Bad Sex (and what to do instead)

Part 1: A Story

Kristen Roupenian’s short story, Cat Person, begins with 20-year-old college student Margot meeting 34-year-old Robert in a movie theater where she works at the concession stand. After a several-week-long roller coaster of awkward flirtations, frenzied text messages, a winter break for Margot from school, and the slow development of a mutually-felt infatuation, they go on a date to a movie about the Holocaust: a strange choice, according to Margot (and common sense).

a bad kiss

Part 2: Tools for Negotiating Sex

While Cat Person is not a story about sex — it is more accurately described as a story about the ways that women are negatively affected by a constant deluge of insecure men — we can have an important conversation about the sexual encounter that takes place between Margot and Robert.

Invitations shouldn’t be pressing.

Part 3: Examining Cat Person

We are now in a position to figure out what has gone wrong in the sex in Cat Person. From Robert’s perspective, no unethical sexual invitation has been made. Nevertheless, a sexual invitation was extended to someone who did not have the resources to say ‘no.’ Regardless of whether we condemn him — whether we think he is guilty of an offense for which it would be appropriate to use the social institution of condemnation — we should judge that, due to Margot’s limited repertoire of responses, his invitation was a bad invitation.



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Aaron Yarmel

Aaron Yarmel

PhD Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Violinist. Activist.