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This chick ain’t free: Let’s talk about sex and consent

So Here's The Thing

This chick ain’t free: Let’s talk about sex and consent
I’m sorry, the old Teresa can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, she’s on a break. So, here’s Ava instead.

Hi again, Internet. I couldn't resist that reference to Taylor Swift's new song 'Look What You Made Me Do' — and it's not just because it's all that everyone is talking about right now. While many describe Swift as a vengeful lyricist (case in point: LWYMMD blatantly calls out her critics and enemies), I pretty much receive the same sentiment when I tell people (mostly members of the opposite sex) that I'm the sometimes-author of this dating column, So Here's The Thing.

This is where I beg to differ. Because, so here's the thing: As much as this column comes off as a digital burn book of the men who have crossed Teresa's (and my) path, I feel like we would be doing people in the dating scene a disservice if we didn't call men out on their bullsh*t. My stance is this: Why let someone get away with mistreating or disrespecting you? If I can help prevent other women from getting hurt by male bad behaviour, then sit back, I will not.

Swifty comparisons aside, 'consent' has been weighing on my mind of late; especially after a rather unfortunate incident that left me with a stress-induced mouth ulcer. Let's rewind to a seemingly harmless text conversation I recently had with Jack* — a guy I got to know off Bumble.

We hadn't progressed far along into our 'getting to know you' stage, when Jack and I starting swapping casual details about our online dating experiences. Between the both of us, I'd say I'm the more 'experienced' one, seeing as I've had two serious relationships as a result of online dating apps and more Tinder nightmare tales than I can keep track of. But this story isn't about who could outdo each other. Rather, it's about how fast the conversation deteriorated when Jack revealed a very chauvinistic side to his character.

"Jack somehow thought it was appropriate to let me know about his preference for Asian women — he was almost self-congratulatory about this 'yellow fever' syndrome"

Jack somehow thought it was appropriate to let me know about his preference for Asian women — he was almost self-congratulatory about this 'yellow fever' syndrome. The manner in which he conveyed this made me feel like he expected me to grateful that, due to my genetics, I've hit the jackpot — the prize being him. Minus points, Jack. That is not a compliment at all. That is also not something you shout from the mountain tops. And hands-down, that is not something you tell someone you've known for all of five minutes and have yet to meet in person. #nofilterfail

Surprisingly, I didn't delete him there and then (which is quite out of character for me), and I even told myself to not judge him too quickly (I was feeling somewhat tolerant that day) and continued our chat. That's where things progressively went downhill against my better judgment. Not only did Jack come off as needy and fragile by going overkill with the compliments about my looks (mind you, he's judging by the five selfies I posted on my profile), he also shot himself in the foot when he indignantly recounted a dating story with an Asian girl — essentially summarised: "I bought her dinner and treated her to a movie and she tells me she's not interested in a relationship."

Hold your horses there, mate. You bought the girl a meal and a movie ticket, not a house or a holiday. And isn't it a good thing that she had the decency to be honest and tell you she didn't think it was going to work? Does that honesty make her a user? A gold digger? It's 2017. Can't men take rejection more gracefully? I pointed that out to Jack, and he justified his reaction with this rationale: "Well, she didn't have any problems making out with me on the first date. LOL." As if that warrants her being slut-shamed?

I found Jack's narrow-minded and extremely MCP attitude a major turn-off. Even worse, I suspected that his view is still shared by a good half of the male population. It's been constantly drilled into women's heads that just because we've slept with a guy, it doesn't necessarily mean they'd want a relationship with us, so we shouldn't expect it. But if a woman was to engage in a tonsil hockey session with a guy, it's the opposite and means she wants more? But if she doesn't, she's a tease, a user, and dare I say it, a slut?

"I strongly believe that up until the moment a woman gets naked in someone's bed, even seconds before sexual intercourse takes place, consent can be withdrawn"

Needless to say, Jack was not the Romeo to my Juliet. But the short-lived episode with Jack got me all riled up and spitting fire when it came to the topic of consent. I strongly believe that up until the moment a woman gets naked in someone's bed, even seconds before sexual intercourse takes place, consent can be withdrawn. And by no means, should any woman feel obligated to let someone violate or take away her right to say 'no'. There's no 'but' when it comes to 'no'.

A week after the Jack fiasco, my first date with Cedric* took place at one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I had suggested the place because I was fresh out of ideas on new places to try and I wasn't really up for venturing too far away from home. Cedric and I had been chatting on and off for a few weeks and finally decided to catch up when our schedules allowed for it.

I found it easy to talk to Cedric. He came from a similar background from me and had lived on my side of the world for almost a decade — meaning he understands Asian culture and also what it's like to be an expat. He was successful and didn't seem intimidated by a woman who was also successful in her own right. But other than getting along, I felt like there was a spark lacking between us. To drive home my point, I clearly told him that if I was looking for casual hookups, I didn't need dating apps for that.

