It is a topic that makes for impolite dinner table conversation but yet so saucy when spoken with friends. It brings about an awkward silence amongst family members who are out for a movie night at a multiplex when enacted on the screen by actors but evokes desire when watched alone on smartphones in middle of the night. While cultures have frowned upon its presence; they have still celebrated it in monuments, art, writings, songs and acknowledge that it is the very foundation of society’s survival.
Sex is such a basic and normal act of human intimacy that involves two consenting adult humans. And yet is so complex that it involves law, religion, society, governments, the family and everyone in between to govern and peek between the sheets to see if everything is orderly and adheres to the norms and the rule-book.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen the abolishment of Section 377 that criminalized same-sex or ‘so-called’ unnatural sexual behaviours between two consenting adults, a law so draconian that it deemed a group of people as convicts based on their sexuality. Close on the heels of this, last week the Supreme Court decriminalized Adultery, as people who are physically or emotionally cheating on their spouses cannot be considered as criminals as they did under the older laws. These are just instances of State, Law, Society, Religion and everyone meddling their business into grown people’s sexual business, and while some get corrected, some might just never.
As we grow up, there is almost everything that we learn from our parents, teachers and siblings. The right from wrong, how to behave, what to think, where to go, what to like and what not to like… almost everything but about sex. It’s that one thing you are expected to self-learn, don’t ask because it is not something that will be taught. It is also why most of us can’t even imagine our parents as sexual beings. Such is the censorship of the topic that almost all of us have gotten our first access to information from another like-aged child whose source of information could be some adult video, website or highly suspected source. The result being, a misinformed young adult who feels ashamed of their sexuality, their body’s primal need for human intimacy and a remarkable lack of judgement when acting upon those urges when the time comes. Why? Because no one bothered to have a conversation with them on how to navigate this part of their lives.
With 1.3 Billion people if there is anything India has an active sex life, and as a country, we are poised to have the youngest population in the world by 2025. That only means more sexual activity. Now in such an event, isn’t it essential that there is a dialogue on the topic? That people know what, how and when? In a patriarchal India, it is a man’s word over a woman’s. It is him and his needs over hers. Marital rape is not considered a crime so you can understand how deep-rooted this misogyny is. Couple that with the internet and the entrainment that is available – women objectified, big ass, bigger boobs, pornography where women are docile creatures of pleasure. What does it do to the already muddled brains of Indian young men who have a sense of entitlement? They begin to believe that sex is their right and they can get it from whomsoever they want, when they want and how they want it. So it could be a Nirbhaya or that 3-month-old baby girl who was raped by her neighbour in Mumbai. Sexual appetite is to be tempered with the right attitude towards it, and that right attitude can only be gained with education and communication. Despite this, does India seek to make a change in her mindset and prepare its upcoming future generations for making the nation a safe and secure space that truly recognizes and respects sex and sexuality? I doubt it.
And why do I say so? It comes from my own personal experience, last year I had the good fortune to be featured in Lipstick Under My Burkha, a small budget independent film that was a story of life and
love, lust and desires of four women in small-town India. Despite all odds, and people not wanting us to tell this story because it ‘apparently’ won’t have many takers, the movie became a runaway hit of 2017. Our little film got picked up by international festivals and won numerous awards for cinematic excellence. Now the topic of the movie itself was risqué in ‘oh so modest’ India, where women are not meant to be sexual beings, but creatures to be having sex with. While we are on a high for Lipstick’s success, my social media started getting swamped with hate mails from women’s groups, right-wingers, haters, trolls, fundamentalists, hardliners and every possible type of person you can conjure up. You are a shame on Hindu dharma, you are responsible for spoiling women’s minds and the Indian society. What was the reason for so much outrage? It was the fact that we were talking about sex and women!
For India to truly come into her own, it is imperative that we shed the falsehoods we surround ourselves with, those of pseudo-morality, convenient usage of religion, women, and everything that makes for a good narrative to suit us and our Indianness. What India needs is to open her mind and have a decent conversation about birds and the bees with her children, it is about time.