“No, means no.”
Sounds clear, right? It is absurd then how few people actually understand the idea of consent, especially when it comes to a married woman and her agency during sex. This is exactly what Girliyapa’s new video, ‘How I raped your mother’, talks about. Using the trope of humour and satire, the video deals with the society’s need to control a woman’s sexuality, the normalization of marital rape and the lack of legal redressal for the same.
The scene opens with a woman, Devika sitting in a living room with her suitcase, surrounded by her family. It emerges then that she is upset with her six-month-old marriage because her husband rapes her. However, her family, a reflection of the ideology and ambiguity around marital rape, convinces her that the act is not only to be expected but also natural.
An interesting juxtaposition made in the video is between the fragile concept of honour and the legitimacy that marriage can provide to sexual violence. As soon as Devika says she was raped, the male members of her family and her father are fired up and ready to charge with chappals and knives in their hands. However, as soon as she says “marital rape”, everyone sits down and starts laughing.
A substantial part of the video then is her family trying to convince her how it is not rape, but “intense lovemaking” – a definition that the women of the family insist on and giggle about – possibly because their own experiences have conditioned them into believing it as a coping mechanism.
“Woh 50 Shades of Grey hai na? Uska 17th shade yahi toh hai,” says one aunt, highlighting how popular culture too blurs the lines between sexual agency and coercion. In the process, an uncle produces a reference book titled “Rape: A conspiracy theory” and says that there’s no mention of ‘marital’ rape.
Next, another uncle happily asks: “Does this mean that married men can rape anyone? Did it become legal?” Through this question, Girliyapa makes the connection between the law and engineered loopholes in it. While patriarchy may be the dominant creed of the society, if the law internalizes it, the road to change becomes even harder. These internalized attitudes find legal sanction, making the act of questioning and disputing marital rape it an uphill one.
Soon, Devika’s husband Arun is at the door. Devika’s father rushes to welcome him. As Arun sits in his father-in-law’s chair, Devika’s mother hurriedly gets up to make space for her husband. The conduct of the family centers around the son-in-law even as Devika asks her father to tell Arun off.
“Oh look Arun, Devika is still a kid, she’s naïve. Just like she learnt to make round chapatis, she’ll learn this slowly too,” Devika’s father tells Arun, emphasizing on how he expects her defiance to die when the practice continues.
Arun says that he likes to relieve his frustration after a hard day’s work by “intense lovemaking” with her, so that that he can eventually be a “loving and devoted husband.” When she asks about whether her consent matters, he retorts by weighing it against his own. “How about the brinjal you made for lunch the other day? Did you ask me?” he challenges.
And finally, after seeing Arun’s ‘agony’, Devika’s brainwash is complete and she decides that she has been too selfish, hence becoming the ideal submissive housewife. The couple hugs and makes up, the family’s faces light up and an uncle pulls everyone together for a family selfie.
All this while, there is a teenage girl, presumably Devika’s sister, who is absolutely astounded as to why everyone is happy and her sister falling into line to accept her fate. However, as she gets pulled into the family picture, she effectively becomes a part of the same cycle of subjugation.
And herein, lies the message of the video – the disbelief around marital rape, the conditioning of a woman into expecting and accepting the act and the naturalization of the idea that a man has unconditional right to his wife’s body – and in this spiral of silence, the idea of consent is lost, both to the society and eventually, to the woman herself.
Watch the video here: