I met this guy through a friend and we hit it off well. Numbers were exchanged and we chatted and flirted for the next few days. Next we met at a party in a club. I was drinking, and he, as far as I remember, was not, because it was the period of ‘navrataras’ (a Hindu festival during which it is common for people to avoid non–vegetarian food and alcohol). We hooked up at the party. A couple of friends asked if I was sure and knew what I was doing. I replied in the affirmative. I was so sure that I had the situation under control that I knew it was probably just a kiss and I would have control over how far it goes, like I had always had. Most friends left before me and by the time we left, only four people were there. We walked to the parking lot and it was decided that we should split up into two groups.
I was to go with the ‘hook up guy’ to my friend’s place, who was in the other car with her boyfriend. We got into the car and drove off. I thought we were heading to our friend’s place, but he stopped on the way and made a move. We started making out and within a few minutes, he was making the moves that I did not want him to make. I did not want to go that far. I tried to resist but he persisted with ‘it’s okay’, ‘its okay baby’. I wanted to say ‘I am not your baby’. I wanted him to stop. But in my head I was wondering if it was my fault. Maybe I had limited understanding of what ‘hook ups’ meant. Maybe I had asked for it. I mean at the end of the day, I was drinking and had consented to this to an extent. But perhaps the extent was only in my head.
Suddenly, I realized that he had dropped his pants. I freaked out and physically resisted. He still did not stop. I finally gathered the courage and pushed him, saying ‘I am sorry but I can’t do this’. He stopped. He was irritated and said some things to the effect of – ‘what is wrong with you, it was all going well till now’, etc. I kept saying ‘sorry’. He started the car and sped up.
I remember being terrified. I felt I had angered him and didn’t know what he would do next. I actually wanted to shout at him and give him a slap. But just the fact that I was alone with him at 2 o’clock in the night, only at his mercy to get back to my friend’s place, made me decide to keep calm and be nice to him. Not just be nice, but apologise. To say that I was sorry that I did not want to cross the limits that made me feel comfortable. After 15 minutes of crazy, rash driving, we reached my friend’s place, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I woke up feeling horrible the next morning. I wondered all that could have happened. He did eventually stop and dropped me where I wanted. He could have forced himself on me, but all he did was be angry and drive rashly. I could not get it out of my head. I still had a sinking feeling which would not have been there had I actually felt safe. The fact of the matter was that he did not respect the consent I had given him. I had consented, but only till a point. And consent for one thing does not mean consent for the other. He did not stop when I asked him to. I asked him verbally. I resisted physically. I thought 10 times before the ‘final push’ – should I push or not? But you know what led to the hesitation – the thoughts that maybe I had ‘asked for it’, and the fear that maybe he might do something worse.
Consent is not something I thought about actively. During my adolescent years, awareness campaigns and hashtags did not exist. #OnlyYesMeansYes and #NoMeansNo were alien to me. Among us friends, we discussed ‘how far’ should one go, at ‘what age’ and with ‘whom’. Our discussions were based on random notions of how a certain ‘base’ was alright for a certain age, and if anyone ‘crossed that line’, or experienced less than that, they would find themselves the subjects of whispers and rumours and became either the ‘bad’ or the ‘uncool’ people. Thinking back to those years however, the biggest worry that comes back to me is of negotiating with one’s partner. A worry that started there, but unfortunately did not end there.
How do I tell him? What do I say? Is it okay if I do not want to go that far? Will he break up with me? Will he think I’m weird? Should I give in? But no, I don’t feel like giving in. So should I just say ‘no’ and apologise to him, with the hope that he will understand?
While these questions plagued my super-confused adolescent head, I longed to have someone to talk to about this. I never received ‘sex’ or ‘sexuality education’ in my school. While information, correct or incorrect, was still somehow attainable from different sources, there was no one to guide me about what I should do or not do. Parents would disown. Friends may judge. Teachers may tell parents. The world seemed quite a ‘non-understanding’ place. I made my own mistakes, took decisions, dated a few boys who were mostly respectful of the ‘limits’ I set for myself when it came to sexual activity; and so, life did not seem that bad after all.
After the incident that night, I remember calling up the men in my life – my brother, my male friends – and telling them what happened to ask if they ever did this with their girlfriends or ‘hook ups’. They said they always respected the comfort level and consent of the girl. I hoped they were being honest. A couple of them, however, did say that ‘you were stupid to get drunk. You could have left with us. So, what if the friend you had to stay with had not left yet. You could have stayed with us’. I could have. I most certainly could have. Just like I could have anticipated how things would turn out. Just like I could have known that I would have to go with him alone. Just like I could have known that he would want to take it to an extent I was not comfortable with. And also I could have known that he would have ignored my resistance. But the truth is – I DID NOT. I did not know any of this. And nor did I know that it was my right to say ‘No’. That I had nothing to blame myself for. I didn’t know then that ‘yes’ meant ‘yes’ and not ‘no’, that consent to kiss was not consent for sexual intercourse, that my verbal and physical resistance was a ‘no’. I wish he had known it too. I wish we both had been told about it. We might have behaved differently. I would not have apologised for saying ‘no’, or he would have respected my ‘no’ in the first place.
I read articles featured in the #TalkSexuality campaign, and it makes me wonder what it might have been like if #consent was talked about in school. We would probably have done a much better job of respecting each other’s choices. Maybe. Maybe not. But it would be nice to have the option.
[alert type=yellow ]Do you think that women, girls, men and boys could be spared similar confusion, turmoil, self-doubt etc., by having had the space to discuss consent with a trusted adult (teacher) and peers (classmates/friends)?[/alert]