General Information about Sexual Revolutions and Peculiarities of the Indian Context

What is a Sexual Revolution (OR What happens when a Sexual Revolution takes place in a country?)
What causes a Sexual Revolution?
Has India ever seen a Sexual Revolution at any point in its history?
How did India become sexually backward? Why does it rejoice in that state even today?

What is a Sexual Revolution (OR What happens when a Sexual Revolution takes place in a country?)
A sexual revolution is an event in a country's history when traditional barriers which restrain men and women from interacting freely fall, resulting in sudden and great freedom for individuals to choose sexual partners outside the patriarchal or orthodox limits defined by traditional controlling social groupings or traditional ruling classes / cliques. For women it brings the right to refuse to consent to sex and also the right to consent to sex without fear of social ostracism. Social structures which ensure shaming or punishment or killing of women who choose to decide who they will sleep with without seeking social approval are either weakened or rendered totally helpless (and in the ideal case, destroyed) when such revolutions occur. This phenomenon has great potential to empower women, and it does so in all but the most unusual cases.

Men on the other hand may or may not get a mixed bag of results from such revolutions. While it is undeniable that such revolutions erode certain oppressive norms (viz. shaming of individuals who express a desire to have a healthy sex life) equally for men and women, men may get the short end of the stick if the changes wrought include excessive emphasis on the consent portion of the consent / non-consent right of women.

The institution of marriage suffers great setbacks when such revolutions occur. Oppression associated with the institution of marriage is also greatly eroded when such an event/process takes place. It can also safely be said that there is plenty of historical evidence to show that it is practically impossible for a sexual revolution to be rolled back, unless America decides to attack such a country, or encourages a country like Pakistan to attack such a country. In other words you cannot put the genie back into the bottle unless you are a superpower or have a superpower backing you.

The above description of changes is not exhaustive and each country goes through its own peculiar set of changes due to its peculiar historical background and what may be a unique socio-cultural context. This is the right first place to mention that we should try to carefully calibrate / control / set the parameters and objectives of our own revolution if and when we do organise a sexual revolution in our country.

What causes a Sexual Revolution?
Sexual Revolutions have arrived in various different countries either as an arguably indirect result of social reform originating within the specific country, or as a result of the invention and/or proliferation of specific methods of contraception, or as a result of imposition by or imitation of another country, usually a ruling imperialist country or a cultural leader country (again, specific to the specific country). A large and influential educated middle class can be seen in all such countries, irrespective of the nature of the prevailing political economy or type of governance structures. One may perhaps not be too far off the mark if such a class is deemed to be a pre-requisite for such a revolution to occur. Here it is worth mentioning that the Indian middle class is at long last coming into its own today, and is playing a decisive role in deciding the direction which our country is to take in the future. This writer is a part of this middle class, and most readers are also quite likely to belong to the same class. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants, but we as a collective are no small force. As a matter of fact we probably constitute the biggest social movement ever witnessed anywhere on this planet. We have the potential to become the first country on the planet to deliberately and specifically aim for a sexual revolution, and to set our own detailed parameters for such a revolution in advance in order to minimise concomitant adverse social upheaval. We can become the first nation where the answer to the question "What causes a sexual revolution?" can be "the people" in more than one sense.

Another important thing about our sexual revolution will be that ours will be the most influential sexual revolution in the history and future of society as we know it on our planet. We will end the oppression of not just the one-sixth of the global population which we constitute, but we will trigger similar revolutions in so many other countries that our revolution will be called the beginning of the chain reaction which brought peace and social justice to the whole world.

Has India ever seen a Sexual Revolution at any point in its history?
This question is difficult to answer, but there is plenty of evidence in a few parts of the country about the existence of a sexually liberated society before the advent and spread of Islam. Whether this sexual freedom came as the result of a revolution or a slow process is a matter fit for conjecture or debate. This writer in his capacity as an architect and an Indian has the deepest admiration for the temples at Khajuraho, and has had the pleasure of visiting that great town more than once, including a time of blue balls and a time of a more than mild sexual festivity in his personal life. Anybody who sees the western group of temples at Khajuraho can tell that this magnificent work was done at a time and place whereat great personal sexual freedom was the norm. Also bear in mind that these temples of love took more than a century to build, so we would not be wrong in concluding that this society was not some hidden sect but was a puissant presence on the map of our country.

