Where Does Consent End?

‘Casual Harassment’.

It’s both a vague but also scarily real term that needs to be talked about. Before you ask why, before you dismiss me as a ‘whiny feminazi’, you should know something: many girls, including myself, have had to live through it.

Imagine this (any millennial can) – You and your friends are at a party, the night is set to be one of the most memorable outings of the year, conversations rendered useless by the deafening roar of trendy Bollywood mixes and glasses clinking almost through the night, flashes of light going off every so often when your friends need yet another group photo to remember this night by. Ironic, how the night did end up being unforgettable but for none of the expected reasons.

This night, set to be a thing of legend with its extravagance and debauchery unmatched, is an ugly memory that swells up and takes up all the space inside your head when you’re alone.
A guy, over a foot taller than you, thought it was okay to grab you, fingers leaving mauve imprints on your arms, and try kissing you even though you never wanted him to; to force himself on you with his full strength while you push him back with yours, as he continues to hold you against his chest, blocking out all the light and sound till you’re acutely aware of the mayhem of dissent welling within you and until your friends rescue you.

Well, of course, it’s okay for him, it’s a party, anything goes! You’re not supposed to cry. It’s not a big deal. Grow up, these things happen to girls who party. No one wants to hear some sad, ugly story about a night so ‘lit’.
Sounds familiar?
This is the story of uncountable girls on uncountable nights.

You come to your hostel room, crying, confused about what the hell happened only to wake up to half the people gossiping in hushed voices about what happened- “She’s creating a fuss for attention.” “He didn’t even do anything.”

The worst part about all of this is not just how whatever the victim feels; invalidated, vilified, rejected, but the fact that the accused doesn’t face any consequences, not even a slap on the wrist.

His pseudo-woke friends never hold him accountable. Your friends don’t cut him off out of concern for their social position and he never apologizes because “You’re lying – only your friends saw this happen, mine didn’t.” And when he does apologize it comes with a belligerent, casual “I didn’t mean it like that, you misunderstood it.”
Everybody is quick to dismiss the victim’s story because the incident wasn’t sizeable enough. Unless it’s a stranger with a knife, where do consent end and harassment begin?

Remember when the #MeToo movement flooded the internet with tweets of hundreds of thousands of women sharing their stories about harassment and assault from all walks of life- Politics, comedy, show business? Because when we speak up about being treated badly we not only show courage but also unknowingly lend strength to others to no longer be afraid.

A lot of women don’t speak up about what they’ve been through because it comes with a whole lot of new problems to deal with; judgment and shaming, a fear of being called ‘attention-hungry’, or a ‘liar’. Another reason to keep mum on this front is the undeniable lack of allies to confide in, while on the other hand, the accused has tons of friends and allies who do not see him as a predator. All his female friends suddenly have no dearth of stories about how chivalrous, gregarious, pleasant, and well-adjusted a man is he.

When it comes to work-place harassment, the victim keeps quiet because the cost of speaking up outweighs the benefit, the cost is losing their jobs or not getting promotions in the future.
How can we change that?

Let’s not be just bystanders to such events and stand with those who are brave enough to deal with the consequences that accompany telling the truth.
Let’s call out hypocrites who talk about empowerment and speak up against abuse on Instagram but don’t confront their own friends who are accused of these actions.
Let’s call out our friends and family who think you’re over-reacting when you speak up against assault.

Most of all, let’s call out the ones who put us through that trauma because it is NOT okay and it IS a big deal.

It’s time to share our stories and hold the right people accountable.
So this is me sharing my story.
What’s yours?

Written by Kavya Cocasse for MTTN 

Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN

Featured image by Hannah Barczyk

Artwork by James Steinberg

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