‘Bhabhi’, ‘Saali’ and ‘Aunty’: Sexualising Familial Relationships Through Labels

“What labels me, negates me”

– Soren Kierkegaard

Once upon a time, a boy I liked told me casually that I have a milf body type.

We were sitting at a metro station and he knew I liked him. I simply smiled and went back home. I felt ashamed and disgusted with my body. I had hated my body in the past but this was new. This was like someone took something personal from me. He thought he had the right to not just ogle and judge me, but to fit me into a sexual category.

From there on, I hated my heavy breasts and my extra weight.

It was not because I hate the connotations that come with the tag milf, but because I was so much more than a sexual category.

The word milf stands for ‘mothers I’d like to f***”. I do not even know how disrespectful that is for every mother who does not wish to be a part of a parade party where men get to sexualise relationship roles.

I felt worthless and helpless, like I wasn’t loveable, like I wasn’t good enough. This boy said he couldn’t love me, but he admitted having lust for my ‘milf’ body type.

I liked this utterly gorgeous man with all my naive innocent heart and it hurt. Who gave him the right to judge me on how my body looks and grant me a porn category?

I wish I could say I had confronted him. But I ended up dating him for a while (I know, stupid as hell). Then he dumped me for reasons unknown.

A year later, I realise there was/is nothing wrong with me or my body.

Many Indian men sure want their women to stay innocent and confined, but love the hell out of sexualising relationship roles they have with us. Porn sites are flooded with new videos every day and there are thousands of videos added to the milf, aunty, bhabhi and saali categories.

Most women do not take to the word ‘aunty’ too kindly. That’s because the word is attached to being older – which supposedly equals to being unattractive.

Do you know why older women are deemed unattractive? Because men prefer younger women and it’s not like women aren’t in on that little secret.

One day, a friend texted me while she was at a family function. Having donned a simple salwar kameez, she said she felt like an aunty. I asked her what she meant and she said she felt like an aunty because she was all covered up and looked simple.

So are we now attaching the word aunty to unattractiveness while challenging the right of women to cover up or expose her body?

If you grew up with Bollywood, sister-in-law (saali) jokes have been staple humour content – with men creepily saying things like ‘saali adhi gharwali hoti hai’. The sleazy way in which the actors would leer at their sisters-in-law while saying it made it worse.

Think about a woman eyeing her brother-in-law and saying something similar. She would be quickly labelled as ‘characterless’, much before she could say the word ‘gharwala’.

The word ‘bhabhi” has also been ruined by B-grade movies, Indian porn content, comedy shows and a famous porn magazine with a similar name.

The hypocrisy of the average Indian male runs deep. They want women to be modest, to cover up and to behave in a timid, ‘feminine’ manner, but feel no hesitation in sexualising normal joint family relationships.

Used in a derogatory manner to serve as sleazy sexual humour, these labels confine and shame women.

But women are aiding men in it too. Don’t let them sexualise you, or label you. No one has that right.

Don’t let anyone else, not even me or any feminist, put any labels on you. You are so much more than your body and your sexuality. You are not here only to cater to male fantasies.

You are here to live your life the way you want.

Devika Mann is a literature major who is also a self proclaimed aesthetician and is absolutely in love with poetry, tea and windows. Send her a poem on her tumblr account .

Featured image credit: savitabhabhi.com (nsfw)