South Asian Men and the Epidemic of Violence
Bad news for South Asian men. If you’re sitting in a group of four or more, one of you is probably a rapist.
That’s what the UN found, in a September 2013 study that polled 10,000 men from Central and Southeast Asia. One out of four will openly admit to raping a woman. Most of them start in their teens. Many do it more than once. Some do it regularly.
That number is ridiculous. How exactly have we as men failed to evolve past the point where a quarter of us admit to using violence to get some? And who knows how many more are smart enough not to own up?
What Did Your Father Teach You?
My dad was something of a rarity in South Asian households. He had the hugest respect for my mom and the other amazing women in our lives. In fact, he taught my brothers and me that if we wanted to be successful in life, we needed to learn how to cook and clean for ourselves. What if Mom wasn’t around tomorrow? What if your wife gets sick? Why shouldn’t we pitch in when she’s working too?
So we followed his example. That man could cook and clean as well as any aunty out there. But deeper than that, the level of love, appreciation, and honor he showed to our female friends and relatives stuck with us. You can’t fake that.
So where do these other men come from– This quarter (most likely more than that) who don’t have a problem with pinning a woman down and violating her in the worst way possible?
There’s a Big Correlation with Childhood Abuse and Neglect.
According to the UN study, most South Asian rapists don’t have the same kind of dad I had. They had parents who smacked them around a lot, and abused them, and left them to fend for themselves. Maybe that’s part of the reason why they feel totally fine with treating others the same way. Maybe they don’t know better. Maybe they never felt respect, and don’t know how to give it, much less earn it. So obviously, it takes a tide of good parenting to start to change the current of rape prevalence. But there’s more than just a bad childhood under the surface…
These Guys Have a Manifesto Called, “It’s not rape if…”
You should see the excuses they come up with for raping the woman they say they love, or even a total stranger.
- “We’re married, so it’s okay.”
- “She’s my girlfriend, so it’s okay.”
- “We did it before, so it’s okay.”
- “She was flirting, so it’s okay.”
- “She was drunk, so it’s okay.”
The level of entitlement in these statements is astounding. You could reduce them all to one basic lie: You owe me sex. There are a multitude of reasons why guys can delude themselves into thinking this is true: I married you, so you owe me sex. I’ve been your friend for a while, so you owe me sex. I paid for our date, so you owe me sex. You turned me on, so you owe me sex. It takes a natural, friendly relationship between a man and a woman and twists it into a dirty, one-sided business transaction.
They Stop Seeing Women as People.
There’s a basic lack of personhood at work here, underlying every rape situation. It overrides the expressed or unexpressed wishes of the woman completely. What it boils down to is, “I want it, therefore your needs and wants are invalid.”
At that point, it doesn’t matter if the woman is your wife, your girlfriend, or some poor stranger on the bus. You’re so caught up in what you want that you don’t even hear her, and don’t care to. You are the only person in the equation. She doesn’t count as a living, thinking human any more.
That’s how genocide begins. That’s how every heinous crime on the face of the earth gets its start. I want, and you don’t count.
But maybe even scarier than that are the ones who go one step further…
They Don’t Think at All.
The most violent, often deadly, rapes are usually the ones with no rationale or excuse at all. They’re animalistic attacks on total strangers in the park or a bathroom stall, or on public transportation, or in an alleyway at night, or an empty field. There’s no reason, no rhyme, just cold brutality.
Or even worse, they’re heated attacks against a person they know—a wife, a girlfriend, a friend. They simply allow rage or power-hunger or impatience to take over, and they force themselves, in the passion of the moment, on the women who trust them most.
Is there help for these dudes? Well, a century ago, yeah. We would have just lopped off their junk and been done with it. But these days, we have to be more civilized than that.
Real Men Don’t Rape
The thing is, we can’t undo bad parenting or a painful past, not for ourselves or for our friends. But we can work to combat the lies and excuses and entitlement that make this kind of thing seem acceptable in some perverted way. We can choose not to nod or wink or look the other way when we hear hints or see signs of violence from other men.
The UN calls the solution Zero Tolerance. It means that there is no such thing as a justified rape. There is no reason why it is ever okay to trick, coerce, cajole, or force a woman into having sex. There is no reason to ever ignore a rape while it is happening or after it has happened. And there is no reason not to prosecute a rapist to the full extent of the law.
It starts with taking a look at yourself, and understanding what actually constitutes the rape of another human being. Can you look back at a situation and ask yourself: Did she say she wanted it? Did she want to go that far? Did I act like I had a right to it? Was she under pressure? Was she drunk or impaired? Was she afraid? Did she feel safe and valued? If you aren’t sure about the answers to those, it’s time for some serious soul searching and changes. You might need to make reparations and own up to your mistakes.
But if this isn’t your struggle, maybe it’s time to join the fight as an example, and as a stopgap. Maybe you need to be the one who doesn’t put up with rape jokes in the locker room, or who confronts that misogynist friend who treats his fiancé like a possession.
Maybe you can be the uncle, the dad, the husband, and the mentor who teaches the younger guys what it’s like to be a man. Teach them how to be a friend who asks for nothing in return. Show them how to love a woman like she’s worth everything you can give. Show them how to cook her a meal on her birthday. Show them how to respect a woman’s words no matter what she might be wearing. Show them how a real man puts the wants and needs of others before his own.
Reference: UN study: http://www.partners4prevention.org/node/515