Monday, April 09, 2007

Making out in public in India

This is an analysis of the display of sex/affection in public places (esp municipal parks) in various big metro cities in India and the reactions to that by various parts of the society.

This essay will be written in aphorisms or small paragraphs without much elucidation.


India is severely over-populated. Hundreds of millions of unmarried people are roaming around with no space for them.

The explosion of media has given them an unbridled hunger for pleasure, no matter how "immoral" it might be.

We are living in the age where the liberal culture of the west is wide open to India through the media, with the liberal quickly devolving into the permissive and the heedless.

So we think that since the images of sex are all around us, it is fine to indulge in it to our heart's content. But we disregard the traditions and culture of the native land.

The screen has become the hyper-real. Reality has taken a backseat.

Sex in a religious society is a guilty pleasure.

Voyeurism is considered a perversion, why? Isn't it because we ourselves desire privacy for our sexual acts. And why is privacy desired for sex? We desire privacy so that we feel "free" to indulge. But what kind of freedom is it exactly?

It is to be free from anxiety of evaluation and judgement.

In essence, it is an anxiety born of the desire to impress an honourable image of ourselves upon others.

But we desire privacy in sex also for one other reason: To not provoke and arouse the instinctive male by the visual input and thus to fear attack or disruption.

And of course, the fear of disturbance or distraction, which might severely decrease the pleasure. The pleasure of sex is based in no small part on immersion. And immersion requires an insulation from the environment.

Since we ourselves desire privacy, we identify with others and want them also to have privacy for this. And that is why we feel uncomfortable coming near them. The region around a couple making out is off-limits in our mind because we would want it to be off-limits for others when we do it.

India has a corrupt police force which routinely harasses common citizens to get a bribe. Which means: if a couple goes to a cheap hotel, they risk harassment by the police. Instead of there rendezvous being a pleasurable experience, it might turn into a nightmare where the girl is labelled a whore and the boy labelled a customer/pimp/kidnapper.

India has a social structure in which the reputation of girls is important for their marital prospects. Checking into a hotel exposes them to the risk of their parents coming to know of it if they get caught by police.

The per-capita income in India is amongst the lowest in the world. Checking into a hotel is a luxury which many cannot simply afford. And usually, cheap hotels are dirty and grimy.

In India, the offspring live with their parents usually till marriage, and frequently even after. So, they have no private abode of their own.

Pre-marital sex is a hypocritical taboo for a vast majority of Indians.

It is an open affront to our hypocritical morals if pre-marital sex is made a public spectacle.

So, children, above all (it is said) should be protected from the sight of such evil acts. Why?

So that, in their ignorance of such acts, they will regard us as morally higher beings when we are not. That we can teach them about the sins of lust and greed without any inkling to them that we are afflicted with the same.

Because we hope that, by protecting them from exposure, they will not be afflicted by this disease. What futile hopes!

Because even as their bodies are not ready for this act, their minds have an inkling of this. But the hypocritical morality takes root in their minds and they regard nakedness and lovemaking with shame and embarrassment, and with a lascivious imagination.

The "facts of life", how can one keep them hidden?

Most men in India are sexually repressed. Reasons are varied and deep.

Single women rarely go to these parks.

So a bachelor sees a couple making out, and he is aroused and is jealous. He may keep on looking (as a perversion) or he want to fantasize about the image later. He might want to disturb the couple by his very gaze.

A group of bachelors frequently harass such couples because the couple cannot defend themselves. They have been "obviously" doing something wrong and nobody, not their friends, nor their parents, nor the police will come to their help.

So a married man sees a couple making out, and he is embarrassed not only because of the moral reasons, but also because he wants to hide his arousal from his wife.

So an elderly man sees a couple making out, and he is angry. Because his time is past and he is full of hatred towards the permissive younger generation who doesn't respect him or his morals.

Intolerance of someone's pleasure, a pleasure which in its specific instance (that particular woman) is unavailable to us, is a basic part of human nature. "Why should he have it? Why can't I have that woman? Bastard."

Unhappy and frustrated people cannot tolerate seeing others as happy. They are happy only in seeing others' misery. People gather in no time to witness the fight over an accident on road, or of a shouting shopkeeper and his customer, or of some neighbours.

More so in the metros than in other places, comparison and ambition and frustrations are rampant. And our frustrations make us condemn and intolerant of the pleasure in others.


We sing songs about love conquering all, of passion sacrificing itself at the altar of society. But when we actually encounter love and passion in our midst, we are quick to condemn it as animal-like, shameful, blind, and deserving of the severest reprimand.


Swati said...

F and I discussed a long time back about something similar and though I didnt want to accept the argument or admit my acceptance of it then, I do believe it's true now. Basically, all of us crave unbridled AND wild sex at some level or another. The people who get angry the most, and who act 'moralistic' the most, are the ones who are the most jealous -probably because they themselves were sexually repressed (either because of social conditioning or circumstance or both) and have not had any experience of unbridled sex-with no strings attached whatsoever - (if there is such a thing), yet.

pankaj said...

not paying much heed to public displays of affection is the sign of a secure society. but that goes without saying doesnt it?

its repulsive how people get all worked up about things that dont concern them at all - "i decide for you what is right for you". and even more repulsive is their smug beleif that they are doing the right thing. dont we really live up to the collective stereotype westerners have for us.

harmanjit said...

West is also moralistic (e.g. regarding homosexuality and atheism), but at least public display of affection is not considered unhealthy.

pankaj said...

at least these subjects are within the ambit of rational mainstream discource in the west. around here, dare you lambast "ram" around here and a stone pelting mob will be at your service.

rationality holds a marginal rather than position in India. although i have no illusions about the west being an ideal society, rationality is not as marginal.

harmanjit said...

I agree with you Pankaj, that the west is more rational, less superstitious, and provides much more freedom of expression.

Though you might know that lynchings and murders of homosexuals was quite common in US till a few decades back.

Anonymous said...

We're using awfully broad paintbrushes here. Certain subcultures within India are nauseatingly repressive and hypocritical in matters of sexuality, while others are more liberal (e.g. interracial dating and premarital sex are permitted). The same holds true for "The West" as a collective whole. But I suppose there is some merit to the argument that culturally averaged norms in India are more repressive than those of the West, especially given the Indian public's obsession with censorship and their incessant attempts to force personal morality upon others via legislation. For a country that supposedly champions freedom, its most common cultural norms (and by extension laws) aren't indicative of tolerance for critical thinking and liberty. The liberal minority suffer at the hands of the holier-than-thou masses.