Just last week, a friend who used to live in Mumbai before shared an experience he had while visiting Nepean Sea Road after many years. He was waiting for a friend and happened to see a few pretty young ladies pass by. Like any normal heterosexual male, they occupied his attention for the next few moments, and by this, I don’t attribute any lasciviousness or lecherousness to his character.
Then, something else caught his eye: a couple of taxi drivers, a street hawker and one or two other individuals representing a definitely less privileged section of society were also looking at these women. Once again, he was very clear that there was no filthy or evil intention in their gaze. Nevertheless, this vision showed him a clear inequity between the two cities that reside under one name in this metropolis.
On one side are these young women, clad as per the dictates of modern fashion – their apparel by no means exhibitionistic, but that still accentuates and underlines their innate sexuality, which considering the world of liberalism, equality and free expression they inhabit, makes perfect sense. On the other side, however, are men from a world where women per se – forget their sexuality or aspirations – are repressed. And it’s not just the women. Sex itself is a furtive, closeted thing that must always be done under the sheets, in dark corners or shady alleys, and is something that cannot be talked about or embraced as natural and beautiful.
As long as this yawning gap in attitudes remains, attacks on women, their sexuality and their independence cannot stop, their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying for one moment that women should change the way they dress or suppress their sexuality – quite the contrary. The curse of our nation is that hypocritical garb of morality, which is anyway not an Indian trait, rather a vestige of the Victorian prudery of our colonial masters.
Let’s go back to that cabbie or street hawker who saw these young women and was turned on. There’s nothing wrong with that; any of us men would have our libidos pumping in a similar situation. The question is, what next? Well, he could go home and have sex with his wife. But what if his wife is away? He could then sublimate his desires with pornography and self gratification. Or find a CSW and find release in her paid for embrace.
Only, in our lovely society, both these options are frowned upon. Porn is illegal, as are brothels, not to mention the “chhee chhee” attitude we have towards both. Pray, why? Sex is natural and therefore both these are as organic and logical as the act itself.
Only, we neither consider sex natural nor beautiful, do we? It is dirty, something to be spoken of only in hushed whispers, and that too only when there is no other choice. It is shoved inside closets much like a porn book/magazine/VCD, it is cut out from movies and TV shows – hauw, how can we show such things? It is not in our culture! Sure. Our billion plus population came from having kheer.
Why, even if we see couples coochie-cooing at Bandstand or Marine Drive, or in parks, gardens and cars across the country, our first instinct is to shoo them away, beat them up, arrest them, and in general make sure they don’t get any ’cause we sure aren’t! So we end up with unlimited unreleased sexual tension crammed inside a pressure cooker just waiting to explode – which it does every so often. And then we get all het up, and rail and rant at the police and governments, and men in general.
The root of the problem is that we in this country are terrified of sex. For some reason, we think accepting – nay, even acknowledging – it will cause the very bedrock of our civilization to crumble, and all of us to fall into the fires of some unknown hell where we will be cooked for all eternity.
Face it: the minute a toddler touches his genitals or asks why his female playmate doesn’t have a ding-dong, he is slapped or told he is a pervert and a bad boy, and is at once made an acolyte of Sexual Repression 101.
God forbid the same child should ever see a kiss or any other physical expression of love in our movies and TV shows! As for making love – Hai Daiya… don’t you know, if we see such things we will all become sex crazed psychos and start fornicating with our mothers, sisters or pet cows? This is why the depiction of sex in our entertainment can’t be natural – it has to be perverted like rape, molestation, bathing under waterfalls, getting wet in the rain, etc.
God damn it all if a child’s first education about the sexual act comes from rape scenes – what the hell do you expect him to grow up to be? It’s a good thing every single Indian man isn’t going around tearing the sleeves off of women’s blouses and t-shirts and groping under their skirts because that’s the only exposure to sex our censors allow us. It’s a clear indication of how perverted this repression is making us if films like Grand Masti become ₹100 crore hits.
The point is, whether it is our parents or our teachers, the censors or the cops, absolutely no one will let us have normal sexual desires, or let us express these desires normally. Everything must be repressed, locked away, shoved under, made illegal. Consequently, even the natural methods of releasing this sexual tension are dirty, filthy, illegal, and immoral – the C-grade sleazy theatres, the pirated VCDs, the sordid brothels where one can expect to be mugged, robbed, infected, arrested or God knows what else… Everything in our society pushes a normal, red blooded male to have hardly any means of having sex. In a significantly large part of our society, sex is only for paida karoing bachchas, Krishna be damned if you find any joy or pleasure in the act itself. And if by any chance you’re a female desiring sexual pleasure, then you must be a kulta, a kameeni who deserves to be raped in public.
I can keep going on but my point is simple. Stop making sex a four letter word. Cut out the rape scenes and sleaze and double entendre, and allow love making to be depicted as the beautiful, natural act it is. Let couples make out – we could all do with some more love. And most importantly, legalise prostitution and pornography, give them some respectability and clean them up in every way possible. Yes, maybe we’ll all burn in hell, but at least the cities we live in will stop becoming veritable naraks...
Anand Sivakumaran is a storyteller residing in Mumbai. He writes movies, TV, books and short stories, teaches, travels and very often makes faces at other people's children. His first film as a director, Money Devo Bhava, is awaiting release, as are his two novels, The Woman on the Cliff and The C Word. He tweets @anandloki.