High time we introspect?

Why India is a rape-ublic — perspective of a woman psychologist

Human figure in the darkA country where Knowledge [Sarasvati], Power [Durga], and Wealth [Laxmi] are seen and worshipped as female energy, a country where the wife is known as the ‘Ardhangini’ or ‘better half’, is the same country where wife-beating and sexual crimes against women are rampant. The brutal gang rape in Delhi is just one case in point, but it seems to have been the tipping point for tolerating sexual crimes in this country.

Every news channel is having panel discussions, and citizens across the board are coming up with solutions or measures that need to be taken by the government, the judiciary, and the police. We’re demanding more policing on the roads, CCTV and GPS systems and no tinted glasses in public transport, stringent laws and life/death sentencing for the perpetrators, chemical castration, fast-track courts and more. While all of that is needed, I’d like to bring our attention to the origins of such sexual crimes and what deeper-acting interventions do we, as a society, need to make to prevent the same.

Such sexual crimes do not only take place on urban roads. They could also happen in one’s own home, in police stations, in politician’s bungalows, in private farmhouses, in hotel rooms, on campuses, in remote rural areas, in sex-trafficking dens, and many such places where no policing can ever take place. Moreover, most of such crimes go unreported.

Unfortunately, rape is still largely viewed as a physical act of violence, when it is actually much more traumatic. It is psychological violence that originates from a perpetrator with a warped mindset—the impact on the victim is too deep. Even if the obvious physical scars are healed, the psychological scars remain for a lifetime and the victim’s life changes forever.

All discussions in civil society are moving towards imposing an external discipline by instilling fear of the law, but we also need to engineer the society towards an inner discipline where people behave ‘right’ naturally and not out of fear. By talking about external discipline enforced by law, civil society is shirking its own responsibility to correct all that is wrong and all that begins at home and at school.

Cumulative reasons for rape

Such heinous sexual crimes take place because of the cumulative effect of:

Very high arousal

Woman in a shadowA sex-saturated environment with too much high-stimulus sexual material all around, leads to an artificially raised level of sexual arousal. Free on-line pornography, available 24 hours even on the multimedia phones, explicit sexual chatting on-line with strangers, open forums for ‘swinging’ couples, ‘closed’ social networking groups of boys exchanging nude pictures of girls as a bonding activity, boys getting together in public places for eve-teasing as a sport, stag parties with men exchanging their sexual exploits with each other, open references to girls as ‘maal’ [goods] or ‘item’, sexually explicit lyrics and song sequences in films called ‘item’ numbers with a high percentage of girls enjoying doing such ‘item’ numbers and even proudly and indignantly saying, ‘why should I not flaunt ‘it’ if I have ‘it’? All this and more has contributed to an artificially raised high level of sexual arousal in our society. Sex is therefore, unfortunately, not viewed as ‘sharing of intimacy’ as a result of emotional bonding with your significant other, but instead as hardcore personal, physical gratification, creating a self-centric ‘autosexuality’ mindset instead of a mutually respectful ‘heterosexuality’.

Very low frustration tolerance

An ‘instant gratification culture’ leads to the inability to say ‘no’ to oneself. This is because we are constantly exposed to signs that imply that delaying self-gratification is not necessary. E.g. the credit card culture, enjoy-today-pay-tomorrow schemes, fast food/ready-to-eat microwave foods, instant messaging and quick access to all information at any time you choose on the internet. Instant phone sex and virtual sex on demand are all designed to weaken the muscle of ‘acceptance’ i.e. that we may not always get what we want but we have to accept and live with it. Even urban working parents reinforce this ‘NOW mentality’ by providing their children what they desire and when they desire it to get rid of their own guilt for not being able to spend quality time with them, and wealthy parents lavish their children with the latest gizmos on-demand with no questions asked. Is it any wonder then that people are unwilling to delay or deny themselves anything? Or that they have a very low threshold for tolerating frustrations that arise from denying themselves anything? Isn’t it much like an alcoholic’s frustration when being denied a drink?

Very low impulse control

The free availability of mood altering drugs and psychotropic substances in urban and rural areas, in pubs, rave parties and social meet-ups are responsible for lowering inhibitions. Indeed, many cases of rape, especially date rape, have taken place under the influence of such substances. Moreover, sexual crimes are also committed as a ‘dare’ to impress peers when they are all doped or drunk.

