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No Means No: Nothing But Distinct Sexual Consent Matters

No Means No: Nothing But Distinct Sexual Consent Matters

Sexual Consent

Amitabh Bachchan, in the role of lawyer Deepak Sehgal, uttered, “No means no,” to defend a rape victim – and the line went viral. Some people turned it into a meme and made fun of it. But others took it seriously, and the line became a catchphrase to reflect sexual consent.

Sadly, it took a jarring movie and a male superstar to make the concept of “consent” noticeable. “Sex” is still taboo in our country, and hence, there’s still a lack of sex education. The consequent absence of sexual consent education exists in the minds of potential perpetrators and victims.

Our society firmly and blindly believes in the myth that women are too coy about consenting to physical intimacy. Of course, Bollywood has a part to play in this, establishing this myth as the universal truth through songs, cheesy lines by stalkerish male leads, and problematic tales.

It’s time for a quick lesson on enforcing consent for sex – to recognise when you’re a victim.

What is Sexual Consent?

Section 375 IPC is dedicated to the definition of rape and consent. It says that any sexual intercourse against a woman’s will and without her consent is rape – until it takes place between a man and his wife. The section also explains the idea of consent and its application.

Consent for sex is permission for a sexual act, and a woman must communicate it clearly. It should be voluntary, i.e., given freely in the absence of manipulation, pressure, intoxication, fear, unconsciousness, insanity, etc. In addition, you need to know a few other things about consent.

Consent is reversible – which means that you can consent to a sexual act and change your mind later. You have the right to stop at any point, even in the middle of the act. Your partner needs specific consent for different types of sexual acts, and there’s no place for assumptions.

In the absence of consent, Sec 375 criminalises

  • Any form of penetration or touching of a woman’s vagina or anus
  • Penile penetration of a woman’s mouth

In addition, under sec 354, the Indian Penal Code also criminalises acts like

  • Unwelcome physical contact
  • Unwanted verbal advances
  • Demand for sexual acts
  • Forcing a woman to watch pornography
  • Making sexually explicit remarks or overtures
  • Forcibly disrobing a woman
  • Stalking
  • Voyeurism, etc.

Thus, whether we talk about rape or sexual assault, your consent is the key.

Victim-Blaming and Determining Consent for Sex

Often, women themselves are confused about consent, especially after the act. The sad reality about our society is that it tends to question a woman’s morality, virtue, character, honesty, and more when she opens her mouth and speaks up about her experience of rape or assault.

In every way, she is forced to believe that either it was her fault or she must have misled her perpetrator. Sometimes, the excuse is that “men will be men.” Thus, it becomes the victim’s responsibility if a man misunderstands any behaviour of a woman as her consent for sex.

Rape and sexual assault in any form can be a traumatising experience for a woman. Things get more complicated because most victims know their perpetrators. You’ll be shocked to know that the percentage of women attacked by someone they know lies between 70% and 90%!

Victims also start questioning themselves. Did you dress too provocatively – or were you partying and drinking with the wrong people? Didn’t you agree to go for a meal with your boss right before an evaluation? Is it polite to withdraw your consent? That’s when things get worse.

Stealthing – Removing Condoms without Consent

Our courts and our society often prioritise the life, future, and position of the accused. Apologists prefer to blame the victim and push them to the point where the victim herself feels confused. Then there are areas that are missed by the Indian legal system, like marital rape or stealthing.

While it is explicit that marital rape is not a crime if the wife is over 18 years of age, stealthing is a grey area for the IPC. Stealthing means removing the condom during penetration without the consent of the woman. It’s dangerous, as it can expose you to STIs and unwanted pregnancy.

In the eyes of the legal system, everything about sex is black and white. It does not have a place for something as nuanced as stealthing. It would mean a discussion regarding sex between married and unmarried couples, sexual intimacy for non-reproductive purposes, etc.

Many women try to take charge by shifting to female condoms to protect themselves from pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. But, while the only way out for women is to protect themselves, the final solution is for the legal system to make changes and address the issue.

Self-questing is the reason behind the massive under-reporting of rape and assault. It takes strength to stand up to a friend, colleague, boss, relative, family member, professor, classmate, or former or current intimate partner. It’s hard to prove a sexual act to be non-consensual.

Clearly, there’s no such thing as implied consent for sex. Factors like your behaviour, clothes, makeup, habits, profession, relationships, etc., do not matter. Even the silence isn’t consent. Be it stealthing or forcing sex after the withdrawal of consent – the responsibility is not on the victim.

Misunderstanding your lack of refusal, behaviour, silence, etc., is a choice made by the attacker. No matter what questions come to your mind – the answer is the same. Unless you give explicit and specific consent to every act that’s sexual in nature, you cannot be touched or violated.

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