Kissing someone without their consent is never cool, says Lynn Beisner.
Hi, kiddo, I saw the video depicting your fantasy of how to make your prom night unforgettable. I admire how imaginative and detailed that fantasy was. I was right there with you as the idea dawned on you to turn around what promised to be a painful prom night. Parking your dad’s car in the principal’s parking space was a nice touch, and your bold stride across the dance floor was awesome. But what happens next worries me. You walk up to the prom queen, grab her, and kiss her. You feel great; she seems to like it, and you drive home wearing the black eye her boyfriend gives you as a badge of honor. You look so proud of yourself.
Let me start by saying that I understand why you would want to do this. Unless I am mistaken, you are an archetype of the classic geeky guy. Which means that you have had a crush on the prom queen from afar for about a half dozen years. Meanwhile, she does not know your name.
If you are like most high school kids, you are not part of the popular crowd and have suffered as a result. High school has felt like having your soul pecked to death by ducks. Each taunt has painfully ripped away a small piece of your belief in yourself and your hope for a good life. Probably, it feels like your tormentors have stolen some core part of your identity, perhaps your manhood. You are on the cusp of adulthood, worried that your future happiness will be determined as it is now, by how popular or attractive you are. And that makes you afraid that you will wind up an unemployed 40-year-old virgin living in your parents’ basement.
You believe that your whole life could be changed if just one of the pretty and popular girls would date you. Gazing into the adoring eyes of the most desirable girl in your school, you would see the reflection of your true self and be healed. When other guys saw you with her, they would recognize that her endorsement made you worthy. Dating her would give you back the piece of your soul, your manhood, and your dreams that you lost on the brutal battlefield of high school.
But none of the girls you want to date are interested in anything more than friendship. The prom queen has her king. And now here you are without a date on prom night. This is especially painful because our culture paints prom not only as an indicator of your current social and sexual worth, but also as a forecast of your future romantic life.
And so you have imagined a way of stealing back at least a small part of what you have lost. You will steal a kiss from the prom queen—for just a moment you will claim the girl as your own. That one kiss will act as it does in a fairytale, breaking a curse. Your wounded pride will be healed, your manhood restored and your hope bolstered by your boldness. The girl you have had a crush on since middle school will dump the prom king and date you. The guys at your school will identify with you; you will be their hero, and your man-card will be reissued, this time in platinum.
Here is the problem with your plan: It won’t work. And here is why: First, gorgeous women only have such magical powers in fairytales or in romantic comedies. Yes, there is healing power in sex, but it only works when the sex is consensual. Stealing a kiss or anything else from a woman only makes you feel more powerful if you are a budding rapist. I can almost guarantee that you will wind up feeling a shame so dark it will flow through your veins like ink.
Second, acting out your fantasy will not make the guys in the real world admire you. Men who respect women will find your treatment of the prom queen disturbing if not disgusting. Also, men have traditionally looked down on guys who run away from a fight after taking a single well-aimed punch, especially when the fight started in response to their bad behavior.
Third, there is only the smallest chance that your gesture will be appreciated. Let me explain this to you from the prom queen’s perspective. The world has told her that as a beautiful woman, she must spend her entire life playing goalie, deflecting attempts to score by virtually everyone on the field. By stealing a kiss that publicly, you have come out of nowhere, and slipped a ball past her to score in a way that could make her feel humiliated and helpless. Even if you do end up going out on a date, you have cemented this dynamic of her as a goalie and you as the sneaky bastard always trying to score.
Fourth, you do not want the potential ramifications of this event on your conscience. The problem with kissing a stranger without her consent, is that you have no way of knowing how that kiss will mingle with her personal history and change her future. What if her boyfriend is pathologically jealous and he beats her because she is unable to convince him that she was an unwilling victim of your kiss? What if she has been molested or raped? Are you willing to live with all of the ways you might confirm her darkest beliefs about herself and fears about men?
Even if there is nothing traumatic in her history, your actions will convey this message: “You may be able to choose who you come to a party with and who you dance with. You can ignore me, and pick another guy to be your boyfriend. You can be in a safe place surrounded by friends, but in the end none of that matters. If I want to touch you, I will.” Do you want to be responsible for sending women that horrible and frightening message? Do you want them to think of geeks as unsafe creeps and men who use violence as heroes?
Fifth, your behavior would violate the most important ethic for sexual behavior, consent, and it could have life-changing consequences for you. Despite what is depicted in media, you should not kiss another person, especially a virtual stranger, without consent. The first time you kiss a person; it should be welcome, and at the very least, non-traumatic.
The bottom line is that I can come up with a thousand ways of making your prom night less miserable, but none of them will solve your basic crisis. What you will have to figure out is who you are and how you will make your way in a society based on cut-throat competition. I can’t answer those questions for you—they are your personal journey.
But what I can tell you is that your journey will be much easier if you stop trying to capture the lips or hand a woman who will make you look good and start figuring out how to love a partner who will share your struggles, make you laugh, and love you despite your foibles.