[Reader-list] Take off your clothes, fachch
shivamvij at gmail.com
Mon Jul 5 18:18:51 IST 2004
Why does ragging have sexual overtones? Is there a single answer to
this question or are there several possible answers?
Why does my senior want to see my body, my genitals? Shouldn't he
himself be embarrassed even to say, "Take off your clothes, fachch?"
One answer I got was that this is because of repressed sexuality. This
is understandable, specially amongst students who come from small
towns or even not-so-small towns like Lucknow, where the best 'public'
schools are all-male or all-female, and a boy calling up a girl or
vice-versa often demands explanations at home. So 'repressed
sexuality' is a convenient explanation for sexual ragging.
But is it repressed homo- or heterosexuality? If my senior didn't get
to flirt with girls, why does he want to see my private parts and
comment on them and ask me to masturbate and so on?
Someone who is a ragger, tells me that sexual ragging has nothing to
do with sexuality, and thaat they do it just to "psyche you out".
One response was: "Ragging seems like a devious psychological ploy in
which the victim is degraded in such a way, that
a) he tends to think that something is wrong with himself
b) tries to cut out that memory with from his mind, and this can have
enormous psychological consequences.Cutting away sexual ragging from
your mind, will result in shying away from exploring ones sexuality
and gender identity.This may result in fear of the unknown which
results in bigotry against homosexuals and male chauvinism."
Another reasoning I got was that one's clothes are important aspects
of one's privacy, and it's merely a power game in which the senior
wants his power to affect all aspects of the fresher's privacy.
Yet another explanation seems to contribute to the
ragging-makes-you-a-man theory. This thought says that the idea is
that by showing each other their private parts, we are trying to say
that we have nothing to hide, and therefore this is a 'rite of
passage' for the adolescent into the heterosexual, adult world. This
is the line of thought adopted by one of the two articles I am
appending here, written by a student who is a declared homosexual, and
is writing about ragging from the point of view of a homosexual. I
think, however, that his arguments are facetious, and are certainly
problematic for me as they tend to justify ragging at least for the
heterosexual world that is against giving homosexual individuals their
sexual freedom. In ragging people don't show each other their bodies;
the fresher shows his body as a matter of humiliation to the senior,
whose clothes remain intact.
Which makes me think (and the second appended article is evidence)
that when a senior is asking a fresher to take off his clothes, the
senior may be experimenting with his own sexuality. He - or she,
because there have been cases of girls indulging in sexual ragging -
is testing if he is attracted to my body. Which is also a result of
repression of sexuality, but the first article here tends to suggest
that 'stripping' would traumatise only a homosexual, not a
heterosexual. Do we then absolve 'heterosexual ragging', if it can be
I hope people on this list will respond to this. I hope also, that
this will feed into the debate on homosexuality and CSA we had, and
show how gay rights activists see homosexuality as a black-and-white
issue, whereas it may play itself out in far more complex ways.
I would be extremely grateful to anyone who agrees to write an essay
exploring and dissecting this theme of sexuality in ragging -
preferably someone who is aware of academic research on sexuality, and
works in the area of post-Freudian research.
Please feel free to forward this mail to anyone who you think is
equipped to deliberate on these questions.
As you may have realised by now, our campaign is not just about
activism but also research: the idea is to understand ragging and then
find ways to eliminate it.
Also, I hope very few people are taking my posts on ragging to be
'spam' or 'propaganda', and that the issues I am raising are well
within the purview of the objectives of this list.
Please read the two articles here if they interest you, and comment upon them.
o o o o o
Being Gay in a Pseudo-Liberal World
In my first day in this college, after being duly lodged in my room in
Allnutt (North), I was summoned to interact with a certain senior
student of my block. He informed me that I would have to become
acquainted with the customs and 'traditions' of the hostel.
Apparently, it was exclusively meant for men who liked others of the
same sex — and the rite of initiation was something called 'lifting' —
for those not into residence parlance, the process entails stripping
followed by squirting soap, cream etc. on the genitals, all in public.
