'Felt like a raped woman': Why this faux pas is not only Salman Khan's fault

Vishnupriya Bhandaram

Jun,21 2016 11:00:55 IST

"When I used to walk out of the ring, after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman. I couldn’t walk straight. I would eat and then, head right back to training. That couldn’t stop."

In an interview with Spot Boye, Salman Khan said that a "tough" shooting experience made him feel like "a raped woman" who "couldn't walk straight". I understand Salman's sentiment that it must have been a gruelling shooting, he says there was so much "lifting and thrusting on the ground" — I get it, it was a lot of hard work and physically taxing, but Salman, rape for a man or woman is not "tough", it is traumatic and an experience no woman/man ever wants or asks for.

Salman Khan isn't really the issue. Rape culture is.

We are living in a culture in which the images, language, laws and everyday life around us validates and perpetrates the rape culture. Salman Khan is merely a case in point. When he's saying he felt like a "raped woman" — he means tired, spent, exhausted but that's after doing the things he wanted to do.

Salman should have stuck to saying that he was exhausted because he wasn't being coerced into the physical exertion. No one put a gun to his head and asked him to do push ups. No one said that they would leak photos of him working out, if he ever told anyone about his shooting schedule.

Someone on Twitter defended Salman Khan with this:

@DivyaSolgama, semantically speaking, 'fu***d' implies an unpleasant sexual situation, that may or may not deal with consent. Rape on the other hand is quite clearly about invasion of personal space and physical boundaries and an assault on another human's agency. To use a tragic crime to describe an unpleasant situation is definitely in poor state.

Salman Khan. AFP

Salman Khan. AFP

You're not wrong, when you say that rape also means to destroy or pillage, but the next time you want to use that term, use destroy or pillage instead — India has a significantly lower rate of rape reportage, indicative of the social stigma that people assign to the crime — not upon the perpetrator but on the victim/survivor. Not only do we owe it to our own 'authentic' selves, but in our endeavour to deliver a better social experience to men and women in the future, we have to be judicious in our use of words. For example, when someone is saying that Team India 'raped' some other team in a cricket match, you might mean that India destroyed their team by being superior and better at the playing the game, but what anyone can hear is that a thing/object gets raped and there is nothing wrong with that.

Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist's father reduced the woman's traumatic experience to "twenty minutes of action" — this is rape culture. Turner got a lenient sentencing because he had a "bright future" ahead of him and the woman he raped must look ahead in despair that there is no one out there who would listen to her, get her justice. Reducing an invasive, thoroughly personal yet deeply social crime like rape as "twenty minutes of action" or "she wanted it" or "the exam was so tough we got raped" shows how we're giving a cold shoulder to the thousands of sexual assault survivors — we are telling them that their stories do not matter, that they are 'spoilt goods', that they are to blame and most of all, that we do not believe them because rape is an act to be enjoyed, not a crime to complain about.

Rape is not an action — it's not like horse-riding, running, jumping — it's a crime, but rape culture is a "permanent state of this suspension of disbelief, from the perpetrator, to his father and friends and anyone who prefers to view the staging of this tragedy as a romantic comedy," writes Julian Vigo in Counter Punch.  Rape culture reifies the notion that women are willing victims in their own rape and therefore not victims at all — just like how Salman Khan was a willing actor coping with a "tough" shooting schedule.

Curb your instinct to call me and my allies 'Feminazis' or 'Feminists who spoil the fun' (actually do whatever you want), but please think about rape culture and absorb the fact that both sexes have similar experiences of sexual victimisation. And perhaps, when you don't know better, it is better to err on the side of caution — why remind a woman about the constant fear they have in the back of their mind of being raped, by using that word out of context, to explain something else. Use a thesaurus and find another word to explain yourself because we can all do with avoiding language that objectifies and degrades women and trivialises violence against women.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2016 12:35 PM