It’s 2021! Why Are Intimate Scenes From Films Still Used To Shame Women Actors?

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Radhika Apte controversy: Actor Radhika Apte is being trolled on Twitter today, not for something she said or did recently. Curiously, she is being accused of “promoting obscene content” via films like Parched and Hunterrr. These are films she did more than half a decade ago. What’s problematic here isn’t the fact that the actor is being trolled for scenes she performed so many years ago, but how she is being trolled at all for being part of intimate sequences. Have we made any progress as a society at all, if fictional intimacy bothers us to a point that we see it as a threat to our culture?

Apte, for that matter anyone, wouldn’t have ever dreamed of being trolled in such an out-of-context fashion. The actor has previously faced online harassment and knows very well how bad things can get. An alleged nude clip featuring the actor was leaked while she was filming a project named Clean Slate. The actor couldn’t bring herself to step out of her house for four days, “not because of what the media was saying but because my driver, watchman, and my stylist’s driver recognised me from the images.”

Nudity and intimacy still remain shrouded by stigma in our society. They are also used a weapon to dehumanise women, shame them, spoil their “reputation” and ostracise them. We hear of so many incidences where women are disrobed in full public view, paraded through streets of the village, or when sexual assaults on women are filmed and these videos are either used to force them into silence or circulated by their perpetrators to further humiliate them and their family. To an extent, clips of intimate scenes are used to the same effect- to shame a woman actor for doing her job, shedding her inhibition to play a fictitious character.

In all these reel and real videos, it is the women who bear consequences, not men. It is not perpetrators who morph nude photos of women, isolate intimate clips from films, or film and circulate assault or consensual sex who are shamed or punished. It is women who get shamed- for promoting obscenity, for being characterless, or for “destroying Indian culture”. Where’s male accountability? Why must a woman carry the burden of shame for owning her sexuality, for being subjected to a sexual crime, or for doing her job?

In all these reel and real videos, it is the women who bear consequences, not men.

Even in case of Apte’s pictures from Parched and Hunterrr that are being circulated today, she is the only one being targetted for the intimate scene. No one has questioned the morality of her male co-stars, for performing these scenes alongside. Why? It is because only women who are responsible for preserving our culture? Or because we have dual standards, when it comes to sex, sexuality, honour and shame?

Let us be clear, the solution here isn’t trolling the men, but to applying the same standards to women actors. Stop this objectification of women, as their bodies aren’t solely devised for male pleasure. Every woman has full agency over her body, it is she who must get to command her sexual pleasure, or as in Apte’s case, to use it to depict a fictional intimate encounter between two adults. What men need to do is to understand consent, and change their gaze towards women.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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