How do you respectfully and succesfully seek sexual contact with someone?

When you pose this question to a woman she will say: ‘chemistry’. Which is the same as magic. You meet someone. And the chemicals arise and teleport you to the nearest bedroom. And this chemical magic just happens. You have to sit around and wait for it.

Not very helpful, is it? This may work fine if you are a woman. But when you’re a guy sitting around and wait for sex is not going to do much good.

Suppose you meet someone you want to have sex with -I know, what a dirty thought…- , what is the right way to proceed?

By the right way, I mean:

1Your approach gives you a fighting chance of actually getting to consensual sex

2Your approach can in no ways be called sexual harassment

So how do you do it? What are the options?

My fear is that there’s only one way to get to sex in our culture, and that is to make sexual intentions clear from the start, touch the person as soon as possible, with escalating intensity, and when the person reciprocates, you have sex. If all goes well, you have sex, if the person isn’t interested, you have now just performed acts that are sexual harassment. That’s my fear and I hope it’s really not true.

Politely asking for it. Hi, would you like to have sex with me? I have actually tried this, not often. Three times maybe. It does not work. It may surprise you that people smile and respectfully decline. I never got a hostile reaction, which really surprised me. It even leads to pleasant conversation. But no sex. In my opinion it’s not a way to get to sex, and we are assuming that consensual sex is still a good thing and that it still exists and that we don’t want to wait around till someone we are attracted to magically lands in our bed. I think we can agree that getting to sex requires some action.

The hide it till the last moment option. You go out on dates with a genuine interest to get to know the other person, not just in a sexual way, but in an all encompassing way. The other party may very well interpret your behavior as seeking friendship and nothing more. You risk the dreaded friendzone, it may take you ages to get to the point, and it can be very confusing for both parties. It’s a real hoot. You go out to bars and restaurants, and maybe at some point you watch a movie together, you keep reducing the distance between you with the tactical skill and patience worthy of world war one general who’s an expert at trench warfare and then you make your move. You lean in for a kiss and you get rejected or you get more intimate. I doubt very much anyone will label this approach as sexual harassment, as long as you stop touching when you hear ‘no’. It’s also sort of the only approach that has worked for me, but come on, how incredibly and unnecessarily complicated it is, with so much room for confusion.

Examples from personal experience:

I remember one time, at a party, where I came on very strongly to a woman, with her boyfriend standing next to her – it was too loud to hear anything not screamed directly into your ear. I ended up in bed with her, several times. BUT: if that woman had not been interested in sex with me, I suppose she could easily have claimed I was sexually harassing her. Now that I’m writing this, I remember a time I was having a conversation with a woman in bar. I don’t remember what the conversation was about. Not sex. At the end of the conversation, when we were both going home, it was deep in the night, I simply asked: can I go with you to your place? That’s all I did, I never even touched her, no crap about a soft-boiled clitoris à la Dustin Hoffmann. Sure, looking back at our conversation I should have noticed small signs that she wasn’t interested in me, but ok, that was before I had read a couple hundred psychology books and articles. It was very subtle. And I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

She was shocked. She told people about that. She was outraged.

If she had wanted sex with me, then there would have been no outrage, she would simply have said yes. In other scenarios women did say yes to far more explictly phrased questions, and no complaints followed.

Conclusion:

You’re never really completely free of risk if you express sexual interest in someone.

You come on to someone, they want to have sex, you are fine,

you screw.

You come on to someone, they do not want to have sex, you are a pig and

you are screwed.

One reader, Debbie Francois, points out that the above article is basically saying the same as the Dobler-Dahmer theory, which apparently comes from a tv-show. No matter if it comes from a tv-show or a universiy, it’s what I wanted to say:

“If both people are into each other, then a big romantic gesture works: Dobler, but if one person isn’t into the other, the same gesture comes off serial-killer crazy: Dahmer.”

So, ok, you’re never entirely risk free on the seduction path, but here are some of the things that will make your ‘move’ much riskier or outright wrong

  • If you get a clear no, you HAVE TO back off
  • If you are in a hierarchical relationship with a person it gets a lot riskier, because the person you ‘rank’ in any way, may find it a lot harder to reject you in no uncertain terms
  • If you are a person’s psychotherapist or work with that person as a mental health professional IT IS ALWAYS wrong to come on to that person. There’s a small window though: if the two of you haven’t been in contact for at least two years, it’s possible to start a relationship, but even then you need to be very careful
  • If you’re coming on to someone who’s too young
  • If you’re coming on to someone who’s particularly vulnerable, a refugee, a person who’s an ‘illegal’ immigrant, or someone who’s not really in control of his or her own actions
  • If you have a prominent role in the public eye and the person may think she or he cannot refuse you without risking some form of revenge for rejecting you