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We As a Nation Don't Understand Consent At All

By: Pathikrit Sanyal


Last Updated: May 06, 2016, 15:16 IST

We As a Nation Don't Understand Consent At All

Stop the victim-blaming and take up some responsibility

Hello folks, let's talk about consent.

Consent (n) - permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Sounds simple right? It’s a contract. You’ve given someone permission to proceed with something. Ergo, the lack of consent should indicate dictate you don’t go ahead with doing something. That’s literally just it. It’s not quantum physics.

Yet, it is a concept that people have a lot of trouble grasping, particularly when it comes to sex. A couple of days ago, I read a story on Catch and subsequently on Vagabomb, titled “I Was Raped in My Own Bed, and I Couldn’t Press Charges”. It was an anonymous submission and it was a first-person account of how a woman was raped by her ex-boyfriend when she was inebriated.

Both of them were catching up at her place. Both of them were high. He made a move and she said no. She expressly forbade sex. He made a move again and she shrugged it off and went to sleep. She woke up to find herself undressed and realized that her ex had had sexual intercourse with her despite she not agreeing to the idea.

It was rape. Maybe it doesn’t fit the violent depiction of rape in the media and television and cinema. But it was rape all the same. And all because of the simple reason that is, the lack of consent. Again, it’s pretty easy to see how this is wrong. Or so I thought.

When I had read the story, I had felt a blood-boiling level of anger and an equal amount of sadness. But my sadness ebbed out once I started reading the comments section. It gave way to plain and simple “what the f*#k!”

I managed to witness a whole new kind of victim blaming. While some were plain apologists who condemned rape before adding that the woman was wrong as well. Her fault was that she slept beside an ex and apparently that translates into “Have sex with me no. Doesn’t matter if I said no to your face; since I’m high and dressed in ghar ke kapde, and sleeping beside you, you can totally do it.”

The other comments were not even nearly this mild. Some called her a liar because she’s a “feminist journalist” and that she’s definitely spinning the story. The others argued that this “bitch” was asking for it because she was leading the guy on.

This went on and on and on for god knows how many comments. Can you believe it? In this day and age, we managed to slut-shame and blame a rape victim because it did not fit our idea of the “ideal rape”. No one gave two hoots about the fact that she had said no to sex and she stopped him when he was trying to make a move. Her words and actions indicated that she did not wish to sleep with her ex. But of course, she invited it because how else can our fragile male ego make sense?

“I didn't press charges. I wasn't ready to face everyone's questions. We live in a world where people find a way to blame the victim even when there's nothing to pick on. In my case, as far as the police and law goes, everything works against me. I called him home; I got high with him; He has been a sexual partner in the past; I live alone; I wasn't dressed appropriately; I slept in his presence; There was no use of force; etc, etc.”

This was the paragraph that had upset me the most. It is that how this might not be considered rape at all, by so many. The cops would make assumptions about possible mixed messages and ‘come hither’ looks and gestures, but no one stopped to consider her lack of consent in the first place.

I think we as a nation don’t understand consent at all. So let’s work on that. There is an YouTube that explained consent with a ‘tea’ analogy. It broke consent down to every possible scenario and made sure it covered every kind of assumption that people make. The whole point was to make us understand that “no means no”.

A lot of people struggle with the idea of consent because we carry some entitlement with us. Our idea is that taking a woman out on dates, listening to her for hours and on and doing pretty much everything that was required, makes her owe us sex. And that is where we are wrong. No one owes us sex. Even if a woman says yes to sex and a moment before the act itself, she changes her mind; she has the right to do that. Even if she got us all hot and bothered, she does not owe us sex.

Our entitlement does not let us look past the thing that we think we deserve. And at that point we forget about tiny essentials like consent.

That is exactly what the guy did. By the virtue of having had an intimate relationship with her, in the past, the man thought he was entitled to a quickie. He assumed her lying down beside him as an invitation to maybe snuggle up and shag. He assumed her express “no” to somehow be a yes because she was high. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how rape works. It is forcing yourself upon the other person against their wishes.

Stop the victim-blaming and take up some responsibility. A “no” always means a “no”.
first published:May 06, 2016, 14:32 IST
last updated:May 06, 2016, 15:16 IST