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Why Aren’t We Talking About Sexual Consent In India?
In a land where ‘discussions’ (if they can be called so) about sexual consent are limited to whether 16 or 18 should be the legal “Age of Consent” and where marriages are still considered certificates for forced physical contact, expecting people to actually know about consent seems like asking for too much.
But, just the fact that most of the people don’t know enough about consent brings home the fact that we’re still not on the right paths to ensure spaces free from violence; sexual and mental. Our job doesn’t end at steps like demonstrations at India Gate to demand a particular punishment for a rapist, it is important to analyse the problem of gender-based violence from its roots and identify ways to get rid of it by attacking them.
At the onset, we, as a society, desperately need to accept the fact that sex among young adults, adults and just sex before marriage in general is as much a reality for us, as it is for anybody else. (*eureka moment* if you spent most of your life thinking it’s a ‘Western influence’…err!?) Only when there is a non-hesitant and informed dialogue around this, there is some hope of a change for the better.
Next comes, realising and acknowledging that violence isn’t necessarily (and exclusively) committed by a horrifying, unknown figure emerging from the dark. More often than not, the perpetrator is known to the survivor. We aren’t so neatly divided between who we like to call as terrible, almost animalistic beings who commit crimes on one side and loving, compassionate beings on the other. Both of them are personality traits bred by and inside the same society, and they do not exist in such exclusivity. By looking at the broader picture in such polarities, we are being part of the problem. Still not able to connect the dots?
Now that a certain context is in place, it is also important to understand and reflect on how we look at sexual assault and eventually end up holding the survivor responsible for their own assault. Fortunately (or, unfortunately), it won’t be difficult for us to think of instances where we have heard something on the lines of, “But she was out at night, drinking with her guy friends, what else was she expecting?” Statements like these and in general, a mindset such as this reeks of a sheer lack of any and every notion of a person’s agency and consent. In its place, lies a seemingly overarching and almost sacred ‘moral’ code which puts out messages on the lines of…if a woman is out at night, partying with her guy friends, she is ‘inviting’ assault and it ceases to be a case of assault because well, she was enjoying it! Let me break it to you folks, in no circumstance, the kind of (and amount of) physical contact an individual wants or expects, can be presumed or taken for granted until and unless that person gives a visible enough go ahead for it.
Consent in the simplest terms refers to the “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Before going any further, it is important to look at the parallels between social consent and sexual consent in a patriarchal society. Patriarchy creates and sustains a culture which makes it easier for men to define and maintain their boundaries as individuals than it is for say, women. Hence, the concept of consent is strongly dependent on how much say an individual has in the society. The lack of social agency for women and queer identities also manifests itself in their sexual lives and everybody needs to be mindful of this at all times.
Now it will just be clearer how sexual consent works and what needs to be done.
Sexual consent reads like this,
There are two parts to it; seeking and giving consent. In India, because of how female sexuality is demonised and tabooed, it isn’t such a simple task for women to be active seekers or givers of consent. I talked to some women who are in heterosexual relationships and tried to understand what consent means for them. Two most common responses were, “I’m too shy to actively consent for it, even when I want to.” and “I don’t think I wanted to but I didn’t want to make him feel bad, so I caved in.” Both are sheer violations of consent; the first one deals with how sexual autonomy is tagged as too radical for women, taking away their agency and the second one deals with how we’ve made it a norm for women to please men with sexual favours, even if it means going out of their way.
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Here, women need to understand that no matter how difficult it is for them to actively consent or not consent for something, it is dangerous to give out mixed responses. One of my acquaintances, who wishes to stay anonymous said, “When he asked me the first and the second times, I denied. But then he asked the third time, and I agreed.” This sends out a message that you are gullible enough to be coerced into it. When you are not sure, it is always better to say just that and not sugarcoat it because you don’t have to please him. You can be as outright as you want to be. And well, men, you need to understand that asking repeatedly is not how it works. If it’s a no the first time, that should be it. Asking repeatedly is pushy and thus ceases to be consent seeking, and rather becomes coercion. More importantly, couples and sexual partners need to have these conversations openly, before, during and after sexual activity to understand each other better and ensure that no one feels harassed or wronged.