For someone who had become sure of his sexuality only recently, this
was unexpected behaviour. Here was what seemed to be an overt
celebration of something in myself which at one point I had had
problems speaking about, yet it didn't seem that sought-for place
where I could fit in with those both like and unlike myself. What I
soon discovered was that this was actually a very *heterosexual*
behaviour, a simultaneous celebration of homosocial solidarity
(through a forbidden activity), with the purging of any actual
homosexual instincts. In showing each other their bodies they
persuaded themselves that they really had nothing to hide — ensuring
uniformity of sexual identity in preparation for the heterosexual
adult world they were to enter shortly.
Obviously, for anybody who *is* homosexual, the violation of his/her
privacy and the expected conformity would be traumatic. (I managed to
avoid it in the two months leading to the A.T.P.) [ATP is a final,
somewhat violent event wherein juniors and seniors exchange rotten
tomatoes; this event marks the end of two months of ragging.] Since
then I have sensed that not only in this college but in D.U. as a
whole, homosexuality is very exciting as an issue, a subterranean
current of interest which surfaces in academic, forbiddingly civilised
seminars and discussions. There was even an article in some daily
which quoted students speaking of gay and lesbian friends almost as a
social credential — cool and radical. While this shows a trend sparked
off by increasingly in-your-face (though mostly highbrow) gay and
lesbian activism, it still does mean that homosexuals are perceived as
'others' in *our* society — conceptions of difference that excite both
superficial interest and crass homophobia. How far all this translates
into true acceptance is shown in popular attitudes that persist — gays
look like blah, speak like blah, have a fetish for shoes. (Ever heard
someone say, "that guy is so gay!") Films like Kal Ho Na Ho, a smash
hit with the college-going, English-speaking crowd, appear to deal
explicitly with homosexuality but end up preserving stereotypes of gay
men who will ogle at 'normal' guys beyond all limits of decency and
Unfortunately, the comparative ease with which the subject is
discussed today is very far from acceptance — moreover, in the manner
of socio-cultural formations in general, it may serve to adapt the old
to only a slightly different context. Recognition often encompasses
the sense of a separate, often mysteriously-defined group. This makes
any flexible, more composite identity difficult. And for a young
person waiting to make his or her way unfettered by definitions, it is
soon apparent that heterosexuality is still "normal chhe". And the
only space which remains is an article like this.
[Published in the 2004 annual number of "Vox Populi", the journal of
the Gandhi Study Circle, St. Stephen's College, Delhi.]
o o o o
[This is an excerpt from a short story (I don't know how much of it is
fact and how much is fiction) from the website of 'Gay Delhi'. I found
it while Googling for ragging, and it is indeed very useful for anyone
who wants to think about why ragging has sexual overtones. Only the
portion of the story that is relevant to our study is being appended
here, you may read the rest of it by following the link.]
LOVE, THY ART BEAUTIFUL!
From: Gay Delhi Stories
It was the first day after the summer break and all of us were dying
to get to college cause now we weren't 'freshers' anymore and had made
it to the second year. And we were definitely going to get our pound's
worth in terms of ragging the new batch which was going to be
exciting. I rubbed my hands in glee at the thought and joined my
friends at the bus stop, waiting to catch the morning U-Special.
It was a warm sultry day, with overcast clouds and the promise of
rain. But we were oblivious to it all and were instead awaiting the
arrival of the new 'recruits' to college. The bus arrived and we
boarded, the ragging beginning in earnest in the bus itself. There
were at least a dozen newbies in there and they were already being
meted out the initiation rituals by the seniors in the bus. We soon
joined in and started to joke around, laughing when the freshers were
made to propose to each other and dance on a 25 paise coin or don the
dupatta of another and play pretend drag.
One of them caught my eye. He was around 18 years of age, freshly out
of school with the clean scrubbed look of a preppy boy, wearing faded
denims, which clung to his long muscular legs, highlighting the
strongly developed quadriceps, and a black T-shirt which showed off
his well developed arms. Tall, at 6 feet, with a slim, athletic body
and long slicked back hair, he looked like he belonged between the
pages of GQ rather than amongst a bunch of unruly immature seniors who
were bent upon getting him to drape a dupatta around his waist and
dance the ek, do, teen, Madhuri Dixit number. I watched him from the
corner of my eye, quickly averting my gaze when he too looked towards
me. But I couldn't help myself and before I knew it, my eyes were on
him again. We exchanged a few glances but each time I looked away. You
see, though I had known for a while that I was attracted to men, I had
never done anything about it. Technically, both mentally and
physically, I was the vestal virgin. Not due to lack of opportunities,
but out of choice.
