Plenty of people’s jobs have gotten tougher since the publication of a 2005 video of Donald Trump and Billy Bush crudely discussing how Trump interacts with women. His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and running mate Mike Pence come to mind.
Add a lesser-known name to that list: Thomas Edwards, who’s a professional wingman. For years he’s taught single men and women, for a hefty fee, how to approach one another at bars. The goal is not to be too creepy or aggressive. And so, when videos like Trump’s surface, “it does make my job a lot harder,” Edwards said recently.
“It definitely puts everyone on edge in social environments,” Edwards said of the 2005 Trump video. “To hear something like that from someone who might run this country, it’s very unnerving.” Since the video, Edwards says that men are “walking on eggshells to do the right thing.”
When Trump talks about grabbing a woman’s genitals, that’s clearly assault. It’s a line that’s gotten a lot of attention, prompting thousands of women to share their stories of sexual assault. But there’s that other line in the video, where Trump says: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Which made me wonder: How often are men and women asking for a kiss, or even talking about it, before someone leans in?
On a recent tour of D.C. bars, singles’ responses ran the gamut. Some 20- and 30-something men said they might’ve asked permission when they were younger and inexperienced (a.k.a. in their teens). A gaggle of 20-something women said a pre-kiss conversation would be sweet, but they’d never experienced one. One man said he preferred a more mischievous “Can I steal a kiss?” over a perfunctory “Can I kiss you?”
Edwards said he agrees that requesting permission isn’t necessary. “If you wanna go straight for the kiss, the best time to do it is when you two are sharing a laugh,” he says. “She might pull back, but you can still apologize and not feel like you’re doing anything aggressive.”
“If a guy wants to kiss you, he should feel empowered to do so and make you feel desired,” Edwards added. “He also wants to make sure that you feel physically safe around him. . . . You don’t want to do anything that speaks badly of you, even though you had good intentions.”
So how does someone, man or woman, act confident but not aggressive? Respectful while still communicating desire? One way to do that, Edwards suggests, is to state your desire rather than ask permission. For example: I want to kiss you right now. Such a statement can “amplify that passion you’re feeling,” Edwards said, while still giving someone the option to say no.
“It really depends on the person that you’re with and the dynamic of the conversation,” he added.
All it takes is one unwanted advance — one push up against a wall and aggressive first kiss, in my experience — for this single woman to say, “I’ll take that question,” or one of Edwards’s statements, over desire that’s one-sided. Even since the Trump video, talking about, or asking for, that first kiss is the exception rather than the rule. So if you need some inspiration, here are three times that I’ve had such conversations . . . and it hasn’t killed the mood.
He said: I have two questions for you: When can I take you to dinner? And can I kiss you?
Up until this moment, my relationship with this man was purely professional. He wasn’t a colleague, but we worked together on a project that had been completed months before. We were at a bar. I was drinking; he wasn’t.
He was smart to ask rather than just lean in. The context of our relationship would change the moment he kissed me, and he knew that. His set of questions, spoken confidently, in a way that made me feel desired, also made clear that he wasn’t just looking for a hookup. He wanted to take me out. And, uh, not for a professional chat.
He said: Can I kiss you?
We met at a karaoke bar, while out with mutual friends and hit it off. By the time we’d had our fill of karaoke, we decided to head to another bar. At the second location, we’re having drinks and he matter-of-factly says: “Can I kiss you?” He was fairly confident of what the answer would be — but seeing as we had just met and this wasn’t a date — this was another gray area where asking was smart, respectful and quite hot.
He said, hesitantly: I’m thinking about how I’d like to ask if I can kiss you.
We’re in his apartment after what was clearly a first date. I was waiting for him to kiss me, sort of curious about how he was going to do it. Not the boldest move in the book. But I respect that he broached the subject before going for it.
On my cab ride home, he texted: “I’m going to kiss you without permission next time. Get ready.”
I responded: “I actually think the asking is sexy … #consentissexy”
“That’s probably a real hashtag,” he responded, “and I’m into it.”