( First Published In Spring & Summer Edition Of Aavartan, 2014. It’s A Research Journal Published From Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh)
India is melting pot of most beautiful philosophies. On one hand we have lofty themes embedded in Advaitic domain, which expand our limited consciousness, and on the other, we have principles related with Kama, explored beautifully in Vatsayana’s Kama Sutra. However, having said that, I must say we have strayed away from these concepts, leading to disturbed living patterns at various level of human existence. Neither we have been able to act as Grihastha (householder) nor able to emerge as a perfect Yogi. At this point, it’s better to stick to distortions that have trespassed into healthy sexual beliefs.
One should not forget that sex is a powerful force, which can even shake the beliefs of yogis lost in deep meditation. The stories of Indra sending Apsaras to distract the sages are quite well known- a fact which mythological TV serials have cashed-in so well! Osho comes to describe the impact of sexual power in his inimitable style. He says, “Ninety percent of our thinking is sexual. Whatsoever you are doing outside, inside sex is a constant concern – you may not even be aware of it. You are sitting in a room and a woman enters: your posture changes suddenly. Your spine is more erect, your breathing changes, your blood pressure is different. You may not be aware at all of what has happened, but your whole body has reacted sexually. You were a different person when the woman was not there; now again you are a different person.”
That’s being the case, it’s really baffling average human being has been taught to remain in denial mode about it. Now that’s not only strange but also a dangerous state of affair. It leads to unhealthy suppression of one of the most basic instincts. Why do we forget that such unhealthy denial would prove suicidal for the greater good of human society? It would only lead to negative manifestation of sexual energies. Worse, self-proclaimed Gurus in field of spirituality have created huge mess by proclaiming that sexual beliefs are obstacle in attainment of realization. Kama has been portrayed as villain. That’s not true. Had it been villain, it would not have attained a dignified position as one of the aims associated with Purusartha (aims considered vital for human existence). The truth is not what these commercial Gurus are preaching. What we need to remember is that sex need to be enjoyed but not at the cost of cherished human values. It needs to be honoured but in a dignified way.
So now we come to an altogether different aspect. We are living in age of technological boom. Sexting is so common, pornographic materials are available at one click and women and men are now being hailed progressive in such matters, but still an enlightened understanding is missing. Mind you, bundle of information cannot ensure a conscious approach. We need a proper mindset, a proper approach to develop a mature understanding in this regard. This “mature understanding” is something which has not made its presence felt. It’s not going to come through titillating advertisement, wherein particular flavour of condom is being preferred. Nor it can be achieved by witnessing gyrating bodies in Bollywood movies. Most of the henious crimes we are witnessing have some sexual misconception as their primary cause. Imagine infants are being raped and even older women are also being raped! Rapes are not only about man exerting his power over woman in wrong way as preached by feminists, but it’s more about sexual miseducation.
Jeremy Seabrook, a prominent British author, expressing his concerns about sexual miseducation rightly states that “if it’s true that silence over sexuality risks blighting lives, it is certain that leaving instructions of the young in sexual matters to the free market is a disaster…..It is clear that new forms of ignorance can be conjured out of the very knowingness which the newly initiated into the secrets of sex they have gained.” If that sort of so-called knowledge about sex is lethal, one could easily imagine that restrictions imposed by society on having access to fulfillment of sexual desires would be cause of greater sorrow. That’s because digital era has made transfer of sexual knowledge and explicit images a very commonplace affair. So if you are not proving it smooth outlet, you are simply creating world of perverts. It’s hard to imagine how can tough laws ensure prevention of sex-related crimes? They can act as deterrent, leading to lesser number of crimes, but they cannot eliminate the desire.
Mahasatvaa Ma Ananda Sarita unfolds this dilemma more succinctly: “Because of the destructive idea propounded by some spiritual traditions, that spiritual fulfillment is only possible if one denies sex, there is a great lack of any kind of intelligent sexual education. And because our species’ survival depends on sex, of course our bodies make it a priority.” The message is loud and clear: Make room for sex in intelligent way. It’s better to channelize our sexual desires in conscious way, but, at the same time, not forsaking principles related with honourable life.
Ironically, in another arena, the law commission, the courts and law enforcing agencies do not see sex related crimes in wider aspect. They treat it as a sexual offence wherein a man is a “dangerous criminal” and woman the “most helpless victim”. Rape in my eyes is representative of the collective failure of the society! Rape is seen as one of the most heinous crimes, and, indeed, it should be the case. However, does that ensure one accused of such a crime be treated in barbaric manners. In a nation which cares damn about prison reforms, one can imagine that those found guilty of sexual crimes or under-trials are treated in most miserable way. They also conveniently forget that when laws were framed the situations were quite different. The attitude of women was not brazen as it has now become and when one says one is not suggesting that a woman’s modesty needs to be outraged simply because she dared to display bizarre traits. It’s being suggested to merely show the changes that have occurred with the passage of time, wherein vulnerability has increased due to many complex developments which until now were quite unknown to Indian society. Earlier, there was lesser generation of porn movies but now in USA almost 211 porn movies are being made in every week. Needless to state, the Asian countries offer great market. The point which I wish to prove is that in given scenario the way we look at sex and sex related crimes needs to change.
