Rupi Kaur: Abuse in Childhood Shaped Poetry

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Milk and Honey" by Rupi Kaur. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What happened to Rupi Kaur as a child? How did Rupi Kaur’s abuse shape her poetry?

For Rupi Kaur, abuse and oppression were a part of her childhood. She was raped by her uncle and silenced by the men around her. These themes are present in her poems in milk and honey.

Read more about Rupi Kaur, abuse, and oppression.

Rupi Kaur: Abuse and Oppression

As a child, Kaur saw that women were expected to be silent and subservient. For Rupi Kaur, abuse from men was also a part of life.

Gender Oppression

Growing up, Kaur and her mother were told to be silent. Any time Kaur would try to speak up, her father and other men in her life would shut her down. Her father was afraid of her voice, so she grew to be afraid of it too. This may have been because her father taught her that women having an opinion made them less desirable to the rest of society.

Because she was told to stay silent, Kaur began to view herself as unimportant. She would look at herself in the mirror and tell herself that she was nothing. When she tried to convince herself that she was allowed to exist and have an opinion, her insecurities would silence her. She submitted to the demands of the men in her life and remained silent and unseen throughout her childhood.

Rupi Kaur’s Abuse and Sexual Assault

It’s through this demand for submission that Kaur asserts that women have been taught that sex is similar to a pit stop for men. They may come and go as they please, but they never have to stay for long. In her own experiences, she couldn’t draw the connection between sex and love for a long time.

The first boy Kaur kissed held her down and forced himself on her. She was five years old at the time. After this, Kaur believed that her body wasn’t her own. Instead, her body was meant to be given to those who wanted it. She explains that the boy was a product of the household he was living in. His father’s sexual demands towards his mother taught him that sex was a man’s right and a woman’s obligation. Kaur relates to the boy’s mother through the emptiness Kaur felt after the forced encounter. For Rupi Kaur, abuse like this was what shaped her perception of a woman’s role in society.

As a child, Kaur was raped by her uncle. She recalls her assault in graphic detail. In one therapy session, her therapist asked her to point to the area her uncle touched her. She noticed that the doll was about the same size as the girls her uncle liked to abuse. After she explained her uncle’s actions, her therapist asked how she was feeling. She said that she felt numb. 

For Rupi Kaur, abuse from her uncle had long-lasting effects For a while, her trauma led her to feel unsafe in sexual or physical situations, even when they were safe and consensual. She would sometimes flinch when someone touched her because she was afraid it was her abuser. Though it took time, she did overcome her trauma. It significantly impacted her life, but she didn’t let it destroy her.

Rupi Kaur: Abuse in Childhood Shaped Poetry

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rupi Kaur's "Milk and Honey" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Milk and Honey summary :

  • How Rupi Kaur suffered sexual assault and oppression as a child
  • What red flags Kaur missed in her toxic relationship
  • How Kaur was able to heal and embrace her femininity

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

One thought on “Rupi Kaur: Abuse in Childhood Shaped Poetry

  • November 6, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    Do you realize that this is not what she said in her interview with Emma Watson?! The image of the father in her books is almost ideal. The society, however, is accused of muzzling her because she is a female.


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