Sex can be a beautiful connection between two people - with or without love. How we approach it, the physical act and the person, is reflective of who we are. We begin to form our attitudes, behaviour, and interpretations of what is right and what is wrong at an early age. Our growing years are formative, which is why cases like the ‘Bois Room Locker’ remind us that something is still drastically wrong with how we are bringing up our children.
A group of young teenage boys formed a group on social media to pass lewd comments, crass jokes, morph private images and circulate pictures of young girls, some of them their classmates, for some kind of perverse pleasure. It is difficult to imagine that such hard hitting comments - casually speaking of gang-rape, abuse, threats and degrading slurs - came from young boys, some barely fifteen years old.
Adolescence is an intense period of anatomic, hormonal, neuro-psychological development for young boys and girls, on the threshold of adulthood. It is natural to feel attracted to one another, to be sexually aware and curious, to be hesitant about asking the other person out, feeling the fear of refusal or rejection, and to be angry when the answer is ‘no’. All of this is normal. These are emotional responses to life experiences. But when and how do these feelings overpower an inherent sense of justice and compassion. What kind of male-bonding or reward do they get on vile chat groups like the Bois Locker Room, which makes them fall to these levels.
It is easy to blame the boys. After all, they are old enough to understand the basic values of respect and consent. But that doesn’t really solve an age old problem of patriarchal mindset and sexist attitude, which continues to linger from one generation to the next. I remember my grandmother talking about challenges in her time, of the burden of expectations and her unfulfilled desires. There have been many intense conversations with my mother, and my friends and we have had our own share of unfair and caustic experiences. Despite decades separating us, and growing awareness - why are things still the same.
Society takes its own time to process information, events and slowly adapt to them. Every time there is a case like this, there is a palpable sense of anger and disbelief. #metoo and #timesup movements went a long way in encouraging conversations. Famous women came forward to share their stories, voices were heard on a national platform, all of it helped push the cause and keep it alive. However, it is not enough. Real change will only begin at home.
The first classroom for a child is the family. How we talk to one another, mothers, sisters, wives…is important. Children listen. Their minds are open, absorbing, seeing and finally reflecting it all. We cannot control inappropriate tv shows, obscene lyrics, and shameless advertising, but we can explain what is acceptable and what is not. We have to talk to our sons, and I mean really talk - about feelings, not just cricket scores.
The internet can be educative, supportive and interesting, but on the other hand, it can be a minefield for a young mind trying to make sense of all the information. There are anti-feminist, misogynist, pseudo-masculine, platforms peddling truths, lies, propaganda, rabid videos, hate filled rants etc. Impressionable minds must learn how to navigate this dark web world, and need support and sometimes supervision from parents.
It is not easy. Raising children is a daily challenge - it is a responsibility, but it is also an opportunity to shape the future. Trying to change mindsets and culture is a frustratingly slow process. Our hope lies in the young generation.
Ekta Kumar is a writer, columnist, artist and works closely with the European Union on gender and civil rights-related issues.)