lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, August 14, 2006

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.


Blogger Rimi said...

Is it just me, or did you think of Elizabeth Bennet's first suitor when you wrote that first sentence of the last paragraph? :-)

All of this, unfortunately, but hardly unsurprisingly, sounds extremely relevant personally. In fact, it happened yesterday too, on my back from the metro station. The odd thing is, and I've given it plenty of thought, that I don't even respond to stuff like this anymore. I'd say we've been conditioned into becoming blase about it. Almost entirely, I suspect, in an attempt to preserve some last vestige of dignity. Because you DO know how people see women who raise a hue and cry on the road or on public transport against their molester, right? Snickers, sly looks, comments sotto voce. Quite humiliating.

True, some women misunderstand perfectly innocent gestures. Some seek attention. Some indeed create such situations to their own ends. True. Nonetheless.

5:42 pm  
Blogger db said...


1. Men seem to think women who are extroverts, who are comfortable with men friends ... I can relate with this ... A very close (female) friend, who happens to be of an outgoing nature, has more than once mentioned this to me ... Don't know what leads men to beleive that smiles and talk from women must lead to bed ... even when they know fully well that the woman in question has a significant other ..

2. when a stranger is looking down your cleavage and there is no immediate way ... This reminded me of an article I read in the HT a few weeks ago ... Do take a look at it ...

3. The term "making out" is not native to India .. its actually borrowed from our friendly western (read American) society

4. women think about sex, too but they are so much subtler .. I disagree .. You may generalize, but please don't stereotype as you do here ..

5. Incestuous molesting... .. This is a shocking reality .. Forget uncles and cousins .. I've heard even fathers ... Damn, its too revolting for me to even write ...

6. Sexual harassment in the workplace ... .. I need not say anything ... But I've heard of female superiors being astray these days .. perhaps they're trying to extract revenge from the male species ? *shudders*

7. Toy boys .. Now I haven't heard of that before ... gosh, society is in a deplorable condition indeed ...

Anyway .. as always .. looking forward to more from you !

6:02 pm  
Blogger Nilu said...

A violation, by definition, involves active violation. Anything else(i.e. passive violation) would be too ambiguous a definition and logically inconsistent. So, by that yardstick, staring at a clevage cannot be a violation. The onus is on the woman.

Otherwise, yeah, duh!

6:05 pm  
Blogger db said...


Why the advocacy for the lewd act ?

6:10 pm  
Blogger Nilu said...

saying the definition is logically not feasible and advocationg are two different things.

6:21 pm  
Blogger db said...


Advocacy in the guise of definitions and other contortions of lingustic expressions is a Hallmark of the devil's advocate ..

7:16 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- Ah, so we got that? *smug smirk* But it's true what you say- this harassment is so prevalent that we stop noticing it. It affords us some dignity to pretend it is not happening to us. Pathetic, I know, but there you go.

Ram- About You may generalize, but please don't stereotype as you do here..
I agree I didn't elaborate. When can you tell a woman is thinking of sex, Ram? Unless in a very private moment? We don't ogle obviously. We don't try to size you up either. Not how utter strangers feel perfectly free to look at a woman, undressing her mentally.

And yes, incestuous molesting and toyboys are all alive and kicking. I don't know how to insert links in a comment, so let me see if I can do this. Ah,I can't and I need tutorials, yet again, Arrgh. Story of my life, but here are the links. and,,1839940,00.html

Nilu- I will get back to you, I am being a housewife with duties vonly.

9:44 pm  
Blogger db said...


1. I can see I've stirred up a hornet's nest here. Why do so many women beleive that womankind is perfect, and that they've got few or no foibles ?
We don't ogle obviously. We don't try to size you up either. ... Again you're stereotyping .. Your perception of feminine behavior appears to be restricted to the circle of individuals you've encountered ... Trust me, I have met women who are far more perverted than the oglers on the trains and buses .. That you have failed to spot them or their intentions does not drive away the existence of the thoughts in their mind ... I could write a whole book on this, but right now I lack the patience and motivation to do it ..

2. Inserting links is not too difficult .. shall email you the tutorial ...

10:02 pm  
Blogger db said...

And yes, I apologize .. didn't mean to turn your comment-board into a forum for an argument with my fellow-readers ...

10:03 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

When a couple indulge in foreplay, when does it become sexual assault? When can a woman draw back and say, 'no more'?

That is the Q. Why do they let it get so intense, and then get prim? It is quite bewildering.

