html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: More about asking nicely.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More about asking nicely.

I am addressing this to sweet but clueless young men who want to approach someone nicely for sex, which is nearly all of them. I’m gonna state my assumptions explicitly, because I’m tired of comments pointing out the obvious exceptions. For the purposes of this post, this is a situation between peers, more or less, with no large power differential. There is underlying respect and goodwill between the two, if not crushes or love. So here you go, Ben. To get between making eyes at someone in class and creating the possibility of sleeping with her, I want you to do three things.

I. Assume that she is an adult who likes sex and can handle herself.
B. Pay enough attention to her to judge whether she is interested in you.
3. Ask her explicitly if she wants a kiss, or touch, or sex.

Step A.
Trust her. Women aren’t any more fragile or delicate than men. They will not be damaged by a respectful request for sex. (They might be scared if they feel trapped into saying yes, but since you are far more likely to blurt out an abashed “Um, I like your hair” while staring at your feet, you shouldn’t worry about that.) Trust her enough to bear half the burden of arranging sex. Maybe, because of outdated mores or insufficient interest, she isn’t going to take the step of initiating, but in that case, decency requires that she do the other half, which is to accept or decline politely. Got it so far? You will not do her any harm by nicely asking her out, or nicely asking her for sex. Even more, because she likes sex, you are doing her a favor.

You guys know this, right? That women like sex. They want to have sex. If you are a sweet, gawky college boy, awkward college girls would like to have sex with you. I can’t tell you how many dorky college boys I had lurid fantasies about. Those boys probably never knew, but I would have freakin’ loved it if one of them had been friendly and forward, and made it easy for me to live out those fantasies. I had to kiss every one of my naïve boyfriends first; it would have been nice of them to make the first move.

Part 2.
Be interested in her. Get a sense of whether she is interested in you. Here are some ways to tell if she wants you bad: in a crowd, she listens for what you are saying; she laughs a lot when you talk; she sits next to you and doesn’t move away; she touches your arm; you find yourself alone with her. I’ve said this a couple other places, but it is worth saying again. People involuntarily face what they are interested in; their chests and shoulders will be square to the target of their attention no matter where they’ve turned their heads. When people like you, their bodies will mirror yours. Look to see whether you are both leaned forward, holding drinks alike, crossing arms or legs alike.

The part about finding yourself next to or alone with women is an important clue. Sweet young men, you may not know this, but women scheme. Sometimes it is coincidence that she shows up at the dining hall at the same time you do, but sometimes she went to a lot of trouble to learn your schedule and walk to class at the same time you do. If you are coming back from some group activity, and the two of you just happen to split off for somewhere? She arranged that shit and you never saw it. She did that because she likes you, and would like to have sex with you. Now do your part and put the moves on.

The actual words aren’t as important as the attitude it is coming from. For casual sex, be friendly and respectful. Be easy with any choice she makes. It would be fun to have sex; it would be fun to make out for a while; it would be fun to do neither and keep talking. Do what you have to, so that you aren’t desperately wanting her to say yes. Know that you will have lots of other opportunities. If you would rather be more serious about her, be sincere and straightforward about your feelings, and still ready to hear either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

The actual asking? Try to initiate some casual touch, like leaning on each other, letting your thighs touch when you sit next to each other, or letting your arm rest on her somehow. If she doesn’t move away, you’re in. Ogged’s recommendation, to ask to kiss her, is a very good one. It is both sweet and erotic to say “May I kiss you?”. If she already wants to, she’ll completely melt. If she doesn’t, she’ll say no, and you are easy with her choice. Once you are already kissing, you can always say things like “Do you want me to do this more?” or “Do you like that?” or “What do you want to do next?”. Those are entirely appropriate questions, regardless of how experienced the partners are. You can murmur them all naughty, if you like, and they will still work as a way to check in with her.

You can do this. You should do this, as a kindness to awkward college girls who are just as tied up in knots as you are. It will get easier as you practice. When you are a little older, both people will have learned some skills for exactly this situation, and that is easier still. You have no idea, gawky college boys, but you are adorable; someone is thinking impure thoughts about you right now. Easy and straight and respectful. Go.

