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Friday, June 08, 2007

My take on the chhee chhee arts

For now, I’d only like to make a few points, as lucidly and tersely as I can. Readers, do please read with open and attentive minds. You can get back to me with comments and questions here or at my orkut community, or, if you prefer privacy, by email.

1. Mere nudity is not the same as erotica, and erotica and pornography are not synonymous, and even pornography is not necessarily vulgar or obscene. At least, the same society keeps changing its morals/values/standards/laws on this question – sometimes very sharply and irrationally! – from time to time, which is why so many people today shudder to think of their children accidentally seeing the Khajuraho carvings or reading, say, Kumarasambhava or the Geetagovindam in a language they can understand.
2. At one time, books or movies that seem perfectly harmless today were abused or banned as obscene: witness Lolita or Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Bibar by Samaresh Basu in Bangla! So it would pay us all to keep our minds open. We must at least remember that 95% of parents have never read, seen or thought something over for themselves, and blindly follow local tradition and family habit as the right thing to do.
3. People are also very confused: so parents and even grandparents watch ‘item numbers’ from Bollywood alongwith the children without blushing or batting an eyelid, though I have often found such numbers highly arousing, as well as very vulgar sometimes! The same elders, mind, who loudly complain about ‘our culture’ going to the dogs if a girl is seen merely chatting with her boyfriend at a street corner!
4. We (especially the females among us, both young and not so young) are also terribly hypocritical about our standards, so lots of us loudly proclaim how ‘good’ we are because we never watch or talk about or read ‘such things’, though we are actually very keen to take a peek whenever we think nobody’s looking: check with our ladies’ gossip at their clubs and kitty parties, or find out how many girls rush to sites posted on orkut where you can supposedly see some young, nubile celebrity bathing or having sex. So it’s certainly not a purely male thing, no matter how many girls insist it is!
5. I sometimes think that this hypocrisy is hardwired into our Indian/Hindu folk culture. Where else in the world are people so goody-goody in social intercourse yet unabashedly worship God either as a male genital organ or as someone who made love to 16,000 gopis (at times, as the legend goes, all together!)? Where else is woman nominally worshipped and in practice treated either as a domestic slave and childbearer or tolerated as a good-for-nothing, bossy, vulgar and greedy domestic ornament? In how many countries do ‘good’ boys grow up to bash wives routinely even while forcing them to bear children year after year in vast numbers – whether they are desired or not, and affordable or not?
6. And where else will you find even supposedly educated women accepting all that as normal and good, having decided that the only bad thing is to talk about it, and to have sex freely (though carefully) with those whom they really care about without inhibitions and taboos? Why is it that a perfectly normal and natural practice is regarded as frightening and sick (lots of good and clever people have raised this question: Satyajit Ray in Agantuk, to name just one)? Why is the slightest deviation from the norm (sex outside marriage, multiple partners, partners with widely different ages, same-sex partners, and so on) still regarded with such (affected?) horror and loathing – though most people I have talked to (for at least 30 years!), including those who pretend to be ‘modern-minded’, cannot give me one good reason why they think such things are ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’?

What I was leading up to all this time was this: in such a sex-starved country, people will always be very powerfully lured by pornography and prostitution and suchlike as the only outlets for the (natural and irresistible, and overcharged because starved-!) sex drive. Only, and sadly, it will be done furtively, guiltily and therefore sickly, because we are all determined to keep the whole thing underground and chhee-chhee. And since these things are never wholly satisfactory, people will keep having wild wet dreams and lech after other people’s wives, mothers and daughters (or their male counterparts) – often with unfortunate consequences when things go out of control, as the newspapers never tire of informing us. Lech, mind, never try to love and have sex as a very natural and healthy part of loving!

So far, I have only given a negative justification for pornography and related stuff. But over a pretty long and inquisitive life, I, personally, have found some positive ones too. In case some of my readers are genuinely interested and let me know about it, I might continue. Happy reading and thinking!


anindita said...

Indeed sex is a taboo subject in India.Most parents are either too negligent about the importance of sex education or are too embarrassed to discuss it.It is a mere case of tradition....their parents regarded sex as a forbidden topic of discussion in front of children and the thing continues.I have seen parents trying to field innocent queries from children regarding birth and such things with fantastic cock and bull stories which does nothing more than to create an impression in the mind of the child that such are "bad" topics to be discussed by only "bad" boys and girls.The thing goes to such maddeningly ridiculous extent that we have come to regard love between a boy and a girl itself as something shameful.In one the tuitions that I used to attend,the boy"s mother literally guarded her son so that no girl sat beside her little darling.

Shilpi said...

