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On the Prowl: Consent for Kissing?

The first time I kissed my now ex-girlfriend was in my car. Although we were in a movie theater parking lot in Greenville, we never saw a movie. We had grabbed some grub at my favorite restaurant, The Orient on Main, and then went for cupcakes at The Chocolate Moose. Both of us lived with our parents at the time, so we had more privacy in a crowded parking lot than in our own houses.

When it comes to that first kiss as a couple, I’ve never just “gone for it.” Instead of gazing into my date’s eyes during an awkward pause in conversation, I’ve always signaled for some type of consent. In the theater parking lot, I flat out asked, “Can I kiss you?” Other times, I tried to be smoother.

“Are ions conducive to kissing?” I asked a different ex-girlfriend in Greenville’s Falls Park when she said something smart about waterfalls and ions. She laughed and said, “Yes,” and then we kissed.

I thought about those first kisses while participating in the “Take Back the Night” walk on Thursday night. The event, which is part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, was a walk from the Horseshoe to the Student Union. At stops at the Horseshoe, Carillon Gardens and the Union, sexual assault survivors talked about their experiences. As they spoke with both strength and palpable vulnerability, I sifted through all of my own sexual experiences. How did my partners and I give consent? What does “consent” mean anyway?

Asking partners for clear consent is one of the newest movements in combating rape culture. When I first heard about it, I thought it was impractical and unrealistic. It would interrupt the flow of things or ruin the mood.

Because when do you ask for consent? Before intercourse? Before oral? Before the genitals make their first appearance? Before even kissing?

On Friday morning, I talked about it with my current girlfriend. I asked her if she thought requiring clear consent with a “yes” was awkward or somehow unsexy. She explained that there are all kinds of ways to signal for consent that aren’t unsexy or lame.

For example, you’re at a bar and you meet someone (and you’re both sober). You’re talking and laughing. Things are going well. Then you ask the person if they’d like to come back to your place.

“Sure,” they say. “Whatcha’ got in mind?”

“How about watching Netflix and then doing the horizontal mambo?”

OK, so maybe that’s not the smoothest example. But the point is that consent is crucial for safe sex, so figure out a way to establish it. Be creative, but remain clear. And if you’re unsure about your partner’s feelings, put the brakes on and talk to them about it.

After I kissed my ex in that parking lot, I scolded myself out loud for asking.

“I should’ve just went for it,” I said.

“No, I’m glad you asked,” she replied. “It was nice.”

So nice guys don’t finish last — they just ask.

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