10:08 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Nilu- You think a very deliberate looking up and down or a pointed gaze at a particular part of anatomy is not a violation? Violation is violation, there can be no argument about passive and active violation, whether in terms of grammar semantics or actual deeds.

And, good grief, The onus is on the woman. Really? The onus to stop wearing clothes or dressing in tents? Purdah, chadar or burkha if we dare to venture out? Or the onus to stop having breasts and therefore cleavages that are created by clothes?

You shock me sir.

Ram- Women do look at men and size up men, and wonder about their dimensions, okay? We are more discreet about it, and we certainly don't do the groping on commutes. If you do know of any instance a woman harassed a man, do let me know. In public space, mind you.

Do mail me that tutorial. i'd appreciate it a lot. Or muchly, as our Rimi says.

Rajesh- Child, be grateful for the crumbs. When she doesn't want to go further she doesn't want to go further, period.

10:39 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

I'd appreciate it a lot only. Much regrets for the typo vonly.


Ze Lark.

10:57 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

My my. This is so unlike you, Lali. What set this off?

6:56 am  
Blogger db said...


we certainly don't do the groping on commute ... agree whole-heartedly .. We males are the ones guilty of that crime ..

If you do know of any instance a woman harassed a man .. in public ... Yes I do .. and it was done in a manner far worse than the groping / touching on a public transport vehicle ... The whole incident is far too gross to describe on a public forum here .. Perhaps over email when I find some time ..

10:07 am  
Blogger Nilu said...

Glad to have shocked you. But here is what will bring you some more shock -- take a course called Logic 101.

Tell me, if I were to look at your clevage, how it is a violation? I see what is on display and don't think it's wrong(even if I do, I still do it). Now, you don't want me to look at it because it offends your whatever. Tell me dear Laita, is the onus on me to respect what your perception of morality is, or on yourself. And stop coming up with silly analogies about Tents.

In short, you want me to comply with what your idea of morality is.

11:34 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- We can continue the debate later then.

Nilu- This is not about morality, or my wanting you to conform to my idea of morality. This is about conduct in public. I never used the word violation, you did.

And no thanks, I don't want to take a course in logic. Can't abide it.

12:42 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- This was something I'd been mulling over for a while now. Nothing set it off, as such. Read Rimi's comment, this is something women deal with everyday.

12:47 pm  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

First point:
Forgive my intrusion, but speaking on behalf of of all women is just wrong. The use of 'We' can be employed only if u have actually looked at every woman (or at least if u studied most women). Such generalisations form the basis of stereotypes where people look at one person/ few people and extend to a whole race or group. (Your being a woman does not change the situation - I on my part, cannot talk for/about all men/hindus/indians/human beings.)

Second point:
I am not much of an ogler (have better things to do). But, I can't help but agree with what nilu said to some extent. Women have the choice to dress up in anything they want - for example, a drabby T-shirt and jeans or such. The moment XYZ wears something 'attractive', by definition XYZ is bound to attract attention. If one wears a revealing dress, the first question that needs to be asked is 'why'? if it is to look good and attract attention (and perhaps even feel good), then I just don't know how you (anyone) can complain about it when people do take notice of it - I realise I am pushing the envelope when i equate noticing to ogling, but the point remains, if you don't want it seen, don't show it.

If one complains about it after donning clothes especially to get noticed, there is a certain level of hypocrisy on their part then.

My aim is not to defend men. As I hinted before, talking on behalf of all men would be wrong, but the aim thru this note is to remind everyone that there are always two-sides to a coin, pehaps, in their own way, equivalent to each other.

I repeat, my most humble apologies for this mighty intrustion. (anyone reminded of the babus of yore yet).

1:22 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Karthik- No need to apologise, and no intrusion, either. You are a welcome visitor.

There is a difference between an appreciative glance and intrusive (drat that word!)and continuous staring. Women (yes, I am generalising)object to the latter.

1:42 pm  
Blogger Nilu said...

I used the term violation, exactly because, if there is none, you don't have a point. And, a part of what you allude to, does not constitute violation. Conduct in public, dear Lalita, is not what you deem fit. I can conduct myself as I choose to, as long as there is no violation. If you insist I cannot, that is when you dictate morality. Which is what you have been doing.

2:25 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Nilu, love, while I sense you're righteous indignation in every comment at what you perceive is a forced imposition of a moral code by Lalita and am therefore to an extent reassured that you don't try to grab any and every passing female, I must step in after your last comment.

