This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Sex and the Single (or not) Indian

I have a cousin (he's the son of my dad's elder sister, actually) who was born in Argentina, grew up in Australia (and is an Australian citizen), married a divorcee older than him (and oh, wasn't that a scandal in the family! Scrumptious!), lived in Indonesia and New Zealand more than he did in Australia, and is currently working in Peru.

I just mentioned that to establish his credentials, sort of, and set the beginning of this post.

Now my cousin and his Patricia have two kids, one of each gender. About ten years ago, in mid-1999, they had come here to Shillong with those kids. I recall going to a clothing shop along with my cousin and the kids. One of the shop assistants had put his hand on the elder kid's (the girl's, and she was maybe six then) back while ushering her to a rack of children's T shirts. She promptly broke away from him and returned to her dad and told him that the man had touched her "naughtily". I was a little bit surprised because there was obviously no "naughty" intent in the man's touch; but my cousin told me that they had early on told the kids that they should always report touching by strange men.

I recall this because here in India to this day most kids are never even told about the facts of life by their parents, forget about being taught to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour from adults around them. The average Indian parent would die rather than discuss sex with their children, who are all such sweet innocent darlings. Their childhood, you see, will be ruined if they are told that strange men might feel them up for reasons beyond their understanding (and if they ask questions they are simply told they're too young to understand and they'll understand it "later"). And of course the parents rationalise it to themselves by saying that 

1. children should enjoy their childhood. Great idea, except that this "enjoyable" childhood is marked by ruthless tuition and study regimes, brutal parental beatings, and so on; and

2. that child abuse is something that does not happen in India; like every  other thing, it's "against Indian culture".

Now - personally - I detest children. I cannot understand why anyone would  want to breed the little parasites. But if one breeds them, if one brings them into the world without their permission, obviously one acquires a duty to see to their welfare. And seeing to their welfare includes teaching them what is going to happen to them when they grow older, including pubertal changes (how many girls in India are even told about menstruation before menarche? How traumatic is it for a kid, maybe nine or younger, to find her panties suddenly soaked with blood?), sex and - as a natural corollary - sexual abuse.

In other blog posts I've talked about the fact that children in this part of the world are thought of as the property of their parents, not individuals in their own right with human rights of their own. At the same time, I've also said that the average child is thought to be speaking "above his/her station" if he or  she criticises an adult, howsoever mildly. 

Also, in most West and South Asian nations (Americans and Europeans reading this - I hate the term "Middle East"; it's to the westof us. Would you like it if we referred to Europe as the "middle west"?) a girl who is subject to sexual abuse is not a victim - she is defiled for life, contaminated by rape as it were. Not just the girl herself - her entirefamily would be considered defiled. 

So, let's take a look at the status of an imaginary child aged  ten, called, let's say, Ujwala. She has never been told of sex or even of menstruation. She has no knowledge of what an "inappropriate' behaviour might be because she has never been told how anything could be "appropriate" or otherwise. Through a life of being beaten whenever she opens her mouth to speak up for herself, she's been conditioned to believe that she is subordinate to all adults and that the adults have a right to do anything with her that they want.

Now this Ujwala is alone at home when daddy dear or an uncle or someone else, a family friend, say, comes and touches her up. Says "Does this feel good?" and tickles her vagina. Strips her and fondles her. Rapes her with his eyes if not with his penis. What does Ujwala do? What can Ujwala do?  She doesn't even know what's happening to her is wrong, does she? She doesn't know what's happening to her, period. And a bit later when daddy dear or the family friend asks her to play with his thing, does she know it's wrong? 

And even a little later, when daddy dear or the family friend pushes his thing inside her thing, what does she do about it? If she tells mummy, she's criticising daddy, which she has no right to do. if she still persists and tells mummy, will she believe? Almost certainly she will not, because she will want to maintain the marriage at all costs, not least because the average Indian lower middle class woman has no training for any employment whatsoever; she won't even allow herself to believe what's happening to her daughter. Almost certainly all that will happen to Ujwala will be  a roundhouse slap across the face. 