While that might sound somewhat arrogant, I'm someone who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go out and get it. I also don't mince my words, because I'm just not into playing games. I thought that by laying it out on the table, Cedric would know that a hookup was definitely not on the cards.

At the end of the evening, we called for the bill and, just to put it out there, I always offer to split the bill; sometimes even picking up the tab. Not once did it cross my mind during dinner that I was getting a 'free meal' out of Cedric. I'm a modern, independent, and self-sufficient woman who has the means to pay her own way and I've always stood by this approach; even when people tell me that it can be emasculating. This is not something I'm apologetic about and if a guy has a problem with it, then I don't want to date him.

"Gone was the gentleman I met earlier in the evening, replaced by a petulant man-child that didn't get what he wanted"

Anyway, when the waiter came back with the check, Cedric beat me to the punch and shoved his credit card to the waiter without even looking at the receipt. For a split second, his blasé attitude towards the service staff seemed a little condescending. But, seeing that he behaved like a perfect gentleman throughout the date, I brushed it aside and told myself to not overthink things. I thanked him for dinner and suggested that the next time we caught up, it'd be my shout.

When we left the restaurant, Cedric offered to give me a lift home since he drove. I thought that was really nice of him and accepted the ride, seeing as I've had a good time and not once was he creepy during dinner. That, however, changed when he pulled up on my street. While saying goodbye, he pulled me in for a kiss and, at that moment, I didn't think too much of it and kissed him back. A kiss is just a kiss, right? Cedric's car was, however, blocking traffic so instead of letting me get off, he drove around to the corner where he could stop the car. Despite feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the situation, I didn't want to come off as rude and in spite of the growing urge to want to escape, I remained in the passenger seat and let him kiss me. To be fair, I kissed him back too so I wasn't completely innocent.

However, it was worth noting that throughout the kiss, I was backed into the car seat and still strapped in by the safety belt. And the way Cedric was coming at me, he looked like he would climb into my seat at any moment. To be clear, I never felt like I was in any danger then, and I had the right to say 'no' to Cedric and put a stop to things there and then.

But, in a matter of seconds, things started to get out of control. Cedric's hand stealthily slipped under my skirt and I immediately pushed him away. He then tried a few more times to get handsy with me, and frustrated by his insistence, I continued to say "no". His reply: "Then when?" I was a little flabbergasted by his question because as far as I was concerned, I meant, "No, it was not going to ever happen" and not, "Let's do this another time". Despite my rebuttal, Cedric thought he could change my mind and, this time, boldly took my hand and placed it on his crotch.

"I know of many women who, after accepting a meal from a guy, feel pressured to sleep with them... There are still men out there who view, what is essentially classified as sexual assault, as their right"

I snatched my hand away and repeated "no" firmly. And that's when Cedric's demeanor changed. Gone was the gentleman I met earlier in the evening, replaced by a petulant man-child that didn't get what he wanted. Cedric retreated into his seat, folded his arms, and curtly barked "fine". That was apparently my cue to GTFO of his car.

Wow. At first, I thought he was kidding. But when I wished him good night, in a casual tone to diffuse the awkwardness, he refused to look at me and just stared straight ahead. I got out of his car dumbfounded by what just taken place. Cedric then sped off without looking back. I haven't heard from him since.

On one hand, good riddance. No love lost. Nice knowing you for all of five seconds. But the more I repeated the story to my friends, the more I was ticked off by Cedric's behaviour and his sense of entitlement. That because he paid for my dinner, I somehow owed him something in return. That because I kissed him back, it meant that I was okay with him feeling me up. That because I'm a self-proclaimed modern woman, I wouldn't have a problem with jerking a guy off in his car. That despite me saying "no" countless times, he heard "yes" instead.

Yes, maybe I shouldn't have kissed him back if I wasn't interested. But this brings me back to my point: We could have been in my bed and butt-naked, but I still need to give consent. This whole rationale of quid pro quo — both from Jack's story and Cedric's actions — really doesn't sit well with me because I know of many women who, after accepting a meal/drink/gift from a guy, feel pressured to sleep with them. It left me feeling somewhat dismayed to know that there are still men out there who view, what is essentially classified as sexual assault, as their right.

"No free meal is worth being belittled. No free meal is worth being made to feel like a piece of meat. No free meal is worth having my right to give consent taken away"

I was lucky enough to walk away from the situation with Cedric without getting physically hurt. Some might even read this and think that at least I got a free meal; but it's not that simple or deductive. No free meal is worth being belittled. No free meal is worth being made to feel like a piece of meat. No free meal is worth having my right to give consent taken away.

And since I started this with Taylor Swift's lyrics, I think it only makes sense to leave you with some parting words (edited for contextual purpose) from Kendrick Lamar: This chick ain't free. No really. I'm not free to entertain your chauvinistic views. I'm not free to listen to you disrespect women. I'm not free, even if the meal was.

*Names have been changed.
Read more entries from our dating column, So Here's The Thing.

Ava Li

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