Second try - short post.
I will for the time being keep my comments limited. My previous post disappeared...
"Why is the slightest deviation from the norm (sex outside marriage, multiple partners, partners with widely different ages, same-sex partners, and so on) still regarded with such (affected?) horror and loathing...." This is of course an extremely pertinent question - but in regards to a coversation that a friend and I had been having just a couple of days ago...we haven't even come to a point where we can talk about 'normal' relations and sex - leave alone deviations from what is deemed the norm. And this is also related to the issue of sex education and the understanding of the human body. On one side there is the scientific knowledge that is never imparted - for this is also viewed with horror: (How many stories have I heard where young girls were never even told about menstruation and thought they were stricken by some terrible disease); and on the other side there is the act, there is the issue of sexuality, which 'must not' ever be approached. Yet - why is this so? Why does this vacuum exist? And I can swear that there is an extreme vacuum in the U.S as well, which manifests itself in a different form from that in India. And I can't help but think that this issue - much like most other things in life is related to the issue of learning to live responsibly, to 'know one's self' -and to pretty much question and question pretty much every 'given' assumption and/or stereotype that's been handed down (as well as the ones which seep into the mind unknowingly and corrosively) and throw out the ones that don't make sense (sense making of course is not a simple thing either). Of course there are rampant stereotypes regarding girls/women as well - and in relation to point 4 - I think girls/women are equally eager (maybe not always consciously) to adhere and uphold the stereotypes - and thus they end up being self-fulfilling prophecies.
I think I'll end my post here. I could write for longer - but maybe I'll put up a post on my so-far non-used blog, if only to get my own thoughts in order.
Thank you for putting up this post. Greatly appreciated.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I'm glad some people see eye to eye with me, but the real question is, are we (regardless of gender) seriously trying to become better - more healthy-minded yet gentler and nicer - people than all those we condemn, despite knowing how much trouble we might have to face as a result? Bad things perpetuate themselves over generations precisely because children become unthinking clones of the elders whom they once ridiculed and condemned!

Anonymous said...

It is indeed ridiculous to see elders behaving in such an immature way when we children ask them about how babies are born or why is a girl different form a boy and how ? When I was in three and my brother was about to enter this new world, I had to repeatedly hear the nonsense that "God sends babies from heaven when parents pray for them ". One year back I was reading Kamasutra online and my mother saw me doing that !Ohhh what a drama we had in our house . But that did not stop me from reading it completely . Most elders are like this ! They need to see things in a different way , more logically . The more they try to stop us from knowing about sex , the more we will be attracted to it . It is better if the schools or our parents enlighten us on the topic 'sex' than to know about it from out side sources. Atleast they will know how we are taking it beacuse children often confuse erotica with pornography or love with sex . There are very fine lines in between these subjects and we need proper guidance to understand it correctly and in a better way .

il_penseroso said...

Right now, when I am writing this, I am surfing in the library of British Council. There is a person sitting beside me who is quite reasonably 'well-dressed', 'good looking', with an 'N-Series Mobile', probably has a job with an 'awesome package' (I include these parameters for these are the very parameters by which most girls chose their 'husbands'). Well, he's another of those leaches that Sir has talked about. The managerial board of British Council is so damn clever that their arrangement of the internet section is such that everyone can see who is surfing which site; a result of which I can easily see what the person beside is browsing, even if I do not want to see. Because of this, people evade browsing pornographic sites. But this fellow is cleverer than the administrative board of British Council. Guarding the LCD screen by leaning forward his chest and his left hand, this fellow is viewing videos of sexual molestations, forced kisses and all those pathetic stuff. And every minute he is turning around to see if anyone is observing him or not. Just think what a disgusting husband and what a pathetic father he would be who would make his daughter cry like Hell if he sees her someday with her boyfriend. You know, apart from hypocrisy, there is something else that works too in the minds of these elders. And that is JEALOUSY. "I had NEVER done it in my childhood. How dare you?" Actually, he had never been ABLE to have or give proper pleasure to anyone. Then why should his son or daughter enjoy a privilege which he was deprived of?

Oh Sir, I am tired of this society. Most of the parents around are as BAD as their sons and daughters are. There is such a perversion, hypocrisy, blatant disrespect for the opposite sex, and lack of any kind of realisation or knowledge of how beautiful, respectable and deep even a physical relationship can be. I am sick and tired of this society. That day when my beloved and I were removed from a park by the people of the surrounding neighbourhood, she, out of utter disgust, made the very remark that you have made in your post, "Batagulor to lojja kore na jokhon Hindi cinemar oi okkhaddo gan gulo dekhe ar meyeder sorirer dike takea jib bar kore thake. Somaje koto meyeder sexually molest kora hoy, koto rape hoy, se nea ekta kicchu korte to ase na, korar khomotao nai. Abar amra ekta eto sweet morning peyechilam, oder seta sojjho holo na. Suaar gulo. Thas thas kore chor marte icche kore e sob lokke."

