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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Conservatism, prudishness, and things that are against our culture

Some time ago, I somehow landed up on a Sri Lankan forum discussing sexuality in that country, and why it is such a taboo topic.

The discussion spoke about how, at one time, physical intimacy was a serious topic, and had many educational scriptures dedicated to it, so that young men and women could obtain authentic information. They also said that this was the case until the European colonisers arrived. Here, they thought, was when the problem arose.

The Europeans apparently did not like the Islanders' sense of style in both clothing and as a society. They were used to Victorian prudishness in both dress and education, and found it unsettling to be in a country that spoke openly about sexuality, and dressed for the hot and humid local climate- in revealing attire.

The forum articulated that the people of Lanka adopted the frameworks of their colonial masters in both fashion and societal norms, and that now, many years later, they believe these conventions to be their own: that Lankans take intimacy as a taboo topic, and view any skimpy outfits as outrageous.

Well, I liked this discussions for many reasons, not least because it was open and honest. Also that the description is so true for my country as well... The only difference is that India also had the advent of Islam many years before the Europeans ever set foot on our land. This obviously affected the general systems at the time, and since we have had centuries of Muslim rule on almost the entire country, their sensibilities naturally affected their subjects.

As an Indian, I often realise that inconsistencies are an inseparable part of life. Nobody is on time, corruption and red tapism have permeated all aspects of our society, and there are so many similar subjects that drive me both to distraction and a sort of cynical amusement in equal parts.

I think the funniest, and therefore the most frustrating also, is the Indian take on sexuality and morality. Physical intimacy is mostly wrong here, and viewed with such bigoted suspicion, that it leaves most people unsure and confused.

This is a country where a major scandal occurred because a politician thought a (vibrating) condom was a sex toy, and therefore illegal, but more importantly also against our culture. This is also a country where sexual repression and female infanticide and foeticide has lead to a statistic of a rape every three minutes.

This, astonishingly, is also the country of the Kamasutra and Khajuraho. Or at least it was.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. First of all, very nice background.

    Let me add another view to this topic. I think it all these cultural issues have something to do with economics too. Take an example, sexual restriction on woman, such as they have to practice sexual abstinence. And female widower have less value in the society than a man, and even in one extreme they had to kill them self in Sathi Puja. And by general the society make female enjoying sex life or the activity is not quite nice thing to do. You can see those things very clearly in words (language) we use to insult a female. When we want to insult a men, we accuse him having not much intelligence, not mature, etc… – but when it come to insult a woman we accuse she have sex, or she enjoy sex. You know what I mean..

    I think the reason for evaluation such thing in the society is birth control – or not having birth control. When there is no birth control, only possible way to control population is control the root of it. Females had been the one who get pregnant, they controlled females. By killing widowers they stop reproduction. By not let them engage in sex till marriage, they did the same. By not letting them enjoy sex, they possibly try to make females engage in less sexual activity that can reduce reproduction. Etc.. Especially in countries with limited resources, you see more restrictions. So by general sex is a taboo for those types of reasons – so I believe. I think the condom issue (and sex toys) also to do with the same idea, discourage woman find their “sexuality” – so they can keep them out of having sex. You don’t find same kind of taboo for other pleaser subjects in life, such as food or entertainment – isn’t it?

    Sri Lanka been a quite strange country back then, females in SL used to have much more social value than men, most of the time. In one time they engaged in this strange practice of, all the brothers keep a one wife – or one woman + more men situation. This is something opposite of you may find everywhere else. That basically enables the family wealth to grow faster, since men are the one who work. One addition to that, females also had powers to “divorce” a man or “send him home” since men were “staying” at “her” house. When it is not, woman was able to go back to her house since it was a responsibility of a father with a daughter to build a house, so her daughter can come back any time they wish. Sweet deal eh?

    But the bad side of that was, they had to artificially balance the gender. So it seems females babies did not had good time.

    Once you look at the countries like USA (where food is plenty), things change dramatically after THE PILL. Feminine movement started. Woman starts to work. Fashion industry developed. Sex becomes less taboo subject. You can see the end of puritan movement all across Europe too. Not only in US, even in countries like SL, had people started to have relative freedom.

    But it is something deferent reason when it comes to Islam culture. Because of the enforced polygamy (one men + multiple woman), there they used to have large number of men competing for small number of woman. Let’s say if 20% of men keep 4 women an each, which makes 80% of men competing for 20% of females. I think that is the reason for Muslims to swipe across the world invading other countries. But in mean while they had to keep men’s desire minimum level possible. So they had to cover females from head to toe, all the time. Not only that, even when it come to marriage, they come up with a practice bride and groom not seen each other until end of the marriage – because choice is not something you can afford when the supply is limited. Not only that, legal loopholes such as, a rape victim must produce x number of good Islamic men as witness to prove a rape, gave chance for those frustrated 80% of men to engage in some sort of sexual activity without getting prosecuted.

    So there is my two cents about whole culture and sex discussion. I’m sure this is a subject one may can write a big book about. Maybe one day you can do that since you are a good writer.

  3. Hmm....interesting thoughts you have there sam..but then again though some of the facts that you have brought up is true..

    i dont think that the muslim religion and its quite strict code of conduct revolved around the sexual frustration of men as you put it, I am not a Muslim so i may not be the best person to touch upon its fundamentals but i guess it was the exact opposite that based its roots? Strict code of conduct to enforce discipline.

    Any ways it was quite an interesting analysis, and the post is quite an eyeopener on the subject..

  4. This, astonishingly, is also the country of the Kamasutra and Khajuraho. Or at least it was.

    This made me think,yup, a lot.

  5. Well i am sorry to day Indian customs have changed drastically . STill there are a few who believe that india is still the same as it was 20 years ago. Its not and with changing time people tend to adopted themselves to the environment and the only ones who are trying to impose restrictions are our parents since they were born into that environment . They just want us to follow their legacy .


  6. @ Sam: Hi!! :) Welcome back :)
    Wow... you have deep insights. Interesting, too.

    1stly, I didn't know Sati was practiced in SL as well.

    2ndly: I think your pt. about birth control is interesting, but I don't fully agree with it. Sure the advent of the phenomenon today has given much freedom to women, but population wasn't really a problem in the old times. At least in India.
    I think women were just degraded in general until they were just viewed as playthings by society. I think women themselves had a huge responsibility for this, since they were the ones who perpetrated most of it... plus I don't think any man is strong enough to make a woman do something... I think only women can defeat other women.

    4thly: you say SL was a strange country back when women had more social power...(?)

    5thly: your evaluation of Islamic society and culture is challenging... but I don't know any more than that, since I don't belong to that culture.

    and thanks for the compliments :D :D :D

    @ realskullzero: I agree :)

    @ who-am-i: Thank you :)

    @ roshill: ah well... this will always happen, I think... trick is to recognic\se the truth...