We are majorly lagging behind in sex-ed lessons for children, young adults and adults.Talking about consent is a major part of it and its importance needs to be recognised at the earliest.
Because of all the twisted notions of consent and agency that our dearest popular culture teaches us, even as I write this, no wonder we no longer understand what qualifies for harassment and what doesn’t.
Whatever online research I could do, this is one aspect I did not see being covered anywhere, as yet. Consent is of special significance for survivors of sexual harassment. This is primarily because their bodies have already been home to unwelcome physical contact and from that point, any surprise or uncalled physical contact might act as a trigger for them. And, if we like to accept it or not, most people are still silent survivors and thus the person next to you might just be a survivor you have no idea about. Hence, assumptions are dangerous and consent needs to be sought.
Considering the kind of torture sexual assault survivors go through in this society, sometimes expecting a sort of understanding in this regard seems too much. But it needs to be said nonetheless. Even if one person is careful enough next time, at least something’s moving forward.
Consent is not too difficult to understand if you understand that everybody has a different relationship with their body. No matter what kind of a relationship you think somebody has with their body, it’s still very personal. It’s thus only legit to be able to respect each other’s bodily autonomy and not just mindlessly go on impinging on them.
There is a reason why the ‘Age of Consent’ is called so. Sexual activity with somebody who is not eligible to give consent is considered a sexual offence. That however, doesn’t mean that everybody who is eligible to give consent is always up for all sexual activity with anybody and thus need not be asked. I am eligible to give consent, so please, would you ASK me first?
And for the couples who are thinking that too much talking kills all the fun, have you ever tried it?
Dayton, Ohio: Scientists once gave dolphins LSD in attempt to communicate with them
William C. Shell 3896 Pursglove Court Dayton, OH 45402
Scientists once gave dolphins the hallucinogenic drug LSD, in an attempt to communicate with them.
Funded by NASA, the Communication Research Institute, informally known as The Dolphin House, investigated methods of talking to the creatures in the 1960s. They also used a range of techniques in an attempt to teach the animals English.
John Lilly, a neuroscientist who led the work, studied three dolphins in particular, one of which he chose to leave in an isolation tank with a human 24 hours a day for three months.
During the isolation period the dolphin, named Peter, began making sexual advances towards researcher, Margaret Howe Lovatt, who chose to relieve the animal's urges because it was proving to be disruptive to the training.
Ultimately, none of the dolphins were able to learn English.
But researchers found that they were 70 per cent more vocal after they were administered with LSD.
Dr Lilly wrote that “the important thing for us with the LSD in the dolphin is that what we see has no meaning in the verbal sphere."
He added: "We are out of what you might call the rational exchange of complex ideas because we haven't developed communication in that particular way as yet.”
When the funding for the experiment ran out in 1966, the dolphin that took part in the isolation experiment was moved to a facility in Miami where it effectively committed suicide.
Some argued this was because it could no longer cope without being in close contact with Ms Lovatt.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Why the average penis size just got larger - and what the length is now
Jason M. Paschall 2695 Whaley Lane Milwaukee, WI 53202
Apparently the average penis size is getting larger.
That's the message from researchers, anyway.
Condom brand SKYN collaborated with King's College London researchers, as the Mirror reports.
The team measured what 15,521 men had to work with.
And the study found that the average penis size here in the UK - for those aged between 18-34 - is apparently 6.1 inches.
This flies in the face of a 2016 study, which suggested the average length was 5.16 inches when erect.
Before you get your hopes up, SKYN's latest research is probably (definitely) flawed.
The statistics were calculated through an online form, which 3,037 sexually active men filled out.
It doesn't take much learned intuition to work out that men probably exaggerated about what they had in their underwear.
And this explains the significant jump in size.
Still, it's all quite unsurprising. Actual measurements are always going to throw up variable results as men, according to nearly every report ever, “almost always lie about how big their manhood really is”.
