The strange thing about watching the world throw Billy Bush under that bus is that no one seems to have an alternative. Boys will be boys! They said about a 70-year-old man running for president. It’s locker room talk! Said a guy who walks in on women’s beauty pageant locker rooms.
If it is so harmless then why did it trigger 80 percent of the women in my Facebook feed to recall the horrors that creepy men had visited upon them since puberty? That’s the thread right there. Pull it loose and the whole thing comes undone.
We’re supposed to get better at sex as adults. Sex positions, oils, techniques and other things from those sex manuals that look like cookbooks. But we don’t get any better at talking about sex. For that we’ve recruited Reid Mihalko, a sex educator who travels the country giving lectures on consent at universities and has more sex than anyone I know.
What’s his secret to getting from “yes” to “YES! YES! YES!“? For Mihalko it’s simple: “The big thing is you have to ask and get a verbal yes before you touch anybody. Men need to understand that the minute you go ‘why?,’ you don’t get it. It’s the idea that even well-meaning men don’t understand the female experience. When was the last time you got catcalled or followed down the street?”
Of course, Mihalko gets a lot of pushback on some his points: “Men are like, ‘I wish somebody would grope me.’ My retort is how would you feel at a gay bar if some guy wouldn’t leave you alone? Or if somebody spiked your drink?”
“Women have been going through this every day since puberty. From that perspective you asking and waiting for a verbal yes is a complete change from their daily interactions. It’s not about being the ‘safe’ guy. The friend zone guy.”
“I’ve walked up to women before and said, ‘Hey can I hit on you?’ and if they say no I always say, ‘Thank you for taking care of yourself.’ And I leave it at that. In another minute they’ll be coming up to me, ‘Wait. What just happened?’ ”
—Sex expert Reid Mihalko
Here’s an easy question: Think back to the very first time you had sex. Can you do better now? Good. Then you should be even better at talking about sex.
Embedded in there, though, is our main problem. When we start having sex in basements and backseats and dormrooms, we’re always trying to be quiet. Add in to that a bunch of juvenile junior high ideals about how a woman who wants sex is a slut and suddenly asking, “Do you want this?” becomes really fraught.
“We also have this outdated notion of seduction,” Mihalko observes. “That a woman has to say no at first and it’s your manly charms that will wear her down, make her change her mind.”
Stop being goal-oriented. It’s gross. Instead, use consent as a way to share what kind of guy you are.
Reid Mihalko’s Consent Primer
1. Get a verbal yes for everything.
2. No means “No.”
3. Hesitation means “No.”
4. When someone says no, reply: “Thank you for taking care of yourself.”
Wait. What? If you’ve ever read the excellent “Bye Felipe” Instagram account you know that women are braced for the worse when they tell a man they are not interested. Why? Because guys are little babymen who cry when they don’t get what they want.
Just get ready for what dating looks like when you learn to hear no. “I’ve walked up to women before and said, ‘Hey can I hit on you?’ and if they say no I always say, ‘Thank you for taking care of yourself.’ And I leave it at that. In another minute they’ll be coming up to me, ‘Wait. What just happened?’ And I’ll say frankly, ‘My partner and I thought you were cute and we wanted to talk to you for a few and see if we all got along.’ That is so far out of the norm of what most women experience that it will lead to more interesting conversations than rejections.”
(By the way, that wasn’t from my interview with Mihalko. That was from a story about a threesome. Mihalko has more threesomes than Obama has cabinet meetings.)
And yes. Part of you is going to feel dumb. That’s the dumb part of you. But if a woman is going to laugh at you for talking like this, you never had a chance in the first place. You’re probably also worried that she’s going to laugh about it with her friends later. She will! But guess what? She just told 5 girls that you’re woke AF and your reputation with those girls will be sound. In Mihalko’s experience, sound enough that her friends seek him out and refer their friends.
Make it sexy
1. Understand that the initial conversing is going to be awkward.
2. It’s kind of like the “Hey Girl” meme.
3. Feminist dorky awkward guy is so much better than chauvinistic suave.
And I’d like us to keep in mind that Mihalko has an excellent class called “Rough Sex for Nice Folks.”
“In reality you don’t want a yes. Hell yes means yes. When it comes to sex you want people to consent enthusiastically. People can say yes and not know what they’re saying yes to.” Don’t think of it as giving her the chance to say no. Think of it as creating a space where you can talk to each other. And “yes” I’m saying this will lead to you having more sex.
“It’s the difference between invitation and seductions. We have to seduce them or wear them down because they’re not supposed to be slutty. That’s all cultural bullshit. When you do the math it’s about wearing them down or you don’t believe what they’re telling them. It’s just disregarding human beings in general.” When you are ready to see a woman as a person, you are ready to be treated like a man.
Now, getting back to my Facebook feed. I’m sure it looks a lot like yours. And these are likely the grownup versions of people you once discussed sex in hushed tones with in high school. There are also a lot of stories from women who didn’t know they could speak up when an older camp counselor did something they didn’t understand. Or of going home with a guy and changing their mind about him and not knowing what to do.
So why don’t more men do this? Because it’s a risk. But the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Yeah, you might get rejected by someone who would have wasted your time and put drinks on your tab just because. But you also might get to meet someone really, really great.
So for all the bad news we get in our feeds, I just want to roll out on this note on consent that I got from a guy I grew up with. Do you want to be the unnamed evil guy in a post the next time there’s a high-level sex scandal? Or do you want to be this guy?
“Can I kiss you?” led to a 17-years-and-counting wonderful roller coaster of a life I’ve built with my wife.
Lead photo: twenty20.com/missglendy