. If you automatically take offense to the first thing they say, and were to berate them for having that opinion of you, I feel that would be out of line.
While you’re entitled to your own opinion, and you may not be attracted to that person, they are a person as well, and deserve the same respect that you would like them to afford to you. If they do not approach you and pay you that compliment, a connection could be lost. I believe that while respect must be adhered to, the “time and place” is irrelevant in most times (yes I know, hitting on people is sometimes tacky, see funeral, divorce court, etc.).
What should be adhered to at all times is respect. If you respect the person you are speaking to, they should respect you back. You can think of how you would want someone to talk to your son/daughter/sister/brother/mother/father and if they are showing that level of respect, respond accordingly. If not and you want to slap them senseless, that’s on you.