The kiss-and-tell used to be the preserve of young women prepared to accept money and notoriety in exchange for a shot at fame and fortune. An illicit affair with a married celebrity, confessed to a tabloid, would bring disgrace to the celebrity and, if she played it right, could even launch a media career for the girl (I’m looking at you, Rebecca Loos).
But to those of us who live in the real world, it was always considered poor form to kiss and tell. In the eighties, when I was a teenager and beginning to navigate the perilous seas of sexual attraction and dating, it was always impressed on us girls that a boy who would brag to his mates about what we’d got up to, wasn’t worth bothering with – and equally, that it wasn’t very ladylike to give chapter-and-verse to our friends. No matter how much you wanted to know all the details of each other’s sex lives, it simply wasn’t polite to talk about it in any level of detail.
I went to a convent school where sex education was almost non-existent – we learned about reproduction in biology class, while religious education drummed into us the notion that if we couldn’t save ourselves for marriage, we should at least save ourselves for somebody special – if we wished to be treated with respect then under absolutely no circumstances were we to give it up on the first date.
And then along came “Sex and the City” – and not only did we get to hear about what Carrie and her friends got up to, we also got to see it. At 26 when the show first came out, I was just a few years younger than the girls were supposed to be – and was fascinated and awed by their confidence and, let’s face it, promiscuity.
“Sex and the City” presented the viewer with a world in which young women were strong, confident and just as interested in sex as men – and, in the case of Samantha, as keen to have as much of it as possible, with as many different men as possible.
Fast-forward another twenty years, via changes in police procedure to suggest that all allegations of sexual assault must by default be believed, to laws that protect the anonymity of the accuser but not the accused, to the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, and we now find ourselves at the point where a woman can tell her story of a bad sexual encounter with a male celebrity, in complete anonymity – ruining his career while risking nothing herself.
The account “Grace” tells of her “worst night of my life” date with Aziz Ansari reveals him to be a randy, persistent sex pest who thinks that when a woman says she’s not into something, she’s really just playing hard to get, and that he just has to keep trying until she changes her mind. But it also reveals Grace to be at best naïve, at worst vindictive in her decision to publicly recount the details of their encounter. She tells how, having met Aziz at an awards ceremony (she approached him) they exchanged phone numbers and subsequently exchanged flirtatious text messages before he asked her out on a date, after which she went back to his apartment, where she consented to giving and receiving oral sex, but then decided she didn’t want to go any further, and got upset when he kept pushing her to let him have sex with her, eventually leaving after various efforts to get him to take things more slowly fell on deaf ears (and roving hands). Ultimately, her account shows that she wanted the date to continue – but only on her terms.
And this is where it seems that nothing has changed in the 30 years since I was at school. No matter what “Sex and the City” would have us believe, and no matter how much women may think they have gained in terms of sexual freedom, a man who pesters you for sex on the first date is not looking for a relationship – and it’s simply poor form to consent to a really rather intimate level of sexual activity and then decide to tell all to the press when it becomes clear that the only reason he wants to be with you is for sex.
Before #MeToo, I suspect this story would never have been told – at least not outside Grace’s private circle of friends. Which is where it should have remained. Sex and relationships are a minefield which only become mildly easier to navigate with experience – experience that, unless one is lucky enough to marry one’s first sexual partner, invariably ends up including at least one or two encounters along the way that leave one feeling at least a little dirty and degraded.
Because here’s the thing that “Sex and the City” doesn’t tell you – sex with strangers, or sex after a first date, is almost always rubbish. Grace may have felt that she knew Aziz because she’d seen him on television, met him at an awards ceremony and spent an evening in his company, but ultimately, he was a stranger. A fact that presumably became mortifyingly clear to her when she found herself naked in front of him, with his head in her crotch – and hers in his. She realised, too late, that in order to be enjoyable, oral sex requires a level of emotional intimacy – and trust – that simply were not yet present. At which stage she decided she didn’t want to go any further, but was clearly too embarrassed to make a swift exit, so tried to prolong the evening on her own terms. Only when it became clear that Aziz really wasn’t interested in anything other than sex, did she finally leave.
I do not mean to sound too critical – she was only 22 at the time, and her confession that she’d hoped once she told him she wasn’t into having sex with him, he might “rub her back or play with her hair” betrays not only her immaturity but her clear wish that by agreeing to oral sex, she may convince him to view her as a potential girlfriend. A fallacy as old as time.
Ultimately, I doubt that publicly shaming him and probably ending his career will make Grace feel any better about the experience. Given she’s remained anonymous, unless she learns to chalk it up to experience and ensure she doesn’t make the same mistake again, she invariably will. Only next time, it will probably be with somebody who isn’t famous – at which stage she’ll find nobody actually cares about how crap her date was.
Because while it may feel, at the moment, as though we are going through a revolution in sexual etiquette, in which women will no longer tolerate men who make clumsy passes, or pester them for sex, or are simply crap in bed – the reality is that outside of Hollywood and Westminster, the rules of dating will never change.
If you want him to respect you, don’t, under any circumstances, give it up on the first date (and yes, girls, that does include oral).
If he’s pestering you to do so, he’s not worth bothering with.
And if you wish to keep your dignity, don’t kiss and tell.