A deep dive into India’s ‘rape’ culture

Crime doesn’t end by killing the criminal but can, of course, be curbed by understanding and managing it



Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Pragati Saxena

First, you were angry and disgusted. Then, you were hopeless and helpless. Then it became something you got habituated to. Rape is an everyday phenomenon. It’s always in the news. This is how we become desensitised. Violating a person’s body and destroying her life forever becomes a single column news item.

If there is still a little empathy and concern left which goes beyond organising marches, shouting slogans and ranting angrily against these horrible incidents, then we start wondering during our solitary walks, drives, rides towards home, during our little breaks from work: why do men rape?

As I was haunted by this question, I wondered, if I am feeling a little sympathetic towards those men, those criminals who commit this unspeakable act. Initially, I was kind of embarrassed about it. I probed further. No, it was not sympathy. I wanted to understand what is so enormously wrong in our society that some men end up sexually torturing and even murder a woman.

Help came from one of my friends who happens to be a psychiatrist and counsellor. “It(rape) is not about sex at all, but power,” said Seema Prakash. “One can always pay for sex, but to dominate a woman, have her helpless, punish her and hurt her is sometimes what they want. It could be anger, the need to feel in control, to feel powerful and in command. Of course, there is repressed sexual frustration as well, that is why, they ‘act out’,” Seema added.

The need to feel powerful? Why should one feel the need to feel powerful? Perhaps people like us, who are almost in control of their day-to-day lives, who can control normal situations according to their likes and dislikes, cannot understand this need. I don’t.

“See, they possibly have very low esteem, may be because, they could not control basic situations of life, like having a normal meal, normal family, home. May be, they had a tough life wherein they did not have any choice other than obeying commands of other people. Then, such men definitely do not believe any woman would want them. So, they pick on someone weak, vulnerable and defenceless. Or, when it is a small child, they pick on her because she is trusting and makes a good victim,” she goes on. Seema further talked about gang rapes. When men are more in numbers, they “overcome their inner conscience more easily, spur each other on. They want to be seen as macho by the others and not weak.”

Counsellors agree with the fact that many rapists are themselves victims of abuse in some form or the other in their childhood. Boys often blame their mothers for allowing domestic violence to take place. Their offence is about power, more than sexual gratification, and comes from a desire to humiliate the entire gender. Combined with the repressive social taboo attached to sex, this desire takes the form of deep-rooted frustration.

Another major factor is the biological role of wooing female counterparts. It falls on males as in the case of most other species too, to woo their female counterparts to mate. Men have to invariably compete with other males to draw female attention. Men with low self-esteem, a battered and humiliating life find themselves unable to do so. Mix this inability with the heady dose of porn so easily available on the Internet and smartphones, and what we get is an extremely frustrated man who would then resort to such unspeakable ways to prove his ‘worth’ as man.

Since this task of wooing female counterparts is so integral to men’s biological structure, the fear of rejection and in some cases rejection result in hurt ‘male’ egos and mingled with repressed emotions and urges, the only way to vent out the frustration is finding a vulnerable target and keep her/him in absolute control.

Moreover, our social structure is such that we don’t teach our men how to regulate their emotions. Instead, they are encouraged to hide them. They subsequently become incapable of identifying and responding to what they are feeling. Naturally more often than not, men depend on women to manage emotions. They remain satisfied with what they ‘are’-chauvinist, selfish and self-centred, women being only a means to satiate themselves, be it food or sex.

Women on the other hand are taught to be soft and subservient and considerate to men’s commands. For centuries, they have been taught to deal with men’s emotions and not pay much attention to their own feelings. Men therefore take it for granted that women have to obey.

It’s a pity that our society, engulfed in a ‘rape crisis’, has not taken concrete measures as yet to understand and then rehabilitate such offenders, though we keep protesting and raise hue and cry about it. We still don’t have any system to deal with this psychological deviation. After all, crime doesn’t end by killing the criminal but can, of course, be curbed by understanding and managing it. That doesn’t mean punishing the criminal is not required. But considering the nature of the crime, understanding and changing the psyche of a could-be perpetrator will help substantially in reducing the number of such incidents.

The need is to look within, to comprehend what is so wrong in our social structure that the cases of rapes have become rampant. With the onslaught of technology and information, we pride ourselves in becoming modern outwardly, but inside we are still plagued with the same mental framework, set of beliefs and traditions. A first-person account of a rehabilitated rapist in The Telegraph(UK) succinctly reflects the psyche of our society too:

‘It’s an attitude that, if I’m honest with you, I grew up seeing around me. I think some men like to boast and get away with things. It makes them feel like the big guy. And some men just think they’re superior to women, don’t they? They think women belong to the kitchen or in the bedroom. That’s pretty much the message I got from my father. And I suspect there´s countless men out there that feel the same way.’

We need to kill this attitude, and not the rapist. He after all is what our society is grooming.

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