Even though it came at the cost of due process, as Bill Burr would say, the best thing to emerge from the #metoo movement was, at the very least, self-awareness and hopefully more respect towards women. It created a “look before you leap” attitude, making men more conscious of their actions and how they interact with women in the workplace or social settings.
It is also useful in potentially intimate situations where it may not be the best idea to assume someone feels the same as you. Especially when we as men know our rationality may never be as solid as our erection. However, in the age of microaggressions where perception supersedes intent, in those situations, what is the new, appropriate or socially acceptable behavior? How do you bridge the subject without coming off pervy or ruining whatever sexual tension you may be lucky enough to have? Do you ask verbally, or how can you be 100% sure it is ok to insinuate nonverbally?
Have we reached the age of pre-coitus, full disclosure meetings to outline the do’s and don’ts, likes and dislikes, deal breakers, legal precedent, and negotiations? Are witnesses required regardless of whether you’re into that? Has a sex tape become a means of legal documentation for liability purposes? Where is the balance between Oz from American Pie’s, “suck me beautiful,” approach to suddenly becoming a sexual predator? In the days where visual rape exists, women wearing a blouse with a plunging neckline might be more dangerous for men than riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Only in this case, instead of losing your life, you’ll just lose your job. Maintaining eye contact is always important, but the point is the stakes have been raised.
When I was 19 or 20, I worked with an attractive woman in her 30s, we’ll call her Monica. If sexy Sandy from the end of Grease had a Hispanic, Mediterranean, Jasmine from Aladdin look (Cartoon or people’s version) and not only smoked but liked cocaine, you would still only have a vague concept of her appeal. One day she was showing me how to use the copier and noted that documents must face down when scanning. To elaborate she looked up at me and said, “You know, ass up face down,” then smiled and winked. I almost fainted.
This encounter sticks out in my mind for obvious reasons, but I also compare it to the current climate and the new unspoken expectations for communication and conduct between genders. If this was a 1950s Mad Men scenario, it seems the precedent would deem this as an opportune time to show her my penis. By today’s standards, I don’t know if I was sexually harassed or a pig for being turned on.
I once asked Monica for some advice about asking a woman out. She came up with this idea to put together a package inviting this woman out to see a movie at an amphitheater in town. I dropped it off and circled on a brochure the date and time and wrote my phone number. I never heard from her and when I ran into her sometime later, she scurried away like she just encountered a wanted serial killer.
The Dreaded Friendzone:
This experience taught me two things. First, just because you think you have chemistry with someone does not mean they feel the same. Second, that women’s advice in this area is rarely universal and may be contextual applying solely to the situation or the mood of the woman at that exact time. To add insult to injury, discussing these topics with a woman you are not doing those things with could mean you are on a fast track to the friend zone — if you are not there already.
It’s worth mentioning that acknowledging you are in the friend zone takes an incredible amount of self-awareness and personal honesty. The same honesty that comes with respecting yourself and others. But until that self-realization occurs, those poor souls closely resemble Bruce Willis and all the other dead people from the Sixth Sense. Meaning you see them everywhere and they don’t really know they’re dead — or in this case in the friend zone.
Even the initial stages of dating are intricate and delicate. According to Aziz Ansari’s book, “Modern Dating”, dating depended on location, proximity, and availability. Now with the utilization of technology and online dating, the options are limitless, which consequently only increases our indecisiveness along with the universally expanding ambiguity of dating. The goal has always been the same, to meet someone or find a connection, but that appears to be more difficult when looking for quality in a volume market. Solely focusing on volume could also contribute to the sense of urgency to “hook up,” over the value of any decorum incorporating consent.
Accompanied by the digital age is the all too familiar need or expectation for instant gratification that creates a sense of urgency regarding almost everything, including the search for a soulmate or casual connection. Even with the convenience of technology, discerning the evolving mechanisms of dating seems to resemble the tension I would assume comes with defusing a bomb — complex and feels like a matter of life or death.
