We live in a patriarchal, male dominated society. This is a fact. Children typically receive the last names of their fathers, not mothers, and it is clear to anyone with eyes and a sense of reality that men are at a more advantageous position in this society (as far as I know, relatively few people lobby for the erasure of men’s reproductive rights). However, this is America, and we live better off as a whole than many, many places in the world. Indeed, from what we can gather about the state of discourse about rape and the lived reality of threats and perpetration of rape in India, there are far, far worse places for women to live.
Today I opened up Gawker.com, scrolled around, and arrived at this article, “Thousands-Large Mob Seized Prisoner Accused of Rape, Beat Him to Death”. Slightly sleepy, I thought, “Holy jesus, what the fuck is going on in India?”. There was also a piece on the New York Times about government action preventing broadcast of a documentary about gang rape, and an article on Vice.com about the denial of a visa from the Indian government for a white American woman named Sabrina Buckwalter looking to write about the reality of rape in India. “Good lord,” I thought, “I must write about this immediately”. As a Buddhist, it saddens me that the land from which the founder of my religion hails, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, is having such a disturbing problem dealing with the dark and horrific reality of rape. Two of the world’s greatest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, come from India. I speculate this is because of the incredibly harsh nature of Indian society that has existed as long as the civilization; the incredible discrepancy between poor and rich, the decrepit nature of the slums, the generational poverty, the danger of wildlife, all of which has essentially great insight that has come from the harsh conditions humans have endured in this part of the world.
As a Buddhist, I view rape as a deplorable crime by which a person’s safety, physical integrity, relaxation of mind, and personal control is obliterated. A perpetrator of rape is a traitor of all humanity. As a woman, I live in fear of rape because I can be a victim at any age, under any circumstances, and at any time.
As an American, I am ashamed of how our country has dealt with the reality of rape. In the military, rape appears to be viewed as a perk for the men of the military and a thing to be endured by the women. In college, “date rape” is normalized, and forced unwanted sexual contact is a somewhat regular occurrence. However, there is no difference between “college rape”, “date rape”, and rape that happens in the military. For some reason, here in America, we want to differentiate degrees of rape and explain the circumstances. It is taking away a woman’s humanity and giving power to the perpetrators. The way we talk about rape here in America contributes to global rape culture.
However, it isn’t just women who are at risk for experiencing sexual assault. I was watching “Sons of Anarchy” this weekend, or the most ultimate male soap opera in the history of ass-kicking television, and the opening scene of the start of season six is a male-on male rape scene. I was not expecting this and was jolted. I found it more brutal than the scenes of rape that we are somewhat accustomed seeing on television and in movies where the victim is female. I believe that that reaction is two-fold. First, the idea of being rectally raped is absolutely horrifying for any person, male or female. I would not say that I would prefer to be raped vaginally, however, I absolutely certainly do not ever want to experience a rectal rape. Secondly, when watching a male being raped, the viewer is also watching a man’s masculinity being taken away within the context of what our society has deemed masculinity to be. In our society’s sexual narrative, men are not penetrated, they do the penetrating. This folds into the homophobic narrative of men who enjoy receiving anal sex to be feminine, not really men, or “bitches”. This view is an out and out product of rape culture, as is the idea that a raped man has lost part of his masculinity. A raped man is no less masculine than a man who has never experienced that sort of assault, however, we look at him differently afterword.
If a man looses part of his masculinity after rape, what does a woman loose? In India, a more traditionalist society than America, it can be losing a reputation of femininity and propriety, becoming reduced instead to the assault perpetrated against you. She may no longer be a woman, but instead a different being, a raped woman. In parts of the Middle East, it can mean the woman’s life. In America, it means the safety of soundness of mind because now there is a “before”, and an “after” in life.
If rape in India is so prevalent, why was this man captured from a police station, dragged into the street, and murdered? If there is so much rape in India, doesn’t that mean that rape is accepted there? No. This is another thing that I gathered from watching so much “Sons of Anarchy”. Within the world of “Sons”, there are a lot of women who choose sex work and thus are at risk for experiencing rape. The members of the Sons of Anarchy take to protecting these women and beating up the men who rape or assault them. This is because the women raped are their mothers, lovers, cousins, friends, sisters of friends, etc. They are people the men in Sons of Anarchy care about. People who systematically rape or endorse rape as a legitimate thing to do are bad people, quite simply put. Unfortunately, there can be a high concentration of very bad people in one place if the conditions are conducive to creating unstable environments leading to unstable human behavior.
Just because there are a lot of bad people in one area does not mean all the people in that area are bad.
Many people are effected when a bad thing happens to a person that is loved. When the prevalence of rape occurs, many men are effected even if they are not the ones to experience the rape. Entire families experience the pain of rape. In India, this rage caused a man to loose his life. Rape culture breeds violence because it is one of the most violent things to do to a human being.
I feel it is time for the United States to intervene in some sort of humanitarian orientated manner with regards to the problem of widespread and systematic rape in India. In terms of policy, I am unsure of what this would look like. However, in order for this to be properly achieved, the United States must get rid of it’s own rape culture thinking. The women in the military must be treated with equal respect for their service to America as the men receive, and must stop having to endure sexual assault in their workplace. College women must be viewed as sexually independent individual’s whose assaults must be taken as crimes instead of campus incidents between two or more students. People must realize that when a man is raped, he is not less masculine because of his experience.
I can only hope, as a human being, that this can happen within my lifetime.