“What are you scared of, John?” said the young entrepreneur I had just met at the Fortune Leadership Summit. Impressed and surprised by this immediate deep question, I paused.
“I’m scared that my actions don’t properly align with what I truly want. This starts with looking inside and finding out what I truly want first and follows with reflecting on my actions to make sure that acting in a way that helps me get what I truly want. I constantly reflect and fear that any of my actions don’t line up with what I truly want.”
Boom. I felt like I nailed it. Take that young entrepreneur! Naturally, I had to respond, “What about you, sir? What are you scared of?”
No pause. One word. Full of confidence. “Failure.”
This was an ambitious kid, not one, but two business projects and he’s still in high school. And his deepest fear like so many others is fear of failure.
I remember when I could tell you my deepest fear in the same one word. I hated failing. I still hate failing. I’m still afraid of failing. But failure is the key to growth. Failure is the key to truth. Dismantling the fear of failure is a key goal of Party With Consent.
Fear of failure reminds us, at times, to not be true to ourselves. In the “game” that we socially construct around sex, consent, and relationships, being a competition, if we unveil our true self, we risk failure, we become vulnerable.
“What if she finds out that I still suck my thumbs?”
“What if she doesn’t like it that I’m a virgin?”
“What if she thinks Party With Consent is stupid?”
I’ve been told that if I tell a woman, I’m still a virgin, I put “hooking up” with her at risk. I’ve been told if I tell a woman how I truly feel about her that I may scare her away. I’ve been told that if I ask her what she wants I’ll probably ruin the moment.
I’ve been told that if I am my true self, I might fail. And my response now is, “So what?”
The real question is, what do you risk if when you allow fear of failure to determine your decisions in a relationship?
You risk being in a relationship where both parties are under false pretenses of reality, false pretenses of identity. You risk having to consistently hide your true self.
Bringing me to my next question — if you ‘get consent’ through lying, then are your actions truly consensual? For example, if I go out on a date with a beautiful woman and she tells me she loves the New York Knicks, and then I tell her I own the New York Knicks. In this hypothetical situation, she is wooed by the connection and immediately heightens her attraction to me. This eventually leads to us having sex.
In the morning, I tell her that I don’t actually own the New York Knicks. Upset, she leaves and never talks to me again.
Was that consensual? Did I avoid failure?
No and no, is how I’d answer this now that I’ve reflected more thoroughly on the meaning of these terms.
And even if it were consensual, how cool could that be?
“Dude, I lied to this chick and we had sex.” Is that cool?
“Dude, I told this chick exactly who I am and she loved it, then we had sex.” Isn’t that cooler?
And even if you didn’t fail, what did you win?
“Dude, I had sex with this chick and then never talked to her again.” Is that cool?
“Dude, I had sex with this chick and she’s helped me become a better person in so many facets of my life.” Isn’t that cooler?
This isn’t even a debate of “Commitment vs. Causal”. This is a debate of “Being confident in who you are vs. Being confident in your ability to avoid failure”.
If failure comes at the hands of a person turning you down because they don’t like a part of your character, then we are teaching people to be confident in their ability to avoid failure, not to be confident in who they are.
So what I’m saying is, be true to yourself and if the person your pursuing doesn’t like that, don’t stumble over your words and try to come up with a lie, just say, “Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate that.” This is easier said than done, but I promise you’re strong enough.
Because at the end of day you are awesome. And the next person you have sex with should be having sex with you because they think you’re awesome too. And vis-a-versa.
If being true to yourself results in failing. Then, I can only hope that I fail a lot because I know that I’m awesome and I know that failure is the greatest educator. And deconstructing my generation’s fear of failure is at the core of developing a culture that promotes enthusiastic consent.
So I want to share with you. My name is Jonathan Kalin. I love my mother. I still suck my thumb. I’m a 21 year-old virgin. And I founded the Party With Consent movement. If this makes me any less attractive to you, then, “Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate that.” I’m confident there are plenty of people who like it. And I’m excited to create consent with them.