Now Rent Boys and Fight Depression Using This App...Seriously?

Have you heard of Rent a Boy Friend - an app that lets you rent boys with washboard abs and wants to end depression?

5 min read
Hindi Female

On 24 August, Kaushal Prakash launched his ‘Rent a Boy Friend’ mobile application where a boy can be ‘rented’ (never saw myself typing that) by anyone willing to pay for their emotional services in Mumbai and Pune. The interior designer-turned entrepreneur insists that the app is for platonic equations only and the women (or men) can meet the ‘boy friends’ only in public places.

Fighting depression, apparently, is one of the main goals of the app and this will be achieved by providing counselling for a period of 15-20 minutes for Rs 500, as pointed out by this report. Kaushal insists that professional counsellors and psychiatrists are on board to provide these services, and even meet patients in person if need be.

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story here:

The ‘boys’ are simply for talking or going out with and when it comes to renting one (sounds just as absurd every time), there are three categories to choose from.

You can rent a celebrity for Rs 3,000, or a model for up to Rs 2,000, or an aam aadmi (commoner) for just Rs 300-400 per hour.
Kaushal Prakash (reported by DNA)

The age group of most of these boys is 20-25 years, along with some around the age of 55. Prakash adds that these ‘boys’ have been signed up after police verification and are groomed in communication skills and appearance. The result, Prakash says, is “groomed, well disciplined, pure gentlemen”.

All This is Fine, But What is ACTUALLY Going On?

While the app creators maintained some loose lucidity during the press conference, same cannot be said about their social media handles where depression is clearly being used like a marketing plug. Consider exhibit a:

RABF is a platform which will help a nation to fight DEPRESSION, provide EMPLOYMENT (Males), Give a hope to a person who can relive their life more confidently & happily. (sic)

Exhibit b:

Our main purpose is to eradicate Depression and provide a Pure friendship to the happy people as well. Let’s stand for Awareness! (sic)

“Eradicate” depression how exactly?

In the press conference, Prakash mentioned presence of psychiatrists and counsellors.

If she wants counselling, she can directly go to the psychiatrist too. She doesn’t have to choose a ‘boy friend’.
Kaushal Prakash

When asked how will you examine a person with depression, Prakash said:

That the psychiatrist would do. There will be consultation on our toll free number. But if it’s extreme, we will make sure that we meet you and guide you.

However stark absence of counsellors and psychiatrists from the official website of RABF tells a different story. Under the “experts” category, this is what pops up:

Have you heard of Rent a Boy Friend - an app that lets you rent boys with washboard abs and wants to end depression?
Under the “experts” category, this is what pops up.
(Screenshot Courtesy: RABF)

Clearly missing in action. So, if I am a depressed person who has for some reason ended up on the site for help, how do I know who are these ‘experts’? What are their credentials?

How is Rent a Boy Friend “fighting” and “eradicating” depression again?

Let’s Stop Using ‘Depression’ For ‘Loneliness’, ‘Isolation’

The ‘boys’ you can ‘rent’ off this platform will listen to you, reiterates Prakash several times while talking about the purpose of the platform. Sure, they will listen to me, but that’s not fighting depression. That’s simply addressing loneliness, isolation.

Why ain’t we using those words as well instead of loosely throwing in the word depression?

Who Is a ‘Boy Friend’ Anyway?

Lastly, who are these boys? How are they chosen? What are their credentials when it comes to dealing with an emotionally vulnerable person?

Sadly, all of these questions remain unanswered. Additionally, if the platform is only about renting a friend who will listen why does it only have pictures of shirtless boys with chiselled physiques?

‘A Friendship Platform, Not a Dating App’

The creator cannot emphasise enough how this is not a platform for romantic equations. Ah, all that talk about friendship and being platonic, and then this picture on the site’s homepage.

Have you heard of Rent a Boy Friend - an app that lets you rent boys with washboard abs and wants to end depression?
Yes, definitely friendship.
(Screenshot Courtesy: RABF)


Sure, definitely friendship.

“This not a dating app or a matrimonial website. We are only providing friendship.”

He said that he wanted to initially call it ‘Rent a Friend’, but since the name was already registered, he chose this instead. He also draws attention to the line between the words ‘boy’ and ‘friend’ in the logo to further drive home the idea of the platonic nature of the app. And right next to it, is a cupid shooting his arrows. Subtle. NOT.

Technically he’s a boy who’s a friend and there’s a line in between, how there is a fine line in all relationships, be it friendship or be it a relationship between parents and their children. This line in the name of the app suggests that there is no physicality involved.
Kaushal Prakash
Have you heard of Rent a Boy Friend - an app that lets you rent boys with washboard abs and wants to end depression?
A cupid shooting arrows is part of the logo.
(Photo Courtesy: Instagram/rabf24)

Why Not ‘Girl’ Friend?

The next obvious concern is about the gendered identity of the app. To this, the creator of the app says that there were reasons like India not being a country which would be able to digest a girl’s presence on the same platform.

Subtext: sexism.

All my caretakers are male. I couldn’t take the responsibility of girls and their safety; our culture also wouldn’t look at them in the same manner. 
Kaushal Prakash

It’s very unclear at this point if the aim of the app actually involves doing anything about fighting depression or if it’s simply a word to catch eye-balls with. Additionally, there is no way to verify the boys or the experts available on the platform or their capabilities to handle the nuances of, forget depression, even loneliness and isolation.

For now it seems, that not only has the move caused a set-back to those fighting against the stigma surrounding mental health, but also single-handedly enforced misogyny, sexism, objectification and stereotyping.

(With inputs from media reports.)

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Topics:  Depression   Relationships 

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