Sadly, the Indian landscape is marred by contradictions in this regard. It’s open to Reebok shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and Wrangler Jeans, but it tries hard to ignore the impact of permissiveness, and licentiousness too, these items have unleashed. Why there is so much ambiguity when it comes to having a candid opinion regarding the worth of sex in Indian society? It’s high time we have a proper mindset and clinical approach to deal with sex related crimes. Let’s not treat one guilty of sexual crime merely as “sick pervert” and treated to legal process in most cruel fashion, but subject him to greater reforms which help him emerge as good human being. We have borrowed from West so many lesser aspects, but failed to borrow their methodological approach encircling complex issues. One cannot emerge as good human being by merely highlighting on one’s T-shirt “Being Human” message. One need to go beyond such cosmetic gestures.
It’s not merely enough that sex education gets introduced. There has to be a greater space for assimilation of sexual beliefs besides channelization of sexual desires. After all, celibacy is abnormal and outdated in both progressive and orthodox societies! For progressive thinkers it’s akin to introduction of Hindutva! Against this backdrop, the only path that remains is to provide space to unleash sexual desires. Is Indian society really prepared for that? However, the harsh truth is that it has no other way left. So let’s have proper sex education; introduce state-of-the-art sex clinics in villages and smaller cities to deal with sexual disorders/sex related diseases, and, above all, improvise the legal mechanism to deal with sex related crimes. It’s still marred by archaic methods. It’s never too late to give way to better ways, ideas and beliefs. Let’s accept the new changes in a wise way before the damage becomes irreparable!
Spring and Summer Edition In PDF format:
Jeremy Seabrook: Article Titled “Sexual Miseducation”
Mahasatvaa Ma Ananda Sarita: Paradigm Shift; Nov-Dec.2010
In Conversation With British Author Jeremy Seabrook: Analyzing The Sexual Beliefs In The Modern Indian Society!
I feel really privileged that few well-known established authors had some time saved for me as well as they came to express their views on some sensitive issues. The issue at hand ” The changing sexual beliefs in modern Indian society’ is a very sensitive in nature. The views which I have shared here in this article have already found place in various other articles but it would be interesting to inform the readers that they first appeared in this discussion with Jeremy Seabrook.
This has reference to Jeremy Seabrook’s article “Sex Education And The Free Market” published in The Statesman ( March 28, 2005). Unveiling the road-map for future, it’s evident that we cannot dispense with observance of better principles including those related with sexual attitudes. You ( read Jeremy Seabrook) have touched the issue in a thought-provoking manner, unfolding the requirements in an unambiguous style. However, having said that, there are missing elements as well, which I would like to highlight. The Indian society has always treated sex not as a taboo subject but considered it an essential element of balanced human life. This is why it finds place in four “Purusharthas” ( objectives) laid down in Hinduism as Kama; Dharma, Artha and Moksha being the other three objectives, which help the man to go up the ladder of evolution. It’s not very clear how did it come to attain its present distorted form.
One reason for it could be that long Muslim rule plus gradual inclination of Indian towards Victorian Ideals/perceptions during the British regime distanced them from its glorious aspects. While it’s true that taking refuge in Indian values cannot rescue impressionable minds from the mess, which has become part and parcel of the modern times, however, it could still be stated without doubt that had traces of Hindu ideals been altogether absent the damage would have been irreparable. If there is still a ray of hope, it’s only because Hindu ideals are still there doing what they have been doing since time immemorial- soaking the impurities without their lustre.
In nutshell, what I wish to state is that better results could be obtained by combining sex education with revival of past values. Sex education alone holds no meaning if it is not backed up by strong ideals. The issues you have touched has a very complicated angle as well. It’s a bitter truth that pornographic stuff helps us to relieve sexual tension, more so in age which keeps women at par with “use and throw objects”. Women liberalization movements may or may not have taught women to honour progressive ideals but it has certainly capped them with ability to use her body for commercial interests in the market-oriented world of ours. As a result their bodies no longer evoke innocent delight but feelings mired in sexual fantasies.
How can you expect these young minds to behave like “expert yogis’ adept in controlling their senses? Interestingly, adults themselves are surrounded by illusions of all sorts in these matters. Indeed, we are living in strange times. In my city, the prominent magazine corner lies adjacent to a theater showing “BF”. If that’s not enough, cast a glance around and eyes are soon going to intercept posters showing semi-clad women in suggestive postures.
