Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Macho means mean
by Monobina Gupta
This one is for all you males who flaunt your sexuality as your trophy: what, in your opinion, is the mark of a real man?
Is it controlling women sexually to the point of making them weep? Indulging in aggressive and violent behaviour? Beating up your wives when you think they deserve it? Or all of the above?
If you think the options are unfair and an assault on your sensibility, here’s more: a group of males between 18 and 29 years of age think these are what make up an asli mard (real man)!
According to a study done on the group from a northeast Mumbai slum, a “real man” is one who is “physically attractive, dominant, aggressive and sexually powerful”. And possibly like actors Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt, who most said were their “role models”.
“Controlling women and violent behaviour were important parts of a definition of a real man. They also thought that young women sought this kind of real men,” the study, done by the Population Council, Save the Children and Committee of Research Organisations, said.
Forty-two per cent of the participants said it was the man who should decide what kind of sex to have and “a man needs other women even if things are fine with the wife”.
Thirty-one per cent believed there were times when “a woman deserves to be beaten” up. “A woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together,” they said.
Fifty-one per cent believed women “who carried condoms on them were easy”. Besides, it was a woman’s responsibility to avoid getting pregnant. They said they would “never have a gay friend and it disgusts them to see a man acting like a woman”.
The study, however, conceded that most men gave in to “accepted” norms of male behaviour because of pressure from peers, family members and the media.
“It is mostly peer pressure,” Rahul Gaware, a Committee of Research Organisation member who conducted the study, said.
“The overriding factor that defined their masculinity was if they could make their girl/woman partner cry during the sexual act.”
The study was conceived by the Population Council and Save the Children to check HIV/AIDS and violence against women. Research has shown that more young men are, on an average, vulnerable to the infection and more likely to have multiple sexual partners than women.
“Young men in India mature and develop in a male-dominated society with little contact with female peers and virtually no sex education,” the Population Council said.
“In this context, most boys develop a sense of masculinity characterised by male dominance in sexual as well as other areas.”
That a similar kind of machismo is promoted by some of Bollywood’s heroes has not helped. Salman has a history of violent behaviour and Sanjay has played aggressive and macho characters in many early films.
Based on the study’s findings, the three organisations are holding discussions in Delhi to draw up recommendations for future work in India. “We are also working in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” an activist said.
The study model was drawn from Promundo, a Brazilian NGO that has worked with young men and their concepts of masculinity.
“We adopted the same model for our research and intervention,” an activist of the Committee of Research Organisations, Mahendra Rakade, said.
The intervention programme involved group discussions on subjects like changing from violent to intimate relationships, Gaware said.
“At the end of the intervention we found a change in the young men. They were more willing to treat their partners — girl friends or wives — with more respect.”