The newspapers in recent times have been full of articles where the “intellectual class” of this country advocated a range of measures including early marriages, banning of jeans and conservative clothing to check the rape epidemic. Underneath this phenomenally smart thinking lies an assumption that sexual frustration among our men, provoked or alternatively sustained by the absence of such measures, leads to this pattern of violence against women.
First of all, these measures are symptomatic of a deeply disturbing understanding of human sexual behaviour. The stand up comedian Rivaldo has a humorous yet insightful counter to these Advocates of sensibility, but I alas am bereft of these comedic talents. So I have to take the bull by the horn and examine the problem in my own fashion. If mere sexual frustration itself led to rape, then perhaps forced intercourse would be the norm and its consensual alternative would be the exception. The need for sex among human beings comes from an entirely different place, than the need to rape. And yes rape and sex differ not just in terms of the consent of the parties, but also in terms of motive.
The need for sex is a very human need. The whole act of sexual intercourse involves not just a mechanical act to reproduce, but also a manifestation of the couple’s need to exchange expressions of trust and love. Nature in its infinite wisdom knew that for human beings to effectively procreate, the process of procreation cannot be unpleasant and painful. It therefore designed the human anatomy in a way where sexual activity was enjoyable, pleasurable and provoked happiness and joy. Human Sexual Behaviour therefore has a number of precursors to the act of intercourse itself, such as kissing, hugging and other forms of stimulation to test the waters between the couple and see if they are sexually compatible. It is for this reason that the physiology of sex, demands foreplay first in order to aid the process of penetration and intercourse.
Rape on the other hand has a radically different motivational framework. Behavioral Scientists classify rapists into four categories, the power reassurance rapist, the exploitative rapist, the anger displacement rapist and the sadist (I invite reference to “Obsession” by John Douglas and “Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives” by Dr. Ann Burgess, John Douglas and Robert Kessler). Between the four categories of sex offenders, the underlining needs which fuels their crimes are the need for power, control and to inflict suffering or displace the anger the offender feels for someone in his own life (be advised that the motivational classification of child sex offenders is somewhat different from offenders who perpetrate rape on adult victims and my source for this is Special Agent Ken Lanning).
In sex, the man craves for intimacy and sexual pleasure itself is the end, not the means to something else, unless the couple wishes to procreate. But in rape, sexual gratification by itself is not the end but rather the means to dominate, control and to inflict suffering. In other words rape is an act of violence, where sex is used as a weapon to undermine the victim’s autonomy as a human being and to deprive her of any sense of independence, control or sense of ownership over her mind and body. Rape victims are of every age and every type and they walk among us. When the advocates of the measures aforesaid place the need for sex on the same plane as the need to rape, they first of all denigrate human sexual behaviour into a banal and perverse act, rather than being a beautiful part of human existence.
Secondly their school of thought ends up classifying the entire male population, who arguably experience sexual frustration every once in a while, as latent rapists whose violent tendencies are concealed by a superficial garb of moral values which will crumble the moment a girl smiles at him! As a man, I am insulted at this insinuation. I am deeply offended that the advocates of the measures aforesaid, feel that my abilities to be empathetic, respectful, loving and caring is so fragile and capable of being compromised so easily, that too by such insignificant stimulus as the attire of a woman on the street. The duty to respect human rights of women is absolute, and not qualified by disclaimers as to their attire.
Thirdly, it wrongly assumes that only those women who are considered “attractive” are victims of rape because they wear clothing that highlights their “beautiful bodies”. As our society doesn’t allow survivors and victims to come forward and reveal their stories to us, this stereotype has been left unchecked. But the fact of the matter is women are at risk, regardless of their weight, “attractiveness”, age or physical appearances in general. When victim’s clothing is blamed, it almost assumes that clothing which reveals the victim’s beauty provokes rape thereby undermining the suffering of countless others who were perfectly “conservative” clothing as our society calls it.
But at a larger level, it is not the rapist alone who needs to control and dominate. It is our society in India that has become this way. Arguably the legal system itself is an attempt to control, but it operates within the framework of fundamental rights which leaves men and women to have complete power to decide over certain matters in their lives. Our society on the other hand wishes to regulate even those areas which our law leaves to the individual. We have neglected to respect the concept of privacy and space, and in the result we have complicated the interactions between the sexes. As my friend Kathryn Kylee puts it, separating boys and girls in schools, colleges and even in many adult gatherings, you have essentially demonised a man speaking to a woman unless she fulfils a certain role, namely mother, daughter, sister, wife or a friend in his life. That, the woman has an existence and rights beyond these roles, is largely lost on us and we have to reflect on how we can remedy this situation.
How bad is the rape epidemic in India, is a topic that has provoked considerable controversy. Those of us, who work with survivors and victims feel that the matter is quite serious and widespread. Then, there are those who casually state that a sizable majority of rape cases are false, which frighteningly tallies with conviction rates in rape cases. It suffices to say that there is more to the statistics than what meets the eye. However, from my own experience as a lawyer in this field, I remain convinced that the rape epidemic is not only serious but is also an invitation for our society to rise to the occasion and set right some of our stereotypes that is making life so difficult for all of us. We cannot resolve these controversies easily, but we can agree that in every case where rape has occurred, it is wrong and we cannot allow the crime wave to continue. Let us first start by thinking about the subject a little more before we take a stand.
By Ashok G.V.
Image Source: Fight Against Rape@facebook