(A lot of this is a synthesis of Unfogged comment threads I can't find now. Other smart people should take credit for much of the good stuff here.)


Blogger guy said...

I, B, 3; A, 2, III Gah! A great post, so much sage advice, but I just spent the past five minutes grinding my teeth instead of inwardly digesting. And I thought I was over my OCD: back to the (perfectly symmetrical) drawing board, I guess...

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So basically; be natural, attentive, and confident in the direction you want things to go: they'll go that way, or not?

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Leah said...

I wish someone would forward this to TWO different guys I know. I'd readily sleep with either one, but they're both super oblivious. I know one of them likes me, but I haven't screwed up the courage to do more than just hang out with him.

5:18 AM  
Blogger Bob V said...

I have heard from a number of sources that asking to kiss someone or (heaven forbid) asking “what do you want to do next?” is the kiss of death. I imagine it depends on how it is done, but what should a completely clueless guy's default be? I always figured it would be easier to muster confidence by just going ahead and kissing her.

6:55 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

I have heard from a number of sources that asking to kiss someone or (heaven forbid) asking “what do you want to do next?” is the kiss of death.

I am not calling you a bad person here, it's a very easy error to fall into, lots of decent people think this. But this is the difference between the nice slutty guy who makes casual sex fun and easy, and the player who makes you nervous and annoyed and upset.

What you mean by the 'kiss of death' is that if you ask, she can say no. If you keep everything ambiguous until the very last moment, there's a shot that, even if she doesn't affirmatively want to have sex with you, she'll be kind of embarrassed about sending the wrong signals and being a tease, and she'll go ahead and do it anyway despite a lack of enthusiasm. So it ups your odds, if you don't mind having sex with women who aren't thrilled about the idea.

And of course the women who do turn you down will have had a very unpleasant time trying to convey "No, I don't want to have sex," in the period between when they've figured out where you're going with it and when you do anything actually unambiguous. No one wants to get to the point where someone is actually trying to kiss you and you shove them away, but if they don't give an opportunity to wave them off beforehand, you're stuck fleeing the scene, or being aggressively rude to someone who hasn't asked anything yet. The "I don't want to have sex with you," "Who asked you?" "Well, you were going to," conversation sucks to have.

The great bit about 'Can I kiss you' is that someone who says 'Yes', actually wants to kiss you. You're going to get unambiguously rejected more often, but you will probably get laid just as much, and you will piss people off a lot less.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once you are already kissing, you can always say things like “Do you want me to do this more?” or “Do you like that?” or “What do you want to do next?”. Those are entirely appropriate questions, regardless of how experienced the partners are.

Words aren't always necessary. If she acts as if she doesn't want the kiss to end, it's a pretty good sign that she's ready to go to the next step.

It's sometime said that if a woman puts her hand on a man's knee or thigh as they're talking, for instance while they're sitting at a bar, it's a sure sign that she wants sex that night. I'm not sure I'd go that far. Some women (and men, but we're talking about women now) just happen to be more physically demonstrative than others. Don't get me wrong, if a woman does that it's certainly reason for optimism on the man's part, but he shouldn't leap to a conclusion just yet.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

7:25 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

How I wish I had read something like this when I was 14, instead of now, when I'm 31 and already know all of this. Your blog should be required reading in high schools, Megan.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you mean by the 'kiss of death' is that if you ask, she can say no.

That is not what he means at all. Bob would absolutely not want to find himself kissing someone who wasn't 100% into it. In fact, given his natural inability to decipher cues, he probably wouldn't even think to kiss someone who hadn't already hit him over the head with her strong, probably desperate, interest. But he also knows he doesn't have the kind of smoothness it takes to ask "May I kiss you?" in a pleasant and confident tone; he'd probably mumble it while staring at his feet, and she'd have to ask him to repeat it, and he wouldn't have the guts to do so because he wouldn't know if she hadn't heard or was too surprised or appalled to respond, and then they'd both stand there awkwardly for a few minutes, and then he'd say "Well, bye," and walk away and she'd just be standing there wondering what he mumbled and why he didn't kiss her goodnight.