Ah, but suppose mummy dear walks in and finds daddy dear on top of Ujwala? What happens then?

Nothing, because if anyone admits to Ujwala being raped, then the entire family is defiled. Ujwala will never find a husband, nor will her younger sister Reshma; if the daddy dear goes to jail, how does the mummy take care of the two of them, as well as herself? So even if Ujwala is caught being raped, she will be shut up.

Which is also another reason why India has one of the world's highest incidents of child abuse, specifically child sexual abuse. The only way out is if Ujwala were to go direct to the police and tell on daddy dear, and damn the consequences. Even then mummy will back daddy to the hilt, but at least it's likely daddy will avoid traumatising the girl further.


(From 2008 - before homosexuality was legalised in INdia:)

As many of you know, and as I’ve talked about here earlier, homosexuality is illegal in India.

I should explain that this pertains to male homosexuality. Lesbianism isn’t banned in India because there are no lesbians in India.

Why are there no lesbians in India? The reasoning, if you can call it that, goes something like this:

There are no lesbians in India because Indian women are pure and chaste and have no sexual desires at all. Since they have no sexual desires at all, they couldn’t possibly desire other women. Therefore there are no lesbians in India, and anyone who says anything to the contrary is an enemy of the nation who deserves to be crushed physically by patriotic Hindu nationalist groups and the government’s agencies won’t raise a finger to help.

Believe it or not, though, that’s actually a positive point as far as lesbians are concerned. At least their sex urges aren’t illegal and they don’t risk jail. (You’ll forgive my not repeating ad nauseam the facts of Indian history where lesbianism wasn’t just common, it was almost a given among the daughters of rich households and their maidservant/companions.) Therefore lesbian helplines can exist without being forcibly shut down by the authorities for “going against Indian culture”.

The situation is – to put it mildly – different for gays.

Gay sex is illegal in India because of a British law dating back to 1870 or thereabouts. Yes, I’m talking about a Victorian piece of legislation of the era that imprisoned Oscar Wilde. Britain took that law off the books back in 1960, but Britain is a decadent Western country while we have our ancient culture where there has never been any gay sex – as proved by a law dating back to the late nineteenth century.

All right, so I don’t know of anyone who’s actually been jailed for homosexuality. But since the India legal system is slow as glaciers, and since the Indian police have virtually unlimited powers to harass and intimidate the population, there is a very real risk of having some piddling little case, that will drag on for decades and require regular court appearances, slapped against any gay unfortunate enough not to be well-connected and too poor to pay the required bribe.

There are parts of India rather more tolerant of homosexuality than others, the East of the country for instance, as well as posh parts of the large cities. They have even summoned the nerve to hold highly-publicised “gay pride” parades where attendance is rising and which the government has not summoned the hypocrisy to suppress. But in the slums and villages homosexuality is still the love that dare not speak its name.

A few years ago, gay activists and social organisations launched a campaign to have homosexuality decriminalised. That campaign has finally reached a high point, because the Indian Government’s Health Ministry has weighed in on the side of the activists and wants homosexuality legalised in order to fight HIV better.

Fighting tooth and nail in the Supreme Court against the pro-legalisers are the Indian Government’s Home Ministry (yes, two government ministries fighting each other, an entertaining prospect if one were a neutral). The Home Ministry claimed that legalising homosexuality would bring the house down on Indian culture. When that didn’t work, they claimed – and continue to claim – that just the fact that the majority of the people disapprove of homosexuality is in itself enough to ban it.

That’s a pretty interesting argument, really. Let’s see where it leads us.

The majority of people in this country also disapprove of live-in relationships and people marrying according to their own wishes. The majority of people of this country disapprove of marriages where dowry is not paid. Should we therefore ban live-in relationships and marriages without prior parental approval? Should we legalise dowry?

