Let’s talk
Consent

Tinder’s ongoing series on
conversations around consent.

Closure - A Film About Consent

How I first learnt
about consent

What is Consent?

Dating and sex can be a difficult terrain to navigate. Every person you meet will have their own boundaries and expectations — communication is key. This is where consent comes into play. It’s a necessary part of any connection.

Consent is pretty simple, really. It just means getting permission for any intimate activity. Sometimes consent is expressed with words, sometimes with actions. The point is that, if you meet someone online or in person, you have a responsibility to respect their boundaries, and they must respect yours. If you aren’t absolutely sure what they’re comfortable with, just ask.

If you’re meeting up with someone, remember: You must be comfortable and actively consenting for any sexual activity to happen. And if you’re ready to take the next step w†ith them, you must make sure you receive their consent at every step of the way.

Keep in mind

Asking for Consent

Consent doesn't always have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other's boundaries. Verbal consent can include saying “yes,” “don’t stop” or telling a partner what you want. Some examples of non-verbal consent include nodding, pulling someone closer, or active engagement, such as mutual touching.

Remember that nonverbal cues tend to be less clear when you’re with a new partner, so it’s always best to use verbal consent until you know someone well. And besides, asking for consent can be sexy. Consent should always be clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing throughout sexual activity. It’s really important for everyone in the relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening and communicate that comfort every step of the way.

Keep in mind that consent isn’t limited to sexual activity — work to establish a mutual interest in physical touch to make sure you are aware of each of your comfort levels and that you set clear boundaries when you can. Remember that people who are incapacitated with drugs or alcohol cannot consent. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.

Withdrawing Consent

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to convey this. The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.

Giving Consent

If you do not feel comfortable engaging in any type of activity, you do not have to and no one has the right to pressure you into it. Be clear about your intentions and know that no date (or anyone) has a right to push your boundaries—and you shouldn’t push anyone else’s.

If you are considering engaging in any kind of sexual activity, let the other person know what works for you — find ways you can both communicate ongoing consent, like checking in verbally as things progress. If you’re not sure about whether the other person is enthusiastic about a particular sexual activity, ask them. Remember, the lack of “no” is not a “yes.”

What is enthusiastic
consent?

Physical intimacy is meant to be exciting for ALL parties involved, and the model of ‘enthusiastic consent’ focuses on that excitement. You definitely don’t want to be the only one all fired up for a physical encounter while your partner is just going along for politeness - but more importantly, you don’t want to misread signs and end up hurting or unintentionally assaulting someone. That’s why, it’s not just the absence of a ‘no’ that counts as consent, it’s the (enthusiastic) presence of a ‘YES!’.

Examples of enthusiastic consent (It’s really not as weird as you think):

  • Asking if a new sexual act is okay before proceeding
  • Getting verbal consent before initiating physical touch
  • Checking in with your partner regularly to see if they’re comfortable and feeling good
  • Being vocal when you like something your partner is doing

Examples of things that are definitely NOT enthusiastic consent:

  • Ignoring your partner when they say ‘no’ FOR ANY REASON
  • Not pausing or stopping when your partner is obviously uncomfortable or disinterested
  • Judging consent based on someone’s clothing
  • Accepting consent when your partner is inebriated
  • Assuming your partner has consented to a new activity purely based on their consent to a different activity
  • Initiating physical touch just because it’s happened in the past

Also, some things like erections or other signs of arousal might seem pretty obvious but DO NOT count as consent, since they’re involuntary. When in doubt, just ask!

But What About...

Non-verbal consent is a thing, but it has to be enthusiastic and not open to interpretation. Clear non-verbal cues can include initiating physical contact or nodding to signify ‘yes’, but acts like smiling or eye contact don’t necessarily count - different people have a different body language, and if you’re even 1% confused, the best thing to do is ask verbally.

Yes, being in a relationship means you can take certain liberties with your partner, but that doesn’t mean consent is guaranteed. There are thousands of reasons why someone may not want to be physically intimate at any given time on any given day - if you’ve been dating for years then you probably understand their behaviour and patterns better than anyone else, so respect their right to say ‘no’ and don’t assume that it’s going to be an automatic ‘yes’.

Contrary to popular belief, consent isn’t just for penetrative sex - it’s for any type of intimate physical (or virtual) activity. People have different levels of comfort with holding hands, hugging, kissing and sex - and can have different levels of comfort with the situations in which these actions are taking place. So respect that, and don’t be shy in asking first!

