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Sex, lies and the threat of 'rape'

It can't be ‘sex’ when you think he will marry you; and turn into 'rape' when he doesn't. Crying rape when no rape has occurred is a slap in the face of every survivor of sexual violence, writes Seema Goswami.

brunch Updated: Sep 06, 2014 19:32 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema-Goswami
Seema-Goswami

All of last week, we have been entranced by the TV appearances of a model/actress (face dutifully blacked out to preserve her anonymity) who claims that she was raped by BJP minister Sadananda Gowda’s son, Karthik. Her story is as follows.

She met Karthik in May 2014 and the two of them became close. He began courting her, and soon tied a mangalsutra around her neck with his driver acting as witness.

When she discovered she was pregnant and told Karthik, he told her not to blame him and stopped taking her calls. Then one day, she woke up to the news that Karthik had become engaged to another woman.



Changing tack: A case of rape has been filed against Karthik, BJP minister Sadananda Gowda's son, by a model/actress who he dated and later ditched for another woman.

At this point in the narration, the model/actress breaks down and insists that all that she wants is to be accepted by Karthik as his wife, and by his parents as their daughter-in-law because she “cannot live without him”.

But this touching display is rather ruined by the TV ticker running underneath it, which informs us that she has filed a case of rape against Karthik, and that the police have registered a case against him.

As of this writing, Karthik has not been arrested, but by the time you read this, I would not be at all surprised if he was, indeed, behind bars, facing a charge of rape.

Rape? Seriously? By what definition is this rape? By her own account, the lady concedes that she was in a consensual sexual relationship and that she hoped to marry Karthik (or had married him in some sort of symbolic ceremony) and that even now, she would like to be accepted into the Gowda family as a daughter-in-law. So how does a consensual sexual relationship miraculously turn into rape just because the man in question has dumped her for another woman?

It can’t be sex when you think the guy will marry you; and rape when it becomes clear that he won’t. If, like many women, you equate sex with marriage, then for God’s sake, keep it off the table until you are married (and in a legally-binding ceremony, not some faux exchange of garlands or rings, or by the tying of a mangalsutra). And if you can’t do that, then take some responsibility for your decision instead of playing the victim and crying rape.

Not just because this is something we expect of grown-up women with minds, hearts and brains of their own but also because this propensity to cry rape when no rape has occurred is a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to face real sexual violence in her life. Every time a woman levels such a frivolous charge of rape, it makes it that much more difficult for actual rape victims to be taken seriously.

And what of the men who have been falsely accused and besmirched in the court of public opinion in the process?

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/9/ht-birch-7-september-32b.jpgRemember the case of Hindi film director, Madhur Bhandarkar? A little-known actress lodged a complaint with the Versova police in 2004, alleging that the director had ‘raped’ her 16 times between 1999 and 2004 on the pretext of giving her a role in one of his forthcoming movies. There is a word (or words) that could describe the behaviour of an actress who sleeps with a film director in the hope of getting a role (hint: it does not begin with ‘r’).

But if you are sleeping with someone in the hope of profiting from the act, then the fact that you don’t actually profit doesn’t turn you into a victim, let alone a rape victim.

If you choose sex as a transactional tool to get ahead in the world then you have to be prepared for both good and bad outcomes. And if you end up with a bad case of ‘seller’s remorse’, that doesn’t mean that all your previous consensual sexual encounters must be re-categorised as ‘rape’. It simply does not work like that.

But even though this may seem self-evident which, looked at through the prism of common sense, it took Bhandarkar nine years to have the case closed.

The trial continued in the High Court even after the Mumbai Police filed a report that the case against Bhandarkar was ‘maliciously false’. It took a bench of the Supreme Court to quash the proceedings, noting that the actress no longer wanted to pursue the case and that the Mumbai Police report had exonerated him.

No doubt, the case against Karthik Gowda will also drag on in a similar manner, unless some sort of out-of-court compromise is affected. But these are just two high profile cases. There must be thousands of others in which men have been falsely accused of rape and have no option but to struggle through our complex and slow legal system to prove their innocence.

Which is why I feel that this is as good a time as any to codify all those instances when a rape is not a rape. Breaking up with a long-time boyfriend? No, your sex life cannot be re-categorised as rape. Sleeping with someone with a view to profit in some way? If you don’t succeed, the sex doesn’t turn into rape. The man you slept with refuses to marry you? Still not rape.

Each time we cry ‘rape’ when a relationship goes wrong, we insult the real victims of sexual violence. And in recasting our sexual experiences as something they are not, we let down our own sex.

From HT Brunch, September 7
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