“Rape”. That’s The Word You’re Looking For

12 Jan

The cover story of this week’s Outlook (King Leer) is all kinds of gross. Where do I even begin?

The fact that this kind of rampant exploitation takes place and nobody even thinks it merits a look-see until somebody in the media feels a need to boost their ratings or increase their circulation or whatever?

The fact that it all sounds so sordid and smutty that it reads like a really badly written internet rape fantasy (or maybe the plots of several no-budget porn movies shot in somebody’s garage in Kerala – or wherever the fuck the desi porn industry is situated these days)?

The fact that all the stories are peppered with “expert” testimonies that repeatedly hold to the POV that a woman’s best chance to succeed in India is on her back – to an extent that it begins to take on shades of an universal truism?

The fact that politicians are actually giving each other props on how best they handle being sexual harassing, adultering, raping, pussy-hounds? “OMG, ji! Your skills as a sociopath are amazing!”

Interestingly, most political observers agree—and this includes those from the BJP—that Congressmen tend to conduct such relationships with greater finesse than those from their main rival political party. A civil servant from UP, who worked both with Kalyan Singh and the currently headline-hitting N.D. Tiwari, had this to say: “Congressmen are better at compartmentalising their lives, allotting time for work and play. Kalyan Singh’s biggest mistake was that he allowed his relationship to consume him and his political career. N.D. Tiwari, on the other hand, juggled many female interests and administration deftly.” Of course, Tiwari has finally been outed, but only after living a rather full 86 years, and surviving tales of his successor in UP, Veer Bhadra Singh, washing the Lucknow secretariat with “gangajal” before taking office, to remove the “Tiwari taint”. Indeed, a senior BJP leader speaks almost enviously of two senior, married cabinet ministers in the current UPA government for their deftness in pursuing sexual relationships without attracting the ugly odour of scandal: “What champs they are—X and Y.”

The fact that I’m pretty sure I just solved one of their blind items and it’s freaking me the fuck out to think I might actually know one of these scumbags?

It is to barf.

But even worse is their follow up article that focuses on how sleeping your way into power is an ancient Indian tradition. It reads as an extended profile of some lady from the CPI(M) called Ramnika Gupta, apparently the only one with the balls to give damn-the-consequences no-holds-barred quotes.

I don’t know what the fuck kind of tone the article’s author Sheela Reddy was going for, but I’ve seldom been more disturbed. Ms. Gupta’s relentless efforts to couch her reminisces in Free Love Hippie terms fails rather spectacularly as soon as she starts going into details and within a matter of seconds just turns bone-jarringly creepy. After “cuddling” with the Chief Minister of Bihar to get her job done, apparently

she agreed to visit the state Congress chief, Raju Mishra, in his home to put forward Sahay’s recommendation. This time, she says, she had to pay a higher price. She let him have his way and did not complain. “The only choice for a woman starting in politics is to either quit or accept the fact that she has to sleep with some of them at least,” she says. “You have to compromise until you are in a position to reject them.” What she could do, however, was to try and avoid being anywhere alone with the BPCC chief. For her compliance, he nominated her as Bihar’s representative at the Jaipur AICC meet in 1966.

This pleasant interlude of business-as-usual is followed by another in which she is confronted by a stark naked Neelam Sanjiva Reddy who proceeds to rape her in his hotel room, after which she switches parties to one in which she is still expected to sleep with people if she wants to get results but actually gets to choose the men she must please in the sack.

Of course, this only lasted as long as she didn’t dump one of those men. The resulting nastiness sent her to another Chief Minister whose primary attraction was that he wouldn’t allow anyone to rape her. Please keep in mind that this is a woman who, while all this was going on, could apparently muster up “a hundred truckloads of people for political rallies”.

Which brings me to two things:

One, what the fuck is wrong with these men? If you’re making appointments to meet strange women in your office at 4 a.m. (!!!) for a bit of a cuddle and a kiss… dude, you’ve got problems. And the kind of society that turned you into a furtive 4 a.m. cuddler has even greater problems. The kind that can’t be washed away with any amount of freakin’ gangajal.

What really strikes me about all these men, apart from their rampant rapeyness, is their completely off-the-charts servitude to the power-sex equation. Not only do these men apparently feel sex, consensual or nonconsensual, is one of the perks of the job but their complete and utter ineptitude at it is staggering.

I always thought the movie villains who ask for sex in return for favors given were hilariously cartoonish. Real life villains of that sort must have at least a little bit of polish, yes? The answer is apparently: no. They really are the kind of bozos who take off their clothes and swagger out of their bedroom to pounce on their latest victim.

