Calling time on people who think asking ‘can I kiss you’ will ‘kill the vibe’
This is beyond problematic
News just in: apparently, we're supposed to think it's lame if guys ask to kiss us.
And here I was, worrying about #metoo and vast structural inequality and rape culture and other such trivialities. I'd clearly forgotten another serious issue: some girls wish their date had 'just waited for the inevitable' and taken them like a back-shelf Mills and Boon instead of stopping to ask first. Apparently asking 'kills the vibe'.
But maybe I was too quick to judge! After all, this advice is clearly not meant to apply to people who don't want to kiss you. "There's no doubt unwanted kissing, where the girl is clearly not wanting to, is not on. But when you've been grafting all night and the vibe is obviously there, asking "can I kiss you?" is equally not on."
(Equally not on? Apparently, 'killing the vibe' is an equivalent level of treason to literally sexually assaulting people. Yep. Sounds entirely reasonable.)
But here's the problem: some people don't understand how social interactions work, or how complex they can be, which is why people are sometimes so jokey about something that's actually quite serious. Some people genuinely think that these issues around consent are turning us all into fluffy bunnies who can't flirt anymore without crying, or that you can't compliment a woman anymore without getting fired and blackballed.
And behind these jokes is a serious current of fear and antagonism, and a dangerous marginalisation of people who have suffered severe sexual trauma, just because aww, nobody's any fun anymore.
You know who used exactly that argument? The (questionably) Hon. Robert Adley in the Houses of Parliament in 1986, arguing that Page 3 should be kept because men 'have but few pleasures left to us today'. And then time moved the fuck on and I don't have to pursue a career in a world where workplaces have tabloid calendars full of half-naked women. Hail progress.
#metoo has inspired a curious amount of panic. No, you don't suddenly have to get your date to sign a 'consent form' so that you won't end up in jail. And yes, of course, there are plenty of situations in which people will kiss without asking first and it's fine. But the reason that 'can I kiss you' is a useful part of people's repertoire is that whilst 'the vibe' may be 'obviously there' in your eyes, not everyone finds it so easy to determine that.
I'll throw out a few examples: Some people may not be able to perfectly divine what others mean by their body language. Say you're on the autism spectrum, or have social anxiety, or are physically disabled (e.g. visual impairment, processing disorders), or you're just new to all this. Students usually enter university at 18; plenty of people haven't even kissed anyone by then. Some people might be freshers who've never really been to a nightclub before and don't know what constitutes 'this person is definitely into me', particularly when they've had a few VKs.
Some people might recognise that they are physically imposing (a sensitive 6'4" dude, for instance) and that when they're exchanging flirtatious banter with a much smaller person, asking to kiss them may well put them at ease. Some people might just be nervous, or just think it's cute to ask.
Some people may think that if your 'vibe' can be killed that easily, it was probably dead on arrival.
When we say that asking makes people 'lame' and less sexually attractive (i.e. 'I would have kissed you if you hadn't done that'), not only is that implying that men will be emasculated by doing this, which again reinforces harmful stereotypes that a 'real man' just 'goes for what he wants', but it also signals to people of all genders that if someone was really attracted to you, and if you were really socially skilled enough, you'd 'just know' what they wanted to do next, which is a toxic, toxic message.
Throwing in a perfunctory message that 'of course you shouldn't kiss people who don't want to' refuses to accept that there is a grey area between 'person who is totally into it' and 'person who is actively coating you in pepper spray right now'. If you're kissing someone who's not really into it but just feels like they 'should' because you 'grafted for hours', then you're not assaulting them if you don't know they feel that way, but it still sucks. 'Can I kiss you?' gives people an out. Not everyone is confident enough to pull away when someone starts to kiss you; it's easier to say 'no' if people make clear that it's a choice.
If this was meant to cause controversy and be relevant, congratulations, it worked. But it's also shitty and contributes to a toxic dating/clubbing culture for all genders. I'm not in the market for kissing strangers right now, but if I was, I'd be happy if they asked first.
And if anyone gets so annoyed at you asking that they won't kiss you anymore…I think that's good riddance.