Price Eric has long led the way as the juggernaut of Disney dream boats and it turns out that his status might have more to do with his respect for women than his dashing good looks.
An observant Reddit user named Floatsmyg picked up on the fact that Eric did something that a lot of the other Disney princes failed to do, which is to wait for Ariel to be able to give verbal consent before making a move on her.
If you need a reminder, Ariel was infatuated with the human world, despite her father's stern disapproval, and she strikes a bargain with Ursula the Sea Witch to sacrifice her voice in order to become a regular bi-ped like you and me. A part of this deal is that she has three days in which Eric can kiss her to win her voice back and escape being Ursula's slave.
Obviously, Eric knows nothing about the deal that Ariel has made, which means she is unable to speak; this is where the theory comes into play. No matter how much Ariel tries to get Eric to kiss her, she is always foiled. Floatsmyg proposes that this is because Eric is a respectful man waiting for verbal consent to make the next move. Although he is obviously attracted to Ariel, he never kisses her while she cannot speak.
This issue obviously ended up causing problems for Ariel, but Eric was blissfully ignorant about the peril that his companion was in. Along with Kristoff in Frozen, Eric is one of the only Disney princes who waits for clear consent.
Obviously, the idea of a spontaneous kiss with perfect chemistry is wonderful, but there is no denying that presumed consent is something that causes a lot of embarrassing, and sometimes traumatic, situations and Eric's message on clear consent is a great lesson that all teenagers should learn.
Unfortunately, this theory doesn't entirely hold up because Eric almost puckered up for Ariel before Ursula's slippery minions Flotsam and Jetsam tipped their romantic row boat over (as you can see toward the end of the video below), but there is no denying the Eric was a thoroughly modern prince compared to his predecessors.
From the moment that Ariel saves him from drowning at sea, Eric felt greatly indebted to the woman who saved him, without any outdated shame about his masculinity. In fact, it is consistently Ariel who saves Eric throughout the movie, including in the final battle with Ursula.
So, not only does The Little Mermaid's prince wait to form meaningful relationships and obtain clear consent before making a move, he also values his partner as more than a "damsel in distress."
Hurrah for Eric (not that I'm biased because that's my boyfriend's name or anything!).