I have to wonder if these men think this is the only way they’ll ever get women to have sex with them. “Bone me and I’ll give you stuff. All sorts of stuff. Stuff that you haven’t even asked for. Just bone me! Somebody! Anybody! No? Well, then, I order you to!” And it sounds as though everyone’s rationalized it to the point where they don’t even see it as rape.

Q: In what universe is being a midwife – a midwife! WTF?! –  code for “fair game for sexual harrassment”?

A: The universe controlled by our politicians and civil servants.

Two, “rape”. They probably left it out for legal reasons in which case let me just say – when a person is forced to have sex with another person? The technical term for the act is “rape”.

Ramnika Gupta has clearly been through a lot of shitty things in her life and she doesn’t need me to pile on or tell her what’s what at this late date, but sweetheart, it’s pretty damn clear what happened to you and it wasn’t sleeping to the top: it was rape. Yes, you were assaulted and the degree of that assault was rape.

If you’ve actually chosen to achieve success on your back, then that’s one thing. I think it’s a crappy way to do it and it hurts others of your gender along the line but what do I know? I have a non-traditional life and I enjoy vast amounts of privilege. Ignore me. But it seems to me that if achieving success or job security on your back is simply a matter of you working the “system”, then it’s a whole another thing from you making a choice.

It’s this little thing called rape. Use the goddamned word. It’s real, it’s ugly, it’s important.

“Either do it without guilt or don’t,” is apparently Ms. Gupta’s mantra when it comes to trading sex for favors. It seems to me that she has precious little to feel guilty about. And the people who actually did stuff they should have felt guilty about, didn’t feel any.


Posted by on January 12, 2010 in Life, News, Newsmakers, Politics, Video


14 responses to ““Rape”. That’s The Word You’re Looking For

  1. Lakshmi

    January 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Amrita, I read that article and felt wretched. But I didn’t get the impression it was rape – I got the impression it was helplessness and resignation, and without offering much/any resistance – like she had decided it was inevitable if she needed to get ahead with whatever was important to her. At one stage, she even says she was flattered by the attention. It was saddening and chilling.

    I am not really debating the rape issue – I guess exploiting someone in need is (or should be) construed as rape – but what I’m saying is that consent seemed to not be a problem. It was saddening and chilling to read her account.

  2. apu

    January 13, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. Sad and disgusting on so many levels. Agree with you that the story could have been written so very differently – while being “apparently” sympathetic to the women being used, it actually seems to be giving these disgusting boors kudos for the way they conduct such things.

  3. Spaz Kumari

    January 13, 2010 at 1:50 am

    Um, no. It was not rape. She was subjected to disgusting behaviour by politicians, for which they deserve to be castrated, but she apparently thought the sex/power trade-off was worth it. She did not like it, but she was NOT unwilling.

    This was not rape.

    • Suki

      January 18, 2010 at 4:27 pm

      I find it toeing the rape line, but more along the lines of sexual abuse than rape.

  4. charukesi

    January 13, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Amrita, what about the women who choose to be exploited? While I think the entire thing of sleeping your way up is disgusting, why blame the men (alone?) – as far as I can see with the political wannabes, there is no *need* that is being exploited (not a filmy my-husband-is-in-hospital-and-I-need-money-for-his-operation type need) – so specifically in these cases, I don’t think it constitutes rape.
    As for the Outlook cover stories, don’t get me started on that – I suspect that 2-3 times a year, the editors wake up and say, time for some sex on the cover, our readership survey shows alarming results…

  5. Idling in Top Gear

    January 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Right. So aspiring female politicians (assuming with no major family connections in politics already) have to have sex to move up because unlike their male counterparts they can’t engage in goondagiri to earn their stripes. If not, they can’t become anyone of prominence and have to return to find a way to make a living by actually working a job. But if they acquiesce and if they are successful at even becoming, say, a district secretary of a major party, they only get to make say, Rs.50-100 C through the course of their careers. Oh, the horror!

    Meanwhile, there are thousands of PYT’s looking for a break in a TV serial or a side role in a movie who are sleeping with men older than their grandfathers, tens of thousands of married women in diversified industry spreading wide for their bosses for just good appraisal and a 5% increment or to just keep their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of girls who exchange sexual favors for material ones even with their boyfriends and husbands. How many of them will actually see a tangible difference in their lives because of what they are doing? That is the real horror.

