Must Watch, Brilliant Tinder Ad On Consent: “Look For A YES; Anything Less Is A NO!”

The 8 minutes and 12 seconds of this short film by Tinder is taut with tension and apprehension, even though every dialogue feels like something you’ve heard someone say or something you have talked about with friends.

Tinder recently produced a short film about consent directed by Sonam Nair, that deals with the conversations around consent and sexual abuse among a group of friends. It captures the nuances of what goes on in interpersonal relationships and effectively navigates the different forms a ‘No’ can take.

In this short film, a group of friends from an urban, privileged background get together to celebrate the birthday of one of them. They are in their late-twenties and as is a quintessential millennial or Gen Z experience, they decide to play Never Have I Ever.

The mood quickly turns grim as disturbingly, one person decides to make light of and joke about how they violated the consent of another person in the room.

A conversation ensued, we became privy to the experiences of three people around consent and how some others perceived it.

Asking for consent has become a buzzword but not a practice

From at least the 1990s and the third wave of feminism, the concept of consent has been at the forefront of feminist articulation of justice, agency and sexual violence. The dialogues became more mainstream with the #MeToo movement as more and more survivors began talking about their experiences of sexual abuse and these concepts and the language became more accessible to people.

But patriarchy has taken a deeper root in the lives and minds of people that was represented in one of the men in this short film. An urban, English educated, possibly liberal woke guy for whom only a loud, unequivocal no stands for a no. “If he wanted to say no, he would have just said no.”

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For him reading signs like turning away or trying to get out of somebody’s hold is too much of a bother. Consent, once asked for, is final and absolute.

Further, asking for it is considered perfunctory and a negotiation. The guy who violates the gay man’s consent offers a confession that he doesn’t understand the signs of someone saying no, in the way of an explanation for his predatory behaviour.

Both of these characters fall back on their entitlement, and cannot seem to perceive hesitation or any sign of displeasure or fear, but would they have the same problem with identifying interest?

This short film is a reflection of reality

Understanding of consent is intrinsically linked to understanding the person’s subjective location in society – where the person stands in matters of gender, sexuality, and other marginalising social markers. Traditional ender roles dictate that the man has a ‘right to sexual activity’ and the woman’s body; as it can be seen in Central government’s refusal to criminalise marital rape because as they claim, it would “destabilise the institution of marriage”.

The 8 minutes and 12 seconds of the short film is taut with tension and apprehension, even though every dialogue feels like something you’ve heard someone say or something you have talked about with friends. You have attended half a dozen hang outs where the conversation took exactly this turn.

Someone complained about how asking for consent would kill the whole mood, or someone offhandedly apologises for something grave they did solely for the fear of being called out.

Raises crucial issues

The short film touched on many important elements that was needed to be covered, it even attempted to bust the homophobic conception that queer people are invariably ‘promiscuous, attracted to everyone’, and made space for queer survivors of sexual abuse.

It makes this very clear – “Dude, turning away from someone is a NO. Trying to break away is a NO. Being so goddam drunk that you are in no state of mind to make a decision is a NO.”

So ask. Don’t say, “Asking once should be enough.” It isn’t.

As one of the women in the short film very poignantly opine, “why does nobody teach you as a kid, that you can refuse?”

In the absence of comprehensive sex education programs in schools and colleges, social media and multi media are the only means of reaching out and sparking off dialogues and conversations. And this project by Tinder is a step in that direction.

Yet the film doesn’t get out of traditional gender roles

The problem with this short film, or the problem with the dialogues around consent in general, is the thinking of consent as a question posed to women. This makes them passive recipients and not equal participants.

Consent being understood only in terms of yes and no from women re-establishes gendered expectations and restricts sexuality. This also overlooks how gender hierarchy makes saying no difficult for a lot of women. It needs to be understood in terms of mutual enthusiastic willingness and a ‘I want this’ or ‘I want that’.

Even considering that, applauding this film all the way!

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About the Author

Kamalika

A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...

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