One event was enough to shake my self-belief
I am a feminist; a strong independent working woman but that day, not only my body and vagina was assaulted but also my belief; belief in myself.
I broke up with my long-term boyfriend 5 months ago. It was mutual, but painful to accept that he was not part of my life any more. I was sad, but wanted to get out of the “breakup” feeling soon.
One day, after spending endless “work-less” hours sitting on the office desk, I realised that two of my female colleagues were busy swiping right, left with those typical giggles and blushing for several hours.
“Hey, are you guys using Tinder?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s a nice way to meet guys and it makes your dating game strong,” one of the girls replied.
“I’ve got a date set. He looks amazing, has abs and looks like he’s a total gym freak. Just imagine how amazing and strong he’d be in bed,” another interrupted.
I was curious about online dating apps
Smiling sheepishly, I went back to my laptop screen. I was curious, I just had to see what the big deal it was. It sounded intriguing but I was curious to meet guys virtually. It made me feel like I could control the situation: who I like, who I don’t, when to meet, when to not. Even though I thought the app was just another waste of time like “Rakhi ka swayamwar”, I was still lured into downloading it myself. After setting up my profile and bio, I finally settled down and began swiping; left swipe, right swipe. That’s all it was. I didn’t get the point of the app, but it felt like a game. I’d be swiping in the cab, in restaurants, late at night before sleeping. I began talking to my matches; 90 per cent of them were either boring or creepy.
Only one guy I was talking to seemed pretty cool. He had a start-up, he was nice; had a beard (oh! My weakness), and seemed decent. His name was Kunal. We exchanged numbers and actually talked a lot on the first day. He wanted to meet, but I had a rule: ‘Not to go on a date before you have at least talked for a week’. He was sweet enough to be patient and he actually waited for a week. We both hit it off extremely well. I did know we hardly had anything in common. Our personalities were different, our choices, our career beliefs – there were many red flags which I should have counted, but I didn’t and agreed to meet Kunal.
We didn’t seem to have much in common
It was Sunday evening and I went to meet him in a cosy little café, situated on a busy street.
“The way you look when a person talks, it’s amazing. It makes the person feel that you are listening,” he said.
I blushed a little, “Oh! I’m a good listener.” It was good and at the end of it, we hugged goodbye.
“I had a good time meeting you,” he texted while I was on my way to home.
“Me too,” I replied back.
“Really? It didn’t feel like it,” He replied back.
“I just don’t talk much, I am more of a listener. Plus, I was just nervous,” I texted back.
“I understand,” he said.
Next week, he went missing. Red flag number one. Every time I texted him, he was present with the most common excuse, “Oh! I was busy, had meetings.”
I stopped texting him. Three days later, his texts started flowing back.
“Hey, let’s meet in the evening,” he texted.
“Sure,” (I was free that evening and thought, ‘Let’s give him another chance. Maybe I’m overthinking.’)
He sent me the location of his apartment with the house number. Red flag number two.
“Oh, your neighbours… I think meeting at your house is not really a great idea,” I texted him back.
“I don’t have neighbours on my floor,” he said. “It’s chill, you come over,” he added.
I booked a cab and reached his apartment. In the elevator, I was nervous with constant hammering of, ‘Why am I doing this, why am I going to this guy’s house”, but curiosity overpowered my little feeble voice.
He began to get physical
I got out the elevator and saw him standing outside his house. I smiled and he hugged me. He was trying to get closer to me, like touching my neck and hugging me repeatedly, and then one of our hugs led to kissing. I wanted to kiss him, I knew a kiss would happen. But I only wanted to kiss him.
While he was kissing me, he was caressing my waist, inner thighs and my butt. I was trying to get hold of his hands but he was too adamant about it.
“Do you wanna cuddle,” he asked.
“Yes.” (Because I really wanted to cuddle. Just cuddle.) But he started kissing me, hard.
Sliding my skirt a little up, touching my boobs. He opened his shirt and wanted me to kiss his chest.
“I think we should stop. We should take things slow,” I said, “Maybe I should leave.” But nothing worked.
I felt too weak to oppose him. I just wanted to get it over.
“We are not going to have sex, trust me,” and that was the moment he unzipped his pants and wanted me to hold his thing. He looked at me and said, “Please.”
“We should not have sex,” I said repeatedly.
“Please,” he said and put on a condom on his thing.
When he was done, I dressed up and left. I felt manipulated and weak.
Sex and consent; both lie in a grey area. Just because I went to his apartment and wanted to kiss him, doesn’t mean I was ready to have sex with him. I wish he knew that.
Abuse is the fault of the abuser
Abuse, whether sexual, verbal, physical or emotional, is a difficult thing to cope with. It’s a dichotomy inside the head, one side wants to go out and talk to someone, share what happened, and hear a few words of support. The other side deters you. It tells you people will judge you, people will say you were too naive to not understand, you could walk out if you wanted to. But it doesn’t happen that way. Abuse, whether chronic and prolonged, or isolated single episodes, is the doing of the perpetrator. It DOES NOT mean that the victim “asked for it”, or “wanted it”. Usually the first response of any victim is guilt. Hence I’m repeating myself: It’s NOT your fault.
“Dating” sites like Tinder have made it easier for people to manipulate those who are gullible. Girls and boys looking for dates are often convinced to start a “casual relationship”, which is code for saying, “let’s just be physically involved”. These platforms make it easy for people to meet others, especially in times of despair like just after the ending of a relationship, where the heightened vulnerability of the individual is literally “up for grabs”.
Consent MUST be verbal
Consent is a highly misunderstood concept. As the primary antagonist Bryce Walker, from the controversial series 13 Reasons Why says, “she wanted it, she made the eyes”. This is what consent has been reduced to. We live in a country where marital rape is not considered a crime. People think nonverbal cues that they can apparently understand are ways of giving consent. As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s what consent has been reduced to.
Going to someone’s apartment is NOT giving consent. Forcing yourself on someone claiming to “make them experience pleasure” is NOT consensual. Unless the other person says to you, “let’s do this”, it’s NOT consent. A sexual experience is about two people, not one. It’s about respecting two bodies, not one. Sex is about getting and giving pleasure, not one sided. It’s about two people in their right senses, wanting to explore each other’s bodies.
Understand it isn’t your fault
For everyone who has experienced any kind of abuse, I would highly recommend that you visit a therapist and process the emotions that you felt at that time. I appreciate that people are coming here and using this platform to vent their feelings. It’s never wrong to say no.
If an individual likes you, they will wait for your consent. If they don’t, they are not someone you need in your lives. Walk out, don’t be afraid of saying no. Walk out if your gut tells you to do so. That little voice inside will always tell you the right things to do. Say STOP if you wanted to start but feel uncomfortable midway. It’s your body, you can retract your consent any time you don’t feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid that saying no will hurt the other person’s feelings. Because if it does, those are not the feelings you want to stay with. I encourage everyone out there reading this to understand and value the meaning of true consent.