Innocent ‘Kissing’ Book Offers Date-Rape Tutorial

Print More

Kristen Tsetsi

(WOMENSENEWS)–Almost 70 percent of all teens who had sex by age 14 have gone through one or more types of abuse in a relationship. One in five, or 20 percent, of all 13- to 14-year-olds in relationships say their friends have been struck, hit or slapped in anger by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Forty percent of 11- and 12-year-olds report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse.

Those are some of the unsavory facts released July 8 by Teenage Research Unlimited in a survey on tween (11-14) and teen dating violence and abuse.

They join an already robust database of similar statistics. The federal National Crime Victimization Survey found that in 2006 an estimated 272,350 victims age 12 and older were sexually assaulted, despite reported declines in violent crimes overall.

In March the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports college-age women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other group.

Yesterday, in concert with the data release, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch of Rhode Island, the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, urged attorneys general to implement teen dating violence education policies and curriculum in every state in the country.

Dangerous Artifact

My hope is they begin by issuing a warning to parents, tweens and teens about one cultural artifact in particular, "The Art of Kissing," by Hugh Morris.

This seemingly innocuous 1938 book may seem like something you’d only find gathering dust in an antiquarian book shop, but in fact it’s selling online.

Its Amazon ranking is low, but it is generating some sales there and clicks elsewhere on the Web as well.

More bothersome than its potential popularity is how book sellers are presenting it. "Parody," or "retro entertainment," would be appropriate. But one seller categorizes it as etiquette. Another suggests it as a reference on "practical romance."

My guess is that any girls and boys impatient for an introduction to their sexuality and sexual propriety would find it interesting.

Kissing is, after all, the first great mystery. But what they’ll also get here is a book with a section that reads like a date-rape tutorial. Girls, the author teaches, are objects to be acted upon and manipulated by boys.

The first illustration in the book is of a young woman tucked between a man and the high arm of a couch. "Arrange it so that the girl is seated against the arm of a sofa," the caption reads. Later, in the text, he explains why: "In this way, she cannot edge away when he becomes serious in his intentions."

Primitive Message

To the extent any unsuspecting boy or young man treats it as a trusty, time-honored guide to girls he runs the risk of adding to the kind of statistics in the Teen Research survey. "Sex is a powerful force not to be denied," is the book’s essential message. "Look here, this is how you get it."

"He must be the aggressor," Morris says. "He must always give the impression of being his woman’s superior, both mentally and especially physically . . . He must be able to sweep her into his strong arms, tower over her . . . All of these are impossible when the woman is the taller of the two . . . The kiss becomes only a ludicrous banality . . . Nothing could be more disappointing."

Morris doesn’t stop there.

"If she flinches, don’t worry. If she flinches and makes an outcry, don’t worry. If she flinches, makes an outcry and tries to get up from the sofa, don’t worry. Hold her, gently but firmly, and allay her fears with kind, reassuring words. Remember what Shakespeare said about a woman’s ‘No!’"

No Means Yes

No means . . . yes? In fact, the only time a boy should stop forcing himself on a girl, according to Morris, is if she "flinches, makes an outcry, a loud, stentorian outcry, and starts to scratch your face." Then, Morris says, a boy should "start to worry or start to get yourself out of a bad situation."

Then he blames the girl. "Such girls are not to be trifled with . . . or kissed. It is such as they, in most cases, who still believe the story of the stork which brings babies because of the consequences of a kiss."

When it comes to this notion of the girl or woman being at fault, it’s clear some thinking hasn’t changed enough since the 1930s.

After the editor of the University of Connecticut’s Daily Campus newspaper wrote in early May about her own recent sexual assault at an outdoor college campus party, people posted online comments blaming her for being out "alone," even though she was surrounded by other students. We learn this behavior, whom to blame, whom to let slide, through subtle and not-so-subtle cues such as those in "The Art of Kissing."

It was difficult to find even one negative review of Morris’ book online, but I did find one. "It promotes date rape in a comedic way. Not the best thing for people to be reading this century."

I agree, except I would add that I’m not happy boys were reading this in 1938 either. The cultural roots exposed in this book at least partially explain why a U.S. attorney general initiative is required today for teen dating violence.

Kristen J. Tsetsi is a reporter for the Journal Inquirer newspaper and the author of "Homefront." Her Web site is www.kristentsetsi.com.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

For more information:

The Globusz version of "The Art of Kissing":
http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Kissing/

Note: Women’s eNews is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites and the contents of Web pages we link to may change without notice.

Comments are closed.