Almost everywhere I look I am bombarded with people talking about the Aziz Ansari case, who was at fault, what should have been done and what is consent really in such kind of situations.
While I do believe that Ansari had some faults in the entire incident, the hypocrisy he showed by being different from what he preached, not being aware of his partner and any kind of discomfort she showed and all, I do not agree with those who are accepting the entire incident as ‘assault’.
Assault is an extremely serious charge and what happened with Grace (the name given to the anonymous woman as per Babe) was not exactly assault. To be honest, it was just a case of bad date and bad sex, which can happen with anyone, anytime, irrespective of gender.
While I am glad that the incident has finally started the conversation regarding what constitutes as assault, what is consent and more, I also fear that it will increase a lot of confusion for the current and upcoming generations.
As per a survey done by The Economist and YouGov, about 25% of millennial women in Britain think it is sexual harassment if a man asks them out for a drink, while less than 25% males think the same. The numbers are higher for millennial men and women of France who believe both commenting on good looks and asking someone out for a drink can be sexual harassment. The United States is in the same with a good over 25% males and females thinking that these common happenings can be taken a sexual harassment.
The survey sheds light on how confused the current generation already is about what consent truly means and what can lead them to being charged with an allegation as serious as ‘sexual assault’.
Ladies, I definitely agree that the man, or partner in any such scenario, should definitely be aware of the person they are getting intimate with, and take cues from the kind of body language they are exhibiting. But I also do think that the onus of being aware does not lie entirely on the man and that the woman should and must take a step forward and put a stop to things if she is getting uncomfortable, in more than clear terms.
Us girls are taught from childhood, to hide things, not speak, or if speak to do so in hushed voices in small corners of our homes only with other females. Males must never know of the problems or issues we have, be it menstruation, getting breasts, or having a sexual life.
The fact that we still wrap sanitary pad packets in black polythene, hide our underwear from male family members, do not talk about how hot a certain guy is in front of anyone except close friends is proof of how conditioned women are to not be vocal about their pleasures or displeasures.
However, it is up to us only to break those barriers and come forward to voice out if we feel uncomfortable or in any way want to escape that situation.
You might ask, in a situation when you are getting intimate with someone, especially in a new relationship, what to do then. Perhaps you get a little shy, perhaps you get a little hesitant to immediately give a strong reaction, and instead, are trying to give similar ‘non-verbal’ cues that Grace tried to give.
And while there is nothing wrong with giving such cues, it is also up to us only to realize when to draw the line, to see that the other person is obviously not getting those cues and that is when you truly need to be vocal and just say a ‘LOUD NO’.
Because NO still means NO. Do not give your agency to the man, do not give them so much control and power to decide what happens. If you are feeling uncomfortable then speak out and put a stop to things, let your partner know that you don’t want to continue and leave from there. Maximum if you are feeling fearful in the situation you can excuse yourself to the washroom and call any close friend to come and pick you up.
And also can I just say that the insistence on the man asking all the time for consent effectively kills harmless romance and mood of the moment?
I am not saying that a little bit of permission should not be asked, men should definitely check with the woman if she is comfortable with advancing things or not, but it is also up to the woman to let the man know if she does not want to do so through various means, like a VERBAL NO, like leaving from the place, like physically putting them away and conveying that you DO NOT intend to go ahead with this.
The small non-verbal ways in which romance happens is a soft and elegant thing and it sets the mood. But if in any case, your partner is not getting your feeling of distress then DO NOT STAY QUITE or WHY CONTINUE TO BE THERE?
Speak up, leave from that place, basically take action then and there. Do not stay stuck in those regressive timid modes that women are taught to be in.
We must understand that we are not bechari, who will cry about misplaced violation instead are extremely independent strong, smart, out there girls, who know how to lead a life alone in a big metropolitan city of the world.
We know when and how to claim our rights and ask for things we need and also put down something that we don’t like, like a humiliating workplace situation, someone forcing us to drink or dope, or do something illegal.
I’m sure in such situations like Grace’s, every person, be it man or woman timid or strong knows how to clearly communicate their no and not cry foul on messages later. Which is the easiest escapist route you take to put the complete responsibility of your life and the situation on the other person.
We forget we are 50% part of that situation too and have as much onus on playing our role. We are not a cow or animal that can be forcefully dragged and misused without consent. High time WE stop letting this happen by blaming the person in clear cases like the Ansari one (and not the Weinstein one) which according to an outsider seems like 2 people being on different pages.
A big disclaimer is that I am in no way trying to defend demons like Weinstein who claimed proprietary nature over women’s bodies due to their powerful position. But the entire intent of this letter is to tell girls to firstly take responsibility of the situation and stop blaming the other person fully, and 2nd to understand what repercussions this will have on innocent, genuine and unsaid romantic moments and also guys who want to pursue girls without the intention of violation.
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