Do you consent?

Yes/No/Maybe

ILLUSTRATIONS: Azad Mohan ILLUSTRATIONS: Azad Mohan

Someone I dated briefly told me that it is difficult to understand consent in a post #MeToo world. 

I was shocked to hear that. 

“But you did know what to do with me,” I countered.

“I know, we spoke about liking each other. I know you came to meet me. I know you sat beside me. But, till we started kissing, I wasn’t sure,” said the guy. 

I reminded him about how we made out like crazy, but still didn’t go all the way ‘coz I didn’t want to. He wanted to, but he didn’t insist. 

I gave him my blessing with a grand proclamation: “There you have it. You understand consent!”

He seemed to accept that it was okay with me, but I could see he was wondering whether that was it. Got me thinking about how I used to think consent was all about being able to say No. 

Years ago, I asked a guy to stop right in the middle of the act and he did, but not without complaining about how girls get whatever they want. “Somehow we always have to do it whenever a girl wants to. How about doing it when a guy wants to?” 

For a bit, I felt guilty, but then I realised that if a guy had asked me to stop, I would have because that was how I saw consent for the large part. #NoMeansNo

The ability to say No is important, but consent is also about being able to say yes without actually saying it.

That is where people often get confused. The idea of seeking permission for proceeding makes one wonder how to go about it. Should a guy ask for permission before holding hands, hugging, kissing, cuddling, hitting second base, and so on? Should a woman do the same?

Uff. Asking should we do this or that every five seconds would be a buzzkill for sure!

Also read: Woman on top: Why label her sanskari, slutty or sex goddess?

Or, should you make a list of what you want to enjoy, and ask permission for the whole lot beforehand? 

Awkward.

Plus, there is the whole thing about a woman saying No when she means Yes. Unfortunately, like it or not, there will always be women who fake a No or offer token resistance. That is because they have been conditioned to believe that they will be regarded as slutty if they openly express desire. 

The solution is not in trying to “convince” them otherwise. It is to simply accept what they are indicating at face value. Yup, you may be missing out, but that is the only way for them to be sure too. 

Seems like a lot of hard work? It would be if one makes actively seeking consent a task or chore much in the same way as some men regard foreplay. For sure, some smartass will soon expect women to sign forms in triplicate or choose Yes/No/Maybe when he rattles off options. It would be exhausting if not a complete turn off.

But I don’t think seeking consent is so complicated because to me it is always implied or non-verbal. I have never ever had to expressly say Yes. At times, I have never had to expressly say No either.

How Non-Verbal Consent Works

Couples sometimes don’t have the option to be spontaneous and have to plan when to get intimate. Some make elaborate plans and discuss what they like or don’t in advance. My friends who do that also tell me that talking may not be the same as doing. Looking at a pic or video or elaborate sexting only sets the expectation, but the reality may not match up. If you promise to try out a fancy Kamasutra position while sexting but chicken out in person, no one can really hold you to it and say you “consented”. 

It seems obvious to me that being in the moment and knowing what your partner wants or doesn’t want is the only way to go. This may be because I have never been with someone who has had difficulty in understanding whether or not I was enjoying myself. 

Having spoken to many women who have not had the same experience, I owe it to them to paint a picture of what non-verbal consent looks like.  

Seduction vs Coercion

Most of us register cues like a push or pull or a moan. It is what we do next that matters. There are men who plan elaborate moves and go for sweet spots like the nape of the neck or fondling or sucking toes and they follow the script. Very few observe how a woman responds to something and keep going until she is satisfied. Those are the ones who get lucky. They manage to help women let down their inhibitions, and overcome their fears.

A common peeve that Indian men have is that women don’t enjoy oral sex. Neither giving nor receiving. Women have told me about men who keep pushing their head down and practically beg or demand a blow job. Some of these women cave in reluctantly while others keep resisting till the men get the message. 

I, for one, am not partial to oral sex because I don’t believe in unprotected sex and bareback oral seems like an open invitation to STD. There was a guy who kept badgering me with jokes about oral sex and jibes about me being a prude. Needless to say, he got blocked before we even met.

Also read: Male masturbation beyond myths

Then there are men with whom oral stimulation becomes a part of foreplay and not a means to an end. These are the men who wait till you are comfortable to ease into any sexual acts or positions. They don’t spring it upon you or catch you unawares because their goal is not maximum orgasms or checking off sexual bucket list items. 

It is with one such man that I discovered it could be pleasurable if one is in the mood for it and not worried about his STD status. That is also the moment I discovered the difference between seduction and coercion.

Expectation vs Reality

Women on dating apps are often perceived as bindass or badass. There is a certain expectation based on that image. Some men expect rough sex, some expect women to be on the pill if they are having casual sex, some men don’t know what to expect so they say they want to be with a “passionate” woman. 

All these expectations may come to the fore even before a woman has considered hooking up with the guy. Online flirting is fun, but the moment a guy decides that a hook up is guaranteed based on just that, some women may back off. And when women try to extricate themselves from such situations, they are accused of being a tease. However, the reality is that although they may have enjoyed the banter, they may equally have found the come-ons in person too slimy or cheap or whatever. 

The reality is that most women run away from men who assume they will do something instead of waiting to ask if they will.

That is why I don’t do endless chats. I don’t sext. And by my own confession in THE MAN (May 2019), I am a serial first dater. I do not think of sex as a given just because I have met someone from a dating app. Nor do I think I owe it to anyone to match their expectations. 

Talking of matching, here’s the biggie...

Compatibility, compatibility, compatibility!

Though sex provides entertainment, unlike films, it is great when there is compatibility. I can’t stress that enough! All the consent in the world is moot if the couple, though able and willing, finds that the sizzling chemistry doesn’t stretch to a connectedness. Yes, that is the word I am going with. Chemistry is all about the attraction or spark which may fizzle out if it doesn’t translate into compatibility while being intimate. 

Of course, mutual respect and shared interests help feel connected, but I am also talking about sexual compatibility in a visceral sense. This speaks more about how you feel while you are engaging in any sexual activity rather than how you think you will feel. 

Movies often make a big deal about knowing whether a man is right for you the moment you kiss. I kinda agree. I have been expertly kissed, feebly kissed, passionately kissed 

and I know now that the kind I like is not something I can define. It just feels right. 

Also read: Female masturbation - real women talk about how and when they masturbate

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the kisses I have shared have been good, but the special ones are great because the timing is perfect, the kiss lasts just as long as it is supposed to and it is an “aha” moment. If I were in a Meg Ryan fairy tale, yes it would classify as a knee-bending kiss. 

When sex stops being about what you put where, you stop being the guy who worries about how much tongue to use and just gives in to the moment. That is the guy who knows whether a woman wants the kiss to continue or not. Ditto for most other things.

Also, figuring out whether you are sexually compatible is easy because you won’t need to seek a response, it will be there. Before you ask, she will move into the right position, she will lead your hand to the right spot and you will find yourself reciprocating. And yes, it will be way better than porn. 

IMHO 

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