- Subhanjan

Shilpi said...

My second post.
"And I can swear that there is an extreme vacuum in the U.S as well, which manifests itself in a different form from that in India."
And so the question is - why do I swear thus?
There are plenty of pockets that can be elaborated - I'll pick on two and use one personal example.
1. Sex education in the U.S (what with the influence of the Christian Right Wing - who, in their "ideal type" manifestation are rigid, orthodox, dogmatic and are the same bunch of people who will broach no discussion on issues such as abortion) is sadly, in most schools, nothing but lip service. How do I know this? Through my own readings plus through my personal interaction with more than 140 undergrad students out of which 120 stated that they were given no information about having 'safe sex'. The word condom was never mentioned. All information was geared towards how 'no sex before marriage' (abstinence) was the way 'to reach one's goals' (in fact there are ads all around the University that I attend, which is a school that is known for its conservatism). Information about sexually transmitted diseases was limited - and once again the point that was normally hammered home was that 'sex before marriage, BAD'. Not to say that there aren't any exceptions - but I did not hear of any positive information that my students walked away with.
The result: teenage pregnancies of huge proportions; ex: 17,000 pregnancies in girls 14 years and younger in 2003. Mind you, "they" are reporting "lower" teenage pregnancies since the 1970s. For a detailed report look at the following website. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/09/12/USTPstats.pdf)
Of course I must hurry to add that this is not disconnected from stereotypical media images, subliminal cultural messages, individual internalization of explicit messages and peer group pressure (the last of which works both ways. For instance: a high school girl in a "typical" U.S school treads the thin line of being labeled a "slut' if she accedes to her boyfriend's 'request' for sexual exploration (The name of this particular qualitative sociological study escapes me, but I shall put up the references in a couple of days - if anyone wishes to read it - I could even scan it and e-mail it). Now WHAT does that imply:
1. That girls/women do not have sexual interests; do not want sex; do not want to explore; do not want to experience intimate relationships; the ONLY reason that they engage in sex is because the boy wishes to do so. And this pernicious and completely idiotic idea is hammered into the minds of people here in the U.S through T.V shows (Seinfeld is one notable EXCEPTION), movies, music videos and the like (I had cable for one month and that was enough...);
2. The boys also state that while they do want to experience some fondling and exploration - they do not "respect" the girls who give in "too-easy";
3. Boys are equally confused while they do portray an aura of bravado and "machismo". However, we, as researchers haven't gone very far in exploring the issues that lead to this state of anomie among teenagers...and although some headway is being made; for the most part it seems that academicians are reading other academicians and nodding their heads gravely. Where is the public intellectual....yet I digress...

