A few days ago, #นิติจุฬา was trending on social media so I opened up Twitter, curious to see what the hashtag was all about. “นิติ” in Thai is short for “law students” and จุฬา translates to Chulalongkorn University, a prestigious university in Thailand.
The threads showed screenshots from a LINE group chat called “Law Men” featuring a group of about 50 male students who disguised themselves into other female group chats to obtain unsolicited information. The information contained unsolicited images and contact information of multiple female students. In the LINE chat, they objectified women’s looks, indulging in sexual fantasies that treated women like sex objects. The messages circulating within “Law Men” were leaked and the justifiable outcry wasn’t just on the blatant sexual harassment but also on the fact that these people were on track to becoming legal professionals despite holding perverted values on women.
On the June 6, the Dean of Students at Chulalongkorn University made an official statement regarding the revolting incident by expressing their utter disturbance and disgust with these events and stating they will urgently respond to the matter with precaution.
Many Twitter netizens have called out the vile acts of these perpetrators online and some of the people involved have even come out to apologize for being a bystander and their lack of intervention despite the sexually violent text messages. While other perpetrators involved have shamelessly called out netizens and the victims for being “overly sensitive” about the sexual harassment matter, directly gaslighting the victims of this incident.
There is undoubted impact on the victims who were objectified and prayed upon in the LINE Chat. The sense of constant fear and trepidation for these people must be addressed by the university and their wellbeing must be put first.
For some this is a clear instance of sexual violence and assault, but for some, it just comes across as, “boys being boys.”
“It’s the nature of boys,” commented a few on Facebook. We live in a society where men are empowered for having sex, but women are degraded for feeling sexual desire. If the situation was different and the perpetrators were women instead of men, the amount of backlash and condemnation received by the perpetrators may have differed drastically.
I grew up with the general notion that sexual feelings are forbidden. I was told that “sex is a sin” and was solely for procreation. In many schools, sex education is never taught and even if it is, abstinence is deemed the “safest” method of protection. When sexual feelings are treated as sinful and taboo, this suppresses individuals from expressing their sexuality, and for some, it only allows them to indulge in sexual fantasies, without having the moral basis of consent. By no means am I condoning the actions of what had happened, but merely to suggest that with better sex education, teaching individuals of all ages about consent, and treating other humans with respect, perpetrators may realize the extent of their actions and how morally vile they are.
The underlying issue with the sexual objectification of women, and also men, comes from the lack of sex education in schools. In particular, it is the lack of education about consent amongst, mostly men, who tend to be at an unequal power dynamic in our patriarchal society.
I cannot help but recall the times women are told to suppress their sexual identity so sexual desires do not arise amongst men. I recall the times where I was told not to wear a tank top and shorts out because they were too “promiscuous.” Or the time I was told I was dressed like a hooker, with the connotation that hookers are a derogatory term. Or the overall general notion that sexual feelings are a general sin amongst women, but are typical in men.
In a country where sexual liberation is unheard of and the smallest fraction of sexual expression is deemed as “culturally inappropriate” or “socially forbidden,” quite ironically, women’s bodies are hypersexualized. The conservatism around sexuality does not allow individuals, specifically, men, to realize that women do not exist to please men as sex toys. Sexual objectification can also be the other way round but it is undeniable that women are disproportionately objectified. Many sexual fantasies perpetuated through the mainstream media, whether that be in advertisements, movies, or even pornography, women are treated like sexual objects that serve as sexual gratification for males. The hypersexualized values in the media translate to women being unable to freely express themselves.
Women choosing to wear as they please is considered “too revealing for society.” Showing one’s midriff, collarbones, or even showing one’s figure is deemed too “provocative.” Consent does not equate to the way one dresses. Consent does not equate to a coerced “yes.” But consent is one’s conscious willingness to say “yes.” The incident that blew up on the internet this past week is just a microcosm of the much larger issue at hand. The sexual objectification of women for male gratification, especially in Thai society. As the conservative aging parent population “protecting their daughters” wonders why Bangkok is such a dangerous place for their daughters especially, they forget to consider their failure to educate their sons about consent and treating women with respect might be a central cause.
Sex education should be mandatory for all schools and consent should be taught everywhere. Sexual liberation and expressing one’s sexual identity or orientation shouldn’t be taboo.
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