First of all (and I inetend to write about this on my own blog too), do stop being quite so deliberately stupid. In most minds, male and female, there seems to be a clear demarcation between women who dress 'appropriately' and women who dress 'provocatively'. Well. Excuse me while I snicker at your naivete.

A perfectly 'decent' kurta can reveal quite a lot when you're holding a heavy book open in your arms, or cluthing a large bag, or leaning down to collect the spilled contents of a purse. You should take my word for it, because the first two happens to me almost daily. And promptly there are men jodtling for space in front of me, leaning in to peer. Even after I've adjusted my kurta and nothing shows anymore. It's the perception, perhaps hope. It showed once, it shall show again.

Also, as I was quite a large child, I did indeed wear salwaar kameezes of tent-like proportions (and therefore must ask you to desist from making slighting insinuations about Lalita using the analogy. She's quite correct.). With long sleeves, dupattas et all. And I was groped with alarming regularity and viciousness. So, well, the general theory about dressing 'provocatively' quite falls on it's face, doesn't it? This, I hope, deals with the onus on women issue to a certain extent.

Now for the gaze=violatin issue. Nilu, I'd appreciate if you'd wait for my post on the subject, but since I'd hate to leave a clarification incomplete, long as this comment is, I'd have to continue.

Every girl, and I mean EVERY girl I know has been subjected to molestation at home, in public transport, at work or all of them. Automatically, therefore, their self-respect and self-confidence plunges (and some, SOME, as a result of this, become brash, loud, brittle and dress, as you would have it, 'provocatively') and simultaneously, they learn to identify the lingering - please note qualifying adjective - gaze of a male stranger as the first sign of potential assualt. And often enough, they are right.

Since clearly you've honed your logic often and well, I leave the taskl of drawing certain obvious conclusions to you. Have fun.

3:16 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

And Ram, if I may say so, generalizing is what makes comparative evaluations possible. It is how, for example, history is written. It is how standard deviation works, and all the rest of it. Unless we assume a standard - of behaviour, of response, of quality, whatever - it is a little difficult to draw ethical lines andd decide what is acceptable and what is not, no?

Like cpitalism, it is a flawed but dominant system, wouldn't you agree? :-)

3:19 pm  
Blogger Nilu said...


Your ramble, though entertaining, is fallacious. I did not mention anyting about provocative dressing. It was your (rather silly) deduction. Onus means what it does. If you can only think of what you have just ranted about, good luck with the rest of the journey called life.

And, getting molested is not an argument that either refutes or supports any of our position. So, please, pretty please, stop making random tangential statements that are irrelevant.

3:36 pm  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

If I may add to all this:

To a great extent, I support Lalita's original post (with the qualifications that I have mentioned in my previous comment). However, I see this pointing at "men" as pointless. I mean, we can continue pointing fingers, just as blacks/african americans are pointed at for being more 'crime-oriented' in the US, but pointing fingers isn't gonna get us anywhere.

If we all really care about this issue, what needs to be done is to try and understand why it happens. Two obvious reasons are:
1. social (sexual) repression
2. biological tendencies.

Since (1) is all but obvious, I shall mainly concentrate on the second. It has been known for some time (since the failure of viagra on women) that men and women are sexually stimulated in different ways - viagra affects both men and women in the same way physiologically - more blood in the genital region. However, the psychosomatic realisations are different. Men are sexually aroused, and women aren't.

The inference is obvious, again - different things excite men and women. This is an important finding cos this could be the actual root of the problem (along with social factors...). However, if this really is the root of the problem being discussed here, we have a big bag of muck in our hands - cos whatever makes men (assuming this is a strong tendency) ogle/rape/... could be genetic/instintive.

I seriously think raising fingers in such cases is a waste of effort - what we really need is an understanding of the causess and solutions to the problems (if there appears to be one). it is apparent that problems such as social repression and biological tendencies are tough cookies to crack.

If all this sounds a little psychotic, please do laugh out loudly. Will do you a world of good (if not anything more). lol.

5:15 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Discussion closed folks. Let us all agree to disagree.

Any and all commiserations for my cough and cold, fever, sinusitis and flu will be gratefully accepted, and appreciated.

Read Rimi if you want to know how I caught the bug.

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did open a can of worms there, Matilda!!!

I did realise a small thing though during this discussion....language does tend to get stronger and a little rough even among friends if there is take care guys....

You closed the discussion at the right

7:51 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. /body>