On the night of 3rd May 2020, some shocking revelations came to light. An Instagram/Twitter user shared horrifying details of an Instagram group called ‘Bois Locker Room’ (or boys locker room) where 17-18-year-old school-going boys of South Delhi shared pictures of girls, often underage, as young as 13-14. They objectified the girls, sexualized their bodies and made disgusting and derogatory comments. On being called out, not only did they not apologise but also threatened to release the nudes of every woman publicly shaming them and sent rape threats too.
Because every time something similar has happened, they have had to face zero accountability. They were told ‘boys will be boys’. They were fed pop culture that contributed to their toxic masculinity and normalized rape culture. On the other hand – young girls always faced censorship and crackdown on their freedoms. They were asked to not wear certain kind of clothes, not post pictures on social media, etc.
This incident has taken social media by storm because it is not an individual, alienated instance. It is just one of many. Women got triggered recounting their traumatic experiences from their teenage years. Men came out either defending this toxic masculinity or admitting that they have actively or silently been a part of this culture.
Is it too much to ask for a safe space?
At 15, pictures from my Instagram were taken and a fake Facebook profile was created. I was so scared that I deleted all my pictures from Instagram and couldn’t post pictures on social media for months. Up until last year when I decided to have a public profile on Instagram, that too because of my activism, I panicked a hundred times. I still think and panic before posting any picture. That is my ‘normal’.
The series of events circling back to the ‘boys locker room’ that came to light has triggered me a lot. I was shocked and angry and disgusted. But I raised my voice because I do not want this to be ‘normal’ for young girls anymore. Is it too much to ask for a safe space?
A couple of days ago, some guy told me, “Lol, lived experiences. You are making it sound like hell.” And he laughed it off. The ignorance and entitlement shook me so much that I could hardly reply. It IS like hell. Not feeling safe in your homes, schools, colleges, workplaces, streets, buses/autos, even virtual spaces is hell. Our bodies being objectified and sexualized and being called names is the ‘normal’ for almost all women in this country.
Rape culture is deeply pervasive. It starts with jokes and comments, victim-blaming and goes on to stalking, voyeurism, catcalling and harassment. It is high time we realise rapes are not alienated stories or statistics or figures. They are real. They happen in our homes, schools, colleges, streets, workplaces, virtual spaces – EVERYWHERE.
All of us contribute to it, all cis-men who take advantage of their privilege and entitlement and enjoy the skewed power dynamics and all cis women who body shame and slut-shame other women. And all those who are silently complicit in such acts. Pop culture is responsible for it. Movies, books, songs, advertisements, etc everything that contributes to normalising such culture. Movies like Kabir Singh or abominable item songs perpetuate the thinking that it is normal to sexualize women’s bodies or issue rape threats.
Throughout the 4th of May, several other incidents came to light. One of them was closer to home. It has triggered me immensely and I have taken the time to process all of it. It almost made me feel sick. Boys of the Kolkata Model UN (MUN) circuit had a Google drive where they shared nudes of girls – especially from the MUN circuit, often schoolgoing minor girls. From the list of men who have been called out, I have known one of them for years, not very closely though. But I am feeling sick to think that I had fond memories of him at some point in time. I know most of the others through mutual friends.
As more stories come to light each hour of the day, it is high time we realize how deeply pervasive the problem is. These boys come from rich families, go to elite schools and colleges and get the best possible education. They go to the same schools and colleges as we do. They hang out in the same cafes and clubs we go to. They roam among us. It’s really time for us to introspect on what is penetrating the skewed power dynamics into the heads of these young boys. It’s time for us to see through the conversations of our family, friends, people in our closest circles and call them out for anything that is a part of the pyramid called rape culture.