Via reader Robert Harries, this article:
For our first date, he took an Uber to my apartment through a winter storm. As the snow fell outside, we sat close on my couch while he talked touchingly about poetry. Two hours in, I was hoping he would kiss me, and he did.
Woman invites stranger to her home and within two hours things get physical. Why do I get the impression we’ll shortly learn the man doesn’t consider her marriage material?
We had met on Tinder. I was nearly 30 and he was 24, but our age gap somehow seemed a lot larger than five years.
She’s 30 and this is her approach to dating?
Not because he acted especially young. It was more that when it came to sex and foreplay, he acted so differently from guys my age, asking for my consent about nearly everything.
“Is it O.K. if we go to the bedroom?” he said.
Erm, that’s not asking for consent, it’s a suggestion you stop fooling around on the sofa and get down to business on a bed somewhere.
I smiled and led him there.
He tugged at the hem of my sweater and said, “Is it O.K. if I take this off?”
I nodded. Underneath I was wearing a thin tank top.
“Can I take this off, too?” he said.
I laughed. “Of course!”
Jesus wept. Is this how Americans have sex nowadays?
He kissed my collarbone. I breathed into his neck and pulled off his shirt. He fingered the clasp of my bra.
“Is it O.K. if I take this off?” he said.
I think I snorted. “When you asked about the sweater, that was my yes from the waist up.”
“Just answer the question, ma’am,” said his lawyer, standing at the end of the bed holding a video camera.
He looked scared. Somewhere in our five-year age gap, a dramatic shift must have taken place in sexual training. I sensed this would be a different kind of hookup than I was used to, but I couldn’t predict how.
For his part, he was surprised they’d not discussed money.
I lay down on my bed, and he lay beside me.
“Is this O.K.?” he said.
“I invited a guy from Tinder to my empty apartment on a snow day,” I said. “Let’s just assume you have blanket consent.”
So where does this leave the feminist argument that consent is an ongoing process and can be withdrawn at any time?
“I’m not comfortable with that.”
I looked at his earnest eyes, hair flopping into his face,
Unsolicited advice for women: if you want a man to behave like one, don’t pick someone with floppy hair.
Hadn’t I already said yes several times? Wasn’t I lying there with him, my leg tossed over his, my whole body arcing toward him?
Maybe he was having second thoughts? Most sensible blokes would be wondering, with things being this easy, what the catch was.
Then he raised my arm above my head, put his lips to the soft skin of my inner arm, and licked me from armpit to elbow.
This is what happens get when you invite floppy-haired man-children into your bed.
I pulled my arm away.
I had been single and sexually active for more than a decade and considered myself to be sexually liberated,
Single for more than a decade? Colour me surprised.
but I could not remember anyone having done that to me. “It’s just really intimate,” I said.
She sounds as though she’s more used to being bent over a dumpster in a back alley.
Now he was the one who laughed. “That’s intimate?” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “It is.”
He and I seemed to have such different understandings of which acts were assumed to be acceptable and which required voiced consent.
It’s almost as if getting to know one another a little before having sex might be a good idea.
At one point, he put his hand on my throat and asked if the pressure was O.K.
WTF? This on a first date? Perhaps things have changed since my day after all.
“I’ll tell you if I die,” I joked.
There’s a strange man in my bed with his hand on my throat. Time for a joke!
At another point he kissed me from forehead to toe and said, “I think that’s everywhere.”
He’d grown tired of his choking-the-new-date routine when you started joking instead of getting wide-eyed with terror.
At the end of the night, he said, “See you soon,” and took an Uber back to his apartment through the snow.
He didn’t even stay the night? Oh dear.
I just wasn’t used to being taken care of in that way.
There are low bars, and then there’s this.
Sex makes me feel unsafe, not because of the act itself but because my partners so often disappear afterward, whether I waited hours or months before the first time.
Imagine my shock.
Yet something else about his asking also made me uneasy. It seemed legalistic and self-protective, imported more from the courtroom than from a true sense of caretaking. And each time he asked, it was as if he assumed I lacked the agency to say no on my own — as if he expected me to say no, not believing that a woman would have the desire to keep saying yes.
Well, yes. Feminist have set about to destroy the relations between men and women and this is the result. Take it up with Laurie Penny and her ilk.
Still, I liked that he was trying to keep from hurting me unawares. He texted that night, reassuringly. I decided I would call his asking lovely. I decided I would try to learn.
Reminder: this is a 30 year old woman.
The second time he was in my bedroom
You almost whooped for joy?
“Because I’m the one who could make you do something you don’t want to do,” he said. “Not vice versa.”
But that wasn’t what he was trying to do. He and I were enjoying a mutually desired sexual experience, and by making that distinction he was importing the language of coercion and assault into sex that was healthy.
There’s something very Darwinian about this, isn’t there? I think we can safely assume neither of these two are going to reproduce.
While he was waiting for his Uber to arrive…
…having wiped his knob on my curtains…
I did not see him soon. I texted him a few times in the days that followed, playfully at first, then more pressing. He ignored me.
At first I couldn’t believe he didn’t answer, and then I was devastated. My roommates didn’t understand why I was so much more hurt than usual.
“Because he kissed the soft part of my arm,” I said. “And then he disappeared.”
They looked at me blankly.
Yeah, I’m with them.
“Because he asked for my consent, over and over. So sex felt like a sacred act, and then he disappeared.”
“A sacred act?” one roommate said, laughing. “Girl, you sure don’t treat it like one.”
Heh, I’m beginning to like her friends.
When he asked so many times about my desires, when he checked to be sure he was honoring and respecting me, then sex, however short-lived, became a reciprocal offering. But the moment we pulled on our jeans, that spell of reciprocal honor and respect was broken.
He was covering his arse, my dear, making sure you weren’t going to cry rape and go running to the police. No respect was broken because there was never any in the first place.
And she was right, in a way. Asking about my feelings during sex didn’t extend to caring about them after sex. Consent is not a contract of continuation.
Nor is any relationship according to some feminists, even a marriage. Should we therefore be surprised that men aren’t showing much interest in commitment once the sex is over?
But in the days and weeks after, I was left thinking that our culture’s current approach to consent is too narrow. A culture of consent should be a culture of care for the other person, of seeing and honoring another’s humanity and finding ways to engage in sex while keeping our humanity intact. It should be a culture of making each other feel good, not bad.
Oh, so there are benefits to entering into relationships with mutual obligations after all? How does this square with feminists who thinks “nobody owes anyone shit” and that women have the right to abandon a relationship on the spot and cut off all communications with their former partner for any reason, or even none at all?
And if that’s the goal, then consent doesn’t work if we relegate it exclusively to the sexual realm.
I wish we could view consent as something that’s less about caution and more about care for the other person, the entire person, both during an encounter and after, when we’re often at our most vulnerable.
Well, yes. There was a time when men were expected to demonstrate good character, compassion, and a willingness to engage in a long-term commitment before women slept with them, but feminists decided that was too oppressive.
Because I don’t think many of us would say yes to the question “Is it O.K. if I act like I care about you and then disappear?”
Which is why it’s not a good idea to have sex with strange men before you’ve ascertained their intentions. As Rob Harries remarks, the author of this piece went to Yale; I’d be willing to bet her grandma was much, much wiser.