Why Rapists Are Not Monsters, And Calling Them So Can Be Harmful

Posted: March 22, 2014

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Whenever a rape occurs it has become pretty common to hear people dismiss it by saying, “They are monsters. No human being could ever do something like that. They have some mental disorder.”

I have said that. I am sure you have heard that.

People can’t help but notice that among the rape cases we usually come across, the perpetrators are almost always men and the victims are mostly women. That makes rape a very gendered act of violence. Calling it an “act of monsters” helps men – and those of us who know, trust, and love the men in our lives – distance themselves from rapists.

I’ll tell you why this is very, very harmful. I was going through some photos from ‘Project Unbreakable’ and some quotes included, “Why are you telling everyone I’m a monster,” and “I didn’t rape you. You are making me look like some kind of a monster.”

Only monsters rape, and I’m not a monster

A guy in my class molested me when we were riding on the same auto-rickshaw. He is a pretty cool guy if he hasn’t molested you. He has lots of loyal friends. He was my best friend until he did what he did. He, however, will never see himself as a ‘molester’ or ‘sexual assaulter’. If his friends learn of what he did, they will never believe it either. Why? Because: “He is not a monster; only monsters do something like that.”

A guy I know had attempted to rape me last year. It was brief, but it was a close call. He apologised when I treated it like a “big deal”. It was not a big deal for him. He only “jumped” on me, “once”. He thinks of rape as something that is only done by strangers on the streets. I kept screaming “no” and had to finally push him off of myself when he wouldn’t stop trying, but he will never see himself as a rapist, as only monsters rape. He highly condemned the Delhi gang rape incident and has plenty of female admirers.

There are many elderly men who are respected by my father, who do not hesitate to vulgarly stare me down from my head to toe. There are many nice, friendly, charitable men outside who beat the women at home. My friend here in the UK was shocked to learn that one of the rapists, Ram Singh – involved in the Delhi gang rape of 2012- had an adopted son, “They allowed a person like him to adopt a child?”

Men who rape or discriminate against women in any way don’t do it because they are monsters. They are human beings same as anyone else. The only difference is that they see women as lesser than human beings…

Men who rape or discriminate against women in any way don’t do it because they are monsters. They are human beings same as anyone else. The only difference is that they see women as lesser than human beings, sometimes without realising it. It is very easy to justify hurting someone once you consider their lives of lesser importance than yours. For example, one would usually not think twice before killing an insect after being bitten by it. But we would never kill a baby for biting us, however hard. This is because the latter’s life matters while the former’s does not.

Some men beat their wives for getting a meal wrong, or simply because they are in a foul mood. Some men rape women because they are doing something the men don’t approve of, or simply because they can. They do not see a woman as an equal human being with her own thoughts, feelings, ambitions, and personality, kind of in the way you think of an insect.

I have met two men in my life who were hell-bent on blaming crimes against women on women, one way or another. They realise that rapists – and the whole lot – are not mentally disturbed monsters. They realise that they are men like themselves, and so they feel the urgency to defend them or explain their actions away. When they see the rapists and see that the one thing in common amongst all of them is their gender, they stop feeling like they are defending the actions of criminals. They feel like they are defending the actions of men. They feel like they all belong to the same fraternity.

On one hand, I understand their perspective – while recognising it as damaging nevertheless – and on the other hand, I find it wildly insane.

Most transphobic people happen to be cisgendered. But, as a cisgender person I do not feel any kind of bond with them and I definitely find their actions and thoughts highly ignorant. Not in any way do I find that the actions of other cisgender people reflect on me. I do not identify with feminists who slut-shame. I do not identify with the Bengalis who catcall me on the streets.

I try to understand why they do what they do – to stop an effect, you must know the cause – but I am never, ever understanding.

Looking at the misogyny within all of us

It is important to draw distinctions between yourself and others of your gender. It is important to know that you are not defined by your gender. It is important to know that those who rape do not do it simply because they are men.

When you realise that rapists are not “monsters”, but just people bad at being humane, it may make you wonder if you are like them. It may make you ponder about the things you do unknowingly or knowingly, and if they are misogynistic in some small or big way. Given that we all grow up in a more or less misogynistic culture, it is very possible to be a misogynist ourselves – malign or benign; male, female or otherwise. That is scary, but once embraced, it is enlightening. It makes one more careful, more observant of one’s actions and the culture surrounding them.

Given that we all grow up in a more or less misogynistic culture, it is very possible to be a misogynist ourselves – malign or benign; male, female or otherwise.

