Lindsay Pereira: Why do Indian men fear women?

Is it just sexual repression? What drives so many of us to seek refuge in video footage so dark, violent and disturbing as pornography?

Our most popular form of entertainment reduces women to comm­odities in the form of item numbers in order to sell more tickets. Representation pic
Our most popular form of entertainment reduces women to comm­odities in the form of item numbers in order to sell more tickets. Representation pic

We are a nation obsessed with sex. This shouldn't come as a surprise to most people who have been keeping tabs on what our politicians, religious heads and other assorted folk have to say every other week, when given platforms on news channels. When they talk about the safety of women, none of them focus on how men in this country are being raised, how rituals and traditions prevent an egalitarian approach to anything, or why our most popular form of entertainment reduces women to comm­odities in the form of item numbers in order to sell more tickets. Almost all of them focus, instead, on what women ought to wear or how they ought to behave.

This isn't a new phenomenon; it just seems like one because the people saying it have access to tools that now disseminate their observations to a larger, highly receptive audience of dim-witted people. This notion of how Indian women are to behave, or what their place in society ought to be, obsessed many of our founding fathers too, as they went about their business of trying to make India independent. They came up with the idea of an 'ideal woman', a Bharatiya Nari, who would embody everything that was pure about India at a time when our country was being controlled by supposedly impure, white devils. It's also why this was fertile ground for the creation of a fictional 'Bharat Mata', a national personification of India as a mother figure, by writer Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in his novel, Anandamath.

All of this would make sense to the patriotic trolls on social media platforms if they could read a book or two, but illiteracy is fast becoming mandatory for one to be labelled a patriot, so much of this factual data is lost in the clamour of rabid WhatsApp forwards. This is also why one would assume that referring to one's country as a mother would compel its people to treat it with more respect, but that hasn't stopped vast numbers of us from denuding its green cover, mining its sand illegally or spitting on every available open surface with impunity. That, I suppose, is a whole other story.

What is it about women that frightens so many Indian men, anyway? Is it just sexual repression? Are our parents to blame for why so many of us have fixed notions about what a woman can and can't do? Is it because nothing that passes for popular entertainment in our country ever displays a shred of rationality or common sense? Is this why so many of our politicians are caught watching pornography in Parliament?

Interestingly, statistics recently revealed by the Maharashtra government showed that around 10 per cent of people using the 'MumbaiWifi' facility - 500 Wifi spots live across the city, according to the first phase - were doing so in order to access pornography. That's an astonishing figure for a city so starved of access to data. Putting aside the rather disturbing notion that these people have been watching other people copulate on their smart phones while the rest of us wait patiently for a Virar local, it does say a lot about why so many of our men are in a state of anger so often. Studies have repeatedly shown that, apart from destroying our sex lives, an overdose of porn creates unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled, angry addicts.

There are other disturbing statistics about our online habits. Apparently, a majority of Indians accessing pornography are interested in the 'Teen' category. A­n­d­roid users spend around 10 minutes and 8 seconds on popular pornographic sites, as oppo­sed to 8 minutes and 40 seconds by iOS users, who presumably use the minute saved to check for Apple updates. Most disturbingly, in 2014, Google Adwords revealed that Indians used their phones 4.1 million times over the previous year to search the word 'rape'.

Why we behave the way we do or search for a particular term more than others is for social scientists to decipher and make sense of, provided they have access to data and a reliable sample study. I suppose it's safe to say that a bit of introspection is called for though.

What drives so many of us to seek refuge in video footage so dark, violent and disturbing?

Earlier this week, four convicts were sentenced to death for the shocking 2012 rape. Where did those men go wrong? More importantly, could anything have been done to prevent that crime from taking place?

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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