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Sex in the 21st century: Women are scared of Tinder and their own consent

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If these apps are meant to sexually liberate the masses, why do so few women sign up? 

Tinder has revolutionised the dating landscape in India, but the rickety path from wanting sex to actually getting a mutually pleasurable and ethical version of it has been anything but simple, especially for women.

In a society that still largely relegates all matters of sex to the sacred matrimonial bed, dating apps like Tinder were poised at the brink of a cultural unfurling — finally, a place for people to meet apart from But if these apps are meant to sexually liberate the masses, why do so few women sign up?

It’s because women continued to get raped, before and after the entry of Tinder.

A recent Instagram post by Bangalore-based woman ‘K.’ about her Tinder date rape reminds us that just because a platform is different, doesn’t mean the rules are. Breakthrough 21st-century technologies meant to enable us can just as easily be subverted to disempower the already oppressed.

Also read: Barkha Dutt on why she thinks Aziz Ansari is gross but not an example of #MeToo

What happened with ‘K.’ on her Tinder date, as reported by Buzzfeed in ‘Dog Person,’ is emblematic of a larger, inexorable realisation that the game of sex has always been rigged against us.

In her article in Cut, Rebecca Traister writes that “outside of sexual assault, there is little critique of sex”. “We tend to talk about consent as an individual process, not asking ‘What kinds of power are operating in this situation?’” she asks, quoting Reina Gattuso’s piece for Harvard’s newspaper.

The Aziz Ansari ‘incident’ revealed this changing nature of the conversation through the very way in which it is cautiously approached — as an ‘incident’. The boundaries of what constitutes sexual assault have been thrown wide open as we have started renegotiating the rulebook in the #MeToo era.

In an effort to redraw these lines and avoid confronting a challenging confusion, many modern day feminists have straight-jacketed consent into black and white terms. But this fails to account for the invisible, patriarchal structures that go into forming the notion of consent in the first place. Sexual consent, a lot like Herman and Chomsky’s analysis of pro-government sentiments in the US, is also largely ‘manufactured’. We believe that we have arrived at our choices out of informed understanding and free will, when in fact they have been insidiously dictated to us all along.

Women, till now, were not taught to question why so many of our sexual experiences have been so bad. Under what circumstances did you say ‘yes’? Did you say it more than once? Did you mean it enthusiastically? Did you say it after he cried about his ailing mother? Was he your boss? Was she 20-years older than you and a mother-figure throughout your entire career? While we hide it in the form of a knife under our pillows, powerlessness is not reserved for women.

Asia Argento turned out to be no better than the Harvey Weinstein she helped expose, and for this generation of feminists fed up with oppressive pedestals, she too is a fallen idol – fallible, and disappointing.

There is no authority on what a victim looks like – Jimmy Bennet was a 17-year-old boy, and he can go for lunch with his rapist and still send her a Twitter message saying ‘Miss you momma!!!!’ one month later. Just as ’K.’ can still dance in the blue hoodie, which belonged to the man who raped her years after the assault took place. Not all traumas wear similar-looking scars.

Also read: Swipe right for Pakistan: How Indian millennials use Tinder & Grindr to make love not war

This is what #MeToo was about. This is what ‘Cat Person’ was about – to bring to the surface and talk about the layers of dis-empowerment inherent in exploitative sexual acts. It’s not black and white, it has never been.

To take three years for ‘K.’ to realise that she felt raped on a Tinder date, to which people said she “could have pushed him away” or “been more aggressive about her no”, is not her fault. We did not possess a vocabulary then to understand the power differentials at play in the expectations of the Right Swipe.

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  1. I’m in tears. I needed to hear this.
    Abusers can slowly groom the victim into a confusion of consent.
    I was used every trick in the book of a pedophile against- winning trust, grooming, threats, ‘you’re a big girl now’.

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