Do Indian men not understand consent?

People have different explanations for the word consent and it is often brought up, and rightly so, in talks about abuse, sexual harassment and rape. Consent is not restrictive of gender roles. But, men often get the rap for not clearly understanding what can be termed as consensual and what cannot. We asked a few men for their thoughts on the definition of the word and how it relates to their lives. Here’s what they say.

It’s either hell, yes or hell, no. There are no in-betweens

Consent should be the cornerstone of any interaction, sexual or otherwise. You can't get consent from someone who’s not capable of giving it; that’s basically rape. You shouldn’t try to obtain the consent of someone who is incapacitated due to drink/sleepiness/any other reason and cannot make rational decisions. The idea that No could also mean Yes is toxic and is nothing short of rape culture. It’s either hell, yes or hell, no. There are no in-betweens.

Febin Mathew, 27, assistant manager, Mumbai

It’s imperative to any relationship

To me the whole endeavor of a relationship is to get consent, without it, a relationship just ceases to exist or can take an ugly turn. It is what separates a person from a pervert. It is alright to have fantasies, even if they are ridiculous. And if the other person is into it, then there’s no harm. Consent has to be omnipresent throughout the span of a relationship, whether you are dating or married or anything else. You can't force yourself on someone nor let anyone else force themselves upon you.

Zenil Asher, 28, copywriter, Mumbai

It’s all about boundaries, and not crossing them

When I was 22 I had my first kiss. It happened at a movie theatre while on my first date. We sat there watching a movie. He looked at me, leaned forward and kissed me. I was too shocked to move. I was on a date with this boy, but why did I feel like this was wrong? I had not consented to kiss. I wasn't ready. I have since then come to talk about boundaries very openly, as if it were a right – on the bed, and outside the bed, professionally and personally too.

Lennard D’Mello, 32, communications consultant, Mumbai*

Lack of consent is a variation to theft

This brings back a vivid memory. I was 7 and in a crowded market in my hometown. While my mother was haggling with a shopkeeper, I lifted a single peanut from a nearby handcart. When she was done bargaining, I offered her the peanut while proudly telling her how I acquired it. I still remember the resounding slap and the ensuing words, ‘don’t you ever take anything from anyone without permission’. For me these two admonitions serve as my guide map for all matters, including sexual. Consent for me is morally the self-evident line in the sand between empathy and psychopathy.

Piyush Tainguriya, 31, stand-up comic, Mumbai

It’s a misunderstood concept

Consent is a highly misunderstood concept, mostly by men. Most men feel they are entitled to what they want. We come from women and they must be respected. The way a woman dresses does not reflect her consent, what she has to say does. Let’s all grow up to accept that.

Devansh J, 31, chef, Mumbai

There are many types

According to me, there are various types of consents. Real consent is where there is no problem at all. Temporary consent is where someone can go back on their word if things get messy later on. Spontaneous consent is when initially, there's no intention of giving it but things start getting tempting and then one agrees. Forceful consent is the worst kind, where a person performs an act without the approval of the other.

Yogesh Chatterjee, 53, health trainer, Mumbai*

It’s a fine line

The problem with a no means no is that the assumption that everything besides an outright no can be taken as a yes. It is this confusion that I often fight with. If I am out on a date with a woman and she is giving me signals, should I take that as an invitation? I think that asking someone to kiss them doesn’t always sound very spontaneous or romantic. I’ve had women kiss me without asking my consent but that’s because I am indicated that I like them and have shown interest. If I think a woman is showing interest, I will make a move. If she says no after that, I will back off. It is a fine line though because I have often misread signals, although there was no ‘no’ involved.

Noorul Khanna, 38, curator, Ahmedabad*    

*Names changed.

Person in the picture is a model.

Have you ever thought about consent in your relationship? Share your thoughts with Love Matters in the comment section of this page or on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please visit our discussion forum - Let’s Talk

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