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Mumbai boys learn sex is not about power
MUMBAI, SEP 29: In the sprawling slums of Mumbai, a group of street toughs are being taught they do not need to make women cry during sex to prove their masculinity.

"Before this workshop I used to think that a real man should have a big penis. He should be able to have sex many times in one night and should make the woman cry in pain during sex," said 20-year-old Nitin Gaekwad.

"Now I know that what I have seen in adult films is not reality. It's all an act," he said.

A woman is raped every hour in India. Some 5,000 Indian women die each year in murders or suicides over dowry. Gender equality activist Sujata Khandekar and her team of volunteers are on a mission to explore and explode age-old beliefs about sex and male domination.

For two months, the campaigners have criss-crossed the meandering bylanes of Mumbai. In Chembur, macho men loaf around crammed one-room houses and shops lined by open drains as Bollywood pop blares from radios and TVs.

"We went out and talked to these men about sex. It was a daunting task but the results were startling," said Khandekar, who heads a non-government organisation called Committee of Resource Organisation for Literacy.

"The general male population in these squatters believes that a real man is dominant, aggressive, sexually powerful and potent and controls women whereas a real woman is submissive, both sexually and otherwise, and cares for the home, children and family," she said.

"They feel that if a girl wears makeup, she is 'easy' and 'deserves' to be teased," she said. The workshops found that chauvinistic attitudes are deeply entrenched.

"So you tell me -- yes, you Vilas -- what did we discuss in the last class?" Sandeep Kamble, 30, an ex-gangster turned workshop supervisor, asked a shy boy squatting with 15 others in a dimly-lit community hall.

"We discussed why we should use condoms," Vilas Bhaisode replied. "No, first tell us what we discussed about how a woman feels about condom use."

"A woman feels that a man should not use a condom as it prevents her from having babies. She also feels that it takes time to wear a condom which is risky as someone could walk into the room," Bhaisode said, triggering a burst of laughter.

"Who told you that a woman thinks like this?" "Everybody," came the chorus from the group. Khandekar said such reinforcement of views from peers was an important factor in building a male psyche that leads to violence.

"Most of them are jobless. They hang out with the slum dons and regard them as their ideologues. They are hooked to adult films which are easily available and they also peep through window slits and watch others having sex, which is then related to friends the next day in exacting details."

"They think that coercive activities like verbal comments, whistling, jostling, touching and harassing in public places demonstrate sexual power," she said.

However, a distinction is made between 'good girls' suitable for marriage and those 'deserving teasing'. "According to them, if a boy teases a girl and the girl passes by, without saying a word, then it shows that she is a good girl," she said.

"If she retorts back then it means she is proving herself smart deserving coercion and teasing." Slowly, the workshops are beginning to show a difference.

Before he started attending the classes, 19-year-old Anil Jogdonde used to be petrified about masturbation. "I used to think all my strength has gone. I would worry all day and stop eating. But now that I have been told that it's just fun and will not affect my health, I feel much better," Jogdonde said.

But what about adult films? "Of course we watch them. But now we know that the girls are crying just for the effect," he said. (AFP)

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