Culture & Life

A ‘Male’ Take on India’s Carnal Crimes

(Sporadic incidents of sexual crimes may have random causes, but a rape and molestation ‘culture’ like that exists in India has a particularly complex set of reasons, and these have been extensively addressed in the Indian media. Teenagers and young men, however, frequently fail to connect to such serious and heavy-worded analyses, especially when many of them kind of put the blame on ‘Indian men’ as a whole. This article attempts to provide a more comprehensible and relatable narrative of sexual crimes for men, instead of the complex and aggressive ones they are usually subjected to. We know the stories of women who are harassed and of men who are harassers, but we hardly know the stories of the other kind of men who, despite living in the same world with similar temptations, are passionately opposed to sexual crimes.)

A conversation can change your life. At age 19 I had one such radical conversation. It was with a woman of my age, and we were chatting over the then fashionable medium of text messages. Somehow we came upon the topic of harassment of women and she told me a very private thing: how, when she was very young, a man living next-door had felt up her ‘newly-sprouted’ breasts, and how she had been clueless for a long time about the horrible inappropriateness of all that. Listening to the details of that incident was very unnerving for me, especially because guys may read about molestation or see it happening on screen, but it feels vastly different to know and listen to the raw, real thing direct from a woman.

Like they have done to countless males for millennia, female breasts have also held me in thrall since I was a boy: that is the way men have naturally evolved over time. I find it absurd whenever over-enthusiastic champions for women’s rights say stuff like ‘What’s so special about the stupid balls of fat on our chests’. As a little kid I remember always feeling some strange pleasure whenever my eyes fell on a woman’s cleavage. Like every boy around me, I spent hours and hours ruminating about those mysterious, powerful, magnetic globes, and about their maddening smoothness and softness. I perpetually wondered how mind-blowing that moment would be when I finally got to touch one, to press one and caress one. I now call that ‘mental caressing’.

Mental caressers and physical harassers. When many years later I had the above conversation with my friend, I realized one could broadly classify most males into these two groups (especially for the purpose of explaining sexual crimes to boys). The stuff she told left me restless and furious for several days. In all the sweet years of fantasizing about girls, I never once felt I had any right to actually go and touch a female just like that. That was outrageous for me, and for so many guys of my age who simply, inherently, knew that was wrong. This was just how our mentality was shaped: we never let the ‘dirtiness’ (as some would call it) escape our obsessed brains and invade our hands and fingers. Fortunately I always was in the company of the ‘caressers’ kind of guys as a child and teenager, and was hardly aware of the other kind.

But the conversation I mentioned above was a watershed moment for me. I suddenly realized there is a whole other world of males where normal sexual desire takes sickeningly abnormal forms: while I was sitting with friends in my hostel chatting about ‘XYZ who has the flashiest boobs in college’, there was surely another group someplace with someone saying ‘I finally grabbed the tits of that bitch from the bus’; while one of my friends was madly rejoicing over a protracted glimpse of a classmate’s particularly expansive cleavage, someone somewhere was feeling smug having felt up unsuspecting foreign women at a crowded train station; while we were merrily recounting the divine contours of a senior’s shapely derriere, there were some somewhere, well… assaulting the forcefully-bared derriere of a woman. Such uneasy thoughts started sprouting in my mind regularly, and they have since never left.

A common response of the society to sexual crimes is to talk about respect for women. While we are forced to separately discuss respecting women as against respecting humans (not yet having vanquished the socio-politico-cultural differences between genders), I believe we should also occasionally frame the issue a bit differently to make a more intense impact on the malleable psyches of both teenage males and females. It is all, finally, about a human being’s simple right of not getting hurt (or killed or diseased or deformed) for the sake of someone else’s desires, carnal or otherwise.

I try to do this through an elementary mental exercise: men imagining how it would be to live in a society dominated by aggressively homosexual men (as against by aggressively heterosexual men as currently). In such a world we would have commuted in buses and trains where several hands and fingers constantly aimed for our crotches and butts, rudely and lewdly touching and pressing and hurting them. Besides, the highly plausible prospect of getting brutally sodomized in that world by some wretched males who didn’t fear the law or the police would have frightened and disturbed our peace to no end, and the thought of leaving homes for work/college would have filled us with awful trepidation. This type of elaboration has a better probability of making males understand just how terrible ‘normal’ life is for women around them.

The infamous Badaun rape-murders happened last year in May, and a few days back the CBI filed its final report. The ‘conclusions’ the CBI arrived at are disappointingly absurd. They say that the two girls (14- and 15-year old) committed suicide ‘in shame’ after one of them was caught half naked with a man. The CBI team perhaps was all-male (headed, shockingly, by a totally inept officer). That news report left me speechless, and it just reinforces the stereotype of the ‘callous Indian male’. These issues have of course been extensively and comprehensively analyzed by various experts, and I have only touched a few basic facets (this article discusses many of the other aspects). However what I know, as an Indian man who believes in humanism, is that we cannot wave off the existence of the other Indian male as just another aberration, and that we need to be sincere and unanimous about the need to subdue and invalidate him.

The city of Delhi is a very polarizing place. While I happen to be passionately crazy about that ancient, grand, historic, lively and monumental metropolis, my affection for Delhi is invariably hued with some guilt and shame; because it is grand and historic with respect to sexual crimes too. I earnestly yearn for the day when I’ll be able to profess, with unadulterated pride, my love for this magnificent place; and I do believe that the ‘new’, young Indians of today, with their liberal beliefs, can finally bring about that transformation.

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