Seeing as my son is only fifteen-months-old, the SO and I haven’t exactly had a lot of conversations about how we’ll handle all of those important coming of age discussions – the birds and the bees, puberty, at what age it’s OK to date, etc. However, not surprisingly, I already have a lot of opinions on the subject.
About seven years ago when I was working in Nashville, a press release for the Date Safe Project arrived at my desk. Since I was the Lifestyles editor, this info fell under my Relationships sub-category, and was just one promotional material I received in a slew of weekly notices. (Previously, my submissions pile had included tips for online dating, how widowers could “get back out there” and one particularly uncomfortable piece on controlling rage within marriage.)
All I saw was, “Can I kiss you?” and I quickly dismissed the release. (And probably thought “tool” while I was at it.)
Then, as I am prone to do, I got bored. I was tired of writing Top 7 lists, and the Date Safe Project DVD was still on the corner of my desk. Figuring that I could at least kill an hour watching a video and call it “work,” I popped the disk in.
It was a pretty uncomplicated video that featured Date Safe Project founder Mike Domitrz talking to a group of school kids and their parents. Domitrz’s basic premise is that either partner should ask for permission before engaging in any sexual activity.
And he means any sexual activity, including kissing.
For some reason, I again thought this idea was kind of ludicrous. I don’t know if it was the effort – like taking an hour to get dressed for a party was worth my time, but talking about sex wasn’t – or the simple fact that I’d never thought about it, but I couldn’t really get on board.
Then Domitrz made one of his key points: If you don’t ask to kiss a female, she has one of two options – accept the kiss or push her date away. Either way, a female’s only options are physical.
That’s when I started thinking. Why do we expect women to have to push men away as part of our “normal”? Is that really the best way?
Buoyed on by the DVD, I called the number on the press release and arranged an interview with Domitrz.
We talked about dating. We talked about getting physical. We talked about what to do when you’re the parent setting the standard for your kids. (Yes, he recommends that you ask to kiss your spouse even if you’ve never done it before.)
One of my favorite comments from Domitrz is in the video. It’s something along the lines of, “People want to know, ‘do I have to ask right one and or left one’? It doesn’t have to be that particular. It’s about asking your date if she or he is comfortable going to the next level. “ For Domitrz, it’s about making sure everyone is on the same page.
So, regardless of what you might think about the Date Safe Project – or my recollections of it seven years later – here’s what I got from all this: explicit consent should be part of any romantic relationship from the get-go. Women (and men) have a voice that should be respected. Boundaries need to be clear. And if someone is too drunk to verbally consent, it’s a no-brainer that fooling around doesn’t even begin.
At this point, when I talk about my dating theories, I usually get one of two reactions from my friends:
1. “Asking for a kiss? What happens to being spontaneous?”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had too many spontaneous kisses in my life. Usually a lot of talking, making sure we were at the same party and hair flipping has gone into my makeout sessions.
I forget who says that fooling around happens when you run out of things to say to one another, but there’s a lot of that, too. Sometimes, I just couldn’t come up with one more comment on politics or The Challenge.
If the kisses were spontaneous, it often involved a lot of alcohol or wasn’t something I was prepared for. (With this latter point, therein lies the problem. Why should I have to shove someone off of me to avoid a kiss? And conversely, why should a nice guy have to get shoved just because he read the signals wrong?)
I have most always known when someone was going to kiss me, and it never took away from the moment.
2. “That kills all the romance!”
All I know is that if I want someone to kiss me – and I’ve put in the witty remarks, accidental brush-ups and mascara to make it happen – nothing can ruin that moment. The sudden act of asking about a kiss would not be a mood-killer for me. Bad breath? Slobbering? Slipping in a homophobic joke before making a move? These would ruin the romance. A simple question? No.
It’s fascinating to me that in an age when we talk about rape culture, gray rape, Stubenville and the like, we’re pretty quick to dismiss garnering consent as “unromantic” and even “unnecessary.”
I don’t think a little more communication hurt anyone, especially with the variables of libido, alcohol and still-developing brains in the mix.
So, it’s entirely possible that I’ll be the weird mom who suggests her kid ask before he kisses someone. And asks before he goes to second base. And checks in again before considering any of those other bases, etc.
I know one thing: I would much rather be the weird mom who talks to her kid about asking for kisses than the one explaining why it’s not OK to post half-naked pictures of drunk classmates on Facebook.
I also know there's a high probability that he won't follow my advice, what with being an adolescent male and all, but I think I'm OK with that, too. Because maybe, just maybe, if I make a big enough deal about consent, I'll at least have gotten most of the point across.
What do you think? What do you plan to tell your kids about dating?
Image courtesy of Marzie.