Globalization has brought sea-change in our mannerism. Not only it has distanced us from finer values but also turned women into object of pleasure rather than turning them into instruments for attaining higher ends. The Western world has cleverly dumped its dubious habits in this country ( read India). Or, in other words, the Indians failed to borrow West’s glorious analytic abilities and instead zeroed-on their dark aspects to an extent that to many their bubble gum literature became the source of enlightenment. It may far fetched but it’s true that global powers have effectively projected woman’s false image to deviate Indian minds from higher concerns. Who knows they may have plans to shackle this nation again in their chains? Young minds, after all, they have no knowledge of corrupt practices of the adult world, are bound to collapse, being too inept to counteract its charms.
Against this backdrop, it’s not hard to imagine why pornographic magazines, X-rated movies, and etc. have bombarded the lives of young people. That’s why their unusual interest in these matters should not leave us in shock and awe. This is bound to happen since aping Western values has become the prestige issue for both middle and elite class, even if that means deterioration of Indian ethos. Let me make it very clear that I am not trying to legitimize the existence of pornographic materials in our society. On the contrary, I am of the opinion that cheap titillation of the senses should give way to deep and mature relationship between man and woman. In my eyes, this can never be achieved by roping in sex education. It demands more.
The dynamics between man and woman and society at large needs to be governed by refined and elevated principles-the hallmark of Indian ideals. Sex education does serve the purpose but in a flimsy manner. The perfect mantra for survival is possible only through tryst with Hinduism, or in secular terms, by once again establishing firm bond with the nation’s roots.
Jeremy Seabrook’s Viewpoint:
Many thanks for your e-mail message, which I much appreciated. Of course, I agree much of what you say- in the West also women have shifted from being drudges, servants and comforters of men to being sex-objects. This is not what I understand by liberation. On the other hand, the repression and subordination of women is also indefensible. And there is no possibility of going back to the past- to some degree the past can inform one’s values and ideas which can be carried forward, but it is irrecoverable.
It is not a happy position, and I don’t think many people would have chosen to be where we are now; but we have no choice but to start from here. These are all intractable questions, and there is no obvious way forward. That does not however, mean we should stop trying and seeking.
About Jeremy Seabrook:
My first book was The Unprivileged, 1967, the story of my own family, a path breaking oral history from the late 18th century to the 1960s. This was followed by City Close-Up, a portrait, through the words of the people, of Blackburn in Lancashire.
In the 1970s, I wrote What Went Wrong? Working People and the Ideals of the Labour Movement; a book which, when published in the USA, was sub-titled Why hasn’t Having More Made People Happier?
Mother and Son, a memoir, appeared in 1980, and an indictment of Thatcher’s Britain,Unemployment, in 1982.
Work on India and Bangladesh followed, notably, Notes from another India and Children of Other Worlds, a comparison of child labour in nineteenth century London and present-day Dhaka in Bangladesh. My book, Love in a Different Climate, described how male same-sex relationships in India differ from those in the West.
I have contributed to most major newspapers in Britain over the years, and have written for Granta. I am a regular contributor to New Internationalist – which has published three of my books in the last decade, most recently Consuming Cultures: Globalization and Local Lives. I write for Race and Class and Third World Resurgence, based in Penang, Malaysia.
More About Jeremy Seabrook:
“He became an associate honorary fellow at the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies 1995 to 1998 and an associate at the Institute of Race Relations, UK, from 2004 onwards.
He has made several documentaries for BBC radio and TV on social, environmental and developmental issues.
Since 1963, Seabrook has written for publications including: New Society, the Guardian, the Times, the Independent, New Statesman, New Internationalist, Race and Class, Third World Resurgence, Third World Network and others.
He has also written over 40 books, including;
Travels in the Skin Trade – looking at the psychology of western men who travel to southeast Asia for sexual adventures (Pluto Press).
A World Growing Old – the implications of an ageing population, north and south (Pluto Press).”
Courtesy: The Guardian
1. Vaibhav Mani Tripathi: Democracy and globalization: Are they really compatible? ( An article published in “Aavartan” – A quarterly bilingual journal of academic activities in social sciences, environment and literary arena )
It’s a brilliant article which deals with the impact of globalization from many angles.
Excerpt from it:
” But the educational system what globalization promotes is focused in making technocrats so that they get huge work force with technical abilities. Democracy also needs well-educated people for its growth. But democratic societies flourish in a value based educational system and not a technology based system. The technology based educational system is result oriented and it has nothing to do with the values which human beings nurtured for generations so that they can live as human beings.”
2. Jeremy Seabrook: “Sex Education And The Free Market” published in The Statesman ( March 28, 2005).