In any case, I don’t know of any survey that’s ever been done to find out people’s actual attitude about homosexuality. Most would probably say it’s not an issue that concerns them either way. However, what passes for “popular culture” in India – Bollywood – still by and large caricatures gays as pink wigged men with lisps and a habit of biting a fingernail while batting their eyelashes, so one shouldn’t be too surprised if those who take Bollywood as their guide to life claim homosexuality shouldn’t be legalised in India.

Why shouldn’t homosexuality be legalised in India, you ask them?

Because there are no homosexuals in India.

After all, you don’t see pink-wigged lisping men batting their eyelashes on the streets, do you?


Professional masseurs available, for service in homes/hotel rooms, male/female. Satisfaction guaranteed. Call number
These are words in the classified columns of just about every Delhinewspaper, every day. You know who the “masseurs” are and what sort of “satisfaction” they guarantee. Been like that for years.
It’s just the law of supply and demand, and you can’t win against it. Trying is stupid.
Let’s see why.
You have a man who’s in need of vegetables. He can grow some of his own, but he would rather buy some from the market. So he goes to the market, to which vegetables have been brought by farmers who grew them, perhaps with agents or wholesalers as intermediaries. Of course, you wouldn’t blame him for this, would you? You wouldn’t arrest him or the farmers or the agents or the shop owners and force them to conduct their business in private, now. Or would you?
All right, maybe that’s not the right example. So let’s imagine that you are someone requiring solace for some mental anguish. You go to some character who makes you smell weird incense and makes you lie down on a mat and puts some semi-precious stones on your body for a while, and then takes them off again; and for this service she charges you money which you pay, because – for whatever reason – you actually feel better after that.
So, if you can buy vegetables and doubtful “spiritual therapy”, what is so wrong with buying sex?
Let’s make the first statement: there is no supply without a demand. You can, of course, create a totally artificial demand with advertising gimmicks and so on, but it’s not going to endure. And prostitution, let me say again, has lasted so long it’s the “oldest profession”.
Yesterday and today, Headlines Today has been on its “exposes” of prostitutes in Delhi and Santiniketan and who knows where else. Wow. Like we didn’t know hookers exist.
The thing about this is the sheer amount of time and effort wasted in hunting down, prosecuting, and “exposing” prostitutes who in any case will be back on the street in a matter of days. And in the case of prostitutes, what’s the point of prosecuting them? If there weren’t clients, would they be in the business? If you offer to make a hole in my head, would I be interested? Could you force me to get a hole made in my head, and pay you for it? No? Then how the hell would a hooker force/delude/inveigle a client, and if she did not, would you prosecute her?
And if you wouldn’t prosecute her, who would you prosecute? The client? If you think you could prosecute him out of existence, you don’t know human nature, and you don’t know the law of supply and demand.
Some years ago, as I wrote some time back, a woman was abducted, beaten up and gang-raped by a bunch of psychos in this town. They got off scot-free. The reason? She “may have been” a prostitute. As though selling your body makes you fair game.
More recently, a women’s organisation in this town raided hotels that allegedly doubled as brothels and “exposed several hookers”. They got a lot of publicity from it, and the fact that the chief of the women’s organisation is an aspiring politician had nothing to do with it. Ironically, her own daughter turned out to be a prostitute – a quite genuine one at that. Charity doesn’t always begin at home. 
So, what’s the solution?
Answer: legalise it.
You can’t stamp it out, even trying is stupid, so legalise it.
The police have far more important things to do, in the course of their real duties, and all they do now is take bribes from pimps and hookers, so legalise it.
It will mean the end of hookers being at the mercy of their pimps, so legalise it.
It will mean legitimate sex tourism and the imposition of health norms and the end of the sex slave (because who would visit an illegal brothel if you can do it legally?) – so legalise it.
You can earn taxes on it, so legalise it.
In the name of junking fake morality, of providing legitimate employment (which you can’t provide anyway, no sir) – legalise it.
It would stop sexually deprived individuals from going off the deep end, so legalise it.
And – not the least – it would mean the end of some Headlines Today “exposes”. So, at least for that, for heaven’s sake, legalise it.   
Not that they will, of course.  