It's probably because size does matter, to a point.
Scientists recently said that men with more impressive crown jewels gave women more orgasms.
Data showed last year that women ideally prefer men with a penis about 6.2 inches when erect.
However, while all this is the case, in terms of evolution, humans are growing.
So...penises sort of are too.
By and large.
Sterling, Illinois: Why It Matters Who Females Choose to Have Sex With
Richard N. Young 4879 Lowland Drive Sterling, IL 61081
Here’s the fascinating issue with duck sex. Ducks are different from most birds in the fact that male ducks have a penis, analogous with the mammalian or human penis. And the fact that ducks still have a penis allows them to force copulation in ways that are unavailable to other birds.
Unpaired males will attempt to force copulation during the egg-laying season. There are even socially organized groups of males pursuing females to force copulation. This is really physically harmful for the female ducks. They are stressed out. They fly away, dive, and do everything they can to avoid it. Sometimes they even drown because ducks often copulate in the water.
Patricia Brennan and I, and other colleagues, started studying this about 10 years ago. We were interested both in how the very large penis of the duck functions and how that is related to this violent sexual coercion. What we discovered was that some duck species evolved ribbed and even thorny penises. Very bizarre stuff! [Laughs]
Co-evolving with that are a series of innovations in vaginal structures that include dead ends, cul-de-sacs, or spirals. The male penis is counterclockwise coiled, and the female vagina in species with large penises is clockwise coiled.
We hypothesize that it functions literally as an “anti-screw” device, to prevent penetration during forced copulation. This is confirmed by genetic evidence. When forced copulation is as high as 50 percent, only 2-5 percent of the offspring are from extra-pair males, or forced copulation. That means these ducks have a 98 percent effective contraceptive device in their bodies!
The females are still incurring all the risk and damage of resistance. But, in the face of violence, they are maintaining control over who is fertilizing their eggs.
It was in 2013, during one of the ritual political squabbles over wasteful government spending, instigated by conservative news sources. I assume an enterprising intern or journalist at one of these websites found our National Science Foundation grant to do research on duck penises and turned it into news. Suddenly, we were being discussed on Fox News by Sean Hannity and his colleagues, and across the media. We had good defense from other folks in the media, but people were shocked to discover that their tax dollars were going to study the evolution of duck genitalia. What they didn’t know is that it is really fascinating!
When Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species he had no theory of genetics. He also had no theory or, at least, delayed a proposal about the evolution of human beings. He also had no real working theory for the evolution of beauty or, as he called it, “impracticable beauty”—beauty that served no purpose in survival. He went back to Down House, cogitated for a decade or more and came up with a second book, Descent of Man, in 1871.
At this point he was already world-famous for the idea of natural selection and so this new book caused a huge stir. He knew lots of people were sympathetic, but he knew that he was going to be working with very touchy subjects: human origins, human sexuality, and sexuality in general. He wrote a very long and granular book, with lots of nitty-gritty detail, which proposed sexual selection as an independent mechanism of evolution.
It had two components. One was competition within one sex, for control or access to the other sex, usually male competition. The other was choice of mates by the other sex, which could be female choice, mutual mate choice, or male mate choice, depending on the species. His idea that male competition, in particular, was a force in evolution, was a great sell in Victorian England. The other idea, of mate choice—and female mate choice in particular—was a bomb.
Even his biggest supporters didn’t buy it. People were concerned that he was attributing cognitive complexity to animals that they couldn’t possibly have. The other was the notion of female willfulness: The idea of females choosing mates on the basis of sensory information, in a licentious way, was very threatening! Some of the original criticism of the idea even attacked the concept as a sign of moral corruption.
The idea that was banished was Darwin’s original proposal for mate choice, which was explicitly aesthetic. He thought animals choose their mates because of the pleasure they have in observing and selecting them, and that was an explicit explanation for why ornaments in nature are beautiful. They’re beautiful because they’re beautiful to the animals themselves.
