No does not mean yes
And stop doesn't mean do that again, either.
When your very own Adam playfully but discreetly squeezes a breast or pinches your bottom when you can't retaliate or even acknowledge it, it is eve-teasing. It is a couple indulging in play and games.
When you get flashed in commute, or groped in a crowded bus; when a stranger is looking down your cleavage and there is no immediate way you can a) ask him to stop politely b) make an issue of it, create a scene or c) get off the bus, train… It is not eve-teasing. It is harassment pure and simple then.
Ah, that quaint usage that we Indians have manufactured to cover up a host of things: harassment, catcalls, groping, flashing and molesting. Indian Cinema from the Sixties on has a lot to answer for, what with college romances and teasing songs becoming hugely popular and making harassment accepted behaviour.
The phrase these days is 'making out', I believe. In our days, we had a twee word for it. We used to call it petting. Making out sounds awful and conjures smutty images to my mind. Petting, while it sounds old-fashioned, has a resonance. It speaks of loving each other, treating each other as precious. Exploring each other with mutual consent.
Romantic dates or even casual encounters with the opposite sex are always charged with an undercurrent of sexual tension. Men can't stop thinking of sex; it is said, jokingly. Well, women think about sex, too but they are so much subtler. Better at hiding their longings and needs. Women make careers out of suppression, in fact.
Intercourse is a consensual event. Would that it were so.
Incestuous molesting of young female relatives by cousins, uncles and grandfathers is very common and goes largely unreported, as the young girls are unsure if they will be believed, ashamed and worried that they somehow invited such attentions. They might tell an adult and be asked to keep it quiet. Or worse still, they might be disbelieved.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is rife, too. Bosses and male colleagues can make a working woman's life miserable.
Date-rape is another neologism I fervently detest. But this is a tricky issue. When a couple indulge in foreplay, when does it become sexual assault? When can a woman draw back and say, 'no more'? And what about that other phrase, 'date rape drugs'? If a woman is no state to give assent, if she is not conscious even, does the fact that the man is an acquaintance or a boyfriend, or that they were on a date, make intercourse consensual sex? If she was drugged into submitting, if she has no recollection of the incident, doesn't it sound like rape?
Men seem to think women who are extroverts, who are comfortable with men friends, will (sorry, this does seem to be the slang) put out. Women who dress in what media describe as provocative clothes, have it coming to them, and are positively asking for it, apparently. How women dress has nothing to do with consent. A woman's clothes or manner do not give men a right to pass lewd remarks or assault her sexually.
If a couple are dating or indeed even if they are married, when indulging in foreplay a woman has the right to say no; right up to the point she invites penetration. A woman can say stop, at any point. Of course, men have names they call such women who draw back at extreme stages, but it is still her right.
Women now have financial independence and sexual mores have changed. Finding ourselves empowered, we women seem to have revelled in that. To the extent we can now shop for gigolos and toy boys, hire male strippers for hen parties and not feel guilty about it. At least, not any more guilty than men feel about seeking sexual gratification outside their marriages or buying sex.
Even when it is a paid service, whether bought by men or women, sex still requires consent. And it is always a woman's prerogative to say yes or no. Because pregnancy and child bearing are female biological functions, and birth control is not always foolproof. So long as it is a woman who faces the possibility of pregnancy it is her privilege to give consent.
Grant us that and understand that 'no' is not a coy 'ask me again'. And the next time you invade personal space of women in public conveyances or on streets, don't be surprised if she is not wildly thrilled about it.
Update: I closed comments on this post because I was unwell. I am feeling better now.
Thanks for all the commiseration I did not get, you miserable heartless breed of readers, you. Cough, cough. Stop to sneeze, blow nose. Wait for sympathy. Alas.