After my first relationship was over, I came across an article online about abusive relationships. To my horror, I realised that I am an emotionally abusive partner (look up ‘gaslighting’). I always knew that I was manipulative but I never thought of it as something evil. I giggled about it and loved the power that I had. I happily proclaimed to friends, “Yeah, I always have the upper hand.”

The article was written by a victim of an abusive relationship. When I saw it from her perspective, I realised I had a problem. It was not “nothing major”. It was a big deal. One thing she repeatedly said was, “Don’t try to change them, they won’t.” That could be helpful for someone who is a victim, but it was not helpful for me. I made the decision to change. An abuser might be someone I was, but it was not someone I was going to be. 

Sometimes, I don’t know if I am getting angry because I have the right to, or because I have abusive tendencies. But thanks to a ton of personal effort, I’m a much better girlfriend than I was the first time around. Hopefully, someday, being ‘normal’ will come to me naturally.

The first step to solving a problem is recognising that there is one. Calling rapists and other abusers “monsters” will never let you recognise if you are one. It prevents those who can change from doing so. And when you take it upon yourself, change is mostly inevitable, because all of us are a little bit human.

Pic credit: teosaurio (Used under a Creative Commons license) 

Studying MA International Journalism at Cardiff University, UK. Journalistic reporting: https://suryatapamukherjee.wordpress.com/ Creative

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  1. this article is just mind-blowing! Kudos to you!

  2. Great article. While it is true that rape is a consequence of disrespectful and inhuman attitude towards the female gender, there is another perspective -that rape is among the most sickening abuse of power. I think it’s a combination of both. Those who rape (or violate others in any other ways) have a certain lack of empathy that forms the basis of humanity. They are criminals, and monsters too. Also, as the author puts it across so well in this article -they are people less capable of being human.

  3. pramillakulkarni -

    You said it. Reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago. My husband and I were watching “Raavan”, well it was a lazy Sunday and there was nothing else on TV! Getting back…what irked my husband the most about the movie was that Aishwarya Rai’s character was not raped. He even explained it to me. According to him the basic nature of such a person would be to rape her first. One, because it would be revenge for his sister’s rape, two because why would he give up the opportunity to show the officer down, and the best way to do it would be “Uski biwi ki izzat par haath daalna” because “aurat ki izzat ghar ki izzat hoti hai”. I was shocked and appalled at his attitude. He who is the father to a daughter, brother to a sister, son to a mother and husband to me, his wife, would say such a thing. My next question obviously was, “would you have done it?” “No”, he answered, “because I am not a monster”. “Hell yeah, but you thought it.” was the my immediate mental reaction. I stopped the conversation there, But it has been imprinted on my mind forever.
    Is it the basic nature of men to show that their power lies in that one body part that can violate women?
    That would mean that every man has the monster within. Those who cannot control it, rape. Those who can, just think about doing it but don’t.

    • If someone feels that some other deserves to be killed, does that make him/her a potential murderer?

    • Let me quickly add that one cannot justify rape no matter what, just like one cannot justify murder.

    • What about murder in self-defence? I’m just stringing your line. No such deed can be justified truly.

    • ” I stopped the conversation there” <- Why? Wasn't that a good chance to make him realize that? If I were him, I'd be thankful.

    • “Aurat ki izzat ghar ki izzat hoti hai” is a traditional concept of honour that is more cultural than biological. Many women believe in that too. Also, I have met many men and women who do not believe in it. Stay strong and stay optimistic. 🙂

    • That is how it is. Total respect to the Mumbai photojournalist who said that the one incident did not ruin her entire life. She showed true strength.
      Also let me add that I am still married to the guy. We have brutally honest conversations sometimes that often scare the others around us. ;P Thankfully this one occurred at home, or it would’ve scared the bejeezus out of our lady friends. He is a good guy, really. Only one that has watched too many hindi movies in the 80s.

  4. Sitting in an A/C room and reading/posting comments is easy… the reality is very different. Unless you undergo what that brave girl in Delhi underwent when she was gang raped in a moving bus, you will never know the real feelings…

  5. Pingback: Imagine – A world without crimes | Mountain Monk

  6. It is an interesting perspective but it rings of the truth! In office when male colleagues make statements such as ‘look at all the work she has to tackle now, she will never think of going on maternity leave again’ and ‘you got that contract because you are good looking’. They don’t see themselves as being chauvinistic or bad people.

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