    My point is simple – sex sells, and tons of women are willing to sell it for ridiculously low prices. It’s a competitive market out there in every field, and sex is just one of the many tools that a woman has in her box to use to get ahead (just like tarnishing a woman competitor’s reputation is a tool that men have.) Starting from the flirtatious, “buy me a drink” to a stranger in a bar for nothing more than a free $7.99 martini, to a low cut blouse on interview day just to ensure that she’s got more sex appeal than some of the other women interviewing, it’s all a part of normal behavior for most women. Of course, many women don’t use these tricks to succeed, but from what I see, this segment is becoming a minority among the Indian middle class.

    The real question is why are men willing to pay much higher prices for sex with some women, even when said women are butt-ugly like the ones politicians are caught with? They could easily afford to procure a high-class call girl every night of the week without affecting their bank balance one bit, but a rape charge, however unproven, will still take a heavy toll on someone who isn’t extremely high up in any party/ bureaucracy. So, why do they err? It’s coz rape and even sex is about conquest, establish one man’s supremacy over another person, making the other one submit. (See how I intentionally said “other person” instead of “woman.” Men rape other men too for the same reason in jails and PoW camps.) Winning matters a lot to the competitive alpha-male, who are the only kind of people (without riding on someone’s legacy) who even raise to such positions in India.

    And as to why this situation appears starkly different to you than me, I leave you with this:
    “I have a non-traditional life and I enjoy vast amounts of privilege. Ignore me. But it seems to me that if achieving success or job security on your back is simply a matter of you working the “system”, then it’s a whole another thing from you making a choice.”

    Take sex out of the picture. Making a living, or rather excelling at something in India, for those who are not “privileged” in terms of money nor connections requires sacrificing “choice” and “morals” to some degree. I am sure what you have written here can be written by a well meaning liberal about every impoverished kid who goes on to become a criminal ganglord, the lower-middle class accountant who has to listen to his boss and fudge the books to cover a scam or the poor soldier who was acting under orders to execute innocents because he “did not have a choice.”

    PS: Thousands of women get coerced into sex by overpowering, incapacitation or threat of bodily or other harm, even by their own boyfriends. That to me is rape. Not, “If blow you, I get an MLA seat/promotion/on camera job. The cost/benefits analysis says it’s worth it, though you are ugly. So I am just going to close my eyes and do this.” That’s prostitution, and a highly deplorable version of that, unlike what happens out in the open on the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

  6. shilpadesh

    January 13, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Shit shit shit. This is disgusting, that article made me want to throw up. But bas as it all is, it does not sound like Rape to me. The woman could as easily say no and walk away, and give up on her climbing the political ladder dream at the least. But she chose to stay anyway and gave in to the sexual favors in order to get ahead….and that does not sound like rape to me.

  7. brinda

    January 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

    “He overpowered her so she couldn’t escape, Ramnika says.” (About the Sanjiva Reddy er… encounter) “She was told to shut up and put up with it if she wanted to be in politics.”
    That’s rape. No matter who she consented to “cuddle” or have sex with before or after, this case was rape.
    (And this was an extremely disturbing cover story; Amrita, you’ve managed to verbalise some of my disgust and general disturbedness. Thanks)

  8. Amrita

    January 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    So this is what brings out the lurkers 😀

    Lakshmi, Spaz Kumari, Shilpa – Sorry, I should have included the relevant bits of text from the article to make the connection clear:

    Some of these “compromises” were not voluntary, Ramnika recounts….He overpowered her so she couldn’t escape, Ramnika says. But later she complained to the president of the Congress women’s wing and her friend Yashpal Kapoor, who was then Indira Gandhi’s secretary. But she was told to shut up and put up with it if she wanted to be in politics….“Thanks to Ram Manohar Lohia, the culture in the Socialist Party was very different,” reminisces Ramnika. “You were free to choose who you slept with. Nobody could force a woman to sleep with him if she didn’t want to.”…She then sought asylum in the arms of the Congress chief minister Kedar Pande, even rejoining the Congress at his urging. “He wasn’t very charismatic, but at least I got protection from sexual assault, and he made me an MLC and later an INTUC leader.”

    As for whether exploitation counts as rape, I’m on the side of “Yes, it does” – I really don’t feel being resigned to abuse makes it less abuse. Obviously, I don’t mean it’s rape if the woman is completely onboard and sees it as a career move to get the jump on her contemporaries – I don’t belong to the vagina-means-you’re-a-victim camp. And clearly a number of the women profiled are anything but.
    But if the choice is “you must or your must suffer” then to me, that’s rape. See my comment to IdlingInTopGear below.

    Apu – yeah, there was a feel of We Present Smut, Buy Our Magazine about it that was extremely offputting.

