Published: April 21st 2007April 21st 2007
Bollywood Sexual Allegory
I thought some nature shots would temper my exposition, show off Mum's garden and provide and excellent example of Bollywood visual sexual innuendo
I thought a lascivious title such as the above might bring the readers in droves. But it might be better put as 'Sexuality in India'. This is an incredibly interesting and controversial topic and I am far from qualified to speak on the matter so please do not consider the following gospel or expert opinion. I have however travelled to India 3 or 4 times now and certain aspects of their sexuality strike me every time. Let be known that: this is the opinion of one white, male, Christian, Anglo-Australian and should be treated as such!
Please, I do not mean to give offence or cause upset, so if you are easily affected by matters sexual, do not read this blog as I feel compelled to write on the issue.
Also, for the postmodernists out there, I will be using words such as morality and propriety so please do not leap down my throat with questions like 'Define morality' or 'What is proper or inproper? It all depends on the the deconstruction of language and culture...' Let it be known that I understand all of your arguments but will proceed regardless.
India is the country whose history is
full of both sex and sexuality. This is the country where it was expected of all well-brought-up young men to have a full knowledge of the Kama Sutra in order to pleasure their wives/mistresses appropriately. It is a country where there are still sects of Hinduism (based in particular ashrams) where they worship through sex acts. In the Ramaya and Mahabharata (famous Hindu religious stories whose only comparison I can think of in Western literature are the works of Homer), the equivalent of sex workers in that society were held in high regard. They were purveyors of entertainment, pleasure and mystery and were often treated better than the wives of kings. You can see graphic depictions of sex inside temples all over the country. This history can be seen all throughout the people of India.
Unfortunately for India (and the rest of the world frankly), with British colonisation came Victorian puritanism. I am not sure if sex was becoming a taboo before this point but it was certainly cemented.
In modern India (granted standards are different from state to state, culture to culture), it is inappropriate for a man to touch a woman in public. This denigrates her
in the eyes of other men, meaning that she is eligible to be touched by all. Ana and I were suprised to see in Kodai two couples holding hands in public (but this is a honeymoon location). Ironically, it is completely acceptable for men to be extremely physically intimate with each other in public; an aspect of their culture that has led many foreigners to think homosexuality is acceptably rampant in India.
Due to the massive restrictions on male/female relationships, men have become quite depressingly open in their lust. I have seen men stare at clotheslines with female underwear on it, seen them line the side of sportsfields where girls are playing sport and I have walked down a street with Ana being groped about 20 times from one end to the other. Bollywood films have incredibly sexual dance scenes but always cut before the kiss to a shot of wheat fields, waterfalls, budding flowers, crashing waves and any other appropriate natural analogy, the depths of which have long since been plumbed.
The Indian social view of Western sexual morality is one of absolute awe/disgust. There is an ad on tv at the moment showing a man with
different lipstick marks al over his face asking 'What is your score?' that is advertising a product called White Mischief Holidays
. I somewhat take offence to this but seen in context I can understand. However, this ad is always sandwiched between ads depicting Indian women as sexual objects in a way that makes Western shampoo ads look subtle.
While Western sexual liberation has had many positives, women continue to be as objectified through mass media (particularly pornography) as much there as they are here. One feminist commentator, whose work I read while studying legal philosophy, stated that the male domination over women for the past 400 years in Western society has meant that every female act is actually an expression of patriarchy. That women almost cannot have a viewpoint that has not been influenced/approved of by the dominant discourse (i.e. male) due to its total control for so long. An extreme view, but an understandable one.
An obvious expression of this sexual repression is rape. It is wild, widespread and unchecked. Not a day goes by without a rape being reported in the news and that one account is evidence of the many unreported. As a raped woman
is spoilt, the victim's family will hush the story up for fear of shame. Having studied criminal law, I know that the same goes for Australia, that victims of rape often feel that it was their fault. But here it goes to the extreme. When we arrived in Mumbai, we read in the newspaper of a girl who was raped by a neighbour; when it was interrupted by people hearing the screams the first thing she did was douse herself in kerosene and set herself on fire, almost killing herself. Such was her shame at being the victim
of a horrible offence.
The sexual repression leads to another darker side of sexuality. In Maharastra (a particularly politically conservative state) they are trying to ban sex education. Needless to say, AIDS is a growing problem in India. The same week that they were trying to ban sex ed, a government-sposored report came out stating that 53% of all children are either physically or sexually abused. Almost completely by their own family. I believe Jordan told me that in Tamil Nadu a good match is to marry an uncle to the neice. Some take the liberty without the formality of marriage.
So many children do not know what is happening to them and even if they do complain it is hushed up by the family.
As I said above, every state does have different standards so it would be unfair to label this as Indian sexuality. As I have also stated, Western sexual morals have a wealth of their own problems and the rape reporting/conviction statistics in Australia are horribly endemic of a flawed social view of sexual liberty. Hence, I do not criticise but merely report.