27 Sep Looking at men this time!
It is customary around the International Women’s Day (8th March) to have articles on women and their concerns. This year the horrific rape in Delhi has added a strong impetus; everyone is discussing women’s issues. While this is good, there is one danger: women’s issues get isolated, as if women exist in a vacuum away from men. In fact, the very word women’s issues makes some men feel the issue is irrelevant to them; therefore we get the ironical situation where men, who rape, and are directly responsible for it, are allowed to think and say that it is a women’s issue, and nothing to do with them!!
In this article, therefore, we will be looking at the same issues – inequality, sexual crimes, rape- but directing our attention at men.
Rape and sexual crimes are frighteningly prevalent. India has 2, 28,000 sexual crimes against women per year of which 25,000 were reported rapes. Every two minutes a man commits some form of sexual harassment, every twentieth minute it is a rape. These are only the reported crimes. In the US, less than half the rapes are reported – in India, reporting is much lower. A 2007 government study showed 53% of Indian children have been sexually abused, the bulk (94%) by men known to them. 50% report the abuser was in a relationship of trust – family member, or care-giver. Therefore, these high statistics do not reflect in our rape figures, if they did, the rape numbers would be off the charts, perhaps a man committing a rape every few seconds.
Men, it appears, then, are carrying out forced sexual intercourse, on women and children, in huge numbers, but why? What is the reason? What pleasure does forced physical contact give them? What drives a man to rape a child as young as a year or two? What is motivating this? What made men who are brothers and sons to other women turn into brutal fiends, torturers and finally murderers of the girl on the bus?
Numerous studies have been done on rape and the psychology of the men committing rape. Rape happens most in societies where violence and fear are learned social skills among men; societies which are highly patriarchal (where men rule, and women obey) and hierarchical. In South Africa, for instance, one study showed that one in four men has raped, and many have coercive sexual fantasies (fantasies of rape). In our own country, the male-s u p e r i o r i t y theme came out clearly in Delhi, where the gang-rapists first comment was to taunt and question the girl for being out with a boy at 9.30, quite forgetting that they, too were out at the very same time! They were also drinking, robbing and raping, even killing – but they implied that was ok, her watching a movie was not! Rape becomes the expression of this inner violence, patriarchy and hierarchy – an attempt to prove dominance, using force. The men who rape are often young men, men with low self-esteem, perhaps frustrated with their lot, eaten up inside with jealousy, anger and entitlement; frequently angry, belittling, or bullying in their relationships with others, including women. They are hurting inside and lash out at available targets, often women, who are not keeping to the “rules” these men set for them in their minds. They tend to have some form of substance abuse, the commonest being alcohol. They have friends and associates who also display anti-social traits, and when together, gang rapes can be brutal beyond imagination.
Men raping within the family tend to be better educated and integrated. They may violate their victim – boy or girl – for years, enforcing silence with threats, and pretence to have a special relationship with the victim – “our secret”. Playing on the child’s natural obedience to the adult family member, these rapist abusers cause severe trauma to the psyche of the child; years later the child may be depressed, vulnerable, unable to trust other men; may blame and hate themselves, may never be able to develop a healthy, loving relationship with another person. Many of these men get away scot-free, as the child is often unable to tell anyone till years have passed, and when other family members finally are told, are often forced to “let it go” since the rapist may be married and a father, and raking up old disturbing issues is seen as inadvisable.
Socially, rape and sexual harassment is often seen as a women’s issue, and by focusing on women’s clothes and behaviour, the spotlight is turned off the men responsible. Society in fact, blatantly supports the rapist men – from policemen who do not want to register FIRs, or handle the issue insensitively, doctors who are not respectful during the medical exam, to judges who let the rapists off with a light sentence, or other members of society who imply the man was “provoked” by the woman’s dress or behaviour.
Another social point of relevance is that men as a group are not modelled or taught the right attitude to sex. Sex is something either to boast about, or indulge in for one’s own pleasure, or to show dominance, to teach a woman a lesson, or as a fleeting act of desire, nameless, emotionless. All these factors make it easy for some men to internally justify rape as a legitimate form of expression of masculinity. Somewhere inside his head, this social sanction translates into “It’s Okay.” The idea of sex being closely allied to, in fact being a sublime expression of love and tenderness is often currently downplayed by men, and seen only in romantic movies targeted at women – and in the Bible! (Read the Song of Songs).
From the scriptural viewpoint, rape is displeasing to God because it violates several primary commands of God.
First, in Genesis 2: 24, God indicates the correct place for sex – as the special bond between two people of opposite gender who are committed to each other in a relationship of permanence, openness, deep trust and mutual help. Casual sex between strangers and rape of a strange woman are both ruled out as travesties of God’s intention.
Second, (Gen 1:28-30) God intended the relationship between man and woman to be that of equality, harmony and togetherness, each bearing the dignity and value of being made in God’s image, but coming together for mutual help and service and family. Rape as an act of force and dominance, violates the individuality and choice of the woman. The man who rapes is violating the image of God in the woman.
Third, God hates violence and domination and lording it over others. He expects people to love each other, respect each other, wash each others’ feet, bear each others’ burdens, and make peace between people. Rape as an act of violence from a man to a woman or child makes a mockery of these ideals. Specific laws in the Old Testament also show God’s aversion to rape. Let us pray that we will show the light to our people in this area.
Questions for Christian men:
1. As Christians, can we explain why God made two genders and how they should relate to each other? What mistakes have we made in this area? Think specifically of how patriarchy and sexism occurs in India. Discuss with some friends in college after thinking it through yourself.
2. Analyse the main reasons men marry in India. Compare with the creation idea in Genesis 1 and 2.
3. How should we look at sex? Is it merely a physical desire, a hormone-mediated arousal, a way of expressing love, a great physical pleasure, a tender, emotional union, an expression of divinity, an act of fun and frolic, a practical tool meant to create children, a basically secret and somewhat shameful need which we have to stifle? Any others? Where does rape fit in?
4. Violence is very much a part of the fallen male condition. Think of various ways men are violent, and how you can combat this in your life.
About the Author
Dr Jamila Koshy is a graduate living in Delhi with her husband and two daughters. She works in a hospital in Delhi.