Boys And Girls And The First Kiss

Posted by Emily Nagoski

The First Kiss post sparked a little controversy - well it was only Andrew disagreeing with me, which he does about most things, but in a fun way usually - which got me thinking about gender differences associated with initiating Firsts in a relationship.

(This will all involve a lot of "Boys do this and girls do that," and categorical statements like that are inherently untrue, but I'm using them as shortcuts even though they are problematic. Sorry.)

So imagine this: you're a boy, right? And you're with a girl. And you've each spent a couple decades stewing the cultural juices of gender. You want to kiss her, so you consider the possible outcomes and what they might mean:

If she doesn't kiss you back or edges away in horror or looks grossed out and won't meet your eye, that's a pretty unambiguous rejection. If she's into it, if she kisses you back, that means she's right there with you. She likes you. Okay.

Now reverse it. You're the girl and you're with a boy and you want to kiss him. You imagine the possible outcomes:

Again, if he's grossed out or freaked out or whatever, that'll be pretty clear probably. But if he's into it... I mean, he's a boy, right? How likely is it that a boy who isn't into you will allow his emotional indifference about you to interfere with his enjoyment of a kiss and the potential for sex?

I think MEN would react differently, grown ups I mean, people my age, but 19 or 20 year old boys?

This is really just an intuition. Patrick? Andrew? Bill? The rest of you maletypes out there? Imagine you're about 20 years old and hanging out with a girl you're not into but wouldn't kick out of bed. Imagine she just dives in and kisses you. How WOULD your response be distinguishable from what it would be if you were totally into her?

My claim here is that the first move is more difficult for girls because the response of boys is more ambiguous. If both boy and girl are following cultural norms, or at least are interpreting each other's behavior in terms of cultural norms, the girl has no way to distinguish between "I'm into you" and "I'm into kissing girls."

Because it is more difficult, my thinking goes, a higher degree of caution is understandable.

(Girltype readers: forward this to boys you know and see if they can offer an opinion, eh?)