In bowerbirds, for example, females have used choice preferences to make males less aggressive and more amenable. Female bowerbirds do all the work: They build the nest, lay the eggs, care for the young. But they need to choose a mate.
They do so based on the quality and beauty of a bower. Males build a bower, which is like a seduction theater where courtship takes place. In addition, the male goes out and finds a bunch of beautiful things, like flowers or butterflies or white stones, and makes a big array of interesting stuff.
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When the female comes to visit, the architecture of the bower is attractive, but also protective. It allows her a refuge so that she can get intimately close to the male and watch him strut his stuff while being protected from being forcibly copulated by the male.
There are these things called “avenue bowers.” The famous satin bowerbird has two parallel walls. She sits between the walls looking forward at him and his stuff. If he wants to copulate, he has to go around the bower to the back and mount her. But if she doesn’t like it, if she’s not ready or wants to keep looking, she just pops out the front.
This is shown in bowerbirds: Females receive dramatic and even violent displays because those displays are stimulating and because the females can keep their autonomy intact. That applies perfectly well to humans, as well. The problem with humans is that they’ve mostly been described as having evolved through natural selection or male-male competition. There has been very little role for the concept of mate choice—particularly female mate choice—in the evolution of humans.
Having done all this work on birds I became intrigued how some of these ideas about mate choice and sexual autonomy were providing fascinating and interesting explanations for the origin of social and sexual behavior in humans. Male primates, for the most part, have deadly weapons in their faces, in the form of large canine fangs that sharpen themselves on the pre-molars of the lower jaw as they chew. Our immediate relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, have prominent canine teeth in the males, which females lack.
The question is: Under what conditions did human males give up these weapons? The proposal is that, taking a lesson from bowerbirds, human mate choice may have preceded in a similar way. By making weapons like fangs unsexy, females could expand their capacity to get mates they like. There’s lots of data showing that the biggest, burliest, and hairiest are not actually preferred by females.
My former student at Cornell, Kim Bostwick, showed that, in order to make those sounds, the wing bones of the male are enormous, particularly the trailing bone of the hind wing, where the wing feathers are attached. They’re also solid, like ivory. That’s amazing! Even T-Rex has a hollow ulna bone. That’s how ancient this property is.
In order to make sounds, the wing bones of the male manakin have been transformed into a structure serving both flight, as in all birds, but also attracting a mate—to sing a song. We’ve recently discovered that female wing bones have also been transformed. They are not solid, but they are 3-4 times wider than wing bones of closely related species of manakin. So, by selecting males for the songs they prefer, females have transformed their wings into a form that doesn’t fly so well, which is, I think, a kind of evolutionary decadence.
The whole species has become less fit for survival because of this aesthetic elaboration. If you adopt the aesthetic, Darwinian view of nature, the beauty of bird song and plumage is the result of 10,000 different standards of beauty evolving over this complicated history of mate choice. That prospect is something that has motivated my research over the last years and is one of the primary thrills I’m eager to communicate in the book.
Plant City, Florida: Sexualized Children - Assessment and Treatment of Sexualized Children and Children Who Molest
Daniel E. Anaya 3534 Chestnut Street Plant City, FL 33566
The authors provide preliminary information based on their combined experience in working with children 12 years old and under who have sexually molested others or who have exhibited problematic sexual behaviors. Chapters also discuss age-appropriate childhood sexuality and provide a way to distinguish "normal sex play" from problematic sexual behaviors. Separate chapters address clinical evaluation, individual therapy, group therapy, family treatment, out-of- home care, and transference and countertransference. The authors advise that sexually abusive behavior by children stems from and affects attachment to parents and peers, creates disregulation in behavior and affect, and disturbs the child's developing sense of self. Effective therapy should focus on developmental issues, relational attachment, emotional/behavioral regulation, and development of self. Appendixes discuss the frequency of sexual behaviors and discriminating items, the testing of children with problematic sexual behaviors, and additional issues related to the goals of group therapy. Appendixes also provide a child sexual behavior checklist, a child sexual behavior inventory, and youthful offenders' family assessment form.
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