By Jonathan Kalin
It was Friday afternoon. I was having lunch with a group of friends I had just met. In the days before, I had explained to them my work with Party With Consent and my passion for all things consent.
At the lunch table, the guys were reminiscing about what they were up to the night before-conversations about dancing, networking, and talking with women.
As conversations about approaching women continued, one of my friends recalled:
“We were thinking about John last night and how he’d probably say to a woman, ‘Do you consent to me kissing you?’”
This resulted in a bit of chuckling around the table, until I responded:
“Well…that is what I do.”
But this isn’t how it always was.
Growing up a young man, there were no men telling me to speak up when I was hooking-up with a woman. Not only were there no men telling me what I should do, the media that I was exposed to–commercials, music videos, movies, pornography–never told me to ask a potential hook-up partner the simple question, “Do you consent to this?”
Strangely, in every form of media, the hook-up partner is consenting. Yet, we do not see it on camera. In every sex scene that gets widely distributed, the actors and actresses sign consent forms before they get on camera.
Although we don’t hear consent explicitly, it is memorialized in writing before the cameras roll.
But before I saw the bigger picture, the message of masculine sexual silence rang loud and clear, “If you’re a man you have to know what a woman wants sexually and you’re only a man if you give it to her without speaking.”
Well, as a heterosexual man, I have to confess–women of the world, I do not know what you want sexually.
And I’m not going to pretend that I do because I saw what a guy did in a porno. And I’m not going to pretend that I do because I saw how a guy did it in a movie. And I’m not going to pretend that I do because I heard how a guy did it in the lyrics of his song.
And this is why – this is why, yes – this is why — I do ask before I kiss a woman. I say that as a guy who has experienced both conveying the silent masculinity and being the more verbal, communicative guy.
It’s incredible how much more enjoyable the intimate moments are when you actually know what your partner wants because you asked.
So, yes, I understand why it’s funny that I ask for consent, and no less than two years ago, I would have laughed at a guy who did it, as well. But this effort to speak up is not one that I do because I’m the “consent guy” or because I have the public image of a “nice guy”.
I speak up and I ask because creating consent openly is so much more amazing than guessing, assuming, coercing, and manipulating.