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future. It’s important to discuss boundaries and expectations with your partner prior to engaging in any sexual behavior.

Clothing choices are not a proxy for consent, even if someone is wearing a T-shirt that says “Please have sex with me”, so please don’t use someone’s outfit as an excuse to try to initiate touch or further physical contact without asking first.

Consent isn’t a train pass or a Netflix subscription - it doesn’t come with extended validity and only lasts for that particular physical act. People have every right to say yes to sex one day and refuse it the next day. It’s super important for both parties to be enthusiastic and comfortable with whatever’s going on every single time it’s going on - so check in with them regardless of how often you’ve had sex before.

Consent for one physical act doesn’t mean consent for all physical acts - people can be comfortable with kissing but not with taking their clothes off, or with oral sex but not penetrative sex, or even with penetrative sex but not with cuddling. Physical intimacy is the best when both parties are at their most comfortable, and the best thing you can do is to make sure of that as things move from one act to another.

We get it - and it’s not exactly your fault for thinking so. We’ve grown up conditioned to so much stigma about sex that it’s natural for one part of us to wince or cringe to say certain stuff aloud - but consent can be sexy (really!). It doesn’t have to be you signing a contract with someone, but asking if you can take off an article of their clothing, or kiss them somewhere, or if something you’re doing feels good can actually add to the experience. Besides, fighting off potential awkwardness will ALWAYS be a better option than making someone you care about feel uncomfortable and potentially hurting them.

Sorry buddy, but that’s not consent. Consent can’t be coerced or pressured, it has to be enthusiastic. You don’t want your partner to merely be ‘okay’ with the idea of physical intimacy, you want them to be excited and as into it as you are - and so even in the process of asking about that physical intimacy, it’s important to make sure it’s a resounding “YES!” and not an “Umm… Fine”.
Here are some other consent red flags to watch out for:

We actually ask for consent multiple times in our daily lives. If you need to borrow a pen, you don’t just steal it from someone’s pocket. If you need change from a shop, you don’t open the cash register and take what you want. We ask for permission because we want to be respectful - and if you can be respectful of a stranger’s ownership of a pen, it’s only logical that we’re a lot more respectful of those we care about when it comes to their bodies and personal space. Consent is also not just limited to peno-vaginal sexual intercourse but also applies to any other type of sex (oral and/or anal).

Here are some examples of consent in daily life:

Welllll, actually we are. You should ask for consent before initiating any sort of activity of a sexual nature - whether it’s sexting, sending intimate pictures, holding hands, kissing, any other intimate touching and any forms of sex. It might seem like a lot of steps, but the logic is the same - all of these things are meant to be exciting for both parties, and the last thing you want to do is make someone you care about feel hurt, violated, or even assaulted.

Here’s what consent can look like at different stages:

Consent is a nuanced thing, and it’s perfectly normal to be okay with some acts but not others. If you think that saying ‘no’ will come off as too strong, you can start with non-verbal cues, like gently removing your partner’s hand. Verbally speaking up and saying “I’m not ready for that yet”, or “Can we go back to the other thing?” are also options - but remember, you don’t owe your consent to anybody and have every right to deny it for any reason!

Here are other examples of what you can say when you don’t want to say no:

More often than not, someone who is telling you this isn’t looking for advice or a solution as much as comfort and support. Be there for your friend or loved one, hear them out, believe them, and ask how they’d like to be supported in case you’re unsure. You can advise them to take action or file a police complaint, but do NOT be too pushy and remember that this is their decision to make. And definitely do NOT cross-question them or imply that it was their fault that this happened.

There are multiple reasons why someone may withdraw consent - maybe it brought up a bad memory or past trauma, maybe she wasn’t ready for that particular activity - and hey, maybe she just changed her mind. Intimacy is best when both parties want it enthusiastically - you don’t want to be all fired up while your partner is just going along out of politeness, right? So just take it easy - if it has to work out, it will in it’s own time, and trust us, that’s the best possible way for it to work out.