In a Washington Post article titled “What’s in Aziz Ansari’s dating book, ‘Modern Romance’?” by Lisa Bonos, Lisa points out that such a detailed book giving insight into the new patterns in courtship, never once mentioned consent. This is alarming because it means there has been an assumed expectation with no form of consensus. If a man’s expectation of sex is like a video game and attained after date level three, then chivalry is in fact dead. Not only that, but the feminist movement has not progressed as much as we thought. Meaning, men are no longer gentlemen if sex is an automatic assumption, and women are not empowering themselves if they allow themselves to feel obligated based on the pressure of social conventions.
Lisa’s article resulted from a reported account of a date between Ansari and an anonymous woman who verbally and non-verbally communicated things were moving too fast. This led to her feeling that Aziz had taken advantage of her. According to Aziz, all indications lead him to believe it was consensual. Dating is confusing enough, but now the difference between a “great evening” and a sexual assault is adrift in the realm of interpretation and limited by the adequacy of communication.
There are obvious and unambiguous situations involving sexual assault with little room for misinterpretation. For example, something called “stealthing” which means a man pretends to put on a condom or “covertly takes the condom off without the other party’s knowledge.” Which is by definition non-consensual and therefore classifies as sexual assault.
If you think of sex as a bi-lateral performance contract between two parties to engage in sexual relations based on the stipulation they use a condom for it’s designed and intended purpose, any misdirection or lack of compliance is a breach of contract, let alone trust. When I first came across the term/practice of stealthing I thought it was a joke rather than an actual practice, but one thing is certain, these are the shenanigans that have painted men in a bad light and perpetuated the male association and contribution to rape culture.
Halloween Sex at Yale:
In December 2018, Yale University suspended a male student after accusing him of sexual assault. According to an article published by the Daily Wire, both male and female students consensually engaged in intercourse using a condom. During the encounter the condom either “fell off” or “broke”, the only corroboration being there was a portion of the encounter that involved unprotected sex before using another condom. Then the sex continued and concluded. A month later the female student reported to the University that she was uncomfortable with the portion of sex that took place without the condom resulting in the male student’s suspension for sexual assault. This is alarming because after a couple has established interest or attraction to one another, consensually engaged in protected sex, the male is still at risk of potentially committing a sexual assault.
The #metoo movement exposed a trend of despicable male behavior at the expense of women with countless victims of sexual assault, and there should not be a statute of limitations on justice. But the publicity of the movement created so much momentum that it resembled a riot where rules no longer exist, and no one is safe. As the saying goes, “walks like a duck, talks like a duck, shoot it because it’s a duck.” Only it turned into a hunting season where anyone with a dick was a duck.
It has eliminated the extreme ends of the spectrum and the differentiation between Harvey Weinstein’s of the world and a situation where a woman’s regret becomes the accusation of rape. Something that has become more socially acceptable because of #Believewomen. A slogan that has taken on a life of its own regardless of the act and we neglect to ask questions or follow any form of due process because in these situations the word plaintiff has become synonymous with victim.
I recently saw a political sign that said, “taxes should be consensual!” and thought, since when have taxes been consensual or equitable? Now the word “consent” is a marketing buzzword being misappropriated for irrelevant campaigns and weakening its legitimacy. Over time, a good thing can be re-branded into something different, which is insulting to the people it affected. Then the conversation keeps changing before anyone discusses how we can all move forward together. The conversation continues to shift and the protocol for physical contact is as ambiguous as ever and I’m still unsure whether wanting or asking for any kind of sexual act is insulting.
After everything we have discussed, it makes me feel like a blowjob may even be disrespectful outside the arena of quid pro quo. Which we’ve established is unacceptable inside a professional environment. Outside of the office is a little more complicated given that if a woman propositioned a man in the same way, it could have opposite effects. Almost like a male bizzaro #metoo movement where every woman’s professional nightmare is every man’s fantasy. I’d argue it’s ok in a casual or serious relationship as long as both parties manage their expectations and something nice one person does for the other doesn’t become an actual form of currency or take away from both parties genuinely contributing to the relationship. But that’s another topic all together.
