From a Female Perspective: Alicia Thomas
Entering the HUB auditorium last week for Mike Domitrz’s show on sexual consent, I steeled myself for the usual onslaught of advice from a middle-aged man on how not to become a victim of sexual assault. That’s how these seminar guys usually look at it, right? “Maybe if you dressed a little less provocatively,” or “maybe if you had been careful not to send an unspoken invitation,” or “maybe if you had resisted his advances the right way,” then it wouldn’t have happened.
I was having a preemptive Tina Fey moment of exasperation. As a strong advocate of the whole “clothes don’t cause rape, rapists do” campaign, I wasn’t looking forward to listening to Mike explain what sexual assault really is and the magic steps that women need to take to make it go away — which is good, because he didn’t do that at all.
Mike, founder of the Date Safe Project, spent his entire show, which is based on his book “May I Kiss You? A Candid Look at Dating, Communication, Respect & Sexual Assault Awareness,” explaining that communication is the key to avoiding sexual assault. His appeals weren’t to women, either. They were to men.
Mike presented common scenarios in which a guy and a girl might find themselves on a college campus. Then he showed us just how common it is within those situations for guys to “just go for it,” and to take advantage of a girl without her consent. This is so common, in fact, that we’ve almost become oblivious to it, he said.
Many of the audience members suggested that guys don’t ask girls before kissing them (or doing anything else with them, for that matter) because they’re afraid of rejection. “I don’t want to hear her say no at that point,” said one male in the crowd. Giving her the opportunity to say no is important, though, because it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t want to kiss you (or do anything else with you), and that’s her choice.
Some of the men in the audience suggested that women still have a choice even if you misread her signals and kiss her without verbally asking first — the choice to stop you or push you away. Incredulously, Mike laughed, “That’s not called a choice, that’s called self-defense!”
Guys in the audience countered that you can “just tell” when a girl wants you to kiss her. She gives you “the look”, or she puts her hand on your knee, or she tilts her head just right. Mike’s argument? “If you’re so sure that she wants to kiss you, then you’re always gonna be fine with asking, because her answer’s gonna be yes anyway!”
Flustered, guys claimed that asking is awkward, or could ruin the mood. Mike argued that although it may feel weird to blurt “wanna make out?” after you walk a girl home, if you like her enough, the weirdness doesn’t matter — you know that she wants you. He asserts that if it feels too weird for you to say, then you’re probably not ready for it anyway.
Mike’s argument boiled down to this: “We aren’t really afraid of rejection, because if we were, we’d never go on a date. We’re not afraid of awkwardness, because the whole first part of a relationship is awkward. So why don’t we ask first? The F word. When we start thinking about that F word, everything gets messy. Fear screws the whole thing up for us. That F word, fear… I don’t know where your minds were!”
So there you have it — the main barrier between open communication about sex: fear. Fear is the problem, so what’s the solution? Hurdle over that barrier, ignore the nagging fear in the back of your head, and ask her if you can give her a god damn kiss instead of assuming that that’s what she wants.
You could be right. She could be totally into it. She could say yes. Hell, the fact that you care enough to ask her first could make her want even more than a kiss. “If you’re assuming, just ask!” Mike reiterated again and again.
Or you could be wrong. You could totally have misread her signals, and when you ask, she could shoot you down. If she does, your response shouldn’t be to bolt immediately and never talk to her again– as Taylor Collobre writes in her essay The Good Guy Myth, “My friendship is not a crappy consolation prize that you’re left with if I deny you a sexual relationship, and my body is not your reward for good behavior.”
Your response also shouldn’t be to get angry. If you freak out on her for saying no, your goal is just to get her to change her mind (and if she lets you kiss her out of fear after you get angry, that doesn’t count as consent anyway).
So how does Mike say that men should respond to a rejection?
“Then I’m glad I asked, because the last thing I’d want to do is make you uncomfortable.” And the fact that you were cognizant of her right to choose whether or not she wanted your physical interaction– well, it’s a big deal. It shows her that you respect her. At that point, instead of turning yourself into the asshole that stalked off in a huff after she said no to you, you become the guy who gives a shit about what she wants.
And that guy?
He gets laid a lot more often.
From a Male Perspective: Joe Rogachevsky
Caveat: Most stories about sexual assault awareness are written by girls, but guys are usually the ones perpetrating it. So why don’t guys write about it? Well they do, but they usually are submissive betas. Sir Galahads, you know, white knights. So nobody really gives a shit. That’s why, as a bro, I volunteered to cover this. If you aren’t a bro then this probably isn’t written for you.
Approaching the HUB auditorium, the shotgun I had taken before leaving wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. I burped and immediately felt better. It was my third beer in just under an hour; I had pregamed the presentation on date rape. My reasoning was this: if I was going to learn how to act toward women while drunk, I should at least be in the right frame of mind to receive this information. (Drunken recall, look it up.)
With a small buzz, I checked my privilege at the door and made my way to the saved seat next to my co-worker. As it turns out, saving me a seat wasn’t necessary. Due to a severe lack of advertising, only around a hundred people were in attendance. The culture of silence strikes again.
After an underwhelming introduction, Mike Domitrz takes the stage in an open blazer with an exposed T-shirt underneath that reads, “WANT SOME ACTION?” This would have made a great date night, I think, but then I remember that it’s not the ’40s and nobody dates anymore.
Mike’s first point is that body language gets misinterpreted. When a girl puts her hand on your thigh, your immediate reaction is to think she wants to bang that instant. That’s cool, but apparently it’s not always the case. So it’s probably safe to assume that she’s interested. Nothing more, nothing less.
Mike asked the crowd about places a guy will put his hand before going in for an unconsented kiss. “The arm!” yelled out one girl. “The thigh!” shouted another. I had only ever gone with the arm. I was already learning things.
Mike asked us why guys don’t ask for a kiss. Well, because it’s fucking lame. Seriously, asking for a kiss is the equivalent of going up to a girl at Indigo and asking, “Hey, wanna dance?” Unless you have the confidence of an athlete-CEO hybrid brought on by 20 shots of Captain, it doesn’t work.
Getting consent for sex is another story. Ask a bro what it means when a girl says “no”, and he might say “she’s just playing hard to get.” Not so fast, chief. That’s a good way to catch a charge. There’s a (very slim) chance she might say “no” when she means “yes,” but if she’s playing those games, then you probably shouldn’t be messing around with someone like that in the first place.
Like the Willard Preacher said this afternoon, “You go to a school with 20,000 willing members of the opposite sex. If you can’t get laid, you’re a loser.” Yeah, I listen to the Willard Preacher, the guy is hilarious. And sometimes right.
The presentation itself was definitely directed towards women. I won’t bash Mike too much, because the man went through some shit and really believed in what he was doing. His point was that fear is the main barrier to open communication about sex. Right on, dude.
At the end of the presentation, he gave out the leftover “Want Some Action?” and “Can I Kiss You” shirts and books that remained after the volunteers had gotten some swag. All that we had to do was say one thing we learned. Because it’s winter, and I could always use another long-sleeved tee, I raised my hand.
“I learned that it’s always better to ask for consent, because the worst thing that can happen is that she’ll say no.” Free t-shirt time.
A kiss without asking is technically sexual assault. I didn’t write the law, but it is. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth risking it or not. And before you call me sexist, a rapist, or misogynist, remember that I’m the one who went to the presentation when you didn’t. I also love my mom way more than you love yours, and that’s a fact.