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Get Withs and Guilty Feminists

An exploration of the club culture of Oxford.

So here I am, tackling this morally ambiguous minefield head on with an investigation into ‘get withs’ and whether or not they really are feminist. Dear reader, I have no high-ground here. Once or twice I’ve found myself engaging in a ballsy display of PDA on a club dancefloor and whilst I’ve never profoundly regretted it, I’ve never been a huge fan either (sorry boys).

This hasn’t always been deliberate. Between the institutionalised racism and the blatant misogyny, I’m pleased we’ve left the 1950s in the past. But I really wish we’d held onto the whole dancing thing. These days if you’re dancing opposite someone, you’re overthinking how much eye contact is normal and when you should make it, desperately trying to coordinate your limbs in a way that isn’t embarrassing for all involved. All whilst an ever changing playlist of unhelpful hits sabotages you at every turn. You don’t so much dance with someone, as face off across a dancefloor, playing an elaborate game of ‘chicken’ and attempting to read their mind. What happened to hands looped around a neck and a little side to side swaying? Instead, this move now seems to be the universal code for a kiss – only I didn’t get the memo. Accidental initiation aside, I normally leave feeling at best ambivalent and at worst slightly disappointed, whatever the quality of the kiss. ( I do tend to worry about my technique after I’ve had a couple of shots… boys, I’m sorry?)

I am one of the last hopeless romantics but somewhere between being out of conversation starters to bellow across a dancefloor, flattered, or frankly just feeling the inevitable oncoming, I’ve more than once given into a kiss. There have never been fireworks (sorry again, boys) and despite the enthusiastic approval I get from friends, it always leaves me feeling a little bit flat. I want a kiss to come with electric anticipation; maybe after a date the moment before we say goodbye, when it’s inevitable in a way that doesn’t invoke mild dread – so why have I settled for less?

This is where my feminism kicks in and I blame the patriarchy for my problems. I can be insecure. I don’t love how my hair looks in a ponytail and sometimes I worry I’m a bit too prim and proper on a night out. So, if a guy is coming onto me and my hair’s in a ponytail or I’m feeling a little bit out of my depth, it’s easy to be flattered. Attraction fundamentally boils down to confusing chemicals and a very human desire for intimacy and often, validation. This doesn’t make it intrinsically wrong but I know I’m not ‘getting with’ for the right reasons – I’m relying on a guy’s apparent attraction to me as a way to boost my own self-esteem. It’s a bit too 1950s for my liking and I don’t want to define myself in the male gaze. But it’s always nice to be wanted. Not to mention, in a culture that often promotes promiscuity, the approval I get from friends after lip-locking with a cute guy becomes a badge of honour. Who knew kissing someone with a symmetrical face could earn you so much respect?

Now consider the claim that ‘get withs’ are a way for empowered women to reclaim their sexual autonomy. Whilst I’ll be the first in line to support women owning their sexuality – as the orgasm gap persists and overt female desire is often fetishized or shamed – is this really the way to do it? Surely noncommittal intimacy isn’t the ultimate way to establish our power over the patriarchy? It seems like an overly literal interpretation of “make love, not war”. We don’t need ‘get withs’ to get our message across. If you want to stick it to The Man, then by all means go for it – but will The Man really get the message from a cheeky snog? Sure, reclaim your right to your own pleasure and if that means a ‘get with’ then go for it, but don’t find yourself leaning in because it’s inevitable, or flattering and then attempt to justify it later with a feminist angle. You are worth so much more. Part of the feminist movement is encouraging women to recognise their self-worth and not settle for anything less than exactly what they want. Your self-worth should never have to come from someone else or be compromised for someone else.

This isn’t just a heterosexual issue. It’s always good to establish an equal power balance in any sexual situation and you should never feel less than 100% comfortable trusting someone else with your body. Anyone who gets to kiss you should feel really lucky, not just pleased their gamble of buying you that drink paid off, or relieved that you broke the awkward-bopping, out-of-things-to-say silence.

If you really like the person you’re dancing across from give them your number and hang out another time, preferably somewhere you don’t have to make conversation at a shrill yell. Their lips will still be there later and half the fun lies in the anticipation. Kissing can be completely magical and perfectly good fun on a dancefloor, but don’t bother if you aren’t totally into it. Put those lips to work on the lyrics of that Lizzo song instead. I promise it doesn’t make you boring. We need the endorphins that come from a killer bop, friends who occasionally elbow us in the face on the dance floor and a jumper for the smoking area far more than we need kisses on a night out. Whilst ‘get with’ culture is standard for our generation and I love that we are shaking off the shame that’s previously been associated with accepting our sexual selves, that doesn’t mean it’s a requirement for a successful night out. I can’t be the only one who’s kissed someone for all the wrong reasons and yes, it isn’t the end of the world, but “I might as well” isn’t what happily ever afters or feminist principles are built on. We can do better.

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