Even as the ‘boys locker room’ controversy sparked online outrage against prevailing rape culture in India over the last week, for many adult women, the incident hardly came as a surprise.
The ‘locker room’ was an Instagram chat group, where underage boys from various Delhi-NCR schools, shared morphed photos of girls, objectified and slut-shamed them. Many adult women have been survivors of such ‘harassment’ in their teen years – even at a time when such social media platforms were just cropping up.
The Quint reached out to many of these women, who had shared their stories on social media. All accounts below have been shared after their due permission.
‘Went Into Tizzy of Depression After Circulation of Morphed Images’
As a 13-year-old, Gunit Cour’s photos were morphed in an “absolutely obscene manner” and circulated widely. And overnight, she went into a “tizzy of depression.” Now an upcoming actor, Cour took to Instagram to share her experience.
“It was difficult for me to sleep at night. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning to go to school, because facing the real world became daunting for me. Strangers sent me dirty messages, the 13-year-old me wasn't even able to comprehend what they really meant. Overnight, I went into a tizzy of depression and fear,” she wrote.
While the Facebook’ ‘report’ feature helped her to get her life back on track, she did not open up about cyber-bullying to anyone and handled the incident herself.
Addressing 14-year-olds of the current generation, Cour says ‘don’t be like 13-year-old Gunit.’
“Remember to keep your head held high. You don't have to hide, you don't have to remain shut. You don't have to be afraid of the world. We all are in this together and we will get out of this together,” the actor wrote on Instagram.
‘Slut-Shamed At 14’
Lawyer and storyteller Anjali Venugopal was 14 when she was described a ‘vedi’ – slang in Malayalam for ‘slut.’ Now, 16 years later, Venugopal says she still sometimes wonders if she “asked for” that comment.
“Life was pretty straightforward until one day, when I walked into my tuition class and I heard my name being discussed by a couple of boys; boys I used to sit with during class, chuckling at some silly joke; nice boys who were my friends. Or so I thought.”Anjali Venugopal on Instagram
They go on to so things like, “Ah aval verum vedi alle! Avalde vesham kanditille?” – ‘Ah she’s just a slut, haven’t you seen the kind of clothes she wears?’
She then goes on to narrate how slut-shaming and sexist jokes are normalised, and that everyone, including herself, is to blame.
“… we learnt to accept the names the world uses to define us? Vedi, charakku (means consignment), item, slut, whore... where does it even end? Maybe it’s time we accepted the blame for this deplorable state of affairs collectively as a society; as people who paved the way for the times we live in now. We are all to blame. Myself included. For normalising slut-shaming; for voicing opinions or judgments about women’s bodies; for those seemingly harmless comments about ‘those tits’ and ‘ass’; for laughing at ridiculously sexist jokes even when it hurt inside; for playing along to be 'cool' while other women were treated as mere objects,” wrote Venugopal.
‘Received Lewd Messages Through Email’
Zainab Haque recalls a time when email forwards were the WhatsApp forwards and how a classmate sent her lewd messages through email.
“Every few days, he would send out an email talking about some or the other girl, discussing our bodies and what he'd like to do with us – and remember, this person was also probably 12-13 years old.” And one day, the boy sent the email to her brother instead of her and the cat was let out of the bag.
Her school, however, Zainab says, did not take any action against the boy.
‘When I Was Called A Prostitute...’
Yoga teacher Shraddha Gupta said that the ‘Boys Locker Room’ incident reminded her of the time she was called a ‘prostitute.’
Narrating the incident, she said that she was in her first year of college when some guys called her on her phone and uttered only one word – ‘prostitute’ – before cutting the call.
She said that she was also reminded of a Facebook ‘confessions page’ from college where ‘10 Sluts of College’ were listed out frequently. And an anonymous person who made the list named and described every part of these girls’ bodies.
“If you are a woman, let’s have a zero tolerance policy, a no-nuisance policy towards any kind of harassment. If you are a boy, know that if you are into any such activities, even for fun, it’s not fun for the girl involved. Watch your friends if they are doing all this and tell them it’s not okay!”Shraddha Gupta
‘Guys Talk About Raping Teacher’
A 12th grader, Arushima Chauhan, made public her conversations with her sister in Jaipur who talked about how boys in her class passed lewd comments about the teacher in the chat window of online classes. The boys use fake names, and talk about raping the teacher.