Or, worse, she would understand him. Because some girls - and I'm guessing there's a high intersection here with the kind of girls Bob is attracted to - would react badly to the question in direct proportion to how much they liked him. If they didn't want to kiss him, they'd feel compelled to say "yes," to be nice, whereas an actual unwelcome attempt at a kiss could be quickly rebuffed and then ignored. If they did want to kiss him, they wouldn't say "yes, you may kiss me," and they certainly wouldn't kiss him. Instead they would shift their weight and mumble, "I don't know," or "Why do you want to do that?" and you can see this is not going anywhere good.

Asking to kiss someone is a question that sounds good out of someone who is confident in his own attractiveness, someone who is interested but, as Megan said, not tied up in knots hoping the answer is yes. Unfortunately, I don't think even Megan can give in instructions for developing that kind of mindset.

[Bob, feel free to correct me.]

7:56 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Wait! Hold on. Let's be clear.

Megan is both right and wrong.

There is room for misinterpretation in her words.

What women are attracted to is confidence. So are men. So asking to kiss someone is not inherently good nor the kiss of death, but it definitely depends on how you do it. The reason just going for it is sometimes prefereable to asking is that it implies a confidence, as if you believe in your heart that you both really want to kiss eachother. If you ask with confidence, asking could be fine, too.

So what's really useful about Megan's instructions is not the part about how to ask, but the part about how SHE'S TELLING YOU GIRLS WANT YOU. I think that's pretty good advice! Girls probably do want you. Or at least they could want you, if you could develop the confidence to attract them.

That's the rub: confidence breeds action, which breeds further confidence. Lask of confidence is also a vicious cycle. Breaking out is life's biggest lesson!

7:58 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Yeh, what Capella said. We crossed in the mail.

8:00 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

I really really really didn't mean to say anything bad about Bob at all, who I don't know, but who certainly didn't sound like a bad person. But he's not saying 'I think it would be the kiss of death,' he's saying that he's been told it's the kiss of death. And that sounds like the people giving him advice are thinking along the 'player' lines of 'deliberately create and exploit ambiguity, to pressure women into having a hard time turning you down.' Which is a very common strategy.

I completely and utterly sympathize with anyone who's too shy to be forthright, I'm that way myself, rather -- I just wanted to make clear that deliberate use of ambiguity is a lousy thing to do. Decent people are as unambiguous as they can possibly bear to be.

(I should say, also, that a direct and non-threatening "Can I kiss you?" or similar, should get a clear "No" if that's the answer. If the response is embarrassed mumbling and shuffling, that's positive enough to keep talking.)

8:08 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I formatted them too.

Yep. And, women want to have sex.

Send me the email addresses...
Ben, did you hear her?

Bob V.:
A straight-out question like that, said nicely, would make me swoon and want to kiss someone. And if we had gotten our signals crossed, it would give me chance to straighten them out. It is hard for me to see how it could be wrong, but that's probably just personal preferences.

High school is so young. I'm a prude, right up until I'm totally licentious.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous redfoxtailshrub said...

I love your numbering scheme and find it sexxy.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think its only people who are trying to trick girls into kissing them that think that asking is the kiss of death. The problem is that done wrong it could be a big turn off for many girls. If its love and not lust this may be less of a problem (she'll probably think its cute no matter what). But certainly one bad experience asking is going to convince a lot of guys that its better not to ask - leaning over and kissing seems like a safer bet at not looking too much like a fool. What if she would have kissed you until she heard your awkward request and suddenly saw you as effeminate and clumsy?

I think it depends on the moment, the people and the comfort of the guy.

But the best advice in this post was definately the bit about what girls want - and that they want you geeky guys. Smart is very sexy and girls do want to flirt and have sex and enjoy the shy and geeky type. Its sad that it takes some men so long to realize this -- but that also makes them super-cute.

