Sacred Games gives enough to outrage about. It offers this opportunity to sensitive supporters of a political party, anyone who still remembers Saif Ali Khan arguing eugenics to defend nepotism and people who are wondering why a dude director would hire a cis woman to play a trans woman in 2018. As always, Indian men have managed to steal the spotlight from these petty matters, by being their usual horny misogynist selves.
The show has a few scenes that involve Rajshri Deshpande’s character, Subhadra, having sex with Ganesh Gaitonde played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. They play husband and wife and unlike actual married people, they get it on. Multiple times. As mandated by The Realistic Depiction of Sex on Screen Act, you can see passion, Subhadra’s breasts and the couple having quite a bit of fun.
No woman can have fictional sex in this country without a hoard of Indian men immediately jumping inside the ring to defend their Sleaze Heavyweight title. Deshpande is no exception. The sex scenes have been uploaded on porn websites and are being circulated on WhatsApp. There is a particularly distasteful set of pictures captioned ‘Sacred Games HOT actress with Mangalsutra’. Misogyny and the ‘mangalsutra’ are some of men’s favourite things. Men are also attacking her by calling her a ‘porn star’.
Men being the world’s largest consumers of porn and also the biggest suppliers of misogyny, attacks such as these are not surprising. They like to watch women being sexual and derive a perverse pleasure in shaming them for it. This is because Patriarchy 101 teaches men that they have the right to dictate what a woman does with her body. However, a woman exercising even the slightest bit of agency in relation to her body and her sexuality immediately becomes a target for hate. A porn actress is a woman who ‘chooses’ to have sex and make a profit off of it, as is her right. In doing so, she exercises way more bodily autonomy than men can digest. ‘Minding your own business’ is not part of Patriarchy 101. How dare she?
There is nothing wrong with being a porn star but they have been deemed ‘bad women’ by the thekedaars of the society. Deshpande is not a porn star and yet, like all women, including porn stars, she has every right to be offended when men use ‘porn star’ as a slur. Men’s usage of the term against women is gendered and violent. No one harassed Siddiqui, even though there are about a dozen scenes showing him having sex in the show.
Deshpande talked about how she is being attacked in a recent interview and called Indian audience (men) immature for reacting in such a manner. She also said that she was not doing anything wrong as the sex scenes were relevant to the plot, “I am not dancing on something which is derogatory. I am making love to my husband and that too not in a crass way.”
It is sad that she had to provide justifications for doing what she wanted with her body. What is really messed up, is that she had to justify that within the confines of the rules set by men. She had to distance herself from the ‘crass women’. Just like Deshpande, even women doing supposedly ‘crass’ things have every right to do so, and men have no right to hate either. This is not a criticism of Deshpande but of the unfair system within which she has to prove the validity of her choices.
Even rebellious women have to find a way to shield themselves which makes them justify any minor deviations from the norm. And somehow, no matter how hard we try to fit ourselves into the boxes that the patriarchy demands, the outcomes will always stay the same – the men who make those boxes will always find a way to abuse the women inside them. So, to hell with these men.
Mitali Agrawal is a researcher and writer. She tweets @Just_screams.
Featured image credit: Youtube