Sex sells and it’s the oldest maxim. But does sexual assault sell? If the sheer extent of the platform given to rank misogynists and sexual predators, as well as politicians infected with the most rabid form of patriarchy, on national television and prime time news debates is anything to go by, then sexual assault is the easiest TRP-generating route to success.
What happens when video bloggers and random YouTubers decide to taste blood and experiment on their own, coming up with variants of prime time misogyny, duly aired in the name of debate? Well, we get “pranks” which are nothing but disguised/overt sexual assaults, molestation and precursors to rape as entertainment.
YouTube Vlogger Sumit Verma, who goes by the screen name “The Crazy Sumit”, had been going on kissing perfectly random and stranger women on the cheeks and lips, all for the sake of a prank and generate some clicks for his YouTube videos. On his YouTube channel, there are a string of videos, dressed up as pranks, in which he’s seen kissing, groping and generally making women uncomfortable, for the sake for some quick and cheap fun, repackaged as entertainment and a perfectly click-baity video of good old male entitlement.
Not only this culture of sexual assault as prank, or promoting stalking as romantic pursuit – something Bollywood has taken a lead in shamelessly exploiting for ages – as well as the general rape culture in which women are seen as eminently grope-able, maul-able things without any wish or consent of their own, is disgusting, it is pretty much can be clubbed in the same bracket as the likes of Swami Omji Maharaj of the Bigg Boss eviction fame, whose ideas on women stem from a demented and twisted reservoir of misogyny.
Just like the Bangalore mass molesters, who assaulted women on New Year’s Eve, Sumit Verma too, like thousands of others, believes that culture permits him to operate in a zone where the only behaviour vis-à-vis women is misbehaviour, only method of engagement is a violent, non-consensual attack on the physical and mental being of the woman, and that “consent” is an irrelevant idea.
Exactly as the #NotAllMen trending closet bigots expose themselves on social media, who tend to victim-blame, or say that they have no moral obligation to condemn rapes or sexual assaults as they aren’t the perpetrators themselves, we also have the good Samaritans who expose this stinking misdemeanour and sexual assault from a so-called prankster vlogger.
Sumit Verma has not only been forced to apologise for his odious videos of him kissing women on the streets to sell his ridiculous videos, he has been exposed on Facebook as a sick assaulter of women. Comment after comment called him out, as he was shown the mirror on his own misogyny.
However, we need to ask ourselves why, in the age of 24x7 CCTV surveillance, do we have no fear of law, or of being found out? While rigorous punishments for the offenders must be given out, why is a culture of absolute obliviousness to law and order, respect for women and general decency taking root the world over?
An interesting comment on the Facebook page where Sumit Verma’s kissing pranks were ripped apart, is worth taking a look.
In the end, as a people and as a society, we must take full responsibility of what we take for granted. Rape culture doesn’t begin and end with the actual rapes and sexual violence out there, on the streets. It gets reiterated in the countless rape jokes, in the sexist comments we make about women, men, LGBTQs, asexual people, differently-abled individuals, or on body image, celebrities, Bollywood actresses, women politicians, public figures and many others.
While social media has been the good guy in the instance of exposing Sumit Verma, let’s not forget the innumerable times when social media set off rabid trolls on women journalists and celebs and any other public figure who spoke her mind. It’s time for a regime change and toppling the rule of sexism.