Soon after the news of students of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) being physically attacked by masked assailants began to surface, there’s been a surge of support and solidarity from all corners of India. But despite the cold, hard evidence and even a controversial confession video by the Hindu Raksha Dal that took responsibility for the violence that left more than 20 students and teachers at JNU brutally injured, people continue to debate whether the students really were asking for it. And now, some trolls have found a new way to incite outrage using old techniques: moral policing.
On January 6, images of condoms and sex toys claimed to be found in the girls’ hostel at the JNU campus began circulating on social media. Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with mostly male internet users sharing and retweeting photos of torn condom packets lying on the ground and differently-sized dildos strewn across the floor. These were accompanied by sarcastic captions, presumably meant to shame and humiliate the students and spell out that they deserved all the violence they got. While one Twitter user wrote in Hindi a sentence that roughly translates to “feeling sad to see the torn books”, another proclaimed that this was the “precious property that was damaged”, promoting an attitude that since these students were into sex, and even worse, safe sex, they were nothing short of hedonistic, sex-addicts who needed a good bashing to fix their bad behaviour.
This comes after last year’s allegations in which an ex-cop from Kerala claimed that the girls at JNU were so uncontrollably wild that they even used condoms to tie their hair.
Upon a simple investigation using Google’s reverse image options, these photos currently circulating have been proven fake. Both taken from image sourcing website Imgur, the condom image was a 2015 photo posted by a Reddit user fresh off a dumpster visit, while the sex toys were posted in 2018 by a home inspector trying to be funny.
But even as these images emerge as part of yet another misinformation campaign to malign the students’ image, is it really so bad for young adults to stock up on items of self-pleasure and protection? In a country that has banned porn, yet mainly learns about sex through one of its thousand mirror sites, why are we so quick to look down upon people who just want to experience great orgasms or indulge in safe sex? In fact, considering many sources claim that the cops on campus did nothing to try and stop the dangerous goons from attacking students, what’s even worse than finding used condom packets on campus is that these pocket-sized sachets were probably the only protection in close proximity.
Even though some ancient Indian caves have engravings of donkeys having sex with women, and the universal guide for sex and everything that comes with it—the Kama Sutra—also comes from India, regressive attitudes and an aversion to talking about sex in society at large have created a rigid culture of blaming and shaming those who don’t conform to what is considered pure. In fact, many are more than happy to blame Western values for corrupting the Indian mentality if a woman dresses a certain way, enjoys battery-operated devices, and believes in enthusiastic consent.
So in a culture where women are often told they’re the ones “asking for it”, maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising that men are resorting to such tactics to justify violence. But it’s stomach-churning to think that in a country where one woman is raped every 15 minutes, such ideas filled with misogyny and toxic masculinity are thriving, even in cases that are totally unrelated. Fortunately, the fight continues because no one’s taking this shit lying down.
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