As female body commonly called a machine, the male organ penis also can be called machine. Each machine/penis is repetitive, reproducing the past aggressions and male arrogance. Ask about first sexual experience to those who hate sex.
Memories of a Machine
Shailaja Padindala’s Memories of a Machine, a 10 minutes long short film tells a rarely told story.
Here is an audience on social media who got enraged watching a woman laughing about her first sexual encounter at the age of 8. They are abusing the actor Kani Kusruti as well. Though she had already made it clear that this character is different from the actor, herself saying “this is Shailaja Padindala’s script”, but the rage is still on. “Crucify women for their revelations” had always been the tagline of Malayali male psyche.
This film will leave the viewer disturbed, confused or relieved. The woman talks to her partner’s camera, answers his questions about her first sexual experience with such an ease, which disturbed many of its viewers. The ‘tall and handsome’ peon, who seems to be her first crush, she says treated her ‘gently’ and stopped when she said no.
The happiest part about the incident, for this woman is that she started masturbating. She could find out something new from her body. She reclaims that, why do a woman need a man while she can masturbate and pleasure herself. She is left with no pain about the incident. She hardly acknowledges it as abuse. She didn’t acknowledge the peon as a pedophile too. The sequence where the woman says how she started masturbating, how she felt sufficient by herself is the less talked about part. What triggers to one’s ‘attaining pleasure by oneself’ depends on factors like social class and familial backgrounds, and circumstance that leads to this is very comparative. It also depends on how the child is getting treated inside the house and also at other domains.
There are certain questions to be addressed. While talking about considering children as individuals where are you standing in the case of children who grow up in broken families? Are not they grown ups to take a stand against their violent father or mother? What about violence and abuse inside the house ? What about the children who grow up into adults in such families? What about their sexuality? What about their mental health? They are witnessing turmoil every day. What about them getting sexually abused by some relatives in the name of extending solidarity with the oppressed? Or in the name of love? Family is one of the worst power structures that houses violence. Children rarely loves to be touched by their abusive parents, since they are not sure about parents’ emotions and intentions towards them. Should a girl be ambiguous or let her father touch her wherever he wants?
Body is no vending machine
A woman is made up of testimonies. She wakes up to stories. She travels as a story, travels to many stories, she clicks stories, she clicks pictures with stories. I have seen women who are brilliant orators, who are confined to their houses, they rarely go out, they rarely travel, they rarely sit free and think about themselves and think about pleasure. They may not be masturbating in the midnoon, they might be taking a nap on their work site or cooking lunch for the day. While talking about pleasure, we miss out a large number of women. Emotional or physical, her labor is loaded with stories. The current wave of feminism in India must address these women too.
Memories of machine subverts the cliched male sexual fantasies. Here it is a woman who narrates her story with a smile, not a man. It makes one cringe in memory of trauma, or revisit memory of pleasure. And of course there is a gray terrain which contains multiple emotions in between the two. It puts one in conflict with one’s own toughts. But keeping these apart, no matter how beautifully shot, how brilliantly enacted, whichever technique is used, this film in its very existence normalizes the abuser, the pedophile, the ugly power relation, the hegemony of a particular sex which shouldn’t be easily done!
Child’s Body in conflict zones
Children in conflict zones would be having a rather complex sexual life and history. They might be having preferences other than physical pleasure. The minor girl’s case, who got raped by an army man in Handwara, Kashmir can’t be normalized by asking the school girl, “did you enjoy it?” since the rape is extremely political. The gun that gives an army man some kind of power to exert it on a girl symbolizes an erection. Almost 300 adivasi children died in Malkangiri, Odisha, because of Japanese ensiphalitis. The indifference shown to these deaths is unpardonable. There is a lot of violence state inflicts upon children. Surviving on these grounds itself is a risk. We are taking about children’s sexuality in a country that kills and blinds its own children. Let there be a parallel narrative where we can talk about children’s sexuality and their very rights to life.
Here you are ‘coming out’ as a pedophile, underlining the need to consider the child as an individual, the need to respect the existence of children’s sexuality. If you want to do that, why can’t you let children to take decisions on their sexuality? Why can’t you let them alone to make choices over their body and desires? Like a seven year old girl who kissed on my lips, taking me to a secret place. Like another girl of 8 years who finds herself as the youngest lesbian in the world. I would be happy about that.
End note: the memories of a machine (camera) is expandable. There is more than enough room for memories and stories to be told.