Locker Room Talk: It’s seriously never okay.


Courtesy of @humansofpatriarchy on Instagram

Akriti Dhasmana, co-Editor-in-Chief

With a pandemic running amok, I thought we already had a lot on our hands but it turns out that things can and always get worse in Delhi, the city where I live. In the past few days, an Instagram chat has made national news and has overtaken coverage of the coronavirus in India. The group chat titled “Bois locker room” consisted of several high school boys as its members and was recently outed for its explicit content and mass exchange of nudes of minors. This group was brought to light when a young student posted screenshots of the chat after learning that her pictures had been shared on it. The post, of course, went viral raising a lot of questions about the misogynistic mentality that seems to be deeply ingrained within the Indian society. 

What struck me most about this news was that all of the “bois” in question were 14 to 18 year olds from well to-do families from South Delhi (the Upper East Side of Delhi). They went to good schools and yet felt completely comfortable discussing “raping” their female classmates. This indicates that the normalization of rape culture occurs pretty early for young boys, leading them to view women as objects who are supposedly “asking for it” if they post certain kinds of images. It was interesting to see the trajectory of the post itself. There were more than 50 members in the group. As the screenshots went viral, my friends started recognizing their own classmates among the members. The worst was when a current student of the high school I graduated from revealed that she was amongst the girls whose pictures were shared on the group, only to be further harassed by an unnamed account. The person had the audacity to make public rape threats to the girl in question. 

Since then, the Delhi police has arrested 27 of the group members including the admin. It has been hard to trace them since most of the members deactivated their accounts and wiped their online presence after the post went viral. Concerns have been raised that they might have shifted to a new platform. The incident itself however, has sparked a larger debate on rape culture and the upbringing of men who grow up thinking that objectification is their birthright. 

Over the past few days, I have heard several arguments in defence of these boys. Some people have said that they are young and impressionable kids who did not know any better. Others used the same old ‘boys will be boys’ rhetoric to say that “this happens everywhere, that’s just how boys talk.” Another group mentioned that several such groups exist and these kids just had the misfortune of being caught. Neither of these are valid arguments in defence of the boys but I do agree with the last one. Such “boys’ talks” are prevalent across countries and cultures.The problem lies in the fact that the ‘bro culture’ glorifies sex as some sort of milestone for men, while women are just accessories to it rather than participants in it. That’s why it was so easy for those young boys to reduce their classmates to mere images that they could conjure up fantasies about.

In the list of comments by men that just made me go “WHATTTTT” were those blaming the girls for posting the pictures in the first place. Some also had the nerve to say that these girls were “defaming” these boys for publicity. The whole situation reminded me of a quote by Khaled Housseni, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by this incident. Disgusted? Yes, but definitely not surprised. That’s because I have seen this behavior everywhere. In 2016, Trump used the excuse of locker room talk to justify the deeply disturbing comments he made. I have seen it happen at Union too. On a Friday night, I once had my own male friends at college stand aside to discuss something and when I asked to be included in the conversation, I was told that they were having a “boy’s talk” and that I should leave. I later found out that they had been discussing who they’d “do” at the party. Even when discussing what happened in Delhi with my male friends I was quite blatantly told that this is not a new thing. One of them said that it’s quite literally a rite of passage for any teenage boy. Discussing and rating women is seen as a sign of machismo in these “locker room talks”, bragging about various sexual acts is interpreted as a badge of honor. This toxic masculinity runs deep in all cultures as vestiges of a largely patriarchal society. 

I have seen my friends talk in this manner and later brush it off as humor. When I call out this behavior, I’m told that I am too intense or that I interpret things in a wrong way. “Learn to take a joke,” they tell me. But letting this sort of behavior pass as normal means being complicit in these “boys’ talks”. I for one, cannot sit quietly knowing that I am party to the sort of dialogue that makes another woman feel insecure about herself and neither should anyone else. I think the onus lies with the men too. They should stand up to their friends and have a tough conversation with them about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Maybe that’s how the ‘locker room’ culture will be dismantled, one conversation at a time.