You Don’t Have to Kiss Him

After Homecoming in September, I was shocked to hear so many stories about girls at my own school who didn’t want to kiss their date but did anyway. Maybe they did it because they felt bad or wanted to avoid the awkwardness of the front porch drop off, but the bottom line was and is that they didn’t want to and did anyway.

It wasn’t just about kissing though. While girls were changing out of their fancy dresses and into their sweats, they were complaining about their reluctance to cuddle with their date during the movie they were going to watch. But twenty minutes later they were snuggled into the boys arms without wavering for a second.

Some of the most powerful women I know have been pressured into kissing boys when they didn’t want to or went out with someone they felt uncomfortable with. Our society has made it a cultural norm for girls to feel like they owe something to boys who take them out.

I’m here to tell you this is wrong. You don’t have to kiss him.

After I heard the homecoming stories I was taken back. As a girl who was raised by an independent woman and is surrounded by girls who are secure in themselves, I have always been taught and believed that I don’t exist to please men, that I have a right to say no. At first, I never remembered feeling pressured to kiss someone I didn’t want to after a date. But then after thinking about everyone I had kissed I realized that wasn’t completely true.

A few times at “True Miner” night I have kissed boys who have asked because I felt like I couldn’t say no in front of all their friends. When I had a boyfriend sophomore year I would kiss him even if I was angry at him or not in the mood—I even told him I loved him when I wasn’t sure I did because I felt obligated to after him saying it for several weeks and me not saying it back. These aren’t isolated experiences. Girls are faced with these conflicts daily even, and especially, at the high school level.

Although this obligation to avoid awkwardness or embarrassment is a universal issue for both genders, our culture has made it a larger issue for women because men are typically the initiators in relationships and similar scenarios; they are held accountable for asking out and paying on a date (an issue for another day.)  This cultural norm is almost as if it’s a girls obligation to not only say yes to the date, but go along with what the boy initiates while they’re out. Bingham Senior Bailey Stewart even recalled a time when a boy dropped her off on the front step after a first date and, when she turned to go inside, said, “well, you have to be nice to your date,” then proceeded to kiss her.

An online twitter poll showed that an appalling 50% of girls feel like they have to kiss their date after they are taken out. While this may seem like a minute thing in a long run — it’s just a peck after all — it’s a problem because this feeling progresses into a larger issue of women feeling like they are obligated to do something they don’t want to do.

Bingham senior Bex Millington said,  “I remember being told if a guy asks you out and you don’t want to, go on one date, and then you can say no to the second one.” This lesson is not uncommon. Many girls and boys are taught to do this in order avoid hurting someone’s feelings and spare them the “embarrassment” of rejection. While it may just seem like you’re being a nice person for saying yes to someone who you would rather not go out with you have given away your right to say no. If you have to say yes to the first date then do you have to say yes to the first kiss? Where does the mentality stop?

Small scale things turn in to big scale things. A kiss is a very little thing, it happens all the time in high school and it’s nothing to be embarrassed or even ashamed about (another issue for another day). But when girls feel pressured to kiss a boy after a date as if it’s obligatory then it leads to bigger issues. When we allow this trend of the obligatory after-date kiss continue we perpetuate rape culture and make the topic of consent a more difficult topic to talk about. “No one cares if we want to [kiss] or not. We are almost trained to say that we do so it’s consensual,” Millington said, “I shouldn’t have to tell people on a date that I don’t want to kiss them in order to avoid it…kissing someone is not about just you, respect is key.”

Although most men and women in this day in age don’t see a kiss or similar action as obligatory, it is still a cultural norm we need to work to get rid of. Respect and consent are the name of the game when it comes to dating and physical relationships in high school and for the rest of our lives.

You don’t have to kiss him. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.