In a dating atmosphere it would seem presumptuous to enquire and most likely disrespectful. It’s one of those unspoken truths we know happens, but it is not appropriate to bring up in a public or formal setting. I would imagine asking a woman if she gives blowjobs would be as uncomfortable as if a woman asked me how often I masturbate. Keeping in mind, asking if men do is rhetorical. Also, to ask a woman about BJ’s is probably more coveted knowledge than if men masturbate. She/everyone already knows that. A woman has never asked me but my pre-prepared default answer is, “More than I should but not as much as I’d like to.”
How would that conversation go? Imagine a third date and just throwing out, “Hey in case I am lucky enough to receive fellaio, from you, soon, I’d like to discuss some factors so I know what is acceptable when that time comes.” Because given the circumstances previously discussed, even once engaged in consensual sex there are variables that can constitute assault after the fact.
Trial, Error, and Negligence:
In most cases, and with sex, there is a trial-and-error period where you are collecting data based on feedback from certain actions. This feedback validates what is acceptable at that point in time. While receiving a blowjob some important questions may include, “what should I do with my hands?” and, “what is the protocol for right before it’s over?” Some women are verbal enough to communicate they are going down there for a little while and to warn them before you both get to the point of her being down there. Or designate locations where it is or is not acceptable for its conclusion. But if she doesn’t, and it happens, out of everything we’ve talked about, that by far would be the most accurate definition of assault.
In these situations, I would argue it is the woman’s responsibility to declare terms, otherwise, it would almost constitute negligence because in this specific case they know exactly what will happen. There is a legal precedent that held the City of Denver was not liable for someone slipping and falling on a snowy sidewalk because you knowingly assume the risk by walking down it. If slipping and falling are imminent, it would be an individual’s responsibility to find an alternate route. Which I think applies to this topic.
Diving into this topic has left me with more questions. Are men overcompensating for the women’s power over sex? Or are women overcompensating from the oppression of the male patriarchy? Has feminism and the most recent #metoo movement drawn a wider line in the sand between the masculine and the feminine? Are both gender’s views towards each other dictated by the poor actions of the few? Are feminists so motivated by upholding their feminist ideals that anything coming from a man is masculine and therefore bad? How does the dynamic of love and companionship survive in such a hostile environment? Like a cactus in the desert, living off only enough water to stay alive.
What does that hold for the future of romance? What about the classy women outside the bedroom and a confident, verbally outspoken, and exciting woman in the bedroom? Can a woman no longer enjoy the man taking control? And if so, is the woman a traitor to her ideals? When does, “harder, harder,” become too hard, and when does that become assault? Is a blowjob empowering to women or demeaning? Will the prefrontal cortex ever sync with our primitive brains or have our opinions become more important than pleasure or each other’s company?
“Wrap it Up”:
Unfortunately, the simple answer is it all depends on how you look at it. Just like having sex in front of a mirror or a selfie, it all depends on your angle or perspective. We will never reach an age where all sexes won’t want to do horribly wonderful things to each other. Given recent events, that is why communication and full disclosure is more important than ever. It seems like the only solution, and this an oversimplification but both genders should lean into these social changes and embrace the fact that we all want certain things and it should be to communicate those things — with stipulations. The most important being common sense.
Sex and physical contact must be reciprocated to be impactful. Men and women need to understand their true motivations. Are we having sex just for sex or are there feelings involved too? Either way, communication should be more in-depth. Maybe a man can take back his masculinity by having the courage to disclose his intentions. But it’s hard to say if that takes away whatever masculine appeal he has left? I can see the pervy men who took the motto, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never know,” way too literal and ruined it for everyone. These are the men that make this conversation imperative because they are the ones who need to remind that asking for certain things in the stockroom or during an interview is inappropriate.
Who knows, maybe that communication might ease some of this tension. Maybe we all take a page out of Billy Joel’s book and, “tell her about it,” or if you want to be more forward, maybe take a page out of 2-Pac’s book and ask her, “How does she want it?” But use common sense and manage your expectations. We don’t have to act like men, but we should all at least act like grown-ups. I’m sure there are many holes in my logic but what I am trying to convey is that men and women should continue to communicate and cooperate outside the blinders of history and biases. Be more understanding and everyone can start putting their best foot forward.