Long before the #metoo movement and the social awakening we’ve seen take place in recent months, I received a long voicemail from a female friend. We’d been talking in the weeks before about consent. Specifically, what it means for a man to ask before making the first “move”.
At the time this was a pretty novel idea for me. I understood asking for permission in the course of a physical relationship, but never before a kiss (specifically the first kiss). That moment, as I understood it, was supposed to just happen, be natural, and make me look like I knew what I was doing. It was supposed to look like it did in the movies.
That, I think, is one of the great disservices we’ve done to our boys/men--we’ve allowed them to believe “being cool” should trump asking for permission.
The evening I received that voicemail my friend had gone on a first date. It had gone fine, but she sensed it wasn’t a love connection. She also sensed he was about to make a move--a move she didn’t want him to make.
In her voicemail my friend told me all that had happened. How she knew he was going to make a move. How she didn’t want to kiss him but felt powerless to stop it. How uncomfortable it had made her. How she didn’t like kissing him or being put in that position.
I remember listening to her voicemail and feeling sad--for her, but also for every woman I’d ever kissed without asking first. How many of them didn’t want to kiss me? Or wished I’d asked first?
I do my best these days to ask before I lean in (though I still mess up at times). It’s not super cool, but then, being super cool isn’t that high up on my list of values anymore.
That being said, my point today about consent is twofold:
We’ve got to talk about all of it. Sex and consent. Kissing and consent. What maybe does and doesn’t mean. What goes where, when, and how it feels.
We’ve got to talk about these things even when it’s embarrassing, and ESPECIALLY when it isn’t cool.
Screw being cool. Screw being smooth. Screw acting like you “know what you’re doing”. I’d rather have the respect of a woman who had the chance to say yes, no, or maybe without fear.
I was never all that cool, anyway.