When I was fourteen, my dad sat me down to have one of those talks that could be described as a teenager’s nightmare. “What do you know about sex?” my dad threw a curveball. I muttered a few words, and the conversation was over in a matter of seconds. Next day, I anticipated another awkward episode of a father-son tête-à-tête—maybe it’s a dad thing, I thought. But we never spoke on the subject again. I guess, he felt teachers were more suitable to give lectures on biology and reproduction.
In school, however, a similar story unfolded. The chapter, Life Process – II was skipped from the syllabus as it was deemed “sensitive, explicit” for fourteen-year-olds. Honestly, I was relieved when I heard there was going to be no such class. Who wants to listen to an embarrassing lecture on reproduction from a teacher anyway?
With time, I learned everything I needed to know—mostly from friends, movies, and television. But as I grew up, I realised how limited and often incorrect some of those inadvertent lessons were. On screen, women were often objectified and men were portrayed as superior. The thing with these subtle suggestions from the environment is that they become a part of the psyche. But thankfully, my perceptions changed as time passed and I greyed. Leaving aside a handful of individuals in pockets, not much has changed overall in society. When I look around, I see countless men who still have a lot of growing up to do when it comes to acknowledging that women are no different from them.
A study conducted by the United Nations says, “35 percent of women worldwide are estimated to have suffered sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.” Even if we consider one man for every victim, the number of men committing these crimes would be in tens of millions. No wonder, news headlines are often flooded with school mass shooting or acid attack cases.
Having said that, no one is born violent. Yet, some men turn aggressive, more so, towards women. To find out why one may need to trace things back to their childhood. Harish Sadani, founder of Men Against Violence and Abuse, an NGO that works to protect women from gender-based violence and injustice, explains one of the reasons, “Since childhood, many boys live in an environment that compels them to ace at everything. They must come first in their studies, in sports, do better than their female counterparts. Such upbringing could become disastrous for a boy in future.” When a child’s mind is conditioned to succeed, it begins to reject failures, whereas, in reality, life is a mixture of both.