Please allow the woman to say yes!
What began last year with revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in the workplace has now broadened to encompass more private interactions, along with long-held, unspoken assumptions about what constitutes sexual consent. The world is demanding a broader, more nuanced conversation about consent, how to recognise it, how to communicate, and how – above all – not to violate it, says Erika Price, Social Psychologist.
According to Callie Little, Sex Educator and Writer, the whole point of the cultural conversation we’re having right now about rape is that people need to get better at checking in, reading nonverbal signals and asking throughout the sexual encounter about consent.
Cindy Gallop, Sex-Tech Disruptor and Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.tv explains that consent is fluid. Any great sexual experience is a process of mutual exploration, communication, and ongoing consent. We make it easier to talk about sex in order to encourage open, a healthy discussion around sex in the real world, so that we can promote and instill a societal gold standard of good sexual values and good sexual behaviour.
The word ‘Sex’ makes people uncomfortable in India
These are Western authors and Sexologists who live in a more open society than what we have in our country. Here, we live in a cultural milieu that cringes at just hearing the word “sex” and even among my young students many women would stare at their hands, uncomfortable that I as a teacher was calling them out aloud. I remember one girl even objected and said “we don’t talk about these things” And yet most were sexually active.
In Haryana, there is no acknowledgement of rape – it is argued by the village elders that it takes two hands to clap, so there is no concept of consent, and thus rape does not exist. A woman then needs to be very cautious and stay indoors, because even a simple act of being out in the open is considered as game for sex, and it is not labelled as rape.
What men and woman need to develop is a high level of Emotional Awareness. Parents are also instrumental in giving instructions to their male progeny as to the Do’s and Don’ts of social and sexual behavior. Once married, a woman seems to be fair game for any kind of nastiness as she is viewed as a legitimate property of the man. Many women argue that they have to give in because of the physical strength of the male. We can however train our sons and daughters regarding a code of sexual correctness.
1. No means No
In many cultures a great deal is made of the word No. It is just not accepted when a man makes his sexual intentions towards his love interest, that he should accept a No. Rejection, bruised ego, anger, entitlement all surface in the men. Even Bollywood songs say things like she must be saying No with her lips, but in her heart she is saying YES. This gives conflicting ideas to men. I knew of a girl who was very attracted to her classmate but demurred because she had a steady boyfriend. Her non-verbal signals were so strong that he turned up at her house when she was alone and forced her to give in to his overtures. After the incident she cried foul. I was in a quandary – why was she unable to negotiate her stance with this person. All boys must be taught that when a girl says NO she means NO, and not “maybe”.
2. Consent is fluid
Even in marriages or committed relationships, it is very possible that half way through an amorous session the woman can say NO. She does not need to produce an explanation, her mood may have changed, and a physical distress may have occurred, a distressing thought might have turned her off. I would say a man could also be in a similar situation, and must be empowered to do so.
3. Never refuse sex or use it as a currency for power
When politics enters a simple love equation – not all sex is an expression of love – it can be very frustrating and damaging to the entire structure of a relationship. One-night stands can be transactional, however, if you desire a lasting expression of love, devotion, and pleasure then a great deal of surrender is required. And this needs an advanced degree of mutual understanding, communication and high awareness that physical intimacy leads to spiritual compatibility.
Though it is difficult to assume that men and women can be refined and courteous towards one another with regard to sex, one seems to find less of this communication in the hoi polloi than in the culture of geishas, tawaifs and courtesans of the past. Our men and women must go through finishing schools to discover the subtleties and nuances of consent and agreement, and be able to communicate so, not just with body language but with conversations on the subject. Of course this can be taught within the family by the parents.