Only Yes is Yes

The Hindi Film 'Pink' made the following words resonate with every woman across the country: 'No means no'. When Amitabh said, “'Na' sirf ek shabd nahi, apne aap mein ek poora vakya hai ('No' is not just a word, but a full sentence in and of itself,)” India took cognizance. The film is credited to have broken down the idea of 'consent' to its simplest form for men to understand it better. The nation began discussing about 'consent' and importantly so. However, to my own surprise, something about 'No means No' bothered me. And then it struck me...why should a woman have to say 'No'?! 

The wrong notion of Consent

We all have been guilty of letting hope interfere with our logic. When you ask your mom's consent to go for a night-out with your friends, and she does not consent, what do you do? You hope she will change her mind and then you badger her, until she gives in. Did she truly give her consent or relent to your pressure? 

You must have heard the song 'Na na karte pyaar tumhi se kar baithe..'. Sung by Mohd. Rafi, the song from the Hindi film 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' expresses the popular sentiment perfectly. In almost all the songs from the 70's and 80's, the heroine would be depicted as coy and very 'proper'. She would have a change of heart only after many attempts made by her suitor. The moral - 'Never give up' because 'sabr ka phal meetha hota hai'. This kind of harassment has been our idea of 'romance'!

It's the same thing as far as I am concerned when we talk about sexual consent. When a woman or a man turns down her or his suitor's advances, she or he does not lose hope and continues the pursuit in the fervent hope that their object of desire will eventually succumb to their passionate requests. And often they do...completely unwillingly. This is why 'No means No' will not work in the Indian context. 

What is Consent?

According to Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center or SAPAC - Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says "yes" to sexual activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in asexual situation must feel that they are able to say "yes" or "no" or stop the sexual activity at any point.

Please note the key-words above is 'stop the sexual activity at any point'

The affirmative model of Consent

The affirmation model of consent essentially relies on a positive agreement between the parties before sexual interaction can begin – in simple terms, a clear and unequivocal “yes”.

The Californian law states:
“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.
Then why should a woman have to SAY 'NO' or 'STOP' or 'DON'T?! 

If a woman's body language screams 'NO'...

If she looks uncomfortable;
If she looks scared;
If she puts her hand out;
If she tries to walk away;
If she tries to step back

...all of it MEANS NO!!!

Some of you out there are thinking...this is too vague - how will we know for sure? Ask the other person!! At any time he/she looks uncomfortable - ask 'Are you ok? Should we continue?' If he/she says yes...then continue; else wait. I have had an intellectual conversation a man on this topic and was told that its not practically possible to stop, once the ball is set rolling. If this were really the case, then I'm sorry most of the sex people are having is rape and not sex! This is where the sense of entitlement kicks in and just because you think it is right, doesn't mean it is. Because whether or not a woman feels sexually violated depends on her and not on the violator! Read this enlightening article on '7 Things That Can Be Rape, Even If You Were Taught To Think That They Can't Be'  to know more. 

Sometimes pop culture gets it right

Read this amazing article on how pop-culture got it right when it came to consent. Using scenes from 5 movies - Steven Universe, Thelma and Louise, Frozen, The Philadelphia Story, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the article depicts how consent must be taken in order to make a physical experience enriching for both partners.  

The following extract from the article delivers a very powerful message - please read it carefully:
You may have noticed that in some of these examples, the encounter ends with no encounter. No sex, no kiss. Being careful about consent sometimes means not having sex you might otherwise have had. Think for a moment about what that implies. When you’re not careful about consent, you’re taking a real chance that some of the sex you’re having isn’t consensual.
Consent is also important in a marriage

Stand-up comedian Daniel Fernandes speaks about 'Marital Rape' in the following video. While he gets a few laughs, the message is very hard-hitting.

The most stark ‘jokes’ for me were towards the middle (4:34 to 5:01) - 
"What is the difference between Marital Rape and Rape? There is no difference. It’s the same thing. If there is no consent…if you are forcing yourself on your wife, it is rape. Except here she probably does hope that death will do you apart. In fact I think Marital Rape is worse. Because not only are you sexually violated, you have to wake up the next morning and make your rapist breakfast. That is horrible.”
I would like to end this article with Daniel Fernandes’ words – 

“Just because she said ‘I do’ doesn’t mean that you never have to ask again.”


  1. your posts are quite triggering ashwini. makes me think a loooootttt, pls come home to my space:)

    1. :) Thanks Deepa for visiting my blog and your kind words.
      I am glad I was able to make a small contribution towards making you ponder about Feminism.
      I will be around to your blog soon...I promise.

