Is the virtue of ‘sexual purity’ the biggest weapon of patriarchy?

Posted by Prashant Yadav
May 31, 2017

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Sex is ‘haw’ and you gotta be pure!

We know how it works. Sex is a private matter, even a sacred duty. Something people do for procreation in the night and go ‘Haw’ about during the day. Pre-marital is bad. Extra-marital is a crime under IPC, unless pati parmeshwar allows it (Section 497 IPC). Husband is the owner, yo, and can lend it if he wants. A woman who wants it, or loves it is a slut. Sluts are horrible, need to be shamed and shunned. So much so, that even with rape victims, we need to first figure out if she was a slut who brought it upon herself – hence all those questions about how short her skirt was or how drunk she herself.

Now, look at it from the other angle.

Men enjoy disproportionate power vis-a-vis women. That’s because they are the primary earners. But why so? Because plenty of careers and most of the public spaces are no go for women. (Ok, we’ve made some progress and we’re not really Saudi, but the larger picture is the same). But, why is half the world and several opportunities inaccessible to women? Because they may get raped.

Yes, ‘fear of rape’. That potent weapon men have to keep women at home and financially, socially, physically dependent. And, the best way to perpetuate ‘fear of rape’ is to:

  1. Make rapist fearless -by achieving heavy underreporting and abysmal conviction rates, and,
  2. Make victim mortally fearful – by blaming and shaming her and marking her damaged for life.

And you achieve these two by putting this extraordinary premium on sexual chastity – thus rape becomes different from me getting mugged or murdered – because while only money/life was lost in the latter, it’s the family izzat in the former because sexual purity was defiled. She’s become damaged goods, not kabil for any honorable man (without one to own and protect her sexual purity, she’d be worthless anyway). Consequence terrible for the victim. So, as a woman, not only fear rape but also go silent if it happens.

Also, since sex is shameful/dirty/sin, and rape is sex, so we also got to see how much was the woman’s contribution in inviting this sex (ok, rape) on herself. Thus originates slut shaming which makes bureaucracy/judiciary indifferent and even hostile causing extremely low conviction rates on top of extremely low reporting rates of rape. Thus, rapist be fearless.

And all this rests on the high value we place on sexual chastity of women. Take that away and the entire edifice crumbles. Perhaps the biggest trick the devil pulled off was to convince everyone that sex was ‘haw’ and chastity a virtue.

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