Tarun Tejpal’s book, photo by Maleeha Azeem.
India is by now famous for gang-rape and assault emerging from its slums, but it comes from all sides of society, really. Tarun Tejpal is (was) the editor of Tehelka, a powerful muck-raking Indian magazine. He was accused of sexual assault at a literary festival by a young reporter. He acknowledged what he called ‘A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation’ and took a six month leave from his job. The Indian press is up in arms over the lameness of his apology and it’s good to see this getting attention and redress. It really is a terrible mess and sexual assault along power lines – be they physical or other – is something far too prevalent in the world, and South Asia in particular.
On a very broad level, humans definitely evolved in a somewhat rapey way. Males and females are different sizes which usually happens when males are beating each other up over access to women. This has the side effect of making men able to overpower women as well. Even the biblical definition of marriage is more often one man / multiple women than anything else.
People often ask how men can be like this but, well, look at Genghis Khan or any modern-day whoremonging naval contractor. A lot of men in positions of power will sleep with multiple women, by force or otherwise. A lot of men without power will use violence.
This is not, however, an excuse. In modern societies we don’t prey on the weak because it’s A) immoral and B) bad for the whole. I’m short and blind and have never thrown a punch in anger and I get on all right. The fact is, however, that women still don’t have the same safety as any man, but that’s not because ‘that’s just the way it is’. It’s because we haven’t done enough to change it. I mean, whatever we came from, we have laws and systems.
The End Of Rapiness
To me the end of rapiness is when societies decide to care about it – something India is still doing and, and this is different but follow me, when we have an almost complete surveillance state. In the Tejpal case they’re looking at footage from the hotel. In the future you can assume that almost everything is being record, either by the person, the environment or the sky, and – once you get past the creepiness of that – you will have a record which makes getting away with rape much more difficult.
Back To Tejpal
But back to Tejpal, what he did to that reporter was creepy and awful. You can read her letter here. Here’s a portion.
As of Saturday evening, he sent me text messages insinuating that I misconstrued “a drunken banter”. That is not what happened. Banter does not involve forcing yourself on someone, trying to disrobe them, and penetrate them with your fingers despite them pleading for you to stop.
What’s sad is this is perfectly normal behavior for a lot of powerful people. I don’t necessarily think a man should be destroyed for abuse like this, but it needs to be punished, they need to be rehabilitated and other men have to know that it’s not OK. The urge and ability are there, but until God-AI makes it an immediate smiting, this type of public condemnation is necessary and far too infrequent.