India is a land of wonders. In fact, it’s a land where wonders never cease.

I thought I would be inured to them by now, but no…
Those who have been following this blog know that one of the things I return to, over and over again, is this country’s attitude towards sex education. You’d think that a country with an exploding population, rising numbers of unemployed and illiterate, an environment collapsing in on itself, rampaging crime and social tensions, might at least want to take some steps to begin to out things right?
Utter the words “sex education” in India and you’ll draw forth the same knee-jerk ranting as my recent post on marriage and prostitution elicited, and from people who are equally unlikely to have actually understood the topic or what is being discussed.
In the first place, they don’t understand that sex education doesn’t mean education in how to have sex. In fact, this is lost on them, because the word “sex” has become a red rag to the proverbial bull in an India which has adopted a Victorian pseudo-morality and turned its back firmly on the past.
Secondly, of course, a lot of them don’t really care what sex education means. What the politicians want is votes, and if you have to keep people befuddled, diverted into non-issues, and ignorant to get their votes, well now that is quite fine. In fact that is better than anything, because an ignorant multitude can be more easily controlled than people who are capable of thinking and can demand some kind of performance in return for their votes and taxes.
Personally, I have never sat in a sex education classroom, and I must thank whatever passes for my lucky stars that I managed to avoid the usual hang-ups about sex that infest the Indian mind – more anon about those. To this day sex ed has not been introduced in any state in Eastern India as far as I’m aware – while in West and North India they are busy banning it. And all the while we keep reading about things like the fourteen year old girl who recently gave birth in a hospital toilet and left her baby to die on the floor (her parents had brought her in for stomach ache).
Anyone who has any knowledge of the average young Indian’s ideas about sex will have come across ideas such as kissing causes pregnancy or that penis size is vitally important or that the way to woo a woman is by annoying the hell out of her, as the average Bollywood movie used to do…of course 99% of parents in India will never, ever, tell their children where babies come from and will then blame their children when they begin following their hormones and experimenting about what feels good, without the faintest idea about the repercussions of what they are doing.  
The politicians tell the media that sex education is fine as long as it only teaches abstinence. Apart from the fact that abstinence only sex education has never worked anywhere in the world, they won’t teachwhat to abstain from. I mean, the crude mechanics of putting one set of genitals inside another? Perish the thought.
The sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari has given a fascinating account of some of the questions his patients ask him; such as the man brought in by his wife and mother in law because he had not – even after months of marriage – consummated it. Kothari asked him why he had never had sex with his wife. His response? Oh, he made love to her every night. Asked to demonstrate, he just turned to her and embraced her. (OK, this is not a joke. I did not make this up.) Another guy penetrated his wife and then just waited – unmoving – for the orgasm. A thirdmoved from side to side…at least that’s what he said. I would have liked to know just how he managed it.
Going by that, even teaching in how to have sex seems essential.
Meanwhile, what is actually happening? Here is the latest bad joke:
The teacher’s union in Uttar Pradesh state – one of the few which have as yet not banned sex education – has made a demand. If they absolutely must teach sex education, they say, they are willing – under duress – to teach that condoms prevent sexually transmitted disease. But they will not teach how to use condoms properly…
This in a state with probably the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease in the country, where it’s still macho to avoid condom use, where people still think sex with a virgin will cure gonorrhoea, where few people have as yet heard of AIDS and fewer still know how it’s transmitted, and most families still produce six to eight children.   
The anthropologist Margaret Mead said, as I have talked about before, that Pacific Islanders who had sexually liberal societies with free interaction of the genders and where young people were often (till the Christian missionaries moved in) formally and ceremonially deflowered, had a lower incidence of crime, violence, and tensions than other, more warlike peoples with sexual repression. Sexual repression and violence seem to go hand in hand.
No wonder we are a sexually repressed and intolerant nation.

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