A New Sexuality Overtaking India?

Or maybe the title of this post should read “An Old Sexuality Returning to India?”

I read a few months ago that the popular “wings-and winks” chain was planning to enter the Indian market. A recent web search for articles relating to such news yielded this. The news article on MSNBC was published in August 2004. I’ve not been able to find anything more recent confirming intent on part of the restaurant to bring their food, beer and skimpily clothed girls to the bustling Indian metros.

What does the world’s quintessential men’s magazine do when they find that their publishing sales in their premier western markets are declining? They turn to the new world economies of course. Playboy magazine has said that they are seeking to enter the Indian market, according to this IHT article. The magazine will not be called Playboy and will not feature nudity, according to the article. The article makes some interesting generalizations regarding the emergence of sexuality into the mainstream in India. The author claims that the India of the 21st century is much like the America of the 1950s, sexually speaking of course. This should mean that in approximately 20 years, we can expect to see women marching in the streets, burning their underclothes and long haired hippie males impregnating everything in site. It is hard for me not to become judgmental about the angle that the author is taking. I see him as an Indian, born (or brought up) in the west, and making assumptions about a country that he knows only through infrequent visits to his grandparents. “Sex is bubbling”, he says, “one-quarter of urban, unmarried women have sex, one-third read erotic literature and half go on dates.”  No doubt the Indian youth in urban metros are increasingly westernized by what they see in the mainstream media. However, the power of the Indian family should not be underestimated, nor the power of religion in a country that is all consumed by it. We should not forget too, that the majority of the Indian population is still rural. But the real kicker about this article is that the author states right at the beginning that the magazine will not feature the Playboy name nor the famous Playboy bunnies. So where is the need for a 26 year old living with his parents to “hide his stash?” The author compares our famous cave paintings, sculptures and the Kama Sutra to this new revolution that he claims is about to hit India.

The introduction of a men’s magazine published by Playboy enterprise is not going to impact Indian sexuality in any major way. But maybe Maxim, the magazine that my roommate claims to subscribe to for the articles, might bring about this revolution? Maxim has ventured into the Indian market as well. Priyanka Chopra is on the cover of the first issue that apparently hit newsstands in the New Year. The author, published on the Guardian, claims that, “this is not the typical coy, sari-clad Bollywood pose, rather a scantily clad woman who looks directly at the camera.” Obviously he is unaware of the current state of Bollywood. I don’t remember the last time I saw a Bollywood actress under the age of 45 wearing a sari on screen. Comparing the two articles, one wonders if the authors are talking about the same India. “Indian men never touch a woman in public, unless she is elderly or sick” and “smoking and drinking are symbols of moral laxity among Indians” are direct quotes from the articles. I’ve walked along many streets in India holding my girlfriend’s hand. I’ve bought beer and had a drink with friends. No one judges me or my morals. India is not an archaic land that is ruled by iron-fisted rulers where women were required to be covered from head to toe. The Indian girls that I know I are as fashion conscious, as beautiful, as talented, as motivated and as free-thinking as girls in the USA (the only other country I’ve lived in). It would be refreshing for once to see an article that accurately depicted the social changes occurring in urban India as it integrates itself into the world economy.

There is one and only one reason that companies like Hooter, Maxim and Playboy are so eagerly eyeing the Indian market – money. With a GDP growing at 7% annually and an ever increasing purchasing power of the middle class, there can be no other reason. It is certainly not because these companies are hatching a super secret pan to change the Indian sexual scene, as the authors of these articles seem to be implying. Wrestling over sexuality will happen as a natural progression of society, civilization, and culture, without or without these magazines. Spirituality need not be exclusive of sexuality, as one Maxim India employee claims.

The continued westernization of India is inevitable. The magazines and restaurant are certain to cause a stir in some section of the population. But in the land of the Kama Sutra, where sex is revered (the author wasn’t kidding when he claimed seeing murals of orgies in temples!) what is needed more urgently than anything else, is good, clear education about sex. Instead of treating it as an immoral, taboo and dirty act that is reserved for the bedroom only, the youth of India need to be sent the correct message. Sex is natural and feeling sexual urges is normal. Give them the opportunity to find and discover it themselves. They will not go wrong. I guarantee you.