Suddenly I felt the bus lurch and stop in front of The Sri Ram College
of Commerce or as us students fondly refer to it, SRCC. I was amongst
the first to get down since I was near the exit and imagine my
surprise when 'he' also disembarked. I beckoned him over and demanded,
'hey fresher, which college are you in?'. SRCC, sir, he replied.
This was great, he was in my college! I was destined to meet him.
However, before I could talk any further, we were whipped up in a
melee of friends greeting each other after the holidays, freshers
being ragged to do the Bharatnatayam or sing songs from Amitabh
Bachhan movies. I soon lost sight of him and wandered from one group
of mates to another, laughing, joking, exchanging news and gossip.
After a few hours of this, we retired to the canteen to replenish our
expended energies and ordered a few plates of samosas and cold glasses
of nimbu paani. We were all on a high and were behaving like typical
teenagers, celebrating our youth and boundless energy. Whilst speaking
to one of my friends, I noticed that the boy from the bus was being
led out by a group of 7 or 8 seniors who weren't day scholars but
hostelers. This puzzled and perturbed me cause if they took him to the
hostel, God alone knows what they may do to him. One has heard of
horror stories of stripping and molestation in these places and
therefore I was worried.
I decided to go along since I knew the boys who were taking him. I
went upto them and laughingly said, 'hey let's get this fresher,
guys'. They laughed and asked me to come along to their room at the
hostel which was behind the main college building. I tagged along and
managed to catch the fresher's eye and gave him a reassuring wink
since by now, he had started to look a little worried.
Soon we were seated in one room, in a semi circle with the boy (whose
name I learnt subsequently, was Vinay) in the centre standing and
gyrating to some house music which was blaring out of the two-in-one
in a corner. Vinay was definitely not enjoying this and I could sense
his embarrassment but, of course, I couldn't say or do anything at
this point since the rest of them were my seniors. At this point, one
of them asked Vinay to take off his shirt. He looked as if he was
going to protest when another one of them got up and made a
threatening move towards him. Reluctantly, Vinay removed his shirt and
I nearly gasped out loud. He was perfectly shaped starting from that
beautiful face and adorable dimples, down to his long lovely neck, his
perfect pectorals with taut dark nipples, rippling muscles, his
six-pack, well defined and his laterals flaring out in a perfect V. He
was a sight to behold and many of the others started whistling and
making cat calls. I couldn't take my eyes off that perfect hairless
torso, it's proportions so much in harmony that even a sculptor
couldn't have done any better.
Of course, the inevitable followed. One of the seniors asked him to
take his trousers off too. Vinay was, by now, in acute discomfort and
I could see that he was having a tough time but I was powerless to do
anything then. And to confess, a part of me wanted to see him without
his trousers on. Slowly and extremely reluctantly, he took them off
and stood there like Adonis, perfect in all his glory. His legs were
long and tapered, beautifully muscled and perfectly shaped. His calves
were bulging with muscular striations and his feet were most
beautifully formed. He was wearing a pair of Y-front Calving Klein's
which fit most snugly around his perfect butt and could barely hide
the distinctive bulge of his ample manhood. I was transfixed and kept
closing my eyes so that I could record this moment for posterity. The
seniors were laughing and making obscene gestures to Vinay and then
one of them suggested that he take his underwear off too.
I could sense that Vinay was about ready to break down at this
humiliation and I finally got up and took a stand stating that this
was no way to rag someone and that making him take his underwear off
would be stretching things too far. Don't know why but they listened
to me and agreed that fine, they wouldn't make him strip completely. I
could see the gratitude in Vinay's eyes and I gave him a reassuring
smile back in return.
[ The narrator eventually has a homosexual relationship with the
character of Vinay. Read the full story at
shivamvij at gmail.com
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