How did India become sexually backward? Why does it rejoice in that state even today?
This is a legitimate question. Why have we moved in a retrograde direction? Why are we so far behind our ancestors of a thousand years ago that their whole civilisation sounds like a fantasy to us? Allow me to take recourse to quoting a current internet meme in order to illustrate the answer to these questions.
A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on the top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others beat up the one on the ladder. After some time, no monkey dare[d] to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation. Scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The 1st thing this new monkey did was to go up the ladder. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up. After several beatings, the new member learned not to climb the ladder even though he never knew why. A 2nd monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The 1st monkey participated on [sic] the beating for [sic] the 2nd monkey. A 3rd monkey was changed and the same was repeated (beating). The 4th was substituted and the beating was repeated and finally the 5th monkey was replaced. What was left was a group of 5 monkeys that even though never received a cold shower, continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder. If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder … I bet you the answer would be … “I don’t know — that’s how things are done around here” Does it sound familiar?
When Muslim invaders and subsequent European invaders came to India, they must have considered local women as the spoils of war and exploited them sexually and/or married a huge number of them by taking them mostly as second or subsequent wives. This is inevitable in most conquests. The hostile foreigner thinks that he owns your whole life by virtue of now ruling the territory where you live. It is great humiliation for men as well as women of any society to be conquered by outsiders, and this in substantial part is because of this phenomenon whereby the women of a country are used as sexual objects en masse. Some sort of perverse psychological defence mechanism develops automatically in any person(s) or people who undergo situations where they are humiliated, violated, and helpless. (This phenomenon is indeed the precise reason why rape inter alia is such a traumatic event in a victim's life. It has great potential to totally ruin the victim's personality development.) One can conjecture that the perverse collective psychological reaction in the case of the waves of invasions by foreign Muslims materialised in the form of resorting to hiding women from the gaze of men by the use of purdah for cooperative women and taunting or worse for uncooperative women. This is slightly different from the meme described above, wherein monkeys were beaten up by other monkeys only for their voluntary actions. No monkey was ever forced to go up the ladder. The fact that human society was and continues to be ready to punish people for being forced to do certain things would be a novelty for these monkeys.

Purdah and shaming in those days must have attracted even greater social acceptance because these were practices which were already prevalent amongst the conquerors. It is natural for conquered people to adapt the ways of their conquerors in large part due to the desire to decrease the threat of oppression by becoming one of them (or due to an unstated, painful, and perhaps sub-conscious perception that the conqueror –and by extension his way of life– is superior and worthy of imitation). Of course this aim is rarely achieved but actions directed at this aim never cease after starting. You cannot punish just the women and hope to control things in such situations. Men were probably also punished if they seduced a woman. This was in addition necessary so that the conquerors could not use the lasciviousness or promiscuity of the locals to justify continued depredations. This oppression of men slowly reached a level where they were beaten severely for so much as making a romantic overture to a woman, and eventually for even daring to look at a woman. The situation must have become more complicated with the arrival of the British, with their quickly developed penchant for playing Hindus and Muslims against each other. Centuries of hatred for each other cannot go away easily. It does not take much imagination to figure out how this 'slut' shaming and purdah became a part and parcel of our national psyche over the next thousand years.

Eventually a time came when India became a free country, and all our people came to identify themselves in the first place as Indian citizens rather than by their religions. (The only qualifying remark that one can think of here is about the creation of Pakistan. They were and are a homeland for Indian muslims, but they identify themselves by their religion in the first place. Anyway good riddance to bad rubbish.) Freedom came but the attitude towards sex remained backward. In the film Tamas you can see some Hindu families leaving behind their daughters in the newly formed and hostile country of Pakistan just because they had been raped by Pakistani criminals.

Shame, guilt and punishment for sexual thoughts became our national hobby. There came a time when no movie could be made without an actress killing herself in the story after being raped. Women who survived rape attempts and romantic liaisons with their virginity intact were declared to be as pure as the Ganges while being ritually handed over by some male character to the male character who would have the privilege to deflower her and own her vagina till the end of this life and beyond in keeping with Manu's injunctions. We are sexually primitive to such an extent that we can see these shaming and punishing behaviours all around us even now in the twenty first century. Yes, such attitudes persist to date, and are only getting stronger if anything. We can see much evidence of this in our recent history and the present day. Members of Parliament and judges compete with each other to shout how rape destroys the very soul of a woman, and national newspapers compete with feminazi lawyers to demand greater and greater punishment for acts like whistling at a woman or even looking at her ('leering' they call it). This writer wonders in his capacity as a childhood rape victim, as the victim of a house-break and assault, and as a former accused person in a false dowry complaint as to how rape can destroy a soul to any greater extent than being attacked in your own house or being cheated by your own spouse. Rape is a serious crime, but sex should not be attacked under the guise of attacking rape. But what to do, we are like those monkey in the meme above, shaming and punishing each other for daring to think about sex, even though we don't have even the faintest idea about whatever the **** it is that we are supposed to be gaining out of doing so.

As was mentioned in the first section of this article, historical experience tells us that men may get mixed results from sexual revolutions. We are witnessing great social upheaval in our country over the last year to year and a half or so due to the emergence of excessively stringent definitions of consent in sex and creative definitions of sexual offences in our legislation and jurisprudence. This has occurred even though we have not managed or even bothered to think about organising a sexual revolution before succumbing to what therefore becomes ipso facto an unbalanced quest, an obsession. The immediate trigger for the birth of such legal norms was the famous rape case in Delhi in December 2012 and the subsequent general hysteria which was in great part whipped up by financially interested parties. But if we examine our recent history a little more closely we will realise that this is in large part due to our over-exposure to western and especially anglo cultures. Such cultures are a strange mix of identity crises, historical guilt and addle-brained or misdirected compensatory acts, partisan politics including a left-right divide which brooks no departure from doctrine, financial exploitation, and broad sections of society which have developed a dangerous sense of entitlement. We should reexamine our obsession with such cultures and have a good look at the oppression which has been unleashed upon both men and women due to our blind imitation of these people. Here let it be clarified that the word 'we' is used here as a soft substitute for those shortsighted and powerful sections of society which have arrogated to themselves the right to determine our destiny.

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Published by Manish Udar

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Last updated on 08th May 2014
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