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Consent and sex are simpler than we realise. Active consent from both parties, rather than needing one to say ‘No’ loudly, only increases sexual pleasure.
Imagine this scenario; a young woman walks into a clothing store. She looks around and likes a dress. She asks for its price and realizes that it’s a bit expensive for her. Then the saleswoman tries to persuade her with a discount on the dress. The woman also looks at other options in the shop. In the end, she leaves the clothing store, after denying the discount offered as well.
So even if the saleswoman was not happy, she doesn’t have the right to shout at the customer or constantly remind her that she had liked the dress in the beginning. The customer may have thought to purchase the dress but she said no, as she didn’t want an expensive one. She may have thought again, when a discount was offered for the dress. But in the end, she said no to the saleswoman and walked out.
So, should the customer be persuaded by the saleswoman and forced to purchase it? Should the woman be reminded about this particular dress, the next time she walks into the shop, by the saleswoman? No.
Similarly, in matters of sex, why is it that the absence of consent to sex, is not taken as a valid reason when a woman says so?
Sex shouldn’t be about probabilities, imagined consent or interests, history of other sexual relationships, consented sexual relationship in the past between the two parties, or ‘maybe’s’ and ‘if’s’ based on the body language. It should be based on purely verbal consent and expression of that consent. It should be about mutual respect, understanding and clear communication between the parties involved.
Sex has, for so long, been on the basis of power relations between the sexes with regard to decision making in having sex or expressing one’s sexuality, usually in favor of men. Sex has for long, been associated only with the marriage of two genders. Sex has for long, been associated with unhealthy expressions of female sexuality. Sex has for long, encouraged male domination and presented men as the key decision makers in having sex. Sex has for long, been a taboo subject during the growing up years of most adults in our society. Sex has for long been a hushed up topic for women, until the day of their marriage, especially in the Indian context.
Even after the progressive amendments to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the inhibitions to consent to sex, still hasn’t changed much. Inspite of a legal definition of consent in the law, aimed at removing patriarchal notions and prejudices in cases of past sexual history or absence of physical injury or lack of evidence in having denied the sexual activity that took place, between the accused and survivor, there seems to no major change in many court cases and judgements. It is, as if, some of the legal amendments are done on paper only and many judges don’t even take the pain to evaluate the reason for such amendments done. Why do we have the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2017 ? Or Why are we still advocating for the removal of Section 377 and countless other amendments or removals of sections in various laws, in India?
One of the recent court judgements that really boggled us was the one in the sexual harassment case against Director Mahmood Farooqui. In spite of the trial court, during the last year, taking into consideration the newly added definition of ‘consent’ in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the Delhi High Court actually overturned it this year. The High Court actually assumed that the accused in this case, known to the survivor, did not understand that the survivor had said ‘no’, possibly as the ‘no’ was ‘feeble’.
When I sat down to write this, I was letting go of my frustrations at having this situation, around us, everyday. And it just doesn’t stop at gaining mutual respect and understanding, in when to have sex. A simple understanding of each other’s desire for sex just increases the amount of pleasure and good sexual intimacy for both parties. Sometimes, it as simple as that. Such mutual respect will automatically dilute the power equations between the sexes, or rather at least, see the probabilities of living our daily lives without the need for gender inequalities and discrimination.
More the number of people realize, that consent in sex is not just a personal matter, lesser would be number of cases related to sexual violence, in our homes as well as in public places.
As women, we negotiate this, sometimes silently, sometimes boldly; circumstances are definitely to play. The reason that we still have to stress on the right to say the word ‘no’ to having sex, in different situations, is exactly why the change in rigid mindsets and patriarchal notions of sex, is very much needed! And it starts in my home, your home, all our homes! In the end, surely such a large effect would trickle onto the different layers in the society.
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