IntersectionalityGender Consent Or Coercion: Navigating Dating Spaces As A Heterosexual Woman

Consent Or Coercion: Navigating Dating Spaces As A Heterosexual Woman

Irrespective of your gender, sexuality, or age, it is important to understand both sexual and non-sexual consent in dating spaces.

In an era of online dating and endless possibilities of relationships, there is a scarcity of the right guide to the right dates. Apart from theories on who should pay for the date, where to go, and how to dress up, few articles talk about consent, how to treat your date, what to and what not to ask.

Apart from theories on who should pay for the date, where to go, and how to dress up, few articles talk about how to treat your date, what to and what not to ask.

Surely, there should not be any hard and fast rules to something as natural as talking, but well, basic boundaries and understanding of consent are a good place to start.

Recognising red flags

Being an ambivert and socially anxious person, I find peace in meeting people via dating apps as opposed to in a naturally crowded social setting. So I found myself agreeing to a date plan with this total stranger in a fairly less familiar city. Every individual frames their own criteria, depending on their personality, as well as the purpose of going on a date.

Source: FII

Someone like me who highly values intellectual and emotional intimacy looks for meaningful conversations and more of the “getting to know each other” phase than a casual one-night stand. The first gut instinct to abort the plan was the lack of curiosity in either of these in the initial virtual conversations. I gave this heterosexual man the benefit of doubt since there are people who are more open in a real-life setting as opposed to behind the screens.

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When the man asks you nothing about your life, and only about what is inside your clothes, you most likely have got yourself an eternally sexually frustrated, lustful, blue-balled man to go on a date with. Should I have gone on the first date with the boy who repeatedly asked if he would be getting “that kind of” snaps despite a clear NO every time? Should I have canceled the date last minute on the boy who asked if he should be getting condoms despite the already stated, ‘No, I am not going to be physically intimate with you’?

Should I have canceled the date last minute on the boy who asked if he should be getting condoms despite the already stated, ‘No, I am not going to be physically intimate with you’?

Well, I did go on that date. I live by one principle, which could be fatal in certain situations and should only be used with your rationality and judgement, which is ‘Better an Oops than a What if’, So, I gathered my courage and three of my friends (for safety purposes) and went on this date. To clarify, the friends seated themselves away from me and had absolutely no intention of interfering unless something went gravely wrong and sexually violating.

The date was surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) similar to the virtual chats. The second red flag was my one-sided getting-to-know questions, with no equal reciprocation from the other side, in addition to the mocking and trivialising tone at my choice of career.

Dating and caste
Source: FII

Leaving the specific details of this incredibly boring conversation aside, let me talk about the third and final red flags when I decided to abort Mission Date. For a better understanding of this bit of dialogue, a 5’ woman is sitting on one out of the four chairs around the table while the 5’11’ man is just standing right next and annoyingly close to the woman.

Do you want to have another drink?

No, thank you.

But why?

No, I just don’t want to, right now.

Are you sure? But why?

No… It’s just.. I don’t want to. You can order one if you want. I will give you company.

No, it is no fun drinking alone. Maybe we will do one thing; we will go to my place and drink there.

No, no, it’s alright. I actually had another plan in another half an hour (No I didn’t but I was uncomfortable at this point).

Oh okay. But you are still free to come over to my place.

No, it’s okay. Maybe another time.

I see. Sure we will leave then. I can come to your place then.. or you can come to mine.

No, no it’s alright. We will plan something later.

If someone does not find this conversation annoyingly repetitive or infuriating, I am sure they need to rework their understanding of consent and how ‘No means No’.

This is not the story of one woman or one specific incident. Consent is still dangerously less understood by the masses. There has been vast research on consent and coercion, and the grey area of consent. Studies have found that women feel more obligated to comply with men’s sexual demands than the reverse (Fahs et al., 2020). This leads to a tiring amount of ‘emotion work’ by the woman by denying in a way that does not provoke an aggressive reaction from the man.

How Does Online Dating In Hyperreality Look Like?
Source: FII

Coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, ‘emotion work’ is a work that ‘requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others’ and argued that women must manage and suppress their emotions and direct them according to corporate and workplace expectations (Hochschild, 2012). Researchers have extended this theory to prove how women have to engage in emotion work in their dating and sex lives too (Fahs & Swank, 2016).

Here, and in numerous daily interactions women engage in, women fear denying men outright and feel pressured to provide a convincing excuse because simply not wanting to do something is not considered a potent reason. Women have to navigate through, not just professional spaces but also their personal spaces, to avoid undesirable reactions to their basic choice of Yes or No.

Irrespective of your gender, sexuality, or age, it is important to understand both sexual and non-sexual consent. Continuous communication is the key to successful interactions and relationships, but be mindful of the narrow line between “continuous” communication and “relentless pursuit or coercion”.

Source: FII

As a concluding note, as opposed to what the films and songs tell you, remember: uske naa mei haan nahi hai (There is no ‘Yes’ in her ‘No’). Happy (consensual and comfortable) dating!


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