By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Hi, you guys!
I’ve got to say I was so blown away by how many questions came pouring through after my first column went up. I was anticipating a sort of slow build-up, where some of you came on board in the first few months and it sort of snowballed into a regular audience, where we’d get a few thoughtful questions every now and then. But, everyone was awesome, and I got a bunch of really good queries and so many places to start that it was hard picking these first two, so I went somewhat chronologically in the selection. I’ll get around to all of them sooner rather than later, I promise.
In the meantime, let’s do this!
How would you define consent while having sex with a regular partner? Do rules between couples need to be redefined constantly, with every act of intercourse? For instance, would giving in to a sexual act, something you normally wouldn’t have (objectively) still be concerned mutual consent? (Where does pity sex fall in all of this, for instance). I’m asking you this question because a lot of girls that I know, and even in my personal experience, give in to sexual acts (after they have said yes to it previously, but perhaps are not in the mood for it) to avoid risking the ire of their partner, or for brownie points later, or even out of ‘love’. How do we draw the line?
I remember the first man I dated who refused to reciprocate oral sex. “I’m just not into it,” he’d say. He’d accept very happily, even encourage me to go ahead and do just that “because you’re so good at it” and I’d be foolishly flattered, and I think also share in his distaste of my nether regions? Because how could I ask him to be all over that if I wasn’t, you know? I was much younger then, but I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s totally understandable if he doesn’t want to, poor fellow, who can blame him.”
And as a result, he wasn’t the only man I met who did this. I went through the first nine years—nine years—of being sexually active without having an orgasm with my partner. And I thought this was totally normal. Not only did I think this was normal, I also thought I had failed as a woman, as a sexual being, if my partner was not completely satisfied by the end of it. I was not me anymore in this situation, I was some made up Geisha-Porn-Star-Independent-Young-Woman-Who-Watched-Herself-From-The-Outside.
I think we’ve fallen prey to being hyper-sexualised so much and for so long, that often we forget to regard ourselves as who we are, and start to look at our bodies as part of a narrative that actually excludes us. So you can be with your partner and say, “I’m not really in the mood,” but your partner cajoles and says, “Come on baby, please,” and you’re well within your rights to say no, but you can feel yourself at the back of your head turning from Pooja or Neha or whoever into Sex Girl, where the viewer can only see your long calves in high heels or the top of your bra or something. Sometimes you think, “It’s been so long since I’ve done this, maybe I’m turning into One of Those Women, a cliché, someone who has sex like once a year or something.” Or maybe you think, “His fragile ego may not be able to take another rejection especially after I turned him down yesterday.” Or you think, “Maybe I’ll go along with it to see if I get into it eventually.”
My point is that you can’t call it Not Consent, but you can think about why you need to give in at this point. Is this yielding something that you want to do, or is it Sex Girl contorting herself into impossible positions while managing to keep her lipstick on and her blow out intact? If the latter, put her on a train and send her far away, because she exists only to be viewed from the outside, and you are a combination of complex choices.
My question is, since you say you’ll help me kick patriarchy’s ass, how are you different from the so-called feminazis?
What have feminists done to you to make you compare them to Nazis? I ask because I’m concerned about this label. Is it the strong independent woman thing? Does that scare people? I can even break it down into a listicle: Five Things The Nazis Did That Feminists Do Not
1) Killed the Jews.
2) Killed the homosexuals.
3) Killed the handicapped.
4) Instituted a manic leader with delusions of grandeur.
5) Started a World War.
No, but seriously. I think feminism is scary to some people because it has an “ism” in it. And it conjures up people lecturing you when all you want to do is have a good time and “can’t you take a joke yaa?” and “why must you be so strident about it?” I’ll tell you why: because sometimes people don’t listen. Because sometimes if I have to listen to the same sexist joke in my workplace for the zillionth time I will shoot somebody. Because being born a woman in India is in itself one big lottery—will I survive? Or will I be aborted/killed at birth/raped and left for dead/killed because my dowry wasn’t big enough/maimed because I rejected someone’s affection/married and forced to keep my head down and my voice low for the rest of my life/sold into sex slavery/murdered because I loved the “wrong” person/uneducated because it would be a “waste of time anyway”?
Tell me after all that that I should stop talking about this “ism”. And tell me again why you think we’re Nazis.