FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sex in India

by DAVID MACARAY

Although I lived and worked in India for two years (Peace Corps) and spent much of that time paying attention to important things, I never became an “expert” on anything.  While India was a magnificent country, populated by a wonderfully vibrant and generous people, as a foreigner, I had no illusions as to my role.  I would always be on the outside looking in.

Which is why, when I get asked today about India’s recent and well-publicized outbreak of brutal rapes, I have little to say.  Are these rapes anomalies?  Very possibly.  Are they a sign of the times?  Could be.  Are they symptomatic of something deeper and more disturbing?  I honestly don’t know.

But there was one topic on which the Indians did consider me an expert.  That topic was sex. Good, old-fashioned American-style sex.  Indeed, when it came to the sexual customs and practices of the USA, I was everybody’s go-to guy.  This was many years ago, mind you, before the Internet, before cable, and before the proliferation of pornography.

As soon as a group of men and I were comfortable speaking freely (occasionally aided by alcohol), they would very casually divert the conversation to a discussion of sex, usually initiating it by asking me if I were married, and then proceeding incrementally from there.  This was true of college professors, engineers, bureaucrats, students and farmers.  Everyone was interested in sex.

Well, not quite everyone.  I still recall a conversation I had with a college student at a local tea stall in Punjab.  A timid young man approached my table and politely asked if were an American.  When I answered affirmatively he asked if he could pose a question.  Believing I knew exactly where he was headed, I smiled knowingly and assured him he could ask me anything he liked.

He then said, “Your country has the Electoral College.  What is that?”  I was caught completely off-guard and horrified.  But instead of confessing that I had no idea how the nuts and bolts of the Electoral College worked, I panicked and began talking gibberish..  Big mistake.  My subsequent explanation was so flimsy and preposterous, I crept away in embarrassment.

The two phenomena that most surprised my Indian hosts.:  (1) Premarital sex in the U.S. was so common, no one even thought about it, and (2) American men generally don’t require their wives to be virgins.  That second one was the real mind-blower.  In fact, it was so alien to these Indians, I had the feeling they were unable to fully process it.

The thing to remember about rural and small-town India is that virginity is a given. There is no such thing as courtship.  There is no dating.  Virtually all the marriages are arranged by the respective parents.  While that custom has changed a bit over the years (especially in the big cities), it’s still the norm.  The majority of Indians still live in villages, which means the majority of their marriages are still arranged.

An arranged marriage is a difficult concept for Westerners to understand, much less embrace.  Here’s an analogy.  A man’s wife is expecting a baby.  If the man were to go around telling people he hoped the kid turned out to be good-looking, because he couldn’t love a homely child, we would all think he was an immature jerk (or worse).  The Indians take a similar view in regard to marriage.

They believe that because people are inherently “lovable,” if you place two strangers together as husband and wife, they will eventually fall in love, especially when the woman becomes the mother of the man’s child.  While some observers have called this view “primitive and sexist,” others have labeled it “enlightened and sophisticated.”  In any event, to us Westerners steeped in personal liberty, it’s patently absurd.

It’s said that rape is not a sexual act so much as a violent one—an act of physical domination and degradation.  This explanation makes sense because, in truth, it’s hard to imagine a man raping a woman purely out of lust or frustration or sexual repression.  Horny men don’t rape women; sociopaths rape women.  After all, that’s why God invented masturbation.

One difference between U.S. and Indian rapes is that Indian rapes are infinitely more shaming and determinative.  While the trauma and humiliation of a rape may be the same for women of all cultures, the social implications for an Indian woman are poison.  A woman in rural India who’s been raped is spoken of as having been “ruined.”  No one is going to marry her.  She’ll become a charity case, destined to live with relatives who resent her.

On the rare occasion a rural rape is reported to the authorities, it’s not unusual for the police to suggest the victim and her rapist get married.  They urge them to become man and wife to spare the woman the shame.  Even acknowledging that East is East and West is West, and making allowances for cultural differences, could anything be sadder?

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor” 2nd edition), was a former union rep.  dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail