Sexuality in India: Please don’t try this at home

Sex and language can be inconsolable bed-mates. Best friends with benefits. They can go out for a coffee, talk unabashedly about life, and get drunk on each other. They can wake up in each other’s arms, with one pretending to have already freshened up. And the other playing along for the kisses and giggles.

But I used to feel odd whenever I have tried to write about sex. However uninhibited I may have thought I was, I found myself in a state of imbalance. And I ended up regurgitating bedtime fantasies. Like the rose petal scene from American Beauty. It is the most Indian-influenced piece of Hollywood. I expected Kevin Spacey’s leg to tip over a glass of milk, as nine months go whizzing by and then – a baby’s squeal is heard behind closed doors.

Perhaps, it is because of where I grew up. The land of the Kama Sutra and the home of the prude.

Growing up in urban India, sex education was non-existent. At home, it wasn’t brought up until someone would awkwardly joke about how the sweltering summer heat had nothing to do with the pimples on my face. Or how I might be spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I never understood the deprecating humor behind it. By the time I did, I had developed ninja-like skills to secure operative areas outside the vicinity of my bathroom.

I am still unsure who had the last embarrassing laugh.

Like most teenagers with raging hormones, I was intrigued by the female anatomy; rather the chances of seeing it as nakedly as possible. But I was embarrassed to engage in healthy social conversations about it, with my friends. Instead, we told each other tall tales and exchanged pornographic content, from playing cards that had showcased women in suggestive positions to 90s storyline-driven adult movies.

Considering the Internet was as real as flying cars to us, these were our most reliable and accurate channels of information. The guilt-ridden desperation with which we pursued them were indicative of the awkwardness with which Indians dealt with sex; especially, from my generation and the ones prior to it. Simply put, we had turned puberty a poorly-written peace treaty.

This historic repression of honest and intelligent discourses about sex has also led to its weaponization. Given the patriarchal structure of this country, it is one of the pillars of gender discrimination. And it does not help matters that Indian men can turn creepy quicker than hyacinth bean vines on amphetamines.

Shockingly, marital rape remains decriminalized. People can still be arrested for kissing outdoors. Some of our elected officials continue to shift the blame for sexual crimes to the manner in which people choose to clothe themselves.

Even today, simple onscreen kisses in movies draw major reactions at theaters. I have seen people hide their faces behind open palms and nervously shuffle in their seats. A drop of sweat dances on a twitchy nose. A parched throat gulps dry air. A set of fingernails digs into leather. Everyone feels tense for a few seconds.

Whenever I have told anyone – single or married – that I was on Tinder, I have noticed the aversion towards it. At first, I am subjected to condescending scowls but then, their curiosity overshadows their instinctive moral outrage. And they want to know about how I have fared thus far. Either to improve their chances of finding a bride or to vicariously live through someone else.

As I was writing this post, I had reminded myself that my dad often visits this blog. And I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about it. Basically, I am 35 years old, and feeling weird about his dad finding out that he is on a dating site.

Over years, I have found birds to be far less rigid about intimacy. They have made a happy cuckold out of me. While I never photograph mating pairs, I take pleasure in being privy to some of the moments they share. But it is remarkably different from watching pornography.

The blood rushes to my heart and cerebral cortex, instead.

I’ll wrestle
the moon just to sweat
through the night with her
intransitive verbs, and
wriggle, like vaudevillian larvae,
grabbing air and light,

to find my way to her faux-pas,
and the warm crescents that
are her words.

Spotted Doves, Vattakanal

(Photographs: Palani, Megamalai, Pulicat)

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70 comments

  1. I do neither, but maybe I want to now. And your analysis about language chasing, encasing the body…you made the connection more than erotic. It was sensually sympathetic or something.
    Just awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sensually sympathetic. I very much like the sound of that. To paraphrase many before, language is sorta like the dog chasing a car in erotica, I feel. Once it catches up, it seems clueless.

      And thanks again man, for, you know, the awesomeness!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Perhaps it is related to people who are older or those having constantly been in long-distance relationships.But yeah, language can always titillate – no matter the circumstance

        Like

  2. yes….I can totally relate to that….sometimes conversations can be so erotic even if they are about completely non-sexual things!! 🙂 In fact I have always been turned on more by conversations than by appearances anyway 😀 They have the power to make you fantasize about someone you never would have or be huge turn offs too….anyway great post as always!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Aiye aiye. Please do treat people’s tolerance for sexuality in art with a pinch of salt. The way I see it, if they find it in bad taste – they can always look away. I urge you to continue trespassing your own boundaries through language, what can be broken must be through words, if for nothing but liberation of the artist herself / himself.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post. You write about erotica well for someone who professes that it does not resonate with you as a writer. Your final sentence, though, had me catch my breath: “We are so keen on documenting the struggle and ecstasy of living and loving that we neither live nor love to the extent that we ought to”. I’m not sure if this resonated because I agree or disagree… I think I tend to believe that as writer’s we document lives that we live passionately 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oooooh purrfect! Especially the part, ” that’s the problem with writers. We are so keen on documenting the struggle and ecstasy of living and loving that we neither live nor love to the extent that we ought to.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I liked everything you wrote but what I probably liked most was the part where you said your dad might be reading this. 😀 I think my blog is my best kept secret, I feel mortified even if I so much as imagine either of my parents going through it (in fact, I’m so paranoid that I admit to having tried out different combinations of keywords just to make sure what I write doesn’t pop up in the first page of Google results) 😛
    Also, look what I found today: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/10/birdman-parakeets/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand where you are coming from. There was a time when I would have been terrified of my anonymity being ripped shreds, especially at home. Since this blog, I have been more open about my life than I intended to.

      Also I I am a huge fan of creating social awkwardness for the sake of humour. Sorry dad hehe!

      Glad you enjoyed it, anu (smiles)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. *The writing perfectly describes the situation in India. Sex is a taboo. The word only emanates imbalance.

    And before I could comment properly the send button clicked unknowingly. And since I don’t know how to delete my comment, I have to face the ignominy of a stupid comment. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In this land, 99.9% of the time, the imbalance exists. Talking about sex definitely draws stares and in no time, you will be branded. Though, the situation is getting better.
    The movie scenario was hilarious. 😀 Specially if you are watching with parents. Neither of us want the other to see what’s happening though all of us very well know that it is all natural 😀
    If it’s TV, there is the fidgeting, the search for remote that goes on forever and then changing the channels ‘casually’. It’s been a long time since I watched TV, but describing the general scenario. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your post was awesome. It had everything – bird pictures, India, and sex. Haha!
    I’m uncomfortable writing about sex, too… I think I feel better when I write about sensuality, or intimacy, because those don’t necessarily need to be about sex. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ha ha. I read this right after I have a half hour discussion with the better-half about which condom to buy, and why !
    My gynaecologist (who is also a good friend to me) says that among many families, sex stops after either of the couple reaches forty. I didn’t believe that until one of my friends called me the other day and said “I feel so ashamed, I am forty one and I still feel urges…when will this damn thing go away?” We spoke on the phone, so she couldn’t see me roll my eyes.
    Oh well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha such pristine timing.

      Gosh, your friend’s words sounded creepy. The perceived shame in it is frightening. For those unmarried in India, the preposterously-reduced chances of finding it come to light after forty. This, unlike kidney stones, will not pass for them, dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

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