Bois Locker Room chats are nothing but conversations going on in many living rooms, board rooms, bed rooms and even rooms where stand-up comedians take to stage with one aim in mind – sound cool AF. There is no collective consciousness of a nation or society, but there is a collective strategy of the ‘cools’ - say whatever the hell you want to but in the beginning, at the end and right in the middle, garnish that ‘whatever’ with words that border on expletives.
I say border on because ass is no expletive, it is part of the bodies we are locked in, but it can transform itself in no time depending on the intention of the speaker. Intention is impossible to ascribe. In the language of courts, it is ascertained on the basis of evidence at hand.
Same for f**k and the likes, which we will skip, because they will anyway have to be made suggestive with the use of ‘*’.
This language, ricocheted to us from Bois Locker Room, is surprisingly surprising us. The hypocrites among us act more surprised when the language we use is played back to us even from Girls Locker Rooms. You can debate the scale; a boy’s chat group had more boys and the girls’ chat group had fewer girls, but ignore the fact at your own peril – that what we are seeing in these chat rooms and groups is the performance of language at its possible worst.
To dismiss this incident as an act of toxic masculinity, or as yet another proof of women being agents of misogyny and homophobia too, will be taking the easy route. Teens part of these groups have taken to toxic masculinity, misogyny and homophobia even before they could comprehend the full meaning of any of these words. This is no “they are kids, let them go” argument. That is for law enforcement agencies to decide. This is an attempt to understand how and where our children are learning what they are sharing with each other.
Had they been mature enough, they would have understood the implications of ‘planning’ rape on chat groups as if it was going for a movie bunking classes.
We applaud and laugh through those drunk nights and comic acts where MCs and BCs are used like a child using ABCD on repeat mode, occasionally raising our hopes of an E-Z recitation too, as we wait for more MCs and BCs. Kids hear this and by the time they are teenagers, they have heard it all. We learnt it from TV, the TV learnt from us, the kids learnt from TV or kids learnt from us. The ‘and’ and ‘or’ here are fuzzy like the classic chicken-egg debate. But there is no denying that our language has become highly sexualised and our kids are picking it up from us.
They are also picking it up from OTT platforms which have our complete sanction. You may deny the child Netflix access, but the trailers of OTT content on YouTube come with no advisory whatsoever. What they see on YouTube, they share and talk about on WhatsApp. They can also be secondary consumers of this content on WhatsApp or Insta chats. Content on OTT platforms is graphic both in visuals and language. We are the target audience; our children, the collateral damage.
It’s difficult to put a number to it, but majority teenagers would have watched an A-rated movie like Kabir Singh. Once off theatres, it is on OTT and had a television premiere too. No boy should aspire to be Kabir Rajdheer Singh. No girl should aspire to be Preeti Sikka. No child should be exposed to this assault on their minds which prompts them to assault others through language and action.
But graphic sexual language and visual is easy to identify. What’s more difficult, is saving them from everyday sexism and casual misogyny unleashed on family WhatsApp groups. The children tend to internalise the messages and their essence.
Language is invisible; how it passes, the impact it leaves, and how it transforms as it is transmitted, is not for us to know, but the performance of language is hard to miss. The Bois Locker Room is not the first instance. Not too far back in the past, an incident from Gurgaon acted as a precursor to the full Bois Locker Room episode. Two celebrity mothers brought it to the notice of authorities that their sons were talking about raping women online. That story got buried because two kids discussing sexual assault on chat was treated as an aberration.
The chat rooms on Insta are launching verbal assaults on women, men and those beyond the two assigned genders. This virtual assault is graphic in nature and that is why so deeply disturbing. If some of these chats are to be believed, there has been actual physical sexual assault too on girls who studied with the boys part of these groups.
Our language feeds into how we behave and what we become. This grotesque objectification of human bodies, beyond gender confines, turns bodies into just that – bodies – devoid of life, emotions and hurts. Kids will get it once we begin to get it. Even if it means letting go of the desire to sound cool AF.