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“I don’t usually do this but can I kiss you?”

Would you find it weird if your boyfriend asked you for permission before he kissed you? That’s what my friend Edd had asked me a while ago. I can’t remember what our first kiss was like, but if he did I probably would have nodded, or just smiled and went in for the kiss myself.

“What if it was a dude you weren’t so sure about yet, like you are interested but you’re still not 100% sure if you’re going to date him for real?”

Even with dates, I’ve always been forthcoming with my kisses – ugh, am I just too easy? But I was already romantically invested in those dates I kissed and it just felt like a natural progression of our feelings and affection for each other. Something that holding hands or hugging wouldn’t quite capture.

It was straightforward to me. If I like you romantically, I would want to feel closer to you, and that would translate to physical intimacy.

But as simple as it is to me, it isn’t for Edd – perhaps it’s just more difficult for guys.

Romantic Interest And Consent

Having missed one too many shots at a happily ever after, what went wrong? Edd seemed to have an extremely different perspective of how physical intimacy played a part in relationships.

Edd would hit the home run as soon as it was appropriate because physical intimacy is the ultimate shield from the dreaded friend zone. Touch was also his way of showing that he’s interested. Now I started to understand why the girls in Edd’s life seemed to flee.

Men give love for sex, women give sex for love – things might have changed in this modern era but I believe this quote still holds true. Women still needs to feel an emotional investment and connection for sex to count as love-making, or else we might interpret it as a quick touch and go. There are better ways to demonstrate your interest on the first date instead of diving straight into the deep end of sex.

Because his advances never worked well, Edd wondered if getting consent helps. But, “I don’t know if it’s because of the toxic macho culture I’ve been exposed to, I’ve been led to believe that women find it kind of weak for a man to ask for a kiss or for sex.”

Gone are the days where men have to be the archetypal, dominant head of the household. Those typically masculine qualities do help make a man seem more attractive but there are many other equally or even more important traits that women seek for today, like humour and stability.

Yes, asking for permission may come across as shy and insecure, but it is better than scaring women away for being overconfident or too physically forthcoming. Contrarily, I wouldn’t think any less of a guy’s masculinity if he asked to kiss me. It shows me two very valuable traits: that he’s polite and respectful – he cares enough about how I would feel and respects me enough to check before treading on into ‘sensitive territories’.

I’d definitely tell my girls about it and giggle about how silly or cute it was of him to ask, but that all depends on how interested I already am in him.

How Fast Is Too Fast?

I went around the office to find out the ‘best’ time to kiss or engage in coitus. After making my colleagues feel paiseh with clearly too many personal questions in the middle of a work day, and doing some more research, I concluded: there’s no answer. There is just no right or wrong when it comes to love and no model timeline to physical intimacy. Everyone’s got their own ‘pace’.

No one has the right to impose rules on when to start getting intimate in a relationship either. Neither should we compare or worry about how fast is too fast. What’s norm for someone else may not be for you and if you’re not comfortable, then what’s the point?

The chemistry between two individuals is different for every duo. You may feel like long lost lovers with one person but with another, it could take several dates before it feels ‘right’. As vague as it sounds, there are signs you can always count on to determine if this moment is ‘right’ for cozying up to each other.

Reading The Signs

Brush your fingers against mine, inch closer so our shoulders touch, let your hands linger a little longer around my waist after we take a photo – if I don’t flinch, that’s when you know I’m ready for interlocking fingers and warmer hugs. Any verbal consent would only kill the mood and take away the excitement!

Kisses are a little trickier, you have to be sensitive to the energy around you. It could be that extra few seconds of lingering after you bid her farewell at the void deck, or the way she looks at you intently, or in the most obvious case, if she doesn’t turn away when you inch your face close to hers – not in a creepy ‘I want to eat your face way’ of course, just purse your lips a little, close your eyes… If you find a way to slide your tongue into the game, then you’ve unlocked the next phase: making out.

Then, there’s sex – the fine line of consent separating rape and love-making. It doesn’t have to be as awkward as “would you like to have sex with me?”. A simple “you wanna do it?” between breaths works too. Else, consent comes in many non-verbal ways too: if she doesn’t brush your hands away from her private areas, when she presses her body against you or initiates even more intimate behaviour, it’s a good sign. Obviously in this case, if a girl says, “no,” or “I don’t want,” she’s not playing reverse psychology.

As modern and liberal as we have evolved to be, most of us (Asians) are too shy to speak our minds in fear of rejection or ‘throwing face’. This is especially so for women – most of us still wait for men to make the first move. I’m guilty of being passive aggressive myself, keeping my dissatisfaction and preferences to myself hoping that my partner would magically read my mind but obviously, no one’s Professor X here. In fact, our blockhead boyfriends will appreciate that we lied on their shoulders or gave them a peck on the cheek first.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

I think it’s still safer to know someone better before getting intimately involved. Once you do, it can be hard to tell if you really like the person for the wholesome meaning of a relationship or if you’re just sexually attracted. And it is such a waste to mess up a chance at a happy ending just because you went in for that kiss she wasn’t quite ready for.

Regardless, be confident and don’t be swayed by what others think is too fast or too slow. Find your own pace, read the cues, and go with the flow.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons

Also read, Wet, Weird, And Adorable – Millennials Recount How They Lost Their First Kiss.