Let's talk about sex, baby!

Published: 19 November, 2011 09:39 IST | Rohan Joshi |

Media guidelines dictate that I cannot talk about Baby B

Media guidelines dictate that I cannot talk about Baby B. Fine. So, for no good reason, I ask: Why are Indian people so uneasy about talking about sex? Admit it, you're shifting uncomfortably in your seat already. I mean, at the birth of civilisation (also known as "Before iPad"), Indians made great strides in two key departments; mathematics, and sex. And yet today, everyone wants to hire an Indian mathematician, but nobody wants to hire an Indian porn-star. Make of that what you will. To understand the Indian attitude to sex, though it is important to go back to the beginning, the very beginning even.

Scholarly texts (Wikipedia) suggest that the Indian attitude to sex was a bit complicated right from the start. As early as 1400 BC, sex was considered a married couple's mutual duty, with both expected to pleasure each other equally. We understand that this idea would seem revolting to most of our male Indian readers, who are currently sitting up in their chairs saying "Wait, they were obliged to make it fun for her too?! Whew, am I glad I wasn't born a 1400 BC steel-smith."

The Elephant in the room: The influence of the Kama Sutra gradually
wore off, and Indian society got a lot more puritanical about sex

While sex was a married couple's duty, it is important to note here that historians believe that at this point, Indian society allowed polygamy, which means this was a lot more fun than it sounded. However historians also believe that most commonfolk practiced monogamy, while only kings practised polygamy. Some see this as typical royal hypocrisy. I see this as "Who the hell else but a wealthy king could afford more than one wife?"

Which brings us to the Kama Sutra, written by Vatsyayana, a man so excitable, he has a "YAY" in his name. Everyone knows that the Kama Sutra describes a bunch of sexual positions, but what many don't know is that it's got entire chapters and sections devoted to the following; the art of acquiring a wife, instructions on the duties and privileges of a wife, and how to deal with other people's wives. In short, most of the Kama Sutra is no different from that annoying Manjula aunty from next door.

But the part of the book that everyone loves, describes sex-acts and positions. 64, to be precise. Out of which roughly three can be performed by vertebrate creatures without permanently rupturing essential body-parts.
With time though, the influence of the Kama Sutra wore off, and Indian society got a lot more puritanical about sex. Today, nobody will talk about sex in this country. Our guess is that one morning, we woke up as a culture, after all the illegal substances we'd imbibed the previous night had worn off, and we took one look at the Kama Sutra and then we did what anyone would do while slinking away from that ugly person you woke up next to, with no recollection of the previous night's events.

We decided we'd never speak about it ever again. To anyone. Indian people have absolutely no problem with having sex. We know this because there are one billion of us. What Indian people do have a problem with, is talking about sex. Schools won't teach sex-education, in Bollywood movies the only things that have sex are flowers, and our politicians won't talk about it. Until a sex-tape involving them and a woman (or four) young enough to be their grand-daughter surfaces. After which they want to talk about it, but we don't, because the mental image makes us throw up in our mouth a little bit.

Not wanting to talk about sex has many fallouts, most of them negative. The biggest fallout of not wanting to talk about sex is the metaphors. Indian society has developed a series of them, verbal and visual, to depict and explain sex, without ever having to actually depict and explain sex. Bollywood uses flowers, two of them, leaning in to each other, to depict the beginning of coitus.

Because apparently the idea of two flowers suddenly evolving into sentient beings that are capable of sexual intercourse is apparently less disturbing than the idea that Dharmendra might have (shock, horror, awe) kissed Hema Malini. In fact, to this date, most Indian films that feature two actors kissing put out a press-release before the film's release celebrating the act like it is the anointment of a new Dalai Lama.

The bottom line is, Indian people should talk about sex. It can't hurt to address the most natural, normal thing in the world. Education is good for the soul. 

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo

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