We live in a day and age where men have to realise that a “no means a no”. There are no two ways about it. Too long have we lived in a culture where men refused to take “no” for an answer. Pestering, stalking, heckling and then extracting an “yes” from a lady for a relationship, for a kiss, for intimacy, was acceptable. Let us be clear here: consent in dating is the most important aspect before you decide to get physical with someone.
Whatever they had been showing in the movies or what you learned in a patriarchal society or in a controlling home, were all wrong. It’s time to unlearn all those things. There’s only one thing now: Lack of consent means sexual harassment, period. And you wouldn’t want to be called a harasser, would you? So it’s high time you learn about the real meaning of consent in dating.
What Does Consent Mean?
If you’re still doubtful about the actual meaning and idea of consent in dating, we are here to clarify the matter for you.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the word consent as: to agree to do something, or to allow someone to do something.
Hence disagreeing to something or saying a definitive no would be a lack of consent. When a girl says no to your sexual advances or gives non verbal cues that point towards the opposite direction from consent, she is disagreeing to engage in that activity with you. Read the cues and take the hints because pressing on without consent is harassment.
Yes, it’s possible that the consent in dating debate can get a little complicated at times. But it is also important to note that just because a girl has given her consent for you to kiss her, it does not mean that she has also given further consent for sexual intercourse. That remains a completely different thing altogether.
Why is consent important?
Now, this is a concept that women are very familiar with but guys actually seem to be on the edge about it.
“She wanted to kiss me so why would she not want to have sex with me?” Sounds familiar? Well, then, you’re obviously very confused about the concept and importance of consent.
Imagine a simple scenario: You’re enjoying a delicious ice cream by yourself and decide to share a bite with your friend but when you give it to him, he eats the whole thing. And what’s worse, he didn’t even ask your permission for it! That is bound to upset you. Yes, you wanted to willingly share that one bite but not the entire ice cream.
This will leave you feeling hurt and betrayed and you will not be able to express your feelings even. It’s the same when you are okay with a kiss but your guy wants you to go into the act all the way.
Lets change the scenario now. You’re at the same spot, with the same ice cream but this time it’s a stranger with you. You don’t want to share this ice cream with a stranger for sure. He asks if he can have a bite and you refuse multiple times. Should be simple enough, right? But the guy comes by and takes a bite anyway.
Downright unsolicited violation of your lack of consent. It could be a stranger or it could be someone you know but when you say no to any kind of physical contact it has to be accepted. If he still goes ahead then he is using force to violate you.
Now, lets bring back the conversation to consent in dating and in sexual experiences. Consent is important because you do not have any right over someone else’s body. It is theirs to do with as they please and they have the right to allow someone to touch it or not. Hence, asking for consent is vital.
However, if you decide to take a claim over someone else’s body anyway, what you’re doing is illegal. You’re trespassing on someone else’s property, in a way.
Even if we separate the legality of it all and look at the consent in dating from an individualistic PoV, pressing on without someone’s consent will lead to humiliation, violation, breaking of trust and faith and downright disrespect towards that person. You will end up jeopardising your relationship with the person and give them trust issues for life.
Is that really what you want?
The Rules Of Consent In A Relationship
We live in the age of consent where setting boundaries in dating becomes very important. These boundaries involve consent too. A lot of people remain under the shroud of a misconception that just because you’re dating someone, you have permanent consent.
This is not true as consent can change due to various factors; a change in feelings, is one of them. There is a big possibility that if your spouse is showing all the non verbal signs of a lack of consent, they have withdrawn theirs. As an equal partner in the relationship, it is your duty to respect those wishes.
If you are indeed in a relationship as equals it’s good to set some ground rules that covers these aspects. It’s always good to have a safe word when it comes to consent. A lot of people have told us how they have a safe word they use during sex if things start to get too much for either of the partner to handle.
In a conversation with a friend – An example of consent
He wanted to visit the beach town I am currently studying in. Exciting, yes! Since I am the only one he can visit here, the accommodations will be taken care of by him (like he said).
So preparations were to be made and he brings up the whole living together scene and is hopeful about the “blast” we are going to have. His idea of a blast, I learnt later, was sitting in the hotel room, getting high/drunk with me and presumably making out with me. I laugh at the joke. Turns out he was being serious.
“What if I kiss you?” to which I reply, “Then I would push you away”.
“What if I do it again?”
“Then I would ask you to stop and remind you that I don’t want to kiss you.”
“Maybe if you are drunk, you will want to.”
“I have been drunk before. So I don’t think I will want to even then.”
A moment of silence is followed by:
“Don’t worry. I won’t do anything without asking you.”
“Don’t worry, it will still be a no.”
