Do I have to ask a woman before I kiss her for the first time? I want to be respectful but I also don’t want to come off as awkward or weird. What are the rules now?
A Confused Man
Well, that depends. Are you good at social cues? Do you fancy yourself an intuitive person? Were you a psychic in the 80s who famously worked with the police to find missing children? Or do you often find yourself in awkward situations because you do things like take a bite of someone’s sandwich without asking?
Let’s move forward with the sandwich analogy. I feel like people can agree on sandwich sharing etiquette more than they can about the rules of consent, cause that’s the world we live in. So, when is it appropriate to take a bite of someone else’s sandwich? Even if you’re on a friendly or romantic level with someone, you wouldn't just reach over the table and grab someone’s sandwich and take a big juicy bite without asking, would you? Nor would you, with no verbal or social cues from your date, grab the sandwich out of their hands and help yourself right? You would? Okay, you
should always ask before kissing someone, just make that your rule. But, for the rest of us, I think we can mainly rely on body language, subtle communication and instinctual/visual cues to indicate what’s appropriate. Then, if there’s still doubt, ask. Is your friend motioning to her sandwich, pointing to you and miming eating? Is she pushing her plate towards you or physically handing you her sandwich? Did you say…”Kinda want a bite of your sandwich right now,” and did she blush and say, “If you took a bite I wouldn’t be mad.” Did you go in for her sandwich in extreme slow motion and did she respond by slowly and delicately lifting her sandwich to your mouth?
Okay, forget about the sandwich analogy. It’s just making me a little nauseated. Now, there’s a big conversation going on right now about consent. It’s a good conversation and it’s high time we started thinking about all of this. There’s a certain demographic of people (mainly older men) who are trying to minimize this conversation by making fun of it. They’re painting women as hysterical whistleblowers on a witch hunt to ruin good men’s lives for offenses as trivial as going in for a kiss. Hmmm, women are trying to be heard and are instead painted as hysterical, erratic witches, thus discrediting what they are trying to say. Sound familiar? If not, check out the Wikipedia article about Female Hysteria. I’ll wait.
Labeling conversations as silly, dramatic, and hysterical is a tried and true tactic used to minimize the root of the conversation and make it easier to dismiss it. I’ve heard arguments like you can’t even kiss a woman without being seen as a sexual predator these days
and what happened to the good old days when you could throw a woman down and kiss her passionately like in the movies
? I heard one guy argue that this conversation about consent has killed all romance
. If your idea of romance is pinning someone against the wall until she stops struggling then your time is up, sorry buddy. For the most part, no one is trying to kill romance. Let’s talk about these romantic movies in the good old days
and that horrifically common kiss scene where a man kisses a woman against her will and she struggles and begs him to stop until finally realizing she likes it and melting into his embrace. I wonder what pervert came up with that narrative? I’m pretty sure that men came up with the idea that women play hard to get because it’s convenient for them to continue to pursue after being rebuffed if they think that’s a normal part of a woman’s mating ritual. By the way, it’s not. Look, nobody is trying to kill romance. We’re trying to slaughter sexism and rape culture. Those are very different things. We are being distracted by extreme examples of what proper consent is going to do to romance instead of having an actual conversation.
You can go in for a kiss if you feel it’s appropriate and if you’re wrong all you have to do is apologize and back off. The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 describes sexual harassment as "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature," which "has the purpose or effect of […] creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment." So, it’s only if you persist after being rebuffed that you would be faulted. If you often find yourself being wrong then maybe you’re not good at social cues and you should just ask from now on. Now, don’t take these words and manipulate them. I’m not saying it’s okay to grab a stranger or co-worker and kiss them as long as you back off if it’s not reciprocated. I’m talking about appropriate situations like a date or an intimate moment.
Essentially, just be a decent human being and try your best. I have a feeling that you’re gonna be okay because you’re asking this question and that’s a step in the right direction. Just know that being forceful and aggressive with women does not make you a real man, it makes you a real dick.
Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg and this advice is about the first kiss only because that was the question. The conversation about sexual consent is not a tidy little anecdote that can be tied up in a few paragraphs. I hope to continue this conversation with further questions about consent from you, readers. Next time I promise to use a less disgusting analogy than sandwiches, like Chicken Tikka Masala.