Of the many things that India, as a subcontinent, has achieved or done, such as overpopulation, growing disparity between economic classes and the caste system, probably one of the greatest would be the writing of the Kama Sutra; and even though we have, as a nation, owned up to most of the country’s achievements, even the more bizarre ones such as child marriage, in case of sex we tend to walk right by it without even a cursory glance.
One might argue that such prudish behaviour is a result of uneven distribution of cultural capital, but I believe that’s an oxymoron in itself. I’m not here to talk about how such prudence came into being in Indian culture – that is a topic for another day. What I would like to draw attention to is the product of such prudence taking shape in the form of coyness surrounding the topic of sex in Indian society. Now, if you belong to an extremely liberal Indian family or reside in the West, you’re probably not aware of the coyness I speak of. But we plebs have felt it right from our childhood, when our mothers would, almost in a frenzy, change the channel if we accidentally tuned into some English movie channel with a couple kissing on the screen. This particular act of maternal care and horror brought about two things; firstly, a curiosity about the most basic and prevalent of human natures that would sooner or later manifest into action, and secondly, through this suppression, we were being conditioned into suppressing our very understanding of ourselves. If we do not properly accept and understand the psychology underlying sex and sexuality we become blunt to our very existence.
A lot of things that we, as a society, do are directly or indirectly inspired by sex. We were taught, rather preached with sincerity that English films are a matter of disgrace and can bring Mata’s (the Hindu Mother Goddess’) curse upon us. Problems started for my mother when Indian advertisements stared getting liberal with sex as well. She was then left with little choice but to accept her defeat, while commenting on how Indian culture was getting ‘corrupted’. As is the norm in India, my parents never talked about sex in front of me, and as I grew up they started keeping their bedroom door open most of the time, except at night, so as to not arouse any suspicion in their growing child’s mind! And this isn’t just the case with families that have children, rather with any family where there are people besides the couple live. We are a sex hungry nation, lewd staring in buses and public places are a testimony to that, and yet we continue with this all-prevailing diktat of silence no matter where we go.
But this diktat has a silver lining to it and we must not discount it. As sex has grown to be the giant taboo of Indian society, it has become all the more pleasurable to consume. Coyness has turned out to be more of a boon than a bane for most couples around the nation and for one simple reason: forbidden fruit tastes better. Society, as a whole, sees sex as immoral. No one quite imagines that the couple they randomly passed by on the street actually has sex or to be more precise, one cannot picture them doing it. What this does psychologically is that it makes one’s intimacy with their partner ever so special. They choose to remain oblivious of sex happening in any place besides their own chambers. Couples and other couples collectively, mutedly, gorge through their disreputable escapades thinking that they are alone in doing it. And the less they get to do it, the better; because that preserves the idea of immorality. If talking about sex is normalised, the details, no matter how small or vague, would start to come forward and one would realise what and how they do it is the same as everyone else; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it takes away that extra bit of pleasure which comes from the high of rebellion.
For the millennials who probably don’t ‘get it’ and are scratching their heads thinking, “sex is sex; it is great even without the coyness”, draw an analogy to when you look for taboo porn or something offbeat on the internet when regular stuff just doesn’t do it for you anymore. It’s the same with sex, the more it remains sacred and clandestine, the better it feels when done. This theory explains to some extent why people have extra-marital affairs, it is that clandestine factor that makes it all the more coveted and hot. This also explains why India ranks second in terms of population even with a culture of muted sexual desires.
This theory goes beyond sex, extending to almost everything that is forbidden by society. The forbidden is a massive source of pleasure, no matter what, because even when one is part of the chorus of society, rebellion against the same society that one belongs to is enthralling, to say the least. Revolutions on any scale are the greatest form of validation a human can enjoy. Although having sex is not a revolution per se, but doing it, at the end of the day, after not even hinting at the presence of one’s sexuality or sensuality throughout the day, does have a massive sense of breaking free and disobeying our own sense of immorality.
Sadly, the diktat is dying out with the emergence of Generation Y. And although this brings in a different set of pleasures to consume (in varied manners too), it will be regretful, at least for me, not to taste the pleasure that came out of the weird furtiveness our previous generations displayed.
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