- Jane from TN

10:18 AM  
Blogger Spungen said...

I agree with lizardbreath, and I think the question is less awkward than an attempt that has to be rebuffed or ignored. Capella, how do you ignore something like that? Even if you could, it just sits there afterward stinking like a dead fish. More likely, though, it would result in a painful banging of one person's head against another person's head, and perhaps one person, probably me, stumbling and possibly even falling over. At least that is my experience.

It occurs to me that most women probably need some coaching in tactful ways to say no or get out of awkward situations. That's a big part of the problem. We're socialized as though a relationship is going to go through a bunch of formal steps that just aren't a reality for most of us today.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Bob V said...

Capella knows me too well. At least in my case, I would only think to kiss a girl after she has practically jumped me. So, I don't really have any fear of coercing her to do something she wouldn't have done had I explicitly asked her.

Spungen, I've never had a head-banging incident. It's not like I'm diving into women on a daily basis trying to see who won't be assertive enough to reject me.

11:22 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

Bob - Seriously, I never thought anything of the sort about you. But I do think the 'kiss of death' advice you've gotten is bad advice (that is, it won't lead to less awkwardness or more success than being straightforward.)

11:53 AM  
Blogger Spungen said...

You are right that guys worry too much; it is better to say or do something than nothing at all. Of the times I've heard guys ridiculed by women either for what they've said or tried, it's because of cheesiness, not sincere bumbling.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember having a conversation with a female friend who said "Then he asked me if he could kiss me. I had wanted him to up till that moment, but the asking killed it".

I've since heard that from a number of other women, they said that the asking made things self-conscious and formal, and that they wished that the men in question had just leaned in.

The lack of a common standard, of course, is horribly unfair to male geeks, but nothing about dating or sex is fair to start ...

1:00 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

I wasn't offended. I'm so far away from playerville, I couldn't even find it with Google Maps. If there were some possibility that I could have been imposing my will on someone, I might have had a negative reaction, but that isn't the case. We cool.

* = I'm calling you lizardbreath because that's your name, not because I'm mad at you.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

"I've since heard that from a number of other women, they said that the asking made things self-conscious and formal, and that they wished that the men in question had just leaned in"

Anon, I can only speak for myself, but if I want a guy to kiss me, one awkward moment won't kill it.

I suspect some women, such as myself, say such things because they really don't want to admit they didn't like the guy in the first place.

Sure, we'd all love it if men perfectly anticipated our every desire, but in real life we know we can't expect that.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is very true spungen, i second that. Certainly if you really like the guy it will always come off as cute.
- Jane from TN

4:00 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

Sweet. Of course, while these instructions might be perfectly appropriate for asking you, our mileage may vary with other women. It's kind of nice to think we can get the real scoop on women by asking any member of the species, but in real life, some of them differ.

Of course, considering the mission, having guys know how to ask you should be an important objective!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

Yeah, I dunno. I'm a big fan of the "do what you feel like" school.

If you're paying attention to the girl, you should be able to know how she would respond to any given action. Go ahead and kiss her.

And confidence, yes. You must believe it is the most natural thing in the world for you and this girl to hook up. In fact, you're already engaged in foreplay.

4:43 PM  
Blogger M. LeBlanc said...

Just for anecdotal purposes.

Last boy I ended up dating, the first kiss went like this:

[scrolling through my iTunes together]
Him: Dude. The Smiths. Nice.
Me: Yeah, I love the Smiths.
Him: That's my favorite Smiths song:There is a Light That Never Goes Out.
Me: No fucking way. That's my favorite song, without a doubt.
Him: Seriously?
Me: Seriously.
Him: Okay, I have to kiss you now.
Me: Good.

Easy as pie.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Delilah said...

Having haphazardly followed a link to this post from rfjason, I'm seriously enjoying reading your backposts and wishing I were using my own personal blogosphere to present my thoughts so cohesively. Rock on with your bad self.


10:47 PM  
Anonymous morven! said...

