Boys Locker Room: Women Share Harassment Stories From Teen Years

For many adult women, the ‘Boys Locker Room’ row hardly came as a surprise.

Published08 May 2020, 03:17 PM IST
Women
4 min read

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.

View this post on Instagram

I remained shut... I was 13 years old. I was a victim of Cyber Bully. My pictures were morphed in an absolutely obscene manner and were circulated. It was difficult for me to sleep at night. I couldn't get out of the 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. After a couple of months with the report feature on Facebook, things became quiet and my life came back on track. I never opened up about this incident. Back then, cyberbully, cybercrime wasn't that big a deal neither did I make it a deal and took the adequate actions for myself. Over time cyber crimes have ruined many lives and have taken a toll on the youth. Yesterday the 'Bois Locker Room' screenshots were flooding on my social media feeds I realized how these days the reach via social media has become so quick and effective. These assholes who are trying to take revenge by sending rape threats and thinking they will morph images and leak them out. If you think there are people like you then remember there are people who aren't like you, there are people who will take actions, the youth today stands for each other. The amount of loathing you will be getting will haunt you for years to come. Don't take social media lightly. To my fellow 14-year-olds, don't be like the 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. Sending you all my love and strength. ✨ A big shout-out to @niskanagpal @ashnaasharma for exposing these ill deeds. More power to you! This picture of mine is from a short film I did, goes well with the situation m #boyslockerroom #boislockerroom #shame #speakup

A post shared by ɢᴜɴɪᴛ ᴄᴏᴜʀ (@gunitcour) on

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.

View this post on Instagram

I learnt the word ‘vedi’ (derogatory Malayalam word for slut) very early on. At 14 to be precise. Flashback to vivid images from the private tuitions I was sent to as preparation for the board exams because I wasn’t the brightest cookie in math and physics. Canvas for the images lent by gorgeous, sunny and green Kerala; where education is given utmost importance; where even fleeting conversations over glasses of piping hot tea revolve around current affairs, innovation, development and progress; soil on which history of a matrilineal society supposedly sleeps. And the protagonist? A tall and lanky barely 14 year old girl, born and raised in this “progressive” society. ✨ I come from a family which could be placed in the “broadminded” category of families in my society. The kind which does not put in place a set of rules as to how a girl should or should not dress; or the friends she is allowed to make or the life she is allowed to lead. 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. As if on reflex, I stop to eaves drop and that’s when one of them says. “Ah aval verum vedi alle! Avalde vesham kanditille?” (Ah she’s just a slut, haven’t you seen the kind of clothes she wears?) The other fellow sniggered. I don’t think I will forget the kind of churn my stomach did just as I heard those words. It made me cry. Almost made me gag. In a flash, I understood why my mum rolled her eyes, every time I picked a skirt to wear to tuitions. She knew life, didn’t she? Vedi. The first of the scores of times I was called that wretched word in these 30 years of walking the earth. At this point, as I write this down, I still feel something prodding me to explain myself; how the “maximum” the then 14 year old had worn was a knee length skirt. This is the kind of brainwashing society has done to the women; the kind of guilt that has clawed its way deep into our being. 16 years later, I still catch myself wondering if I had “asked for” that comment. (Contd in comments)

A post shared by Anjali Venugopal (@mydigitalverandah) on

“… 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.

Bois Locker Room. I wasn't surprised to hear about this, and that probably is the worst part. I am disgusted, enraged,...

Posted by Zainab R. Haque on Tuesday, May 5, 2020

‘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.

View this post on Instagram

The #boislockerroom incident reminds me of that time when I was called ‘prostitute’ for the first time. It was in my first year in the college and some college guys had gotten hold of my number. I got a call and only one word was said- ‘Prostitute’ and then the call got disconnected. I had sat with my heart in my hand as it beat harder than the clouds thundering outside. I didn’t have the courage to share this with anyone as somehow I thought that it was my mistake and that I should not have wore Kajal, or short Kurtis, or talked to any of the boys. Back then, I had thought that it was my mistake that I let my number be leaked out. Being a girl, I thought that whatever was happening, the rumours the catcalling, was all my mistake. I can only imagine what the boys who were doing all that must be thinking, that yes, a girl who is about their age just deserves to be slut-shamed and she will take it for their entertainment and for releasing their frustration. I remember a Facebook confession page as well that frequently posted a list naming ‘Top 10 sluts of the college’. The one who made the confession remained anonymous as he named every part of those girls’ bodies. And it’s just horrific that these things are still going on. But I am also proud of the girls who reported this, who didn’t think that it was ‘okay’, who didn’t let this one slide. I wish I could do this back then. We can’t do anything about what happened in the past, but let’s take control of the present. 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! Put an end to all this at the very place where it all begins, these lewd comments, these horrible cat-callings!

A post shared by Shraddha Gupta (@shraddha_yoga) on

“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.

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