    Charukesi – well, that would clearly be Not Rape. 🙂 It’s really a question of language: wtf is “not voluntary”? If it’s voluntary, it’s one thing; if it’s coerced or forced then it’s rape.
    As for Outlook, yes it does like to troll. But they’re so much better than their competition which always seems kind of… well, sarkari 😀

    Brinda – thank you! 🙂 Note to self: do not hit publish button when you’re in a rage. It makes you leave out important info.

    Idling – Perhaps I didn’t express it very well but I wasn’t questioning the fact that people do use sex in a variety of ways to their benefit. Nor, as I was trying to explain in that passage you quoted about my privilege, do I have anything of real value to say when it comes to women using sex as a tool to get ahead. Obviously I have a judgment but I realize its limitations and don’t pretend to know other people’s problems better than they do. But while I AM a well-meaning liberal, I don’t think this is a one-size fits all scenario and you can simply take sex out of the equation:
    To me there is a very clear distinction between a person choosing to use sex as part of their skill set or arsenal and a person being forced to choose sex as something that would keep them and their family alive. Note I said “person” because men do sell themselves too. It’s just not directly related to the story we’re currently discussing. Just as selling drugs or mugging people doesn’t fall in the same ballpark of “crime” as prostitution.
    The prime example being the midwife in the cover story who explains that she would rather sleep with the “sahib” at her current posting and ensure that her family wouldn’t starve than go to a new posting where she might have to service god only knew how many men. Even in prostitution, there is a difference between a prostitute and a sex slave. There is an actual nuance here. To me these women are victims of rape. It is not a choice when your “choices” are “fuck or die”. Or at least suffer unpleasant consequences and I don’t like how everything got labeled “using sex to get ahead” in the magazine.
    As for the second article, the rest of the women featured in it seem to fit your comment about women who’re simply doing what works best for them. But Ramnika Gupta was clearly raped, at least in one instance, and her sexual decisions from then on are clearly based on what was a traumatic event – note how she repeatedly talks about how her choice of lovers and workplace was contingent upon the man’s ability to shield her from “assault”. Yes, she was getting party posts but from her responses her primary impetus appears to be a fear that she would be raped again. And it bothers me that the word “rape” is completely missing from that article.
    As for men – I certainly don’t blame them for taking what’s available. I DO blame them, however, if they’re rapey douchebags. We’ve all heard about the casting couch and blah blah, but if these articles are true then there is a much greater, uglier, deeper, more institutionalized version of the same being carried out in government, bureaucracy and media circles… and nobody even thinks it worthy of comment. When a wannabe starlet has sex with a producer, it’s because she thinks she can get a better job. When a midwife has sex with a minister or a tribal girl has sex with a police officer, she’s trying to maintain the status quo. Because the opposite of that is apparently death by starvation or her family being targeted. I don’t find that even remotely comparable other than the fact that sex is the currency in both cases.
    And the “butt-ugly women” — :mrgreen: have you taken a look at the men? It’s even worse if you’ve ever actually met one of them, you can catch a whiff a mile away. Seriously though, there is some majorly fucked up stuff going here and I would like to know the answers as well because looking at the women alone isn’t going to get us anywhere.

  9. sunil

    January 14, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Sometimes I am made to regret the fact I no longer read print. Here one’s article that deservers wider propogation.

  10. sitaji

    January 15, 2010 at 2:26 am

    Disgusting! Thanks (or no thanks) for the information. Are there any sexual harassment laws in India? How awfully corrupt. I did little blurb on Tiwari too, (
    and like to naively think such exaggerated filth only happens in the movies. Completely agreed with your take here: “I always thought the movie villains who ask for sex in return for favors given were hilariously cartoonish. Real life villains of that sort must have at least a little bit of polish, yes? The answer is apparently: no. They really are the kind of bozos who take off their clothes and swagger out of their bedroom to pounce on their latest victim.”

    I’ll have to link your post in to mine.

    All the best!

  11. Amrita

    January 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Sunil – Thanks for the link! I know of her organization and it does some really good work. I think the only compelling reason to legalize prostitution in India is to keep a check on the police-nexus. Apart from that, human trafficking is the real story here – one that oddly gets less and less attention as the years go by. If cable news channels are really pushing their messiah complex, then maybe they can take their lens off people like Tiwari and go straight to where those women came from.

    Sitaji – They do have sexual harassment laws in India but they’re often seen as to much trouble to bother with because of rampant victim blaming and the endless amounts of red tape. And nobody wants to deal with the police, especially if you’re not “connected”. It’s a sorry state of affairs.

    • sitaji

      January 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm

      Well hopefully the laws and system will evolve soon for the better. I appreciate your first hand knowledge. Thanks!

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