Lowered inhibitions and lack of consequential thinking under the influence of substances / spirits therefore leads to poor impulse control and this often results in sexual crimes.

Very poor consequential thinking

With more and more time spent in the virtual world on Social Media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, the cause–and-effect understanding of human relationships seems to be reducing. While such interfaces no doubt create connections between people over long distances, there is a lessening of humanness and empathy as experienced in face-to-face interactions. This is because the electronic interface does not allow for the non-verbal human connect that is key in human relationships. This lack of kinship is causing relationships to become more utilitarian, transactional and short-lived, much like relationship flings. The whole structure of our lives is moving online through avatars and marketable personas. Our social efforts are thus being channeled through bite-sized, on-demand, virtual interactions and virtual meet-ups. All this results in the inability to assess the impact of our interactions on the other, thus reducing consequential thinking.

Grandiose ideas

Due of the lack of stringent laws, men believe that laws can be circumvented through various means and there isn’t enough that prevents them from committing sexual crimes in our country. Also the onus being put on the woman to prove that the sexual act was a crime committed against her will and not consensual, makes it even more difficult to pin down the sexual act as a crime. This has created grandiose ideas in men who believe that this is an act they can easily get away with, without any adverse repercussions for them.

No discernment in women’s liberation

There is a difference between being ‘comfortable’ with your sexuality and ‘flaunting’ it. While it is imperative that both men and women be equally comfortable with their own sexuality and sensuality, and aren’t conflicted or inhibited in its natural expression, it is neither necessary nor healthy for women to expose their bodies with a ‘bold vengeance’ under the garb of liberation. ‘Flaunting’ your body and ‘flouting’ common sense cannot be defined as liberation, and nor does it authentically empower you.

Also, moving from one extreme attitude to another, i.e. from subservience to superiority is neither healthy for the self-actualisation of women, nor beneficial for man-woman relationships, and nor does it endear women to men. Neither men nor women are, or ever can be, superior to the other, and therefore it is essential that both genders liberate themselves to be who they are without the need to prove superiority over the other. Authentic empowerment is giving yourself the permission to be who you are ‘unarrogantly’, without the need to prove something to yourself or others around you.

No value-based education at home or in school

Remember: Man and woman are not opposites but complementaryEducation begins with ‘observational learning’ at home and value-based education in schools. The ‘F’ word and other sexually explicit words being a part of the ‘normal’ lingo at home, reduces the act of ‘sharing intimacy’ to something crass and crude and this subliminally affects one’s attitude towards sex. Therefore, if the adults in the child’s environment use crass sexual language, are disrespectful towards the spouse, drink uninhibitedly, watch pornography and have sexual flings outside marriage, the child is going to view such conduct as ‘acceptable’ at some level.

If at school and college, education is only focussed towards ‘earning money’ and having a ‘good life’ materially, with no regard towards imparting human values, society would gradually become cold and insensitive, merely superfluously discussing social issues in debates without really caring enough about the inner most feelings of fellow humans.

Unfortunately there is inadequate value-based sex education in schools or even in homes. Whether it is eve-teasing in public places including school and college campuses, or sexual crimes on roads, or sexual harassment at the workplace, or sexual abuse/molestation in your own home, there is only one way out—Educate to Eradicate.

This education should begin in homes and in schools and continue through college and at community forums in rural and urban areas. This education needs to comprise of changing the concept from ‘opposite sexes’ to ‘complementary sexes’. It must strive to remove all stereotypes and rise above gender to view all individuals as human beings i.e. gender neutral, with gender being only one aspect of a person. Gender sensitization, through empathy-building exercises to understand the struggles of both genders is a must.

Unless we, the people, own up to our own contribution in creating such a ‘rape-uplic’ and ‘be the change we seek’, nothing will ever change, and after this media-supported tsunami recedes, there will only be another and then yet another life scarred. So wake up and take charge of your own life and of those in your family, your school and your community, so that responsible and mature citizens create a responsible and mature nation to be proud of.

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  • MINNU Bhonsle

    MINNU Bhonsle

    Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills.Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle. Check it out on her website.

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