What can you do legally if your
consent has been breached

If you are in a situation where your consent has been breached or you feel that it has been breached, here is what you can do:

  • Stay calm: Analyse the situation calmly and don’t panic. Panicking will only cloud your mind and not help you think clearly about what your recourse should be.
  • Follow your gut: If you are confused about whether or not your consent was breached, it is most likely that it was breached. Remember, if you had given your complete and enthusiastic consent, the confusion would not arise in the first place. When in doubt, always go with your gut feeling.
  • Plan your recourse: Decide what action you want to take next. You could choose to confront or have a discussion with the partner who breached your consent. Further, you could also take legal action against the partner for breach of consent (we have explained your legal rights below).
  • Share the burden: If you can, share your experience, feelings, and thoughts with someone who you trust, like a family member or friend. This will help reduce your emotional burden. If you decide to take action, having a companion through this process will make it easier for you.

Consent has been defined under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code as “Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act; Provided that a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.”

Let us break down and understand the legal definition of consent:

  • Unequivocal voluntary agreement: Consent is given only when you express your willingness enthusiastically, unambiguously, clearly, and out of free will.
  • When the woman: The law only protects women against breach of consent. The definition of consent does not specify which gender the law protects women against. However, consent is defined as a part of ‘rape’ which specifically applies only against men. Therefore, by implication, it can be inferred that the protection is only available against breach of consent by a man.
  • By words, gestures, or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication:Consent and lack of consent can be expressed in any form. You could spell it out in words or even show your willingness/non-willingness through your actions and body language.
  • Communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act: Any sexual activity comprises multiple acts. Consent for one part of the sexual activity does not imply consent for any other part of the sexual activity. For example, consent to kiss does not imply consent to touching private parts. Consent is necessary for each and every step in the sexual act.
  • Lack of resistance is not equal to consent: Consent has to be enthusiastic and active. If you are in a position where you are not able to resist, due to safety concerns or if you feel overwhelmed and are unable to comprehend what is happening, your lack of resistance (also known as ‘submission’ in law) is not the same as consent.

Breach of consent is a violation of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, and hence, illegal and criminal. The first legal step against any criminal act is to file a police complaint. We know that going to the police station can feel intimidating. However, if you are aware of your legal rights, you will definitely feel more confident about filing a complaint. Here are a few basic pointers about police complaints that you should know:

  • What: A police complaint is simply a narration of all the relevant facts to the police. Remember in school, when you would complain to your teacher if your friend ate your food without asking you? You would tell her what you carried in your box, how much your friend ate, when they ate it, etc.? A police complaint is a grown-up version of this, where you tell the police about what exactly happened.
  • Where: You have to file the police complaint in the police station which has jurisdiction over the area where the breach of consent occured. You can do a quick google search to find out. If you don’t want to go to the police station, you can also send the complaint through a registered post or file it through Whatsapp (check if your city’s police have this facility).
  • When: The best time to file a police complaint is as soon as possible, so that evidence is easily gathered and the legal process can kick in early. However, the law understands that taking this step is not easy. There is no time limit to when you can file a police complaint - it can be done after days, weeks, months, or even years.
  • How: It can be submitted in written form or narrated orally to the police (they will write it down for you). We recommend writing down your complaint so that you are in control of your own narrative.

(You can educate yourself further about filing a police complaint here.)

We understand that it can get difficult to prove breach of consent, because sexual activity usually happens in private, behind closed doors. Therefore, keep these pro-tips handy to strengthen your case as much as possible:

  • Write down all the details about the incident as soon as possible. This includes what, where, when, how, the sequence of events, was anyone else there, the time, the conversation, what happened after, etc. This way, when you decide to take action, you have everything ready, and don’t need to rely on fading memory.
  • If possible (and safe), try to record your expression of non-consent, through simple means like the sound recorder on your phone or voice note on Whatsapp.
  • If there are any witnesses, make a note of them. They will come in handy to corroborate your story.
  • Keep all the evidence intact, such as, the clothes you were wearing, any bottles or glasses, tissues, etc. These may come in handy if the case goes to trial.
  • Make a note of any CCTV cameras that could have recorded you entering, exiting, or hanging out in and around the place where your consent was breached. CCTV footage is always helpful as additional proof for your narrative.

If your consent has been breached and you feel any trauma from it, remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. You can reach out to any of the resources below to ease your load:

Legal resources:

  • Pink Legal - For more information on your rights, to ask any legal query, or to request for a lawyer (this platform is available only for women)
  • Project Nyay’ri - For seeking legal and mental health support online (this service is available only for women).

Mental health resources:

  • Sneha Foundation - Helpline for emotional support in case of distress, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Now&Me - Community platform to share your experiences anonymously with strangers.
  • Your Dost - Platform to connect with psychologists to chat or schedule sessions.