  2. Our life has been filled with ideas from Bollywood that kept convincing us that a No means a Yes. So who is to blame but ourselves and our film makers i suppose. your articles are very thought provoking.

    1. Hi Sudha. Nice to see you here after awhile. And thanks for your words of encouragement.
      You have hit the nail on the head. As audience members, we need to be responsible about out movie choices. What we watch and appreciate is what we'll get to watch more of -same regressive story in a new avatar.

  3. A very well written post, Ashwini. I agree to all the points that you have mentioned. Bollywood has really made men feel that if a girl denies your proposal, keep stalking her till she says yes. Even in recent movies like Badrinath ki Dulhaniya, we have seen it. It's always great reading your honest and unfiltered thoughts.

    1. 'Badrinath ki Dulhaniya' is seriously creepy - I was like what message are they trying to send here. God! And to think there are men out there who really act like that.

    2. Hi Purba. Good to see you here. :) Thank you so much for being so kind and supportive of my writing. :) :)
      About Badrinath - funny thing is they positioned Varun's character as that of a Feminist! It's sad...but true.

  4. Very interesting and well researched. There's also a satirical video by girliyapa I think on marital rape. A sad reality in many homes today.

    1. Thanks Nupur for your visit and read :) Appreciate your support . Haven't seen the Girlyappa video yet. Will do so. Thanks for the heads up. :)
      And the issue is sad. The biggest problem is that people don't see there is a prob!

  5. Ashwini, way to write, Girl. This is hard hitting and so true.
    If a guy grabs a girl and she is too frozen, too shocked to say no - and her body language screams it out - then it is still a No.

    But, in country where men rarely listen, really listen to what women say, their being sensitive to body language seems Utopian. However, Hope keeps the world going, and it is that which must make us speak up and try to change things.

    Loved the stand up comedy. We need more men who are feminists.

    Yearning for a Boat Ride on Chilika Lake – Panthanivas, Satpada

    1. Hey Seema. Always wonderful to read your heartfelt comments. You're right-click being frozen is also a sign of no consent.

      We have to believe people will change. And we need more men to champion the cause of Feminism. Especially stand-up comedians. It's so important.

  6. Absolutely. Absence of a verbal no is not enough. Consent must be active not passive. And yes there are plenty of non-verbal cues. It is important that each sexual partner makes an effort to please the other during sex.

    1. :) Hey Kanika. Glad to see you here. Love to see a fellow feminist and blogger support my views. :) Let's all soread the word. That's how we make an impact.

  7. Anonymous8:42 am

    One of your best posts.every man needs to read this. There are schools in nairNai where they teach abt consent and respecting the women.
    I think we need to teach in every school around the globe.

    1. Hey Priya.:) Thank you so much. In fact I feel this is my best post too. :) You're right in that children across the world need to be taught about consent and about respecting women.

  8. You have raised a very valid point, Ashwini! Movies are in a way responsible for showing that girls after persistent badgering come around. It might happen in real life too, but not always. Not all girls are deliberately playing hard to get, it's time men understood this.

    1. Hey Anshu, thank you for the visit. Another instance of how we allow normalize and live with wrong conditioning.

  9. Even the movies today continue to do the same thing! They continue to propagate the same acts that encouraged all this. Then there is the fraction of girls that actually do the whole hard-to-get play for some attention. *FACEPALM*

    1. Hmmm interesting point Arjun. But I think that since there is no sure shot way to know if a girl is playing hard to get or if she is genuinely saying d rather just believe her and keep Why not wait for her to show a positive sign that she is interested?

  10. Fantastic take on 'No'. I like your analogy of when kids badger their parents for treats/permission etc. and essentially that's how romance leading to physical proximity has been portrayed in Indian cinema for ever and ever---just badger/stalk your way to her pants and call it romantic victory.
    Like Seema says, it looks like an Utopian dream to think things will change, but we have to keep the dialogue running in the hope that sense about consent will start seeping into our collective psych.

    1. :) Hey Arti. The analogy was put in to emphasize on the fact that nobody likes taking no for an answer. Not as children and not even as women. When we bargain...we never stop until we have got 'our price' hai na? It's an issue. But when it comes to sex...not knowing when to stop is inexcusable. For me the following realization was the reason why I wrote this article -
      Being careful about consent sometimes means not having sex you might otherwise have had.

      Self-control is probably the one most difficult virtue to inculcate. But yes, I am sure the more we talk and think about it, things will change for the better.


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