By Nisha Susan
Yesterday, the MLA from Bairia, Surendra Singh said to the media that his colleague Kuldeep Sengar, the MLA from Bangarmau, is surely innocent of the charges of raping a 17-year-old girl in Unnao. To get the full weight of his thought processes do read this: “I am speaking from psychological point of view, no one can rape a mother of 3 children. It is not possible, this is a conspiracy against him [Kuldeep Sengar]. Yes, maybe her father was thrashed by some people but I refuse to believe rape charge.”
Women spend an astonishing amount of our time wondering whether and when they will get raped. Men, on the other hand, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of whether women should be raped (for their moral upliftment) or whether they are worth raping. The first bit we hear a lot about— she was out late, she was showing skin, she was wearing jeans, she belonged to a family that in our wildest fantasies may have slaughtered a cow (as is being argued by cops now in Kathua where an 8-year-old has been raped over and over again and murdered.)
The latter factor though gets discussed much less but oh, men do spend time working on the calculus of the ‘rapeability’ of women. It is hinged on as many complex criteria as a Shaadi.com profile is subjected to. To Surendra Singh, the idea of any man raping a mother of three is just as absurd as the idea of Kuldeep Sengar marrying the said mother of three. No chance.
Let us look at some more criteria for rapeability. Until recently our medical textbooks taught students that women who are accustomed to sexual intercourse cannot be raped. This remains the basis of the two-finger test (as TLF’s investigation showed). And as I have written earlier, Modi: A Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology has argued for decades that it is very difficult to single-handedly rape a grown woman. And the popular Krishnan’s Handbook of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, says that ‘as far as women from the low class [sic] is concerned, it is impossible to rape her because she is stronger.’ And of course, married women simply cannot be raped by their husbands.
Looks are important in this index, of course. For instance, in college when my friend was pawed by one of our other classmates, she filed a complaint. The class split into two. Those defending him frequently argued that she was too dark to be molested by a fair Punjabi boy from Delhi.
Back in 1995, a judge in the Bhanwari Devi case said (among many amazing things) that “an upper-caste man could not have defiled himself by raping a lower-caste woman.” I imagine Surendra Singh would have nodded rigorously at this ‘psychological point of view’.
Then there is Donald Trump, who is facing accusations of sexual misconduct from 16 different women, and is famously obsessed with the rapeability index. He has told large gatherings while campaigning, “Take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. And you tell me what you think. I don’t think so.” This is what he said of Natasha Stoynoff, a journalist who alleged that Trump had forced his tongue down her throat. I imagine Surendra Singh would be nodding earnestly at that as well. Not because Surendra Singh is a bad man. Only because Singh and Trump and the Bhanwari Devi case judge seem to have equated f**kability with rapeability. They would like us to believe that if at all they would engage in sexual congress it would be with the finest, the freshest, the prettiest of women. Because after all, they are each lions among men, from the MLA of Bangarmau to the President of the United States to that sidey fellow from my class who later appeared as a villain in a Euphoria video. If you ask any of these gents if there is any difference in wanting to have sex with a woman and raping a woman, that minor matter of consent, they would look puzzled. But maal toh bhai, fresh ho na chahiye.
This idea of sexual assault as just a hobby of connoisseurs, almost an expression of pure aesthetic appreciation, is everywhere.
Once just outside my Delhi apartment, two ladies passed by at a brisk speed, swinging their arms for their evening constitutional. One said to the other in what she imagined was the safe secret language of Malayalam, while sneering at my summer dress, “ithine okkaya pidichonda pokunaddu.” Yaniki these type girls are the ones who get abducted. I asked her, “Entha chechi, chechikyu pidichondu pokkan thonunundo?” As in Respected Elder Sister, do you feel the impulse to kidnap me? Sister was definitely heavily into the theory of only the sexy get raped. If we had time, I would have asked her about all of us who get assaulted when we are fat, pimply children and old, wrinkly ladies and sleeping while drooling in trains. If these men are all so picky about dewy-cheeked virgins of an appropriate caste, then who is swiping right on all of us on the Rape/Not Rape app?
We must all be getting raped by some Alternative, Organic School of Rapeability, one that believes in diversity and inclusivity. It must be The No Behind Left Unmolested School of Rape.