“I will just keep trying”.
So “just keep trying” is all about pestering me till he gets the consent or “keep trying” till I actually feel like kissing him, I never paused to ask.
Dating has been made so easy with all the apps dedicated to find people around you. Like instant noodles, finding dates takes less than 3 minutes. Dates made easy, the logic of consent is totally forgotten and lack of consent becomes a common thing. Perhaps that’s the reason my friend assumed since I will be spending the nights together, we are going to be spending the nights together.
Related Reading: How Do You Set Emotional Boundaries in Relationships?
The correlation between dating and consent
A no means no – it is not an attempt for people to want you to keep trying till you change your mind. During the #Me Too movement a woman who had gone out on a date comedian Aziz Ansari said that she felt pressuriesed to have sex with him. During the date the lady used “verbal and non-verbal cues” to let him know she was not feeling great about the idea but he kept pegging her on.
The date ended with intercourse but the date did not fully consent to it but did not clearly say anything out loud either. Opposing forces might debate on the validity of the date’s refusal to ask him to stop, other forces might pin the accusations entirely on him.
Aziz Anasari in one of his recent shows said that the incident gave him perspective. He said, “It’s a terrifying thing to talk about. There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way. But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person,” he said.
Consent in dating and the blurry area
What is consent in dating? How do we regularly give it or ask for it? Take the case of Tinder. You swipe right, begin a conversation and probably like the person. How often are we bombarded with unsolicited “dick photos”? Recently, I received a photo of a man’s junk over Instagram; the only problem is that I did not ask for it.
It just popped up and I had to live through it. This action can be likened to a flasher flashing to a passer-by. Does swiping right give them the authority to behave in a lewd manner? Or is this considered adequate behaviour since no one was harmed in person? But imagine going on a date with this Flasher from Tinder?
If he can send unsolicited nudes over virtual media, what are the chances he does not care much about consent in the real world itself?
The grey area in dating is justified well by Justin Meyers, a writer for GQ Magazine. He writes “We tell ourselves it’s a ‘grey area’, the rules around it so murky and undefined that all we can do is go for it and hope nobody gets sued.”
The signals for consent, as seen in the comedian’s case, is not quite vibrant. The woman did not scream, push away but has some body language showing her not-so-wholeheartedness to the post-date sex. The man, however, misreads the signals completely and hence the whole issue has been brought to the forefront. Justin Meyers’ words can be used again to completely analyse the situation.
“He’s taught that this is the way he’s supposed to be, that we’re supposed to be virile. But, honestly, I can’t say that I’ve misread a signal for longer than a millisecond. You can tell yourself you’ve misread it, but really you just don’t want to believe the signal.”
So, my friend, about whom I have talked about at the beginning, who believes my repetitive ‘No’ to making out with him is quite equivalent to him trying harder for an enthusiastic ‘Yes’ is what makes the rest of us wonder if a “No” can ever just be a NO.
Can the idea of consent be taught? And how?
All the assumptions about consent are rested on the fact that no one can be really taught about it. When children are playing in the park and one kid throws down a girl to kiss her on the cheek. Even when the girl is trying to push the boy away parents go, “Aww”.
This boy is being encouraged by elders and is growing up to think that this behaviour is okay. Asking for consent is so outdated that it is not even thought of as a matter of importance or a part of education to be imparted to people from a very young age.
So these people grow up thinking if there isn’t any definitive No, it is assumed consent is given, even if they are shrinking away, cowering in fear or are not brave enough to speak up.
Related Reading: He Was A Perfect Arranged Match Till I Tried To Kiss Him…
How to talk about consent
Many people find it awkward to ask for consent but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be awkward at all. Chances are that if you ask for consent before making a move, you will come off as a gentleman in this world of men who are clearly not.
A simple “Is it okay if I kiss you?” or “Can I hold your hand?” may seem like it’s no big deal but can go a long way in earning trust and building a relationship.
It’s better to be sure than to be sorry later and it’s ALWAYS best to not assume what the other person wants. You do not know their thoughts so stay away from any arbitrary assumptions.
Also, keep it in mind that a movie and dinner does not always have to end in sex. That’s not really what women want. They could look for emotional intimacy before they decide to go all the way in physical intimacy.
Sometimes, we only assume what we actually want to happen but that does not make it the truth. A good way to talk about consent is the have a chat with your date about how far she thinks she is willing to go. This way the “grey area” is taken care of.
With the ease of dating in this millennium, campaigns like #MeToo are becoming an everyday affair. When “Can I kiss you?” before kissing someone becomes unromantic, movements like this never cease. And since men happen to be men, it is up to the women to act up whenever necessary and yell a big NO to teach the world a lesson or two about consent.