Knee deep in flowers we'll stray,That's quite a naughty little song in its way. Nick Lucas sang it in move Gold Diggers of Broadway in 1929. It was a huge hit but you can be certain not everyone was pleased.
We'll keep the showers away.
And if I kiss you,
in the garden, in he moonlight,
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me.
It's interesting, no, that he wonders if she would pardon him for kissing her in the garden in the moonlight? Isn't that sort of thing we all dream of? Why would we need to pardon it? And pardon would mean that the kiss was unwelcome but the singer seems to think that after pardoning him, the girl will continue to "tiptoe through the tulips" with him. We might be forgiven for thinking that this is a euphemism for something else.
It's a gentle euphemism though. If we don't want to see it, we can cheerfully imagine that all he means is a stroll through the flower bed. Although that too sounds like a euphemism. But it's a lot gentler than, say, "Baby let me be your crosscut saw". You couldn't honestly pretend that the guy is really just offering to cut and stack her firewood. (Oddly enough that too sounds like ....)
But, to get back to the point, there is something that is (to use the ugly modern word) transgressive about sexuality. It's so normal that we forget just how common expressions like "steal a kiss" are. We tiptoe through the tulips, as hopelessly harmless as that seems to us now, because we normally aren't supposed to be walking in a flower bed.
There was a YouTube video that went viral last week or the week before of a very young boy and girl sitting together. And she gets this impish look on her face and leans over and steals a kiss. And he thinks about it and very clearly decides that this is more than okay. And, aaaaawww, it's so cute because they're just kids.
It's not so cute when you aren't kids and one of you really doesn't want it. Or if one of you decides that they really do want it but should not actually let things go any further because it would be wrong given other moral commitments they have.
But, at the same time, love always starts with someone doing something bold. Boys push and girls expect to be pushed. Girls entice but enticement never necessarily means acceptance.
Last summer, I saw a girl with a T-shirt that read "Yes I do, but not with you". And you know what the implied question is don't you? But how does she know that the guys she does want to do it with will know that the message on her shirt does not apply to him? She doesn't know but merely has to hope he will push her anyway and he doesn't know and merely has to hope she will let him when he does.
When a woman accused Bill Clinton of grabbing her breasts, Gloria Steinem, of all people, defended him by saying he did the right thing because he stopped when he was asked to stop. And Mark Steyn quipped that he was glad to know that he had one free shot at grabbing any woman's breasts so long as he stopped when she asked him. Who is right?
They both are but let's focus on Steinem for now. Any system of sexual morality has to allow for people's willingness to remain ambiguous about what they do or do not want. And any system of sexual morality has to allow for the possibility that one person may misjudge another person's willingness to have her breasts touched. Or that they may to fail to appreciate that while she may want very much to have them touched, she would prefer to deny herself this pleasure for other reasons and is thus sending mixed messages. And it also has to preserve her right to decide to do something terribly obvious if he keeps missing the point. Of course, such a sexual morality would also require that women appreciate that sometimes men might make sexual advances that are misjudged and be willing to pardon while making it very clear that any further perambulating in the flower bed is not going to happen. Well, not now, as it is her prerogative to change her mind at some future date.
The point, and I will come to it rather abruptly here, is that any sexual morality that is based on strict legalism is doomed to failure.