Can I kiss you? This is the question that Mike Dormitrz urged students to ask their partners at his powerful presentation on Oct. 3, which tackled the issues of dating, intimacy and sexual assault.Dormitrz, one of the leading experts on healthy dating, consent, date rape and sexual assault awareness, met with WCU students and began by asking all those in attendance if most people ask, ‘May I kiss you?’ before making their first move when on a date. Students responded with an overwhelming, “No!”
“Why?” Dormitrz asked both the men and women in the room. The women responded with two dominant answers. First, they said they were taught that it is the man’s job.
“Are men good at this job?” responded Dormitrz. “No!” shouted the women in the audience. “Guys, do we want this job?” he then asked. “No!” cheered the men. “Women, take the job!” Dormitrz said.
Secondly, women said they feared being labeled sexually aggressive. Dormitrz assured women that most men would love it if a woman took initiative.
“If your partner doesn’t want you to speak your mind, then get a new partner,” he said.
Dormitrz also addressed the fact that women must not be supporters of the double standard of themselves. Often times, women use derogatory names for each other more than men do, Dormitrz said.
Next, Dormitrz questioned the men in the audience, “Why don’t you ask, ‘can I kiss you’?” Fear of rejection and awkwardness were the most prevalent explanations. After a role playing exercise, Dormitrz proved that although asking the question may be labeled as ‘corny’ or ‘cheesy’ to others, it can make your partner feel special. It allows you to express your emotions and even admit your nervousness, which helps both people feel more comfortable in the situation.
Most importantly, asking first gives your partner a choice, whereas in other situations they are not given the option to choose.
“Guys are typically taught, GO! GO! GO!” Dormitrz said. “Whereas, women are taught not to speak up when things get a little uncomfortable, and by the time they do speak up it has already gone too far.”
Dormitrz told the audience there are nine typical negative reactions when someone makes an unwanted move and only one positive reaction, which is kissing back.
“Even if your partner does kiss you back, do you absolutely know if they wanted it?” Dormitrz asked. “It is still a guessing game, and there is no real choice. This is our current system, and it is messed up,” he said.
Dormitrz then addressed the men’s biggest fear, rejection. The worst case scenario, he said, is if you ask your partner, “May I kiss you?” and they say no. If that were to ever happen, Dormitrz suggested the response, “Well then, you know what? I’m really glad I asked you because the last thing that I would want to do is to make you feel uncomfortable.” All of the women in the room swooned over the response.
“Why didn’t we learn this in the fifth grade?” a football player yelled during the middle of one of Dormitrz’s presentations.
“Society makes an interesting choice,” Dormitrz said. He then explained that many people believe that kids are too young to be told what to do in intimate situations, so instead they are told what not to do.
The number one excuse that Dormitrz gets for not asking first is, “I shouldn’t have to ask. If my partner doesn’t want to, then they should just say no.” In reality, Dormitrz explained, the blame should not be placed on the person who “did not say no” but on the person who did the action. Our educational approach for teaching is ‘No means No’; why not change it to simply say, “Do you ask?” This makes it all easier, and places the emphasis where it belongs, according to Dormitrz.
He moved on to tell the story of when he found out that his older sister was raped. Through this horrifying experience, he came to realize that his sister, along with every other survivor of sexual assault, is an “amazing, incredible, and strong person.” Dormitrz looked out into the audience and said, “I know there are people in this room, both male and female, who are survivors of sexual assault. It is your strength, your determination and your will that inspires me to do this work.” He then told the audience that after his sister was raped, he knew he had to do something.
Dormitrz explained how he investigated the law in his state and found the definition of sexual assault to be any sexual contact without consent.
“If I must have your consent, then what must I do first? Ask,” Dormitrz said and then further verified his point with an example. “Am I going to ask before I take $5 from someone? Of course I am, it is $5!” So if we feel the need to ask for permission for something as small as $5, explained Dormitrz, then doesn’t it make sense to ask for things that are much more intimate and important?
Dormitrz concluded his program by asking each student in the audience to “open the door” to at least three important people in their lives. He instructed students to take 20 seconds to tell friends and family members that if they have been or ever are affected by sexual assault, they will be there to support them.
“If you do this, you will see how powerful it is and continue to open doors to others throughout your lifetime,” Dormitrz said.
Dormitrz left students with four rules to live by and to help spread on so that others understand his message as well. Respect yourself. Respect your partner. Ask before you act. Respect the answer.
Janine Fulginiti is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at JF619755@wcupa.edu.