As the partner of one of those shy clueless guys, I am very glad you wrote this article!!
I wish he had read it!!(It took about five years of friendship for him to realise I wanted more and/or to work up the courage to do something about it!)

Our first kiss basically came about as the result of small moves being made by each of us (our arms and legs touching as we were sitting next to eachother on a couch at a party, him standing just behind me as we played 8 ball) leading up to him asking me out on a date. There was an extremely awkward minute of silence as our conversation died and we could both tell what the other was thinking but didn't want to make the first move. He said "What the hell", leaned in and kissed me. Gold. I don't think we stopped making out for about half an hour!

2:09 AM  
Anonymous James said...

I think I've asked four women if I could kiss them. The data:

2 times I got a grin plus a yes
1 time I got a "You're not supposed to ask", which I understood (correctly) as a yes
1 time I got something like a "no, not tonight", but Crazy Sarah was wack, as Wayne says.

On the 3 successful times, I wanted to have sex that night, but in all three cases they wanted to wait. So it's pretty safe to say that if I had asked them to have sex as soon as I was ready to, which in every case was before I asked the kiss question, I would have gone 0 for 4.

2:28 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

> So it's pretty safe to say that
> if I had asked them to have sex
> as soon as I was ready to, which
> in every case was before I asked
> the kiss question, I would have
> gone 0 for 4.

Not necessarily. The kissing might have moved you from the "fun for the night" category to the "possible long-term relationship" category, and sometimes girls will hold back in the latter case because they do not want to appear too slutty.

I met my wife through a dating service (having gotten pretty desperate after months without a cuddle), and on our first date (we agreed to meet at a local pub to ensure "neutral territory") there really wasn't any chance for smooching, although we hit it off very well from a conversational point of view. Her sister was coming to see her from Boston that night, and since Jocelyn didn't want to leave me, I got invited to meet her little sister and HER boyfriend (who was still too young to drink) at a Friday's on the other side of town.

For our second date I took her to an amusement park with water slides (nice to see her in a bathing suit!), and when I took her home after a very fun day I was DEFINITELY expecting sex. Nope. Under other circumstances I might have written this off as one of these "just friends" things (which are very nice in their own way, but not a good substitute for sex), but she so OBVIOUSLY wanted to do it, and so OBVIOUSLY had some kind of rulebook or other that stopped her, that I figured I'd give it one more try.

A music professor I knew (and a virtuoso violinist) was giving a free performance at the Kilbourn Hall (the smaller hall at our famous Eastman School of Music) and I asked her to that. There were about thirty of us waiting and he never showed up. We went back to her apartment instead. It turns out that although friendship is no substitute for sex, sex is actually a glorious substitute for music.

5:41 AM  
Anonymous James said...

"Not necessarily. The kissing might have moved you from the "fun for the night" category to the "possible long-term relationship" category, and sometimes girls will hold back in the latter case because they do not want to appear too slutty."

(I don't know how to make those arrow indentations...)

Not knowing anything more, I would agree with you. In fact, it's a problem I have all the time. But since I was there, I have a bit more data up my sleeve:

In one case, she actually wasn't that into me, and I don't think she ever had long-term plans. Oh, but she was lovely...

In the other two cases, it was also completely clear that it wouldn't lead to anything long term. I was actually living in different countries than both the women. In fact, in one of these cases, it would have been her first time, so she double-definitely would have said no.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Tracy said...

Girls are nothing but trouble, but I love your numbering scheme! :) I do that too.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

As long as you are going to ask, you might as well do it right!

I do wonder what Article 20 is......

2:57 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"I do wonder what Article 20 is......"


6:13 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

I assumed that would be article 19. After 16 and 17 (seems kind of sexist to put oral into two separate articles, doesn't it), 18 would be vaginal (in the various numbered positions), and 19 anal if you follow the standard porn sequence.

That would make article 20 something a bit kinkier and more dangerous.

Since bondage normally comes even earlier, I would have to vote for smoking a cigarette afterwards!

8:34 PM  

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