Friday, March 1, 2013

Sex in India

Sometimes it can be hard to fathom how a culture that invented the Kama Sutra could also be viewed as modest. This is India and people generally have a dualistic view of sex. Interestingly enough I've never heard the term "prude" used in relationship to India or Indian people. I just watched the documentary Love In India and it brought to mind several interesting points for me.

On one hand, sex is intended to reproduce children inside of marriage. Some only have sex for the purpose of procreation and it's not a hobby, an enjoyment, etc. It is simply not done for fun - inside the marriage. In this type of marriages, sex is sometimes seen as a right and not always a (her) choice. This view only applies to marriages and never to per-marrital, adulterous or any other kind of sexual relationship.

On the other hand, sex is viewed as selfish and pleasurable. This is not a male only concept. Women can and do enjoy sex as well. There are very few boundaries placed on sexual relationships. This is easily evidenced by the folklore and traditions we still see occurring. There are all measures of sexual gratification and almost all of them are acceptable by the majority. Though by law there is a defined age, in practice it does not seem to be a restriction for sex either.

Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a prerequisite for sex in India. Nor does it have to be your spouse you're having sex with. There is the belief, at least in folklore, that pure love can't be argued with and thus even outside the confines of marriage is beautiful. Animalistic attraction and passion are not forces to be argued with it would seem. ***This is where Indians and Americans have trouble understanding each others mating and marriage practices. *** I'll touch more on that in a minute.

Some of the most celebrated sexual unions in Indian culture were between non-married partners. Take Krishna and Radha for example. Krishna was married to someone other than Radha. Radha was his aunt. They never married but their love was viewed as pure and thus acceptable. Saraswati was Brahma's daughter. They were not married when they created the 64 Acts of Sex (aka the Kama Sutra).

One other interesting point - in the Kama Sutra legend it discusses how to win over another man's wife and get her to have sex with you. It talks about how women can be coerced and even blames all adultery on the men because women can't help but be lured away.

Of course, you can have both of these -fun and procreation inside of marriage. There is no restriction on that barring you can find the privacy to get freaky. Outside of marriage there are abortions, birth control practices, etc. just like you would find in any other country.

In the US we have the permeating culture that you must be married to freely have sexual relations. This is not to say that everyone here gets married just to have sex but it does impact how many people get married. Being a Christianity dominated country, most of us are raised to believe that you shouldn't have sex unless you are married. Thus guilt or feelings of wanting to do the right thing lead people to get married when they really only lust for each other.

Adultery is also punishable under the law. It doesn't stop people, but it can come back to haunt them after the deed is done. Adultery is considered an offense against society here. If a man cheats on his wife, he is scorned in the eyes of many other women, the church, potentially his community and other areas as well. 

There are harsh penalties for sex with children under the age of 16. Between 16 and 18 laws vary but society chastises it. While this is true in both cultures, in India if the couple are married then it is no longer an issue. (It's illegal to be married under age 18 but that does not mean it doesn't happen. Child marriages are still an issue in India.)

In learning to understand India, I find this information quite useful. India often baffles the pardesi with it's confusing customs, conflicting ideals and over-the-top and in-your-face society. It's always helpful to understand where their view comes from. It enlightens me both on Indian culture as well as my own. I think a lot of pardesi's have trouble understanding some of these same concepts and if you're one of them, I recommend watching this documentary. It's not safe for children in my opinion but is a great watch when you're alone and can focus.

10 comments:

  1. Hi

    Couple of things on the relationship between Radha and Krishna and Brahma and Saraswati

    Radha and Krishna were teenage lovers and Vrindavan. Radha was definitely marred to someone else. Not only her but there were several other women in Gokul who loved Krishna. This love was divine love and not physical love as it is made out to be. Men, women, children, animals, trees the entire regions was in love with the God. It was Bhakti or devotion to the lord which people confuse with adultery. Krishna got married much later to Rukmani. He had already left Vrindavan long ago by that time

    The female counterparts of each God are just a view of the God, so Saraswati is Brahma. Traditionally the female form represents the power behind the God, so:

    Branma has Saraswati, as creativity is the poser necessary to create
    Vishnu has Lakshmi, as resources (wealth) are needed to preserve
    Shiva has Parvati, who is also Kali the power behind destruction.

    In Shiva's case, he is depicted as Ardhanareshwar (half male and half female). The Shiv linga too represents both the male and female sex organs.
    Most vedic stories are not to be taken literally, but have symbolic meaning

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