Friday, September 22, 2006

Real men don't rape

Picture this:

The damsel is coy and shy and keeps shrinking within her skin, as the bloke is trying to paw her from different angles and directions. She keeps running away, and he keeps running after. She says no, he says yes. The charming act continues till the last stanza of the song being played in the background, when he finally approaches her with resolve and determination, and she reluctantly (but gladly) agrees… and the duo turn into a silhouette of their firm embrace against the melting sun as the melodious voice of the playback singers approaches the final words of the song “pyaar mein naa ka matlab to haan hota hai” (“in love, no means yes”).

Isn’t this the common ingredient of most Indian movies we see (or don’t see)? But no, it’s a not a phenomenon contained to India alone. Doesn’t this reflect the larger belief system, that:

1. When she says NO, she actually means YES.
2. The louder the spoken NO, the louder the unspoken YES.
3. When she says no, she’s just acting pricey.
4. She says no because she’s shy.

So here’s another thing that patriarchy has developed over millennia to benefit the hegemonic masculinity. Either she can say yes to a man’s sexual advances, or she can say no. If she says yes, she’s a "slut"… a “use and throw” woman. After all, which cultured and moral woman says yes to anything remotely sexual!!! So go ahead and do whatever. And if she says no, see 1, 2, 3 and 4 above. So go ahead and do whatever.

This impinges upon women’s sexual rights in two ways:

1. Her right to say No. This social belief teaches women that saying no holds no meaning. After all, a no is a no only if the other person sees it as a no. Also, it belittles women and treats them as lesser humans who do not have the mental ability to decide for themselves. It also takes away her right to her body, and to decide when, how, where and by whom would she like and not like to be touched. And this becomes especially important within a sexual relationship, as men feel they have a right to demand sex whenever they want, and women feel obliged to agree, or powerless to refuse.
2. Her right to say Yes. This belief teaches women that saying yes would mean they are held firmly within the claws of moral turpitude, and therefore – (i) can be enjoyed at will; and (ii) need to be tamed. Both deductions take away her right over her body, as well as respect for her choice(s).

So where does this leave women? With no right over their own body and sexuality? With little power to say no or yes?

Any sexual act by one person with two or more persons ,without the other person(s)’s consent is rape. Well, rape is more than just this, but let’s just say this for now.

So why is that almost all rape prevention programs are directed at women? Why is it that women have a long list of cautions and precautions, while men… well, men will be men!!! Why is it that policies and programs rarely talk to men what these stereotypes and gender constructs mean? Why is it that there are so few efforts to engage men on how to be responsible partners, friends, strangers… how to express themselves sexually, yet responsibly.

Most rape perpetrators are men. Doesn’t this mean that they need to change in order to end rape. Why do we see rape as "unfortunately inevitable"? Why do we not object to movies, soaps and commercials that tolerate and support rape? Why do we see those messages as harmless and apolitical?

If there’s a community that can stop rape, its men! And that’s the idea behind this brilliant campaign to engage male partners of women to be sexual within those relationships more positively and sensitively. The message is simple: when she says No, she means No. Respect that.
Check out their website. And they have a great newsletter too.
PS: The title of the post comes from another organization that aims to (besides many other things) promote positive masculinities.

5 comments:

R.E.B.E.L said...

hey.. tat was very well written.. It just so happens that our movies are the major contributors for gender stereotypes.. Whoever said that no means yes.. No means no and men should respect that.. Esp in India women are brought up in such a way that they are never s'posed to say no.. They should never have an opinion of their own..

Sea and Sky said...

r.e.b.e.l:
thank you! some of the movies and commercials are horrible, aren't they, in terms of how damaging they are towards contributing to the gender stereotypes. besides women not having an opinion of their own, they are also seen as not having a sexuality of their own!

harsha said...

touche. I remember Zeenat Aman was once asked if she had a favourite line from any of her movies. She replied that she didnt really remember any of her lines, and that the only ting she remembered was that the one line she got to say very often was a drawn out "Nahin".

Sea and Sky said...

harsha:
why am i not surprised! :)
thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Well actually this is the fault of society as a whole which lead to production of this type of movies.
I like to see a movie where the female character when assulted chuckles and says "bring it on!" Its good that slowly films are coming with strong female characters.
Look kahani. Thats a good one.