Latent Sadist, Sexual Crimes and the Role of Media

Increasing weakness in character and loss of self-regulation has unfolded the cruel layers of humanity as the recent spate of rape incidents have shown. The dark sides are now out in the open, traces of which are found on the streets for public spectacle. The horrors that were speculated about Kaliyug (in Hindu mythology, the last of four stages that is said to bring terrible fate to the world), are now before us more than ever. Growing intolerance and horrendous crimes on women, whether in a farm or in a metro area, have left us thinking, what went wrong with the society at large? To name a few of the traditional regressive systems, there is still prevalent patriarchy, gender bias and caste hierarchy. Despite the rising income levels in the new millennium, there is a growing ill-will that has plagued the society. An environment of violence and revenge among local politicians (supported by their caste groups), an absence of societal moral forces to uphold the security of women who step outside the house for work, and a degenerating approach of mass media – all of this has contributed to the degrading social condition we live in today.

As individuals, one of the most vital factors contributing to wrongs and ills of society is the latent sense of sadism prevalent in certain humans. The word ‘sadism’ comes from an infamous French nobleman by the name Marquis De Sade, a proponent of libertine sexuality and accused of numerous sexual crimes and abuse. Though chiefly used in the sexual sense, sadism is not restricted to it. It refers to receiving pleasure out of inflicting pain and humiliation to the other. In a space of unhappy individuals, competitive environments, spurring negativity and mental breakdowns, it is not surprising that the latent sense of sadism is quietly turning itself into active forms of violence. Some are involved in physical violence, others in mental violence, while there are still others who have violent desires and ill wills. Therefore, it is vital to understand that as long as people derive pleasure from the failure of others, from humiliation of helpless or powerless and experience a sense of gratification in the misfortunes of others; there will remain a form of latent sadism in humans, which at the right time will try to act itself out.

This brings us to the present negatively driven conditions of women in the states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which typically report a high number of rape cases year over year. Cases of rape and murder – presently controversial Hathras gang rape and murder of a 19-year old Dalit woman by upper caste men is difficult to be seen only as rape, it rather seems like a ‘punishment’ inflicted upon a low caste woman by certain upper caste men. The popular exercise of power over the helpless and downtrodden. And what happens afterwards is a blasphemy in the spirit of humanity. The body of the Dalit woman after being murdered was not submitted to her family for her rightful funeral rites, instead it was hurriedly cremated by the Uttar Pradesh Police (apparently, our protectors of law) by citing absurd reasons such as ‘Law & Order’ problem. The incident is an insult to the living and dead. The investigation is still on and therefore it is not right to draw conclusions and give verdicts. However, the nature of crime committed, delay in filing the case, and not letting the family of the victim speak to the media for few days – gives enough credence of the unjust and insecure times the helpless and downtrodden are in. To recall another case equally horrible in nature that of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad back in November 2019, who was gang raped and burnt to death; the list is long of such gruesome assault on human spirit and body, but only some cases gain media attention. Even such attention, in the wake of sensationalism is more insensitive than empathetic towards the victim’s family. Cases of rape and murder have become plain numbers increasing with every passing day in our country.

Another piece of recent news has once again diverted our attention to child abuse – the arrest of 41 people across Kerala for collecting, browsing, and downloading child pornography, an ambit of cybercrime. Cases of child rape and child abuse are rampant, recalling the 2018 Kathua case of abduction, gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa Bano, which triggered widespread outrage. Around the same time, the Unnao rape case was also in national headlines as the rape victim was a minor, her father died in judicial custody, and the prime accused was a lawmaker. Humans have stooped to a level of monsters, treating fellow persons, even children as mere objects to be used for pleasure and then disposed off. The sanctity of human life has no significance to them in this scenario. These monsters look at the world today as their playground and the inhabitants as plain means to their pleasurable ends. Their cruel tendencies are not only performing acts in isolation and seclusion; they seem to get some support from feudal patriarchs or local goons.

Nowadays, media sensationalism in rape cases is making the problem even worse. It is hard to comprehend how different news channels have reported different ‘stories’ on the recent Hathras rape case. While the Central Bureau of Investigation has now taken over this case, we can’t deny the fact that news is not reported but generated to suit our tastes and interests, to make conjectures for our bogus satisfaction. The investigation and the politics, both are on, but the message is clear: the spread of negativity and popularization of negative news is almost addictive and appeals to certain individual propensities. Social media, which started with the initial goal of binging people together, seems to accomplish the opposite – it is all about hate spewing and hateful comments. Sadly, the positive content is quite sparse, and the values are missing, of which people are in oblivion.

When there is a dearth of morals and values, self-regulation and self-restraint will become abstract concepts, leaving room for crude hedonism and insatiable appetite for everything. Now, it would be a mistake if we view ourselves out of this scenario because all of us being a part of society are very much affected by it. We are equally important players in building and shaping the social conditions. The onus is upon each one of us to elevate the level of social morality. The above analysis might seem like a very pessimistic approach on things. The picture is not that bleak, some optimists would say. It is not bleak for as long as there are people showing dissent and acting responsibly.

In a democracy, it is important for people to constantly show their disapproval for the vices and ills in society. It is essential to speak up with our own minds. Silence and indifference in times of turmoil would mean subservience to powerful narratives and social trends. This would lead to loss of agency and with it, a sense of rational human being. Apart from this, people must begin fighting their inner demons on personal level and learn self control. It is essential to remember that the latent sadist in each one of us will look for reasons to act out and make us distant from our sense of humanity; we must resist it. Every time we are motivated towards an action or inspired from a social wave, we should pause and reflect about the process, whether it still entails a respect for humanity and human values. Our energies and mind are capable of doing anything and so, what matters most is the intention behind our actions. We can make the best or the worst of what we have, the choice is upon us.

-Tanya Yadav, a Freelancer

Picture Credits: HT /

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