Who said you could do that?! (Or: Consensual sex and the lack of it in the 21st century)

Because really, who said you could? Who said you could touch my butt on the train, or grab my breast in the line for movie tickets? It has become second nature for men to treat the bodies of passing women as their commodities, but we haven’t quite been able to deal with it.

As a woman, this is an everyday problem, to the point where it has just become easier not to dwell upon it. Because who wants to create a scene? And yet, this silence has become their license to continue, undeterred and unafraid of consequences. While such men may be a passing figure in our lives, take a moment to think about those who have these perverts as husbands, brothers and fathers.

Such is the impunity if men in this world, that they believe it is their right to assault women even in their homes. There are countries such as Saudi Arabia, India etc., where marital rape is permitted under the law. Basically speaking, it is NOT unlawful for a man to have sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent. It doesn’t matter why she refuses sex. It doesn’t matter if she’s not in the mood, or is exhausted from household chores, if the husband is drunk or abusive to her. The bottom line remains, if HE wants it, then SHE better do it.

I did try to understand why men treat a woman’s consent as unnecessary, and came up with a few possible answers. The first one off the top of my head, and one which shows up every now and then in the discussion of dynamics between men and women, is that of ownership.

In several societies men believe that they own their woman. Her time is theirs, her name is theirs, and so is her body. Providing them with sexual pleasure is not only her duty but also a privilege bestowed upon her, so she should be extremely thankful while she sucks him off. The idea of ownership goes to such an extent that she is no longer a person; she is more an object. An objects, inherently, do not talk, or talk back, or refuse. Does your car refuse to be driven? Does your pencil refuse to draw lines on paper? When they don’t refuse, how can she?

The second thing that strikes me is about pleasure. You may think I’m rather dumb if pleasure came to my mind so late when sex is in fact, all about pleasure, but that is not the case. Sex is no longer about pleasure, it is about a man’s pleasure. All that is important is if he is enjoying it, if he is getting off, if he is having his orgasms. A woman’s comfort, her pleasure or her enjoyment are totally superfluous. I’ve read several articles about women not achieving orgasms and while there may be a mental block or a physical problem with attaining climax for some of them, it cannot be ignored that when the sex is happening only according to the man’s preference and convenience, the woman feels like she is unnecessary in the act itself. I haven’t even come yet to those regressive cultures, where a woman is looked down upon or considered to be shameless for expressing desire, whereas no such restrictions are put upon their men. How can women then ever attain pleasure in such  a situation, where they are considered sinful for enjoying the intimacy?

Sex also, is becoming less and less about love and more and more about bodies only, which is a downright unhealthy way of looking at it. Now I’m not talking about Romeo and Juliet, the forever-love that Taylor Swift sings about, but even basic affection, lust and attraction have become redundant. Men seem to be driven by the agenda of just taking what they want. It has ceased to matter if the object of their desires is a schoolgirl, or a hospital worker, if she is married or unmarried, has a partner or not, if she has refused them several times, or if she even likes them but is holding out on sex for whatever reason. It has become okay for men to force their lust on women, to take them by force, to hurt them, physically, psychologically and emotionally in the process, to break bones or give them a bloody nose, to leave them incapable of trusting a man or have a happy and functional relationship for the rest of her life. As you can break a pencil or smash a car into a wall, women are being broken into pieces by men who just won’t take no for an answer.

I know there is a solution for all this, and while it may just seem like a word it is so much bigger than its seven letters, and that is – RESPECT. There needs to be respect for our words, our bodies and our refusal. If we want to have sex, we’ll tell you. If we’re too shy to tell you, we’ll drop hints. And we respect it, when you ask us to have sex, or initiate it in a subtle way which leaves room for refusal if we’re uncomfortable. There also needs to be a fear of consequences. It needs to be understood that if a man tries to force a woman into sexual intercourse, she will LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP. She will cut the man out of her life. He will not see his kids, Not touch her money, and have his name maligned so that every woman is wary of getting into a relationship with a man with such a history. There is irrational fear about the word ‘fear’. The truth is that fear keeps the best of us from over-stepping our boundaries. It is why we do not storm our principal’s office for a badly evaluated exam and why we don’t just rob a bank if we’re short of money. It is not just because we respect the principal, or because we are aware that it is not our money. It is the fear that we may be expelled and we could go to jail. And who is to say how much a little fear will help a woman ward off untoward advances from the men who are supposed to love and shelter them.

Make love, not war.


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