Abhishek, 26, works with an NGO in Delhi.
The road to consent town
I was 14 years old when I had my first girlfriend. Yes, the one girl, you get seen talking to and everyone suddenly starts calling you girlfriend and boyfriend. She was my first girlfriend.
I was not sure what people do in a relationship. No one teaches you about this. Whatever little I knew was from books (not the school books, but the ones you hide from everyone) and some Bollywood and Hollywood movies. You just imitate stuff on how a girlfriend and boyfriend should look and what they should do!
And soon everyone was asking, 'Kya kya kiya, kahan tak baat pahuchi?' Everyone was very curious to know if we had kissed or not, made out or not. If you said no, they would make fun of you in front of everyone. This started building pressure on me and I thought I should do something ‘to take my relationship forward’.
So one day, while we were working on an experiment in the science lab, I touched her back. Copying a scene from a movie, I thought it would make her happy! She just shivered and retreated. It was awkward and after all these years, I know it was a mistake.
The new improved me
But at 21, I knew better. I worked for an NGO and knew everything about rights and consent. So I went on a movie date with a girl named Ankita. While watching the movie, I felt like holding her hand. In the two-hour-thirty-minute movie, I took around two hours to ask her if I could hold her hand! But it was worth it.
Ankita was really impressed that I had asked her permission for holding her hand. In fact it sparked an interesting discussion. She shared that had been on dates where guys took the liberty to hold her hands or give her a hug or even attempt a kiss without asking. ‘Saying yes for a movie or a date doesn't mean you can get touchy feely and take holding hands for granted’, she exclaimed.
Boy! I was so happy. I was now a class apart from all the other boys she had met earlier. I made a mental note that girls should always be asked about every move at every step! Be it kissing or holding hands or you know what.
To ask or not to ask!
Ankita and I started dating regularly. Soon we started feeling quite attracted to each other.
One day, when I was sitting on one side of the bed and she on the other, I asked if we could kiss. She said yes and soon we were more than making out. I wanted to get more intimate and in the midst of all the action, I asked her if I could go down on her?
She mumbled something that was barely audible. I was confused whether to carry on or not. But as per my pledge, I literally stopped to ask her if she had said yes or not.
That is when she just slapped me! Got up, smoothened her clothes and got off the bed!
Looking at my surprised face, she said, we had lost the moment because I was talking too much! ‘Mood hee bigad diya yaar!’
What! But I was just asking for permission!
Isn’t it what we had agreed early on in our relationship? Hadn’t she praised me for asking her to hold her hand?So why did she get angry now? What changed?
When I discussed this with some of my friends they laughed. ‘You just go with the flow yaar! It’s not like school!’
As they continued to tease me, I was still wondering, ‘Should I go with the flow or should I ask for consent?’
Yes, it's confusing and a million-dollar question. I don’t think we can just assume our partner is ready for what we want. But then people like me don't know how to go about it and end up spoiling the whole moment!
What happened with my relationship is a different story, but I still believe that getting a partner's permission is important. I just needed to figure out how it doesn't ruin the mood!
Found the mantra
After Ankita, I have been on many dates. And I am beginning to understand consent better. Or let’s say beginning how to seek it better.
In fact, what I have tried to do is to make consent a part of the foreplay. Asking for consent is a part of the build up process and is now a major turn on as the whole talk just builds the flow. And to be totally honest, nothing ruins the mood like non-consensual sex, when one partner is not really too keen.
Ankita was my first time, but now experience has taught me a few ways of handling this important step. And I am very glad to share it with you. It is for the greater good I believe!
So here are a few methods I use to ask for consent (without getting slapped!)
- Is it okay if I hold your hand?
- Can I kiss you?
- Are you sure you're ready for this?
- Do you want me to stop?
- Is it okay if I take your shirt/top off?
- Are you enjoying it?
- Do you want to have sex?
- Can I go down and taste your sweet nectar?
- Are you comfortable with anal?
- Do you have a condom?
Jaate jaate, I would just say this - keep it simple! ‘No,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘unsure’ - they all mean no. And a no always means no. And let me know how you managed! Slap or not!
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.