Our ravenous appetite for ‘reality’ is feeding this monstrous trend.
Last fortnight, it happened to us. With five others, my parents, sister, daughter, the driver of our car, I was caught in an awkward and embarrassing situation when we stopped at a traffic signal in West Delhi.
For a good two minutes, all the adults in the car tried their best to make the most inane conversation to drown out what was taking place outside our car window. My six-year-old was laughing at the spectacle. There are so many things she doesn’t understand yet.
Three boisterous teenage boys on a motorcycle drew her attention – while the grown-ups pretended to ignore the trio.
The one sitting in the middle had a smartphone in his hand which he was brandishing like a magic wand. As if on cue, the other two began to shriek and moan.
Their gestures and comments left no one nearby in doubt about what they were looking at.
Apart from the oohs and aahs, I caught words like “mazaa” (enjoyment) and “Oh my God”.
I had never felt so uncomfortable in the presence of my family.
This bizarre play of perversion was right in front of us. And despite much frankness in my family, all of us were avoiding eye contact.
What were these boys watching? A pornographic clip? Maybe. Something worse? A rape video? One of the many in circulation that the culprits themselves shoot.
According to recent media reports, these videos are on sale for as less as Rs 50 to Rs 150.
Human depravity has certainly gone beyond MMS clips, hidden cameras and photoshopped nudes. We are now consuming horrific crimes against women. Not only that, we are also not far from replicating them.
I can understand what purpose such videos serve for perpetrators of ghastly crimes. The victim can be arm-twisted into not reporting the crime as well as be made available for further abuse.
But there are also many who are happily dodging prison time and getting these clips downloaded into their phones.
If such videos are selling, clearly there is a market for them. What newfound desperation has created this?
As I thought deeper, certain things became clear. There are countless clickbait videos on YouTube that use the word RAPE in bold. They have been there for quite some time.
Consumption of rape videos, therefore, is nothing new, as corroborated by a CD seller’s interviewed taken by The Hindu in Uttar Pradesh.
I delved a little deeper and found that most free-access porn resembles rape in any case.
Only, the woman appears to be willing. Sometimes, even that veneer is dropped with taglines like: “When she ain’t behaving, f*** the b**** hard”, “young teen gets raped by…”, “snobbish virgin shown her place”, and many others in a similar vein.
Now, when the “real stuff” is readily available, who would want made-up stories? It’s just a logical leap, however egregious it may sound.
But what is more worrisome is that almost each one of us has contributed in the said leap. We, the denizens of the digital world, have changed the very definition of viral.
The word now denotes something that is being desired by the multitudes.
From goofy pet videos to bombing clips to innovative film promotions to sports injuries, we are consuming, and thus creating demand for, everything indiscriminately.
Rape videos are an ugly manifestation of this digital voyeurism which has led us to a point where nothing is really shocking.
In earlier days, the culprits would be careful about not leaving their footprints. Not anymore.
The police seem clueless about the whereabouts of culprits even though their heinous crimes are for everyone to consume.
From on-camera butchering of human beings to rape videos, it is the culprits having the last laugh. Our ravenous appetite for “reality” is feeding this monstrous trend.
Are there no digital mavericks who can actually put their minds and resources into tracking such videos and the people behind them?
That only, and exemplary punishment, can stop this ghastly trend from getting out of hand.
The proliferation of rape videos raises questions at multiple levels: parenting, security and governance, freedom of expression, the politics of banning, et al.
But most curiously, at the metaphysical level of public morality. The answers need to be sought at all these levels.
What society are we building where the hapless cries of a rape victim induce not disgust but peals of laughter and maybe arousal?
Skewed ideas on sexuality are the culprit. Will proliferation of ethical porn, along with sex education, be effective in phasing out such videos?
Can we also collectively work towards instilling confidence in victims that the videos are not a testimony of THEIR guilt?
Once they understand that, the victims won’t be bullied and the videos will likely lose their potency.
Who knows, there may not be any more of them, considering how futile the exercise would appear!
When we can’t kill the virus, we look for vaccines to render it impotent.