The statement "no means no" sounds simple enough in theory, but things can get complicated in real life when it comes to talking about consent with a date, or even a partner in a relationship. At its most basic level, consent is simply permission. Young Indian adults value healthy and honest conversations and understand the importance of establishing both their ‘green flags’ and their boundaries in order to have a positive dating experience. Explicitly establishing consent not only ensures that both parties are comfortable with the activity they are engaging in but also protects them from feeling like they're being taken advantage of or are being pressured into something they're not ready for, thus avoiding anything untoward happening to them.
According to recent research conducted by YouGov for Tinder — a survey of 1,018 Indian young adults (between ages 18-30) across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad — a myriad of factors like feeling awkward (34%), being anxious about not being liked (31%) or hurting another person’s feelings (36%) can prevent young adults from communicating freely with their dates or partners about what they are comfortable with. However, the best way to get consent is simply to ask for it. You can also gauge whether or not someone is interested in taking things further by the way they're acting and the nonverbal cues they're giving off. There are so many ways to talk about consent with an existing or potential partner.
Here are five ideas to get you started:
Communicate openly with your partner
Communicate with your partner and make sure you're both on the same page when it comes to expectations and needs. 50% of young adult Indians consider explicitly discussing boundaries as a green flag. Talk about what kinds of things you're comfortable with and why. Really great, mature, adult relationships are ones built by emotionally healthy people who are willing to invest time in understanding both themselves and their partners.
Do not rely on non-verbal cues
Never ‘assume’ that you have consent for any kind of activity from a person unless it has been clearly and verbally given. 68% of young adult Indians still misidentify signs like flirting, not saying no, or even staying silent as consent, showcasing the dire need to not only understand what constitutes consent but also what definitely is not consent. Always give and wait for clear verbal confirmation from your date to ensure you are both always on the same page.
Remember that consent is ongoing
Just because you've agreed to something in the past doesn't mean you have to do it again in the future. Over 50% of young adult Indians hesitate in saying no to physical intimacy, and over 60% say they do not know how to withdraw consent. Even if your partner or you change your mind about something that you may have agreed to do before, talk about it and make sure to re-establish consent from both parties before proceeding with anything. Talk about what feels good for both of you at the moment, and you'll always be on the same page.
The best way to feel confident about discussing consent openly in any relationship is to educate oneself about the concept. When asked about what young adult Indians would like to learn about consent, 47% said they wish to learn how to give consent, while 43% said they would like to learn how to navigate consent when they meet someone online. There are many available resources online that can help one understand consent better. You can also reach out to friends, family or community groups to better understand how to navigate and talk about consent without any apprehensions.
Learn about safety features on dating apps
Lastly, familiarise yourself with safety features on dating apps to ensure a smooth, safe and respectful dating experience. One method is to rely on sense checks like checking if the profile is verified or not, video calls, mutual friends on social media, etc., to make sure your match is legit. Over 80% of young adult Indians do a sense check before meeting an online match in real life. They also rely on safety centres on dating apps for tips and advice, along with features that help report inappropriate behaviour and maintain privacy.
Consent is an important topic as more and more people realise the need to be mindful of the signals we send and receive when dating. Whether you're just starting to date someone, or you've been with them for years, always make sure that you have explicit permission before taking things further. If you're ever unsure whether or not someone has consented, the best thing you can do is to ask them directly to ensure a healthy relationship built on mutual respect.
Dr. Chandni Tugnait is a life coach and Tinder’s relationship expert