“You can’t clap with just one hand,” explains a Haryana curmudgeon, in a video about the Indian state’s rather pervasive rape culture. But, hear the bugger out: Does he not have a point?
Hear the messenger out: Consider, first, biology. If we go far back enough in time, when physical strength was crucial to determining the dynamics of relationships, thousands of years of evolution had made it so that sex was a method by which a man could spread his “seed.”
In this regard, for a man to be successful, what he would require, more so than anything, would be to have sex with as many women as possible so that his genes found homes in the wombs of a diverse array of women, providing them better chances for continued generational survival.
And since women were not always willing to provide said home for their spermatozoa, sometimes, rape was merely another survival tool, and perhaps to a great extent, necessary.
And since women, as we all know, are biologically to some extent hardwired to attract the male (and subtly and coquettishly do a few things to heighten that attraction), it is only a biological imperative for men to give in.
And, to further complicate matters, we all know that women are not always clear about what they want, as various instances of attraction to dominant male figures have shown throughout history.
What we subsequently have done is provide societal context for these rather primitive acts for posterity. In fact, some of these societal inventions serve to protect women as opposed to harm them.
Cover up, so that you are not raped. Get married, so that you and your children are provided for. Stay indoors, so that other men may not harass and assault you.
Without the benevolence of those in power, the oppressed could never find a voice. And in the case of men and women, the situation is no different.
It is thanks to men, and the power they wield, the generosity with which they have decided to treat women, placing them up on a pedestal as opposed to a gutter, that women have been allowed the grace and dignity biology felt they did not deserve.
Is that what we want? A generation of silent rapists lurking in the alley?
Where the fault lies
The Asif Mahtabs of this world would have you believe that this is the root cause of rape -- and there are a lot of Asif Mahtabs in the world, and in our country.
For those who do not know Asif Mahtab, his 15 minutes of fame came about as a result of a Facebook post highlighting the various “scientific” reasons behind sexual harassment and assault.
Some gems include men’s attraction to “symmetry” and how lips and nails turn red during orgasm because of excessive bloodflow. I encourage independently reading his entire post for a more detailed understanding of his mind-set.
These aren’t the root causes of rape, but represent some of the root excuses for the perpetuation of rape culture. While rape culture I personally find has expanded to include perhaps too many mere happenstances within the penumbra of societal relations, I would like to focus on the absolute basics: Why people think rape has two criminals (the rapist and the raped) and, sometimes, only one (the raped).
While I do not think that the monsterization of rapists is helpful in the fight against the continued sexual assault carried out on women, the biological defense which some utilize does nothing to humanize their belief systems.
The very reason human beings are special (I do not mean better) amongst all animals is because we have the self-awareness and the capability to fight our basest urges, and through social evolution have, to a great extent, eradicated them altogether.
For any individual to hold up biology as an excusable defense against the continuation of rape is hypocritical, for one presumes he is not a pure anarchist who walks around naked in the streets and eats raw meat which he has hunted and gathered from the woods next to his cave.
Whether or not this analogy holds up, of this you be the judge: Consider how we must fight terrorism. It is not enough that we carry out raid after raid, but that we engage with communities which show young people that violence is not the answer.
For this, our approach must be the same. Not only must we incorporate role models into our schooling who teach us to respect gender and sex and their complicated multifaceted narratives, but also engage in public debate which first acknowledges the arguments of various adults in our society first.
Merely painting them as outcasts ensures their continued existence in the shadows.
The next such individual, having seen the way we have ostracized, will be less likely to air his bigoted views, thereby ensuring the perpetuity of his mind-set as a rape apologist.
Is that what we want? A generation of silent rapists lurking in the alley? Because, if you look around, you’ll find we’re already there.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant in the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.