“Can I Kiss You?

Nicole Capozziello

“I’m a wild and crazy guy! Wooo!” This statement, normally heard at tailgate and bachelor parties, launched the “Can I Kiss You?” program led by Mike Domitrz Thursday, May 1.
Needless to say, Domitrz’s approach to this often-difficult subject material was striking and unconventional. Nearly a dozen campus organizations sponsored the event, including all of the Greek organizations, SHARB, Residence Life, SOUP and Wellness Committee.
Attendance for the event, which was held in Riverview Lounge at 8 p.m., was outstanding with an estimated 300 students and staff members present.
“I definitely think it created ‘the buzz’ on campus,” said Campus Activities Program Coordinator and Ormsby RHD LaDonna Hayden.
Domitrz’s approach and style received an array of responses, ranging from enthusiastic agreement to heated discontent.
The program dealt with respect surrounding dating and communication, focusing particularly on sexual assault. Domitrz used humor and an interactive “question and response” approach to draw his audience in.
“I’m not teaching you anything — you are,” Domitrz said near the end of his program, referring to the audience’s ability to automatically fill in his statements.
Domitrz has been a speaker since 1990, a decision motivated by his interest in changing the climate and practices of dating communication following his sister’s rape.
In addition to touring the country as a speaker in middle schools, high schools and colleges, Domitrz is also the author of “May I Kiss You?” and executive director of the Date-Safe Program.
He began in a light-hearted manner, using a couple of audience members to demonstrate the fact that very few people actually ask “can I kiss you?”
He discussed the danger that lies in relying on body language as communication, which he believes eliminates the actual opportunity for one’s partner to give consent. The theme of consent was threaded throughout the program, quickly turning to more grave examples, such as party situations and rape.
As the program went on, the subject material heightened in seriousness, culminating in discussion of how to approach and support a loved one who has been sexually assaulted. He asked the audience to think of three people important to them and, when they left the program, to tell them, “If you ever are or ever have been sexually assaulted, I’m here for you.” Following the event, student volunteers dispersed four-step Pledge for Action sheets to each audience member.
Over dinner, Domitrz admitted that he went through a lot of distracting and misrepresenting names before landing on “Can I Kiss You?,” a name that he chose for its ability to pique curiosity. Doubtlessly, the name achieved its goal, as attested by the large and extensive crowd it drew.
Hayden has been familiar with Domitrz since he came to DePauw University during her undergrad years. Earlier this school year, she presented Domitrz’s program to student organizations that were looking to host an educational speaker.
When the groups reacted positively, Hayden booked it. Domitrz, who is well known in the motivational speakers’ circuit, actually visited Lawrence about five years ago to present a similar program. “I think [the message] was an important one to bring to campus,” said Hayden, who believes the program was successful in getting students to think about relationships.
Not all students were amused by Domitrz’s presentation. Complaints included upset at Domitrz’s use of humor and his representation of gender. “I knew it would be full of gender stereotypes and misinformation,” said freshman Maggie Waz, who felt that during “the first half of his presentation, [Domitrz] was trying to appeal to a ridiculously simple kind of audience.”
While Domitrz declared at the beginning of his speech that he “does not assume anyone’s sexual orientation,” his presentation was directed at a heterosexual audience, containing solely examples of heterosexual relationships and scenarios.
Regardless of differing opinions, Hayden hopes that students will present a panel, workshop or program on the areas or subjects they believed Domitrz’s “Can I Kiss You?” presentation to be lacking. She hopes that students will be able to approach programming with the “the opportunities he uncovered” in mind, continuing discussion on these issues.
Waz said, “If anything, the ideas that he brought up, no matter how biased or hetero-specific, still apply to this campus … more than maybe any college student wants to admit.