The next issue is the level of sexual violence, and abuse that exists within intimate relationships. This is related to the above as well as being related to the broader issue of perceived gender roles, lack of a grounded identity, lack of positive role models, lack of information, awareness, and sensitivity. Note: Not ALL people fall into this category. I am the first to stand up for individualism and individual responsibility and I do not wish to make any sweeping generalizations – but this IS an area of social/societal concern and the issues – while they are intimately related to the personal cannot in a sense be dissociated from the public sphere (as in terms of larger social forces such as institutions, structures, and systems).
Now we KNOW for sure that sexual violence exists in India in horrible proportions – yet we wear blinders; Indian High Court judges blandly and ignorantly state “such things do not exist in our Indian culture” (in the context of incestuous rape. Let us not even look into all the ridiculous things that had/has been said in relation to AIDS and the victims).
Yet the issue rears its plugugly head in the U.S, where we can state with a certain modicum of certainty that it is a more “permissive” culture. Let’s look at some of the statistics:
U.S: Rape is the most frequently committed but least reported violent crime (U.S Department of Justice, 2001)
In 63% of rapes and 70% of attempted rapes, the victim knew the attacker (U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
Rape has the lowest conviction rates of any violent crime. 98% of rape victims never see their attacker caught, tried and imprisoned
More than 248,000 women over the age of 12 report being raped or sexually assaulted annually, close to three times the roughly 90,000 incidents of rape officially reported to the police every year (U.S Bureau of the Census, 2004a)
I could come up with some “reasons” of my own, and some from other sources…but ponder on this….it does make one wonder –does it not? This is what I meant by warped….this is what I mean by the strange vacuum.
That people are either extremely conservative, prude – (no different from India) – where women are seen as not even possessing anything akin to a libido (and women sometimes actively or implicitly propagate that stereotype, while being severely repressed or confused or both inside) whereas males here, ‘must’ have a raging libido (or he isn’t a ‘man’)….so from my experience, observations, readings, and my interactions – the U.S “cultural mentality” is schizophrenic, while in India it’s suffering from “Multiple Personality Disorder”.
Personal experience: I went to The Chicago Art Institute a couple of weeks ago (it was a marvelous experience). There was a sculpture by Rodin – “Eve After the Fall” – an exquisite piece of work in marble – encapsulating the living, breathing, fleeing, tumultuous Eve – the statue was alive (I could go on and on about what a magnificent work it was…) – yet that by itself is not the point of this anecdote.
I was examining it, marveling over it, astounded by it (every muscle strained against the marble – the life force seemed to be on the point of exploding through or with the marble…I could but imagine what Michelangelo’s David might be…) , with a lump in my throat….guess what? I was there for 3 hours and kept returning to the statue (and a Van Gogh painting) – and through all that time not one other person stopped by the statue – not one person bothered to look at the statue – although there were at any given point in time at least 37 people in the room; people hastily, desultorily gave it a glance – “saw” a statue of a “naked woman” and walked off; and if that were not enough – I saw people giving me strange looks (and I mean, The-oh-you’re-such-a-pervert-Look) when I stood there in front of the statue….make the conclusions that you will of that….
Given all that – I will say that people do not frown as much on girls and boys dating – or meeting or being in a relationship – yet, strangely enough – there is a split in the acceptance of that and its association with sex and sexuality (and all the values that go into truly understanding what it means). Sure Hollywood sometimes gives a different image, sure there is an active movement going on in relation to gay rights and gay marriage (and incredible opposition to the same) – yet dig deep and sure enough, you find worms that are unpleasant.
I must say however, that the issue is not a black or white here in the U.S. Here I have the freedom to teach a topic on Sexuality in my Introductory Sociology class. Much more could be said and I’m still left with no answers to Suvro da’s question: “…are we (regardless of gender) seriously trying to become better - more healthy-minded yet gentler and nicer - people than all those we condemn, despite knowing how much trouble we might have to face as a result?”
If there is no space for conversation even, (leave alone experimentation) or if we are so internalized in the ‘norms’ of what is ‘propah’ and/or defensive or confused or even stupidly aggressive and unthinking…or are too deeply embedded in the nonsense that has been handed down to us….I don’t see how or what we can do…I, for one have no idea. With all my deliberate thought, with all my academic, intellectual, emotional wugga-wugga, with all my understanding that having been molested as a kid does not mean that I am the one who needs to be defensive or offensive or autistic; with all my understanding that sex is something beautiful, wonderful, great fun, invigorating and relaxing – I still haven’t grown as much as I would have liked to. Growth is slow at 31, and very often I do not have as much courage as I would like to have…I have grown some, I have broken some boundaries – yet with one answer – other questions billow in my mind like mushroom clouds….and the hypocrisy, the repression, the sitting-on-it – I see it around me – all around me…and even with my careful mindfulness in this matter, I find myself succumbing every now and then to strange double standards…..for instance, how much about sexuality is it possible or ‘should’ I talk about in a class of 80 undergrad students?...Let me not even get into personal issues….
This is a exceptionally long post. Any questions, answers, comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you Suvro da.

Shilpi said...

Hullo. Another thought, and some questions. I do agree that different societies and many societies keep changing the norms/values and so on and so forth...and 'deviance' in this respect (and in general) is, no doubt relative...yet my problem with pornography (not the vulgar or obscene kind, but even with the 'erotic' kind) is not with the people who watch it. But I do wonder about the level of abuse and force that is used against the models and actors and the humiliation that often accompanies in being a part of the pornographic industry (as it stands at present and in real terms).
Literature and writings etc. etc. on the other hand, do not involve real, living human beings who would most likely prefer not to have sex in full view of fifty seven people gawking and/or tittering....(once again in a hypothetical world there might be people, who having other options, still choose to make money by acting in porn movies - that's different...)
For instance, I have a friend who worked as a nude model for an Art class (which is different, I know)...and although he did feel mighty weird for a couple of days, he quite enjoyed it after a while. Afterall he hadn't been forced to do it (whether for economic reasons or otherwise), and he left with certain memorable, some amusing, some quirky, some insightful, and some interesting experiences.
Onto my other thought...I still don't understand why or how most of us are so prude and so terribly negatively self-conscious or freeze up whenever the topic of 'sex' or 'sexuality' comes up...! I've been ruminating over this to no good end and I don't have any answers. I could swear that while I can type here, and talk in the class - if I were to meet four people and the other folks started talking about it, I would be 'sqeaming' in my seat...so I 'm pretty glad that I don't have to interact with 'my' children in this lifetime about sex/sexuality...I would have made a complete mess of it....
Hmm..anyway - that's all for now. I say, Suvro da - why don't you put up your next entry?