“This is my MeToo story, about one of my senior colleague, whom I used to look up to as a mentor given his vast experience at the company we worked for and ofcourse age- a father of 3 children.
We used to work in a manufacturing unit, away from the city around a small town where relying on conveyance from our colleagues was very common. Being new in the setup, I was filled with gratitude when he offered to help with my commuting. He would even wait for me when I would be running late.
One day while coming back from work, he asked me to pull back the seat and relax. To which initially I refused. He kept on insisting and finally bent towards and pulled my seat down. It was damn awkward. He then started to rub his hand on my thigh and asked if I’m feeling better. A chill went down my spine- no it is not an exaggeration. I was probably living this idiom for the first time in my life. I could not move, I could not express, I could not stand up for something that felt so gravely offensive and wrong.
But what would I tell him? Confronting would mean making things more awkward, wasn’t he been so nice to me? Did he realize what he was doing? What if I tell him and offend him?
So I stay silent. I stopped commuting with him irrespective of his insistence over same.
I did share this incident with my roommate the same day- just to VALIDATE (not sure if my silence or my feeling). What she shared back made me angry. Not at him but her. It’s happened to her as well and many other female colleagues. Which she normalized, and the reason she never felt the need to warn me off.”
Consent is the willingness and comfort of an individual to engage in the act. While we as individuals are clear with the consent in all other aspects, when it comes to sexual experiences, the lines of consent become blurry and thus we have several metoo stories.
MeToo Movement- So what makes the lines blurry in this aspect? Is it Men Or Women?
The answer to it lies in the lack of knowledge and communication about sexuality, sexual experiences and psychological dynamics between the two people. So let’s take that step today and try and understand the same.
Psychologically speaking, there is the “grooming effect” that can be seen across perpetrators. Grooming means- to build an emotional connect with the victim, eventually build trust and offer favors. This makes the victim feel indebted to them. They can’t think of their perpetrator intending to do any harm or using selfish motives behind the mask of being a good person to them.
They use subtle ways in asking you to return favors, starting from non-sexual and then gradually moving to sexual. In this case the touch on the thigh.
Now you may ask what’s the difference between the consensual romance and grooming which is non-consensual. In romance, the survivor does not feel like being taken an advantage of or “obliged” to return favors unlike in grooming where the intention is never to really establish a sexual relationship.
Using foot-in-the-door technique– A social psychology term, commonly used by salespeople to have their larger requests accommodated by having smaller requests entertained. Perpetrators usually begin by a touch and immediately normalizes the behavior by either challenging the victim that they are being fussy or exemplifying it as a common behavior. The victim eventually succumbs to the larger step taken (such as a kiss), a psychological manipulation of having entertained a touch on a thigh so should be a kiss.
Persistence of not taking a NO- When they refuse to hear a NO, the victim is left with no defense. Being impolite- a cultural behavior not generally reinforced thus generally complied to.
Playing the power position card- The perpetrator is often in a power position, thus validating the move and intention. The victim is well aware they hold power to open an avenue of opportunities, make their life miserable and ruining the career.
If A Girl Does Not Say No, Then How Do We Know It’s Not A Consent?
A healthy sexual interaction essentially includes a mutual agreement of intention.
A lot of instances which have been brought into light seem to narrate incidents, wherein the survivor and the accused came together in the situation with different intentions.
We all have such encounters, or metoo moments, every day which majority of us have been conditioned to overlook and let go –
A slight unwanted touch on the waist, thigh or back. Parts of the body which lie in the grey area of being considered sexual and sacred and being considered neutral and an open canvas of affection.
The accused is led by an illusion of acceptance and pleasure which they have been conditioned or rationalize to misinterpret as consent (let’s call it an illusionary consent). A common trigger to such illusions are-
- the lack of active and aggressive resistance from the survivor during the act,
- the wilful presence of the survivor in the physical environment with the accused prior to and during the act,
- no clear denial to engage,
- symbolically encouraging the act through reoccurrences.
Just like when we meet someone professionally we offer a handshake and similarly when we meet someone close we offer a hug, exactly in the same fashion when we feel sexually attracted and interested in someone who maybe our partner, friend, family, acquaintance or a complete stranger we need to first make an offer and wait for an acknowledgment and consent from the partner before we proceed to act.
Are Men Really At Fault To Not Know Consent?
According to Johnson and Hoover (2015), sexual scripts and peer norms contribute to barriers that interfere with effective communication and interpretation of sexual consent.
The allegations that can come right after a sexual assault can be defensive, embarrassing and frustrating and guilt-tripping. After all, who has ever defined for the men what constitutes consent and what doesn’t?
We grow in a culture, where talking and discussing about sexual experience is prohibited,
sexual act and anatomy of women are explored through porn,
slut-shaming & bitch becomes synonymous with the deviation of any behavior that does not fit with socially desirable outfit of personality,
and the culture where the emphasis is always on women for playing an active role for any assault that occurs to them- SHE should not have invited him, SHE should not have smiled or for that matter SHE did not say NO.
Infact the reporting of the incident would always involve a victim as an active agent- A WOMAN has been harassed, instead of- A man has harassed.
Men grow up in the culture of highly skewed power dynamics.
So is consent typically a yes or no? Well, no.
Consent is ever shifting from yes to no, and no to yes, ever negotiating process that is defined by understanding the boundaries drawn and displaying empathy towards any discomfort.
Thus also, there needs to be enough awareness around sexual touch and asserting one’s boundaries and power of saying NO when it comes to differentiating harassment and room of doubt for others intention.
On the other hand, iIn a study by Harvard University, it was found out that respondents wished they knew how to be more attentive towards their partner in order to avoid a situation of illusionary consent.
While discussing with some of my male friends, when I ask them- How would you know there is a consent?
Most of them said-
She will hold my hand if I touch her, she will kiss me back if i happen to first kiss her. But most importantly when I look at her I would want to gauge how comfortable she looks with this intimate moment.
Reference- Dixie, Kyana D. (2017) “Defining Consent as a Factor in Sexual Assault Prevention,” McNair Scholars Research Journal: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1 , Article 5