At one point during the #MeToo movement’s zenith on social media, I was scared that someone might just wrongly accuse me of molestation/sexual harassment. My entire public image might go for a toss and my mother, if she gets to know, would be terribly ashamed of me. It was a concern that several other male friends shared. We were all wrong, so wrong.

But a little background before we move ahead. I’m an average guy from a second tier Indian city, living in Mumbai for close to five years. I’ve had flings, experienced heartbreaks and have been an occasional ladies’ man (a milder and more respectful version of the modern-day fuckboi). 

Of all the women that have been a part of my life, my most forgettable experience was on this one date last year. After hopping bars, we afterpartied at her place before heading to mine. According to the wisdom passed on by the elders of the dating universe (a stupid bunch of men/women), it’s a signal of consent for at least making out.

But immediately after we got high, the girl wanted to go home. It was a rainy Mumbai night and I insisted for her to stay — first for vested interests, but then purely out of concern because we couldn’t find a ride and she insisted on walking to the main road to take a kaali peeli. Upon being pursued for a second time, she stormed out of my building; I had to follow, because it was 3 in the night and she didn’t know her way out (neither was she in a state to find it alone. It would have taken me a while on my own to be honest). 

Without an umbrella, we finally managed to book a cab and she texted upon reaching home before we said goodnight. I texted her again in the morning, but she never replied ever again. It was kind of awkward thereafter since we ran into each other regularly in other mutual social spaces and exchanged uncomfortable glances. I didn’t know what I did wrong and she offered me no closure either (I’ve myself been unsure about the manner in which to seek one).

Never have I ever been made to feel worse about my behaviour on a date. There have either been good memories or outright rejections, but this was somewhere in between. I’ve never been disrespectful, but with my meagre understanding of what consent means to women, I was kinda scared by the rise of the #MeToo hashtag about this incident.

And before the Aziz Ansari controversy post the latest Golden Globes, I remained oblivious about the situation. The situation that has led to different layers of consent that exist for women in our dating culture. 

As a part of this construct, women are supposed to be the gatekeepers of sex while it’s the man’s job to constantly try and convince them to get laid. Men are conditioned to feel like some sort of sex-deprived creatures who always have to be on the lookout for mating while women are taught to say no, behave in a pricey manner and not let ‘anything happen on the first date.’ Of course there are exceptions in case of Tinder hookups etc, but they hardly represent the larger dating environment of this day and age.

The portrayal of romance/sex in our films and other popular media doesn’t help either. It further strengthens the idea where men basically have to never give up irrespective of the number of rejections by the same person. Habits like stalking are glorified at the cost of basic decency.

In truth, this puts huge pressure on both the parties involved. And that’s exactly what the recent turn of events has shed light on, especially when it comes to female consent. First was the Cat Person article and then the Aziz Ansari incident. And while we can point out the guy’s fault in the second case, ostracising him will clearly be a missed opportunity.

We should rather build on it and expand the conversation about the understanding of female consent in our culture; to bring about positive changes; to promote directness and stress on the importance of clear conversation; to help men understand women beyond viewing them as mere objects of sex; to build a world on the values of compassion, empathy and equality. Only then will every day truly be women’s day.

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