Mar 10, 2022

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: Why is it problematic?


The Wolf of Wall Street depicts a number of scenes problematic in nature. In one such scene, we see the Wolf aka Jordan Belfort physically harass a female flight attendant to the point where he needs to be restrained. 

The scene has funky music in the background and comedic lines in between, all expected to garner laughs. This highlights one of the problematic tropes of using harassment as a punchline. This plays a major role in the sexual politics of the real world, where women are objects whether willing or not and men are supposed to take pleasure.

If the main character was brought before a court under Indian law, he could be punished under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) for insulting the modesty of a woman, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Section 509 of the IPC says that it is a crime to insult a woman through sexually inappropriate words, gestures or acts, with the intention to make her hear/see the same, or by disturbing her privacy. The punishment is jail time of up to three years and a fine.

Further, under Section 354, no one is allowed to assault a woman with the intention to behave in a sexually inappropriate manner. The punishment for this is jail time of one to five years and a fine.

Moreover, according to Section 354A, if a man commits any of the following acts, without a woman’s consent, it is sexual harassment: 

  • physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and direct sexual overtures;  
  • a demand or request for sexual favours; 
  • showing pornography.

The punishment for these acts is jail time for up to three years and/or a fine.

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